"Disseminating the Obama Administration’s propaganda: ‘Assad as “illegitimate” as Qaddafi & Iran propping him up!’
“Last year, we took The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick to task for stories he published that relied “almost entirely on unnamed U.S. officials and a known terrorist organization” to advance “Iraq-redux” claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear weapons, see here and here. Now, Warrick published a front-page story in The Washington Post—a story which relied entirely (no “almost”) on unnamed “U.S. officials and a diplomat from an allied nation” to report that
“Iran is dispatching increasing numbers of trainers and advisers—including members of its elite Quds Force—into Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations that are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region. The influx of Iranian manpower is adding to a steady stream of aid from Tehran that includes not only weapons and riot gear but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
We would directly challenge Warrick’s assertion that “anti-government demonstrations” in Syria “are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region”. Another story, see here, in the same edition of The Washington Post as Warrick’s offers a far more accurate characterization of the Syrian protests as having “failed to muster the numbers that brought down the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year”, and further notes that “despite [protestors’] efforts, there has been no indication that the army would be willing to break ranks with the regime.” We would add that the demonstrations in Syria, while persistent, have been concentrated in essentially peripheral areas of the country.
But to explore such issues would constitute serious journalism, and that is not what Warrick is doing here. What he is doing is helping to disseminate what amounts to the Obama Administration’s chosen propaganda line: popular unrest is making President Assad as “illegitimate” as Qaddafi in Libya, and the Islamic Republic of Iran—unlike the United States, which is valiantly standing by the “people” of Libya in their efforts to overthrow a dictator—is propping up a dictator in Syria. We would argue that reality is quite different from this propaganda line: the United States, without having done its homework, intervened on behalf of one side in a civil war in Libya, and still has not managed to oust Qaddafi. Conversely, the unrest in Syria does not come anywhere close to a “civil war” threshold. In our view, President Assad continues to command the support of at least half of Syria’s population. But the Administration is worried about Iran’s rising standing and influence across the region—and is turning to every propaganda tool it can think of to “push back” against the Islamic Republic’s popularity in the Middle East—something attested to over several years by multiple public opinion polls.
In his story, apart from the very obvious limitations on his sourcing, Warrick makes no effort to offer an alternative perspective on the line he was fed by the Obama Administration. Warrick cites one outside commentator—Michael Singh, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. We know, like, and respect Michael Singh. But, before Warrick’s story was published by The Washington Post, Michael had already published his own Op Ed, see here, in The Wall Street Journal subscribing to the Obama Administration’s narrative about Iranian involvement in Syria [link]. Moreover, the Washington Institute is an AIPAC-created entity with its own agenda regarding both the Islamic Republic and Syria. By going to Michael Singh as his sole outside commentator, Warrick assured that the Obama Administration’s preferred propaganda line would not be challenged in his “news story”… (continue, here)