Critics of The New York Times sometimes claim that the newspaper’s biases render it unreadable. But those who avoid it are missing out on one of its key features: the way it serves as a sounding board for Democratic administrations. The Times was an essential part of what Ben Rhodes, former President Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, called his media “echo chamber,” which essentially repurposed that administration’s talking points about its efforts to appease Iran as news analysis and reporting. Though the all-too candid Rhodes is not one of the many former Obama aides who have failed upward and assumed even higher positions in the Joe Biden presidency, the Times’ recent coverage of the administration’s posturing on current Iran policy brought to mind that boast from 2015.
In an article published this past Sunday, the Times served as the medium by which the administration sent a clear message to both Israel and the Arab states. As far as Washington is concerned, the boat has sailed on stopping Iran from going nuclear. A “senior American official”—journalistic code for a cabinet-level source—also made it known that the administration doesn’t want Israel to do anything that might interfere with the diplomatic plans of the United States or the nuclear schemes of Iran.
The upshot of the piece was that everyone would be better off if Israel stopped both its highly successful efforts at sabotaging Tehran’s program and threatening to take major military action if they feel the Islamist regime is getting close to a bomb with or without American help.
According to the highly placed source, Israel has been wasting its time trying to hobble the Iranians’ efforts to develop the capacity to make good on their genocidal threats about eliminating the Jewish state. The official said Iran hadn’t really been hindered by the series of successful Israeli operations inside the country, including the assassination of its top nuclear scientist and explosions at four facilities where its centrifuges operated. The Biden official said that Iran has quickly recovered from these setbacks calling it Tehran’s “Build Back Better” plan—a play on the title given to the president’s massive domestic spending bill.
That effort to disabuse its allies of any confidence in the longstanding American commitment to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon—and one that has even repeatedly been restated by the president and many of his functionaries—was also interestingly timed to coincide with visits to the Gulf states by both Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Robert Malley, the administration’s special envoy for Iran. In theory, Austin’s job was to convince Arab nations that are both deathly afraid of Iran and committed to normalization with Israel, that the United States was, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, not abandoning them to face the Iranians on their own.
Any headway that Austin may have made with the Arab states was almost immediately undermined by a statement from Malley, an inveterate appeaser of terrorist regimes throughout a long career serving three Democratic presidents. At a conference organized by a think tank in the United Arab Emirates last week, Malley told the audience that he believes that the main problem in the region isn’t the fact that the world’s largest state sponsor of terror has—through the weak diplomacy of the West and its blatant cheating on Obama’s nuclear deal—gotten closer to the nuclear threshold. On the contrary, Malley thinks the problem is “most of the region’s disfunctionings have root in Iran’s exclusion” from the world community as a result of sanctions aimed at stopping the nuclear threat.
These are two themes that are clearly music to the ears of the theocratic tyrants that run Iran.
Much like Obama’s attitude during the negotiations with Iran from 2013 to 2015, the idea that the West has no chance of halting the nuclear threat through covert actions or the use of military force is self-defeating. It’s true that Iran has built back after suffering setbacks; think, however, about how much closer it would be to a bomb if the Israelis hadn’t been playing havoc with Tehran’s facilities and putting the fear of God into scientists working on programs designed to facilitate the mass murder of Israeli Jews.
Israel’s harassment has effectively tied the Iranian regime up in knots searching for a network set up by the Jewish state inside the country that has resulted in some epic intelligence coups and overt operations. While Biden officials may downplay the effectiveness of this campaign, the Iranians have no idea where or when the Israelis will strike next or how it will happen, and that means the regime cannot confidently protect its assets or its prized nuclear equipment and uranium stockpiles.
While Iran is too big and its nuclear program too spread out in several highly defensible locations to easily destroy it, what the Israelis have done is make it plain that no one person or facility in that country is safe from the long reach of Israeli intelligence operatives.
At one point, Israeli and American intelligence agencies were working in tandem against Iran but the message we’re getting now is that Biden wants Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to declare a ceasefire. That’s the complete opposite of the message Israel’s military and intelligence establishment have been telling the world. An example was the IDF’s very public talk of 2022 being the year that the Israeli Air Force is making dealing with Iran its top priority.
For all of Biden administration officials’ talk of Iran being able to “build back better,” Tehran knows not to underestimate Israel’s ability to strike them at will in unconventional ways. Yet, as I’ve previously noted, Iran is quite confident that the administration is completely disinterested in seeking a “plan B” to stop its nuclear quest if diplomacy fails. And with the Biden team’s latest article planted in the Times indicating that the president’s national security team has lost hope of persuading the Iranians to re-enter a nuclear deal that would have given them a legal path to a bomb inside of eight years, Tehran knows it holds all the cards in the upcoming talks with the West in Vienna.
But despite Washington’s efforts to tame both the Israelis and their new Arab allies, Biden shouldn’t think that even an Israeli government that would love to stay on good terms with him like the one led by Bennett is so weak that it would acquiesce to an existential threat like that of a nuclear Iran.
So we are left with a contradiction between America’s pre-emptive surrender to Iran and its inability to stop Israel from defending itself despite the very real challenges involved in any undertaking on the part of the Jewish state to take out Tehran’s nuclear program. The ayatollahs should take great comfort in the articles churned out by the Times assuring them that Biden doesn’t mean business when it comes to stopping their nuclear ambition. They also need to pay extremely close attention to what the Israelis are saying and must understand that the chances that the Jewish state can be prevented from defending itself by American pressure are not greater than zero.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.