By Rufat Ahmadzada
As political tensions in the Persian Gulf increase following the sabotage of four oil tankers in Fujairah, Iran’s pro regime lobbyists around the world, particularly in the US, have started spreading the traditional narrative that the Trump administration’s strategic moves in the region are a signal of an upcoming war against Iran. Leftists and socialist oriented politicians in the West as well as political Islamists seize upon this perception on social media and in various media outlets.
Iranian pro-democracy activists recently launched a campaign against pro-regime lobbyists in the US by revealing and exposing their close ties to the Velayet-e Faqih system. Usually, pro-regime lobbyists’ aim is to influence the American and Western public through op-eds, newspaper articles and social media. Considering the fact that the American and to some extent British public have been traumatized by the failure to secure peace in Iraq, the political propagandists have utilized the Iraqi war narrative as an information tool to influence public opinion in the free world. The core of this political approach is to create domestic pushback against the Trump administration’s Iran policy.
In doing this their traditional allies not surprisingly have become leftist-socialists and Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. Ironically, these groups often overlook the fact that the state of confrontation in the Middle East has deep roots in the official foreign policies of the Islamic Republic. Expansionism and the creation of proxies in almost every part of the region has been the approach taken by the Iranian establishment since 1980 and actively pursued after the 2003 Iraqi campaign. Iran’s political system is a major participant in conflicts such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon through covert proxy operations. When it comes to Western leftist politicians, the legacy of the Cold War remains strong – they are always skeptical about US policies and intentions, branding US policies as imperialism. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups, which hoped to have significant political influence over the Middle East after the Arab Spring, have become disillusioned following the failed political experiments in various countries.
The media angle of this alliance mostly comes from Middle East focused media outlets, including websites that are linked to the Qatari government. The combined attempt to influence the Western public narrative on Iran has multiple angles in which the National Iranian American Council plays a lobbying role and leftist politicians are prominent on the political side. Leftist activists pretend to play the NGO side of this campaign and Qatari financed media provide the information side of it. It is almost impossible to find anything about human rights violations in Iran on these Qatari-linked media tools, whereas there are hundreds of articles or other coverage about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. This applies to the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations as well. It indicates the biased approach taken by the Qatari linked media, which are considered human rights “champions” by several Western politicians and activists.
Defending human rights is universal and should be supported everywhere. But the cherry pick strategy illustrates the fact that political agendas mean human rights violations can be ignored in Iran. So, this is a flawed and intentionally designed information flow, which is being used in the free societies in order to whitewash the Iranian regime’s image by ignoring its human rights record. In other words, the media intentionally do not give their audiences full information on the true nature of Iran’s government, because it serves certain political circles. It is no secret that many authoritarian governments such as Russia and Qatar are heavily invested in media in Western countries – Al Jazeera English and Russia Today are prime examples.
Human Rights Matters
Iran’s government is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world. The government’s crackdown on freedom of speech, assembly and religion and its discrimination against women and ethnic minorities are felt on a daily basis. In their isolated environment Iranians need to be supported by international human rights NGOs, media, academics, and journalists. The enormous importance of moral support is immeasurable for oppressed people. Western intellectuals played a vital role in supporting human rights activists in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. The same level of contribution is necessary to highlight human rights abuses on a daily basis by the clerical system. Unlike some paid pro-regime lobbyists, Iranian opposition activists in the US have been trying to break the public perception by conveying the message on human rights violations. Prominent politicians and celebrities should talk about the ongoing rights violations, arbitrary detentions and crackdown on dissent.
Mr. Rufat Ahmadzada is a British-Azerbaijani blogger who writes primarily on the Caucasus and Iran. He has an MA in International Politics and Human Rights from the University of London, UK