In today’s Washington Post, reporter Robin Wright gives neoconservative pundits like the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and AEI’s Michael Rubin a platform to advocate for military action against Iran. Wright suggests these calls are part of “a new drumbeat for bolder action.” Without offering opposing viewpoints, Wright recycles the preemptive strike theories of her sources — all prior advocates of preemptive military action against Iraq.
Like the NYT’s Michael Gordon before her, Wright uncritically reports the Bush administration’s claim that “since May, the first formal talks between U.S. and Iranian envoys in 28 years have not deterred Iranian support for Iraqi Shiite militias targeting U.S. troops and the Green Zone,” a claim that has become media conventional wisdom.
Yet the contention that Iran is formally undermining efforts in Iraq has little grounding in reality:
— Gen. Peter Pace told reporters he has no evidence of any links between the explosives killing Americans and the Iranian government.
— A National Intelligence Estimate released in February concluded that Iranian involvement was “not likely” to be a major driver of violence.
— A recent McClatchy analysis of U.S. casualties in Iraq confirms earlier reports that the great majority of foreign fighters in Iraq are Sunni Saudis, not Iranians.
Reviewing the paper’s coverage in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Washington Post editor Bob Woodward admitted that “we should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier” than widely believed. Media reporter Howard Kurtz characterized the paper’s reporting as “strikingly one-sided at times.”
But if Wright’s most recent report is any indication, then the Post is in danger of replicating its past mistakes.
UPDATE: Robin Wright writes in to take issue with the post:
This article totally misrepresents what I wrote and the intent, and I consider it intellectually dishonest to attack me or The Post for merely trying to identify the people, institutions and arguments for more aggression action against Iran. In three references, I pointed out that the people cited were either advocates of war in Iraq or echoed arguments to justify war in Iraq.
Second, the press is constantly coming under attack for not identifying early enough the arguments made for going to war with Iraq. I am trying to make sure that the press is devoting attention to what is beginning to be a critical mass for this argument on Iran. This was meant to be a benchmark piece in covering the emerging debate, which is no longer focused just on Iran’s alleged nuclear program but is also now tied to Tehran’s role in Iraq.
Third, the context for this article was also misunderstood and misrepresented. I was contrasting what this group of people think with what the administration has been trying to do with carrot-and-stick diplomacy with Iran over the past 14 months–as the lead sentence notes.
Finally, I am not an editorial writer. I am merely presenting the news–and this development. It is up the reader to determine how they feel about the people who make this case or the case itself.
I was surprised that the writer of this comment also did not go to the trouble of doing any research on my own writing on Iran (including several books dating back to 1973) or even looking at the piece I wrote in The Washington Post’s Outlook section two weeks ago about Iran. He might have developed a more realistic assessment of the context of both this piece and my work.