BBC mixed messaging on Iranian support for the Houthis persists

In June 2019 we documented the BBC’s approach to the subject of Iran’s ties to the Houthi militia in Yemen:

BBC still fence-sitting on Iranian support for Houthis

The same editorial policy has been in evidence in the seven months since then, with BBC audiences seeing repeated promotion of messaging which originally appeared in a backgrounder titled “Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?” that is now dated 21 March 2019 but was first published in October 2016. For example: [emphasis added]

June 14th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Second assault on Saudi Abha airport in two days’:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

June 24th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Civilian killed in Houthi attack on Saudi airport’:

“The coalition has said the drones are “Iranian made”, but Iran has denied supplying weapons to the rebels. […]

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

August 1st 2019, ‘Yemen war: Houthi missile attack on military parade kills 32’:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia Muslim power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

September 30th 2019, ‘Yemen war: Houthi rebels release hundreds of detainees’:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia Muslim power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

December 29th 2019, ‘Yemen: Houthis blamed for attack on military parade’:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia Muslim power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

January 19th 2020 (since amended and re-dated), ‘Yemen war: At least 70 soldiers killed in missile attack’:

“Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia Muslim power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government.”

Interestingly, over the same period of time some other reports have given audiences a more realistic portrayal of the issue.

August 1st 2019, Frank Gardner, ‘Yemen war: Has anything been achieved?’:

“…for Yemen’s legitimate, UN-recognised government and its Saudi and Emirati backers, this war has always been about preventing an unacceptable takeover of the country by a tiny minority with links to Iran – the Houthis. […]

The war did not begin with the Saudi-led air campaign in March 2015. It began six months earlier when the Houthis, a small, largely unheard-of Yemeni tribal group from the mountainous north, marched on the capital, Sanaa, and evicted the legitimate government.

Then, with the backing of forces loyal to the ousted former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh, the Houthis took over most of the populated areas of Yemen.

For Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, this felt like an Iranian-backed coup on its southern frontier and the ruling princes resolved to act. […]

The UAE view is that its participation in this war has helped achieve several things. It has prevented a Houthi takeover of the whole country, which it considers would have ultimately given Iran control over the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Africa and Arabia.”

September 4th 2019, ‘Yemen: Western powers may be held responsible for war crimes – UN’:

“The Western powers provide weapons and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government, while Iran backs the Houthi rebels.”

September 16th 2019, Jonathan Marcus,Drone’ attack on Saudis destabilises an already volatile region’:

Iran has well-developed ties with the Houthis and there is little doubt it has been the key player in enabling them to develop their long-range strike capability, whether through armed UAVs or missiles.

In 2018, a report from a UN expert panel pointed to the remarkable similarity between the Houthi Qasef-1 UAV and the Iranian Ababil-T. In a wide-ranging study, it asserted that Iran had broken the arms embargo against Yemen and supplied the Houthis with a variety of weapons systems.

Much the same conclusion was reached by a March 2017 study from the independent Conflict Armament Research organisation, which focused on Iranian UAV assistance. […]

Iran, along with its Houthi allies, is conducting a classic war of the weak against the strong; a “hybrid conflict” as it is known in the strategic textbooks. It is borrowing many of the tactics from the Russian play-book – the use of deniability; proxies; cyber-operations and information warfare.”

September 22nd 2019, ‘Iran warns foreign forces to stay out of Gulf, amid new US deployment’:

“Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they had carried out the attacks….”

November 28th 2019, ‘Yemen civil war: 128 detainees sent home from Saudi Arabia’:

Iran-supported Houthi rebels seized much of the west of Yemen and ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in March 2015.” 

Obviously some BBC journalists are fully aware of the support provided by Iran to the Houthis – as has been documented by the UN and academic researchers.

“Iran has funded the Houthis even before the lawful regime fell in 2014. Most of the funding, $10- 25 million, was delivered courtesy of the Iranian embassy in Sanaa, in the form of support for cultural and religious events. This funding reflects one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy – cultural and religious support for Shiite around the world. After the fall of the Yemenite lawful regime and the start of hostilities, Iran continued to funnel large sums of money through Sanaa International Airport until coalition forces shut it down in 2015. It should be noted that despite a blockade that has been imposed on Yemen’s naval ports, ships with humanitarian aid continued to dock, especially in the Port of Hodeida, and it stands to reason that some carried concealed cash shipments. It should also be noted that in January, a report by a UN Panel of Experts on Yemen found that fuel loaded from Iranian ports under false documentation was being donated to listed individuals in Yemen by companies functioning as front companies in order to avoid detection by UN inspectors. The fuel was then sold and with profits used to finance the Houthi war effort. The Panel also traced the supply of UAVs and a mixing machine for rocket fuel to the Houthis, as well as uncovering that individuals of Iranian origin funded these purchases. […]

Despite the aerial and naval blockades imposed by the KSA-led coalition forces, Iran has consistently attempted to arm the Houthis. Between April 2015 and October 2016, the U.S. Navy, in its capacity as a member of an international task force formed to fight piracy and prevent violation of an international embargo on gun running, detained five vessels en route from Iran to Houthi forces that carried a wide variety of armament, such as AK-47 assault rifles, anti-tank missiles and antitank mines. An analysis performed by Conflict Armament Research Organization found that the AK-47 serial numbers were consecutive which attests to the fact that they came from a government owned stock rather than arms dealers. Further, a serial number on a Kornet AT-missile captured in Yemen belonged to the same batch of weaponry that has been captured on one of the above vessels. Additional shipments continued to flow to the Houthis and the last one reported, which included over one thousand assault rifles, was captured by the U.S. Navy at the end of August 2018. Previous interceptions by the Australian and French Navies in 2016 in the Red Sea yielded Iranian weapons, including almost 2,000 AK-47s and 100 RPGs on a single dhow, and a similar number of AK47s and nine anti-tank missiles on a different boat.”

The question which therefore arises is why – alongside the realistic reporting provided by some of its correspondents – does the BBC continue to promote messaging which dovetails with Iranian propaganda and conflicts with its obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news” which will “build people’s understanding”.

Related Articles:

BBC News still unsure about Iranian involvement in Yemen

Limited BBC journalistic curiosity on Iranian involvement in Yemen

The BBC and the Houthi logo

BBC News portrays Iranian involvement in Yemen as ‘overplayed’

What does the BBC tell audiences about Iraqi attacks on Israel in 1991?

Last weekend marked 29 years since the first Iraqi missile attack on Israel during the Gulf War of 1991. 

A review of available BBC online content relating to those five and a half weeks of attacks shows that anyone searching today for information on those events will find only minimal references to the topic.

The timeline in the BBC’s profile of Israel reads:

1991 January – Gulf War. Iraq fires 39 Scud missiles at Israel in failed attempt to regionalise conflict. Israel refrains from responding at US request.”

An entry for January 18th 1991 in the BBC’s ‘On This Day’ archive titled “Iraqi Scud missiles hit Israel” states:

“Iraq has attacked two Israeli cities with Scud missiles, prompting fears that Israel may be drawn into the Gulf War.

Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, its main seaport, were hit in the attacks, which began at 0300 local time (0100 GMT), when most residents were asleep.

Reports from Tel Aviv say the air was filled with the wail of sirens and minutes later up to eight missiles streaked in and exploded in balls of flame.

Residents scrambled for protective clothing and gas masks, issued to most of the population before the conflict began.

Casualties are believed to have been light – nobody was killed, and only a few people injured.

It is the first time Tel Aviv has been hit in the history of the Israel-Arab conflict.”

That latter claim is of course inaccurate: Tel Aviv was attacked by Egyptian planes during the War of Independence.

A page in a feature titled “Saddam’s Iraq: Key Events” apparently dating from around 2002 informs BBC audiences that:

“On Thursday 17 January, Iraq launched its first Scud missile strikes on Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel. […]

In total, 39 Scud missiles were fired into Israel, causing damage but few casualties.”

Another archive reported dated 2003 – titled “Flashback: 1991 Gulf War” – likewise states:

“On Thursday 17 January, Iraq launched its first Scud missile strikes on Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel.”

A video published in 2016 – titled “BBC Archive: The 1991 Gulf War revisited” – includes footage from January 18th 1991 which is captioned:

“The first of several Iraqi scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv begins”

In other words, any student, school pupil or member of the general public searching the internet for information from the UK’s ‘trusted‘ national broadcaster about what happened in Israel between January 17th and February 28th 1991 would remain completely unaware of the fact that:

“Directly, these attacks caused 2 civilian deaths, although indirectly, they caused the following casualties: 4 heart attacks, 7 deaths as a result of incorrect use of biological/chemical warfare kits, 208 injured, 225 cases of unnecessary injection of atropine. Damage to general property consisted of 1,302 houses, 6,142 apartments, 23 public buildings, 200 shops and 50 cars.”

And:

“Since the beginning of the war, most Israel[is] stayed indoors, and the country’s economy suffered as a result. Schools were closed and tourism came to a standstill.” 

Once again the BBC’s “permanent public record” is found wanting.

BBC audiences denied offshore gas news

In December the BBC News website told its readers that “[t]he Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are…exploring for gas” but those getting their news from the BBC will be unaware of the fact that last week Israel began to supply gas to Egypt. 

“Israel has started pumping natural gas to Egypt from two massive offshore fields, marking a major milestone and a historic cooperation between the countries, according to a joint statement. […]

Jerusalem’s and Cairo’s energy ministries issued the rare joint statement on Wednesday morning, calling the move “an important development that will serve the economic interests of both sides.

“The step will both enable Israel to export some of its natural gas to the region via Egypt’s gas liquefaction plants, and promote Egypt’s status as a regional gas hub,” the statement said. […]

In the October deal, the partners in the Israeli fields signed a contract with the privately held Egyptian firm Dolphinus Holdings to transfer some 85 billion cubic meters (3 trillion cubic feet), to be supplied by both the Tamar and the Leviathan fields starting in 2020.

Signing the export permit in December, [energy minister] Steinitz said, “The export of gas to Egypt, from Leviathan and Tamar, is the most significant economic cooperation between Israel and Egypt since the signing of the peace treaty between the countries.””

Earlier this month gas from the Leviathan field began to be pumped to Jordan.

photo credit: Ministry of Energy

“An experimental supply of natural gas from the Leviathan gas field was pumped to Jordan from Israel by the Noble Energy Company on Wednesday, according to Jordan’s Petra national news agency.

The experimental pumping will continue for three months and will test the infrastructure prior to the flow of the actual commercial supply, according to Jordan’s National Electric Power Company (NEPCO). […]

Gas from the Tamar field has been pumped to Jordan for the past two years, so the new exports from Leviathan are not the first exports to Israel’s eastern neighbor. They will be on a much larger scale, however, since the Leviathan deal with Jordan is worth $10 billion, while the one concerning the Tamar field is worth about $500 million.

The first natural gas pipeline from Israel to Jordan was constructed in the Sodom area by the Dead Sea in 2017, aiming to supply gas from the Tamar reservoir to private customers in Jordan. A second pipeline in the Beit She’an area will supply gas from the Leviathan reservoir to NEPCO.”

Some in Jordan are however opposed to the deal.

“Earlier this month, Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., said gas pumping had started as part of a multi-billion-dollar deal with Texas-based Noble Energy aimed at lowering the cost of power in the energy-poor kingdom. […]

In a statement then, NEPCO said importing the gas from Israel was “the last option” after supplies of Egyptian gas came to an end after its pipeline was repeatedly targeted by Islamic State-affiliated militants in Sinai. NEPCO said Israel was “the only available source.”

At odds with the kingdom’s official policy, many Jordanians still see Israel as an enemy and often meet steps toward normalization with great public backlash. […]

Dozens of police Friday formed lines to prevent protesters from marching. The demonstrators chanted anti-Israel slogans and held banners reading, “The gas of the enemy is an occupation!” and “Down with the gas deal.”

The Jordanian flag-waving protesters also threatened to overthrow the government if it sticks by the gas deal.

Murad al-Adayleh, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front Party, called on the government, “which has allowed the start of importing the gas,” to step down.

When the deal was signed in 2016, it was not reviewed by Jordan’s lower house of Parliament. Last year, that body issued a non-binding resolution against the agreement.”

Although the lower house of the Jordanian parliament once again made its position clear in a vote on January 19th, it is unclear whether or not the government will grant approval to the motion requesting a law banning Israeli gas imports to Jordan.

BBC audiences however remain completely unaware of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sector.

 

UK government anti-terrorism sanction disregarded by BBC News

On January 17th the UK government’s economic and financial ministry announced that its Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation had designated the entire organisation of Hizballah under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act of 2010.

That announcement was reported by the Reuters news agency and the story was picked up by other agencies and numerous media outlets worldwide. 

Curiously, we have been unable to find any coverage of that Treasury announcement on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ or ‘Middle East’ pages or under relevant tags such as UK government, HM Treasury, UK Finance or Hezbollah.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores Twitter’s terror groups suspensions

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

BBC News website recycles misleading map

On January 14th a report headlined “Iran nuclear deal: European powers trigger dispute mechanism” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

The article includes a map which was previously seen in a BBC report published last November. As noted here at the time, that illustration informs readers that “changes agreed” under the JCPOA included Fordo being “converted from fuel enrichment to technology centre”.

Iran did not comply with that requirement (as documented in this report) but nevertheless the BBC continues to promote a map which tells audiences of “changes agreed” but does not provide any information concerning the reality of Iranian compliance with those agreements.

A report published by the Institute for Science and International Security in November states:

“Iran has rendered defunct the JCPOA’s provision that the Fordow plant be converted to a nuclear, physics, and technology research center. Instead, as we warned in our previous analysis, Iran retained its enrichment plant at Fordow four years into the JCPOA’s implementation. [Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman, Behrouz] Kamalvandi recently emphasized that reality, stating on November 9, “In fact, we can say that we have abandoned a number of clauses of the JCPOA, including the 44th, which stipulates that Fordow should be transformed into an international nuclear and physical center.””

One must therefore ask why the BBC continues to use a map which does not reflect the situation on the ground and hence misleads audiences.

Related Articles:

BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

More disappearing Jews at the BBC

On January 10th the ‘updates’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Africa’ pages promoted a short item (without a URL) in which audiences were told that:

“Alexandria was once home to tens of thousands of Jewish people”

and:

“Alexandria was once home to tens of thousands of Jews – but only a handful now remain”.

No further information concerning that ‘disappearance’ of the ancient community of Jews in Alexandria was provided and BBC audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves seeing as the last time they were given any (far from complete) information about the history of Egyptian Jews was in 2014:

BBC whitewashes 20th century Jewish emigration from Egypt

Reporting the same story, the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“Egypt reopened a restored historic synagogue on Friday in the coastal city of Alexandria, but only three local Jews were on hand at the ceremony.”

A timeline of the measures which led to the eradication of Egypt’s Jewish community is available here.

 

Revisiting two BBC News website reports from July 2019

In early July 2019 the BBC News website published a report headlined “Clashes as Ethiopian Israelis protest over police shooting” which remained on its ‘Middle East’ page for two days. BBC audiences were told that: [emphasis added]

“Protesters have clashed with police across Israel following the funeral of a teenager of Ethiopian descent who was shot dead by an off-duty officer. […]

The killing of 18-year-old Solomon Tekah near Haifa on Sunday caused outrage among the Ethiopian community, with one member of the teenager’s family accusing the off-duty police officer of murder.

A police statement cited the officer as saying he had tried to intervene in a fight between two groups of youths. After he identified himself, the youths began throwing stones at him and he opened fire after “feeling that his life was in danger”, the statement added.

However, Israeli media cited witnesses as saying the officer was not attacked.”

A photo caption stated:

“The family of Solomon Tekah said the off-duty officer’s actions were disproportionate

The BBC also told its readers that:

“Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s. They say they have faced systematic discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships ever since. […]

“We’ll do whatever we can to make sure police will stop killing people because of their skin colour,” one protester told AFP news agency.”

A week later the BBC News website decided to publish a video also dated July 3rd in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section of its Middle East page. By the time that video was published separately on July 10th, a ballistics report had confirmed that “the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into Solomon Tekah” and the DNA of the deceased had been found on a rock recovered from the scene. Nevertheless, the BBC presented that video with a synopsis stating that:

“Israeli police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protests by Ethiopian Jews prompted by the funeral of a teenager who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman.”

Details of the investigation into the incident that sparked those violent protests in July were recently published by the Justice Ministry. As reported by Ha’aretz, the BBC’s second-hand quote from “witnesses” who claimed that “the officer was not attacked” was shown to be fabricated.

“The latest findings also reveal that two teenagers who initially said they had witnessed the incident later testified to department officials that they lied, and weren’t even in the area at the time. One said he had deliberately lied so the officer would be punished for Teka’s death. […]

The findings also suggest that some evidence had been fabricated. Two 14-year-old boys who claimed to have witnessed the shooting later turned out not to have been at the scene.

These so-called witnesses became instant internet stars on the day of the incident when they were videotaped claiming, in front of a large audience, that the officer had shot Teka in the chest for no good reason. The video clip was circulated on the web and cited as proof that “Israeli policemen murder under the auspices of the law,” as one person shouted in the footage.

But when the two youths were summoned for questioning, they said that they hadn’t been at the scene. One of them initially stuck to his story of seeing the shooting but later retracted it when questioned a second time, and said he had lied “to protect my friend” and so that “the officer would get what’s coming to him.”

The other youth told ministry investigators: “They dragged me there and I spoke under pressure. I said what my friend had told me, but I wasn’t there. I was at the gym.””

The BBC’s repeated claim that Teka was “shot dead by an off-duty policeman” was shown to be an incomplete portrayal of events.

“Teka died after the officer shot a bullet that ricocheted off the ground, during the altercation in a park in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood north of Haifa.

The details released by the ministry department in charge of investigating police misconduct attest that traces of DNA had been found in the park that support the officer’s account that he suffered bruises from stones Teka had thrown at him. Information on forensics tests indicate that sizable quantities of alcohol and hashish were found in Teka’s remains.”

Back in July 2019 we noted that the BBC had failed to produce any follow-up reporting to inform audiences of the findings of the early investigation into the incident. To date the BBC has likewise shown no interest in informing its audiences of the Justice Ministry’s latest findings. That of course means that the BBC’s “permanent public record” – the reports which remain available to the public online without any update – continue to promote partial and inaccurate information, including the allegation that the Israeli police kill people “because of their skin colour”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes context-free video

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

Our monthly summaries of BBC News website coverage of Israel and the Palestinians show that throughout 2019 audiences saw eight and a half times more coverage of internal Israeli affairs than they did of internal Palestinian affairs. Four of the year’s twelve months (May, October, November and December) saw no reporting on Palestinian affairs whatsoever.

Throughout the year the BBC produced four reports concerning internal Palestinian politics. Audiences learned of the new Palestinian Authority prime minister three months after he had taken office and were not informed of the resignation of the previous government.

Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided (5/1/19) discussed here

Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing (7/1/19) discussed here

Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises (6/6/19) discussed here

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19)

The economic crises in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip were the topic of just two reports throughout the year:

US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Yolande Knell (1/2/19) discussed here

Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule Yolande Knell (18/3/19) discussed here

BBC coverage of social affairs within Palestinian society during 2019 included two reports about sex education (one of which was removed without explanation) published in July:

Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex – removed (9/7/19) discussed here

Talking about sex no longer so taboo in the Arab world Shereen El Feki (17/7/19)

The same month BBC audiences saw a report about a singer which did not provide any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule. 

Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines Newsbeat (14/7/19) discussed here

In September the BBC News website published two reports about the murder of a Palestinian woman.

Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’ (12/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching Tom Bateman (16/9/19) discussed here

Issues the BBC chose to ignore in 2019 included the arrests of Palestinians by the PA in connection to property sales, protests against social security reforms, legal cases concerning the torture of Palestinian citizens, Palestinian Authority harassment of LGBTQ activists and hate speech in school text books.

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports concerning internal Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component. That editorial policy continued throughout 2019.

 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting on Iranian ballistic missiles

Here is what the BBC News website told audiences about Iranian ballistic missiles on March 8th 2016:

And the following day:

This is a BBC News website report from January 8th 2020:

This is another BBC News website report from the same day:

Nevertheless, the BBC still does not appear to have grasped that repetition and amplification of the propaganda of totalitarian regimes does not “help people understand and engage with the world around them”.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

Omissions in BBC reporting on latest Iranian missile test

BBC radio passes the microphone to Iranian propaganda

h/t SG

The January 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ – titled ‘Iran vows revenge for US killing of military leader’– included an early item (from 04:35 here) which was introduced by presenter Dan Damon thus:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Damon: “I spoke to one of the loyal Iranian voices that we can reach in Tehran. He’s Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi at the University of Tehran. He told me how important the General was to the people of Iran.”

Damon did not adequately clarify the meaning of that highlighted phrase and so audiences were unlikely to appreciate that they were about to hear largely unchallenged propaganda from a regime loyalist who has for years been rolled out to defend the Iranian regime in the English language mediaincluding the BBC

Marandi: “He’s very popular because he helped defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. Many believe that if it wasn’t for him in Syria the capital would have fallen to the extremist forces that were backed by Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region as well as the United States. And the same is true with Iraq. Iraq was on the verge of collapse and he went there and personally commanded troops in both countries to prevent the fall of these capitals to these forces and people in Iran believe that if these two capitals had fallen we would be fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda and other such groups inside Iran today.”

Damon: “The United States says he also led operations that killed many American soldiers. Do you accept that?”

Marandi: “I think it’s somewhat ridiculous for the Americans to blame Iran for their illegal occupation of Iraq and to deny the Iraqi people agency. The Americans helped create Saddam Hussein – they created the monster that they later destroyed. They imposed sanctions on Iraq where roughly a million people were killed. Then they invaded the country illegally with…and lied about weapons of mass destruction and alleged links to Al Qaeda. They destroyed the country and then after they helped create the mess in Syria by supporting extremist forces, those forces came into Iraq and the Americans refused to help Iraq when ISIS was advancing on the capital. So the United States is in no position to complain about anything in this part of the world.”

Damon made no effort to question or challenge that account.

Damon: “Why was Major General Soleimani so vulnerable? We all knew, didn’t we, that he was being monitored by the Americans very closely. Why wasn’t he protected?”

Marandi: “He was on an official visit. He entered the country through the Iraqi airport. There was nothing secret about his visit and he was met by senior Iraqi military officials who were also murdered [sic] by the US army. The Iranians believe that this is an act of war and the Iraqis believe that this is an act of war because they also killed a senior Iraqi military hero. And the Americans should not be fooled by the former Saddam Hussein supporters or ISIS supporters or American NGO people who are celebrating in Baghdad. We’ll see soon where public opinion in Iraq stands and how that will impact the US occupation in Iraq.”

Even that highlighted propaganda failed to prompt any challenge from Damon.

Damon: “President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want war and he doesn’t think Iran wants war because, to quote him, it would be very short. Do you think that’s right?”

Marandi: “The Americans will not win in any war in this region. Iran is not alone. Iran’s allies in Yemen, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, across the board are on the ascendance and Iraqis themselves are outraged by this act of war against Iraqis. The murder of innocent Iraqi soldiers on the front line against ISIS by American troops. Iran is a very powerful country. Iran is not the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and the Americans are in a very vulnerable position and American allies in the region are very vulnerable. This is not a war that the Americans can win. But the Iranians will definitely respond to the United States and the Iraqis will definitely respond to the United States. There will be a heavy price to pay.”

Referring to one of Marandi’s ‘contributions’ to Iranian English language TV earlier in the day, Damon went on:

Damon: “I think you said on Iranian TV that all Westerners should leave the Middle East. What did you mean?”

Marandi: “The situation is very dangerous. Western citizens in the United Arab Emirates and in other countries should leave because the United States has bases in all these countries and Iraq and countries like the Emirates, Saudi Arabia are a part of the US war against the Iranian people [sic].”

Damon closed that interview there. Those four minutes of unchallenged Iranian regime propaganda (in which the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and other relevant events were completely whitewashed) were promoted separately by the BBC World Service and embedded into the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ updates – without any indication to audiences of Marandi’s regime connections.

Four days later Marandi was back on the BBC airwaves. The January 7th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme ‘Up All Night’ – hosted by Rhod Sharp – gave him over fifteen minutes of airtime (from 3:06:25 here) after having introduced him using only his academic titles.

Marandi began by describing Soleimani as a “war hero” who, during the Iran-Iraq war, had survived chemical weapons attacks. He went on to promote a lie he has been peddling for over a decade, claiming that those chemical weapons “were provided to Saddam Hussein by European countries and the United States”.

Sharp failed to provide any challenge to that falsehood or to the subsequent claim that Soleimani “helped the Palestinians and their cause…ah…they’re…they live under apartheid and colonisation.”

He was similarly silent when Marandi claimed that it was a US objective to “create a Salafist state between Syria and Iraq”.

Marandi’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories continued unquestioned until Sharp closed the item by reminding listeners of his academic titles but with no mention of his regime connections.

Obviously the amplification of Iranian regime approved propaganda does not meet the BBC’s public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world” – especially when that propaganda goes unquestioned and unchallenged by underinformed BBC presenters clearly trying to fill airtime. Moreover, the damage done to audience understanding of the story is exacerbated when audiences are not informed (as required by BBC editorial guidelines) of the relevant context of the contributor’s “particular viewpoint” and affiliations  and he is presented as a supposedly neutral and reliable ‘academic’.