Thursday, 6 June 2013

Iran and Syria - putting the liberals right

As fearmongering over Iran and appeals for 'decisive intervention' in Syria intensify, it's illuminating to come across journalists usually associated with right-wing outlets offering substantive facts and comment to the contrary.

It also 'raises the bar' for what most of the liberal media could and should be saying on Iran, Syria and other 'problem' states - though there may be no such 'hope' for our state media, the BBC, which seems fixed on its daily diet of demonisation and war promotion.   

In that comparative vein, here's two articles well worth consulting. 

The first, in particular, is from the Telegraph's chief political commentator Peter Oborne who, with co-author David Morrison, provides an astonishing demolition of the 'Iranian nuclear threat' and other sundry falsehoods over Iran. 

The opening sequence of this piece (taken from their book A Dangerous Delusion) is a fine 'pocketised' rebuttal in itself of the multiple lies and mythologies attributed to Iran:
"At this point it may be helpful to state the basic facts about Iran’s nuclear activities:
• Iran has no nuclear weapons.
• Since 2007, US intelligence has held the opinion that Iran hasn’t got a programme to develop nuclear weapons and has regularly stated this opinion in public to the US Congress.
• The IAEA does not assert that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons programme.
• Iran does have uranium-enrichment facilities. But as a party to the NPT, Iran has a right to engage in uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. Other parties to the NPT, for example, Argentina and Brazil, do so. Iran is not in breach of any of its obligations under the NPT.
• As required by the NPT, Iran’s enrichment facilities are open to inspection by the IAEA, as are its other nuclear facilities. Over many years, the IAEA has verified that no nuclear material has been diverted from these facilities for possible military purposes. Iran is enriching uranium up to 5% U-235, which is appropriate for fuelling nuclear power reactors for generating electricity, and up to 20% U-235, which is required for fuelling the Tehran Research Reactor.
• While Iran’s nuclear facilities are open to IAEA inspection, those of Israel and India (allies of the United States) are almost entirely closed to the IAEA. Yet Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, is the object of ferocious economic sanctions and threats of military action. By contrast, Israel (with perhaps as many as 400 nuclear bombs, and the capacity to deliver them anywhere in the Middle East) is the object of more than $3 billion a year of US military aid.
These are basic facts about Iran’s nuclear activities, facts that are (if you search for them) in the public domain. Yet the mainstream media in Britain rarely mentions any of them. As a result, almost all of its reporting is misleading, and some of it completely false."
Oborne and Morrison go on to expose the many pernicious misrepresentations of Iran, noting how the BBC can speak of "its nuclear weapons programme", while others like the Economist routinely write about "Iran's nukes".

Detailing the many IAEA reports refuting Western claims of 'nuclear weapons intent', the authors remind us that "the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has declared the possession of such weapons a ‘grave sin’."

They go on to dispel many other long-promoted myths, notably the standard falsehood of Ahmadinejad 's 'threat' to 'wipe Israel off the map'. 

The piece culminates in a neatly-imagined re-write of what David Cameron should, in truth, be saying in his speeches about Iran: 
"Despite the impression given by our media, I don’t think Iran’s nuclear activities are a threat to the UK. Nobody, not even Israel, believes that Iran has already developed a nuclear weapon. And I would remind you that, since 2007, US intelligence has judged that Iran hasn’t even got a programme to develop nuclear weapons."
So, from Oborne and Morrison, a sober negation of the daily deceptions propagated by those seeking to vilify and attack Iran. 

Read and use it as reference next time you need something to counter such biased and ill-informed claims. (Readers may also refer to Oborne's brave exposure of the UK's Israeli lobby and his recent piece on the apparent cover-up at the Chilcot inquiry.)

The second revealing article comes from the Daily Mail's leading columnist Peter Hitchens writing on Syria.

Beyond even the Telegraph, it's unusual for this blog to be airing opinion from a virulent organ like the Mail. Yet, are we seeing much better opinion on Syria or Iran from the coy, contorted editorials at the Guardian

With that in mind, consider this key extract from what Hitchens has to say about Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, William Hague and the BBC:
"I do not like the Syrian government. Why should I? It is not much different from most Middle-Eastern nations, in that it stays in power by fear. The same is true of countries we support, such as Saudi Arabia, recently honoured with a lengthy visit by Prince Charles. In fact Saudi Arabia is so repressive that it makes Assad’s Syria look like Switzerland. And don’t forget the places we liberated earlier, which are now sinks of violence and chaos – Iraq, Libya.

So many high ideals, so much misery and destruction. My old foe Mehdi Hasan (who understands the Muslim world better than most British journalists) rightly pointed out on ‘Question Time’ on Thursday that our policy of backing the Syrian rebels is clinically mad.

These are the very same Islamists against whom – if they are on British soil - government ministers posture and froth, demanding that they are deported, silenced, put under surveillance and the rest. But when we meet the same people in Syria, we want to give them advanced weapons. One of these ‘activists’, a gentleman called Abu Sakkar, recently publicly sank his teeth into the bleeding heart of a freshly-slain government soldier.

I confess that I used to think highly of William Hague. I now freely admit that I was hopelessly wrong. The man has no judgement, no common sense, and is one of the worst Foreign Secretaries we have ever had, which is saying something.  His policies –disgracefully egged on by a BBC that has lost all sense of impartiality - are crazily creating war where there was peace.

Syria for all its faults was the last place in the region where Arab Christians were safe. Now it never will be again. Who benefits from this? Not Britain, for certain.

Now, his strange zeal for lifting the EU arms embargo has caused Moscow to promise a delivery of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Israel has threatened to destroy them if deployed. Syria has said it will respond with force.  This is exactly how major wars start. Mr Hague is not just pouring petrol into a blazing house full of screaming people. He is hurling high explosives in as well.

It may even be that some people actually want such a war, with Iran as its true target. They know that ‘weapons of mass destruction’ will not work again as propaganda. So they claim to be fighting for ‘democracy’ in Syria." [My emphasis.]
Hitchens may not seem a figure to be cited in matters of left/anti-war discourse. His primary concern seems to be for 'this country', rather than for war-ravaged others. Think also of his various rants on immigration, 'benefit cheats' and other 'social miscreants'.  

Yet, most of his words here are acutely right about the war proponents and their specious 'diplomacy'. Indeed, they might not seem out of place on the pages of the Socialist Worker

Again, by the same standard, what does such comment from a generalised conservative like Hitchens say about the poverty of Guardian, Independent and other 'critical liberal' media writing on Iran and Syria? 

And isn't it also significant that the BBC is being so readily-savaged by people like Oborne and Hitchens over its bias and war-promoting output?   

As the BBC's Jonathan Marcus eagerly writes, France's latest claims over the 'use of sarin gas by Assad forces' are "potentially a game changer".

It's another intimation of the West's 'crossed red line', faithfully repeated by the BBC, another spurious claim duly highlighted in the 'case for war'. 

Meanwhile, the BBC continues its usual demonisation of Iran with a 'curtain call' for Ahmadinejad, "one of the world's most divisive leaders".

Can we trust either Britain's state media or its liberal press to hold Cameron, Hague and their fearmongering associates to account? People like Oborne and Hitchens might not seem palatable critics to many on the left, but, unlike much of our quivering liberal media, they surely understand, and are prepared to denounce, the dark mendacity of those seeking more intervention and war.     


Anonymous said...

What is the point of your blog? It seems to either repeat what Medialens editors have said or stuff from its message board. Why not try something more original?

John Hilley said...

Hello, Anonymous.

The point of this blog? See if you can work it out. Some clues at the top of the page.

Yes, there is much reference to Media Lens and what passes through that site.

The reasons? I happen to approve very much of what ML does. I like to help disseminate much of what they say. I often like to cite and further discuss a lot of the valuable comment and references posted by fellow contributors at their board.

That's part of what goes on here at this blog, though, if you care to check back, by no means all.

As for trying 'something more original', any good suggestions?