New year blighted by old problems

New Year … worship and fellowship with sisters and brothers from the Orthodox Church in Damascus

As the latest ceasefire settled across Syria’s killing fields, Father Dave and several other Australians of goodwill, were in the air. He put these thoughts together as a new Damascus year struggled to kick clear of the shadows of dark years past.

AT FIRST glance, Damascus doesn’t appear all that different from any other major city. The girls are as pretty as ever and the streets are full of cars, noise and teeming life. Kids are everywhere.

The guy I share the elevator with smiles and greets me. We could be anywhere, though the semi-automatic weapon across his shoulder is a clue that all is not well in this part of our world.

In truth, the Syrian people continue to push forward with life, but six years of bloody violence has taken a toll. It has wearied the body and soul of the nation. Jobs are scarce and wages are ridiculously low, and now this damned water shortage is making people ill as well as frustrated.

From what I’ve heard, it was the US-supported ‘moderate’ rebels who poisoned Damascus’ water supply – mixing diesel in with the drinking water.

‘Don’t buy food from the street stalls, my friend warns me. He is recovering from what he says is the worst case of food poisoning he has ever experienced. Without clean water, food is no longer being prepared hygienically.

Of course, I’m privileged. I have choice of being able to eat at nice restaurants and there are some very nice restaurants still doing business in this city. And, I can restrict my drinking to bottled water.

The only inconvenience I experience is drinking my coffee from disposable cups because there is no longer enough clean water to wash the crockery.

Most people in my own country wouldn’t know these problems existed. Understandably, we have been conditioned to only think of the tragedy of this war in terms of battlefield casualties.

A war like this, however, a war that continues to get dragged out as the US and its allies maintain a flow of weapons to an ever-shrinking group of ‘rebels’ – well, a war like this damages everybody, eventually.

“We just want the fighting to stop and for life to return to normal,” that’s what I hear Syrian people saying, over and over again.

In fact, that’s all I’ve heard from the Syrians I know for the last five years. It seems it is only us foreigners who want to keep the fire burning because, apparently, we haven’t achieved our goals in Syria yet.

Perhaps it’s time that we put our goals to one side and gave the Syrian people a break!


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Fathers – don’t let your daughters grow up to be women

Subtle as a sledge hammer … you could be reading Britain’s Sun or an ABC news digest but this is Middle East Monitor‘s breaking news for December 19, 2016. And, to be fair, there are subtle cultural variations

FATHERS in Eastern Aleppo are asking religious scholars if it is cool to kill their daughters before they are “captured and raped by Assad, Hezbollah, and Iranian militias”, Middle East Monitors reports.

The publication, sometimes accused of links with the Muslim Brotherhood, selects and republishes material from across the region. The tasty titbit above came from publications in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

It is crude war propaganda that appeals to the cultural and religious views, some would say prejudices, of its readers.

It is different from the war propaganda being hammered out by mainstream western news sources but only very superficially.

This story was repackaged for western audiences where, generally speaking, most readers no longer agree that religious scholars should have the right to decide whether women live or die.

It ran, just like the Middle East Monitor version, as an “our enemy is a beast story”, devoid of facts or any obvious checking. And, as a general editorial rule, the more heinous or extreme the accusation, the more rigorous fact-checking should be.

“Scores of Aleppo women commit suicide to avoid being brutally raped by Assad’s troops,” the headline in Britain’s always dubious Express newspaper announced.

The Mirror and News Corp publications, including the notorious Sun, followed suit. Even Marie Claire gave it a run though not quite as breathlessly.

American newspapers and websites absolutely loved it. The New York Times, Vice, Daily Beast and something called the Christian Post were all over it like a rash.

Note the subtle cultural differences, though. In the enlightened west, brave independent women were given agency over their own deaths. Empowering stuff, no doubt.

But it was essentially the same story, published on the same day with the same lack of ethical standards for the same obvious reasons.

The other big difference between Islamist-oriented publications and their western allies, other than not much, is the international tastes they satisfy.

In the west, courtesy of 99 years of cold war demagoguery, it is Russia and Vladimir Putin, who are the undisputed targets of most associated vitriol.

In the Arabian Gulf, however, Vlad barely gets a mention. Instead, it is region’s non-Arab power, Iran, and its leadership who cop endless sprays of venom.

On December 17, 2016, Middle East Monitors top five news stories, in order, were these…

—  Daughters ask fathers to kill them before being raped by Assad forces

—  Iran threatens Bahrain, Yemen with ‘Islamic conquest’

—  Britain’s largest student union endorses BDS

—  Last messages from Aleppo as Syria regime massacres women and children

—  Tell the truth about Iran’s bloodletting in Syria

Amongst a herd of similar beasts roaming Middle East Monitor’s well stocked opinion pages, lurked some close relations … Time to make Syria ungovernable for the terrorist AssadAs death rains down on Aleppo, why are western countries so reluctant to act?The ‘let them bleed’ doctrine in Syria … Iran’s attempted genocide of the Sunni Arabs … Violence is everywhere and Iran must take the blame


On the same day, the sometimes liberal, British Independent newspaper was quoting former Foreign Secretary and Labour Party luminary, David Miliband as announcing, from a comfortable spot in the UK no doubt, “house-to-house murder” was being carried out in Aleppo.

Miliband was speaking on behalf of a US “aid agency” that has added him to the payroll.

It is no wonder that two of the Independent’s best journalists, and most respected foreign correspondents, Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, were moved to again warn colleagues about their coverage of Syria.

Irish-born Cockburn was the Financial Times’ Middle East and Moscow correspondent before joining the Independent in 1990. He specialises in Iraqi and Syrian issues and was one of the first westerners to forecast the rise of DAESH.

For what it is worth, Beirut-based Arab speaker Fisk has been voted British International Journalist of the Year seven times and has been honoured by Amnesty International for his work. For half a century he has interviewed trouble makers and history makers across the Middle East, including Osama bin Laden and Hafez al-Assad.

Neither Fisk nor Cockburn can be described as even moderately pro-Bashar al-Assad, far from it. But they know the region and its history. More importantly, they know their trade and its ethics.

Both are worried by the endless stream of bullshit being flushed out of Syria.

Our political masters are in league with the Syrian rebels, and for the same reason as the rebels kidnap their victims – money, Fisk says

Cockburn goes further, arguing the media’s willingness to uncritically adopt partisan Syrian activists as preferred news sources is a grevious mistake. It will, he warns, lead to independent journalists being kidnapped and murdered more often.

That tactic, he argues, has turned out to be a smart moved for Syrian jihadis – it has enabled them “to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world”

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Aleppo – where media ethics curled up and croaked

Faking it … no satisfaction for media in terrorist defeat.- Global Research illustration

AS SYRIAN loyalists danced in the streets of newly-liberated Aleppo, western propaganda unleashed a chorus of anger from every shiny weapon in its high-tech arsenal.

The big guns – Al Jazeera, the BBC, CNN, Fox News, even Australia’s ABC – lined up and fired in unison.

With scarcely a dissenting opinion, over endless hours they agreed – the final battle in a grinding four-year war to liberate one of the world’s great cities from terrorist control had been a disaster.

In their anger, those channels and many of their print colleagues, reached for the crudest clubs, forged way back before the modern weapons of satellite television and 24-hour news were even thought of.

They lashed out with the ugliest fear-mongering – sex, race and culture-based hostility – barely altered from the template set down by their imperial predecessors hundreds of years earlier.

In the first 24 hours after the Syrian Arab Army, its Russian and Iranian allies, appeared to have ended the seige that had claimed thousands of lives, there were stories – all unsourced – of reprisal killings, innocent women and children being slaughtered in their homes, concentration camps opening and, of course, rape and all manner of sexual brutality.

The BBC, generally one of the most staid, kicked off with the announcement that, according to the United Nations, Syrian troops had been entering private homes and killing women and children on the spot. Eighty two innocents, it reported, had been shot on sight.

Later, it turned out, a UN department had reported receiving an unverified report to that effect from an unidentified source.

It all came together in a piece on a US news site which quoted an un-named person as saying he, personally, knew at least 20 women in Aleppo who had committed suicide rather than face being raped by rampaging government forces.

No names, no locations, nothing verifiable you understand. Just sub-human beasts doing what sub-human beasts are want to do.

By the morning of Thursday, December 15, contributor after contributor was lining up on Al Jazeera to pour venom over key rebel sponsors including the United States, Gulf countries and the West in general, for failing to wade into Aleppo with all guns blazing.

Basically, even at that late stage, they were imploring the US to use its military might to invade.

The other news outlets might not have taken that extreme final step but all made it clear that the rebels of Aleppo were their good guys.

From the ABC’s raw correspondents to the hard-heads of American and British broadcasting, they wore their rebel colours on their sleeves and used their media roles to cheerlead right to the bitterest of ends.

Here’s a simple question for each and every one of those media outlets – why not explain to your watchers, listeners and readers who the “rebels” in Aleppo really were?

While we are waiting for their responses, our readers can do some research of their own. It won’t take much digging to give you a pretty fair idea of the people the western media are rooting for.

According to US sources, including intelligence agencies and the Washington Post newspaper, the largest, or most militarily important rebel group in Aleppo was Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, previous know as the Al-Nusra Front and, before that, al-Qaeda in Syria, or, al-Queda in the Levant.

Other “rebel’ groups and factions, amidst the constantly shifting alliances,  included …

The Abu Amara Brigades

Jaysh al-Islam

Sham Legion

Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Liwa Ahrar Souriya.

Ansar al-Sham

Jaysh al-Sunna

Ashida’s Mujahidden Brigade

The Levant Front

al-Tawhid Brigade

Free Syrian Army

Council of Aleppo Rebels





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Rebel, rebel – how couldn’t they know?

Running scared … after four years of ‘rebel’ control, thousands are pouring out of Aleppo .-pic SANA

SUDDENLY, late in the Syrian day, one mainstream western news outlet is taking baby steps towards honouring the claim in its title.

The Independent’s Robert Fisk has joined colleague, Patrick Cockburn, in calling bullshit on key elements of the propaganda narrative being exported from Syria’s killing fields.

Significantly, Fisk and Cockburn are not newbies cutting their teeth in the Middle East. They are two of the most experienced and widely respected foreign correspondents in the business who, between them, have seen more wars than can be good for anyone.

Unlike many reporters filling our papers and airwaves they do not limit themselves to  re-packaging the latest claims of partisan contacts garnered from social media or international satellite calls. In fact, they have both condemned the practice and the quality of information it delivers.

Fisk and Cockburn are not always right, far from it. But their narratives are sifted through decades of hard-earned subject knowledge.

This week Fisk, in his own inimitable way, skewered the central lie at the heart of the whole western deceit on Syria – rebels in Aleppo are not, he contends, unalloyed good guys who deserve all the love, money and weapons we can shower on them.

“No-one doubts that foreigners are fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda and the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham and other groups around the city,” Fisk writes.

“But, oddly, that’s not what we call them. We refer to them as ‘rebels’ – as if they were the Maquis fighting in the French resistance or Partisans freeing Yugoslavia from the Nazis or, indeed, the insurgents of Warsaw struggling for freedom from the German SS.

“Which they clearly are not.”

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Terror convoys descend on troubled city

Troubled history ... Deir Ezzor was the final destination for hundreds of thousands of Armenians driven out of their homes by Ottoman forces. In 1991, the spectacular Armenian Genocide Memorial - church, museum, archive centre, monument and wall of friendship - was opened in their memory. It was reportedly blown up by DAESH terrorists in 2014.

End of the road … Deir Ezzor was the final destination for hundreds of thousands of Armenians marched into the dessert by Ottoman forces. In 1991, the Armenian Genocide Memorial – church, museum, archive centre, monument and Friendship Wall – was opened in their memory. It was  blown up by DAESH terrorists in 2014 – Pic.- Creative Commons

TERRORISTS are driving Syrians out of their seventh-largest city as they prepare to make a last desperate stand at Deir Ezzor.

Multiple sources, including the Wall St Journal,  jihadi websites and American commanders, suggest the dire military situation facing DAESH is behind its move to prioritise the border city over the de facto capital of its caliphate, Raqqa.

Deir Ezzor is home to the last foot bridge between Iraq and Syria where fleeing ISIS troops can move between their former strongholds, Raqqa and Mosul.

More importantly, militants admit, it is adjacent to important oil and agriculture centres. Right now, they concede, those economic opportunities trump the symbolic importance of clinging onto Raqqa.

The Wall St Journal reports terrorists and their families are being bussed into Deir Ezzor from Mosul, in the north, and Raqqa in the south. They are driving out families and occupying their homes, claiming the locals had ties with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a blow to the anti-Assad narrative being run in the West, the Wall St Journal candidly admits Deir Azzor is also important to the terrorists as a base for their chemical weapons.

“The group has used chemical weapons effectively against civilians and often poorly-equipped local forces the US relies on to combat Islamic State,” the Journal says. It attributes this intelligence to “Western officials”.

This concession weakens the often-repeated claim that ‘Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people’ bolstering the counter-argument, that it has been rebel forces responsible for their use.

That position, of course, was given credence by December, 2013 findings of the UN Mission to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic.

It found “credible evidence” that on at least four occasions, between March and August 2013, chemical weapons had been used against Syrian soldiers and, in at least three specific cases, also against civilians.

Significantly, the UN report suggested, rebels had chemical weapons, the will and capacity to use them at the time of the alleged Ghouta attack, still widely cited as final proof of the unmitigated bastardry of the government in Damascus.

Somehow, amidst all the invasion calls and threats of war crimes tribunals, the 2013 UN report signed by Head of Mission Professor Ake Sellstrom and World Health Organisation (WHO) representative, Dr Maurizio Barbeschi, appears to have slipped the collective media memory.

Its point, though, was inadvertently reinforced by several media outlets, including Australia’s ABC, who reported the discovery of abandoned ISIS chemical weapons, in the build-up to the western attack on Mosul.

The DAESH move to bolster Deir Ezzor, in preference to Raqqa, has strategic significance.

Some parties, certainly Syria and its supporters, had been concerned the US and its allies were trying to tie them up in Aleppo while Raqqa was reinforced and transformed into an alternative power centre to Damascus.

That worry may be receding but another looms large on the horizon – a possible carve out of eastern Syria that would allow the US and its allies, most actively Ankara, to establish a Salafist semi-state from Raqqa right up to Mosul and across to the Turkish border.

Here’s the syndicated Wall St Journal take on recent developments

At A Glance

Deir Ezzor, and its population, have been terrorist targets since DAESH (Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusrah (Al Qaeda) launched attacks in 2o14. Variously known, amongst other things, as Deir ez-Zor, Deir Al-Zor, Deir-al-Zour  and Deir Ezzour, the border city … 

—  is 480 km northeast of Damascus on the banks of  the Euphrates River

—  the hub of a sheep and crop farming region

—  the nearest population centre to developing oilfields

—  according to the 2004 census, was home to 211,000 people

—  was the site of the spectacular Armenian Genocide Memorial Church, built  in 1990 and consecrated in May, 1991

— had its supply lines cut by DAESH terrorists in mid-2015

—  has received fuel and food aid from Russian, Syrian and the World Food Program air drops

—  lost two key bridges – al-Asharah and al-Mayadin – to US airstrikes in September, 2016






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Media turns its guns on Syria


What are you looking at? ... One of Aeschylus' classics dealt with the ancient Goddess of Sorcery, Circe

What are you looking at? … one of Aeschylus’ classics deals with, Circe, the ancient Goddess of Sorcery

In war, truth is the first casualty

THE QUOTE above is generally attributed to a Greek bloke called Aeschylus, a dramatist churning out blockbusters a good 500 years before Jesus Christ walked the earth. In the American age, however, credit more often goes to Senator Hiram Johnson who put it like this – ‘the first casualty, when war comes, is truth’.

Either way, the western media seems determined to use Syrian events to prove the sentiment as relevant today as it may have been 2500 blood-soaked years ago.

Nowhere is that clearer than in some of the material being served up by ABC Television news.

Many of the national broadcaster’s reports amount to little more than propaganda but the ABC is not alone in this.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been butchered in developing countries over recent decades as media outlets run party lines conceived in Washington, London and Canberra.

The Gulf of Tonkin false flag operation, swallowed and regurgitated whole by most US media, helped generate enthusiasm for President Lyndon Johnston’s full scale invasion of Vietnam.

That orgy of killing went on for a decade. Well over a million service personnel perished, including 58,000 Americans and 500 Australians but, according to a 1995 Vietnamese Government estimate, the war cost nearly two million civilians their lives.

The pivotal incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, in which the US destroyer Maddox was allegedly shot up by Vietnamese attackers, turned out to be a cock and bull story.

“The overwhelming body of (military) reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened,” a US National Security Agency (NSA) historian later wrote.

While the US Navy conceded it had become “clear that North Vietnamese naval forces did not attack Maddox and Turner Joy that night”.

Fast forward nearly 50 years to media cheerleading for  George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard’s drive to war in Iraq.

Western journalists found a chancer called Chalabi and raised him to the status of super source. Ethics and basic professional standards flew out the window as Ahmed Chalabi beat his own personal war drum.

The New York Times was one of the earliest and worst offenders, failing to subject Chalabi and his many stories to any level of scrutiny. It preferred the hopelessly conflicted Iraqi politician to seasoned UN weapons inspectors, including Hans Blix and American Scott Ritter.

The paper took the US Government’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) talking points and popularised them.

As the war talk sharpened, it raised the propaganda stakes. Allegations about a mobile weapons lab were attributed to an un-named Iraqi engineer, while a bizarre story about plans to weaponise a virulent strain of smallpox found its way into Melbourne’s Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Three years after the mainstream media went to work on Iraq, it was left to specialist UK medical publication, The Lancet, to count the cost.

It said the Bush-Blair-Howard adventure had cost 654,000 Iraqis their lives. Of those deaths, it estimated, 601,000 were directly “due to violence, the most common cause being gunfire”.

Over the border, it seems, another chapter in the sordid story of war propaganda is being written.

Descriptions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces indiscriminately slaughtering helpless people in Aleppo are all the rage in newsrooms that choose to virtually ignore claims by UN officials that rebels are preventing civilians from leaving the war zone, experienced British journalist Patrick Cockburn points out.

Beirut-based Cockburn warns readers, listeners and viewers to be wary about the stories coming out of Syria and the dodgy sources generating them.

This is why everything you have read about the war in Syria could be wrong

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White Helmets for dummies – the mannequin challenge

WHILE White Helmets boss, Raed Saleh, was addressing sponsors and fans in the British Parliament on November 22, his group’s latest media stunt was being panned by foes and embarrassed friends, alike.

The White Helmet Mannequin Challenge video was hastily pulled off the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media) site, as social media lit up on the remarkable similarities between the staged production and White Helmets’ supplied footage that has become a staple ingredient of western television news bulletins.

In an apology to the BBC – one of the chief purveyors of White Helmets “news” – the organisation said the stunt had not been sanctioned by its leadership and volunteers responsible had been “disciplined”.

In a statement, run by the BBC on November 24, the White Helmets acknowledged the involvement of their members.

“The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge,” the statement read.

“This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.

“The video was not shared on our official channels, and we took immediate action to discipline those involved and prevent incidents such as this from happening again.”

The big problem, of course, was that the stunt looked very much like all the other footage the Helmets have been supplying to news outlets around the world – same style, same production values even, is seemed, the same dust and blood.

The Helmets are a self-described “civil defence” organisation operating in terrorist-held regions of Syria.

They are active in areas controlled by proscribed terrorist organisations affiliated with Al Qaeda and DAESH.

Funded by NATO countries, including the US, and largely trained in Turkey, the Helmets supply a steady flow of high production-value “news” footage to western media outlets and an even steadier flow of anti-government propaganda.

They are authors of repeated reports that the last hospital in eastern Aleppo has just been destroyed by government/Russian forces. There is every chance you will see one of them on the news tonight.

Just how many last hospitals there are, or were, in eastern Aleppo has never been made clear.

And, for a non-political, civil defence organisation, they run some odd  lines – like advocating foreign military attacks on their country and urging the US to impose a no-fly zone that would allow terrorist organisations to operate more freely.

The White Helmets are not, of course, the official Syrian civil defence organisation and nor are they recognised by it. The services of that organisation are widely advertised, and available to Syrian citizens who dial 113.

Increasingly, however, that established and internationally-recognised service is being disrupted and denied to Syrians by organisations linked with the White Helmets.

The Helmets are not widely available to Syrians in need, and nor are their services advertised to the general public.

The official Syrian civil defence organisation was formed in 1953 and is recognised by the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) and the United Nations.

The closest the White Helmets have come to that was when the Syrian civil defence organisation link on the ICDO website was hacked so that visitors were redirected to a White Helmet propaganda site.

The reason their Mannequin Challenge stunt caused so many raised eyebrows is because of the striking similarities the hammed-up footage bore to news reports the group has been passing off as genuine.

British ‘citizen journalist-blogger’ Eliot Higgins summarised the “gulp factor” among apologists when he hit Twitter on the eve of the White Helmet chief’s parliamentary performance, in London, to admit “gotta say, seems pretty dumb of the White Helmets to do the mannequin challenge …”

Higgins is one of dozens, if not hundreds, of western bloggers who use the White Helmets information, and their footage, to illustrate, his anti-Damascus take on Syria

This article examines the latest White Helmets tactical balls-up.

While the following Cross Talk segment discusses the White Helmets with a group of western journalists, some of whom have actually been to Syria.

White Helmets giving the game away!

Another fine performance!

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Aleppo – freedom on hold

Still waters ... Raqqa on the Euphrates (Zelda, creative commons licence

Still waters … Raqqa on the Euphrates (Zelidar, creative commons licence)

WHY the interminable messing around about freeing the people of Aleppo from their  tormentors?

Since Russian air power flew to the aid of the Syrian armed forces and their allies on the ground, it appears they have had both the capacity, and the will, to do the job.

But their task has been repeatedly hampered by stalling measures, undertaken at the UN and elsewhere, by the US, Gulf states and a range of non-government players.

Terrorists, headed by Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, stormed the country’s then largest city, home to 2.5 million people, in 2011, carving out control over more than 200,000 people in Aleppo’s east, and using every ceasefire to attack the 750,000 still in the government-controlled west.

Their tactics of shooting prisoners, brutalising civilians and using others as human shields have been widely documented.

So why does the US continue running interference on their behalves?

The key to unlocking the mystery of Aleppo, John Wright argues, is understanding the  significance of Raqqa – a good two hours drive east on the bank of the Euphrates River.

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What hand will The Donald play on Syria?

High stakes - Obama appears to have trumped Clinton but where will the wild card fall?

High stakes – Obama appears to have trumped Clinton but where will the wild card fall?

WHAT does the election of billionaire property developer and reality tv star, Donald Trump, mean for terrorised Syrians?

Some pro-Syrian commentators have hailed Trump’s rise to the top job in Washington as a breakthrough but that city’s leading newspaper counsels caution, warning Trump’s position on Syria remains “opaque”.

While Trump appeared to nail his campaign colours to fighting terrorism, which would put him on the same page as Damascus, his rhetoric was often contradictory.

At the same time, he signalled, he would boost military spending, put US strategic and military interests first, second and third, and argued, he was the natural champion of the US military establishment.

Those, broadly, are the general sentiments that took George Bush to the war in Iraq that unleashed Al Qaeda, DAESH and the contagion still terrorising the region.

There must be doubt over the ability and will of Trump, a foreign policy rookie, to stand up to the CIA and establishment hawks when the pressure for war is on.

Undoubtedly, his key election opponent Hillary Clinton was a warmonger. She backed Bush’s Iraq adventure and gave plenty of evidence for the observation of one commentator that she had never met a war she did not want a part of.

While, it is the opaque future that matters now, it might in fact be time to reassess two-term President Obama’s influence on the Syrian conflict.

While arming rebels and terrorists he has fought against two secretaries of state, Clinton and John Kerry, who wanted the US to up that ante by several magnitudes –  delivering the terrorists heavy weapons and instituting a no-fly zone that would, most likely, have either hamstrung Syrian resistance and/or led to a shooting war with Russia.

Late into the election campaign, which she lost despite attracting more votes than Trump, Clinton was still advocating the no-fly zone advocated by Syria’s Al Qaeda franchise, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and its key backers, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

In the dying days of September, Kerry told a gathering in the Netherlands he had “lost the argument with Obama” over backing Syrian rebels with military force, Reuters and the New York Times, reported

Two days after Americans delivered their verdict on Clinton’s White House ambitions, Obama announced in a sharp change of approach, the US would be focusing its Syrian activities on targeting the terrorists.

The move underlines the extent to which Obama is prioritising counter­-terrorism over efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, the Washington Post reports.

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Al sham – the name says it all

Allies like these ... Al Nusra photo shows its fighters executing prisoners in Aleppo

Allies like these … Al Nusra photo shows its fighters executing prisoners in Aleppo

WHEN are the lads from Al-Qaeda not such a bad lot, after all?

When they are having a crack at the Middle East’s last remaining secular government, it seems.

That’s right, Al Qaeda – the mob who flew into the west’s consciousness by aiming planes at New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, before returning to their core business of brutalising populations across the Middle East – are getting a makeover.

Apparently, if you read the western press, the boys in the beards are not Public Enemy Numero Uno any more.

Instead, the west is fixated on its latest offshoot, ISIS or DAESH and, particularly, the US-backed campaign to drive it out of Iraq.

To be fair, DAESH has brought a new level of sectarian terror to Iraq and neighbouring Syria, using mass murder, sexual slavery and torture to brutalise a range of ethnic and religious communities.

Nobody should ever forget the horrific images of caged Yazidi women being transported to terrorist meat markets on the backs of pick-up trucks.

But nor should it be forgotten that ISIS/DAESH, Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra were created by the same men, exclusively, for the same terrifying purpose.

Because, over the border in Syria, Al Qaeda still lives, as barbarous and sectarian as ever it was.

The organisation, originally funded and armed by the CIA in its effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, is, effectively, the dominant rebel force trying to wrest control of Aleppo from the Syrian Government.

For five years now, its fighters, organised under the Jabhat al-Nusra banner, have held the western sector of what was once Syria’s largest city with more than two million people.

That number has halved since the terrorists arrived, with between 220,000 and 250,000 of them stuck, or in some instances, electing to remain in the rebel-held sector.

In May of this year, Charles Lister a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and an authority on Syrian jihadism, described Al Nusra’s war against the government in Damascus as one of two remaining jewels in Al Qaeda’s crown. He identified the other as the operations of its murderous Yemeni arm – Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Flag of convenience ... Al Qaeda franchise has vanished from narrative

Flag of convenience … Al Qaeda’s franchise has vanished from narrative

So, why has Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise managed to virtually disappear from the broader western narrative?

While the Obama regime has been financing and training anti-Syrian rebels, it has also been holding out against increasing pressure to go the full George Bush by, in the first instance, supplying heavy armaments and imposing no-fly zones.

These initiatives are being driven by hawks in the US foreign policy establishment acting in concert with long-standing regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – Jabhat al-Nusra’s three principal sponsors.

It is being reported in the US that their aggressive position is supported by the CIA and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As the push for direct US military action against Syria has grown, advisers and international supporters have been urging Jabhat al-Nusra to play down its real identity and ambition.

This campaign was not helped when Al Nusra chief, Mohammad al-Golani chose his first live interview with Al Jazeera to publicly reaffirm his organisation’s commitment to Al Qaeda and its leaders.

For the all-out war crew in Washington this was the sort of development the diplomatic euphemism “bummer” was adopted to address

Conveniently, their way was cleared by Al Qaeda boss of bosses, Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. In July, al-Zawahiri released an audio statement giving Al Nusra formal permission to announce a split.

Hours later, al-Golani thanked “our brothers, the commanders of Al-Qaeda” and announced his organisation was changing its name from Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front) to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (the Levantine Conquest Front).

The group, however, reaffirmed its goal of turning Syria into an Islamic state.

That’s alright then – appears to have been the general response from the mainstream media in the US and Australia.

From that day, the fact that the battle against Aleppo and the overwhelming majority of its citizens, was being led by Al-Qaeda hard-heads appears to have been largely over-looked.

This was reinforced when last month’s ceasefire, hammered out between Russia and the US, fell at the first hurdle after the US’s “moderate” rebels refused, point-blank, to sever ties with their Al Qaeda/Al Nusra/Al Sham buddies.

It is constantly overlooked when the mass media present news stories, and background pieces, from Aleppo.

Although, as former Newsweek and AAP reporter Robert Parry points out in an October 29 article – The de facto US/Al Qaeda allianceit is not always easy to overlook the obvious 

In Brief

  • Both ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra/Fateh al-Sham are direct Al Qaeda descendants
  • ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent fighters from Iraq to Syria to form the Nusra Front in 2011
  • One of them, Abu Mohammad al-Golani was recognised as Nusra Front leader in 2012
  • In 2013, Baghdadi said al Nusra answered to his group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has since become ISIS
  • However, Golani broke ties with that group and confirmed allegiance to Al Qaeda Central
  • In July, 2016, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri gave Golani permission to break formal ties with Al Qaeda
  • Within its first two years in Syria the Nusra Front had claimed responsibility for 57 suicide bomb attacks
  • It has established control over areas in northern, western and southern Syria
  • It is the dominant rebel group fighting for Aleppo
  • In 2016, the Nusra Front began operations in Lebanon, launching attacks on Lebanese military units
  • Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Nusra Front are all recognised as terrorist organisation by the United Nations
  • Australia listed Al Qaeda as a proscribed terrorist organisation in Oct 2002
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was proscribed in Nov 2010
  • ISIS was proscribed, separately, in Dec 2014
  • Jabhat al-Nusra was proscribed in June 2013 and relisted on October 31 2016 to include its “alias” Jabhat Fatah al-Sham


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