US ratchets up ‘psy-ops’ against Tehran

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Mahan Abedin

Psychological warfare is fast emerging as the key component of the conflict between Iran and the United States. It is being used extensively by the latter to influence Iranian behaviour in Iraq and secure a climb down by the Islamic Republic in the intricate negotiations over the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

As the Iranians analyse and react to this carefully crafted psychological warfare campaign, they run the risk of miscalculating broader developments in the region. The most important of these is Saudi Arabia’s new pro-active foreign policy. In this climate of heightened tensions and widespread misunderstanding it is easy for the Iranians to dismiss Saudi diplomacy as yet another plank of America’s psychological warfare against the Islamic Republic. Miscalculations of this kind can have drastic long-term consequences for Iranian interests in the Middle East.

war of Words

Psychological warfare has been a feature of Iranian-US relations since the 1979 revolution. Both sides have made extensive use of it, not only to damage the morale of the other, but also as a means of managing the conflict and preventing it from escalating into a shooting war. But never has this psychological war been so intense and potentially dangerous as it is now. Given the unprecedented instability across the Middle East – with opposing factions either allied to Iran or the US – there is a real danger of misunderstandings spinning out of control.

As always, it is the Americans who have ratcheted up the war of words, with the Iranians trying to come to terms with it.

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