BBC Persian again employs context-free quote to ‘support’ speculation

On the morning of February 6th an article headlined “Israel’s Mossad suspected of high-level Iran penetration” was given prominent placing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, together with the by-line “The spy agency is said to have worked its way high up into Iran’s security services”.

Written by Jiyar Gol, the article serves as promotion for a television programme by that BBC Persian journalist called “Israel and Iran: The Hidden War” which is to air in coming days on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News channel and which is described as follows:

“For years, Israel and Iran have been involved in an escalating hidden war, a conflict played out in the shadows, on land, air and sea, with tit-for-tat attacks that avoided open clashes. But they are now becoming more conspicuous – with Iran’s nuclear programme a major flashpoint. Iran’s leaders say they have no plans to build nuclear weapons – but Israel claims otherwise. Numerous explosions in Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities have been blamed by former Iranian officials on Israel’s Foreign intelligence service, Mossad. The BBC’s Jiyar Gol travels to Israel on the trail of half a ton of missing Iranian secret documents and investigates evidence suggesting they led to the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.” [emphasis added]

Not for the first time we see the BBC promoting the erroneous notion that Israel is the sole country to reject the Iranian regime’s claims of a ‘peaceful’ nuclear programme while ignoring the fact that the JCPOA came into existence precisely because other countries and international bodies were equally unconvinced by that claim.

Sources cited in Gol’s highly speculative written report include “Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi”, unidentified “[s]ources inside Tehran’s Evin prison security ward”, an unnamed “former intelligence officer for the IRGC Quds Force” and the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The article includes the following:

In late January 2018, in the dead of night, a dozen men broke into a storage facility in an industrial district, 20 miles (30km) from the capital, Tehran.

There were 32 safes, but they knew which ones contained the most valuable materials. In less than seven hours, they melted the locks of 27 of them, took half a tonne of clandestine nuclear archives and left without a trace. It was one of the most audacious heists in Iran’s history, but officials kept quiet.

Three months later, the stolen documents appeared 1,200 miles (2,000 km) away, in Tel Aviv in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the then Israeli prime minister, showcased the stolen material – the result, he said, of a Mossad operation. Iranian officials at the time called the documents fabrications and they said such an incident never took place.

On his last day in office, in August 2021, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani confirmed Israel stole Iran’s nuclear documents and showed the evidence to US President Donald Trump.

Presenting the archives at a specially convened news conference in April 2018, Mr Netanyahu highlighted Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s role in what he said was an undeclared nuclear weapons programme.

Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh… remember that name,” he reiterated. Mr Fakhrizadeh was assassinated two years later.” [emphasis added]

This is not the first time that a BBC Persian journalist has used the reference to Fakhirzadeh by Netanyahu during that presentation as supposed ‘evidence’ of Israel’s responsibility for his assassination.

In November 2020 Gol’s colleague Majid Afshar even went so far as to embellish the quote with an addition of his own in order to ‘support’ his point.

As was noted here at the time, the reference to Mohsen Fakhirzadeh made by Netanyahu in April 2018 was in the context of Iran’s division of its nuclear project among different departments.

“There’s another document from the archive. This is following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, Mr. Shamkhani, today he’s the director of the National Security Council. Following the new directive of Iran’s Minister of Defense, the work would be split into two parts, covert and overt. A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work. This is how Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project Amad, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh. So here’s his directive, right here. And he says: “The general aim is to announce the closure of Project Amad,” but then he adds, “Special activities”—you know what that is—“Special activities will be carried out under the title of scientific know-how developments.” And in fact, this is exactly what Iran proceeded to do. It continued this work in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry. And you will not be surprised to hear that SPND is led by the same person that led Project Amad, Dr. Fakhrizadeh, and also, not coincidentally, many of SPND’s key personnel worked under Fakhrizadeh on Project Amad.” [emphasis added]

Once again, however, we see BBC Persian erasing the real context of that quote in order to imply that it is evidence of Israel’s responsibility for Fakhrizadeh’s death and to suggest that the then Israeli prime minister publicly hinted about an event that would happen over two and a half years later.

One can only hope that Jiyar Gol’s filmed report better adheres to standards of accuracy and impartiality than his written article.

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  1. says: Grimey

    My guess is that Iran, having vetted the content of this BBC News Middle East article, has approved its release because doubts have been cast on its accuracy.

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