Can Fake News Save Iran's Mullahs?

Iran's protests are proving how the people demand change to a democratic system. These nationwide demonstrations, rejecting the entirety of Iran's regime, and U.S. President Donald Trump's positions, alongside other administration officials such as Vice President Pence and UN Ambassador Nicki Haley, have angered Iran's lobbyists and appeasement supporters in the U.S. They have launched retaliatory measures supporting Tehran.

Protesters were heard chanting, "Death to Khamenei," "Death to Rouhani" and "Reformists, principalists, end of story," expressing their abhorrence of the ruling regime.

As protests grew, Tehran launched a wave of crackdowns, arrests, torture in prisons, and a series of suspicious "suicides" among those arrested, all to create a climate of fear. At the same time, Iran began publishing fake news to divert attention and render disappointment among protesters, and isolate international support.

Reports citing Iran's officials indicate 5,000 arrests, including 1,400 women. The Iranian opposition, however, says at least 8,000 were apprehended and over 50 were murdered. The international community expressed concerns over prisoners' conditions.

The University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies, which generally supports the regime, has attempted to claim that the Iranian majority desire to maintain the regime in power and oppose U.S. support for the protesters. For this purpose, they conducted a fake telephone poll by calling people inside Iran.

The Washington Post reported a segment of this poll as such:

“The poll, released on Friday by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and IranPoll, found comparatively little support for changing Iran's political system or relaxing strict Islamic law and suggested that criticism of Iranian foreign policy in Syria and Iraq was not as widely shared by the general population.

"Iranians also felt expressions of support for the protesters from President Trump and other U.S. officials did not help those demonstrating, the survey found, with 39 percent saying they hurt the protesters' demands and 9 percent saying they helped. When asked for their opinion on the U.S. government, 85 percent of Iranians were found to have a very unfavorable opinion of it; less than 1 percent had a very favorable opinion.

"The poll also found that generally, Iranians were happy with the way authorities had handled the protests, with roughly two-thirds saying police handled the protests very or somewhat well, and a slightly smaller about (64 percent) saying they used an appropriate amount of force.”

It’s interesting how those behind these polls chose to telephone individuals inside Iran, people living under a vicious dictatorship whose communications are controlled. Authorities summarily hunt down and arrest those taking part in protests. They are arrested without any warrants and transferred to unknown locations. The bodies of a number of those arrested are dumped in public with signs of torture.

In such circumstances, would anyone in Iran asked about regime change actually provide their true opinions?

Such questions were most likely addressed to regime officials and their relatives, as the majority of the Iranian people are living in poverty, struggling with unemployment due to rampaging government corruption, forced to sell body parts to make ends meet, and all the while fearing arrest and execution.

Pro-Iran advocate Barbara Slavin and the Atlantic Council were behind this survey. The questionnaire was carried out by IranPoll, noted for its affiliation to Tehran and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was presented by the University of Maryland to provide some legitimacy.

Concerning the results of the poll, Slavin goes further and directly insults the Iranian people by saying:

"The survey shows that Qasem Soleimani --  the head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a man under US sanctions -- remains the most popular figure among regime stalwarts. According to the poll, he is gaining in popularity with an 83% approval rating now compared to 73% two years ago.

"President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, has seen a noticeable slide, from 82% approval two years ago to just over 65% now. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's numbers have also gone south, with 68% approval now versus 78% in 2016."

The poll was carried out by Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni of Tehran University. Mohseni used to work in a Tehran center and gained Ahmadinejad's attention after conducting a poll in his favor. He is in direct connection with Iran's U.S.-based lobbies and to this day has prepared a number of fake polls in Tehran's favor.

The Iranian American Forum published a report on April 20, 2015 on this individual's past and connections with Iran's Revolutionary Guards [IRGC].

“Ebrahim Mohseni was a student at the University of Maryland in 2007 who went to Iran and worked under the supervision of Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran University professor to conduct [a] poll… Following the successful launch of two polls in the US in 2007 and 2008, and the large media coverage that they received, President Ahmadinejad’s office dedicated more resources to the project and helped to create the 'University of Tehran Center for Public Opinion Research (UTCPOR)' in 2009. The head of the center is Mohammad Marandi and the director of projects is Ebrahim Mohseni who is also tied to the Revolutionary Guards… Since 2009, UTCPOR has produced a dozen of polls for its partners in the US. Additionally, the center has also released domestically used polls designed to help the hardliners and Revolutionary Guards. For example, in 2014, the ultra-hardliners planned to impose a mandatory separation of men and women in working places and universities. They also envisaged to pass it into law in parliament. The plan created a social and media uproar but UTCPOR released a public opinion poll of Iranians that showed an overwhelming support for the plan.

"Mohseni explained the result of his poll in an interview with 'Tasnim News', affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards and declared: 'A majority of Iranians who answered our questions told that implementation of Islamic rule in Iran will help to reduce the social and economic problems in the country. 78% believed that the separation of men and women will improve work conditions in public offices and will strengthen the foundation of families. 64% of them preferred that women be given only jobs that are related to women.'”

The fake news industry has escalated to fake polls. Organizers of such schemes, along with Iran apologists, are opposed to fundamental change in Iran and seek to undercut the strong support provided by the Trump administration. Their shameful measures provide a green light for the regime's crackdown.

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