NYT quotes blog as “expert source”

Radosh notes another move of blogging into the mainstream. The NYT’s Edward Wong reports from Bagdad on Sunni disquiet over the US assault on Falluja and quotes an academic blog as an expert source:

“After the attack on Falluja, we decided to withdraw from the government because our presence in the government will be judged by history,” Mr. Abdul Hameed, an interim National Assembly member, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The move so alarmed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi that he met privately with Mr. Abdul Hameed hours later. But the party stuck to its position, and an aide said in the afternoon that it was not clear that the group would take part in the elections.

“We haven’t decided to withdraw from the elections; we’re still going forward with the process,” the aide, Ayad al-Samarrai, said. “But it will all depend on the general situation in Iraq.”

Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan, wrote on his Web log that Mr. Abdul Hameed’s move “raises the question of whether a mass Sunni Arab boycott of the elections is in the offing, thus fatally weakening the legitimacy of any new government.”

Radosh calls it lazy reporting. I wouldn’t go that far but I don’t think in this instance the expert quote adds much to what the reporter could have said himself from Baghdad. It is none the less an interesting milestone in the acceptance of academic blogging as a legitimate source of information and opinion.

However there are much more interesting stories on Cole’s web site that will probably never be followed up by the NYT such as his speculation about Dan Senor and the neocon influence on Bremer’s Iraq administration.

I have it from a source I consider reliable that the order for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr in early April, 2004, which came as such a surprise and threw the country into chaos for two months, came from Dan Senor. Senor is said to have acted on instructions from Neoconservatives in the Pentagon, and to have kept Paul Bremer, his putative boss, out of the loop. Bremer was presented with a fait accompli.

I speculated at the time that the Neocons came after Muqtada because he had objected so loudly to Sharon’s murder of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the clerical leader of the Hamas Party (the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood). …In other words, his position was completely intolerable to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Likud Party, and their American fellow-travelers among the Neocons.

The CPA had been tempted to go after Muqtada on more than one previous occasion, but it appears that cooler heads, like Gen. John Abizaid, had prevailed.

If this story about Senor’s perfidy is correct, it would shed light on a hitherto unknown fissure in the American administration of Iraq. We have long known that it was dominated by Neoconservatives, especially young persons who had applied to be interns at the American Enterprise Institute, which was apparently the recruitment pool. But I hadn’t earlier heard that there may have been a difference of opinion between Bremer and his Neocon employees, many of whom had contacts inside the Pentagon that they could use to make an end-run around Bremer.

This provides a really instructive example of the differences between blogs and mainstream journalism. Cole can quite legitimately post this story on his blog, while the NYT would have to verify from a number of sources and get appropriate denials from the players. However this is a really good feature waiting to happen and could provide the first source for an enterprising reporter to go out and round up the whole story about Bremer’s time in Iraq.