Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer discusses the outcome of the recent election in Lebanon.

“Lebanon’s May 6 elections have resulted in the further consolidation of Hezbollah and its associated movements within the legal frameworks of the state. The movement and its allies won over half of the seats in the 128-seat parliament. At the same time, the 2018 elections do not appear set to usher in any fundamental alterations to the status quo in Lebanon.
The majority achieved was not sufficient as a basis for constitutional change to alter the rules of the game related, for example, to the sectarian power-sharing agreements that underly Lebanese political life.

However, Hezbollah and Amal and co will have comfortably more than their own “blocking third” in parliament, sufficient to prevent any changes not to their liking.”

2) At the Washington Times, Tony Badran and Jonathan Schanzer write about the same topic.

“Less discussed, but not less important, is that Lebanon is a headquarters for other elements of Iran’s regional terrorist network. It’s a fact the Lebanese interior minister openly acknowledged two years ago when he described Lebanon as “a global terrorist and security operations room.” Lebanon is currently the base for senior Hamas operative Saleh Arouri, who runs terror operations in the West Bank, and other officials from the Palestinian terrorist group. […]

Once again, the government in Beirut did nothing to stop this. Nor did it do anything to oust some of the other terrorist groups that target the Gulf Arab states. The Ansar Allah group in Yemen, better known as the Houthis, reportedly have been receiving training in Lebanon since at least 2010 — a fact some Hezbollah members have acknowledged publicly. The Houthis also have an office in Beirut, as well a television channel, which broadcasts Hezbollah-style propaganda.

Iran-backed terrorists have used Lebanon as a base from which to target other Gulf states, like Kuwait and Bahrain. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Just ask the Moroccans, who just last week accused Hezbollah of smuggling arms to the Polisario Front, a violent separatist group in the Western Sahara.”

3) Palestinian Media Watch has published a compilation of testimonies from Palestinian refugees.

“A number of points are very significant. First, these testimonies – though personal stories – are also describing large-scale movements, such as the flight from major cities like Jaffa and Safed. Second, they describe general orders to leave by Arab leaders and armies, broadcast on Arab radio to the entire Arab population. Third, the testimonies are presented openly by refugees themselves and by public figures, including leaders, in the official PA media. All of this suggests that awareness of Arab responsibility for the refugee problem must be widespread among the Palestinian population itself – even though Palestinian leaders refuse to accept responsibility in international forums.”

4) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz discusses the ‘original sin’ of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The P5+1’s failure to stop the ayatollahs dead in their would-be nuclear tracks is mirrored by the demonstrably lackadaisical approach of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body charged with policing the deal. How it can allow itself to certify that Iran is complying with the accord when the terms of the deal do not allow it to carry out anytime-anywhere inspections of suspect sites is beyond comprehension. And its response to the Mossad’s astonishing haul of Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation in the past few days simply beggars belief.

Imagine that your entire life’s work is dedicated to one acutely sensitive area of expertise, that you are constantly hampered by restricted access to your core research material, but that you are nonetheless the world authority in your field. Then imagine that someone else manages, through extraordinary enterprise and courage, to gain access to more core material, much more, than you could ever have imagined existed. And offers to make it available to you.

Would you a) express your profound gratitude and rush to pore over the new discoveries or b) dismiss the material, sight unseen, as irrelevant? No prizes for guessing which course of action the IAEA adopted hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled and began to detail Iran’s own nuclear weapons documentation, spirited out of Tehran from under the noses of the Islamic “We have never sought nuclear weapons” Republic.”

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Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine Jonathan Schanzer takes a look at “How Malaysia Became a Training Ground for Hamas“.

“As it turns out, Hamas has a significant presence in Malaysia. For years, the terrorist group has used Malaysia to engage in financial activities and even plan operations from outside Gaza, particularly as the group has been forced out of its traditional Middle East areas of operations, such as Syria.

 Malaysia doesn’t appear to be concerned about the optics of this Hamas presence. As the Inspector General of Police in Malaysia said at a press conference last year, “If they come in peace and do not create any problems, then what is the issue?”

The problem is that Hamas operatives don’t come in peace. In 2012, at least ten members of Hamas traveled to Malaysia for training to prepare for a cross-border attack against Israel. The group reportedly trained for kidnapping soldiers, anti-tank ambushes, and sniper attacks.”

2) Writing at the Forward, Emily Landau discusses the relevance of the recently exposed Iranian nuclear files.

“Make no mistake: the Iranian archives that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently presented to the world are very important.

Maybe the information we have seen so far is not new, although there is a multitude of documents that we might still hear about. But it comes straight from the horse’s mouth. These are Iranian documents, which lay out their nuclear plans and activities in a very clear and unambiguous manner.

There’s no room for any doubt that Iran was working on a military nuclear program.

This is in contrast to the IAEA reports on Iran since 2011, when the special annex laying out Iran’s suspected military work was first included in the Agency’s open reports. These reports were couched in uncertainty.”

3) At Forbes, Carrie Sheffield looks at how the BDS movement stunts the Palestinian economy.

“The numbers speak for themselves: Israel (population 8.3 million) has GDP of $291 billion, the Palestinian Territories (population 4.1 million), $11.3 billion. In 2012, Israeli sales to the Palestinian Authority were $4.3 billion, about 5% of Israeli exports (excluding diamonds) less than 2% of Israeli GDP, according to the Bank of Israel. In 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for about 81% of Palestinian exports and less than a percentage point of Israeli GDP. Palestinian purchases from Israel were two-thirds of total Palestinian imports (or 27% of Palestinian GDP).

Such trade flow asymmetry shows Palestine needs Israel, economically speaking. Yet the BDS crowd would impair economic ties between these areas, despite evidence that trade between peoples lessens outbreak of war. BDS-ers want to obliterate the vast trade surplus Israel extends to Palestine and offer nothing in its place.”

4) At the JCPA, Dr Shimon Shapira discusses the outcome of the recent election in Lebanon.

“The Lebanese constitution, which is based on the National Pact of 1943, divides the government among the country’s religious sects. Therefore, following the elections, the president will continue to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the chairman of Parliament a Shiite. However, with regard to the division between 128 members of Parliament, half of whom are Christians and half Muslims, Hizbullah has increased its parliamentary power through pacts with the Shiite Amal Party and the party of President Michel Aoun. The party of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is the biggest loser.

The necessity for forming a national unity government will apparently obligate all sides to maintain the present formula of power, according to which President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and Parliamentary Chairman Nabih Berri will continue in their current positions. However, the main significance of a Hizbullah victory is that it strengthens the veto power that the Shiite organization possesses with regard to any Lebanese government decision. Therefore, Hizbullah will continue to lay the foundations of Lebanese policy in the spheres of foreign and internal policy.”

 

 

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

December 15th saw the appearance of an article titled “Global nuclear watchdog IAEA ends Iran ‘weapons’ probe” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The use of punctuation in that headline gives early insight into the tone of the report, as does the caption to the image chosen to illustrate it.IAEA art 2

“Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful”

The article opens:

“The global nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has ended its 12-year investigation into concerns that Iran might be developing nuclear weapons.

The move is seen as a key step towards lifting UN, EU and US sanctions.

The IAEA concluded that Iran conducted nuclear weapons-related research until 2003 and to a lesser extent until 2009, but found no evidence of this since.

The lifting of sanctions, agreed in a July deal with world powers, hinged on the IAEA’s findings on the issue.”

As was the case in its previous report on the same topic, the BBC refrains from providing readers with any in-depth information concerning the details of the IAEA report from December 2nd , its implications and the open questions remaining. A similarly superficial approach is taken towards the IAEA Board of Governors resolution from December 15th with no effort made to present audiences with any alternative views of the issue – as did other media organisations such as Reuters.

“Beyond the IAEA board, however, some have argued that a full examination of Iran’s past violations of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations has been sacrificed for the sake of the political agreement clinched in Vienna in July.

“Iran’s cooperation was certainly not sufficient to close the overall PMD file,” the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear dossier, said in a statement.”

Moreover, the BBC chose once again to highlight Iranian statements on the issue which the IAEA’s December 2nd report clearly showed to be inaccurate.

“Iran has strongly denied pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif welcomed Tuesday’s announcement by the Vienna-based IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), saying it showed the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Towards the end of the article readers are again provided with an equally misleading Iranian statement on another issue.

“In a separate development on Tuesday, a medium range missile test-fired by Iran in October was in violation of a UN resolution, sanctions monitors said.

A report by the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Iran said that the Emad rocket was a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Under the July nuclear deal, Iran was “called upon” to refrain from developing ballistic missiles for up to eight years.

However, Iran said the test did not violate the agreement.” [emphasis added]

BBC audiences are not provided with the necessary background which would enable them to put that statement into its correct context.

“The Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Iran said in a confidential report, first reported by Reuters, that the launch showed the rocket met its requirements for considering that a missile could deliver a nuclear weapon.

“On the basis of its analysis and findings the Panel concludes that Emad launch is a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929,” the panel said. […]

The panel noted that Iranian rocket launches from 2012 and 2013 also violated the U.N. ban on ballistic missile tests.

While ballistic missile tests may violate U.N. Security Council sanctions, council diplomats note that such launches are not a violation of the nuclear deal, which is focused on specific nuclear activities by Iran. […]

Security Council resolution 1929, which bans ballistic missile tests, was adopted in 2010 and remains valid until the nuclear deal is implemented.” [emphasis added]

The question of why the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” continues to feed its audiences superficial and misleading reporting peppered with Iranian regime propaganda on this particular issue obviously remains open.

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More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

December 2nd saw the appearance of an article titled “IAEA: Iran worked on developing nuclear weapons” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Readers of that report were informed that:IAEA art

“Iran took limited steps towards developing a nuclear bomb in the past, the global nuclear watchdog has said.

But the report from the IAEA said the efforts did not go beyond planning and testing of basic components.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the findings confirmed that Tehran’s nuclear programme was peaceful.”

Not only was that obviously highly questionable statement from the former Iranian chief negotiator not challenged by the BBC but – like many of the corporation’s past reports on the topic of the Iranian nuclear programme – the article went on to emphasise that:

“Iran has long insisted its nuclear activities are peaceful…”

Reporting on the same statement, AP presented its audiences with a more critical and realistic view.

“Iran has consistently denied any interest in nuclear arms or past work on such weapons, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqhchi told Iranian television that the International Atomic Energy Agency report “confirms the peaceful nature” Iran’s nuclear program.

But the report contested that view and came down on the side of U.S. allegations, saying the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.

At the same time, the report said any such work was restricted to “feasibility and scientific studies” that stopped short of the advanced development of such weapons.

No previous IAEA report has so clearly linked Iran’s past nuclear work to weapons development.”

The BBC did not provide a link to the IAEA report and so audiences were unable to study its content and implications further. In contrast to the BBC’s minimalistic – and even dismissive – presentation of the report’s content, the New York Times explained the issue to its readers in a decidedly more comprehensive manner.

“Iran was actively designing a nuclear weapon until 2009, more recently than the United States and other Western intelligence agencies have publicly acknowledged, according to a final report by the United Nations nuclear inspection agency.[…]

But while the International Atomic Energy Agency detailed a long list of experiments Iran had conducted that were “relevant to a nuclear explosive device,” it found no evidence that the effort succeeded in developing a complete blueprint for a bomb.

In part, that may have been because Iran refused to answer several essential questions, and appeared to have destroyed potential evidence in others. […]

Tehran gave no substantive answers to one quarter of the dozen specific questions or documents it was asked about, leaving open the question of how much progress it had made.

The report, titled “Final Assessment of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program,” will not satisfy either critics of the nuclear deal or those seeking exoneration for Iran. Instead, it draws a picture of a nation that was actively exploring the technologies, testing and components that would be needed to produce a weapon someday. However, it does not come to a conclusion about how successful that effort was. […]

At Iran’s Parchin complex, where the agency thought there had been nuclear experimental work in 2000, “extensive activities undertaken by Iran” to alter the site “seriously undermined” the agency’s ability to come to conclusions about past activities, the report said.”

The Wall Street Journal noted:

“A key part of the agency’s investigation focused on a military base south of Tehran called Parchin, where Iran is suspected to have conducted tests related to a nuclear weapon. The agency maintains Tehran constructed a chamber at Parchin to safely contain the effect of tests involving the detonation of more than 150 pounds of high explosives.

Iran told the agency that the building was for storing chemicals and producing explosives, but a senior diplomat said those materials would have shown up in samples taken at Parchin this summer if that were the case. The report said they didn’t and concluded Iran’s explanation therefore didn’t fit the facts.

The agency said in its report that Tehran had aggressively sanitized the Parchin site in recent months.

“The agency assesses that the extensive activities undertaken by Iran since February 2012 at the particular location…undermined the agency’s ability to conduct effective verification,” the report said.”

Curiously, at no point in the BBC’s account of the story was it clarified that the Iranian activities documented by the IAEA constitute a breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

BBC reporting on the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and the JCPOA deal has long been uncritical and anodyne, generally failing to provide audiences with information which goes beyond the kind of US State Department talking points also seen in this report.

This particular article, however, reaches a new nadir in superficiality – as is glaringly obvious when it is compared to the reporting of other media organisations which are not legally obliged to enhance their audience’s “awareness and understanding of international issues” and do not describe themselves as “the standard-setter for international journalism”. 

BBC presents airbrushed picture of Rouhani NBC interview

The headline to an article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 19th reassured readers that “Iran’s Rouhani dismisses nuclear weapons fears“.

Rouhani NBC int

That message was hammered home several more times in the BBC’s report of an interview given by Iran’s new president to NBC on September 19th. The caption to the accompanying video clip reads:

“President Hassan Rouhani: “We have never sought or pursued a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so”. “

The article opens:

“Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country will never build nuclear weapons.”

In the body of the report readers are informed that:

“In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News in Tehran, Mr Rouhani said Iran had “never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so”.

“We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.” “

The only ‘balance’ to the repeated presentation of Rouhani’s statements comes in the form of this paragraph:

“Iran is under UN and Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme. It says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes but the US and its allies suspect Iran’s leaders of trying to built [sic] a nuclear weapon.”

The BBC makes no effort whatsoever to inform audiences of the IAEA’s assessments of Iran’s nuclear programme, including the remarks made by the agency’s Director General Yukiya Amano just three days before the NBC interview.

“I report regularly to the Board on safeguards implementation in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Director General pointed out. “The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” [emphasis added]

But the BBC’s airbrushing of Rouhani’s remarks during the interview does not stop with the nuclear issue. The report states:

“President Rouhani said his government wanted the Iranian people to be “completely free” in their private lives.

He said a “commission for citizens’ rights” was to be set up in the near future.

“In today’s world, having access to information and the right of free dialogue and the right to think freely is the right of all people, including the people of Iran,” he said, according to NBC’s translation of the interview.”

However, as NBC itself reports, there was an important condition to Rouhani’s statement which the BBC has airbrushed out of the picture its audiences receive.  

“Rouhani also appeared to pledge his support for increasing Iranians’ access to the Internet and other political and social freedoms.

“We want the people, in their private lives, to be completely free, and in today’s world having access to information and the right of free dialogue, and the right to think freely, is the right of all peoples, including the people of Iran,” he said.

When asked whether his government would stop censoring the Internet, Rouhani said “a commission for citizens’ rights” would be established. 

“Does that mean that people in Iran will have access now to Twitter and to Facebook?” Curry asked.

“The viewpoint of the government is that the people must have full access to all information worldwide,” Rouhani replied. “Our opinions on this should based on protection of our national identity and on our morals.” ” [emphasis added]

Interestingly, the BBC has also completely airbrushed from its report any mention of Rouhani’s statements on the Holocaust and Israel during the interview.

“…he deflected a question from NBC News’ Ann Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was “a myth.”

“I’m not a historian. I’m a politician,” he replied. “What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice.” “

With regard to Israel:

“Rouhani described Israel as “an occupier and usurper government” that “does injustice to the people of the region, and has brought instability to the region, with its warmongering policies.”

He added Israel “shouldn’t allow itself to give speeches about a democratically and freely elected government.” “

Of course Rouhani’s government can only be considered “democratically and freely elected” if one is able to persuade oneself that the vetting of candidates by Iran’s ‘Guardian Council’ somehow aligns with the principles of democracy – as Rouhani obviously can – and it is that same process of self-persuasion which allows him to describe Israel as having “brought instability to the region” even as Iran finances terror organisations and supports a regime killing its own civilians.

  

Beyond the fact that the BBC’s continuing spin of a new ‘moderate’ Iranian president involves gymnastics which are an embarrassment to behold, what is really important is that BBC audiences are not being provided with the full range of information which will “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” – as specified among the BBC’s Public Purposes.

Related articles:

Guardian report on NBC interview with Iran’s president omits Holocaust remarks

BBC Persian Service coverage of Manchester seminar criticised

Does the evidence support the BBC’s touting of “less hardline Iranian stance” on nuclear issue?

BBC continues to portray a ‘moderate’ Iranian regime

BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

A BBC theme to watch