Weekend long read

1) At the FDD, the Institute for Science and International Security documents “New Information about the Parchin Site“.

“A great deal of on-the-ground information about Iran’s Parchin site has publicly emerged.  This site was involved prior to 2004 in high explosive testing related to the development of nuclear weapons.  The new information, mainly in the form of Iranian documents and photos, is from an archive seized by Israel in Tehran, a fact that was publicly revealed on April 30, 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He reported that this archive shows that in 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site, if a political decision was made to test. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.”

2) Dr Shiraz Maher has published an essay titled “The primacy of praxis: clerical authority in the Syrian conflict”.

“A close look at the competing claims, actors, and movements for authority within the Syrian civil war reveals three distinct periods of political and religious influence: that of Syrian scholars, who were the first to inject religious language into the revolution; that of Salafi scholars predominantly from the Gulf; and lastly, that of jihadi organizations like ISIS and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, who were active on the ground.

This paper focuses on which figures relied on action—rather than theoretical abstraction—to establish legitimacy and authority on the ground in Syria. Tracing the conflict from the first clerical attempts to coordinate the Syrian opposition to the conflict’s regionalization, and, later, internationalization, this paper demonstrates that the words of actors on the ground are more likely than those of far-off figures—however popular—to resound effectively.”

3) At the JCPA, Yoni Ben Menachem takes a look at the background to a story first reported by the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh.

“On October 13, 2018, Sheikh Akhram a-Sabri, preacher of the al-Aqsa Mosque, issued a fatwa (ruling in Islamic law) stating that anyone who sells property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jews no longer belongs to the Islamic religion.

“We will not accept his repentance, and he will not be buried in a Muslim cemetery,” Sabri declared. […]

On October 20, 2018, the Jerusalem police and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) apprehended Adnan Gheith, the PA’s Jerusalem governor, and Jihad al-Faqih, director of the PA’s intelligence office in east Jerusalem, both of whom are supporters of Gen. Majid Faraj. They were arrested on suspicion of abducting a Beit Hanina resident (whose name is known to the author), a known realtor dealing in land and property, whom they suspected of selling a property in the area of Herod’s Gate in the Old City.

The realtor is an Israeli citizen who also holds a U.S. passport.”

4) Also at the JCPA, Nadav Shragai discusses a Jordanian request.

“Jordan has asked Israel to allow it to build a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, on the eastern wall of the Mount, facing the Mount of Olives. The Jordanian request is not new, and as far as it is known, at least at this stage, Israel does not intend to allow it. This issue has again been put on the public agenda, along with other matters relating to the ties between Jordan and Israel on the Temple Mount, in light of Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease agreement for land in Naharayim and the Arava, which Israeli farmers have been working for the past 25 years.”

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Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer asks “Is southern Syria heading for ‘Lebanonization’? “.

“First of all, it is important to understand the nature and dimensions of the Iranian project in Syria.  Iran’s deep alliance with Assad’s Syria goes back to the first days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to Hafez Assad’s support or Teheran in the Iran-Iraq War.  Over the last seven years of civil war, however, the nature of the relationship has changed.  Iranian provision of manpower and organization of paramilitary forces has been essential to the regime’s survival.  Teheran has invested upwards of $30 billion in Syria.  The IRGC has established bodies within the formal structures of the Syrian state (the National Defence Forces), recruited young Syrians into locally based IRGC-associated paramilitary groups, (Quwaat al-Ridha, 313 battalion), and of course brought its paramilitary proxies onto Syrian soil, along with IRGC personnel.

This is a major, far-reaching process, resembling in its key particulars parallel projects in Lebanon and Iraq.  The intention is to establish political-military structures which will serve to enable the projection of Iranian power over the long term.  The Iranian expertise in this area is without parallel in the region.  As a result of this approach, Teheran now dominates Lebanon and has the upper hand in Iraq.  Assad’s Syria, which has an openly dictatorial system, is a different political context to these, of course.  But the evidence suggests that the Iranians are digging in to stay.”

2) The ITIC reports on this year’s Hamas summer camps – a topic that has received less than one minute of BBC coverage throughout the past three and a half years.

“On July 14, 2018, the central committee of Hamas’ summer camps in the Gaza Strip held a press conference to announce the opening of its summer camps. The theme this year is “I am returning to my homeland,” inspired by the “return marches.” Aspects of the marches have been integrated into camp activities, including launching balloons, throwing stones, collecting tires and glorifying the shaheeds killed during the “marches.” In addition, as they do every year, campers undergo military training, in ITIC assessment with Hamas instructors (disassembling and reassembling weapons, simulating the abduction of Israelis, rifle practice, etc.) Pictures from the camps indicate that most of the military training is held in the classrooms and schoolyards of schools in the Gaza Strip.”

3) Writing at the Guardian, Dr Dave Rich discusses the UK Labour party’s ‘antisemitism code’.

“This week the Labour party achieved something remarkable, even unique, in the history of British anti-racism. They managed to get 68 rabbis from every religious stream in the country – Orthodox, Liberal, Reform and Masorti – to form a coalition to denounce antisemitism. These are religious leaders who normally agree on very little, some of whom would not even acknowledge each other as rabbis. But on this issue, they came together as one. The problem for Labour is that they did it to condemn the party’s handling of its own antisemitism problem under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

4) For years the BBC has uncritically amplified Iranian messaging on the subject of that country’s nuclear programme. A report by David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman at the New York Times discusses what the BBC described as “political theatre” back in May.

“Last week, at the invitation of the Israeli government, three reporters, including one from The New York Times, were shown key documents from the trove. Many confirmed what inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, in report after report, had suspected: Despite Iranian insistence that its program was for peaceful purposes, the country had worked in the past to systematically assemble everything it needed to produce atomic weapons.

“It’s quite good,” Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer and former inspector for the agency, said in Vienna, after being shown some of the fruits of the document theft. “The papers show these guys were working on nuclear bombs.””

Inaccuracy, partial language and speculation on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

As we saw in an earlier post, viewers of ‘Newsnight’ saw the Israeli prime minister being interviewed by Evan Davis on June 7th. However, BBC World Service radio listeners heard extracts from that interview several hours before it was broadcast on BBC Two in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour‘.

“During his trip to the UK the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tells the BBC recent protests in the Gaza Strip were violent riots aimed at killing at Israelis.”

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 01:08 here) by giving an account of the purpose of the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Europe which was soon shown to be inaccurate by Netanyahu himself.

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

Iqbal: “We begin though with a visit by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK. London is the last stop in a series of meetings he’s had with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal. Mr Netanyahu has always opposed the deal and was delighted when President Trump decided to pull out of it. The Israeli prime minister has made it his business to persuade the other signatories to follow suit – especially since they have all said they will continue to see if it’s possible to keep the framework of the deal intact despite Washington’s departure. Today in an interview with my colleague Evan Davis of the BBC TV programme ‘Newsnight’, Mr Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal is dead. He said he would do everything in his power to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu: “…pressure can be of various kinds and I’ve seen in the past that when Iran faced very strong pressure – yes, a credible military response too but also by primarily paralysing sanctions – they came to the…”

Davis [interrupts]: “You’re not going to get the world behind sanctions.”

Netanyahu: “It’s already happened, Evan. I didn’t come here – contrary to news reports on another network that I’m going to try to persuade the E3, the Europeans, to leave the deal. That wasn’t my discussion. I said the deal is dead. It’s done; because of the force of the economic sanctions…”

Unsurprisingly (particularly given the fact that Iqbal allowed herself to shout inaccurate claims at an Israeli MK during live coverage of the rioting on the Gaza Strip-Israel border) listeners were not told that 53 of the people killed on May 14th were claimed by terror groups. Audiences did however hear Evan Davis’ editorialising.

Iqbal: “Well Israel has of course also been recently criticised internationally after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers on one day on the border between Israel and Gaza. The shooting happened on the day the US opened its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu described that moment as a glorious day. Evan Davis asked him, given the deaths of so many Palestinians, would he still use the words it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Netanyahu: “Tragic sounds like almost some force of nature. It wasn’t a force of nature. It was a deliberate policy of Hamas to push people into the line of fire, to try to kill Israelis and to present it as though this is Martin Luther King Day. It wasn’t Martin Luther King. It wasn’t Mother Theresa. These were not peaceful protests. This was violent riots directed at killing Israelis.”

Using an obviously partial term to portray the Israeli prime minister’s description of the events of May 14th, Iqbal then brought Lyse Doucet into the discussion.

Iqbal: “Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, speaking to Evan Davis. Let’s talk now to our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. Lyse – not in the least bit surprising that Benjamin Netanyahu should be defiant about what happened on that day on the border between Gaza and Israel.”

Doucet: “No; he has said it time and again. For him, of course, and for many who watch these events unfold, who watch the years of tensions between the two sides, that Israel has a right to protect its own security. It has a right to stop people from penetrating the security fence.”

Doucet then backed up her messaging using a quote from a German media interview with a disgraced former Israeli PM trying to make a political come-back and promoted some old BBC favourites: ‘disproportionate’ and the ‘Gaza prison’ theme.  

Doucet: “But what people are questioning – and even today the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert – and I’ll tell you what he said when he was interviewed about it. He says ‘I have doubts and questions over the use of lethal weapons against protesters near the Gaza border fence’. When you have that many people including children approaching the fence, what kind of force you use and it’s the question of disproportionate force and the fact that yes, of course Hamas was part of it and yes, Hamas militants did get killed but there are also peaceful activists including so many people, so many young people who are basically imprisoned in the Gaza Strip and see no hope.”

Apparently it has not occurred to Lyse Doucet that genuinely “peaceful activists” would most likely avoid mixing with terrorists committing attacks and infiltrations at a border fence, especially in light of seven weeks of prior experience. Doucet next promoted an anecdote from an anonymous source.

Doucet: “I was recently speaking to someone who has been working for years in the Gaza Strip trying to bring about a peaceful negotiation between Israel and Hamas and he said decades ago when he would speak to the young Gazans they would all say when we grow up we want to be teachers and doctors and lawyers. Now he said they all say we want to be martyrs; suicide martyrs.”

Perhaps if Lyse Doucet had carried out a more in-depth investigation into Gaza terror groups’ indoctrination of children when she had the chance, she would be able to report to BBC audiences on how the anecdote she chose to recount is connected to over a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza.

Razia Iqbal then made the following claim:

Iqbal: “Lyse, the United Kingdom has asked Mr Netanyahu to open an independent inquiry into those deaths in Gaza. Earlier this month the British government abstained from a UN Security Council resolution which called for an inquiry into the deaths. I mean, one wonders if Mr Netanyahu would have responded in the affirmative to the prime minister Theresa May.”

According to both the UK government announcement and media reports, Theresa May did not repeat the call she made on May 15th  for an ‘ independent inquiry’ (ironically while standing next to the Turkish president) during Netanyahu’s visit.

Doucet: “I think historically Israel has investigated its own incidents. It has not wanted international involvement. It believes that…you know Israel has always been regarded as having very strong judicial institutions. Of late questions have been raised about that but it has investigated and at times has been found to be wanting and fault has been found with the way Israel has responded to incidents like this. So I think it’s very much in keeping with how Israel responds to it. It is interesting the United Nations tried to introduce a new resolution at the UN Security Council last week and the only one who voted for it was the United States.”

Iqbal then gave Doucet the obviously pre-arranged cue for promotion of some remarkable speculation:

Iqbal: “Let’s talk in the brief time that we have left about the Iran nuclear deal which the BBC also asked Benjamin Netanyahu about. When Netanyahu says that the sanctions are already going to be put in place, that the deal is dead and that that isn’t going to change, do you think that the ultimate goal here of the United States and Mr Netanyahu is regime change in Iran? To put so much pressure on the country…because there have been appeals to the Iranian people by…specifically by the Secretary of State Pompeo and Mr Trump.”

Doucet: “Israel has never hid its desire to see regime change in Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always seen Iran as an existential threat to Israel. That hasn’t been helped by some of the comments that come out of some of the more radical politicians and clerics in Iran. And what you have now in power is you have Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, you have Donald Trump in the White House, you have Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. They want to see an end to the theocracy in Iran. President Trump’s…his national security advisor now, John Bolton, has for the years he was out of power been associating with groups which are bent on regime change in Iran. There were speeches about how he wants to see regime change in Iran. That is widely seen to be the real agenda behind trying…proclaiming the nuclear deal is dead. The nuclear deal is all but dead but the European…European powers who also signed the deal – Russia, China – they are trying to save the deal but there is a real worry that without the United States and with not just US sanctions but the secondary sanctions against any other companies who do business in Iran, it will be all but impossible to save the deal.”

John Bolton does indeed have past associations with anti-regime groups but he also stated last month that regime change in Iran “is not the Trump administration’s current policy”. As for Doucet’s claim that “that is widely seen to be the real agenda”, she does not inform listeners that “widely seen” in fact means a theory bandied about by some journalists, pro-regime lobbyists and commentators including Stephen Walt of ‘Israel lobby’ infamy.

The use of partial language and editorialising together with the promotion of inaccurate claims, one-sided quotes, anonymous anecdotes and unsupported speculation clearly signpost the overt bias in this relatively long item.   

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

BBC flouts its own editorial guidelines with Iran talks interviewees

Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis

 

 

 

Editorialising, omission and inaccuracies from BBC’s Evan Davis

The June 7th edition of BBC Two’s main news programme ‘Newsnight‘ included an interview conducted by presenter Evan Davis with the Israeli prime minister – available here in the UK or here.

Notwithstanding the fact that he spent a significant proportion of the interview interrupting his interviewee, Davis’ questions related to three topics: the JCPOA deal between the P5+1 and Iran, recent events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the ‘peace process’.

On the first topic BBC audiences heard Davis repeatedly opine that “military action” against Iran is inevitable – but ineffective. Notably, when the subject of Iran’s financing of regional terror was raised by Netanyahu, Davis quickly changed the subject. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[3:40] Davis: “Let’s move on and talk about events in Israel, around Israel and in the Middle East. May the 14th was a really interesting day for your country, It was the day the American embassy in Jerusalem opened and a lot of people were watching literally television news programmes split screens of the celebrations you were having and attending over that and at the same time shooting of protesters on the Gaza border. How many died that day?”

Netahyahu: “Sixty-two – fifty of which were Hamas terror fighters according to the Hamas….”

Three more of those killed in the pre-planned rioting were claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – as the BBC is no doubt aware – but Davis proceeded:

Davis [interrupts]: “So a dozen, a dozen, a dozen civilians.”

Netanyahu: “But they weren’t protesters. They weren’t protesters.”

Davis: “A dozen, a dozen civilians.”

Netanyahu: “Wait a minute….”

Davis: “You called it a glorious day. Do you still think that was a glorious day?

Netanyahu: “I think it’s a historic day.”

Davis [interrupts]: “You [unintelligible] glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “For the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem – of course it was; it was great.”

Davis [interrupts]: “You didn’t seem to show much concern for the dozen or so civilian deaths.”

When Netanyahu began to speak about the non-lethal means of riot control employed along the Gaza Strip-Israel border, Davis cut him short again:

Davis [interrupts] “You’ve made this point many times and I just wonder…I still wonder whether you would use the phrase it’s a glorious day.”

Netanyahu: “On the moving of the embassy; for sure. Look…”

Davis [interrupts]: “Well, both things were happening…both things were related, weren’t they? It was the moving of the embassy that caused the protests in Gaza.”

Davis can of course get away with that latter statement because for three months the BBC has avoided providing its audiences with details of the background to the pre-planned agitprop and its instigators.

Netanyahu: “It was glorious in Jerusalem and it was regrettable in Gaza…”

Viewers then witnessed some classic editorialising from Davis:

Davis [interrupts]: “Regrettable? It was tragic. Absolutely tragic. Your troops killed sixty-one…”

Davis next moved on to the topic of the ‘peace process’ – ignoring the fact that Hamas has no intention of making peace with Israel and Fatah (in its own words) “categorically rejects the idea of a Jewish Israel”.

Davis: “Well tell me what is on offer? What is on offer to the Palestinians if they do everything that you say in terms of recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state?”

At 7:36 viewers heard the following:

Davis: “So tell me…so just…because I think the really important thing – who is the obstacle to peace. And in terms of how the world sees the division of terrain, your position is your security is paramount, your security cannot be achieved without occupying their land and anyway, by the way, they can’t even have all their land because you’re taking some of it.”

Later on Evans made the following claim:

[9:25] Davis: “The American general John Allen organised a security plan for Israel. It wasn’t dependent on what the Palestinians say: it was dependent on American troops in the Palestinian territory so they can have their country and you can have your security and you rejected that – not the Palestinians.”

As Netanyahu subsequently clarified, Davis’ presentation of who rejected the Allen plan is inaccurate. Presuming to speak for the US general, Davis however retorted with the claim that “John Allen would argue that politics got in the way”.

When Netanyahu brought up the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Davis again cut him short.

[11:46] Davis: “But do you…do you understand why there’s grievance in your region? Do you see it from the other point of view? Because you often come across as not understanding or listening to the other side.”

Prior to ‘Newsnight’ viewers being shown this interview, selected parts of it were used by the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – as we shall see in an upcoming post.

 

The BBC’s ME editor’s odd depiction of the Iranian nuclear programme

The US State Department’s web page concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) describes its purpose as follows:

“On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union (EU), and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.” [emphasis added]

At the time the deal was reached the UN issued a statement saying:

“The United Nations has welcomed the agreement reached between international negotiators and the Government of Iran as the two parties pave the way for a viable solution on the Gulf country’s nuclear programme and towards possible peace in the region.” [emphasis added]

On the same day, the IAEA put out a statement that included the following:

“With respect to the clarification of outstanding issues related to the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, the IAEA and Iran have, earlier today, agreed a Road-map as part of the Framework for Cooperation between the Agency and Iran.” [emphasis added]

The British government announced that:

“Prime Minister David Cameron has made a statement following agreement being reached in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear programme.” [emphasis added]

In May 2017 the BBC reported that:

“In a deal with world powers in 2015, Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in return for tangible economic benefits…” [emphasis added]

Clearly the existence of the Iranian nuclear programme is an accepted fact. One must then ponder why, during the 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:01:2 here) aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme on June 6th, audiences heard it described otherwise.

Newsreader Neil Sleat: “The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have talks with Theresa May in Downing Street today – the last stop on a tour of Europe to discuss the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Last month President Trump withdrew US backing for the deal reached in 2015 under which Iran promised to limit its nuclear activities in return for the easing of international sanctions. Britain, France and Germany, along with Russia and China, argue that the deal is needed to head off a regional arms race. Here’s our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.”

Bowen: “Mr Netanyahu has said he’ll be concentrating on two subjects: Iran and Iran. First, what he calls Iran’s nuclear programme and second, stopping a long-term Iranian presence in Syria. It’s hard to see any daylight between Mr Netanyahu and President Trump but it’s different in Europe. Mr Netanyahu has already been to Germany and France. Both countries, like Britain, want somehow to save the deal with Iran. But the pressure of renewed US sanctions is already forcing big European countries to cancel investment plans in Iran. The Iranians say they’re preparing to restart uranium enrichment if the deal with world powers collapses. Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. Theresa May is expected to question Mr Netanyahu about Israel’s killing of more than 100 Palestinians in Gaza since the end of March which she’s already called deeply troubling. He will stick to his line that Israel is using legitimate force against terrorists.” [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iran did not announce that it would “restart” uranium enrichment but that enrichment would be accelerated if the JCPOA fell apart.

“In case European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal prove unable to protect its economic benefits for Iran, Khamenei said, “I have ordered Iran’s atomic energy agency to be prepared to upgrade our (uranium) enrichment capacity”.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s job is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” and so obviously one would expect him to inform BBC audiences that over 80% of the Palestinians killed along the Israel-Gaza Strip border since March 30th have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

Instead, Bowen steered listeners towards the understanding that the description of people involved in the pre-planned violent riots, shooting and IED attacks and attempted infiltrations as terrorists is merely a “line” employed by the Israeli prime minister and presented the Iranian nuclear programme as something that ‘Israel says’ exists.

Related Articles:

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

Weekend long read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend long read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

BBC 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

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’s chief international correspondent misleads on IRGC terror designation

Visitors to the BBC News website last weekend found no shortage of reading matter concerning the US president’s decision not to recertify (under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – INARA) the JCPOA.  

What will Trump do about the Iran nuclear deal?” Jonathan Marcus 12/10/17

Iran nuclear deal: Trump ‘will not sign off agreement’” 13/10/17

Trump’s ‘new’ Iran policy and the difficulties ahead” Jonathan Marcus 13/10/17

Trump aims blow at Iran and threatens landmark nuclear deal” 13/10/17

Trump hands Iran chalice to Congress” Anthony Zurcher 13/10/17

Europe backs Iran deal, Saudis hail Trump’s move” 13/10/17

Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat” 14/10/17

Some of those BBC articles include statements concerning Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps  – IRGC.

“The activities of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its missile-research effort have continued. […]

One suggestion is that the Trump administration might decide to brand the whole of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.

This body – part security force, part military, part ideological vanguard – also controls a significant part of the Iranian economy.” [source]

“It is thought he [Trump] will also focus on its non-nuclear activities, particularly those of the Revolutionary Guards (RIG), which has been accused of supporting terrorism. […]

Who are the Revolutionary Guards?

Set up shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country’s Islamic system, they provide a counterweight to the regular armed forces.

They are a major military, political and economic force in Iran, with some 125,000 active members, and oversee strategic weapons.

They have been accused of supporting Shia Muslim militants in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.” [emphasis added] [source]

“He [Trump] also called for new sanctions on Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, which he called the “corrupt personal terror force of Iran’s leader”, and restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, which is not covered by the deal.” [source]

Two of the reports (see here and here) include an insert of analysis by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet in which readers are told that:

“The new approach imposes new sanctions but stops short of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group – a step Iran says would be tantamount to a declaration of war.” [emphasis added]

But is that an accurate portrayal?

On October 13th the US Treasury Department issued a statement headlined “Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority”.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”

Executive Order 13224 was created in 2001 and it is one of two ways by which groups or individuals can be designated under US law.

“There are two main authorities for terrorism designations of groups and individuals. Groups can be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under Executive Order 13224 a wider range of entities, including terrorist groups, individuals acting as part of a terrorist organization, and other entities such as financiers and front companies, can be designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).”

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) came into effect in August 2017 and inter alia it:

“…directs the President to impose sanctions against: (1) Iran’s ballistic missile or weapons of mass destruction programs, (2) the sale or transfer to Iran of military equipment or the provision of related technical or financial assistance, and (3) Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and affiliated foreign persons.”

The US Treasury clarified that while the IRGC has not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation under the Immigration and Nationality Act, it had been designated under the second possible route.

“Consistent with that requirement of CAATSA, OFAC designated the IRGC on October 13, 2017, pursuant to E.O. 13244 for providing support to the IRGC-Qods Force, which previously had been designated for its support to various terrorist groups.”

At the FDD, Amir Toumaj explains:

“President Donald Trump has levied a terrorism designation against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in its entirety pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. […]

A decade ago, the US sanctioned the IRGC’s exterritorial branch, the Qods Force, for terrorism pursuant to E.O. 13224 for its role in providing material support to terrorist groups such as the Taliban and Iraqi-Shiite militias. […]

Per the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which passed in August, the US president was to by Oct. 30 designate the IRGC as a whole pursuant to E.O. 13224, or justify to Congress why a waiver is in America’s vital national security interest.”

Lyse Doucet’s claim that the US administration “stops short of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group” is hence inaccurate and materially misleading.