One of the more chilling early reports following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel was that Iran was involved in planning and approving it. The story, reported by The Wall Street Journal (free link), began:
Iranian security officials helped plan Hamas’s Saturday surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday, according to senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group.
The story conjured up the horrifying possibility of a multi-front war dragging in not just Israel and Iran but possibly the United States and Russia as well. It was a Journal exclusive, and the paper has not retracted its report. But the problem with an exclusive is that, as the days go by and no one else matches your reporting, it starts to look like an exclusive for the wrong reasons.
Almost immediately, Josh Marshall took note of the Journal’s reliance on sources inside Hamas and Hezbollah and dismissed the notion of any direct tie between Iran and Hamas’ actions over the weekend. “Anyone looking for a rationale for Israel or the U.S. to declare war on Iran needs to be smacked down hard and ignored,” he wrote. Of course, Iran and Hamas are close allies, and Marshall was careful to note this:
Iran funds and arms Hamas and is cheering on their attack. Hamas also receives training from the network of Iran-backed militias in the region. So it’s not like there’s some big mystery about whose side they’re on or whether they support and supply Hamas.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence agencies could find no evidence that Iranian officials had advance knowledge of the Hamas attack. The account begins:
The United States has collected multiple pieces of intelligence that show that key Iranian leaders were surprised by the Hamas attack in Israel, information that has fueled U.S. doubts that Iran played a direct role in planning the assault, according to several American officials.
The events that are unfolding right now are bad enough without whipping up hysteria that could lead to a wider, even more deadly conflict. Although we can’t know for sure, it looks like the Journal might have gotten played. It’s in Hamas’ interests to drag Iran into the war, and of course Iran would like to stop peace talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But that doesn’t make the Journal’s story true, and we should regard it as unsupported unless more evidence emerges.