Disagreements over who will attend it, flat-out rejection of the idea by some of the opposition militias, differences of opinion regarding preconditions relating to Bashar Assad’s departure from power: these are just some of many unresolved issues dogging the proposed Geneva conference on Syria, for which even a date has yet to be finalised.
The BBC, however, apparently has its own ideas as to what might prevent the conference from coming about and they were promoted to readers of a November 1st article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and titled “Syria conflict: Israel ‘carries out Latakia air strike’“.
“The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says the reports come at a delicate moment, with the Russians – who apparently made the weapons that Israel is said to have targeted – working closely with the US to get a peace conference on Syria off the ground.”
And, from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly:
“The US, Israel’s closest ally, may be a little concerned. The consignment of expensive weapons destroyed is thought to have come from Russia, and Washington won’t want to see Russian displeasure provoked at a moment when its co-operation is needed to keep alive any hope of peace talks.”
This BBC report is of course based entirely upon speculations arising from a statement attributed to one anonymous White House official rather than on any hard evidence or fact. Nonetheless, that does not prevent the BBC from jumping to – and promoting – conclusions it apparently finds convenient. Later versions of the report included a filmed item – also broadcast on BBC News – by Quentin Sommerville, which opens with the words:
“Israeli air power on show just last week; only days before the air force carried out an attack on Syria.”
No ‘alleged attack’, no ‘said to have carried out’: Sommerville – who, bizarrely, even implied that he is privy to information on which specific planes were involved in an operation which has not been officially acknowledged – and his colleagues promote a version of events cribbed from hearsay from a second-hand source they not even capable of identifying.
At some point it was apparently understood that Sommerville’s bizarre implication was a step too far along the credibility path and the caption to that video was changed.
As usual, this BBC report misleads readers by describing Hizballah in euphemistic terms such as “Lebanese militant group” and “Shia militia”, making no attempt to explain to its readers that the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hizballah contravenes UN resolution 1701 or to remind them of the international community’s abject failure to meet the rest of the terms of its own resolutions regarding that terrorist organization.
Confusingly for readers, the BBC does not seem to be able to decide how many previous air strikes it wishes to attribute to Israel. Whilst in the body of the latest version of this article it is stated that “[t]his is believed to be sixth Israeli attack in Syria this year”, the side box by Kevin Connolly states that “[t]his is thought to be the fifth or sixth such attack this year”. Another side box cites four “[a]lleged Israeli strikes on Syria” whilst earlier versions of the article used the number three, which was also the number the BBC was citing two months ago.
That confusion is of course a symptom of the fact that the BBC has no concrete information to offer its audiences on this subject and so its reports are based entirely on hearsay and conjecture. Whatever the actual facts behind this incident, it is difficult to understand how such speculative reports can be claimed to conform to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.