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Media Alert - Iran in Iraq
Wednesday, 21 February 2007 21:32
by Dave Edwards
The Art Of Instant Forgetting

Media corporations have an awesome ability to fail to learn even the most obvious lessons from the recent past. In discussing allegations made against Iran in 2007, for example, it is often as though Iraq 2002-2003 never happened. The same journalists receiving the same propaganda from the same government sources respond with the same credulity and the same indifference to the human consequences.

On February 16, the US media watchdog, FAIR, recalled how, in the wake of its disastrous pre-war reporting on Iraq, the New York Times had “implemented new rules governing its use of unnamed sources”. How exasperating, then, that the Times’ lead story on February 10 promoting US government charges against Iran trashed these rules completely. FAIR commented:

{shadowboxwtw width=175px,float=left,shadowcolor=ffec9d,textcolor=000066,echo=yes} Repeatedly citing the likes of ‘administration officials,’ ‘American intelligence’ and ‘Western officials,’ the article used unnamed sources four times as often as named ones. Only one source in... [the] report challenged the official claims: Iranian United Nations ambassador Javad Zarif, who was allowed a one-sentence denial of Iranian government involvement.” (Fair Action Alert, ‘NYT Breaks Own Anonymity Rules,’ February 16, 2007){/shadowboxwtw}“
A January 16 leader in the Telegraph - which did not apologise for its own catastrophic pre-war reporting or implement new rules - was bolder still:

"It has been clear for many months that Iran has been actively involved in the Iraqi insurgency: by supplying arms and manpower to the militias who target American and British forces, and inciting sectarian violence, it has helped to maintain the state of chaotic instability which has persisted in spite of all attempts to bring order to the country..." (Leader, ‘The threat from Iran,’ Telegraph, January 16, 2007)

The direct involvement of Iran’s leadership was also not in doubt:

“... as those in charge of our forces on the ground in Basra are clearly aware, Iran is not simply a delinquent state indulging in gratuitously destructive terrorism. However absurd and nihilistic the posturing of its president may seem, his country is committed to an orchestrated political plan [in Iraq] which will require systematic opposition”. (Ibid)

On BBC‘s Newsnight (February 12), the Telegraph’s Con Coughlin declared that military action was looming now that “diplomacy is almost at an end”. Indymedia reported on February 5:

“A report, put together by Campaign Iran and published at the end of 2006, revealed that Daily Telegraph's political editor Con Coughlin, the man who 'broke the story' of Iraq’s 45 minute WMD capacity, was behind 16 articles containing unsubstantiated allegations against Iran over the past 12 months.

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“The Press Complaints Commission has launched its third investigation into Coughlin in as many months after a number of high level complaints about his latest article on Iran. The investigation is looking at an article by Coughlin on 24 January relying on an unnamed ‘European defence official’ alleging that North Korea is helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test.” (‘MI6 Iran Disinfo: The Prelude to War?’; http://www.indymedia.org/fr/2007/02/879774.shtml)

By contrast, a week earlier, The Los Angeles Times cited an ironic comment from a British officer stationed in Iraq: "‘We do have intelligence which suggests that weapons and ammunition are being smuggled in from Iran,’ Maj. David Gell, a spokesman for British forces in Basra, said last week. ‘We don't always manage to find any.’

“US military officials in Diyala have had the same experience. No munitions or personnel have been seized at the border, officers said.” (Alexandra Zavis and Greg Miller, ‘Scant evidence found of Iran-Iraq arms link,’ Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2007)

Gareth Porter noted on truthout.org last week:

"The [US] administration suggested that there could be no other explanation for the presence of Iranian-made weapons than official government sponsorship of smuggling them into Iraq. But in doing so, they had to ignore a well-known reality: most weapons, including armor-piercing projectiles, can be purchased by anyone through intermediaries in the Middle East." (Porter, ‘US Briefing on Iran Discredits the Official Line,’ )

Porter cited Michael Knights, chief of analysis for the Olive Group, a private security consulting firm, who presented evidence in Jane's Intelligence Review that Iraqi Shiites have manufactured both the components for "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs) and the complete EFPs. Knights claims that the equipment required to make EFPs "can easily be found in Iraqi metalworking shops and garages", and that all EFPs exploded so far could have been manufactured in one or at most two simple workshops with one or two specialists in each - one in the Baghdad area and one in southern Iraq. Knights comments of US-UK forces:

"I'm surprised that they haven't found evidence of making EFPs in Iraq. That doesn't ring true for me."

Indeed, since Porter’s article appeared, the New York Times included this comment at the end of a February 20 news report:

“An Iraqi unit, aided by American advisers, caught militants in the act of constructing devices known as explosively formed projectiles in a house in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on Saturday, according to the American military.” (Marc Santora, ‘Iraqi Militants Launch Attack on U.S. Outpost,’ New York Times, February 20, 2007)

Knights believes there was a time when whole EFPs were imported from outside, but that now most, if not all, are manufactured by Iraqis.

Certainly the idea that only Iran possesses the necessary lathes and operators trained in the manufacture of EFPs is outlandish. Writer Milan Rai observes that no evidence has been produced that Iraq lacks the means to produce EFPs - there is no shortage of metal tubes or explosives. An independent assessment of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq, obtained by Defense News in 2006 and based on British military intelligence, said:

“Based on current usage, there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for 274 years without re-supply.” (Milan Rai, ‘IED lies,’ February 12, 2007; )

Writing in the Independent, Patrick Cockburn notes the irony:

“The US stance on the military capabilities of Iraqis today is the exact opposite of its position four years ago. Then, President Bush and Tony Blair claimed that Iraqis were technically advanced enough to produce long-range missiles and to be close to producing a nuclear device. Washington is now saying that Iraqis are too backward to produce an effective roadside bomb and must seek Iranian help.” (Cockburn, ‘Washington accuses Tehran, and sets stage for a new confrontation,’ The Independent, February 12, 2007)

Anthony Cordesman, a US military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, observes that Iraq's insurgents are probably just tapping a pool of common bomb-making technology, none of which requires special expertise: “There's no evidence that these are supplied by Iran. A lot of this is just technology that is leaked into an informal network. What works in one country gets known elsewhere.” (Ibid)

Even US Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, notes that while some of the material used in explosive devices had been made in Iran that “does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this". (Morning Star, ‘US officer doubts Iran arms claim,’ February 14, 2007)

To their credit, some journalists have failed to toe the propaganda line. On January 23, the Los Angeles Times reported that, despite the aggressive rhetoric, the Bush administration "has provided scant evidence to support these claims. Nor have reporters traveling with US troops seen extensive signs of Iranian involvement". (Alexandra Zavis and Greg Miller, ‘Scant evidence found of Iran-Iraq arms link,’ Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2007)

The LA Times cited senator John Rockefeller, head of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, who said: "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again," referring to the false claims made on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction ahead of the March 2003 invasion. (Ibid)

The Independent's Patrick Cockburn has also voiced his scepticism:

“The allegations against Iran are similar in tone and credibility to those made four years ago by the US government about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion of 2003...” (Cockburn, op. cit)

Hard Evidence = Responsible Journalism (Sometimes!)

On February 11, the BBC’s flagship News At Ten led with the claims made by anonymous US officials in Baghdad that the Iranian government has supplied advanced roadside bombs in Iraq, killing more than 170 US troops since June 2004.

BBC correspondent Andrew North's headlining boost for these unsubstantiated claims concluded with the briefest of disclaimers: "But given the past history of intelligence dossiers on Iraq, it may take an uphill struggle convincing people that tougher action should follow this one."

That constituted nine seconds out of a report lasting nearly three minutes.

On February 12, we emailed Helen Boaden, director of BBC news, asking what had become of her earlier firm insistence that the BBC would report controversial claims as news only on the basis of "hard evidence". We asked:

“Why does your approach now differ so markedly from that adopted previously [in 2005] when the BBC failed to report the mounting evidence of white phosphorus weapons, cluster bombs, modified napalm and depleted uranium munitions in Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq?”

Two years ago, the BBC repeatedly rejected numerous credible reports from Iraqi doctors, refugees, humanitarian NGOs and other sources. Boaden responded at the time:

"BBC News will continue to do what we can to find independent verification of these claims. However, it would not be responsible journalism for the BBC to report such claims without having found hard evidence that they are correct." ('Did BBC ignore weapons claim,' BBC NewsWatch, April 14, 2005; )

And yet "hard evidence" is apparently not required when the BBC reports claims made by shadowy US officials, "speaking off camera on condition of anonymity". It is enough that they are official spokespeople.

We asked Boaden:

“What documented, publically available editorial BBC guidelines exist for deciding whether to repeat controversial claims; and, just as significant, how to report them in a balanced, fair and responsible manner?

“Why have your reports been so credulous and unbalanced? Why did you only show the briefest of interviews with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, rejecting the US claims? Where are the sceptical commentators, such as western intelligence and military experts, who have also previously rejected such claims? (Alexandra Zavis and Greg Miller, 'Scant evidence found of Iran-Iraq arms link', Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2007)”

We concluded our email to Boaden:

“What lessons has the BBC learned from its reporting on Iraq back then? On the evidence of recent BBC reports on these anonymous, warmongering US claims about Iran, very few indeed.” (Email to Helen Boaden, February 12, 2007)

By Way Of Balance - US Bombs In Iran?

Meanwhile, Iran has presented evidence of US involvement in a February 14 bomb blast against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Zahedan, southeastern Iran, which claimed 13 lives. Agence France Press reported on February 17:

“Local officials said the unrest bore suspicious hallmarks of involvement by the United States and Britain, reiterating previous allegations of Western trouble-making in the southeastern Sistuan-Baluchestan province... State television showed footage of a substantial arms cache of bullets, explosives and machine guns seized at a militant hideout. One image showed a packet of 20 bullets with the inscription ‘Made in the USA‘.”

"‘It is interesting that the weapons are made by the United States and the United Kingdom,’ said the director of the province's political affairs office Soltan Ali Mir, according to the Mehr agency.

"‘The terrorists (detained) revealed some meetings in some neighbouring countries for their financial support. They indicate that the United States and the United Kingdom were involved in the recent incidents‘." (Stuart Williams, ‘Iran chases militants behind new bomb blast,’ Agence France Presse, February 17, 2007)

Stratfor, a research institute formed of former US security officials, claims that “this latest attack against IRGC guards was likely carried out by armed Baloch nationalists who have received a boost in support from Western intelligence agencies”. (‘Iran: Bombing in Zahedan,’ Stratfor, February 14, 2007; )

Stratfor added:
“the United States has likely ramped up support for Iran's variety of oppressed minorities in an attempt to push the Iranian regime toward a negotiated settlement over Iraq”. (Ibid)

And yet claims of US involvement in the Zahedan attack have so far been mentioned in a single sentence in a single article in one national UK newspaper (the Times, February 15) - the standard mainstream version of 'balance', in other words.


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you decide to write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Will Lewis, editor of the Daily Telegraph Email: will.lewis@telegraph.co.uk

Write to Helen Boaden, head of BBC news Email: helenboaden.complaints@bbc.co.uk

Please send a copy of your emails to: editor@medialens.org
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Comments (1)add comment

a guest said:

england is the fountain head of evil design done by usa on the rest of the world.-all conspiracy is hatched in england for anglosaxon race only.
Irak is right in demanding ouster of anglo-saxon spies from hollowed Iraki's soil.In name of uno, and before that leage of friends ,and now Amnesty International, this heyena country called england has installed a lot bof speis all over World and has virtually hijacked Americans to do their domestic and foreign policies for furtherance of british (england's ) interest than even American 's interest.

These days for last few years a lot of Kurdish refugees(who by the way are more aryans than all the europeans combined-though it is irrelevant here)are escaping from Turkey because of Turkish pressure. But nobody has ever stopped Turkey from having her air space nor has anyone bobed them. and why should anyone?Who has given right to a handfull of countries to be a policeman? Could they dare demand such thing at time of so called cold war? Every december,ever since gulf war there is a show of bullying tactics by anglo-saxons in middle east. There is really no ground but excuse is created because this race feels uplifted when others are insultated. Also there is a low cost exercise in bullying any other nation by military postures. Why should Iraq not have weapons as he desires?in 1981, when the israelis had bombed the iraqui nuclear reacto(a few days before going critical) it was britain)govt, and british media) who had vwhemently opposed Israeli daring action and did a lot of anti-jewish propaganda. Atleast Begin had a reason to fear from the arab enemy of israel. even in '82 Lebanon war it was britain which was most vociferous in criticizing Isreali militay action at the same time minimizing the Isreali Airforce's achievement in destroying Bacca's valley missiles through high tech method.In fact What americans did in gulf war was what Isreali had achieved way back in '82 in Lebanon war and America obtained that military know-how from Israelis after Lebanon war. But gulf war is justifiable on basis of military superirity but not Lebanon war. In fact when an american general said that america learned a lot from Israelis' achievement then the american defense minister Winnberg said that itAmerica learned not from Israeli but from British. Ofcourse we all know that Wnnberg was (awarded sir) more of anbritish defense minister than american one. He was pro-british and anti-jewish (and antirussian and all others aswell). In fact in lebanon war the american foreign secratary was changed because the british did not like Hague's attitude. This much britain exercises influence in american affairs. Now having installed all the stooges in Arab world britain has discarded her sham veil of Arabists and openly insults(through america ofcouse because on own britain is not even a fourh grade power)the arab world.Talking about the stooge, have you wondered why these days even Yeltsin's bad health no longer makes any headline news in anglosaxon world?Before any cold that Yeltsin had was niticed and still before that any peon from Russia had a headline news ' material. The reaon is simple. Britain has installed in Russia not only a mad man likes yelstin but also a second line of stooge successor to him. After Yelstin usefullness is over then he will be replaced by those second line of british stooge who at the moment are already controlling Russia and destroying her everyday. Democracy ,as understood today, basically means any system which gives free hand to britain to exploit other races. If their is one example of what an evil this so called capitalism is and what a saviour communism(britain does not dislike communism, she dislikes other's prosperity and independence whether it comes from communism, nationalism or what ever)is: this ruinous example of Russia is the real lesson. China is right to hold on to her nationalistic pursuit. It really is a war between anglo-saxons and the rest of the world. It is a race war.Sooner the rest of the world realizes that better it would be and this danger would be sorted out.

You remember that at the height of cold war in mid 80's there was a lot of activities of C.N.D. You would expect that with so called cold war finished, this C.N.D. would be asking to the british peoples to leave the nuclear weopons given to her,out of pity and filiaty, by the United states. But exactly opposite happened. C.N.D. has been defunct since than. It is as if that was a front of the british govt. to show by way of propaganda that that country had some moral voice.In other words, C.N.D. was a sham created by the british to give them respectability. Ofcourse when a non-anglosaxon country aould perfect their nuclear weopon,as France rightly did, then there would be a lot of hue and cry by the anglo-saxons' media. France and china are right in strenghtening their independent military power. The real danger to world comes from england and her anglosaxons agents. France understand that and Germany was a fool in not supporting France in Nato meeting this Summer. Just as Cnd has been proved a sham of british propaganda, more so is the sham which goes by the name of amnesty international. It is interesting that as soon falkland war started, within a few weeks this amnesty international presented a dozier on Argentina. In the same way as soon gulf war started(soon after Iraqui's intervention in kuwait) the same amnesty international presented a dozier and report on Iraqui's atrocities. an fact many of the amnesty allegations were just a copy of what british media was saying and which later on proved to be fabrication and great big lies. But bthis did not dent the reputation of amnesty international. british propaganda ensured that. IN '88 when Dalia lama,at the height of Tibetan disturbances, visited west, the then british prime minister refused to meet Him. Later on with the demise of Russia and usefullness of China gone and with manipulation to keep power in Hongkong somehow intact, the same british media and government ,like dog, started barking at China. It is interesting that amnesty international selectively targets those very countries(as it did china after cold war) who are out of faviour(because they would not be a brtish sttoge)of the british media and govt. This is not surprizing as amnesty international is the creation of british govt, and british media. england with the most appaling record of human rights in last 200 years of her evil rule, needed some organisation to keep the others from chrging england off her past and current evil practices. In other words it went for aggresive posture in propaganda war so that others can be demoralized and stopped from ponting out the real evil which is england. That is why amnesty international is one armour of the british lies to exploit the rest of the world. Amnesty international must be ignored and an independent human watchdog (which england will simply ignore) created. One purpose of amnesty international is to create an atmosphere for hatred towards the would be vitims of british exploitation so that a victim could be blamed to have deserved the consequences. That is why ,now amnesty international sometimes threatens China, sometimes India and etc. India because india needs to be cowed down and also so that India does not make nuclear wepon and thus feel free from future american(read english and anglosaxon)aggression. This is all to create an atmoshphere of mis information. The other countries are also responsible(out of sheer inferority complex) for giving these instuments of british propaganda so much imporatance. If they simply ignore and then the british lies and then themselves go in offensive(they can do it-no problem)against british exploitation and propaganda then tose countries would not in such dire strait as they are now. Think, this deteriration has happened in only last 20 years(thogh the british have been at this game for a long time but they were not always succesful when others have been vigilant).Ignoring and fighting all this anglosaxons propaganda, the other races(yes it comes to that) must unite and support each other against this common enemy england. The other nations should also go nuclear and assemble as much arm as possible ,collaborate on it and ignoring this anglosaxon race they must be prepared for war which tjhen would be prevented otherwise it would come inevitably. The other nations need to arm themselves to protect themselves from anglo saxon race. Thinking any other way is simply kidding oneself. And it can be done and will be done.

WE throw a challenge to these low lifes-if the English feel themselves
ao powerful them let them attack and win even Irak(already weaken by u.n.sanctions)without the help of u.n.sanctioins(that means Irak would have same freedom to acquire arms and means and Arabs and Israeli had in thier war)
and with out u.s.a. England is neither Isreal of today nor Sparta of yesterday.Let them be reminded that at height of thier empire in 1917, England was almost defeated
by Germans when German army's 3/4 th division was concentrated on Eastern front. These english are that weak and coward people.But thir mouth will have to shut for ever
when all the whites ,European and Thirld world unite against this english disese.
There is no point in telling them truth, they understand only one thing which they will soon get-tatal beating physically-the only language these animals understand. Hitler,who these worship
was wrong about the jews who were only british agents-what Hitler said about jews applied not to jews but to the english(anglo-saxons).race-pity he did not do the the british what should have been done instead. Well It is never too late.
February 21, 2007
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