(but not vice versa)
23 September '12..
"What if Israel bombed Iran?" The huge headline, in inch-high letters, poses the question across the front page of the Washington Post's Sunday, Sept. 23, "Outlook" section.
A smaller headline follows: "For months, Israel has threatened to strike Iran's nuclear sites. The U.S. has urged restraint. If such an operation were launched, how might these three nations react?
In turn, this is followed by three speculative articles about the likely impact in Washington, Tehran and Tel Aviv of Israeli pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.
What-if war games are constantly conducted by military planners -- and everybody can join in. But what is striking about the huge spread in the Washington Post is that readers are only treated to a one-sided scenario -- Israel as the aggressor; Iran as the target.
Yet, there's a more plausible script that can be readily conjured up and which the Post could have used -- but didn't. Such as:
"What if Iran got nukes and unleashed multiple attacks on Israel?" Followed by "For years, Israel warned the world about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. But the U.S. and other powers hesitated. If a nuclear Iran ordered Hamas and Hezbollah to fire thousands of missiles at Israeli cities and towns, how might these three nations -- U.S., Iran and Israel react?"
Which is the more likely scenario? It's not the Post's. After all, look at the respective intentions of the major players -- Iran and Israel. Iran for years threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Its No. 1 objective is to eliminate the entire Jewish state. It wants a Middle East that is totally Judenrein. In contrast, Israel has never threatened to wipe Iran off the map. Its focus remains solely on Iran's nuclear program. If Israel were to strike, Iranian nuclear facilities would be its only targets. And it really wouldn't be a pre-emptive move since Iran already has been and remains at war with Israel -- via rocket attacks by Iranian surrogates like Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza and, in previous encounters, from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In an ironic, timely twist - on the same day that the Post spotlights its worries about a pre-emptive Israeli strike -- the head of Iran's missile command threatens to attack Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East, without waiting for Israel to strike first.
What the Post's huge spread demonstrates is that Western mainstream media are worried only about possible Israeli moves, while ignoring the larger threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Unfortunately, this upside-down view of Middle East war clouds also permeates their day-to-day coverage.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers