Around 5 p.m. on Friday, the online secret-sharing site WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 previously classified U.S. military documents pertaining to the Iraq war. As with their last document dump, WikiLeaks shared the documents with a number of news organizations before they were widely released. Here’s a basic rundown of those outlets’ initial coverage. (The French newspaper Le Monde was also given access to the documents. Unfortunately, nobody here reads French.)
The New York Times
Just as it focused on Pakistan’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan in its reporting on WikiLeaks’s July dump, The New York Times focuses heavily on the involvement of Iran in the Iraq War logs released today. Reporters Michael R. Gordon and Andrew W. Lehren do the bulk of reporting in four main stories posted online Friday afternoon, which were published in a package with an introduction, overview, links to selected documents from the war logs, and two harrowing slideshows. Reportage is expected to be bolstered over the weekend, with a profile of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be published on the weekend.
The Times’s current online lead WikiLeaks story is “Leaked Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias,” which details the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ backing of Iraqi militias.
The piece draws on specific incidents from the logs to demonstrate that Iran’s Quds Forces mostly maintained a low-profile, arranging for Hezbollah to train Iraqi militias in Iran, and financing and providing weaponry to insurgents. Other times the Iranian forces sponsored assassinations; at others, they sought to influence politics.
Gordon and Lehren’s reporting is strong, and they provide much needed context to the documents—Quds Force-backed attacks continued during Obama’s term, for instance—with jarring summaries of specific incidences and weapons halls, tagged with links to the original reports. For example:
The provision of Iranian rockets, mortars and bombs to Shiite militants has also been a major concern. A Nov. 22, 2005, report recounted an effort by the Iraqi border police to stop the smuggling of weapons from Iran, which “recovered a quantity of bomb-making equipment, including explosively formed projectiles,” which are capable of blasting a metal projectile through the door of an armored Humvee.
Most striking is the account of a particularly brazen plan to carry out a kidnapping against American soldiers.
According to the Dec. 22, 2006, report, a militia commander, Hasan Salim, devised a plan to capture American soldiers in Baghdad and hold them hostage in Sadr City to deter American raids there.
To carry out the plan, Mr. Salim turned to Mr. Dulaimi, a Sunni who converted to the Shiite branch of the faith while studying in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in 1995. Mr. Dulaimi, the report noted, was picked for the operation because he “allegedly trained in Iran on how to conduct precision, military style kidnappings.”
Those kidnappings were never carried out. But the next month, militants conducted a raid to kidnap American soldiers working at the Iraqi security headquarters in Karbala, known as the Provincial Joint Coordination Center.
The documents made public by WikiLeaks do not include an intelligence assessment as to who carried out the Karbala operation. But American military officials said after the attack that Mr. Dulaimi was the tactical commander of the operation and that his fingerprints were found on the getaway car. American officials have said he collaborated with Qais and Laith Khazali, two Shiite militant leaders who were captured after the raid along with a Hezbollah operative. The Khazali brothers were released after the raid as part of an effort at political reconciliation and are now believed to be in Iran.
The Times’s second report appears at first more in line with the outraged approach being taken by the Guardian and Der Spiegel. Lehren teams with reporter Sabrina Tavernise for “A Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths in Iraq,” which summarizes several instances of civilian deaths—a particularly numbing example being the incident in which a sniper accidentally shoots a U.S.-employed interpreter. Almost jarringly, though, it opens with a defensive tone. The second paragraph begins, “The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis.” And there is little emphasis, unlike at other outlets, on the fact that many of the civilian casualties revealed in the logs were previously unreported.