Bizarre RT Framing of China and Iran Faced with US Hegemony

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News Writing for Television and Radio, University of Florida

RT America begins a newscast with anchor Rick Sanchez standing by a map of Iraq, informing viewers: “Seven rockets hit a US military base just north of Baghdad. It houses US troops.” ((The opening segment report ends at 16:47.))

Sanchez continues, “But here is what I want you to understand about this story. This is not just a story about Iraq and the United States. This is a story about Iraq and Iran and the United States and China.”

Sanchez says we should ask: why China? Sanchez answers, “Because this week we learned that China has increased its purchases of Iranian oil by 129%!”

“Now does this mean that China is partnering with Iran?” Sanchez answers his own question: “Yes, and no.”

When the buyer has the chance to snap up a regularly purchased commodity at a discount price, usually the buyer will make a large purchase. That is a normal behavior in business transactions. Sanchez recognizes that China may just be agreeing to a good deal.

But, says Sanchez, “China is ignoring US sanctions, getting tons of oil at a discount and supplying Iran with a much needed revenue source which Iran is in turn using against US troops.”

Here, his tenuous logic that China is indirectly, and presumably knowingly, funding attacks against the US is so off-putting. And why should China which also finds itself under US sanctions (including new sanctions over allegedly Chinese “interfering in Hong Kong’s freedoms.” ((Imagine if China were to sanction the US for interfering in BLM protestors’ or Capitol Hill protestors’ freedoms?)) ) want to abide by US sanctions?

To state the connections proffered is bizarre is putting it mildly. “Question more,” RT advises. Is Sanchez suggesting that when one country conducts trade with another country — for instance, an exchange of cash for goods — that the buyer is responsible for what the buyer does with the cash it receives? Is an employer responsible should an employee use his pay check to drink himself silly and go home and abuse his family? Such is the logical connection that Sanchez proposes.

Sanchez continues, “So Iran, fueled by its oil revenues, is trying to force the US out of Iraq. And you know what?” Sanchez leans forward and holds his arm out, as if pointing to the viewer: “Seems to be working.”

Why would Iran want the US — which declared Iran to be part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq (then under the rule of Saddam Hussein) — next door in Iraq? Who would want a neighbor like that?

Sanchez got the year wrong ((He stated “Earlier this year,” but it was early 2020 — in January.)) in subsequently stating that the Iraqi parliament is “essentially asking the United States troops to leave, to get out of their country.” [emphasis added]

Most news organizations referred to Iraq expelling US troops; for example, the first page of an internet search on the terms “iraq parliament us troops 2020” listed NPR, Al Jazeera, France24, DW, Rand, Boston Herald, and VOX using some form of the word expel.

To be fair, the parliament’s resolution did not target only the US: “The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.” [emphasis added]

Sanchez carries on:

… we have China, Iran, two of the countries most targeted by the United States when it comes to sanctions and trade wars in recent years, right?, partnering in a deal that is ostensibly funding attacks against the United States, so what does the United States do at this point? Does it leave Iraq once and for all? Or does it attack China with more sanctions?

Sanchez is proposing the questions. “Question more” is the RT slogan — a slogan that RT selectively adheres to. There are several more questions that should spring to mind: What are sanctions; i.e, what purpose do they serve? Are sanctions legal? Why is the US military still in Iraq and how did it get to be stationed there in the first place? Why are the purportedly “Iran-backed” militias attacking US bases in Iraq?

Economic sanctions outside the parameters of a United Nations Security Council resolution or national self-defense are held to constitute an illicit intervention into the sovereign affairs of other nations. More egregiously, sanctions are widely regarded as a declaration of war. And why not? Sanctions kill! Professors John Mueller and Karl Mueller in their article, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” made clear the devastating lethality of sanctions:

economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.

Speaking of killing, Sanchez does not mention the extremely pertinent assassination of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020 at Baghdad International Airport. Five Iraqi nationals and four other Iranian nationals were killed alongside Soleimani, including the deputy chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces. This led to the Iraqi resolution to remove foreign troops from its territory.

When someone commits an unprovoked attack against you, you have a choice to respond or not. What message is sent to the aggressor when you do not respond? Might not the aggressor think she can now attack freely knowing that retaliation is unlikely? For instance, consider how the lack of response to Israeli bombing in Syria has resulted in repeated bombing by Israel of targets in Syria and compare it to Israel’s reluctance to bomb the Hizbollah resistance knowing that there will likely be retaliation.

There is much dark history regarding the US vis-à-vis Iraq (that includes the western backers of the US, such as the UK, Australia, Canada, etc). There are the deaths of half-a-million children resulting from US-backed UN sanctions on Iraq — a price worth the US sanctions policy according to Madeleine Albright, then US secretary-of-state. There was the devastation of a war launched by US president George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair in which “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of removing Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. Abdul Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani noted the UN complicity and wrote a book titled Genocide in Iraq: The Case against the UN Security Council and Member States (Clarity Press). ((Review.))

Sanchez asks if China even cares about sanctions. “These are serious questions that too few of us are even asking in the media these days.”

Question more Mr Sanchez: The US is sanctioning Iran. Why? Even though Iran was abiding by the terms of the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal), president Donald Trump (most certainly at the behest of Israel) wanted further capitulations by Iran, all this while the US was not in full compliance with the deal. Then the US withdrew (so much for fidelity to a signed agreement by the US, but there are scads of such examples), and kept insisting that Iran comply, all while the Europeans partners were also in non-compliance.

Sanchez presents as the top news question of the day: “Is there an alliance building between China [and Iran] and how will it affect the US?”

Does Sanchez imply that trade between two countries constitutes “an alliance”? Sanchez’s intonation makes it seem as if the word alliance has some sinister connotations. The US trades with China, so do they have an alliance? Do two countries trading with each other constitute a provocative act against a third country? What does Sanchez wish to denote by “an alliance” between China and Iran? Wouldn’t it be nice it all countries were in alliance with each other — like a meaningful United Nations where each member country steadfastly abides by the UN Charter?

Why not question US alliances, such as with Israel? Israel is a country in violation of dozens of UN resolutions, in violation of several Geneva Conventions, and is engaged in a slow-motion genocide against Palestinians. Indeed, Israeli media pointed out yesterday (16 March) that “Israel’s Theft Business Against the Palestinians Is as Thriving as Ever.”

How does the US even get portrayed as the aggrieved party in this news reportage? It was the US which did not stick with the JCPOA. It is the US sanctioning Iran, inflicting damage to its economy, and killing Iranian people. It is the US which assassinated a high-ranking Iranian general. It is the US (plus Israel) behind the sabotage caused by the Stuxnet virus and the assassinations of Iranian scientists.

All Rick Sanchez needs to do, to get a good overview of the geo-strategic situation, is eyeball a map bigger than the one he used on air. Then question more: Are Iranian military situated near American shores? Are Iranians in the Florida Strait? Yet, US warships commonly ply the waters of the Persian Gulf. Should US warships be sailing near Iranian shores? Moreover, when the US sanctions another country, assassinates that country’s citizens, and surrounds it with military hardware, then who is the threat? Also noteworthy is that US warships provocatively sail in the South China Sea, allegedly protecting freedom of navigation there, although never has the US provided any evidence that freedom of navigation has been blocked or threatened by China.

So why then frame the opening segment by casting aspersions against Iran and China?

The RT segment improved drastically when Sanchez interviewed former British MP George Galloway, but sadly, the opening segment set a terrible tone. That tone needs to be questioned more because RT is so much better than western mass media, and it needs to keep to that standard.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.