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Naval Accident Reveals Iran Regime’s Pattern of Disinformation

Naval Accident Reveals Iran regime’s Pattern of Disinformation
Konarak ship

On Monday, an Iranian regime’s ship was drowned by a missile fired from another ship during a Naval Maneuver, killing at least 20 crew members 

Initial reports in Iranian state media indicated that the Konarak had been tasked with placing targets in the water but moved too close to one of those targets as the Jamaran, which later shot Konarak, was proceeding with the exercise. However, these reports were soon revised with more vague terms, to the extent that references to missiles were removed entirely. State media evidently moved quickly into a sort of “damage control” mode, placing more emphasis on what they call “rumors” than on providing a thorough and accurate account of the incident. 

Toward that end, television broadcasts made a point of showing distant shots of the Konarak at the port of Jask, in order to counter any notion that the ship had been sunk in the incident. The regime also promptly held a funeral for the victims on Tuesday, after Khamenei declared the 19 men “martyrs.” This deceptive act is meant to somehow cover-up this mess, which debunks regime’s claims of having a powerful Navy and wasting national’s wealth for it. On the other hand, Khamenei tries to shift the blame on some hollow enemies.  

Khamenei wields ultimate authority over all matters of state in Iran, and questioning his judgement is considered taboo within the clerical regime. Any public commentary deemed “insulting” to the supreme leader can be punished with multi-year prison sentences, and this fact is routinely exploited by the judiciary to secure conviction of political prisoners. 

Instead of holding Khamenei to account,  there have been sudden changes in reporting on the naval incident which extended beyond the initial references to an accident involvement “missiles” and human error. The regime’s army desperately tried to counter the truth on Tuesday by posting a video to an affiliated news website, declaring that a homing device had malfunctioned, making the accident a technical issue. The video even floated the idea that this could have been the result of “electronic warfare by the enemy,” in reference to the US, though of course it cited no evidence to support this. But these claims would not deceive Iranian people.  

The quick announcement of a technical malfunction is reminiscent of the January incident in which a missile defense system operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps caused the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight that was departing Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Regime’s efforts to deny responsibility lasted only about three days before satellite images and on-the-ground video helped to prove that two missiles had indeed struck the airliner. After the regime’s attempted deception was revealed, protests erupted on university campuses and in various other locations across more than a dozen provinces, marking a new upsurge in anti-government sentiment following a nationwide uprising two months earlier. These protests quickly turned political with people unanimously demanding regime change.  

When, in March, Iran found itself in the grips of a severe coronavirus outbreaka think tank close to Khamenei faction published an analysis of the situation which cited the Ukraine Airlines incident as one prominent reason why the public was unlikely to trust state media reports about the pandemic. The regime has ever since continued to use state media outlets as a conduit for disinformation during the crisis. 

According to those outlets, Iran has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus so far, Yet the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) puts the figure at nearly 41,500. Regime’s efforts at concealing these alternative estimates include the arrest of various individuals, including doctors and nurses, who have been accused of “rumor mongering” or rather telling the truth about the pandemic. 

Hossein Ashtari, the head of regime’s federal police force, announced on May 9 that 320 were facing prosecution for “disrupting public opinion” on this matter. He also declared that the regime’s Cyber Police had identified and “dealt decisively” with 1,300 websites that had played a role in contradicting the regime’s official narratives. Even before this, Iranian regime’s censorship was already among the most severe in the world, and during the November uprising the entire country’s online access was severed as part of the regime’s crackdown on dissent. 

As with the recent naval incident, the regime’s suppression of accurate information about coronavirus is arguably related to a preoccupation with justifying positions that have been taken in advance by Khamenei. Presently, regime is in the midst of implementing plans to reopen the economy and forcing people back to work, despite the fact that the coronavirus outbreak is by no means under control. This course of action began on April 11. 

The regime’s cover-up of an inevitable raise of the coronavirus death and infection following the criminal decision of sending people back to work, was a clear sign that the re-opening policy had been set by the regime’s highest authority. This interpretation is further supported by statements that have followed spikes in Covid-19 infection rates during the re-opening. Yet instead of helping people the regime’s officials are trying to blame them.  

As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said: “For Khamenei and Rouhani, the lives and well-being of the people are worthless. They only want to protect their regime from the threat of uprising. The criminal decision to send people to work is a crime against humanity and will cause countless number of victims  of the COVID-19 in Iran. 

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