By: Hamidreza Gholamzadeh
In Fall 2017, Bukamal was the last and only bastion of the ISIS to literally give the terrorist group the means to call itself a state by gripping on power in a territory or land.
When terrorists lost the stronghold in early days of December, both the United States and Russia tried to claim for the credit of the achievement.
Just like many other issues, President Trump aggrandized US role and how armed groups funded and supported by American troops had been successful in fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Such claims of ‘Missions Accomplished”, though, are nothing new in the White House.
Not able to bring Iran into its knees after the longest war in the twentieth century, US Navy shot down an Iranian passenger flight over Iranian waters in Persian Gulf to force Iran into a ceasefire.
Iran who was dragged into a destructive war soon after its Islamic Revolution and had no intention to extend its land beyond borders, considered the ceasefire a success by not giving in an inch of its soil, unlike many wars in history.
Yet, US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger called it a concession and bragged about having “accomplished everything… set out to do.”
The narrative was actually supported by mainstream media as well. “By blocking Iran’s move to intimidate Iraq’s allies in the Persian Gulf,” New York Times editorial read, US had “played a critical role in ending the Iran-Iraq War.”
Iraq, in some ways, seems to be a keystone in American narrative-making claims.
Shortly after Iran-Iraq war, Saddam attacked Kuwait and H. G. W. Bush decided to intervene. “Kuwait is liberated,” the president announced. “Iraq’s army is defeated.
Our military objectives are met.” But on the battleground in the real world, Saddam’s special guards and army were still working and carried out one of the most brutal massacres after the Americans left the scene with victory claims.
It took Bush a few years to admit in an entry in his diary that “it hasn’t been a clean end.”
Like father, like son; George W. Bush made big lies to wage a destructive war against Iraq in 2003.
US and UK sold a narrative of possession of WMDs by Baghdad to the public to justify the occupation.
Just like the first Persian Gulf War on Iraq, mainstream media abetted US and UK by demonizing Iraqis and supporting the WMD narrative.
As Daya Kishan Thussu has argued in his research, “given the global reach and influence of Western television and the dependence of world’s broadcasters on US-supplied television news footage, the dominant perspectives on a conflict can be American, although the US, more often than not, may be actively involved in the war.”
Recognizing this, the article argues, that “Western diplomacy has become sophisticated in packaging public information in a visually astute fashion and television networks,
which often operate in a symbiotic relationship with the authorities, tend to conform to the geo-political agendas set by powerful governments.”
The media reproduces whatever lies or inaccurate info western states or organizations offer.
During wars in Yugoslavia, US, Britain and NATO military commanders claimed that as many as 100,000 Kosovars had been executed.
However, by November 1999, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia could only find just over 2,000 bodies.
Moreover, it is now known that during the entire war NATO vastly exaggerated about number of strikes or achievements they had made.
Mainstream media outlets appear to pursue a Western or more accurately an American news agenda, particularly discernible on stories which impinge upon Western geo-political or economic interests during the Cold War years or crises of the “New World Order” .
The sheer volume of coverage made it easier for media managers at NATO to blend half and quarter truths with speculative if not false information.
In his latest book released just recently, Barack Obama tells how his administration used New York Times to publish documents on Iran’s nuclear activities to avoid global suspicious given the lies the US had made for Iraq war in 2003.
Global news networks such as CNN “reconstitute geopolitical space by opening sites of interpretation/contestation/reclamation on the world’s mediascapes that they help to produce every day around the clock”.
Though the approach is universally the same for western powers and particularly the United States, a closer look at how mainstream media serves western agenda towards Iran shows that manufacturing Iranophobia is a key part of the plan.
As Sagnik Guha has discussed, “America is incentivized to manufacture a phobia and fear of Iran by both domestic and international actors, geopolitical interests and economic gains.”
US mediated diplomacy towards the Islamic Republic, as Ali Basarati and Hadaegh Rezaeihave depicted in their study, conceptually construes Iran “as a strong and ubiquitous regional and global threat to the world,” and uses the discourse of Iranophobia to make legitimate the US withdrawal from the Iran Deal and imposing heavy economic sanctions as preemptive measures.
Similar to Thussu who argues that western media reporting frames conflicts within an “us vs. them” dichotomy, they find the same dichotomization in US leadership rhetoric as well and indicate how “it opens the avenue to the assumption that this dichotomization assigns the role of savior to the US whose in-born duty is to rescue the world by waging war on Iran.”
The same occurred about one of the toughest decisions a US president has ever made about West Asia.
Prior to carrying out an act of state terrorism to assassinate Iran’s top military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, western mainstream media tried to depict a demonized image of Iran’s most popular figure with a legendary 80+ favorability among Iranians.
Qassem Soleimani was commander of IRGC’s Quds Force for 23 years and was one of the most significant and influential people in the whole region.
Tough Americans are too arrogant to publicly and openly admit, it was Soleimani’s Quds Force who helped the Americans out of a possible Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan.
Dexter Filkins provided a rare narrative in New Yorker more than a decade after Soleimani’s and Quds Force’s help to US troops by directing them with key targets in Afghanistan. In three months, George Bush welcomed the help by naming Iran a part of “axis of evil!”
The Commander remained a man in shadow, even in Iran, for so long; no photos or videos from him online or on media.
This however changed when ISIS occupied huge parts of Iraq and Syria and many civilians fell victim to a terrorist group whose formation was funded and facilitated by Americans.
General Soleimani and his men were the first, and in fact the only, group to help Kurds and other civilians in Iraq who were targeted by ISIS terrorists.
His significant role in Iraq and Syria and the way he fought terrorist groups made a legend that could no longer avoid media coverage.
US claimed to form a coalition to fight against ISIS in Syria – mainly to justify its own presence in the region and supporting anti-Assad terrorists across the region – but the mission was a clear failure compared to what Soleimani had done in both Iraq and Syria.
Though, just like Balkan wars or Afghanistan or elsewhere, the propaganda machine began to reflect a narrative which best served Western policies and agendas. In Bagdikian’s words, “communication cartels”block mechanisms against news events and make a distorted presentation of events to better “sell” contents to their audience market.
The narrative strategy of the West was to hide achievements where Iran was playing a role and to amplify whatever the western coalition had done, either successful or a failure, as achievements, and of course, to demonize General Soleimani for the essence of the agenda.
It was what that happened in Bukamal when a military operation directly commanded by General Soleimani freed the city and overthrew the last bastion of the ISIS to leave the terrorist group without any territory to rule; and yet others tried to seize the opportunity to have the credit of defeating ISIS.
When US pressure on Iraq’s economy and consequences of years of US-waged war on Iraq, which has destroyed infrastructures of the country (after years of oil-for-food sanctions during Saddam) brought Iraqis to streets to protest against difficulties,
it was again mainstream media who falsely accused General Soleimani and his forces of using snipers to target protesters on streets of Baghdad and other cities.
Or followed the old dichotomization strategy to dub his activities as terrorism because they simply did not serve US interests in the region.
The trend intensified during Trump administration and his hawkish foreign policy team boosted Iranophobic rhetoric to do their best to promote their warmongering plots.
Unable to stage a full-fledge war on Iran, knowing that a partial war would receive retaliation, and failing to bring Iran to its knees through so-called Maximum Pressure Campaign against Iranian nation, US administration decided to hit Iran by assassinating its key figure in the region.
Depicting a negative image of General Qassem Soleimani in official rhetoric as well as mainstream media paved the way for an act of state terrorism.
On January 3, 2020, American forces assassinated General Soleimani who was on an official political mission to meet Iraqi PM and was officially received by Abu al-Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport; and they called the terror a preemptive measure selling public opinion a false narrative that he was about to target Americans.
A narrative so baseless and false that even US congresspeople and officials did not buy and summoned Pompeo for a hearing in which no one believed his story.
Assassination of General Soleimani who many in the region considered him a savior against the ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region, was through a military operation, but far from a mere military action.
The terror attack was started way before the military operation, by media outlets who tried to hide sacrifices he had made for humanity and damages he had inflicted upon terrorist and extremist groups.
It was carried out when mainstream media depicted terrorists as civil fighters, opposition groups or even White Helmets whose membership to child-beheading terrorist groups is now well-documented.
Media missiles targeted Soleimani when western media launched disinformation campaigns and propagated fake news against him to serve political interests of the United States in the region.
No matter how much lies and fake news has been published against General Soleimani to clear the way for his killing,
just like all wars such as Vietnam war, Balkan Wars, Persian Gulf Wars, etc., the truth about General Qassem Soleimani the Legend and sacrifices and victories he made will sooner or later unearth.
Soft power is not something a country can buy with money and unparalleled popularity of General Soleimani among Iraqi and Syrian nations reflects how brilliant he had been to them and this cannot be changed, eliminated or substituted by media campaigns.
Hamidreza Gholamzadeh is an International political commentator, based in Iran.
He is also a PhD candidate in North American Studies, researcher on public diplomacy, media, and post-truth. He has been working with media for 18 years now.