The Propaganda Blitz on Syria

by Berry Friesen (February 13, 2016)

(Updated at 4:00 PM EST)

In the West, we are experiencing an unprecedented propaganda blitz about the war in Syria.  This post will help readers resist.

Ominously, Turkish officials are reportedly predicting a major escalation of the Syrian war this weekend (Feb. 13-14).  This escalation threatens to evolve into a major international crisis that could engulf the entire Middle East.

First, let’s break down the basics of the war.

On one side is the Syrian government coalition.  It includes Iran, the Hezbollah militias from Lebanon, Shiite militias from Iraq, Russian air power; all of these coalition partners are engaged in direct combat.  This coalition is decisively winning the war.

On the other side of the war is what I call the al-Qaeda coalition; its objective is to replace the government of Syria with an arrangement more friendly to the empire.  This coalition includes various Salafist militias engaged in direct combat (al Nusra, Da’esh, etc.), other nations providing financial and material support (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Israel) and the NATO powers providing intelligence and overall coordination (France, UK, USA).

The five-year war has devastated Syria.  As reported by The Guardian, “Fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research— a far higher total than the figure of 250,000 used by the United Nations until it stopped collecting statistics 18 months ago. In all, 11.5 percent of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011, the report estimates. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million.”

Ceasefire negotiations are occurring within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.  This resolution calls for a ceasefire and a transitional government in Syria.  It also states such a ceasefire would not apply to groups comprised of “terrorists;” their suppression must continue.

How would a ceasefire negotiated according to Resolution 2254 look?  If would end the fighting in a few isolated pockets of Syria where the Salafist militias are not present.

It would not end the fighting in the following areas:  Aleppo where al-Nusra remains entrenched; in the far north near the Syria-Turkey border where Da’esh maintain a vital supply corridor into Turkey; the eastern provinces of Syria where Da’esh is in firm control; along the Syria border with Jordan and Israel where Salafist groups continue to take advantage of help from Jordan and Israel; and a part of Idlib Province, straight west of Aleppo where al-Nusra is in control.

Next, let’s break down the imperial deception.

1. As always, Syrian President Bashar Assad is described as the problem.  Why?

In part of Idlib Province, a few of the anti-government fighters claim not to be part of any of the groups UN resolutions have identified as “terrorist.” These few fighters are endlessly featured in Western propaganda.  We are supposed to forget the Salafists—numbering in the tens of thousands, still tearing Syria apart—and despise President Assad because he hasn’t entered into a general ceasefire that would protect a  largely imaginary group of Western-styled rebels sprinkled into the mix in Idlib Province.

2. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are reportedly positioning troops and armaments for an invasion of Syria. This proposed invasion is being described as an attempt to defeat Da’esh.  But Saudi Arabia and Turkey have long been strong backers of Da’esh, so if this new invasion of Syria occurs, it will be to save Da’esh, not defeat it.

MoonofAlabama.org, one of the best sources of analysis about Syria, describes this dynamic as “the race for Raqqa.”  That is, before the Syrian government can establish control over the eastern provinces of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (together with the backing of France, the UK and the US) want to grab that territory.

How would Russia react to invasions of Syria by Turkey and/or Saudi Arabia?  Might that additional escalation lead to a Russia-US confrontation?  These are serious concerns, especially because Saudi Arabia and Turkey appear to want such a confrontation to occur.

NOTE:  Please read this update from MoonofAlabama for details about this rapidly changing situation.

3.  Western media consistently portray Russia as the aggressor in Syria, bombing hospitals, killing “civilians,” causing thousands of Syrians to become refugees and expanding the war.

While aspects of this description of Russia’s involvement are accurate, it also must be acknowledged that in Syria, Russia has scrupulously followed international law.  It is in Syria by invitation of the Syrian government and its actions in Syria are consistent with UN resolutions.  Most importantly, it has brought an element of honesty to the war, which from the start has been driven by al-Qaeda linked groups serving as proxies for the US-led empire.

4.  Meanwhile, many of the same forces that have devastated Syria (al-Qaeda, Da’esh, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the US) are now devastating Yemen too.  This latest atrocity is not yet one year old, but already it has resulted in 3,000 civilian deaths, the displacement of one million people and food insecurity for 14 million Yemenis.

As in Syria, the empire is behind the brutal war to make Yemen conform to the imperial template.   As reported by Nafeez Ahmed, British and American military officials are working “in the command and control centre for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen.”  Meanwhile, the portion of Yemen controlled by al-Qaeda is undisturbed by the air attacks directed by US and British personnel.

I view the actions of the US-led empire in Syria and Yemen as evil.
 
Yet most reading this post will regard such a characterization as exaggerated.  Indeed, that sort of skepticism is commendable; we shouldn’t take someone else’s word for it, but should research matters for ourselves, gathering information from a variety of sources.

For those wishing to take that step—to research for themselves whether what we’re hearing from Western news outlets about Syria is rank propaganda—I suggest an audio interview from Canada of Dr. Tim Anderson, a lecturer at the University of Sydney in Australia.  It will be an hour well spent.