Here’s the New York Times's Mark Landler reporting on the meeting today between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu:
“The ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its nuclear program,” Mr. Netanyahu said to reporters after meeting with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office.
So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program.
Those quotes do not say the same thing, and they do not mean the same thing. Both renderings, however, are problematic — one for diplomacy on the nuke issue and the other for the assumptions behind it.
On the former score, Iran will never agree to any deal that “dismantles” its nuclear program. For that matter, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said yesterday that Iran’s “right to enrich is nonnegotiable.”
The latter rendering — the version in the White House transcript — has Netanyahu implicitly accusing Iran of maintaining an active “military nuclear program.” That doesn’t comport with reported U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran has not made a decision to build nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has questions about what it calls “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme” — but the IAEA is explicit that the reference is to Iran’s activities prior to 2003.
Either way, both Netanyahu and Mark Landler got some ‘splainin’ to do.
UPDATE: I couldn’t find the video, but Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News was kind enough to point the way. The video is here, and Netanyahu does indeed say “military nuclear program” (n fact, he says it twice).
UPDATE II: The Times has updated its story to get rid of the paragraph reproduced above (I’m told the paragraph doesn’t appear in the print edition, either). It appears the newspaper updated the story for the print edition — as they often do, to account for new developments and to edit for length. This is insufficient: the story as it stood midday on Monday contained an error, a misquote of a world leader that changed the meaning of that leader’s comments. The paper should therefore undoubtably issue a formal correction. Failing that, the Times's excellent ombud Margaret Sullivan should hold the editors to account for why they did not.
Remarkably, the Washington Post made the same error this morning, leaving out the word “military” from Netanyahu’s second reference to Iran’s “military nuclear program.” The paragraph reads like this:
“What’s the bottom line? Iran must fully dismantle its nuclear program,” he said.
I leave it to you to compare that to the video, or the White House transcript.