JAFFA, Israel – Recently heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been unfolding in the media as well as the political and military realms.
The first victory on that front has been scored by the Saudis, after an Iranian Arabic-language television network was caught attempting to influence an interview with a fake Saudi dissident.
The editors of the state-controlled al-Alam TV in Iran contacted Saudi journalist Muhammad Elshaqaa, whom they believed was a critic of the regime, and asked him to introduce himself as a resident of a predominantly Shi’ite region in the kingdom’s east.
Elshaqaa was asked to describe the atmosphere as tense and teeming with unrest following last week’s execution of the high-profile Shi’ite cleric Nimer al Nimer.
Saudi-Iranian relations have since deteriorated, leading to the suspension of diplomatic relations between them after an angry mob raided the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Elshaqaa recorded the background conversations with al-Alam’s producers, in which they coax him into criticizing the Saudi regime, and offered to disguise his voice so he could be introduced as a resident of the Shi’ite east describing the “tension and violence” that have swept the region since Nimer’s execution.
Elshaqaa posted the recordings on his Twitter account. They were picked up by the Saudi media and celebrated as a “victory over the Iranian propaganda machine.”
During the broadcast, Elshaqaa said that calm reigns in the eastern region and schools, shops, and offices are operating as usual. When he said the Saudi regime considered Nimer a terrorist, he was taken off the air.