Wednesday, July 31, 2019

U.S. Aims a Megaphone at Iranian Public as Part of Pressure Campaign

Information effort uses social media, YouTube and traditional broadcasters to appeal for opposition to the leadership in Tehran, but many in the country seem dismissive of its effectiveness
The Trump administration is trying to win over the Iranian public with an information campaign blaming the country’s economic hardship on its leaders and discrediting those who oppose the White House’s policies.
The information efforts are a less-discussed aspect of the pressure being applied to Iran since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed harsh sanctions in an effort to secure a more-encompassing accord that curbs Tehran’s nuclear program and its alleged regional aggression.
The campaign aims to erode public support for the leadership in Tehran with hashtags, YouTube videos and traditional pro-U. S. media outlets broadcasting in the Middle East.
The Trump administration’s effort is more openly hostile to the Iranian government than previous administrations’ efforts, employing the president’s brash style. Gauging the effect of the U.S. information campaign is difficult because of the absence of reliable polling in Iran, but most Iranians seem to be dismissive of its effectiveness.
The administration has helped anti-Iranian government hashtags to trend on Twitter, including #40YearsofFailure that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the country’s revolution. It has used Persian-language social media to blame deadly floods this year on government mismanagement, tapping into a complaint many Iranians have made. 
Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Brian Hook, the White House special envoy on Iran, has filmed a video aimed at the Iranian public from inside the former Iranian embassy in Washington. In a voice-over to photos of Iranians rebelling against the leadership, Mr. Hook said Washington has maintained the embassy, including artwork and Persian rugs, and looked forward to returning the embassy keys to a “truly representative Iranian government.”
American officials say U.S.-sponsored radio stations including Voice of America now reach more than 14 million Iranians inside the country each week—about 23% of the nation’s adults.
Heavily involved in the campaign is an ad man, Len Khodorkovsky, formerly creative director of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s lead ad agency in 2016 and now a State Department public-affairs official. Continuing a trend of advertising experts making their mark in U.S. administrations, Mr. Khodorkovsky has developed a pugnacious persona on social media, where he often takes swipes at the Iranian leadership.
Read the rest from the WSJ HERE.

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