BBC News website misleads on JCPOA

On September 30th the BBC News website published an article titled “Iran nuclear deal: Tehran expects US to ditch agreement, says FM“.

The vast majority of that article’s word-count (over 78%) is allotted to the recycling of unchallenged statements from the Iranian foreign minister that appeared in interviews published the previous day by two British newspapers – the Financial Times and the Guardian.

In the article’s little original content, readers are told that:

“US President Donald Trump – a stern critic of the [JCPOA] deal – will announce next month whether he believes Iran has adhered to its terms.

If he says it has failed to do so, US Congress will begin the process of reimposing sanctions on Iran.”

Audiences are not informed of the fact that the process described in those two paragraphs is defined under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – passed in 2015 – which requires the US administration to certify to Congress every ninety days that Iran is fully implementing the JCPOA.

Readers are also told that:

“France, Germany and the UK – which along with Russia and China signed the deal – have recently defended it.” [emphasis added]

That statement is inaccurate because the JCPOA was not actually signed – as MEMRI noted in July 2015:

“It should be emphasized that, contrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran’s insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract.” 

In a November 2015 letter to Representative Mike Pompeo, the US State Department clarified that:

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.”

Clearly the BBC’s claim that the P5+1 “signed the deal” is misleading to BBC audiences and does not enhance their understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC amplification of unchallenged Iranian messaging 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later on in this report readers are correctly informed that:

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

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

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

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

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

“Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is peaceful”

The article opens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wall Street Journal noted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend long read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of that report here.

 

 

 

 

 

Superficial and inaccurate BBC reporting on cross-border incident in northern Israel

At around 5:30 pm on the afternoon of August 20th, four missiles fired from Syria hit areas on the lower flanks of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee Panhandle. Several hours later an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the typical ‘last-first’ reporting style title “Israel fires missiles into Syria after rocket attack“.

Like all BBC News content, that article’s aim was to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and to inform by means of the provision of “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” whilst adhering to standards of accuracy and impartiality. But were those criteria met?Irua Galil Eliyon

The main photograph used to illustrate the report is captioned:

“Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [emphasis added]

Two of the missiles landed in the Upper Galilee district – not “near” it – and we know that the BBC is aware of that because it later quotes an IDF statement.

“A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region….”

The article opens:

“An Israeli aircraft has fired missiles at a building in Syria’s Golan Heights in response to a rocket strike on an Israeli village, according to reports.”

There were four missile strikes – not one as suggested by that phrasing – and the projectiles landed in more than one location. Later on readers are again told that:

“Earlier rockets landed near a village in northern Israel.”

Obviously the main story here is an unprovoked missile attack on civilian targets across an international border. The wider significance of that incident and the effects of the attack on the people it targeted receive no coverage in this BBC report, which devotes almost three times more wording to the topic of the Israeli response than to the missile attack itself.

The bulk of the 318-word article, however, is devoted to the subject of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s denial of involvement via a spokesman over 250 kms away in the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli officials blamed the rocket strike on the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which denied the claim.

A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region “were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights… by Islamic Jihad, sponsored by Iran”.

The statement went on to say that Israel “holds the Syrian government responsible for attacks emanating from Syria”.

Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike, but Mr Allan called off his fast on Wednesday after an Israeli court suspended his detention.

Mr Allan is believed to have suffered brain damage after going 65 days without food.” [emphasis added]

The inclusion of the description of Mohammed Allan as “one of its activists” is particularly notable given that the BBC has previously told audiences in two reports (including the link provided) that his affiliation with the terror organization is only “alleged”. The article continues with amplification of PIJ propaganda and a remarkable insinuation:

“Islamic Jihad’s leaders are based in the Syrian capital. Dawoud Shehab, a spokesman for the group who is based in Gaza, denied it had fired on Israel.

“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat that it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Mohammed Allan,” Shehab told Reuters.

Islamic Jihad has publicly acknowledged receiving support from Iran, a connection Israel has sought to highlight as it campaigns against the proposed US deal with Iran.” [emphasis added]

In other words, readers are encouraged to view Israeli army statements on this incident as being influenced or dictated by the Israeli government’s stance on the P5+1 (not “US” as stated here) deal with Iran known as the JCPOA.

It is not clarified to readers that the cross-border attack was launched from one of the few areas along the Syrian border with Israel that are still held by the Assad regime – which is of course heavily dependent upon Iran and its proxies at present – and the obviously relevant context of prior Iranian and Iranian-backed activity along that border is absent from this report.

Towards the end of the article readers find more evidence of the BBC’s geographically challenged reporting, tortured phrasing and predictable whitewashing of an internationally recognized terror organization.

“The stretch of border involved in the exchange has been largely quiet since the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.”

A “border” was obviously not “involved in the exchange”: borders do not fire missiles at civilians. Neither is it clear to which border the BBC refers – the Israel-Lebanon border as implied by its reference to the 2006 war or the Israel-Syria border across which these latest missiles were actually fired but where there was no fighting during the 2006 war.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Hizballah does not confine its activities to attacks on the Israeli military and it is certainly not independent – as evidenced by its Iranian patronage.

The article closes with the following statement:

“Israel captured the western Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.”

The context of why that war began and the obviously relevant history of the pre-1967 Syrian attacks on Israeli villages in the Galilee Panhandle and elsewhere which made it necessary for Israel to take the Golan Heights are not included in that partisan account.

So did readers of this article really get the “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” which would enhance their understanding of this incident and its wider implications? Hardly – and as long as the BBC continues to whitewash Iranian backed terrorist organisations and the ideology underpinning them, that will remain the case.

An Iranian story the BBC chose not to translate

Last week IranWire reported a story which opens as follows:

“Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has released details of a private meeting between Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and IRIB directors about the July 14 nuclear deal in Vienna. 

The meeting, which was off the record, took place at the end of July. On Saturday, August 1, the IRIB news site published the comments without the permission of Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s chief negotiator. 

Abbas responded immediately, saying the publication of the private conversation was “contrary to national interests and security” and “incompatible with professional ethics.” He also said that the published text contained numerous errors.

A few hours later, the IRIB site retracted the story, stating that the publication had been a mistake. Most of the other Persian-language sites that had republished the text also removed it following Araghchi’s objections.”

The IranWire article details some of the interesting points made by Araghchi in that meeting, including the following:

“Araghchi confirmed that Iran is arming Lebanese Hezbollah: “We said that we cannot stop giving arms to Hezbollah, and we’re not ready to sacrifice it to our nuclear program. So we will continue doing it.””

Likewise, the independent publishing platform Khodnevis notes that:

“He [Araghchi] also pointed out that the Islamic Republic has been sending arms to Hezbollah, something Iran has publicly denied for years.”BBC Persian Araghchi story

Khodnevis attributes the information in its article to a report published by the BBC Persian service (“Araghchi what was said at the meeting with managers of radio and television?“) and another article concerning the removal of the reports by Persian-language outlets was also produced by BBC Persian.

Curiously though, the BBC apparently did not consider that admission by an official of a UN member state that it is systematically breaching the terms of UN SC resolution 1701 (“no sales or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”) worthy of translation into English for the benefit of the majority of members of its audience who do not read Farsi.  

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Jewish Chronicle, Alex Brummer addresses BBC self-regulation and more.

“The fight between the Tory government and the BBC is largely about perceived left-wing bias in reporting issues ranging from the economy to welfare and the environment. But if it brings an end to the BBC policing itself and starts the process of independent adjudication there will be something to celebrate.”Weekend Read

2) At Ha’aretz, Ari Shavit (hardly a “hardliner” – as the BBC has taken to describing JCPOA sceptics) discusses “The Iran deal: From thriller to horror story“.

“After many hours of reading I had to stop. The thriller had become a horror story. Not only was the content inconceivable, the tone was, too. The fact is that in each chapter Iran’s dignity is preserved, but the U.S. and Europe’s isn’t. The fact is that the Iranian Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majlis, has a much higher status in the agreement than the American Congress. The fact is that Iran is unrepentant, does not promise a change of course and takes an almost supercilious attitude toward the other parties. As though it had been a campaign between Iran and the West, and Iran won and is now dictating the surrender terms to the West.”

3) MEMRI provides the first installment in a series titled “Critical Points To Consider In Understanding The Iranian Nuclear Deal“.

“It should be emphasized that, contrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran’s insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract.”

4) At the Washington Institute, Matthew Levitt provides timely analysis in an article titled “Waking Up the Neighbors: How Regional Intervention Is Transforming Hezbollah“.

“In Syria and elsewhere, deadly proxy conflicts — between Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf states, on the one hand, and Iran on the other — have been complicated by the dangerous overlay of sectarianism. Sunni and Shiite states and their clients seem to view the region’s wars as part of a long-term, existential struggle between their sects. Indeed, the war in Syria is now being fought on two parallel fronts: one between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition, and the other between Sunni and Shiite communities over the threat each perceives from the other. Similar dynamics define the wars in Iraq and Yemen. Factional conflict might be negotiable, but sectarian war is almost certainly not.

Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria may have originally focused on supporting the Assad regime, but it now considers that war an existential battle for the future of the region, and for Hezbollah’s place in it. As a result, the group’s regional focus will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Together with other Iranian-backed militias, Hezbollah will continue to head an emerging Shiite foreign legion working both to defend Shiite communities and to expand Iranian influence across the region.”

Patchy coverage of Iran ‘side deals’ in BBC News reporting

An article which originally appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East and US & Canada pages on July 23rd under the headline “Iran nuclear deal: Kerry to face Senate committee” is now titled “Iran nuclear deal: Better accord ‘a fantasy’ says Kerry” and readers can view the changes made to its various versions here.Kerry art main

One interesting point to note is the disappearance and reappearance of passages of the article relating to a topic which the BBC News website’s generally on-US-administration-messaging coverage has not addressed separately.

Readers of versions one and two of the article learned that:

“[Senator] Mr Cotton, along with Mike Pompeo, a Republican Congressman from Kansas, wrote to Mr Obama on Wednesday to express their concern over what they called “side deals” nuclear inspectors were discussing with Iran.

A State Department spokesman said there were no secret deals and that there were only “technical arrangements”.”

By version three of the report, those paragraphs had been removed and the topic only reappeared in version eight, where audiences were told:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, responded by saying the details of those deals “are not public but… we know their contents, we’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress”.”

Version nine of the article was amended to read as follows:

“Separately, two Republicans have complained that Congress has not been given access to “side deals” stuck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allegedly relate to the inspection of a key military site as well as past military activity.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected the suggestion they were “some sort of side deal”, saying the agreements were critical to the overall deal.

But he did admit that the details of the agreements could not be made public because it involves sensitive nuclear information.”

The article links to the Cotton/Pompeo press release on the topic but no further explanation is given in the body of the report and clearly members of the BBC’s audience who happened to access any one of the five versions of this article in which the issue did not appear would remain unaware of its existence.

The bulk of the report’s word-count is devoted to representation of John Kerry’s statements made during the committee hearing, with statements made by critics of the JCPOA deal receiving 102 words less coverage. In the body of the report readers are presented with two photographs, the first of which is captioned:

“The deal with Iran has encountered plenty of opposition, from within Congress to the streets”

The caption to the second photograph reads:

“But Mr Kerry also had his supporters at the hearing”

Kerry art photos

The first picture shows a demonstration held in New York on July 22nd. Although readers are not informed of the fact, the second image shows Medea Benjamin of the radical BDS-promoting organisation ‘Code Pink’.

Code Pink photo

Readers would no doubt have found it helpful to know that one of the two images chosen to supposedly present a ‘balanced’ view of American public reaction to the JCPOA deal in fact shows a professional political activist who visited Tehran just last autumn.

“Medea Benjamin participated in the New Horizon 2nd Annual International Conference of Independent Thinkers & Film Makers, held in Tehran, Iran (September 27 – October 1, 2014), speaking on the topics of “The Gaza War & BDS Movement Strategies against the Zionist Regime” and “Different Facets of the Resistance.” The conference included past and present Iranian government officials, as well as conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.”

Somehow, that pertinent information did not reach BBC audiences. 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly erases Iranian patronage of terror, distorts history

On July 19th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Winds of change blow through Middle East“.Connolly Iran

Connolly’s basic premise is that the JCPOA signed by the P5+1 and Iran last week heralds a new era.

“This was a week of change though.

Once the US and Iran glared at each other across a chasm of values: where the Iranians saw themselves as champions of Shia communities and exporters of revolution the Americans saw only sponsorship of terrorism.

That may now begin to change although we don’t know how far or how fast that change will go.

Through the gloom of the current desert storms it is hard to know for sure what sort of Middle East will eventually emerge – but it is already clear that one of the strongest winds blowing in the region blows from Iran.”

On the way to that conclusion Connolly takes readers for a stroll through the last century of Middle East history, managing to make some significant omissions along the way. Going back to the end of the First World War, he states:

“With the Turks defeated in Jerusalem and Damascus and Sinai and Gaza there was a new world to be made.

Britain, mandated by the League of Nations to govern the Holy Land, could set about honouring its commitment to the Jews of the world to build a national home for them in Palestine – probably not guessing that the issues surrounding the promise would remain a potent source of violence and discord a century later.”

Yes, the British government had produced the Balfour Declaration in 1917 but Connolly misleads readers by failing to clarify that the establishment of the Jewish national home was not merely based on a pre-existing British commitment but in fact had its foundations in the legally binding unanimous decision of the fifty-one member countries of the League of Nations in 1922, which Great Britain was charged with administering and which the United Nations reaffirmed in 1946.

In relation to the Sykes-Picot agreement Connolly makes the following vague statement and links to an article from December 2013:

“Some historians have pointed out that the agreement conflicted with pledges already given by the British to the Hashemite leader Husayn ibn Ali, Sharif of Mecca, who was about to lead an Arab revolt in the Hejaz against the Ottoman rulers on the understanding that the Arabs would eventually receive a much more important share of the territory won.”

Connolly omits any mention of the fact that the Hussein-McMahon correspondence did not include Palestine, as Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937.

McMahon letter Times

Later on in his article Connolly presents the following hypothesis:

“But we got a feel for some of the forces that will shape the new order in Vienna this week when the world’s great powers – the UN Security Council plus Germany – struck a deal with Iran.

The talks were convened of course to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions – and so they did.

But they were a kind of acknowledgement too of Iran’s status as a regional power – a sense that in effect nothing can be settled in the modern Middle East without the Iranians.”

Avoiding discussion of the obviously vital question of whether or not Iranian policy is really designed to ‘settle’ Middle East disputes and conflicts, he goes on to present the following attenuated portrayal of Iran’s fingers in the regional pie:

“Iran after all is the main force propping up the faltering Syria regime of Bashar al-Assad, and it is using Hezbollah, the militia it founded and funded in neighbouring Lebanon to bear the brunt of the fighting.

Iranian-backed Shia militias have been fighting in Iraq against Sunni extremists – often filling vacuums left by the country’s armed forces.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen too are part of this Iranian regional movement.”

Hizballah, of course, is not merely an Iranian proxy “militia” as Connolly leads readers to believe: it is an organization with a long history of terrorist and criminal activity both in the Middle East and much further afield. But Connolly’s whitewashing of Iranian patronage of terrorist organisations does not end there: he fails to make any mention of the theocratic regime’s material and ideological support for other terror groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Moreover, the extremist religious ideologies which are the foundations of the Iranian regime itself and the reason behind its patronage of Shia and Sunni terrorist organisations are portrayed by Connolly in markedly muted terms.

“Iran is the great power in the world of Shia Islam, just as Saudi Arabia would see itself as the leader of those who follow the Sunni tradition.

There are plenty of small wars in which their proxy armies fight each other in what sometimes feels like a looming regional confessional conflict.”

In other words, a BBC Middle East correspondent who has been located in the region for over four and a half years would have audiences believe that hostilities rooted in religious doctrines may be (perhaps; he’s not quite decided) just around the corner.

As long as Connolly and his colleagues continue to downplay Iranian sponsorship of terrorist groups motivated by religious ideology BBC audiences will obviously be unable to fully comprehend the reservations voiced by many in the Middle East concerning the “winds of change” bolstered by the terms of the JCPOA agreement or to fully understand the “international issues” likely to develop as a result.

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