Monday, May 16, 2011

Manipulation & Disinformation: A Document from a Nest of Spies

It was a very small item on the Angry Arab news service a few days ago: a link to one of the classified documents that have been obtained and published, Wikileaks-style, by the leftist Lebanese newspaper Al-Akbar. A lot of classified documents have been released lately: it's hard to wade through them with their lists of codes and bureaucratic new-speak. It's almost hard to summon up the necessary outrage as the sheer volume of information has a sort of numbing effect. But I read this document, and it's fascinating, instructive, and disturbing. It's probably not a very important document at all, as these things go. But what is clear from this document is how, beyond any far-fetched conspiracy theory, the U.S. goes about specifying talking points for government politicians and media alike in an attempt to propagandistically influence the events of the region.

It dates from 2008, and wasn't supposed to be declassified until 2018. It's from the American charge d'Affaires in Syria, Michael Corbin and was entitled "SARG PRESSURE POINTS IN CURRENT LEBANESE CRISIS." 'SARG' seems to refer to the Syrian government. It's basically a plan to fuck with Syria and by extension its alleged allies in Lebanon and get it in regional trouble by badmouthing the country and claiming it's an Iranian puppet. It goes on to recommend steps to sow regional discord. Here are a few quotes from the document:

". (C) Summary: As Washington assesses options for
pressuring Syria on its Lebanon policy, Post suggests six
possible measures for consideration. We believe Syria is
vulnerable to a PD focus on the Shia/Iran aspect of Syria's
support for Hizballah. Immediate designations of additional
Syrians under E.O. 13460 as a follow up to the Rami Makhluf
designation would send a strong signal and likely resonate
with the Syrian public. Emphasis on the Lebanon Tribunal and
acceleration of its implementation would focus Syrian regime
figures on possible exposure to prosecution and embarrassment
for the regime. We believe Syrian economic vulnerabilities
are a source of pressure, and we may be able to influence
Syria's efforts to establish better trade relations with
Iraq. Syria cares about its relationships with Turkey, the
UAE, Kuwait, and India, and we should pressure these
countries to cancel planned trips by Bashar and deliver a
strong message on Lebanon. Coordinated action with European
countries will signal continuing isolation; EU countries
publicly criticize Syria on human rights practices, and we
should seek to tie this to Lebanon by stressing some Syrian
dissidents are in jail for advocating support of the Cedar
Revolution. End Summary....

(C) While being careful to avoid crossing the line into
encouraging sectarianism, Post strongly urges more focus on
Syria's close relationship with Iran and Hizballah as Shia
focused on attacking the Arab world. We believe talking
points should emphasize IRGC's material support for
Hizballah's violent attacks on Arabs. The message that Syria
is simply doing the bidding of Shia Iran will tarnish
Bashar's image domestically and in the Arab world and
complicate his attempts to portray himself as a "Sunni" Arab

6. (C) Syria's greatest vulnerability currently is economic.
We see few levers to pressure the Syrians, since the
Europeans and others are extremely hesitant to invest now,
and Syria has no relationships with international financial
institutions (IFIs). The one area in which we might have
some influence is Syria's attempt to improve its economic
circumstances by cooperating with Iraq....Absent greater security cooperation by the SARG, a subject which has seen no progress, the GOI
[Government of Iraq] might be encouraged to deflect these Syrian overtures and even postpone the Committee meetings indefinitely. "

It's clear this so-called American diplomat Corbin was doing his best to subvert the Syrian government. How is that an appropriate job for a diplomat unless he is a spy or agent provocateur? His posting to Syria ended shortly after this set of propaganda instructions was issued...and in fact he's just been nominated to be Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, the same country who it was just revealed has hired the notorious Blackwater/Xe Corporation to build a mercenary army of expatriate Colombians and South Africans to put down any local unrest. The conspiracy theories write themselves, don't they?

It doesn't take a genius — or a paranoid loonytune — to notice that the American newsmedia took the bait offered by this disinformation campaign. The main story the news focused on until the current wave of unrest in Syria has been the alleged axis between Syria, Hizbollah and Iran. It also doesn't take a genius to see that the real story is not nearly that simple, and that the promotion of communal sectarianism by these U.S. spies, despite their disingenuous calls for restraint, is a kind of deadly provocation not unlike the short-sighted blowback-producing idiocy American foreign policy has pursued for decades. Hello Afghan Mujahedeen and Osama Bin Laden. Any news media who followed the manipulations offered by this government campaign to destabilize Syria should be considered something else altogether than reputable news organizations.

Now, three years after this memo, Syria's dictatorial regime is threatened by civil unrest. It's clear many of the demands of the protesters there are just. But one wonders what shit-stirring State Department memos have been issued by the current crop of American spies sitting in Damascus...and how many innocent lives will be lost by its meddling manipulations.

Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

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