Christian Amanpour and Severe Messaging: Interviewing Gideon Saar Vs. Javad Zarif

When Israeli politician Gideon Saar last month told CNN’s Christian Amanpour that Israel would like to help Palestinians obtain the coronavirus vaccine after it takes care of its own citizens, the outraged journalist chided him: “that’s a pretty severe message to the Palestinians.”

In contrast, when she sat down yesterday with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during a critical period in which Iran is ratcheting up its flagrant violations of the nuclear deal and acting belligerently in the region as President Joe Biden maps out his course with respect to Iran, Amanpour delicately avoided calling Iran out for any “severe messaging.”

While her softball interview with Zarif was marked by the foreign minister’s uninterrupted minutes-long monologues about supposed Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal and friendly neighborly intentions, last month’s cross-examination of Saar was characterized by Amanpour’s hostile, bulldog response as the Israeli politician disputed her fallacious assertion that Israeli is legally responsible for providing West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians with the covid-19 vaccine.

In her combative Jan. 14 questioning of Saar, Amanpour fabricated that the Oslo Accords require Israel to provide Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the vaccine, repeatedly interrupted her interviewee, talked over him, accused him of delivering “a pretty severe message to the Palestinians,” and cut him off when he started to point out that vast Palestinian Authority payments to convicted terrorists and their families belie the notion that the Palestinian government can’t afford the vaccine.

 

In contrast, some two weeks later, when she sat down with Iran’s foreign minister, Amanpour patiently waited for him to finish multiple minutes long factually-challenged speeches (0:44 to 4:06; 6:09 to 8:32), and politely followed up with tepid questions about only some of his fictions. Among Zarif’s fantastical claims, detached from reality, is the assertion that Iran has complied with the nuclear deal. He stated:

… Iran used the mechanisms in the nuclear agreement in order to limit its cooperation. If you read paragraph 36, we acted in strict accordance with the — with the nuclear agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, has said otherwise. As reported in Defense News (“UN agency says Iran is violating all restrictions of nuclear deal,” June 5, 2020):

Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of its deal with world powers, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported the finding in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press.

The agency said that as of May 20, Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,571.6 kilograms (1.73 tons), up from 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons) on Feb. 19.

Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).

The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018.

The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It is also above the pact’s limitations on heavy water. …

It is now in violation of all restrictions outlined by the JCPOA.

In response to Zarif’s insistence on Iranian compliance, Amanpour displayed none of the hostility with which she regaled Saar. Instead, once Zarif finished airing multiple points, Amanpour delicately returned to the issue of uranium enrichment and compliance with the JCPOA, gently prodding: “So, I want to ask you, specifically on that issues of what you have been doing, you say under the terms of the agreement, since the U.S. pulled out, but I want to you to respond to what the secretary of state has said about the specific issue.”

Reacting to the clip of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stating that “Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts,” Zarif delivered a lengthy answer, insisting: “Clearly, actions that Iran takes have always been monitored and verified by the IAEA. And we have shown that we fulfill our our promises. . . . ” Then, apparently contradicting himself, he added: “If we are away from the strict limitations of the nuclear agreement, it’s because the United States tried to impose a full economic war on Iran. Now, it stops that, we will go back into full compliance.” Amanpour did not call him out on the contradiction.

When Amanpour questioned him whether a bill passed recently by the Iranian parliament – enabling Iran to halt cooperation with the IAEA and to step up enrichment of uranium – would violate the deal, Zarif’s double speak continued. “Those will not be violating our side of the deal,” he said. “That would be a part of reducing our commitments, because these are voluntary commitments that we made. It won’t be kicking out IAEA inspectors. It will be reducing and limited IAEA inspectors. . .”

In fact, the bill, which was passed to the legislators’ shouts of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” called for suspending, not reducing, IAEA inspections. The Associated Press reported that the bill also allowed Iran to “commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site” (“Iran’s parliament approves bill to stop nuclear inspections“). The bill was passed into law, and last month Iran escalated uranium enrichment to 20 percent.

Arm of Frienship, No Missile Problem

On regional politics, Amanpour noted a previous statement by Zarif in which he charged that President Trump “inflamed divisions to the point where a minor incident might quickly spiral out of control and lead to a major war,” and probed whether, given the Abraham Accords and the ensuing new relationships between Israel and “many, many Arab nations,” whether “the pressure is on you.”

Zarif dismissed the importance of the normalization developments, and added about the Arab countries:

I believe they are risking their security. They won’t get any security from Israel. They are risking their security by bringing Israel into the regional security equation. We have been clear about our intention to live in peace with our neighbors, and we have extended an arm of friendship, a hand of friendship to our neighbors. And, unfortunately, they have refused that hand time and again, hoping to fight Iran until the last American soldier.

Amanpour was not tactless enough to cross-examine Zarif on his country’s alleged arm of friendship towards its neighbors. She declined to raise the unpleasant subject of missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which the United States blamed on Iran; multiple attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which the U.S. also attributed to Iran; or the report that emerged the same day as the interview that an Iranian agent scouted out Emirati, American and Israeli embassies in an east African nation for a planned attack. Amanpour is likewise silent on Iran’s other bad behavior in the region: entrenching itself in Syria, setting up a pipeline of precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon, and arming Hezbollah, whose arsenal now reportedly includes 150,000 rockets which can reach all of Israel’s cities.

On the question of Iranian missiles, Zarif insisted there’s no problem, reassuring:

In 2023, the issue of missiles will be cleared, because, according to previous resolutions, missiles were a problem if Iran had the capability of producing nuclear warheads. Now clearly the nuclear accord will prevent us from producing nuclear warheads. So the issue – [Amanpour interrupts: OK] – of missiles be immaterial, irrelevant anymore.

Nuclear or not, Iran’s missiles are highly relevant, contrary to Zarif’s assertion. Less than two weeks ago, when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards conducted a missile drill, the narrator of the televised event, warned:

Whenever needed, this force will be activated, in order to crush this country’s enemies and ill-wishers. These precise ballistic missiles target virtual enemy battleships, 1800 km away. … this way, the long-range missiles of the IRGC will prevent any evil activity or intent by the enemy in a radius of 2,000 kilometers from Iran. [Translation by MEMRI]

Amanpour’s flaccid response on the “immaterial” missiles claim was simply: “So, look, there’s a lot out there, and it is quite complex.”

Saving viewers the complexity, Amanpour filters out Iran’s severe messaging on “the corpse of America and the regime of arrogance.” There are, after all, a lot of difficult issues demanding outrage, including apparently Israel’s incorrigible willingness to assist Palestinians in the pandemic once its own population is protected.