An editorial in The New York Times warned late Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to portray Iran’s recent diplomatic overtures as a smokescreen to obscure its alleged nuclear weapons program could lead, by undermining international diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue, to the use of force against Iran. Hours earlier, during his address at the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu had ridiculed a 2005 New York Times editorial on the purported success of diplomacy in North Korea.
Netanyahu’s “aggressive speech” Tuesday to the UN, the paper argued, used “sarcasm and combative words” in an attempt to show that Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is in truth a “smooth-talking charlatan… determined to continue building a nuclear weapons arsenal.”
Although it acknowledged the “legitimate reasons to be wary of any Iranian overtures” — including the fact that “Iran hid its nuclear program from United Nations inspectors for nearly 20 years” and has developed missile technology likely designed to deliver a nuclear payload — the paper took Netanyahu and his allies in the US Congress to task for being “so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat” and could prevent President Barack Obama from “taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution.”
If the recent Iranian overtures were to be blocked or neglected, the piece argued, the results would be “disastrous.”
Obama, the paper’s editorial board concluded, should help Netanyahu, who “seems eager for a fight” with Iran, to “see that sabotaging diplomacy, especially before Iran is tested, only makes having to use force more likely. That would be the worst result of all.”
In his UN speech, Netanyahu quoted from, and derided, a New York Times editorial from 2005 that erroneously hailed the success of diplomacy in thwarting North Korea’s drive to the bomb. A year after that editorial was published, he pointed out, “North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device.”