The main article written by Con Coughlin - the well-known and experienced British writer - was entitled, ‘Iran is training the next al-Qa'eda leaders'. The other was entitled, ‘Iran plotting to groom the Bin Laden’s successor’ which was written with George Jones.In these articles Coughlin claimed that Iran kept and trained Saif-al-Adel, a 46 year old former Egyptian army officer and the former security officer, in Tehran for the purpose of becoming the next al-Qa’eda leader.
A careful study of those two astonishing articles indicates that the sources of the two stories, which are surrounded by bizarre allegations and grave accusations, are either ‘a senior Western intelligence official’ or ‘a senior Foreign Office official’.
By glancing at the archives of the British papers in recent years, one can learn that in terms of the volume and the scale of image-tarnishing and negative writing against Iran, the 51-year-old Mr Coughlin, the former Managing Editor of Sunday Telegraph and the current Defence and Intelligence Editor of Daily Telegraph is far ahead of his other colleagues.
Coughlin has been working for the Telegraph group – with some ups and downs and changes in position – since 1980. His father was also the legal affairs correspondent of the same paper.
As well as relentless writing of articles in right wing British (the Telegraph Group and the Spectator) and American (New York Sun, Washington Times and National Review) publications, Coughlin has also authored a few books in the same manner as in his articles, most of which are about the life and era of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
‘Saddam: The Secret Life’, ‘American Ally: Tony Blair and the War on Terror’, ‘Saddam: The King of Terror’, Saddam: His Rise and Fall’, ‘A Golden Basin Full of Scorpion: The Quest for Modern Jerusalem’ and ‘Hostage: Complete Story of the Lebanon Captives’ are the titles of the books authored by Con Coughlin.
Although the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ and ‘Daily Telegraph’ are right wing papers and attached to conservative factions and allies in both the UK and the USA, none of the writers in these papers -or any other right wing papers - have been as steadfast as him in their opposition to Iran.
A review of the works of this long-established British journalist shows that he has written over 150 short and lengthy articles, analyses and reports against Iran. This number of works is, of course, limited to the two papers where he is based; otherwise there are more works by him in other right wing publications such as the Spectator.
A quick look at the contents and a general classification of Coughlin’s works during the recent years indicates that his writings have four specific particularities in terms of journalistic techniques and method of compilation.
Firstly, writings with big and bizarre allegations combined with controversial and eye-catching titles against Iran and upon other Middle Eastern issues are identical to tabloids. Such writings are easily given extra attention and weight based on the position and executive rank of the writer within the Telegraph group. This is to the extent that sometimes such stories are printed as the first or second headline on the front page of these two papers.
Secondly, news, analysis and reports are produced with suspicious, unknown and particularly untraceable sources, which are absolutely impossible to be tracked by readers and critics. These usual sources are unknown “senior Western intelligence officials” or “senior Foreign Office officials”.
Thirdly, articles and reports of this nature are usually published at sensitive and delicate times where there has been a relatively positive shift in the international scope and within the media towards Iran. This is done in an effort to further add to the weight of the other pan of the scale that bears opposition to Iran.
Finally, the pivotal argument and the gist of the story related to the controversial title of these articles do not usually exceed one line or at the most one paragraph. The rest of the analysis or report is focused on unworthy issues such as scattered and marginal background information that are irrelevant to the title, so that the article would be of an acceptable volume, in a presentable format and reader-friendly.
For a more precise understanding of the particular method of report and analysis writing employed by this experienced British journalist, it would be worthwhile to review and mention some of the sources of Coughlin’s anti-Iranian articles published in the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph within the last one year, which makes this case more evident.
10/10/2006: “The West woke up too late to the nuclear threat of rogue states” Source: none.
04/08/2006: “Teheran fund pays war compensation to Hizbollah families” Source: “A senior security official”.
21/07/2006: “Meanwhile, Iran gets on with its bomb” Source: none.
14/07/2006: “Israeli crisis is a smoke screen for Iran's nuclear ambitions” Source: none.
13/07/2006: “Cat and mouse games on border that is 'our front line with Iran’” Source: An Israeli soldier.
12/06/2006: “Iran accused of hiding secret nuclear weapons site” Source: A senior western diplomat”
11/04/2006: “The West can't let Iran have the bomb” Source: “An official closely involved in the IAEA's negotiations with Iran”
07/04/2006: “Iran has missiles to carry nuclear warheads” Source: “A senior US official”
07/04/2006: “UN officials find evidence of secret uranium enrichment plant” Sources: “A diplomat closely involved in the IAEA's negotiations with Teheran” and “A senior diplomat attached to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna”.
04/04/2006: “Iran's spies watching us, says Israel” Sources: “A senior Israeli military commander” and “an officer with Israel's northern command”.
06/03/2006: “Teheran park 'cleansed' of traces from nuclear site” Source: “A senior western official”
11/02/2006: “Iran plant has restarted its nuclear bomb-making equipment” Source: “A senior Western intelligence official”
30/01/2006: “Iran sets up secret team to infiltrate UN nuclear watchdog, say officials” Source: “a senior western intelligence official”
16/01/2006: “Iran could go nuclear within three years” Sources: “A senior western intelligence officer” and “an intelligence official”
27/11/2005: “Teheran secretly trains Chechens to fight in Russia” Source: “a senior intelligence official”
29/10/2005: “Smuggling route [from Iran] opened to supply Iraqi insurgents” Source: “The National Council of Resistance of Iran”
As it can be seen, the only traceable source of this British writer and journalist’s anti-Iranian writings within the last one year, is the so called ‘The National Council of Resistance of Iran’ (NCRI), the political branch of the group ‘Iran People’s Mojahedin Organisation’ (IPMO/MKO) which is in the banned terrorist lists both in the EU and the USA.
Coughlin has a reputation in certain part of the British media for spreading lies in the name of unknown and untraceable intelligence officials. In 1995, when he was Sunday Telegraph’s senior correspondent, Coughlin published a report accusing the Libyan Colonel Qaddafi’s son of partnership in a massive operation involving counterfeit notes and money laundering in Europe based on information received by imaginary British intelligence and bank officials. There was a serious reaction to this report, followed by a British court case, which, eventually in 2002, turned out to be a great scandal for the Telegraph group.
The British researcher, David Leigh, who was one of the senior editors of the Guardian at the time revealed in the second edition of the 11th year (2000) of the monthly ‘British Journalism Review’ (pages 21 to 26) that one or more officials from the British Intelligence Service (known as MI6) were providing Coughlin with their fabricated and unfounded stories for many years based on an engineered plan and in line with their psychological propaganda. Coughlin then converted them into first hand and breaking stories by publishing them in the Sunday and Daily Telegraph.
However, Coughlin’s spread of lies was not limited to Iran and Libya. He is the same person who, in his report published on the 15 December 2003, claimed that there was a link between the Al-Qaeda member, Mohammed Ata, one of the September 11 collaborators and the Iraqi intelligence at the time of Saddam Hussein. In spite of the fact that this story was later on proved to be a lie and that American officials also reiterated that there was no such link, the story managed to produce a psychological and propagandistic justification for the military occupation of Iraq when it was published, less than 9 months after an attack on Iraq.
Coughlin is the same journalist who provided the fabricated document at the beginning of the military attack against Iraq that that country’s army could access its weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. This was the same document that was used in the infamous Iraq Dossier produced by the British intelligence service. It was then referred to by Tony Blair and eventually led to the disgrace of the BBC correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, who had interviewed the British defence expert Dr David Kelly, who died shortly after that interview.
Coughlin is also the person behind allegations in recent years that Iran is producing nerve gas and chemical weapons.
Also in an article published on 27 June 2004 in Daily Telegraph, Coughlin claimed that the temporary closure of the newly built Imam Khomeini Airport in the suburbs of Tehran was the result of a nuclear incident.
One should never ignore and neglect the fact that such stories can influence western public opinion and their respective governments and politicians. In the eyes of many Iranians and critics of journalism, Coughlin and those like him are merely instruments for promoting propagandistic policies and psychological operations of the western intelligence organisations. However, one cannot neglect the impact that such publications could have in shaping international public opinion.
The same organisations and institutions that dub Coughlin and members of his club as an “important journalist”, “British intellectual” or the “prominent reporter”, swiftly promote and publicise his stories.
His most recent story linking Iran and Al-Qaeda was reprinted in over thirty other newspapers around the world including in Canada, America and Australia, in just a few days.
It would seem that a wise, appropriate and timely reaction in legal and media related terms to these silent and engineered media battles is the least that Iranian political and cultural officials and those with influence in the west can do against such actions.