Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Ministry of Truth Explains It All to Iran

I decided last night to write something about the crisis of US involvement in Iraq, leading to the current standoff between the US, Iran, and Iraq.  And then this morning I heard a sort of interview between NPR's Steve Inskeep and Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi.  Inskeep was trying to be an adversary journalist, holding Ravanchi's (and by proxy, Iran's) feet to the fire, but as usual with elite US media personalities, he came across as an obnoxious, clumsy buffoon.  I don't remember who introduced the segment, but he advised listeners to pay attention to the tone of Ravanchi's remarks, not to take his words at face value.  This reminded me of some ancient Doonesbury cartoons from the early days of the Iranian revolution, depicting an Iranian student during the hostage crisis. A voiceover balloon reminded the viewer that "this could be propaganda."

First Inskeep asked Ravanchi, "Is Iran's retaliation against the United States finished?"  Presumably he was referring to reports, including a statement by Ravanchi himself, that the retaliation was indeed finished.  Inskeep tried to play "gotcha":
When you said you don't take responsibility for the actions of others, that raises a question because there was an Iraqi militia leader who was killed in the same U.S. drone strike as Gen. Soleimani. So far as we know, no revenge attack has been taken out for him. Are you saying it is entirely possible that Iraqi militias aligned with Iran could still lash out and Iran would not accept responsibility for what they're doing?
It seems to me that if anyone might want to take revenge for the killing of an Iraqi militia leader, it would be the government of Iraq.  And, of course, the US constantly tries to dodge responsibility for
the actions of its proxies, but it wouldn't do to go into that.  Ravanchi replied fairly directly, disavowing responsibility for the actions of anyone but the government of Iran.

A bit later, Inskeep asked:
Ambassador, you're correct that Iraq's parliament did vote to expel forces from Iraq. But we should be clear, they didn't vote to expel the United States from Iraq. They voted to expel foreign forces from Iraq. And that leads us to note that Gen. Soleimani, a member of Iran's military, was in Iraq when he was killed. What was he doing there?
Strictly speaking Inskeep was right, that the vote called for the removal of US, "coalition" and other foreign forces.  The catch is that Iran claims to have no forces in Iraq; the US can't make the same claim.  There are Iranian "technical advisors" in Iraq, a term that covers a multitude of sins, but as Ravanchi replied to Inskeep more generally, the burden of proof lies on the US.  Soleimani, he said, was in Iraq to fight "terrorists," a mission to which the US can hardly object; because of his successes against Daesh, aka ISIS, he was popular in Iraq and in the region.  And, as even Inskeep must be aware, the resolution against foreign forces in Iraq was passed after and as a direct response to Soleimani's assassination.

Inskeep pressed on:
[Inskeep:] As you must know ambassador, the United States asserts that General Soleimani was plotting attacks against Americans, against the United States. Are you able to say if he was plotting such attacks?

[Ravanchi:] It is, it is the duty of the United States to to to prove otherwise, I mean, to prove that he was he was, in fact, plotting to to kill Americans. Because --

[Inskeep:] But I can also ask you, was he plotting to kill Americans?

[Ravanchi:] No, as I said, he was there in order to help the Iraqi government to better, I mean, fight terrorists pure and simple.
We should be as skeptical of an Iranian government representative as we should be of any government's representative.  But Inskeep here is parroting the claims of an administration that has been shown many times to be a gang of liars, and this particular claim has already largely been discredited as a typical Trump fabrication.  But that's NPR for you: when Trump announced the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on a Sunday morning last October, NPR's anchors treated his fantasies with total credulity.

As I've said before, the loud laments over public distrust of the media are hard to take seriously when the media work so hard to be worthy of distrust.  (Which probably isn't why many people distrust them, I realize.)  Inskeep's little clown show this morning was just embarrassing; or would be, if NPR had any shame.