BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

Earlier we saw (here and here) how BBC News website reporting on a story that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace on February 10th focused audience attentions on a subsequent effect rather than on the cause. We also saw how the BBC News website unquestioningly gave amplification to disinformation put out by Iran and Syria while implying to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts of the events. So did BBC radio do any better?

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted considerable airtime to that story on February 10th. The webpage of the afternoon edition of the programme presented the subject under the title “Israeli Airstrikes Hit Targets In Syria” without any mention of what began the sequence of events: the Iranian drone that infiltrated Israel.

“Israel has carried out large-scale airstrikes against targets in Syria. The Israeli Defence Force says it attacked air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli fighter jet was brought down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire after a strike on what the Israelis say was an Iranian drone-launch site.”

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the programme with a similarly slanted view of the story:

Marshall: “In a moment: Israel attacks a dozen targets inside Syria. One of its planes is shot down.”

Marshall introduced the item itself (from 01:44) with a description that failed to adequately clarify that previous Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria have been specifically aimed at preventing the transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and are not connected to the civil war in Syria. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Syrian armed forces and their allies since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. But the latest are potentially the most serious: large-scale attacks against a dozen targets in Syria including, says Israel, air defence systems and sites linked to Iran. Earlier an Israeli jet crashed in Israeli territory as it encountered massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. It had been attacking what the Israelis say was a site from which an Iranian drone aircraft was launched. The drone was shot down after it penetrated Israeli airspace. People in northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights reported hearing sirens and explosions.”

Listeners next heard very brief ‘man in the street’ interviews with two anonymous speakers before Marshall went on to unquestioningly parrot Syrian and Iranian propaganda.

Marshall: “Well Syrian state media has acknowledged the Israeli air raids and says more than one plane has been hit. Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected the Israeli claim of an Iranian drone while the deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that Iran had no military presence in Syria and were only there as advisors. And this is how state controlled TV reported the downing of that Israeli plane.”

Audiences then heard a translated recording from Iranian TV.

“The end of the Zionist regime’s era of hit and run in Syria. For the second time in less than a week, the Zionist regime sent its fighter jets to Syria in the early hours of this morning. But this time, despite the expectations of Israeli officials, Syria’s air defence shot down an Israeli fighter jet.”

Marshall: “And as for Syrian government ally Russia, it’s called on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”

Listeners next got an additional copious dose of Syrian regime messaging from a journalist who has in the past promoted the Assad regime’s denials of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians on the Russian government’s RT channel and who was described by Iran’s Press TV as ‘our correspondent’ in a report amplifying previous false Syrian regime claims regarding Israeli planes.

Marshall: “A short while ago I spoke to Alaa Ebrahim; a journalist in Damascus who works for Syrian state TV and international media. What have the Syrian authorities been saying?”

Ebrahim: “Well officially the Syrian government issued a statement this morning from the command of the Syrian army in which they said that Israeli fighter jet tried to attack Syrian army bases in central Syria and that Syrian aerial defences intercepted that airplane and managed to actually damage it without saying whether the plane went down or not. Well the Syria…what the Syrian government is saying right now is that they actually did not provoke the Israeli airstrike. The airstrike was initiated by Israel – it wasn’t a retaliatory act by Israel. On the other hand the Syrian government is saying that they were reacting to Israeli aggression against them. Later on the state news agency SANA said in its reports that aerial defences from the Syrian army intercepted several missiles fired from Lebanese air space from Israeli fighter jets targeting several bases belonging to the Syrian army both south and west of the Syrian capital Damascus and later on we got the statement that came out from what the Syrian government calls the operation room of the Syrian government allies in Syria which is usually a reference to Iranian advisors and Hizballah fighters fighting alongside the Syrian government and in that statement they said that there was not an Iranian operated drone flying over Israeli airspace and that all the drones belonging to the allies – which is a term used to refer to Iranian and Hizballah fighters – were accounted for, operating in the deserts of central Syria looking over positions belonging to terrorist groups such as ISIL and other groups. So these are the official statements we have been getting since dawn today about the latest developments and I think we can recap once again and say that the Syrian government is saying that they did not initiate anything – they were just reacting to an Israeli airstrike against them.”

Marshall: So the Syrians are…are denying that they were in any way involved with the flying of that drone over Israeli territory?”

Ebrahim: “No, I don’t think the Syrians are denying that they were involved with the flying of the Iranian drone. What the Syrians and their allies – Iran, Hizballah – are saying [is] that they have never flown a drone into Israeli airspace and as a result they say that the Israeli attack was unprovoked.”

Refraining from challenging any aspect of that long repetition of Syrian regime propaganda, Marshall then changed the subject and went on to ask what Damascus residents had heard on the morning of February 10th and whether “any kind of retaliation” is to be expected. After concluding that interview, Marshall introduced both his next guest and the redundant theme of ‘narratives’.

Marshall: “And we’ve approached the Israeli Defence Force for an interview but no-one is available. Anshel Pfeffer is an Israeli journalist with Ha’aretz newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book ‘The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu’. He joins us from Jerusalem. And Mr Pfeffer, the Israelis have a very different narrative of the events of the past 24-36 hours and for them the original provocation was the flying of this drone over their territory.”

Pfeffer: “Yes, that’s the Israeli version of events: that round about 4:30 am local time an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace, was intercepted and shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter and that was what sparked off the chain of events of the last few hours.”

Marshall: You say an Iranian drone: why the certainty?”

Pfeffer: “Well that’s…like you said that’s the version of the Israeli government. They claim to have been tracking the drone, to have known its source at a launch site near Palmyra in northern Syria. According to the Israeli military they have the fragments of the drone and it’s an Iranian model. I’m assuming that at some stage they’ll present those pieces and we’ll be able to see whether it was indeed an Iranian drone. But it’s not new that there are Iranian…there is a significant Iranian military presence in Syria – has been since almost the start of the Syrian war in 2011 – and that this presence also has drone capabilities. So it’s not…the Israeli version of events is rather believable in this case.”

The conversation continued with discussion of the war in Syria and Russia’s role in the region.

By this time listeners could be forgiven for being confused. Was there an Iranian drone or wasn’t there? Is there an Iranian military presence in Syria or not? Rather than providing audiences with clear, concise and factually accurate information that would (as the BBC’s public purposes require) help them understand this story, the corporation once again opted to promote a ‘he said-she said’ account of events that actively hinders audience understanding.

When the BBC World Service launched a new foreign language service last year the then director of the division’s said that “[f]or more than 80 years the BBC World Service has brought trusted news to people across the globe” and the BBC’s Director General said:

“The BBC World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports. In a world of anxieties about ‘fake news’, where media freedom is being curtailed rather than expanded, the role of an independent, impartial news provider is more important than ever.”

As we see, a considerable portion of this item was devoted to unquestioned amplification of unsupported claims and disinformation from two regimes that curtail media freedom – and much worse. But rather than providing listeners in those countries and others with the accurate and impartial information which would be the antidote to such propaganda, the BBC World Service simply facilitated a wider audience for Iranian and Syrian disinformation and added insult to injury by justifying it as ‘narrative’.

And as we will see in part two of this post, that practice continued in a later edition of ‘Newshour’.

Related Articles:

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

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

 

Advertisements

Weekend long read

1) A transcript and a video of the much acclaimed speech recently given by BBC presenter Andrew Neil at a Holocaust Educational Trust dinner can be found here.

“When I was growing up, the obvious antisemites were the knuckle draggers in the National Front in this country, what was left of the KKK in America, the Holocaust denier like Jean-Marie Le Pen. Now these people and their kind are still around but they are more marginal than they have been and they are less significant than they have been. They have not gone away, they are still there, but they do not matter as much. What has surprised me, for I think it was entirely unpredictable, was that the new development in this area is the rise of antisemitism on the far left. And that is more dangerous, than the knuckle-dragging right. […]

I don’t say that the antisemitism of the left is entirely new. Those of you who know your history of Soviet Russia will know that it is not new, that there is a strain of antisemitism that has always run through parts of the British intellectual left. But I believe that it is more prevalent, that it is on the rise, and that it is given far too easy a pass. It gets away with it in the way that the antisemitism of the far right is not allowed to get away with it.”

2) Emily Landau of the INSS discusses the JCPOA.

“The starting point for any assessment of the Iran nuclear deal—or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—is the recognition that Iran remains a determined nuclear proliferator, and that the deal does not prevent it from achieving its nuclear goal. In fact, if the international community is lulled into believing that the deal “is working,” this will actually provide Iran with much needed breathing space to strengthen itself economically, regionally and in the nuclear realm. If left alone, when the deal expires, Iran will ironically be much better positioned to move to nuclear weapons than it was before the deal was negotiated.”

3) At the JCPA, Pinhas Inbari examines “How the Palestinian “Unity” Talks Put Iran in the Mix”.

“On October 16, 2017, the Fatah leadership met in Ramallah (the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority) and took no decision to remove the penalties they imposed on Gaza. Hamas’ official website reacted angrily. The movement’s mouthpiece Al-Risala sought the views of the spokesmen of “the organizations,” and they all said they were disappointed that Fatah was not responding to Hamas’ positive measures and was acting to scuttle the reconciliation efforts. 

Why is this important? Because the next stop in the “road map” prepared by Egypt is a large conference of “the organizations” in Cairo aimed at hitching them to the reconciliation train and committing them to an agreement if it is reached.”

 4) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “The Fall of Kirkuk: An IRGC Production“.

“The capture of Kirkuk recalls other swift and decisive assertions of control that the Middle East has witnessed in recent years. Perhaps the closest parallel might be the Hezbollah takeover of west Beirut in May-June 2008. Then, too, a pro-Western element (the March 14 movement) sought to assert its sovereignty and independent decision-making capabilities. It had many friends in the West who overestimated its strength and capacity to resist pressure. And in the Lebanese case as well, a sudden, forceful move by an Iranian client swiftly (and, it seems, permanently) reset the balance of power, demonstrating to the pro-Western element that it was subordinate and that further resistance would be fruitless.

There is, of course, a further reason to note the similarity between Kirkuk in October 2017 and Beirut in 2008. Namely that in both cases, the faction that drove its point home through the judicious use of political maneuvering and the sudden application of force was a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.”

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.

 

 

 

 

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

As readers may recall, while early BBC News website coverage of the rift between Qatar and several other Arab states did clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s demands was for Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, it did not inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s reported demand that a number of Hamas officials leave that country.

Yolande Knell later produced two reports on the topic of Qatari funding of Hamas which made vague, brief references to that subject.

“Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.” BBC Radio 4, 15/6/17

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.” BBC News website, 20/6/17

As was noted here when the story broke:

Among those reportedly asked to leave [Qatar] was Saleh al Arouri – the organiser of Hamas operations in Judea & Samaria who was previously based in Turkey and was designated by the US Treasury in 2015. Arouri is said to have relocated to Malaysia or Lebanon.”

At the beginning of this month al Arouri made an appearance in Beirut.

“A senior Hamas terrorist believed by Israel to have planned the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank was spotted publicly in Lebanon’s capital Beirut for the first time since he was expelled from Qatar in June.

In photos published Wednesday, Saleh al-Arouri can be seen meeting with senior Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian — a former deputy foreign minister — and a number of other members of Hamas, among them senior spokesman Osama Hamdan and the terror group’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka. […]

After his expulsion from Qatar in June, al-Arouri moved to Lebanon, where he is being hosted by the Hezbollah terror group in its Dahieh stronghold in southern Beirut, Channel 2 reported last month.

Citing Palestinian sources, the report said that Arouri and two other senior Hamas figures have relocated to the Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, an area heavily protected with checkpoints on every access road.”

Meanwhile, on August 5th the BBC News website published a report about the Iranian president’s inauguration:

“Dozens of world dignitaries attended Mr Rouhani’s inauguration at Iran’s parliament, reflecting an easing in Iran’s isolation since the nuclear deal.

Guests included EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the chairman of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, signalling a growing closeness between Tehran and Pyongyang particularly over defence matters.”

The BBC did not however report that the inauguration’s guest list also included Hamas officials.

“A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in a bid to bolster the relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The visit included senior Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq, currently based in Qatar, and head of the Hamas administration Saleh al-Arouri. They were formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is beginning his second term in office.”

That Hamas delegation apparently also met with IRGC representatives.

“Senior members of the Hamas terror group met on Monday in Iran with representatives of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Arabic media reports.

A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Tehran on Friday in order to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and to “turn a new page in bilateral relations” between the two sides, according to a statement by Hamas.

This is the first Hamas visit to Iran since the group elected new leadership earlier in 2017. The rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is reportedly being facilitated by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is supported by Tehran.

The delegation consisted of Hamas political bureau members Ezzat al-Resheq, Saleh Arouri, Zaher Jabarin, and Osama Hamdan.

During its stay in Iran, the group met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday, as well as a number of other senior Iranian officials. […]

Hamas also needs to re-establish ties with Iran, as its current top backer Qatar is under fire from Gulf allies for supporting the Palestinian terror group.”

At the end of that August 5th BBC report on Rouhani’s inauguration audiences were told that:

“Last month, the US state department accused Iran of undermining stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East.

It criticised Iran’s support for the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and accused it of prolonging the conflict in Yemen by providing support for Houthi rebels.”

Had BBC audiences seen any coverage of Salah al Arouri’s relocation from Qatar to the Hizballah ruled suburb of Beirut and of the Hamas delegation’s visit to Tehran, they would of course be much better placed to understand what lies behind those US State Department statements. 

Related Articles:

The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report  

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine, Martin Kramer explains why “The Balfour Declaration Was More than the Promise of One Nation“.

“In 1930, the British Colonial Office published a “white paper” that Zionists saw as a retreat from the Balfour Declaration. David Lloyd George, whose government had issued the declaration in 1917, was long out of office and now in the twilight of his political career. In an indignant speech, he insisted that his own country had no authority to downgrade the declaration, because it constituted a commitment made by all of the Allies in the Great War:

In wartime we were anxious to secure the good will of the Jewish community throughout the world for the Allied cause. The Balfour Declaration was a gesture not merely on our part but on the part of the Allies to secure that valuable support. It was prepared after much consideration, not merely of its policy, but of its actual wording, by the representatives of all the Allied and associated countries including America, and of our dominion premiers.

There was some exaggeration here; not all of the Allies shared the same understanding of the policy or saw the “actual wording.” But Lloyd George pointed to the forgotten truth that I sought to resurrect through my essay. In 1917, there was not yet a League of Nations or a United Nations. But, in the consensus of the Allies, there was the nucleus of a modern international order. The Balfour Declaration had the weight of this consensus behind it, before Balfour signed it. This international buy-in is also why the Balfour Declaration entered the mandate for Palestine, entrusted to Britain by the League of Nations. Those who now cast the Balfour Declaration as an egregious case of imperial self-dealing simply don’t know its history (or prefer not to know it).”

2) Yaakov Lappin reports on a worrying development in Lebanon.

“Israeli leaders are continuing to issue public statements on an Iranian underground missile factory that was apparently built in Lebanon. […]

The first report about this missile factory surfaced back in March, in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.

That report quoted “an aid to the IRGC commander” who said that “Iran has built factories [for manufacturing] missiles and [other] weapons in Lebanon and has recently turned them over to Hizbullah.”

The original story (translation by MEMRI) has some interesting initial information:

“In response to statements by Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan several days ago – who said that Hizbullah is capable of manufacturing missiles [that can] hit any part of Israel [but] gave no details or explanations – a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said that, after Israel destroyed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan several years ago that had supplied arms to Hizbullah, and after [Israel also] bombed an arms convoy that was intended to reach Hizbullah via Syria, the IRGC launched a project for establishing arms factories in Lebanon [itself].””

3) With a BBC presenter having promoted and endorsed the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence‘ only last week and that group currently making headlines, an op-ed by Ben Dror Yemini at Ynet concerning an ongoing story makes interesting reading.

“Breaking the Silence director Yuli Novak is furious about the investigation against the organization’s spokesperson, Dean Issacharof, who stated that he had committed a war crime of beating a Palestinian until he bled. Why is he being interrogated of all people, Novak complained. There are, after all, hundreds of other testimonies. […]

The Military Advocate General wanted to investigate the testimonies that point to a suspected offense, but the organization’s members demanded protection of its sources. And now Novak is complaining that testimonies are not being investigated.”

4) At the Tablet, Tony Badran has more on a story we reported here last week.

“After the second Lebanon war in 2006, when the IDF uncovered the elaborate network of underground Hezbollah tunnels and bunkers in southern Lebanon, the Israelis dubbed these fortifications “nature reserves.” Hezbollah used the “nature reserves,” which were built in forested areas and hillsides, to launch short-range rockets on northern Israel continuously as its fighters hunkered inside, safe from aerial and artillery bombardment.

Eleven years later, the term, intended as a joke, has proved more apt than perhaps the IDF initially imagined. Last week, Israel filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council in which it charged that Hezbollah had set up observation outposts along the border under the cover of an environmental group called Green Without Borders. Israel released photos and a video backing up its claim.”

 

 

 

BBC reports development in Hizballah story, fails to update original report

Earlier this month we revisited a BBC story from May 2016 in which audiences were initially told that Israel had killed a Hizballah commander.

“…the final version of the article – which is still available on the BBC News website – points BBC audiences towards the assumption that Israel may have been responsible for the killing.”

In that post we noted that an investigation conducted by the Al Arabiya network (unreported by the BBC at the time) suggested that Mustafa Badreddine’s assassination was in fact carried out by Hizballah and its Iranian backers and hence:

“…we would of course now expect to see the BBC revisiting this story, reviewing its steering of audiences towards the default conclusion that Israel was likely to have been involved and checking the accuracy of this particular example of “historical record”.” 

On March 21st the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel: Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine ‘killed by own men’” which opens as follows:

“The Israeli military’s chief of staff has added weight to Arab media reports that Hezbollah was behind the killing of its own commander in Syria in 2016.

Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said Israeli intelligence had similarly concluded that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was assassinated by his own men.”

Later on readers were told that:

“Earlier this month, the pan-Arab news network al-Arabiya said its investigation into Badreddine’s death had concluded that the commander was killed on the orders of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The report said Hassan Nasrallah was put under pressure to remove Badreddine by Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite overseas operations arm and a key adviser to the Syrian military.”

And:

Tweet to 14.3 million followers promoting the BBC’s original article on May 13, 2016

“On Tuesday, Gen Eisenkot said the Arab media reports that Hezbollah had killed Badreddine matched the “intelligence we have”.”

The BBC’s original article – including the repeated suggestion that Israel may have killed Badreddine – is of course still available online. In light of the developments in the story, best practice would of course necessitate its amendment to include the information in this latest BBC report.

To date, such an update has not been added.

Related Articles:

BBC News amplifies unreliable source on Hizballah commander’s death

Revisiting a BBC ‘Israel did it’ story from May 2016

BBC silent on renewed Iranian funding for PIJ

The recent visit by a delegation of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to Tehran appears to have borne fruit according to a report published by the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

credit: ITIC

credit: ITIC

“The PIJ delegation was headed by its Secretary General Ramadan Shalah and included his assistants Ziad Nakhleh and military official of the movement Akram Ajuri. It held several public meetings with Iranian leaderships and other private meetings with the Commander of the Iranian National Guard and Commander of the Quds Force Qassem Soleimani.

The parties discussed various files that elaborated the Iranian vision for the PIJ Movement in the coming years.

One of the major decisions taken by Qassem Soleimani and approved by the political and military offices of the Movement, according to the sources, was restructuring al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the PIJ, and assigning Khaled Mansour the general commander of the Brigades in Gazza [sic] Strip.

Notably, Mansour is considered to be one of the most prominent leaders who are close to Iran and is respected and honored by the PIJ Movement.

Soleimani also ordered allocating $70 million as an annual budget for the Quds Brigades, transferred from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s treasury.”

Readers may recall that last July the BBC’s Middle East editor assured audiences that improvement in Iran’s finances as a result of the JCPOA would be directed to domestic investment rather than increased support for terror.

“…and there are people within Iran – people in the…ehm…the…ehm…Revolutionary Guard Corps – who…ah…do want to cause trouble around the region in the way that [previous interviewee] Frum was talking about it there. But the counter-argument to what he was saying is that the…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

More recently, in February of this year, BBC News coyly told its audiences that “Iran has been accused of funding militant groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon” without providing any relevant background information on the issue of Iranian sponsorship of foreign terror groups.

Also in February, analysis of the results of elections in Iran from the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet included the following portrayal of what the BBC described as a win for “reformists”:

“This stunning election result will make a difference in Iran’s engagement with the wider world.”

If Asharq al-Awsat’s sources are correct and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has indeed upgraded ties with its proxy the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, this is obviously yet another example of how the BBC’s lopsided promotion of the notion of ‘reformists and moderates’ in Iran blinkers audiences, diminishing their understanding not only of that country but also of its influence on the Middle East as a whole.

Related Articles:

Will the BBC report Iranian ‘terror grants’ pledge?

BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Those who read the BBC Monitoring article about Saudi Arabian concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 6th (discussed here) may have noticed the following short passage:Metcalf art

“Iranian forces are reported to have played a large role, alongside Hezbollah and government troops, in a recent offensive against rebels in southern Syria, close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Iran admitted in January that a general in the Revolutionary Guard had been killed in an Israeli air strike in the area.”

Beyond those few words, the BBC has not reported on Iranian military activities in southern Syria. In its article on the January 18th incident mentioned above, the BBC’s answer to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights came in the form of a quote from Hizballah TV.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

However, since then the BBC has shown no interest in keeping its audiences up to date regarding developments in that region.

One aspect of that story is indeed the recently launched offensive by Syrian government troops together with Hizballah and Iranian forces in an attempt to retake areas in southern Syria – including the Syrian side of the border with Israel – which have been under the control of assorted rebel groups for some time. According to some sources, that campaign has so far not gone as smoothly as presumably planned, in part due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The other aspect of the story is the wider issue of Iranian and Hizballah strategy – as Avi Issacharoff wrote in the Times of Israel last month.

“…the very fact that Hezbollah set out on a ground campaign inside Syrian territory is an extraordinary statement. The placement of thousands of the group’s soldiers near the Syrian-Israeli border, with the organization not even trying to conceal its involvement in the battles, signifies much more than just another operation. This is a new strategy. First, on the geopolitical level, Hezbollah is trying to implement the vision only recently introduced by its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, according to whom the Syrian Golan Heights and South Lebanon are a united front. To put it more bluntly, the old order and the old geographical distribution between Syria and Lebanon is now utterly irrelevant as far as the group is concerned.”

Hizballah strategies of course need to be viewed in the context of its patron’s regional designs.

“Hezbollah and Iran remain committed to setting up a base in southern Syria, with the dual goal of beating back the Syrian rebels and expanding the Iranian front of jihad against Israel, from Lebanon to Syria.”

The Lebanese ‘Daily Star’ recently reported:

“Allowing Iran and Hezbollah to gain a stronger foothold in the Golan is one of the goals of the current offensive underway in southern Syria. The offensive is named in honor of the “martyrs of Qunaitra,” a reference to the six Hezbollah fighters, including two field commanders, and Iranian Gen. Mohammad Allahdadi, killed in January in an Israeli drone strike.

Combat operations are being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp with much of the attacking force composed of IRGC soldiers, Hezbollah fighters and Shiite auxiliary forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. […]

Abu Ali, a veteran Hezbollah fighter who has served multiple tours in Syria, confirmed IRGC leadership of the southern Syria offensive and that Iranian troops were involved.

“Iran will be so close to the Israelis that it will no longer need long-range missiles to hit them,” Abu Ali said. “The Golan is going to be a new front line.”

He added that tunnel and bunker construction in the Golan has been underway for a year, apparently an attempt to replicate the facilities Hezbollah built in the south before 2006. He added that Allahdadi was conducting an inspection tour of the new facilities when he was killed by the Israeli drones.”

And as is detailed in a report from MEMRI, the opening of a new front in the Golan Heights has even broader implications.

“Iran’s presence on the Israeli border limits Israel’s ability to use military measures against Iran’s nuclear program. This, since Iran is building up its response capabilities in the region, to complement its long-range missiles. In the past, it was Hizbullah Lebanon that deterred Israel, to some extent, from acting militarily against Iran’s nuclear program. Today this deterrence is significantly strengthened by the advent of Hizbullah Syria and the direct presence of Iranian forces in the Golan.”

The BBC’s under-reporting of this issue ofcourse means that its audiences continue to lack the background information necessary for them to understand both current and future regional developments.

Related Articles:

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

 

 

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

On January 18th the BBC News website published a report titled “‘Israel strike’ kills Hezbollah men in Syria’s Golan Heights” which relates to an incident near Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights earlier in the day. The report includes several features worthy of note.Hizb strike main

With regard to the incident itself, the report gives a reasonable representation of the information which was available at the time of publication.

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.

Among those reported dead were the son of a late military leader, a current commander, and at least one Iranian. […]

Those who died include Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a top military commander killed in 2008, and Mohammed Issa, a Hezbollah field commander, Hezbollah officials said.

One member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had died, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Iran’s semi-official Tabnak news agency said several Revolutionary Guards had been killed.”

The Iranian news agency Fars has since confirmed the death of IRGC officer Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a Lebanese source told AFP that in all twelve people were killed in the strike – six from Hizballah and six Iranians – although other reports have presented different information.

With regard to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the BBC quotes the version of events promoted by Hizballah media.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

It then adds:

“Israel said it would not comment, though unnamed sources confirmed an Israeli helicopter strike.

They claimed those targeted were conducting reconnaissance for a Hezbollah attack.”

However, whilst no attempt is made to provide readers with the relevant context of the cross-border attacks carried out by Hizballah in recent months, the article does inform them that:

“Israel has conducted several air strikes inside Syria since the conflict began, said to be aimed at preventing the transfer of stockpiles of rockets from the Syrian government or Iran to Hezbollah.”

The article notes that:

“The incident comes days after a warning to Israel by the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that his forces might retaliate against what he called repeated Israeli strikes inside Syria.

He said his forces had been stockpiling weapons for such a confrontation and that these included long range missiles that could hit every part of Israel.”

Those quotes come from an interview given by Nasrallah on January 15th to Al Mayadeen TV in which he explained the ‘logic’ behind the statement highlighted in the BBC’s account, according to which a Lebanese terrorist organization backed by Iran is prepared to attack Israel because of that country’s perceived actions in Syria.

“A key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah, who has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime, said that Israeli strikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis”, which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.  […]

Nasrallah said in the interview that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel. Hezbollah fighters “must be prepared”, he said.

“When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership… asks you (fighters)… to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee.””

Like much of the media, the BBC’s report focuses on one of the people reported killed.

“Jihad Mughniyeh is the son of Imad Mugniyeh, who was killed in a bombing in a bombing in Damascus in 2008. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the death, but Israel denied it.

Imad Mughniyeh was widely believed to be behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon during the 1980s.”

Mughniyeh’s record of course included a lot more than hostage-taking as the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star pointed out – but the self-styled ‘standard-settling’ BBC did not.

“Believed to be the mastermind of Hezbollah’s combat tactics, Mughniyeh was considered to be involved in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks in Beirut, which killed over 350 people, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s.”

The BBC’s descriptions of Hizballah throughout the report fail to note that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization (or even to mention the word terror) or that its ‘Al Manar’ TV station quoted by the BBC in this report was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States Treasury and is also banned in several European countries.  

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.”

“Hezbollah militants have been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-year Syrian conflict that activists say has left more than 200,000 people dead.”

“Israel fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah, a mainly Shia group backed by Iran, in 2006.” [all emphasis added]

The caption to the main photograph used to illustrate the article states:

“Hezbollah has strong support in Lebanon”

At the bottom of the article appears an insert which likewise does nothing to enhance BBC audiences’ understanding of the real nature, record and agenda of Hizballah and of course makes no mention of the fact that according to assorted UN resolutions, it should have been disarmed years ago.

Hizb art insert

The link included at the bottom of that insert leads to the December 2013 version of the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was amended to present a much softer picture of the terrorist organization than the profile it replaced by means of airbrushing Hizballah’s terrorist designation by numerous countries worldwide, its terrorist activities outside Lebanon, its involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri and its role in the Syrian civil war and with no mention made whatsoever of Hizballah’s criminal activities around the globe. 

Obviously BBC audiences will not be able to understand the significance and implications of terrorists and IRGC officers on Israel’s border as long as the BBC continues to fail to represent Hizballah properly.