The Wall Street Journal has fired chief foreign affairs correspondent Jay Solomon for what the paper called a “breach” and ethical lapses over his involvement with an Iranian-born arms dealer.This is a developing story. Return to this post for updates.
Washington Bureau Chief Paul Beckett made the announcement to staff during a hastily called meeting on Wednesday after meeting with senior editors in New York the day before. Beckett did not elaborate on Solomon’s situation, only to say that an upcoming Associated Press investigation would have more details. Beckett took no questions and asked any staffers who knew anything about the situation to come forward, according to multiple sources.
Shortly after the announcement, the Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon published an article that said Solomon was offered a 10 percent stake in a company called Denx LLC by "Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA.” Azima, the article said, was also one of Solomon's sources for years.
(ht Jay Stephenson)
More from Politico:
Solomon’s involvement was unearthed as part of an AP investigation into Azima, in which the AP obtained a "collection of tens of thousands of emails his lawyers say was stolen by hackers,” which included conversations between Azima and Solomon.
According to the AP, Solomon spent more than a year discussing the business effort with Azima, though it's not clear from those messages that Solomon took any concrete steps to make the ideas a reality. The hacked messages included one in which Solomon said in October 2014, “Our business opportunities are so promising."
Solomon, a veteran correspondent who published a book last year about Iran and the “spy games, bank battles and secret deals that reshaped the Middle East,” did not respond to emails seeking comment. But in a statement to the AP, he said he "clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand.”
“I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities. I apologize to my bosses and colleagues at the Journal, who were nothing but great to me," Solomon said.
Wall Street Journal statement:
Here's the blurb to this super war hawk's book, The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East
From the Wall Street Journal reporter who’s been breaking news on the historic and potentially disastrous Iran nuclear deal comes a deeply reported exploration of the country’s decades-long power struggle with the United States—for readers of Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming TowerFor more than a decade, the United States has been engaged in a war with Iran as momentous as any other in the Middle East—a war all the more significant as it has largely been hidden from public view. Through a combination of economic sanctions, global diplomacy, and intelligence work, successive U.S. administrations have struggled to contain Iran’s aspirations to become a nuclear power and dominate the region—what many view as the most serious threat to peace in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Iran has used regional instability to its advantage to undermine America’s interests. The Iran Wars is an absorbing account of a battle waged on many levels—military, financial, and covert.Jay Solomon’s book is the product of extensive in-depth reporting and interviews with all the key players in the conflict—from high-ranking Iranian officials to Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team. With a reporter’s masterly investigative eye and the narrative dexterity of a great historian, Solomon shows how Iran’s nuclear development went unnoticed for years by the international community only to become its top security concern. He catalogs the blunders of both the Bush and Obama administrations as they grappled with how to engage Iran, producing a series of both carrots and sticks. And he takes us inside the hotel suites where the 2015 nuclear agreement was negotiated, offering a frank assessment of the uncertain future of the U.S.-Iran relationship.This is a book rife with revelations, from the secret communications between the Obama administration and the Iranian government to dispatches from the front lines of the new field of financial warfare. For readers of Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, The Iran Wars exposes the hidden history of a conflict most Americans don’t even realize is being fought, but whose outcome could have far-reaching geopolitical implications.
More on the CIA link. Via the Washington Post.
Two other Denx partners — "ex-"CIA employees Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell — told the AP that Solomon was involved in discussing proposed deals with Azima at the same time he continued to cultivate the businessman as a source for his stories for the Journal.
More from WaPo:
The emails and texts reviewed by the AP — tens of thousands of pages covering more than eight years — included more than 18 months of communications involving the apparent business effort. Some messages described a need for Solomon’s Social Security number to file the company’s taxes, but there was no evidence Solomon provided it.
Denx was shuttered last year, according to Florida business registration records.
In an April 2015 email, Azima wrote to Solomon about a proposal for a $725 million air-operations, surveillance and reconnaissance support contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow planes to spy on activity inside nearby Iran. Solomon was supposed to ferry the proposal to UAE government representatives at a lunch the following day, the email said.
“We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense sale,” Azima wrote to Solomon, Bernsten and Modell.
Over decades, Azima has glided among different worlds, flying weapons to the Balkans, selling spy gear to Persian Gulf nations, dealing with a small Midwest bank and navigating Washington’s power circles. In an April 2016 memo, a public relations firm he worked with, Prime Strategies, suggested Solomon could be called upon to “write a feature story about Farhad” to help combat negative coverage.
This is about CIA influence on US media, but it'll be spun as a bad apple trying to profit with another bad apple— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) June 21, 2017