Thursday, July 15, 2010

A report and its patrons

Question: what do you do when you have highly partisan political views you wish to impose on your audience but your public Charter demands that you act at all times with "integrity, independence and freedom from bias"?

Answer: you interview and cite similarly-minded individuals and groups, letting them do the talking for you.

So goes it with Reuters.

Correspondent Adrian Croft pens a feature story on a report by the Oxford Research Group which comes out strongly against an Israeli attack on Iran.  Summarizing the findings of the report Croft writes:
- An Israeli attack on Iran would be the start of a protracted conflict that would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.
- It would also lead to instability and unpredictable security consequences for the region and the wider world.
- It might take three to seven years for Iran to develop a small arsenal of nuclear weapons if it decided to do so... there was no firm evidence such a decision had been taken by the Islamic Republic.
- Any Israeli strike would be focused not only on destroying nuclear and missile targets but would also hit factories and research centers and even university laboratories to damage Iranian expertise... this would cause many civilian casualties.
- Iran's responses to an Israeli attack could include withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and immediate action to produce nuclear weapons to deter further attacks.
- They could also include missile attacks on Israel, closing the Strait of Hormuz to push up oil prices and paramilitary or missile attacks on Western oil facilities in the Gulf.
- After a first strike, Israel might have to carry out regular air strikes to stop Iran developing atom bombs and medium-range missiles... Iranian responses would also be long-term, ushering in a lengthy war with global as well as regional implications.
We're not sure where the author of the report, Paul Rogers, derives his information suggesting it "might" take Iran up to seven years to acquire a "small" nuclear arsenal; all of the intelligence forecasts we've seen summarized suggest that at the current pace of Iran's nuclearization, this outcome will occur much sooner, but let's not quibble with the time line for the moment.

The report certainly makes for grim reading and we don't doubt that an attack on Iran -- by any nation -- will lead to loss of life and other unintended consequences.  The more salient question of course, is what will be the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran if sanctions fail and the West refuses to take military action in time to prevent this.

To that implicit question, the Oxford Group replies:
Accept that Iran may eventually acquire a nuclear capability and use that as the start of a process of balanced regional de-nuclearization.
In other words, have faith that Iran will be open to negotiating away its nuclear weapons in exchange for Israel doing the same.  (Any further comment here would insult the intelligence of our readers).

What's most interesting about the report that Reuters has chosen to feature -- as compared to dozens of reports on the issue by other think-tanks -- is who stands behind the authoring group which Croft characterizes as "promoting non-violent solutions to conflict".

Well, a quick glance at the "Patrons and Advisors" page reveals some surprising expertise.  In addition to the likes of those we might expect to support a group committed to negotiated solutions to conflict like Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Watch London Director Tom Porteous, former Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, and Amira Dotan (an advocate of the Geneva Initiative), is... Azzam Al-Tamimi, a vocal supporter of Hamas who told the BBC that he was prepared to be a suicide bomber if the opportunity arose, Khaled Hroub, author of Hamas: A Beginners Guide, and Alastair Crooke, who about Islamists famously wrote:
We do diverge on a few values, but the overwhelming bulk of Islamists and Muslims support elections, good governance and freedom (more so than in some European states, the polls show).
If Reuters wishes to be taken seriously as an independent and unbiased source of news, we think the agency can do better in its decisions as to which think-tanks to promote in its stories.


  1. Well, doesn't their impressive list of patrons and supporters prove that they are actually trying to strike a balance?

  2. You have an interesting sense of symmetry: Dan Kurtzer, a diplomat who supports a negotiated solution to the conflict and Azzam Al-Tamimi, someone who supports genocide of the Jews.

  3. I think, you're exaggerating about Al-Tamimi, who said in a 'Guardian' article, "peace may still be achieved by talking about how to coexist". --- Symmetry vs. selective. It appears you research and quote selectively... From what I can see they seem to be listening to ALL voices, rather than denying they exist, to then find peaceful, negotiated solutions. It's only Realpolitik! They seem to actually be trying to make some real progress by listening to both sides rather than maintaining the divide!