Tag Archives: media war

Assad and Academics: Disinformation in the Modern Era

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 22, 2016

Aleppo City

Aleppo City

Introduction

From the beginning of Syria’s war, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, enabled by Iran and Russia, has run a very elaborate media war to portray itself as the victim of an international conspiracy, wherein its only opponents are terrorists from al-Qaeda and its offshoots who are being used by foreigners—namely the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel, and the United States—to overthrow a defiant “resistance” State.

The other part of this strategic messaging is aimed at the West, which Assad otherwise accuses of supporting jihadi-Salafist terrorism against him: Assad is the only alternative to the terrorists, it says, so the West should support him. War criminal he might be, he will protect the minorities—his role in endangering them by starting a sectarian war against the Sunni majority and bolstering the takfiris within the insurgency to cannibalize all legitimate or engageable armed opposition, notwithstanding—and has no immediate plans to fly planes into Western skyscrapers. (That the leading edge of Assad’s ground forces are made up of radically sectarian, foreign Shi’a jihadists under Iran’s control, some of them Iraqis responsible for killing a quarter of the 4,000 U.S. soldiers who fell in Mesopotamia, and are integrated into a State-run terrorist network that has struck Western and Jewish targets the world over, gets left out.)

For Assad and his allies, it helps if this propaganda is not only delivered by regime spokesman but independent analysts, journalists, academics, and politicians. In the last ten days two salient examples have emerged: Stephen Kinzer, a veteran journalist, including for The New York Times, who wrote in The Boston Globe, and Jeffrey Sachs, an academic economist working at Columbia University, who wrote in The Huffington Post. Mixing together conspiracy theories, half-truths, and outright lies—disinformation, to give it an old name—both Kinzer and Sachs told a version of the regime’s narrative. Why they did this is best-known to them. Continue reading

Iran’s Partnership with al-Qaeda and Unanswered Questions

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 19, 2015

Imad Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden

Imad Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden

The Islamic Republic of Iran released five senior al-Qaeda terrorists in March, ostensibly as part of a prisoner exchange for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the murky circumstances in which al-Qaeda’s leaders were “held” in Iran and other inconsistencies cast some doubt on this version of events, and draw attention to some old questions about Iran’s support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots. Continue reading

Does Iran Support The Islamic State?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 26, 2015

Qassem Suleimani, Iran's spymaster, believed in some MidEast conspiracy theories to control ISIS

Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s spymaster, believed in some Mid-East conspiracy theories to control ISIS

In 2010, Farzad Farhangian, an Iranian diplomat based in Belgium, defected to Norway. Farhangian has now emerged with the extraordinary accusation that the Islamic Republic of Iran is controlling the Islamic State (ISIS) and using it as part of Tehran’s war against the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia. Farhangian’s accusations are lurid and (literally) incredible, but the question of Iran’s role in ISIS’ creation and growth, and Iran’s manipulation of ISIS to further its own ends, is one well worth asking. Continue reading

Obama’s Iran Deal Increases Nukes, Terrorism, and Instability

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 28, 2015

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The key thing to understand about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord announced on April 2 between the P5+1 and Iran, is that it does not exist. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said at one point, “We envisage being able to deliver a narrative,” adding that this might not be written and—these being forgiving times—Iran’s narrative need not match the West’s. In other words, nothing was signed or agreed to. This is the reason for the wild discrepancies between the American and Iranian JCPOA “factsheets”: both are drawing from a rolling text that is ostensibly to lead to a “final” or “comprehensive” deal and spinning it to their own respective advantage. The administration has as much as said so with its mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The purpose of the announcement of the JCPOA therefore was, charitably, to “build political momentum toward a final agreement“. Less charitably it was intended to “demonstrate progress in order to fend off congressional action,” as Obama’s former nuclear adviser Gary Samore put it. In that at least it was successful. Continue reading

From Kessab to Cannibals: Syria’s Media War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 5, 2015

Mother Agnes Mariam on RT. An agent of the regime, she dismissed Syria's rebels as a foreign conspiracy.

Mother Agnes Mariam on RT. An agent of the regime, she dismissed Syria’s rebels as a foreign conspiracy.

Fouad Ajami once said Syria was the “first YouTube war“. An academic study called Syria “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history“. From the start of the Syrian war, the media and propaganda dimension has been of immense importance, impacting the course of the war on the ground and affecting the policy of foreign States who could make a decisive difference in the conflict. Continue reading

HAMAS Is Responsible For The War In Gaza But Israel Has Blundered With This Invasion

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 28, 2014

Rocket damage doesn't only happen in Gaza: Home demolished in Eshkol Regional Council, southern Israel

Rocket damage doesn’t only happen in Gaza: Home demolished in Eshkol Regional Council, southern Israel

To clear a few things up. Whether or not HAMAS’ central command ordered the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens is largely irrelevant: the real trigger for this round of fighting was the escalation in HAMAS’ rocket attacks—more than 450 since January and nearly 100 on the day before Operation PROTECTIVE EDGE began—and HAMAS’ construction of tunnels into Israel designed to enable further atrocities against her civilians.

All rhetoric about the cruel, arbitrary Israeli blockade that would not even allow in cement to the people of Gaza who needed it to create jobs and to reconstruct their schoolrooms and homes is now overthrown and we see the truth: what little cement did get into Gaza was siphoned off by a tyrannical and aggressive elite to build tunnels to murder civilians and bunkers to protect themselves and their weapons. More than that, they used child labour that killed 160 children to construct these tunnels. HAMAS might well have miscalculated, as some have said—it might have intended only for a minor set of Israeli strikes to rally the “resistance”—but that only underlines the recklessness and wickedness of the organization. HAMAS knows it cannot win this war so they intend to get as many Gazans as possible killed to mobilize global political pressure against Jerusalem for concessions on the blockade—that HAMAS can then use to reequip for another war in its never-ending quest to destroy the Jewish State.

The key aspect of this war that has gotten nothing like the attention it deserves is Clerical Iran. Continue reading