Category: syria

Why the latest claims against Assad are a pack of lies

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for anti-assad propaganda

With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.

This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad” (three days earlier). However, for the reasons outlined below, such a scenario seems highly unlikely.

New York Times reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard), the latest chemical weapons fake news story intended to fit with the establishment narrative on Syria.

Lack of scepticism

Showing no scepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas in Khan Seikhoun, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, the doyen of neocon drum-beating war propaganda in Britain, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged April 4 attack: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for military action. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) Monbiot claimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.” Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:

“Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”

A second major inconsistency in the official narrative are the contradictory claims relating to the sarin issue. Charles Shoebridge referred to a Guardian article that claims sarin was used, but he counters the claim by stating: “Yet, a rescuer tells its reporter “we could smell it 500m away”. The intelligence and terrorism expert was quick to point out that sarin is odorless (unless contaminated). Blogger Mark J Doran astutely remarked: “Now, who is going be stuck with lousy, impure sarin? A nation state or a terrorist group?”

Meanwhile, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out that neurological symptoms that mimic those of sarin can be achieved by phosphine gas when in contact with moisture and the smell is similar to what was reported by eyewitnesses in Khan Seikhoun.

Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an untrustworthy source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite  having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012 Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.

Peter Hitchens takes up the story:

“He was accused of imprisoning John Cantlie, a British photographer, and a Dutchman, Jeroen Oerlemans. Both men were held by a militant group in Syria and both were wounded when they tried to escape. Shajul Islam, it was alleged, was among their captors. Shajul Islam’s trial collapsed in 2013, when it was revealed that Mr Cantlie had been abducted once again, and could not give evidence.

Mr Oerlemans refused to give evidence for fear that it would further endanger Mr Cantlie. Mr Oerlemans has since been killed in Libya. So the supposedly benevolent medical man at the scene of the alleged atrocity turns out to be a struck-off doctor who was once put on trial for kidnapping.”

Fourth, there is the question as to why the U.S would launch a military strike in the knowledge that it would risk further sarin leaks into the atmosphere. As the writer and musician, Gilad Atzmon, argues:

“It doesn’t take a military analyst to grasp that the American attack on a remote Syrian airfield contradicts every possible military rationale. If America really believed that Assad possessed a WMD stockpile and kept it in al-Shayrat airbase, launching a missile attack that could lead to a release of lethal agents into the air would be the last thing it would do. If America was determined to ‘neutralise’ Assad’s alleged ‘WMD ability’ it would deploy special forces or diplomacy. No one defuses WMD with explosives, bombs or cruise missiles. It is simply unheard of.”

Atzmon adds:

“The first concern that comes to mind is why do you need a saxophonist to deliver the truth every military expert understands very well? Can’t the New York Times or the Guardian reach the same obvious conclusion? It’s obvious enough that if Assad didn’t use WMD when he was losing the war, it would make no sense for him to use it now when a victory is within reach.”

Logical explanation

A far more logical explanation,  given the location, is that chemicals were released into the air by Salafist terrorists to frame the Syrian government. The location of the alleged attack is the al-Qaeda-affiliated controlled, Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province. It is from here that the Western-funded White Helmets operate. Rather conveniently, they were soon at the scene of the alleged attack without the necessary protective clothing being filmed hosing down victims.

As Al-Qaeda and their enabler’s are the kinds of people who cut out and eat human organs as well as decapitate heads, they are likely to have little compunction in using Syrian civilians, including children and women, as a form of ‘war porn propaganda’ in order to garner public sympathy as the pretext for Western intervention.

Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan, who has been living in the country for the last four years, claims no gas attack happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.” This seems to be the most plausible explanation.

Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:

“Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

  1. The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
  2. The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
  3. The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
  4. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
  5. We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

The former colonel’s testimony is extremely persuasive and exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda. Another convincing reason to discount the official narrative, is because Assad doesn’t possess any chemical weapons. Even The Wall Street Journal, citing a Hague-based watchdog agency, conceded on June 23, 2014 that “the dangerous substances from Syria’s chemical weapons program, including sulfur mustard and precursors of sarin, have now been removed from the country after a monthslong process.”

The plot thickens

On April 11. 2017 in response to the claims and counter claims, Washington released into the public domain a four-page White House Intelligent Report (WHR) by the National Security Council (NSC), purporting to prove the Syrian government’s responsibility for the alleged sarin attack and a rebuttal of Russia’s claim that rebels unleashed the gas to frame the Syrian government. Among the numerous claims of the WHR, was that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with.

But as one commentator pointed out, “any serious examination of the WHR reveals it to be a series of bare assertions without any supporting evidence….and is filled with phrases like “The United States is confident” … “We have confidence in our assessment” … “We assess” … “Our information indicates” … “It is clear” … and so on. In other words, “this is the US government speaking, trust us.”

More importantly, upon its release, the credibility of the WHR was also called into question by the respected US physicist and missile expert Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at MIT. In his detailed analysis released on April 11, 2017 titled A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report about the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, professor Postol argues that the physical evidence strongly suggests the delivery system for the nerve gas was a mortar shell placed on the ground, not a bomb dropped from a warplane. Towards the end of his critique, Postol said, “The situation is that the White House has produced a false, obviously misleading and amateurish report.”

Elaborating on his argument in a television interview, the MIT professor said:

“The report, quite frankly, doesn’t meet the laugh test. As an American citizen I want to know who signed it off….I think this is an indication that there is something extremely problematic in the American national system with regard to the use of intelligence.”

Postol added:

“It indicates a willingness on the part of high level people in the White House to distort and to use intelligence claims that are false to make political points and political arguments….I think this report was almost certainly politically-motivated… This is a serious and intolerable situation.”

On April 13, 2017 Postol produced a follow-up critique of the WHR – an Addendum to the first report – in which he asserts that “the assumption that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with was totally unjustified and no competent analyst would have argued that this assumption was valid.”

Postel goes on to criticise the veracity of the claims the WHR make with regards to the “communications intercepts” and the basis by which other intelligence assessments were made.

In a third paper – all of which have been totally ignored by the corporate Western media – Postol augments his previous papers by citing additional evidence from two selected videos which were uploaded to YouTube in the time period between April 5, 2017 and April 7, 2017.

The MIT professor posits that:

“Analysis of the videos shows that all of the scenes taken at the site where the WHR claims was the location of a sarin release indicate significant tampering with the site.  Since these videos were available roughly one week before the White House report was issued on April 11, this indicates that the office of the WHR made no attempt to utilize the professional intelligence community to obtain accurate data in support of the findings in the report.”

Postol points out that one of the videos indicates that workers in the close vicinity of the alleged bomb site were not wearing any protection of any kind to protect them from sarin poisoning, while others were inadequately protected.

Postol concludes by stating bluntly that “the WHR report was fabricated without input from the professional intelligence community.” He then reiterates the corporate media’s version of events, namely, that on April 4, 2017 a nerve agent attack had occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria during the early morning hours locally on that day and that three days later the U.S government carried out a cruise missile attack on Syria ordered by President Trump without any valid intelligence to support it.

Significantly, Postol then states:

“In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to support the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report on April 11, four days later. The individual responsible for this report was Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor. The McMaster report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR could not possibly be true. This cannot be explained as a simple error….

“…This unambiguously indicates a dedicated attempt to manufacture a false claim that intelligence actually supported the president’s decision to attack Syria, and of far more importance, to accuse Russia of being either complicit or a participant in an alleged atrocity.”

Postol then repeats a quote from the WHR:

“An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun [Emphasis Added]. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.”

And then adds:

“The data provided in these videos make it clear that the WHR made no good-faith attempt to collect data that could have supported its “confident assessment.” that the Syrian government executed a sarin attack as indicated by the location and characteristics of the crater.”

If Postol’s version of events, which is the basis of Russia’s position (see below), is true (which is extremely likely), it’s almost certainly the case that the rebels on the ground linked to al-Qaeda who control Khan Sheikhoun, are the same people who carried out the alleged false flag attack.

Timing

Another aspect to all this which seems to have been overlooked by many commentators, is the timing of the incident. An observant reader, kindly pointed out to me the discrepancy between the reported time-frames of the gas release and the alleged sarin chemical attack. Lebanese independent investigative journalist, Adel Karim, stated that at 8am on April 4, 2017, journalists linked to radical groups located in Idlib provided him with material that purported to show the consequences of the alleged attack.

The timing of the rebel account of the attack was contradicted by Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov who claimed that an attack took place between 11.30am and 12.30pm on that day, and that the said attack was directed against a “large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town.”

The above anomaly, therefore, reiterates the contention made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that the first reports of the chemical attack from rebel-affiliated groups “appeared several hours before the government airstrike”. It follows that Karim’s version of events appears credible and the account provided to him by rebel groups in Idlib, is therefore almost certainly bogus.

The Lebanese journalist concludes convincingly that “the decision to attack the Syrian military infrastructure was taken in Washington long before the fabricated events in Khan Sheikhoun and what happened was a “staged falsification” aimed to “justify U.S aggression against Syria.”

Whatever the truth, both the anomaly in regard to the timings of the alleged incident and, more significantly, professor Postel’s analysis, are surely significant enough to be worthy of further investigation by Western corporate media outlets such as the BBC. But at the time of writing (April 17), other than the occasional brief interview with former Syrian ambassador, Peter Ford, no alternative narratives have been aired.

One of the few media outlets who have been prepared to give the oxygen of publicity to opposing viewpoints, however, is RT. Unlike the BBC, the Russian-based broadcaster has recently interviewed Postol at some length.

Pattern

This sequence of events follows a recent pattern of anti-Assad claims exemplified by four similar controversial stories in which the corporate media have attempted to pass fiction off as fact. The first of these on February 13, 2017, relates to the findings of a report by Amnesty International which contends that Assad was responsible for the “execution by mass hangings” of up to 13,000 people. The alleged atrocity that evoked in the press comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, was within days criticised for its unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claims.

It should be recalled that it was Amnesty International who uncritically supported the emergence of a fake news story during the first Gulf War in which Iraqi soldiers were said to have taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City leaving them to die.

The second press release, three days after the mass-execution story aired, concerned the heart-rending case of a Syrian boy who Anne Barnard of the New York Times reported on twitter as having “his legs…cut because of attacks from Assad and Russia.”

It soon transpired, however, that the organization credited with filming the “attacks” was Revolution Syria, a pro-insurgency media outfit who also provided the videos for the equally fraudulent claim that the Russians bombed a school in Haas in October 2016. Dr Barbara McKenzie provides a detailed background to the story which can be read here.

The third piece of false reporting to have emerged, is in connection with Security Council resolution 2235 which highlights the conclusions of a August, 2015 OPCW-UN report. The said report, aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria (which Russia and China vetoed), didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Security analyst Charles Shoebridge pointed out on March 1, 2017, that “most media didn’t even seem to bother reading the report”. Shoebridge confirmed that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings that did not correspond to what the public was being told. Pointing out the reports many caveats and reservations, the analyst said the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the White Helmets.”

Finally, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were based on pro-rebel Syrian White Helmets testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”

Extraordinarily, in March, 2016 German journalist Dr. Ulfkotte brought the lies of the mainstream out into the open by confessing live on television that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job. Sharing this information in front of millions of people (reminiscent of the film Network), Ulfkotte said:

“I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I was educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public. But seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia — this is a point of no return and I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past because they are bribed to betray the people, not only in Germany, all over Europe.”

The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of Ulfkotte’s claims that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.” But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.” The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another middle east resource grab.

Daniel Margrain is a freelance writer based in London. He has a masters degree in Globalization, Culture & the City from Goldsmiths. His articles have appeared in numerous on-line publications and blogs.

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Jonathan Freedland: Britain’s Greatest Stenographer?

Image result for jonathan freedland, pics

By Daniel Margrain

In his latest article for the Guardian (April 5, 2017), Jonathan Freedland provides a commentary in support of the near-consensus view among the corporate mass media that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for the latest chemical gas atrocity in Idlib province in the north of the country. “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” says Freedland. What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Any chances the public had of getting any clarification from an alternative source like the BBC were also dashed. What a great swath of the British public have now come to expect is that the country’s national broadcaster is little more than a propaganda arm of the state. The organisations latest report on the incident via their middle east website does nothing to dispel such a claim.

As expected, the basis for their assertion that Assad was responsible for the incident were statements made by White House officials and UK-based NGOs. From Iraq to Libya, and now Syria, this kind of reliance on partial and unreliable sources represents, an only too familiar pattern.

Surely, the public can expect a more honest and critical evaluation of events from the nations premium left of centre and liberal ‘progressive’ broadsheet, the Guardian, right? Well, actually, no.

As with the BBC, Freedland discounts the far more likely and rational explanation proffered by the UK governments official enemies, Damascus and Moscow. Echoed by UK security analyst, Charles Shoebridge, the rationale underlying this explanation is that it’s extremely unlikely that Assad would engage in such a self-destructive action.

This is because the world-wide condemnation that would follow one day in advance of a UN EU conference in Brussels beginning today (April 5, 2017) – the stated intention of which is to bring about peace – would run contrary to such a strategy. Logically, the only people who would benefit from the disruption of such a meeting would be Assad’s extremist political opponents.

Furthermore, as Shoebridge suggests, Assad cannot, from his perspective, be said to be motivated by any need to deflect from what is currently an advantageous position, militarily. The people who benefit from this kind of attack the most are the Western-backed ‘rebel’ terrorists “because they gain a major political advantage at a time when they are struggling both politically and geo-strategically.”

It should also be recalled, that until very recently the Trump administration’s stated position was the rejection of Obama’s policy of regime change in Syria. Rather, he was more concerned with destroying Assad’s terrorist enemies. Conveniently, the gas attack provided the pretext for a shifting of policy back towards regime change. As the former ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, put it:

“If the Jihadists wanted to complicate Trump’s task of making American policy more sensible, they wouldn’t have gone about it any way other than to amount a piece of fake news like this.”

A slight variation on this interpretation of events was posited by Craig Murray, another former UK ambassador, who stated:

“Assad had seen his position go from strength to strength, thanks to Putin’s astute deployment of Russia’s limited military power. Militarily the balance had swung dramatically in Assad’s favour, while Trump had said the unsayable and acknowledged that putting Syria into the hands of Wahabbist crazies was not in the United States interest. So I cannot conceive that Assad would risk throwing all of this away for the sake of a militarily insignificant small chemical weapons attack. It would be an act of the most extreme folly.”

None of this is deemed worthy of any column inches by Freedland. Instead, he plumps for a “more credible” individual as a means of supporting his case in the form of an ex-British army captain and one of the current directors of the UK NGO, Doctors Under Fire.

Another director of this organization is BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News favourite, David Nott, a much in demand ‘media-savvy’ surgeon who, like the Western-funded “humanitarian” NGO the White Helmets, seemingly takes every photo opportunity to be pictured alongside suffering children for propaganda affect.

For journalists like Freedland, whose role is essentially that of a Whitehall stenographer, it’s apparently inconceivable that UK funded NGOs like Doctors Under Fire, the White Helmets and Hand In Hand For Syria, could present a major conflict of interest in respect to his reportage.

Freedland correctly states that “for six long bloody years, atrocities have been continued in Syria”, but he’s careful not to apportion any blame for the said atrocities on the shoulders of the West’s proxies and mercenary forces who the UK government help financially support, fund and train. These forces include ISIS, al-Qaeda and their various offshoots and affiliates.

The Guardian journalist then goes on to interpret US Secretary of State’s Rex Tillerson’s support for the self-determination rights of the Syrian people to be free from the influence of external foreign powers, as a negative. Furthermore, he is contemptuous of Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, for her stated rejection (since changed) of illegal regime change in Syria.

Freedland then casually dismisses Russia’s legitimate case in February for a veto against UN sanctions based on unsubstantiated allegations regarding Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Finally, he goes on to claim that “more than 400,000 have been killed [in Syria]…” asserting that “Assad has himself broken international law”. Freedland failed to back-up either claim, but rather, pronounced Assad guilty of committing this latest atrocity even though no evidence whatsoever has been provided. This also applies to all previous claims where the Syrian president has been accused of using chemical weapons.

Extraordinary journalistic claims demand extraordinary evidence. Freedland adheres to the former but is remiss in terms of the latter. This latest in a long line of fake news from the once respected Guardian, is nothing more than government propaganda dressed up as investigative journalism. Is it any wonder that the paper’s sales are in a terminal state of decline?

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Al-Qaeda Win the Oscar for ‘Best Documentary Short’

By Daniel Margrain

Barry Jenkins receiving the award for Best Picture for Moonlight

It was hard to avoid the mix-up that occurred at the Oscar ceremony because it made the headlines on every major corporate news channel. Never mind the fact that human beings are dying of famine in Yemen or are being killed by bombs raining down on them supplied by BAE whose head is vice-chair of the BBC Trust. Never mind that four million other people are without water in Chile, or that current Arctic sea ice extent has reached a record 36th-time low for 2017 alone.

Never mind any of these things, just remember that what’s important is that Warren Beatty or whoever, messed up in front of a bunch of self-congratulatory narcissists. Many of these privileged people take almost every opportunity they can to bash a president who has stated publicly that he wants a good relationship with a country that has most effectively dealt a hammer blow to Salafist-inspired terrorists in Syria. Is it any wonder that Trump had no intention of showing up to the ceremony, particularly as he probably had insider knowledge as to who won the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short category? That particular accolade went to the Netflix-produced The White Helmets. The photographic evidence linking the White Helmets to the various Salafist terrorist groups in Syria is overwhelming.

Public relations

The nefarious agenda behind the White Helmets operation was initially exposed by brave independent journalists working inside Syria – Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett – both of whom have written extensively on the White Helmets. What follows is a relatively brief synopsis for the benefit of numerous media commentators who are not yet up to speed on the issue. The White Helmets are essentially a public relations project who work in areas of Syria controlled by al-Qaida and their various offshoots. Their primary function is the production of propaganda that involves demonizing the Assad government, the aim of which is to encourage direct foreign military intervention into the country with a view to regime change.

Their strategy has involved writing a Washington Post editorial in addition to being very active on social media where they have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. According to their website, contact to the group is made by email through The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship. Although the organization is highly publicized as civilian rescue workers in Syria, in reality they are a project that have been created by the UK and US governments.

Training of the White Helmets in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier, and the promotion of their activities is undertaken by The Syria Campaign supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. Ubiquitous in the mainstream media’s coverage of the aftermath of bomb damage in Aleppo, have been the images of ‘volunteers’ of the White Helmets rescuing young children trapped in the rubble of buildings allegedly bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally forces.

Neutrality

The group, who have some 2,900 members and claim complete neutrality, are said to operate as first responder, search and rescue teams in areas outside of Syrian government control. They are portrayed in the Western media as selfless individuals who rush into the face of danger and feted as being saviours of humanity. Western journalists and human rights groups frequently cite unverified casualty figures and other uncorroborated claims from the White Helmets and therefore take at face value the organization’s self-proclaimed assertions they are an unarmed, impartial and independent NGO whose sources of funding are not derived from any of the conflicting parties in Syria.

The group have produced a slick website in which they push for a No Fly Zone (euphemism for regime change) in Syria. Their public relations campaigns include a short documentary film – which in reality amounts to a self-promotional advertisment – that was shown at a prestigious invitation-only Chatham House event in London. The group were subsequently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Funding

Funding for the White Helmets comes principally from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who have committed at least $23 million to the group since 2013. In addition, the organization have received £22m from the UK rising to a probable £32m and £7m from Germany. Other substantial funds come from Holland and Japan. Conservative estimates suggest that some $100m dollars in total have been donated to the group.

Essentially, the White Helmets are the most prominent manifestation of what is a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign by the UK government comprising a complex interwoven web that connects the various government departments, NGOs, opposition groups and activists with the corporate media who facilitate and amplify the propaganda in order to help achieve the ultimate objective of regime change in Syria.

High profile advertising campaigns and public relations exercises that involve the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts, have unfortunately persuaded many well-meaning activists that the White Helmets are an independently funded bi-partisan humanitarian group, when in reality they are Salafist sectarian extremists who operate as a front for al- Qaida, ISIS and their various affiliates. Many of the fighting groups tied to the White Helmets are branded with the logos of fighting groups by contractors hired out by the Foreign Office and overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The evidence outlined by Dr Barbara McKenzie is compelling:

“The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal.”

Given the extent to which the Foreign Office financially and logistically support the White Helmets in Syria, it was fitting that they congratulated them on their ‘success’ at the Oscars. As Dr Barbara McKenzie put it on Twitter, the Foreign Office were, in effect, congratulating themselves.

Saving Syria’s Children

The fake BBC documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, painstakingly critiqued by Robert Stuart, whose principle purpose was to attempt to persuade British parliamentarians to vote for military intervention, represents the apex of this propaganda process. But having failed in that objective, the propaganda effort was stepped-up. In the autumn of 2013, the UK government embarked on behind-the-scenes work to influence the course of the war by shaping perceptions of opposition fighters.

It was during this time that the media narrative began to shift. Where previously Islamist extremist beheaders were described as ‘Jihadists’ and ‘terrorists’ the more benign terms, ‘rebels’ and ‘Syrian opposition’ were preferred. Speaking on UK Column News (February 27, 2017), Vanessa Beeley, who was one of only a handful of independent investigative journalists on the ground in Syria, said this about the attempts to glorify the White Helmets exemplified by their Oscar ‘success’. I want to quote Beeley extensively because her impassioned plea was emotionally powerful and clearly sincere. What she had to say is of extreme importance:

“Terrorism gets given the red carpet treatment in Hollywood which demonstrates very clearly who we are dealing with. In fact, one positive that comes out of this, is that it fully exposes the elite cartel behind the attempt to dismember Syria. This cartel is essentially Zionism, along with Saudi extremist ideology funded, of course, by the US-UK deep state and supported by the illegal state of Israel, Turkey and various other nations in the region.

The intention is to whitewash terrorist atrocities that are being committed on a daily basis inside Syria and facilitated by the organization that has just been given one of the highest accolades that can be given in the film industry. So for that reason it is also extremely fitting that they are all effectively some of the best actors around at the moment.

The celebration of The White Helmets is tantamount to celebrating the use of children for war porn, the killing of more children in Syria, the support and celebration of the rape of Syrian women, the massacre of entire families, the ethnic cleansing of minorities, the kidnapping and abuse of children and the selling of them to paedophile rings, drug traffickers and pimps. In other words, the Oscars are basically celebrating every evil that has been created by our regimes.

We can no longer sit back and pretend that it’s happening somewhere else and we don’t have an obligation to take a stand against it. It’s time to stand up and be counted. It’s time to stop sitting on the fence. It’s not only about Syria, but about Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Ukraine – about every country that is being infested by this terrorist plague that is being created by our regimes. We are responsible for that and we need to start taking that responsibility seriously and to actually express that outrage.

If you are at a party where people are celebrating the Oscars – speak out! Because until your voices are heard, this is going to continue and these children in Syria – these orphans – are going to continue suffering. We are responsible for that, and that same plague is not that far off from being on our doorsteps. So we need to start making a stand – right now.”

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Syria: Unraveling the Propaganda

By Daniel Margrain

One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which state and corporate media encourage genuine diversity of opinions and the ability for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mass Western media have failed in relation to their coverage of the Syrian conflict. The inability to report objectively on Syria is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. The highly concentrated nature of the corporate media has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.

The mass media’s propaganda campaign against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began to surface during the events which led up to an intended series of planned demonstrations – the much hyped “Day of Rage” of March 4 and 5, 2011. However, at this early stage the propaganda proved to have been a failure and the planned action never materialized. Time correspondent, Rania Abouzeid conceded that the inability of the protest organizers to draw significant support for the “Day of Rage” was a reflection of the Syrian people’s support for their government and its policies.

Iranian influence

The support for Assad had become rooted as far back as 2007 after Iranian influence in neighbouring Iraq became established and the former’s relationship with the Syrian government strengthened. It was around this time that the American’s began to switch policy from opposing Sunni Jihadist militants embodied in al-Qaeda, to opposing Iran who they regarded as the bigger threat to their wider regional objectives. In Washington this switch became known as “re-direction”. The US attempts to destabilize Syria in order to counter growing Shi-ite predominance in the region was probably best articulated by renowned investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shi-ite”, Hersh wrote, “the Bush administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the middle east. In Lebanon the administration has cooperated with the Saudi Arabian government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezzbollah. The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its allies in Syria. The by-product of these activities is the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam – one hostile to America and sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”

False narrative

What former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, described as the active arming, funding and training of anti-Assad groups from 2007 onward, contradicts the “completely untrue narrative” that the conflict in Syria suddenly erupted and that the American’s came in to support democratic forces – a narrative that culminated in the outbreak of violent protests in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa on March 17, 2011, less than two weeks after the failed “Day of Rage” protests outlined above. Echoing Murray, Professor of Economics, Michel Chossudovsky noted that the violence:

“had all the appearances of a staged event involving, in all likelihood, covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence. Government sources point to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel). Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement.”

Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, wrote:

“The armed groups are well armed and well organised. Large shipments of weapons have been smuggled into Syria from Lebanon and Turkey. They include pump action shotguns, machine guns, Kalashnikovs, RPG launchers, Israeli-made hand grenades and numerous other explosives. It is not clear who is providing these weapons but someone is, and someone is paying for them.”

Reports (suppressed in the Western media) indicating that the number of policemen killed at Daraa (seven) was more than the number of demonstrators killed (four), is hardly indicative of the brutal actions of a government intent on oppressing its own people.

Legitimacy

Time reported that unlike “the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.” Assad, in other words, had legitimacy.

This was confirmed when, twelve days after the Western fomented violence at Daraa, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at central bank square in Damascus in support of their president. The pro-government rally, which can be viewed here was wrongly portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally as a “military crackdown against civilians”

This kind of misinformation prompted Russia and China to veto a European-backed UN security council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime “if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians”.

Members of a US Peace Council inferred that the key motivations underpinning the foreign policy objectives of Washington and its allies in relation to Syria, have nothing to do with protecting civilians, nor with democracy but is about inflaming sectarian divisions and thus political instability as the prelude to initiating regime change in the country.

Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas confirmed in 2013 that Britain had been planning the war on Syria “two years before the Arab spring” which was to involve the organizing of an invasion of rebels into the country. “This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned”, he said.

Regime change/Ghouta & Houla

Given the context described, it comes as no surprise that much of UK journalism had decided that the Wests current official enemy was responsible for the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, the year Dumas made his announcement. On September 16 of that year, the UN published the evidence in its report on “the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area”. The UN did not blame the Syrian president, Assad, for the attack, but instead expressed “grave doubts” that the Syrian government was responsible.

Just one day after the attacks, a Guardian leader claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect” (see below). The media’s response to the May 2012 massacre in Houla, similarly reported the Assad government as having been mainly responsible for the deaths.

On June 27, 2012, a UN Commission of Inquiry delivered its report on the Houla massacre by concluding that they were unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators. However, the gruesome nature of many of the deaths pointed to the kinds of atrocities typical of Al Qaida and their affiliates in the Anbar province of Iraq. Nevertheless, the clear intention of the media was to attempt to cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making. The propaganda offensive continued two months later when Barack Obama announced his “red line.”

On cue, on April, 2013, the White House claimed that US intelligence assessed “with varying degrees of confidence” that “the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin”. This was flatly contradicted by former Swiss attorney-general Carla Del Ponte on May 6, 2013. Speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, Del Ponte said, “We have no indication at all that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons.”

September 16, 2013 UN report

Seemingly undeterred, Washington continued with the accusations following the chemical attacks in Ghouta over three months later, long before the UN published the conclusions in its September 16, 2013 report. The reports findings were cautious in terms of blaming the Assad regime for the attack. Nevertheless, as far as the U.S administration was concerned, Assad had crossed the ‘red line’ and was pronounced ‘guilty’. As a result, the U.S president announced on television that he was going to respond with a ‘targeted’ military strike on Syria, despite widespread public opposition to any such attack.

In response to the opposition to mission creep and war, the BBC produced the now infamous documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, arguably the most overt piece of war propaganda ever made. Sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 that purported to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra were, in the words of journalist Robert Stuart, “largely, if not entirely, staged.” Broadcast on the day the House of Commons was due to vote for military action in Syria, the documentary was clearly intended to influence the vote which the Cameron government ultimately lost. Stuart’s brilliant and meticulous analytical demolition of the documentary is discussed here.

Qatari government report

Yet another cynical piece of anti-Assad propaganda that passed the corporate mainstream media class by, was the BBCs distorted interpretation of a report commissioned by the Qatari government which claimed that the Syrian government had “systematically tortured and executed about 11,000 detainees since the start of the uprising.” Craig Murray, described the BBCs presentation of the report as “a disgrace” that again, was clearly intended to influence public opinion in favour of war. The media war-drive was averted after Obama agreed to a Russian proposal at the UN to dismantle Syria’s capability for making chemical weapons after having been exposed for his deceptions.

Based on interviews with US intelligence and military insiders, Seymour Hersh, the journalist who revealed the role the United States played in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, asserted that Obama deceived the world in making a cynical case for war. This claim was supported in April, 2016, by former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, who argued that the Turkish government, at the behest of Washington, engineered the chemical attacks in Ghouta in order to draw the United States into Syria. McGovern stressed that one of the Turkish journalists who exposed Turkey’s involvement in the alleged false flag attack has (as part of president Erdogan’s crackdown on independent journalism), been imprisoned and charged with treason.

Arms company profits

The prospect of a lengthy war against Syria provided a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies while simultaneously reining in Russian and Iranian influence in the region. According to Charles Glass, in order to help achieve this, U.S tax payers’ money “has been used to fund terrorist groups from the very beginning.” The author, journalist and film-maker proffered the U.S rationale for this course of action:

“Iran is president Assad’s only ally in the region, and Assad is the only client state of Russia in the entire Arab war. Remember, there are only twenty-two members of the Arab League, twenty-one of whom are client American states, and Russia wasn’t going to give the one that remains [ie Syria] up. So from the point of view of the U.S, they want to have all twenty-two.”

Glass continued:

“Moreover, they want the Syrian army to be U.S trained, and they want a Qatari pipeline to go through Syria. They want to dominate the whole region and Syria is the missing piece. In addition to which, because Syria supported Hezzbollah in Lebanon, which the Israeli’s have never forgiven them for, they wanted to break the bridge with Tehran. For the outside powers, it’s never been about human rights and democracy inside Syria (emphasis added). That’s not the issue. The issue has always been about Assad’s relationship with Iran.”

Glass’s assertions, which are supported by Craig Murray, have been corroborated by Wikileak cables. But regime change that invokes the imposition of an anti-Russian leader within the power structures of the Syrian state, cannot be achieved without the aid of ISIS on the ground who have gained access to weapons exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion.

However, gaining access to weapons is not possible without access to money to purchase them. The main source of ISIS funds is from the sale of oil from nearly a dozen oil fields in northern Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa province. It then passes through Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. In September 2014, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq, Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. This is all part of the West’s strategy to wreck the relatively secular and stable nature of Syrian civic society.

Black market oil/Arab allies funding ISIS

In 2012, a Pentagon document obtained by Judicial Watch spelled out the fact that the Wests supported terrorist opposition – who have burned down churches and massacred the world’s oldest Christian communities – “are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” Two years later (2014), David Cohen, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, claimed that middlemen from Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region buy black market oil from ISIS that earns the terror group some $1 million a day.

If Western governments were serious about obliterating the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would not have aligned themselves with 70,000 unidentified ‘moderates’ who, as Patrick Cockburn contends “are weak or barely exist”. On the contrary, they would have aligned themselves with the forces on the ground that are resisting ISIS most effectively. These groups are the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian National Army, Hezzbollah and Iran – all of whom were, and to some extent still are, being backed by Russian air power.

Nafeez Ahmed notes that in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”? Dempsey replied: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.” In other words, the most senior US military official at the time had confirmed that ISIS were being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. Dempsey’s testimony is consistent with information contained within a leaked US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, which states that:

“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.”

The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine

The following year (September 28, 2015), in a speech to the U.N General Assembly in New York, Barack Obama alluded to the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine as the justification for Assad’s overthrow and, in the name of democracy, the bombing of Syrian cities. Earlier that day at the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton, England, the neocon fanatic, Hilary Benn, was more explicit by actually citing the R2P doctrine by name as the justification to attack Syria.

Formulated at the 2005 UN World Summit, the version of R2P currently in vogue and proposed by the [Gareth] Evans Commission, authorises “regional or sub-regional organisations” such as NATO to determine their “area of jurisdiction” and to act in cases where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.

Often used as a justification to protect suffering populations, in reality the R2P doctrine has been used to overthrow a series of sovereign states, most recently in Libya. The version of R2P formulated at the UN World Summit will, in all probability, be used in an attempt to legally justify the dismembering of Syria. The use of the R2P doctrine in Iraq set a precedent whereby Western powers have been able to circumvent the consensus view of what constitutes illegality among the world’s leading international lawyers.

The Caroline Principle

The rejection of the consensus view of the world’s leading international lawyers, was outlined in a memorandum where the concept of the Caroline Principle was developed. A key part of the memorandum states:

“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack” (emphasis added).

In other words, the re-framing of international law based, as one administration official  put it – on “pre-emptive retaliation” – means that the West can make any decision to attack a potential adversary without evidence of any wrongdoing. During a January 11, 2017 speech, the English and Welsh Attorney General (AG) outlined the legal position on the UK’s use of drones stating that it was dependent on a subjective interpretation of “pre-emptive”, specifically on the word, “imminent”.

According to Craig Murray, during the time of the Iraq war in 2003, the entire UK legal department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised Jack Straw that it would be illegal for the UK to attack Iraq. In response, Straw was said to have done two things. First, he allegedly asked the Attorney General to sack the person the AG appointed – ie the chief Foreign office legal adviser, Michael Woods, who advised Straw about the illegality of going to war with Iraq.

Secondly, having failed in his attempt to get Woods sacked, Murray alleges that Straw sent the AG for England and Wales, Lord Goldsmith, to the US to consult with G.W Bush’s legal advisers, ostensibly in order to clarify the legal position. The consultation resulted in Goldsmith changing his view from one where he argued the war was illegal to one of legality.

Murray contends that Straw realized that he could no longer depend on the FCOs legal advise to justify war. So, after Woods subsequently left the FCO voluntarily, Straw appointed, for the first time ever, a new chief legal adviser who originated from outside the FCO. This outsider was the international lawyer who developed the Caroline Principle, Daniel Bethlehem.

Prior to his role as legal adviser to the FCO, Bethlehem was legal adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and had represented Israel before the Mitchell Inquiry into violence against the people of Gaza, arguing that Israel’s actions could be sanctioned on the basis of self-defense using the reconfigured “imminent threat” definition as justification.

Bethlehem also supplied the Government of Israel with a Legal Opinion that the vast Wall they were building in illegally occupied land, surrounding and isolating all the major Palestinian communities and turning them into large prisons, was also legal.

When on January 11, 2017, the AG gave his speech in which he made public the legal advise of Daniel Bethlehem, none of the British media made any critique of it at all. Not a single media outlet inquired about the background of Daniel Bethlehem, his development of the Caroline Principle and the R2P doctrine that underpins it. This doctrine, it is to be recalled, is used to legitimize drone strikes without due legal process and was used as the legal basis for the Iraq war. But arguably, most significant of all in the context of this article, is the mass media have failed in their duty to critique Bethlehem’s possible role as part of the Wests broader strategy to dismember Syria.

Israel & energy independence

This broader strategy involves the granting of oil exploration rights inside Syria, by Israel, in the occupied Golan Heights, to the multinational corporation, Genie Energy. Major shareholders of the company – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Other players involved include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, American Shale, French Total and BP.

Thus, there exists a broad and powerful nexus of US, British, French and Israeli interests at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country.

Against this are the competing agendas of the various belligerent gas-exporting foreign factions, that according to Orstein and Romer, have interests in one of the two gas pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe. As Orenstein explained:

“In 2009, Qatar proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey… However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to sign the plan; Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to”.

Russia’s Gazprom sells 80 per cent of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind “an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean.” The project would allow Moscow “to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”

Up to this point, US policy toward Assad had been ambivalent – the intention being that “jaw-jaw” rather than “war-war” would more likely pry Assad away from Iran, thus opening up the Syrian economy to US investors, and aligning the Assad government with US-Israeli regional designs. But the signing in July, 2011, of a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline deal put an end to the U.S ‘softly-softly’ approach.

The rebel-terrorist factions whose violence had been fomented by the Western imperial axis at Daraa in March 2011 had, by the end of that year, seen their levels of covert assistance increase substantially. The purpose of this increase in support, was to elicit the “collapse” of the Assad government. This kind of ‘war of attrition’strategy of supporting Islamist terrorists, was intended to draw Russia into Syria in the same way the Carter government in 1979 had supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan in order to draw the Soviet Union, as it was then, into that country as the prelude to its collapse.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stood to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria. In addition, a deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this ‘treat’ than for the major powers to secure the hydrocarbon potential of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for energy independence?

Concerted

None of the above would have been possible without one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq invasion. At the forefront of this offensive has been the Murdoch printed press with the rest of the pack not far behind. According to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “the No. 1 message” on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera, is that “the U.S. should “get involved” in the conflict in Syria”. But involvement requires a semblance of public consent and this is often achieved as the result of a singularly defining propaganda image or event.

In terms of the first Gulf conflict, the event in question was the infamous nurse Nayirah affair. In relation to the 2003 Iraq invasion, it was the WMD debacle, and in Libya in 2011 it was the false claims of rape said to have been committed by Libyan government troops. Aside from Saving Syria’s Children, the defining propaganda event in relation to Syria is probably the image of a small boy, Omran Daqneesh, photographed covered in dust sitting on a chair which brought a CNN anchor to tears.

But this incident is one of many. From the media’s use of the term “barrel bombs”, the glorification of White Helmets (who have been exposed as terrorist-enabler’s) – through to the ‘weaponizing’ of children exemplified by the exploitation of seven year old Bana Alabed by an individual whose on-line activities suggest complicity in a criminal disinformation campaign – the propaganda during this latest conflict has arguably been more sophisticated and far-reaching than at any time since WW1.

A major factor in the mass media’s hidden agenda in the selling of fake narratives to large swaths of the public, has been their ability to portray themselves as legitimate and reputable news organisations. During the conflict, Channel 4 News, CNN and Al-Jazeera have all reported overt, and often crude, false anti-Syrian propaganda as a replacement for objective reportage. The latter, for example, produced what was clearly a piece of absurd theatre in which the news anchor struggled not to laugh out loud live on air. This was reminiscent of CNNs interview with the fake “Danny”- clearly a Western-funded propagandist and Islamist extremist enabler.

Interwoven web

More broadly, evidence points to the existence of a complex interwoven web that connects the various government departments, NGOs, opposition groups and activists with the corporate media who facilitate and amplify this kind of propaganda. The evidence, outlined by Barbara McKenzie, is compelling:

“The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal.”

Who are the White Helmets & what is their role in Syria?

By Daniel Margrain

In my previous article, I highlighted how a strategy of Western fomented sectarian violence in Syria – through media lies and fabrications – is being used to create divisions and political instability, the objective of which is to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’ and eventual regime change in the country. It would appear that one of the key propaganda tools being utilized by the Western powers in order to achieve this objective is through an ostensibly humanitarian organization called the White Helmets.

Also known as ‘Syria Civil Defence’, the White Helmets were founded and trained under the supervision of ex-British military mercenary, James LeMesurier in Turkey in 2013. LeMesurier also has connections to organizations like Blackwater who are infamous for being death squad outreach assassins. Ubiquitous in the mainstream medias coverage of the aftermath of bomb damage in Aleppo, have been the images of ‘volunteers’ of the White Helmets rescuing young children trapped in the rubble of buildings allegedly bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally forces.

The group, who have some 2,900 members and claim complete neutrality, are said to operate as first responder, search and rescue teams in areas outside of Syrian government control. They are portrayed in the Western media as selfless individuals who rush into the face of danger and feted as being saviours of humanity. Western journalists and human rights groups frequently cite unverified casualty figures and other uncorroborated claims from the White Helmets and therefore take at face value the organization’s self-proclaimed assertions they are an unarmed, impartial and independent Non-Government Organization (NGO) whose sources of funding are not derived from any of the conflicting parties in Syria.

The group have produced a slick website in which they push for a No Fly Zone (euphemism for regime change) in Syria. In addition, their public relations campaigns include what is purported to be a short documentary film – which in reality amounts to a self-promotional advertisment – that was recently shown at a prestigious invitation-only Chatham House event in London. These factors would appear to belie the groups impartial and independent status.

Indeed, further investigations reveal that the White Helmets are anything but impartial and independent. As Max Blumenthal points out, the group was founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela. USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” – or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed.

In addition, the White Helmets have received £22m from the UK rising to a probable £32m and £7m from Germany. Other substantial funds come from Holland and Japan. Conservative estimates suggest that some $100m dollars in total have been donated to the group.

 

Photographs of the White Helmets on the ground would appear to point to their involvement in acts of terrorist violence that need explaining. Blogger, Robert Stuart, inquired, “What explanations can there be for the preponderance of highly disturbing images and videos of White Helmets such as those below?”

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Stuart continues:

“Other instances depict uniformed White Helmets carrying weapons, attending the murder of a young man, giving the victory sign over a pile of dead Syrian soldiers and boasting about throwing the corpses of Syrian forces members “in the trash”.

Real Syria Civil Defence

Sixty years prior to the formation of the terrorist-enabler’s in Turkey, the real Syria Civil Defence Organization (SCDO) was established. Vanessa Beeley notes, this original Syria Civil Defence Organization work in both opposition and government held areas, unlike the White Helmets who operate solely in the former. The original ‘real’ SCDO is also recognized by the International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) of which it was a founder member in 1972. Third, the ICDO is affiliated to the UN, WHO and the Red Cross among others. In other words, unlike the White Helmets, the SCDO is a fully certified and legitimate civil defence organization.

So why, one may ask, are the tens of millions that fund a fake civil defence organization not going to the SCDO who rescue people on a daily basis with no recognition from the Western media? Not only are they not gaining any external recognition, but not a single Western corporate media outlet has gone to visit the real SCDO to report on their activities in over five years of war.

One of the few people to have bucked this trend is British independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley who interviewed the group at their HQ in Damascus shortly before leaving the country last week. According to Beeley, the White Helmets are being used by the West to facilitate the eradication of the Syrian state institution, the real SCDO. Beeley says when the terrorists invaded in 2012 their aim was to usurp the real SCDO who presumably then went on to join forces with their newly formed White Helmet counterparts in Turkey at a later date.

Beeley goes on to say that crew members of the real SCDO in west Aleppo were threatened by the terrorists to help set up the White Helmets faction in Syria. The terrorists, under the guise of the White Helmets, proceeded to “steal SCDO ambulances as well as murdering real SCDO members and kidnapping others”, she said. Beeley continued, “These events were repeated throughout Syria.”

It’s clear then, that if Beeley’s account is to be believed, the White Helmets are at the very least a terrorist support group whose ultimate objective is the overthrow of the Assad government which ties in with the Wests regime change narrative. If, on the other hand, the Western government and corporate media meme that supports the claim that the group are volunteers, as opposed to terrorists or their facilitators is true, it begs the question as to where the estimated $100m donated to them has gone and what it is being used for?

Arms trade front

Concomitant to Beeley’s next assertion is where the answer to this apparent conundrum is likely to be found. Beeley claims that the White Helmets are “a front for the funding of the arms trade.” This claim would tend to augment her broader thesis given that these are the kinds of activities a terrorist group would benefit from. Given the White Helmets are principally a group allegedly trained in Turkey under the auspices of LeMesurier, and they arrive in Syria from that country in trucks, it would be reasonable to assume that their narrative of ‘humanitarianism’ provides a perfect foil for their activities and therefore acts as a conduit to the terrorist held areas through which weapons and equipment can be funneled.

With LeMesurier acting as the alleged kingpin in an operation that has its handle on at least tens of millions of dollars, it’s clear that the White Helmets are far from the kind of indigenous grass roots impartial humanitarian-based NGO depicted in the Western media. Rather, they are a huge organization more typical of a medium sized multinational company.

The public can expect that the media profile of the terrorist-enablers will be amplified exponentially in the coming weeks and months in view of the fact that the Syrian Arab Army and their allies are advancing through eastern Aleppo where they are “routing the US-NATO backed terrorists” that are occupying the area.

Since the 2012 invasion, 600,000 Syrian civilians have fled from eastern Aleppo to the western part of the city. According to the Aleppo Medical Association, around 200,000 currently remain in the terrorist-held east of the city. Approximately 25,000 of the 200,000 are terrorists and their families. The remaining 175,000 are effectively being held as human shields.

Exposing Western propaganda

The fact that 600,000 have escaped into government- controlled western Aleppo counters the US-UK media narrative that says Assad is targeting his own people. Why, in other words, would people under these circumstances go from ‘liberated’ eastern Aleppo into the realm of a ‘murderous tyrant’ in the west of the city? Ninety per cent of internally displaced people driven out of their towns and villages by terrorists – whether described as ‘rebels’, ‘moderates’ or the ‘opposition’ – have gone into government held areas for protection. Seven million Syrian civilians have fled to these areas.

There are three main hospitals in eastern Aleppo and all are occupied by the terrorists who are using the top floors of these hospitals as sniper towers. The Al-Quds hospital which according to mainstream media reports was destroyed in April has been ‘miraculously’ rebuilt in the last few months and is now once again being used as part of the propaganda offensive against the Assad government. The French media claimed the Assad government bombed two hospitals in Aleppo but used images from Gaza.

Meanwhile, the independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, claims “Aleppo currently has over 4,160 registered doctors but the corporate media and even some social media sites reproduce propaganda reports that refer to ‘the last doctor in Aleppo'”. US Colonel Steve Warren said, “It’s primarily al-Nusra [Al-Qaida] who holds [eastern] Aleppo”. This would imply that the US wants to protect an area that its own government says is occupied and under siege by Al-Qaida terrorists. As Bartlett puts it, in terms of the media, “there is no consistency, even in their lies.”

Censorship by omission

While the media has been amplifying the propaganda provided to them by the terrorist factions inside eastern Aleppo, as exemplified, for example, by their reporting of the September 18 attack on the aid convoy organized by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, mortars were being reined down on civilians in western Aleppo. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Grad missiles have been fired into the north of the city by Western-backed terrorists.

The media reported the attack on the aid convoy because the White Helmets, their Western government terrorist allies, implicated the Assad government and/or the Russian’s with the attack. However, neither the terrorist attacks in either the west nor the north of Aleppo outlined above, were mentioned in the media.

The dirty propaganda war on Syria is to a large extent underpinned by the kind of media censorship by omission described. But it is also being underpinned by the media’s uncritical glorification of the White Helmets which is why we appear to be witnessing this incredible rush among the media to embellish them with credibility.

The public ought to be concerned about what kind of a tool this organization will be in the hands of whoever will end up taking hold of the next US presidential reigns. But whether it’s Clinton or Trump at the helm, the objective of illegal regime change is already too far down the road for the U.S government with its loyal British servant at its side to change course. This ought not come as any surprise to students of international relations.

Historical pattern

As the historian Mark Curtis acknowledges, the use of terrorists by British governments to initiate illegal regime change follows an historical pattern. “British governments, both Labour and Conservative”, he says, in ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’, “have, in pursuing the so-called ‘national interest abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organisations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives.”

In terms of Syria, it is the White Helmets who will continue to assist the imperial powers in achieving their foreign policy objectives of illegal regime change in the country. Encouragingly, the Wests terrorist-enablers, missed out on being rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize that they had been nominated for. If they had won, not only would it have been an illustration of a world descending into ever greater madness than is hitherto the case, but it would also have given the terrorist group the legitimacy they crave in the eyes of the world.

 

 

The Real Syria Story

By Daniel Margrain

Image

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

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.”

Addressing the motivations that drive Islamist obscurantists will help defeat them

By Daniel Margrain

Motivation guides behaviors

“The first step to combating Isis is to understand it. We have yet to do so. That failure costs us dear.” (Anthropologist, Scott Atran).

The murder of 85-year-old parish priest, Father Jacques Hamel during morning mass in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray,  northwest of Paris, by two adherents to the religious-based cult ISIS was yet another illustration of not only the depravity that this cult represents, but of the failure of domestic and international strategy of governments to deal with them. The lesson from almost a decade and a half of fighting terror with bombs is that the strategy has been an epic failure.

After the mass killings by ISIS in Paris, each subsequent attack on French soil has been marked by familiar-sounding televised addresses of condemnation of the perpetrators by president, Hollande followed by a determination to defeat them militarily. Meanwhile, French foreign policy in the Middle East continues along the same trajectory, presumably based on the premise that only through fighting fire with fire will the war against ISIS be won.

However, it would appear that with the exception of world leaders like Hollande and Britain’s Theresa May, most rational thinking people believe this eventuality to be an unrealistic proposition. ISIS are not like a traditional army and therefore can’t be fought as though they are one. Indeed, it’s the unpredictability and the random nature of their attacks in an era of globalisation which transcend the limitations associated with the traditional armies embedded within the structure of the nation-state, that sets them apart.

Although repeating the same failed foreign policy objectives undertaken by state actors in order to address the threat posed by an international terror network and ‘lone-wolf’ killers may be regarded as a sign of insanity by most, it nevertheless doesn’t appear to deter those who are motivated by the need to satisfy the financial interests of the lobbyists who profit from war.

Although it is widely understood that bombs and drones are counterproductive, it’s perhaps less understood that the establishment appear to want it that way on the basis, it would seem, that terrorist retaliation justifies the further use of bombs and drones. Ken Livingstone was surely correct in his analysis on BBCs Question Time programme last November when he suggested that bombing Raqqa will play into the hands of ISIS from a propaganda perspective enabling them to bolster their number of recruits on the back of it.

Indeed, it is clear that the aim of the religious-based cultists is to provoke an international bombing campaign precisely in order to achieve this objective. The ‘strategy’ of indiscriminate bombing of transnational ‘targets’ as a means of ending the cycle of terrorism and counter-terrorism is a policy of despair. What is needed is a total rethink that involves, in the first instance, a serious attempt at addressing the ideological motivations that drive ISIS as an organisation as well as the reasons why mainly young people are driven into the hands of this murderous cult.

The motivations seem to be varied and complex, embracing historical, theological, psychological and ideological factors. The first of these relates to the injustices meted out to the people of the region by the imperial powers. These injustices primarily originate from a series of secret meetings during World War 1 in London and Paris between the French diplomat, François Georges-Picot and the British politician, Sir Mark Sykes.

During these meetings, straight lines were drawn on a map of the middle east intended to effectively outline the control of land that was to be divided between the two countries. The French were to get Syria, Lebanon and parts of northern Iraq, while the British decided on southern Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The idea was that instead of giving independence to the Arabs which was promised following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the imperial powers would run them on their behalf.

The ensuing chaos has largely stemmed from this agreement. What drives ISIS is their need to fill power vacuums in a post-colonial world in which the artificial imperial borders created by Sykes-Picot are collapsing. Robert Fisk made the astute point that the first video ISIS produced was of a bulldozer destroying the border between Syria and Iraq. The camera panned down to a piece of paper with the words “End of Sykes-Picot” written on it.

The wider “Arab Awakening,” as Fisk puts it, represents a rejection of the history of the region since Sykes-Picot during which time the Arabs have been denied freedom, dignity and justice. According to Fisk, ISIS is a weapon that’s not primarily aimed at the West but at the Shia which the Sunni Gulf States’ want to keep at bay. This explains why the funding for ISIS is principally coming from the Sunni states’ of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The possibility of closer U.S-Iranian ties in the future will likely result in pressure being put on these states’ to ‘switch off’ their funding to ISIS which Fisk claims was one of the main topics of discussion at the Geneva nuclear talks between the two countries. A couple of months ago, the goal of ISIS was to maintain the Caliphate, but they now realize that this objective is in jeopardy. Consequently they are attempting to re-organise. This involves them reverting back to a guerilla-style organisational structure. The purpose of directly commanded attacks, is to prove to their followers throughout the world that despite the set-backs described, they still remain a strong fighting force.

French-American anthropologist, Scott Atran, widens the net further by suggesting that the young are motivated more by excitement and a sense of belonging than theology or political ideology:

“When you look at young people like the ones who grew up to blow up trains in Madrid in 2004, carried out the slaughter on the London underground in 2005, hoped to blast airliners out of the sky en route to the United States in 2006 and 2009, and journeyed far to die killing infidels in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia; when you look at whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them and what drives them; then you see that what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Koran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world that they will never live to enjoy…. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: …fraternal, fast-breaking, thrilling, glorious, and cool.”

Atran posits that the appeal of ISIS seems to be their offering of a Utopian society and the sense of belonging and empowerment that the religious obscurantists claim is lacking in Western society. The narrative is a future of peace and harmony, at least, under their interpretation, but with the recognition that brutality is also needed to get there.

The underlying aspect of this Utopianism is the retreat from the kind of unconditional freedom where many young people feel pressured into certain social actions, towards a different kind of freedom free from ambiguity and ambivalence that, for those concerned, enhances a form of creativity that restraint helps nurture. ISIS exploits this dichotomy by outlining a way towards significance in a society that treats the alienated as insignificant.

Maajid Nawaz depicts ISIS as akin to a brand that in order to be defeated needs to be discredited as part of a long-term strategy. This involves the creation of alternative narratives and the engendering of alternative forms of belonging and identity. Nawaz argues that the mission statement, as part of a generational struggle, has to be that the kind of obscurantist ideology that ISIS adhere to, is made as un-appealing as Stalinism or Hitler fascism is today. “We’ve got to be careful that we don’t become fixated about destroying the organization itself as part of a long-term strategy, but rather to focus on destroying the ISIS brand”, he says.

Irrespective of whether the discourse emanates from either the left or the right of the political spectrum, Nawaz argues that it needs to be more nuanced than has hitherto been the case:

“We seem to focus too much on binary approaches which on the one hand suggest that no problem exist within Islam [the perspective of many within the political left], or on the other, where all Muslims are perceived as the problem [the perspective of the far-right]. I would argue that to address the root problem we need to find a pathway between sensationalism and denialism.”

This approach will surely need to be run alongside a recognition by Western governments that their foreign policy strategies are not working. Instead of spending billions on ineffectual and counterproductive war, the money would be far better spent on effective prevention programmes on the ground. This could involve, as middle east scholar Ed Husain has argued, employing former jihadists to reach out to help educate young people about the dangers of ISIS and other extremists.

At some point, channels of communication will have to be opened up with radical Muslim groups who are willing to engage with experts outside the Muslim world to come to some kind of compromise agreement. This might even involve the formation of an Caliphate-type enclave based on ISIS lines. What is certain is the current path we are on is the wrong one.

The lack of any meaningful attempt to implement an effective strategy to weaken or destroy radical Islamism is self-evident. Ideologies cannot be defeated by bombs. Any U.S insistence that it’s dictatorial regional allies and proxies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – deplete ISIS of funds, will go a long way to achieving desired short-term goals.

The West might have to come to terms with making a short-term pact with the devil as part of a long-term strategy that undercuts the kind of psychological and ideological motivations that drive young people into the arms of religious obscurantists in the first place.