“Won over,” Washington Post style

Yesterday, I linked to an email exchange among three ISG consulting experts — Cliff May, Rueul Marc Gerecht, and James Dobbins. The exchange consisted of Dobbins’ efforts to convince May and Gerecht that the U.S. should reach out to Iran and Syria for help in Iraq, and the arguments of May and Gerecht against this approach.
In presenting the email exchange, the Post’s Dafna Linzer wrote that “in the end, May was won over but Gerecht was not.” However, the emails reproduced by the Post hardly suggested that Cliff had been won over. Rather Cliff asked Dobbins what the “carrots and sticks” would be in the proposed negotiations. In doing so, Cliff suggested the need to make clear to Iran that “dire consequences” would follow a refusal to cooperate. When Dobbins appeared to rule out such threats, Cliff replied that the ISG’s approach involved “not enough carrots to make a salad, too few sticks for a bonfire.”
In short, the Post appeared to be mischaracterizing Cliff’s position. However, because it said the published emails were a “portion” of the exchanges, I could not be sure.
Cliff has now informed me that Dobbins did not win him over and that he wrote no emails that support the Post’s characterization. The Post has told Cliff that it was relying on his willingness, in principle, to have the U.S. to talk with Iran. But saying that we should threaten Iran with “dire consequences” is not the same thing as being “won over” to the ISG’s proposed negotiations. Indeed, far from winning Cliff over, Dobbins lost him when he made it clear how feeble our negotiating position would be.
The Post did Cliff an additional injustice when it identified him only as