BBC Peddles War Propaganda

by Mehrnaz Shahabi (source: CASMII)
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

        Editor's note: This is a letter of complaint to the BBC regarding the misrepresentation of Iran's nuclear programme and demonisation of Iran in the Question Time of 26/01/2012

I am writing to lodge a serious complaint against the BBC and David Dimbleby’s willful misrepresentation of Iran’s civilian nuclear programme. In the Question time 26/01/2012 it was explicitly stated that Iran has nuclear bombs! This came from a member of the audience - who seemed genuinely unaware - and then left uncorrected and repeated as a statement of fact by David Dimbleby. Throughout the time the panel was addressing the question, there was a tirade of demonization and misinformation of a very serious nature against Iran, its nuclear programme and the serious threat Iran posed to the world peace. David Dimbleby did not challenge any of these assertions, as he usually does, and the time allowed to Mark Steel, as the only person on the panel who attempted to challenge these assertions, was disproportionately small and quickly shortened.

A member of the audience, Mrs Wendy Milne, was called to ask her question. The questions are pre-known and vetted by the programme producers and Mr Dimbleby. Mrs Milne asked: “Considering there is no evidence of Iran having anywhere near the number of nuclear weapons that Israel has, will our government back Obama if he decides to attack Iran?”. Not even the most alarmist speculations and fear-mongering statements of the opponents of Iran’s nuclear programme have ever claimed that Iran possesses nuclear bombs. David Dimbleby, without making any correction, presented the question: “No evidence of Iran having anywhere near the number of weapons, nuclear weapons, Israel has, would our government back Obama, if he decides to back Iran?”. David Dimbleby explicitly repeats this dangerously misleading question at a later point, and implicitly throughout the time that the panel is addressing this question:

David Dimbleby to Jeremy Brown: “… This is what Wendy Milne said, what account do you take of the fact that Israel has more nuclear weapons, and other countries around the world have many more nuclear weapons, when there is no evidence, as she claims, that Iran has anywhere near that number. ..” .

In serious breach of the BBC’s codes of fairness and accuracy, David Dimbleby allowed disproportionate time to Jeremy Brown and to Melanie Phillips who made many alarmist and untrue claims regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, Iran’s responsibility for international terrorism and Iran’s threat to regional and global peace. At no point, did David Dimbleby, as he routinely does in Question Time, corrected, questioned these claims or asked for evidence:

David Dimbleby allowed both Jeremy Brown and Melanie Phillips to refute the certainty about Israel’s possession of a nuclear arsenal – despite Israel’s well known threat to use them against Iran. Jeremy Brown said, “We don’t know with the certainty that you just stated it, Israel’s position”, and Melanie Phillips commented on comparing nuclear capabilities of Israel and Iran, as being “really a terribly confused symmetry which I think is really very dangerous. As has been said, Israel does not ever acknowledge it has nuclear weapons. But let us assume that it does, and it does for one reason alone which is to protect itself against the threat of genocide, against countries such as Iran”. Still David Dimbleby did not view it as relevant to mention the fact that not only does Iran not possess nuclear weapons, but there is no credible evidence even of a weaponisation programme in Iran or a decision in that direction. This fact is confirmed by the IAEA reports, including even by its latest report of November 2011- which confirms that no diversion of declared nuclear material has taken place in Iran -, by the US National Intelligence Estimates 2007 and 2011, by the Pentagon, by the Israeli Secret Service Mossad, by the US and Israeli defence ministers, Panetta and Barak, and most recently, in January, confirmed by the head of the IAEA, Amano, in a meeting with German Parliamentarians.

Melanie Phillips claimed that “the IAEA ….. believes that Iran is racing to develop a nuclear weapon. It is behaving entirely as if it is. It is boasting that it is. It is hiding its uranium .. some of its uranium, manufacturing .. centrifuges in a deep mountain .. very deep in a mountain so that it cannot be bombed”. The truth is that the IAEA has no credible evidence even of a weaponisation programme in Iran. Iran has persistently insisted on the civilian nature of its programme. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayattolah Khamenei, has issued a fatwa proscribing the development, stockpiling and use of not only nuclear but all weapons of mass destruction as forbidden in Islam. Neither is Iran “hiding” its uranium. The IAEA has continued over many years to confirm the non-diversion of all nuclear material in Iran. The underground Fordo nuclear plant near Qom, like all other nuclear facilities in Iran, is under IAEA inspection. As Pentagon spokesman, George Little confirmed in the CBS interview on 19 December, “The secretary [Panetta] was clear that we have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon”. Pentagon spokesman confirmed that any attempt at diverting low-enriched uranium to a hidden facility and its conversion to weapons grade, would be instantly detected by the UN inspectors.

Melanie Phillips stated that “Iran is threatening genocide against Israel virtually every week, and it means it”. In fact Iran has never threatened Israel or any other country. The alleged remark attributed to President Ahmadi-Nejad in 2005, that “Israel must be wiped off the map”, and which is now the most quoted remark of any politician, thanks to the propaganda instruments like the BBC, is a mistranslation. Furthermore, President Ahmadi-Nejad has repeatedly clarified his statement that what he refers to is an eventual internal collapse like the bloodless collapse of the Soviet Union or Apartheid regime in South Africa. Most importantly, Iran’s supreme leader very soon after the remark was made, announced that Iran will never attack another country, including Israel, and has repeated this on many occasions ever since. In reality, it is Israel that is openly threatening Iran with bombardment on an ongoing basis for many years. The current US and EU sanctions against Iran have been as a result of the intense pressure from Israel threatening unilateral strikes against Iran. And of course “all options” for dealing with Iran’s nuclear programme, have remained on the table for years by the US and its Western allies. There is a covert war of destruction of infrastructure, assassinations, bombings and stoking violence in Iran, carried out by Israel and its allies US and UK, without Iran ever responding to these provocations.

Melanie Phillips is however allowed to continue: “You are dealing in Iran with people who are not rational, you are dealing with people who believe that if they provoke the apocalypse, the end of days, they will bring to earth the Shiia Messiah, the Mahdi, and so they are in the business of provoking an apocalypse. It does not matter to them that in a nuclear exchange they may lose half of their own country, it doesn’t matter. This is the mentality that you are dealing with. And the threat is to all of us”. The hawkish Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is on record for having said in 2010 that "I don't think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, (would) drop it in the neighbourhood. They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process, and they understand reality." This view of Iran’s rationality is confirmed by successive former and current heads of Israeli Security Service, Mossad. The current head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, said in a meeting in Jerusalem (28.12.2011) with Israel Ambassadors that Iran did not pose an existential threat to Israel, even in a hypothetical scenario of Iran getting the bomb.

Melanie Phillips also claimed, “I think personally there is no major terrorist atrocity in which Iran has not had a hand. It was Iranian road side bombs that were blowing up our troops in Iraq..”. Jeremy Brown too commented that “they [Iranian regime] are a very threatening pernicious regime … a genuine threat to the security of the Middle East, and by extension, a threat to us, if Iran has nuclear weapons..”. He too referred to Iran’s “stated desire to obliterate other countries off”, and “active sponsorship of terrorism” .

The comedian, Mark Steel, was the only member of the panel who attempted to challenge Melanie Phillips and Jeremy Brown’s charges of WMD and demonization of Iran, by stating the similarity of this propaganda with the propaganda in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. He was however, cut short very quickly by Mr Dimbleby who asked Melanie Phillips to comment. She then drew the similarity with the 1930’s and the appeasement of Nazi Germany, the exact same argument used against Iraq, before the 2003 invasion.

I request that you publish this letter on your website and a right of reply.