Russia: Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam are ‘Moderate Opposition’

A nationwide Syrian ceasefire, which has been brokered by Moscow and Ankara, has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.  The media, even CNN, have been making a big deal of the ceasefire agreement, especially of the fact that it has been effected without the participation of the United States.  Who has actually been involved is another question, as some reports claim a tripartite agreement, involving Russia, Iran and Turkey.

In a clip that has been showing repeatedly on RT over the last day or two (31 December – 1 January), Murad Gazdiev waxed enthusiastic at the prospect of a successful ceasefire brokered without US involvement.  According to Gazdiev, the ‘troika’ (Russia, Turkey and Iran) ‘are now doing what US promised to do for years, separating moderates from jihadists […].  The troika is getting things done.‘  The clip continues with Ken Livingstone, who affirms that ‘Islamist groups have been excluded‘.

To many people a major question was the identity of these moderate groups, but in his excitement, Gazdiev overlooked this matter entirely.   Fortunately the Russian Ministry of Defence has published the list of the seven groups who have signed up to the ceasefire.  According to the Ministry, these are ‘Formations of the moderate opposition, which control vast territories in the northern and central part of Syria and which have joined the ceasefire‘.

1. Feilak al-Sham, over 4,000 strong; operate in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Homs provinces.
2. Ahrar al-Sham;  about 16,000; Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Idlib, Latakia, Hama and Homs provinces.
3. Jaysh al-Islam: 12,000; Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, Latakia, Hama and Homs provinces.
4.  Thuwar al-Sham: about 2,500; Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces.
5.  Jaysh al-Mujahideen: 8,000; Aleppo city,provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama.
6. Jaysh Idlib:  more than 6,000;  Idlib province.
7. Jabhat al-Shamiyah; about 3,000; Aleppo, Idlib and Damascus provinces.

Thus the backbone of the ‘moderate rebels’, the ‘legitimate opposition’, are Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, long considered to be extremist organisations in terms of both their sectarianism and their brutality.  Jaish al Islam, which has forces in Ghouta, Damascus, is implicated in the Ghouta sarin attack (in its previous incarnation as Liwa al-Islam), shelling civilian areas of Damascus, and using caged women as human shields. Ahrar al Sham is associated with numerous atrocities; including the massacre in al Zara of May 2016.  They are also the dominant force in Madaya where the militants sell humanitarian aid at exorbitant prices to residents.

Jaish al Islam, along with al Nusra, is part of the Jaish al Fatah alliance, which claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Tartous on New Year’s Eve, the same day that the ceasefire was agreed.  (The Arabic below actually reads ‘Today in in Tartous and tomorrow in Moscow, Russia’)

Until a few days ago Russia too saw these groups as extremist.  In May 2016 Russia moved that the UN Security Council recognise both Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham as terrorist organisations, a motion that was vetoed by the US, the UK and France.  According to the view Russia’s Vitaly Churkin expressed at the time:

Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham are ‘closely linked to terrorist organisations, primarily ISIL and al-Qaeda’. The groups ‘both give to [ISIL and al-Nusra] and receive from them financial, material, technical and military support’.

All the factions listed by the Russian Ministry, not just Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, have been operating in Aleppo or Idlib, alongside al Nusra. Aside from Jaish Idlib (based in the al Nusra stronghold of Idlib), they are all complicit in the wanton shelling of civilians in western Aleppo. Most of them refused to join the ceasefire brokered in September, because al Nusra was excluded.

In short they are all terrorist organisations.  But moderate terrorists, it would seem. And not just moderate but, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence, ‘moderate opposition’.

When Lavrov and Kerry brokered a cessation of hostilities in May 2016, on condition that the moderate rebels were separated from the jihadists that they were cooperating with, many people thought oh good, the US fiction of ‘moderate rebels’ is going to be exposed.  But no, Russia has been playing along with the concept of the moderate rebels all year, even though it has been abundantly clear that in Aleppo, for example, all the ‘rebels’, no matter what their theoretical alignment, have been cooperating in their operations, including their war crimes against the people of Aleppo.  Now Russia is making another huge concession to the NATO narrative, by redefining Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam as moderate organisations.

Once again, we are asked to believe that groups who eat with, fight with, and have the same mores as al Nusra and ISIS can somehow be redefined as moderate, legitimate opposition in Syria.  As Eva Bartlett has said,  there are no moderate rebels – from a Syrian perspective they are all committing the same crimes, the same heinous acts (below, from 6.20 mins).

In fact the viability of the ceasefire, or at least its participants, seems to be in some doubt.  Fighting has continued: a report has just come through that Jaish al Islam has taken back the Air Battalion base in East Ghouta.

If the ceasefire is successfully imposed, the agreement obliges the Syrian government and the ‘opposition’ to start direct talks in Astana in late January.  The Syrian government has agreed, therefore, to sit down and discuss the future of Syria with war criminals who are anathema to the majority of Syrian people.  What will they discuss?  The options are limited, as the Syrian government have ruled out partition, and also  De Mistura’s idea of small Islamist states dotted about Syria.  The best case scenario is for all foreign fighters to leave and for Syrian militants to accept democratic rule in Syria (rather than sharia law), but it hardly seems likely.


FCO and Civil March Addenda

The purpose of this page is to present informally updates relating to the Civil March on Aleppo, main article here, including further information relating to background, and new developments.

1 January

Happy New Year to the people of ‘Aleppo’.  In English, German, Polish, but not Arabic. Another polished production.

28 December

Disagreements amongst supporters over whether ‘the flag’ should be flown and whether opposition to the Syrian government should be more explicit.  Thank you  @sunami495.


Pics above and below from @Navsteva


Setout with flag.PNG

26-27 December Twitter Account

As as 27 December the account was following 427 people


There are striking similarities with the Bana account.  It looks as though the the Civil March follows every single journalist, ‘activist’, official or organisation that asks for a no-fly zone in Syria or campaigns relentlessly on behalf of terrorist groups in Syria and against the Syrian government, including the following:

@mollycrabapple; Syrian Network for Human Rights; Charles Davis, Raed Fares; Robin Yassin-Kassab; Gareth Bayley FCO; Elizabeth Tsurkov; Daniel Wickham, SAMS @sams_usa; Hassan Hassan @hxhassan;  Murtaza Hussain;  Michael Weiss; Rafik Hariri Center; Kenneth Roth; Syria Solidarity UK; Oz Katerji;   Kristyan Benedict @KreaseChan;   Syria Pulse; Leila Al-Shami; Lina Sergie Attar; Kenan Rahmani;   Shawn Carrié @shawncarrie; Sophie McNeill;  Julian Röpcke; Liz Sly; HadiAlabdallah;  Kyle W. Orton;  Waad Alkateab; Samantha Power; Peter Tatchell;  Grannies4Equality;  Aron Lund;  Ahmad Alkhatib; Rami Jarrah;  Charles Lister ; Louisa Loveluck;  Emma Beals; The Syria Campaign; Stop the War Syria @STWsyria  [28 December, also Bilal Abdul Kareem]

At least five White Helmet accounts:  Ismail Alabdullah @ishmael12345611 ;   Majd khalaf @majdkhlafa19931;   Khaled Khatib @995Khaled;   Idlib – Whitehelmets @whitehelmets_sy;   The White Helmets@SyriaCivilDef

Several accounts associated with the Bana project, @AlabedBana,  @ZainaErhaim (who broke the news that Bana was safe after being bombed, @Mr_Alhamdo;  AJ Joshi @AJ .  Also … JK Rowling

Other celebrities, such as Ben Affleck, Emma Watson and Mia Farrow.

Other representatives of the corporate media, none noticeably sympathetic to the Syrian government, such as Orla Guerin, who flew to Ankara to interview Bana of Aleppo, Lyse Doucet, Jeremy Bowen, James Longman (sometimes referred to as Jihadi Jim), all of the BBC, Anne Barnard of the New York Times, Josie Ensor of the Telegraph, Jim Clancy.

Human rights ‘watchdogs’ such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch.

Various UN bodies, such as UNICEF, UNHCR. Also EU bodies: Council of Europe, European Ombudsman.

George Soros’s Open Society

The International Criminal Court @IntlCrimCourt. According to the manifesto: manifestojustice

Followers: so far the March has not matched @AlabedBana in terms of huge purchases of followers, having only 1,562 followers, but already a large number look suspect.  It will be interesting to see it the numbers change dramatically.

26 March sets out with 300 followers.


23 December

BBC runs article

The Civil March on Aleppo has the Foreign Office’s Prints All Over It

This article follows on from The British Foreign Office and the Propaganda War on Syria

The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal.  Companies like Incostrat and Mayday, both British in origin, who are involved in ‘strategic communications’ projects in Syria, are open about their contractual relationships with the British government to deliver propaganda.

All major propaganda projects in Syria that are financed by the British taxpayer have one explicit message: the call for a no-fly zone in Syria, similar to that was which was imposed on Libya, with the well-known disastrous consequences. The ostensible purpose is humanitarian intervention; the aim is to destroy Syria as we know it .

The Civil March on Aleppo

The constant stream of allegations of war crimes on the part of the Syrian government and its allies is supported by specific propaganda projects, such as The White Helmets and @AlabedBana (see Appendix).  The Civil March on Aleppo is another such project.

The Civil March on Aleppo will set out from Berlin on 26 December. The March has all the hallmarks of a slick Foreign Office production: the quick development, the expensive-looking advertising, the feel-good values presented (families, peace) camouflaging the brutality of the desired outcome, ie. a no-fly zone and the bombing of Syria by the NATO coalition.


The humanitarian corridor is of course a red herring. Humanitarian corridors have been provided by the Syrian government, only to be blocked by the terrorists in the east, with those fleeing often shot dead. The intention of the march is to support the demand for a no-fly zone, which is mentioned twice elsewhere in the manifesto ‘We need the no-fly zone and humanitarian corridor’. ‘We don’t want to get into politics – we only want a no-fly zone over Syria and humanitarian corridors so that help can get to the people in need’.

There are a number of assumptions that are not argued but taken as read: civilians are being massacred , bombs are dropping, children’s hospitals are being targeted. There is no mention of insurgents or terrorists, Russia or Assad, government-controlled western Aleppo versus eastern Aleppo. However, anyone who follows the mainstream media (or looks at the postings by Civil March activists) will assume the massacres referred to are those attributed to Syria and Russia, likewise the targeting of children’s hospitals.

According to the manifesto, ‘The only affiliation is peace. And hope […]‘.  Which is nonsense. The Facebook pages of both the Civil March and its organisers show that the organisation is affiliated with the armed insurgency, i.e. the terrorist groups.  This is demonstrated by: FSA flags; promotion of known terrorist supporters such as Bilal Abdul Kareem; overt support for the White Helmet and Bana Projects, both of which have close ties with the al Zinki gang; the constant repetition of propaganda derived from those projects or elsewhere, most of which is easily disproven. Imposition of a no-fly zone has no other motive than to satisfy the NATO agenda. The acquiescence of the United Nations to a no-fly zone in Libya was promptedly interpreted as an invitation to bomb Libya to smithereens; NATO states are desperate to get the green light to do the same thing to Syria. Fortunately, the response of Russian and China has been determinedly ‘fool me once …’.

[The manifesto of the Civil March has since been amended to remove all three references to a no-fly zone.]

The timing is somewhat strange – by the time the marchers arrive at the Syrian border the last terrorist will be gone from Aleppo, and it is most unlikely there will be any bombing going on in the city, at least on the part of the Russian and Syrian airforces. Furthermore, a lot of truth will have been revealed by then – even Kerry has conceded that some of the groups have been preventing civilians from leaving. Some have already joked that the Marchers will end up going to Idlib or Raqqa, though  the organisers have indicated their hope that their mission will be achieved (presumably the no-fly zone) before arriving at the Turkish-Syrian border.  The intended destination is probably Gaziantep in south-east Turkey, which provides a hub for terrorist support operations (Mayday, which runs the White Helmets on behalf of the FCO, has a base there), a number of minor NGOs whose chief function is to propagandise against the Syrian government and also for Western journalists.

The plan is the UN and all other institutions or entities that can stop the massacre of Syrian civilians hear us before we stand on the border.

The project was initiated, apparently, by an ordinary mother, Polish in origin, living in Berlin. On 20 November Anna Alboth was galvanised into action after reading an article in the British newspaper The Independent about premature babies (it’s very hard not to think of Saddam Hussein and the Kuwaiti incubator hoax)

As with Bana, there is the same sense of a campaign carefully planned externally and ready to go. There appears to be no record of Anna putting out feelers to friends or tossing ideas round, but by 28 November the Civil March on Aleppo had a Facebook account complete with professionally designed logo and cover photo, followed by use of the hashtags #StoptheBombing and #CivilMarchforAleppo.

On 1 December a video was uploaded.

Anna Alboth focuses on the need of ordinary people to get past their feeling of helplessness and do something- ‘I would like to transform these tears and this anger into some action – I would like to go to Aleppo’.

Anna’s words are very indefinite, but the photos in the video convey an unmistakable message.  The video provides the usual incestuous reinforcement, showing many tweets from the other FCO projects, @AlebedBana and the White Helmets.  There are tweets from @AhmadAlkhtiib, a Syrian journalist who tweets mostly in English on behalf of the ‘FSA’ and the ‘revolution’.  One tweet clearly warns of genocide in Aleppo. The mostly Facebook page, almost all in Arabic, of one Mohammed al Khatieb is shown (does Anna really speak Arabic?).

The video finishes with a chorus ‘I’m going to Aleppo’, ‘We are going to Aleppo’.

The video has high production values, and it is impossible to believe that it was designed by anyone other than a professional media company. However according to Alboth, the video was made by young chef Tokarski Jørg Jarek as his contribution to the project.

Who are We?

More information became available on 2 December.

There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to who we are and why we’re organizing the march. We’ve read and heard it all: CIA, Assad, Putin…

The truth is a lot less sensational and a lot more mundane, I’m afraid – we’re just an international bunch of travelers, lawyers, journalists, social, office and corporate workers – your typical guys and girls next-door – who are sick and tired of feeling powerless when it comes to the crisis in Syria and beyond.

So the same company who used the line about the White Helmets being just ordinary Syrians, bakers, tailors, etc, are almost repeating themselves, but this time with a strong middle class angle.

The jocular suggestion ‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin?’ (anyone but MI6) is a mantra repeated yet again in the biography of another enthusiast loaded that day (‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin? No. It’s people like Marta’). It shows poor judgement on the part of the project managers, as Assad and Putin are clearly a ridiculous option, given that the intent of the March is to highlight their alleged war crimes, and strongly points to a deflection away from the real sponsors, with MI6 or the Foreign Office high on any list of possible suspects.

According to their blog, Anna Alboth and her husband Thomas endeavour to live a lifestyle which combines journalism, family life and travel. However their travels did not take them anywhere near Syria, and there is no indication that Anna had the slightest interest in the Middle East or peace activism before November 2016.

The manifesto gives a long list of people who support the Civil March on Aleppo.   Just first names are given but some full names appear elsewhere on the facebook page, a few of which I have checked out.

Stefan Oeknigk, a German living in Poland, describes himself as a project manager, responsible for the transport and logistic team for the March. His LinkedIn CV shows project management, team building, information technology, management of web design projects. He seems a likely candidate for overall management of the Civil March project. He does not appear to be a big user of social media – his twitter account @DayDreamer1969 is protected but shows little activity.

Marta Kusnierska describes herself on twitter, @martakusnierska, as a consultant for social impact and entrepreneurship / business and innovation strategy. According to her LinkedIn CV she has worked as a brand ambassador and marketing strategy consultant.  Like Anna, she has shown no interest in peace activism or the Middle East before November, but now actively promotes the Civil March.

Joanna Nowak posted about Anna’s plan even before she did, on 19 December. Again, there is no indication on her facebook page of any previous interest in Syria. However from then on her page is dedicated to standard propaganda in support of the militants in Aleppo, posting about the White Helmets, Bana Alabed, the last cat man in Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army, with reports from known terrorist sympathisers Bilal Abdul Kareem and Waad al Kataeb (latest reports give Waad’s current location as the al Nusra stronghold of Idlib).  In one posting Aleppo is glibly compared to Warsaw 1944.

Paulina Kuntze made a comment on the Civil March’s first post of 28 November. On the public pages of her facebook account there were indications of an interest in Syria prior to this, in particular a video posted 21 November from Orient News, a pro-terrorist media organisation – its propaganda intent is reveaded by the fact of the video portraying a huge demonstration in support of Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government (with red white and black flag) as a protest AGAINST the government).

Paulina Kuntze has an interesting twitter history. Her account was opened on 27 July 2014 and since then has functioned purely as an anti-Syria propaganda vehicle. Most days she did not tweet at all, occasionally just one or two tweets, but some days there was a huge number, e.g. on 1 June 2016 there were 150 all about Syia, while on 2 June, via mobile twitter, she tweeted 130 times. Most tweets have pictures and there are very few retweets. She appears to have put in an enormous effort, but very few were ever ‘liked’, and possible none retweeted. The account seems to have functioned purely as a filing system, and nothing has been added since August 11.

On 10 December the Civil March posted a report on the publicity in the media to date . One of the first to cooperate was the German tabloid Das Bild, well known as extreme in its anti-Syrian views even as corporate media go, which reported on 7 December that it had spoken with Anna Alboth several weeks previously. The article was written by Julian Roepcke, often referred to on social media as #jihadijulian for his pro-terrorist viewpoint, and is essentially a promotion of the March. A video is included, which appears to be a first draft of the one loaded on 30 November, with Anna uttering almost identical words. The snazzily presented twitter shots of the later video are missing, but the Civil March logo and banner are displayed.

In recent days there have been calls for the donation of equipment, and a crowdfunding campaign was announced. This by no means negates an external sponsor: while the Foreign Office have been open about their responsibility for the White Helmets, they have been a great deal more discreet about projects such as @AlabedBana and the Civil March on Aleppo.

The media campaigns face huge obstacles which they have not been able to surmount.

1) It’s advertising: It is hard to create a swept-up, maximum-impact campaign without it looking exactly that  – a maximum-impact high-end advertising campaign. The projects, therefore, contain a fundamental flaw: the advertising techniques that are so effective are the very things that give the game away. The careful posing of Omran on the orange chair was loved by the uncritical (or complicit) corporate media, but are a big red flag to any impartial observer.

2) The players: All these campaigns rely for their message on the supposed involvement of ordinary decent people, whether Syrian or Polish. Unfortunately for the project managers, the only trustworthy partners for the Foreign Office’s propaganda projects are people committed to the ‘revolution’, i.e. terrorist supporters. Many of them look, speak and behave like thugs, and in any case they cannot conceal their connections with unsavoury organisations.

It is questionable, therefore, how many people who have seriously looked at projects like the White Helmets actually buy the product. The petition in favour of the White Helmets getting a Nobel Peace price only garnered 3000 signatures. Very few of twitter respondents to @AlabedBana are genuinely taken in: most are trolls of one description or another, either pushing the NATO narrative or ridiculing the Project. In the case of the Civil March there appear to be very few genuine responders, apart from critics. One has to wonder whether the Foreign Office is prepared to pay for 3,000 extras to march on Aleppo.


White Helmets

The ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ (not to be confused with the real Syrian Civil Defence), aka known as the White Helmets, are defined as a humanitarian first responder organisation, which according to their website is staffed by ordinary Syrians: ‘Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and many more, the White Helmets are volunteers from all walks of life’.

In reality we are dealing with a multi-million dollar enterprise, designed on behalf of the British government. Its sole function is to operate as a propaganda arm for al Nusra and allied groups in Aleppo and Idlib, by creating the image of brave and selfless heroes who stage dramatic rescues, usually involving small children, which are videoed by the Aleppo Media Center. Few people from eastern Aleppo seem to have heard of the White Helmets, but when RT’s Lizzie Phelan tracked down some who had dealings with them the escapees had little good to say about the ‘first responders’.

The White Helmet have all the elements of a major advertising campaign or serious company launch, with logo, catchy ‘White Helmets’ brand name and distinctive helmet, new and freshly ironed uniforms, Facebook page and Twitter account (not yet signed up to LinkedIn, though I did find this little promotion). Salaries, uniforms and other accoutrements are all paid for with targeted funding from NATO and allied countries, to the tune of more than $100 million to date.

The White Helmets vigorously demand a no-fly zone in Syria and have a petition to that effect on their website.

 Bana Tweets from Aleppo

Bana Alabed is the face of the Bana Project, which was based on the concept of a little girl tweeting out of Aleppo, begging the world to do anything, even declare WWIII, if it saved Aleppo from Assad and Russia’s bombs. As with the White Helmets, Bana  was greeted with  scepticism by Syria watchers from the beginning, and even the New York Times has expressed doubts.

Ostensibly ‘Bana’ should have been a completely different sort of campaign, without logos or expensive equipment. However, that it was a sophisticated operation was clear from the outset: the contrived opening tweet ‘I need Peace” , the reiteration of the message (we are bombed, save us), uploaded videos from day one, the purchase of huge numbers of followers to give the impression of support, and a supporting Facebook page.

In recent weeks Bana’s close links with the most barbaric gangs terrorising eastern Aleppo have become increasingly apparent, to the total indifference of the corporate media.

Bana alZinki.PNG

(Image from Panchi Belaunde @panchibelaunde)

Bana and her mother constantly beg for active intervention from external forces.


The Foreign Office and the Propaganda War on Syria

On his first official visit to Turkey in September 2016, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced that the British government was giving about £2.3 billion in aid to Syria. Of course when Johnson said ‘aid to Syria’ he meant anything but – Britain may be contributing to the odd refugee camp outside of Syria, but most of that £2.3 billion goes to support al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups in order to bring down the legitimate government in Syria.

Since 2011 the British government has had an official policy of regime change in Syria – Assad must go. While the UK has not yet formally invaded Syria, it has played a significant military role, including training insurgents in Jordan from 2012. The British air force has a presence in Syria, ostensibly to fight terrorism, though whether it has ever targeted anyone but the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army is open to question (the presence in Syrian airspace of the British airforce is in clear breach of international law).

Perhaps the biggest role played by the British government is that of creating propaganda designed to undermine the Syrian government and its supporters in their fight against ‘insurgents’.

The official position of the NATO states is that the Syrian government has ‘lost legitimacy’, and that there is a ‘legitimate opposition’ made up of ‘moderate rebels’. To create support for this view NATO states, including the UK, the US, France and the Netherlands, have invested heavily in a two-pronged propaganda campaign to shape public perception of the war by:

  1. Demonising the Syrian administration, particularly the person of Syria’s popular president, Bashar al Assad, and all the forces that support the administration: the Syrian Arab Army; the National Defence Forces (part-time reservists, rather like a Home Guard); non-Syrian forces from neighbouring countries, such as Hezbollah.
  2. Creating a false perception of a popular uprising spearheaded by ‘moderate’, ‘democratic’ forces that are acceptable to the Syrian people, and thus can eventually form or be part of a viable government.    

The target audience is the West – Syrians themselves are not going to swallow the bizarre fiction that groups who look like ISIS, act like ISIS and have the same ideology as ISIS, should somehow be seen on the one hand as heroes in preference to their own sons and daughters in the Syrian Arab Army, and on the other as a legitimate political opposition to their government.

A typical example of the moderate opposition in the eyes of NATO is the al Zinki gang, whose crimes include sawing off the head of a 12 year old child, and who clearly identify with ISIS (they were careful to pose in front of the ISIS flag in this picture).alzinkiheadchopper

In the context of Aleppo, the State Department has claimed throughout 2016 that it has been endeavouring to separate out the ‘moderate rebels’ from the extremists. This is clearly nonsense: al Nusra dominates in eastern Aleppo, and when a a ceasefire was agreed in September 2016, 20 ‘moderate’ groups including Ahrar al Sham and al Zinki refused to take part because al Nusra, as an officially designated terrorist group, was not included.

The propaganda campaign also serves to draw attention away from the role NATO have played in creating instability in Syria – it is painfully clear that British anti-war politicians and organisations such as Stop the War UK believe that honour is satisfied as long as Britain is not openly bombing in Syria.

The immediate aim of the propaganda is to gain acceptance for increased NATO intervention in Syria, above all a no-fly zone, as was approved by the UN for Libya in 2011, which would then be interpreted by NATO forces as a  license to bomb with impunity, and destroy Syria as a functioning independent country.

The UK’s propaganda effort for the Syrian armed opposition began after the government failed to persuade parliament to support military action against trhe Assad regime.  In autumn 2013, the UK embarked on behind-the-scenes work to influence the course of the war by shaping perceptions of opposition fighters. (Cobain, Ross, Evans, Mahmoud, 3 May 2016)

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office founds or contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’ in relation to the war on Syrian.

In effect the British government has funded a comprehensive top of the range advertising campaign to promote sectarian extremists in Syria who function as units of al Qaeda and ISIS.

Contractors hired by the Foreign Office but overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters.’ (Cobain and co., 3 May 2016)

The contractors also develop specific public relations projects such as the White Helmets, Bana Tweets From Aleppo and the Civil March on Aleppo.

In parallel with these operations the British Government funds social media trolls to get the desired message across.  In January 2015 the Ministry of Defence announced the formation of its 77th Brigade, which would consist of social media activists engaged in ‘non-lethal warfare’, by attempting to control the narrative in media such as Facebook and Twitter.  (According to the report in the Guardian, the US and Israel were already heavily engaged in such operations)

Two closely aligned companies working with the Foreign Office and other UK departments are Incostrat and Mayday Rescue.

Mayday Rescue

‘Mayday Rescue supports vulnerable communities in the most dangerous and challenging places in the world by training and equipping local groups to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impact of war, disasters, and emergencies.’ (Mayday)

At the present time Mayday’s sole responsibility appears to be management of the ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ or White Helmets, a supposed first responder organisation staffed by ordinary Syrians, which are in fact an extension of the terrorist groups in Aleppo and Idlib. Their function is to cooperate with the Aleppo Media Center in the production of material which shows the White Helmets both as heroes and legitimate authorities on the Syrian conflict on the ground, and the Syrian and Russian governments as war criminals, deliberately targeting hospitals, schools, bakeries, animal shelters etc.

To that end, Mayday is generously funded by the UK, US and other governments, with offices in Amsterdam, Turkey, Jordan and Dubai. As at March 2016 its operational headquarters in Istanbul employs 30 staff, located in the operational centres of Istanbul, South-East Turkey, and has an annual operating budget of US$35,000,000.

Founder James le Mesurier, according to Mayday, ‘has spent 20 years working in fragile states as a United Nations staff member, a consultant for private companies and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a British Army Officer. […] Since 2012, James has been working on the Syria crisis where he started the Syrian White Helmets programme in March 2013. In 2014, he founded Mayday Rescue.’


‘We are a communications and media consultancy that provides a customised end-to-end service for government and private clients: we specialise in strategic campaign planning, narrative development, message distribution and feedback generation in support of policymaking […]

‘We have proven track records of designing and delivering complex communications and media projects in conflict and post-conflict environments. We have over two and a half years of continuous experience of Syria-specific work, co-operating with the moderate armed opposition, politicians, tribal and civil society’

Incostrat was founded by Paul Tilley, who has a similar background to le Mesurier, with experience of both the army and the Foreign Office. His CV on LinkedIn reveals the following:
2011-12 Director of Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) in the Ministry of Defence for the Middle East and North Africa.
2012-current. Developed and Project managed several multi-million dollar media and communications projects that are at the leading edge of UK and US foreign and security policy objectives in the Middle East.

Both Incostrat and Mayday Rescue were formally founded in November 2014, according to the LinkedIn profiles of their respective founders, but le Mesurier and Tilley were doing development work 2013 or earlier. The White Helmets first officially appeared on the scene in April 2014, when the BBC assisted in the launching of the brand by producing a documentary on ‘Civil Defence’ in Aleppo, which coincided with the White Helmets appearance on social media.

Incostrat is described by Thierry Meyssen as ‘a communications company in the service of the jihadist groups. It designed logos, made video clips by portable telephone, and printed brochures for a hundred of these groups, thus giving the impression of a popular uprising against the Republic.’

The difference between the older ISIS flag with the Incostrat designs for groups like Jaish al Islam, Jaish al Fatah is striking.

(left: ISIS; centre Jaish al Fatah; right: Jaish al Islam)

Meyssen continues: ‘together with the SAS, [Incostrat] made a spectacle of the most important group, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Saudi Arabia supplied the tanks which were delivered from Jordan. Uniforms were made in Spain and distributed to the jihadists for an officer promotion ceremony. All this was choreographed and filmed by professionals in order to give the impression that the army was organised like regular forces and was capable of rivaling with the Syrian Arab Army. The idea was planted that this really was a civil war, and yet the images only showed a few hundred extras, most of whom were foreigners.’

Who actually does what in the Syrian theatre is not quite clear. On the one hand Mayday Rescue appears to have total responsibility for ‘Syrian Civil Defense’. On the other there are similarities in the branding and marketing of the terrorist groups with their logos, letterheads and social media pages, and projects like the White Helmets. One possibility is that Incostrat, as well as having responsiblity for the design aspects of the propaganda campaigns, may also have the task of finding ‘creative solutions’ in broad terms, such as the Bana Project, the Civil March and maybe the White Helmets. Mayday’s responsibility would then be the management of the White Helmets and the Aleppo Media Center both of which function as part of terrorists groups in Syria. Whether the Bana Project and the Civil March are managed from within Incostrat or whether there are separate groups or companies overseeing these projects too is not clear.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

SOHR, founded in 2011, is a UK-based organisation that provides information on the Syrian conflicts to the world’s media. The Observatory is run from Coventry, England by Rami Abdulrahman,  a three-term convicted criminal in Syria  who left that country more than 10 years before the war started, and is openly opposed tot he Syrian government.

The Observatory is almost certainly the brainchild of the Foreign Office:

His funding comes from the European Union and “an unnamed European state,” most likely the UK as he has direct access to former Foreign Minister William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. […] it was the British government that first relocated Abdul Rahman to Coventry, England after he fled Syria over a decade ago because of his anti-government activities. Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Although the Observatory is manifestly biased, only showing the conflict from the perspective of the insurgents, and consistently showing the Syrian government in a bad light, the information provided is considered by the corporate media, the United Nations and trusted non-government organisations to be authoritative, and is widely quoted.

Clearly for real journalists, Abdulrahman is a useless, utterly compromised source of information who has every reason to twist reality to suit his admittedly politically-motivated agenda of overthrowing the Syrian government. However, for a propagandist, he is a goldmine. That is why despite the overt conflict of interests, the lack of credibility, the obvious disadvantage of being nearly 3,000 miles away from the alleged subject of his “observations,” […] the Western media still eagerly laps up his constant torrent of disinformation. (Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”)

These organisations by no means represent the total of British spending when it comes to creating or influencing propaganda while dressing it up as humanitarian endeavour or intellectual objectivity.  The government is a major funder of a number of NGOs that are openly committed to ‘humanitarian intervention’ (regime change) in countries like Syria, such as Amnesty International.  In his article Unravelling Bana, Qoppa has raised the question of the relationship of the much derided ‘research organisation’ Bellingcat with the British government, pointing out that one of the authors of Bellingcat’s own article on Bana is an ex-army officer.

Incostrat, Mayday and SOHR however have direct and undeniable links with the Foreign Office.  Their function is to create, via tools such as Bana Alabed and the White Helmets, or directly in the case of the SOHR, fake news for Western consumption that bears little or no relation to the reality within Syria.

The fake news is distributed via the corporate media and the reports of the industrial human rights complex.  Social media, however, is by no means forgotten.  There is an incestuous relationship between the Foreign Office projects, in that Bana promotes the White Helmets, and the activists of the Civil March promote both Bana and the White Helmets.   At the same time the MOD’s 77th Brigade push incessantly the general themes of Assad and Russian war crimes versus the ‘popular uprising’ on social media, but also reinforce the FCO’s major projects – such trolls are easily detected on Twitter accounts like Bana’s.

So what we have is the UK government, on behalf of the British taxpayer, openly funding multi-million dollar projects to create an assumption of war crimes by Syria and Russia against the Syrian people, while also creating a false image of a legitimate opposition, all of which the said taxpayer is then supposed to take in good faith. The purpose of all this is to garner support for a no-fly zone over Syria, imposed by the UK, the US and allied countries, as the first step to overthrowing the legitimate government.


Thierry Meyssan, The Techniques of Modern Military Propaganda

Thierry Meyssan, For Britain’s Media and Secret Service (MI6) War Propaganda Is an Art

Ian Cobain, Alice Ross, Rob Evans and Mona Mahmood, Inside Ricu: the Shadowy Propaganda Unit Inspired by the Cold War

Ian Cobain, Alice Ross, Rob Evan s and Mona Mahmood, How Britain Funds the Propaganda War Against ISIS

Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”

Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Amnesty International, War Propaganda, and Human Rights Terrorism

Vanessa Beeley, The White Helmets Campaign for War not Peace

Unravelling “Bana”: a Response to Bellingcat’s Article “Finding Bana”


Bellingcat are well known their ‘scientific’ analyses that lead to conclusions that suit Western interests, such as the sarin attack on Ghouta,  or the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.  Bellingcat has recently addressed the question of the authenticity of Bana Alabed, the seven year old girl who tweets from Aleppo begging to be saved from Russian and ‘Assad’ bombs. It surprises no-one that Bellingcat has declared the account genuine.

The analysis has a number of flaws: the primary arguments against the authenticity of the Bana account – the quality of the language and the sophistication of the enterprise – have been dealt with glibly and inadequately, while the authors lay much emphasis on red herrings such as Bana’s location while tweeting, about which there is no general agreement among Bana critics.

Qoppa presents here a critique of Bellingcat’s analysis, and brings the story up to date.

[Editor’s note: the analysis and conclusions are those of Qoppa.  While I don’t necessarily agree with all of them,  there is considerable accord among Bana sceptics on where the fundamental weaknesses of the Bana Story lie]

Bana al-Abed, the 7-year-old twitter girl from besieged Aleppo, has caught the hearts and minds of millions.  Now that she has safely escaped the dangers of living in a battle-zone, it may be the right time to look back and present some reflections on the “Bana phenomenon”, – especially in view of Bellingcat’s related article from last week. Bellingcat author Nick Waters has spent a lot of time and energy in Finding Bana – Proving the Existence of a 7-Year-Old Girl in Eastern Aleppo”. He has done a good job in laying to rest some of the speculations which have arisen from the seeming oddities of what came from the Bana account (specifically the issue of internet access, and geolocation of her home). Yet, the article fails to address sufficiently the main issues which sceptical observers have raised.

The “native speaker” problem

First and foremost is the “native speaker problem”. The Bana tweets are presented in perfect English, taylor-made for easy comprehension by an international audience. What is so striking is not just the lack of any major linguistic mistakes, it’s above all the correct use of idioms, phrases, abbreviations, orthography, down to punctuation. Even the occasional mistakes look tidy, some even calculated to give the impression of simplicity. What you will not find in the Bana tweets is traces of the inevitable difficulties, minor or larger, a non-native speaker will have to consistently communicate in a foreign language (finding the right expression, the correct preposition, word order, etc).



The Bana tweets display an overall smoothness which not only presuppose near native speaker abilities, but also a long familiarity with getting across your message on a medium so peculiar as Twitter. It is plainly inconceivable how most of them could have been written by “Fatemah” (by which name Bana’s mother introduced herself on Twitter), whose spoken English, as is clear from her many videos, is on a more basic level.

Bellingcat is aware of the language problem and tries to counter the inevitable doubts by pointing out that “Fatemah” has taken several English language courses. Specifically they refer to the testimony of her English teacher Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who even links to the language certificate he has issued for Bana’s mother.


I have refrained from spreading this information (though it was given away by Mr Alhamdo himself) because the certificate of course reveals “Fatemah’s” real name. I wish her and her family no ill. Since they now are in safety in Turkey, even welcomed in the Presidential Palace by Erdogan himself, such restraint is no longer necessary.
As for proof of language proficiency a closer look at this certificate is very informative:


It is stated that “Maram Mohamed Alabd” attended a course on teaching English from November 2015 to March 2016, comprising 13 sessions (which is about one per week). On the level of the course: “This was the first stage out of four stages aiming for supporting creative teaching.”
So, the proof Bellingcat draws upon states quite the opposite of what would be needed to make a plausible case (in spite of the video evidence) for Maram’s authorship of the Bana tweets. The basic level attested here on the certificate is compatible with Maram’s documented speaking abilities, but nowhere near the required fluency, which is only acquired by living in, and communicating with, an English speaking community for a considerable time.
Even more laughable is Bellingcat’s attempt to compare “Fatemah’s” written style with that of her teacher: “their styles are in fact quite different: Fatemah scrupulously uses capital letters in the right place, correct punctuation, and correct spacing, all things Mr Alhamdo is much more slap-dash about.” He certainly is “more slap-dash” in this regard, but what we do in fact find on closer scrutiny of Alhamdo’s tweets is precisely the sort of mistakes and insecurities which a non-native speaker is naturally bound to make. It is like the written equivalent of an accent which non-native speakers will only be able to get rid of through practising speaking in an appropriate environment for years. And yet, Bellingcat wants us in all seriousness to believe that Maram would miraculously have learnt (in no more than 13 teaching sessions) to outdo her teacher by miles. What Bellingcat in fact asks us to do is nothing less than the abdication of all common sense.

Absurdities abounding
While we see Bellingcat weaseling around the language problem, they have almost nothing to say about all the oddities which the Bana story presents, and which are apt to cause incredulity with even the most well-meaning observers. The only credibility straining tweet which Bellingcat explicitly adresses is the one calling for World War III.


Bellingcat’s comment on such tweets: “they ring quite true as outbursts from a person, almost certainly Fatemah, who is currently trapped with her young family in a city that experiences constant fighting, and faces death on a daily basis.” Given that Maram comes across in the videos as a rather soft-spoken and caring person, this attempt at explaining away the gross inadequacy will hardly do. However, even more significant is the method Bellingcat can be seen to apply here and elsewhere: they try to give the reader some sort of “reason” without questioning the preferred version, and without weighing the evidence. A true investigator would proceed quite differently, he would start by asking the main question: what is more believable? – a young Syrian mother of 3 children making such a call? – or rather, say, a British media operator who closely follows the political news about increasing tensions between US and Russia. (Gen. Dunford’s admission that imposing a no-fly zone would require to go to war with Russia was made just the week before this tweet).

One other absurdity that the Bana account has produced is the response to the evacuation offer by Maytham al-Ashkar (the full story is documented by Sputnik). Bellingcat mentions this offer, but although they pride themselves on using and evaluating the “open source information available” they have obviously refrained from doing so in this case. Clearly because the result would have severely damaged the case they want to make. Maytham naturally adressed “Bana” in Arabic, as from Syrian to Syrian, but the account operator who identified as mother “Fatemah”, while apparently able to understand the offer in Arabic, preferred to respond in English. Whatever the background and actual reason for this bizarre conversation, this incident alone should suffice to bury the idea that Maram, or any other native Syrian, is running the account.


It is English native speakers, presumably British, who are the operators behind Project Bana. At least one of them, we have to assume, understands and speaks enough Arabic to keep the communication with their Aleppo assets smooth. This assumption is confirmed by another bizarre twist of the Bana story, maybe the funniest of all. When I discovered Bana’s father Ghassan, and that he works for the local council, I added the hint that it was controlled by al-Nusra Front. Now this remark seems to have set off an alarm clock. Ghassan’s Twitter profile, when I first looked at it, just provided this basic information: “Studied at Faculty of Law, University of Aleppo, graduated 2005” (similar to his Facebook profile). Apparently this did not sound innocent enough, the Twitter profile was soon changed, it now reads: “Independent lawyer, Activist against terrorism and ISIS”.


Did Ghassan suddenly take up a new job, giving up his work for the local council? What does his activism against terrorism amount to – in the middle of Nusra- and Zenki-controlled East Aleppo? Anyway, every single word of the new profile text is directed against the possible charges, implicit in my remark, that might link Ghassan with al-Qaeda. Now, who was responsible for this frantic reaction? As one can clearly see from his Twitter timeline, Ghassan understands only little English (he uses Simple English feeds to keep up following international news about his now famous little daughter). He most definitely did not come up by himself with the idea of a new profile text. So again, we perceive the trace of an English-speaking operator who knows enough Arabic to communicate with Ghassan. The most likely suspect is Ghassan’s Facebook friend Patrick Evans – whom Barbara was able to identify as likely participant in this media scheme in the update of her her groundbreaking article on Project Bana.

Bellingcat keeps silent about the many strains and absurd turns followers of the Bana account had to watch, and which gave rise to doubt its authenticity in the first place. Not least of which is the tight monitoring of answers to Bana tweets (often numbering 1000s), which set in once the doubts went beyond a small group of sceptics. Are we really to believe that while the tweets spoke of constant bombing, while the family was on the run after their home district was taken by the Syrian Arab Army, – that under such circumstances the first priority of “Bana” was to go through her tweets and block all doubters? By now “Bana’s” blocking list must be one of the largest on Twitter. In one instance someone just asking a question was blocked five minutes later – at 2 o’clock in the morning Aleppo time. Someone else was blocked for the remark that her name was an anagram for “Anal Bead” (you need quite an advanced understanding, and not only of English, to realise this is indeed offensive).

Or those tweets about Bana’s death:


What would a loving mother do first when seeing dead children and fearing her own daughter is among them? Tweet her fears to all the world? Just to announce 17 minutes later it wasn’t true? Or is it much rather a calculating operator’s attempt to cause a little emotional drama among Bana fans? That is, after all, how he uses them – as the gullible material of his manipulations.

Unravelling “Bana”

It is time to unravel “Bana”: on the one hand, there is Bana and and her mother Maram, two real persons caught in the middle of a bloody and brutal military conflict. And then there is “Bana” and “Fatemah”, their media images which are circulated worldwide to convey a certain message. While it is natural and human to empathize with the former, one shouldn’t fall for confusing this sympathy with the very specific purposes which this sympathy is exploited for.

Project Bana is part of a worldwide media campaign aiming at legitimizing “taking action” in Syria, which would inevitably come down to a military intervention. Project Bana bears all the marks of a professionally designed PR product. It is no coincidence Project Bana could seamlessly be integrated into another such campaign which runs with the hashtag #StandWithAleppo:


Purportedly founded by “two ordinary moms”, it now turns out also #StandWithAleppo is a campaign designed by PR professionals. It runs like a well-oiled machine: a twitter rally to call for an end of the allegedly “largest humanitarian crisis since World War II” (I recommend reading a book on recent history, or just to look across the border at Mosul); fundraising against an imaginary genocide (I recommend using a dictionary); and participants may flatter themselves that they can “Be A Real Life Superhero for Syrian Children”(at this point there is nothing really to recommend any more).
This is the nonsense little Bana was made to be the face of!


In the case of Project Bana, most traces point towards the UK and London as the origin of the media scheme. It’s not only the very British style and feel of the endeavour, including ManU, and J. K. Rowling, and the children of London:


It was in British media that “Bana”, after her swift start with tweeting, first received extensive coverage, including many background details about her family, almost as if reporters had been present in Aleppo (Dailymail, Telegraph, and BBC).

The question to be asked explicitly is whether these media jumped of their own to this special “human interest” story, throwing overboard professional standards for thorough background checking. Or is it more plausible to assume that some official or half-official figure in the background had signalled it was “ok” to go with the story? Or might it even be some media persons themselves (not necessarily known to their company) colluded in the scheme?
Barbara McKenzie made this case in her article in respect to BBC’s Patrick Evans. After I did some more background research I do think it is quite likely she is right.

The UK’s informational warfare

What we know with certainty is that the British government has spent over £100 million for “UK Non-Humanitarian Aid in Response to The Syria Conflict” since 2012 (document produced in December 2015 by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office). A big chunk of this money (15m) goes, as is known, directly to fund the “White Helmets”. A separate funding of 5.3m is given to Media activists whose tasks include “active reporting produced by civil society groups and the likes of the `White Helmets across Twitter and Facebook accounts”. [1]


It is herewith official: a good deal of what we read online on Twitter and Facebook from “Syrian opposition” is, directly or indirectly, funded by Her Majesty’s Government. It is inherently likely that Project Bana is part of it.

The larger context of these media activities is clarified by an article which appeared in the Guardian last May: “The UK regards information as a vital element of modern conflict. The MoD has drawn up a doctrine describing information as `so prevalent, potent and unavoidable that it forms as much a part of the strategic environment as the terrain or weather, and saying how it should be managed through `strategic communications.” As with regard to the present focus on Syria the Guardian reports: “One British source with knowledge of the contracts in action said the government was essentially running a `Free Syrian army press office.” And even more specifically, from the company Innovative Communications & Strategies, or InCoStrat, which took over the contract from November 2014: “An InCoStrat spokesman confirmed: `InCoStrat is providing media and communication support to the moderate Syrian opposition to assist Syrians to better convey the reality of war and those involved in it.”
The parallel US efforts for communication warfare are well documented on Moon of Alabama.

So in essence: the picture of “the reality of war and those involved in it” which we are presented from Syrian opposition sources is funded and directed from the British and US government. It is part of an informational warfare, which Western mainstream media have all too readily come to support and take part in. Including, unfortunately, the Guardian itself who against better insight did not diverge in the least from the official line.

The covert manipulation of public opinion launched by the UK government does not stop at pushing an agenda from abroad. Rather the other way, it starts right at home. As the Financial Times reported already on January 31, 2015 a new military brigade of 1500 online warriors has been set up, as part of the information warfare: “a new generation of `Facebook warriors who will wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns”. Specifically, their task is described as performing “social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, spreading disinformation or exposing truths in war zones, `false flag incidents  which are designed to fool people into thinking they were carried out by someone else”.

So we may ask ourselves:
Where are all these online warriors on Twitter and Facebook if not right among us, in the middle of the news streams we receive from and about Syria (and Ukraine and Russia)?

There is good reason to put also Bellingcat into this context. They claim to be “by and for citizen investigative journalists”. But being “for citizens” is a spurious claim when time and again their “investigations” end up confirming the official UK and NATO view (with some minor alibi cases mixed inbetween).  In the latest major case, the attack on the UN convoy at Urum al-Kubra, Bellingcat swiftly confirmed the baseless US accusations of Russia as the culprit, exactly as it was to be expected. An assessment by a military expert of the very same pictorial evidence, however, came to the opposite conclusion, namely that the supposed evidence was planted by the White Helmets, and it takes only two minutes of sober thinking to realize he is right – right, that is, beyond reasonable doubt. [2]
As for the claim Bellingcat is “by citizens” – what on earth should a real normal citizen make of the fact that Eliot Higgins, its founder, is now promoted to the position of “Senior Fellow” at the Atlantic Council? And what of the author of the Bana article, Nick Waters, being “an ex-British Army officer”?

The “Bana phenomenon” is an excellent case to form your own judgment on these and related matters.


[1] Research note: isn’t it interesting that the White Helmets funding goes under the label of “non-humanitarian aid”? And why is it that the White Helmets are again prominently mentioned among the media activists? So can we now somehow officially call them “media activists”? And how is it that, founded and funded by Western governments, they are singled out as standing for “civil society groups”?

[2] A note for international readers: last year German MSM, led by Der Spiegel, attempted to build up Bellingcat as a reputable and quotable source in the matter of the downing of flight MH17. However, they failed spectacularly after real experts, among them the developer of the software used, called bullshit on Bellingcat’s analysis. Der Spiegel was compelled to apologise and to publish an interview with them (English version): “its founder Neal Krawetz also distanced himself from Bellingcat’s conclusions on Twitter. He described it as a good example of “how to not do image analysis.” What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists.”
Since this much publicised incident, Bellingcat’s reputation in Germany is tarnished, no major MSM would rely on them, everyone associates them with “Kaffeesatzleserei”.

The CJ Werleman Parody Account

Someone has been running a parody account in the name of @cjwerleman, posting some of the funniest satire of the western media ever seen. This example, for example, is evocative of the reaction to the election of Trump as US president, with offers of counseling to distraught supporters of Hillary Clinton’s wars on the Middle East:


An extension of the corporate media’s description of barbaric extremists as ‘moderate rebels’ is countered by this little joke, rebranding die hard terrorist supporters as typical ‘civilians’.  Don’t miss Bilal Abdul Kareem, born-again takfiri of US extraction, fanatical promoter of the jihadist cause, in his new incarnation.

The suggestion that people might be emotionally moved by the hysterical outburst against Syria and its allies, with all the usual unsubstantiated claims, by the deeply unpleasant and totally unconvincing Samantha Power was truly masterful:

I particularly like this bit of fake news (below). The reporter is there telling us about the people all squeezed into a small bit of Aleppo, making a target for warplanes who are desperate to bomb them – civil defence no longer operates as they have no fuel for their vehicles so there are bodies everywhere. Needless to say, though we hear the added sound of a plane, we see neither plane, people or bodies.

@cjwerleman posted at least three videos from ‘civilians in eastern Aleppo’,  all talking of bombings, none of which show planes, buildings being hit, people in the street, or bodies.

Stop Press: Incredible as it may seem, I’m told that this is CJ Werleman’s actual account, so any satire is unintentional.

Over the last few days Werleman has devoted himself to tweeting on the supposed massacre of civilians in Aleppo by Syrian soldiers and allied forces – I counted over 70 tweets on 12 December alone.

RT’s Murad Gazdiev and Lizzie Phelan, along with independent journalists like Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley, all report from Aleppo without ever drawing attention to their personal danger, except to give impact to the reporting. However Werleman’s friends are all heroes.

Chlorine-filled barrels sounds like one of my weaker jokes, but no matter, Werleman thought it worth a try.

If anyone is tempted to believe Werleman’s claptrap, have a look at this video …

Every family in Syria has someone in the army.  To believe that the young men and women of the Syrian Arab Army would massacre their own people says nothing about Syria, and everything about how people in the West view their own armed forces.  But if you have a narrative to push, then truth and commonsense will not stand in your way.

See also:

Corporate Media is Lying to You — Syrian Army Freed Aleppo, There is No Genocide

Bana of Aleppo: the Story So Far [updated 6 December]

Back in 2011 there was the Gay Girl of Damascus, supposedly a young lesbian blogging from the Syrian capital in support of the Arab Spring, but who turned out to be a 40 year old man from Georgia, USA, living in Scotland.  Now, five years on, we have @AlabedBana tweeting from Aleppo.

The Bana story all began in September of 2016 when 7 year old Bana began to tweet from eastern Aleppo to share with the world her anxiety about living in a war-torn city. It is perhaps a sad reflection of the world we live in that her arrival on the social media scene provoked a certain amount of scepticism, hilarity even. It seems only fair to endeavour to consider the Bana case objectively.

Bana, as we are told, lives with her parents and two brothers in Aleppo. Her mother Fatemah is a teacher who ‘manages Bana’s Twitter account’ and occasionally tweets herself, and her father Ghassan works in the ‘legal department of the local council’, whatever that means – the area is totally controlled by al Nusra who have set up their own council:


Bana’s first tweet was heartwrenching:


Bana’s sole purpose in tweeting is to tell us about the bombing of Aleppo by Putin and Assad, and to ask us to do something about it (Bana herself has lost one or two friends to the bombing, though we never learn their names).  The tweets are almost invariably variations on the themes of bombs, the need for peace, pray for us, save us.


Bana is desperate enough even to suggest it is worth declaring World War III, just to save Aleppo.


There are also calls for Assad and Putin to be tried for war crimes:


Wee Bana hit the ground running on 24 September with about 20 tweets,  and has continued at a good rate ever since, managing over 120 on 4 October (including retweets).   I myself used Twitter for weeks before I used hashtags and I was slow to learn the jargon.  Bana, however, was up to speed from the beginning, and over the first two days we got #Aleppo, #HolocaustAleppo #MassacreInAleppo #StopAleppoMassacre.  She is well up on acronyms like POTUS and OMG.   Followers were impressed with Bana’s command of English idiom:




To have mastered English contractions like ‘I’ll’ and idiomatic expressions such as ‘horrible dream’ at the age of seven puts Bana in the genius category. The problem is, when cute Bana was videoed, it became apparent that she wasn’t a child prodigy at all, in fact she couldn’t put two words of English together if not rote-learned. It was clear that whoever wrote the tweets was nothing to do with the small actor reciting, eg. on her 1st day of tweeting (yes, the video was all set to go too): 

She was slightly more practiced by 6 October:

29 October was another disaster:

One sharp-eyed fan was very impressed with the new clothes sported by Bana and her brothers in the above clip (thank you Vivienne@KitchandBot):

new clothes.PNG

Bana has a friend, Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who has described himself variously as a teacher at Aleppo University, a reporter, and activist.  It is possible that he helps with the technical aspects of running the Twitter account, such as videoing and either uploading or passing them on, and maybe language coaching.

Mr alHamdo.PNG

He himself has both Twitter and Facebook accounts .  Most of his friends are located in Aleppo; many of these, if not all, are members of terrorist groups:


Alhamdo ostensibly resides in Aleppo, along with Bana.  However another possibility is Gazientep over the border in Turkey, which is a base for a number of Western-backed NGOs and journalists.  A number of Kurdish cities and towns in South-East Turkey such as Mardin and Diyarbakir have been badly shelled by the Turks  and might provide the necessary apocalyptic scenes, for both Bana and journalists claiming to report from eastern Aleppo.  Thus Alhamdo and Bana could be in South-Eastern Turkey, safe both from bombs and exposure.

Bana’s ‘father’ ‘Ghassan Alabed’ has his own Twitter account, @ghassanalabed77 which was opened in September, coinciding with the launching of the Bana Project (thank you @Qoppa999), and Facebook page, with visible posts from 6 October 2016, so again probably opened for the project.   There is no evidence that Bana and Ghassan have met as Ghassan does not feature in Bana’s tweets and videos.  I previously suggested, incorrectly, that Ghassan was attributing the wrong name to Bana, Zahra, but that was due to Facebook showing only a bad machine translation for that post from Arabic, and not the Arabic original – it would seem that Ghassan does not know English.

Ghassan has close links with Aleppo and the terrorist groups that have been occupying eastern Aleppo. On 29 April  he changed his Facebook cover photo to ‘Aleppo is Burning’, which was a campaign originating in the Western to call for even more intervention on the part of the West, in order to prevent Syria and Russia driving terrorists out of eastern Aleppo.  Both on Facebook and on Twitter Ghassan follows a large number of accounts associated with the insurgency in Syria, such as that of al Zinki, the gang that cut off the head of little Abdullah Issa, Jaish al Mujahadeen (a group that describes itself as part of the Free Syrian Army but is allied to al Nusra), and also of the Saudi cleric Muhaysini, spiritual leader of al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria).


In October Bana, or rather Bana’s mother, was  interviewed by one  AJ Joshi (@AJ) via Periscope. The interview makes for painful listening, but @JohnDelacour has provided a transcription of a typical segment – it is hard to believe that Fatemah has the language skills to compose either her own or Bana’s tweets.


In mid-November Fatemah uploaded onto Youtube a strange video which purports to prove that Bana’s family really are being bombed.  Fatemah talks and there are the sounds of children, but no attempt to show any of these people.  We see ruined buildings and smoke in the distance, which could come from bombing, but not the promised airplanes.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that this is not footage with a completely separate voice-over added later.

After three weeks Bana was following 51 people.  None of them would be an obvious pick for a seven year old girl: without exception they were politicians, corporate media or social media activists.  Most of them could be considered sympathetic to the war on Syria; many of them have strong links with terrorist groups.    Iyad el-Baghdadi, Louisa Loveluck,  Julian Roepcke, Sophie McNeill, all determined supporters of the Syrian ‘revolution’, are very familiar to pro-Syria activists who spend any time on social media.  Bana is also following the pro-terrorist National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, as well as the White Helmets, the fake humanitarian organisation that presently has a petition calling for a no-fly (i.e. NATO bombing) zone in Syria.  A particularly sinister choice is @IranArabSpring, which is focused on regime change in Iran, presumably by the same bloody route laid down for Syria.

One of the first to be followed by Bana, and typical, was the Australian journalist Sophie McNeill who was instrumental in promoting the Madaya hoax/beatup in January 2016.  The story went that inhabitants of Madaya, a town besieged by the government, were starving and that it was all the fault of the Syrian government who were preventing aid from reaching the town.  In fact many if not all the photos were fake, aid for three months had gone into Madaya in October, and the chief problem was terrorists selling food at exorbitant prices.  Many others followed by Bana are likewise involved in pushing misinformation on the Syrian war.

Bana built up a huge following within days, reaching 65,000 by 3 October.  A large proportion of the followers appeared to be fake accounts, which again suggests that very savvy people are managing the project. (Screenshot from @laissezfaire; it cannot be verified because of dramatic changes to the account, see below.)

Regardless of the discrepancies and warning signals, the corporate media have taken Bana to their hearts, without exception, with poignant articles free of all doubt appearing in the Telegraph, the Guardian, and on all the main television channels.   The New Statesman went on the attack against the many people who have made fun of the account.

The latest endorsement has come from author JK Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, who sent Bana a set of ebooks (in English), and has retweeted her several times in the days since then:


Would-be trolls of the Bana account should note too that in October Bana was one of the 2210 people followed by @Jack, i.e. Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter.


 Who’s tweeting?

Given the calculated nature of the operation, and the standard of the English, many Bana-watchers have assumed that while Bana and her mother may have direct help with videoing and the English in Aleppo or Gaziantep, the base of operations and the source of the tweeting would be elsewhere.  London tends to be first choice, partly because of the language used, and perhaps also because the Foreign Office is the primary funder and probable instigator of the White Helmets.  As yet there is no definitive evidence of who ‘Mr Bana’ is, but one can hypothesise.  For example:

Although there appears to be no direct link between Bana’s ‘father’ Ghassan Alabed, and Bana’s friend Abdulkafi Alhamdo, they do however, have a mutual acquaintance,  BBC journalist Patrick Evans.  Alhamdo features in an article on Aleppo by Evans (the article presents the viewpoints of people who are supposed to be representative of eastern Aleppo, but who are in fact all terrorists or terrorist supporters).  Evan’s describes himself as a BBC journalist; as well as the Aleppo article he has written an article on the Donbass, similar to the Aleppo article in that it is likewise hostile to those allied with Russia .

Patrick Evans is also one of a small number of English speakers who are friends with Ghassan Alabed on Facebook.


Evans’s own Facebook page is significant in that all except about eight of his 54 ‘friends’ have Arabic names. Most of these do not appear to speak English; most have manifest links with Aleppo and/or terrorism.


The person pictured above describes himself as a mujahid, or jihadi, in the service of God, based in Aleppo; the Syrian Revolution Network is an ‘activist network’ focused on Aleppo.

Evans’s LinkedIn profile is even more interesting.   He has worked for the BBC since finishing studies at the University of York in 2013, which could put him in the mid-twenties (consistent with the rather immature prank of putting in Bana’s mouth the call for World War III).   His skills as listed on LinkedIin are not necessarily what one would expect from a BBC journalist: while writing and investigative skills are not mentioned, social media skills are right up there.


Although  most of Evans’s Facebook friends are Arabic speakers, no skill for Arabic language is listed on LinkedIn.  Moreover, these Arabic speaking Facebook friends hardly feature in Patrick Evans’s Twitter feed; Evans follows very few Arabs on twitter, none non-English speaking, and the tweets relating to Syria are sufficient to reflect the times and his profession, no more.  Whether Evans truly has no knowledge of Arabic, or whether it is a skill he chooses to suppress, it is not possible to decide on the information to hand.

Patrick Evans’s tweets are heterogeneous and mainly retweets, and are largely devoid of emotion and humour, all of which give the account an artificial feel.  Evans seems to be a fan of JK Rowling, following an account called @HogwartsLogic, and also follows Sophie McNeill.  There are a couple of retweets from Abdulkafi Alhamdo, alhamdo14nov

and from Rami Jarrah, a pro-insurgency activist, journalist and film maker of Syrian parentage, along with tweets relating to Evans’s article on Aleppo.  There is also this tweet from Evans to Rami Jarrah:


The Patrick Evans of the Facebook page seems completely divorced from the Patrick Evans of Twitter.  There is, however, one essential connecting factor between the Facebook and the Twitter accounts: Abdulkafi Alhamdo.  As well as featuring at least twice in Evans’s twitter feed in November, he is Evans’s Facebook friend.

So we have:

  • a young man in London, Patrick Evans,who works for the BBC, and who
  • provides a link between Ghassan Alabed, Bana’s ostensible father and Alhamdo, known acquaintance of Bana.
  • Alhamdo in turn provides the link between Evans’s Twitter account and his Facebook account.
  • Although this is not evident to anyone who looks at Evans’s tweeting,  his greatest professional skill according to LinkedIn is a knowledge of social media
  • Evans appears to have two different persona, his Facebook one, where almost all his friends are Arabic-speaking terrorist supporters, probably terrorists themselves, and Twitter, where the people he follows are English-speaking and tend to be from the Western media, and it it is difficult to gauge any strong interests, particularly political ones, apart from a conservative bent.
  • Patrick Evans wanted to speak privately with Rami Jarrah, well-known pro-terrorist activist and media expert, based in Turkey, six weeks before the Bana Project was launched on 14 September.

‘Bana’ could well be a person, or people, like Patrick Evans.

The agenda

There can be no doubt that the Bana project is a  hoax, like the Gay Girl in Damascus and the White Helmets.  The tweets are not the thoughts of a little Syrian girl wanting the world to save her from Russian bombs.  Rather, they are the product of a sophisticated and well-planned operation designed to shape public perception of the Syrian and Russian operations, in order to justify Western intervention in Syria and facilitate regime change.

The sympathies of the Bana project are totally with the extremists who are terrorising residents of eastern Aleppo, shelling western Aleppo, and are in imminent danger of being forced out by the Syrian Arab Army and allies like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Al Quds brigade.

From the first days Bana accused Assad and Putin of perpetrating a holocaust, a massacre, of carrying out a bombing campaign using cluster bombs, phosphorus, thermite bombs, and of course barrel bombs.  Since then the account has continued the theme of bombing and Assad/Putin culpability, along with constant calls for the world to do something, ‘to stop the bombing’.


No mention is ever made of the terrorists who mow down demonstrators in the streets of eastern Aleppo and prevent humanitarian aid reaching the area.  Bana’s family may be in a position to repeat the dubious claim that Russia bombed a school in Idlib, but shows no interest in the atrocities caused by hellfire cannon directed by terrorists at western Aleppo.  When young swimmer Mireille Hindoyan was killed by a terrorist shell in the Armenian quarter in western Aleppo,  the Bana project, along with the Independent, smoothly implied that this was due to Russian bombing.


The purpose of the Bana Project is to create in the outside world a conviction that Russia and Syria are committing serious war crimes by recklessly or even deliberately bombing civilians, hospitals, schools, blood banks and animal shelters.

Persuading the world that atrocities are being committed could lead to one of two outcomes.  As with Madaya, there is pressure on Syria and Russia to abandon the siege and any hope of liberating Aleppo, east and west, from terrorist depredations.  Syria and its allies would be circumscribed, at worst the terrorists would be allowed to make gains, and at the least there would be a stalemate, facilitating eventual partition.   The other desired outcome,  first preference for many since early in the war, is to garner support for a no-fly zone.  Russia and China have so far vetoed any UN resolution to that effect, having seen how the resolution was applied to Libya.


The US, however, have recently  passed a resolution that calls for evaluating and developing plans for the United States to impose a “no fly zone” inside Syria unilaterally, despite the inevitability of a clash with Russia.  Whether it is prepared to take this step, or whether it can act before Aleppo is completely liberated, remains to be seen.

Is the end nigh for Bana?

Things are now moving fast in Aleppo, with the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and the Palestinian-Syrian al Quds Brigade taking new areas of Aleppo on a daily basis.  Bana has been sending out desperate warnings of impending doom with one last tweet from Fatemah:


and then another from ‘Bana’ at 3am:


It is somewhat surprising that while 7.8 thousand people had retweeted the above when I viewed it, of the dozen or so people who commented the majority were people who ridiculed the tweet, a few more were clearly activists or trolls, and only one or two were in the ‘kind-hearted stranger’ category.  How many genuine followers Bana actually has is therefore in serious doubt.

There has been speculation that Bana is about to be written out, however at 10.00am Syrian time, 28 November, she was alive and still tweeting…


Update (6 December 2016)

Bana survived the bombardment and continued to tweet, but complained of being homeless, thirsty, and ill.


There are repeated calls for the world to do something:


On 3 December it really did seem that the end had come:


But no:


Clearly a better choice would have been a miraculous recovery, rather than a line about being confused about which child died.  The interpretation from @HKX07 is fairly persuasive:


Within 24 hours there was a further development: the @alabedbana account was shut down.  Whether this is a permanent state of affairs, or whether Bana will reappear, perhaps in Idlib, even Raqqa, time will tell.

Stop Press:  Bana has reactivated her account, and is monitoring it closely for trolls, blocking critics on a daily basis.

The Rebranding of the Anti-Syria Left

Part 1: The Anti-Anti-War-Left

One could argue that for any serious student of the Middle East, using a range of sources, the approved narrative on the Syrian conflict should have been suspect from the outset: the precedents of Iraq and Libya and the accompanying lies, the well-reported lack of interest in revolution on the part of the Syrian people, the quickly developing violence in contrast with the ready accommodations of the government in terms of reform and release of political prisoners, the dominant role of brutal sectarian gangs in a traditionally tolerant and pluralist society.  Those trying to find the truth of the Syrian war, however, found themselves opposed from an unexpected quarter.

There is a large body of commentators in the West who define themselves as ‘left’, ‘progressive’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ insofar as they condemn Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Their claimed support for the Palestinians is offset by virulently opposing anything that threatens Israel’s interests in other areas, such as investigation into the role of Mossad’s activities outside of Israel .   Israel’s interests are likewise to the fore when it comes to drastic change in Syria (seen by Hillary Clinton as essential to Israel’s interests as far back as 2006) – the ‘soft Zionists’ have been promoting the externally created revolution in Syria from the outset.

The Thirdwayers

Sharing most of these characteristics are a group of people who espouse a ‘third way’ whereby ostensible anti-imperialists criticise their governments’ interventionist policies but at the same time have promoted the revolution and been determined opponents of the Syrian government.  While in theory they oppose external intervention, they at the same time facilitate such intervention by peddling propaganda to that end.

For five years, people like Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek have actively promoted forced regime change in Syria, insisting on the validity of the popular revolution, characterising the Syrian president as a butcher, and alternately vilifying and patronising those who were unconvinced by the NATO narrative.

At the same time there has been no attempt by proponents of the Syrian war to engage with the anti-war activists who have been carrying out and sharing research on the conflict –  instead they have contented themselves with unfounded slurs on the intellect and integrity of supporters of Syria.

However, ripples have been going through social media in recent months as these seemingly diehard opponents to the Syrian government  have moved to taking a more nuanced view of the conflict. This was quickly picked up by eagle-eyed users of twitter who have been following the war on Syria for years …


In order to consider the significance and extent of this shift in perspective, it is worth looking back at the views espoused by the thirdwayers over the years

The popular revolution

Long after the violent, sectarian and fundamentally un-Syrian nature of the uprising was revealed along with its external impetus, diehards were still promoting the idea of a popular revolution, with a sentimental attachment to the Free Syrian Army well after its use-by date. While atrocity stories  to the disfavour of the ‘Assad thugs’ (Syrian Arab Army) were quickly shared, those which show the ‘revolutionaries’ in an unfavourable light were ignored or speedily forgotten: By 2012 there was abundant proof of FSA atrocities, including cannibalism, decapitation and sectarian massacres, but this did not stop Blumenthal tweeting approvingly in August ‘Protest in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in support of the #Syrian revolution’.

Thus in August 2014, when most people were discarding the fiction of Syria’s moderate rebels, Ben Norton still had a rosy view of the ‘democratic’ revolutionaries: a spate of tweets in their favour on August 18 included such optimistic claims as, ‘Syrian revolutionaries have already liberated cities, and they ran them somewhat democratically’, and on 22 September, ‘Majority of the FSA consists of average Syrians & former SAA members who refused to slaughter civilians & defected’.

As late as February 2015 Ben Norton complained:

Blame Assad for brutally destroying the progressive and secular resistance against his murderous fascist regime […] not Syrians for standing up to bravely fight for not just food, justice, and dignity, but for their very lives.

In 2014 Khalek interviewed Molly Crabapple, artist, writer and fervent supporter of the ‘Syrian revolution’.   Both Khalek and Crabapple assume a non-violent inception to the Syrian conflict, ruthlessly crushed by government forces.

Khalek:  […] You addressed the fact that there was a segment of the anti-war left that still till now is very dismissive of the Syrian uprising and in some cases excuses Assad for the horrific crimes he’s committing and you got attacked for pointing this out.

Crabapple: […] Many people I deeply respect are anti-intervention for good reasons. Other ones were pro certain sorts of intervention. But I think what is absolutely wrong is to pretend the Syrian revolution didn’t exist, to pretend that these activists weren’t amazing people …

The ‘evil Assad’

Attacking any movement by demonising its leader is a tried and true tactic where there is no legitimate means to an end – one only needs to look at the treatment meted out to Alex Salmond who, in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, was variously compared to Hitler, Mugabe, Nero and Genghis Khan.  Likewise vilification of Bashar al Assad has been a major plank of regime change advocates. For more than five years the anti-Syria movement has relentlessly vilified the Syrian president with an incontinent flow of accusations, making full use of language favoured by the most hard-line interventionists: Assad ‘the butcher’, ‘the brutal tyrant’ has been accused of deliberately conducting a reign of terror, of bombing, starving, raping, gassing his own people, deliberately targeting hospitals, blood-banks, schools, bakeries, children and even kittens.

The thirdwayers have been amongst the most determined proponents of the evil Assad narrative: ‘Assad slaughter continues’ BN8/8/14; Assad’s ‘brutal tyranny’ MB 4/10/11; ‘Assad slaughter’ MB22/2/13; ‘Assad’s atrocities’ MB 14/9/13; ‘Assad’s reign of terror’ MB 16/9/14; ‘Assad family’s ongoing legacy of criminal fascism’ MB 18/10/14; ‘Assad the butcher’ RK 15/8/14  ‘Assad’s butchery’ RK 29/7/14; Assad is a mass murdering criminal’ RK  19/7/16; ‘the criminal Assad regime’ RK 18/1/14; civilians are being intentionally starved by the Assad Regime’ RK 19/4/14; ‘Assad is starving, torturing, & killing not just Syrian but also Palestinians’, BN 26/8/14.

From very early in the war many allegations of atrocities and war crimes have been leveled at the Syrian government and then soon shown to be false.  Furthermore, sSubstantial research had been carried out revealing the extent of foreign intervention, the billions of dollars of aid to the ‘rebels’, the many thousands of mercenaries pouring in through Turkey.  However even in February  21015 Norton was still undeterred.  According to his article 56 dead in one day: a Glimpse of Assad’s brutality  Assad was responsible both for the early violence:

Since Assad first tried to drown the nonviolent popular uprising against his fascist regime in blood in 2011 …

and its continuation:

… the Syrian regime has dropped thousands upon thousands of bombs on civilian areas—and has engaged in systematic campaigns of torture, starvation, and rape. […]   If you want to see why horrible reactionary groups like Al-Nusra and even ISIS have support among some Syrians, try taking a look at the crimes the fascist Assad regime commits on a daily basis. […]

Norton is, therefore, offering a partial justification for joining ISIS.

No possible accusation has been overlooked.  Specific claims of atrocities are seized on, never questioned and then, once debunked by others, forgotten.  Although the thirdwayers, unlike the hard-line interventionists, may be prepared to discard discredited anti-Assad horror stories, this never seems to impact on the overall theme of Assad the monster.  Thus massacres such as those that occurred at Houla, Ghouta and Banias were all immediately blamed on the Syrian government by both the corporate media and the third-wayers, even though subsequently found to have been carried out by insurgents, for either ethnic cleansing or ‘false flag’ purposes.  (Blumenthal was still insisting that the Houla massacre was carried out by ‘shabiha’ (derogatory term for local defence forces) in February 2013, see video, below).

Assad is correlated with Israel, or ISIS, or is even worse than ISIS, according to both Rania Khalek


echoing the sentiments expressed by Josie Ensor of the Telegraph a few months earlier


The public knowledge that both the US and Israel are hell-bent on regime change in Syria was turned on its head with claims that the US and Israel supported Assad: ‘”Israel’s preference is for Bashar al Assad to remain in power…”‘,  MB 11/12/2012.

US support for the ‘Assad regime was a favourite theme of Ben Norton, who explored this thesis in an article US Government Essentially Sides with Assad.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, Norton supports the US administration in its blatant fiction that its priority is going after ISIS:

‘With the Syrian Civil War approaching its fourth whole year, the evidence increasingly suggests that the Obama administration has essentially sided with the Assad regime. […] In October 2014, Foreign Policy noted that “U.S. officials are beginning to see Assad as a vital, de facto ally in the fight against the Islamic State.”’

 With the advent of foreign fighters from Central Asia , polio  reappeared in Syria, after having been eradicated in 1995 (the strain in Syria is the same as that present in Pakistan, source and transit point for many jihadists fighting in Syria).  Despite being engulfed in war the Syrian acted quickly to set in place vaccination programmes (the latest campaign was announced on 16 October).  Rania Khalek, however, laid a large part of the responsibility at the door of the ‘regime’, likewise ignoring evidence available at the time which showed that the Red Crescent is frequently blocked by groups such as the ‘Free Syrian Army’.

The insanely high toll [from chronic disease] is largely due to the Assad regime’s criminal use of food and medicine as weapons in his war against his own people.’

The discrediting of the 2011 lie that Gaddafi was giving black mercenaries viagra to encourage them to rape Arab women did not deter Ben Norton from seizing with alacrity on an obscure and short-lived rumour that the Deputy Mufti of the ‘Syrian regime’ advocated rape by the army.


‘Assad worshippers’


[Pro-Assad Bingo, posted by Ben Norton in April 2015]

In parallel with the demonisation of Bashar al Assad is the recurrent theme of contempt for Assad supporters.

Undermining one of NATO’s principle planks and justification for intervention, ie the demonisation of al Assad, is an enormous threat to the NATO narrative For this reason a major focus of the anti-Syria left has been to undermine, not just the Syrian government, but also the credibility of pro-Syria activists who have questioned the atrocity narrative. 

Critics of the anti-Assad narrative are deemed to be stupid and hypocritical.  A spate of tweets about the pusillanimity of  ‘Assad workshippers issued from Ben Norton in 2014, eg 24 August: ; I just can’t get over the ludicrous degrees Assad defenders are going to to try to defend the mass murderer…it’s almost unbelievable.’; ‘HAHAHAHAHAHA, these Assad-worshiping conspiracy theorists just get more and more absurd. They are completely deranged’. ‘The Western “anti-imperialists” who support (read: worship) Assad so fervently have never met a working-class  Syrian’.


Max Blumenthal is equally contemptous of ‘Assad apologists”, informing writer Miri Wood: ‘when non Muslima say takfiri I cringe almost as much as when they defend Assad’s reign of terror 16/9/14.  Even Syrians cannot escape Blumenthal’s derision:


Assad supporters have, we are told, a tendency to Islamophobia, ‘I noted a while ago that Islamophobia informed certain Assad apologists’ MB 12/4/13;  or fascism and Stalinism, ‘when you see someone defend Assad, remind them that Fascists & far-rightests throughout europe support Assad’ 12/4/13.


In this tweet of March 2016, Norton is referring to the protester top right, who is holding a placard supporting Bashar al Assad.  Not everyone was convinced by Norton:


In October 2013 Blumenthal tweeted:


Thus in an impressive use of twitter, he managed to impugn the integrity of an opponent to regime change, indicated that it was ‘Assad’ that was responsible for the Ghouta sarin attack, and played ‘in bed with Israel’ card.

In late 2012 Max Blumenthal noisily resigned from al-Akhbar News, complaining that the outlet was providing a forum for ‘Assad supporters’.  As well as publishing a letter of resignation, Blumenthal’s departure from the newspaper was the subject of an  interview with The Real News in which, on the basis of his visit to a refugee camp in Jordan, he presents himself as an expert on Syria.  The video is 18 minutes and is an education .

In letter and interview Blumenthal reiterates his position on the Syrian war: ‘the Syrian army’s pornographically violent crackdowns on what by all accounts is still a mostly homegrown resistance’, the regime’s responsibility for massacres such as Houla; ‘the Assad regime’s campaign to delegitimise the Syrian opposition by casting it as a bunch of irrational jihadis’.  According to Blumenthal,  Assad ‘makes Israel look like a champion of human rights’.

There is an interesting attempt to correlate Hezbollah with al Qaeda and ISIS: ‘ironically [the Syrian regime]  seem to have little problem with Hezbollah’s core Islamist values’.  One wonders what the people of Maaloula, very thankful to be liberated from jihadists with the help of Hezbollah, would make of Blumenthal’s implication.


[Hezbollah fighter saluting the Virgin Mary after the Battle of Maaloula]

In 2014 Norton wrote a spiteful article termed  Meet the Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists Who Are Assad’s Biggest Fans. The primary purpose appears to have been to wreak vengeance on a group of social media activists who found it hard to take Norton at his own evaluation:



Norton starts from the fundamental premise that all who oppose the war on Syria are, without exception,  devoid of all moral sense.

Those of us with at least some kind of rudimentary moral compass are compelled to oppose draconian tyrants like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose regime regularly engages in brutal state terrorist campaigns of mass bombingtorturestarvation, and rape of civilians, including children.

The article is a fascinating exercise in dishonesty, damning the ‘antisemites’ by association with the anti-war movement and vice-versa, and conflating all members of the group on every point while ignoring all contrary evidence.  (Norton’s piece was answered one of the group.

Regime change the third way

The part played by the NATO countries, the Gulf States, Turkey and foreign mercenaries has been essentially ignored or denied by the thirdwayers, who have stayed with their narrative of a ‘civil war’.  They have theoretically been opposed to proposals for open military intervention, or at least the idea of bombing campaigns,  whether by the NATO states or Russia.



The narrative hasn’t been totally consistent: a lot of what is tweeted is ambiguous,  even irresponsible, often indicating that intervention might actually be the humanitarian option.  bluminterventioncaesarfiles




Again, Blumenthal’s angry response in 2014 to an article by Bob Dreyfuss suggesting that Obama give up on regime change in Damascus hardly seems consist with an anti-interventionist viewpoint.


Max Blumenthal’s own credentials as a ‘reporter from the region’ lie in a visit to Jordan to interview refugees. The article chronicles the dire conditions in Zaatari camp, but Blumenthal chooses to end on a call for bombing Syria:   ‘Either bomb the regime or you can bomb Zaatari and get it over with for us.’

The group’s principle plank is that the conflict in Syria is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolution’.  While being opposed in principle to external intervention, they have facilitated that intervention by promoting NATO propaganda against the Syrian government and in favour of the ‘revolutionaries’, in effect the jihadist extremists who have controlled the insurgency from the beginning.  They may not be responsible for the inception of the war, but they share culpability for its continuation.


Continued in Part 2: the Gatekeepers

See also:

The Demonisation of Bashar al Assad

UN Proposes Establishment of Islamic State in Syria

Eastern Aleppo is occupied by Islamic extremists allied to al Qaeda and ISIS – when Murad Gazdiev peeped over into East Aleppo recently the only flags he saw were the black ensigns of ISIS and al Nusra. The jihadists are preventing residents from leaving via the humanitarian corridors created for that purpose, and are shelling western Aleppo on a daily basis, causing horrific casualties which are, however, totally ignored by Western media. At the present time the Syrian Arab Army and allies is engaged in a major campaign to retake this part of Aleppo – this will seriously undermine the West’s project for the destruction of Syria as we know it.

In order to resolve the Aleppo ‘crisis’, i.e. the impending liberation of eastern Aleppo from terrorists, the United Nations Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has proposed that eastern Aleppo be made an ‘autonomous zone’. If this was agreed to by the Syrian government, and approved by the UN, this would mean that eastern Aleppo would have official UN status and protection.  Essentially it would mean the realisation of an Islamic State, governed by people closely aligned in terms of loyalty and values with ISIS, though despised and hated by the vast majority of Syrians.  That the official flag might be that of al Qaeda or the FSA would hardly be of comfort to the residents of Aleppo, east or west.

Presumably the idea is to have a permanent ‘ceasefire’, whereby  the residents of eastern Aleppo are in permanent hostage to terrorists, and those in western Aleppo continue to be bombarded by hellfire cannon.  Atrocities by jihadists would continue to be ignored; any breaches or retaliation by the Syrian forces would be punished with further sanctions or constitute a ‘red line’ for NATO invasion.

The next step would be the recognition as autonomous entities of other cities controlled by ISIS/al Qaeda such as Raqqa and Idlib.

The proposal came to light at a televised press conference held after the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem met with Staffan de Mistura on Sunday. Moallem made it clear that Damascus completely rejects de Mistura’s proposal.

‘Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday said Damascus completely rejects UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s proposal to establish an autonomous zone in east Aleppo.
‘“This was completely rejected… This is a violation of our sovereignty,”
‘The Syrian FM said that the UN envoy said he can’t offer guarantees that a new ceasefire can take hold, noting that the Syrian government had given three chances for the injured people to get out of eastern Aleppo.
‘Meanwhile, Moallem stressed that Damascus “can no longer accept that 275,000 of our people are hostages by terrorists in eastern Aleppo” which is held by Takfiri militants fighting the Syrian government.’

Syria has been adamantly opposed to any proposal that entails the division of its territory or threatens its sovereignty. However it is of great concern that the United Nations is prepared to brazenly put on the table the option of an official, protected and independent entity within the state of Syria, presumably to be funded by the West, controlled by the most barbaric Islamic extremists, and operating as a cancerous tumour within Syria.


[Mohammed Ma’yuf and Omar Salkhu, the leaders of the al Zinki gang, who hacked off the head of 12 year old Abdullah Issa in Aleppo, but who are considered part of the legitimate opposition by the US State Department]


This article was a response to the statement by Walid Moallem to the press directly after his meeting with the UN envoy. Since then de Mistura has clarified his own position in a press conference, full transcript here . There is also an AP report, but this mostly relies on an older Guardian article (!).

De Mistura has essentially confirmed Moallem’s statement, that an independent administration in eastern Aleppo be given formal status.   De Mistura affirms that he respects Syrian sovereignty, but …

‘On the other hand, Aleppo is a special case, eastern Aleppo is a special case, and all this can be temporary but needs to be having a creative formula. […] But local administration we need to have a special case for Aleppo, so that we can have a temporary arrangement until there will be a national political solution.’

De Mistura’s creative solution is to persuade the ‘900’ terrorists and leave in place the ‘local administration’, ie. the other gangs, who according to the UN are not terrorists (just cannibals and child murderers). It is not clear whether he expects the ‘real terrorists’ to go before Syria formally acknowledges an independent administration in Aleppo, but it is taken as read that once de Mistura’s ‘900’ terrorists leave, the shelling of western Aleppo will magically stop.

Even more startling is de Mistura’s view, in defiance of all the known facts, that the people of eastern Aleppo would be so horrified at being under Syrian government authority that they would prefer to take refuge in Turkey.

‘we are running out of time, we are running against time […]  Imagine simply that by Christmas as I had feared due to military intensification you would have the virtual collapse of what is left of eastern Aleppo, you would have 200,000 people moving towards Turkey that would be a human catastrophe.’

De Mistura made it very clear that he chooses to treat reports from bogus humanitarian organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as gospel, for example totally rejecting Moallem’s emphatic denials that any bombing of eastern Aleppo had taken place in recent weeks, let alone targeting hospitals.

since we do have a difference of opinion between the Mister Mouallem saying that there is total denial of any aerial bombing of hospitals in eastern Aleppo and our point of view that indicates that there has been tragic bombing of hospital in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere

The Envoy proposes to send a verification team to east Aleppo to investigate the claims of hospital shelling, so it will be interesting to see who volunteers for that exercise.




See also

ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the “moderate rebels” are fighting together in Aleppo

Militants plant mines to prevent civilians Leaving East Aleppo

Terrorists shoot dead protesters in Aleppo: 27 killed and 40 wounded

3 killed, 28 injured in militant shelling of govt-held Aleppo (GRAPHIC IMAGES)

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