Iran's One-Two Punch to Reset Reality

Iran's state-controlled media are waging an all-out propaganda assault to cast post-election unrest in the Islamic Republic as a futile attempt by "the West" to interfere.

From news stories alleging a British Embassy staffer was a ring-leader of the dramatic street protests, to editorial columns deriding a "West that imagined that supporting chaos in Iran would reduce the Islamic Republic's power," the message is clear.

Iran's Fars news agency reported Wednesday, citing unnamed officials, that one of three U.K. Embassy staffers (eight were arrested, five have been freed, all were Iranian nationals) still in detention, "had a remarkable role during the recent unrest in managing it behind the scenes."

Even if Fars, described as a "semi-official" news agency, had named its source in the government, the staffer's role in the protests would be impossible to verify, as Iran has kicked almost every foreign journalist out of the country.

With the street demonstrations largely squashed under the foot of security forces, more energy is being focused on painting Iran's leaders as protectors of the society, under threat from Israel and its alleged surrogates in Washington.

Iran's Press TV has an "exclusive interview" Wednesday with the man who ran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election campaign. He told the network that President Obama, "originally took a soft stance on the results of Iran's presidential election but then was forced by the Zionists and the U.S. neoconservatives to make tough comments about Iran."

Many editorial columns discuss the election upheaval as if it ended weeks ago. One writer declared the United States the primary loser in the aftermath of the protests.

Hamdollah Emadi-Heydari wrote in the newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz that, "The West, under America's leadership, which, nervous of Iran's hazy election climate put all its eggs in [Iranian] rioters' basket, is being considered the main loser in the recent events as the political climate is gradually becoming clearer."

"What is significant now after the unrests have calmed down in Iran is that the West has put all its eggs in the rioters' basket," writes Emadi-Heydari.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer was one of the last Western journalists to be forced out of Iran and she maintains contact with sources inside the country, who paint a different picture.

(AP Photo)

At left: Reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi attends a rally in Ghoba Mosque in Tehran, June 28, 2009.

Despite dramatically increased police presence on the streets of Tehran, the opposition movement continues to try and rally against the June 12 election results, which they claim were heavily rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad.

On Sunday, some 5,000 people gathered in central Tehran — they were reportedly met with batons and tear gas.

One man who joined an effort Monday to form a human chain on one of Tehran's main thoroughfares, in defiance of the regime, described what they were up against:

"As soon as more than five people tried to huddle, the groups were broken up. In downtown and midtown I heard people tried to walk in unison but they were beaten by batons and clubs."

Palmer points out that Iran's election has already fallen from the headlines of most Western media, and she says opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi lost his opportunity to try and force real change.

It has been a classic one-two punch from Iran's hard-line rulers: first they hit on the streets with batons, tear gas and arrests of opposition leaders. Now, in the newspapers and television broadcasts, they're striking with their own version of the truth.

If their version is repeated often enough, and dissenting voices are kept silent, it will quickly become the accepted reality for many Iranians. In this manner, the Islamic establishment which has ruled the country for 30 years may be able to sweep this "revolution" under the carpet.
  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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