What Fox News won't tell you

An article on Fox's Web site provides a perfect example of shoddy journalism on the possibility of Iranian arms in Iraq.

Published February 12, 2007 10:16PM (EST)

There have already been some particularly stellar examples of shoddy journalism regarding the administration's claims about Iranian arms flowing to Iraq. But an article on Fox News' Web site today is one of the more illustrative examples of how, when it comes to the administration's arguments on the issue, logic -- as well any perspective of the reality of the situation in Iraq -- is simply being thrown out the window.

Let's say for the sake of argument that the administration is right on two key points: that Iranian arms are indeed flowing into Iraq and that it's happening with the approval of the Iranian government. Even if that's true, there's still a big logical hole in the reasoning of much of the press's reporting on the issue. That's especially true of this article, beginning in just the first sentence: "The White House stuck to its guns Monday, insisting it had clear evidence that Tehran approved the shipment of weapons -- including deadly bomb-making materials -- to Shiite militants for use against U.S. forces in Iraq."

What's the problem there? Well, simply that weapons supplied by Iran to Shiite militias would be far more likely to be used in sectarian violence against Sunnis than against U.S. troops. As Salon contributor Juan Cole has already pointed out on his blog, the majority -- by far -- of U.S. deaths in Iraq are caused by Sunnis, not Shiites. Beyond that, the weapons allegedly supplied by Iran are flowing to U.S. allies in Iraq.

That, of course, is what Fox won't tell you. It does refer, obliquely, to "a December raid on the Hakim compound in Baghdad." That would be the compound of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of SCIRI, a Shiite party that is the largest of any in Iraq's Parliament. Hakim was a guest at the White House, where he met with the president, in December. And, as we've previously discussed, in an interview with documentary filmmaker Martin Smith, the SCIRI's militia, the Badr Corps, is a dominating presence in Iraq's police force.

One of the better examples of how to do reporting on this story the right way is over at Time magazine, in a piece by Charles Crain -- it's here.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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