CBS vs CBS, and ABC and NBC Too, on NIE Impact on Iran Sanctions

Reports on Tuesday's broadcast network evening newscasts all highlighted concerns the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded Iran stopped working on its nuclear weapons program in 2003, will reduce international pressure on Iran. But just a couple of minutes after CBS's Jim Axelrod asserted that “maintaining an international coalition to confront Iran will no doubt be trickier now,” CBS's Elizabeth Palmer contended from London that pressure to impose sanctions, “led by the European leaders,” remains “huge” since “they've always said, 'look, the point is to stop Iran enriching uranium that could be one of the ingredients for a bomb.' And they believe that sanctions could be very effective in finally curbing that program which remains very active as we speak.”

Like Axelrod, NBC's David Gregory noted that “the President is making the case that the international community cannot let up on Iran,” but “the question is whether a skeptical public and skeptical international community will listen?” ABC's Martha Raddatz related how the White House is “concerned” and “I've been in touch with some diplomats. The ones who have to go overseas and say please join us with these sanctions. There is definite concern...”

The conclusion of Jim Axelrod's story, from the White House, on the December 4 CBS Evening News:
AXELROD: Maintaining an international coalition to confront Iran will no doubt be trickier now. China's ambassador to the United Nations said today, quote: “Things have changed” because of this latest NIE.
JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The momentum is going to move away from the world coming together because that sense of urgency that had dominated this issue has just gone away.

AXELROD: Even the Secretary of State under the first President Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger, says this report makes the President's job of rallying allies much tougher. Eagleburger told me, quote: “It complicates it is hell out of it.”
Next, anchor Katie Couric went to Elizabeth Palmer in London for a report on Palmer's recent trip to Iran where she found the current sanctions are hurting that nation's economy. Couric then asked Palmer about whether there is “still a lot of international pressure to impose more sanctions” and Palmer offered an assessment which differed from the assumptions relayed by CBS's Axelrod minutes earlier, as well as the stories on ABC and NBC:
COURIC: Now that these U.S. intelligence agencies have said that the Iranians stopped working on developing nuclear weapons four years ago, is there still a lot of international pressure to impose more sanctions?

PALMER: Huge, being led by the European leaders. They've always said, “look, the point is to stop Iran enriching uranium that could be one of the ingredients for a bomb.” And they believe that sanctions could be very effective in finally curbing that program which remains very active as we speak.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center