In the Babylon and Beyond blog at the Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi floats an interesting theory on a potentially explosive story that appeared at the website of the Iranian newspaper Javan — only to be retracted with an apology just hours later.
The article at Javan, published briefly Sunday, said that Iran had captured seven U.S. soldiers along its border with Pakistan. Though the story was taken down, with an apology to readers, the action wasn’t swift enough to prevent the story from quickly zipping around the world — and into several international news sources.
Once the story was proven to be false, Daragahi offered a take on the rumor/misinformation in his piece, on which the headline blared: “In false report of captured American soldiers, a warning to Ahmadinejad?”
Daragahi’s theory relies on the reported ties of Javan to the Revolutionary Guard Core (IRGC), Iran’s powerful ideological militia — Javad is “linked to the intelligence branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard,” Daragahi put it — and the timing, with the story coming as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad steps onto the world stage at the UN General Assembly in New York.
The version Daragahi offers:
Iran watchers suspect hard-line elements within the Revolutionary Guard may have been trying to further damage an already battered and politically weakened President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his ongoing trip to New York, where he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly and give a bunch of interviews to international media, as he does to improve his domestic and international standing every year.
“The system’s enemies and ill-wishers are trying to create an adverse atmosphere against the president and to overshadow his speech at the United Nations,” Sistan-Baluchestan Governor-General Ali Mohammad Azad, an appointee of Ahmadinejad, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
But the publication of the report may also have served as a menacing reminder to Ahmadinejad of how boxed in he is on foreign policy.
Perhaps those powerful figures hiding in the shadows of the security apparatus want to remind Ahmadinejad that any deal he tries to cut over Iran’s nuclear program, any attempt he makes to improve ties or even reduce tensions with the U.S., and any gambit he makes to soften Iran’s image can be easily undermined with one grand stunt, such as capturing a platoon of U.S. soldiers along the Iranian border.