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Iran's missile factory in Tartus to increase tension with US: report

Top Secret | 2017-07-19 22:53:47
Iran's missile factory in Tartus to increase tension with US: report
By Ethar Abdulhaq

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Many international media outlets have circulated news of Zaman al-Wasl’s exclusive reports about the top-secret Wadi Jehanam (Valley of Hell) and the Iranian and Russian activities in the area. Moscow was incited by the reports and responded by accusing Zaman al-Wasl of being “subordinate to the extreme opposition”. 

Although the two reports are available in Arabic and English, and many international news sites cited the original reports, Sputnik specifically reported the news from the Washington Free Beacon website. The move may have aimed at increasing the insinuation that an “imperialist conspiracy” is ongoing against those protecting the al-Assad regime. 

Sputnik began its report with a dramatic introduction, “According to Zaman al-Wasl, one of the websites subordinate to the extremist Syrian opposition, the Washington-based Free Beacon website said that Iran was manufacturing long-range missiles on Syrian territory.” 

Sputnik refrained from articulating the nature of Zaman al-Wasl’s extremism raising the question is Zaman al-Wasl’s extremism apparent in its coverage of the regime’s crimes and violations? Its direct focus and monitoring of the crimes of extremists against the Syrian revolution? Is the extremism apparent in its insistence on revealing the massacres committed by Iran, Russia and America in Syria? Is the extremism clear in its continued monitoring of the Syrian opposition’s, in its military and political branches and various institutions, violations? Or all the above?! 

In its report, Sputnik took a schizophrenic approach as it amplified the US site handling Zaman of Al-Wasl’s exclusive reports, included comments from Russian and Iranian “experts” while at the same time working to discredit the reports. 

According to Boris Dolgov, the Russian expert, “the opposition’s accusations are based only on the testimonies of people whose names are invented.” The accusations come despite Sputnik itself being an icon of slander and lies. 

Sputnik is notorious for basing much of its news reports on rumors and fabricated news, as well as the testimonies of unknown persons- not even a group of people- to refute a dangerous issue on the scale of the recent chemical attack on the Eastern al-Ghouta. The recent chemical attack on al-Ghouta is but one instance, and we will present several of Sputnik’s most important instances showing its lack of professionalism and credibility below.

It is worth noting that in the Sputnik report, the Russian expert claimed that Zaman al-Wasl’s reports were aimed at “creating a confrontation between Russia and the United States of America and accusing North Korea and Russia of helping Iran to manufacture missiles on Syrian territory.” 

In the event, Zaman al-Wasl manages to achieve a fraction of what the Russian expert claimed then we are very proud of our institution. We are especially proud if our efforts would stop the bloodletting of Syrians, end the oppressive regime which has ruled Syrians for 40 years with its sectarian intelligence apparatus and expel al-Assad who has no intention of leaving his position until the country is reduced dust and a playfield for every occupier and mercenary. 

Based on the Russian expert’s comments, the staff at Zaman al-Wasl recommend that all Russian and American officials stay home since Zaman al-Wasl is drawing up their policies, dictating their plans and controlling their reactions. 
Dolgov said that Zaman al-Wasl's report depicts “the three countries (Russia, Iran and North Korea) as a satanic alliance seeking to manufacture missiles capable of striking the United States and the West in general. The report portrays these countries and Syria as a group of hostile countries that deserve punishment at all costs.”

On the other hand, Imad Abshinaz, the Iranian analyst, considered Zaman al-Wasl’s report to be nothing but “false allegations aimed at pressuring Russia and Iran.” Abshinaz made no effort to offer a logical or even an unreasonable denial for what Zaman al-Wasl reported. He only said, “the American and Israeli media never stopped talking about Iran running a chemical weapons and ballistic missile factory on Syrian territory.”

At the end of the report, Sputnik claimed that the Iranian analyst “revealed that the name of the place where this virtual factory is located, Wadi Jehanam is between the cities of Hama and Tartous.” The comment comes although Zaman al-Wasl published the exact location and images of the location!

That's what we said

On June 28, Zaman al-Wasl published a special report revealing Bashar al-Assad’s secret visit to Wadi Jehanam, one of the regime and Iran’s most sensitive military research sites. 

Sources confirmed that they started building the center almost a year ago in a fortified area east of the town of Baniyas. The complex was built in a valley with difficult terrain known as Wadi Jehanem in Tartous’ countryside. The area is neighbors several towns including, Al-Anazah, Nahal, al-Aaliqat, al-Ghnisalet which are administratively subordinate to the Baniyas region.

Zaman al-Wasl’s sources said the center, which is a facility for the production and development of long-range missiles, is likely to be officially opened at the end of this year.

The Wadi Jehanam Center is affiliated with the fourth sector based on the regime’s division of its research centers. The fourth sector includes the activities of centers in Aleppo, Hama, and Masyaf and will include this new center as well. 

Wadi Jehanam is not just a new secret military center for developing and manufacturing arms, but also a link in a wider chain as the regime establishes vital and strategic institutions in pro-regime areas.

On July 10, Zaman al-Wasl followed its first report about the research center with a report showing exclusive photographs of Wadi Jehanam. The report noted that Brigadier Ghassan Abbas is running the secret center under the direct authorization of Salam Tohma, Deputy Director of the Center for Studies and Scientific Research.

The report drew on the testimony of a source at the Higher Institute of Scientific Research who attempted to shed some light on the mystery surrounding this secret base. The source noted that he saw the strict security measures in Wadi Jehanam while he was on a military mission in the area. 

According to the source, the base includes Russian, North Korean and Iranian officers and personnel, and he received strict orders to not engage with, speak to, or question any of the experts about anything no matter how small or trivial.

The source revealed that he and others saw, “large trucks enter the place loaded with equipment and machines covered with wood.” The Russian and Koreans then moved the equipment to other trucks and covered them with tarpaulin under heightened security from the Air Force Intelligence. 

-Examples of Sputnik’s Propaganda- 

Although Sputnik has not completed its fourth year yet (it was launched in November 2014), its short life has been filled with an extensive record of contempt for professional values, transgressing journalistic norms, falsifying facts, spreading lies, fabricating stories, slandering people, institutions, and even states.

Margarita Simonian is the editor-in-chief of both Russia Today and Sputnik which explains why the two channels have the same propaganda approach. 

Sputnik tries to argue that it is independent and committed to professionalism, but the fact it is owned by Russia Segodnya government news agency raises questions about its independence. The issue is reinforced by the agency’s propaganda style in all its news and reports. These facts suggest that Sputnik is not only an arm of the Russian government but may even be an intelligence platform in the style of the old Soviet-style which Putin is trying to re-establish.

It is enough to point out Sputnik's inefficiencies or criticism of its demagoguery to provoke an entire army of defenders and critics who fiercely criticize anything said against it. This army includes not only ordinary people or third or fourth grade officials but also elite officials such as Putin, his Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

These people do not hesitate to defend Sputnik or Russia Today as they consider that anyone criticizing these media outlets are attacking Russia and targeting it at its core. Any reader may turn to major Russian officials’ statements to understand the degree of exceptional attention afford Sputnik. 

For Syrians, Sputnik was nicknamed the “chemical agency” for the large number of reports it published claiming that the different chemical attacks in Syria were fabricated news, as well as its other coverage of news relating to the regime and Bashar al-Assad. 

Included below are some explains of issues raised by Sputnik showing bias and the horrifying hiccups that have accompanied its short career. We present the examples in chronological order starting with the most recent.

July 2017: Sputnik categorically denies that a chemical attack was launched on Damascus city (the attack killed nearly 40 people). Sputnik based its denial on a piece of news from Russian Today which quoted a Syrian writer by the name of Abdo Haddad who said he lives on the borders of al-Ghouta. This source said that he was “absolutely confident that the data on a chemical attack is completely unrealistic.”

July 2017: Sputnik published the report the “Map of Terrorist Organizations in North Africa,” sparking the anger of some social groups in Tunisian who consider the report to contain misinformation aimed at hitting the country's tourism sector. Tunisians were further angered as Sputnik registered itself as a supporter of the Carthage Festival, which Tunisia relies on, since the festival’s launch decades ago, to revitalize its tourism industry. 

June 2017: Sputnik returns to its favorite file (the chemical file) and publishes allegations that terrorist groups in Daraa are preparing a chemical attack.
May 2017: Sputnik claims that al-Jazeera is filming fabricated scenes of a chemical attack on civilians and broadcasting them as an attack by the al-Assad regime with the aim of inciting the international community against al-Assad.

Al-Jazeera responded by stating that the Russian agency is a cheap propaganda tool and warning the Russian agency of the legal ramifications it will face if it persists in circulating this false news. If not for the seriousness of the issue, Sputnik would not have withdrawn its claims and apologized for what it published. The news may have been an introduction to justify new chemical attacks on civilians in Syria. 

May 2017: French president Macron receives Putin and holds a press conference in which he says that Russia Today and Sputnik spread lies and that it is suspected that the employees are not journalists. Putin refused to comment on Macron’s speech during the press conference. 

April 2017: Sputnik says that the production of sarin gas which killed dozens of people in the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack can be manufactured easily as the manufacturing instructions are available on Wikipedia and accessible to all terrorist organizations. 

April 2017: Sputnik publishes exclusive claims that the victims of the Khan al-Shaykhun attack did not die due to the chemical attack but because the White Helmets (Civil Defense) injected them with adrenaline. Sputnik attributed the lie to the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights organization which promptly responded denying the news agency’s claims. 

February and April 2017: Sputnik publishes dangerous political accusations about Emmanuel Macron at the height of his presidential campaign which forced Macron’s ‘Republic on the Move’ party to respond and accuse the Russian agency of lying. The party then prevented Sputnik and Russia today from accompanying Macron’s presidential campaign. 

February 2017: Sputnik attributed the news that the “head of the Saudi intelligence threatened Jordan and Egypt” to a major Arab newspaper although no news of this nature was published by that newspaper which is considered an arm of the Saudi government. 

January 2017: Sputnik recognizes that an “unintended modification” happened to an interview it held with the media advisor to the President of the Kurdistan region of Iraq Massoud Barzani. Sputnik commented that this modification was the inclusion of a statement attributed to the adviser saying that Barzani intends to give up power “to end the political dispute” ongoing in the province.

April 2016: Sputnik openly plays a dirty intelligence role during the crisis of relations between Moscow and Ankara which led to Turkey permanently blocking its site in Turkey. 

November 2016: The European Parliament adopts a special memorandum regarding its dealings with Russian media outlets, according to which Sputnik was classified as a hostile propaganda tool that poses a threat to the Union. Sputnik quickly denounced the memorandum. The Russian Foreign Ministry followed shortly denouncing the memorandum although he is not obliged to make such a statement. Putin himself handled the issue criticizing the memorandum, considering it a “fallout”, and congratulating Sputnik and Russia Today for their “successful performance.”

A Note 

Zaman al-Wasl explains that its objective in publishing these reports is not to respond to Sputnik, given it is a puppet and controlled. Zaman al-Wasl does not demand an apology from Sputnik because apologies are very cheap to this media agency as proven by its previous behavior. Zaman al-Wasl’s is concerned with communicating its message to all Russian figures and sectors, official and unofficial, which own, support, encourage and defend Sputnik and the other agencies used as war heads to instigate against free journalism, those conveying the truth and confronting oppressive regimes and formations. 

Zaman al-Wasl reminds all these parties that injecting some air into ideologies and practices that ruled once upon a time is not only absurd and disruptive but also dangerous. Taking such a route reveals who is the true supporter of extremism given Russia classifies everyone who opposes the al-Assad regime and Russia’s mandate over Syria as an extremist. 

Russia’s approach of accusing everyone from Syrian resistance factions- who have suffered from extremist groups in Syria- Syrian politicians through to media institutions serves one purpose of rendering these actors as traitors and targeting them morally and financially. 

In the face of Sputnik’s owners’ fabrications, Zaman al-Wasl confirms that we do not defend ourselves in our capacity as a media outlet but in our capacity as a legal channel conveying Syrians’ suffering. We respond as a media outlet conveying the truth and reality about all violations perpetrated by all side in Syria regardless of their justification loud and clear. Based on this role, Zaman al-Wasl has the power to address the Russian government and call on it to stop using its money and energies to broadcast its dark propaganda. Zaman al-Wasl’s call comes not as a threat but as a recommendation drawing on the first school of those who turned on and revolted against Russia due to the extreme horrors they experienced.

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