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Arezou Saaberi
Arezou Saaberi
There comes a time in life when you have to choose whether to turn the page or to close the book!


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Under the supervision of Hesamuddin Ashena, one of the most “security” figures in the government of Hassan Rouhani, a cleric who does not wear his cloak and turban based on – in his own words – “strategic cultural interests”, in the framework of a program called “Oral History of the Government of Plan and Hope », an interview was held between Saeed Lilaz Mehrabadi, a regime journalist and Deputy CEO for Marketing, Sales and After-Sales Services of “Iran Khodro Diesel Industrial Group,” and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Rouhani government, on March 27, 2021. The interview, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was for more than seven hours, three hours of which were broadcast yesterday by Iran International satellite network. Local media report there were only two copies of the interview: one in the possession of the interviewee, Javad Zarif, and the other in the Center for Strategic Studies, headed by Hesamuddin Ashena.

Therefore, one of these two people was responsible for carrying out this intelligence operation: Maybe both. What person or entity is responsible for leaking this file does not change the strategic nature of how and when the audio file of this interview is released. “Situation Control Syndrome” of Hesamuddin, Hassan Rouhani’s “key and purple” designer, has developed so much in the midst of the 2016 election campaign that he wanted to know the questions being asked of candidates in televised debates beforehand. The syndrome was crystallized in his famous quote: “… We did not allow, in these 40 years, presenters in IRIB be groomed that every candidate is afraid of them like a dog…” It is inconceivable that a control-freak like Hesamuddin Ashena would allow a program created and paid for under his supervision to find its way to “dissident media” without any intention. Although Farnaz Fassihi, Zarif’s media goon at the New York Times, immediately wrote about the “leaked file” in the headline of her article, but according to the content of the conversation and the image of the “victim diplomat” that Javad Zarif draws of himself in this interview, it must be said that “sending” this file is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Leaks, Tainted Leaks and Fake Leaks

Every external operation is first and foremost a domestic one: the single most important role of the agencies is to secure the regime.

Mark Galeotti on Russian foreign intelligence

A decade after WikiLeaks was founded, and initially defined by Julian Assange as an “asylum for persecuted documents by powers and governments,” the Leaks became one of the most powerful weapons in information warfare: The release of 30,000 emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election delivered such a heavy blow to the candidate and the party that defeat was just one of the consequences. The intelligence services are convinced that Russian hackers were behind the leak, which was ordered directly by the Kremlin.

A year later, researchers at Citizen Lab, an institution based at the University of Toronto in Canada, investigated the emails of David Satter, a prominent American journalist who wrote numerous research articles, reports, and books on Russia and how its intelligence services work and because of those was targeted by a group of Russian hackers, discovered a hitherto unknown phenomenon: “tainted leaks.” Russian hackers not only phished and then released victim emails, but also tampered with the content of hacked emails, selectively altering and distorting the text of many of them: “Forgeries in a Forest of Facts.” Citizen Lab researchers found at least 200 other cases in which, like David Sutter, they were attacked by the same group of Russian hackers, and their “leaked” information and emails were similarly manipulated and distorted.

An examination of the distorted points in the “tainted leaks” series showed that the hackers’ intentions were not merely to discredit and expose the victims of the hack, but that the main target of these attacks was Alexei Navalny, a prominent figure in the Russian opposition. The hackers, for example, spread fake information in an e-mail stating that Putin’s critics were CIA agents. Or David Satter, on a mission from the US intelligence service, pays Russian journalists to cover the vast fortunes and palaces of Vladimir Putin.

Information that seems “leaked” but in fact fictitious, as well as its implantation in out-of-system media (“opposition media”), is a relatively new ploy derived from the Russian school of propaganda, the school of “disinformation“. Planting “fake leaks” is only the first step in the campaign of this type of propaganda. The main happens afterwards: Farnaz Fassihi in the New York Times, citing this fake information leak, is creating a fake opposition around Javad Zarif, which contradicts Khamenei and IRGC positions, opposes Russian and Chinese influence, and is a victim of Qassem Soleimani’s dictated policies, is unaware of IRGC firing missiles at the Ukrainian plane… The “fake leaks” series of regime propaganda, of course, did not begin with Zarif and Ashena. Previously, “Iranwire” website was part of it, with the audio files received from Faezeh Hashemi, tried to draw her as a rent-free face, faces in Queen Farah Pahlavi’s level…

When official channels can spread nothing but official propaganda, the time has come for “leaks, tainted leaks and fake leaks” to flourish: our time.

Translation of this post by Sahar.

“Fake Leaks” – Zarif’s Campaign