November 20, 2008
By: Y. Feldner and G. Lustig*
Jihad &Terrorism Studies Project/Syria/Iraq
Al-Rai TV, which began broadcasting several months ago from Syria, provides coverage of events in the Middle East, focusing on terrorist attacks carried out by Sunni insurgents against U.S. forces and Iraqi security forces.
According to Arab media reports, Al-Rai TV is owned by former Iraqi MP Mish’an Al-Jabouri, former owner of Al-Zawraa TV – a channel that for several months in 2006 aired around-the-clock footage of terrorist attacks in Iraq. Following U.S. pressure, the Arab satellite companies Arabsat and Nilesat removed Al-Zawraa TV from their satellites, and the channel ceased to exist. Al-Jabouri fled to Syria after being implicated in several corruption scandals, for which he was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison.
In an interview reported on the Internet, Al-Jabouri denied that he owned Al-Rai TV, stating that the channel was registered to a Syrian national by the name of Raw’a Al-Awsati. It transpires, however, that Al-Awsati is Al-Jabouri’s Syrian wife, who used to work as a secretary for Al-Zawraa TV.(1)
Al-Rai TV is, in fact, a polished and upgraded version of Al-Zawraa TV. Its flagship weekly program “The Harvest of the Resistance,” is presented by Hussein Hussein, who used to introduce footage of terror attacks on Al-Zawraa TV. On Al-Zawraa TV, Hussein Hussein appeared in guerilla fatigues; on Al-Rai TV, he wears a suit and tie.
Disturbing Graphic Footage from Terror Attacks in Iraq
Al-Rai TV, which follows the format of other Arab news channels, airs news bulletins, interviews, daily press reviews, and cultural programs, as well as nature and history documentaries. It also airs filler and films dealing with jihad.
The weekly show Hasad Al-Muqawama (“Harvest of the Resistance”) airs on Sundays, with numerous re-runs throughout the week. The show presents videos of terror attacks – often presented as exclusive Al-Rai TV footage.
The show offers a variety of terror attacks: IEDs, sniper attacks, mortar and rocket launches, and so on. Many programs focus on a specific terrorist organization, surveying its operations over the years. For example, a show aired on September 15, 2008 presented clips documenting attacks carried out by the Islamic Army in Iraq (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1854.htm). Another program was dedicated to the so-called Sufi terrorist organization, “The Army of the Naqshabandi Order,” and broadcast footage of children undergoing military training (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1882.htm).
On the daily program Bisat Ahmadi, viewers go on the air to express their views on current affairs, such as “the Kurdish takeover of northern Iraq” or “the Iraqi-U.S. security agreement.” The conversations with the viewers take place against the backdrop of footage of terror attacks in Iraq. One bisat ahmadi show concluded with footage of the wedding of a Naqshabandi Order operative, in which the bride requested that her dowry be the launching of a missile targeting a U.S. base (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1895.htm).
Al-Rai TV airs short films produced by the propaganda departments of various terrorist organizations, which include particularly disturbing images. One example is a film titled “Bloody Contracts,” produced by the Islamic Army in Iraq and dealing with the March 2004 killing of four Blackwater security contractors in Fallujah and the subsequent mutilation of their bodies. The film shows the burnt corpses of the security company employees strung up from a bridge in the city. Warning: This clip contains extremely disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised:
Another film, titled “Baghdad Sniper 3,” presents a series of sniper attacks targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Warning: This clip contains extremely disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised:
Even the news bulletins are used to air images of terror attacks in Iraq. On September 22, 2008, for example, Al-Rai TV aired footage of three operations carried out by the Front for Jihad and Change. The newscaster read out the full text of the announcement in which the organization claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Al-Rai TV also broadcasts “special interviews” with representatives of terror organizations, such as the spokesman of the Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas Army (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1894.htm). Other guests on these shows are Arab sympathizers with the “Iraqi resistance,” such as Muhammad Al-Musfir, a Qatar University professor of political science, who said that in his opinion all the Arab leaders should commit suicide, because of what he perceives as their responsibility for the tragedy in Iraq. (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1872.htm).
Since Al-Rai TV began its broadcasts, there has been an increase in the number and frequency of programs showing such violent images and content. At present, a significant portion of its schedule is devoted to footage of terror attacks. Recently, Al-Rai TV made a direct appeal to Iraqi militants, asking them to supply the network with fresh footage of their attacks. Indeed, a few weeks later, a new militia by the name of The Army of Ansar Allah sent Al-Rai TV an exclusive videotaped message, in which it threatened to attack U.S. forces in Iraq and assassinate Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders in retaliation for the recent U.S. helicopter strike in Syria (http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1893.htm)
Al-Rai TV Is Carried by Eutelsat Satellites
Al-Rai TV is broadcast via two satellites owned by the Paris-based Eutelsat S.A., “the leading satellite operator in Europe for video and data services and one of the top 3 global providers of Fixed Satellite Services,” as stated on the Eutelsat homepage.
One satellite is Atlantic Bird 4, which, in September 2005, was leased by Eutelsat to the Egyptian Nilesat company, and now also goes by the name of Nilesat 103. Atlantic Bird 4 is located at 7.2° West, in proximity to the Nilesat satellites, which are located at 7° West. Consequently, home satellite dishes pointing at the Nilesat beam can easily receive Al-Rai TV transmissions.
Al-Rai TV is also carried by Eutelsat’s Eurobird 2 satellite, which is located at 25.5° East, in proximity to the Arabsat/Badr satellites, which are located at 26° East. Apparently, the Eurobird 2 transmission can be received by satellite dishes pointing at the Arabsat beam.
The downlink coverage of the two satellites is similar, and their transmission can be received through a simple home satellite dish throughout the Middle East and northeast Africa, as well as in southeast Europe – in Turkey, Greece, the Black Sea region, and southern Italy.
Eurobird 2 @ 25.5° East
Atlantic Bird 4 @ 7.2° West
*Y. Feldner is the director of MEMRI TV; G. Lustig is the head of the Iraqi desk on MEMRI TV.
(1) http://www.syria-news.com/var/articlem.php?id=2268. Al-Jabouri confirmed that he was one of the team chosen to select Al-Rai TV’s media personnel – together with Faysal Al-Qassem, the Syrian TV host of the popular Al-Jazeera TV show “Opposite Direction,” and Nasser Qandil, an Egyptian who hosts a Dubai TV talk show.
(2) Al-Rai TV (Syria), October 8, 2008.