While Secretary Pompeo is pushing for an extension of the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in the fall, Houthis continue facilitating Iran’s military and ideological agenda in the region. Iran denied having yet another ship filled with sophisticated weaponry intercepted during a joint US-Arab Coalition operation near Yemen in June, another piece of evidence pointing to the dangers of Iran’s continuing relationship with the Houthis. And despite dealing with a series of explosions throughout IRGC military bases, and nuclear/power stations, Iran has shown no signs of slowing down in the implementation of this agenda and denied any external interventionism. The blasts are attributed to Israel, and to an opposition group known as “Cheetahs of the Homeland.” The latest such incident took place to the West of Tehran, in the vicinity of additional IRGC bases and power stations.
Most of the P5+1 members are reluctant to follow US lead in renewith the arms embargo. Furthermore, there is evidence that where EUropean companies have turned away from profit due to the concern over losing access to the US financial system, China and Russia have stepped comfortably in, which means that with or without the arms embargo, Iran retains access to the components needed for the production of sophisticated weapons. A new deal inked between Beijing and Tehran reportedly grants China access to Iranian air force bases, while Iran essentially becomes a gas station for the Chinese Communist Party which has been suffering ongoing financial losses and reportedly has not been able to meet its “New Silk Road” /Belt-and-Road commitments.
Enter the HOuthis, who have been reportedly smuggling oil out of Southern Yemen and supplying Hezbullah and IRGC with a resource lifeline to complement access to Iraqi oil and the Chinese lease monopoly over Ahwazi petrochemicals. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has downplayed the attacks on Safter oil pumping stations, but with the fall of oil output in Yemen since the HOuthi coup, access to natural resources has become an important rallying point for the Houthis. In exchange, Houthis are playing an increasingly central role in Iran’s regional hegemony projects as Iraqi militias have attracted increasing US scrutiny and ire, with mass arrests following the liquidation of Qassem Soleimani and several important heads of Iran-backed Shi’a groups starting in January.
While the US and the Arab Coalition have succeeded in intercepting several ships providing weapons to Houthis as evidence of the close relationship, they have not been able to stop the smuggling altogether. And for every number of bomb-laden Houthi boats destroyed by the Arab Coalition, an unknown number of such operations succeeds, at least partially. Then there are rumors of the HOuthis exploiting security vulnerabilities and launching a deadly and destructive attack on a Saudi air force base in June 2020, among a series of missile and drone attacks aimed at Saudi cities, which, according to the Coalition, were intercepted by the Saudi missile defense systems. Those are just some of the most recent examples of Houthi attacks; during the course of the war, according to the Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki, nearly 1700 attacks against civilian sites in Saudi Arabia had been launched by the HOuthis, and an unknown number of similar attacks against civilians in Yemen. In July, another quantity of drones was destroyed by the Coalition forces over Yemen.
These events show the limits of US diplomacy and political action, and in particular, the limits of the strategy exclusively targeting Iran, without taking into the account the subversive and increasingly powerful role of the HOuthis in the region. Of course, in the event of the non-renewal of the embargo, Iran will indeed become an international arms marketplace for the worst of rogue actors, but even now with the restrictions in place, it has evaded full accountability and has managed to sow mayhem and mischief with the help of its proxies and increasingly integrated regional relationships.
It, too, is important to note that much of Iran’s assets lie outside Tehran. Therefore the approah of “cutting off the head of the snake”, with anything short of complete regime change and destruction of the existing Iranian administrative infrastructure and financial architecture, is hardly the panacea for the Iranian assertion of control in the Middle East, without also severing the limbs that carry out its bidding, including, in particular the Houthis.
And that is the argument that was heard in detail by a gathering of international experts during a series of meetings held by the Coalition of Organizations for Peace in Yemen on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council, session 44.
The first seminar focused on the HOuthi role in the shelling of Yemeni and Saudi cities.Seminar of Houthi shelling of cities:
Violation of the armistice and non-compliance with international agreements
Moderator: Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, an academic and human rights activist
The first speaker, Engineer Khaled Al-Afif, head of the German-Yemeni Forum for Rights and Freedoms, member of European organizations allied for peace in Yemen, spoke about the Houthi breach of the armistice and the agreements and stated that the Houthi militias relied on the tactic of restoring breath and arranging the papers to pounce on the adversaries and their means were to deceive the tribes and the government and now the international community.and the truce announcement. Each time, the militias break the ceasefire agreements once their ranks are rearranged (this follows a model long adopted by another Iranian proxy, Hamas).
He mentioned that between 2004 and 2010, the Yemeni government fought six wars with the Houthi militias, and all these wars were stopped by ceasefire agreements with the involvement of mediation committees that the Houthis did not adhere to. On the contrary, for them it was a warrior’s rest to arrange their ranks and when the army stopped the war because of the truce the Houthis rallied to crush the tribal sheikhs and the regions that supported the government and opposed their forces. After 2011, the Houthi militia took advantage of the youth revolution, political division, and the army’s division to impose its complete control over the Saada governorate, and the first thing that it worked on was the displacement of the Dammaj sons after several armies and agreements that were not adhered to, and this is the first case of sectarian displacement in Yemen.
The militia expanded its military operations to Imran and held several rounds of talks through mediation committees that ended in neutralizing the tribes and swooping on anyone who opposed the HOuthis; the Houthis did not abide by any agreement or armistice with any party that did not accept their authority, but relied on terrorism and the scorched earth policy after all the armistice and additionally, relied on the bombing the homes of tribal elders. Before announcing the truce in Amran, the Houthis launched an armed attack on the governorate to control it. While the mediation committees led by the UN envoy bin Omar were moving to a cease-fire, the Houthis stormed the capital, Sanaa, and then a truce was established, or what was known as the peace agreement, one that the Houthis did not adhere to. The Houthis entered into a partnership agreement with the Congress Party and former President Ali Saleh, and they did not adhere to any provision of it. Rather, at the end of 2017, they launched armed operations against the party that ended with the killing of former President Saleh and collaborators, and threw thousands of supporters of the party, women and men, in prison.
Khaled Al-Afif further talked about the most prominent agreement that were brokered by the United Nations, which was Stockholm, which ended with the handover to the Houthis of the port of Al-Hadidah, strategically important both for humanitarian aid to the rest of the country and as a smuggling center for the delivery of Iranian weapons and other contraband. The Houthis violated the ceasefire hundreds of times and killed some members of the monitoring committees, including Colonel Muhammad Sharaf al-Sulayhi. In Naham, Al-Jawf, and Marib, more than a truce was held and announced, but the Houthis did not adhere to any truce.
On the contrary, they took advantage of the truces to arrange their ranks, and those areas were neglected, Al-Jawf and the military operations are carried out on a daily basis in Marib. In conclusion, he said: “A few days ago, the Houthis held a truce in Radman Al Bayda, through tribal mediation that the Houthis did not abide by, and ended in storming the Radman area and detonating many homes.” Mr. Khaled talked about bombing and detonating property, raising terror and terrorizing citizens and residents, which is a systematic strategy for the Houthi militia, which started from the first six wars between 2004 and 2009 in Saada against all opposition figures, villages, and regions that rejected these militias, and this Houthi terrorism reached the zenith after their coup against the state in September 21, 2014 and their control grab over the weapons of the Yemeni army and the acquisition of experiences in developing weapons, booby traps and drones through Iranian experts and from the Lebanese Hezbollah, which was stated by Iranian officials and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Since the beginning of its war to control the Yemeni governorates, the Houthi militia has deliberately bombed residential areas in cities and rural areas that refuse to submit to and surrender to the militia, and with every defeat this militia has been subjected to, indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods and hospitals to terrorize people, the resistance and the army to surrender. In Taiz, among the 20 hospitals and health centers, 18 hospitals were suspended due to the bombing of the Houthi militia or the siege they struck on the city of Taiz, and only two hospitals remain operational.
Despite this, the militias bombed the main revolution hospital in Taiz, according to human rights organizations, and the Houthi missiles destroyed the part The largest of the hospital was mass destruction concentrated in the intensive care department. Where the victims of indiscriminate shelling in Taiz between 2015 and 2018, nearly 3,000 civilians, including 630 children and 371 women. Taiz is at the forefront of the number of injured people in Yemen, and the pain of the wounded is compounded by the Houthi siege imposed on the city of Taiz, which exacerbated their tragic situation in an unprecedented way, as the number of wounded reached 16 thousand and 402 civilians, including 1756 children and girls and 249 women.
7070 went missing due to kidnapping and enforced disappearance, and in 2019, approximately 186 citizens were killed, 54 of which were indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods, 18 snipers, 41 as a result of landmines, 3 under torture, and one of extrajudicial executions. The total destruction resulting from indiscriminate shelling was 2,320 buildings, 452 of which were public property, 338 buildings were partially destroyed, and 18 of the 20 hospitals in the city were destroyed due to the constant shelling.
At the level of cities and governorates, entire neighborhoods in Aden Governorate, from Khor Maksar, Tawahi and the northern regions of the governorate were destroyed as a result of the war launched by the Houthi militia in an attempt to occupy Aden and the center of Lahj and Abyan Governorate. Most public property and a large part of private property were destroyed and the effects of the destruction are still prominent to today. It also bombed a water tank in the Al-Duraimi district in Al-Hodeidah, which is one of the hot spots where water is not easily available. The Houthi militia bombed the Al-Isayad port, in Hodeidah, killing 14 people and wounded 30, most of them civilians.
The Houthi militia also boasted more than 73 torrential bridges and streams of mines linked to rockets and missiles in major roads linking Hodeidah directorates to destroy roads and bridges in the areas they lost and to hinder the progress of the Yemeni army and prevent the return of citizens. Since the signing of the Stockholm Agreement, the Houthi militia has continued to violate the ceasefire by attacking cities under the control of the Yemeni government, blowing up bridges and destroying roads in crimes aimed at passing humanitarian aid to people in need outside its control areas.
The systematic militia destruction of cultural objects and historical monuments of Yemen occurs, either through the trade and sale of antiquities and manuscripts, or their use as military barracks and military sites, and Yemen has joined the countries whose antiquities are sold in public auctions after being looted by gangs and smugglers. Because assaulting or harming antiquities and manuscripts is a crime in accordance with national legislation and an explicit violation of international agreements, militia leaders have added to their crimes against the Yemenis an additional crime by committing hostilities against the historical and artistic works that constitute the cultural heritage of peoples.
Cairo’s ancient castle, on of the most prominent monuments in Taiz and Yemen, was severely damaged as a result of its use by the militias as a military barracks, which were bombing the city and its residential homes, which was subjected to bombing by the resistance to preserve the lives of innocent people. Hundreds of them were killed and injured from the bombing of a tank that was inside The castle destroyed the militias, blew up 7 archaeological monuments in the Dhamar governorate, and before their departure from Aden they looted and destroyed the Aden Museum. Also, the monuments in the governorates of Shabwah and the outskirts of Marib and in Abib were looted and tampered, and large quantities of rare artifacts were smuggled out and only revealed when they were placed. An auction to sell antiquities on the internet.
In Al-Jawf, the militias destroyed 63 archaeological monuments and historical cities that have become almost completely destroyed, including Nashan, Kamana, Haram, Anba, and Nasq, in addition to the well-known and well-known cities such as Baraqish, Qarnaw, Al-Kharba al-Bayda, and Khirbet Al-Aswad. And the bombing of villages and areas of the Hajjur tribes in the district of Keshr, northeast of Hajjah, was mentioned by ballistic missiles, after more than 40 days of the humanitarian blockade.
The author, presenting at this event, said: “I noticed that we have a strange situation that although the international community has extensive information documenting the extent of Iran’s assistance to the Houthis in attacks on civilians and the supply of weapons used in attacks on Yemeni and Saudi cities, as well as oil tankers, oil sites, and airports, no However, the evidence of Iranian interference is increasing. Many attacks on various Saudi cities from Jizran and Abha to Riyadh show evidence of advanced missiles and drones loaded with bombs that could not be produced in Yemen without Iran’s help. The media failed In documenting general violations of human rights by the Houthis, as well as the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Houthi launched a deadly attack on Aden, killing 32 members of the Yemeni military parade while targeting high-ranking officials. And that’s just one such well known attack against Yemeni cities; the experts have documented attacks against Yemeni civilians that have not been covered by Western media, but which have gone more lethal and precise over time, according to the experts, as the Houthis gained additional access to increasingly more sophisticated Iranian weapons.
Indeed, the international community is well aware that Iran’s interference precedes the ongoing five-year long civil war. These weapons have been secretly replenished with consistency going back decades, while the international community turned a blind eye to the Houthi smuggling of contraband through the Oman borders, excusing it as regular crime rather than a precursor to a coup. Since then, Iran has developed various routes for smuggling weapons, posing a threat to international maritime security.
Despite allegations that the Somali shipping route used to smuggle arms has been closed, the Iranians continue to use shipments, as well as other sea routes on the way to Hodeidah that are under the control of the Houthis and are both necessary as a receiving point for humanitarian supplies and as a point for arms smuggling. The author added that the Houthis were able to smuggle weapons by road and in trucks to Hodeidah, and this complex mechanism dates back to a long period before the civil war where Iran funded, armed, and trained the Houthis for years before the coup. For years the Houthis have been moving back and forth to Iran and we know that Hezbollah and Iranian advisers have been on the ground providing direct assistance and advice away from ground operations or basic training.
That’s how the Houthis were able to assess vulnerabilities of the Saudi defense systems, and to receive complex intelligence information which had allowed them to penetrate cities, attack well protected military bases, and coordinate complex attacks far exceeding their own capabilities and knowledge.
The United Nations has documented that the missiles and drones recovered from the attack sites bear Persian markings and appear similar to the the brands, makes, and models of Iranian weapons used elsewhere in the region, and recovered in other places including in Lebanon, Bahrain, and Iraq.
To counter these threats, it is necessary to prevent Iran from being able to import Western weapons and other weapons and parts that can be used to continue to produce missiles and drones. The international community continues to treat the war in Yemen as an isolated issue, the Houthi attacks on civilians as a Yemeni and a Saudi issue, but in reality this is not the case. The Houthis involved in these attacks must be sanctioned, the entire movement must be considered an Iranian proxy and designated as a terrorist organization such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, the flow of weapons should be disrupted more forcefully, the delivery routes must be closed and the Houthis must be treated as a global threat, and not only a Yemeni, a Saudi, or even a regional threat, because they are part of Iran’s global network of terrorist agents and will soon have global influence and threaten countries outside the Middle East, just like Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards do. ”
Majdi Al-Akwa, Assistant Secretary-General of the Humanitarian League for Human Rights and member of organizations allied for peace in Yemen affirmed the above-stated concerns.
Interventions were made by the attendees, and they affirmed that the Houthis cannot be trusted and any agreement and truce concluded with them and that the international community should classify them as a terrorist group and deal with them as they do with ISIS.
Continuing on this theme, the following symposium on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council session 44 explored how the Iranian regime embraces terrorism and destroys nations and peoples.
Organizer: The Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women and European organizations allied for peace in Yemen
Attorney Faisal Al-Qifi, head of European organizations allied for peace in Yemen
The first speaker, Peymaneh Shafi, a journalist and member of the Iranian-American community in California, talked about the Iranian regime’s policy and said: “I lived in Iran under the pressure of the regime and fled to asylum in America decades ago, and from here I am trying to help those who are persecuted by the Iranian militias in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
The Iranian regime is being weakened by the pressure of the international community, and friends in Iran are trying to establish the Iranian regime in order to live in safety and peace in the Middle East region.
I am sure that you know that Iran has a great role to play in supporting the Houthi militia, and since 2014 through Hezbollah militias, where Hezbollah trainers have been sent to educate and recruit youth.
And they worked to spread fears among people in order not to refuse to join Houthi.
Wesam Basindowah, the head of the March 8 bloc for the women of Yemen, talked about the influence of Houthi in the Iranian regime also regarding women’s rights, as Houthi pursues Iran’s path to oppress women.
From September 2014 to December 2018, 266 women and their children were arrested. By the Houthi coup, women were valued in Yemen and were not arrested as the militia did.
She expressed hope the activists in Yemen will work to resist the militia and uphold the principle of human rights.
Wesam also added that in the United States, activists are working to classify this militia, to follow Iran’s IRGC and the Lebanese Hezbullah in the terrorist lists, so that Middle Eastern countries can enjoy peace and freedom.
Ben Minick, a Middle East journalist specializing in military strategy, spoke about the role of the international community in classifying Houthi as a terrorist group and said: “I would like to thank you for allowing me to present today to you on behalf of the Yemeni Alliance of Independent Women and in the United States of America. We are gathered here today to discuss the role of the international community in classifying the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group.
The war on terror began long before the United States intervened in 2001. The regime that took power during the 1979 Islamic revolution engaged in a terrorist war from the start. We can spend months discussing the various groups listed, but today I would like to focus specifically on Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels.
More recently, formal legislation has been passed declaring Hezbollah a terrorist group. There is no need for us to review all the reasons for this classification. The main issue that goes into effect is the reasoning behind the amount of time it took to develop a classification.
It is not easy to determine the classification of a particular group as a terrorist. Although it may look better, there is a standard that must be fulfilled. Otherwise, it would be as simple as referring to a group of people that one country does not like or disagree with and causes it to be classified as a terrorist group. This is part of the delay.
To be determined, the group must fit the relevant U.S. law definition. An organization may be classified as a terrorist even if it does not directly attack American targets. However, it must threaten the national security of the United States or its citizens.
In terms of the United States government, once an organization is included in this list of standards, well-written and highly documented legislation must be submitted to Congress. If the majority of delegates in Congress believe in the benefits of the bill, it is passed. This is neither a quick nor easy operation.
But the bill itself does not classify the organization; It only directs the Secretary of State to review the evidence and report back to Congress within a short period of time on whether to classify it and give reasons. For example, the Secretary of State may choose to request additional evidence for review, or require additional time for the review process. Before conducting the designation, the Secretary of State must inform the leaders of Congress; Once the organization is publicly announced as a terrorist organization, the state and treasury department can begin the process of asking financial institutions to freeze their assets.
It can be said that even when the Houthis do not directly attack American targets, they attack US allies, facilitate Iranian terrorism in the region targeting the United States through various agents, facilitate the spread of other terrorist groups, and deal with Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, both of whom are terrorist-specific entities. , In planning operations that could target the area.
Moreover, attacks on Yemen and Saudi Arabia, even when not specifically directed against the United States, endanger American forces.
There may be political reasons for avoiding classification; The political obstacle here is that the Houthis were legalized by the international community and seized power; The internationally recognized government is largely in exile.
The classification of the Houthis means that the United States will have to work closely with the Arab coalition to get the Houthis out of power, which would seem to many Americans as participants in an endless “Middle East war”, even if it was done for reasons of national security , American military intervention is minimal, and confrontation is inevitable and the best way takes place at the time and the method that the United States chooses instead of the opponent.
This also means generating a lot of publicity, long-term legal battles and political attempts to block this move from within the State Department. These are the challenges that must be addressed before this issue is brought up to Congress, let alone the State Department. “
Adel Al Ahmadi, Chairman of the Nashwan Al-Hamiri Council for Studies and Media, talked about the expected effects and consequences of the continued expansion of Houthi’s authority over international peace and security and summarized it in:
- The threat from Yemen’s strategic location between at least two continents overseeing an international strategic corridor and a long coastal strip that stretches from east to west. The threat related to the Houthis being an Iranian focus was found to be a tool to target the Yemeni neighborhood represented by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it represents the economic status in the world. And both sides proved without detail, that Houthi acted by targeting some ships and threatening navigation.
- The continued control of a sectarian terrorist group by force of arms over the will of the vast majority of Yemenis prepares the country for the possibility of the emergence of extremist terrorist groups from the other side, similar to ISIS and Al Qaeda. He stated that the rise of ISIS in Iraq was the result of terrorism practiced by pro-Iranian militias in previous years against those described as Sunnis. He talked about sectarian thought and how it is based on a revenge racist idea that claims that the government is its own, and that it finds in terrorism and wars one of the most prominent reasons for survival, as it was not possible to find acceptance in social circles except in circles of turmoil.
- The group proceeds from the racist slogan, which exclaims the death of peoples and religions. All that the Houthis do is to see the slogan implemented. He explained that the strategic location of Yemen and the threat that Al-Houthi poses to the Yemeni neighborhood, as happened in targeting the Abqaiq and Khurais fields last year in Saudi Arabia. It indicates that the world may face economic crises whose borders cannot be predicted, if it leaves the chance for the Houthis to remain as an armed group that controls the capital of Yemen and many of Yemen.
- He talked about the seriousness of the threat posed by the Houthi group in that it combines deadly weapons: first the weapon of gun and gunpowder, secondly the weapon of the religious text is false and thus the weapon of atonement and thirdly the weapon of racism and claiming the preference of a particular family and its right to rule and fourth the weapon of hatred and incitement to the Yemeni society or the world as a whole. Finally, Dr. Al-Ahmadi mentionedthe organic affiliation with the Iranian charity project in the region.
- Dr. Wassam Basandouh explained that the arrival of the mullahs regime to power in Iran or what they call the Islamic Republic revolution, is nothing but a military militia coup that brought to power a regime hostile to liberation and the concept of the state and threatens peace and security in the region and the world under the slogan “exporting the revolution”, and it is the same system that supported the militia coup Al-Houthi in Yemen provided it with weapons and fueled it with spiritual ideological sectarian tide. Two days prior to this seminar, there was a session in the Security Council discussing a proposal to renew the arms embargo on Iran, and this matter affects Yemen and the region in particular as it will have its broader effects globally, it clearly means restoring the outright ability of the mullahs ’regime to supply militias Terrorism with weapons in Syria, Hezbollah in Iran, Al-Houthi in Yemen, and in Iraq, and even the restoration of the full capabilities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is practicing destabilizing operations extending from the Arab region to Africa, South America and the world.
- The international community’s delay in including Hezbollah as a terrorist group has had dire consequences for European countries and American interests, and the waiting process is long until the world is convinced that the Houthi militia should be included in terrorist lists, and it will raise the cost that the world will face later. We know very well that the United States, for example, and the Western system in general are subject to its classification on the extent of the direct harm that these groups are committing against their interests, they do not care much for the Yemenis, and here we remind him immediately after the Houthi coup and control of the capital, Sanaa, groups of Houthi militia went to storm the American embassy in a blatant violation The Vienna Convention, which secures diplomatic facilities and wreaks havoc on its property.
- Also, the Houthi slogan targets America with hostility, which is a declaration of war, and here Dr. Basindowa wondered how any US proposal for peace in Yemen could include allowing this rogue group to participate in the state and share power after all the crimes it committed? Also evidenced is the renewed American announcement that there are Houthi warships funded by Iran targeting its ships, in addition to the recent reports discussed in the Security Council that recognized that the missiles used to bomb Aramco are Iranian-made missiles, and we do not forget here that the Houthi militia has adopted this launch.
- Missiles, even if it was a false declaration, remains revealing. We as human rights activists conscious of our capabilities know that the inclusion of the Houthi militia on terrorist lists is the decision of its states and needs the efforts of states, Dr. Basindowah said, and that in order to make a decision like this it takes a lot of time, but we also will not give up and will not give up our effort by calling and seeking to classify this militia as a terrorist group and we will remember that the Iranian regime is a regime A terrorist embraces, sponsors and funds terrorism.
Since these presentations were heard, several Houthi leaders went on trial in the Yemeni territories under the Coalition control. It will be instructive to follow the evidence against them presented in the case and to watch what additional details about cooperation with Iran will be revealed in the course of the legal process. Additionally, the Houthis continue to hold Yemen, the region, and international community hostage with the ticking time bomb of the FSO Safer oil tanker, at risk of turning into a colossal environmental disaster, whether through continuing neglect, or a deliberate act of sabotage threatened time and again by the Houthis.
And despite increasing scrutiny and reporting, none of other troubling issues, such as diversion of international humanitarian aid, is going away either. The sooner the United States and others realize that the passive acceptance of Houthi authority is detrimental to whatever other political, economic, and military action is being taken to deter Iran’s aggression in the region and beyond, the more likely they are to develop an effective strategy that might finally begin to address both sides of the equation.
How Putin’s Russia is Exploiting Jihadists Against pro-Navalny Protesters?
Who is Putin’s terrorist: Navalny or Jihadist?
Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin is considering using old tactics to stem the growing wave of nationwide protests in support of his fiercest critic, popular opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This tactic was developed in the late 90s by the KGB ideologists and successfully applied in order to bring to power Vladimir Putin, who is ruling the country with an iron hand longer than all his Soviet predecessors except Joseph Stalin. The tactical skills of the Putin’s policy architects were aiming to frighten Russian citizens by Islamist terrorism and Chechen separatism and unite patriotic and nationalist forces around a new leader capable of challenging the West.
Thus, when the nationwide protests in support of Navalny from Yakutia to Kaliningrad became the most serious challenge, the Kremlin began to trumpet the threat of Islamist extremists and international terrorists. This time, the Putin regime is intimidating protesters with impending terrorist attacks of Central Asian and Caucasian jihadists and their Syrian parent organization, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
On the eve of the next nationwide protests on February 14, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russia warned of the inadmissibility of calls to participate in an unsanctioned rally. Russian state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS have disseminated information that the most powerful Sunni militant faction of HTS in northern Syria is preparing a series of lone-wolf attacks during the upcoming mass street protests of Navalny’s supporters in various Russian cities. In doing so, however, the pro-Kremlin media cited its undisclosed law enforcement sources and ultimately spread merely conspiracy theories.
According to anonymous sources of Russian security services, HTS-backed Uzbek Jihadi battalion Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad(KTJ), Chechen militant groups Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK) and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA) are planning to carry out explosions and attack protesters. To achieve these purposes, terrorist groups allegedly recruited Russian citizens and Central Asian migrants, who expect their leaders’ commands.
The Putin regime faced the most serious challenge when anti-government protests took place across the Russia in support Navalny in recent weeks. As is known, in mid-January, Navalny returned to the country after recovering from a chemical Novichok poisoning that nearly took his life and was immediately detained and later jailed for alleged parole violations. The robust Putin regime first demonstrated its grave alarm when tens of thousands pro-Navalny protesters demanded his resignation in more than 100 cities and towns, chanting Putin as a ‘thief’. Police detained more than 11,000 people at what they say were unsanctioned protests that the Moscow condemned as illegal and dangerous.
Alexei Navalny’s political creativity and tactical skill inspired Russian liberal youth weary with the corruption-plagued political order presided over by Putin. Fierce clashes between protesters and riot police during the mass rallies indicate that a new generation is not afraid of arrests and the repressive state machine. And to stop the pace of marathon confrontation with the opposition, Putin resorted to his long-standing KGB tactics, intimidating society with possible terrorist attacks and explosions by Islamists.
Will Uzbek and Chechen Jihadists hit pro-Navalny Protesters?
But the fact is, it’s not the first time Putin’s Russia has intimidated society with possible terror attacks by Islamist terrorists and Chechen separatists to achieve political goals. During the transition of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin at the end of the second millennium, Kremlin ideologists successfully tested anti-Islamist tactics to overcome the challenges of the political opposition. The ideologists of Putin’s election campaign created his image as a decisive and strong leader, the one who can defeat Islamist terrorism, Chechen separatism and preserve the integrity of Great Russia. His image as the only savior of the Russian Empire was accompanied by radio and television spots and news about the atrocities of Chechen militants and their beheading of Russian soldiers.
Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy theory in Russian political circles that the powerful FSB orchestrated apartment bombings in the Russian cities of Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 to boost Putin’s approval rating aiming to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. As a result of these “terrorist attacks”, 307 people were killed, more than 1,700 people were injured. Russian officials concluded that there was a “Chechen trail” in the bombings, but no proof of their involvement was adduced. Many still doubt the results of the investigation and consider Putin to be the culprit of this tragedy.
That’s when Putin uttered his famous phrase: “We will pursue the [Islamist] terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, we’ll kill them there. If we catch them in the toilet, we’ll exterminate them in the toilet.” Many still believe that the apartment bombings and the FSB’s tactic against Islamist extremists catapulted Putin into the presidency. Putin soon launched a second war in Chechnya and emerged victorious in the intra-Kremlin struggle. His ratings soared. He met with huge approval in a society weary from the economic collapse, corruption and crime of the Yeltsin era.
Usually people prefer to keep quiet about this tragedy. Russian political figures Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and Boris Berezovsky worked to unravel the mystery of apartment bombings. But all of them were brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. Ultimately, the Kremlin’s tactics to combat Islamist terrorists not only helped to rocket Putin to the political Olympus, but also increased Islamophobia, nationalism and chauvinism in Russian society.
Today, even 22 years after Putin came to power, the Kremlin’s ideologists have begun to intimidate Russia’s liberal society with likely Islamist terrorist attacks again as the nationwide protests seriously threaten his regime. This illustrates the regime exhaustion and the lack of confidence in face of the strategic sophistication of Navalny’s team.
So far, neither HTS, nor Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups have officially responded to the FSB on the plotting of terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition rallies. However, in encrypted Telegram chats, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists actively discussed the “leak information”.
Thus, one of the KTJ’s followers on Telegram under the name Al Hijrat said in Uzbek: “Kafir Putin frightens his people with the just sword of Allah.But the people of the blessed land of Sham know that he himself is the main terrorist. Russian infidels and Putin’s Nusayri puppy (Alawites regime of Bashar al-Assad) bomb Greater Idlib to destroy Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. Executioners will have to hold a harsh response before the Almighty for their crimes.”
A pro-Jihadi chat “Inspire” in Telegram wrote in Russian: “the information about the impending attacks by Ajnad al-Kavkaz is fake. The authorities are trying to hold Russia’s awakening people from mass protests against Putin’s criminal group. To intimidate civilians, the Russian siloviki (FSB) can and are ready to commit terrorist acts, blaming HTS for this, which are not interested in what is happening there in Russia. The Putinists have a lot of experience in killing their own citizens and blowing up their houses.” In this message, Chechen militants indirectly protect HTS from accusations by pro-Kremlin media on impending terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition protests. This is no coincidence, since Ajnad al Kavkaz is known for its close ties with HTS.
On Telegram channel, some Russian-speaking jihadists from the post-Soviet space mocked at the ‘leaked information’, some expressed their anger against the “Russian occupants” in Sham, some advised protesters to be vigilant before the FSB provocation. A pro-Jihadi chat Icharkhoin Telegram recommended Muslims of Caucasus be ready for new repressions of Russian infidels and local Murtad (apostate), because after the bombings of houses in Volgodonsk, Putin started the 2-Chechen war and took away the independence of Ichkeria. The Telegram chat “Muhajireen” says that the Kremlin is preparing for a harsh suppression of the mass protests.
It is not the first time the Russian authorities have accused Central Asian and North Caucasian Jihadi networks of organizing terrorist act. On April 3, 2017, the Russian FSB blamed KTJ for the bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 16 people and injured 67 others. On October 15, 2020, the FSB once again accused the Uzbek KTJ militants of preparing subversive and terrorist acts in Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Maikop and Volgograd. In a statement, the intelligence services claimed that during the counter-terrorist operation, they prevented explosions and eliminated two members of KTJ. Then FSB distributed photos and videos of firearms, ammunition, IED’s chemical components, and religious literature seized during the operation.
On October 16, 2020, KTJ in its statement denied the Russian authorities’ accusation in these attacks. The Uzbek militant group stated that “according the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policy, our activities are limited to the territory of Sham, and we do not conduct jihadi acts outside of it.” Further, KTJ assured via its Telegram channel that it “does not have its cells in Russia and is not involved in organizing terrorist acts there.”
Jihadi factor of Russian democracy
The Russian authorities often make thunderous statements about plotting terrorist attacks by “international terrorist groups” and how siloviki (FSB) successfully prevented its. This time, trumpeting about terrorist plots by HTS and its foreign subsidiaries during mass protests in various Russian cities, Moscow hoped to hit two birds with one stone. First, the Kremlin hopes that alarm on terrorist attacks could become a cold shower for Navalny’s supporters, as a result of which the activity of protesters will subside and the scale of the rallies will decrease. Second, by accusing HTS of plotting terrorist attacks, Russia is trying to justify its bloody bombing in northern Syria before the international community.
However, experts on jihadism and political Islam were skeptical about accusations of HTS for plotting terrorist attacks in Russia.HTS, Syria’s most powerful rebel group, is trying to implement a new strategy to transform itself from a global jihadist outlook into a local “moderate national liberation movement”. Today its new agenda is entirely dedicated to Syria and the Syrian local Sunni community. Within this new strategy, HTS severely restricted external attacks by its subsidiaries – Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups –KTJ, AK and JMA. Consequently, HTS, which holds the last major rebel bastion in Idlib province and backs the local Salvation Government, is focused only on the internal Syrian jihad than organizing external terrorist attacks.
HTS emir Abu Mohammed al-Julani is well aware that any terrorist attacks in Russia could place his group among the global terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and al Qaeda, from which he decisively disavowed. HTS pursues a pragmatic approach to the political context, and its external attacks outside of Syria could undermine its fragile legacy, which Julani has achieved with great difficulty.
According to the new strategy, HTS has excluded Central Asian and local hardliners from its ranks. Those jihadists who did not want to submit to its new policy, such as former KTJ emir Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki and HTS Shura Council member Abu Malek al-Talli, were arrested or taken out of the Syrian jihad zone. Given the ability of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to pressure Russian-speaking militant groups to abandon its global jihadist ambitions, it can be concluded that the Russian FSB’s accusation against HTS raises many questions.
In conclusion, the Russian authorities alert about Islamists terrorist attacks during pro-Navalny protests is aimed at an internal audience and pursues exclusively domestic political goals. And these goals are clear as plain as the nose on the face. Using these methods, the Kremlin wants to stop the turbulent development of mass protests and divert the attention of people from the Navalny factor. If they succeed, the authorities will take time out to gather strength for the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2021.But if the wave of protests grows ever stronger and threatens Putin’s regime, then a repetition of the 1999 scenario is quite possible. As then, radical Islamism and terrorism can become a starting point for strengthening authoritarianism in Russia.
Corona pandemic: Realism limitation in solving 21st century security threats
Today, most serious threats of the 21st century are not ones we can protect ourselves by using armies or advanced weapons. Indeed, the popularity of extreme-right politics, unilateralism based on nationalism and COVID-19 are threatening the world’s post-war security architecture.
The state-based unilateralism and the trends of national response to the 21st century’s biggest security threat trigger lack of coordination, diplomatic divisions, and incoherent global answer to COVID-19. Hence, as we face the biggest challenge of the contemporary century today, we need to rethink the very nature of our comprehension of national security threats. By doing so, we need a different approach to facing security threats.
With the Corona pandemic as a security threat, one of the foundational international relations theories, the realism, has been revealed to be far limited in terms of its explanatory power than it declares. The argument is that realism has a valid logic and reasons for confidence since answers to the pandemic have confirmed the supremacy of sovereign states, the grounds for the state’s power competition. Nevertheless, the pandemic also presents realism’s weaknesses as a source for successful policy answer to this security challenge. In other words, realism is better at defining risks and threats than suggesting solutions. Put simply, realism’s explanatory power lies in diagnosis rather than treatment or prevention. To make this clear, one insight the theory emphasizes is the representation of states as the fundamental actors in world politics.
As the coronavirus hit, states shifted quickly to close or tighten international borders, controlled movement within their borders. However, while much independent national action is understandable from a realism’s point of view, it’s insufficient. Unilateralism and state-based measures, such as border controls did not spare states from the pandemic, and unilateral measures risk ending up in national economic and social crisis.
To fight the Corona pandemic most efficiently, policymakers will have to shift to other theoretical traditions to overcome this security threat. They will depend more and more on greater international openness, trust and cooperation. Hence, while from the realism’s view, unilateral and state-based actions may serve national interest to fight the pandemic “within the national borders”, the pandemic is a global security threat and thus remains unsolved so long as other states and non-state actors have not done the same and states move on unilaterally.
Solving global crises and security threats such as a pandemic, similar to world economic or other security crises cannot be solved based on the realist considerations of zero-sum competitive logic. Instead, transnational security threats, such as Coronavirus, is unmasking the limitations of individual states actions in the global system. Thus, while realism does an excellent job of “diagnosing the problem”, it does not offer solutions to that problem.
Considering the necessity of worldwide medical items and actions, coordinated and offered by international organizations and non-state actors, the uncoordinated state-based actions result in an ineffective solution to this security crisis. The perspective this article aims to offer is that given the limitations of realism, we need more faith in international transboundary cooperation based on mutual trust, especially trust vis-a-vis international institutions. However, neither the United Nations nor the World Health Organization (WHO) nor any other non-state actor can overcome the Coronavirus on its own; nor non-state actors such as international institutions are alternatives to national states in international relations.
Instead, they are an instrument of foreign policy and statecraft and states need to rely on them, incorporating them in finding solutions to global security threats. According to constitutionalists, Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin, “States are indeed self-interested, but cooperation is often in their interest and institutions help to facilitate that cooperation.”
From our partner Tehran Times
The Media System Within and Beyond the West: Australian, Russian and Chinese Media
This article takes Australian, Russian and Chinese media as three examples to differentiate media systems and elucidate their political or economic context to understand media systems globally. Arguably, the concept of media systems “does not possess a normative or even generally accepted definition“, mainly because the notion is posited on existing publications and empirical research rather than normative theory. More precisely, “this is so for two reasons: firstly—because of the term’s content specificity; secondly—because it is dynamic and variable in time and therefore difficult to precisely define“.
Drawing on the current research of advanced capitalist democracies in Western Europe and North America, Hallin and Mancini propose “there are two main elements of the conceptual framework of Comparing Media Systems (setting aside political-social system variables): the set of four “dimensions” of comparison, and the typology of three models that summarizes what we see as the distinctive patterns of media system development among our 18 cases”. Furthermore, they clarify the four major dimensions that can be compared in different media systems: “first, the development of media markets, with particular emphasis on the strong or weak development of a mass circulation press; second political parallelism; that is, the degree and nature of the links between the media and political parties or, more broadly, the extent to which the media system reflects the major political divisions in society; third, the development of journalistic professionalism; and fourth, the degree and nature of state intervention in the media system”.
Drawing on the four dimensions, Hallin and Mancini summarize three modules from Western Europe and North America: “the Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model, the North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model,
and the North Atlantic or Liberal Model”, which will be elaborated on by the next tables.
Table 1 Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model
|Country Examples||France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain|
|Newspaper Industry||Low newspaper circulation; elite politically oriented press|
|Political Parallelism||High political parallelism; external pluralism, commentary-oriented journalism; parliamentary or government model of broadcast governance—politics-over-broadcasting systems|
|Professionalization||Weaker professionalization; instrumentalization|
|Role of the State in Media System||Strong state intervention; press subsidies in France and Italy; periods of censorship; “savage deregulation” (except France)|
Table 2 North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model
|Country Examples||Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland|
|Newspaper Industry||High newspaper circulation; early development of mass-circulation press|
|Political Parallelism||External pluralism, especially in the national press; historically strong party press; a shift toward neutral commercial <p>press; the politics-in-broadcasting system with substantial autonomy|
|Professionalization||Strong professionalization; institutionalized self-regulation|
|Role of the State in Media System||Strong state intervention but with protection for press freedom; press subsidies, robust in Scandinavia; strong public-service broadcasting|
Table 3 North Atlantic or Liberal Model
|Country Examples||Britain, the United States, Canada, Ireland|
|Newspaper Industry||Medium newspaper circulation; early development of mass circulation commercial press|
|Political Parallelism||Neutral commercial press; information-oriented journalism; internal pluralism (but external pluralism in Britain); professional model of broadcast governance—formally autonomous system|
|Professionalization||Strong professionalization; noninstitutionalized self-regulation|
|Role of the State in Media System||A market dominated (except strong public broadcasting in Britain, Ireland)|
Source: created by the author of this thesis and based on Hallin and Mancini.
Furthermore, it is unfeasible to simply apply the conceptual framework to other countries without appropriate modification. In fact, the “four dimensions” and “three models” are just perfect types, only loosely matched by the media systems of different countries. The ultimate purpose is not to classify individual media systems but to identify the “characteristic patterns of relationship between system characteristics“. Consequently, these inherent patterns of media systems offer “a theoretical synthesis and a framework for comparative research on the media and political systems“.
The Australian media system as an outlier in the Liberal Model
Hallin and Mancini illustrate that Australia should be another example of the Liberal Model. It is because firstly, the “Liberal Model is the broadest, attempting to bridge the trans-Atlantic gulf that regularly emerges in the comparative literature“. Secondly, Australia has historical connections with the UK and the US regarding “early democratization and highly professionalized information-based journalism“. This association has led to strong characteristics of Anglo-American conventions in the Australian media structure, with the quintessence of a dual media system. The binary design has combined the UK-style PSBs (public service broadcasters) such as ABC and SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) with the “US-style commercial networks“. Thirdly, Australia is famous for one of the highest commercial media ownership concentration rates globally, particularly in the newspaper area.
However, the Australian media system does not offer the quintessence of the Liberal Model. Jones and Pusey apply the Liberal Model to the Australian media system and identify four remarkable discrepancies. More precisely, compared to the Liberal Model, Australia has “historically late professionalization of journalism; comparatively low levels of education of journalists; low per capita investment in PSBs; poor regulation for accuracy and impartiality of commercial broadcast journalism; and slow development of relevant bourgeois liberal institutional conventions and rational-legal authority, e.g., formal recognition of freedom of the press”.
Furthermore, Jones and Pusey contend that Australia has several similar features with the Polarized Pluralist Model, especially in clientelism. Based on the definition of Hallin and Mancini, “clientelism tends to be associated with instrumentalization of both public and private media. In the case of public media, appointments tend to be made more based on political loyalty than purely professional criteria”. More concretely, Jones and Pusey outline the following examples to indicate the similarities of the Australian media system with the Polarized Pluralist Model: “the widely accepted recognition that appointments to the ABC Board have been more often than not party-political; the infamous ‘Murdoch amendments’ by the Fraser government to broadcasting legislation in the late 1970s to facilitate Murdoch’s concentration of television ownership; and the long history of proprietorial intervention in the political world”.
Thus, to this extent, there is a certain degree of political parallelism in the Australian media system. However, the Australian one does not match the Polarized Pluralist Model in some key areas. More precisely”, Australia does not have a highly polarized political culture and a strong tradition of mass-circulation party newspapers“. Therefore, it is arguable to perceive the Australian media system as an outlier of the Liberal Model, which can be shown in the following figure:
Figure 1 Relation of individual cases to the three models
Source: derived from Jones and Pusey.
Beyond the West: the unique Russian and Chinese media model
Although the Australian media system is an outlier in the Liberal Model, it still belongs to the typology and scope of the three models, posited on the empirical reality of Western Europe and North America. However, bringing the Russian and Chinese media models into this global comparative apparatus involves two distinct and peculiar systems into the Western-centric framework. Thus, the three models’ classification cannot apply to Russia and China’s two unique systems. Nevertheless, the four dimensions of comparison as a tool for analyzing systemic characteristics still work. However, they are not perfect and need to be modified in the application, as mentioned before.
The Russian media system as a statist commercialized model
After the disintegration of the USSR, Russia took a series of measures to adopt elements of the Western media apparatus, such as “abolition of censorship, freedom of press concepts and related legislation, privatization of media, a shift to more objective reporting, and increasing control by journalists and editorial boards over news production“. However, arguing that the Russian media have been westernized only shows “a poor understanding of” the legacy of the Soviet Union and the “complexity and dissimilarities of the post-Soviet society“, ignoring the most influential factor in the Russian media system: the state. Arguably, the interplay between the state and media has defined the essence and main features of the Russian media system. Historically and culturally, “in Russian public communications, relations between the state and a citizen have involved a clear subordination of the individual to a social power that has always been associated in the Russian context with the state“.
Thus, even though the Polarized Pluralist Model is the most similar of the three models to the Russian one, the Russian media system is still far from the Mediterranean apparatus. The Russian state’s role has exceedingly overshadowed that of the Mediterranean states, suggesting that they cannot be classified as the same type. Ivanitsky differs the Russian media system from the Polarized Pluralist Model in that “it is the state which defined the particular journalism modes such as Court journalism, Imperial journalism, Communist Party journalism in Russian history. Currently, while liberating the media’s economic activity, the state is not ready to relax the control over the content”.
This overwhelming influence of the state also reflects in Russian political parallelism. Although new political parties have appeared after the formation of the Russian Federation, Oates argues that “rather than encouraging the growth and the development of a range of political parties, media outlets in Russia have worked at supporting relatively narrow groups of elites”, part of which have been formed due to the privatization. These elites, combining old political and new emerging business elites, “became key players in the media scene“. More concretely, they created “a particularly Russian form of political parallelism” by using “political media as traditional instruments of political elite management“. Besides, due to the dominant role of the state in Russia, “media, particularly television, have been used to subvert the development of a pluralistic party system“.
Furthermore, in terms of the media industry, the influence of the state is also ubiquitous. Ivanitsky believes the state “has produced practically unsolvable tension for the media themselves trying to function both as commercial enterprises and as institutions of the society”, even though Russia has achieved rapid development in its advertising and media market. Hypothetically, these tensions between the media and the state are supposed to be the “decentralized market competition as a vital antidote to political despotism“. However, Vartanovaargues that “the aims of the state converged with those of the advertising industry, and commercially determined content became both a means of increasing depoliticization and instrumentalization of political communication, and of stimulating consumption”. From another angle, de Smaele believes that the Western influence on Russian media has only been limited to market demand, with the lack of Western notions such as “independent Fourth Estate”.
As for Russia’s professionalization, “journalism as a profession had a rather late start” with a strong censorship history, thus resulting in a self-censorship tradition until now. Another factor contributing to the self-censorship is that “formally declared freedom and autonomy of media professionals came into conflict with the efforts of the new owners”, deeply connected to the state and political elites, “to use these new professional values to further their own interests” rather than the public interests and social responsibility. Thus, to notch economic successes and avoid potential political risks, Russian journalists have become increasingly market-driven and apathetic to politics. Due to the different “professional identity“, Russian journalists have a dissimilar “literary style and attitude to facts and opinions“, which has restrained them from integration into Western journalism.
However, this statist media policy does not mean there is no freedom regarding the Russian media system’s political news. Admittedly, the state has strong influences on “television channels with national distribution“, which has been regarded as “the main source of information about Russia and the world“. By comparison, the pressure of the state has become weak and even non-existent in some less disseminated areas such as the television channel “REN-TV“, the radio station “Ekho Moskvy“, and the newspapers “Novaya Gazeta“, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” and “Kommersant“, as well as almost the whole of the internet.
Therefore, it is possible to say that the duality of authoritarian attitudes to mass media and journalism—a statist media policy deeply rooted in the framework of state influence on media combined with the growing market-driven economy—has become the most crucial characteristic of the Russian media system“. To this extent, the Russian media system can be described as a statist commercialized model.
The Chinese media system as a state-dominated model
If there is still a likelihood to compare the Russian media system with the Mediterranean Model due to a certain extent of similarities, “bringing the Chinese media system into a worldwide comparative project is to bring one of the most dissimilar systems into the non-Western empirical reality“. Furthermore, if the role above of the state in the Russian media system can be portrayed as “strong influence”, the Chinese state’s position or the sole ruling party CPC in its media apparatus should be regarded as dominant. As mentioned, regarding the political news, Russians still enjoy some freedom in less influential media. In contrast, there is no autonomy in the Chinese press, with the omnipresent regulative measures such as media censorship and the internet Great Firewall in China. Thus, considering the state’s special role, the Chinese media system is far beyond the intervention framework in the West.
In fact, despite Deng Xiaoping’s reform, the Chinese media system of the post-Mao period has still applied the “different versions of Marxism and socialism” to “build socialism with Chinese characteristics” by “providing moral guidance to the population and engineering economic development and social change“. One of the most important reasons that may clarify this “guidance”, namely, strong and resilient media control, is the media ownership in China. It is undeniable that the post-Mao economic reforms have expanded the private capital to some areas that had been commanded by the Chinese government or state-owned enterprises for decades. However, Zhao argues that “in the media sector, although the Chinese state has not only drastically curtailed its role in subsidizing media operations but has also targeted the media and cultural sector as new sites of profit-making and capitalistic development, the state continues to restrict private capital, let alone the privatizing of existing media outlets”.
In fact, the Chinese state has opened the door to private and even foreign capital participation in “the media’s entertainment function” such as the film industry with the intention of profit-making. However, this profit-making entertainment also needs to be filtered by the ideological orientation of the state. More importantly, “the production and distribution of news and informational content” and the “ownership of news media outlets” have remained “monopolized by the state“. Furthermore, this monopoly also results in the fact that the state has appointed major media agencies’ leadership.
Despite the state’s overwhelming control, the Chinese media market has boomed for years since the economic reform of Deng Xiaoping, attributable to the power of marketization. For instance, in 2004, there were 6,580 daily newspapers published worldwide, and the number of daily newspapers published in China ranked first in the world, accounting for 14.5% of the global daily newspapers. However, the commercialization of the Chinese media industry has not surmounted the ideological control of the state. The media market has constituted “two distinct and yet institutionally intertwined press sectors or subsystems“. The first press sector is market-based as the film above industry, while the second is “the party organ sector“, which combines the duality of the political instrument and profit-making. This is because “most state media outlets no longer receive large government subsidies and have largely to depend on commercial advertising“. Nevertheless, rather than causing tensions, the dual roles the party organ sector plays have adopted and contained the marketization within the current political control by the statist implementation of “licensing system and the sponsor unit system“. Consequently, these two systems have guaranteed the predominance of the state over the commercialization and marketization.
As for the political parallelism, the state-dominated Chinese media system has top-level political instrumentalization, indicating “all the features of a quintessential party-press parallelism“. Almost all the media content should and, in practice, have revolved around the official ideology and slogan of the state. This is pertinent to another aspect of four dimensions, based on the theory and standard of Hallin and Mancini: the utterly low professionalization in Chinese journalism, where journalists have to successfully balance the “market forces and the party-press system” to obtain financial benefits and political security. Furthermore, Pan and Lu argue that Chinese journalists “do not fit their practices into the universal model of professionalism”, but “utilize and appropriate diverse and often conflicting ideas of journalism through their improvised and situated practices”, leading to the “truncated and fragmented in Chinese journalism”. Also, unlike the Western conception of relative objectivity in journalism, Hackett and Zhao create a term “regime of objectivity” to describe how Chinese journalists portray information on the precondition of conforming to the state ideology.
Therefore, due to its restricted commercialization and dominated state, Chan summarizes the Chinese media industry’s development as commercialization without independence. Drawing on the above, the Chinese media system can be described as a state-dominated model.
- Chan, Joseph Man. “Commercialization without Independence: Trends and Tensions of Media Development in China”. In China Review 1993, edited by Joseph Cheng Yu-shek and Maurice Brosseau, 25.1 – 25.21. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 1993.
- de Smaele, Hedwig. “The Applicability of Western Media Models on the Russian Media System”. European Journal of Communication 14, no. 2 (1999): 173-89. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323199014002002.
- Dunn, John A. “Lottizzazione Russian Style: Russia’s Two-Tier Media System”. Europe-Asia Studies 66, no. 9 (2014): 1425-51. https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2014.956441.
- Hackett, Robert A., and Yuezhi Zhao. Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics of Objectivity. Edited by Yuezhi Zhao. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Higher Education, 2000.
- Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Communic
- ation, Society and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- ———. “Ten Years after Comparing Media Systems: What Have We Learned?”. Political Communication 34, no. 2 (2017): 155-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2016.1233158.
- Hu, Zhengrong, Peixi Xu, and Deqiang Ji. “China: Media and Power in Four Historical Stages”. In Mapping Brics Media, edited by Kaarle Nordenstreng and Daya Kishan Thussu, 166-80. London ;: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.
- Ivanitsky, Valerij. “Mass Media Market in Post-Soviet Russia [Рынок Сми В Постсоветской России]”. Bulletin of Moscow University, no. 6. (2009): 114–31. Retrieved from http://www.ffl.msu.ru/en/research/bulletin-of-moscow-university/.
- Jones, Paul K., and Michael Pusey. “Political Communication and ‘Media System’: The Australian Canary”. Media, Culture & Society 32, no. 3 (2010): 451-71. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443709361172.
- Keane, John. The Media and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Polity in association with Basil Blackwell, 1991.
- Oates, Sarah. Television, Democracy, and Elections in Russia. Basees/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge, 2006.
- Pan, Zhongdang, and Ye Lu. “Localizing Professionalism: Discursive Practices in China’s Media Reforms”. In Chinese Media, Global Context, edited by
- Chin-Chuan Lee, 210-31: RoutledgeCurzon Taylor & Francis Group, 2003.
- Sonczyk, Wieslaw “Media System: Scope—Structure—Definition”. Media Studies 3, no. 38. (2009). Retrieved from http://mediastudies.eu/.
- Sosnovskaya, Anna. Social Portrait and Identity of Today’s Journalist: St. Petersburg-a Case Study. (Södertörn Academic Studies: 2000). https://bibl.sh.se/skriftserier/hogskolans_skriftserier/Russian_reports/diva2_16051.aspx.
- Tiffen, Rodney. How Australia Compares. Edited by Ross Gittins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Vartanova, Elena. “The Russian Media Model in the Context of Post-Soviet Dynamics”. In Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World, edited by Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, 119-42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Wang, Guoqing. “China Newspaper Annual Development Report [中国报业年度发展报告]”. People’s Daily, August 5 2005. http://www.people.com.cn/.
- Zhao, Yuezhi. “Understanding China’s Media System in a World Historical Context”. In Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World, edited by Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, 143-74. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Zhou, Shuhua. “China: Media System”. In, edited by W. Donsbach2015.
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