Tehran’s campaign against the opposition raises questions

It remains a mystery why serious broadcasters of the US government fell for the threadbare tactics of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
Sunday 17/03/2019
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi (C) attends a parliament session in Tehran, February 4. (AFP)
Deceptive tactics. Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi (C) attends a parliament session in Tehran, February 4. (AFP)

“We have decided to remove the veil and disclose a few, just a few, secrets,” the speaker announces in the prelude to the two-part documentary “End Station of Lies,” aired March 2-3 by Islamic Republic Voice and Vision.

The “secret” revealed in the documentary is about a certain opposition figure Ruhollah Zam, also known as Nima, who lives under police protection in France and who turns out to be an unwitting instrument in the hands of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.

The story of the Intelligence Ministry’s manipulation of Zam is far from unique and follows a pattern all too well known: Psychological campaign against the Iranian opposition abroad and the Iranian public at large.

Born into a conservative clerical family in Tehran in 1973, Zam turned against the regime after the fraudulent election of 2009, which secured Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second term in office.

For a time, Zam was imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison. He wrote an open letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complaining of torture and forced confessions.

After his release from prison, Zam moved to Paris and, in 2015, along with two other political activists, Majid Niknam and Babak Ejlali, established Amad News on the cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service Telegram Messenger.

Amad News soon developed into one of the most influential sources shaping public opinion inside and outside of Iran, thanks to Zam’s spectacular “revelations” against select members among Iran’s ruling elites and their family members.

In October 2017, Amad News released two Judiciary documents, which allegedly proved Zahra Larijani, daughter of then Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani, was in the pay of the British secret service and had smuggled top secret documents to Britain in return for securing British citizenship for herself and her family.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry dismissed the reports as forgeries but foreign Persian language broadcasters to Iran, in particular, Voice of America’s Persian service, constantly invited Zam to provide details in an attempt to discredit the regime in Tehran.

Zam’s revelations also came as manna from heaven to prominent figures among the Iranian opposition abroad, who claimed Amad News’s reports proved corruption among Iran’s ruling elites.

In December 2018, Zam and Amad News posted another spectacular story, the so-called “Cyrus II” project, which allegedly was an Israeli/Saudi plot to overthrow the regime in Tehran. Despite Radio Israel’s Persian service dismissing the story as a conspiracy theory, some opposition figures claimed they were the chosen agents of resurrecting the empire of Cyrus the Great, and Amad News’s followers on Telegram reached more than 1.5 million!

However, on March 2, the dream palace of Zam collapsed when Iranian television aired conversations between the founder of Amad News and his handler at Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. The videos clearly show the intelligence officer dictating the fake news to Zam.

Zam also, in the video, repeatedly badmouths various opposition figures and TV hosts at Voice of America’s Persian service and other Persian language broadcasters to Iran, who invite him to communicate the baseless and incredulous fabrications of his handler at the Intelligence Ministry to the Iranian public.

Zam, who in the most generous light must be described an unwitting victim of the manipulations of the Intelligence Ministry, was no longer useful and the documentary aired on Iranian television served the purpose of demonstrating how easily it manipulates the Iranian opposition and foreign broadcasters to Iran.

The comedy of Zam also undermines whatever trust Iranians may have had in the opposition to the regime in Iran and in news broadcast to Iran by foreign broadcasters.

Iran’s psychological campaign against the opposition is effective but it remains a mystery why serious broadcasters of the US government fell for the threadbare tactics of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.

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