Newsweek Parrots the Mullahs’ Line

It might not be worth the effort to deconstruct articles appearing in a magazine that sold for $1, but still–when I saw this Newsweek cover on InstaPundit, I was curious:

I was curious because I am a frequent reader of Fars News, which is conventionally described as the “semi-official” voice of Iran’s mullahs. One of Fars’s most insistent themes is that the United States and Israel are allied with ISIS, and that Iran stands alone in fighting the terrorist group. This article is one of hundreds of instances of this fantasy, peddled shamelessly by Fars News on behalf of Iran’s regime. So when I saw Newsweek claiming that the mullahs are a necessary bulwark against ISIS, I was curious to know how Newsweek’s cover story fits in with Iranian propaganda.

Newsweek’s story was written by Tom O’Connor, whose Twitter feed reveals him to be a young man of the hard-core left. In 2017, Newsweek retracted and apologized for two false anti-Israel articles written by O’Connor:

Surprisingly, O’Connor still works for Newsweek. This is the thesis of his cover story:

The United States for four decades has made little secret of its desire to see Iran’s revolutionary Shiite Islamic Republic fail, something that could now prove a win for Washington’s interests in a region where its policies have more recently been defined by successive setbacks.

Far from bringing peace to the Middle East, however, a significant escalation of demonstrations shaking Iran or any major foreign intervention could end up empowering an even greater enemy—the Islamic State militant group.

The first source to whom O’Connor turns is Abas Aslani, whom O’Connor describes as “a visiting scholar at the Istanbul-based, non-profit, non-partisan Center for Middle East Strategic Studies and editor-in-chief of the Tehran-based Iran Front Page private news outlet.” Aslani says that “Different groups hostile to the Iranian government, including ISIS, separatists or other ones, have and will take advantage of any unrest in the country. Any collapse or weakening of a state in the region is likely to fuel into more instability in the region.” O’Connor goes on to echo the mullahs’ story of the rise and fall of ISIS, in which Iran’s efforts “proved vital in turning the tide against the jihadis.”

But lets’s go back to Abas Aslani. O’Connor’s biography of him is incomplete:

Abas Aslani is an Iranian journalist who writes on foreign policy. He is currently serving as Director General of the World and Foreign Policy Department of Tasnim News Agency. Previously he had the same position in Fars News Agency.

Tasnim News Agency, like Fars, is a mouthpiece for Iran’s rulers:

Defending the Islamic Revolution against negative media propaganda campaign and providing our readers with realities on the ground about Iran and Islam, specially current wave of the Islamic Awakening in the region are top on our agenda in Tasnim News Agency.

I wonder whether O’Connor’s editors at Newsweek understand that their magazine has become a vehicle for Iranian propaganda.

Who else does O’Connor turn to for expert commentary? The most vivid quotes come from one Séamus Malekafzali:

While Iran has bolstered its border security in recent years, instability to the point of a government retreat could allow ISIS to summon forces from beyond. Séamus Malekafzali, an analyst with the online International Review, told Newsweek that, in the event of a war either international or civil, “I have no doubt in my mind that ISIS would swoop in.”

“I’ve never not doubted anything more in my life,” Malekafzali said, adding that, should ISIS establish a foothold in the porous, mountainous badlands between Iran and its neighbors, “I don’t think America would be able to defeat that group.”

International Review is an “all-volunteer, not-for-profit team.”

We welcome contributions and assistance from students, academics and all others ….

Like Seamus Malekafzali, who is a 20 or 21-year-old college student, already on his third school. On Twitter, he enthused about getting “My first quoting ever in a news piece!” That is, the Newsweek article by Tom O’Connor. Malekafzali’s views on the Middle East–unformed as they may be at his tender age–can be inferred from this retweet yesterday:


Iranian propaganda, straight from the mullahs’ representative, leavened with a little left-wing dorm room chatter. That’s Newsweek, overpriced at $1.

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