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Iranian Media's Many Angles on Death of Osama bin Laden

03 May 2011 12:15Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

12:15 p.m., 13 Ordibehesht/May 3 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled this comprehensive survey of how Iran's various online media outlets covered the news of the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on his Pakistan compound:

Advar News, the website published by the Organization of University Graduates (Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat), which supports the Green Movement, reminded its readers that Bin Laden had committed many terrorist crimes and was being sought in the West.

Alef, the website published by conservative Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, mainly reported on the reaction of people in the West to the announcement of Bin Laden's death. But it cast doubts on the accuracy of the news and claimed, "If one looks at Bin Laden's photo carefully, one concludes that he is not dead. Only the mouth and nose of the person shown in the photo agrees with his previous photos. The rest appears to have been modified by Photoshop."

Aftab News, a website close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his confidant Dr. Hassan Rouhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, reported extensively on the circumstances of Bin Laden's death and on the reaction to the news around the Islamic world, including Pakistan, Turkey, Yemen, Palestine, Egypt, and Afghanistan, as well as Iran. It also published a photo of the room in which Bin Laden was killed.

Asr-e Iran, a fundamentalist website, posted two articles about the news. One stated that although Bin Laden is now gone, "the triple roots of terrorism" are still in place. According to the article's author, Jafar Mohammadi, the three roots are the Salafi and Vahabi schools in Pakistan, the vast fortune of Saudi Arabia's leaders that props up various terrorist groups, and the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Asr-e Iran also cast doubt on the authenticity of the photo that purports to show Bin Laden's corpse.

Daneshjoo News, a pro-Green Movement website operated by university student activists, ran only a Reuters wire item reporting that the Palestinian group Hamas has condemned the killing of Bin Laden, referring to him in its statement as "the holy Arab warrior."

Emruz, the website that reflects the views of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin -- the leading reformist group, which has been outlawed by the hardliners -- did not report on the news at all.

Entekhab, a moderate-conservative website, also reported on the doubts by some that Bin Laden has actually been killed. It ran photos of the compound where he was hiding in Pakistan, and also reported that Hamas has expressed regrets over his death. The website also speculated on who the next leader of al-Qaeda might be.

Farda, a website close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a leading critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speculated that the United States could have captured Bin Laden previously, but did not, because it served its interests to keep him alive to justify what it does in the Middle East. In another post, Farda claimed that the announcement of Bin Laden's death is a stepping stone for the reelection of President Obama in 2012.

Farheekhtegan, the website that reflects the views of Dr. Abdollah Jasbi, chancellor of Islamic Azad University and a Rafsanjani ally, said in an editorial that Bin Laden's death does not imply the end of Bin Ladenism, because it has spread its wings around the globe. It also said that the way the West confronts terrorism yields only limited results and often the opposite of the intended goal. Farheekhtegan also published a biography of Bin Laden.

Fars, the news agency that is controlled by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed that Bin Laden was highly trusted by Saudi Arabian intelligence. In particular, Fars claimed that Bin Laden was a confidant of Prince Turki al-Faisal, who heads Saudi Arabia's intelligence organization. It also claimed that Bin Laden was a creature of the West, which supported him during the war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

ILNA, Iran's labor news agency, posted two articles about the news. In one, it reported that the world is happy about the death of Bin Laden. In the second, ILNA quoted Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to the effect that the Taliban must learn from Bin Laden's death and end their war in Afghanistan. It also quoted Karzai as saying that the death of Bin Laden proves his point that bombs and war cannot solve the problems in Afghanistan, because the terrorists are no longer there.

IRNA, Iran's official news agency, which is controlled by supporters of Ahmadinejad, reported that it had taken a poll of the views of the people of New York about the news. It claimed that the poll indicated that 80 percent believe that the death of Bin Laden will not help Obama in his reelection bid because he must improve the economy, and that 59 percent want the United States to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. The poll was based on the views of just 75 people. IRNA also reported that Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said that with Bin Laden's death there is no longer any excuse for U.S. forces to remain in the Middle East.

ISNA, the relatively moderate official students' news agency, reported on the death of Bin Laden, his burial at sea, and the world's reaction to the news.

Jahan News, the website published by hardliner Ali Reza Zakani, a former Basij commander, reported only that al-Qaeda has threatened the United States with retaliation for the killing of Bin Laden.

Jam-e Jam Online, the website of the daily published by the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (the national network of television and radio channels), reported in detail on how Bin Laden was killed. The head of the Voice and Visage is Ezzatollah Zarghami, a former Revolutionary Guard commander and a sometime ally of Ahmadinejad. It also reported on the doubts by some about the authenticity of the widely circulated photograph supposedly taken of Bin Laden's corpse. The website also published extensive photos of Bin Laden and the events in which he had a role, as well as a short biography of the al-Qaeda leader.

Kalemeh, the website that reflects the views of Mir Hossein Mousavi, reported on the news and the brief speech by President Obama to the people of the United States on Sunday night.

Khabar Online, which is close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, had several posts about the news. In one it reported that Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, who is supposed to be the highest religious authority in Egypt, has condemned the fact that Bin Laden's remains were cast into the sea, because according to Islamic teachings the dead must be buried underground. In another post, the website reported that many people, including some U.S. senators, have demanded that photos of Bin Laden be publicized so that the people are reassured. It also reported that al-Qaeda has threatened the United States with retaliation.

Mashregh News, a website close to the security and intelligence organizations, claimed that President Obama is using the body of Bin Laden to advance his bid for reelection in 2012. It said that Bin Laden is a product of the violent and undemocratic Saudi Arabian society but the United States, instead of trying to democratize that country, only kills Bin Laden.

Mehr, the news agency operated by the Organization for Islamic Propaganda, which is controlled by the hardliners, claimed that Bin Laden was killed so that President Obama can get reelected. It said, "Just as we cannot trust what the U.S. officials told us about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we cannot also be sure about the death of Bin Laden."

Mizan Press, a website close to the Nationalist-Religious Coalition and supportive of the Green Movement, reported extensively on the news, and mainly reflected the the views of U.S. officials, in particular President Obama.

Rah-e Sabz (also known as Jaras), a leading Green Movement website, reported only briefly on the death of Bin Laden, quoting Obama, Al Jazeera, and CNN.

Raja News, the website published by hardliner Fatemeh Rajabi, claimed that the death of Bin Laden was revealed now because both Republicans and Democrats are trying to attract voters for next year's presidential elections. It also said that Obama is trying to exploit the occasion for his reelection.

Saham News, the website that reflects the views of Mehdi Karroubi, reported only on the speech by Obama in which he announced that Bin Laden had been killed.

Tabnak, which is close to former Revolutionary Guard top commander and current Secretary-General of the Expediency Discernment Council Mohsen Rezaei, cast doubts on the authenticity of the Bin Laden "death photo." It also reported that the United States has "claimed" that it killed Bin Laden.

Here were the front-page headlines in Tehran's dailies on Tuesday morning:

Donya-ye Eghtesad (reformist): "The End of the Bin Laden Myth"

Ebtekar (conservative): "The End of Bin Laden's Myth"

Iran (Ahmadinejad aligned): "Bin Laden's Photo Is a Montage"

Jahan Sanat (conservative): "Bin Laden's Spirit Is Still Around"

Jam-e Jam (conservative): "The End of Bin Laden, the Beginning of the Questions"

Kayhan (hardline): "The U.S. Murdered Its Own Puppet"

Khorasan (conservative): "Osama bin Laden Was Killed"

Mardom Salari (moderate reformist): "Death of Bin Laden Is the End of September 11 Nightmare"

Quds (reactionary): "What Is Behind the Story of the Death of Osama bin Laden?"

Resalat (right-wing): "Obama Announced the Death of Bin Laden"

Roozegar (Ahmadinejad aligned): "The End of Duel with Bin Laden"

Tehran-e Emrooz (moderate conservative, reflecting views of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf): "Ten Questions about the Death of Bin Laden"


Rasha Elass, our Middle East news editor, submitted the following items:

As reported by Al Ahram and Al Masry Al Youm, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood reacted to the news of Osama bin Laden's death by saying the United States should now leave Afghanistan and Iraq, as it no longer has a reason to remain there. "The death of Bin Laden has removed one of the main reasons for practicing violence in the world," said the group's spokesman, Dr. Issam al-Arian. "It is time for Obama to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq." Al-Arian was recently nominated to be the group's vice president, which has caused a major split within the party. The Muslim Brotherhood recently held its first public meeting in almost two decades as it prepares for Egypt's upcoming elections in September.

Syrian tanks fired on Sunday into the old city of Daraa amid a curfew targeting all men, according to an Alsharq al-Awsat report. No casualties were reported. The southern city has been under siege for a week in response to anti-government demonstrations, and international organizations say there is now dire need in the city for food, water, and medicine. Eyewitnesses say only women are allowed to venture outside to buy bread and other essentials.

Meanwhile, in the latest announcement of reforms in Syria, the government said it plans to spend $1 million per year on "reforming the judicial system, environmental management, natural disaster protection, and the fight against AIDS."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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