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MuzzleWatch: The context that goes unmentioned in coverage of the Soleimani assassination

Media Analysis
on 13 Comments

MuzzleWatchFor this week of Muzzlewatch we have no choice but to examine the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. As of this writing, Iran had launched missiles into two US bases in north and west Iraq and President Trump made a televised address from the White House to announce “Iran appears to be standing down.” Events are proceeding at a very rapid pace.

There are two primary issues I want to look at: how this event is playing out in the mainstream media (MSM), and the coverage (or lack thereof) of Israeli state actors, U.S. based support, and individual Trump supporters who pushed for and/or were instrumental in implementing this blatant act of war.

The Soleimani assassination in the mainstream media

While the usual suspects and positions are being trotted out, there is an important difference when comparing this event to what has usually gone before.  Specifically, the MSM is, relatively, far less trusting this time around, even the paper of empire, the New York Times, is publishing substantial pieces questioning basic, “rule of law” claims made by the administration as well as Secretary of state Pompeo’s justification for the attack:

“I don’t think the intelligence supports the conclusion that killing a top Iranian official is going to either stop (the) plotting or improve American security.”  ~ Rep. Adam Schiff

More directly, the Washington Post published an Op-Ed stating the obvious, Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart.

But let’s not get too happy with these, “exception that proves the rule” examples.   Lee Fang reports in the Intercept, that, surprising absolutely no one, “TV Pundits Praising Suleimani Assassination Neglect to Disclose Ties to Arms Industry”   Retired generals such as David Petraeus, Jack Keane, former high governmental officials such as John Negroponte, Jeh Johnson (former Obama Homeland Security secretary) etc, have significant yet undisclosed ties with military contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Blackwater, military-industrial investment firms and military related lobbying firms.

Gin Armstrong concisely states the problem: “The key question is why media outlets allow anyone with a financial interest in war — regardless of their previous military or government experience — to have access to their platforms at a critical time like this.”

Even the New York Times, no stranger to ginning up reasons to go to war reported on this unholy connection back in 2008.

And, of course, most of the media has done what it has always done in the US, almost instinctively, taking its talking points from the administration. The MSM immediately started up with the “bad man” theory of politics where this villain against all things good, has finally received his just desserts.   Margaret Brennan, the host of Face the Nation started the show off by intoning “Soleimani directed mass murder ……and killed hundreds of the thousands in the region.”

This seemingly scripted response has been repeated by not only the usual GOP suspects, but also, no surprise, democratic presidential aspirants. Elizabeth Warren warned, “Soleimani was a murderer,” while Joe Biden explained, “He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region.”  Although doubts were expressed about tactical consequences and congressional notification, there was little attention paid to actual, you know, proof of any of the allegations, and there has been precious little to absolute zero establishment condemnation of the obvious criminality of the murder nor the targeting of Soleimani, per se.

Indeed, almost everything being claimed for Soleimani, even if true, is a projection of the Death Star level destruction the U.S. visited upon Iraq and the region.  Indeed, lost in the rubble, was the fact that Soleimani was, apparently, on a diplomatic mission involving Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Actually, when searching on “Soleimani on diplomatic mission when killed” the first page of Google results only listed headlines such as “US says Soleimani not on ‘diplomatic mission’ when he was assassinated.”

Where’s Israel?

Also missing/disappeared from much MSM discussion is the role of Israel in the Soleimani killing.  Phillip Weiss wrote here in Mondoweiss that Israel has a strong political interest in removing Soleimani while it’s difficult to see what actual strategic interest would redound to the US.  Although the facts are pretty uncontroversial, there is nary a mention of this obvious and important connection in the MSM…. but there is plenty if you know where to look.  Counterpunch simply recounted what is common knowledge that the Israeli Mossad head, Yossi Cohen, spoke publicly about killing Suleimani.   Jefferson Morley, writing Oct. 24th, in deepstateblog reported that Cohen said a possible Sulemani assassination was “not impossible.”  While Jack Khoury writing for Haaretz reported that since January 2018, Washington had given Israel the green light to kill the most powerful military figure in Iran.  Against this backdrop, the Iranian government gave very direct signals that Soleimani was becoming a major player in the government and that his assassination would be considered a causus belli for war.  Let that sink in for a moment. The U.S. and Israel knew that the Iranian government was acutely aware that Soleimani was being targeted for assassination and that it would be a justification for war and yet, none of the larger news outlets in the U.S. have bothered to report any of this.

Of course, Trump is strongly supported by wealthy, Iran hating “Israel Onlyists” such as the Adelsons and Ron Lauder, cosmetics billionaire and head of the World Jewish Congress, among others.  Phil Weiss reported that this strong push to attack Iran is almost universally celebrated by Jewish Israelis and those that think they are supporting a strong Israeli position. Otherwise, there has mostly been worldwide silence, condemnation, and consternation.

We’ll have more on this as the story develops.  And we’ll be providing a media guide to help navigate the typical ways the media acts as a mouthpiece to empire, and ways to work against this.

See here for the MuzzleWatch archive. Have tips or feedback? Let us know — [email protected].

Rob Lipton

Rob Lipton is a long time member of Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote for JVP's Muzzlewatch, was an ISM participant, and was the LA director of FAIR during the first Gulf War. He is Poet Laureate of Richmond, CA and a spatial epidemiologist.

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13 Responses

  1. Misterioso on January 8, 2020, 7:31 pm

    “Ridiculous: Netanyahu, the architect of the war against Iran pretends he has nothing to do with it!” Defend Democracy Press, January 7/2020, by Helen Buyniski

    “Netanyahu backs away from Soleimani assassination, warns ministers to ‘stay out’ of purely ‘American event.’”

    “Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly warned his cabinet not to get too involved in the US murder of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, lest Tel Aviv gets dragged into the escalating conflict between Washington and Tehran.

    “’The assassination of Soleimani isn’t an Israeli event but an American event. We were not involved and should not be dragged into it,’ Netanyahu reportedly told his security cabinet during a meeting on Monday, as cited by Israel’s Channel 13. He advised ministers to avoid speaking to the media about Thursday’s targeted assassination beyond supporting the US’ right to defend itself, so as not to give the impression that Israel had played any role in it.

    “The directors of Mossad and military intelligence reassured the ministers that the likelihood of a retaliatory attack is low, since ‘Israel stayed at a distance from the incident,’ and that Iran will begin planning its reciprocal move on Tuesday following the conclusion of the national mourning period for Soleimani, according to the same sources.

    “Netanyahu’s sudden reticence is particularly notable because he has been advocating a US-Iran conflict for much of his political career. For over 20 years, he has insisted that the Islamic Republic was just steps away from producing nuclear weapons, even when Israeli intelligence publicly argued otherwise.

    “The Israeli PM was also front and center in the run-up to the most recent Iraq War, warning the US Congress in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – including pursuing atomic bombs – which turned out not to exist at all.

    “Just last year, Netanyahu was urging the US and its Middle Eastern allies to take up the cause of war against Iran, emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal and re-impose crippling sanctions against Tehran, despite its compliance with the agreement.

    “Netanyahu’s sudden reticence is particularly notable because he has been advocating a US-Iran conflict for much of his political career. For over 20 years, he has insisted that the Islamic Republic was just steps away from producing nuclear weapons, even when Israeli intelligence publicly argued otherwise.

    “The Israeli PM was also front and center in the run-up to the most recent Iraq War, warning the US Congress in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – including pursuing atomic bombs – which turned out not to exist at all.

    “Just last year, Netanyahu was urging the US and its Middle Eastern allies to take up the cause of war against Iran, emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal and re-impose crippling sanctions against Tehran, despite its compliance with the agreement.”

    • oldgeezer on January 8, 2020, 9:45 pm


      tongue in cheek

      What else would you expect the best ally of the US to do in such circumstances. They are the closest of all allies and share an inseparable bond. The shared Judeo-Christian values… Well Christian values. The Judeo- is taking a vaction until the coast is clear.

      Yes sir, when the excrement hits the air circulating device you can rest assured who won’t be standing with you unless it involves slaughtering defenseless women and children. Besides US lives just aren’t worth as much.

      In the meantime keep sending them billions. A sucker born every minute.

    • PaulMerrell on January 9, 2020, 9:37 am

      Pepe Escobar: “According to my best Southwest Asia intel sources, “Israel gave the U.S. the coordinates for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani as they wanted to avoid the repercussions of taking the assassination upon themselves.”

      Perhaps adding credence to that report, there were other reports that the Pentagon was surprised that Trump selected the option to kill Soleimani and had to scramble to find out where Soleimani was; they had lost track of him. A request to Israel for that information doesn’t seem out of line in that regard.

  2. gamal on January 9, 2020, 2:05 am

    “While the usual suspects and positions are being trotted out,”

    at least one Iranian has got your number in the that mourning mass..

  3. gamal on January 9, 2020, 3:13 am

    Re Diplomatic mission

    “Here is the reconstruction of the story:

    [Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq] Halbousi attended the parliamentary session while almost none of the Sunni members did. This was because the Americans had learned that Abdul-Mehdi was planning to reveal sensitive secrets in the session and sent Halbousi to prevent this. Halbousi cut Abdul-Mehdi off at the commencement of his speech and then asked for the live airing of the session to be stopped. After this, Halbousi together with other members, sat next to Abdul-Mehdi, speaking openly with him but without it being recorded. This is what was discussed in that session that was not broadcast:

    Abdul-Mehdi spoke angrily about how the Americans had ruined the country and now refused to complete infrastructure and electricity grid projects unless they were promised 50% of oil revenues, which Abdul-Mehdi refused.

    The complete (translated) words of Abdul-Mahdi’s speech to parliament:

    This is why I visited China and signed an important agreement with them to undertake the construction instead. Upon my return, Trump called me to ask me to reject this agreement. When I refused, he threatened to unleash huge demonstrations against me that would end my premiership.

    Huge demonstrations against me duly materialized and Trump called again to threaten that if I did not comply with his demands, then he would have Marine snipers on tall buildings target protesters and security personnel alike in order to pressure me.

    I refused again and handed in my resignation. To this day the Americans insist on us rescinding our deal with the Chinese.

    After this, when our Minister of Defense publicly stated that a third party was targeting both protestors and security personnel alike (just as Trump had threatened he would do), I received a new call from Trump threatening to kill both me and the Minister of Defense if we kept on talking about this “third party”.

    Nobody imagined that the threat was to be applied to General Soleimani, but it was difficult for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to reveal the weekslong backstory behind the terrorist attack.

    I was supposed to meet him [Soleimani] later in the morning when he was killed. He came to deliver a message from Iran in response to the message we had delivered to the Iranians from the Saudis.

    We can surmise, judging by Saudi Arabia’s reaction, that some kind of negotiation was going on between Tehran and Riyadh:

    The Kingdom’s statement regarding the events in Iraq stresses the Kingdom’s view of the importance of de-escalation to save the countries of the region and their people from the risks of any escalation.

    Above all, the Saudi Royal family wanted to let people know immediately that they had not been informed of the US operation:

    The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not consulted regarding the US strike. In light of the rapid developments, the Kingdom stresses the importance of exercising restraint to guard against all acts that may lead to escalation, with severe consequences.

    And to emphasize his reluctance for war, Mohammad bin Salman sent a delegation to the United States. Liz Sly, the Washington Post Beirut bureau chief, tweated:

    Saudi Arabia is sending a delegation to Washington to urge restraint with Iran on behalf of [Persian] Gulf states. The message will be: ‘Please spare us the pain of going through another war’.

    What clearly emerges is that the success of the operation against Soleimani had nothing to do with the intelligence gathering of the US or Israel. It was known to all and sundry that Soleimani was heading to Baghdad in a diplomatic capacity that acknowledged Iraq’s efforts to mediate a solution to the regional crisis with Saudi Arabia.

    It would seem that the Saudis, Iranians and Iraqis were well on the way towards averting a regional conflict involving Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Riyadh’s reaction to the American strike evinced no public joy or celebration. Qatar, while not seeing eye to eye with Riyadh on many issues, also immediately expressed solidarity with Tehran, hosting a meeting at a senior government level with Mohammad Zarif Jarif, the Iranian foreign minister. Even Turkey and Egypt, when commenting on the assassination, employed moderating language.”

  4. Boomer on January 9, 2020, 7:16 am

    Thanks for the analysis. I wish that some U.S. journalists would read it and take it to heart. Even NPR, in the reports I heard, largely accepted the dominant framing. In fairness, there wasn’t much in the way of forceful pushback from quotable Democrats. If there had been, I suppose NPR would have mentioned it. Juan Cole was featured on “Democracy Now,” but that’s not the same as being on one of the major networks.

    The discussions of Iran on MSM do mention that Trump abrogated the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions [without rationale or basis, as far as I can tell] but generally start with 1979, ignoring what led to the Revolution, including the Anglo American coup and imposition of an autocrat friendly to western oil companies.

    I find particularly irksome the continual assertion by Sectretary of State Mike Pompous that Iran needs to “act like a normal country.” He is a massive pot calling a small kettle black.

  5. Elizabeth Block on January 9, 2020, 9:45 am

    “Above all, the Saudi Royal family wanted to let people know immediately that they had not been informed of the US operation.”
    Interesting. It implies that the Saudis think the rest of the world would assume that they had been informed, they being such close friends and allies of the Americans.
    I have read that while Congress was not informed, the Israelis were.
    A blatant assassination of a prominent, important person, with no attempt to spin it (well, not by the US, though Netanyahu did), is something new.
    Also new: Congress not lining up behind a president who wants to start a war.

  6. eljay on January 9, 2020, 10:29 am

    The U.S. and Israeli governments have the same “shared common values” of proclaiming their respective countries to be “moral beacons” even as they deliberately and unapologetically undermine international laws and human rights and the protections they are meant to afford all people.

    Contrary to the delusions of Zionists, Israel will not last a Thousand Years! Neither will U.S. dominance. Do the fools in power – and the foolish citizenry that cheers them on – really believe their countries and their people will never need the protections they work so hard to desecrate and destroy?

  7. James Canning on January 9, 2020, 11:15 am

    The reasons American news media exert themselves to keep the public from comprehending the fantastic cost of “protecting” Israel are of course well known. Immensely rich and powerful political campaign donors are at the heart of the matter.

    • Naftush on January 15, 2020, 6:23 am

      So where Lipton blew the dog whistle by insinuating, you leaped up and barked: it’s just a conspiracy among “Israel-firsters” such as Adelson and Lauder (Jewish ones, conveniently) to off Soleimani’s innocent head!

      • Mooser on January 15, 2020, 2:43 pm

        “So where Lipton blew the dog whistle…/… Soleimani’s innocent head!”

        You’ve got it exactly right, “Naftush”! Israel will always be vulnerable to this kind of thing. Just goes with the situation.
        Have you got a plan to change this, besides kvetching?
        Oh, BTW, got a plan to keep Jews outside of Israel from thinking these things, too?

  8. echinococcus on January 12, 2020, 2:19 pm

    Why, I see that you’re already out with episode 2. That’s good.

    But you neglected to respond to the challenge re your own work of muzzling, character assassination, “deplatforming” and general witch hunt against unfailing anti-Zionists like Ms Alison Weir, Greta Berlin and others.

    Pretending to ignore the objection raised against heavy censorship by your own hand places you on top of the “Muzzle Watch” list.

    You guys do not oppose censorship and suppression in principle, but only when you don’t like it. How sick is that?

    Or did you mean “watch your mouth!” instead of muzzle watch?

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