CNN’s Iranian Propaganda Campaign

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media


Even before CNN falsely claimed that Iranian President Rouhani had denounced the Holocaust by name during his interview with Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria was peddling the notion that the Ayatollah of Iran, Ali Khamenei, was an intellectual. In reality, the evidence suggests he is a Russian agent trained by the KGB whose ultimate goal is to get United Nations help in disarming Israel.

Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, interviewed Rouhani during his trip to the U.N., and portrayed his comments as moderate and groundbreaking.

But the real power in Iran is Ali Khamenei, “the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution” and the designated successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Before Rouhani’s visit, in an August 24 commentary, “How to understand Iran’s supreme leader,” Zakaria portrayed Ali Khamenei as “a clever, sophisticated, learned man, who does not seem prone to rash decisions or impulsive actions.”

Zakaria, host of CNN’s flagship international affairs program, “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” was basing his observations on an article by Akbar Ganji in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ganji is an Iranian journalist who was imprisoned and later released by the regime.

“Ganji’s essay, entitled ‘Who is Ali Khamenei?’ provides fascinating insights into the most powerful man in Iran,” Zakaria said. It purports to explain his “worldview.”

What the article leaves out is the fact that Ali Khamenei was “educated” at the KGB’s Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, along with the international terrorist “Carlos,” a convert to Islam and to the cause of al-Qaeda. It is now called the People’s Friendship University.

The book, The World was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, by Christopher M. Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, notes, “The University’s first vice-rector and a number of its staff were KGB officers who used the student body as a recruiting ground for Third World agents.” KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin was a KGB archivist who defected to the West.

In his article titled, “Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: A secret Russian life?,” scholar Ali Alfoneh of the American Enterprise Institute noted that the Iranian leader’s attendance at this “university” was disclosed by Moscow-funded Russia Today television in a report on the school’s 50th anniversary. Khamenei is mentioned among the university’s “most notable graduates.” Another Russian source, the November 25, 2003 issue of Kommersant, had also presented Khamenei as a People’s Friendship University graduate.

Smith Hempstone, a journalist who became United States ambassador to Kenya, wrote about this in a June 11, 1989 column. He had then predicted that Iran under Khamenei would “look to the Soviet Union” for an opening to the outside world. He wrote that Khamenei was not only a graduate of Patrice Lumumba University, but maintained “close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization and has a record of supporting Iranian cooperation with the Soviet bloc and radical Third World states against the West.”

The new book, Disinformation, notes evidence that PLO chief Yasser Arafat was a KGB agent, and that the Russians have played a key role in sponsoring Islamic terrorism over the course of decades. The same book, written by Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak, also identifies then-Senator John Kerry, now Obama’s Secretary of State, as a dupe of KGB disinformation operations.

Interestingly, a good source on “Carlos” and his time at Patrice Lumumba University is the book, International Terrorism: Challenge and Response, edited by Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu will speak to the U.N. on Tuesday and promises to tell the truth about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

But CNN, which has increasingly emerged as an international “news” agency serving as a mouthpiece for the Iranian regime, can be expected to take issue with Netanyahu.

In order to portray Rouhani as a moderate, CNN had claimed that the Iranian president had condemned by name the “Holocaust.” But he in fact never used the term during the interview with Amanpour.

CNN’s transcript shows him saying:

“I have said before that I am not a historian personally and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust as such, it is the historians that should reflect on it.”

He actually said:

“I have said before that I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of historical events, historians should explain and discuss it.”

CNN claimed its translation was correct, but other sources, such as Politico, consulted a translator who said the term “Holocaust” was not in Rouhani’s remarks.

Curiously, Politico called this omission “minor,” when in fact the difference is that the term “Holocaust” suggests acceptance of the fact of Hitler’s genocide of the Jews. Instead, Rouhani treated the matter as something to be discussed and debated by historians, an effort to minimize it.

In her own follow-up article, “Why Rouhani may be different,” Amanpour blamed former President Bush for the anti-Americanism of the preceding Iranian president, saying, “I can certainly never forget President George W. Bush’s infamous Axis of Evil speech, which ushered in the harsh period and policies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

This is apparently the new version of “blame America first” media coverage. Bush is to blame for the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism.

In that speech, Bush had said, “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian peoples’ hope for freedom.”

CNN also ran a piece titled, “Why Rouhani deserves praise,” perpetuating the false notion that Rouhani had condemned the Holocaust and faulting Israel for not accepting this Iranian leader as new and different from the rest.

Recognizing reality, at least for a moment, Zakaria concluded that “it remains unclear whether he [Rouhani] has the authority to act on behalf of his government.” He explained, “One has to wonder: If Rouhani does not have the freedom to shake Obama’s hand, does he have the freedom to negotiate a nuclear deal?” This was a reference to Iran turning down a personal meeting between the two leaders.

The failure to shake hands, widely reported as a snub of Obama, was followed by a telephone call from Obama to Rouhani, laughably labeled by Politico as “something solid to celebrate on the foreign policy front” for Obama. Ignoring the fact that Khamenei calls the shots, the publication claimed, “Obama became the first American president in 34 years to speak directly with his Iranian counterpart…”

This is the kind of coverage we are likely to see more of in the weeks and months ahead as Obama and Iran pursue a deal for a “nuclear-free zone” in the Middle East that will put Israel on the defensive.

In fact, this is what Rouhani proposed in his second speech to the U.N. last week to the so-called High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament. He said, “Almost four decades of international efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East have regrettably failed. Urgent practical steps towards the establishment of such a zone are necessary. Israel, the only non-party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in this region, should join thereto without any further delay. Accordingly, all nuclear activities in the region should be subject to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] comprehensive safeguards.”

As this plan is developing, the price of a nuclear deal with Iran seems to be shaping up as the nuclear disarmament of Israel, a development that would leave the Jewish state more vulnerable to attack.

Whether Khamenei is a Russian agent or not, we can easily see how Russian methods of disinformation and propaganda are already paying dividends for the Iranian regime.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at


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