BBC News’ Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ myth on view again

In recent days the BBC News website had published two reports pertaining to the resignation (apparently no longer relevant) of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation” originally appeared on the evening of February 25th.

Iran president ‘has not accepted foreign minister’s resignation’” was published on February 26th and its headline has since been amended.

Both those reports include repeated framing of Zarif as someone who represents a “more moderate” Iran and is different from that country’s “hardliners”.

Article 1:

“He has served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and became foreign minister in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani was elected promising a more moderate, outward-looking Iran.”

“Mr Zarif has been under pressure at home from hardliners since the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact, which binds Iran to limit its nuclear activities.”

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

“But he’s under huge pressure from hardliners who never liked or trusted his negotiations with the West.”  

“…is this the exit of the US-educated diplomat who became the smiling face of Iran’s new engagement with the world?”

Article 2:

“His role negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers exposed him to sharp criticism from hardliners.”

The article includes analysis from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji:

“The fact is that Iranian hardliners resent him for agreeing to dismantle much of the country’s nuclear programme.”

“Mr Zarif, most observers agree, has put up a robust defence of Iran on the world stage in spite of the fact that many of Iran’s positions, actions and behaviours – with which he has had little to do – have been indefensible.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the fact that the JCPOA negotiations could not have been conducted or finalised without the agreement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, is the BBC’s framing of Javad Zarif as someone inherently different to Iran’s “hardliners” actually accurate?

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report by Kasra Aarabi based on analysis of speeches made by Iranian leaders perceived by some in the West as either ‘hardliners’ or ‘moderates’ – including Javad Zarif.

“The 2015 international nuclear deal did not alter Iran’s anti-US stance. The previous US administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was seen as a stepping stone to better relations between Iran and the world. Yet despite the deal, anti-US sentiment—and anti-Western sentiment in general—continues to abound in the rhetoric of Iran’s leaders. For both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom were involved in the negotiations, 60 per cent of their speeches featured explicit anti-US rhetoric.”

“…when the West speaks of moderates in the regime, it often overlooks the fact that all figures in the establishment are committed to Islamism and are vehemently opposed to liberal, secular values. This includes officials the West perceives as moderate, such as Zarif.”

“This research shows that although Rouhani and Zarif were willing to negotiate with the five permanent United Nations (UN) Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and the European Union (EU), at home their position towards the West did not shift—certainly not when it came to what they said in public. Antipathy towards the West might have been expected after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, but it was not a new feature of Rouhani’s discourse. Even while his government was negotiating the deal, he was repeating the same positions at home.”

“The anti-US rhetoric maintained by figures such as Rafsanjani, Rouhani and Zarif indicates that these individuals were never ideologically moderate, even though their actions—such as the negotiation of the nuclear deal—were perceived as moderate by Western counterparts. When it comes to policymaking, this is a vital lesson to learn. What sets these figures apart from the hard-line ideologues of the regime, such as Ahmadinejad, is that they understand that an unhealthy Iranian economy constrains the state’s ability to function. This, in turn, damages the implementation of Iran’s ideological objectives, both at home and overseas, as laid out in the constitution. […] These figures are more pragmatic ideologues than moderates or reformists.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has nevertheless been promoting the notion of Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ for many years.

While the BBC is not alone in having bought into the myth of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will enable audiences to “engage fully with issues across…the world” could and would do considerably better.

Related Articles:

More spin than a centrifuge: BBC report on Khamenei nuclear deal speech

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

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

 

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Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Tamara Berens explains how an “Anti-Zionist Minority Holds British Universities Hostage”.

“With the BBC’s prominence as a breaking news source on social media, British students have been inculcated with a highly distorted vision of Israel. On campus, students of my age grew up reading extensive reporting on Operation Protective Edge in 2014, characterized by stark omission of the facts on the ground. Coverage of the conflict was marred by the BBC’s repeated failure to showcase the barrage of rockets fired at Israeli homes and city centers – a total of 4,897 rockets in 2014. Trusted news source The Guardian frequently prints opinion pieces rationalizing Palestinian terrorism and portraying Israelis as violent. Ill-informed students in Britain go into university with the impression that Israel is an inherently evil aggressor in a one-sided conflict. With such unchallenged media coverage, who should blame them?”

2) MEMRI reviews the escalation of tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

“Relations between Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, and Hamas are now extremely tense, and the two organizations’ positions have not been farther apart since the 2007 Hamas coup against the PA in Gaza. In recent weeks, the tension has become so great, and the schism between them so wide, that it appears that both sides – which, incidentally, both accuse the U.S. of striving, by means of the Deal of the Century, to create two separate Palestinian entities, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are doing just that on their own, without any help from the U.S. Things have reached the point where each side is saying that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people, that it will never return to talks or reconciliation efforts, and that it will act to bring down the regime of the other.”

3) Also at MEMRI – translated excerpts from an interview with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

“Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was interviewed on Channel 4 TV (Iran) on January 22, 2019. He said that the negotiations surrounding the JCPOA had required Iran to destroy the Arak reactor’s calandria by filling it with cement, but that Iran had secretly acquired replacement tubes ahead of time so that the reactor’s functionality would not be ultimately affected. He also said that pictures that had circulated that showed the Arak reactor’s pit filled with cement had been photoshopped. He explained that Iran has no intention to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Arak reactor is nonetheless incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In addition, Salehi said that the yellowcake production facilities in Ardakan are operational and that Iran has been authorized to produce two additional IR-8 centrifuges. Salehi added that Iran has advanced rapidly in the field of nuclear propulsion.”

4) Khaled Abu Toameh reports on “The ‘Political Detainees’ No One Talks About” at the Gatestone Institute.

“In a letter to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a number of Palestinian human rights organizations recently demanded that the international agency speak out against the politically motivated arrests by the PA in the West Bank.

“We wish to express our deep concern and condemnation over the increased arrest campaigns carried out by the PA security forces against residents because of their opinions and political affiliations,” the organizations said in their letter. They also expressed deep concern over the “systematic torture” of Palestinians in PA prisons. […]

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah can sit pretty, all the same, despite their continued assault on public freedoms. The mainstream media in the West has shown itself to be wholly indifferent to the torture taking place inside Palestinian prisons.”

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.”

 

 

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

With Israel braced for an anticipated attack by Iran and/or its proxies in the north, it is worth taking a look at how the BBC has to date covered the background to a story it may yet have to report.

On April 9th the BBC News website reported that “[t]he Syrian government and its ally Russia have blamed Israel for a deadly attack on a Syrian military airport”. The very relevant Iranian connection to the site of the attack was only mentioned much later on in the same report:

“The Israeli military said Iran and its Revolutionary Guards had long been active in the T4 base, and were using it to transfer weapons, including to Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, an enemy of Israel.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 on April 15th were told that most of the people killed during that attack were “believed to be Iranians” but not that seven of them were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including the head of its drone programme.

Following that April 9th incident a series of threats against Israel were issued by various Iranian officials but those threats and the resulting increased tensions did not receive any BBC coverage.

On April 30th the BBC News website reported further attacks on military installations (including what was described by other media outlets as a “depot for surface-to-surface missiles”) in Syria.

“Missile strikes on military sites in northern Syria overnight reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters, including Iranians. […]

It is not known who was behind the attacks. But Western nations and Israel have previously hit sites in Syria.”

Additional threats from Iranian officials followed that incident.

On May 6th Israeli media outlets reported that:

“…the Israeli military and intelligence services had identified preliminary efforts by Iran in Syria to carry out its reprisal, using its IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the Hezbollah terrorist group and local Shiite militias to launch a barrage of precision-guided missiles, likely at Israeli military targets in the north.

“Israel has recently identified with certainty Iranian preparations to fire at the north,” Channel 10 said. “We are not on the eve of war with Iran… but Iran is very determined to carry out an attack” to avenge the T-4 strike and the deaths of its military personnel, it said.

Israel Radio said the Iranian planning for an attack was at “an advanced stage.””

On May 7th visitors to the BBC News website saw the first generalised mention of Iran’s threats against Israel in a report titled “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” –which promoted superfluous qualification of Iran’s military build-up in Syria.

“His comments came amid reports that Israeli authorities were preparing for missile strikes by Iran or its proxies.

Iran has vowed to avenge recent air strikes on its military facilities in Syria that were attributed to Israel.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the strikes, but it has said it will stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Additional threats by Iran’s chief of staff on the same day did not receive any BBC coverage.

On May 8th the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Israel Golan Heights alert over Iran ‘irregular activity’ in Syria”.

“The Israeli military says it has detected “irregular Iranian activity” in Syria and has ordered residents of the occupied Golan Heights to prepare their bomb shelters.”

Despite there being no connection between that event and the same evening’s US announcement concerning the JCPOA, BBC audiences were told that:

“The alert came as President Trump announced the US was pulling out of a nuclear agreement with Iran.”

The report was later retitled “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus” and – despite having got it right earlier – the BBC managed to inaccurately describe the location of the “irregular Iranian activity”.

BBC audiences were told that:

“Syrian state media says Israel has launched an air strike against an army position south of the capital Damascus.

The Sana news agency said Syrian air defences had shot down two Israeli missiles in the Kiswah area on Tuesday. […]

A commander supporting President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the strike had targeted a Syrian army position.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said the target was an arms depot.

The dead included members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or other Shia militiamen, it added.”

Other media outlets quoted the same source cited by the BBC as specifically saying that the site (which last November was mentioned in a BBC report about Iran’s establishment of military bases in Syria and last December was also described in a BBC report as “an arms depot”) was an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians” while at least one Israeli media outlet described it as a storage facility for Iranian missiles rather than “a Syrian army position” as touted by the BBC.

Although Iran has been repeatedly threatening to attack Israel for the past month, the few headlines seen by BBC audiences in relation to that story have focused on Israel: “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” and “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus”. Obviously BBC audiences have not been provided with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of this still ongoing story.

Related Articles:

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

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

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