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A summit meeting between Presidents al-Assad and Putin held in Sochi





17 May، 2018

Sochi, SANA, President Bashar al-Assad held on Thursday a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi during which talks dealt with the distinguished bilateral relations between Syria and Russia and means of boosting regional and international security and stability.



During the meeting which was held in the presence of Russian senior military officers and officials, intensive talks were held about the fruitful cooperation in the field of combating international terrorism and the progress achieved as a result of this cooperation in the eradication of terrorism in Syria.

The two presidents also discussed steps of the political solution in addition to the positive role played by Federal Russia in this domain.

At the beginning of the summit meeting, the two presidents made the following press statement;

President Putin said “Mr. President, I am very happy to receive you in Russia, and first of all I congratulate you on the coming of the holy month of Ramadan and congratulate you on the great successes achieved by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism. And due to the efforts of the Syrian soldiers, very important steps were gained during the latest period in order to boost the legislative authority in the country where terrorists were expelled from important regions in Syria, which paved the way to start reconstructing infrastructure in the country after expelling terrorists and putting an end to the threat against Damascus.”



President Putin added that due to those military successes, additional and suitable conditions have been created to resume the political process track and a great progress was achieved in the framework of Astana process, another progress was gained during the Syrian national dialogue congress which was convened in Sochi.

“And now we can adopt the forthcoming steps in a joint form as the aspired goal is to reconstruct economy and offer humanitarian aid to people in need,” said President Putin.

He went on to say “As you know, we are in contact with all sides concerned in this complicated process including the UN and its envoy de Mistura, and I wish to discuss with you all these directions for our joint work and I welcome you.”

President al-Assad, for his part, said “thank you Mr. President, in the beginning, I like to offer congratulations on the occasion of starting your new constitutional term and I believe that the outcomes of latest elections were an indication that the policies you have adopted, whether on the internal or on the international arena satisfied the Russian people who saw this step as giving Russia a bigger and bigger place on the international arena.

“I am happy to meet again in Sochi after several months of our last meeting here, in fact, a lot of positive changes have been done between these two meetings, particularly regarding combating terrorism as the area of terrorists has become more smaller and during the latest weeks, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have returned to their homes and there are millions on their way to return and this means more stability, and this stability forms a broad door for the political process which has started since several years,” President al-Assad said.



The President added “of course, as we have announced previously, we announce here once again that we always supported, and we have a lot of enthusiasm for this process because it is necessary in parallel with combating terrorism… and we know that this issue will not be simple as there are countries that have no desire to see this stability as completed in Syria, nevertheless, we, and you, and the partners in the peace process will continue, with the same power, in order to achieve peace.. And today’s meeting is an opportunity to put a common view for the forthcoming period in regards to peace talks, whether in Astana or in Sochi.”

“Once again, I thank you, and avail the opportunity to thank the Russian military forces, in particular, the air forces, which played an important role in combating terrorism,” President al-Assad said.

At the end of the talks, President Putin gave a press statement saying “During the meeting that we held today, we have discussed the coming joint efforts concerning the continuation of combating terrorism in Syria and tackled that successes and victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army in its war against terrorism and restoring stability to the country.”

“In this regard, President al-Assad affirmed that he will send a list that includes the names of candidates to the membership of the committee on discussing constitution in the list of the Syrian government as soon as possible to the UN, and Russia welcomed this decision and supports it,” President Putin added.

He went on to say “We affirm that with the achievement of the big victories and the remarkable successes by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism and with the activation of the political process, it is necessary for all foreign forces to withdraw from the Syrian Arab Republic territories.”

President al-Assad, for his part, said “our meeting today was very fruitful as we evaluated, in the beginning, the military situation and the evaluation was positive in regards to what has been achieved in the process of combating terrorism, particularly the impact of these military operations on returning the situation to normal, so, returning the citizens to their homes.”

“I wish to thank President Putin and the Russian government which continued, during the phases of the crisis, offering the humanitarian aid to the Syrian citizens who have left different regions because of terrorism,” President al-Assad said.

The President went on to say that “we also discussed economic cooperation, particularly the increasing investments of the Russian companies in Syria lately and the possible steps to push more companies to invest in Syria and take part in reconstruction process.”

“We have also evaluated the political process during the latest months, particularly after Sochi conference,” the President said.

'I gave the US trucks and ammunition to Al Qaeda': The chaotic US effort to arm Syrian rebels

15 May 2018 - by Hollie McKay


REYHANLI, Turkey – U.S. military equipment and ammunition, sent to Syria as part of a failed Obama administration plan to find and arm moderate forces to defeat ISIS, were instead simply handed over to an Al Qaeda group, according to the man who said he himself brokered the deal.

“I communicated with Al Qaeda’s branch, Al Nusra, to protect and safely escort me and my soldiers for two hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo,” Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, better known on the battlefield as Abu Zayd, told Fox News from his home in the western Aleppo area. “In exchange, I gave them five pickup trucks and ammunition.”
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Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, better known on the battlefield as Commander Abu Zayd, admitted to Fox News that he gave US-issued trucks and ammunition to Al Qaeda in Syria.
Those trucks and ammo were issued to him by the United States in 2015, part of a $500 million Department of Defense effort to "train and equip" a new "ideologically moderate" force to battle ISIS. The program, one of at least two designed to funnel arms to so-called moderate Syrian rebels, proved to be a spectacular failure for the Obama administration.

Zayd, who said he defected from the Syrian Army to the opposition in 2012, described a program that was rife with inconsistencies and incompetencies.

He claimed the main prerequisite for inclusion in the program was proof of association with a group that had fought ISIS, the Islamic State. That was followed by a few basic questions, like, "With which faction did you fight?" and "What do you think about ISIS?"

After undergoing training in Turkey, the first batch of 54 trained fighters crossed back to Syria in July 2015 – only to be almost instantly ambushed by Al Nusra militants. Several of the men were kidnapped, and their U.S.-issued weapons were stolen.

Zayd said he was part of a second group to be sent into Syria -- this time without proper firepower.

The U.S. trainers "wanted us to go into Syria without weapons because of the ambush, and said we could get the weapons inside instead. This was crazy,” Zayd recalled. “We refused.”

The weapons issue was worked out, and the rebels eventually started their journey back to Syria on Sept. 19. But Turkish border guards found something else in their bags: Syrian regime flags, rather than the flags of the opposition group the fighters were being sent to support.

Zayd said fighters charged back to their base in Turkey, demanding answers. U.S trainers took responsibility for the “flag mistake,” Zayd said, and the following day the rebels continued back to Syria.
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Abu Zayd's ammunition warehouse, believed to hold some American-issued items.

But morale was already a problem, Zayd said, and fighters who were being paid a $250 monthly salary by the Defense Department began defecting. His group of 72 shrank to just 25, he said.

Zayd said he, too, became quickly fed up with the program and planned to return to his hometown in western Aleppo to fight the Syrian regime.

But getting home entailed moving through Al Nusra territory. That's when he called the Al Qaeda-affiliated leaders and made the arrangement to hand over the five U.S-issued trucks and scores of ammunition, in exchange for free passage and an armed escort home.

“The Americans were so angry when they found out, they cut my salary,” Zayd said nonchalantly. “But this was our only option through their territory to get home without getting killed.”

Zayd said the Pentagon halted the troubled program about a month after his deal with Al Nusra. “I got many messages the Americans do not want to deal with me anymore. But they can’t get their weapons back,” he boasted.



Abu Zayd's weapons arsenal, in which he claims many of the arms were issued through U.S training programs. (Fox News)

Over Skype from his living room, Zayd showed off an assortment of M-16 and M-24 sniper rifles, as well as ammo, mortar rounds and machine guns. He claimed most in his arsenal were U.S.-issued, with more in a nearby warehouse.

Sources close to Zayd told Fox News his American-funded goods routinely surface on the black market, and constitute something of a lucrative business. Zayd today remains a commander for the Free Syrian Army.

A second Obama administration program, "Timber Sycamore," was started by the CIA in late 2012 with the similar aim of arming rebels. This particular operation was active along the Turkish border to Syria's north, and a Jordanian crossing in the south, referred to as the “Southern Front.”

But Syrian opposition figures say this program was also compromised, with arms falling into the hands of ISIS or Al Nusra.

The program initially supplied light weapons. But as the Syrian civil war intensified, the U.S. strengthened its commitment by providing selected rebels with American “tune-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided” antitank missiles, better known as BGM-71 TOWs.

One opposition group backed by Washington in 2014 to use the TOWs was the FSA group Hazem Movement.

“We became optimistic we could overthrow the regime,” Asem Zidan, 27, formerly a media activist for the FSA’s Hazem, told Fox News. “And the TOW missiles helped us to prevent the regime pushing forward for some time ... but it wasn’t enough.”

Zidan said only 10 TOWs at a time were issued, which he said fell well short of what was required to defeat regime forces. And matters only worsened when Al Nusra started to attack and “steal their weapons.”

Another rebel fighter, Suheil Alhamoud, 30, who defected from the Syrian Army in March 2012 -- where he was a specialist in missiles – also expressed frustration over what he called insufficient efforts to help.


Suheil Alhamoud, now 30, was trained by the U.S and allied countries as part of the CIA's clandestine effort to arm Syrian rebels against the Assad regime in 2014.

After a string of several successful attacks against ISIS forces, Alhamoud said that in late November 2014 he received a supply of malfunctioning TOWs, believed to have come from surplus Saudi stockpiles. But despite having a stated range of more than two miles, some missiles would travel no more than 150 feet.

“I suffered a lot because of that,” Alhamoud contended. “And so the regime and the terrorists advanced. We were told more TOWs would come, but it took weeks for them to arrive.”

Alhamoud also conceded that Al Nusra managed to steal a number of TOWs, many of which have since landed on the black market, fetching up to $30,000 apiece.

Ibrahim al-Jabawi, who defected from his position as vice president of Police in the Syrian province of Homs in 2012 to take on a role as the Amman-based spokesperson for the Southern Front, concurred that “some of the TOW rockets ended up with Al Nusra.”
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Ibrahim al-Jabawi, former spokesperson for the U.S-backed Southern Front Syrian opposition outfit.

In July 2017, citing its ineffectiveness and on recommendation from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, President Trump ended the faltering Syrian rebel supply program. While the cost of the program and the amount of arms and aid provided remains mostly classified, it is estimated that more that $1 billion was spent on the effort.

The CIA declined to comment on this story. A spokesperson for the Defense Department acknowledged that they “clearly faced challenges” with the now-discontinued train-and-equip effort.
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Black market weapons sales from US-backed groups out of Syria. (Fox News)


VIDEO | U.S. equipment and weapons handed over to Al Qaeda.
Two U.S. programs aimed at arming moderate forces against ISIS inadvertently put weapons, ammunition and equipment in the hands of Al Qaeda

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay


U.S. Media Whitewashes Gaza Massacre

By Joe Lauria - May 14, 2018
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As Israel killed more than 50 Palestinians in cold blood protesting the American embassy move on Monday, U.S. corporate media failed to accurately report what happened in Gaza, once again meekly protecting the government line, argues Joe Lauria.

Typical of the mindset of corporate media reporting on what happened in Gaza on Monday as Israeli soldiers killed more than 50 protesting Palestinians, is this tweet from CNN. It says: “Death toll rises to at least 52 people during clashes along the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian officials say. More than 2,400 people have been injured.” CNN’s new slogan is “#FactsFirst.

Adam Johnson, who writes for the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, responded to CNN with a tweet of his own:

“This one’s got it all:
  • ‘death toll rises’ — no one was killed and no one specific party did the killing, the death toll just mysteriously ‘rises’
  • ‘clashes’ — launders all power asymmetry
  • ‘2,400 people have been injured’ — all 2,400 are Palestinian but lets go with ‘people’.” 
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said on his blog that he did a Google News search for the word “massacre” and found not one reference to Gaza.

A New York Times headline on Monday said: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the U.S. prepares to open its Jerusalem Embassy.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald responded: “Most western media outlets have become quite skilled – through years of practice – at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit. But the all-time champion has long been, and remains, the New York Times. #HaveDied.”

[Perhaps because of pressure from Greenwald and others, the Times on Monday night changed its headline to “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.”]

Yet another CNN headline simply read: “Dozens die in Gaza.” Journalist Max Blumenthal responded: “Maybe they were old. Perhaps they were very sick. They just up and died! Who will solve the mystery behind these deaths?”

Blumenthal later offered a possible solution to the mystery: “According to the White House, Khhamas launched 41 protesters into unsuspecting Israeli bullets.”

Projecting

Deflecting blame from Israel is one thing. But projecting it onto the victim is quite another. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called for the U.N. Security Council to, “Condemn Hamas for their war crimes,” because “every casualty on the border is a direct victim of Hamas.”

He said in a statement released by Israel’s U.N. mission:

“Condemn Hamas for the war crimes they commit. Not only does Hamas incite tens of thousands of Palestinians to breach the border and hurt Israeli civilians, but Hamas also deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians. The murder of Israeli civilians or deaths of the people of Gaza – each one of them is a desirable outcome for Hamas. Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility.”

That’s one way to wash the Israeli government’s (blood-soaked) hands of the matter. Especially if you fear Israel will be accused of war crimes itself for its actions on Monday. Danon mentioned “breaching the border.” But it is virtually impossible to get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Burning kites lofted over the barrier that pens in nearly two million Gazans subject to an internationally unrecognized economic blockade, supposedly constitutes “breaching,” in Danon’s mind.

He would do well to consider the words of Moshe Dayan, one of the Israel’s Founding Fathers, who said in 1956:

“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.” He went on: “We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.”

So on the day, 61 years later, when the United States declared Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy there, rather than leaving its status to negotiation, people still trapped in Gaza protested at the gate fencing them in while Israeli military snipers picked off more than 50 of them and wounded thousands more for protesting their entrapment.

U.S. Parrots Israel, Media Parrots U.S.

Danon’s position was callously promoted by the White House on Monday. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked several times to condemn Israel’s military response. “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he said. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.” He later blamed Hamas for a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.”

Unsurprisingly, Congress also lined up behind the Jewish State, mostly ignoring what went on in Gaza.

At the ceremony opening the embassy, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called Monday “a monumental day in United States-Israel relations.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who was among four senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives present, incredulously said moving the embassy “furthers the chances of peace in the Middle East by demonstrating that America’s support for Israel is unconditional and will not be bullied by global media opinion.”

Back in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed: “Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”

Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016, tweeted: “Where are the democrats condemning the slaughter in Gaza? If this was Assad they would be joining the republicans calling for military action pretending like they cared for Arab life.”

Handful of Democrats Speak Out

Bernie Sanders of Vermont mildly criticized Israel’s murderous response. “Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” he said. “The United States must play an aggressive role in bringing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the international community together to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and stop this escalating violence.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, was more critical: “It’s just heartbreaking. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is desperate. Instead of cutting aid, the Trump administration must restore our leadership role and do what it can to alleviate the Palestinians’ suffering. The location of the embassy is a final-status issue that should have been resolved as part of peace negotiations where both sides benefit, not just one side. Israel will only know true security when it is at peace with its neighbors.”

Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, tweeted: “Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians. @realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”

Pressure to support Israel on The Hill is infamously intense. But what is the media’s excuse for being afraid to simply report facts, such as that Israeli soldiers “killed” Palestinians on Monday. They didn’t just simply die.

Just because U.S. government figures are apologists for Israel, does not mean the media must be too. But that would require the U.S. having an independent mainstream media.

When control of powerful mainstream communications breeds self-aggrandizement and adherence to a line pushed for so long because it got you where you are in the pecking order of media culture, it seems virtually impossible to shift gears and take another look at what you are reporting.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

President al-Assad interview to Greek Kathimerini newspaper


Syria is fighting terrorists, who are the army of the Turkish, US, and Saudi regimes

10 May 2018



In an interview given to the Greek Kathimerini newspaper, President al-Assad said that Syria is fighting terrorists, who are the army of the Turkish, US, and Saudi regimes, stressing that any aggressor and any army, whether Turkish, French, or whoever, they are all enemies as long as they came to Syria illegally.

President Bashar al-Assad said that France, Britain, and the US, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey are responsible for the war in Syria due to their support of the terrorism, describing the Western allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Army as a farce and a very primitive play whose only goal is to attack the Syrian Army after the defeat of terrorists.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview. It’s a pleasure to be here in Damascus.

President Assad: You’re most welcome in Syria.

Question 1: Let me ask you first of all, you know, there’s been accusation by the US and the Europeans about the use of chemical weapons, and there was an attack after that. What is your response to that? Was there a chemical attack? Were you responsible for it?

President Assad: First of all, we don’t have any chemical arsenal since we gave it up in 2013, and the international agency for chemical weapons made investigations about this, and it’s clear or documented that we don’t have. Second, even if we have it, we wouldn’t use it, for many different reasons. But let’s put these two points aside, let’s presume that this army has chemical weapons and it’s in the middle of the war; where should it be used? At the end of the battle? They should use it somewhere in the middle, or where the terrorists made advancement, not where the army finished the battle and terrorists gave up and said “we are ready to leave the area” and the army is controlling fully that area. So, the Western narrative started after the victory of the Syrian Army, not before. When we finished the war, they said “they used chemical weapons.”

Second, use of mass destruction armaments in a crammed area with a population like Douma – the supposed area, it’s called Douma and they talk about 45 victims- when you use mass destruction armaments in such an area, you should have hundreds or maybe thousands of victims in one time. Third, why all the chemical weapons, the presumed or supposed chemical weapons, only kill children and women? They don’t kill militants. If you look at the videos, it’s completely fake. I mean, when you have chemical weapons, how could the doctors and nurses be safe, dealing with the chemical atmosphere without any protective clothes, without anything, just throwing water at the victims, and the victims became okay just because you washed them with water. So, it’s a farce, it’s a play, it’s a very primitive play, just to attack the Syrian army, because… Why? That’s the most important part, is that when the terrorists lost, the US, France, UK, and their other allies who want to destabilize Syria, they lost one of their main cards, and that’s why they had to attack the Syrian Army, just to raise the morale of the terrorists and to prevent the Syrian Army from liberating more areas in Syria.

Question 2: But are you saying that there was an incident of chemical attack and someone else is responsible, or that there was nothing there?

President Assad: That’s the question, because, I mean, the side who said – allegedly – that there was a chemical attack, had to prove that there was an attack. We have two scenarios: either the terrorists had chemical weapons and they used them intentionally, or maybe there was explosions or something, or there was no attack at all, because in all the investigations in Douma people say “we didn’t have any chemical attack, we didn’t see any chemical gas, or didn’t smell” and so on. So, we don’t have any indications about what happened. The Western narrative is about that, so that question should be directed to the Western officials who said there was an attack. We should ask them: where is your concrete evidence about what happened? They only talk about reports. Reports could be allegations. Videos by the White Helmets, the White Helmets are funded by the British Foreign Office, and so on.

Question 3: President Trump, in a tweet, use a very strong expression. He said “animal Assad.” You remember that? What is your response to that?

President Assad: Actually, when you are in that position, I mean president of a country, you have first of all to represent the morals of your people before representing your own morals. You are representing your country. Question: does this language represent the American culture? That is the question. This is very bad, and I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s a community in the world that has such language. Second, the good thing about Trump is that he expresses himself in a very transparent way, which is very good in that regard. Personally, I don’t care, because I deal with the situation as a politician, as a president. It doesn’t matter for me personally; what matters is whether something would affect me, would affect my country, our war, the terrorists, and the atmosphere that we are living in.

Question 4: He said that his mission was accomplished. He said “mission accomplished in Syria.” How do you feel about that?

President Assad: I think maybe the only mission accomplished was when they helped ISIS escape from Raqqa, when they helped them, and it was proven by video, and under their cover, the leaders of ISIS escaped Raqqa, going toward Deir Ezzor just to fight the Syrian Army. The other mission accomplished was when they attacked the Syrian Army at the end of 2016 in the area of Deir Ezzor when ISIS was surrounding Deir Ezzor, and the only force was the Syrian Army. I mean, the only force to defend that city from ISIS was the Syrian Army, and because of the Americans’ – and of course their allies’ – attack, Deir Ezzor was on the brink of falling in the hand of ISIS. So, this is the only mission that was accomplished. If he’s talking about destroying Syria, of course that’s another mission accomplished. While if you talk about fighting terrorism, we all know very clearly that the only mission the United States have been doing in Syria is to support the terrorists, regardless of their names, of the names of their factions.

Question 5: But, I mean, he was using such language with the North Korean leader, and now they’re going to meet. Could you potentially see yourself meeting with Trump? What would you tell him if you saw him face to face?

President Assad: The first question you should ask, whether to meet or to make contact or whatever, what can you achieve? The other question: what can we achieve with someone who says something before the campaign, and does the opposite after the campaign, who says something today, and does the opposite tomorrow, or maybe in the same day. So, it’s about consistency. Do they have the same frequency every day, or the same algorithm? So, I don’t think in the meantime we can achieve anything with such an administration. A further reason is that we don’t think the president of that regime is in control. We all believe that the deep state, the real state, is in control, or is in control of every president, and this is nothing new. It has always been in the United States, at least during the last 40 years, at least since Nixon, maybe before, but it’s becoming starker and starker, and the starkest case is Trump.

Question 6: When is your mission going to be accomplished, given the situation here in Syria now?

President Assad: I have always said, without any interference, it will take less than a year to regain stability in Syria; I don’t have any doubt about this. The other factor is how much support the terrorists receive; this is something I cannot answer, because I cannot foretell. But as long as it continues, time is not the main factor. The main factor is that someday, we’re going to end this conflict and we’re going to re-unify Syria under the control of the government. When? I cannot answer. I hope it’s going to be soon.

Question 7: Now, there was some criticism lately, because you apparently have a law that says that anybody that doesn’t claim their property within a month, they cannot come back. Is that a way to exclude some of the people who disagree with you?

President Assad: No, we cannot dispossess anyone from their property by any law, because the constitution is very clear about the ownership of any Syrian citizen. This could be about the procedure. It’s not the first time we have such a law just to re-plan the destroyed and the illegal areas, because you’re dealing with a mixture of destroyed and illegal suburbs in different parts of Syria. So, this law is not about dispossessing anyone. You cannot, I mean even if he’s a terrorist, let’s say, if you want to dispossess someone, you need a verdict by the judicial system, I mean, you cannot make it by law. So, there’s either misinterpretation of that law, or an intention, let’s say, to create a new narrative about the Syrian government in order to rekindle the fire of public opinion in the West against the Syrian government. But about the law, I mean, even if you want to make a procedure, it’s about the local administration, it’s about the elected body in different areas, to implement that law, not the government.

Question 8: Now, who are your biggest allies in this fight? Obviously, they are Russia and Iran. Are you worried that they might play too an important role in the future of the country after this war is over?

President Assad: If you talk about my allies as a president, they are the Syrian people. If you talk about Syria’s allies, of course they’re the Iranians and the Russians. They are our strongest allies, and of course China that supported us politically in the Security Council. As for them playing an important role in the future of the country, these countries respect Syria’s sovereignty and national decision making and provide support to insure them. So, it doesn’t make sense for these countries to take part in a war to help Syria defend its sovereignty, and at the same time violate or interfere with this sovereignty. Iran and Russia are the countries which respect Syria’s sovereignty the most.

Question 9: How about Turkey now? Turkey did an intrusion, an invasion of part of your country. You used to have a pretty good relationship with President Erdogan. How is that relationship now after that intrusion?

President Assad: First of all, this is an aggression, this is an occupation. Any single Turkish soldier on Syrian soil represents occupation. That doesn’t mean the Turkish people are our enemies. Only a few days ago, we had a political delegation coming from Turkey. We have to distinguish between the Turks in general and Erdogan. Erdogan is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe he’s not organized, but his affiliation is toward that ideology, I call it this dark ideology. And for him, because, like the West, when the terrorists lost control of different areas, and actually they couldn’t implement the agenda of Turkey or the West or Qatar or Saudi Arabia, somebody had to interfere. This is where the West interfered through the recent attacks on Syria, and this is where Erdogan was assigned by the West, mainly the United States, to interfere, to make the situation complicated, again because without this interference, the situation would have been resolved much faster. So, it’s not about personal relations. The core issue of the Muslim Brotherhood anywhere in the world is to use Islam in order to take control of the government in your country, and to create multiple governments having this kind of relation, like a network of Muslim Brotherhoods, around the world.

Question 10: In an election campaign rally, he said that two days ago, that he’s going to do another intrusion into Syria. How are you going to respond to that if it happens?

President Assad: Actually, since the very beginning of the war, Erdogan supported the terrorists, but at that time, he could hide behind words like “protecting the Syrian people, supporting the Syrian people, supporting the refugees, we are against the killing,” and so on. He was able to appear as a humanitarian president, let’s say. Now, because of these circumstances, he has to take off the mask and show himself as the aggressor, and this is the good thing. So, there is no big difference between the Turkish head of regime Erdogan sending his troops to Syria, and supporting the terrorists; this is his proxy. So, we’ve been fighting seven years his army. The difference actually between now and then is the appearance; the core is the same. At that time, we couldn’t talk about occupation, we could talk about supporting terrorists, but this time we could talk about occupation, which is the announcement of Erdogan that he’s now violating the international law, and this could be the good part of him announcing this.

Question 11: But how can you respond to that?

President Assad: First of all, we are fighting the terrorists, and as I said, the terrorists for us are his army, they are the American army, the Saudi army. Forget about the different factions and who is going to finance those factions; at the end, they work for one agenda, and those different players obey one master: the American master. Erdogan is not implementing his own agenda; he’s only implementing the American agenda, and the same goes for the other countries in this war. So, first of all, you have to fight the terrorists. Second, when you take control of more areas, you have to fight any aggressor, any army. The Turkish, French, whoever, they are all enemies; as long as they came to Syria illegally, they are our enemies.

Question 12: Are you worried about the potential third world war starting here in Syria? I mean, you have the Israelis hitting the Iranians, you know, here in your own country. You have the Russians, you have the Americans. Are you concerned about that possibility?

President Assad: No, for one reason: because fortunately, you have a wise leadership in Russia, and they know that the agenda of the deep state in the United States is to create a conflict. Since the campaign of Trump, the main agenda was against Russia, create a conflict with Russia, humiliate Russia, undermine Russia, and so on. And we’re still in the same process under different titles or by different means. Because of the wisdom of the Russians, we can avoid this. Maybe it’s not a full-blown third world war, but it is a world war, maybe in a different way, not like the second and the first, maybe it’s not nuclear, but it’s definitely not a cold war; it’s something more than a cold war, less than a full-blown war. And I hope we don’t see any direct conflict between these super powers, because this is where things are going to be out of control for the rest of the world.

Question 13: Now, there’s a very important question about whether Syria can be a unified, fully-sovereign country again. Is that really possible after all this that has happened?



President Assad: It depends on what the criteria of being unified or not is. The main factor to have a unified country is to have unification in the minds of the people, and vice versa. When those people look at each other as foreigners, they cannot live with each other, and this is where you’re going to have division. Now, if you want to talk about facts and reality, not my opinion, I can tell you no, it’s not going to be divided, and of course we’re not going to accept that, but it’s not about my will or about my rhetoric, to say we’re going to be unified; it’s about the reality. The reality, now, if you look at Syria during the crisis, not only today, since the very beginning, you see all the different spectrums of the Syrian society living with each other, and better than before. These relationships are better than before, maybe because of the effect of the war. If you look at the areas under the control of the terrorists, this is where you can see one color of the Syrian society, which is a very, very, very narrow color. If you want to talk about division, you have to see the line, the separation line between either ethnicities or sects or religions, something you don’t see. So, in reality, there’s no division till this moment; you only have areas under the control of the terrorists. But what led to that speculation? Because the United States is doing its utmost to give that control, especially now in the eastern part of Syria, to those terrorists in order to give the impression that Syria cannot be unified again. But it’s going to be unified; I don’t have any doubt about that.

Question 14: But why would the US do this if you’re fighting the same enemy: Islamic terrorism?

President Assad: Because the US usually have an agenda and they have goals. If they cannot achieve their goals, they resort to something different, which is to create chaos. Create chaos until the whole atmosphere changes, maybe because the different parties will give up, and they will give-in to their goals, and this is where they can implement their goals again, or maybe they change their goals, but if they cannot achieve it, it’s better to weaken every party and create conflict, and this is not unique to Syria. This has been their policy for decades now in every area of this world. That’s why, if you see conflicts around the world, after the British, the Americans are responsible for every conflict between different countries everywhere on this globe.

Question 15: Do you feel you’ve made any mistakes in dealing with this crisis and the civil war, when it started, if you look back?

President Assad: If I don’t make mistakes, I’m not human; maybe on daily basis sometimes. The more you work, the more complicated the situation, the more mistakes you are likely to make. But how do you protect yourself from committing mistakes as much as possible? First of all, to consult the largest proportion of the people, not only the institutions, including the parliament, syndicates, and so on. But also the largest amount of this society, or the largest part of the society, to participate in every decision.

While if you talk about the way I behaved toward, or the way I led, let’s say, the government or the state during the war, the main pillars of the state’s policy were to fight terrorism – and I don’t think that fighting terrorism was wrong – to respond to the political initiatives from different parties externally and internally regardless of their intentions, to make a dialogue with everyone – including the militants, and finally to make reconciliation; I don’t think we can say that this was wrong. So, about the pillars of our policy, I think the reality has proven that we were right. About the details, of course, you always have mistakes.

Question 16: Now, how much is it going to cost to reconstruct this country, and who is going to pay for this?

President Assad: Hundreds of billions, the minimum is two hundred, and in some estimations it’s about four hundred billion dollars. Why it’s not precise? Because some areas are still under the control of the terrorists, so we couldn’t estimate precisely what is the number. So, this is plus or minus, let’s say.

Question 17: Now, there is a lot of speculation, people say in order for a political solution to be viable, you might have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the country, you know this, that kind of speculation. Is that something that crosses you mind?

President Assad: The main part of my future, as a politician, is two things: my will and the will of the Syrian people. Of course, the will of the Syrian people is more important than my will; my desire to be in that position or to help my country or to play a political role, because if I have that desire and will and I don’t have the public support, I can do nothing, and I will fail, and I don’t have a desire to fail. After seven years of me being in that position, if I don’t have the majority of the Syrian people’s support, how could I withstand for more than seven years now, with all this animosity by the strongest countries and by the richest countries? Who supports me? If the Syrian people are against me, how can I stay? How could I achieve anything? How could we withstand? So, when I feel that the Syrian people do not want me to stay anymore, of course I have to leave without any hesitation.

Question 18: But you know, there is a lot of blood that has, you know, taken place, and all that, so can you see yourself sitting across from the opposition and sharing, you know, power in some way?

President Assad: When you talk about blood, you have to talk about who created that blood. I was president before the war for ten years, had I been killing the Syrian people for ten years? No, definitely not. So, the conflict started because somebody, first of all part of the West, supported those terrorists, and they bear the responsibility for this war. So first of all the West, who provided military and financial support and political cover, and who stood against the Syrian people, who impoverished the Syrian people and created a better atmosphere for the terrorists to kill more Syrian people. So, part of the West – mainly France, UK, and US, and also Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey are responsible for this part. It’s not enough to say there is blood; this is a very general term. Of course there is blood; it’s a war, but who’s responsible? Those who are responsible should be held accountable.


Question 19: Now, it’s been a few years since you visited Greece. Your father had a very close relation with some of the Greek political leaders. How have the relations been between Greece and Syria these days, and what kind of message would you like to send to the Greek people?

President Assad: At the moment, there are no formal relations between Syria and Greece; the embassies are closed, so there are no relations. At the same time, Greece wasn’t aggressive towards what happened in Syria. It always supported a political solution, it never supported war or attacks against Syria. You didn’t play any role to support the terrorists, but at the same time, as a member – and an important member – of the EU, you couldn’t play any role, let’s say, in refraining the other countries from supporting the terrorists, violating the international law by attacking and besieging a sovereign country without any reason, without any mandate by the Security Council. So, we appreciate that Greece wasn’t aggressive, but at the same time, I think Greece has to play that role, because it’s part of our region. It is part of the EU geographically, but it’s a bridge between our region and the rest of Europe, and it’s going to be affected, and it has been affected by the refugee situation, and the terrorism now has been affecting Europe for the last few years, and Greece is part of that continent. So, I think it’s normal for Greece to start to play its role in the EU in order to solve the problem in Syria and protect the international law.

Journalist: Thank you very much Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you.

10 May 2018

Russia ‘won’t allow’ another US military action in Syria based on false flag – OPCW envoy


By VT Senior Editors  |  May 2, 2018



Russia’s envoy to the OPCW said it was crucial to avoid new false-flag attacks in Syria and that Moscow “won’t allow” US military action there, as he described details of Russian findings on the site of the alleged Douma incident.
 –
New false-flag operations against Damascus are “possible, since our American partners are once again threatening to take military action against Syria, but we will not allow that,” Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, said during a press conference in The Hague on Thursday.
The meeting was called by Russia’s OPCW mission and featured witnesses of the April 7 alleged chemical incident in the city of Douma. It highlighted the findings of Russian military experts, who were among the first to reach the site of the purported attack and locate the “munitions” that supposedly hit the residential buildings.
“Russian experts performed a detailed analysis of the information on the ground,” Major-General Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection (RKhBZ) Troops, said. “Two gas cylinders, allegedly dropped by the government forces from helicopters, were found in two apartments.”
The cylinders and the damage they supposedly caused did not fit the tale of an airstrike entirely, Kirillov said. One of the cylinders lacked any makeshift upgrades, such as fins, to make it usable as an aerial munition, and, surprisingly, it was not even deformed.
“An empty gas cylinder found at the top floor. The apartment was partially destroyed earlier by an aerial bomb explosion, parts of roof and outer wall were missing,” Kirillov stated. “Other walls were sprayed with shrapnel. It’s quite peculiar that the cylinder was not deformed, which doesn’t fit its purported fall from a big altitude on concrete floor.”
The other cylinder, while fitted with some crude fins, also remained in nearly pristine condition despite its “fall.” The device miraculously did little to no damage to the room it supposedly hit, besides a large hole in the ceiling, which, however, was unlikely made by the object, according to military specialists.
“The cylinder has partially retained impermeability and is almost undamaged, which is impossible after a fall from some 2,000 meters, the usual altitude used by the Syrian army helicopters,” Kirillov said. “A tail part of an unguided rocket has been uncovered on the roof near the gap in the ceiling. The munition was likely to make the hole, but we cannot rule out an artificial nature of the damage made to the roof, since we discovered a pinch bar at the stairwell of the building.”
The cylinder was likely hauled by the “authors of the staged video” from outside, the official stated, as “multiple chips and dragging marks at the stairwell” indicated. An apartment below was being used by its owner to breed chickens, and all the livestock miraculously “made through the so-called chemical attack alive,” according to Kirillov.
“Moreover, the RKhBZ troops have uncovered a booby-trapped chemical laboratory and chemical stockpile in the city of Douma, which was liberated from the militants. They’ve been presumably used by the terrorists to manufacture toxic substances,” the official said.
He added that a chlorine-filled canister that was very similar to the purported munitions used during the Douma incident was recovered from the militant-run warehouse. OPCW-controlled substances, which can be used to produce mustard gas, have been also found there.
The Douma incident was featured in videos released by the controversial White Helmets group and spread through militant-linked social media accounts. It was seemingly taken at face value by the US and its allies, who promptly pinned the blame on Damascus and launched a massive missile strike on the country in “retaliation” on April 14. The attack came hours before the OPCW experts were set to embark on their fact-finding mission in Douma.
The experts have already visited the site of the purported incident. Shulgin, meanwhile, called on the OPCW to visit the chemical laboratories left behind by the militants to see for themselves who is actually behind the use of chemical arms in Syria.
“We urge the OPCW technical secretariat and experts to make use of their time in Syria and examine the undercover underground chemical laboratories of the militants, the terrorists, who used them, as we believe, to produce chemical munitions, including those used for all kinds of false flag attacks,” Shulgin stressed.
SOURCEhttps://www.veteranstoday.com/2018/05/02/russia-wont-allow-another-us-military-action-in-syria-based-on-false-flag-opcw-envoy/

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© Michael Kooren

From the archive: The secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal revealed

October 5, 1986: Insight finds the warhead factory buried in the desert

October 5, 1986: Insight finds the warhead factory buried in the desert

THE secrets of a subterranean factory engaged in the manufacture of Israeli nuclear weapons have been uncovered by The Sunday Times Insight team.

Hidden beneath the Negev desert, the factory has been producing atomic warheads for the past 20 years. Now it has almost certainly begun manufacturing thermo-nuclear weapons, with yields big enough to destroy entire cities.

Information about Israel's capacity to manufacture the bomb comes from the testimony of Mordechai Vanunu, a 31-year-old Israeli who worked as a nuclear technician for nearly 10 years in Machon 2 - a top-secret, underground bunker built to provide the vital components necessary for weapons production at Dimona, the Israeli nuclear research establishment.

Vanunu's evidence has surprised nuclear experts who were approached by Insight to verify its accuracy because it shows that Israel does not just have the atom bomb - which has been long suspected - but that it has become a big nuclear power.

Vanunu's testimony and pictures, which have been scrutinised by nuclear experts on both sides of the Atlantic, show that Israel has developed the sophisticated and highly classified techniques needed to build up a formidable arsenal.

They confirm that Israel now ranks as the world's sixth most powerful nuclear power after America, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China - with an arsenal far greater than those other countries, such as India, Pakistan and South Africa, which have also been suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

It has possessed its secret weapons factory for more than two decades, hiding its plutonium extraction processes from spy satellites and independent inspections during the 1960s by burying it beneath an innocuous, little-used building.

The plant is equipped with French plutonium extracting technology, which transformed Dimona from a research establishment to a bomb production facility. Plutonium production rates amount to 40kg a year, enough to build 10 bombs. In the past six years Israel has added further equipment to make components for thermo-nuclear devices.

The 26 megawatt reactor, also built by the French, has been expanded and is probably now operating at 150 megawatts to allow it to extract more plutonium. An ingenious cooling system disguises the output.

The nuclear scientists consulted by The Sunday Times calculate that at least 100 and as many as 200 nuclear weapons of varying destructive power have been assembled - 10 times the previously estimated strength of Israel's nuclear arsenal.

The scientists include Theodore Taylor, who was taught by Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, and worked on America's first bomb designs. He later went on to head the Pentagon's atomic weapons test programme.

Taylor studied the photographs taken by Vanunu inside Dimona and a transcript of his evidence near Washington last week. He said: "There should no longer be any doubt that Israel is, and for at least a decade has been, a fully-fledged nuclear weapons state. The Israeli nuclear weapons programme is considerably more advanced than indicated by any previous report or conjectures of which I am aware."

Vanunu says that despite tight security he was able to smuggle a camera into Machon 2 and take more than 60 photographs.

The assessments of Taylor have been confirmed by other top nuclear scientists who were shown the pictures and detailed evidence.

Israel refused to comment on the evidence but confirmed that Vanunu worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission in Dimona. He was made redundant last November with 180 other Dimona workers during a cost-cutting drive.

Security men had grown concerned about Vanunu's political contacts with West Bank Arab students during a part-time philosophy course that he was taking at Beersheba University.

Before publication Vanunu, now 63, was lured into flying to Italy for a holiday by a Mossad agent named Cheryl Bentov. He was captured by Israeli agents, smuggled to Israel and put on trial on charges of treason and espionage. He was released in 2004 but is not allowed to leave the country and is subject to numerous other restrictions including a ban on speaking to foreign journalists.

Article Date : September 21 2008, The Sunday Times

SOURCE | https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/from-the-archive-the-secrets-of-israels-nuclear-arsenal-revealed-vp3fdssqrpq

ALSO SEE The BBC Film That Exposed Israel's Secret Illegal Nuclear Weapons (FULL Documentary)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk_6CCZ0gCY



---------

RELATED: 

1) Mordechai Vanunu: The Sunday Times articles (Dated: April 21 2004 )
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mordechai-vanunu-the-sunday-times-articles-xj2gfxldbv2

2) The truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/15/truth-israels-secret-nuclear-arsenal

3) VANUNU'S PHOTOS OF DIMONA - 1985
http://www.vanunu.com/uscampaign/photos.html

4) OCT. 5, 1986: ISRAEL'S SECRET NUKE ARSENAL EXPOSED
https://www.wired.com/2011/10/1005israel-secret-nuclear-arsenal-exposed/











..

The NeoCon Propaganda Machine Pushing “Regime Change” in Syria



Jan 6, 2012  |  by AISLING BYRNE

“War with Iran is already here,” wrote a leading Israeli commentator recently, describing “the combination of covert warfare and international pressure” being applied to Iran.

Although not mentioned, the “strategic prize” of the first stage of this war on Iran is Syria; the first campaign in a much wider sectarian power-bid. “Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself,” Saudi King Abdullah was reported to have said last summer, “nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.”

By December, senior United States officials were explicit about their regime change agenda for Syria: Tom Donilon, the US National Security Adviser, explained that the “end of the [President Bashar al-] Assad regime would constitute Iran’s greatest setback in the region yet – a strategic blow that will further shift the balance of power in the region against Iran.”

Shortly before, a key official in terms of operationalizing this policy, Under Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman, had stated at a congressional hearing that the US would “relentlessly pursue our two-track strategy of supporting the opposition and diplomatically and financially strangling the [Syrian] regime until that outcome is achieved”.

What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime “more compatible” with US interests in the region.

The blueprint for this project is essentially a report produced by the neo-conservative Brookings Institute for regime change in Iran in 2009. The report – “Which Path to Persia?” – continues to be the generic strategic approach for US-led regime change in the region.

A rereading of it, together with the more recent “Towards a Post-Assad Syria” (which adopts the same language and perspective, but focuses on Syria, and was recently produced by two US neo-conservative think-tanks) illustrates how developments in Syria have been shaped according to the step-by-step approach detailed in the “Paths to Persia” report with the same key objective: regime change.

The authors of these reports include, among others, John Hannah and Martin Indyk, both former senior neo-conservative officials from the George W Bush/Dick Cheney administration, and both advocates for regime change in Syria. Not for the first time are we seeing a close alliance between US/British neo-cons with Islamists (including, reports show, some with links to al-Qaeda) working together to bring about regime change in an “enemy” state.

Arguably, the most important component in this struggle for the “strategic prize” has been the deliberate construction of a largely false narrative that pits unarmed democracy demonstrators being killed in their hundreds and thousands as they protest peacefully against an oppressive, violent regime, a “killing machine” led by the “monster” Assad.

Whereas in Libya, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) claimed it had “no confirmed reports of civilian casualties” because, as the New York Times wrote recently, “the alliance had created its own definition for ‘confirmed’: only a death that NATO itself investigated and corroborated could be called confirmed”.

“But because the alliance declined to investigate allegations,” the Times wrote, “its casualty tally by definition could not budge – from zero”.

In Syria, we see the exact opposite: the majority of Western mainstream media outlets, along with the media of the US’s allies in the region, particularly al-Jazeera and the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV channels, are effectively collaborating with the “regime change” narrative and agenda with a near-complete lack of questioning or investigation of statistics and information put out by organizations and media outlets that are either funded or owned by the US/European/Gulf alliance – the very same countries instigating the regime change project in the first place.

Claims of “massacres”, “campaigns of rape targeting women and girls in predominantly Sunni towns” “torture” and even “child-rape” are reported by the international press based largely on two sources – the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCCs) – with minimal additional checking or verification.

Hiding behind the rubric – “we are not able to verify these statistics” – the lack of integrity in reporting by the Western mainstream media has been starkly apparent since the onset of events in Syria. A decade after the Iraq war, it would seem that no lessons from 2003 – from the demonization of Saddam Hussein and his purported weapons of mass destruction – have been learnt.

Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations – the pillars of the narrative – all are part of the “regime change” alliance.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in particular, is reportedly funded through a Dubai-based fund with pooled (and therefore deniable) Western-Gulf money (Saudi Arabia alone has, according to Elliot Abrams allocated US$130 billion to “palliate the masses” of the Arab Spring).

What appears to be a nondescript British-based organization, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the claims of the mass killing of thousands of peaceful protesters using inflated figures, “facts”, and often exaggerated claims of “massacres” and even recently “genocide”.

Although it claims to be based in its director’s house, the Observatory has been described as the “front office” of a large media propaganda set-up run by the Syrian opposition and its backers. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated starkly:

The agenda of the [Syrian] transitional council [is] composed in London by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights … It is also there where pictures of ‘horror’ in Syria are made to stir up hatred towards Assad’s regime.

The Observatory is not legally registered either as a company or charity in the United Kingdom, but operates informally; it has no office, no staff and its director is reportedly awash with funding.

It receives its information, it says, from a network of “activists” inside Syria; its English-language website is a single page with al-Jazeera instead hosting a minute-by-minute live blog page for it since the outset of protests.

The second, the LCCs, are a more overt part of the opposition’s media infrastructure, and their figures and reporting is similarly encompassed only [16] within the context of this main narrative: in an analysis of their daily reports, I couldn’t find a single reference to any armed insurgents being killed: reported deaths are of “martyrs”, “defector soldiers”, people killed in “peaceful demonstrations” and similar descriptions.

The third is al-Jazeera, whose biased role in “reporting” the Awakenings has been well documented. Described by one seasoned media analyst as the “sophisticated mouthpiece of the state of Qatar and its ambitious emir”, al-Jazeera is integral to Qatar’s “foreign-policy aspirations”.

Al-Jazeera has, and continues, to provide technical support, equipment, hosting and “credibility” to Syrian opposition activists and organizations. Reports show that as early as March 2011, al-Jazeera was providing messaging and technical support to exiled Syrian opposition activists , who even by January 2010 were co-ordinating their messaging activities from Doha.

Nearly 10 months on, however, and despite the daily international media onslaught, the project isn’t exactly going to plan: a YouGov poll commissioned by the Qatar Foundation showed last week that 55 per cent of Syrians do not want Assad to resign and 68 per cent of Syrians disapprove of the Arab League sanctions imposed on their country.

According to the poll, Assad’s support has effectively increased since the onset of current events – 46 per cent of Syrians felt Assad was a “good” president for Syria prior to current events in the country – something that certainly doesn’t fit with the false narrative being peddled.

As if trumpeting the success of their own propaganda campaign, the poll summary concludes:

“The majority of Arabs believe Syria’s President Basher al-Assad should resign in the wake of the regime’s brutal treatment of protesters … 81% of Arabs [want] President Assad to step down. They believe Syria would be better off if free democratic elections were held under the supervision of a transitional government.”

One is left wondering who exactly is Assad accountable to – the Syrian people or the Arab public? A blurring of lines that might perhaps be useful as two main Syrian opposition groups have just announced that while they are against foreign military intervention, they do not consider “Arab intervention” to be foreign.

Unsurprisingly, not a single mainstream major newspaper or news outlet reported the YouGov poll results – it doesn’t fit their line.

In the UK, the volunteer-run Muslim News was the only newspaper to report the findings; yet only two weeks before in the immediate aftermath of the suicide explosions in Damascus, both the Guardian, like other outlets, within hours of the explosions were publishing sensational, unsubstantiated reports from bloggers, including one who was “sure that some of the bodies … were those of demonstrators”.

“They have planted bodies before,” he said; “they took dead people from Dera’a [in the south] and showed the media bodies in Jisr al-Shughour [near the Turkish border.]”

Recent reports have cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the false scenario peddled daily by the mainstream international press, in particular information put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the LCCs.

In December, the mainstream US intelligence group Stratfor cautioned:


Most of the [Syrian] opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue … revealing more about the opposition’s weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime.

Throughout the nine-month uprising, Stratfor has advised caution on accuracy of the mainstream story on Syria: in September it commented that “with two sides to every war … the war of perceptions in Syria is no exception”.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and LCC reports, “like those from the regime, should be viewed with skepticism”, argues Stratfor; “the opposition understands that it needs external support, specifically financial support, if it is to be a more robust movement than it is now. To that end, it has every reason to present the facts on the ground in a way that makes the case for foreign backing.”

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov observed: “It is clear that the purpose is to provoke a humanitarian catastrophe, to get a pretext to demand external interference into this conflict.” Similarly, in mid-December, American Conservative reported:


“CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] analysts are skeptical regarding the march to war. The frequently cited United Nations report that more than 3,500 civilians have been killed by Assad’s soldiers is based largely on rebel sources and is uncorroborated. The Agency has refused to sign off on the claims.

“Likewise, accounts of mass defections from the Syrian army and pitched battles between deserters and loyal soldiers appear to be a fabrication, with few defections being confirmed independently. Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false.”

As recently as November, the Free Syria Army implied their numbers would be larger, but, as they explained to one analyst, they are “advising sympathizers to delay their defection” until regional conditions improve.

A guide to regime change

In relation to Syria, section three of the “Paths to Persia” report is particularly relevant – it is essentially a step-by-step guide detailing options for instigating and supporting a popular uprising, inspiring an insurgency and/or instigating a coup. The report comes complete with a “Pros and Cons” section:


“An insurgency is often easier to instigate and support from abroad … Insurgencies are famously cheap to support … covert support to an insurgency would provide the United States with “plausibility deniability” … [with less] diplomatic and political backlash … than if the United States were to mount a direct military action … Once the regime suffers some major setback [this] provides an opportunity to act.”

Military action, the report argues, would only be taken once other options had been tried and shown to have failed as the “international community” would then conclude of any attack that the government “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.

Key aspects for instigating a popular uprising and building a “full-fledged insurgency” are evident in relation to developments in Syria.

These include:


“Funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime” including using “unhappy” ethnic groups;

“Building the capacity of ‘effective oppositions’ with whom to work” in order to “create an alternative leadership to seize power”;

Provision of equipment and covert backing to groups, including arms – either directly or indirectly, as well as “fax machines … Internet access, funds” (on Iran the report noted that the “CIA could take care of most of the supplies and training for these groups, as it has for decades all over the world”);

Training and facilitation of messaging by opposition activists;

Constructing a narrative “with the support of US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent” – “having the regime discredited among key ‘opinion shapers’ is critical to its collapse”;

The creation of a large funding budget to fund a wide array of civil-society-led initiatives (a so-called “$75 million fund” created under former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice-funded civil society groups, including “a handful of Beltway-based think-tanks and institutions [which] announced new Iran desks)” ;

The need for an adjacent land corridor in a neighboring country “to help develop an infrastructure to support operations”.

“Beyond this,” continues the report, “US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership.” 

The US and its allies, particularly Britain and France, have funded and helped “shape” the opposition from the outset – building both on attempts started by the US in 2006 to construct a unified front against the Assad government, and the perceived “success” of the Libyan Transitional National Council model.

Despite months of attempts – predominately by the West – at cajoling the various groups into a unified, proficient opposition movement, they remain “a diverse group, representing the country’s ideological, sectarian and generational divides”. 

”There neither has been nor is [there] now any natural tendency towards unity between these groups, since they belong to totally different ideological backgrounds and have antagonistic political views,” one analyst concluded. 

At a recent meeting with the British foreign secretary, the different groups would not even meet with William Hague together, instead meeting him separately.

Nevertheless, despite a lack of cohesion, internal credibility and legitimacy, the opposition, predominately under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council (SNC), is being groomed for office. This includes capacity-building, as confirmed by the former Syrian ambassador to the US, Rafiq Juajati, now part of the opposition. 

At a closed briefing in Washington DC in mid-December 2011, he confirmed that the US State Department and the SWP-German Institute for International and Security Affairs (a think-tank that provides foreign policy analysis to the German government) were funding a project that is managed by the US Institute for Peace and SWP, working in partnership with the SNC, to prepare the SNC for the takeover and running of Syria.

In a recent interview, SNC leader Burhan Ghaliyoun disclosed (so as to “speed up the process” of Assad’s fall) the credentials expected of him: “There will be no special relationship with Iran,” he said. “Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance,” adding that “after the fall of the Syrian regime, [Hezbollah] won’t be the same.” 

Described in Slate magazine as the “most liberal and Western-friendly of the Arab Spring uprisings”, Syrian opposition groups sound as compliant as their Libyan counterparts prior to the demise of Muammar Gaddafi, whom the New York Times described as “secular-minded professionals – lawyers, academics, businesspeople – who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law”; that was, until reality transitioned to former leader of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group Abdulhakim Belhaj and his jihadi colleagues. 

The import of weapons, equipment, manpower (predominantly from Libya) and training by governments and other groups linked to the US, NATO and their regional allies began in April-May 2011, according to various reports and is co-ordinated out of the US air force base at Incirlik in southern Turkey. From Incirlik, an information warfare division also directs communications to Syria via the Free Syria Army. This covert support continues, as American Conservative reported in mid-December:


“Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons … as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council … Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and US Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.”

The Washington Post exposed in April 2011 that recent WikiLeaks showed that the US State Department had been giving millions of dollars to various Syrian exile groups (including the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Movement for Justice and Development in London) and individuals since 2006 via its “Middle East Partnership Initiative” administered by a US foundation, the Democracy Council.

WikiLeaks cables confirmed that well into 2010, this funding was continuing, a trend that not only continues today but which has expanded in light of the shift to the “soft power” option aimed at regime change in Syria. 

As this neo-con-led call for regime change in Syria gains strength within the US administration, so too has this policy been institutionalized among leading US foreign policy think-tanks, many of whom have “Syria desks” or “Syria working groups” which collaborate closely with Syrian opposition groups and individuals (for example USIP and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy) and which have published a range of policy documents making the case for regime change. 

In the UK, the similarly neo-con Henry Jackson Society (which “supports the maintenance of a strong military, by the United States, the countries of the European Union and other democratic powers, armed with expeditionary capabilities with a global reach” and which believes that “only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate”) is similarly pushing the agenda for regime change in Syria. This is in partnership with Syrian opposition figures including Ausama Monajed, a former leader of the Syrian exile group, the Movement for Justice & Development, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was funded by the US State Department from 2006, as we know from WikiLeaks. 

Monajed, a member of the SNC, currently directs a public relations firm recently established in London and incidentally was the first to use the term “genocide” in relation to events in Syria in a recent SNC press release.

Since the outset, significant pressure has been brought to bear on Turkey to establish a “humanitarian corridor” along its southern border with Syria. The main aim of this, as the “Paths to Persia” report outlines, is to provide a base from which the externally-backed insurgency can be launched and based. 

The objective of this “humanitarian corridor” is about as humanitarian as the four-week NATO bombing of Sirte when NATO exercised its “responsibility to protect” mandate, as approved by the UN Security Council.

All this is not to say that there isn’t a genuine popular demand for change in Syria against the repressive security-dominated infrastructure that dominates every aspect of people’s lives, nor that gross human-rights violations have not been committed, both by the Syrian security forces, armed opposition insurgents, as well as mysterious third force characters operating since the onset of the crisis in Syria, including insurgents, mostly jihadis from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, as well as more recently Libya, among others.

Such abuses are inevitable in low-intensity conflict. Leading critics of this US-France-UK-Gulf-led regime change project have, from the outset, called for full accountability and punishment for any security or other official “however senior”, found to have committed any human-rights abuses.

Ibrahim al-Amine writes that some in the regime have conceded “that the security remedy was damaging in many cases and regions [and] that the response to the popular protests was mistaken … it would have been possible to contain the situation via clear and firm practical measures – such as arresting those responsible for torturing children in Deraa”. And it argues that the demand for political pluralism and an end to the all-encompassing repression is both vital and urgent.

But what may have began as popular protests, initially focused on local issues and incidents (including the case of the torture of young boys in Dera’a by security forces) were rapidly hijacked by this wider strategic plan for regime change. Five years ago, I worked in northern Syria with the United Nations managing a large community development project.

After evening community meetings, it wasn’t uncommon to find the mukhabarat (military intelligence) waiting for us to vacate the room so they could scan flipcharts posted on the walls. That almost every aspect of people’s daily lives was regulated by a sclerotic dysfunctional Ba’ath party/security bureaucracy, devoid of any ideology apart from the inevitable corruption and nepotism that comes with authoritarian power, was apparent in every feature of people’s lives.

Tuesday, December 20 was reportedly the “deadliest day of the nine-month [Syrian] uprising “with the “organized massacre” of a “mass defection” of army deserters widely reported by the international press in Idlib, northern Syria. Claiming that areas of Syria were now “exposed to large-scale genocide”, the SNC lamented the “250 fallen heroes during a 48-hour period”, citing figures provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Quoting the same source, the Guardian reported that the Syrian army was:


“… hunt[ing] down deserters after troops … killed close to 150 men who had fled their base”. A picture has emerged … of a mass defection … that went badly wrong … with loyalist forces positioned to mow down large numbers of defectors as they fled a military base. Those who managed to escape were later hunted down in hideouts in nearby mountains, multiple sources have reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that 100 deserters were besieged, then killed or wounded. Regular troops allegedly also hunted down residents who had given shelter to the deserters.”

The Guardian’s live blog-quoted AVAAZ, the citizen political advocacy/public relations group, which “claimed 269 people had been killed in the clashes”, and cited AVAAZ’s precise breakdown of casualties: “163 armed revolutionaries, 97 government troops and 9 civilians”. They noted that AVAAZ “provided nothing to corroborate the claim.”

The Washington Post reported only that they had spoken to “an activist with the rights group AVAAZ [who] said he had spoken to local activists and medical groups who put the death toll in that area Tuesday at 269.”

A day after initial reports of the massacre of fleeing deserters, however, the story had changed. On December 23, the Telegraph reported:


“At first they were said to be army deserters attempting to break into Turkey to join the FSA [Free Syrian Army], but they are now said to be unarmed civilians and activists attempting to escape the army’s attempts to bring the province back under control. They were surrounded by troops and tanks and gunned down until there were no survivors, according to reports.”

The New York Times had, on December 21, reported that the “massacre”, citing the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, was of “unarmed civilians and activists, with no armed military defectors among them, the rights groups said.”

It quoted the head of the Observatory who described it as “an organized massacre” and said his account corroborated a Kfar Owaid witness’ account: “The security forces had lists of names of those who organized massive anti-regime protests … the troops then opened fire with tanks, rockets and heavy machine guns [and], bombs filled with nails to increase the number of casualties.”

The LA Times quoted an activist it had spoken to via satellite connection who, from his position “sheltering in the woods” commented: “The word ‘massacre’ seems like too small a word to describe what happened.” Meanwhile, the Syrian government reported that on December 19 and 20, it had killed “tens” of members of “armed terrorist gangs” in both Homs and Idlib, and had arrested many wanted individuals.

The truth of these two “deadly” days will probably never be known – the figures cited above (between 10-163 armed insurgents, 9-111 unarmed civilians and 0-97 government forces) differ so significantly in both numbers reported killed and who they were, that the “truth” is impossible to establish.

In relation to an earlier purported “massacre” in Homs, a Stratfor investigation found “no signs of a massacre”, concluding that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya”.

Nevertheless, the “massacre” of December 19-20 in Idlib was reported as fact, and was etched into the narrative of Assad’s “killing machine.”

Both the recent UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report and a recent data blog report on reported deaths in “Syria’s bloody uprising” by the Guardian (published December 13) – two examples of attempts to establish the truth about numbers killed in the Syrian conflict – rely almost exclusively on opposition-provided data: interviews with 233 alleged “army defectors” in the case of the UN report, and on reports from the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, the LCCs and al-Jazeera in the case of the Guardian’s data blog.

The Guardian reports a total of 1,414.5 people (sic) killed – including 144 Syrian security personnel – between January and November 21, 2011. Based solely on press reports, the report contains a number of basic inaccuracies (eg sources not matching numbers killed with places cited in original sources): their total includes 23 Syrians killed by the Israeli army in June on the Golan Heights; 25 people reported “wounded” are included in total figures for those killed, as are many people reported shot.

The report makes no reference to any killings of armed insurgents during the entire 10-month period – all victims are “protesters”, “civilians” or “people” – apart from the 144 security personnel.

Seventy percent of the report’s data sources are from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the LCCs and “activists”; 38 per cent of press reports are from al-Jazeera, 3 per cent from Amnesty International and 1.5 per cent from official Syrian sources.

In response to the UN Commissioner’s report, Syria’s ambassador to the UN commented: “How could defectors give positive testimonies on the Syrian government? Of course they will give negative testimonies against the Syrian government. They are defectors.”

In the effort to inflate figures of casualties, the public relations-activist group AVAAZ has consistently outstripped even the UN. AVAAZ has publicly stated it is involved in “smuggling activists … out of the country”, running “secret safe houses to shelter … top activists from regime thugs” and that one “AVAAZ citizen journalist” “discover[ed] a mass grave”.

It states proudly that the BBC and CNN have said that AVAAZ data amounts to some 30 per cent of their news coverage of Syria. The Guardian reported AVAAZ’s latest claim to have “evidence” of killings of some 6,200 people (including security forces and including 400 children), claiming 617 of whom died under torture – their justification to have verified each single death with confirmation by three people, “including a relative and a cleric who handled the body” is improbable in the extreme.

The killing of one brigadier-general and his children in April last year in Homs illustrates how near impossible it is, particularly during sectarian conflict, to verify even one killing – in this case, a man and his children:

The general, believed to be Abdu Tallawi, was killed with his children and nephew while passing through an agitated neighborhood. There are two accounts of what happened to him and his family, and they differ about the victim’s sect.

Regime loyalists say that he was killed by takfiris – hardline Islamists who accuse other Muslims of apostasy – because he belonged to the Alawite sect. The protesters insist that he is a member of the Tallawi family from Homs and that he was killed by security forces to accuse the opposition and destroy their reputation. Some even claim that he was shot because he refused to fire at protesters.

The third account is ignored due to the extreme polarization of opinions in the city [Homs]. The brigadier-general was killed because he was in a military vehicle, even though he had his kids with him. Whoever killed him was not concerned with his sect but with directing a blow to the regime, thus provoking an even harsher crackdown, which, in turn, would drag the protest movement into a cycle of violence with the state.