By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
The Iranian leadership’s state of fear was initially based on strong international pressure, led against it by the U.S. Then state rivals became the main alarm and now a climate of increasing instability generated from an encroaching Sunni IS (Islamic State), ISIL (Islamic State of Syria and the Levant) and ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and al Sham).
A highly conspiratorial mind does not soften the Iranian delusion about the U.S. at all or their relationship with the newly formed IS. Tehran Times, takes information from its propaganda media outlet, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and then runs a front page spread based on rumors, a fake interview and online chats; as cited by Aryn Baker, in a Time article: “Why Iran Believes the Militant Group ISIS is an American Plot.”
This is the outrageous conspiracy theory with no proof or legitimate source that says that the IS was trained and funded by the U.S., the UK and the Israelis to create a center-point terrorist group that distracts the region from targeting Israel, so that they are forced to target the IS instead. And the whole world is controlled by the Jews and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The last few examples of conspiracies are not part of the article but have been very popular mega-themes for some time that affect regional perception and help to direct hatred on further sub-theme narratives of the states.
I imagine the Russians too are having a field day with this latest imaginary American adventure (code name: Beehive or Hornet’s Nest). The trend of depicting the IS as a U.S. creation is spreading fast and unfortunately self-reinforcing.
The basic conspiracy plays off the original Bush security initiatives (open non-conspiratorial). One of them conceptually stated that ‘it is better to fight the enemy over there, then over here.’ The general idea was that the large-scale foreign military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would attract jihadists to take up arms and go into conflict in those pre-dominantly Muslim populated states instead of in the American homeland. There was mixed evidence to its actual success. Achieving results is not the same thing as attributing causation.
On the one side you could say that the Bush security initiative of offensive foreign counterterrorist operations resulted in no large-scale attack but then was that the real cause or was it increased defense and attention at home and the lack of substantial international jihadist enemies besides al-Qaida “on the run?” In any case, the U.S. withdrew military forces from the region and abandoned the initiative altogether that created a massive political vacuum which IS and others are filling.
Even the exploratory “creative destruction” calculus considered by former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was an abandoned framework as well. If an attempt was made to do something similar as the above ideas could imply on a clandestine level, it would contradict the highest American objectives for all particular states and objectives in the region at large and would mean that the U.S. trains al-Qaida terrorists. Outrageous! Stability does not equal chaos. We learned that destruction is not always creative.
It seems even more foolish to assume that Israel needed help at all. They continue a go-it-alone track. They were not under a significant threat that merited such a grandiose operation. If anything, it looked like Russia and Israel were going to have a brief military spat rather than an actual threat from Hezbollah, who was more preoccupied with targeting Muslim Brotherhood affiliated rebels the West was supporting. That the Western intelligence sponsored some fighters in Syria is already on record, but not to the extent suggested. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory’s real contradiction to reality remains Washington’s unwillingness to sponsor the more extreme groups like the al-Qaida affiliate, al Nusra Front, and the original IS battery in the Iraq uprising in June.
Washington and the international community was not willing to readily train or arm the moderate groups and especially not willing to do anything with the most extreme jihadists. These are facts not theories. That is also the chief reason why the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia turned down a position on the U.N. Security Council and decided to fund and support the jihadists on their own. In Iraq, Washington continues to desire a unified political Iraq, in spite of the obvious fragmentation and is helping the military there.
In truth, the ISIL threat is a foreign sponsorship but not a Western creation at all. Its foreign state sponsorship goes something like this: With regards to the Syrian Civil War and Sunni Iraq, ‘the enemy of the enemy of the Syrian Assad government and the al Maliki Iraqi government is a Sunni Arab state’s best friend.’
Well they are no longer friends and never really were. The people of the region do not have the facts, they have short memories and evidence is not put in any order that makes sense to them by their state-run biased media outlets.
Before the July Tehran Times article and the faulty Edward Snowden leak, in June, Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian military, said that ISIS “is an Israel and America movement for the creation of a secure border for the Zionists against the forces of resistance in the region.”
But does he really believe that or is he chanting the propaganda? Or do they really just perceive America through their magnified deception lenses?
The Iranian narrative in particular, is to place all of the enemies as the sponsors of the worst threat jumbled in one group. They are all enemies anyway of the Islamic Republic so it is not inconceivable, is it? Once they are grouped, they are projected as the backers of the imminent threat, the IS caliphate/movement. The second objective is likely to blame the U.S. for creating the mess and then possibly demand they help destroy it.
While it does little for the U.S. not to openly condemn the Israeli methods as a form of terror in Gaza, for example, and cannot even use words like “apartheid government to describe Jewish nationalism and colonization to drive out and exclude Palestinians from a political process of government, plot elements have a host of American activities to draw from.
In the Middle East, everything is conspiracy and perception is the ultimate battlefield. Iran is just one of many floating these anti-American conspiratorial theories. At the same time, however, there are many in the Iranian intelligentsia that feel that America is the best ally they could possibly have right now and should solicit Washington’s help in neutralizing the IS threat. How this will play out if they believe the Americans are responsible is anyone’s best guess.
Propaganda comes at a price when you start believing in your own.
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