The June 14th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme included an item concerning the previous day’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Presenter Justin Webb first spoke to former US official James Clapper (from 01:36:48 here) before introducing his next guest: Labour peer Lord West of Spithead.
Webb: “Let’s talk to Admiral Lord West, chief of naval staff of course in this country between 2002 and 2006…”
After listeners had heard about the UK’s naval forces in the relevant region and an assessment that “should by any mistake a war start” the United Kingdom would be “very, very involved”, Webb went on (at 1:41:12) to ask his next question. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Webb: “Do we have a way, separately from the Americans, of making our own determination of what is actually going on because at the moment the foreign secretary I think has said he accepts the American view and you just heard James Clapper saying in his view there isn’t any other view of who is responsible. But do we have a kind of a way of sorting out for ourselves what’s actually going on and what our…our…our vital interests are?”
West: “Well certainly our agencies and the defence intelligence staff, for example, will be analysing the tapes and looking at that and our agencies will be looking at any other evidence they’ve got to ascertain whether we are absolutely certain the Iranians are doing it. It does…it does look as though they’re doing that but let’s not kid ourselves: there are powerful groups within Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US that would – I’m afraid rather stupidly – would rather like some sort of war with Iran because they think there could be some knock-out blow and there’d be a revolution in Iran. They’re deluding themselves; it would be a catastrophe. So because there are those groups and because within Iran itself there are splinter groups, you know I think we need to be quite careful about being sure who exactly is doing this. It does look as though the Iranians are doing it at the moment.”
Rather than asking his interviewee to name those “powerful groups” or challenging the claim that they “would rather like some sort of war with Iran” when that would undoubtedly put Israeli civilians in considerable danger, Webb proceeded directly to his next ‘question’.
Webb: “And also make our own political decisions as well I suppose on what degree of escalation we wanted to take part in.”
As the BBC’s researchers were presumably aware before seeking his participation, that bizarre and unevidenced claim had been made by Lord West of Spithead before – in the House of Lords on May 13th. [emphasis added]
“There is no doubt that there are powerful factions within Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US that feel that an attack on Iran would be a good thing, believe it or not. They think that they would very quickly be able to suppress the enemy capability and then there would be regime change. They are wrong. It would be an absolute catastrophe. The passage of any shipping through the Straits of Hormuz would be problematic for weeks, there would be an outbreak of terrorist attacks throughout the region and there would possibly be some missile attacks.”
As we see, then too no evidence to support his claim was provided by Lord West of Spithead – who also believes that terrorism in the UK is caused by Israeli actions (or cannabis) and told BBC audiences (and others) in April 2018 that it did “not ring true” that the chemical attack in Douma that month was perpetrated by the Assad regime.
Not only did Justin Webb make no effort whatsoever to challenge West’s unsupported statement, but BBC Radio 4 even chose to further highlight it on Twitter.
So much, once again, for the BBC’s obligation to provide “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of…the wider world.”