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Friday, January 24, 2020

Anti-U.S. Protests in Baghdad: Interim Summary

By Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace 

Key Takeaway: Iran’s proxy militia network and Iraqi nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr coordinated a “million-strong” anti-U.S. march in Baghdad on January 24. The march remained peaceful despite fears of clashes between supporters of the march and pre-existing protests.[1] Sadr and Iran’s proxies deliberately chose a location for their march away from the separate, popular anti-government protests which have persisted since October 2019. American policymakers should not perceive the January 24 march as representative of all Iraqis or as a political mandate that warrants abandoning U.S. security commitments to Iraq. The relative success of the anti-U.S. march is unlikely to significantly alter the character or core objectives of Iraq’s pre-existing protest movement, which include a unified and sovereign Iraq free from sectarian divides, corrupt elites, and foreign interference from all actors, including Iran and the United States.

Nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iran’s Iraqi proxy network convened an estimated 250,000 anti-U.S. demonstrators in Baghdad on January 24.[2] This march is not a reflection of the popular, persistent protest in Iraq, which has been much larger in scale and geographic reach. The march was instead a deliberate, contrived show of political force directed at the United States.
  • Either Sadr or the proxy militias organized mass transit to carry their supporters from across Iraq’s Shi’a-majority southern provinces into Baghdad. March organizers also provided food and Iraqi flags to participants.[3] The proportion of Sadrist marchers to proxy militia members or grassroots supporters of the march’s agenda remains unclear from open source reporting and analyses. It is also unclear whether Sadrists, militias, or some combination of the two coordinated the march logistics. A spokesperson for Sadr presented prepared remarks to the crowd through loudspeakers.[4]
  • Organizers of the march provided sophisticated signage targeting a U.S. and international, as well as an Iraqi, audience. That signage included direct, English-language appeals to the American people and images of U.S. figures. Some marchers carried cardboard cutouts of U.S. President Donald Trump and of American soldiers with rope nooses around their necks. Marchers held signs in both English and Arabic with messages such as, “You arrived vertically but will leave horizontally,” “no doubt no doubt, U.S. gonna be out,” and “the Dignity, the Independence, & the Destiny of Iraq Depends on Expelling American Troops.”[5]
  • Iran’s proxies and their supporters were disciplined and did not, in large numbers, fly PMF flags or carry pro-Iran propaganda. Marchers instead broadly followed Sadr’s earlier appeals to carry only Iraqi flags and to not display their affiliation with any militia, religion, or political bloc.[6] The curated nationalist imagery of this march stands in stark contrast to the December 31 march carried out by flag-waving and overtly identifiable militiamen, which culminated in the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.[7]
The U.S. must not conflate contrived expressions of anti-U.S. sentiment by Sadr and Iran’s proxies with the more neutral and sovereignty-focused nationalism of the pre-existing protest movement, which continues and is unlikely to alter its core objectives. Iraq’s pre-existing popular protest movement continued to demonstrate in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and across Southern Iraq. The relative success of the anti-U.S. march is unlikely to significantly alter the character or core objectives of this preexisting movement, which include a unified and sovereign Iraq free from sectarian divides, corrupt elites, and foreign interference from all actors, including Iran and the United States. Many of these protesters perceive Iran’s proxy militia network as another manifestation of corruption and foreign interference in Iraqi affairs and may take issue with Sadrists or Iranian proxies trying to infringe upon their movement.[8] Iran and its proxies will continue to view that movement, which Sadr has sometimes supported, as an existential threat.

Sadr and the Iranian proxy network may now cooperate to take additional political measures to add pressure on U.S. forces to withdraw, but face hurdles in doing so. Sadr and Iran’s proxy militias represent the two largest political blocs, or parties, in Iraq’s parliament, the Council of Representatives (CoR). The political victory of the successful anti-U.S. protest could stimulate renewed cooperation between the political blocs in the CoR aligned with Sadr and those aligned with Iran’s proxies. A new pan-Shi’a coalition in the CoR could enable a breakthrough in choosing a new prime minister. Iran’s objective is likely to ensure that a new prime minister is willing to revoke the executive agreement that permits coalition forces to operate in Iraq. The initial potential for a new pan-Shi’a political coalition was signaled by the January 5 CoR session in which a Sadr-Iranian proxy coalition came together, met quorum, and passed a resolution requesting the expulsion of foreign troops from Iraq without the participation of non-Shi’a political blocs.[9] However, it is far from clear whether Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iranian proxy network can sustain their political cooperation.

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[1] Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace, “Warning Intelligence Update: Iran Increases Pressure on U.S. Forces in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, January 23, 2020, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2020/01/warning-intelligence-update-iran.html.
[2] Alissa J. Rubin and Falih Hassan, “Protesters Mass in Baghdad, Demanding U.S. Leave Iraq,” New York Times, January 24, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/world/middleeast/protests-iraq-baghdad.html.
[3] New York Times, January 24, 2020.
[4] Ayman Henna, “Iraqis mass to urge US troop ouster, rival rallies turn deadly,” AFP, January 24, 2020, https://news.yahoo.com/iraqis-apprehensive-ahead-clerics-anti-us-rally-025518437.html.
[5] John Davison and Aziz El Yaakoubi, “'No, No America': Iraq protesters demand expulsion of U.S. troops,” Reuters, January 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-sadr/no-no-america-iraq-protesters-demand-expulsion-of-u-s-troops-idUSKBN1ZN0RI; [“Scenes from the anti-American demonstrations,”] Sumaria, January 24, 2020, https://www.alsumaria(.)tv/news/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/332479/%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%AF-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%88%D8%AC%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A.
[6] al-Iraqi, Saleh M., Facebook, January 15, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/salihMAliraqii/photos/a.1087466901326096/3692259320846828/?type=3&theater.
[7] Tim Lister, “A proxy war between the US and Iran just moved a step closer,” CNN, December 31, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/30/middleeast/us-strikes-iraq-syria-analysis-intl/index.html.
[8] [Translation] “A Number of Sadrist Protesters' Tents Were Raised in Tahrir Square and Other Provinces.” al-Ghad Press, January 24, 2020. https://www.alghadpress.com/view.php?cat=232031.
[9] Katherine Lawlor, “Iraq's Parliament Votes to End U.S. Troop Presence in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, January 5, 2020, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2020/01/iraqs-parliament-votes-to-end-security.html.

Syria Situation Report: January 8 - 21, 2020

By Michael Land (ISW Syria Team) and Nada Atieh (Syria Direct)

The following Syria Situation Report (SITREP) Map summarizes significant developments in the war in Syria during the period January 8 - 21, 2020. Key SITREP events during this period include open protests and insurgent activity against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Southern Syria, likely attempts by Iran to move military shipments through Syria, and pro-regime forces' violation of a Russo-Turkish ceasefire agreement.

Click the image to view an enlarged version of the map.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: January 17 - 22, 2020

By Jason Zhou, Brandon Wallace, and Katherine Lawlor

Key Takeaway: Popular protests against the Iraqi government have surged again in the lead-up to anti-U.S. protests planned for Friday, January 24 by nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iranian proxy militias. Protesters in Baghdad and across Southern Iraq attempted to block roads and infrastructure by burning tires and holding sit-ins starting on January 19. Unidentified security forces again used violence, killing at least a dozen. Protesters also burned a headquarters of the Iranian proxy Badr Organization in Basra City. Meanwhile, Sadr has rhetorically distanced himself from Iranian proxy militias by calling on his supporters to demonstrate separately from the militias on January 24.
Click the image to view the enlarged Iraq Situation Report Map.


Warning Intelligence Update: Iran Increases Pressure on U.S. Forces in Iraq

By Katherine Lawlor with Brandon Wallace

Key Takeaway: Iran is organizing a new effort to increase political and military pressure against U.S. forces in an effort to compel an American withdrawal from Iraq. Iran’s proxy militia groups are working with Iraqi nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to organize a “million strong march” on January 24 to oppose the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Sadr’s support lends additional credibility to the march and may enable Iran’s proxies to generate a more significant protest than they otherwise would be able to achieve. Iran is also attempting to coalesce its lethal Iraqi proxy militias, and potentially Sadr, into a more unified military force to target U.S. forces in the region. Iran faces some obstacles in doing so, but the formation of an anti-U.S. Iraqi resistance front poses a significant threat, even in its preliminary stages of organization.

Tripwire: Iranian proxies and nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al Sadr are coordinating a joint “million strong march” against U.S. troop presence in Iraq on Friday, January 24. Sadr announced the march on January 14 and major Iranian proxies endorsed the march in subsequent days, including leaders of Badr, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and Harakat al-Nujaba.[1] Iran seeks to use this protest to apply additional political pressure on the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq and on Iraqis to compel that withdrawal. Iran also seeks to use this march to coopt Iraq’s popular protest movement. Sadr’s participation is an inflection because he ordinarily opposes Iran’s proxies in Iraq. Sadr’s support lends additional credibility to the march and may enable Iran’s proxies to generate a more significant protest than they would otherwise have been able to organize.

Pattern: The upcoming “million strong march” is one element of Iran’s reinvigorated effort to expel U.S. forces from Iraq. Iran began organizing its lethal Iraqi proxies into a new “resistance front,” which may include Sadr, after the U.S. strike that killed IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani and de-facto PMF leader Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020. Iran’s proxies held a flurry of meetings in Beirut, Lebanon and Qom, Iran from January 9-13 to coordinate this resistance group and the million-strong march. Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah convened the first meeting in Beirut. The reported objective of the talks was to overcome internal and intra-militia divisions in order to establish a unified resistance movement to oppose U.S. diplomatic and military presence in Iraq.[2] Before these meetings, multiple proxy leaders had begun using similar language to describe “international resistance groups,” “International Resistance Regiments,” and an “Iraqi Resistance Front.”[3] Multiple proxy leaders then traveled to Qom for further meetings with the new IRGC-QF commander, as well as Moqtada al-Sadr and his aides. Sadr and Iran’s proxies subsequently announced the “million strong march.”[4]

Iran’s effort to create a new “resistance front” is still in its early stages and faces multiple obstacles, including rivalries between its proxy militias. Nevertheless, this attempt to establish an umbrella organization demonstrates that Iran perceives a new requirement to organize its proxies as well as an opportunity to coopt Sadr. Iran is likely concerned about reasserting firm control over its proxy network in order to ensure that its proxies do not act unilaterally following the death of their usual organizers, Soleimani and Muhandis.[5]

It is unclear whether Sadr will join the “resistance front” as a military or political actor; his support for the “million-strong march” and “resistance front” is likely based in pragmatic self-interest and may not last. Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist who would prefer that both Iran and the United States demonstrate respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and withdraw their military forces. He is a political and military competitor of the most prominent Iranian proxy leader, Hadi al-Ameri, who fought for Iran in the Iran-Iraq war and is fundamentally loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader rather than to the sense of Iraqi nationalism which animates Sadr. Ameri was particularly close to IRGC-QF Commander Soleimani. However, Sadr, Ameri, and most Iraqi Shi’a politicians overcame their differences to pass a non-binding resolution to expel U.S. forces on January 5.[6] Sadr appears to have decided to align himself, at least temporarily, with Ameri and Iran’s proxies to pursue their shared interest of expelling U.S. forces.

Sadr is attempting to retain some independence even as he supports Iran’s effort. He ordered his followers who join the march to wave only the Iraqi flag, implicitly discouraging them from flying the PMF flag as Iran’s proxies likely intend. He explicitly forbade participants to “disclose in any way [their] religious, ideological, ethnic, partisan, military, or jihadist affiliation,” or to identify themselves as anything other than Iraqi.[7] This order places a conscious distance between Sadr’s Iraqi nationalist motivations and the pro-Iran sentiments of the proxy militias. Iraq’s highest Shi’a religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, strongly warned against actors who may attempt to “exploit” the popular protests to “serve their own interests” in an indirect condemnation of Iran and Sadr’s effort.[8]

Less than forty-eight hours before the protests were scheduled to begin, Sadr released a statement further differentiating himself and his demonstrators from Iran’s proxy militias. A Facebook post on a page which Sadr uses to communicate with his followers stated that “[the Sadrist demonstrators] are not among the undisciplined militias, and we do not want them in our demonstrations.”[9] This statement sets the stage for three potentially conflicting demonstrations on Friday: the anti-American demonstration of Sadr, the anti-American demonstration of Iran’s proxies, and the continued appeals for government reform by Iraq’s popular protest movement.

Militia groups which may be involved in the Iraqi resistance front:
  • Kata’ib Hezbollah[10]
  • Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq[11]
  • Jaysh al-Mahdi, Saraya al-Salam, and the Promised Day Brigades[12]
  • Harakat al-Nujaba[13]
  • Kataib Jund al-Imam[14]
  • Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada [15]
  • Kata’ib al-Imam Ali[16]
  • Saraya Imam al-Husayn al-Istishhadiya [Unknown Affiliation][17]


Timing: Iran’s effort to create a “resistance front” and a “million-strong march” against the U.S. in Iraq is the next phase of its retaliation for the strike against Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s first phase included leveraging its political influence to support the non-binding resolution in Iraq’s parliament that asked the Iraqi government to expel U.S. forces on January 5 and the ballistic missile strike that attempted but failed to kill American personnel at a base in Anbar and in Iraqi Kurdistan on January 8.[18] The missile strike was an overt escalation by Iran’s military. Iran then signaled its intent to pursue further escalation via proxies. On January 9, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force gave a press conference in which he stated that the missile strike was the start of a major operation across the region. He stood in front of a number of flags depicting Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” including Iraq’s PMF, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Pakistani Liwa Zainebiyoun, the Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun, the Hamas Political Office, the IRGC Aerospace Force, the IRGC, and the Iranian national flag.[19] The flurry of meetings between Iranian proxy groups in Beirut began the same day.

The U.S. strike against Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis on January 3 was a turning point for Sadr’s behavior in Iraq. His coordination of the march, his potential involvement with the Iraqi resistance front, and his temporary political alliance with Iran’s proxies are significant departures from his ordinary approach. Sadr is traditionally opposed to all foreign, including Iranian, interference in Iraqi affairs. He has previously called for the dissolution of the PMF and has kept the funding, training, and organizational structure of his own militias separate from the PMF.[20] Sadr also leads a bloc in the Iraqi parliament that is a counterweight to Iran’s proxy coalition and had been a dampener on Iran’s influence prior to the January 5 resolution. Furthermore, Sadr previously supported Iraq’s popular protest movement from Iran’s proxies, which see those protests as an existential threat to their interests.[21] The U.S. strike that killed Soleimani and Muhandis changed Sadr’s calculus regarding how to pursue his desire for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, making him more amenable to working with Iran to do so.

Assessment: The scale of Friday’s anti-U.S. protest will be an important indicator of the combined influence of Sadr and Iran’s proxies, but it is imperative to distinguish between new anti-US protests and the pre-existing popular protest movement. Sadr’s support for Friday’s anti-U.S. protest is likely not enough to fully coopt the protest movement and may instead generate backlash from protesters. Clashes between different groups of protesters as well as Iran’s proxies are likely. Sadr attempted to pre-empt this conflict by calling for the merger of these separate protest movements as two branches of the same “tree of reform.”[22] However, this framing is unlikely to convince the protesters, who are weary of political gamesmanship and often condemn Sadr as part of the same political elite that enables government corruption and Iran’s proxies. Furthermore, Sadr will not have control over Iran’s proxy militias or their supporters.

Iran’s most likely course of action (MLCOA) is to use even a limited success on Friday to bolster its efforts to expel U.S. forces via political pressure and limited and controlled military escalation. Politically, Iran will continue to portray the U.S. presence as a threat to Iraq’s sovereignty and security and will likely take further action via its supporters inside the Iraqi parliament. This effort may include forcing through a new prime minister and new legislation which suits Iran’s agenda. Militarily, Iran will likely escalate through its proxies with the intent to erode the American will to remain in Iraq and the Middle East. This will most likely include continued, discrete attacks against locations containing U.S. assets (civilian and military), such as indirect and occasional direct rocket fire on facilities that hold U.S. troops or diplomats. Iran may also utilize its proxy network in Iraq to take U.S. persons hostage, leveraging their safe return against a U.S. withdrawal. Sadr’s kinetic support is not necessary to undertake this COA, but his political support is invaluable to Iran’s efforts.

If Iran does not feel that enough progress is being made, it could escalate to the first most dangerous course of action (MDCOA): to use its proxy network and a potential Sadrist alliance to launch a coordinated set of near-simultaneous and lethal attacks against U.S. persons, forces, or diplomats in Iraq in an effort to make the political or military cost of a U.S. troop presence in the region too high for the U.S. to sustain. Iran will undertake these actions if it assesses that it cannot coerce the U.S. to leave through discrete attacks. This COA could include assaults against bases holding U.S. forces or diplomatic facilities in Baghdad or Arbil. Sadr’s support is not necessary for Iran to start down this path, but the participation of his militia groups would render this COA substantially more dangerous. Historical precedent may lead Iran and its proxies to believe that considerable U.S. casualties, hostage-taking, and assassinations of U.S. officials would force the U.S. to pull out of Iraq. The U.S. withdrew from Lebanon in 1984 following the bombing of a U.S. marine barracks and the kidnapping and subsequent killing of the CIA station chief in Beirut by likely Iranian proxies.

Alternatively or concurrently, Iran could attempt to assassinate U.S. persons. The Iranian regime regards the U.S. killing of Soleimani to be an assassination, and may order an “equivalent” assassination of a U.S. official, likely a current or former military commander or senior diplomat.[23]

An alternate MDCOA is that Sadr or one or more of Iran’s proxies could conduct a major and independent escalation against U.S. forces, persons, or diplomats without Iranian knowledge or permission. Iraqi militia groups may be more willing or able to freelance pursuant to their own agenda, rather than to Iran’s military or diplomatic strategy, without the supervision and control of Soleimani and Muhandis. Sadr and formerly Sadrist splinters like AAH leader Qais al-Khazali have historically been less receptive to Iranian directives. Both previously operated as special groups during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and clashed with both U.S. and Iranian-proxy forces. Both may choose to target U.S. forces and personnel. This MDCOA risks further escalation of the U.S.-Iran conflict without either side deciding to kinetically escalate. Iran is likely attempting to mitigate this risk by working to establish renewed and more centralized control over its proxies.

Implications: Iran’s campaign in Iraq threatens both U.S. forces and the Iraqi popular protest movement that is demanding better governance, Iraqi sovereignty, and basic rights. The formation of an anti-U.S. Iraqi resistance front poses a significant threat, even in its preliminary stages of organization. Each of these militias is individually capable of lethal attacks on U.S. forces, as is Sadr’s movement. Together, they could pose a more dangerous and united front. Their internal differences and fractious nature mitigates, but does not eliminate, this threat. Iran’s attempt to coopt the Iraqi protest movement also threatens to undermine and discredit the pre-existing popular movement and isolate it from international recognition or support, which would itself be a victory for Iran. A coordinated effort by Iran’s militias to crush Iraq’s largely peaceful popular protest movement could also be devastating to Iraq’s civilians, especially if Sadr decreases his backing of the protest movement. Furthermore, deteriorating U.S.-Iraqi relations have already damaged the efficacy of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq. If U.S. basing privileges at Iraqi military bases are revoked, the U.S. would likely be unable to continue its counter-ISIS fight in Iraq or Syria.

Indicators: Indicators of the MLCOA would include a continuation of, and relative escalation from, the recent baseline—consistent, indirect, and discrete rocket fire at U.S. forces and diplomatic facilities that causes few or no U.S. or coalition casualties—as well as an increase in the kidnapping of U.S. persons. It would also include signs of renewed progress in negotiations over a prime minister replacement as well as other deals to introduce new legislation to the Iraqi parliament.

Possible indicators of the first, Iran-directed MDCOA include a substantial increase in direct rocket fire and U.S. casualties, which could indicate that Iran’s proxies are gearing up for greater escalation. Other indicators include signs of additional coordination between leaders of Shi’a Militia Groups, increased coordination between the Shi’a Militia Groups and the Sadrists, and relocations of PMF units. Specifically, if these groups begin to use the same name for their resistance movement, appoint a leader, or begin to make specific demands, U.S. forces and persons in Iraq should be on high alert. Previously unknown Shi’a Militia Groups popping up outside of the established Iranian proxy network are also a significant potential indicator of this COA. At least two indicators have already occurred. Reuters reported on January 4 that prior to his death, Soleimani was working to establish new proxy militia groups to conduct attacks on U.S. forces with even greater deniability.[24] A new group calling itself Saraya Imam al-Husayn al-Istishhadiya released a video on January 5 threatening to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq to avenge the deaths of Soleimani and Muhandis.[25]

Possible indicators of the second, militia-directed MDCOA include less cohesion between the Iranian state narrative and the public statements of Iraqi militia groups. Proxy militia leaders may begin to call on their own forces to exercise restraint, indicating that they are concerned about their subordinates operating outside of their command.

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[1] “Influential Iraqi Cleric Sadr Calls for Anti-U.S. Demonstrations.” Reuters, January 14, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-sadr/influential-iraqi-cleric-sadr-calls-for-anti-u-s-demonstrations-idUSKBN1ZD271; al-Iraqi, Saleh M., Facebook, January 15, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/salihMAliraqii/photos/a.1087466901326096/3692259320846828/?type=3&theater; al-Sadr, Moqtada. Twitter, January 14, 2020, https://twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1217083534432768001?s=20; al-Sumaria TV, “Ameri Announces His Support for the Million Demonstration Called by Al-Sadr,” al-Sumaria TV, January 14, 2020, DO NOT GO TO SITE: https://www.alsumaria.tv/news/سياسة/331579/العامري-يعلن-تأييده-للتظاهرة-المليونية-التي-دعا-ال.; al-Khazali, Qais, Twitter, January 14, 2020, https://twitter.com/QaisAlKhazali/status/1217120432308019202?s=20; “Shi'a Paramilitary Group Leader Rallies Iraqis to 2020 Revolution against U.S.,” SITE Enterprise, January 22, 2020, https://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Statements/shi-a-paramilitary-group-leader-rallies-iraqis-to-2020-revolution-against-u-s.html; Harakat al-Nujaba, Twitter, January 14, 2020, https://twitter.com/Alnujaba2/status/1217123542069927937?s=20; “Hezbollah Brigades Recommends Iraqis Prepare 'United Popular Revolution' to Oust U.S. Forces,” SITE Enterprise, January 14, 2020, https://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Statements/hezbollah-brigades-recommends-iraqis-prepare-united-popular-revolution-to-oust-u-s-forces.html.
[2] al-Salhy, Suadad, “EXCLUSIVE: Iran Tasked Nasrallah with Uniting Iraqi Proxies after Soleimani's Death,” Middle East Eye, January 14, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-iran-asked-nasrallah-organise-iraqi-militias-after-soleimanis-death.
[3] al-Sadr, Moqtada, Twitter, January 5, 2020, https://twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1213829592789782529; AFP, “Iran Launches Missiles on Iraq Base Housing US Troops: State TV,” France 24, January 8, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/20200108-iran-launches-missiles-on-iraq-base-housing-us-troops-state-tv; al-Khazali, Qais, Twitter, January 14, 2020, https://twitter.com/QaisAlKhazali/status/1217120432308019202?s=20.
[4] Reuters, January 14, 2020; al-Iraqi, Saleh M., Facebook, January 15, 2020; al-Sadr, Moqtada. Twitter, January 14, 2020.
[5] Mohammmed, Aref. “Thousands Mourn Iran-Backed Paramilitary Linchpin in Southern Iraq.” Reuters, January 7, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-funeral/thousands-mourn-iran-backed-paramilitary-linchpin-in-southern-iraq-idUSKBN1Z61KC.
[6] Lawlor, Katherine. “Iraq's Parliament Votes to End U.S. Troop Presence in Iraq.” Institute for the Study of War, January 5, 2020. http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2020/01/iraqs-parliament-votes-to-end-security.html.
[7] al-Iraqi, Saleh M., Facebook, January 15, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/salihMAliraqii/photos/a.1087466901326096/3692259320846828/?type=3&theater.
[8] al-Abbas Shrine. Twitter, January 15, 2020. https://twitter.com/AlkafeelAbbas/status/1217391449198747648?s=20.
[9] al-Iraqi, Saleh M. Facebook, January 22, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/salihMAliraqii/photos/a.1087466901326096/3720888287983931/?type=3&theater.
[10] SITE Enterprise, January 14, 2020
[11] al-Khazali, Qais. Twitter, January 14, 2020
[12] Lawlor, Katherine, Brandon Wallace, and Jason Zhou, “Iraq Situation Report: January 4 - 6, 2020,” Institute for the Study of War, January 10, 2020, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2020/01/iraq-situation-report-january-4-6-2020.html; al-Sadr, Moqtada. Twitter, January 3, 2020, https://twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1212993817500168192?s=20.
[13] Harakat al-Nujaba. Twitter, January 14, 2020.
[14] Middle East Eye, January 14, 2020.
[15] Middle East Eye, January 14, 2020.
[16] Middle East Eye, January 14, 2020.
[17] “Alleged Shi'ite Militant Group Threatens U.S. Soldiers in Iraq in Video,” SITE Enterprise, January 5, 2020, https://ent.siteintelgroup.com/Statements/alleged-shi-ite-militant-group-threatens-u-s-soldiers-in-iraq-in-video.html.
[18] Stewart, Phil, “Iran Intended to Kill U.S. Personnel in Missile Attack: U.S. General,” Reuters, January 8, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-pentagon/iran-intended-to-kill-us-personnel-in-missile-attack-us-general-idUSKBN1Z72ZM.
[19] Entekhab News, Twitter, January 9, 2020, https://twitter.com/Entekhab_News/status/1215254497431187456.
[20] Dury-Agri, Jessica Rose, Omer Kassim, and Patrick Martin, “Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Forces: Order of Battle,” Institute for the Study of War, December 2017, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Iraq-ISF PMF Orders of Battle_0_0.pdf.
[21] “أصحاب ‘القبعات الزرقاء’ يسلمون قواطع المسؤولية في ساحة التحرير للقوات الأمنية.” al-Sumaria TV, December 20, 2019. DO NOT GO TO SITE: https://www.alsumaria.tv/news/محليات/329097/أصحاب-القبعات-الزرقاء-يسلمون-قواطع-المسؤولية-في-سا.
[22] al-Sadr, Moqtada. Twitter, January 16, 2020. https://twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1217706923694481408.
[23] Croucher, Shane, “Iran Lawmaker from Soleimani's Home Province Offers $3 Million Cash Reward to Kill Trump,” Newsweek, January 21, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/iran-trump-kill-reward-soleimani-assassination-1483168.
[24] “Inside the Plot by Iran's Soleimani to Attack U.S. Forces in Iraq.” Reuters, January 4, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-soleimani-insight/inside-the-plot-by-irans-soleimani-to-attack-us-forces-in-iraq-idUSKBN1Z301Z.
[25] SITE Enterprise, January 5, 2020.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: January 14 - 16, 2020

By Brandon Wallace and Katherine Lawlor

Key Takeaway: Iran is preparing to increase political pressure against the U.S. presence in Iraq by generating significant anti-American protests on Friday, January 24 with support from nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Iran seeks to integrate Sadr into a new “resistance front” that aligns Iranian proxy groups with Sadr’s popular influence to expel U.S. forces. Sadr has thus far supported this effort but retains freedom of action and will continue to support popular protests against the Iraqi state, which Iran views as a severe threat.

Click the image to view the enlarged Iraq Situation Report Map.



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: January 10 - 13, 2020

By Brandon Wallace and Katherine Lawlor

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is assessing the ongoing unrest in Iraq and its effects on political-security dynamics. The Iraq Situation Report (SITREP) series summarizes key events and likely developments to come. This Iraq SITREP map covers the period January 10 - 13, 2020.

Key Takeaway: Mass protests resumed across Iraq on Friday, January 10 after a lull following the U.S. strike that killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 2. Protesters resumed typical chants against all foreign interference. Meanwhile, Iran is forming a new “resistance front” among its Iraqi proxies and nationalist Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Iraqi leaders of Iranian proxy groups met in Qom, Iran, separately, with the newly appointed IRGC-QF Commander, Esmail Ghaani, and Moqtada al-Sadr on January 10 after reportedly traveling to Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Click the image to view the enlarged Iraq Situation Report Map.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Kremlin’s Expanding Media Conglomerate

By Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros 

Key Takeaway: The Kremlin is building a global media conglomerate and attempting to pull countries around the world into Russia’s information space. Russia uses its information space to expand its influence around the world, mask the Kremlin’s aggression, and spread disinformation that undermines the U.S. and the West.

The Kremlin is adapting the ways in which it expands its global media space. Russian President Vladimir Putin has prioritized growing the reach and influence of Russian media throughout his two decades in power. The Kremlin, however, launched a distinct campaign around 2015 aimed at forming partnerships with local media outlets around the world, moving beyond simply expanding the availability of Russian media networks.

Russia has signed at least 50 media cooperation agreements in the last five years. Most of these agreements focus on content sharing between Russian-controlled media outlets, such as RT and Sputnik, and local outlets in various countries (See Appendix). Some agreements include Russian media training for journalists from other countries. Finally, some of the agreements are intergovernmental cooperation exchanges between Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media and its foreign counterparts.

Russia is pursuing a number of objectives through establishing local media partnerships.
  • The Kremlin is attempting to make its global information web more resilient and enduring. Russia’s information space will likely be less vulnerable to counter-disinformation efforts if the Kremlin both embeds its media with foreign outlets and secures a network of institutional ties at the governmental level. The Kremlin also seeks to shape the training, methods, and views of journalists around the world so that the Kremlin’s “ways” and narratives continue to live even if host governments expel Kremlin-affiliated outlets. Russian outlets have already conducted a number of such trainings. Sputnik even launched a special “Sputnik School of Young Journalists” project to train emerging reporters globally.[1]
  • The Kremlin also likely seeks to turn RT, Sputnik, Ruptly, TASS, and its other controlled outlets into dominant news wire sources worldwide to compete with services like Reuters. The Kremlin is focusing on boosting the prestige and name recognition of Russian media brands. Russia’s local media partners both attribute shared content to Russia and sometimes place the logos of Russian media outlets in their products. Russia also likely seeks to eliminate the distinction between private, independent Western outlets and Kremlin-controlled Russian outlets by placing Russian content next to content from Western media outlets.[2]
  • The Kremlin’s push for media agreements supports Russia’s larger campaigns to cultivate influence in certain regions and countries. These media cooperation agreements are often an integrated component of larger packaged deals. There is a clear alignment between Russia’s push in Southeast Asia and the appearance of media cooperation agreements with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Similarly, media agreements with African countries supported the Kremlin’s push to expand its influence in Africa, a continental campaign that the authors have analyzed in detail.[3]
The Kremlin launched the campaign to cultivate partnerships with local media outlets around the world simultaneously with its revision of Russia’s Information Security Doctrine. The Kremlin revised and published its new doctrine in 2015 and 2016, respectively.[4] The new doctrine defined “growing bias with regards to Russia in the foreign media” and “international efforts to block the activity of Russian media” among Russia’s key challenges.[5] The Kremlin has likely assessed that it needs to create a global information space with lasting ties to local structures and to build media coalitions as essential requirements for securing Russia’s grand strategic objectives of reestablishing Russia as great power and ending “U.S. hegemony.”

The Kremlin’s overall strategic objective in the information space is to shape the narratives surrounding Russia’s and the West’s roles in the world, and to gain acceptance for Russia’s aggressive behavior. The Kremlin wages a wide array of information campaigns in support of various objectives, ranging from normalizing its violations of international norms to undermining the Western sanctions regime.

The Kremlin also has faced a number of setbacks and slowed efforts over the last five years. Russia’s push to sign cooperation agreements has the most momentum outside the West. Russia was able to secure partnership with only a handful of Western outlets. The Kremlin is also facing backlash against its efforts as evidenced by multiple incidents between 2016 and 2020. Estonia forced Russia to shut down its Sputnik office in Estonia in January 2020.[6] Latvia shut down nine Kremlin-linked channels in November 2019.[7] Lithuania deported Sputnik’s chief editor in Lithuania in May 2019.[8] A Bolivian television operator terminated RT broadcasting in November-December 2019.[9] The CEO of a major online news website in the Philippines publicly warned the Philippine government against sending its employees to get information training in Russia during a Philippine Senate hearing on fake news proliferation in January 2018.[10] A Slovakian media outlet revoked a partnership agreement with Sputnik after major pushback from the public in 2016.[11]

The Kremlin will continue to prioritize building out its information space in an effort to expand its global narratives and gain acceptance for Russia’s illegal behavior. The Kremlin might also use its partnerships with local media to obscure the origin of its disinformation campaigns. Most of the current Russian media partners attribute shared content to Russian outlets, as the Kremlin’s current priority is building out the Russian media brand, but this calculus might change. The Kremlin is also likely to double down on its journalism training efforts to cultivate an international cadre of journalists to spread Russian narratives and principles.

ISW will provide a more detailed analysis of the Kremlin’s evolution in the information space in a forthcoming paper focused on Putin’s geopolitical adaptations.

Appendix: Russia’s Media Cooperation Deals 

2015

Serbia – RT signed a content sharing agreement with Serbia’s Studio B public radio station in December 2014. Studio B started to broadcast RT’s Serbian language programs daily in January 2015.[12]

Egypt – Sputnik signed a memorandum of cooperation on information exchange and content sharing with Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper in February 2015. Translated Sputnik and RT stories appear in Bawaba Al-Ahram, the paper’s digital website, next to reporting from news agencies like Reuters.[13]

Mexico – The Rossiya Segodnya media group signed a cooperation agreement on Spanish-language content sharing with Mexico’s Notimex state news agency in April 2015.[14]

Cambodia – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on joint projects and content sharing with Cambodia’s Agence Kampuchea Press national press agency in November 2015.[15]

Indonesia – Radio Sputnik signed a content sharing agreement with Indonesia’s Antara news media company in December 2015.[16]

2016

Algeria – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint media products with the Algeria Press Service in April 2016.[17] “Algeria and Russia are working together to build a multipolar and diverse world,” said Oleg Osipov, the Deputy Chief Editor of Rossiya Segodnya media group, which owns Sputnik.

Japan – Sputnik reported that it signed a cooperation agreement on joint projects with Japan’s Kyodo News agency in March 2016.[18] Kyodo News maintains a Sputnik-branded image library on its website.[19]

Syria – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) in June 2016.[20]

Lebanon – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement with Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV in June 2016.[21]

Paraguay – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on joint projects and content sharing with Paraguay’s Secretariat of Information and Communication (SICOM) in June 2016. Under the agreement, Sputnik will share information and develop joint projects with the Paraguayan IP news agency, Paraguay TV channel, and Radio Nacional del Paraguay.[22]

Egypt – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Egypt’s Akhbar Al-Yom newspaper in August 2016.[23]

Italy – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Italy’s Askanews press agency in October 2016.[24]

2017

Myanmar – Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar’s Ministry of Information in February 2017. The countries agreed to cooperate in the field of mass media.[25]

South Africa – Sputnik signed an agreement on content sharing and joint projects with South Africa’s SAN News government news agency in March 2017.[26]

Turkey – TASS signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency in March 2017.[27]

Cuba – Radio Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on joint radio broadcasting with Cuba’s state news agency Prensa Latina in March 2017.[28]

China – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with China’s Global Times tabloid newspaper in April 2017.[29]

Iran – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with the Iranian government-operated Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) in May 2017.[30]

Bulgaria – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with the Bulgarian Standart newspaper in May 2017.[31]

Vietnam – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Vietnam News Agency, Vietnam’s government news agency, in June 2017.[32]

Mongolia – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Mongolia’s Montsame, Mongolia’s state news agency, in September 2017.[33]

China – The Rossiya Segodnya media group signed a cooperation agreement with China’s Alibaba Group’s Alibaba Culture Communication aimed at “stimulating innovative processes of production and dissemination of the media content” in September 2017.[34]

Philippines – Russia and the Philippines signed an intergovernmental agreement on mass media cooperation as a part of a broader package in November 2017.[35]

Indonesia – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with Indonesia’s JawaPos.com newspaper and Radio Republik Indonesia, a state-owned public radio network in December 2017. Sputnik provides Indonesian news outlets with textual journalism and radio broadcast segments.[36]

Malaysia – Sputnik signed an agreement on content sharing, journalistic support, and joint projects with Malaysia’s Bernama national news agency in December 2017.[37]

2018

Iran – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Iran’s Mehr News Agency in January 2018.[38]

Iran – RT and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) organization signed a MoU on media cooperation, specifically staff training, in March 2018.[39]

UAE – RT signed a memorandum of cooperation with UAE’s state news agency Emirates News Agency (WAM) to facilitate the exchange of information including news and broadcast content in February 2018.[40]

West Bank and Gaza – Sputnik and RT signed cooperation agreements on content sharing and joint projects with the Palestinian National Authority’s WAFA News Agency in February 2018.[41]

Armenia – Ruply signed a cooperation agreement on video content development with Armenia’s state-owned ARMENPRESS news agency in April 2018. The cooperation agreement aims at bringing ARMENPRESS videos up to "international standards."[42]

Cuba – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing, joint projects, and journalistic training with Cuba’s Institute of Radio and Television in June 2018.[43]

India – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with the Indian Asian News International (ANI) news agency in September 2018.[44]

China – China Media Group signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with Rossiya Segodnya media group in September 18.[45]

Philippines – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and journalist exchanges with the Philippines News Agency (PNA), the official news agency of the Philippine government, in November 2018. PNA staff went to Moscow for training.[46]

Morocco – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and journalist exchanges with Morocco’s government-run Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) news agency in December 2018.[47]

2019

Indonesia – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and joint projects with the Indonesian Sindonews.com news web portal in February 2019.[48]

Pakistan – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with the Pakistani newspaper The Nation in February 2019.[49]

Uruguay – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on Spanish-language content exchange with Radiodifusión Nacional del Uruguay national public broadcaster in February 2019.[50]

Argentina – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with Argentina’s Federal Media and Public Content System in February 2019.[51]

UAE – Sputnik signed a MoU on content sharing with the UAE’s state news agency, Emirates News Agency (WAM), in March 2019.[52]

India – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with the United News of India news agency in May 2019. The agreement aims to develop "true democratization and the elimination of the Western media bias in presenting international information."[53]

Republic of the Congo – The Russian government signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with the government of the Republic of the Congo in May 2019. Russia and the Republic of the Congo plan to forge connections between their state news agencies and TV broadcasters, share media programs, develop joint projects, and train journalists. Russia claims it will provide the Congo technical assistance to switch to digital broadcasting.[54]

Democratic Republic of the Congo – Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on French- and English-language content sharing and joint programs with Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s state broadcaster, in May 2019.[55]

Eritrea – RT signed a cooperation agreement on training, program exchanges, and RT-provided sourcing with Eritrea’s state-owned television station Eri-TV in May 2019.[56]

Cote D'Ivoire – Radio Sputnik signed a cooperation agreement on French-language content sharing with Cote D'Ivoire’s Agence Ivoirienne de Presse (AIP) news agency in August 2019.[57]

China – Sputnik signed a memorandum of cooperation on content sharing with China’s Dongbeiwang (DBW), a major media outlet in northern China, in August 2019.[58]

Myanmar – Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media signed a cooperation agreement with the government of Myanmar in September 2019. Under the agreement, RT and Myanmar will forge connections between their state news agencies, including Myanmar’s “Myawaddy” military television channel.[59]

China – Rossiya Segodnya media group reported that it signed a cooperation agreement on technological development and media content distribution with the Chinese Huawei company in September 2019. Huawei will provide Rossiya Segodnya its “latest technological solutions” to help produce and distribute media content, including though specialized mobile platforms.[60]

India – Sputnik and the Indian Zee Media Corporation Limited’s WION TV channel exchanged letters of intent on increasing Russian-Indian media content sharing in September 2019.[61]

DPRK – TASS signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing and journalist exchanges with North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in October 2019.[62]

Saudi Arabia – Rossiya Segodnya media group signed a cooperation agreement on content sharing with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media Affairs in October 2019. Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia will host a Sputnik office.[63]

Panama – Sputnik signed a MoU on content sharing with Panama’s Agencia de Noticias Panamá news agency in October 2019.[64]

China – Sputnik and Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency signed an agreement on exchanging content in Spanish and Arabic in October 2019.[65]

BRICS – Sputnik convinced the BRICS group to endorse a plan to create a unified “fact-checking” platform to “counter the dissemination of false information” at the 11th BRICS summit in November 2019.[66]

Withdrawn Deals

Estonia – Sputnik’s office in Estonia ceased its operations on January 1, 2020 after approximately three dozen of its employees resigned. Sputnik Estonia’s employees said that their resignation was a direct result of pressure from Estonian police: "Estonia’s Police and Border Guard Board has presented each of us with an ultimatum…either we terminate our labor contracts...and no longer work for Sputnik Estonia or they open criminal cases against us." Estonian law enforcement sent Sputnik's Estonia a warning saying that staff members could face prosecution due to European Union sanctions against Russia in December 2019.[67]

Bolivia – Bolivia’s major private TV operator Cotas terminated RT Spanish broadcasts in Bolivia in December 2019.[68]

Latvia – Latvia’s broadcast regulator suspended in November 2019 the broadcasting of nine television channels owned by Yuri Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk is on the EU’s sanctions list for undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty.[69]

Lithuania – Lithuania’s Border Guard Service deported Marat Kasem, Sputnik’s chief editor in Lithuania, in May 2019 and banned Kasem from Lithuania for five years, claiming Kasem is a "threat to national security." A Vilnius court ruled to block Sputnik’s Lithuanian language website for repeatedly publishing protected content from the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission without permission in July 2019.[70]

Mexico – The Russian embassy in Mexico claimed the Rossiya Segodnya media group signed a cooperation agreement on Spanish-language content sharing with Mexico’s Notimex state news agency in April 2019. The embassy has since deleted the statement, potentially indicating setbacks in the deal.[71]

Spain – Spain welcomed Russia’s offer to establish a joint Spanish-Russian cybersecurity group to combat misinformation in November 2018.[72] There is no indication from openly available information that the group has been created, however.[73]

Philippines – The CEO of a major online news website in the Philippines warned the Presidential Communications Operations Office against sending its employees to get information training in Russia during a Philippines Senate hearing on fake news proliferation in January 2018.[74] A senior Filipino communications official said RT offered to teach a "different kind of reporting" designed to “improve and share their best practices that are different compared to Western Media” to journalists working for Philippine government media outlets in October 2019.[75]

Slovakia – Slovakia’s TASR public news agency withdrew from a cooperation agreement on content sharing with Sputnik in March 2017 a day after the agreement was signed due to pushback from the public and Slovak government.[76]

Argentina – The government of Argentina almost expelled RT from Argentinean cable in June 2016. RT successfully turned the situation around and signed an expanded media cooperation agreement with Argentina in July 2016.[77]

---
[1] “Sputnik School of Young Journalists Enrolls Students from 23 Countries,” Sputnik, October 31, 2017, https://sputniknews((.))com/agency_news/201710311058692476-sputnik-school-young-journalists/.
[2] Matt Robinson, “On Serbian Airwaves, a Battle for Heart of Balkans,” Reuters, May 3, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-serbia-russia-media-analysis/on-serbian-airwaves-a-battle-for-heart-of-balkans-idUSKBN17Z0X1; [“The International News Agency ‘Russia Segodnya” and “Al-Ahram’ Foundation Sign a Memorandum of Cooperation,”] Sputnik Arabic, November 2, 2015, https://arabic.sputniknews(.)com/arab_world/201502111013393610/; Nathaniel Greenberg, “Russian Influence Operations Extend into Egypt,” The Conversation, February 12, 2019, http://theconversation(.)com/russian-influence-operations-extend-into-egypt-111167; Nathaniel Greenberg, “Russia Opens Digital Interference Front in Libya,” MERIP, October 4, 2019, https://merip.org/2019/10/russia-opens-digital-interference-front-in-libya/.
[3] Nataliya Bugayova, Mason Clark, Michaela Walker, Andre Briere, Anthony Yanchuk, and George Barros, “The Kremlin’s Inroads after the Africa Summit,” Institute for the Study of War, November 8, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/kremlins-inroads-after-africa-summit; Nataliya Bugayova and Darina Regio, “The Kremlin’s Campaign in Africa: Assessment Update,” Institute for the Study of War, August 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISW%20-%20The%20Kremlin%20Campaign%20in%20Africa%20-%20August%202019.pdf.
[4] [““Kommersant” became aware of the provisions of the new “Doctrine of Information Security of the Russian Federation,”] Kommersant, October 9, 2015, https(:)//www.kommersant.ru/doc/2829842;[“Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated December 05, 2016 No. 646: On Approving the Doctrine of Information Security of the Russian Federation,”] Kremlin, December 5, 2016, http://kremlin((.))ru/acts/bank/41460/page/2.
[5] [“Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated December 05, 2016 No. 646: On Approving the Doctrine of Information Security of the Russian Federation,”] Kremlin, December 5, 2016, http://kremlin((.))ru/acts/bank/41460/page/2.
[6] “Russian News Agency Sputnik Closes Estonia Operations After Employees Quit,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, January 1, 2020. https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-news-agency-sputnik-closes-estonia-operations-after-employees-quit/30355321.html; [“MIA ‘Rossiya Segodnya’ Answered to the Lawlessness of the Estonian Regime: What Awaits Sputnik Estonia,”] Sputnik Estonia, December 31, 2019, https://ee.sputniknews(.)ru/estonian_news/20191231/18892543/V-MIA-Rossiya-segodnya-otvetili-na-bespredel-estonskogo-rezhima-chto-zhdet-Sputnik-Estoniya.html.
[7] Latvian Broadcast Regulator Suspends Nine Russian TV Channels,” Latvian Public Broadcasting, November 20, 2019, https://eng.lsm(.)lv/article/society/society/latvian-broadcast-regulator-suspends-nine-russian-tv-channels.a339012/.
[8] “Lithuania Expels Chief Editor Of Sputnik’s Local Branch,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, May 28, 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/lithuania-expels-chief-editor-of-sputnik-local-branch/29968909.html; [“COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT DECISION TO BLOCK SPUTNIKNEWS.LT CAME INTO EFFECT IN 2019. JULY 12,”] Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission, July 12, 2019, https://www.rtk(.)lt/pranesimai-spaudai/del-autoriu-teisiu-pazeidimo-priimtas-sprendimas-blokuoti-interneto-svetaine-sputniknews-lt/; “Lithuania Arrests Local ‘Sputnik’ Editor-in-Chief, Barring Him from Country for Five Years as ‘National Security Threat,’” Meduza, May 28, 2019, https://meduza(.)io/en/news/2019/05/28/lithuania-arrests-local-sputnik-editor-in-chief-barring-him-from-country-for-five-years-as-national-security-threat.
[9] [“Russia Rejects Cessation of Signal to RT Station in Bolivia,”] Hoy Tamaulipas, November 28, 2019, https://www.hoytamaulipas(.)net/notas/403377/Rusia-rechaza-cese-de-senial-a-emisora-RT-en-Bolivia.html; [“Zakharova Commented on Disabling RT Broadcasting in Bolivia,”] Rossiya Segodnya, November 11, 2019, https://ria(.)ru/20191128/1561706279.html; “Bolivian TV Operator Shuts Down RT Spanish Broadcasts,” RT, November 27, https((:))//www.rt.com/news/474513-rt-spanish-bolivia-taken-off-air/.
[10] Camille Elemia, “PCOO Warned vs Getting info Dissemination Training from China, Russia,” Rappler, January 30, 2018, https://www.rappler(.)com/nation/194814-maria-ressa-pcoo-training-china-russia.
[11] [“Slovak TASR Canceled Cooperation with an Agency that Propagates pro-Kremlin Propaganda,”] Česká televise, March 30, 2017, https://ct24.ceskatelevize(.)cz/svet/2072052-slovensky-tasr-zrusil-spolupraci-s-agenturou-ktera-siri-prokremelskou-propagandu; “TASR Withdraws from Contract with pro-Putin Newswire,” The Slovak Spectator, March 30, 2017, https://spectator.sme(.)sk/c/20496508/tasr-withdraws-from-contract-with-pro-putin-newswire.html; “TASR Cancels Contract With Sputnik Under Pressure From Authorities,” Sputnik, March 30, 2017, https://sputniknews(.)com/agency_news/201703301052134354-tasr-sputnik-contracr/; “Slovak Agency To Cancel Contract With Russia's Sputnik After Uproar,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, March 30, 2017, https://www.rferl.org/a/slovakia-news-agency-cancels-sputnik-contract-russia/28400557.html; “Sputnik Signs Cooperation Agreement With Slovak News Agency TASR,” Sputnik, March 29, 2017, https(:)//sputniknews.com/art_living/201703291052069837-sputnik-slovak-news-cooperation/.
[12] “Russia Today Start Broadcasts from Serbia,” Balkan Insight, January 1, 2015, https://balkaninsight.com/2015/01/01/russia-today-starts-broadcast-on-belgrade-radio/; Matt Robinson, “On Serbian Airwaves, a Battle for Heart of Balkans,” Reuters, May 3, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-serbia-russia-media-analysis/on-serbian-airwaves-a-battle-for-heart-of-balkans-idUSKBN17Z0X1.
[13] Nathaniel Greenberg, “Russian Influence Operations Extend into Egypt,” The Conversation, February 12, 2019, http://theconversation(.)com/russian-influence-operations-extend-into-egypt-111167; Nathaniel Greenberg, “Russia Opens Digital Interference Front in Libya,” MERIP, October 4, 2019, https://merip.org/2019/10/russia-opens-digital-interference-front-in-libya/.
[14] [“Information on Annual Activities,”] Notimex, April 14, 2016, http://www.notimex.gob(.)mx/archivosTransparencia/Transparencia_00883.pdf; [“News Agencies Rossiya Segodnya and Notimex Sign Cooperation Agreement,”] Sputnik Latin America, April 29, 2015, https://mundo.sputniknews(.)com/america-latina/201504291036929149/.
[15] [“Sputnik Develops Collaboration with Cambodian Media,”] Ria Novosti, November 24, 2015, https://ria(.)ru/20151124/1327344874.html.
[16] [“Indonesia’s Leading Media Signs Cooperation Agreement with Sputnik,”] Sputnik, November 17, 2015, https://ru.sputnik((.))kg/world/20151117/1020169839.html; Sok Lou, Facebook, November 15, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/SokLouKampongthom/posts/645978238876456/.
[17] “Sputnik News Agency, Algerie Press Service Sign Cooperation Deal,” Sputnik, April 27, 2016, https://sputniknews((.))com/agency_news/201604271038709041-deal-press-sputnik/; “Moscow Region, Russia, 27th Apr 2016,” Alamy, April 27, 2016, https://www.alamy((.))com/stock-photo-moscow-region-russia-27th-apr-2016-abdelhamid-kacha-2nd-l-director-103081752.html.
[18] “Sputnik Starts Cooperation with japan’s Kyodo News Agency,” Sputnik, March 14, 2016, https://sputniknews(.)com/world/201603141036233903-sputnik-kyodo-cooperation-agreement/; [“Sputnik News,”] Kyodo News Imagelink, Accessed January 14, 2020, https://imagelink.kyodonews(.)jp/web-Sales/web/partner.html?p_name=rossiya_segodnya.
[19] [“Sputnik News,”] Kyodo News Imagelink, Accessed January 14, 2020, https://imagelink.kyodonews(.)jp/web-Sales/web/partner.html?p_name=rossiya_segodnya.
[20] “SANA and Sputnik Sign Cooperation Agreement,” SANA, June 6, 2016, https://sana(.)sy/en/?p=79471.
[21] “Sputnik Expands into Arab Countries,” Sputnik, June 6, 2016, https://sputniknews((.))com/agency_news/201606061040850152-sputnik-expands-arab-states/.
[22] “Sputnik Increases News Content in Spanish,” Sputnik, June 20, 2016, https://sputniknews(.)com/agency_news/201606201041624227-news-agency-spanish-content/.
[23] “Sputnik Expands Cooperation with Egypt,” Sputnik, August 15, 2016, https://sputniknews(.)com/agency_news/201608151044274652-cooperation-sputnik-egypt-media/; “Akhbar Al Youm Signs Cooperation Agreement with Sputnik, Editor-in-Chief Says we need ‘Other Aspects of the Truth,’” Enterprise, August 16, 2016, https://enterprise.press/stories/2016/08/16/akhbar-al-youm-signs-cooperation-agreement-with-sputnik-editor-in-chief-says-we-need-other-aspects-of-the-truth/.
[24] [“Sputnik Begins Cooperation with Askanews,”] Ria Novosti, October 20, 2016, https://ria(.)ru/20161020/1479632221.html; [“Askanews Signs Collaboration Agreement with Russian Sputnik,”] Askanews, October 20, 2016, https://www.askanews.it/esteri/2016/10/20/askanews-sigla-accordo-di-collaborazione-con-russa-sputnik-pn_20161020_00392/.
[25] “MoU Signed for Collaborative Development of Communication Sector,” Global New Light of Myanmar, February 17, 2017, https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/mou-signed-for-collaborative-development-of-communication-sector/.
[26] [“Sputnik Strengthens Relations with South African Media,”] Russia Segodnya, March 7, 2015, https://россиясегодня(.)рф/news/20170307/37651.html.
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