The Washington Post is continuing its drumbeat for war with Iran. Last week it ran an op-ed urging the West not to be fooled by Iranian conciliatory steps, urging instead harsher sanctions and a possible military option. A lead editorial followed three days later making the same points. But the piece de resistance was a Memorial Day front-page featured headline revealing that “US diplomats among targets of Iran-linked plot.” And lest anyone miss the point the tale was repeated in a Jennifer Rubin blog later that day. 

The only problem is that if one actually reads the fairly long and somewhat disjointed original article it becomes clear that the tale is reliant on anonymous sources of unknown provenance and short on actual evidence. No one knowledgeable of the facts in the case is quoted. It is all similar to the widely debunked Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador in Washington which was reported in similar fashion late last year. The Post story, to its credit, even concedes that there is no evidence of any Iranian government involvement in the alleged conspiracy (even if the headline suggests otherwise). There are a number of alternative explanations, including criminal activity, for the arms shipments and communications intercepts that appear to be related to the plot as it was described to Post journalist Joby Warrick. Testimony from a number of Azeris who were arrested in connection with the alleged conspiracy and which is described in general terms might have been obtained through torture.

Based on last week alone, anyone relying on The Post for news about Iran comes away with the impression that Tehran is a) building a nuclear weapon and the missiles to deliver it, b) supporting terrorist groups that are targeting Americans, and c) trying to assassinate U.S. diplomats. At best, all three assumptions can be challenged and none of the allegations have been corroborated by United States intelligence or law enforcement. Quite the contrary, CIA has confirmed that Iran has terminated its nuclear-weapon program and the FBI has discovered no Hezbollah or other groups linked to Iran with infrastructure inside the United States. The only evidence that Tehran is seeking to kill American diplomats is as presented by The Post: anonymous sources and suppositions about how certain facts and events possibly connect and will play out.