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Iran’s “Cognitive War” Is More Dangerous than Missiles and Killer Drones

An Iranian poster on the streets of Tehran, “We Are the Superpower,” 2020. Khamenei often displays messages on Tehran’s large Vali Asr “revolving” billboard.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has directed a sophisticated propaganda campaign aimed at leveraging American student protests against the alleged genocide in Gaza to erode the foundations of the United States. This campaign reflects Khamenei's worldview, which borrows heavily from historical propaganda techniques used by Goebbels and the Soviet Union. The propaganda seeks to link American support for Gaza with broader anti-U.S. sentiments, using psychological tools and influencers like intellectuals and journalists to shape public opinion.

Khamenei emphasizes the power of media in modern conflicts, considering it more influential than traditional military assets. His narrative portrays Israel as a racist, genocidal regime and positions the U.S. as complicit, aiming to turn American and global opinion against both nations. He strategically uses terms like "genocide" and "racism" to galvanize support and frame the Palestinian cause in moral terms.

The campaign's ultimate goal is to foster widespread animosity toward the U.S. and support for the Palestinian cause, potentially destabilizing American society. Khamenei's statements indicate a phased cognitive struggle, with an emphasis on sustaining global attention on Gaza and leveraging university protests to challenge U.S. policies. This approach includes building an infrastructure within the U.S. to support Iranian interests and exploiting perceived weaknesses in the Biden administration. Khamenei's rhetoric and strategic actions suggest a deliberate effort to harness dissent and anti-Israel sentiments to undermine U.S. influence and support for Israel.

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