The magical mutating Iran coverage at the New York Times.
One does not need to study biology to understand the concept of mutation. Reading the New York Times report on Iran is enough. Within two months, America’s self-styled paper of record completely reversed its original Iran narrative.
Consider the January 14 editorial titled “Secretary of State Pompeo Leaves No Bridges Unburned.” It claims that there wasn’t “any evidence” supporting Pompeo’s assertion that “Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11 attacks, had found a new home base in Iran.”
As I read it, I felt pretty sure that, contra the Times, the evidence behind Pompeo’s assertion was firm. In fact, I was equally sure that I read about it right in the New York Times. Whose memory is failing, mine or that of the Times’ editors?
For the sake of my sanity, I thought I’d find the original article. And indeed, it turns out that it is not I, but the editors and reporters at the Times who suffer from amnesia -- willful amnesia, I suspect, that is intended to pave the way for Biden’s upcoming appeasement of Iran.
Two months ago, on November 13, 2020, the Times published an article entitled “Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Was Killed in Iran.” The article spent several paragraphs delving into the fact that Iran allowed an Al Qaeda leader to live freely in Tehran:
That he [Al Qaeda’s No. 2] had been living in Iran was surprising, given that Iran and Al Qaeda are bitter enemies. Iran, a Shiite Muslim theocracy, and Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim jihadist group, have fought each other on the battlefields of Iraq and other places.
American intelligence officials say that Mr. al-Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003, but that he had been living freely in the Pasdaran district of Tehran, an upscale suburb, since at least 2015.
Some terrorism experts suggested that keeping Qaeda officials in Tehran might provide some insurance that the group would not conduct operations inside Iran. American counterterrorism officials believe Iran may have allowed them to stay to run operations against the United States, a common adversary.
It would not be the first time that Iran had joined forces with Sunni militants, having supported Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Taliban.
“Iran uses sectarianism as a cudgel when it suits the regime, but is also willing to overlook the Sunni-Shia divide when it suits Iranian interests,” said Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Center. (Emphasis added.)
Note the assurance which with the Times speaks of an Al Qaeda presence in Iran.
By January 12, though, in an article entitled “Pompeo Says Iran Is New Base for Al Qaeda, but Offers Little Proof,” the Times was reporting that there was “little proof” of synergy between the ayatollahs and Al Qaeda despite Al Qaeda’s No. 2 being allowed to roam freely in Tehran under their protection. The subtitle was now an attack against Pompeo’s practical expertise: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statements were tempered by some U.S. officials, who said there was little new intelligence to suggest that Iran was an active headquarters for the terrorist group.”
And finally, a mere two days later, that “little proof” had mutated into the “no evidence” standard in the January 14 editorial:
On Tuesday Mr. Pompeo declared that Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11 attacks, had found a new home base in Iran. “They are partners in terrorism, partners in hate,” he declared without offering any evidence. Current and former officials were quick to temper and even contradict the claim, which provided Mr. Pompeo with a pretext for further demonizing Iran, a leitmotif of the administration, and made any effort by Mr. Biden to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal more difficult.
In a mere two months, a specific narrative in the New York Times about a relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda had mutated from fact to fiction. One may wonder whether the Times’ editors read their own paper or whether they forget that Times’ readers read the New York Times.
Or, perhaps, the Times editors live in Orwell’s 1984, and practice rules of its Ministry of Truth, altering history to fit the politics of the moment, and genetically engineering their reporting. Biden wants Iran to look nice and clean, peace-seeking, and meek -- not dangerous and aggressive -- allowing him to go back to Obama’s Iran “deal,” and the spin doctors at the Times happily oblige.
IMAGE: Mike Pompeo. Rumble screengrab.