BBC News yet again promotes conspiracy theories

Since July 2018 we have been documenting the BBC’s promotion of what just three months earlier it had itself described as “conspiracy theories”:

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

BBC News amplifies Syrian and Russian propaganda yet again

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on December 16th – “James Le Mesurier: White Helmets co-founder died from fall, Turkey says” – yet again gives amplification to Syrian and Russian government propaganda.  

“…the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of aiding terrorist groups – something the organisation has denied.

A week before he died, the Russian foreign ministry accused Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. The UK’s ambassador to the UN said the claim was “categorically untrue”.”

The BBC knows that those accusations are nothing more than the propaganda of totalitarian regimes and yet it has continued to amplify and mainstream them for seventeen months.

The BBC media editor’s complaints (published on the same website on the same day) about “Tweets or Facebook posts that go viral, including those that espouse conspiracy theories” would of course carry more weight were his own organisation to cease engaging in the same practice from its far more influential platform.

Related Articles:

The BBC examines conspiracy theories – but not its own

BBC News still promoting faux impartiality in Iran reporting

On December 5th a report headlined “Iran developing nuclear-capable missiles, European powers warn UN” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

“Three European powers have warned the UN that Iran is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in violation of a Security Council resolution.

A letter sent by the UK, France and Germany says Iran tested a Shahab-3 missile variant “equipped with a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle” that could deliver a nuclear weapon.

Such activity is “inconsistent” with a resolution endorsing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, it argues.”

It would of course have been helpful to readers had it been pointed out at that stage in the report that the UK, France and Germany – also known as the E3 – were part of the P5+1 which negotiated the JCPOA with Iran. However that information was only revealed three paragraphs from the end:

“The five other parties to the deal – the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – have tried to keep it alive.”

Readers were told that:

“Iran has breached a number of commitments under the deal in recent months in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to abandon the deal and reinstate economic sanctions.

Mr Trump wants to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear programme and also halt its development of ballistic missiles. Iran has refused to negotiate unless the US first lifts its sanctions.”

They were not however informed that the context to the US president’s decision was the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – passed in 2015 – which required the US administration to certify to Congress every ninety days that Iran was fully implementing the JCPOA.

The BBC report also stated:

“In a separate development, US officials said a US Navy warship deployed in the Gulf of Oman had seized advanced missile parts believed to be headed from Iran to Yemen. The parts were on board a small boat stopped last week, they said.”

Readers were not informed that smuggling weapons into Yemen is a violation of other U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The most predictable aspect of this BBC report, however, is its amplification of Iranian spin.

“Iran has denied the allegation.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the letter was a “desperate falsehood” put out by the European powers “to cover up their miserable incompetence in fulfilling bare minimum” of their obligations under the nuclear deal.”

And:

“Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and denied that its ballistic missile programme violates the resolution.”

The BBC News website has of course repeatedly amplified such messaging in the past – for example:

BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed) 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.”

It also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues and that just last month the IAEA reported the finding of multiple particles of natural uranium of “anthropogenic origin” at an unnamed site in Iran.

Nevertheless, the BBC News website continues to amplify Iran’s denials without qualification (presumably in the name of ‘impartiality’) in every report it produces in connection to the Iranian nuclear programme. That editorial policy has clearly not been revised in light of reports by the IAEA or this letter from the E3 and so the promotion of Iran’s talking points continues, even though it contributes nothing to audience understanding of the issue.

 

 

Radio 4 listeners fed breakfast-time Hizballah propaganda

The BBC editorial guidelines that came into effect in mid-July include the following in the section concerning ‘mandatory referrals’ relating to coverage of ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

Hizballah was designated in its entirety by the UK earlier this year and so we must presume that an interview with the terrorist organisation’s deputy leader by Jeremy Bowen that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on December 6th (as well as a longer filmed version which was promoted by BBC News) was approved in advance by the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan.

The question that therefore arises is of what journalistic value was that specially approved interview? Did it provide BBC audiences with “a range and depth of analysis and content” which could not otherwise be achieved and did it contribute to their being better “informed citizens”?

‘Today’ co-presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 2:36:22 here) with a pinch of Iranian propaganda.

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

Husain: “Protests in Iraq, Lebanon and in Iran where Iranian state television has said that those killed by security forces during last month’s mass protests against the petrol price rise were thugs and rioters. Our Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen joins us now. What’s your reading of those protests, Jeremy?”

Bowen: “Well Mishal, you know, what’s interesting is that there are others who say that they weren’t thugs and rioters but they were protesting and they started protesting as well against the regime and that is why the security forces opened fire in the way that they did and killed so many people. Now it’s clear that the Iranians have got a big set of problems at the moment. Ah…the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home. Maximum pressure as Trump calls them, American sanctions and also what’s important for them is they project power through their allies and in Iraq and Lebanon where there’ve been demonstrations – and those are generally regarded as Iranian allies – many people there see Iran as part of their problems.”

It is not clear what Bowen intended to communicate with that reference to “the kind of thing we’ve been talking about at home” and his description of Lebanon – rather than Hizballah – as an Iranian ally clearly does not enhance audience understanding of the topic.

Bowen: “It’s really hard for us to try and work out what’s going in Iran [laughs] partly because they won’t let us in there. Ahm…so one good way of doing it is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah who are in Lebanon and they are Iranian proteges but they’re very powerful as well. One of Israel’s big enemies along with Iran itself. Now I’ve just come back from Beirut and while I was there I talked to the deputy leader of Hizballah who’s a man called Naim Qassem. He’s late 60s, he wears robes, he’s got a white turban, gives the impression of being very shrewd actually, and intelligent and strong views about the region. And he doesn’t talk much so it was a good opportunity to talk about the Middle East and they’re uncomfortable about what’s happening. They like the status quo. So anyway I started off by asking Naim Qassem of Hizballah about the crisis in Lebanon.”

Obviously any interview with a representative of a terrorist organisation needs to be very carefully edited and presented so that audiences can put its inevitable propaganda into the appropriate context. Bowen’s sartorially focused introductory portrayal of Qassem clearly did not provide any meaningful background information about the terror group’s record or agenda. Neither were listeners given sufficient information about the current political crisis in Lebanon before they were exposed to Qassem’s allegations.  

Qassem [voiceover]: “Of course the situation in Lebanon is very dangerous. Consequently you can see how the economic situation is collapsing. And you can see how people are suffering from the devaluation of the Lebanese currency. We cannot accept things to continue like this. So for this reason we said very clearly that the government has to be formed in order to put an end to this collapse and decline. And unfortunately there are some who are trying to cause damage to Lebanon and especially the United States. And every two or three days the US Secretary of State Pompeo makes statements and says he doesn’t want to see Hizballah in the government. And Hizballah is part of the people. So let America put a stop to its meddling.”

Bowen: “Now Secretary Pompeo in the US, like the British government, regard your organisation as a terrorist organisation. That’s why he says the things that he says.”

Qassem: “What concerns us is how our people view us. We as Hizballah in the minds of our people, we are a resistance that liberated the land. A party which serves the interests of the people and also serves for a better future for the people. And because America and Britain support Israel which is an occupying power, a power of aggression, a criminal power, they are taking political stance against Hizballah. If they label us as terrorists this doesn’t mean that their designation is right. We consider America to be the leading terrorist entity because it does not serve the interests of the people. The same goes for Britain as well.”

Bowen made no effort to inform listeners of the real background to the designation of Hizballah by the US, the UK and other nations and bodies or to provide factual information concerning the threats posed to Israel by Iran and Hizballah, including their military entrenchment in Syria.

Bowen: “You’re part of a coalition led by Iran that faces off against Israel and by implication against the United States as well. Iran is in real trouble at the moment, isn’t it? There are anti-Iran demonstrations in Iraq, there is feeling against Iran in this country and there’ve been big demonstration inside…demonstrations inside Iran itself. Your friends in Iran are in trouble, aren’t they?”

Qassem: “First of all we don’t deny that we are part of an axis led by Iran because Iran advocates the causes of the people’s rights and also supports the resistance. It believes in justice. It believes in the liberation of Palestine. Now, when it comes to the problems within Iran because of the decision to increase the price of gasoline, this is a domestic matter related to Iran.”

Audiences should of course have been informed at this point that in Hizballah-speak “the liberation of Palestine” means the annihilation of Israel.

Bowen: “Now with your allies in Iran you have amassed an enormous arsenal of rockets and missiles including guided missiles that presumably you’d use in a war with Israel. Under what circumstances would you use that arsenal of weapons?”

Qassem: “We are a resistance and we are defending. If Israel were to launch an aggression or attack us, we will respond. And so we don’t have any plans when it comes to initiating any confrontation with Israel. But we are determined to respond to Israel if it were to attack. Israel understands this language only. It won’t be deterred except if we are strong.”

Bowen made no effort to counter that propaganda by, for example, reminding listeners that it was Hizballah which initiated the 2006 conflict and Hizballah which just a year ago had its cross-border tunnels exposed and destroyed. Neither did he bother to clarify the background to any hypothetical attack on Iran’s “nuclear facilities”.

Bowen: “What if Israel or the US attacked Iran; attacked its nuclear facilities? Would you then use your weapons against Israel?”

Qassem: “I don’t know what could happen but what I do know is that any aggression of such scale could ignite the whole region. And those who initiated the aggression will take a big responsibility and also take responsibility for very large-scale reactions. My estimation is that war with Israel is unlikely at this stage. The balance of deterrence is what contributes to the absence of war because they are not convinced of what the results would be if a war were to take place.”

The interview ended there with a laconic statement from co-presenter Martha Kearney.

Kearney: “And that report was by Jeremy Bowen.”

In his introduction Bowen claimed that “one good way” to try to “work out” what is going on in Iran “is talking to their friends like the organisation Hizballah”. Whether or not that was also the rationale given when approval was sought to interview a senior figure in “an organisation […] designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary” is of course unknown but obviously this interview contributed nothing at all to that supposed aim.

In fact all audiences heard was over four minutes of barely challenged propaganda from the number two in a notorious terrorist organisation: propaganda that they could just as easily have found on Hizballah’s own media channels – and without paying a licence fee.

Related Articles:

Why the new BBC editorial guidelines may not mean less terror showcasing

BBC’s Bowen plays dumb to weave tangled web

BBC’s ME editor ‘joins the dots’ but dodges issues

Readers may recall that in late October the BBC’s Middle East editor published an article titled “Is a new Arab Spring unfolding in the Middle East?” in which he ignored the anti-Iran component of popular demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon.

Since then the BBC News website has produced related content which has included a filmed report claiming “common causes” between the protests in Iraq and Lebanon and those in Ecuador, Chile, Spain and Hong Kong and a written article on the protests in Iraq which claims to provide “all the background you need to know” but which offers just 51 words of explanation in answer to the question “Why are the protesters also angry at Iran?”.

“They accuse the country of complicity in Iraq’s governance failure and corruption.

Iran’s influence over Iraq’s internal affairs has grown steadily since 2003. It has close links to Shia politicians who are part of the ruling elite, and has backed the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force, which is dominated by Shia militias.”

On December 5th – over a month and a half after the protests in Lebanon began – the BBC News website published a long filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor titled “What’s behind the wave of Middle East protests?”.

“You might remember the uprisings in the Middle East in 2011. As dictators were toppled hundreds of thousands of protesters called for change, for freedom and a new start. Their high hopes came to very little and the region lurched back towards war and repression.

But the grievances that drove the 2011 uprisings – the so-called Arab Spring – never went away. 2019 might be the year it started again. Already protests have forced the resignations of two Prime Ministers – in Lebanon and Iraq.

Since October there have been big, mainly peaceful protests in Lebanon and extremely bloody ones in Iraq. And in Iran, hundreds have been shot dead at protests in the last few weeks.

BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen has been trying to make sense of it all in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.”

Most of that almost ten and a half minute-long video relates to the protests in Lebanon, with focus on their economic aspects. From 06:45 however viewers see an unidentified Lebanese woman describe the demand of the protesters in Iraq as “to live better in a country free of militias”. She goes on to say “we [in Lebanon] want to live in dignity in our country, free of any foreign influence” but viewers see no explanation of her words.

Only nearly eight minutes into the report does Bowen inform viewers that:

“They [protesters in Iraq] don’t just blame their own inept politicians, they’re also targeting Iraq’s alliance with Iran, torching its consulates in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. For Iran this was supposed to be friendly territory.”

Mentioning the Lebanese terrorist organisation for the first time, Bowen goes on:

“Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran have serious problems at home too. Big protests started in Iran in the last fortnight after a rise in petrol prices. Crushing American sanctions have made matters worse in an economy already weakened by corruption and mismanagement. BBC Persian estimates that more than 200 were killed by the regime.”

Offering no explanation as to why those “crushing American sanctions” were imposed, Bowen returns to Lebanon:

“Iran’s ally Hezbollah sent thugs to try to break up the demonstrations in Beirut, without success. But that’s not the end of it. Hezbollah is powerful and heavily armed and it’s worked for 40 years to dominate Lebanon. The status quo suits them and they don’t want it to change.”

With less than a minute and a half of the report left, Bowen presents his concluding analysis:

“Well the time’s come now to try to join the dots. Let’s say there are two main camps in the Middle East. One of them we can call ‘Team America’. It also includes Saudi Arabia and Israel. The other one is ‘Team Iran’. It also includes the Assad regime in Syria, Iraq and the strongest single group here in Lebanon, Hezbollah, which is a Shia Muslim movement. Now the Iranians need their allies. They use them to try to project power. But they’ve got a real problem at the moment because the demonstrations have shown that anti-Iranian feeling is growing in Iraq and here in Lebanon. Across the region there are demonstrations against local grievances and their shared deep-seated anger that crosses borders among the young, who want to sweep away discredited, corrupt and inept leaders. It all feeds into the geo-political instability of the world’s most turbulent region. Another storm is brewing in the Middle East.”

So although it took over a month for Bowen to “join the dots”, BBC audiences did finally get to hear something about the anti-Iran component of the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon. However the man tasked with “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” made no attempt to explain to audiences what lies behind either Iran’s efforts to “project power” or the “anti-Iranian feeling” in Iraq and Lebanon, while portraying an internationally active terrorist organisation merely as “a Shia Muslim movement”.  

One of the conclusions of the 2012 report into the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ was that it required more “breadth and context”. 

“Alison Hastings, chair of the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee […] added that the trust was also “keen to see if improvements can be made”. “These would be both in the scope of coverage to provide a fuller picture of events, and in providing better context for audiences.” 

Should Bowen’s predictions of a ‘brewing storm’ materialise, BBC audiences will once again lack the context which will help them understand the broader picture.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio framing of anti-Iran protests

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC reports on the “Identity of the Palestinian fatalities in the latest round of escalation in the Gaza Strip”.

“The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip reported that 34 Palestinians had been killed in the latest round of escalation (with Bahaa Abu al-Atta and his wife among them). From within the 34 killed Palestinians, at least 18 (about 53%) were identified as military operatives, most of them (13) operatives of the PIJ’s military wing, who were the targets in most of the attacks. In addition, several fatalities were identified as belonging to minor terror networks, most of them operatives of Fatah splinter networks who took part in firing at Israel. Among the fatalities, there was a prominent number of operatives of the rocket launching network, who were killed while attempting to fire at Israel.”

2) At the INSS Yohanan Tzoreff and Yoram Schweitzer analyse relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The escalation between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on November 12-14, 2019, following the killing of the organization’s senior military commander Baha Abu al-Ata, exposed cracks in the relations between the two main organizations in the Palestinian resistance movement – PIJ and Hamas – as well as the fragility of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Over two days, Hamas left PIJ to deal on its own with the Israeli airstrikes in the Strip that seriously harmed PIJ operatives, while expressing little solidarity with it – or for that matter, little at all.”

3) Tablet Magazine carries an article by Aboud Dandachi titled “Campus Anti-Zionism Seen Through the Eyes of a Syrian Refugee”.

“A refugee from a war-torn country is used to seeing all parts of their homeland become a battleground. Streets. Apartments. Football fields. Even the historic Krak de Chaveliers castle near my native Homs in Syria was fought over by opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. After landing in Canada, however, I hadn’t expected my new country’s universities to be arenas for ideological mobs to shout down and denounce their opponents.”

4) The FDD looks at a recent report concerning Iranian cruise missiles.

“The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last week released a landmark report analyzing the capabilities of Iran’s military. In light of Iran’s September attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, the report’s emphasis on Tehran’s expanding cruise missile capabilities has already proven to be prescient.

The DIA’s new report, titled Iran Military Power: Ensuring Regime Survival and Securing Regional Dominance, highlights Tehran’s development of land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). The report notes that Tehran “has invested heavily in its domestic infrastructure, equipment, and expertise” to develop increasingly capable cruise missiles.”

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Tablet magazine Liel Leibovitz has been ‘Debunking the latest claptrap on American policy and Israeli settlements’.

“You’re free to like President Trump or dislike him. You’re free to consider his latest Middle East  policy move to be a welcome bit of truth-telling, or a political maneuver to help Bibi, or a rash and potentially ruinous bit of grandstanding aimed at evangelical voters in the US. But one thing is abundantly clear: By promoting the false narrative about the president reversing 40 years of American policy, it is Trump’s credulous critics who are using their ignorance of history to push a radical viewpoint that was widely and repeatedly rejected by actual US policy makers for the vast majority of the past four decades.”

2) Raz Zimmt of the INSS provides an initial assessment of the recent protests in Iran.

“Protests have been underway across Iran since November 15, 2019 in the wake of the government’s decision to increase gasoline prices sharply and ration gasoline consumption. These moves reflect the intensity of the economic crisis facing Iran following the re-imposition of sanctions. The government, which had previously backtracked on its intention to implement economic austerity measures out of fear they would lead to a resumption of popular protests, found itself having to take a calculated risk in an attempt to boost its ability to weather the effects of the sanctions. On the political level, the government’s decision may further weaken President Rouhani’s already shaky public and political status, especially ahead of parliamentary elections in early 2020. At this point, the regime appears to have significant repression capabilities and be ready to use them if and when necessary. However, the protests sharpen the dilemma faced by the authorities who are committed to austerity and streamlining measures, but fear the intensification of popular protests.”

3) At WINEP, Hanin Ghaddar examines the implications of the protests in Lebanon.

“For a month, nationwide protests have swept Lebanon due to deteriorating economic conditions and the persistent corruption of the ruling class. Two weeks into the protests, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned. When asked to form a new government, he faced a deadlock because he sought one composed of independent technocrats. This type of government is what the protestors are demanding; it is also a requirement for outside financial assistance to Lebanon. No other outcome would generate confidence at home or internationally. Yet it is still unclear who will form the new government, and none of the names proposed so far are suitable given that current authorities are still influenced by Hezbollah.”

4) Also at WINEP, Assaf Orion documents ‘Hezbollah’s Campaign Against UNIFIL’.

“In summer 2006, the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 1701 with the goal of ending the war between Israel and Hezbollah and preventing a recurrence. Among its terms was an expansion of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, a multinational peacekeeping body created in 1978. UN reports over the past thirteen years have emphasized the general calm in southern Lebanon—but calm does not mean safety and security. Since the 2006 war, Iran has invested billions of dollars in building its Lebanese proxy military force, Hezbollah, throughout Lebanon, including in the south. Hezbollah, in turn, has carried out a relentless intimidation campaign against UNIFIL forces, seeking to undermine their mission and prevent its own exposure. An August 2018 attack by the group near Majdel Zoun, which included seizing peacekeepers’ weapons and setting fire to their vehicles, epitomized Hezbollah’s modus operandi.”

BBC News ignores rockets on northern Israel but reports response

When sirens warning of rocket fire from Syria sent residents of the northern Golan Heights and Upper Galilee scurrying for shelter shortly before 5 a.m. on November 19th, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

“Four projectiles were fired at northern Israel from Syria in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said. All four were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli military believes the rockets were fired by Iran or one of its proxies.”

The Israeli response which came the next day was however considered worthy of BBC News website coverage and on the morning of November 20th a report originally confusingly headlined “Israel hits ‘dozens of Iranian and Syrian targets’” and now titled “Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria” was published on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Apparently not having bothered to verify details of the previous day’s incident itself, the BBC reported it as something that ‘Israel said’ happened.

“The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel. […]

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said it had intercepted four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel. It said the rockets did not hit the ground.”

As usual in coverage of such incidents, the BBC’s report uncritically amplified claims made by the infamous Syrian state news agency.

“Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defences shot down most of the missiles over Damascus. […]

Syria’s state news agency Sana said that the country’s “air defence confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles”.

It said that Syria destroyed “most” of the Israeli missiles.

The news agency added that the strikes on Syrian territory were carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories”.”

Also in line with longstanding BBC editorial policy, the report presented an unnecessarily qualified account of Iran’s activities in Syria.

“Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.

It has been trying to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” there and block shipments of Iranian weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

Readers were told nothing of the list of Iranian attacks on Israel throughout the past two years.

Later the same day the BBC News website published an additional article by its diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes” and inaccurately tagged “Syrian civil war”.  

The BBC News Twitter account promoted that article with the claim that “Israel’s strikes in Syria risk broad conflict with Iran”.

So there we have it: according to BBC-think it is not Iran’s funding and arming of terrorist organisations to Israel’s south and north or Iran’s support for the establishment of Hizballah infrastructure in the Syrian Golan or even Iran’s reported deployment of missiles in south-west Syria which raise the risk of “broad conflict” but Israel’s response to Iranian aggression.

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC provides a portrait of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander killed by Israel this week and initial analysis of Palestinian casualties in the subsequent conflict.

“An initial ITIC examination of the names of ten Palestinians who were killed during IDF attacks revealed the following: six were operatives in the PIJ’s military wing; three were operatives in the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades/Nidal al-Amoudi Brigade (a network that splintered from Fatah) who apparently participated in the rocket fire at Israel; and one was a Fatah operative (it is unclear if he was a military operative).”

2) MEMRI has translated a speech made by a PIJ leader which, predictably, was not reported by the BBC.

“Khader Habib, a member of the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, said in a November 12, 2019 address that aired on Alghad TV (UAE/Egypt) that Israel will disappear and that Jerusalem and Palestine belong to the Palestinians. He promised that the Jihad against Israel will continue and that the mujahideen will slaughter the Zionists occupying Palestine unless they leave. The statements were made at the funeral of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, who was killed by the IDF.”

3) The JCPA looks at Iran’s reaction to the killing of Abu al-Ata.

“The PIJ is the Palestinian organization closest to Iran and is heavily dependent on the financial and military aid that Tehran provides. The relationship between the PIJ and Iran is conducted mainly through the headquarters of the organization’s external leadership in Damascus, which holds contacts with the Gazan leadership. Unlike Hamas, which retains political and operational independence, the PIJ is more attentive to Iran’s agenda and to the directives that come from Tehran. The group declared a state of emergency in the wake of al-Ata’s killing.

In recent years, Tehran has supplied the PIJ with rockets, sniper rifles (Iranian-made AM-50 Sayyad-Hunter based on HS.50 rifles that the Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher company sold to the National Iranian Police) , and anti-tank missiles, all the while continuing to train its operatives in Syria and Iran in manufacturing and operating rockets, missiles small arms, and explosive devices (IEDs, EFPs).”

4) At the INSS, Ephraim Kam analyses ‘Iranian Stakes in Syria’.

“Against the backdrop of its military involvement in Syria, Iran has taken a series of steps since 2014 to reinforce its standing in Syria and Lebanon and enhance its military preparedness there, as well as that of its proxies – first and foremost Hezbollah. These steps are of two types. One consists of steps designed to influence Syria’s internal situation and bind it to Iran for the long term, including economic agreements on reconstruction, resettlement of Shiites in Syria, introduction of Iranian religious and cultural values into the country, and establishment of Syrian Shiite militias modelled on Hezbollah in Lebanon. These steps are of great importance to Israel because they entrench and empower Iran’s position close to Israel’s border.”

BBC WS radio framing of anti-Iran protests

Earlier this month we noted that an article written by the BBC’s Middle East editor on the subject of the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon had avoided the issue of protests against Iranian intervention in those countries.

An item aired in the November 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The World This Week’ – titled “Iran in the crosshairs” – did relate to that issue, but from a remarkable viewpoint.

“There’s growing pushback against Iranian involvement in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran is being seen by some as the kind of interfering foreign state it often criticises.”

Presenter Caroline Wyatt introduced that lead item with the erroneous claim that Iran had fulfilled its JCPOA obligations concerning the Fordow nuclear plant. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Wyatt: “Iran turned the nuclear screw this week, bringing back into operation nuclear equipment it shut down under the terms of the nuclear deal agreed with Western powers in 2015 but which President Trump later walked away from. But was this a warning or a sign of weakness? The security think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said this week that Iran was winning the struggle for strategic influence in the Middle East. But is that starting to change? Protests in Lebanon and Iraq against their political elites have focused much of their criticism on Iran with the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Karbala coming under attack. So I asked Kasra Naji of BBC Persian how worried is Iran that it may now be in the process of losing the power and influence it’s acquired in Iraq and Lebanon.”

That IISS report was the subject of an article which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th.

Kasra Naji gave listeners a highly sanitised view of the Iranian regime’s decades-old activities in other countries.

Naji: “Well I think Iran is very worried. I think Iran is concerned particularly about what’s going on in Iraq. Iraq is next door and the demands of those people on the streets of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq are not all that different to the demands of the Iranians within Iran. It could easily come this side of the border so they’re watchful of that. Over the years since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iran has invested heavily in setting up political parties, militias, its proxies, its political influence and that is suddenly in danger. If not danger, the prestige of Iran in the region and in Iraq is under serious question today and that doesn’t look good for Iran at all. And in Lebanon also Hizballah has been a major component of Iran’s influence in the region. Iran looks at southern Lebanon as basically a province of Iran. And they don’t want to see that coming under threat.”

Remarkably, neither Wyatt nor Naji bothered to explain to listeners what “the demands of those people on the streets” actually are. Neither did they make any effort to inform audiences even in passing that over 300 Iraqi protesters are reported to have been killed by security forces which allegedly include Iranian-backed militias and that rather than merely ‘worrying’ about the situation in Iraq as suggested by Naji, the Iranian regime is taking an active role in events there.

Both Wyatt and Naji seemed intent on framing objections to Iranian intervention in neighbouring countries as something recent.

Wyatt: “According to one commentator in Iraq, the shoes are out again so the public discontent is growing. Isn’t Iran now in danger of being seen as just the kind of regime that it likes to criticise?”

Naji: “That’s right. That’s another danger of all this. Iran is suddenly seen as a usurping power, a foreign power trying to influence events within those countries, particularly within Iraq.”

After an equally superficial discussion of Iran’s involvement in Syria, the conversation turned to Iran’s recent nuclear activities with Wyatt asking “so why is it continuing to risk more sanctions?”.

Naji: “Because it doesn’t have any other choice. It’s come under heavy pressure of US sanctions and they are crippling Iran’s economy. […] So what they’re trying to do is to put pressure on the Europeans particularly and say ‘listen, if you don’t come up and save this deal and do your part of the deal – your commitments in the deal – then there’s no point in staying in this agreement. It’s a cry for help. It’s like saying that we cannot continue like this; come and help us, save this deal, otherwise this deal is going to collapse.”

BBC World Service listeners were not informed what those allegedly unfulfilled European “commitments” supposedly entail before Wyatt closed with a final question about the opinions of “ordinary Iranians” on the nuclear issue and Naji’s reply failing to inform audiences that those opinions carry little weight as far as the Iranian regime is concerned.  

Obviously this item presented BBC audiences with a decidedly one-sided view of the story which focused on framing Iran as being “in the crosshairs” rather than the Lebanese and Iraqi people actually being attacked by its proxy militias on the streets of Beirut and Baghdad.

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BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

 

 

 

 

BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

Iran’s latest breach of the 2015 JCPOA was portrayed by the BBC as “rolling back another commitment” in the opening line of an article headlined “Iran nuclear deal: Uranium enrichment to resume at underground facility” which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 5th.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on that deal and Iran’s nuclear programme, audiences were told that:

“Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed) 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 once again chose to amplify Iranian propaganda but not to inform readers of those relevant parts of the story.

Regarding the Fordo (or Fordow) facility at which Iran’s president announced centrifuges would resume operation, the BBC’s report states:

“Before 2015, the country had two enrichment facilities – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope, U-235. […]

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at Fordo until 2031. The 1,044 centrifuges there were supposed to spin without uranium hexafluoride gas being injected.”

An illustration informs readers that “changes agreed” under the deal included Fordo being “converted from fuel enrichment to technology centre”.

Iran did not however comply with that requirement – as explained in this report – but the BBC made no effort to inform readers of that obviously relevant information.