New poll of Syrian public opinion.

Interventions Watch

The poll was carried out by Opinion Research Business in July.

As ever, caveats should apply to the results. About the difficulties of accurate polling in war zones and authoritarian states. About the inability of opinion polls to capture nuance. And about the often rapidly changing views of the public depending on developments on the ground.

But here are some of the results nonetheless.

Syria

49% of Syrians oppose or strongly oppose coalition airstrikes in Syria, compared to 48% who strongly support or support them

Interesting if only because one pro-Syrian intervention argument is that Syrians themselves want it. And while some clearly do, slightly more don’t.

 – 49% of Syrians think Bashar al Assad has a completely or somewhat negative influence in Syria, compared to 47% who think he has a somewhat or completely positive influence.

– 72% of Syrians think the Syrian opposition coalition has a completely or…

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Palestinian Writer Sentenced to Death in Saudi for Poems that ‘Threaten Saudi Morality’

Arabic Literature (in English)

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been in jail in Saudi for nearly two years for spreading atheism, insulting the Godly self, and having ideas that threaten Saudi society, has now been sentenced to death:

Fayadh was jailed in January 2014, charged based on a complaint from a reader about Fayadh’s 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within. Fayadh told The Guardian the complaint arose from a personal dispute with another artist during a discussion about contemporary art in a cafe in Abha.

It was Tuesday when a Saudi court on Tuesday ordered Fayadh’s execution. The poet has also curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. According to The Guardian, Fayadh does not have legal representation, and has just 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Fayadh is a leading member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia. The Guardian writes that he was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by…

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“Black Propaganda” and Moral Dualism in Sarajevo and Syria

The invisible Syrian Arab Army.

The invisible Syrian Arab Army.

In her book Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, Diana Johnstone discusses the use of “black propaganda”, which refers to the act of staging an attack on your own side; an element of psychological warfare. Johnstone writes:

Black propaganda does exist. A relatively harmless but fully acknowledged instance occurred in Croatia on 6 February 1993, when the Croatian army staged a fake “Serbian” artillery attack on the Croatian Adriatic port city of Šibenik in front of television cameras, which relayed the “Serbian atrocity” to credulous viewers. The deception was later exposed and even admitted. The officer credited with ordering the feigned attack, Davor Škugor, Chief of General Staff of the 113th Brigade of the Croatian Army, scornfully shrugged off the uproar with this observation: “There is no city in Croatia in which such tactical tricks were not used. After all, they are an integral part of strategic plans. They are only one in a series of stratagems we have resorted to during the war.”

While the general public in the West is unaware of this sort of thing, their governments are not so naive. But neither governments nor media would care to suggest the possibility of such cynical behavior, least of all on the part of the side already designated as “the victim of aggression”. Moral dualism is necessary to keep the public from awareness of a more troubling reality.

Johnstone also describes a number of atrocities that took place in Muslim held areas of Sarajevo, Bosnia – none of which were ever officially blamed on the Serbian side due to a lack of evidence, and all of which occurred immediately prior to UN meetings, peace talks etc. The writer notes:

It may be hard to imagine that the Muslims would kill “their own people”. However, in Bosnia there were several thousand mujahidin from Muslim countries, including veterans of the war in Afghanistan and Algerian Islamic terrorists, for whom Sarajevo’s fun-loving, often hard-drinking inhabitants were not exactly “their own people”. For the sake of the cause, such foreign fighters might have few qualms about killing a number of Sarajevo civilians, few of whom were likely to be devout Muslims.

There are striking similarities here to the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria, which almost resulted in NATO bombing the Syrian armed forces until public opinion, the Labour Party, and Vladimir Putin’s intervention led to Cameron and Obama backing down.

Although already quite sure that the Ghouta chemical attack was an attempt to frame the Syrian government, Johnstone’s writing on “black propaganda” has made me certain. You don’t need to have read Seymour Hersh’s investigative work on the subject to see how preposterous the notion that President Assad’s forces carried out the attack is, having been committed at the same time the UN were visiting the country to investigate earlier allegations of chemical weapons use. It is painfully obvious that it would be detrimental to Assad and his country’s survival to use chemical weapons, after Obama had publicly stated that such usage was his ‘red line’ that would result in him ordering air strikes. The Syrian state had everything to lose from doing so, and the rebels – firmly established as Assad’s “victims of aggression” – had everything to gain. Johnstone’s point about killing Sarajevo/Syrian citizens is equally applicable: the al Qaeda and foreign-dominated opposition – likely with the help of sponsors Turkey and Saudi Arabia – would not be troubled by sacrificing civilians to trigger a “humanitarian intervention”. It is highly likely that there have been several instances of the opposition in Syria using black propaganda for this reason.

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This image, supposedly depicting victims in Ghouta, was used by the BBC; it was actually taken in Iraq, 2003.

There are many other similarities between the wars in the Balkans and that in Syria, particularly the ‘moral dualism’ employed by the media and entities like the State Department and United Nations. The Serbs were the new Nazis; Milošević the new Hitler. Now in Syria Assad is the new Milošević, as well as also sometimes being the latest ‘new Hitler’. Of course Gaddafi was demonized in the same way. Johnstone notes that all the deaths publicised in Bosnia were of Muslims, in vastly inflated numbers. Pictures of dead Serbs were presented as Muslim Bosniaks, and Serb suffering was completely erased from the narrative. In media reports on Syria, the Syrian army are non-existent; there’s just evil Assad and occasionally his Alawite inner circle. Only the Kurds are fighting ISIS we are told, despite the videos and images that circulate on social media showing the mass-executions of Syrian soldiers. Every dead terrorist is a civilian butchered by Assad.

Maximilian Forte says in his Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa that “morality has been weaponized”: our governments preach about the responsibility to protect, while simultaneously facilitating genocide. Insisting that “Assad must go” because he’s “killing his own people,” when the reality is that NATO and its GCC allies have been transferring foreign mercenaries to Syria in order to kill its inhabitants.

For how much longer can these predators continue to destroy independent nations with no opposition or consequences?

The White Helmets Redefine the Meaning of ‘Neutral’

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The British Foreign Office has spent at least £2.5 million on what it calls ‘search and rescue’ in Syria, stating in a public document on non-humanitarian aid to the country:

To date, twelve 25-man civil defence teams from towns in Idlib
province have received UK-funded training and equipment to carry
out fire-fighting and search & rescue to help save lives. Over the
next six months, additional teams across Northern Syria will be
trained thanks to UK support.

These ‘civil defence teams’ are the White Helmets, which as I have previously written function alongside takfiri groups such as Jahbat al-Nusra; appearing in their propaganda videos and helping them carry out executions. The group are presented as being a completely neutral actor, with their website proclaiming:

The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline.

The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks. Yet they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of regime soldiers to give them a proper burial.

Evidence of a supposed regime massacre of civilians - note the bodies are all in military clothing.

Evidence of a supposed regime massacre of civilians – note the bodies are all in military clothing.

However, a recent article in The Telegraph – Assad can stay in power ‘three months or longer’, says Hammond – casually refers to the White Helmets as being composed of regime defectors:

Russian involvement has galvanised rebels from across the ideological spectrum, accelerating defections to Jabhat al Nusra, and sending ripples of anger through the rebel opposition.

On Saturday, the strikes appeared to hit a rescue team in the northwestern province of Idlib. 29 year old Issam al-Saleh was killed in a follow-up air strike as his team searched for survivors from the first.

After defecting from the regime along with his six brothers, Mr Saleh had spent 18 months working with the White Helmets, a team of first responders that has been described as among the bravest in the world.

“Russian and Assad officers will be accounted in the ICC for their crimes against humanity,” said Mr Saleh’s cousin and the leader of the White Helmets, Raed al Saleh.

It is unclear how such people can claim impartiality, and it seems that the Foreign Office has little concern with making such assertions, having tweeted last week:

syriacivildef

Therefore publicly establishing that the White Helmets work on behalf of the British government and the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ (with the opposition really being nothing more than Western intelligence assets to begin with). As one of the main participants working tirelessly to militarily overthrow the Syrian state for the last several years, neither the UK nor the groups it sponsors can in any way be considered as impartial actors in the conflict.

Raed al Saleh, noted in The Telegraph as the group’s leader, has given numerous speeches to the UN, US Congress etc agitating for a no-fly zone to stop ‘the regime’. You can read examples by Googling his name.

The real purpose of the White Helmets project is to provide a constant stream of ‘barrel bomb’ propaganda to Western audiences (sometimes with added chlorine), thus providing a myth which – similar to the myth of the ‘African mercenary’ in Libya 2011 – can be invoked to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’.

Then, in several years time, despite what was once the Syrian Arab Republic remaining engulfed in war and poverty, Western governments can justify – even boast – about attacking the country because they stopped the regime from committing genocide via barrel bomb; with no one pausing to question which particular group the Syrian government and their armed forces were trying to exterminate.

Supposed ‘human rights activists’ are constantly shrieking that there is a genocide taking place in Syria. I once read that we shouldn’t be concerned about a possible future genocide of Alawites when there is currently a genocide of Sunnis going on right now. Yet a majority of the Syrian army is Sunni, and importantly, are actually Syrians; whereas a large majority of the opposition are not Syrian at all. Therefore the reality of the war is in fact the opposite of what the media has been making it out to be for years: of the Syrian people fighting a dictator; that Assad is ‘killing his own people’.

Noam Chomsky once noted:

As for the term ‘genocide,’ perhaps the most honorable course would be to expunge it from the vocabulary until the day, if it ever comes, when honesty and integrity can become an ’emerging norm.’

And so the same can be said of the word ‘neutral’, where now those very same nations who have been investing billions of dollars in destroying Syria seem to think that they can be viewed as honest peace brokers, and groups such as the White Helmets, who are so clearly working on behalf of the opposition, are able to claim that they are not supporting either side.

The US and its poodle the UK are in need of a good dose of reality: perhaps Russia’s intervention in Syria can bring them back down to earth, as this exceptionalist propaganda isn’t fooling anyone anymore.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/371647/Syria_UK_Non-Humanitarian_Support_-_Public_document__3_Apr___3_.pdf

Joss Whedon interview – audio version

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I’m posting this here because I currently can’t view my other blog as my domain subscription has expired, and I don’t know whether I’m going to renew it or not. Also the phone that I recorded the interview on broke so I no longer have the original recording either.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing was the closing film at the 2013 Glasgow Film Festival and I got the chance to ask Joss a question or two at a round-table interview a few hours before the film screening. I also got to watch the film at home the night before, in order to formulate questions that were related to Much Ado rather than what it is likely most interviewers wanted to ask about: The Avengers.

I came up with – what I thought – were some pretty original questions. However I only got the chance to ask two, and being so nervous I panicked and asked what were probably my two worst questions. I also felt embarrassed because all the other interviewers were from actual newspapers except for me, and I was the only female. My voice sounds pretty stupid too.

ISIS Leader Omar al-Shishani Fought Under U.S. Umbrella as Late as 2013

Levant Report

ISIS Commander Abu Omar al-Shishani celebrates after his joint FSA/ISIS operation at Menagh Airbase in the summer of 2013. (Photo circulated in jihadi social media)

Abu Omar al-Shishani, the red-bearded face of ISIS terror lately described in such headlines as ‘Star pupil’: Pied piper of ISIS recruits was trained by U.S. for the fact that he received American military training as part of an elite Georgian army unit in 2006 and after, did not stop playing for “team America” once he left his home country in the Caucuses. He actually enjoyed U.S. backing and American taxpayer largesse as late as 2013, soon after entering Syria with his band of Chechen jihadists.

A new book about ISIS chronicles the terror group’s earliest successes when it first made a name for itself on the Syrian battlefield by tipping the scales in favor of rebels in Northern Aleppo who had spent nearly a…

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