Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer looks at “The Fall of the Caliphate”.

“Even as the global media watch the last stand of the diehards at Baghouz, ISIS has already shifted its own focus. The intention is to build an infrastructure that will then, at the opportune moment, strike again in the cities of Iraq, and Syria, too.

 The reason this, or a rival Sunni Islamist project, is likely to once again emerge to prominence is that the final twilight of the caliphate at Baghouz will not settle any of the issues that led to its emergence, and of which it was a symptom.

 The main butcher of civilians over the last decade in the area in question has been the Assad regime.”

2) The ITIC documents “Reactions to Britain’s decision to ban Hezbollah”.

“Hezbollah responded formally to the decision on March 1, 2019, after the British Parliament approved it. Hezbollah vehemently rejected the accusations of terrorism “which the British government had fabricated” and stressed that the organization was a “resistance movement” against the Israeli occupation. The announcement attacks Britain, perceiving it as a “proxy in the ranks of the American patron.” The announcement stresses that Hezbollah would continue to “defend Lebanon, its liberty and its independence.””

3) At the INSS, Pnina Sharvit Baruch analyses “The Violent Events along the Gaza-Israel Border: The Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council”.

“The report claims that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims, and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. Israel, however, contends that one cannot view the events as peaceful demonstrations within a state, since these were violent riots taking place along the border between two entities engaged in an armed conflict, organized and led by one of those parties, i.e., Hamas. The huge gap between the positions of Israel and the COI stems mainly from the fact that the report adopts entirely the viewpoint of the Palestinian victims, with no regard to the complex reality of the situation and to the ramifications of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

4) At the Tablet, Israel’s former state archivist Yaacov Lozowick writes about a topic the BBC has covered in the past in an article titled “The Myth of the Kidnapped Yemenite Children, and the Sin It Conceals”.

“In May 2016 we told the cabinet that we would gladly unseal the files, if they gave a green light. The cabinet appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to oversee our efforts; Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked sent a top official to assist in redefining the rules of privacy in as liberal a manner as the lawyers could dare, in order to enable our efforts.

We scanned hundreds of thousands of pages in a few days, recruited dozens of students to speed the process and implemented an advanced knowledge management system. Thousands of files were closely examined, and mostly opened. The full archives went online at the end of December 2016. […]

There are no documents that tell or even hint at a governmental policy of kidnapping children for adoption. Not one.” 

 

 

 

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More false balance in BBC News report on Douma chemical attack

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 1st was presented as follows:

The article itself – titled “Syria war: Chlorine likely used in Douma attack – OPCW” and tagged “Suspected Syria chemical attack” – similarly told readers that:

“The global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded chlorine is likely to have been used in an attack on the Syrian town of Douma last April.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said data gave “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place”.

“This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine,” it added, without assigning blame.” [emphasis added]

With readers having been told that the OPCW had not specified which party had carried out the attack (but not why), the short report then went on to uncritically amplify Syrian regime denials which have already been proved to be baseless and Russian regime propaganda concerning the ‘White Helmets’.

“The US, UK and France accused Syrian government forces, who were besieging Douma, of using chemical weapons in the 7 April attack, and carried out air strikes in retaliation.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. Its ally Russia has said the attack was “staged” by rescue workers.”

Only some thirteen hours later did the BBC find it appropriate to amend the article in order to inform visitors to the BBC News website that:

“In June, the OPCW was given new powers to assign blame for chemical attacks. However, it was not the mandate of the fact-finding team sent to Douma to do so.”

As we see the BBC continues its policy of promoting false balance in the form of claims from Syria and Russia – despite both those regimes having been shown to have lied about previous chemical attacks.

Related Articles:

Looking behind a BBC News website tag

BBC News website tones down Assad regime propaganda

Despite evidence, the BBC won’t let go of Assad propaganda

 

 

 

 

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

Readers may recall that last July the BBC News website amplified conspiracy theories cooked up by the Syrian and Russian regimes in two reports relating to the rescue of members of the ‘White Helmets’.

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

“Members of the BBC’s funding public may well be asking themselves why – yet again – their public service broadcaster is generously amplifying conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime-controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.”

On February 21st an article by Catrin Nye appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ page under the headline “UK rehomes some 100 Syria White Helmets and family members”.

The article is based on a filmed report by Nye shown on BBC television channels and a link is included. In that film Nye correctly tells viewers (from 2:35) that the White Helmets:

“…operate in rebel areas. When the Syrian regime and its allies falsely linked them to Al Qaeda they became targets for the Syrian regime…”

Nevertheless, later on in the written article, readers are provided with a link to one of the BBC’s reports from last July in which 30% of the word count was given over to amplification of that falsehood from the Assad regime.

“Khalil was one of 422 volunteers and family members who had to be rescued by the Israel Defense Forces following a request from the US, UK and other European nations, after they became trapped following a military offensive in July 2018.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit includes the obligation to “accurately and authentically” portray people of “different cultures” in the United Kingdom with the aim of contributing to “social cohesion”.

Quite how the BBC thinks its repeated amplification of a totalitarian regime’s falsehoods concerning these new UK residents contributes to social cohesion is of course a mystery.

Weekend long read

1) The Community Security Trust has published its Antisemitic Incidents Report for 2018.

“The 1,652 antisemitic incidents CST recorded in 2018 represent a 16 per cent rise from the 1,420 incidents recorded in 2017. These 1,652 incidents were spread throughout the year, with over 100 incidents recorded in every month for the first time in any calendar year; indicating that a general atmosphere of intolerance and prejudice is sustaining the high incident totals, rather than a one-off specific ‘trigger’ event. In addition to more general background factors, the highest monthly totals in 2018 came when the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party was the subject of intense discussion and activity, or when violence surged temporarily on the border between Israel and Gaza; suggesting that these events, and reactions to them, also played a role in 2018’s record total.”

2) At the Washington Examiner, David May and Jonathan Schanzer ask “Why has Human Rights Watch become an anti-Israel activist group?”.

“It’s unclear exactly when HRW began to juggle both human rights research and anti-Israel activism. One could point to the joint declaration of the 2001 NGO Forum in South Africa, reportedly formulated with Human Rights Watch’s assistance, which endorsed sanctions against the Jewish state. It also could have been 2004, when it hired anti-Israel activist Sarah Leah Whitson. Soon after she took over as Middle East director, HRW endorsed a campaign led by vehemently anti-Israel groups to suspend sales of Caterpillar equipment to the Jewish state after pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie was killed when she stood in the way of an Israeli military bulldozer.”

3) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Iran’s Strategy for Control of Syria”.

“Iran’s efforts are taking place at three levels:  below the official Syrian state structures – in the arming and sponsoring of Iran-controlled paramilitary formations on Syria soil, within the Syrian state – in the control of institutions that are officially organs of the regime, and above the state, in the pursuit of formal links between the Iranian and Syrian regimes.  As Teheran seeks to impose its influence on Assad’s Syria in the emergent post-rebellion period, meanwhile, there are indications that its project is running up against the rival plans and ambitions of the Russians.”

4) The ITIC analyses Hamas’ latest fundraising efforts.

“Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, two terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, recently called on their supporters to donate money using the virtual currency Bitcoin. To date, requests for donors have been made by Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, and by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. […]

The Palestinian organizations’ fundraising campaign in the Gaza Strip is yet another example of the terrorist organizations’ use of virtual currencies, mainly Bitcoin, to finance terror activity. The anonymity provided by trading in these currencies, their availability, and the ability to carry out money transfers around the world quickly and easily without the need for identification or exposure enable these organizations to transfer funds earmarked for terrorist activity without supervision by authorities or banks while circumventing international regulations against money laundering.” 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has a report on the latest activities of the London-based Hamas operative Muhammad Sawalha.

“Given the absence of effective British regulations and legislation, in ITIC assessment Britain continues to serve as the European center for Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas activities, although the activists in Britain operate carefully. They operate in two main spheres, waging the battle for the hearts and minds of British Muslims (spreading the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Islam in the local Muslim communities) and carrying out anti-Israeli activities (organizing flotillas, spreading propaganda rejecting the existence of the State of Israel, promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and waging anti-Israel lawfare).”

2) Udi Dekel analyses the current state of Palestinian politics as part of the latest INSS Strategic Survey.

“The Palestinian political system is currently mired in a deep crisis owing to a host of intertwined and mutually reinforcing factors. The focal point is the crisis pertaining to the Gaza Strip and the serious deterioration there over the past year. In the current reality, there is no magic formula on the horizon to dispel the political, security, and humanitarian problems of the Strip and counter their negative implications for Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinian political system is keenly mindful of “the day after Abbas” (Abu Mazen), which has paralyzed its ability to make critical decisions. Another factor in the crisis is the unbridgeable gap between Fatah and Hamas and their inability to promote reconciliation. Also relevant is the Palestinians’ lack of confidence in the Trump administration, after it overturned a number of fundamental premises of the traditional United States approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Against this background, the chances of promoting a political initiative between the Palestinian system and the State of Israel are extremely slim and will remain so, even after the Trump administration places its “deal of the century” on the table.”

3) Writing at The Hill, Emanuele Ottolenghi of the FDD discusses sanctions against Iran’s Mahan Air.

“Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, Iranian commercial airlines have sustained the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad and the forces waging a scorched-earth campaign on his behalf. Mahan Air has been at the forefront of this effort, prompting the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on it in 2011. Until recently, Mahan and its business partners faced few material costs as a result of sanctions. Its aircraft continued to land not only in Damascus but also at airports across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Then, last year, Treasury changed tactics. Rather than just hitting the airlines with sanctions, the Department began to punish the ground services providers who facilitate the airline’s commercial operations across the globe.”

4) NGO Monitor has published a report on the NGO that is the “Foundation for the UN BDS Blacklist”.

“The allegations published by Who Profits claiming the illegality and immorality of various business activities are echoed uncritically by UN bodies and officials and international NGOs as part of their politicized agendas. UN bodies – notably the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – are relying significantly on Who Profits in preparing a UN “blacklist” of companies allegedly doing business in settlements. The misleading claims are also regularly cited by corporate social responsibility (CSR) firms in their ratings systems of company compliance with human rights to justify biased reporting and illegitimate divestment.”

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

In the early hours of January 21st a report originally headlined “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria – military” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Over the next seven hours the report was amended seven times and it currently goes under the title “Israel hits Iranian and Syrian targets around Damascus – military”.

At the top of the article – which is inaccurately tagged as being about the “Syrian civil war” – appears a video captioned “An onlooker captures explosions in the night sky over Damascus”. The video itself is described on-screen as “Facebook diary of a mortar shell in Damascus”. It is of course unclear what “a mortar shell” has to do with this story.

Readers were told that:

“The Israeli military says it has hit Iranian targets around the Syrian capital Damascus.

The Israel Defense Forces said the overnight operation targeted the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Syrian air defences. Four people are reported to have died.

Syrian media said most of the Israeli missiles had been shot down.”

The same claim was later repeated:

“Syria’s state-run Sana news agency quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had shot down most of “hostile missiles”.”

Nothing in the BBC’s report suggests that it independently verified that standard Syrian regime claim before choosing to uncritically amplify it twice in the report.

The article went on to mention an earlier incident that the BBC did not report at the time.

“Israel said it acted after the Quds Forces launched a rocket from Syria over the Golan Heights on Sunday.

It said the rocket had been intercepted.”

Given that there is filmed evidence of the interception of what was actually an Iranian surface to surface missile there was clearly no need for the use of the phrase “it said”. Later on in the BBC’s report readers were told that:

“The operation comes after Israel said that “a rocket was fired at the northern Golan Heights and was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System”.

The popular winter tourist site on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights was closed as a result.”

In fact the Mount Hermon ski resort was not closed after the attack and interception on January 20th but early the next day.

Towards the end of the report readers were told that:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning during his visit to Chad on Sunday.

“We have a set policy, to target the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and to harm whoever tried to harm us,” he said.

Israel has expressed alarm at Iran’s deployment in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been battling rebel forces and Islamist groups since the start of the civil war in 2011.”

Israel’s concerns of course actually relate to Iran’s use of Syria as a forward base from which to attack Israel but BBC audiences were not provided with that information, despite it obviously  being essential for proper understanding of the story the article purports to tell.

The article then promoted a link to a BBC report from May 2018 which still includes misinformation.

In May 2018, Israel said it had struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure there, following a rocket attack on its positions in the Golan Heights.”

The report closed:

“Israel seized the area from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it.”

That information is apparently not known to whoever produced the map used by the BBC News Twitter account to promote this article to its 24.4 million followers.

As we see that map names the Syrian capital and a city which is not the capital of Israel. In addition the Golan Heights is inaccurately marked on that map as part of Syria.

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman explains why “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’”.

“There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides. […]

If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer asks “Will Turkey invade north-east Syria?”.

“The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 19 of his intention to rapidly withdraw US forces from eastern Syria led to expectations of a rapid move by Turkish forces into all or part of the area currently controlled by the US-aligned, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.  The precipitating factor that led to Trump’s announcement, after all, was a phone call between the President and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayepp Erdogan.  For Turkey, control by what Ankara regards as the Syrian franchise of the PKK of a large swathe of the 900 km Syrian-Turkish border has long been seen as entirely unacceptable.  The Kurdish dominated SDF are capable and proven fighters.  But without US help, and facing Turkish air power and artillery, they would be able only to resist for a while.  This had been already proven in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in January, 2018, when Ankara invaded and destroyed the Kurdish canton of Afrin in north-west Syria. […]

For a number of reasons, however, the prospect of an early large-scale entry of Turkish forces into north-east Syria now seems less likely than it did a couple of weeks ago.”

3) Tony Badran discusses “Arafat and the Ayatollahs” at Tablet magazine.

“When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.” There was some truth in Arafat’s flowery words. Having developed and nurtured a decade’s worth of relationships with all the major forces, from Marxists to Islamists, which had toppled the shah, he had good reason to feel like the victory of the revolution was in some part his own.

Although the heady days of February 1979 would soon give way to tensions, the Palestinians were integral to both the Islamic Revolution and to the formation of the Khomeinist regime. For Arafat, the revolutionary regime in Iran carried the promise of gaining a powerful new ally for the Palestinians. In addition, Arafat saw a chance to play the middleman between Iran and the Arabs, and to encourage them to eschew conflict with each other in favor of supporting the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Yet it soon became clear that Arafat’s double fantasy was unattainable, and would in fact become quite dangerous to the Palestinian cause.”

4) Belgian Friends of Israel have produced a series of short videos featuring conversations with residents of the area close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

See the additional videos here.

 

BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

On January 10th an article was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “US to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria – Pompeo”.

“The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.”

Most versions of that report go on to include a section headed “Why did Pompeo mention Iran?” in which BBC audiences are told that:

“Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘reportedly’ is as follows:

“According to what some say (used to express the speaker’s belief that the information given is not necessarily true)”

Apparently therefore we can conclude that the BBC is of the opinion that the articles in British papers such as the Telegraph and the Guardian along with reports from media outlets in other countries and agencies such as Reuters about the presence of Iranian troops and militias in Syria are not necessarily true.

Apparently too the BBC believes that statements made by France’s foreign minister on that issue and a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch are not necessarily true.

And it would seem that in the BBC’s view the work done by researchers at a variety of think-tanks on that topic – such as the Washington Institute, the Atlantic Council, the FDD and the Carnegie Endowment – all hinges on information that is not necessarily true.

“Based on a meticulous reading of press reports of funeral services held in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon for Shia foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq, 535 Iranian nationals were killed in combat in Syria between January 2012 and January 2018. In comparison, at least 841 Afghan, 112 Iraqi, 1,213 Lebanese, and 153 Pakistani Shia foreign fighters were killed fighting in Syria during the same period.”

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Clearly that obligation is not met when the BBC unnecessarily qualifies information that has been in the public domain for years – and especially when that qualification dovetails with Iran’s long-standing policy of claiming that its presence in Syria is solely in an ‘advisory’ capacity.

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has published an assessment of “The impact of the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria on the campaign against ISIS“.

“From a military perspective, the end of American activity in Syria is liable to be detrimental to the campaign currently being waged by the Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates against last important ISIS-controlled area in Syria. The blow is expected to be particularly hard if America stops its aerial support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, in ITIC assessment, the most serious impact of the American pullout is expected to be its influence on morale and the political situation: the Kurds, who control extensive areas in the northeastern part of the country, feel betrayed and their cohesiveness may be harmed. Thus they can be expected to look for new strategic support, especially from the Syrian regime and Russia. The Kurds’ motivation to continue fighting ISIS may be reduced and they may retreat to the heart of their area of control in northeastern Syria and stop clearing the lower Euphrates Valley of ISIS fighters.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the Turkish aspect of the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

“The contradiction between the western attempt to appease Turkey, and the tentatively emergent strategy vis-a-vis Syria had been apparent for some months. It now looked set to be resolved – one way or the other.

If the US indeed now follows through with the rapid withdrawal of the American military presence in Syria in its entirety, as a number of news outlets have reported and the President appears to have confirmed, then we have an answer. It means that the US has indeed blinked first, and is set on reversing course in Syria – by embarking on a hurried exit from the country. This will be interpreted by all sides as a strategic defeat, an abandonment under pressure of allies, and a debacle.”

3) MEMRI reports on recent criticism of Hizballah in Lebanon.

“Since the parliamentary elections in May 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister and Al-Mustaqbal movement leader Sa’d Al-Hariri has been trying to form a national unity government incorporating all the major political forces in Lebanon, including Hizbullah. His efforts have so far been unsuccessful, however, partly due to steep conditions presented by Hizbullah regarding the government’s makeup, mainly its demand to appoint a Sunni minister from the March 8 Forces, the faction led by Hizbullah. […]

This political crisis, which has been ongoing for over six months, has evoked furious responses from Lebanese politicians and columnists, who accuse Hizbullah of serving Iranian interests at the expense of Lebanon’s, and also of using its weapons to take over Lebanon and of subordinating it to Iranian patronage. The bleak political climate even cast a pall over Lebanon’s 75th Independence Day, marked on November 22, with some calling not to celebrate it because Lebanon is not truly independent. Criticism was also directed at President Michel ‘Aoun and at his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebral Bassil, both of them Hizbullah allies, for allowing Hizbullah to effectively control the country.”

4) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses “Electing the Palestinian Attorney-General to the ICC Nominations Committee for Judges“.

“The election of the Palestinian Attorney-General, Dr. Ahmad Barrak, to serve as a member of the “Advisory Committee on Nominations” of judges of the International Criminal Court, if it were not so serious, could be seen as comical. It cannot but invoke the ancient Latin maxim “ovem lupo commitere,” or in its literal and colloquial version “to set the wolf to guard the sheep.”

This perhaps sums up the acute absurdity to which respected international institutions in the international community, and particularly the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, have descended. Sadly, they have permitted themselves to be abused and manipulated by an irresponsible Palestinian leadership, intent on hijacking international organizations for obvious and blatant political purposes. 

However, the election of a Palestinian representative to the judges’ Nominations Committee, as unwise and ill-advised as it may be, is indicative of a far wider and more serious problem facing the International Criminal Court, with the admission of what purports to be “The State of Palestine” as a party to its Statute.”