The Corner

Retired American Ambassadors in Tehran

Beltway press watchers know that Barbara Slavin, a former reporter for USA Today and a former editor for the Washington Times, is a mistress of omission. On Tuesday, she penned a piece in ForeignPolicy.com about a nuclear conference in Tehran attended by two former American ambassadors, William Miller and William Luers. The American attendees have been outspoken proponents of unconditional engagement and all, like Slavin herself, have peddled conspiracy theories about U.S. policy toward Iran (indeed, this is the reason her colleagues say her USA Today editors eventually asked her to recuse herself from the subject).   Her essay is a great example of how journalists use omissions to color articles. Here is what Slavin says about Miller:

Miller, a former ambassador to Ukraine who has promoted dialogue with Iran for more than a decade since his retirement from the Foreign Service, said he hoped to gauge Iran’s position on nuclear matters and also get a sense of the political situation in the aftermath of June’s disputed presidential election and the largest public protests against the government since 1979.

Here is what Slavin neglected to mention, but even folks like the late Secretary of State Cyrus Vance spoke of: Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Miller had championed Ayatollah Khomeini’s cause and argued that Khomeini would be “a progressive force for human rights.” 

Alas, here we see one more example of agenda journalism, as well as an example of when so-called Track II diplomacy goes bad: Rather than engage American policymakers honestly, the Islamic Republic invites those who dismiss U.S. concerns. Rather than represent U.S. national-security interests, some retired ambassadors serve as useful idiots in Iranian propaganda theater. Let’s hope that Obama isn’t relying on apologists for Khomeini the way Carter did (Carter used Miller and Ramsey Clark as his early emissaries).

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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