Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

As Talks Stall with Iran, US Steps Up Propaganda War

Events in Egypt have spurred the U.S. to step up its rhetoric on Iran, calling the Iranian government "hypocritical" for praising the Arab revolts while crushing its own.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

Egypt's revolution appears to have stiffened the spine of the Barack Obama administration when it comes to Iran.

In the wake of the mass protests that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Washington has begun to "tweet" in Farsi as well as Arabic. President Obama – and to an even greater extent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – have toughened their language against the Iranian government. Meanwhile, the troubled Persian service of the Voice of America has hired a U.S. Foreign Service officer to direct broadcasting to Iran.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that the administration was more inhibited when protests broke out following Iran's disputed 2009 presidential elections because "Obama still held out hope of reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran. Today I think the White House has come to the conclusion that they can't reach a modus vivendi with a regime that seemingly needs them as an adversary."

Two rounds of nuclear talks between Iran, the United States and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany ended last month without progress or even a date for further discussions. Then popular protests erupted in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, drawing attention from Iran's nuclear program and refocusing it on democracy and human rights.

Officially, U.S. policy toward Iran is not regime change but a change in regime policies. However, there has been a clear shift in tone in recent days.

In a series of interviews on Monday – as Iranian protesters returned to the streets of major Iranian cities en masse for the first time in more than a year – Clinton called the Iranian government "hypocritical" for praising the Arab revolts while crushing its own.

"Contrast what happened in Egypt with what is going on today in Iran where, once again, the Iranian government is lashing out, using violence against people who are expressing the same desires as we heard from Egypt," she told Al Jazeera.

"I find it very ironic that Iran is trying to give lessons in democracy to anybody," she said to Al Hurra, a U.S. government-backed Arabic satellite channel. "Talk about a revolution that was hijacked; Iran is Exhibit A. What Iran is doing to its people, even as we speak, where there are protestors trying to have their voices heard in Iran who are being brutally suppressed by the Iranian security forces, I don't think anyone in the Middle East – or frankly, anyone in the world – would look to Iran as an example for them."

On Tuesday, in a speech on Internet freedom, Clinton called Iran "awful" with a government "that routinely violates the rights of its people". She announced that the State Department would spend an additional 25 million dollars this year on projects to increase access to the Internet in Iran and elsewhere on top of 30 million dollars set aside for Internet freedom last year.

The capping touch was provided by President Obama who told a news conference Tuesday: "I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran."

As Obama spoke, Iranian state media, which initially welcomed the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, had also changed its tone as it became apparent that the uprisings were led not by Islamic activists but by a broad spectrum of groups – and that the protests were boomeranging back to Iran.

The rightist newspaper Kayhan editorialized on Monday that the Egyptian army, which has assumed control over Egypt during the transition to elections, "implemented a precise scenario whose playwright is America. The army has been instructed to hijack the popular revolution and obstruct sovereignty, freedom and Islamism."

The Obama administration has struggled to find ways to communicate support for Iranian protesters without giving the Iranian government ammunition to blame unrest on outside interference. Broadcasts by the Persian News Network (PNN) – the Farsi service of the Voice of America – are a component of the strategy even though VOA's mandate is to present news without political bias.

On Monday, Ramin Asgard, an Iranian-American Foreign Service officer whose last posting was as a political adviser to Central Command – took the helm of the PNN. VOA executives said it was the first time since the waning days of the Cold War that a non-journalist has assumed such an important position in U.S. government-funded broadcasting.

VOA management has had difficulty finding the right person to run the sprawling service, which has one hit show – a "Daily Show" clone called "Static" or "Parazit" in Farsi – but has been riven by disputes among its staff over what vision of Iran's political future to promote. Some members of Congress as well as some Iranian expatriates have complained that PNN is too critical of U.S. policy and too accommodating to Tehran.

Asgard, who also served as head of an Iran watch office in Dubai, did not seek the position but was offered it after several others turned VOA down or were deemed unsuitable, according to a source with knowledge of the process.

On the job only three days, he has already been the target of an attack on a blog run by the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. Trey Hicks, a researcher at the Hudson Institute, accused Asgard of undermining U.S. policy toward Iran by suggesting U.S. taxpayer support for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that has in the past advocated engagement with Iran but has also taken a tough stance on human rights abuses. Hicks also questioned Asgard's command of Farsi.

Asgard did not respond to requests to reply to the allegations.

Trita Parsi, head of NIAC, said Asgard had once suggested that the grassroots group help him recruit interns for the Dubai office but Parsi said he was not in a position to help and no funds were offered. While in Dubai, Asgard did promote scientific and cultural exchanges with Iran, which was – and remains – the policy of the U.S. government.

Sadjadpour said Asgard was chosen in part to insulate VOA from Congressional complaints that the service was not sufficiently taking account of U.S. government views.

"The heads of VOA think they need to protect themselves against Congress and he [Asgard] checked some of the right boxes," Sadjadpour said.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share