The NYTimes Walks Back Their Iran Alarmism

On Sunday, the New York Times published an alarming piece by William Broad, James Glanz, and David Sanger claiming that Iran had acquired nearly twenty BM-25 missiles from North Korea that “could for the first time give Iran the capacity to strike at capitals in Western Europe or easily reach Moscow.” The article was based entirely on a Feb. 2010 cable released by WikiLeaks.

The only problem, as IPS’s Gareth Porter pointed out on Tuesday, was that the Times story omitted crucial context that made the picture far murkier. This context included Russian denials that the missiles in question even existed.

Today, the Times issued a new story walking back their original analysis. The story notes that “a review of a dozen other State Department cables made available by WikiLeaks and interviews with American government officials offer a murkier picture of Iran’s missile capabilities.” It’s perhaps notable that David Sanger, whose Times reporting on Iran has tended toward an alarmist view of Iranian weapons capabilities, had a byline on the first story but not the second.

The Times should be commended for showing some skepticism about the BM-25 story. Given the paper’s sorry record in the run-up to the Iraq war, let’s hope that this skepticism proves to be the rule and not the exception.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. Shouldn’t the Times be a bit more careful in its reporting? We are approaching the first anniversary of the alarming Christmas Eve op-ed they ran that called for military action. There’s altogether too much Likudism simmering somewhere in the bowels of the Times.

  2. Fox News is plenty good for the stirring up the rubes, but whenever I launch a bogus war I like to have some respectable liberals on my side. The Grey Lady plays an essential role in securing the support of this element.

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