On April 12th the US & Canada and Middle East pages of the BBC News website ran an article titled “Iran nuclear deal: Obama says US partisanship gone too far“. The report’s main subject matter is remarks made by the US President at the recent ‘Summit of the Americas’ in Panama.
“US President Barack Obama has said that partisanship over the Iran nuclear deal has gone too far.
He rebuked the stance of some Republicans in the US Congress. […]
President Obama, speaking after a regional conference in Panama, said he remained “absolutely positive” that the deal was the surest way to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear arms. […]
Mr Obama said that entrenched partisanship was no way to run foreign policy.”
In order to be able to reach an informed opinion on the topic of the US President’s claims of “partisanship”, BBC audiences clearly need to have enough information to judge whether or not the reservations regarding the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran expressed in many quarters have any factual basis.
Unfortunately, the BBC’s coverage of the framework agreement to date (see related articles below) has refrained from informing them of the existence of an Iranian factsheet presenting a version of the terms of the agreement which differs markedly from the factsheet on the same topic produced by the US State Department – which has in contrast been extensively promoted by the BBC. Similarly, the range of opinions on the subject, as expressed by commentators including researchers, diplomats and scientists, has been excluded from BBC News website coverage.
That means that when readers of this article are told that “one of those criticised by the president – Senator John McCain – said that there were discrepancies between US and Iranian versions of the deal” and “he [McCain] argued on Saturday that discrepancies between US and Iranian versions of the deal extended to inspections, sanctions relief and other key issues”, they are not in a position to know whether McCain’s appraisal of the two documents is correct or not and hence whether his criticism is indeed nothing more than “entrenched partisanship”.
This article also tells readers that:
“The deal aims to prevent Tehran making a nuclear weapon in exchange for phased sanction relief. […]
Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that a final agreement must result in an immediate end to all sanctions.
President Obama said on Saturday that Mr Khamenei was simply addressing his own country’s internal politics.
“Even a guy with the title ‘Supreme Leader’ has to be concerned about his own constituencies,” he said.”
The BBC makes no effort to point out to readers that – despite the US President’s reassurances – many observers are concerned about the implications of Iran’s obviously different reading of the framework agreement on the ability to implement a final deal.
And whilst the BBC has, as noted above, heavily and exclusively promoted the US administration’s version of the framework agreement in its coverage of this subject, it has to date made no effort to provide audiences with objective and informed appraisal of its content. One such appraisal was recently published by the Institute for Science and International Security.
“The recent nuclear framework between the P5+1 and Iran was neither written nor published as a collective document. Instead, France, Iran, and the United States have each written “Fact Sheets” describing the various agreed provisions in the framework. The French one has not been made public. However, the U.S. and Iranian versions differ significantly in key elements such as sanctions relief or include different provisions. The U.S. Fact Sheet is the most detailed of the two public ones. In briefings by U.S. officials involved in the negotiations, they have stated that during the negotiations Iran agreed to every provision listed in the U.S. Fact Sheet. Therefore, in this analysis, we base our comments on the U.S. Fact Sheet and assume that these provisions are accurate. […]
…our overall assessment is that this complicated framework has some excellent provisions (such as those relating to the Arak reactor), several that are inadequate as currently described (enrichment and centrifuge research and development limitations), and several that cannot be judged at this time because they remain to be further negotiated. […]
However, the negotiations are not over; many difficult challenges must be overcome in order to arrive at a final deal. Our goal remains obtaining an adequate deal. To do so, a key goal of the negotiations remains a final deal which provides confidence of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and ensures sufficient reaction time, namely, enough time to respond diplomatically and internationally to stop Iran if it does decide to renege on its commitments and build nuclear weapons. According to Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, “We must be confident that any effort by Tehran to break out of its obligations will be so visible and time-consuming that the attempt would have no chance of success.” That goal must be at the core of any agreement. Overall, however, we do not assess that this essential goal has yet been achieved.”
The BBC can of course continue to portray this topic to its audiences by means of blinkering reporting which promotes one approach alone and excludes any meaningful presentation of information and views which dissent from those presented by the US administration. Or – as required by its public purpose remit – it can begin to tell its funding public the whole story so that they can reach informed opinions on this particular international issue.