The Real Syria Story

By Daniel Margrain


Roth, and by extension Human Rights Watch, further discredits whatever vestiges of impartiality he and HRW might have had with inane tweets such as “Douma market killings show how Assad chooses to fight this war: deliberately against civilians,” (@KenRoth, Aug 16), an obviously biased, and utterly unsubstantiated allegation. Roth could have absolutely no knowledge of either the identities of the dead, or the Syrian government’s motives, when he released the tweet the same day as the attack. He reveals himself here to be little more than a lackey for imperialism, a war hawk masquerading as a human rights defender.” [citation from: The Douma Market Attack: a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention?]

Hand in Hand for Syria:

The UK Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”.  Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”.  The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. Also on Hand in Hand’s executive team is Dr Rola Hallam, one of the two medics featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

On 30 August 2013, the day after the BBC’s initial report on the alleged Aleppo incendiary bomb attack, Dr Hallam appeared on BBC’s Newsnight programme expressing her profound disappointment at parliament’s rejection of a military strike against Syria. Dr Hallam’s father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi.  According to a 2013 article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan – the other Hand in Hand for Syria volunteer medic featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ – Dr al-Kurdi is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”.” [citation from: UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy]

“The Syria Campaign”:

The Syria Campaign, begun in spring 2014, is managed by Anna Nolan, who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war. According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry. …One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014.

Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.” [citation from: Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]

White Helmets/”Syrian Civil Defence

This organization is highly publicized as civilian rescue workers in Syria but in reality is a project created by the UK and USA. Training of civilians in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier. Promotion of the programme is done by “The Syria Campaign”supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets is clearly a public relations project…who work in areas of Aleppo and Idlib controlled by Nusra (al-Qaida). White Helmets primary function is propaganda. Their role is to demonize the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.

A White Helmet leader wrote a Washington Post editorial and are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, contact to the group is made by email through The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship. [citations from: About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in SyriaSeven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]. Also see: Who are the White Helmets and what is their role in Syria?

Mayday Rescue 

At the present time Mayday’s sole responsibility appears to be management of the ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ or White Helmets, a supposed first responder organisation staffed by ordinary Syrians, which are in fact an extension of the terrorist groups in Aleppo and Idlib. Their function is to cooperate with the Aleppo Media Center (AMC) in the production of material which shows the White Helmets both as heroes and legitimate authorities on the Syrian conflict on the ground, and the Syrian and Russian governments as war criminals, deliberately targeting hospitals, schools, bakeries, animal shelters etc.

To that end, Mayday is generously funded by the UK, US and other governments, with offices in Amsterdam, Turkey, Jordan and Dubai. As at March 2016 its operational headquarters in Istanbul employs 30 staff, located in the operational centres of Istanbul, South-East Turkey, and has an annual operating budget of US$35,000,000.

Founder James le Mesurier, according to Mayday, “has spent 20 years working in fragile states as a United Nations staff member, a consultant for private companies and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a British Army Officer…Since 2012, James has been working on the Syria crisis where he started the Syrian White Helmets programme in March 2013. In 2014, he founded Mayday Rescue.” (Citation: Barbara McKenzie).


Incostrat was founded by Paul Tilley, who has a similar background to le Mesurier, with experience of both the army and the Foreign Office. His CV on LinkedIn reveals the following:

“2011-12 Director of Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) in the Ministry of Defence for the Middle East and North Africa.
2012-current. Developed and Project managed several multi-million dollar media and communications projects that are at the leading edge of UK and US foreign and security policy objectives in the Middle East.”

Both Incostrat and Mayday Rescue were formally founded in November 2014, according to the LinkedIn profiles of their respective founders, but le Mesurier and Tilley were doing development work 2013 or earlier. The White Helmets first officially appeared on the scene in April 2014, when the BBC assisted in the launching of the brand by producing a documentary on ‘Civil Defence’ in Aleppo, which coincided with the White Helmets appearance on social media.

Incostrat is described by Thierry Meyssen as “a communications company in the service of the jihadist groups. It designed logos, made video clips by portable telephone, and printed brochures for a hundred of these groups, thus giving the impression of a popular uprising against the Republic.”

Meyssen continues:

“Together with the SAS, [Incostrat] made a spectacle of the most important group, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Saudi Arabia supplied the tanks which were delivered from Jordan. Uniforms were made in Spain and distributed to the jihadists for an officer promotion ceremony. All this was choreographed and filmed by professionals in order to give the impression that the army was organised like regular forces and was capable of rivaling with the Syrian Arab Army. The idea was planted that this really was a civil war, and yet the images only showed a few hundred extras, most of whom were foreigners.”(Citation: Barbara McKenzie).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Founded in 2011, SOHR is a UK-based organisation that provides information on the Syrian conflicts to the world’s media. The “Observatory” is run from a terraced house in Coventry, England by Rami Abdulrahman, a three-term convicted criminal in Syria who left that country more than 10 years before the war started, and is openly opposed to the Syrian government.

The Observatory is almost certainly the brainchild of the Foreign Office:

“His funding comes from the European Union and “an unnamed European state,” most likely the UK as he has direct access to former Foreign Minister William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. […] it was the British government that first relocated Abdul Rahman to Coventry, England after he fled Syria over a decade ago because of his anti-government activities.” Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Although the Observatory is manifestly biased, only showing the conflict from the perspective of the insurgents, and consistently showing the Syrian government in a bad light, the information provided is considered by the corporate media, the United Nations and trusted non-government organisations to be authoritative, and is widely quoted.

Clearly for real journalists, Abdulrahman is a useless, utterly compromised source of information who has every reason to twist reality to suit his admittedly politically-motivated agenda of overthrowing the Syrian government. However, for a propagandist, he is a goldmine. That is why despite the overt conflict of interests, the lack of credibility, the obvious disadvantage of being nearly 3,000 miles away from the alleged subject of his “observations,” the Western media still eagerly laps up his constant torrent of disinformation. (Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”) (Citation: Barbara McKenzie).

Media consolidation

Integrated within the almost seamless relationship that exists between the executive of government and the kinds of players outlined above, is an increasingly consolidated corporate media who share with the military and political establishments’ mutual economic interests which war helps facilitate. As author Ed Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the agenda:

“Who owns the media shapes what stories are covered and how they are written about”, he said, adding that, “the UK media has a very concentrated ownership structure, with six billionaires owning and/or having a majority of voting shares in most of the national newspapers.”

32 thoughts on “The Real Syria Story

  1. Thanks for this. Maybe you already do, but I recommend following Vanessa Beeley on Twitter, plus watching recent interviews of her.
    I think the current media drumbeat for war is even worse than Iraq. Shockingly, many intelligent people who ought to know better are yet again falling for it, despite Iraq, desite Wikileaks…etc.
    Not surpriseing when C4, Beeb, ITV lead with “the children of Aleppo” every night now for, what?, 2-3 weeks: “some viewers will find these images distressing”. The propaganda is merciless.
    I notice Jon Snow has been muted on C4; presumably he, who had the guts to report Gaza 2014 relatively evenhandedly, knows what’s going on?
    The thread of this is present everywhere, from the US elections to the bashing of Corbyn. It’s quite sickening and frightening too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An excellent article, thank you. I’ll disseminate and reinforce its solid content at every opportunity- and to the Labour front bench should such an opportunity arise. We should never assume that they know more than we do.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. great article Daniel : the bottom third of your posting I did’nt know much about ……thanks for the details . I’m ordering Prof Tim Anderson’s book ‘ The Dirty War on Syria ‘ this week . Would advise anyone to check that title out .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a depressing article, practically exonerating Assad, Russia, Iran of any culpability. Russia’s only foothold in the Med was its submarine/naval base at Tarsus. It is in its strategic interest to protect this.

    Whilst this detailed, informative article provides a huge amount of background, you almost can’t see the wood for the trees & Assad & his backers virtually escape any censure. Who would have thought a dictator Assad was actually a heroic figure battling against Western perfidy? That an initial civil uprising became obscured by jihadists & the moderates side-lined.

    Nobody emerges from this never ending disaster with any credit from any of the multifarious sides, all with their own self-interest. Maybe Christopher Phillips book is worth reading where he said the war needs a de-escalation of violence, not more military intervention (BBC Hardtalk). This article simply assigns blame to the West. Have you not watched Russian state propaganda, Russian soldiers handing out food like they are helping the homeless at Christmas? Aerial shots as Russian planes bomb Aleppo as if involved in a PS game.

    You can’t trust anyone these days on either side. How do you know the person writing this blog hasn’t got an agenda or is partial towards one side? I suggest he also sends it to a Syrian under bombardment or walking through the mud of a make-shift refugee camp, not that they probably have access to the internet. I’m sure they would applaud its sentiments, not that they, like most of us, have any great idea about the complex power games at play. They are just the victims, though even Omran Dagneesh gets it in the neck for allowing himself to get covered in dust. Later reports briefly mentioned how his brother had been killed in the attack but there were no pictures as he became just another statistic (Russians do love a statistic).

    The media may be encouraging an intervention, but the whole article is undermined by the fact that most people in the West are tired of Middle East interventions despite the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis has actually brought the war now to the European doorstep. The West doesn’t have the stomach for another war post- Iraq especially after the Coalition invaded on such flimsy pretexts. I remember Labour MP Chris Bryant categorically refusing any involvement on an edition of ‘Question Time’. The rest of the panel were of a similar opinion.

    The BBC propaganda machine broadcast a programme about the history of Syria: Sykes-Picot, the sectarian division, French preference for the Alawite minority & sporadic historic opposition to Assad’s father, as well how the Sunni middle class formed an accommodation with Hafez Assad as he safeguarded business interests. Ironically, I have since learned the programme was condemned: by the Syrian opposition.

    We all know that the West operates in an underhand manner, prioritising corporate military-industrial over basic democracy. Murdoch’s support for Iraq was due to the prospect of lower oil costs.

    The Russians, too, are in Syria for human rights & democracy, it’s why they use air power to shift the war back into Assad’s favour, & supported Kadyrov in Chechnya, because they are there out of love for the Syrian people & not out of any possible self-interest. Russia, the new humanitarians of the 21st century. I’m sure Alexander Litvinenko & Anna Politovskaya are applauding as we type.


      1. As if I needed you to tell me that. Six months on & the West is ready to invade, isn’t it? That seemed to be the underlying message behind your article. No mention of Assad’s camps with the crematoriums nor that programme with Syrians talking about being tortured including a mother mourning her son. Mind you, you ought to know more from the vantage point of your PC.

        The modern Orwell exists now on a blog.


  5. Thanks for this. Very detailed analysis about the shocking propaganda against Syria. At times it is so shrill and over the top that it feels like the ‘Evil Hun’ caricatures of the First World War.

    I can only think back to the very start when you mention the Daraa action way back in March 2011. It was identical to the kind of thing in Benghazi where over 100 police/soldiers were killed along with x amount of ‘peaceful protesters’ who were ‘bombed by aircraft’. Even as the media(I saw it on CNN at the time) recounted this,not a single reflection was made about how these police and soldiers happened to die in such large numbers when they were supposedly attacking unarmed protesters. No footage of these bombings ever surfaced either and I’ve never seen any reporter go to that Benghazi street to check for aircraft bomb craters.

    Another thing is the date.It’s incredible that this happened in Daraa on the same day that the cynical (or naive if you take Russia’s acceptance of it) United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed for the notorious ‘No Fly Zone’ over Libya. Almost as if one was the signal to start the other.

    Had the Libyan people not resisted heroically against all odds for 8 months,I daresay that the NATO coalition would have swiftly attacked Syria while the iron was hot and the narratives of ‘butcher dictators gunning down civilians in the streets’ were still fresh and a source of outrage among the cynical right and the naive left.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.I agree with your analysis. The propaganda was very similar to Libya where the R2P doctrine came to the fore. As you inferred with UNSCR 1973, the Russia’s were duped and they have been careful not to fall for the same Nato-Western alliance tricks again in relation to Syria.


  6. Brilliant article Daniel. Thank you. Despite the mainstream media’s bias towards espousing Western government anti-Assad rhetoric, in the past couple of years I hear more and more of my peers (not all left-leaning liberals like me) questioning the veracity of the BBC and dare I say it, even the Guardian. Your article, with its links to interviews, reports and verifiable quotes, is a veritable treasure trove with which to rebuff those who would scoff at opinions questioning the integrity and motives of the USA (West) in Syria.


  7. Have you ever been to Syria? Do you even speak Arabic? Have you talked to anyone from the ground or who can confirm your views. I profess to none of the above myself, but no doubt you probably set yourself up as more expert than Jeremy Bowen. Listen to his programme on the Middle East on Radio 4 where he likened the Assads to the Godfather (Fri 23/06/17).

    You may be pursuing things for a noble aim but you also come across as an apologist for a brutal dictator.

    I suggest you contact Mr Bowen & espouse & refute opinions with him. That would be an interesting discussion to see.


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