Perspective Lacking as Allegations against Iran are Paraded through the Media

The Editors, 6 February 2012

Categories: Iran | War | The Telegraph | The Daily Mail | BBC News | The Guardian |

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Last week the Guardian's diplomatic editor, Julian Borger, reported on the 'increasing likelihood that Iran could carry out attacks in America or against US and allied targets around the world.'

The claim was not his own of course; he was merely repeating without scrutiny that which was presented by James Clapper, the director of US national intelligence in his 'worldwide threat assessment' to Congress. So how is this claim supported?

Borger writes:

Clapper said an alleged plot (emphasis added) to blow up the Saudi ambassador in Washington last year, which the US blamed on the Iran's [sic] Revolutionary Guard, "shows that some Iranian officials - probably including the supreme leader Ali Khamenei - have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime."'

This assignment of blame for the plot (which was not carried out) is based on US speculation. Gareth Porter at IPS (Inter Press Service) notes that the information was 'aggressively leaked' by the Obama administration, and that 'media stories generated by the leaks helped divert press attention from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence of any official Iranian involvement'.

Borger’s article moves on to discuss the ‘increased likelihood’ of an attack on America as follows:

Western officials say that in the past year there has been a notable increase in activity around the world by suspected members of Iran's Quds force, the external operations arm of [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which they say could reflect positioning of units capable of carrying out reprisal attacks against western and Israeli targets if Iran was itself attacked (emphasis added) ...

Well, Julian Borger has already explained to us his logic with regard to reprisal attacks, writing in early January that 'If Americans had been killed in the Georgetown restaurant that was supposedly the target [of the Saudi ambassador plot], the Obama administration would have been obliged to respond militarily'. Rather inconsistently, he doesn't apply that logic when discussing a potential attack on Iran. Lastly:

In recent days, both the Thai and Azeri governments made a number of arrests of suspects allegedly linked to Iranian intelligence who are accused of planning to kill Israel diplomats and a rabbi (emphasis added) ...

This final piece of evidence alludes to more 'alleged' links to Iran, who are 'accused' of planning attacks, again with no supporting evidence presented. And the sum of these vague, unsubstantiated claims is presented under the headline 'Iranian attack on America allies increasingly likely – intelligence chief'.

On 1 February, while IAEA inspectors were in Iran, Dennis Ross (former US envoy to Middle East) told Radio 4’s Today show that: 'One pressure is to remind the Iranians that they are alone. This is basically Iran against the world. They happen to be the only country in the world that has not been able to answer the IAEA's questions about their nuclear programme'. Later that same day, the BBC reported that IAEA inspectors had 'good' talks with Iran regarding its nuclear programme, or, as the BBC headline puts it, the 'Iran nuclear crisis'. That story however – less hyperbolic than the regular ‘Iranian threat’ coverage – didn’t get much media attention.

Elsewhere, Con Coughlin of the Telegraph has been smugly musing on how 'reassuring' it is 'to see the West sending an armada of warships through the Strait of Hormuz as a warning to Iran not to meddle with one of the world's most important trade routes.' Earlier in January, Coughlin (that 'world-renowned expert on the Middle East' in the Telegraph's words) delighted over the 'stealth' attacks against Iran, including assassinations of nuclear scientists and 'the explosion at Iran's main missile research establishment that killed the country's leading missile expert'. His view on this loss of life: 'long may it continue. Far better to destroy the threat posed by Iran's nuclear programme by stealth than risking the lives of young American and British servicemen in yet another conflict that nobody wants.'

This assessment by journalists of which lives are more valuable than others is combined with a scaremongering approach to reporting. On 3 February for example, an overblown report by Ian Drury in the Daily Mail warned that Iran's missiles, aimed at America, could 'strike Britain'. Much needed perspective is missing. The reality that any attack by Iran would only come as a response, 'if Iran was itself attacked' (as the US intelligence head himself surmised), leads one to conclude that a change of tack is required by the media who now simply cheerlead for aggressive western leaders.

For more analysis of the UK media's treatment of Iran, see our previous articles How the UK Media Legitimise the Idea of a War on Iran (26 January 2012) and Language Creep: Iran and the Nuclear 'Threat' (27 November 2011)

Categories in which this article appears: Iran | War | The Telegraph | The Daily Mail | BBC News | The Guardian |

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