Briefs

Kremlin disinfo spins Iran Deal to divide the West

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President Trump’s decision to abandon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – better known as the Iran nuclear deal – has recently been one of the main topics of pro-Russian and nationalist news media in Poland. The media has used this issue to deepen anti-Americanism in the country.

Sputnik’s message: the U.S. President is creating divisions in the West. The Polish-language version of the Russia media outlet Sputnik cited western media observing that Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the deal, which was criticized by the European Union, would deepen divisions in the West. For example, it mentioned French economic minister Bruno Le Maire’s support for the “defense of European economic sovereignty” and noted that the French oil and gas company Total was set to invest millions of dollars in the Iranian oil sector, which new U.S. sanctions would endanger. Sputnik also cited French President Emanuel Macron’s tweet stating that France, Germany, and Great Britain “regret[ted]” Trump’s decision, as well as the disapproval of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for foreign affairs and security. 

Pro-Kremlin Polish media repeated the message. The pro-Russian media outlet Kresy.pl wrote prolifically on the U.S. withdrawal. It referred to a letter that Robert Winnicki, head of Poland’s far-right movement Oboz Narodowo Radykalny, or ONR, sent to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The letter accused Washington of being ruled by the Israeli lobby and demanding that Morawiecki distance the country from the U.S. and Israel. By such measures, Russia hopes to force Poland to choose between the European Union and America.

The Russian-influenced Catholic media outlet Polonia Christiana struck a similar tone by suggesting that the U.S. and Israel were motivated by a desire to increase their own exports at Iran’s expense, a popular theme in Russian media. Americans export more hydrocarbon than ever thanks to the shale revolution, and Israel has discovered considerable reservoirs in the Mediterranean Sea. Polonia Christiana’s Agnieszka Stelmach suggested that Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal is part of an energy policy designed to promote American and Israeli oil and gas interests.

In summary, Russian propaganda on Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal attempts to give the impression that the Americans are pursuing a policy adverse to the EU’s economic interests, as part of a cynical energy policy shared by the U.S. and Israel. Of course, the withdrawal does prejudice the interests of some European companies; but that does not mean it was not warranted, and Trump promised he had evidence that Iran was close to developing a nuclear weapon. Still, this Russian propaganda could make Poles, and Europeans generally, feel that transatlantic relations have become unfair and unbalanced, leading to an increase in anti-Americanism driven by pocketbook concerns. The Israeli motif, inciting anti-Semitism, simply adds fuel to the fire.

Western leaders can best respond by laying out the facts about Iran’s potential for nuclear weapons development and justifying their foreign policy toward Iran. The U.S. President promised he had evidence to show that the Iranians were close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The world should see it as soon as possible.