US Should Welcome Iran’s Reporters


This is a guest note by Barbara Slavin, freqent TWN contributor and author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation. Slavin has visited Iran seven times.
ahmadinejad_w_microphones_1.jpgLet my reporters come: Iranian reporters blocked from covering Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York to speak at the review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is unlikely to help resolve the escalating dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
But since the Obama administration allowed him to come – a U.S. obligation as host to the United Nations – it should also have permitted the Iranian president to bring Iranian journalists with him. Unfortunately, their visas have been denied.
A State Department spokesman declined comment on the reasons, noting that the visa application process is “considered confidential.” But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” suggested one reason: “We’re not going to permit Iran to change the story from their failure to comply” with nonproliferation obligations.
Restrictions on the press have been a factor in the three-decade-long dialogue of the deaf that passes for U.S.-Iran relations. Iran until recently has behaved better than successive U.S. administrations, giving visas to U.S. reporters to cover events such as a recent nuclear conference in Tehran and Iran’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
However, the Bush administration refused to accredit Iranian reporters to cover the 2008 U.S. elections. And Iranian news organizations have been largely confined to a 25-mile radius around the U.N. while U.S. reporters have been free to travel outside Tehran.
Throughout the long Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, journalists from both countries interpreted each other’s policies and helped domestic audiences see adversaries as human beings. What’s more, Russian journalists based in the U.S. came to understand the strengths of the U.S. political system. That sort of experience should be available to Iranian journalists, particularly those who work for hard-line outlets that routinely denigrate the United States.
The situation for journalists in Iran has never been easy and has deteriorated significantly since fraud-tainted presidential elections in Iran last year. More than 30 Iranian journalists remain in prison and foreign reporters based in Tehran must exercise care for fear that they will also face prison or be expelled. Still, U.S. officials who rightfully criticize Iran’s crackdown should jump at the chance to allow Iranian reporters to experience U.S. freedoms.
Let the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency open a Washington bureau, let its reporters go to White House and State Department briefings and have President Obama and other top U.S. officials give interviews to its editors and writers. That would make it harder for Iran to censor information about U.S. policies and make it easier for U.S. media outlets to demand reciprocal rights in Tehran. At a time when confrontation appears to be building again between the two countries, the more access their journalists have to each other, the better.
— Barbara Slavin


20 comments on “US Should Welcome Iran’s Reporters

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I can’t even wrap my brain around this approach to peaceful relations in the Middle East, it’s so stoooopid”
    And it seems to be Hillary’s trademark “technique” of diplomacy. It is utterly and completely inexplicable to me why she is getting away with this crap with nary a notice from not only the mainstream media, but even on blogs like this one. The woman is a disaster as Secretary of State, and she’s getting a free pass. Its weird.


  2. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Dear God, is there no end to the unadulterated hypocricy coming form the US State Department re: Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions, despite the facts on the ground, as reported by the UNIAEA?
    So much for free speech…. barring Iranian journalists from entering the US to cover their leader’s speech at the UN is beyond petty…it’s bordering on an admission that we couldn’t answer questions from Iranian journlists with a straight face.
    Getting up and boycotting a leader’s speech at the UN is similar and reveals a rather stunted approach to diplomacy. It’s embarrasingly immature to the point of being “enfant terrible”.
    I can’t even wrap my brain around this approach to peaceful relations in the Middle East, it’s so stoooopid.


  3. Rehmat says:

    The West has double standards when it comes to its so-called “freedom of speech”. Since 1979 – American mainstream media has been constantly blaming Islamic Republic for not allowing the dessident voices – while banning anti-Israel networks in the US and Canada.


  4. rc says:

    Yes POA, a good read and to the point.
    But it fails to mention that, apart from the general bullying programme, the US invasion of Iraq was strongly linked to Saddam H. moving off the $US for oil transactions — a policy originally floated in the mid-1990’s by Iran but only recently implemented in Tehran.
    Given mess the Euro is in now, thanks to US financial innovations screwing Greece’s economy (beware Americans baring gifts!), the flight from the $US for oil business may reduce and result in less fixation on Iran by Washington.


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Good link, POA, except that the US objectives are political and financial, not military because Iran has a fulsome capability to send US warships to Davey Jones’s locker, a capability other weak US victims have lacked.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Closer to $ 1.3 Trillion dollars”
    Hmmm, don’t forget the 2 TRILLION dollars Dov Zakhiem seems to have “misplaced”, or at least quietly ignored the import of such large amounts on money gone missing.
    Perhaps he was distracted by his mind going eeny meeny miney moe over which nation he felt loyalty towards.


  7. fyi says:

    Frank Linnhoff:
    The actual figure for US is much higher than $ 636 Billion that you have quoated. A lot of the military budget is hidden here and there. Total?
    Closer to $ 1.3 Trillion dollars.


  8. Frank Linnhoff says:

    to RC:
    there is no evidence of NPT violations. There is nothing. CIA is
    trying very hard, but has failed for many years now.
    Us military spendings this year is appr. 636 billion dollars, 4 % of
    BIP, or appr. 2100 dollar for every US citizen. Highest per capita
    spending in the worlde. Second is France with about half, and
    Israel and Great Britain third with about 1000 dollars per capita.
    Irans military spendings are about 4,3 billion dollars, 2,5 % of
    BIP, about 56 dollars per capita.
    This year the US military costs for the Afghanistan war is about
    2000 dollar per capita for every afghan citizen. The afghan
    population living oh the countryside lives with less 1/10 per year
    per capita.


  9. rc says:

    Please excuse my ignorance, but can someone point me to hard evidence of the alleged NPT violations by Iran?
    I hear Hillary Clinton continually making these opinions and beliefs as if they were facts.
    To my ears (and eyes) it just looks like a poor re-run of the Iraqi WMD show with Clinton playing Tony Blair. I’m not sure who’s playing the village idiot from Texas?


  10. Anthony says:

    Sadly IR funded reporters are not really reporters. They are spies for the Iranian intelligence ministry.


  11. Frank Linnhoff says:

    In the meanwhile Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Ahmadinedschad have
    spoken on this UN-conference, which has been planned as a
    marketing show for US policies. This is at least how it looks here
    in Germany.
    Unbelieveable how Mr. Ahmadinedschad has all laughs on his side
    in the arabian world, how incredibbly great his marketing success,
    thanks to the US, french, british, german diplomats who left the
    conference. It looked like a circus show with the owners of nuclear
    weapons playing the clowns.
    In my country there is a saying: laughter kills.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Could she please care to present some proof for that assertion?”
    Holding your breath??? Blue yet????


  13. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding fraud-tainted presidential elections, what’s novel about that? Dog bites man, if you ask me.


  14. JohnH says:

    Funny how Slavin seems to have missed the real story and offered up some mind candy, instead of what’s really happening:
    “An overwhelming majority of UN member states – 118 out of 192 – wanted the defiant Jewish state to come clean with its nuclear weapons program and sign the NPT, which is aimed at halting the spread of these devastating armaments.
    Speaking on behalf of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the fact that Israel has refused to sign and ratify the NPT has resulted in the continued exposure of non-nuclear weapon states of the region to nuclear threats by the only country possessing these weapons of mass destruction.”
    Last month, Obama said, “As far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their [nuclear weapons] program”.
    Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad said, “The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride; it is rather disgusting and shameful.”
    “And even more shameful is the threat to use or to use such weapons, which is not even comparable to any crime committed throughout the history,” he declared.
    Ahmadinejad also said that Israel “enjoys the unconditional support of the US government and its allies, and receives, as well, the necessary assistance to develop its nuclear weapons program”.
    There’s a lot of good stuff happening in New York, home of the US corporate media, but the media could care less.


  15. b says:

    Slavin writes: “fraud-tainted presidential elections in Iran last year”
    Could she please care to present some proof for that assertion?


  16. Don Bacon says:

    When a government takes petty positions it does petty things, which it then wrongly claims are signs of greatness instead of pettiness.
    Hillary Clinton in Doha, Qatar
    February 15, 2010
    “We have made it clear — and it’s on the front page of the paper in Doha, what I said yesterday — that Iran, as any country, has a right to peaceful, civil nuclear power. . .we are still hoping that Iran will decide to forgo any nuclear ambitions for nuclear weapons. . .We have to work to take action to try to convince the Iranian government not to pursue nuclear weapons.”
    So Iran while has a right to a civilian nuclear program, the US seeks to end it. Iran has continually stated that it has no desire for nuclear weapons, and there is no evidence of such a weapons program. Iran has met Clinton’s criteria. So what’s the problem? The problem is that a tiny Middle Eastern country has enough clout to make the mighty US government take petty positions and do petty things.
    The world community has recognized the pettiness of these positions and supports Iran in this matter. Only six nations of 200 in the world are critical of Iran. Six of 200 — the three percenters, led by a tiny nation which has a couple hundred nukes and refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Israel.


  17. fyi says:

    Significantly, the President of Iran has publicly identified the US Secretary of the State as an enemy of Iran (but not the President of the United States).
    I should think she will have zero effectiveness in initiation or concluding any agreement with Iranians.
    For that reason alone, she ought to be dismissed.


  18. WigWag says:

    It’s always a treat to come to the Washington Note and find a guest post from Barbara Slavin; as usual she gets it right.
    What exactly is denying visas to Iranian reporters supposed to accomplish? It makes no more sense than barring Cuban reporters; in fact it makes less sense because for all its failings Iran’s press is significantly freer than Cuba’s.
    This is just one more example of the Obama Administration turning Teddy Roosevelt’s proverb on its head; Obama speaks loudly but carries a miniscule stick.
    The international sanctions he’s promised for months have never materialized and when and if they do, everyone knows that they will be ineffective. The Obama Administration did everything it could to delay the Senate and House from putting together a conference committee to work out their differences on an American sanctions bill on Iran and now that the Conference Committee has been convened by Senator Dodd and Congressman Berman, the Administration is trying to poke as many holes in the legislation as possible.
    While doing next to nothing, Secretary Clinton has kept up a constant verbal barrage against Ahmadinejad; it’s so ineffective that it must have the Iranian Mullahs giggling under their breath.
    Iran continues enriching uranium; the Administration’s response is to do nothing. Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, continue to hold Lebanon hostage while intimidating the Christian and Sunni Lebanese; the Administration’s response is to do nothing. Iran’s proxy in Syria ships Scuds to Hezbollah while doing everything it can to undermine the Lebanese Government and escape retribution for the assassination of Rafik Hariri; the Administration’s response is to do nothing.
    Obama’s policies towards Iran are the perfect metaphor for the behavior of his entire Administration; in fact they’re the perfect metaphor for the President himself; everything is about symbolism and rhetorical flourishes; actual accomplishments are almost completely absent. In fact it’s worse than that; it appears that the Administration can’t distinguish between its rhetorical flourishes and real success.
    Banning Iranian reporters; yes, that’s the ticket to an effective Iran policy.
    While Hillary screams and gesticulates; Obama’s stick gets smaller every day.


  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Clinton Aims to Protect Israel’s Nuke ‘Secret'”
    So this horseshit about a “nuclear free” Middle East is just political mumbo jumbo, a talking point that means absolutely NOTHING.
    Honestly, no wonder the rest of the global community can no longer take us seriously. We don’t even try to hide our unstated ulterior motives and policy biases. We are so blatantly hypocritical that we would be better served by just being honest and admitting that Israel OWNS these cowards in DC, and that our policies in the Middle East are founded in the goal of nurturing Israel’s expansion and military dominance over its neighbors, to say nothing of its continued oppression, with our support, of the Palestinian people.


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