Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1988

How the US lied over cartoon riots

This article is over 15 years, 11 months old
The US has used protests in the Middle East to criticise Iran and Syria, says University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole
Issue 1988

“Condoleezza Rice is a liar. The US secretary of state blamed Iran and Syria for inciting violence over Danish caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

“The problem is that she is lying, and this irresponsible charge is another in a long series of propaganda ploys whereby the Bush administration manipulates public opinion in the US.”

Cole checked all statements on the controversy before the protests in Damascus and Beirut and found that “neither the CIA, nor BBC Monitoring, nor any of the wire services noticed any Syrian official saying anything at all about this.

“It is being alleged that the Baath regime was behind the burning of the Danish embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on the grounds that it could not have happened unless the police state allowed it.

“But things have got out of hand before in Syria, sometimes on a large scale.

“It is likely that the regime allowed the initial demonstration, which radical Sunni Muslims took advantage of to torch the embassy.

“The Syrian regime hates radical Islam and doesn’t like disorder either. We cannot assume that the embassy burning was directed by the Syrian state. Rice and Bush have decided to get Syria, and are using the current crisis as a stick with which to beat it, and are lying shamelessly.”

Cole says that Iran had been trying to cool tempers:

“Its embassy was active in Copenhagen pushing for an apology in the autumn of 2005, but I can’t find evidence of inflammatory statements until the past week.

“Some Iranian officials have called for calm on the issue, rather than inciting it.

“Despite wild charges that the Iranian protege Hizbollah [a Shia group] was behind the Beirut embassy burning, in fact the demonstration was a Sunni demonstration. The Shia don’t seem to have been part of it.

“You can only imagine the memo from [Bush’s chief political strategist] Karl Rove –  ‘Anything happens in the Middle East, blame it on Syria and Iran. Works every time’.”

To read Juan Cole’s Informed Comment website on the Middle East go to

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