A propaganda poster blaming US and other countries' sanctions is seen in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 17, 2017. The poster reads: 'No one can stop our way!' Photo: KCNA/via Reuters
A propaganda poster blaming US and other countries' sanctions is seen in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 17, 2017. The poster reads: 'No one can stop our way!' Photo: KCNA/via Reuters

Information and communication have a tremendous impact in the modern age. These effects are particularly evident in the field of communication that is designed to control the flow of information and to make better use of it for various purposes. The system is a complex unit composed of different parts that are subordinate to a common plan and pursue a common goal.

The common purpose of information systems is to make information available to the public. It should be borne in mind that intelligence agencies have a profound potential role to play in upgrading and exploiting the resources of a country’s media authority. In this regard, it is possible to speak of the involvement of the intelligence agencies in the foreign or cultural policy systems of the country to improve their image or to destroy the image of the opponent.

Soft power – directing others to embrace what we seek – persuades rather than forces. So “soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others,” as Joseph S Nye has put it. On a larger level and in the field of international relations, one can say that the aim of soft power is to attract people instead of forcing them.

An agency’s specific ability to achieve a specific goal in a given country or target population, using misleading or misleading propaganda techniques, falls within the scope of soft warfare and is far from soft power. However, according to the agency’s acknowledgment of the act, because of its prestige or reputation, even in spite of its attempt to mislead, it falls within the scope of soft authority. Because once the main purposes is identified as well as false or misleading information or behavior, there will be nothing left of the agency’s soft power for reuse.

The entry of US intelligence agencies into the scene prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is one of the best examples of exploiting the credibility and image of intelligence to reach a specific goal. Therefore, it should be borne in mind that although reporting and even interviewing by an information agency that draws a lot of public attention, including effective tools for building soft authority for the entity concerned, is neglected. The “trustworthiness” element, which is a crucial aspect of the concept of soft power, can simply eliminate the resulting soft power and delay the improvement and reputation of the institution in public opinion for a long time.

Many intelligence agencies prefer to pursue activities in an obscure and secret environment. Therefore, soft power is used to achieve the intended goals. One of the best and most common ways to promote the soft power of government is through its security institutions. At the same time, the keys are to avoid direct conflict and pay careful attention to the capabilities of entering sensitive areas, and rapid evaluation of feedback to maintain readiness for a rapid change of approach, including policies required for security and intelligence organizations.

In the present age, many countries are fully absorbing the world’s public opinion toward their preferences. Many countries spend large sums of money and, with intelligence and ingenuity, strive to showcase the attractions of their culture, art and tourism in the eyes of others, and at first glance to improve the country’s public image but also pursuing a more fundamental purpose, to advance their foreign and security policy goals.

In the meantime, the intelligence and security apparatuses have a very convenient space for expanding their activities and optimizing their targeting. They can use the element of information to influence public opinion and use it for their own purposes. If this information is reliable and accurate and used in its proper place, it will have a significant impact on the credibility of the intelligence organization and the opponent’s authority.

Also, these institutions can formulate their views and goals in specific domains for the target audience, using intermediary variables. In fact, as the global communication capability increases, the competitive atmosphere has become so complex that the scene of confrontation between the security agencies of the countries has been dismantled from completely specific and classical areas to new ground.

Sajad Abedi is a resident fellow at a national defense and security think-tank in Iran and a postdoctoral student at the University of Tehran. He is also an advisory board member of the Cyber Security Research Center at Islamic Azad University.

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