BBC News promotes Iran loyalist’s unproven claims

On the evening of August 21st an article headlined “Iraq paramilitary force blames US and Israel for mystery blasts” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Its opening lines told BBC audiences that:

“A powerful Iran-backed paramilitary force in Iraq has said it holds the US responsible for a series of blasts at its bases in recent weeks.

The deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation, which is dominated by Shia militias, alleged that US forces had brought four Israeli drones into the country to target its positions.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the force would use “all means at its disposal” to prevent and deter future attacks.”

The BBC did not subsequently provide any evidence to support the allegation that it chose to amplify but it did take make sure to inform readers that:

“Last year, Israel’s then defence minister suggested that it might attack suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has done repeatedly in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war.

When asked by reporters on Monday about the explosions in Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Iran has no immunity, anywhere.”

“We will act – and currently are acting – against them, wherever it is necessary.””

BBC audiences had to read down to the article’s closing paragraphs in order to find any information which might help them judge the reliability – and possible motives – of the source of the unevidenced claim it elected to amplify.

“The Popular Mobilisation’s fighters played a key role in the war against IS.

With the help of Iranian military advisers, weapons and funding, they prevented IS militants reaching Baghdad in 2014 and later helped Iraqi security forces regain control of the country.

The US, which also supported Iraqi security forces against IS, has said several of the Shia militias in the Popular Mobilisation are directly controlled by Iran. It has accused the militias of targeting US diplomatic facilities in Iraq and warned that they may have been given Iranian ballistic missiles.”

As Jonathan Spyer noted in July when the Iraqi prime minister announced that the Shia militias of the Popular Mobilisation Units were to be integrated into the Iraqi security forces: [emphasis added]

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are. These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri, Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani.”

The BBC failed to inform readers that, in addition to being “the deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation”, its quoted source is – as documented by the FDD – also a senior commander in Ktaeb Hizballah.

“Kataib Hezbollah is a relatively small Iraqi Shiite militia that serves as a vehicle through which the IRGC-Quds Force projects power in Iraq. […] its chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, is currently Iraq’s deputy national security adviser as well as an operational leader of the PMF. Born in Basra in 1953, Muhandis has worked for decades with the IRGC, including his participation in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait that killed six and injured 90 others.

Muhandis is the de-facto deputy of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in Iraq; the Iranian general has called Muhandis a “living martyr.” Kataib Hezbollah was among the earliest Iraqi groups to dispatch fighters to Syria, where it helped organize groups including Liwa Abu-Fadl al-Abbas, a militia composed of Iraqi Shiites. In 2015, a Kataib Hezbollah official told the Washington Post that Kataib Hezbollah had sent 1,000 fighters to Aleppo in response to a direct request by Soleimani. Along with other Iranian-backed militias, Kataib Hezbollah has begun to fill the power vacuum created by the fall of the Islamic State caliphate.”

The BBC closed its article with references to Muhandis (who was indeed designated by the US a decade ago) and his militia but failed to inform readers of the connection between them.

“The US has designated one of the militias in the Popular Mobilisation, Kataiib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), as a terrorist organisation.

It has also listed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as a “specially designated global terrorist”. It alleges that he advises Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and that he has been involved in the bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region.”

In other words, the BBC chose to unquestioningly amplify unproven allegations concerning explosions at arms depots in Iraq made by one of Iran’s senior operatives in that country.  

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports the results of an opinion poll.

“A new poll by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, taken June 27-July 19, indicates that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose their leaderships’ preemptive rejection of the Trump administration’s peace plan—despite widespread popular disapproval of the current U.S. president. The survey also shows a dramatic rise in the proportion supporting an enhanced role in peacemaking for the Arab states. More specifically, however, only a minority voice a favorable attitude toward the June regional economic workshop in Bahrain, with many saying they have not heard or read enough about it.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.

“Turkey’s efforts at building influence and power in the neighborhood are not restricted to dry land.  Rather, an important currently developing arena for Turkish assertiveness is the eastern Mediterranean.  This area has been the site of major gas discoveries in Israeli, Cypriot and Egyptian waters in recent years.  Lebanon too is seeking to open exploration in its territorial waters. […]

As Turkey moves further from the west, and closer to alliance with Russia, so it is emerging as an aggressive and disruptive force with regard to gas development in the eastern Meditteranean.  The main area of current concern is that around Cyprus.  Israel, Egypt and Lebanon have all signed delimitation agreements with Cyprus. Turkey refuses to do so.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt asks ‘Has Ebrahim Raisi been Tagged as Iran’s Next Supreme Leader?’.

“Recent months have seen increasing signs that the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Since his appointment as head of the judiciary in March 2019, there have been increasing efforts on the part of Raisi, a conservative cleric, apparently backed by the Supreme Leader, to advance changes in the legal system, improve his public image, and increase his media exposure, particularly in view of his loss in the most recent presidential elections in May 2017. It is still too early to assess Raisi’s chances of winning the battle of succession for the leadership of Iran, which will necessarily be affected by the timing of Khamenei’s departure from the political map. However, his closeness to the Supreme Leader, his experience in the judicial authority, his tenure as chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation (and the Imam Reza Shrine) in the city of Mashhad, and his hardline positions, alongside his increasing efforts to improve his public standing, make him the leading candidate at this stage in the battle of succession.”

4) The ITIC documents how Hamas is “using youngsters as a tool for violence near the security fence in the Gaza Strip”.

“The return march in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2019, was similar in most respects to the previous marches. About 4,500 Palestinians participated, gathering mainly at the five return camps. As usual, the march was accompanied by violent activities near the border fence carried out by several dozen Palestinians, most of them adolescents and children. The violent activities included throwing IEDs, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails at the IDF. Several Palestinians tried to sabotage the security fence and some crossed the fence into Israeli territory. Videos photographed at the return march clearly illustrated the exploitation of youngsters handled for military missions, endangering their lives. Harm that may come to them serves Hamas as a propaganda and lawfare weapon against Israel, which is represented as Israel’s killing youngsters in cold blood.”

 

Weekend long read

1) At ‘Lawfare’, Matthew J. Aiesi presents a legal view of the incendiary attacks launched from the Gaza Strip.

“…Israel has also been subjected to frequent attacks by incendiary balloons. By early June of this year, these attacks had destroyed approximately 4,300 acres of land, and more has been destroyed since then. Yet news reports on the incendiary balloons often fail to identify the balloons for what they are—a war crime. […]

As Hamas has been using them, these incendiary balloon attacks violate numerous rules and customs of warfare—principally concerning the targeting of civilians and the use of indiscriminate weapons. The attacks also likely violate the prohibition on the use of incendiary weapons in this context.”

2) MEMRI reports on views of the PA’s handling of an incident earlier this year.

“On April 26, 2019, an urgent appeal by the largely Christian residents of the Palestinian village of Jifna, in the Ramallah and Al-Bireh district, was circulated on social media. Addressed to Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister and Interior Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, it followed a violent incident that had taken place in the village the previous night. The villagers stated in the appeal that armed “rabble” headed by “an influential individual in Ramallah district” had burst into the village, and that gunmen had fired their weapons and thrown rocks and firebombs at their homes, shouting “racist and sectarian” ISIS-like slogans, including demands that they pay jizya – the poll tax levied on Christians and Jews living under Muslim rule as a protected and subjugate class. The residents called on Shtayyeh to bring the attackers to justice in order to deter others from similar actions against them. […]

The violent incident in question reignited previous criticism of treatment of the Christian minority in Palestinian society, and the PA’s lenience in dealing with anti-Christian activity, as well as the handling of this particular incident.”

3) At the Washington Institute Michael Herzog analyses ‘Israel’s pushback in Syria’.

“Of all the threats in Israel’s strategic landscape, Iran’s ambitions and developing military capabilities in neighboring Syria and Lebanon have ranked highest in recent years in the attention of Israeli decisionmakers and strategic planners. These ambitions and capabilities, which carry serious strategic-military implications, have been relentlessly advanced by an Iranian regime deeply hostile to Israel and, if unchecked, could yield dangerous results in the foreseeable future. On the spectrum of threats, Iran’s push to build a formidable military front against Israel in Syria and Lebanon, with a complementary envelope in Iraq, fits somewhere between the immediate yet modest (Hamas in Gaza) and the long term and extremely menacing (Iran with nuclear arms). This balance of its severity and relative immediacy explains why it has ranked so high for Israeli decisionmakers in recent years. In turn, the Iranian effort has driven Israel to push back militarily even at the risk of sparking a major confrontation, a policy that in Israel enjoys wide public and political consensus.”

4) UK Media Watch is Celebrating 10 years of promoting accurate coverage of Israel.

“Ten years ago, a small group of dedicated activists concerned about inaccurate and inflammatory coverage of Israel in the British media, and the antisemitism such reporting often fuels, had an audacious idea: to take on the Guardian, the central address for such bias.

The blog established by this group in August 2009 was called CiF Watch, reflecting our initial focus on the Guardian’s online home for op-eds and commentaries, known as ‘Comment is Free’ (‘CiF’). The first post at CiF Watch pledged to expose and combat the bigoted and one-sided nature of the Guardian’s obsessive focus on Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reviews the current situation in Syria.

‘The international news focus has long moved on from the Syrian conflict. Behind the oft-stated clichés of the conflict “winding down” and of regime survival or victory, however, a complex and often deadly reality remains. […]

Assad regime apologists have sought for a long period to present a view of the war in which the status quo antebellum was in the process of being restored. This image does not entirely correspond to reality. Assad, with Iran and Russia, controls around 60% of the territory of Syria. The area east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces constitutes roughly 30% of Syria. The Turkish-guaranteed Sunni Islamist area in the northwest covers the remaining 10%.’

2) At the ITIC, Raz Zimmt takes a look at an Iranian charity.

‘“The Foundation of the Oppressed” is the largest charitable foundation in Iran and the second largest economic entity in the country. Since the late 1980s, the Foundation of the Oppressed has become a large economic holding company controlling firms and groups in the sectors of services, industry, mining, energy, construction and agriculture. The Foundation operates under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and maintains a tight working relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Foundation plays a central role in Iran’s efforts to expand its economic role in Iraq and Syria, as a lever to entrench its influence in the region. At this stage, the Foundation of the Oppressed and firms operating under it are not under American sanctions, and it is unclear whether the recently announced sanctions against the office of the Supreme Leader will include this foundation too.’

3) Also at the ITIC, a report on the new Albukamal Border Crossing.

‘The new border crossing between Syria and Iraq at Albukamal is considered strategically important by Iran. That is because the crossing is vital for the land bridge Iran seeks to construct between its territory and the Mediterranean Sea. The route allows Iran to send forces, supplies and weapons through Iraq to Syria and from there to Lebanon. It can be assumed that Iran is of the opinion that the land bridge will enable it to reduce its dependence on risky aerial and naval routes. The new crossing, when it opens, will enable larger numbers of vehicles to enter Syria and make it easier to preserve secrecy (since it is farther from residential buildings). Therefore it is likely that the new crossing is being constructed with Iranian aid, and possibly with Iranian involvement. In addition, Iran participates in securing the area between Albukamal in Syria and al-Qa’im in Iraq by using Shi’ite militias deployed permanently in the region.’

4) The Press Gazette reports the NUJ’s reaction to the BBC’s recent agreement to reporting restrictions imposed by Iran.

‘The morale of BBC Persian journalists has been “deeply affected” by a management decision to abide by reporting restrictions in exchange for access to Iran, the National Union of Journalists has claimed. […]

The union said the “professional integrity” of BBC Persian journalists “has been undermined” by the move. Iranian authorities continue to target journalists at the London-based news service in a bid to silence them.’

 

 

No dots to join in BBC News Gulf crisis backgrounder

The BBC News website currently has a backgrounder titled “Iran and the crisis in the Gulf explained” on its Middle East page.

For a self-defined explanatory article, some of its wording is remarkably vague. For example, under the sub-heading “What is the crisis about?” BBC audiences are told that:

“Behind the latest tensions is the fact that Iran and the US have increasingly accused each other of aggressive behaviour.

The US says recent activity by Iranian and Iranian-backed forces is destabilising the region and threatening US interests, while Iran says the US is trying to use military force and economic pressure to bring down its government.”

What is that “recent activity”? Who are “Iranian-backed forces”? How does “destabilising the region” manifest itself? The BBC isn’t telling.

Similarly, under the sub-heading “Why does the crisis matter?” readers find a rather trite statement which is not given any further exploration or explanation:

“…if the crisis erupts into a war, the consequences will be devastating.”

One of the places where “the consequences” of any such armed conflict will be felt is – as Iranian officials have said quite plainly – Israel and that is because Iran has protégés in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip on call for precisely such a scenario.

While Hizballah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are Iran’s main investments on Israel’s borders, it has also been rebuilding relations with Hamas, after ties took a blow in 2011 when the terror group refused to side with Iran’s Syrian partner, Bashar al Assad.

Although Hamas delegations have traveled to Tehran fairly regularly in recent years – including for Rouhani’s second inauguration – the latest of those visits included something of a novelty. For the first time in seven years, Hamas representatives (including Saleh al Arouri, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan and Mousa Abu Marzouk) met with Iran’s ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei.

“Iran’s state TV says a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that is visiting Iran has met with the country’s supreme leader.

The TV report on Monday says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks with Hamas’ deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, who is heading the delegation. The Hamas delegation also met with Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei.

“Hamas is Iran’s first line of defense,” said Al-Arouri following the meeting.”

The Jerusalem Post added:

“Referring to recent escalations between the US and Iran, the Hamas official added that Hamas expressed “solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran and emphasize that any hostile action against Iran is actually hostile to Palestine and the current of resistance. We consider ourselves to be at the forefront of supporting Iran.”

Al-Arouri addressed how the capabilities of the Hamas terrorist group have advanced through the years, adding that “today, all of the occupied territories and the main Zionist centers are in the crosshairs of Palestinian resistance missiles.””

The significance of that Hamas visit to Tehran was clearly recognised by many major media organisations such as AP, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The BBC however apparently did not consider it newsworthy and so readers of the BBC’s backgrounder on the Gulf crisis are deprived of information which could go some way towards ameliorating its often opaque and unhelpful language.

Related Articles:

The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

 

  

Superficial BBC reporting on Argentina’s designation of Hizballah

A written report titled “Argentina designates Hezbollah as terrorist organisation” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 18th.

“Argentina has designated Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organisation and frozen its assets.

It accuses the Shia Islamist group of being behind two attacks on its soil.

The announcement was made on the 25th anniversary of one – the bombing of the Amia Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.”

Later on in the report readers were told that:

“The attack on the Amia centre – which Argentina said was planned and financed by Iran, and carried out by Hezbollah – was the South American country’s deadliest terrorist attack.”

As has been standard practice for years in BBC reporting on the AMIA attack, the report then went on to note denials from Hizballah and Iran but failed to inform audiences of the wealth of evidence available which indicates that such denials are to be viewed with a considerable amount of scepticism.

“Both Iran and Hezbollah have denied any involvement. No-one has ever been brought to trial in connection with the bombing.”

Like the BBC profile of Hizballah (which has not been updated for over three years) to which readers were provided with a link, the report also gave readers an incomplete view of the designation of Hizballah.

“Hezbollah is also designated by the US, UK, Israel and several Gulf Arab states, but Argentina is the first country in Latin America to do so.”

BBC audiences found the following cryptic statement:

“Argentine officials say Hezbollah is engaged in illegal activities between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to finance its operations elsewhere.”

Readers were not informed that a year ago the Argentinian government froze the financial assets of fourteen Lebanese residents of the Tri-Border Area who were part of an organisation linked to Hizballah or that the governments of Brazil and Paraguay have also taken steps – as the BBC knows – against Hizballah’s terror-financing activities in that region.

The report did however close by telling BBC audiences that “[t]he US, along with Israel, had pushed for Argentina to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation”.

Related Articles:

The Amia Attack: Terrorism, Cover-Up and The Implications For Iran  (CAMERA)

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains “The Many Incoherences and Hypocrisies of International Law on Jerusalem”.

“Under the uti possidetis principle, then, Israel’s borders at the moment of independence are quite clear: the borders of Mandatory Palestine. Those borders include all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria as well. The UN, in its thousands of resolutions to the contrary, flagrantly ignores that principle.

This conclusion is not affected by the UN General Assembly’s partition proposal, adopted as Resolution 181 in November 1947, that provided for the formation in Palestine of two states, Jewish and Arab, with the city of Jerusalem designated a separate internationally-administered entity (the corpus separatum). That is not only because the UN proposal was a non-binding recommendation, but because, having been rejected by the Arabs, it was never implemented and did not in fact result in a partition of the Mandate. Uti possidetis goes by the prior administrative borders as they were, not as they might at various times have been imagined to be.”

2) MEMRI documents the broader background to a speech from a senior Hamas figure which was recently ignored by the BBC: “Hamas Official Fathi Hamad’s Speech Was No Exception”.

“After a July 12, 2019 speech by Hamas political bureau member Fathi Hammad urging Palestinians to kill Jews all over the world sparked outrage, Hamas issued a clarification stating that his statements did not reflect the movement’s official positions and that Hamas’s struggle is against the occupation, not against Jews around the world or the Jewish faith.

However, MEMRI publications from the past two years show that statements by Hamas members and officials, and content published by Hamas’s official media, have been rife with antisemitism. […]

It should be mentioned that all of these statements were made after Hamas published its May 1, 2017 policy document aimed at presenting the movement as pragmatic, democratic, and tolerant. This document was also aimed at distancing the movement from the antisemitic statements that appear in its charter (although it does not supersede the charter), by stating that Hamas does not fight the Jews as such, but only the Zionist occupation.”

3) The ITIC takes a look at a topic serially under reported by the BBC – “Summer Camps in the Gaza Strip”.

“In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training. […]

Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem”.”

4) Jonathan Spyer analyses the Iraqi prime minister’s announcement of the integration of Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces. 

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are.  These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri,  Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani. […]

The militias are powerful players – politically, militarily and economically.  Prime Minister Adel Abd al Mehdi, meanwhile, is a weak figure with no real power base of its own.  Iraq is not a country ruled by law.  The prime minister as a result simply possesses no coercive mechanism for imposing his will on the Shia militias.  He can order their dissolution if he so wishes.  The result will be the further enmeshing and fusing of the militias with the official bodies of the state – without the ceding by the latter of their own vital chain of command.  This chain of command leads to Qassem Soleimani, and thence to the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

 

Revisiting a story the BBC last mentioned in 2013

Back in February 2018 we noted that BBC audiences had seen no meaningful coverage of a long-running dispute between Lebanon and Israel concerning their maritime border. That observation still stands.

In that post we recorded that the United States had been trying to mediate between the two parties for some time, as explained in a comprehensive article by Oded Eran of the INSS.

“In February 2012, State Department Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Frederic Hof…undertook the task of mediation. Israel reiterated to him its willingness to resolve the dispute by reaching a compromise in direct talks with representatives of the Lebanese government. In April 2012, at separate meetings in London (in view of the Lebanese refusal to participate in a joint meeting), Hof submitted a proposed compromise involving division of the disputed area. On May 2, 2013, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman approved the American proposal, even though it granted Lebanon a larger share of the area. To this day no official response from Lebanon has been received, although according to reports of US diplomats in contact with the Lebanese government, they discussed inter alia depositing the proposal with the UN. From this it appears that the proposal was acceptable to the Lebanese government.”

In June of this year Mr Eran and his colleague reported that the negotiations were to be renewed.

“In the coming weeks, negotiations are supposed to begin between Israel and Lebanon on demarcation of the maritime border between them. Agreement on forthcoming talks was reached following intensive efforts by United States Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, and it was decided that negotiations will be held at the UN facility in Naqoura, on the Israel-Lebanon border. Due to Lebanese opposition to American mediation, the United States will participate in the talks only as a facilitator. The conflict between Israel and Lebanon concerns an 860 sq km triangular area in the Mediterranean Sea, and stems from a dispute regarding the demarcation method (Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline). The issue grew more relevant and became an open conflict following the natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea.”

They noted that:

“The Lebanese government’s current agreement to renew the negotiations, and this time in a direct manner, seems to have been made possible by the formation of the Lebanese government earlier this year, but it is clear that the main backdrop is the urgent economic need, due to Lebanon’s severe economic hardship. […]

Moreover, it seems that there has been a change in Hezbollah’s position on the issue, as Lebanon’s willingness to negotiate would not have been possible without this organization’s approval. […]

This change in Hezbollah’s position increases the chances of reaching an agreement…”

However, the Jerusalem Post now reports that Hizballah’s stance has changed yet again.

“Internal Lebanese struggles are apparently holding up negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over demarcating their maritime border, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri pushing for the talks to begin, but facing resistance from Hezbollah. […]

Lebanese website Naharnet reported earlier this week that France and the US expressed regret that efforts to kick-start the talks have been frozen.

The report quoted sources involved in the negotiations as saying “the Lebanese side, specifically Hezbollah, has decided to stop the negotiations due to an Iranian-Syrian intervention linked to the new tension between America, Israel and Iran.” […]

According to Israeli officials, Hariri and Druze and Christian parties are interested in settling the border dispute because the exploration of natural gas off the coast would add millions to the Lebanese treasury, which is in dire need of replenishing. Hezbollah and its patron Iran have other interests, however, and are placing obstacles in the way.”

The dispute has been going on for many years but the last time BBC audiences heard of its existence was over six years ago in a written report from Yolande Knell about gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Israel and Lebanon remain technically at war and there is a dispute over their un-demarcated maritime border. […]

Political uncertainty in Lebanon means it is also unable to make key decisions, notably on the delineation of offshore blocks, which must be approved by a new cabinet.

There is currently only a caretaker government after the prime minister stepped down last month.”

Since that article appeared in May 2013, audiences have seen no further coverage of the attempts to get negotiations on track and remain completely unaware of the fact that a designated terror organisation acting on Iranian instruction is preventing the resolution of a long-standing dispute and stalling potential improvement to the Lebanese economy.

Related Articles:

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

BBC’s Knell inaccurate on naval blockade of Gaza Strip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News continues to parrot Iran’s nuclear messaging

A report was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 16th under the headline “Netanyahu: ‘Europe might ignore Iran threat until nuclear missiles hit’”.

That title, along with a further 181 words in the 690 word report related to remarks made by the Israeli prime minister following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels concerning Iran’s breaches of the agreement reached in 2015 on its nuclear programme.

“Israel’s prime minister has said the European Union might not wake up to the threat of Iran “until Iranian nuclear missiles fall on European soil”.

Mr Netanyahu likened Europe’s approach to Iran’s recent breaches of a 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme to the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

He spoke after EU foreign ministers said the breaches were not significant.”

Readers found information on Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA and the EU’s related stance. The US approach and the Iranian stance were also reflected, with BBC audiences told that: [emphasis added]

“Iran says they [breaches of the JCPOA] are a response to reinstated US sanctions, but insists it is not trying to build nuclear weapons.”

And:

“Mr Netanyahu, who was a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, has accused Iran of lying about not pursuing nuclear weapons and of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons knowledge since 2015. Iran has called the allegations “ridiculous”.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed upon) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…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.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues.

Nevertheless, it chose not to inform readers of this report of those relevant parts of the story.

Instead – despite being under obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis…not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues…as active and informed citizens” – the BBC continues to uncritically parrot Iranian messaging while sidestepping important background.

Related Articles:

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

 

The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

Visitors to the BBC News website may have noticed that disclaimers appeared in a number of reports by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience published on its Middle East page in the past few days.

Inside Iran: Iranians on Trump and the nuclear deal

Inside the former US Embassy in Iran

Inside Iran: What Iranians think of stand-off with US

The same disclaimer also appeared on other platforms.

However Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post reports that the BBC’s disclaimer – apparently made in accordance with the new editorial guidelines – does not tell all.

“The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.

The agreement was made with the Iranian government in exchange for Iran allowing a BBC correspondent into the country, and, according to emails that HuffPost obtained, it’s not the first time the British broadcaster has agreed to such terms.

The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”

The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”

It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.”

Just last week the UK government co-hosted an international conference in London on media freedom in which the BBC’s Director General and Director of News and Current Affairs took part and the BBC ran a “hub”. The aim of that conference was described by its organisers as follows:

“The conference is part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the importance of international press freedom, and also to increase the consequences faced by those who try to restrict it.” [emphasis added]

One can but wonder how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – which of course part funds the BBC World Service, which includes BBC Persian – squares last week’s fine declarations on media freedom with the almost simultaneous BBC acquiescence to the demands of the Iranian regime.