Fact Check: Video Does NOT Depict Mark Milley Announcing Probe Into Crimes Purportedly Committed By Shiite Militias In Iraq

Fact Check

  • by: Rebaz Majeed
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Depict Mark Milley Announcing Probe Into Crimes Purportedly Committed By Shiite Militias In Iraq Altered Audio

Does a video on TikTok depict Gen. Mark A. Milley, then the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, announcing an investigation into the alleged murder of civilians in Iraq's Sunni areas purportedly committed by Shiite militias? No, that's not true: The Arabic-dubbed version of the video has altered audio, and the original video is unrelated. The clip is from a June 2023 joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, providing updates on the 13th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by @dy4fvjvx30c8 on February 12, 2024, with a text overlay (translated from Arabic to English by Lead Stories staff) that read:

Breaking news: The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has issued a threat to Iraqi factions, indicating the intention to address the issue of burying members of the Sunni community alive.

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

Screenshot 2024-02-21 at 17.44.47.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Feb 21 16:32:22 2024 UTC)

The video had Arabic dubbing that said (as translated):

From the United States of America, we issue a warning to Iraqi citizens, whether in the capital or elsewhere, to avoid locations where Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) militias, particularly Kata'ib Hezbollah, Saraya al-Khorasani, and the terrorist Badr organization, are present. Our objectives are persistently pursued, with ongoing strikes against these criminal gangs. We will investigate and expose the killing of innocent civilians in Iraq's Sunni areas, supported by concrete evidence condemning the criminal factions involved in various forms of killing and burying citizens alive, constituting crimes against humanity. Those involved in these heinous acts must be held accountable.

It was apparent the video showed a press conference. Based on a brief segment where another man stood alongside Milley in front of a group of people, Lead Stories deduced that this might be a joint press conference. A Google search (archived here) using the terms "Mark A. Milley DW joint press conference" on February 22, 2024, revealed the original video (archived here) from the U.S. Department of Defense on June 15, 2023, titled "Austin, Milley Hold Press Conference on Ukraine." The caption read:

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley brief the news media following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels. The group includes defense ministers and chiefs of defense from around the world, who discuss the Ukraine crisis.

This is what the video looked like on Defense.gov at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-21 at 19.04.00.png

(Source: Defense.gov screenshot taken on Thu Feb 22 12:04:32 2024 UTC)

The clip on TikTok came from the 6:12 to the 6:59 mark of the 21-minute 54-second-long video. Throughout, Milley, then U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- he stepped down on September 30, 2023 (archived here) -- did not mention Shiite militias in Iraq. Instead, he said:

But first, let me thank Secretary Austin for his steadfast leadership in fostering this global coalition. From the first meeting to the 13th today, without his leadership, these would not be happening. And thank you also to the ministers and chiefs of defense from some 50 nations that joined us today.

To Ukrainian Minister of Defense Reznikov, my counterpart, General Zaluzhnyi, who is not here today but I did have a chance to talk to him the other day, and his representative, General Moisiuk, who was here, thank you for your unflinching resolve and determination in the face of immense adversity and thank you also for the incredible bravery of the Ukrainian people.

The complete transcript of the press conference can be read here (archived here). It focused on international support for Ukraine's counter-offensive and discussed military assistance packages, including training for Ukrainian forces, without any mention of Iraq or its Shiite militia groups.

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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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