On 'Shia Backed', 'Iran Backed' Nonsense And Other Warmongering Journalism

05 Mar 2021

On 'Shia Backed', 'Iran Backed' Nonsense And Other Warmongering Journalism

By Moon of Alabama

March 5, 2021



The recent U.S. airstrike at the Syrian-Iraqi border and the missile attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq were followed by many examples of bad journalism.

U.S. media, as FAIR documents, have purged inconvenient facts from their coverage of Biden's 'first' airstrike:

The less clear the US population is about the frequency and scale of murderous violence its government carries out, the easier it is for the US ruling class to go about its wars. Fortunately for the US state, corporate media help manufacture collective amnesia by expunging US aggression from the record.
Securing consent for running a lethal, worldwide empire requires unremitting propaganda: Redacting the historical record and playing the victim are two useful strategies.

The dozens of examples in the FAIR piece are telling. FAIR gets one thing wrong though. The attack was not in Syria, as the U.S. claimed, but on the Iraqi side of the border.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 6:01 UTC · Mar 3, 2021
Analysts keep making this mistake: 1st Biden's bombing was in #Iraq not #Syria. An Iraqi military delegation sent by @MAKadhimi verified & confirmed that the #US bombed Iraqi security forces on the Iraqi borders with #Syria and not on Syrian territory.

Nearly all U.S. media use 'Iran-backed militia' when describing the groups that allegedly launched the missiles. The Pentagon now wants to change that. A press briefing with spokesman John F. Kirby had several exchanges about that:

Q: Just going back to -- to the rocket attack, could you describe roughly the distance that the rockets were coming from? And what does that say about the tactics -- and how does that -- of the -- whoever fired those? And to what degree does this resemble previous attacks by the Iranian-backed militia?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not qualified to do the forensics, Dan, on -- on -- on how this equates to previous attacks, other than obviously it's a rocket attack and we have seen rocket attacks come from Shia-backed militia groups in the past. So in that way, it certainly -- it certainly coincides with our past experience here.

... [lots of unrelated stuff] ...


Q: OK. And yesterday we hear from the podium you expressed hope that the first strike on Abu Kamal will -- might deter any future attacks.


Q: And less than 24 hours later, this happened. In the airstrike, you targeted Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, two entities that are part of the PMF.


Q: How do you view the PMF now after targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada?

MR. KIRBY: We've long been open and honest about the threats that these -- that arise from these rocket attacks that are being perpetrated by some Shia-backed militia. And we've not been bashful about calling it out when we've seen it. And the only thing I'd add is, just like before we're going to act appropriately to defend our personnel, our interests and those of our Iraqi partners.

Q: I'm asking about the PMF in general, since the group -- these groups are part of the PMF and they're actually the leaders of these groups are part of the leadership, like Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, the leader of --

MR. KIRBY: I understand -- wait, I understand where you're going. Again, we're focused on these -- the Shia-backed militias that continue to put at risk and to continue to threaten our people and our Iraqi partners. And I don't have any other additional conversations to read out today.

Q: If I may? When you say Shia backed militias, do you mean Shia militias or Iran backed --

MR. KIRBY: I mean Shia-backed militias.

Q: What does that mean?

MR. KIRBY: Lara?

Q: Thanks John.

Q: No, no, seriously John. I'm --

MR. KIRBY: No seriously. I mean Shia-backed militia.

Q: Like what does that mean, Shia-backed militia? You're backed by --

MR. KIRBY: I've answered your question sir.
Q: On the Shia-backed militias. Previously U.S. officials would say Iran backed militias, Shia is a sect, it's a large group of people. When you say Shia-backed what do you really mean? I was confused.

MR. KIRBY: I've been using that phrase pretty much since I've been up here and we know that and I've said this that that some of the Shia-back militias have – Shia-based have Iranian backing.

There is a certain point in Kirby's relabeling. The 'Iran backing' the 'Shia backed' militia get is much less than often assumed:

Iran’s relationship with Iraqi militant groups in its sphere of influence is often more one of mentorship than of direct command and control.

The Hashd al-Shaabi or PMU are paid by the Iraqi government which is based on a Shia majority. In that 'Shia backed' might make some sense but not in the sectarian way Kirby is using it.

To use "Shia backed militia" for Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada has as much analytical a value as calling Al-Qaeda Sunni backed or the Irish Republican Army Catholic backed. Neither would be technical incorrect but all these designations are way to broad to be of any use.

One wonders why the Pentagon is doing this? Does it want the 'Iran backed' out of the way to make it easier to talk with Iran? Or could there be some more nefarious reason:

I believe that Washington could very well seek to push Iraq into a new civil war in a bid to eradicate the Hashd al-Sha’abi. Many of the groups within the PMU have threatened to wage war on US forces if Washington refuses to withdraw. Unfortunately, this threat by the PMU can easily be exploited by the US, giving Washington a casus belli, as they intensify their “defensive” airstrikes while claiming to support Baghdad’s campaign to bring “stability” to Iraq.

Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada and the other Hashd al-Shaabi groups are by the way mixed groups and not exclusively Shia. The one KH member who was killed in the U.S. attack on Abu Kamal was Sunni.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 10:21 UTC · Feb 26, 2021
First military victims of @JoeBiden:
The Sunni member of the Hashd al-Shaabi, Rahi Salam Zayd al-Sharifi, from Hillah, the ancient city of Babil (Babylon), killed by the #US air attack on the Iraqi- Syrian borders last night at 02:30 am local time.

Some of the worst writing on the episode comes from the New York Times chief warmonger David Sanger. In an 'analysis' headlined For Biden, Deliberation and Caution, Maybe Overcaution, on the World Stage he writes:

The goal was to send a signal to Iran without risking escalation. The Iraqi government was brought into the decision, and the strike was limited to a small cluster of buildings in Syria that was a gathering place for jihadis and smugglers. Even then, Mr. Sullivan and Pentagon officials took one target off the list at the last moment because of images showing there might be women and children present.

Their response may have been overly cautious because another rocket attack followed, on Wednesday, when an American contractor died of a heart attack.

But some leading Democrats still opposed the strike.

To call the 'Shia backed' government paid militia "jihadis" as if they were ISIS or al-Qaeda is as wrong as one can get.

To accept the evidence free claim, invented by 'officials' a week after the airstrike, that one target was taken off the list because women and children were there is dense.

And to call a strike that hit Iraqi government forces 'overly cautious' because the seven 500 pound bombs that were dropped did not have the desired political effect is analytical stupidity. It is the whole idea that such strikes create 'deterrence' that is wrong. The missile attack after the airstrike proves that deterrence does not work. More strikes would not change that.