Independent Journal Review, Feb. 22, 2017 - Society is always ready to embrace buzz words and phrases. Almost always, these identifiers equate to new handles being attached to old tools. “Fake News” is the latest example of what has long-since been identified as misinformation, false stories, truth distortion, slander campaigns, and a host of other monikers. Even psychological operations are based on planting stories to cause the recipients to change their perceptions, beliefs, and course of actions.
In America there is an on-going battle of words between American politicians and the media. In Iran, this battle was waged decades ago and the government won. Today, in Tehran the media is a mouth-piece for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
For an entire generation, just as Iran has been the number one nation-state exporter of terrorism, its government and subordinate media have mastered the art of fake news.
In the administrations of Clinton, Bush Sr., and Obama, Tehran had a ready-made audience of believers.
The most classic example of Tehran’s success is how it used fake news to convince the Clinton Administration that moderates had won the Iranian presidency. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright embraced this lie. To win favor with Tehran, citing flawed information that American law enforcement officials told her was wrong, Albright placed Tehran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), on State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) List.
The reality was that the MEK wanted to replace the ruling fundamentalist’s government with democracy.
Then came Bush 2 and flawed reversed-engineered intelligence designed to send coalition forces into Iraq. As part of the deal brokered by Iranian agent Ahmad Chalabi, Bush even sought the blessing of Tehran to invade Iraq. The deal included an agreement for the U.S. Air Force to attack MEK bases inside Iraq. The bases were established in 1986 as an opposition force against Tehran and no one else.
The bases were bombed and MEK members killed, although they never fired on American forces. The joint Tehran and Washington fake news effort continued unchallenged until American ground forces were assigned to Camp Ashraf, where the MEK were being consolidated.
Senior American officers at Ashraf realized the MEK was no threat and was actually doing everything possible to work with and protect American soldiers stationed there. The main adversary of the American officers’ effort to expose the truth was U.S. State Department bureaucrats who were not going to sacrifice their careers by admitting their past errors.
For me this came to a head one evening at Ashraf when I was informed by U.S. Baghdad Embassy that they had solid evidence that the MEK was running terrorist recruiting and training programs less than a mile from my headquarters building.
With a platoon of U.S. Marines in reserve, I went to this alleged site only to find civilian maintenance workers.
Further investigation revealed the source of State Department information to be Iraq’s National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie. It was no secret to the American military and Iraqi Parliamentarians that Rubaie was an Iranian agent and mouthpiece. No one could spread fake news like him. The bigger the lies he told about all things Iraq, the more U.S. Baghdad Embassy staff believed.
These lies were continually repeated in dispatches to State Department headquarters. From there, the reports were distributed throughout the executive and legislative branches of government.
Just as Bill Clinton fell for Tehran’s pretense of electing a moderate president, so did Obama. With so many Iranian regime sympathizers allowed into his administration, to include the National Security Council, fake news from Tehran was accepted as Washington fact. If not for the State Department’s inability to properly justify the FTO listing before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the MEK would not have been freed of the designation.
Tehran’s golden age of influence in Washington is over. Now having lost its ability to have its fake news embraced and repeated by the American government, Tehran has to resort back to media engagement.
Because of its organizational structure, bipartisan support in U.S. Congress, support throughout Europe, and for its dedication to democracy in Iran, the MEK remains Tehran’s greatest fear; which became even greater when 23 former senior U.S. officials signed a personal letter to President Trump addressing problems with the Iranian government and proposing dialogue with the MEK.
For the first time in a generation, the United States has the opportunity to cap Tehran’s fake news gusher. Recognizing anything coming out of MOIS as lies and that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force is a well-documented international terrorist organization are good starting points. Middle-East peace and global security will never be achieved as long as the Government of Iran is allowed to continue doing as it pleases and its fake news is accepted as fact.