The White Helmets continue their deception in Syria

It is hard to believe that the world continues to be fooled by these people. Of course, has been the pattern since the violence against Syria began more than ten years ago. Everyone gets their news on Syria from sources based outside of Syria! If you listen to the Syrian people, you hear a very different version of reality from that sold to us by mainline international media.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa Beeley a number of times in Syria. She has been tireless in her advocacy for the Syrian people and has devoted her life to listening and retelling the Syrian side of the story. Unlike most international reporters, she operates from inside Syria.

Father Dave

Father Dave with his daughter, Imogen (L) and Vanessa Beeley (R) in Damascus in June 2019

Syria: The White Helmets Are “Actors and Frauds”

27 Feb 2023

Vanessa Beeley – TRANSCEND Media Service

I Speak to a REAL Syria Civil Defence Officer in Aleppo

Captain Walid Houri of the REAL Syria Civil Defence in Aleppo with one of his young volunteers who worked with him to locate people trapped under the earthquake rubble. Photo| Vanessa Beeley

20 Feb 2023 – The REAL Syria Civil defence has been usurped in public consciousness in the West by the White Helmets – a shadow state construct established in Turkey and Jordan in 2013 by a former British Military Intelligence operative, James Le Mesurier.

Since then the White Helmets have been embedded with the Western-proxy armed groups dominated by Al Qaeda rebrands and they have been tasked with the criminalisation of the Syrian government, forces and allies in order to bring about regime change as part of the UK/US-led agenda in the Middle East.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence was established in 1953 inside Syria and is the only recognised SCD in Syria by the International Civil Defence Organisation in Geneva. While White Helmets have an annual budget from their handlers in the West of $ 35 million for less than 3000 alleged volunteers (who have a stipend of $ 150 per month, 3 times the salary of a Syrian Arab Army soldier), the REAL Syria Civil Defence have a budget of $ 50, 000 for 10,000 volunteers who do not receive a stipend much of the time.

The RSCD covers an area of Syrian territory that is home to approximately 80% of the Syrian population. The White Helmets are in a pocket of territory in the north-west of Idlib governorate that is (according to Brett McGurk) the largest Al Qaeda haven since 9/11.

Since the earthquake the West has seized the opportunity to resurrect the White Helmet brand that had been severely tarnished by their role in staging alleged chemical weapon attacks since 2013 including the much discredited claims of Syrian government chemical weapon use in Douma 2018.

Additionally Syrian civilians have accused the White Helmets of multiple crimes including organ trafficking, child abduction, theft, murder, torture and desecration of Christian churches under their control.

Read the rest of this article, and watch the interview with a member of the Syrian Civil Defense Services on Transcend Media Service

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A new beginning for Syria?

I pray every day for the restoration of Syria. Specifically, I pray for an end to the crippling sanctions and to the theft of Syrian oil by the US, and for the departure of foreign troops. It seems that all those prayers may finally be being answered, but not in a way I had anticipated. I have been truing that humanitarian concern in the US and EU would ultimately win out over greed and political expediency. Instead, it seems that the key to new life and peace might be the economic ambitions of China!

China’s brokering of a peace accord between Iran and Saudi Arabia last month is possibly the most significant indicator of the shift in the global balance of power that we’ve seen in this generation. Ever since the CIA-led overthrow of the Iranian government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, the US has been at the centre of Middle-Eastern turmoil, with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel all being pushed around like pieces on the hegemon’s chessboard. Now a new player has entered the game, and the newcomer isn’t playing by the same rules.

I am excited with the implications of the new global balance of power, most especially for the people of Syria who have shown such extraordinary resilience over twelve years of violence and deprivation resulting from foreign interference.


Steven Sahiounie writes in his article, “Bridge of peace and prosperity proposed from the Arab world to Syria”:

Syria is on the brink of recovery as Saudi Arabia plans to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League summit in Riyadh on May 19. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will travel to Damascus soon to hand Assad a formal invitatio’n to attend the summit, in what will be the most significant development in the Arab rapprochement with Assad.

Riyadh and Damascus are in talks to reopen embassies in both countries, in a culmination of diplomatic meetings, statements and policy shifts demonstrating new and independent positions on Syria.

The people of Aleppo say that they went to bed one night, and they woke up under occupation of armed fighters supported by the US Obama administration, Turkey and Qatar.

In December 2016 the city was liberated from Al Qaeda and their affiliates, and they have been trying to recuperate, but with US-EU sanctions opposing their reconstruction plans, the recovery has been slow going.

The people of Aleppo have hoped that as quickly as their lives were turned upside down by outside forces, the turning point of recovery and prosperity would be just as quick. Syria stands today on the threshold of a recovery which may hold peace and prosperity in the near future for 21 million inhabitants.

Read the rest of this article here.

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Lift Sanctions against Syria

In Lattakia, Syria, 2016

This appeal comes from my friend, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, the president of the International Movement for a Just World based in Kuala Lumper, Malaysia. 

The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) urges the American, British, Australian, Canadian, Swiss and some European Union and Arab League governments to lift the unjust, immoral sanctions against Syria in order to lessen the immense sufferings of the people caused by the massive earthquake of 6th February 2023.

A number of local groups including the Syrian Red Crescent Society have already made this call. Among individuals and groups at the international level who also want sanctions lifted is Helga Zepp LaRouche of the Schiller Institute. It is reported that the US and EU have suspended temporarily their sanctions. But this is not enough because it means that they can be re-imposed at any time. If sanctions have to be terminated once and for all, it is because there were no justifications for them in the first instance.

The US began targeting Syria in 1979 by placing it on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was largely because of the support that then Syrian president Hafez Azad gave Palestinian, Syrian and other Arab freedom fighters seeking to liberate Palestine, Syria’s Golan Heights and other Arab territories from Israeli occupation. It is an indication of the degree of influence that Israel and Zionism exercise over US foreign policy in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). Between March and August 2004, sanctions were intensified as a result of new allegations of Syrian interference in Iraq and Lebanon which impacted upon Israel. By this time, the Syrian government’s relationship with Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon and its close fraternal ties with Iran were at the core of US animosity towards the resolutely independent minded nation. Needless to say, Israeli interests were prominent in all these US stances.

However, it was only after 2011, camouflaged by the so-called Arab Spring, that organised, aggressive US led attempts to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Azad, supported by some of its European allies and WANA friends, gave birth to a whole range of new sanctions from travel bans and asset freezes to prohibitions on exports and restrictions upon the oil sector. The EU also joined the US in embargoing the oil sector. 20% of Syria’s GDP came from oil. It has been estimated that the country has lost 107 billion US dollars from its oil and gas earnings since 2011.

Some Arab League states also froze Syrian government assets as did Turkiye in 2011. But none of these actions had as severe an impact upon the Syrian economy and State as the capture of territories containing oil and producing wheat and cotton by rebel groups linked to governments, ethnic movements or terrorist outfits in the region. These groups collectively known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are led by Kurds with longstanding grievances against both the Syrian and Turkish governments and are supported by the US. They occupy parts of North West Syria badly affected by the earthquake.

It is this fractured and fragmented country that Bashar Azad presides over. It is a country in which 15.3 million people out of a population of 21.3 million are in need of humanitarian aid. Bashar’s power and authority have been further weakened as we have seen by loss of control over vital resources and by crippling sanctions. It is understandable why his government was not able to respond quickly and effectively to the earthquake catastrophe which as of 11th February has killed at least 3,500 people. It is of course much smaller than the more than 22,300 children, women and men who have perished in neighbouring Turkey.

Nonetheless, the Syrian tragedy demands a response that goes beyond rescue and recovery operations. It is a colossal tragedy complicated by sanctions which impede not only on-going operations such as the flow of basic necessities and the arrival of much needed personnel but also hinder medium and long-term relief and rehabilitation work. This is why sanctions have to be lifted immediately. This is why both peoples and governments everywhere should make this their priority plea.

The conflicts between competing groups the majority of which are armed should also be brought to an end as soon as possible. It is not going to be easy. One hopes that this mammoth catastrophe will persuade some of the principal actors in these conflicts to reflect deeply on what has happened — the unfathomable suffering of millions of human beings on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border. If their suffering is to have any meaning at all, let it herald the end of conflicts and killings along the border and in other parts of Syria. In this regard, it is encouraging that the United Nations has appealed to all warring parties to observe a ceasefire with immediate effect to enable humanitarian assistance to be channelled to the victims of the earthquake.

There is another glimmer of hope. Even before the earthquake, on the 5th of January 2023, the president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan indicated that he wants to meet up with the Syrian president, Bashar Azad, to discuss and resolve their differences. Let us hope and pray that both men will work towards such a meeting — a meeting which will result in a mutually acceptable solution to their problems. If the two leaders who enjoyed a close friendship some time ago make peace with one another, there is a strong possibility that Turkey and Syria will be able to come together on a firm footing and most of the other protagonists will also be able to bury the hatchet.

If that happens, the deaths of thousands — especially little children — in one of the greatest tragedies in recent times would not have been in vain.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

12 February 2023.

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Are the Saudis really going to support Syria?!

with the children of Damascus – 2019

I had resigned myself to never having a nice word to say about the house of Saud. Even so, the recent initiatives taken by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) seem to be genuinely progressive. He even seems to be reaching out to Syria!

According to Steven Sahiounie, whose article appears below, MBS is cracking down on religious extremism, granting more rights to women, and he’s trying to build friendly relationships with his neighbours – even with Syria!

In truth, Syria can do with all the friends it can get at the moment. With the US-imposed sanctions still crippling the country, an enormous number of ordinary Syrians are now food-insecure. It will take Syria’s neighbours, like Saudi Arabia, to shun US sanctions and revive trade before the crisis can end.


Saudi Crown Prince defies the US policy against Syria

by Steven Sahiounie

In November 2022, Saudi Arabia formally changed its stance on Syria. Saudi Arabia is the political powerhouse of the Middle East, and often shares positions on foreign policy and international issues with the UAE, which has previously re-opened their embassy in Damascus.

“The kingdom is keen to maintain Syria’s security and stability and supports all efforts aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the November Arab League summit in Algeria.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 following the outbreak of conflict instigated by the US, and portrayed in western media as a popular uprising of pro-democracy protesters. 

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said, “The developments in Syria still require a pioneering Arab effort. It is necessary to show flexibility from all parties so that the economic collapse and political blockage can be dispelled. Syria must engage in its natural Arab environment.”

The next Arab League summit will be held in Saudi Arabia, and there is a possibility of Syria once again taking its seat at the round table.

On January 16, the Syrian Foreign Ministry agreed to resume imports from Saudi Arabia after over a decade of strained relations, and Syria planned to import 10,000 tons of white sugar. This development signals a new beginning between the two countries.

Read the full article here.

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Israel destroys Damascus International Airport. Why is there no international outcry?

with friends at Damascus airport in 2014
with friends at Damascus airport in 2014

How is that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) can launch a major attack on a International Airport – a domestic airport – and this doesn’t cause shock and horror around the world? Apparently, destroying civilian infrastructure is OK when it’s Syria!

I have flown in and out of Damascus International Airport a number of times. I’ve included a pic above of me with friends, taken at the airport in 2014. It’s not a great pic of the airport but it is an important memory, as two of the three who were with me there didn’t make it to 2022.

I visited Damascus nine times between 2013 and 2019, after which COVID shut down further plans. I watched the country hunker down and hang on while the military did their work and gradually pushed the troops of ISIS and Al Qaeda and their kin back to the countries from which they came, and this despite the backing they had received from supporting countries in both the east and the west.

When I was last there in 2019, the Syrian people really thought they had won. Apart from Idlib and other relatively small areas in the north-west, controlled by Al Qaeda, Turkey and the USA, the rest of the country was back under control of the Syrian government. It seemed to all be over bar the shouting. Now naïve we were.

Why would we think the Americans would stop stealing Syrian oil when they controlled all those oil fields in the north? Why would Turkey withdraw from the land it had occupied when it had created a useful buffer zone against the Kurds? Why would the US and its allies lift the sanctions that had been eroding the lives of ordinary Syrian families for so long when they could just as easily keep the screws on tight, and so prevent Syria from rebuilding and regaining strength as an independent country?

And so the heartless violence continues, though in a quieter form, with not as many bullets and missiles, but with the slow strangulation of economic sanctions that stop ordinary Syrian people from rebuilding their villages, driving their cars, and heating their homes during the winter. And then of course there’s Israel, which has been bombing selected targets around the country on an almost weekly basis since the uprising began!

Israel rarely admits to its bombings, though the attack on Damascus airport was an exception. When they do admit to such actions, there’s always a narrative aimed at justifying their violence. They were targeting some Hezbollah weaponry, or something en route to Iran. Fhey probably did the same with Damascus airport,

No doubt there were flights going from Damascus to both Beirut and Tehran, carrying … I don’t know what. Even so, can we imagine any other country justifying it’s bombing of another country’s civilian airport on the grounds that they suspected someone was transporting weapons? Can we imagine how the international community would respond if Syria tried bombing Tel Aviv airport, offering a similar justification?

Richard Medhurst’s video below includes before and after photos of the devastation of the once-beautiful and functional facility. How long will it be before Syria can operate flights again? How long before the Syrian people will be permitted to get back to living normal lives?

Father Dave

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I commend to you this excellent article by my friend, Dr Chandra Muzaffar – the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and a thoroughly decent human being.

Dr Muzaffar tells it like it is. There never was a civil war in Syria. Internal divisions within the country were not the cause of the conflict but the result of it – manufactured by the sustained attempt of imperial powers, near and far, to destroy Syria as a sovereign nation.

Father Dave


By Chandra Muzaffar

Few nations in recent decades have been targeted by a superpower the way the United States of America has subjected Syria to various forms of attack. Apart from military assaults and acts of political subversion aimed at overthrowing the government in Damascus, the US has also imposed crippling economic sanctions upon Syria, sometimes regarded as the crucible of human civilisation. These sanctions which intensified in the last few years have impacted adversely upon a huge segment of the population. They culminated in the Caesar Act of 2020 which prohibits any country or entity from engaging in any economic activity with any firm or institution in Syria. For transgressing the Act, the violating party can also be subjected to punitive action by the US.

The wide-ranging sanctions would be one of the primary causes of the humanitarian crisis confronting the Syrian people today. Many of them are in dire need of the essentials of life. Making ends meet has become a major challenge for even the middle-class. It must be emphasised that before the mainly orchestrated unrest beginning in 2011, the government was able to provide for the basic needs of the population and managed one of the best-run health services in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) that provided free medical care to the poor and marginalised.

Yet the mainstream Western media which is echoed by the media in most parts of the world has created the erroneous impression that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is due entirely to the mismanagement and corruption of the Bashar Assad government. While there are acts of omission and commission for which the government should be held responsible, they pale into insignificance compared to the intervention and manipulation by the US elite, Israel and their allies, such as Britain and France and those in WANA. The unjust imposition of sanctions aside, these actors from the West and WANA are also guilty of engineering a sectarian war between the Sunni majority and the Shia minority which failed miserably and of sponsoring terrorist groups such as ISIS that caused death and destruction on a massive scale between 2011 and 2017. These organised and well-funded terrorist groups were defeated by the cohesive strength of the Bashar government and its security forces buttressed by the determined support provided by the Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. On top of all this, Syria’s economy has also been robbed of millions of dollars by the systematic US theft of its oil in the north east of the country which is under opposition control. The truth about this theft, or about how sanctions, war and terrorism have contributed to the immense suffering of the Syrian people and the current humanitarian crisis has not been highlighted in the media but it is a reality that the Syrians a are painfully aware of.

The media has also distorted the first bombing of the Biden administration on 25th February 2021 against a militia in Syria allegedly backed by Iran. Most newspapers and television networks claimed that the bombing was in retaliation to a February 15th rocket attack in northern Iraq by that Syrian militia which killed a contractor working with the US military. Since the US bombing took place on Syrian territory, the Syrian government rightly condemned it as a violation of its territorial integrity. China and Russia also condemned it from the perspective of national sovereignty. The western media as a whole side-stepped the sovereignty issue and instead presented the US bombing as a response to Syrian-Iranian aggression. Both Syria and Iran denied any involvement in the February 15 rocket attack arguing that they sought a period of calm to encourage as it were the Biden administration to restore the earlier nuclear deal with Iran which president Trump had unilaterally aborted.

But the Western media’s agenda against Syria is so heavily skewed that it will not entertain any other interpretation of the US’s military action. The power of this biased agenda became even more blatant recently when the media ignored completely a huge scandal involving the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria in 2018. When the OPCW published its final report in March 2019, some OPCW inspectors involved in the actual investigation raised fundamental and substantive questions about the report’s conclusions. These questions cast doubt about the claims of Western governments and the Western media of Syrian government involvement in the chemical attack. The inspectors wanted their views heard by the OPCW management which refused to grant them a hearing. Instead it chose to publicly condemn the inspectors for speaking out.

It is because of the unbecoming conduct of the OPCW leadership that five of its former inspectors and the first Director-General of the OPCW Jose Bustani decided to express their deep concern in a public statement recently. The statement has also been endorsed by outstanding public figures such as Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk and John Avery Scales. It is telling that the statement has received so little attention from the media.

If news that is favourable to Syria within the context of the geopolitics of WANA is blocked out of the media, it is because those who dominate the region want it that way. The US, Israel and their allies do not want the truth about the interplay of politics and power in WANA to be known to the people. It is because Syria which is linked to Hezbollah and Iran has been consistent in opposing the hegemonic power of the US, Israel and their allies in WANA that it has had to pay such a high price. It is a price that the triumvirate of resistance is prepared to pay because it cherishes the independence and integrity of the citizens of WANA and the people of the world.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).


20 February 2021.


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Biden picks up destroying Syria where Obama left off.

from my last trip to Damascus in 2019

It’s funny how the media narrative works, with Obama and Biden depicted as relatively dovish presidents as compared with the Caligula of the US Empire – Trump.

I was in Damascus with a member of the Syrian cabinet (I won’t say who) shortly after Trump was elected. He said, “Obama is the worst we have ever seen. Trump … we don’t know.”

In truth, President Trump proved to be relatively friendly to Syria! Yes, he bombed Douma after bogus reports of a gas attack, killing a few innocents, and he continued to steal oil from the impoverished Syrian people, but this makes him look like Mother Theresa when compared with his predecessor, who trained and equipped terrorists across the country.

Biden seems intent on picking up where Obama left off. It was one of his first executive orders – to go on the attack against the Syrian government – and to add insult to injury, he claimed it was self-defense!

I’m including a snippet below from Caitlin Johnstone’s article, “US Bombs Syria And Ridiculously Claims Self Defense“, as she does a great job of highlighting the hypocrisy of the Pentagon’s self-serving rhetoric. Prayers for Syria are needed now more than ever!

Father Dave

US Bombs Syria And Ridiculously Claims Self Defense

“So we are being told that the United States launched an airstrike on Syria, a nation it invaded and is illegally occupying, because of attacks on “US locations” in Iraq, another nation the US invaded and is illegally occupying. This attack is justified on the basis that the Iraqi fighters were “Iranian-linked”, a claim that is both entirely without evidence and irrelevant to the justification of deadly military force. And this is somehow being framed in mainstream news publications as a defensive operation.

This is Defense Department stenography. The US military is an invading force in both Syria and Iraq; it is impossible for its actions in either of those countries to be defensive. It is always necessarily the aggressor. It’s the people trying to eject them who are acting defensively. The deaths of US troops and contractors in those countries can only be blamed on the powerful people who sent them there.

The US is just taking it as a given that it has de facto jurisdiction over the nations of Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and that any attempt to interfere in its authority in the region is an unprovoked attack which must be defended against. This is completely backwards and illegitimate. Only through the most perversely warped American supremacist reality tunnels can it look valid to dictate the affairs of sovereign nations on the other side of the planet and respond with violence if anyone in those nations tries to eject them.

It’s illegitimate for the US to be in the Middle East at all. It’s illegitimate for the US to claim to be acting defensively in nations it invaded. It’s illegitimate for the US to act like Iranian-backed fighters aren’t allowed to be in Syria, where they are fighting alongside the Syrian government against ISIS and other extremist militias with the permission of Damascus. It is illegitimate for the US to claim the fighters attacking US personnel in Iraq are controlled by Iran when Iraqis have every reason to want the US out of their country themselves.

For the full article, click here

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Why sanction the First Lady of Syria?

my daughter, Imogen, hanging with the kids in the streets of Damascus

Phil Giraldi is spot on. It makes no sense to sanction Asma al-Assad. In truth though, none of the sanctions against Syria are justifiable. I remember when I was there last year, talking to a woman who worked with kids with cancer.  She said that most of her work involved just sitting with the children as the cancer slowly killed them. The only medications they could get were expired serums from third-world countries. Why? The sanctions.

Sanctions destroy lives. They stop people rebuilding their homes. They mean you can’t get fuel for your car and so can’t go to work. They kill children. The so-called ‘Caesar Sanctions’ were the latest in a long list, cynically referred to as a ‘Civilian Protection Act’. In truth, they are just another form of war fare against the civilian population of Syria. God, have mercy!

Father Dave

More War by Other Means: Sanctioning the Wife of Syria’s President Makes No Sense to Anyone

by Philip Giraldi

More sanctions, by all means. More grief and suffering and more people around the world wondering what exactly the United States is doing.

I am a recipient of regular, usual weekly, emails from the Department of the Treasury providing an “Update to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons.” OFAC is the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is tasked with both identifying and managing the financial punishments meted out to those individuals and groups that have been sanctioned by the United States government. A recent update, on November 10th, included “Non-Proliferation Designations; Iran-related Designations.” There were ten items on the list, names of Chinese and Iranian individuals and companies. Those who are “Specially Designated” on the list are subject to having their assets blocked if located in the United States and are also not allowed to engage in any financial transactions that go through U.S. banking channels. As many international banks respect U.S. Treasury “designations” lest they themselves be subjected to secondary sanctions that often means in effect that the individual or group cannot move money in a large part of the global financial marketplace.

The complete SDN list is hundreds of pages long. The Treasury Department defines and justifies OFAC’s mission “As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called ‘Specially Designated Nationals’ or ‘SDNs.’ Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”

In reality, of course, OFAC’s sanctions are highly political. They are clearly a form of economic warfare, particularly when entire sectors of a nation’s economy are blocked or a part of a government itself is listed as has been the case with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force. Wave after wave of “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran have made it difficult for the country to sell its only major marketable resource, oil, and it has been locked out of most normal financial networks, making it difficult or even impossible to buy food and medicines.

read the full article on the Strategic Culture Foundation website

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Boxers for Peace Syria 2019 video archive

One way we remember events that are important to us is through video. Below is an archive of a dozen videos from our June/July trip to Syria.

I have ordered the videos chronologically:

June 26, 2019 – an interview with Tom Duggan in Damascus
June 26, 2019 – training with the Syrian Olympic boxing team
June 27, 2019 – boxing with Dr Lou Lewis
June 28, 2019 – boxing Tom Duggan at the Syrian Sports Centre
June 28, 2019 – the post-fight debrief – Father Dave and Tom
June 29, 2019 – Boxers for Peace visit the village of Jodidi
June 30, 2019 – the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic
June 30, 2019 – catching up with Father Toufic in Maaloua
July 1, 2019 – a word from Dr Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria
July 1, 2019 – an interview with Vanessa Beeley
July 3, 2019 – with Father Alexi and Sarah of Gopa Derd
July 3, 2019 – with Sally and Hanny Al Assaly of Atta
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The end of the War on Syria!

Credit where it is due – Donald Trump has done the right thing. He’s withdrawing US troops from Syria, which effectively ends the war! Today I notice that the UAE is re-opening its Syrian embassy – a sign that things will now slowly return to normal.

Mind you, the response in the US has been howls of protest from both sides of government! Apparently, there’s no need for Congressional approval to start a war but it’s much harder to end one. Even so, Trump has been immovable. The question is ‘Why?’

Has Mr Trump suddenly developed a conscience? Has he suddenly become genuinely concerned for the welfare of the Syria people? Our friend, Chandra Muzaffar offers a far more plausible explanation. It has to do with power and money.

Father Dave

Father Dave and his son, Soren, at the home of Ananias – Straight Street, Damascus in 2017

TRUMP PULLING OUT by Dr Chandra Muzaffar

It is significant that US President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw his troops from Syria. The 14th December decision was followed immediately by another announcement by the President to pull out a sizeable number of soldiers from Afghanistan where the US has been involved in a war for the last 17 years — the longest war in its history.

Both the decisions, especially the one on Syria, have been condemned by a lot of US Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. They feel that the decisions undermine the US’s role as a global power. US allies such as Britain and France have also criticised the pull-outs. By getting out of Syria in particular, the US has made it easier for certain powers from within and without the region to exert even more influence over the politics of that country and that of its neighbours to the detriment of the West. Most of the international media argue that US success in fighting the terrorists in Syria which Trump cited as the reason for the withdrawal will be rendered meaningless in no time since terrorist cells are still alive and capable of striking at civilians. In the case of Afghanistan, the US cut-back, the media contends, will expedite the Taliban’s goal of gaining total control over the country.

Conventional wisdom suggests that whether or not the US is around the Taliban will emerge victorious sooner than later. If anything, the US military presence — a foreign power on Afghan soil — has enhanced the Taliban’s reputation as a resistance force among the ordinary people. The eventual total withdrawal of the 16,000 US soldiers will allow the Afghan people themselves to determine their future which will be influenced to some extent at least by Afghanistan’s important neighbours, Pakistan, Iran, China, India and Russia.

If we now turn to the situation in Syria, we would realise that the US role in combating terrorism was limited. The Syrian Army, with the backing of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian militias and the Russian military were primarily responsible for the defeat of the multitude of terrorist outfits in the country between 2012 and 2017. Indeed, there is more than enough evidence to show that some of the more prominent terrorist outfits were in different times and in different circumstances aided and abetted by institutions and organisations associated with the US, Britain and France and countries in the region such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. They provided financial assistance, military training and critical intelligence, apart from establishing regional and global networks to buttress the activities of the terrorists.

Viewed against this backdrop, the end of the US military operation in Syria may well accelerate efforts within the country to bring about much needed constitutional and political reforms which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had tried to initiate in 2001. In formulating these reforms, he will have to work closely with his allies, Iran and Russia. But at the end of the day it is the Syrian people themselves who will determine the destiny of their historically and culturally rich nation.

Suppressing the independence and sovereignty of the Syrian nation — and not combatting terrorism – was the real reason behind the active intervention and involvement of numerous actors from within and without the region in the 7 year Syrian conflict. Simply put, the aim was to oust Bashar, the protector of Syrian sovereignty, to achieve regime change in pursuit of the US-Israeli agenda of perpetuating their hegemony. Trump realised even before he became President that he would not be able to achieve this. Hence, his troop withdrawal.

This should not give us the impression that Trump is in any way opposed to US-Israeli hegemony. His staunchly pro-Israel policy; his intimate relationship with the Saudi elite; his military support for the Saudi-led war on the people of Yemen; his aggressive stance against Venezuela and his lukewarm attitude towards Cuba; his perpetuation of sanctions against Russia stemming from US policy on Crimea and the Ukraine; and his trade war against China aimed at curbing its economic dynamism all seem to indicate that he believes in flexing US power on the global stage. Besides, under Trump US military expenditure has remained high at 610 billion dollars in 2017.

What are the real reasons then that persuaded Trump to act the way he did on Syria and Afghanistan? In both countries the prospect of imminent defeat was a factor that influenced Trump’s decision. More than that was the financial cost of war in the two countries. It is estimated that the Syrian war would cost the US 15.3 billion dollars in 2019. The figures are even more staggering for Afghanistan. With 16,000 troops in the country, the war costs the US taxpayer 45 billion dollars a year. Between 2010 and 2012 when the US had 100,000 troops on the ground, the Afghan war cost a 100 billion a year.

Will some future analyst conclude that in withdrawing US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, Donald Trump acted on his well-honed business instincts?

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

Malaysia, 24 December 2018.

Father Dave & Dr Chandra Muzaffar
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