The Washington Post is generally regarded as liberal on most issues but has promoted a neoconservative foreign policy since Fred Hiatt took over the editorial page in 2000. The Post has supported the Iraq war, the “Surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and drone warfare, while also pushing for a more aggressive US response to Iran, including the possible exercise of the military option. But even conditioned by the Post’s admittedly bellicose worldview, Friday’s lead editorial should be awarded some kind of prize for over-the-top journalism. It starts: “The bombing of a bus in Bulgaria filled with Israeli tourists on Wednesday underlines the grim fact that Iran is waging a war of terrorism.” The editorial goes on to claim that the Iranians have been behind nine recent terrorist attacks worldwide, three in the past month alone.
While it is highly likely that Iran and Israel are, in fact, engaged in tit-for-tat encounters using covert operatives and resources, the Post’s assumption that Iran is behind every incident that takes place involving Israel is wildly off target. It also fails to take into account the fact that Iran has been on the receiving end of terrorism and acts of war from Israel and the US, ranging from assassinations of scientists to the creation of sophisticated computer viruses targeting Iranian infrastructure. The Post’s editorial appeared after the Bulgarian government urged caution, stating that the identity and affiliation of the bomber were unknown and advising against a rush to judgment. The fact is that Israel has many enemies, including al-Qaeda, and it is misleading to suggest that Iran is somehow the only one capable of carrying out a terrorist attack, particularly as the modus operandi in Bulgaria, a suicide bomber, has not been used by Iran nor even by Hezbollah since the Israelis evacuated Lebanon in 2006. Al-Qaeda does, however, use the tactic frequently.
The editorial also fails to reckon with the fact that the Iranian government has not actually been implicated in any of the attacks referred to, tiptoeing around the issue by observing that “Iranian officials have hinted that they are seeking revenge for the assassinations of scientists…” and citing “strong evidence linking Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to the attacks.” Neither assertion is correct – Iran has provided no such “hints” and the “strong evidence” for involvement of Hezbollah or Pasdaran is speculation by the Israeli and US governments and media.
The editorial is sometimes absurdly forward-leaning in its attempt to make its case comprehensively. One of the incidents cited in the editorial is last October’s alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador at a Georgetown restaurant, a tale that has been widely debunked as ludicrous. And the editorial castigates India for failing to implicate Iran in the February bombing of an Israeli embassy vehicle in New Delhi, but it ascribes the Indian reluctance to a lack of fortitude, not a lack of evidence, which would be closer to the mark. Ditto for the February bombing in Tbilisi and more recent alleged plots in Thailand, Cyprus and Kenya.
The danger of the line being pushed by the Washington Post and other news outlets in the US vis-à-vis Iran is that it creates a consensus in the public mind that Iran’s government is both reckless and dangerous, actively engaging in terrorism worldwide. Because the evidence to support this contention is lacking, it should be viewed as yet one more argument being contrived to explain why the US and/or Israel must take military action against Tehran. Another war in the Middle East would be catastrophic for all parties involved, particularly in its impact on the struggling US and European economies, and it would behoove the Post and other media outlets to take seriously the likely consequences of their inflammatory editorial commentary.