- Al Jazeera English Published on May 27, 2019
Hyped-up headlines, “anonymous” sources and unspecified threats – Iran is back in the news in the United States. It wouldn’t be the first time the US media, wittingly or unwittingly, have made the case for war on the basis of vague, anonymously sourced intelligence. In 2003, it was Iraq. In 2019, it’s Iran. Much of American news reporting on US-Iran relations glosses over President Donald Trump’s role, how his policies have led to this standoff. There’s even less space given to reflect on the history of the US aggression against Iran. Which is not to say the Islamic Republic, ruled by authoritarians and involved in wars in Syria and Yemen, is an innocent player.
However, inflammatory headlines, unnamed sources and decades of misinformation in the US media over Iran – don’t help. “All of a sudden, you have a news headline that takes over the world which comes from a rather dubious and questionable sourcing,” explains Ali Vaez, the director of Iran Project at International Crisis Group. “But by the time that people start asking questions, it’s already too late because the narrative has been framed.” The 2003 Iraq war is considered the greatest collective failure in the history of American journalism. And it’s far too soon to see those kinds of practices in use, once again. “The US media was not critical at all of the George W Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq war,” points out Narges Bajoghli, an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “And in this instance, we are seeing the same sorts of attributions begin again when in US media they’re talking a lot about threats from Iran and yet they’re not providing much intel about that.”