“Axis of Disinformation” Targets the Middle East

The Washington Institute’s Fikra Forum published a piece by two Information Professionals Association (IPA) members on Feb. 25, 2021, describing the efforts of China, Russia, and Iran to disseminate disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic across the Middle East.

In “Axis of Disinformation: Propaganda from Iran, Russia, and China on COVID-19,” COL Andrew Whiskeyman, head of U.S. Central Command’s (USCENTCOM) Information Operations Division, and Dr. Michael Berger, director of assessments research at USCENTCOM’s Information Operations Division, discuss the impact of China’s propaganda machine in perpetuating and enhancing the reach of the three countries’ disinformation campaigns, and the real threats they pose to U.S. national security and the ability of the U.S. to work with partner nations in the Middle East.

“Preliminary research by USCENTCOM in March 2020 found that this disinformation proved highly effective in influencing public opinion two months after it began. Survey data obtained in Iraq (N=3,418) and portions of northeast Syria (N=1,025) controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) revealed striking results. In Iraq (excluding Kurdish areas), 67 percent of respondents believed that a foreign force was behind COVID-19, with an overwhelming majority (72%) naming the United States as that force. Meanwhile in SDF-controlled Syria, where relatively pro-American (~50%) and pro-Coalition views (>70%) prevail, a substantial chunk of the general population (40%) had been persuaded that a foreign force was behind COVID-19, with a decisive plurality (~50%) convinced that the United States was the culprit.”

The authors hope the United States will invest in countering the tide of “malign mistruths and conspiracy theories.”

Read their full article here.