How Iranian, Qatari media glorified Qassem Soleimani

Hasan Nasrallah delivers a speech to the supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon to commemorate the death of Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2020

How Iranian, Qatari media glorified Qassem Soleimani

  • Soleimani has been portrayed as a martyr despite his crimes
  • Qatar-based media did not report on the drone being launched from there

DUBAI: It was not at all surprising, following the successful US strike that killed the commander of the Quds brigade Qassem Soleimani, that the Iranian media would attempt to ease the big blow to the regime in Tehran by portraying the late Soleimani as a “martyr” - who actually always wanted to be killed to gain this alleged honor. 

This was reinforced by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reiterating that Soleimani always wanted to be killed on the battle field.

Nasrallah told mourners on Sunday: “On Thursday evening, January 2, 2020, Qassem Soleimani, the dear beloved brother, fulfilled his biggest and most wanted dream… it has been his dream since he was a youth who joined the Iranian battle grounds, and he continued holding that dream and that goal.

Meanwhile, the official website of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a photo illustration showing Soleimani in an embrace with a figure alluding to be Imam Hussain ibn Ali.

Another Iranian newspaper, Resalat, published an illustration depicting Soleimani being greeted in Heaven by Imam Hussain and Aytollah Khomeini.

In response to the image, many Americans and pro-Trump supporters on social media circulated an illustration of Jesus embracing US President Donald Trump - in what seemed to end a Twitter tug-of-war of who actually owns Heaven. 

However, it wasn’t only non-Muslims who believed Soleimani was not exactly Heaven material. Many Muslim intellectuals, social media influences and columnists condemned Soleimani for the turmoil the militias he commanded brought upon the region. 

His crimes included the leading, arming and training of mainly Shiite militia groups, as well as launching wars directly or indirectly via these proxies.

He also fomented unrest in other nations to advance Iran’s ideological and hegemonic interests, while attacking and invading cities and countries; and assassinating foreign political figures and powerful Iranian dissidents worldwide. 
However, the Iranian media started manipulating the truth as soon as Soleimani was killed. Iraqis celebrating on the street were portrayed as condemning America by Iranian media.

As Saudi Arabia, regional powers and world leaders called for the easing of tensions in the aftermath of the attack, pro-Iranian media was propagating the opposite. 

Iranian-backed Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, began to use the hashtag #الرد_الحتمي meaning “inevitable retaliation” on its digital platforms.

The director of the Beirut-based channel Ghassan bin Jiddo even portrayed Soleimani as a “martyr”, saying the channel had received an image of him dying with a Quran in his hand, despite having been killed in rocket attack that burned the vehicle he was in. 

Jiddo also described Soleimani as a “brave leader” and also falsely claimed that Israel – alongside the US – was behind the attack. 

“It is well known that some groups that hold an ideology inconsistent with logic have resorted to the absence of awareness of illogical ideas.  Such groups aim mainly to plunge their members into irrational thoughts for the purpose of facilitating their leadership. If we apply that rule to what the Al-Mayadeen channel and other propaganda tools of the Iranian regime mention, we will find it fully applicable to them,” Egyptian multimedia journalist Abdelatif Menawy said. 

“The main goal is to drown people into delusion and sorcery and give them narcotic media materials so that they cannot reasonably think. Logical thinking will push people to change,” Menawy added. 

Like Al-Maydeen, the Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar channel have also been referring to the criminal general as a “martyr” – a rhetoric pro-Iranian media has been attempting to spin since the general’s death.

Al-Manaer, which had its channel banned from YouTube, also published a video report that portrayed Soleimani as a “martyr.” The channel also published a video report showing Soleimani saying he wished to become a martyr. 

In a piece printed in the Tehran Times on the day of Soleimani’s death, Syed Zafar Mehdi wrote that “last year the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wished martyrdom for his brave soldier” and that wish came true on Friday. 

Like other international media organizations, Al-Jazeera was also one of the publications following the developments of the attack closely. On the day of Soleimani’s death, Al-Jazeera reported on the “popularity” of the general in Iran and failed to mention his history of crimes in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.   

Additionally, when it was revealed that the US had launched the attack from Qatar, the Doha-funded channel failed to report this, on both their English or Arabic platforms. 

Jamal Rayyan, an Al-Jazeera anchor, Tweeted claiming the attack was launched from the UAE and not Qatar. Rayyan also went on to claim that Israel had carried out the attack through Trump. 

Other Qatar-affiliated media, including the London based The New Arab, referred to Soleimani in their reports as a “welcomed hero” during his funeral in Iran. The New Arab also published a bio on the general, but failed to include any of his crimes. 

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

Updated 20 January 2020

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

  • Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used
  • Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology

LONDON: Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the US start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach US authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.