BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

As we have recorded here in the past, the BBC has often failed to give its audiences a clear and accurate portrayal of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian financing and supply of weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hizballah.

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC audiences have been repeatedly encouraged to view Israeli actions against the supply of Iranian arms to Hizballah as ‘involvement’ in the Syrian civil war.

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

Moreover, the BBC rarely reports on Iran’s serial threats against Israel.

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

It was therefore refreshing to see BBC Radio 4 taking a step in the right direction – albeit only for domestic audiences – in the April 15th edition of ‘The World This Weekend’.

A significant proportion of that programme was devoted to the previous day’s strikes on targets in Syria by the US, the UK and France. After domestic aspects of the story had been discussed, presenter Jonny Dymond introduced (from 09:50 here) another Syria related topic.

Dymond: “106 years ago today the captain of the Royal Merchant Ship Titanic breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to some sharp steering, the ship had apparently avoided the iceberg poking out of the freezing seas. Those allowing themselves to exhale after the airstrikes on Syria by the West early on Saturday morning might bear the fate of the Titanic in mind. There was much more to the iceberg than met the eye. Saturday’s attacks were not the only strikes from beyond Syria’s borders this week.”

Listeners heard a recording of a related news bulletin before Dymond continued:

Dymond: “On Monday war planes widely believed to be from Israel sent missiles into a Syrian airbase known as T4 situated between the city of Homs and the ruins of Palmyra. More than a dozen people were killed, most of them believed to be Iranians.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that seven of the Iranians killed were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dymond went on:

Dymond: “It was not the first time T4 had been struck. Back in February Israeli war planes hit the base, amongst other targets, in retaliation for the incursion of a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet.”

Two days before this programme was aired Israel had announced that the Iranian UAV was armed with explosives but listeners were not given that information.  Dymond then continued with what is for the BBC an unusually lucid portrayal of Iranian activities in Syria.

Dymond: “Iran now reaches deep into every nook and cranny of Syria. Its military advisors direct operations on the ground. It sponsors Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has thousands of fighters in Syrian territory. It pays and arms the thousands of Shia faithful that have come from around the world to fight for Bashar al Assad. It has established a web of military positions and bases up and down the west of the country. Its cash has sustained Syria’s war economy. Salman Shaikh runs a political consultancy firm that mediates on conflicts in the Middle East.”

Shaikh: “It’s been very, very determined. It had understood from the start that Syria was a state – even a failed state – which needed to belong in its column rather than in the Western alliance and it’s done everything it can since this war started – this civil war, this conflict started – to make sure of that. It was the one that first rescued Assad’s forces in 2012 by sending in military advisors and since then it’s probably 50,000 or so Iranian backed Shia militias coming from around the world who are now part of the conflict in Syria. But on top of that, they have been trying to exact a price – economic – from the regime, social and of course on the military. This is a full full-court press from the Iranians to establish themselves.”

Dymond: “To its regional rivals Iran is an imperial threat. The talk is of a crescent of influence stretching from Iran itself, west through Iraq – now led by Iran-friendly Shia Muslim politicians – into Syria and on into Lebanon where Iranian sponsored Hizballah is in government. For the Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia such influence is deeply troubling. But Israel, which borders both Syria and Lebanon, perceives the expansion in Iranian might as a threat to its very existence.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, BBC audiences have long been denied the background information which would help them understand why Israel’s perceptions are such but at least listeners to this programme did get to hear an accurate portrayal of Israel’s view of Iran related issues in Syria.

Dymond: “Jerusalem-based political analyst Jonathan Spyer.”

Spyer: “Israel’s key concerns throughout the conflict have been, I think, twofold. Firstly that the conflict should not allow the transfer of sophisticated…certain sophisticated weapon systems from Iran via Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. And then secondly Israel’s concern has been to prevent the Iranians and their allies from reaching the border with the Golan Heights. Israel’s becoming increasingly concerned about the build-up of Iranian infrastructure in southern Syria and that’s, I think, the context in which you see the recent raid on the T4 airbase near Palmyra.”

No BBC programme is of course complete without a tick of the impartiality box – however irrelevant.

Dymond: “Iran is traditionally presented as the aggressor in the region; an expansionist power that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. But as Azadeh Moaveni – former Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and co-author of ‘Iran Awakening’ – says, Iran sees itself very differently.”

Moaveni: “I think they do see themselves in marked contrast to how they’re perceived, you know, in the West and certainly by the Arab Gulf states as on the back foot. They see these policies that they pursued in Yemen, in Syria, as what they call forward defence. You know this is their perception of it – they’re conventionally militarily very weak. They are shut out of the global financial system. They kind of hobbled along but they do not see themselves in a position of any kind of potential normalcy. And I think that feeling of solitude, as was mentioned in a recent report, kind of drives its security view.”

Dymond was not however distracted:

Dymond: “Forward defence may be how it seems to Iran but Israel’s alarm grows week by week and month by month as it sees Iran establishing military bases in Syria, transferring drone technology there and building a supply route through to Hizballah in Lebanon. Salman Shaikh.”

Shaikh: “It now takes us to a very dangerous situation because the Israelis will not allow that to happen. They may be too late – and I think within Israeli circles there is that fear – but that only just means that we’re actually at a heightened sense of tension.”

Dymond: “And within Israel, where once there was division between the military and political establishment over the need to face down Iran, now – says Jonathan Spyer – there is unity.”

Spyer: “Unlike in the period six, seven years ago when the issue of a possible raid on Iranian nuclear facilities was coming up, now the sense is that the conception whereby Iranian entrenchment in Syria represents a grave and urgent danger to Israel is as much emerging from the security echelon as from the political echelon. So given that, the near unanimity of the system makes it quite likely that that will be acted upon. It’s a very serious professional red line being expressed and it’s not simply political rhetoric.”

Dymond: “Bashar al Assad has consolidated his position mightily over the past year. Both rebel groups and so-called Islamic State have been driven back with the help of Russian air power and Iranian sponsored boots on the ground. You might think stability would follow but as US policy twists and turns in the breeze of President Trump’s Twitter feed, US allies are thinking of how they might have to act on their own. Israel will not stand idly by as its enemy moves ever closer to its borders.”

Next time the BBC tells its audiences that Iran has “been accused” of building up its military presence in Syria or “been accused” of supplying weaponry to Hizballah, this programme will serve as a useful reminder that in fact the BBC is well aware of Iran’s activities and that the corporation’s habit of qualifying that information with faux ‘objectivity’ is nothing but a barrier to the understanding of its funding public.

 

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BBC’s ‘Today’ touts ‘destabilising’ factor in the Middle East

The April 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme included discussion of what was still at that time the possibility of military action in Syria by the US and allies. Following an interview with a representative from a Moscow think tank, the programme’s new presenter Martha Kearney introduced another guest (from 2:37:53 here) and an additional topic. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Kearney: “Beyond the prospect of a dangerous confrontation between Russia and the [United] States there are of course other powerful forces in the region. Israel was accused of launching its own strike on a Syrian airbase recently which left seven Iranian military personnel dead. Major General Yaakov Amidror – former national security advisor to the prime minister of Israel and former head of the Israeli national security council.”

After Amidror had spoken about lost American credibility following the US failure to respond to Syria’s crossing of its ‘red line’ in 2013 and the necessity for credibility in order to prevent chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime, Kearney suggested that Israeli attempts to stop Iranian arms being transferred to Hizballah (rather than Iran’s arming of a terror organisation with advanced weaponry) are “destabilising” the region.

Kearney: “But you will understand the fears that many people have about the conflict escalating beyond the borders of Syria. Ahm…many people believe that Israel was behind an airstrike on a Syrian airbase on Monday. Isn’t this possibly destabilising for the wider region?”

While Amidror was explaining that Iran is building “a duplicate of Lebanon” in Syria and that Hizballah has 120,000 Iranian supplied rockets and missiles, Kearney interrupted him.

Kearney: “But you have so many external powers operating in Syria at the moment and a warning to your country from Russia saying that the strike on the Syrian airbase carried out by Israel has only worsened stability.”

Amidror then asked Kearney if she affords similar credibility to Russian statements concerning the attempted murder of two people in Salisbury last month before stating that the Russians “know that the Iranians are building a duplicate of Lebanon in Syria” and “they know that we will not let” that come about.

Kearney – apparently unwilling to distinguish between Western strikes on targets related to Bashar al Assad’s chemical weapons and the separate topic of Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons shipments to Hizballah – then asked:

Kearney: “Is there any evidence that airstrikes are effective? After all the United States carried out an airstrike on a Syrian base last year and still we have allegations of a chemical attack this year.”  

After Amidror had taken issue with Kearney’s use of the word “allegations” he went on to state that while he did not know if the US and its allies would carry out strikes in Syria, “I know that without attack, for sure the Syrian regime will continue to use chemical weapons against civilians” and commented on the role of “the free world” in stopping such attacks.

Kearney closed the interview at that point with listeners left none the wiser as to whether Amidror had been invited in to speak about what was at the time the possibility of a US strike in Syria or about the entirely different topic of an alleged Israeli strike on an air base in Syria used by Iran’s IRGC.

Nevertheless the notion that of all the things going on in Syria, an alleged Israeli airstrike is what is “destabilising for the wider region” had been promoted to Radio 4 listeners.

Related Articles:

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

 

 

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

On April 13th the IDF announced that the Iranian drone shot down over Israeli territory on February 10th was carrying explosives.

“The Iranian drone shot down in February was carrying enough explosives to cause damage, military sources said. Its precise intended target in Israel was not known, they said. […]

“An analysis of the flight path and operational and intelligence research performed on parts of the Iranian UAV that entered our territory on February 10 shows it carried explosive material and its mission was to carry out a destructive operation,” the Israel Defense Forces revealed Friday.

“The drone’s interception by attack helicopters thwarted the attack and the Iranian intention to carry out an operation on our territory,” it added.”

The following day the BBC News website published an article titled “Iranian drone was sent to Israel ‘to attack’“. Similarly lavish use of punctuation was seen in the report’s opening sentences:

“Israel has said the Iranian drone it shot down in February was loaded with explosives and “tasked to attack”.

On Friday, Israel’s military said that it came to the conclusion after “flight path analysis” and an “intelligence-based investigation” of the remnants.

Israel said its “combat helicopters prevented the attack Iran had hoped to carry out in Israeli territory”.”

The BBC found it appropriate to recycle previously promoted Iranian disinformation:

“In an interview with the BBC in late February, Iran’s deputy foreign minister refused to confirm that Iran had sent the drone into Israel and said that the drone belonged to the Syrian army.”

The corporation supposedly committed to providing its funding public with “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” was obviously reluctant to inform its audiences whether or not Iran is building up its military presence in Syria and whether or not it supplies arms to its proxy Hizballah.

“Iran and Israel are long-standing enemies, and Iran has been accused of deliberately building up a force inside Syria, Israel’s north-eastern neighbour. […]

It has also been accused of supplying weaponry to Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, an enemy of Israel which has a strong force in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Since publishing a report in November 2017 about ‘claims’ that Iran “is establishing a permanent military base inside Syria”, the BBC has not produced any follow-up reporting on that topic, meaning that audiences are unable to judge for themselves whether or not those ‘accusations’ have any basis.

Likewise, despite both Hizballah’s leader and Iranian officials having publicly confirmed that Iran supplies weaponry to its Lebanese proxy (in violation of UN SC resolution 1701), the BBC continues to serially beat about the bush on that issue too.

Quite how the BBC thinks that ongoing self-censorship and faux ‘objectivity’ serves its commitment to enhance the understanding of its funding public is of course unclear.

Related Articles:

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

BBC News gives a stage to Iranian disinformation

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Anyone who missed Howard Jacobson’s recent op-ed on antisemitism in the UK can find it here.

“The incantatory repetition of the charge that Jews cry antisemitism only in order to subvert criticism of Israel or discredit Corbyn is more than fatuous and lazy, and it is more than painful to those many Jews who own an old allegiance to the Labour party and who are not strangers to criticising Israel. It is the deepest imaginable insult. I cannot speak for all Jews, but a profound depression has taken hold of those I know. For myself, I feel I am back in that lightless swamp of medieval ignorance where the Jew who is the author of all humanity’s ills lies, cheats, cringes and dissembles. And this time there is no horse to punch.”

2) Ynet has a report on the subject of Hizballah activities in Colombia.

“The Spanish language news website Infobae reported that Hezbollah’s presence and activities were confirmed by the Colombian police in a three year investigation carried out jointly with the US Drug Enforcement Agency. 

The investigation allowed for the identification of commercial entities and platforms of which Hezbollah made use to cover-up its activities including drug dealing, selling and exporting stolen vehicles and money laundering; alongside the recruitment of locals for future terror related activities.”

3) Writing at Politico, Jonathan Schanzer discusses “How Putin’s Folly Could Lead to a Middle East War“.

“It was all very predictable, the moment that Putin began to partner with Iran and its lethal proxy, Hezbollah. They shared intelligence, patrolled together and fought together against the Sunni jihadists and other rebels who were warring against the Assad regime.

Iran’s motivations for this unlikely marriage were crystal clear: The regime viewed Syria as a crucial territory to maintain a land bridge from their borders to the Mediterranean. For Iran, Syria was key to regional domination. It was also key to maintaining military supply routes to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Russia, by contrast, had more global ambitions. For one, Putin was putting a finger in the eye of the Obama administration. The message was that Russia could dominate territory once seen as under American influence. Putin also sought to convey to the rest of the Arab world that Russia was a strong and reliable ally for the region, and that Russia was willing to provide advanced weaponry at the right price—and without American-style red tape and oversight.”

4) At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn takes a look at “Assad’s Horror, and Those Who Enable It“.

“There is no real question that Assad has continued to use chemical weapons even after he agreed to give them up. As the State Department was quick to note yesterday, the U.S. has concluded that he was responsible for the April 4, 2017, Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun—the same incident which prompted the Trump administration’s bombing. And both the U.S. government and the UN have found that Assad’s goons used other chemical weapons, namely crude chlorine bombs, more than once. While some of these bombs struck areas held by jihadi rebels, they have also indiscriminately killed civilians.

Assad’s principal international backer, Vladimir Putin, hasn’t stopped him from using of them. Nor has Iran, which is deeply embedded in Syria alongside Assad’s forces. In fact, the Assad-Putin-Khamenei axis has a legion of online apologists who argue that the high-profile chemical weapons assaults aren’t really the work of the Syrian “president” at all. This noxious advocacy on behalf of mass murderers is readily available on social media.

It gets even worse, as another rogue state has reportedly facilitated Assad’s acquisition of chemical weapons: North Korea. This facilitation is especially worrisome in light of the two nations’ previous cooperation on a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by the Israelis in 2007.”

 

 

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

As readers may recall, one notable feature of the BBC’s coverage of the infiltration of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on February 10th 2018 was the corporation’s unnecessary qualification of the event. [emphasis added]

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“Israel’s military, the IDF, released this footage from one of their helicopters. They say it shows an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory.” [emphasis added] BBC News website

“…the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.” [emphasis added] BBC World Service radio

At the same time, BBC reports also amplified Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.” BBC News website

“Iran denied it had sent a drone into Israel and defended the Syrians’ right to self-defence.” BBC News website

Later on in February BBC audiences got another heavy dose of Iranian disinformation when the corporation promoted written and filmed versions of an interview by the its chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi.

Among the BBC’s coverage of a strike in the early morning hours of April 9th on a military airbase in Syria used by Iranian forces was an extensive report on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ (from 00:53 here) in which audiences around the world heard presenter Julian Marshall echo the unnecessary qualification previously seen in BBC reporting on the February Iranian drone infiltration. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we begin in Syria where in the early hours of this morning Tiyas military airbase – also known as the T4 airbase – came under attack from missiles. [music] Syrian TV playing stirring music over images that it said show the missiles flying over Lebanese airspace on their way to hit the airbase. Syria and its main backer Russia have accused Israel. The Russian defence ministry said two Israeli F15 warplanes carried out the strikes and Syrian air defence systems shot down five out of eight missiles. Syrian and Iranian forces are reported to have been killed. The Israeli Defence Forces told us they have no comment but Israel targeted the same airbase in February after what it said was an Iranian drone had entered its airspace. There had earlier been speculation that it might have been the work of either the United States or France, both of which had threatened possible retaliation after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma which left dozens dead. But both the United States and France have denied involvement.”

Later on in the same programme (from 14:05 here) Marshall spoke to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet who used the same unnecessary qualification.

Marshall: “…what do you make of Israel’s policy of no comment?”

Doucet: “Well that is Israel’s policy. It does not comment on strikes. In fact only once do I know in the Syrian context did they break that policy and that was in February when an Iranian drone is said to have entered Israeli airspace.”

In other words, two months after the incident in which Iranian forces launched a UAV from the T4 airbase in Syria and it was shot down over Israeli territory, the BBC is still failing to present that story clearly and accurately to its audiences.

One of the additional related interviews conducted by Julian Marshall in that programme (from 02:04 here) was with a Syrian journalist called Thabet Salem – who Marshall appeared to believe was qualified to answer the following question:

Marshall: “What would have been Israel’s strategic objective in attacking this airbase?”

Salem: “Well to the Syrians, frankly speaking, destroying Syria is the objective of Israel.”

Listeners around the world heard no challenge to that egregious claim from the BBC’s presenter.

Related Articles:

BBC News gives a stage to Iranian disinformation

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

 

 

 

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

When Israel announced last week that it had destroyed a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez Zor region of Syria over a decade ago, the BBC News website described the facility’s purpose as “suspected” and BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman opined that the reason for the timing of the announcement was “to add a sharper military edge to American diplomatic pressure on Europe to toughen its stance on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers” while ignoring other no less plausible factors.

BBC News still not sure al Kibar was a nuclear reactor

In the March 28th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘, listeners heard presenter Julian Marshall (from 18:06 here) describe the al Kibar facility in similar language and give a portrayal of the intention of the announcement which is not supported by material presented later on in the item. As is usually the case, BBC audiences heard Hizballah described as an “armed group” rather than a terror organisation.

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

Marshall: “Israel conformed for the first time last week that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria over a decade ago. Israel officials say the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies that they’re prepared to act against any serious threat. During Syria’s civil war two of those enemies – Iran and the Lebanese armed group Hizballah – have expanded their presence and influence in the country as they fought on the side of President Bashar al Assad. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at the impact.”

Knell: “An Israeli military video shows fighter jets a decade ago bombing the nearly complete al Kibar facility in eastern Syria. International experts said it was very likely the site was a nuclear reactor but Syria denied it. And Israel is only now confirming it carried out the strike. So why now? Its Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot:”

V/O Eizenkot: “The message of the attack on the Syria nuclear reactor in 2007 was that Israel will not tolerate the development of abilities that threaten the existence of our state. That was the message in 1981 when we attacked Iraq’s nuclear facility and again in 2007 and this is the future message to our enemies.”

Obviously Eizenkot did not say in that March 21st interview that “the public acknowledgement was meant as a message to their country’s enemies” as claimed by Marshall, but that the strike itself on the reactor over a decade ago was the message. Knell went on to promote the same theory as her Jerusalem bureau colleague with regard to the intention of the announcement, claiming that Iran is “now” seen as a threat – when in fact, as the BBC itself has reported, Israel has been voicing concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities for many years – and making no mention of Iran’s long history of serial threats against Israel.

Knell: “Israel’s news shows quickly pointed out the link to Iran. It’s now seen as an existential threat because of its nuclear programme and there are fears about its plans in neighbouring Syria. Already Israel’s believed to have hit one Iranian base under construction there. Recently Fox News reported on another one.”

Fox News anchor: “New satellite photos reveal Iran has established another permanent military base outside Damascus.”

Although the BBC published a report in November 2017 about Iranian bases in Syria, audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting on that topic.

For almost five years (since May 2013) the BBC has been telling its audiences that Israel is ‘involved’ in the civil war in Syria.

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC presentation of Israeli view on Syria intervention replete with inaccuracies

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

However, Knell then presented listeners with a different view:

Knell: “The defence analyst at Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Amos Harel, says that for seven years Israel’s tried to keep out of the Syrian conflict. Now increasingly it’s being drawn in.”

Harel: “Now comes a different stage of the war because it’s rather evident that the Assad regime has won this game, so to speak, and that the sides that helped Assad are more or less fighting for the spoils and this could be dangerous for Israel. One is the growing Iranian presence at the region and specifically in the southern Syria. You have militia that may be present there. And the other is the growing role of Hizballah.”

After listeners heard sounds from a video game, Knell again downplayed Hizballah’s terror designation and Iran’s provision of funding and weapons to its proxy militia.

Knell: “A new video game brought out by the Lebanese Shiite armed group Hizballah which is backed by Iran. Players fight alongside government forces in Syria against rebels including so-called Islamic State. Hizballah’s lost hundreds of men in this war but Mohanad Hage Ali from Beirut’s Carnegie Middle East Center says its military strength has grown.”

Ali: “They’re trying out their different capabilities whether on the ground or the new weaponry that they’re using and trying to expose as much as they can from all of their fighting force to the conflict in Syria to gain experience. They are also training other forces; they set up a number of groups. And all of these supposedly will be part of their influence in Syria for a very long time.”

Refraining from informing listeners that Hizballah has tens of thousands of missiles at its disposal and making no mention of the fact that weapons transfers to Hizballah are prohibited under the terms of UN Security Council resolution 1701,Knell went on:

Knell: “That’s a big worry for Israel, which just completed joint military training with US troops. These exercises were routine but reflect current fears. One simulated a massive missile attack. Israel has struck in Syria dozens of times, acting – it says – to stop Iran adding advanced weapons to Hizballah’s arsenal. Although for now, Hizballah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem considers war unlikely.”

V/O Qassem: “I clearly express the view of Hizballah that it’s ready to confront any aggression if Israel decides to carry out any foolish action but it doesn’t seem to be the right circumstances for Israel to decide to go to war.”

Notably, Knell did not bother to mention the border dispute that the BBC has to date failed to report as a factor for potential “escalation”.

Knell: “The danger lies in an unplanned escalation. Last month this happened. The IDF shot down an Iranian drone after it infiltrated Israeli air space and then struck at its control site in Syria. One of its jets was hit by a Syrian missile and crashed. Israel launched attacks on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Russia apparently calmed the situation but it was a reminder how a bloody civil war could turn into a wider regional one.”

For five years the BBC has been promoting the erroneous notion that Israel is involved in the war in Syria. It has repeatedly failed to clarify to its audiences that strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah or responses to cross-border fire from Syria do not mean that Israel is “involved” in that war but are responses to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

While this report may indicate that at least one BBC journalist has rethought that mantra, the fact that the corporation consistently fails to provide serious coverage of relevant issues, such as the failure of UN SC resolution 1701 to achieve its aims, Iranian arming and funding of Hizballah (which the BBC serially refuses to describe as a terror organisation) and Iran’s establishment of a military presence in Syria, means that BBC audiences lack the information crucial to understanding of the background and context to any future developments.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

Weekend long read

1) MEMRI has published an analysis of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks.

“In July 2017, the Palestinian Authority (PA) schoolbooks for the 2017-18 school year were published. Some of the books are new, and some remained unchanged. An examination of the middle-school books for Islamic Education, some of which have been replaced, shows a significant increase in focus on the early Islamic tenets of shahada (martyrdom), fidaa (self-sacrifice) and tadhiya (sacrifice) as part of jihad for the sake of Allah, and their modern manifestations as part of the Palestinian struggle against Israel.”

2) BICOM has produced a briefing on Iranian forces and Shia militias in Syria.

“The BICOM research team has produced a briefing identifying the location of the Iranian military bases in Syria, detailing the role of the various Shia militias in the Syrian War and explaining the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the conflict.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran has sent thousands of troops and Shiite volunteers to support President Bashar al-Assad. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Syrian National Defence Forces, Hezbollah, and several other Shiite militias have played a major role in the regime consolidating control and regaining territory, especially in the Battle for Aleppo in 2016. Iran has also reportedly established between 10-13 military bases across Syria.”

3) At the Times of Israel Avi Issacharoff discusses terrorism and the upcoming anniversaries.

“At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for “Land Day” under the theme of “processions of the great return,” which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza.

These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year.”

4) Shmuel Rosner writes about “The Truth of Deir Yassin“.

“What happened in Deir Yassin in April 9, 1948, became a seminal event of Israel’s War of Independence. This Palestinian village was located to the west of Jerusalem, and was attacked by Jewish fighters of the Irgun, one of Israel’s pre-state underground forces (the main force, Haganah, was the established force; Irgun was an opposition force, under the leadership of Menachem Begin).

The battle was bloody and many Arabs were killed, including women and children. It was followed by a propaganda campaign, claiming that what happened in Deir Yassin was a massacre. This campaign was very much responsible for the decision by many thousands of Arabs to flee their homes. Their decedents are today’s Palestinian “refugees.””

BBC News still not sure al Kibar was a nuclear reactor

On March 21st the BBC News website produced written and filmed reports about Israel’s acknowledgement of air strikes that destroyed a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez Zor region of Syria over a decade ago.

Not for the first time however, the BBC was obviously keen to communicate to audiences that there is room for doubt concerning the nature of the target.

The filmed report is headlined “Israeli footage of 2007 air strike on Syria ‘reactor’” and its synopsis reads:

“Israel has for the first time confirmed that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria in 2007.” [emphasis added]

At the top of the written report – titled “Israel admits striking suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007” – readers find the same video captioned “Israeli military video footage showing air strike on suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007″ and the article similarly opens: [emphasis added]

“Israel has for the first time confirmed that it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor being built in Syria in 2007.

The military said fighter jets bombed the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour province, 450km (280 miles) north-east of Damascus, as it neared completion.

Syria’s government has repeatedly denied that it was building a reactor.”

In a section headed “from the archive” readers find old BBC reports in which Syrian regime propaganda was amplified.

Linking to a BBC report from May 2011, readers are later told that:

“The Syrian military did not retaliate after the attack. President Bashar al-Assad said only that Israel had “bombed buildings and construction related to the military”, which were “not used”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in 2011 that the site was “very likely” to have been a nuclear reactor.

Syria had signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) before the strike, which gave it the right to build a reactor to generate electricity. But it was also obliged to notify the IAEA of any plans to construct a nuclear facility.”

Readers however learn nothing of more concrete statements from the IAEA’s head or of various US statements on the topic of the al Kibar reactor.

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman under the heading “Why is Israel making this public now?”, with Bateman’s theory being that the confirmation is related to Iran and the JCPOA.

“Israel accuses Iran of maintaining nuclear ambitions – amounting to an existential threat – and believes its forces are trying to establish themselves permanently over its northern border in Syria – a claim Iran rejects.

The country may hope to add a sharper military edge to American diplomatic pressure on Europe to toughen its stance on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – an agreement detested by Israel.”

However, Bateman refrains from informing BBC audiences of factors such as those listed by former IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner in an article at the Forward:

“First, the strike had already been reported widely in the international media, rendering it difficult for the censor to maintain the ban.

Second, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wrote a biography while in prison and revealed some of the details. His book is scheduled to be released tomorrow.

Third, Israeli Channel 10 appealed the Supreme Court to remove the ban, forcing the defense establishment to review the scope of the censored story.”

At the Times of Israel, Judah Ari Gross notes that:

“There was no one reason given for the decision to remove the censorship on the al-Kibar strike, but it most likely came from a variety of considerations, among them repeated legal appeals by media outlets to get rid of the ban.

It is easiest to see this announcement as a not-so-subtle threat aimed at atomically ambitious Iran, especially given the fact that in the coming months US President Donald Trump may abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, unless significant alterations are made to it. […]

Ultimately, though, the immediate cause for the timing of the revelation might be a bit more banal: Ehud Olmert wrote a memoir, which is due to be distributed shortly. […]

How could Olmert, who left office under police investigation and was later sent to prison for corruption, and who sustained bitter criticism over his mishandling of the 2006 Lebanon war, leave out one of his crowning, lasting achievements?”

Bateman also tells readers that “[i]t was never in any real doubt that Israel was behind the strike on the al-Kibar facility in the Syrian desert a decade ago” but remarkably, the BBC continues to find it appropriate to suggest to its audiences the idea that Israel went to the trouble of carrying out such a complicated and risky operation on a target that may not have been a nuclear reactor at all. 

Related Articles:

BBC defence correspondent: Al Kibar was a ‘suspected’ nuclear facility

 

 

 

 

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

On March 9th the BBC News website posted a filmed backgrounder by Joe Inwood on its Middle East page. Titled “Syria: Seven years of war explained“, the report is promoted as follows:

“The war in Syria has now lasted for seven years.

Although its roots lie in peaceful protests against the government, it has become something much more complex.

Joe Inwood explains who is fighting whom and why.”

Although this backgrounder does raise some queries – such as why the Sunni-Shia conflict goes unexplained and why in the section relating to the lack of “decisive action” on the part of the US, a picture of the current US president appears rather than of the previous one – it is clearly a genuine effort to explain a complicated issue in a short period of time. However, once again BBC audiences are wrongly led to believe that Israel is involved in the conflict in Syria.

Following an introduction, Inwood lays out the parties involved in what he describes as “a conflict of global dimensions playing out in Syria”. Having mentioned Bashar al Assad, the Russians, Iran, “various powerful Shia militias” which remain unnamed, the rebel groups, the Kurds and Turkey, at 01:07 Inwood tells audiences that an additional party is:

“…Israel which is launching airstrikes in the south.”

Viewers however have to wait a further four minutes before Inwood “explains” that statement at 05:08.

“Down south, Israel’s main concern has been the growing influence of its arch foe Iran and high-tech weaponry getting into the hands of Hezbollah.”

That, however, is the first and only mention of Hizballah by name and no effort is made to explain to viewers what that group is, with whom it is aligned, by whom it is financed or why Israel should be concerned about it getting “high-tech weaponry”. Neither is any attempt made to explain the relevant issue of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Inwood makes no mention of Iran’s long history of serial threats against Israel: a topic that rarely appears in BBC reporting, meaning that audiences would likely be unable to fill in the blanks for themselves.

This of course is far from the first time that the BBC has promoted the claim that Israel is involved in the Syrian war: it has been doing so since 2013. Like many of his colleagues, Inwood appears to be incapable of understanding that Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah (or Israeli responses to cross-border fire from Syria) do not mean that Israel is “involved” in the war in Syria but are responses to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

Interestingly though, while Inwood does name Israel as one of the parties allegedly involved in the conflict in Syria, he does not make any mention at all of Lebanon – despite the fact that Hizballah – which holds seats in the Lebanese parliament and government – is actively fighting there.

 

BBC muddies a story of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

On February 28th an article titled “Iran wrestling officials resign over Israel competition ban” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and on the BBC Sport website’s wrestling page. Readers found the following description of the story in the opening paragraph:

“The head of Iran’s wrestling federation has resigned after criticising authorities for letting players be punished because of the country’s ban on athletes competing against Israel.”

Which “authorities” did he criticise? That only becomes clear later on in the report.

“Wrestler Alireza Karimachiani was banned for six months after throwing a match to avoid an Israeli opponent last year.

Earlier this month, Mr Khadem criticised Iranian authorities for their stance on Israeli opponents, and called for a “fundamental solution” to the ongoing problem.

“Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right,” he said.

He suggested he was forced from the post in a cryptic letter posted on the body’s website on Wednesday.”

What the BBC euphemistically describes as “the ongoing problem” is of course Iran’s practice of pressuring its sportspeople to avoiding competing against Israelis at international events. The BBC’s report describes that practice in typically tepid terms.

“Iran does not recognise the state of Israel. […]

Dozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israeli competitors since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.”

Coincidentally or not, the BBC’s report bears a strong resemblance to an AFP article published on the same day. However, the AFP report provides a more lucid account of the statements made by the head of Iran’s wrestling federation before he – voluntarily or not – quit his post.

“Khadem, argued that Iranians should openly admit they will not compete against Israelis rather than invent excuses, and accept the consequences.

“If we must continue with the policy of non-competition against the Zionist regime’s athletes, the responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of the coach and the athlete,” he said on public radio, according to ISNA.

He said a “fundamental solution” needed to be reached by the Supreme Council for National Security.

“Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right,” he added.

He had previously told ISNA that, if the country’s policy was to avoid Israeli rivals then it should “behave honestly and… accept the consequences”.”

Unlike the BBC report, the AFP article clarifies to readers that the Iranian policy of refusing to compete against Israelis does not comply with sporting rules.

“Dozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israelis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, either out of choice or under pressure from authorities.

But they have tended to lose earlier rounds, claim sickness or fail to show up, since an open refusal breaches international sporting regulations.”

Obviously the BBC could have done more to make this story comprehensible to audiences but instead, we once again see the corporation skirting around the issue of discrimination against Israelis in sport.  

Related Articles:

More tepid BBC coverage of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

Tepid BBC report on Lebanese Olympic team’s bigoted agitprop

BBC Sport reports snub to Israeli judoka – but gets his name wrong

BBC Sport whitewashes Islamist bigotry with a euphemism

BBC News and BBC Sport ignore Judo tournament anti-Israel bigotry