WaPo Buries U.S. Release of Iranian Detainees, Praise from Tehran Deep in Article on Protests

One has to wonder if working for the Washington Post fits the Obama definition of a "shovel-ready" job given the paper's penchant for burying the lede.

Deep within his July 9-filed story "Protesters Clash With Police in Iran," Washington Post Foreign Service correspondent Thomas Erdbrink noted a very interesting development  bearing implications on the Obama administration's foreign policy regarding Iran and handling of the global war on terror.

The last six paragraphs of Erdbrink's 18-paragraph story -- which ran in the July 10 print edition on page A12 -- note how the theocratic regime in Tehran praised the Obama administration for its relative silence on the Iranian election aftermath just one day before the U.S. government released Iranian detainees captured two years ago in Iraq (emphasis mine):

Meanwhile, the U.S. military on Thursday released five Iranian officials who were detained in January 2007 in northern Iraq on suspicion of aiding Iraqi Shiite insurgents, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Iranian officials said.

"We have no information yet about their physical or psychological condition or where they were kept the past two years," said Amir Arshadi, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy. "We are still waiting for them."

The U.S. military had no comment.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly demanded the release of the officials, calling their detention a kidnapping that violated diplomatic protocols. At the time of their arrest, U.S. authorities said the men included the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which was accused of arming and training Iraqi insurgents. Officials in Washington and Baghdad maintained that the men had no diplomatic status.

The surprise release came a day after unusually positive comments about President Obama by a top adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said Obama had tried to remain silent on the country's election outcome.

The comments suggest that Iran's decision makers are still interested in discussing possible diplomatic relations with the Obama administration. "America accepts a nuclear Iran, but Britain and France cannot stand a nuclear Iran," Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, said in an interview on state television on Wednesday.

Remember, this was all buried at the close of Erdbrink's story. No separate story about the release of the detainees was printed in the July 10 paper, despite the fact that the released detainees were suspected of plotting to foment a terrorist insurgency.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters