There has, for some time, been something of a concerted effort by Guardian writers to dismiss the whole issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme as something unnecessarily hyped-up by reactionary neo-cons in Jerusalem and Washington.
Israeli motives are framed as deliberately bellicose and US understanding of Israel’s concerns is interpreted as a product of magical Israeli influence in the White House alongside confirmation of what the Guardian always suspected to be ‘redneck’ qualities.
And so we have seen, among others, Brian Whitaker chastising the American media for spreading ‘scare stories’, Simon Tisdall declaring Barak Obama ‘beyond redemption’ should he opt for military action against Iran, a rather hilarious Observer editorial accusing Israel of ‘posturing dangerously’ and Simon Jenkins reprimanding the UK for even thinking of supporting an American ‘itch to brawl’.
But perhaps the best example of all came on November 9th in the form of a surreal Guardian editorial urging us to just get used to the idea of a nuclear armed Iran. On the same day it also published a letter from representatives of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, including the famous ‘pacifist’ Hamas operative Mohammed Sawalha.
Guardian antipathy towards Israel and the United States is not new, although that does nothing to make the fact that such antipathy is allowed to colour analysis and judgement any the less unfortunate. What is interesting, however, is the manner in which the Guardian is dealing with the wave of ever louder opposition (which mirrors Israeli and American concerns) to the Iranian nuclear programme from the direction of the Gulf States over which it so often fawns.
This week’s release of the IAEA report has had the effect of making previously fairly low-key objections from the direction of the Gulf States more audible. These objections are nothing new; the Guardian itself published examples of them in the Wikileaks cables. However, a recent article by Mubarak al Hajri in the leading Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reflects the worries of the states neighbouring Iran with previously rare frankness.
“Iran is close to gaining nuclear weapons, something which threatens the peace and security of the world.
The mentality controlling the policy in Tehran is an archaic, sterile one which looks further afield. Iran aspires to rule the Arab Umma (nation) as a whole.
Iran will not rest until it sees its flag flying above the capitals of the Arab world.”
But Simon Tisdall’s November 8th article seems to indicate that the Guardian has decided that rather than address the concerns of the Gulf States in a serious manner, even they will be defined as drama-queen hysterics if they express a stance similar to that of Israel and the US.
“While Perry and the pacemakers play drums, the Gulf’s Sunni-led monarchies, historical enemies of revolutionary Shia Iran, are on acoustic guitar. Their lament, orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, is music to the ears of tone-deaf neocons and oil executives everywhere: Iran is the snake skulking under every stone – backing Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the blood-drenched Alawite regime in Syria. An Iran armed with the bomb, they warn, would terrorise the region, threaten energy supplies, and provoke a pan-Arab nuclear arms race. Their solution? By “cutting off the head of the snake”, Washington would defang these troubles and maybe get Syria (and pro-Tehran Iraq) thrown in for free.”
It is probably very easy to be so wittily scathing about the environmental and security fears of the 90% Sunni majority in the Middle East from the safety of London.
Tisdall’s glib comments are, however, indicative of his and many other Guardian writers’ cultural handicap which becomes evident when they try to analyse Middle East affairs through their own limited blinkers.
The Sunni majority countries in close proximity to Iran understand very well that the ideology which drives Ahmadinijad and others in the Iranian regime does not answer to Western-style reason or logic. They know only too well that the Shi’ite version of Judgement Day includes the slaughter of all Sunnis and that the messianic Hojatieh Society cult to which Ahmadinijad subscribes adheres to the belief that the Mahdi, or Hidden Twelfth Imam, will only appear during a time of war and mayhem in the world and that his followers can speed up his coming by creating such a situation. They have also no doubt noticed the interpretations of the ‘Arab Spring’ by some Iranian leaders as heralding the coming of the Mahdi and the attempts to propagate that belief.
Of course Ahmadinijad’s messianic beliefs seem ridiculous to a Western secular mind. That, however, does not justify the adoption of a position of normative relativism which leads to factoring them out of any analysis of current events in the region. Post Ghaddafi, Western journalists should also have learned by now that a whacky persona with comic elements and entertaining dress sense is no guarantee of benign actions.
It is reasonable to assume that the peoples and leaders of the Gulf States are, like the Israelis, very realistic with regard to the dangers of Western military intervention in Iran: they know that any such action would put them in immediate danger.
Instead of dismissing the concerns of the Middle East’s Sunni majority with precisely the same flippancy as it dismisses the concerns of Israelis, it is therefore appropriate for any journalist seeking to provide useful and relevant analysis rather than mere ‘progressive’ platitudes to understand the background to the Sunni call for foreign intervention in the crisis.
A good place to commence would be the corner-stone assumption in the latest Guardian editorial urging us to embrace a nuclear armed Iran which states that “Neither [Iran nor Israel] wants to disappear in a cloud of nuclear dust.” Logic would dictate that statement to be true, but logic plays no part in end of times messianic beliefs and will also play no part in the crucial ongoing power struggles within the Iranian elite.
- Moral abdication as principled thought: How the Guardian learned to love the bomb (cifwatch.com)
- CiF piece by Brian Whitaker on “why media believes worst about Iran” draws on conspiracy blog (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian reader comment of the day: On the prospect of a few million dead Israelis (cifwatch.com)