Postcard from . . . DC: Myth of Iran Support for al-Qaeda Just Won’t Die

Alexander Hunter/Washington Times

Alexander Hunter/Washington Times

I really have to hand it to the Washington Times. They’ve done a fine job illustrating how the entire war with Iran argument works these days with just a single image.

As you can see, it is of a glowing-eyed, long-bearded ayatollah holding a puppet of Osama bin Laden that has, on one hand, the “underwear bomber” and on the other, the “shoe bomber.” As a political cartoon, it is very effective. It makes the enemy look sinister and cartoonish at the same time, and clearly tells the reader who is pulling the strings of terrorism.

The article this image appears in, written by Mitchell D. Silber (the director of the NYPD’s “Intelligence Division’s Analytic and Cyber Units”), is titled “The Mutating al Qaeda Threat.”

So what? There are lots of stories about Iran’s alleged interactions with al Qaeda. What makes this one representative of the case for war with Iran?

The reason this story is representative is because of what Mr. Silber doesn’t say, but the Washington Times implies.

Mr. Silbert is not using his editorial space to argue that Tehran was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, or is supporting al Qaeda, because he does not mention Iran in his article. Not once. His article is about “domestic extremists,” i.e., citizens of the U.S., UK and Pakistan, who have been inspired by al Qaeda.

Iran does not enter into it, and the image is not Mr. Silber’s own. It is the Times’s image choice.

So, despite the absence of Iranians in the story, we have this illustration — titled “Iran” — suggesting that al Qaeda and those it’s inspired are Tehran’s puppets.

The image choice doesn’t go with the article, to say the least. And, it’s misleading. I initially thought that this was going to be piece about Iran’s interactions with al Qaeda.

Given the way alleged Iraqi interactions with al Qaeda were used to support the cause for regime change in Iraq, I hope that as individuals call for U.S. military intervention and regime change in Iran, people will bear in mind this example of how imagery can be so disconnected from actual intelligence.

It seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, these days.

Paul Mutter is a Fellow at Truthout and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.