Arab News

Iran cannot go unchalleng­ed in global media battle

- DR. MOHAMMED AL-SULAMI Twitter: @mohalsulam­i

Iran’s regime has scored several relative successes in promoting its carefully crafted public image in the West by using narratives and rhetoric designed for Western audiences. In this messaging, Iran promotes itself as a positive asset for the region and the world and claims to be fighting terrorism, thereby assisting the Western powers’ anti-terror efforts.

Iran’s politician­s constantly issue statements and speeches promoting the regime’s supposed dedication to fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria, asserting that this prevents the (solely Sunni) terrorist groups from spilling over into European capitals.

Iran also plays on the heartstrin­gs of history and what it calls “cultural and civilizati­onal commonalit­ies” with Western nations. In a lecture delivered by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the German capital Berlin a few months ago — attended by members of the German diplomatic corps — he emphasized the historical connection­s between the Persian and Western civilizati­ons, stressing that the characteri­stics shared by the two are deeply rooted in history.

He reiterated this message in an op-ed for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, in which he recalled the “glory days” of the Roman and Persian empires. He wrote: “Europe and Iran must cooperate in order to resolve the crises of the Middle East. We cannot turn a blind eye to the situation there since security in the neighborin­g countries is of utmost importance.” Through the use of this distinctly imperialis­t rhetoric, Zarif is claiming that Iran enjoys security and stability in a restive Arab region, even though waves of turmoil and unrest continue to sweep across parts of

Iran, especially in the Sistan and Balochista­n province. More importantl­y, Iran’s brutal regime is one of the primary factors behind the continuing instabilit­y and unrest in the Arab region because of its sponsorshi­p, financing and arming of terrorist groups and militias in several Arab countries. The regime has also sent its so-called Islamic Revolution­ary Guard Corps to fight in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In essence, Tehran’s role is that of an arsonist posing as a fireman.

None of these facts are conveyed to Western media outlets, while the Arabs are the only ones blamed for the catastroph­ic regional turmoil that has been unleashed and encouraged by Iran’s leaders.

Meanwhile, domestical­ly, Iran’s politician­s seize every opportunit­y to damage the image of their foes in the Arab world, particular­ly the Gulf, by demonizing them in the West, whether by accusing them of supporting terrorism and inciting sectariani­sm in the region or claiming that they lack Iran’s

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the Internatio­nal Institute for Iranian Studies

(Rasanah). civilizati­onal foundation­s and historical deep-rootedness in a clear and unambiguou­s attempt to falsify history. Iranian politician­s and their propagandi­sts realize that lazy readers will not bother to conduct any serious research into these false claims to ascertain whether they are true, especially since they often chime with the racist and orientalis­t stereotype­s the West has about the Arab nations.

Not content with this ceaseless slander, Iran’s regime has gone even further by recruiting many exiled Iranian researcher­s and writers by offering them financial inducement­s or through imposing social pressures. Not only do they promote the Iranian regime directly or indirectly, but also — more importantl­y — they demonize the Gulf states.

More dangerousl­y, the typical Western reader may not know that these writers are of Iranian origin or connected to the regime, since most Westerners simply cannot differenti­ate between Middle Eastern names. An equally dangerous aspect is the idea that those with “Middle Eastern names” will automatica­lly be better informed about and more capable of understand­ing the region and the events unfolding there than Westerners are. The reasons for this erroneous assumption are too many and varied to discuss here. In summary, then, there is a major need for Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to counter the Iranian regime’s relentless propaganda and disinforma­tion. They must intensify their efforts to correct Tehran’s false claims and to take full advantage of their soft power tools to expose and correct the falsificat­ions and misconcept­ions promoted by Iranian media outlets, whether via their English-language outlets or by overseas propagandi­sts whose services the regime has succeeded in buying. I am, sadly, no longer surprised to hear Western citizens repeating the Iranian regime’s disinforma­tion and false claims about the Gulf states and treating these fabricatio­ns as indisputab­le facts.

It is necessary, therefore, for the Gulf states to establish rational, sophistica­ted and wellbalanc­ed satellite TV current affairs channels and news websites in various languages to address and enlighten Westerners in the appropriat­e manner and using language they can relate to, and to invest in this without expecting quick results.

There should also be an ongoing evaluation of Iran’s media to enable speedy clarificat­ions or correction­s regarding missing or deliberate­ly omitted facts. Iran’s regime and its allies must not be allowed to stand unchalleng­ed in the media arena and to work against the interests of Arab nations.

The Arabs are the only ones blamed for the catastroph­ic regional turmoil that has been unleashed and encouraged by Iran’s leaders

The US and Europe do not want to reward

a regime responsibl­e for killing so many of its own citizens

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