It’s Time to Indict Aung San Suu Kyi for Genocide Against the Rohingya in Myanmar

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening ceremony of the Yangon Innovation Centre in Yangon on July 17, 2019. (Photo by Thet AUNG / AFP) (Photo credit should read THET AUNG/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar’s state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening ceremony of the Yangon Innovation Centre in Yangon on July 17, 2019.

Photo: Thet Aung/AFP/Getty Images

Isn’t it time Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was indicted for war crimes and genocide at the International Criminal Court?

This Sunday marks two years since the Burmese military, the Tatmadaw, arrived in Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, to launch a renewed campaign of terror and violence against the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority. Unspeakable crimes were committed by Burmese troops and vigilantes: Rohingya men hacked to death; children burned alive; women and girls raped and sexually assaulted in their hundreds and thousands. Scores of villages were pillaged and razed to the ground as more than 700,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes. One cautious estimate put the death toll at more than 10,000.

Two years on, as Rohingya refugees languish in squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh, it is difficult to overstate the sheer barbarism they have had to endure. The U.S. State Department has called it “ethnic cleansing,” with Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, describing the violence against the Rohingya “as bad as or worse than any other I have personally seen — including as one of the first U.S. officials to visit Darfur in 2004.” In August 2018, a United Nations fact-finding commission accused the Burmese military of genocide — a view endorsed by, among others, experts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and a unanimous vote by the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. The U.N.’s investigators even demanded Myanmar’s top military commanders be investigated and prosecuted for the “gravest” crimes against civilians under international law.

But what about prosecuting Suu Kyi, the one-time darling of the West and hero to liberals and conservatives alike? When will that be in the cards? For the past two years, the former prisoner of conscience-turned-de facto head of state has blindly defended her country’s lawless military while cynically downplaying the extent of their brutal crimes. A long-standing Buddhist nationalist, Suu Kyi has also fanned the flames of hatred against the besieged Muslim minority in her country, repeatedly engaging in brazenly Islamophobic behavior. On a recent visit to Hungary, of all places, she joined with far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban to bemoan the “continuously growing Muslim populations” in their respective countries.

She might want to enjoy her trips abroad, and meetings with fellow racist leaders, while she can. In February 2018, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee — who was banned from the country for criticizing the Suu Kyi government — was asked by British broadcaster Channel 4 News whether a criminal tribunal might one day find Suu Kyi guilty of crimes against humanity and even genocide. “I’m afraid so,” Lee replied, also stating, “She can’t be not accountable. Complicity is also part of accountability.”

The Burmese leader’s dwindling band of international defenders includes, shockingly, her fellow 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They have joined with the Myanmar government to offer a range of bogus arguments as to why she cannot and should not be prosecuted  — or even be held responsible! — for the ongoing violence and repression in Myanmar.

First, they point out, Myanmar isn’t a signatory to the International Criminal Court, so the ICC has no jurisdiction. Yet in September 2018, in a stunning move, the ICC ruled that it could indeed prosecute Myanmar for crimes against the Rohingya people, accepting, as The Guardian reported, “a novel argument that even though the allegedly coercive acts that forced the Rohingya to flee took place in Myanmar, the crime would not have been completed until the refugees entered Bangladesh, which is a party to the Rome statute that governs the court.”

Second, say Suu Kyi defenders, as Myanmar’s first civilian leader after 49 years of military rule, she has no control over the armed forces. Therefore she cannot be held responsible for their brutal attacks on the Rohingya.

But this, says Maung Zarni, a fellow at the Genocide Documentation Center in Cambodia, “is a complete mischaracterization of Suu Kyi’s role” in those crimes. Zarni, a Burmese Buddhist who knows Suu Kyi personally and was once an ardent supporter of hers, points out that she controls four civilian ministries that have long been involved in repressing the Rohingya — the information, religious affairs, immigration, and foreign affairs ministries — not to mention her own high office of state counselor. The latter, as I noted in April 2017, “accused Rohingya women of fabricating stories of sexual violence and put the words ‘fake rape’ — in the form of a banner headline, no less — on its official website.”

It is fair, then, to damn Suu Kyi and her civilian officials for dismissing and denying the crimes against the Rohingya, thereby legitimizing and encouraging further violence by the security forces. Or, as the U.N. report put it, contributing “to the commission of atrocity crimes.”

As Zarni says, “There is no absolution of her responsibility for the official statements, bills, measures … all designed to deprive Rohingyas of access to education, health service, due process, livelihoods opportunities, factual information about Rohingya history, legal status, past citizenship activities and citizenship.” Suu Kyi, he told me bluntly, plays a similar role to that of Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany, “perhaps less blatantly, but no less effectively.”

Suu Kyi has “without a doubt played an important role in the genocide,” agrees Azeem Ibrahim, author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide,” by providing the Burmese generals with “cover at every step.” It was her presence at the top of government, as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning face of Myanmar to the world, which “emboldened and encouraged the military to undertake the final solution,” Ibrahim told me.

Third, the Suu Kyi apologists argue, any action taken against The Lady, as she is known, would upset the delicate balance of power inside of Myanmar and risk handing back power to the generals, maybe in the form of a military coup. McConnell calls Suu Kyi “the best hope for democratic reform in Burma,” while Ramos and others worry about risking a “fragile political transition.” However, as Ibrahim points out, this argument is “patently false.” The reality, he explains, “is that the military is now in the perfect situation: they have power without accountability. They have [Suu Kyi] taking all the criticism whilst they can get on with the genocide … and at the same time enrich themselves dramatically. Why would they want to upset that perfect set-up and return to power, inviting international sanctions and once again becoming a pariah state?”

Zarni is equally scathing. “This post-military Burma under Suu Kyi’s presumed enlightened rule is a complete fantasy that comes from self-interested diplomats and foreign governments,” he says.

So when will these foreign governments, which claim to care about human rights and make pious declarations of “never again,” take action to tackle the perpetrators of a modern-day genocide in Myanmar? There have been the mildest of travel bans imposed on a handful of Burmese generals but nothing whatsoever imposed against the state counselor herself. Suu Kyi has been stripped of various awards and freedoms from the likes of Amnesty International and the cities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Paris, but do such minor humiliations really amount to justice for the Rohingya victims of “murder, rape, torture, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement”?

To be clear: The refusal to sanction Suu Kyi, or consider prosecuting Myanmar’s de facto leader for her role in the Rohingya genocide, two years later, is not just an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees waiting for some sort of accountability in Bangladesh and beyond. It endangers Myanmar’s other minorities, such as the Kachin Christians in the north, who have also been on the receiving end of Tatmadaw violence and terror in recent years.

As Ibrahim warns: “If you allow one genocide to go unpunished, you are opening the door to many others.”

 

The post It’s Time to Indict Aung San Suu Kyi for Genocide Against the Rohingya in Myanmar appeared first on The Intercept.

GOP Lobbyists Help Brazil Recruit U.S. Companies to Exploit the Amazon

This summer, fires are being used to clear wide swaths of the Amazon at an unprecedented rate. One fifth of the Amazon has already been destroyed in the past 50 years; further industrialization of the rainforest risks destroying another fifth, a loss that would be catastrophic for the global ecosystem.

The disaster is widely blamed on interests seeking to clear the world’s largest rainforest for cattle ranching, mining, and export-focused agribusiness. Documents reveal that those interests are being pushed in the U.S. by Republican lobbyists friendly with President Donald Trump’s administration who entered into talks with the Brazilian government to promote corporate investment in the Amazon.

The crisis in the Amazon comes as Brazil is now governed by an administration openly hostile to environmental concerns and Indigenous communities. President Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain once viewed as a fringe figure in Brazilian politics, has been referred to himself as “Captain Chainsaw” for his drive to promote logging and agribusiness in the Amazon.

Shortly after taking office in January, Bolsonaro slashed funding for Brazil’s main environmental agency by 24 percent. And this week, after a report by Brazil’s space research center revealed that fires in the Amazon are up 83% this year, Bolsonaro blamed on international NGOs rather than his own anti-environmental policies.

Meanwhile, a member of the Brazilian government has contracted with Washington lobbyists to continue selling land and destroying the forest.

In June, Wilson Lima, the Governor of the State of Amazonas, a northwestern province in Brazil that governs approximately a third of the Amazon, including the epicenter of the current forest fire crisis, began work with the InterAmerica Group, a Washington, D.C.–based lobbying firm founded by Jerry Pierce, Jr. Kellen Felix, a Brazilian national and vice president at InterAmerica Group, is also listed in a disclosure filing for work with the State of Amazonas. Lima, elected last year, is a member of PSC, a conservative party affiliated with the Assembly of God, a rapidly growing Pentecostal church in Brazil.

The initial filings, disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act through the Department of Justice, which regulates foreign lobbying, show that Pierce was tapped to represent Lima’s government in meetings with federal agencies and Congress.

The InterAmerica Group has also already filed an informational packet assembled for U.S. companies on behalf of the Brazilian governor, promoting the Amazon region for its development potential. The packet lists mining, agribusiness, and the “Gas Chemical Industry” as “Opportunities” for American businesses — among the “Challenges” for these potential businesses is to “Ensure Forest Conservation.”

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A packet, disclosed by the InterAmerica Group, advertising the Amazon to business interests. Document: FARA disclosure.

In response to an inquiry from The Intercept, Pierce said that a final contract has not been signed. “Unfortunately the state of Amazon decided to hold off on contracting our firm for an indefinite period. Perhaps it will revisited in 2020,” Pierce wrote. He did not respond to a question about why his firm was already producing communications on behalf of the Lima government.

Pierce has written extensively on how both Trump and Bolsonaro are a boon for increased American business in Brazil. “Under a President Trump,” Pierce wrote in 2017 blog post on his company’s website, Brazil stands to become “a world leader in industries such as agribusiness, mining, banking, and aviation.” In more recent posts, Pierce celebrates the rise of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, declaring, “Donald Trump paved the way for a Bolsonaro victory.”

Pierce also previously served as an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the administration of George H.W. Bush, and as a prominent fundraiser for President George W. Bush. Under George W. Bush, he achieved “Pioneer” status, an accolade given to supporters who raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s campaigns. In 2009, Pierce pled guilty to making illegal “conduit contributions,” a term that refers to campaign contributions made under another person’s name. He served three years probation.

Images on social media show Pierce, Felix, and other InterAmerica Group officials appearing, in Pierce’s description, with members of President Donald Trump’s administration and at conservative movement events, including the CPAC convention and with Turning Point USA.

Lima is not the only regional official to forge ties with Trump-friendly politicians.

The Intercept previously reported that Lima’s predecessor, Gov. Amazonino Mendes, signed a controversial $1.6 million contract with Giuliani Safety & Security, a consulting firm affiliated with Rudy Giuliani, now a lawyer for Trump. The State of Amazonas has struggled with persistent poverty, drug smuggling, and crime — problems Mendes promised to solve through the contract with Giuliani’s firm.

The discussions with the InterAmerica Group are among many American ties to business expansion into the Amazon. In April, the Brazil-American Chamber of Commerce, a trade group representing major banking and commodity interests, held an event on how U.S. investors can take advantage of Brazilian agribusiness in the current political climate.

The post GOP Lobbyists Help Brazil Recruit U.S. Companies to Exploit the Amazon appeared first on The Intercept.

Twitter Helped Chinese Government Promote Disinformation on Repression of Muslims

Twitter helped to promote Chinese government propaganda and disinformation about the country’s controversial internment camps in the Xinjiang region, a review of the company’s advertising records reveals.

The social media company today announced a policy change that would bar such promotion following an inquiry from The Intercept and an earlier controversy over similar propaganda related to demonstrations in Hong Kong.

In Xinjiang, a western province in China, the United Nations has estimated that 1 million ethnic minority Uighurs — including children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with disabilities — have been detained under the pretext of fighting extremism. According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities are “committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a scale unseen in the country in decades.”

A review of Twitter advertisements from between June and August this year showed that the social media giant promoted more than 50 English-language tweets from the Global Times, a Chinese state media organization. Several of the tweets deliberately obscure the truth about the situation in Xinjiang and attack critics of the country’s ruling Communist Party regime.

The Global Times paid Twitter to promote its tweets to a portion of the more than 300 million active users on the social media platform. The tweets appeared in users’ timelines, regardless of whether they followed the Global Times account. In July, amid global condemnation of the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, Twitter began promoting several Global Times tweets about the region.

One of the promoted tweets, from July 11, included a embedded video in which the Global Times’ editor-in-chief claimed that people who call the facilities in Xinjiang mass detention camps have “smeared the vocational education and training centers established to help people avoid extremism.” He went on to attack “European politicians and media workers,” who he claimed had “tried to defend terrorist activities in Xinjiang,” adding, “their hands are in a way soiled with the blood of the Chinese people who died in violent attacks.”

Another promoted tweet, from July 4, included a video purportedly taken in Xinjiang, in which people are seen shopping in the street and eating in restaurants to a soundtrack of piano music. The video describes riots in 2009 that occurred in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and states that residents there “now live a happy and peaceful life” because they work together to fight terrorism and extremism. There is no mention in the video of the mass detention camps.

“Twitter is helping to promote false allegations and government propaganda. Allowing such advertising sets an alarming precedent.”

Other Global Times ads promoted by Twitter follow a similar theme, presenting the region as a happy and peaceful place where no human rights abuses have occurred. One promoted tweet includes video of an elderly woman receiving a package of medical supplies from government officials before breaking down in tears of joy. The tweet claims that poverty has been alleviated in the area because local residents have “access to high-quality medical care and affordable medicines.”

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, said he found Twitter’s promotion of the advertisements to be “appalling.”

“This is a very important, serious issue that Twitter needs to address,” said Poon. “Twitter is helping to promote false allegations and government propaganda. Allowing such advertising sets an alarming precedent.”

On Monday, Twitter said that it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media, in order to “protect healthy discourse and open conversation.”

The announcement was published three hours after The Intercept had contacted the company for comment on its promotion of the Global Times’ Xinjiang tweets. Earlier on Monday, TechCruch highlighted Twitter’s promotion of tweets from a different state news entity, China Xinhua News, which portrayed largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong as violent.

Twitter’s promotion of Chinese government propaganda had appeared to contradict its own policies, which state that advertising on the platform must be “honest.” The advertisements also undermined statements from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that the company was working to combat “propaganda through bots and human coordination [and] misinformation campaigns.”

Like many Western technology companies, Twitter has a complex relationship with China. The social media platform is blocked in the country and cannot be accessed there without the use of censorship circumvention technologies, such as a virtual private network or proxy service. At the same time, however, Twitter generates a lot of advertising revenue in China and has a growing presence in the country.

In July, Twitter’s director in China reportedly stated that the company’s team there had tripled in the last year and was the company’s fastest growing division. In May, the social media giant held a “Twitter for Marketers” conference in Beijing. Meanwhile, Twitter was criticized for purging Chinese dissidents’ accounts on the platform – which it claimed was a mistake – and has also been the subject of a protest campaign, launched by the Chinese artist Badiucao, after it refused to publish a “hashflag” symbol to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Poon, the Amnesty researcher, said police in China have in recent months increasingly targeted human rights advocates in the country who are active on Twitter, forcing them to delete their accounts or remove specific posts that are critical of the government. These cases have been reported to Twitter, according to Poon, but the company has not taken any action.

“Twitter has allowed the Chinese government to advertise its propaganda while turning a deaf ear on those who have been persecuted by the Chinese regime,” Poon said. “We need to hear how Twitter can justify that.”

The post Twitter Helped Chinese Government Promote Disinformation on Repression of Muslims appeared first on The Intercept.

Twitter Helped Chinese Government Promote Disinformation on Repression of Muslims

Twitter helped to promote Chinese government propaganda and disinformation about the country’s controversial internment camps in the Xinjiang region, a review of the company’s advertising records reveals.

The social media company today announced a policy change that would bar such promotion following an inquiry from The Intercept and an earlier controversy over similar propaganda related to demonstrations in Hong Kong.

In Xinjiang, a western province in China, the United Nations has estimated that 1 million ethnic minority Uighurs — including children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with disabilities — have been detained under the pretext of fighting extremism. According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities are “committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a scale unseen in the country in decades.”

A review of Twitter advertisements from between June and August this year showed that the social media giant promoted more than 50 English-language tweets from the Global Times, a Chinese state media organization. Several of the tweets deliberately obscure the truth about the situation in Xinjiang and attack critics of the country’s ruling Communist Party regime.

The Global Times paid Twitter to promote its tweets to a portion of the more than 300 million active users on the social media platform. The tweets appeared in users’ timelines, regardless of whether they followed the Global Times account. In July, amid global condemnation of the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, Twitter began promoting several Global Times tweets about the region.

One of the promoted tweets, from July 11, included a embedded video in which the Global Times’ editor-in-chief claimed that people who call the facilities in Xinjiang mass detention camps have “smeared the vocational education and training centers established to help people avoid extremism.” He went on to attack “European politicians and media workers,” who he claimed had “tried to defend terrorist activities in Xinjiang,” adding, “their hands are in a way soiled with the blood of the Chinese people who died in violent attacks.”

Another promoted tweet, from July 4, included a video purportedly taken in Xinjiang, in which people are seen shopping in the street and eating in restaurants to a soundtrack of piano music. The video describes riots in 2009 that occurred in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and states that residents there “now live a happy and peaceful life” because they work together to fight terrorism and extremism. There is no mention in the video of the mass detention camps.

“Twitter is helping to promote false allegations and government propaganda. Allowing such advertising sets an alarming precedent.”

Other Global Times ads promoted by Twitter follow a similar theme, presenting the region as a happy and peaceful place where no human rights abuses have occurred. One promoted tweet includes video of an elderly woman receiving a package of medical supplies from government officials before breaking down in tears of joy. The tweet claims that poverty has been alleviated in the area because local residents have “access to high-quality medical care and affordable medicines.”

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, said he found Twitter’s promotion of the advertisements to be “appalling.”

“This is a very important, serious issue that Twitter needs to address,” said Poon. “Twitter is helping to promote false allegations and government propaganda. Allowing such advertising sets an alarming precedent.”

On Monday, Twitter said that it would no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media, in order to “protect healthy discourse and open conversation.”

The announcement was published three hours after The Intercept had contacted the company for comment on its promotion of the Global Times’ Xinjiang tweets. Earlier on Monday, TechCruch highlighted Twitter’s promotion of tweets from a different state news entity, China Xinhua News, which portrayed largely peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong as violent.

Twitter’s promotion of Chinese government propaganda had appeared to contradict its own policies, which state that advertising on the platform must be “honest.” The advertisements also undermined statements from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that the company was working to combat “propaganda through bots and human coordination [and] misinformation campaigns.”

Like many Western technology companies, Twitter has a complex relationship with China. The social media platform is blocked in the country and cannot be accessed there without the use of censorship circumvention technologies, such as a virtual private network or proxy service. At the same time, however, Twitter generates a lot of advertising revenue in China and has a growing presence in the country.

In July, Twitter’s director in China reportedly stated that the company’s team there had tripled in the last year and was the company’s fastest growing division. In May, the social media giant held a “Twitter for Marketers” conference in Beijing. Meanwhile, Twitter was criticized for purging Chinese dissidents’ accounts on the platform – which it claimed was a mistake – and has also been the subject of a protest campaign, launched by the Chinese artist Badiucao, after it refused to publish a “hashflag” symbol to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Poon, the Amnesty researcher, said police in China have in recent months increasingly targeted human rights advocates in the country who are active on Twitter, forcing them to delete their accounts or remove specific posts that are critical of the government. These cases have been reported to Twitter, according to Poon, but the company has not taken any action.

“Twitter has allowed the Chinese government to advertise its propaganda while turning a deaf ear on those who have been persecuted by the Chinese regime,” Poon said. “We need to hear how Twitter can justify that.”

The post Twitter Helped Chinese Government Promote Disinformation on Repression of Muslims appeared first on The Intercept.

Google Is Deepening Its Involvement With Egypt’s Repressive Government

Google is set to re-staff its Cairo office, which more or less went dormant in 2014, following the military coup that brought President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power in Egypt. The move comes against the backdrop of well-documented abuses by the Sisi government against dissidents and activists, which it facilitates using mass and targeted internet surveillance, and by blocking news, human rights, and blogging websites.

Google said it would begin recruiting full-time staff for the office after a meeting between Egyptian ministers and Google staff led by Google MENA head Lino Cattaruzzi, according to a June press release from the Egyptian government. The company also recently consulted with the Egyptian government on a data protection bill. And it is in talks to partner with the Egyptian government to expand its “Maharat min Google,” or “Skills From Google,” program, which has provided digital training for entrepreneurs through partner organizations over the past year. The expansion would be overseen by a government ministry.

Google’s renewed engagement with Egypt comes just a year after the company sparked outrage when The Intercept revealed that Google planned to develop a censored search engine for use in China, which it code-named Dragonfly. When Google had previously ended its search services in China in 2010, co-founder Sergey Brin referenced the government’s poor tolerance for dissent as a reason for the pullout. Executives say Dragonfly has been shelved, after harsh criticism from Google employees, advocacy groups, and the U.S. Congress.

The Cairo office will open full-time in September, according to a source who works at one of Google’s local partner companies, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter. The tech company is hiring a small staff to focus on customer sales, a Google spokesperson said.

Rights groups are concerned that a more permanent presence in the country will expose Google to added pressure from the Egyptian government, which has a history of using data collection and monitoring to punish dissidents, journalists, and human rights advocates.

“Re-opening an office in Egypt when the government is aggressively asking other internet companies to provide disproportionate access to their data sounds alarming,” said Katitza Rodriguez, the international rights director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Google has an obligation to respect human rights under international standards, Rodriguez added, and the company should disclose what steps it will take to safeguard them.


CAIRO, EGYPT - FEBRUARY 9: Peaceful protestors recharge their cellphones and computers at a "charging station" in Tahrir Square on February 9, 2011 in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Kim Badawi/Getty Images)

Peaceful protesters recharge their cellphones and computers at a charging station in Tahrir Square on Feb. 9, 2011 in downtown Cairo, Egypt.

Photo: Kim Badawi/Getty Images

For over a decade, independent foreign companies like Google have proven crucial to Egyptians seeking to circumvent government control. In 2011, a viral Facebook page co-run by then-Google executive Wael Ghonim helped fuel the 18 days of protests that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, leading Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt to opine at the time that platforms like Facebook “change the power dynamics between governments and citizens.”

A Mubarak-era blogger told The Intercept that activists chose to host their blogs on Blogger because they felt confident that the Egyptian government couldn’t access Google’s servers. And after the internet was shut down at the height of the 2011 protests, Google devised a tool with Twitter that enabled Egyptians to tweet with voicemails to circumvent the blackout.

Google’s move followed Yahoo, which closed its Cairo office in late 2013, months after a bloody government crackdown on dissidents killed hundreds in a single day.

Google moved its Egypt operations to Dubai in 2014, though it has sometimes used its Egypt office for meetings and other business. At the time, Google did not publicly offer a reason for consolidating its regional offices in Dubai, where Twitter and Facebook are also based. Google’s move followed Yahoo, which closed its Cairo office in late 2013, months after a bloody government crackdown on dissidents killed hundreds in a single day. Now, the tech giant is set to deepen its involvement with a government that researchers say is unleashing the most brutal crackdown in the country’s recent history.

A report released last fall by Amnesty International said Egypt’s crackdown on expression had turned the country into an “open-air prison for critics,” citing numerous arrests of journalists, activists, and social media users.

“People are arrested for tweets, for Facebook posts, for giving their opinion about sexual harassment, for supporting a club, or most recently, for cheering for a football player during the Africa Cup games,” said Hussein Baoumi, an Amnesty International researcher.

Wael Abbas, an award-winning journalist, was arrested last year for his Facebook and Twitter posts on charges of “spreading false news,” “involvement in a terrorist group,” and “misuse of social media.” He had previously faced account shutdowns or suspensions from Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, and YouTube, where he had documented instances of police brutality. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported after his arrest that prosecutors and state media appeared to be using his social media suspensions as evidence against him. He was jailed for seven months. And a new law passed last year treats social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as news outlets, further exposing individual social media users to prosecution for “false news.” A 2018 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists found that Egypt imprisoned more journalists on “false news” charges than any other country.

Egypt’s crackdown on dissidents dovetails with its increasing use of mass and targeted surveillance. In 2016 and 2017, a group of prominent Egyptian nonprofit organizations were hit with a sophisticated phishing attack while they were defending themselves against state charges that they were receiving foreign funding to destabilize the government. An analysis by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights strongly suggested that the attack, which included attacks on Gmail accounts, was coordinated or supported by an Egyptian intelligence agency. Amnesty International identified a new wave of phishing attacks following a similar pattern earlier this year.

The state has also purchased the services and technology of top-notch spyware firms, including the Hacking Team, an Italian spyware manufacturer. In 2017, the Egyptian government appeared to intermittently block Google while trying to block Signal, an encrypted messaging service that had been sending its traffic through Google and other web domains to subvert blocks, a practice known as domain fronting. The disruption came during a period of sporadic internet disturbances that a government source told Mada Masr, an independent Egyptian news site, were occurring because the government was configuring new mass surveillance software. Google and Amazon announced in 2018 that their cloud services would no longer support domain fronting.

There is evidence that tech companies operating in Egypt may be susceptible to pressure to reveal user data. In January, Uber users in Egypt saw service disruptions for weeks amid a long-running data dispute between Uber and the government. A few weeks later, Uber agreed to pay a value-added tax in Egypt that it had been shirking for nearly a year. The government had previously asked Uber in 2017 to provide access to “Heaven,” which displays live activity on the app, including Uber rides and customers’ personal data, which the company declined to do. The government had also offered Uber’s then-competitor Careem “preferential treatment” if it surrendered its user data.

A law passed last year now requires ride-sharing companies to provide user data to the government upon request, although it is unclear what data, if any, Uber has ultimately provided to Egypt. In 2015, the government blocked Facebook’s Free Basics service after the company refused to help the government conduct surveillance on the platform.

“Having access to independent communication means is extremely important,” Baoumi said, “particularly in Egypt right now, because of how much control the government exerts over all facets of life.”

Google is playing a more active role in Egypt in other ways too. It was one of two dozen international corporations working in Egypt that the government consulted on a data protection bill currently being weighed by Egyptian lawmakers. It is the first legislation in Egypt specifically regulating personal data, and it was passed by a parliamentary communication committee in March. Once it becomes law, it would regulate data ranging from an individual’s voice to their bank account number.

Google is also considering partnering with Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on its “Maharat min Google” program, a Google spokesperson said. The program provides employment-focused digital skills training for Arabic speakers.

“We engage with policymakers to help them understand our business and to explore ways in which technology can improve people’s lives and fuel economic growth,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, it appears that the government is using its work with Google as part of its ongoing efforts to brand Egypt as a foreign investment haven. Press releases from government ministries after Google meetings portray the image of a close relationship with the company. Boosting foreign investment has been a cornerstone of the Sisi government’s strategy to improve the country’s post-uprising economy and generate revenue to manage its $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The state plans to invest roughly $7.2 million in building a tech-heavy “knowledge city,” a government minister announced last year.

“They try to use their successful business agreements as PR,” said Amr Magdi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “So they can use their agreement with a big company like Google to say they are open for business.”

The post Google Is Deepening Its Involvement With Egypt’s Repressive Government appeared first on The Intercept.

To Appease Trump, Netanyahu Blocks Tlaib and Omar Visit to Israeli-Occupied Palestine

Under pressure from President Donald Trump, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Thursday that Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar would be barred entry to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian territories that the Muslim-American lawmakers planned to visit this weekend.

Reports from Israel suggested that the decision was an abrupt reversal, taken only after the U.S. president had pushed the Israeli leader into a corner by writing on Twitter on Thursday morning, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit.”

Last month, Israel’s American-born ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, a former Netanyahu aide, said that “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”

In a statement, Omar called Netanyahu’s decision, made “under pressure from President Trump,” an affront.

Tlaib tweeted a photograph of her grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank, and called the decision “a sign of weakness [because] the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”

The lawmaker also expressed her disappointment that she would not be able to tour the West Bank city of Hebron with Avner Gvaryahu, a former Israeli soldier who leads the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, conceived of the trip late last year as an alternative to a junket to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group — a decades-old tradition for newly elected members of Congress.

Since then, she and Omar have been regularly slandered as anti-Semites by supporters of Israel in both the Republican and Democratic parties for their criticism of Israel’s far-right government and their support for the Palestinian-led movement to use boycotts, divestment, and sanctions to press Israel to end the occupation and annexation of Palestinian land.

At rallies and in tweets, Trump has been seeking to demonize the two members of Congress, who are outspoken critics of his administration and of the Israeli occupation, both to fuel his nativist campaign against immigration — Omar is a refugee from Somalia and Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants — and to deepen divisions between progressive and moderate Democrats over unconditional American support for Israel.

In his first tweet on Thursday, the U.S. president repeated the false slur that the two lawmakers “hate Israel & all Jewish people.”

Two hours later, Trump made the primarily political nature of his attack even more transparent, by tweeting, “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!”

Trump’s public intervention was reportedly prompted by private frustration that Israeli officials were planning to permit the visit, despite a law barring supporters of the BDS movement from entering Israel or the Israeli-controlled territories.

Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13 reported for Axios that Netanyahu had been looking for a way to “address the pressure from the White House” without totally barring Omar and Tlaib. As Ravid noted after Netanyahu caved to that pressure, the idea that the visit had been blocked at the last moment because the two members of Congress support the boycott movement made little sense, since their positions were well known months ago.

Netanyahu, who is boasting of his close alliance with Trump on billboards ahead of Israeli elections next month, made no mention of the U.S. president in a statement justifying the decision to block two sitting members of Congress from visiting the nation that is the largest recipient of U.S. aid.

“Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy,” Netanyahu wrote. “For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.”

The two lawmakers had planned to visit the West Bank cities of Hebron, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, as well as the Al Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, on a tour sponsored by Miftah, a Palestinian rights group led by the veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.

According to Netanyahu, that itinerary “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”

In what looked more like political trolling than a serious offer, Netanyahu finished his statement by suggesting that Tlaib, whose maternal grandmother lives in the occupied West Bank, could be permitted to visit her family there, if she first agrees to surrender her right to free speech while in Israeli-controlled territory. If Tlaib “submits a humanitarian request to visit her relatives,” Netanyahu wrote, “the minister of interior has announced that he will consider her request on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”

Miftah called the decision to block the visit “an affront to the American people and their representatives” and “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision-makers.” The Palestinian organization also noted that Israel had just welcomed dozens of American lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, on a tour organized by AIPAC.

Netanyahu’s decision to side with Trump was deplored by supporters of the Palestinians and seen as shortsighted by supporters of Israel, who noted that nearly three-quarters of Jewish Americans are Democrats and the Democratic Party could soon be back in control of the White House.

“What should not get lost in this story is the degree to which Israel controls Palestinian lives,” the Palestinian-American lawyer Huwaida Arraf observed. “Palestinians cannot travel anywhere without Israel’s permission and no one, not even members of the U.S. Congress, can visit Palestinians without Israel’s permission.”

The two most progressive contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, quickly condemned Israel’s decision. “Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” Warren wrote, before the ban was confirmed. “This would be a shameful, unprecedented move.”

“Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy,” Sanders wrote once the news became official. “The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in.”

“Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement later on Thursday. “The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President,” she added.

Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted that Trump and Netanyahu were “afraid” of letting Tlaib and Omar “witness first-hand the brutality & dehumanization Israel’s occupation inflicts on the Palestinian people.” McCollum, who introduced legislation in May to ban Israel from using U.S. military aid to detain, interrogate, or torture Palestinian children, added that “This bigoted president is working to extend his Muslim travel ban to Members of Congress.”

Later on Thursday, after even AIPAC had condemned the decision, Joe Biden, the former vice president who is the leading moderate in Democratic presidential field, criticized his friend, Netanyahu, and the U.S. president who had egged him on. “I have always been a stalwart supporter of Israel — a vital partner that shares our democratic values,” Biden tweeted. “No democracy should deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas — even ideas they strongly object to. And no leader of the free world should encourage them to do so.”

“I don’t believe any nation should deny entry to elected Members of Congress, period,” Kamala Harris wrote. “It’s an affront to the United States. Open and engaged foreign relations are critical to advancing U.S. interests. Trump is playing politics as he weakens our global leadership.”

As more and more statements rolled in throughout the day, Daniel Seidemann, the director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, noted that many American politicians appeared more willing to criticize Trump than Netanyahu. The words of Democrats and American Jewish groups should be studied carefully to detect “the relative integrity vs. spinelessness” of those offering them, Seidemann suggested.

“Do you mention Netanyahu and Israel by name, or only Trump?” Seidemann asked. “Do you cover ass by emphasizing how much you disagree with Omar and Tlaib? Do you say this is really bad because it tarnishes Israel’s otherwise sterling image? Do you find awkward opportunities to use profusive adjectives for Israel (our great ally)? The tone used to condemn Trump and Netanyahu should not diverge.”

The post To Appease Trump, Netanyahu Blocks Tlaib and Omar Visit to Israeli-Occupied Palestine appeared first on The Intercept.

Here Are Five Lies About Iran That We Need to Refute to Stop Another Illegal War


GettyImages-1160473348-Trump-in-shadow-1565806919

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9, 2019.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Forget uranium enrichment: Has Iran mastered time travel?

Last month, the Trump White House put out a typically Orwellian statement, chock-filled with lies, distortions, and half-truths about Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal. One line in particular stood out from the rest: “There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”

 

Huh? The Iranians were violating an agreement — before it even existed?

Is it any surprise that even the foreign minister of Iran took to Twitter to join the online ridiculing of the White House?

The Trump administration’s lies on the topic of Iran are now beyond parody. There is, however, nothing funny about them. U.S. government lies can have deadly consequences: Never forget that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children, not to mention more than 4,400 U.S. military personnel, are dead today because of the sheer volume of falsehoods told by the George W. Bush administration.

So it is incumbent upon journalists to do in 2019 what we collectively did not do in 2003: Check the facts, challenge the lies, debunk the myths.

Here’s my contribution: a refutation of five of the most dishonest and inaccurate claims from the hawks — claims that brought the United States and Iran to the brink of conflict only a few weeks ago.

Lie #1: Iran Is Building a Nuclear Weapon

President Donald Trump has referred to Iran’s “quest for nuclear weapons” and claimed the Islamic Republic will soon be “on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued, “Even after the deal, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons program for future use.”

The truth is that while it is accurate to speak of an Iranian nuclear program, which is legal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is an utter lie to speak of an Iranian nuclear weapons program — as countless news organizations have also done.

As long ago as 2007, the U.S. intelligence community produced a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which offered what then-President George W. Bush would later describe in his memoir as a “stunning” and “eye-popping” conclusion that “tied my hands on the military side”: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Nothing has changed since then. In January, then-Director of National Intelligence, Trump appointee, and former Republican congressman Dan Coats reaffirmed the consensus view of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies when he told the Senate: “We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.”

Nuclear weapons program? What nuclear weapons program?

Lie #2: Iran Violated the Nuclear Deal

The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that Iran was not sticking to the terms of the agreement — prior to the administration itself violating the agreement by unilaterally pulling out and reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.

The president claimed Iran “committed multiple violations.” Hawkish Republican Sen. Tom Cotton accused Tehran of having “repeatedly violated the terms of the deal.” So did Mark Dubowitz, head of the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who said, “Iran is incrementally violating the deal.”

In fact, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, published more than a dozen reports confirming that Iran was fully complying with the terms of the deal. In April 2018, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis described the nuclear agreement as “pretty robust.” Even the then-head of the Israeli military, Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said in March 2018 that the deal “with all its faults” was “working.”

Last month, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, announced that the country’s stockpiles of enriched low-grade uranium would exceed the 300-kilogram limit laid out in the nuclear agreement — provoking a flurry of condemnations from Western governments and op-ed columnists. But let’s be clear about the order of events: The Iranian violation of one particular aspect of the deal came more than a year after the United States violated the entire deal.

Lie #3: Iran Is the Leading State Sponsor of Terror

“Iran remained the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” declared the State Department in September 2018. The Islamic Republic has been “the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979,” claimed national security adviser John Bolton a few weeks later. In June, Trump called Iran the “number one terrorist nation” in the world.

This makes no sense. Few would dispute the fact that Tehran has provided support, funds, and weaponry to Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which have been designated “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” by the U.S. government (though it is also worth noting that millions of Palestinians and Lebanese see them as resistance groups that are fighting against Israeli occupiers).

Yet the “war on terror” declared by Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has been fought against Sunni jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Shabab — none of which are backed by Shia-majority Iran.

According to the Global Terrorism Index 2018, compiled by the Institute for Economics & Peace, more than half of the deaths caused by terrorists around the world in 2017 were a result of attacks by four groups: ISIS, the Taliban, the Shabab, and Boko Haram. Again, the experts agree that none of these groups are sponsored by Iran.

In fact, it is Iran’s biggest regional rival, Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of arming, funding, and providing Salafi ideological cover for many of these jihadists — including by this president.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center?” Trump asked on Fox News during the 2016 election campaign. “It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.”

If any nation deserves the dubious distinction of being “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” it is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, not the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Lie #4: Iran Working with Al Qaeda

By conjuring up a fictitious alliance between Iran and Al Qaeda, the Trump administration has found a novel way of both justifying the “number one terrorist nation” tag and providing legal cover for a future U.S. attack on Tehran.

The president has claimed that Tehran “provides assistance to Al Qaeda.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during his tenure as CIA chief, suggested it is an “open secret” that “there have been relationships” and “there have been times the Iranians have worked alongside Al Qaeda.”

The Bush administration’s attempt to link secular Saddam Hussein with the theocratic fanatics of Al Qaeda sounded preposterous to many of us back in 2002 and 2003. It was a dumb lie. Yet the Trump administration, and its hawkish outriders at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, now want us to believe that the sectarian Sunni killers of Al Qaeda have formed an alliance with Iran, a hard-line Shia theocracy.

“I’ve never seen any evidence of active collaboration,” Jason Burke, author of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror,” told me in 2017. The relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran is “not one of alliance” but “highly antagonistic,” concluded a report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in 2012.

The Iran-Al Qaeda conspiracy theory is an especially dangerous one. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” As Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine told the New York Times in June, Trump administration officials “are looking to bootstrap an argument to allow the president to do what he likes without coming to Congress, and they feel the 2001 authorization will allow them to go to war with Iran.”

Lie #5: War on Iran Would Be Easy

This is perhaps the dumbest lie of all. Trump has threatened “the official end of Iran.” His pal in the Senate, Tom Cotton, has predicted that the United States could win a war with Tehran with just two strikes: “The first strike and the last strike.”

To call such statements absurd would be an understatement. Iran isn’t Iraq. As Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told me on a recent episode of my podcast, Deconstructed, a conflict with the Islamic Republic “would be horrible”:

Four times almost the size of Iraq, 80 million, not 26 million people, homogeneity to the population that Iraq certainly didn’t have, 51 percent Persian. Terrain … that’s just inhospitable, almost killed Alexander the Great, for example. This would be a vicious, long-term guerrilla campaign waged by the Iranians over 10 or 15 years. And at the end of it, it would look about like Iraq did in 2011. And it would cost $2 trillion and lots of lives and more than anything else, it would require at least a half a million troops.

In other words, it would be a disaster of epic proportions. Let’s be clear: Many of the accusations leveled by Western governments and Western media organizations against Iran — it is a serial violator of human rights; it is complicit in Bashar Assad’s murderous attacks on his own people; it backs Hamas and Hezbollah, it is a promoter of anti-Semitism — are undeniably true. But the five lies that are constantly deployed by politicians and pundits to justify military action against Iran, and even regime change in Tehran, are flat-out false. And if they are not called out, we will soon find ourselves embroiled in another bloody Middle East conflict that will make the war in Iraq look like a walk in the park.

The post Here Are Five Lies About Iran That We Need to Refute to Stop Another Illegal War appeared first on The Intercept.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, Pro-Trump Son of Brazil’s President, on Track to Be Ambassador to U.S.

Prosecutors in Brazil have launched what looks like a last-ditch effort to block President Jair Bolsonaro from nominating his son Eduardo to be the country’s next ambassador to the United States.

The public prosecutor’s office in Brasilia, the capital, argued in court papers filed Monday that the younger Bolsonaro, a 35-year-old congressman and close aide to his father, is not qualified to fill the country’s most prestigious diplomatic post, having never served his country abroad. Before his election to congress, the younger Bolsonaro had worked as a low-ranking federal police officer, and the only international experience listed on his resume is the year he spent on a work-exchange program in the U.S. which included a brief stint behind the cash register at a Popeyes.

Despite the court challenge, momentum for the likely nomination of the president’s son — a climate-change denier who also happens to be a huge fan of Donald Trump — has been building in recent weeks. As his son met with Brazilian senators to win their support for his nomination last week, President Bolsonaro revealed that the Trump administration had promised in writing that it would welcome Eduardo’s appointment. The week before, the idea was publicly endorsed by Trump himself, who called the younger Bolsonaro, “outstanding.”

“I know his son, and that’s probably why they did it,” Trump said. “I don’t think it’s nepotism,” added the American president who gave his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner White House jobs.

Indeed, the younger Bolsonaro’s ties to Trump and his family were clearly at the front of his father’s mind. “My son Eduardo speaks English,” President Bolsonaro told reporters last month, when he first floated the idea of nominating him for the post. “He’s friends with Donald Trump’s children.”

Eduardo Bolsonaro has carefully cultivated at least the image of being close to the Trump family: proudly displaying photographs of himself with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner during recent visits to the U.S.

After his father’s election, “03,” as his President Bolsonaro refers to his third son, was also seen sporting a “Trump 2020″ cap in Washington.

Last month, Eduardo Bolsonaro even retweeted a Brazilian news site’s unsourced claim that Donald Trump was actively considering his own son, Eric, for the post of U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. The columnist Guilherme Amado later claimed that the rumor about Eric Trump was started by Filipe Martins, another Trump superfan among President Bolsonaro’s aides whose Twitter account is littered with white nationalist symbols and memes.

Eduardo’s apparent fealty to the Trump family, and the president’s shameless promotion of his son, led the Brazilian columnist Bernardo Mello Franco to argue last month that his nomination as Washington ambassador would “take Brazil closer to becoming a banana republic.”

In addition to the legal challenge, the nomination, which has to be approved by Brazil’s senate, has prompted an outcry from critics of the far-right president, who accused him of failing to meet a campaign promise to promote meritocracy in government.

It has also unsettled diplomats in the Itamaraty, the headquarters of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The atmosphere,” inside the building, a diplomatic source told Le Monde last month, “is a mixture of panic and resignation.”

As my colleague Andrew Fishman has argued, many Brazilians object to the appointment because embracing Trump also means embracing policies that might be detrimental to Brazil.

On social networks, the most frequently cited objection to the appointment is that it looks like a textbook example of nepotism — Jair Bolsonaro is picking one of his sons for a post previously reserved for seasoned diplomats. The Portuguese word “nepotismo” has appeared again and again in Twitter comments mocking the appointment, along with memes using the hashtag #EmbaixariaBrasileira — a play on words that mixes together the Portuguese for “embassy,” embaixada with the verb baixar, meaning to lower something.

Another Brazilian Portuguese word that appeared frequently in social media commentary, “mamata,” is a slang term for a type of corruption — derived from the verb mamar, to suckle, and used with disgust to describe public officials feeding from the government’s teat, which can be legal but is clearly unethical.

“Performing mamata is the opposite of a participating in a ‘meritocracy,’ a much-loved concept for Bolsonaro’s supporters,” the analyst Marco Bastos explained last year. “In Bolsonarista circles, ‘meritocracy’ means that under equal conditions, those with the most ‘merit’ always achieve their objectives, be it getting into a top university or landing a good job.”

Critics of the appointment also mocked the notion that Eduardo Bolsonaro’s shaky command of English somehow qualified him to be Brazil’s ambassador to the United States. Video of him struggling to make sense in a recent interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business quickly went viral.

In another interview last month with PBS Newshour, the prospective ambassador insisted that his father was right to say that one of his female critics “was not worth raping” because “she attacked first Jair Bolsonaro, telling that he is a hapist.” (In Portuguese, Brazilians pronounce the letter “r” at the start of words as an “h.”)

In response to the criticism, the president essentially admitted that the planned nomination was, at least in part, intended to benefit his son. “Of course he’s my child, I want to benefit my child, yes, I intend to,” Jair Bolsonaro said in a weekly Facebook Live broadcast last month. “If I can give my son a filet mignon, I will,” added. “But it has nothing to do with filet mignon this story here. Nothing at all. It is about, actually, that we deepen a relationship with a country that is the largest economic and military power in the world.”

Gustavo Bebianno, President Bolsonaro’s ousted chief of staff, was particularly cutting in his appraisal, calling the nomination “a monstrous mistake.”

“Poor Eduardo doesn’t have the slightest clue,” Bebianno told the BBC’s Brazilian service last week. “He doesn’t even know the role of an ambassador. He has no idea. I worked closely with Eduardo, he doesn’t know basic notions of negotiation — he is a boy, a little boy, a surfer who was elected because of his father, then surfed his father’s wave again, winning a second term, but he is a completely inexperienced boy.”

As Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of International Relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo, observed on Twitter last week, President Bolsonaro has also reacted to criticism of his son by “making only thinly veiled threats to senators that unless they approve his son’s nomination as Brazil’s Ambassador to Washington, he’ll make him Foreign Minister — which does not require the Senate’s approval.”

For months, reports have suggested that the current foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, already holds a less important role in foreign policy than the president’s son. For instance, when his father visited the White House in March, it was Eduardo Bolsonaro, not Araújo, who was seated to the Brazilian president’s right during an Oval Office meeting with President Trump.


March 19, 2019 - Washington, DC, United States: United States President Donald J. Trump meets with President Jair Bolsonoro of Brazil at the White House. (Chris Kleponis / Polaris)

Eduardo Bolsonaro accompanied his father Jair to an Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump in March.

Photo: Chris Kleponis / Polaris/Getty Images

Eduardo Bolsonaro’s support for Donald Trump also extends to praising the American president’s climate change denialism. In a YouTube video recorded during a winter trip to the United States last year, he saluted Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement to combat global warming, casting aside the considerable damage unchecked warming is projected to cause in Brazil.

Standing in a snow-covered landscape, Bolsonaro cited climate-change deniers to endorse the American president’s claim that the “theory” is nothing more than a hoax designed to restrain U.S. industry. The video’s idiosyncratic English subtitles also reinforce the sense that his command of the language is less than perfect.

One of the climate-change deniers cited in Bolsonaro’s video, Olavo de Carvalho, is a conservative Brazilian writer known for expounding on a wide range of conspiracy theories in posts to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, uploaded from his home in Virginia.

Despite his extremely unconventional ideas — including claims that the Earth might be flat and Pepsi is sweetened with the cells of aborted fetuses — Carvalho is treated as something of a guru by the Bolsonaro family. He was seated next to President Bolsonaro at dinner during the leader’s visit to Washington this year. Asked by Folha de São Paulo, the Brazilian newspaper, if Brazil’s embassy in Washington would have a place for Carvalho, Eduardo Bolsonaro dodged the question but praised the conspiracy theorist.

The younger Bolsonaro is also a close ally of Steve Bannon, the American president’s former chief strategist who is now engaged in fostering right-wing nationalists around the globe. Last year, Eduardo boasted about meeting Bannon, and promised they would join forces to fight so-called “cultural marxism.”

In February, the younger Bolsonaro took a formal role in the former Breitbart chairman’s organization, announcing in a press release that he was “very proud to join Steve Bannon as the leader of The Movement in Brazil, representing Latin American nations,” in Bannon’s collective of far-tight nationalists. “We will work with him to reclaim sovereignty from progressive globalist elitist forces,” Bolsonaro added.

The post Eduardo Bolsonaro, Pro-Trump Son of Brazil’s President, on Track to Be Ambassador to U.S. appeared first on The Intercept.

How Voice of America Persian Became a Trump Administration PR Machine

As an Iranian American journalist covering the Iran-U.S. relationship, Negar Mortazavi is accustomed to receiving vitriol on social media. Still, she found it unusual when she saw on Twitter that someone had called her a “treasonous criminal” and “a spy and an enemy of the people.” The tweets got darker: “If the U.S. had laws of the Middle Ages like Iran, this mouthpiece of the corrupt regime would have been executed,” one read, in Farsi.

What made the tweets unusual was that the person targeting her was Ali Javanmardi. Javanmardi is a prominent television journalist at the Voice of America Persian, the U.S.-owned network broadcasting to Iranians — which means that he works for the U.S. government. Mortazavi is a former VOA Persian reporter herself and was a colleague of Javanmardi’s, and she was shocked enough by his tweets to complain to VOA editors. An editor told her that he had reminded Javanmardi that personal attacks online were unacceptable to the agency, Mortazavi said in an email to The Intercept. But Javanmardi did not remove his attacks, and they are still available.

The online tirade directed at Mortazavi is part of a pattern: Journalists at VOA Persian have been lashing out at Americans they deem unsupportive of President Donald Trump’s Iran policy, in apparent violation of VOA’s declared standards.

Journalists at VOA Persian have been lashing out at Americans they deem unsupportive of Trump’s Iran policy.

The public attacks are the most visible manifestation of a transformation that’s been underway since November 2016. VOA Persian and many of its staffers have become rabidly pro-Trump, abandoning their stated mission of providing balanced news to Iranians. So perhaps it’s not surprising that its reporters are now acting on social media like Trump himself.

For years, hawks complained that VOA Persian wasn’t sufficiently hostile enough to the Iranian government. In 2012, a Heritage Foundation report accused VOA Persian of being “pro-Iranian” and “anti-American” for having done such things as “reported only the negative aspects of bombing in Iraq and implied that the war was a mistake.” Writers for the Wall Street Journal and Commentary lodged similar complaints.

The irony is that that station, which premiered as a radio station in the 1940s, was widely known for hostility to the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “It was always anti-regime,” said Ali Sajjadi, who was the senior managing editor there before retiring last year. Former executive editor Mohammad Manzarpour told me that he was shocked when he arrived at VOA Persian in 2013, after many years at the BBC, to discover that his new company was filled with monarchists and supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group in exile that advocates relentlessly for the Iranian regime’s overthrow.

For all its flaws, however, VOA Persian also upheld some journalistic standards and ran stories critical of the United States. It showcased positive aspects of the Obama administration’s engagement with Iran. Those qualities were, of course, why hawks despised the station: It didn’t act simply as a propaganda network for the right-wing view of Iran. Guests sometimes spoke of Iran as if it could play a constructive role in the region and didn’t always treat the Iranian government as something that needed to be overthrown.

And then Trump was elected.

Since then, the network has become, as Sajjadi puts it, “a mouthpiece of Trump — only Trump and nothing but Trump.” Manzarpour describes the situation as “blatant propaganda.” He said, “There is no objectivity or factuality.”

For example, the MEK is covered heavily and favorably, despite having almost no support inside Iran, a history of terroristic violence, and a well-founded reputation as a cult. A VOA employee, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of reprisal, said, “VOA Persian, for the first time in decades, has been acting as media arm of MEK and is giving wall-to-wall live coverage of their gatherings and events.” And VOA Persian published multiple articles by Heshmat Alavi, a pro-MEK persona exposed by The Intercept this June as having been the product of a multiperson propaganda outfit housed in an MEK compound in Albania. (VOA Persian later said it would remove the articles.)

The VOA has broadcast puff pieces on Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah, whom Iran hawks see as a viable opposition leader. Hard-line Iran hawks are frequent guests on the network, often on the receiving end of friendly interviews. These guests include current Trump administration officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an inveterate Iran hawk. Pundits like Michael Ledeen have appeared, as have personnel from three heavily neoconservative Washington-based think tanks: the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute.

“It’s pro-Trump in a way that disregards the way Trump’s polices are hurting Iranians, whether through sanctions or anything else.”

A spokesperson for VOA declined to discuss “individual personnel matters” but told The Intercept that “all VOA journalists, be it federal government employees or contractors, are expected to adhere to VOA’s social media policy as delineated clearly in its Best Practices Guide. When potential policy violations are brought to the attention of VOA management, employees are reminded of the policy and expected to ensure that their social media accounts comply.” She added, “VOA pursues its mission by producing accurate, balanced and comprehensive reporting, programming, as well as online and social media content for a global audience, particularly for those who are denied access to open and free media.”

Azadeh Moaveni, an Iran expert at the Crisis Group, says that VOA’s decline worsens the possibilities for engagement between the U.S. and Iran. “It’s pro-Trump in a way that disregards the way Trump’s polices are hurting Iranians, whether through sanctions or anything else,” she told The Intercept. “To the extent that it might have served as a medium through which Iranians learned about the U.S. and better understood its policies, its present condition as a naked propaganda mouthpiece doesn’t help relations.”

Several people interviewed for this article described VOA Persian’s shift toward becoming a Trump administration PR service as one that was mostly motivated by internal factors. Careerists, anti-regime journalists, and staff members sought to curry favor with the Trump administration. Some saw an opportunity to promote their like-minded views. For others, “the only reason” to push Trump’s policies “is because they want to save their jobs,” said Vafa Azarbahari, a former writer at VOA Persian.

At the same time, soon after Trump was elected, his allies began campaigning to change VOA Persian. Right-wing pundit Kenneth Timmerman penned an op-ed saying the station had “long been a disaster;” he soon wrote another column calling it “The Voice of Tehran.” Other op-eds followed suit, in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Examiner.

In December 2016, Republicans in Congress disbanded the board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency that oversees VOA, and concentrated its power in the hands of a politically appointed CEO. It was clear that things would change: In January 2017, VOA’s Twitter account shared then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer’s infamous claims that Trump’s inauguration crowds were the largest ever. Days later, two aides from Trump’s campaign visited the VOA studios, sending a conspicuous message about who was in charge.

Republicans disbanded the board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency that oversaw VOA, and concentrated its power in the hands of a politically appointed CEO.

In 2017, the new BBG chair, Kenneth Weinstein — who is also CEO of the Hudson Institute — asked a different conservative think tank, the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council, to review the BBG’s Iran programs. Unsurprisingly, the resulting report determined that VOA had not been critical enough of the regime or the nuclear deal signed in 2015 by President Barack Obama and Iran — even while acknowledging that the station frequently devoted attention to the plight of minorities inside Iran. “Significant coverage of the state of U.S.-Iranian relations reflected the mistaken notion that the Iranian regime is now friendlier to the United States,” the report read.

The analysis lamented that sometimes the United States and Iran were treated as equals, stating “reportage on bilateral relations between the U.S. government and the Iranian regime conveyed an impression of equivalence between the parties, a position that is both surprising and improper for broadcasting that is funded by the U.S. government.”

Perhaps most consequentially, in 2018, the Senate Committee on Appropriations cleared legislation directing Pompeo to use the BBG to counter Iranian influence. The law directed the BBG to devote its resources to highlighting the Iranian government’s proxies in Syria and Yemen and the damage caused by the Iranians’ foreign policy. In February 2019, Masih Alinejad, who hosts a show on VOA Persian, appeared with Pompeo in Washington to do a photo op purportedly demonstrating the administration’s concern for women’s rights inside Iran. (The BBG, which in 2018 rebranded as the U.S. Agency for Global Media, did not respond to requests for comment.)

VOA Persian journalists and staffers began demonstrating their support for the Trump administration on social media, sometimes urging the administration to be even tougher on Iran. On May 20, a missile believed to have originated in east Baghdad, home to Iranian-backed Shiite militias, struck near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Trump tweeted in response, “Iran made a very big mistake!” Javanmardi responded to Trump: “Mr. President you have to punish the Iranian regime. They have attacked the site of the American Embassy and should be punished. A simple warning should not be sufficient.”

In time, VOA employees began targeting critics of Trump’s policies. In March, Saman Arbabi, the co-host, creator, and executive director of “Parazit,” a popular satirical program that has been compared to The Daily Show, sent a tweet to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., comparing her hijab to hoods worn by the Ku Klux Klan. He and fellow VOA host Alinejad have repeatedly targeted the National Iranian American Council, which favors engagement between the U.S. and Iran.

Similar attacks directed at anti-Trump journalists and human rights experts were leveled earlier this year by the Iran Disinformation Project, an organization funded by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. But when the Iran Disinformation Project’s actions were publicized, Congress terminated its government funding. The center’s special envoy and coordinator, Lea Gabrielle, said, “It was never the intent of the Global Engagement Center to have anyone tweeting at U.S. citizens.”

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening at the VOA Persian. It’s not just Trump-style tweets. The changing editorial direction of the site is turning it into a potentially dangerous propaganda channel for hard-line Iran hawks at a time when parts of the U.S. government seem determined to start a war with Iran.

The post How Voice of America Persian Became a Trump Administration PR Machine appeared first on The Intercept.

How Voice of America Persian Became a Trump Administration PR Machine

As an Iranian American journalist covering the Iran-U.S. relationship, Negar Mortazavi is accustomed to receiving vitriol on social media. Still, she found it unusual when she saw on Twitter that someone had called her a “treasonous criminal” and “a spy and an enemy of the people.” The tweets got darker: “If the U.S. had laws of the Middle Ages like Iran, this mouthpiece of the corrupt regime would have been executed,” one read, in Farsi.

What made the tweets unusual was that the person targeting her was Ali Javanmardi. Javanmardi is a prominent television journalist at the Voice of America Persian, the U.S.-owned network broadcasting to Iranians — which means that he works for the U.S. government. Mortazavi is a former VOA Persian reporter herself and was a colleague of Javanmardi’s, and she was shocked enough by his tweets to complain to VOA editors. An editor told her that he had reminded Javanmardi that personal attacks online were unacceptable to the agency, Mortazavi said in an email to The Intercept. But Javanmardi did not remove his attacks, and they are still available.

The online tirade directed at Mortazavi is part of a pattern: Journalists at VOA Persian have been lashing out at Americans they deem unsupportive of President Donald Trump’s Iran policy, in apparent violation of VOA’s declared standards.

Journalists at VOA Persian have been lashing out at Americans they deem unsupportive of Trump’s Iran policy.

The public attacks are the most visible manifestation of a transformation that’s been underway since November 2016. VOA Persian and many of its staffers have become rabidly pro-Trump, abandoning their stated mission of providing balanced news to Iranians. So perhaps it’s not surprising that its reporters are now acting on social media like Trump himself.

For years, hawks complained that VOA Persian wasn’t sufficiently hostile enough to the Iranian government. In 2012, a Heritage Foundation report accused VOA Persian of being “pro-Iranian” and “anti-American” for having done such things as “reported only the negative aspects of bombing in Iraq and implied that the war was a mistake.” Writers for the Wall Street Journal and Commentary lodged similar complaints.

The irony is that that station, which premiered as a radio station in the 1940s, was widely known for hostility to the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “It was always anti-regime,” said Ali Sajjadi, who was the senior managing editor there before retiring last year. Former executive editor Mohammad Manzarpour told me that he was shocked when he arrived at VOA Persian in 2013, after many years at the BBC, to discover that his new company was filled with monarchists and supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group in exile that advocates relentlessly for the Iranian regime’s overthrow.

For all its flaws, however, VOA Persian also upheld some journalistic standards and ran stories critical of the United States. It showcased positive aspects of the Obama administration’s engagement with Iran. Those qualities were, of course, why hawks despised the station: It didn’t act simply as a propaganda network for the right-wing view of Iran. Guests sometimes spoke of Iran as if it could play a constructive role in the region and didn’t always treat the Iranian government as something that needed to be overthrown.

And then Trump was elected.

Since then, the network has become, as Sajjadi puts it, “a mouthpiece of Trump — only Trump and nothing but Trump.” Manzarpour describes the situation as “blatant propaganda.” He said, “There is no objectivity or factuality.”

For example, the MEK is covered heavily and favorably, despite having almost no support inside Iran, a history of terroristic violence, and a well-founded reputation as a cult. A VOA employee, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of reprisal, said, “VOA Persian, for the first time in decades, has been acting as media arm of MEK and is giving wall-to-wall live coverage of their gatherings and events.” And VOA Persian published multiple articles by Heshmat Alavi, a pro-MEK persona exposed by The Intercept this June as having been the product of a multiperson propaganda outfit housed in an MEK compound in Albania. (VOA Persian later said it would remove the articles.)

The VOA has broadcast puff pieces on Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah, whom Iran hawks see as a viable opposition leader. Hard-line Iran hawks are frequent guests on the network, often on the receiving end of friendly interviews. These guests include current Trump administration officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an inveterate Iran hawk. Pundits like Michael Ledeen have appeared, as have personnel from three heavily neoconservative Washington-based think tanks: the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute.

“It’s pro-Trump in a way that disregards the way Trump’s polices are hurting Iranians, whether through sanctions or anything else.”

A spokesperson for VOA declined to discuss “individual personnel matters” but told The Intercept that “all VOA journalists, be it federal government employees or contractors, are expected to adhere to VOA’s social media policy as delineated clearly in its Best Practices Guide. When potential policy violations are brought to the attention of VOA management, employees are reminded of the policy and expected to ensure that their social media accounts comply.” She added, “VOA pursues its mission by producing accurate, balanced and comprehensive reporting, programming, as well as online and social media content for a global audience, particularly for those who are denied access to open and free media.”

Azadeh Moaveni, an Iran expert at the Crisis Group, says that VOA’s decline worsens the possibilities for engagement between the U.S. and Iran. “It’s pro-Trump in a way that disregards the way Trump’s polices are hurting Iranians, whether through sanctions or anything else,” she told The Intercept. “To the extent that it might have served as a medium through which Iranians learned about the U.S. and better understood its policies, its present condition as a naked propaganda mouthpiece doesn’t help relations.”

Several people interviewed for this article described VOA Persian’s shift toward becoming a Trump administration PR service as one that was mostly motivated by internal factors. Careerists, anti-regime journalists, and staff members sought to curry favor with the Trump administration. Some saw an opportunity to promote their like-minded views. For others, “the only reason” to push Trump’s policies “is because they want to save their jobs,” said Vafa Azarbahari, a former writer at VOA Persian.

At the same time, soon after Trump was elected, his allies began campaigning to change VOA Persian. Right-wing pundit Kenneth Timmerman penned an op-ed saying the station had “long been a disaster;” he soon wrote another column calling it “The Voice of Tehran.” Other op-eds followed suit, in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Examiner.

In December 2016, Republicans in Congress disbanded the board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency that oversees VOA, and concentrated its power in the hands of a politically appointed CEO. It was clear that things would change: In January 2017, VOA’s Twitter account shared then-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer’s infamous claims that Trump’s inauguration crowds were the largest ever. Days later, two aides from Trump’s campaign visited the VOA studios, sending a conspicuous message about who was in charge.

Republicans disbanded the board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency that oversaw VOA, and concentrated its power in the hands of a politically appointed CEO.

In 2017, the new BBG chair, Kenneth Weinstein — who is also CEO of the Hudson Institute — asked a different conservative think tank, the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council, to review the BBG’s Iran programs. Unsurprisingly, the resulting report determined that VOA had not been critical enough of the regime or the nuclear deal signed in 2015 by President Barack Obama and Iran — even while acknowledging that the station frequently devoted attention to the plight of minorities inside Iran. “Significant coverage of the state of U.S.-Iranian relations reflected the mistaken notion that the Iranian regime is now friendlier to the United States,” the report read.

The analysis lamented that sometimes the United States and Iran were treated as equals, stating “reportage on bilateral relations between the U.S. government and the Iranian regime conveyed an impression of equivalence between the parties, a position that is both surprising and improper for broadcasting that is funded by the U.S. government.”

Perhaps most consequentially, in 2018, the Senate Committee on Appropriations cleared legislation directing Pompeo to use the BBG to counter Iranian influence. The law directed the BBG to devote its resources to highlighting the Iranian government’s proxies in Syria and Yemen and the damage caused by the Iranians’ foreign policy. In February 2019, Masih Alinejad, who hosts a show on VOA Persian, appeared with Pompeo in Washington to do a photo op purportedly demonstrating the administration’s concern for women’s rights inside Iran. (The BBG, which in 2018 rebranded as the U.S. Agency for Global Media, did not respond to requests for comment.)

VOA Persian journalists and staffers began demonstrating their support for the Trump administration on social media, sometimes urging the administration to be even tougher on Iran. On May 20, a missile believed to have originated in east Baghdad, home to Iranian-backed Shiite militias, struck near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Trump tweeted in response, “Iran made a very big mistake!” Javanmardi responded to Trump: “Mr. President you have to punish the Iranian regime. They have attacked the site of the American Embassy and should be punished. A simple warning should not be sufficient.”

In time, VOA employees began targeting critics of Trump’s policies. In March, Saman Arbabi, the co-host, creator, and executive director of “Parazit,” a popular satirical program that has been compared to The Daily Show, sent a tweet to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., comparing her hijab to hoods worn by the Ku Klux Klan. He and fellow VOA host Alinejad have repeatedly targeted the National Iranian American Council, which favors engagement between the U.S. and Iran.

Similar attacks directed at anti-Trump journalists and human rights experts were leveled earlier this year by the Iran Disinformation Project, an organization funded by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. But when the Iran Disinformation Project’s actions were publicized, Congress terminated its government funding. The center’s special envoy and coordinator, Lea Gabrielle, said, “It was never the intent of the Global Engagement Center to have anyone tweeting at U.S. citizens.”

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening at the VOA Persian. It’s not just Trump-style tweets. The changing editorial direction of the site is turning it into a potentially dangerous propaganda channel for hard-line Iran hawks at a time when parts of the U.S. government seem determined to start a war with Iran.

The post How Voice of America Persian Became a Trump Administration PR Machine appeared first on The Intercept.