BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

On March 9th the BBC News website posted a filmed backgrounder by Joe Inwood on its Middle East page. Titled “Syria: Seven years of war explained“, the report is promoted as follows:

“The war in Syria has now lasted for seven years.

Although its roots lie in peaceful protests against the government, it has become something much more complex.

Joe Inwood explains who is fighting whom and why.”

Although this backgrounder does raise some queries – such as why the Sunni-Shia conflict goes unexplained and why in the section relating to the lack of “decisive action” on the part of the US, a picture of the current US president appears rather than of the previous one – it is clearly a genuine effort to explain a complicated issue in a short period of time. However, once again BBC audiences are wrongly led to believe that Israel is involved in the conflict in Syria.

Following an introduction, Inwood lays out the parties involved in what he describes as “a conflict of global dimensions playing out in Syria”. Having mentioned Bashar al Assad, the Russians, Iran, “various powerful Shia militias” which remain unnamed, the rebel groups, the Kurds and Turkey, at 01:07 Inwood tells audiences that an additional party is:

“…Israel which is launching airstrikes in the south.”

Viewers however have to wait a further four minutes before Inwood “explains” that statement at 05:08.

“Down south, Israel’s main concern has been the growing influence of its arch foe Iran and high-tech weaponry getting into the hands of Hezbollah.”

That, however, is the first and only mention of Hizballah by name and no effort is made to explain to viewers what that group is, with whom it is aligned, by whom it is financed or why Israel should be concerned about it getting “high-tech weaponry”. Neither is any attempt made to explain the relevant issue of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Inwood makes no mention of Iran’s long history of serial threats against Israel: a topic that rarely appears in BBC reporting, meaning that audiences would likely be unable to fill in the blanks for themselves.

This of course is far from the first time that the BBC has promoted the claim that Israel is involved in the Syrian war: it has been doing so since 2013. Like many of his colleagues, Inwood appears to be incapable of understanding that Israeli strikes on Iranian weapons bound for Hizballah (or Israeli responses to cross-border fire from Syria) do not mean that Israel is “involved” in the war in Syria but are responses to the Iranian and Hizballah aggression against Israel that long predates that conflict.

Interestingly though, while Inwood does name Israel as one of the parties allegedly involved in the conflict in Syria, he does not make any mention at all of Lebanon – despite the fact that Hizballah – which holds seats in the Lebanese parliament and government – is actively fighting there.