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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January 2005, 12:28 GMT
Iraq blog spat leads to web chaos
US troops in Iraq
The blog aims to show a more positive side of the occupation
A pro-US weblog by three Iraqi brothers has become the unlikely setting for a huge web spat after conspiracy theorists alleged it was a fake.

Iraq the Model, a weblog detailing the more positive aspects of the US-led occupation of the country, is one of the most popular Iraq sites on the web.

But some anti-war activists said it was a CIA-sponsored propaganda tool.

The brothers strongly denied the claims, but the row has led to severe ructions in the online Iraq community.

'Positive message'

The blog, written by Baghdad-based brothers Mohammed and Omar, who are dentists, and doctor Ali, first surfaced in November 2003, a few months after the war in Iraq ended.

My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions
Former Iraq The Model blogger Ali
Ali told the BBC News website in a phone call last year that he and his brothers had developed the blog because they wanted to send out a more positive message about events in their home country.

"More than 90% of major media outlets have a rather negative agenda, and what's the benefit of us doing the same?" he said.

"They [the media] ignore pictures of good relations between the Iraqis and the coalition, and the good interaction between both sides."

Its popularity spread to such an extent that two of the brothers, Omar and Mohammed, attended a blogging conference at Harvard University in the US and even met President George W Bush.

'Stupid' theories

But soon detractors began posting on the site, accusing the brothers of being frauds and of disseminating false propaganda about the situation in the country.

Some even claimed the brothers had been coached by US intelligence officials to put a positive spin on events in Iraq.

These "stupid conspiracy theories", coupled with his brothers' US visit, proved the final straw for Ali, who posted a message on the site announcing he was leaving the blog and hinted darkly that he intended to "expose" those Americans who had made him feel "on the wrong side".

He later explained in posts on his new blog he had been angered by his brothers' trip to the US, because he felt that by speaking to the American media they had endangered their family and allowed themselves to be used.

The fight has raised the issue of identity and misrepresentation in weblogs, where often it is nearly impossible to verify if the person "blogging" really is who they claim to be.

And as for Ali, he has since told the New York Times newspaper that he has reconciled with his brothers, although they still do not quite see eye-to-eye.

"My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions," he told the paper.




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