12 January 2008

The Persian Gulf Incident

Here are a couple of letters sent to the BBC and Salon.com

E-Mail to Paul Reynolds

Posted by David Sketchley on January 11, 2008, 11:50 pm, in reply to "BBC - US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda"

Dear Paul,

I just wanted to make a few comments about your article "US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda". (1)

Your never-ending loyalty, always willing to give the benefit of the doubt, to the US military would be commendable if it were applied with equal vigour to both sides which, with all due respect, does not appear to be the case in this instance.

The BBC and other western news corporations willingly gave headlines and text to US claims without first either seeing the evidence or seeking a response from the other side. Indeed, you yourself were quoted in the first BBC online report about the incident:

"The BBC's Paul Reynolds says the key question is whether this is a one-off incident or whether it heralds a more aggressive stance by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The latter policy would be unexpected, given the lowering of tension over the nuclear issue, he says, but as the incident of the captured British naval personnel showed, tensions are always high.
There is no doubt that the US is ready to respond, our correspondent adds. ". (2)

We had to wait till the following the day to read the line in the fourth paragraph "Iran has dismissed the incident as a "routine" encounter " and then at the very bottom of the article, the last 2 paragraphs to be precise:

"Iran has played down the event, calling it an "ordinary occurrence".

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said: "This happens for the two sides every once in a while and, after the identification of the two sides, the issue is resolved." (3)

It is only after the story received the contempt it deserves in internet blogs and forums worldwide (just check out the comments section below the corresponding articles at the Times of London and the Washington Post websites, did we begin to hear the other side of the story from the BBC: "Iran says US video was fabricated" (4) and " Iran airs video of navy stand-off". (5)

Why do you never give the other side a similar benefit of the doubt, which is a logical consequence if there is rigid balance and taking into consideration the track record of both sides viz-à-viz telling the truth?

Indeed, your own article confirms the suspicion that you only reacted once you saw the "admission by the US Navy that Iranian speedboats might not have been the source of an apparent threat to attack American ships in the Gulf", and in fact, you never once refer to the charge reported by the BBC that "Iran says US video was fabricated". (4) Nor do you mention the report put out by Press TV quoting Republican Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi who "said Iran's boats had only approached the US ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable" mentioned by Richard Holt in the Daily Telegraph. (6)

Perhaps you were referring to this when you then stated that "This goes beyond the back and forth of a propaganda battle, in which once again the Iranians show themselves to be masters", when actually it appears your skills are equally as good if not better.Tthere are facts which point to deliberate manipulation by the US. As Prof. Juan Cole commented: "The Iranians analyzed the Pentagon video released to the US media and found that the audio track was not synchronized properly with the video, pointing to serious tinkering. And sure enough, we now know that the tape is a fabrication in the sense that the Pentagon says the video and the audio were recorded separately and then combined. And they can't even be sure where the audio came from!" (7) Cole quotes the NYT: "On Wednesday, Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak officially, said they were still trying to determine if the transmission came from the speedboats or elsewhere." and "the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy." (8) Further, Cole states "The Iranian press is suspicious about the timing of the Pentagon videotape, noting that it was released just as Bush was heading to the Middle East to try to convince the Arab allies of the US to make common cause with Israel against Iran."(7) You obviously feel this view of the Iranian press is not even worth commenting on.

Finally you mention that "Iran's always determined to exert its influence in what it insists on calling the Persian Gulf". Why do you use the word "insists" here when, according to Working Paper No. 61, UNITED NATIONS GROUP OF EXPERTS ON GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES , dated March 28, April 4, 2006, the name "Persian Gulf" was confirmed again as the legitimate and the official term to be used by members of United Nations? (9)

Yours Sincerely

David Sketchley
Seville, Spain


(1) Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 10:56 GMT US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda

(2) Monday, 7 January 2008, 23:34 GMT Iran boats 'threatened US ships'

(3) Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 22:49 GMT US releases Iran stand-off video

(4) Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 11:55 GMT Iran says US video was fabricated

(5) Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 09:38 GMT Iran airs video of navy stand-off

(6) Iranian video 'shows no threat to US navy' by Richard Holt Last Updated: 2:47am GMT 11/01/2008

(7) Informed Comment Friday, January 11, 2008 US Video of Iran Speedboats Doctored; Iranians Charge Fabrication

(8) NYT Published: January 10, 2008 Iran Accuses U.S. of Faking Persian Gulf Video By NAZILA FATHI

Twenty-third Session Vienna, 28 March – 4 April 2006

In reply to:

The U.S. military inflicts more damage on its own credibility

  • Another important point


    You appear to have overlooked the question as to why the Iranians would have been acting 'provocatively', when they got within 200m of one of the warships. The UK's Daily Telegraph, using a Press TV report, quoted Republican Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi who "said Iran's boats had only approached the US ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable".

    Why has no one mentioned this?



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