Sunday 28 February 2021

How would the BBC have reported the US airstrikes on Iran-backed targets if Donald Trump had launched them so early in his presidency?

Did you know that President Joe Biden has already bombed Syria? 

It's something that could easily have been missed if you simply relied on BBC TV/radio news. 

Here's Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times this morning: 
Joe Biden’s kinder, gentler America fired a number of missiles into Syria last week, killing an estimated 22 people. I assume it was some kind of goodwill gesture towards foreigners. Certainly that’s how it was reported by the BBC. Whenever Trump did anything similar it was presented as “fascist madman murders civilians and starts Third World War”.
That sounds like the sort of thing the BBC would do, but did they? I've searched via TV Eyes and I can only find one reference to the US airstrikes on Syria on BBC One or BBC Two or the BBC News Channel, at around 5am on Friday morning - which is quite some feat of under-reporting. 
I see Radio 4 reported the US strikes though, intermittently, throughout Friday and Saturday. Except for a brief mention during a news bulletin, Today ignored the story, as did The World at One and The World Tonight. However, Friday's P.M. asked one question about it. Rod must have heard it somewhere on Radio 4.

How did they report it then? 
  • 2am, Friday: The Pentagon says the US military have hit facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militias in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq. A defence spokesman said the air strikes were carried out following a directive from President Biden.
  • 6.35am, Friday: Joe Biden has authorised his first known air strike since becoming US President. It targeted facilities in eastern Syria used by militias backed by Iran and was in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on American targets in Iraq.
  • 11.02am, Friday: The US says its air strikes on targets in eastern Syria have destroyed 9 facilities controlled by Shia militia. It's the first US military operation since Joe Biden became president. The attacks were ordered after a civilian contractor was killed by rockets fired at US positions in Iraq.
  • 5.50pm, Friday: Evan Davis: Now, the first military action of the Biden administration was carried out last night - an air strike targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria. That came 10 days after Americans were targeted. A civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on US targets in Irbil. Syria has condemned the attack as "a bad sign" from the new US administration. But are we able to say much about American foreign policy under Joe Biden? As we speak in fact, lines are coming out of the White House. It has just said "strikes were necessary to reduce the threat of further attacks" and the Americans have also said they will be releasing later today their evidence, their intelligence, on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, that killing. We can talk to Karin von Hippel, who's Director General of the Royal United Services Institute for defence and security studies. This strike last night, Karin, some might say it shows a a willingness to get dragged back in. I don't know. What did you make of it? Karin von Hippel: I actually think it was a targeted and limited strike and, in a sense, a response to say 'you can't attack American bases or American personnel or troops' and also a message to Iran, that's getting involved in a lot of proxy conflicts, or has been, for a very long time in the region and Biden is very desperate to get back into an Iran deal, the JCPOA plus whatever the new version will be, and there's a big debate going on about whether or not Iran's involvement in the region should be brought into the deal or not. So this is sending a message to the Iranians essentially. Evan Davis: Great.
  • 4.04am, Saturday: President Biden has said that Iran cannot act with impunity, and he warned the country's leaders to be careful. He was speaking after US warplanes attacked facilities in eastern Syria controlled by Iran backed Shia militias. At least 17 people were reported killed. With more detail, here's Gary O'Donoghue. Gary O'Donoghue: The Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said two F15 aircraft dropped a total of 7 precision-guided munitions totally destroying 9 facilities and partially destroying two others. Battle damage assessment, he said, was still being carried out and he would not confirm reports that 17 people have been killed on the ground. The strikes, he said, were justified under both US law and United Nations statutes and were directed at Iran-backed Shia militia groups.
As well as a few other short summaries overnight on Friday night and Saturday morning, that seems to have been it. 

Even the likes of Jeremy Bowen have kept quiet on this story.

It's as if, without Donald Trump, the urge to report - and denounce - certain actions holds less appeal.

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