BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Trump trip report flunks on Iran

As was noted here in an earlier post, the lead story in the May 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the US president’s visit to Israel.

In addition to repeated promotion of the ‘apartheid’ calumny, in the first of two items relating to that story listeners had heard BBC Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman telling them that the Israeli government ‘says’ that Iran arms Hizballah.

Razia Iqbal: “You mentioned Iran and there was some criticism of Iran when the president was in Saudi Arabia and he has underlined that criticism again today in Israel hasn’t he?”

Tom Bateman: That’s right and, you know, I don’t think that’s going to be the last of it and of course it’s a message that resonates with Israel because Israel’s government is extremely concerned about Iran. They believe that…ah…because of its action, that they say it’s arming Hizballah just north of Israel here in Syria [sic], that that brings an even greater threat – in fact its greatest threat in the form of Hizballah just over its border in Lebanon.” [emphasis added]

As was noted in our previous post:

“One would of course expect a BBC correspondent based in Jerusalem – new or not – to be capable of informing BBC audiences that Iranian financial and military support for Hizballah (in violation of UNSC resolution 1701) is not just something that the Israeli government ‘says’ but a fact about which Hizballah has been open and at least one Iranian official has admitted.”

Later on in the same programme’s second item on that story (from 45:05 here) presenter Razia Iqbal returned to the topic of Iran in a conversation with the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

Listeners learned nothing from that conversation about the Iranian regime’s policy of supporting and enabling terror groups in the region and the real reasons why some Middle East countries have long viewed the Iranian regime as a threat to regional stability were not conveyed to BBC audiences. What they did hear, however, is a portrayal of the subject that would doubtless have gone down very well in Tehran. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Razia Iqbal: “Let’s return to our top story now; the second leg of President Trump’s visit to the Middle East. Today he is in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We’re joined now from Jerusalem by Newshour’s Lyse Doucet. Ah…Lyse: you were in Saudi Arabia following President Trump there and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke directly about the fact that the president flew from Riyad to Tel Aviv and though there were no diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. I wonder if there is a sense here that the Gulf states are making common cause with Israel in the context of their mutual fear of Iran?”

Doucet: “Yes, it’s very interesting isn’t it? This little diplomatic milestone: President Trump flying for the first time on this first direct flight. In fact Prime Minister Netanyahu said he looks forward to the day when an Israeli prime minister can fly from Tel Aviv to Riyad. And I think it’s a story that doesn’t get enough attention; that there have been behind the scene, very discreet meetings between Israelis and Saudis. Very senior Saudis have come to Israel before because they do want to make common cause.”

Of course one of the media outlets not giving “enough attention” to that story is the BBC itself. Doucet continued:

“You’ve mentioned one of the biggest reasons to do so and that is their shared animosity towards Iran. That was one of the main issues in the centrepiece speech that President Trump delivered to a gathering of some 40 Arab and…leaders from the Arab and Islamic world. Not just the fight against extremism but a fight against Iran and he’s brought that message here. He spoke of…he said I’ve come from the Arab world with the common understanding that is shared by you that Iran is the main threat. So things are definitely shifting.”

Of course “things” actually ‘shifted’ quite some time ago – as Gulf state reactions to the 2015 P5+1 deal with Iran concerning its nuclear programme indicated – but neither Iqbal nor Doucet (who has written about that topic in the past) bothered to remind listeners of that.

Iqbal: “It’s interesting to hear you say they’re shifting because of course Iran on the ground in Iraq and in…in…certainly in Iraq is doing quite a lot to fight against the Islamic State group. So one wonders about these tectonic shifts, if you like, and how they’ll manifest itself [sic] given that President Trump is really keen to make inroads with eliminating Islamic State.”

Doucet: “Yes, and welcome, President Trump, to the Middle East. At some point we may hear him say – as he said about the Affordable Care Act in the United States; Obamacare, – I didn’t realise that it was so complicated. As you know, take Syria that you just mentioned [sic] – he wants to push back Iran; that is the Saudis’ main goal. But interestingly, President Trump did not mention Russia in his speech in Riyad. And arguably Russia and Iran are working together, first to bolster President Assad but also to fight against so-called Islamic State and at the same time to push back some of the forces which have been trained and financed by the United States.

And what the Iranians would say is that they are in Syria because they’ve been asked to be there. They’re in Iraq because they’ve been asked to be there and they see no reason why they should leave. I think there’s growing concern about what will come next at a time when Iranians have shown that in the re-election of Hassan Rouhani, they want an engagement with the wider world. The message from Riyad – and it will be the message as well from Jerusalem – is that their enemies want to isolate them in the world.”

Iqbal: “Just, Lyse, very briefly; his next trip is to the Palestinian territories?”

Doucet: “Yes. The Palestinians have been surprised. They thought that President Trump would be only focusing on Israeli interests and Israeli views but his ear has been bent by King Abdallah of Jordan, by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and this is why we’re not going to see the announcement of a move of the American embassy to Jerusalem. He is trying to be a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinians.”

Doucet offers no factual evidence for that extraordinary claim.

For years BBC journalists – and not least Lyse Doucet and Razia Iqbal in person – have been playing down the Iranian regime’s regional aggression and patronage of terrorism and the corporation has also repeatedly propagated the myth of ‘moderates’ within the Iranian regime.

If BBC audiences are to understand why Israel may have common interests relating to Iran with some of its neighbours in the Middle East, then clearly they need to be provided with a factually accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the Iranian regime’s policies, positions and activities rather than whitewashed, vacuous and unhelpful commentary of the type broadcast to millions worldwide in this item.  

Related Articles:

No wonder BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal got Iranian threat to Israel wrong

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

BBC WS Newshour promotes ‘apartheid’ smear in Trump visit coverage

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ misleads on EU statement on Iran missile test

January 31st saw the appearance of BBC reports concerning reactions to a recent Iranian ballistic missile test.iran-missile-test-art-31-1

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Netanyahu: Iran missile test must not go unanswered” and the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ also included an item on the topic.

In that item (from 30:10 here), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed Israel’s ambassador to the UN. During the conversation (32:16) Coomarasamy said to Danon:

“You’ll be aware that the European Union has said that it does not believe that these tests were in violation of that UN Security Council resolution; that this was a…not under the nuclear agreement.”

So did EU foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali really say that the test did not violate UNSC resolution 2231? Not according to ABC:

“Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”.

EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that a ballistic missile test would not be a violation of the nuclear deal, but that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Times of Israel:

“The EU spokeswoman noted that since Iran’s ballistic missile effort was not included in the nuclear accord, “the tests are not a violation.”

Additionally, it was up to the Security Council to determine if the latest test was a violation of UN resolutions on Iran’s missile program, she said.”

And not according to AP:

“The European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust.” EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said a ballistic missile test would not violate the nuclear deal with world powers, but added that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.”

And not according to the Independent:

“The EU called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”, with foreign policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali saying that a ballistic missile test would not constitute a violation of the nuclear deal but was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231. 

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she added.” 

So, while Ms Massrali did point out that the test would not violate the JCPOA (because it does not relate to missile development), she did not – as Coomarasamy inaccurately and misleadingly claimed – say that it did not violate UNSC resolution 2231.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

 

Why BBC News website audiences might be confused

For years the BBC News website has uncritically amplified Iranian messaging on the subject of that country’s nuclear programme by using an unhelpful ‘he said-she said’ formula.

“The West suspects Iran of seeking a nuclear arms capability.

Tehran denies the claim, saying its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.”

And:

“The powers suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes.”

And:

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

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

A similar statement was found in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 7th.

“Iran has long been suspected of seeking to develop nuclear weapons – an allegation it denies, saying it is pursuing civilian nuclear energy.”Iranian nucl scientist

That report, however, was titled “Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri executed for treason“.

“An Iranian scientist who provided the US with information about the country’s nuclear programme has been hanged for treason, the government has confirmed.

Shahram Amiri was executed for giving “vital information to the enemy”, a judiciary spokesman said. […]

On Sunday a spokesman for Iranian judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, told reporters: “Through his connection with the United States, Amiri gave vital information about the country to the enemy,” “

BBC News website audiences might well now be pondering the question of why Iran found it necessary to hand down a death sentence to a scientist who allegedly gave “vital information” about a programme they have for years been informed was “peaceful” and aimed solely at “pursuing civilian nuclear energy”.

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BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

BBC News misleads on Russian S-300 missiles and Iran sanctions

Notwithstanding the confusion surrounding the story, the BBC News website published an article on April 11th titled “Russian S-300 air defence missiles ‘arrive in Iran’” which opens as follows:S 300 art

“Russia is reported to have started delivering S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, under a deal opposed by Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi-Ansari said “the first stage of the contract has been implemented”.

It is not yet clear how many missiles may have been delivered.

The controversial contract got the go-ahead after international sanctions on Iran were lifted last year.” [emphasis added]

The link in that last sentence leads to a BBC report from April 13th 2015 titled “Russia lifts ban on S-300 missile system delivery to Iran”. The following day the BBC produced an additional report on the same topic – “US concern as Russia lifts ban on Iran arms delivery” – which was discussed here.

When those two articles were published the P5+1 had just reached (on April 2nd 2015) a framework deal with Iran concerning its nuclear programme which – as the BBC itself reported at the time – imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions following verification of Iranian compliance.

Later on in this report readers are correctly informed that:

“The $800m (£562m) contract, signed in 2007, was frozen by Russia in 2010 because of the international sanctions. President Vladimir Putin unfroze it a year ago.” [emphasis added]

The JCPOA was finalised on July 14th 2015 with October 18th 2015 designated as ‘Adoption Day’ and January 16th 2016 as ‘Implementation Day’. According to the agreement the various relevant sanctions imposed by the UN, the EU and the US were to be lifted on ‘Implementation Day’ pending the release of an IAEA report confirming implementation of the terms of the deal by Iran.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that Russia gave the go-ahead to the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran “after international sanctions on Iran were lifted last year” is inaccurate and materially misleading because the sanctions were not lifted “last year” but nine months after the Russian announcement.

BBC Two’s ‘Inside Obama’s White House’: unchallenging and uncritical

BBC Two has been showing a series titled ‘Inside Obama’s White House’ and the third episode of that programme – already shown on March 29th and to be broadcast again tonight at 23:15 local time – addresses the topic of the US president’s record in the Middle East.

Obama prog ME

The synopsis to that episode – titled “Don’t Screw It Up” – reads as follows:Obama prog synopsis

“Episode three explores how Barack Obama set out to end George Bush’s wars in the Middle East and reset relations with the rest of the world. In Cairo he speaks to the Arab world, calling democracy a human right. Two years later when protest erupts in Tahrir Square, the president is torn between secretary of state Hillary Clinton and defense secretary Robert Gates, who believe Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak provides regional stability, and his young advisors, who are in tune with the promise of the Arab Spring. Before long, a similar test arises in Libya, Hillary Clinton changes her position to back military intervention and Obama agrees to join allies in airstrikes against Colonel Gaddafi.

In Syria, when shocking evidence shows the use of chemical weapons, Obama decides to bomb. But when the British Parliament votes against intervention, he decides he needs the backing of a reluctant Congress. Foreign secretary William Hague explains why the British parliament voted against intervention in 2013 and President Obama explains why he then decided to seek the backing of Congress.

This episode also explores how Obama scored a big win when he negotiated a secret deal to end the nuclear threat from Iran – behind the backs of his closest allies. Secretary of state John Kerry tells how he worked through the night, with President Obama on the phone, to secure the outlines of the deal.”

Given the BBC’s record of uncritical promotion of the US administration’s view of the negotiations with Iran and the resulting JCPOA, it is hardly surprising to see that issue presented in this programme as a “triumph”.  Remarkably, Middle East perspectives of Obama’s decisions relating to the region do not get a platform in this programme and perhaps most notably the US president’s spin concerning his retreat from his self-imposed ‘red lines’ in Syria goes unchallenged.

Previous episodes are available to viewers in the UK on iPlayer here.

 

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

In the past couple of days the BBC News website has produced two articles on the topic of Iranian ballistic missile tests:Iran missiles 1

Iran ‘conducts new ballistic missile tests’” March 8th 2016

Iran ‘launches two new ballistic missiles’” March 9th 2016

The earlier article includes unqualified amplification of Iranian regime propaganda:

“The Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that the tests demonstrated the country’s “deterrent power”. […]

The Revolutionary Guards’ statement said the tests were intended “to show Iran’s deterrent power and also the Islamic Republic’s ability to confront any threat against the [Islamic] Revolution, the state and the sovereignty of the country”. […]

Both articles promote the Iranian interpretation of the part of the UNSC resolution adopting the JCPOA which relates to ballistic missiles.Iran missiles 2

” [UNSC] Resolution 1929, which barred Iran from undertaking any work on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, was terminated after a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers was implemented two months ago. A new resolution, 2231, then came into force that “calls upon” Iran not to undertake such activity.

Iran says it does not have nuclear weapons and will continue missile development.”

The UNSC backgrounder on the topic states:

“Paragraph 3 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

And:

“All these restrictions shall apply until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day (18 October 2015) or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.”

The topic of the agreement’s ambiguous wording on ballistic missiles has long been among the issues raised by critics of the JCPOA but of course the BBC’s enthusiastic coverage of the P5+1 talks with Iran did not include enabling audiences to hear those voices. 

The second BBC report states:Iran missile pic Hebrew writing

“The missiles were produced by Iranian experts and the “successful” drills were aimed at showcasing the country’s power, the Revolutionary Guards said, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV channel.

They had the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on them, the Fars news agency reported, AP said.”

Later on, however, readers are again told that:

“While any missile of a certain size could in theory be used to carry a nuclear warhead, Iran says its missiles are for use solely as a conventional deterrent.” [emphasis added]

Notably, the BBC elected not to tell its audiences about an additional segment of AP’s reporting of the material put out by the semi-official Fars news agency which rather contradicts the passive messaging of ‘deterrence’ seen in the BBC’s coverage.

“Fars quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, as saying the test was aimed at showing Israel that Iran could hit it.

“The 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) range of our missiles is to confront the Zionist regime,” Hajizadeh said. “Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war. It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.””

Speaking to the ISNA agency, Hajizadeh apparently added: “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 kms is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance.”

It is of course precisely such omission which last year led a BBC journalist to promote the inaccurate claim that Israel is “not under threat by Iran”. 

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

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

“Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful”

The article opens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wall Street Journal noted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend long read

Back in July, BBC coverage of the P5+1 deal with Iran included assurances from some of the corporation’s senior correspondents that funds freed up by sanctions relief would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.Weekend Read

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.”  Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th 2015.

Notably, BBC coverage avoided the issue of the potential for increased financial support to Iranian projects and terrorist proxies in the wider region and even went so far as to censor a pledge of support for the Syrian regime and for terrorist organisations including Hizballah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from its reporting on a speech made by Khamenei.

In the absence of any serious BBC reporting on that topic, readers may find two expert testimonies given to the US Congress’ House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on September 17th of interest:

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi – Foundation for Defense of Democracies – ‘The Iran Nuclear Deal and its Impact on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’.

Dr. Matthew Levitt – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy – ‘Major Beneficiaries of the Iran Deal: IRGC and Hezbollah’.

Relatedly, Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff reports that increased Iranian support for regional terror organisations is already evident.

“Since the [JCPOA] deal was signed, Iran has significantly increased its financial support for two of the largest terror groups in the region that have become political players, Hamas and Hezbollah. In the years before the deal was signed, the crippling sanctions limited this support, which had significantly diminished along with Iran’s economy. But Tehran’s belief that tens, or hundreds, of billions of dollars will flow into the country in the coming years as a result of sanctions relief has led to a decision to boost the cash flow to these terror organizations.

This support, for example, has enabled Hezbollah to obtain highly developed new armaments, including advanced technologies that many militaries around the world would envy. Al-Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, reported Saturday that Hezbollah has received all the advanced weaponry that Syria has obtained from the Russians. The report cited a security source involved in the fighting in Zabadani, on the Syria-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah is fighting the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and other groups. It is evidently the growing Iranian financial support that is enabling the Lebanese Shiite militia to purchase advanced weapons, including ones that were hitherto outside of its reach.”

Read the rest of that report here.

 

 

 

 

 

More BBC downplaying of Iranian destabilisation of the Middle East

An article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 31st under the title “Four wars and counting: Making sense of the anti-IS struggle” once again provides some interesting insight into the BBC’s Middle East narrative.Marcus ISIS

The article opens as follows:

“Adversity, they say, makes strange bedfellows. This is especially true in the contemporary Middle East.

The rise of so-called Islamic State (IS), which controls a swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq, has prompted the creation of a large, multinational coalition including the US, Turkey, and Washington’s Gulf allies, all intent on its destruction.

So too of course is Iran and, not surprisingly, Israel. This has resulted, for example, in pro-Iranian militias in Iraq appearing to be on the same side as the US.”

Marcus does not provide any supporting evidence for his dramatic claim that Israel is “intent” on the “destruction” of ISIS. Of course a more accurate and realistic portrayal would have clarified to readers that Israeli policy is to prevent ISIS, groups affiliated with it, or any other Islamist extremist elements from undermining her security – as clarified by the Israeli prime minister in July of this year.   

“We are partners with the Egyptians, and many other states in the Middle East and the world, in our battle against radical Islamic terrorism. This terrorism is directed by two different entities – Iran, and the radical Shiites, and ISIS and the radical Sunnis, as well as factions like Hamas.”

And:

“The world is facing two major threats, he [Netanyahu] said, the Islamic State threat, and the Iranian threat. “We should not strengthen one at the expense of the other,” he said, “we need to weaken both and prevent the aggression and military buildup of both of them.””

Later on in the article, the subject of Iran and its proxies is presented in muted language which does little more than obliquely hint at the real scale and significance of that issue and does nothing to clarify to BBC audiences exactly why so many actors in the region regard Iran as a very real threat.

“America’s Gulf allies – the Saudis and Qatar for example – have also been supporting various groups in Syria but they have had their eye very much on a second war: the battle against Iranian influence in the region exemplified by the embattled Syrian regime of President Assad and his (and Iran’s) Hezbollah allies from Lebanon.[…]

For the Gulf Arabs, the struggle against Iran is every bit as important as the battle against IS – possibly even more so. […]

The counter-Iranian struggle is also being played out in Yemen where the Saudis and their allies have intervened militarily […]”

Under the sub-heading “Israeli alliances”, towards the end of the article readers find the following:

“Indeed a fifth “war” – the region’s longest-running conflict – that between Israel and the Palestinians is also being influenced by the rise of IS.”

Some of course might question that description of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the region’s longest running” and exactly how it is supposedly “being influenced by the rise of IS” is left unclear. Marcus continues:

“The collapse of Syria as a military player is a mixed blessing for Israel.

IS-inspired groups are active on both its northern border and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. But the rise of IS (and a shared concern about Iran) has brought Israel and the so-called moderate Arab states closer together.

The most obvious manifestation of this are the growing military ties between Israel and Jordan. Israel has sold or transferred both attack helicopters and drones to Amman over recent weeks.

There are reports too that when Israeli and Jordanian warplanes flew to the US recently for a multinational exercise, the Jordanian F16s were accompanied on their transit by Israeli tanker aircraft.”

Jordan and Israel of course signed a peace treaty over two decades ago and collaboration in various fields is not novel. But even if that unverified report from one American website about accompanying Israeli aircraft and the similarly unconfirmed statement concerning retired helicopters originating from one anonymous Pentagon official do indeed prove to be correct, what is remarkable here is that Marcus puts the focus on ISIS as the reason for apparently extended ties between “Israel and the so-called moderate Arab states” whilst relegating the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and the theocratic regime’s patronage of regional terrorist groups to a euphemistic comment in brackets.

He concludes:

“While all of the attention of analysts has been focused on the potential collapse of two existing countries – Syria and Iraq – the real driving force in regional politics is the response to the rise of two putative new states, the caliphate of Islamic State on the one hand, and the potential emergence of a new Kurdish nation of some kind on the other.

It is not just the demise of the old order that is forging unusual alliances, but the shock of the new.”

What Marcus coyly describes as “a shared concern about Iran” is obviously a no less “real” and important factor in contemporary Middle Eastern “regional politics” than ISIS or a potential Kurdish state. However, as has been the narrative in much of the BBC’s previous reporting, the issue of Iran’s destabilization of the region (particularly in Syria where its backing of the Assad regime has resulted in far more civilian deaths than those caused by ISIS) is downplayed and audiences are once again deprived of the full range of information needed to build a “global understanding of international issues”.  

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