Why does the Guardian get Middle East analysis wrong?

On June 17th the Guardian discovered that Iran was behind the bomb attacks in Thailand, Georgia and India four months ago, during which the wife of an Israeli diplomat was badly injured in Delhi, along with her driver. This news was brought to us by the Guardian’s correspondent in south Asia, Jason Burke, who also produced another two articles on the same subject. 

In light of this, it is interesting to remind ourselves of how the Guardian covered the events at the time. 

Harriet Sherwood was quick off the mark with an opening sentence claiming with startling certainty that the attacks were linked to the anniversary of the death of Imad Mughniyeh

“Israeli diplomatic missions in India and Georgia have been targeted in bomb attacks linked to the anniversary of the assassination of a Hezbollah militant in Lebanon four years ago.”

Ian Black appeared to chastise the Israeli Prime Minister for blaming Iran for the attacks and was also keen to advance the Mughniyeh theory:

“It came as little surprise that Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, blamed Iran and Hezbollah for Monday’s twin attacks – though he did so extremely swiftly and without any sign of hesitation.”

“Hezbollah also has a clear motive for revenge against Israel: Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the assassination of its operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in a highly professional car bombing in Damascus in 2008 that was widely blamed on the Mossad secret service. Israel has never admitted responsibility but it did little to hide its satisfaction at Mughniyeh’s violent demise and the chilling message it sent about its own long reach and deterrent power.”

In stark contrast to the Guardian’s apparent reluctance to accept Iranian involvement in the attacks, Black had no qualms about pointing evidence-free fingers elsewhere, with the possibility that a similar modus operandi in two cases might indicate the same perpetrator seemingly never occurring to him. 

“The use in Delhi of a sticky bomb attached to an Israeli embassy vehicle by a man riding a motorbike seemed to mimic the modus operandi used by Israel’s agents in Tehran. Hints, surely, do not come much heavier than that?”

Black’s disingenuous attempt to portray Israel as permanently spoiling for a fight is revealed in his penultimate paragraph: [emphasis added]

“Nor could the stakes be higher. In June 1982 an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to London by the renegade Palestinian faction led by the Iraqi-backed Abu Nidal provided the pretext for war against Yasser Arafat’s PLO in Lebanon, despite a ceasefire that had held for nearly a year.” 

In fact, repeated violations of the 1981 US-brokered cease-fire (which was 11 months old by the time Operation ‘Peace for the Galilee’ began on June 6th 1982) resulted in the deaths of 29 Israelis and the wounding of some 300 others in 270 terror attacks staged by the PLO. On the day of May 9th, 1982 alone, for example, some 100 rockets were fired over a period of 24 hours by PLO terrorists in Lebanon at villages in the Galilee region of the north of Israel. But that, according to the Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black, did not break the ceasefire. 

However, by far the most egregious article of all in the Guardian coverage of the February 2012 attacks was the piece it ran on ‘Comment is Free’ on February 15th by Arshin Adib-Moghaddan, entitled “Iran seems an unlikely culprit for the attacks on Israeli diplomats“. 

Adib-Moghaddan’s somewhat pitiful attempts to blame anyone and everyone except Iran for the attacks in India, Thailand and Georgia were addressed at the time here, here and, very comprehensively by an Iranian writer, here

So why did the Guardian get it so wrong? Why did it engage in these contortions, trying to shoe-horn the facts into its own existing narrative? And why did it publish the risible Adib-Moghaddan article which was bound to raise howls of disdainful laughter from anyone who is not a shill for the Iranian regime?  

Well, somehow, Adib-Moghaddan’s Guardian profile neglects to mention that in addition to his day job at the SOAS, he is also active in  the Iranian regime’s puppet organization known as CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran). 

CASMII is of course much beloved by the Stop the War Coalition and its founder Abbas Edalat spoke at the StWC conference in 2012. In 2010 (and not for the first time) the StWC adopted a CASMII-proposed resolution at its annual conference (at which the Guardian’s Seumas Milne was a speaker) and the two organisations frequently work together, with CASMII having a representative on the StWC steering committee.   Seumas Milne of course makes regular appearances on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition at its rallies, events and conferences

What Guardian editors and journalists do in their spare time is no doubt their own affair, but nevertheless it seems highly likely that the fact that so many of them seem to hang around on the extremist fringes of political opinion has an effect upon the paper’s ability to get things right and its editorial decisions, as this particular case indicates. 

It is therefore perhaps little wonder that increasing numbers of the British public perceive the Guardian’s Middle East analysis and reporting as being virtually indistinguishable from the kind of propaganda put out on the websites of extremist organisations such as CASMII, StWC or the PSC. 


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