Fact Check: US Defense Secretary Did NOT Promise To Bring Baath Party Back To Power In Iraq

Fact Check

  • by: Rebaz Majeed
Fact Check: US Defense Secretary Did NOT Promise To Bring Baath Party Back To Power In Iraq Mistranslated

Did U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promise to bring the banned Baath party back to power in Iraq? No, that's not true: The video from a press conference in the Iraqi Kurdistan region with Austin uses a fabricated Arabic-language translation to make the false claim. That is not what Austin said.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) published by @breaki.ing.ws on August 22, 2023, with a caption (translated from Arabic into English by Lead Stories staff) reading:

Pentagon head promises: We will bring back the Ba'ath party

A voice in Arabic says (translated from Arabic into English by Lead Stories staff):

We came for the sake of change. We will bring back the Ba'ath party to power. We will revive the country. We will free it from mafias and militias and we will change the whole system. We will change the parties that run the country. The Iraqi nation, we are ready to free you from these insolent militias.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-08-29 at 14.56.44.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Aug 29 12:56:17 2023 UTC)

The published video shows a press conference by Austin with Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, on March 7, 2023, following talks about security threats in the region. The video with the fabricated translation has gone viral on TikTok, published by dozens of different accounts making the same claim.

While the sound of the fabricated Arabic audio dub occupies most of the video clip, Austin can be clearly heard in English saying "... and hold the Iraqi people back." A Google search for "Lloyd J. Austin AND hold the Iraqi people back" produces a U.S. Department of Defense transcript of his comments, which includes the following:

Unfortunately, Daesh is not the only threat that this region faces. The United States condemns the repeated cross-border attacks from Iran. These attacks violate Iraqi sovereignty, put Iraqi lives in danger, and hold the Iraqi people back.

Lead Stories found the official press release by the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq, which includes the same paragraph from Austin, and a photo of the press conference in which the background is identical to the video published on TikTok:


(Source: Presidency of Kurdistan Region - Iraq, Tue Aug 29 13:43 2023 UTC)

Based on transcripts published by the Pentagon and the KRG presidency, Lead Stories can conclude that the Arabic dubbing of the TikTok videos is a fabricated translation and that the Pentagon chief did not promise to return Iraq's Baath party to power, a development that would, if true, have produced worldwide headlines.

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  Rebaz Majeed

Rebaz Majeed is a fact-checker at Lead Stories. He is a multilingual freelance journalist and researcher. He worked for five years as a reporter for Voice of America (VOANews) in Iraq. Currently, he is pursuing his MA in Interdisciplinary Studies of the Middle East at Free Berlin University. Rebaz brings extensive knowledge and expertise to his role at LeadStories.

Read more about or contact Rebaz Majeed

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