Hollywood in Homs and Idlib?

Last October I was asked to write an article on the direction of the crisis in Syria – a month later, I had still not made it beyond an introductory paragraph. Syria was confusing. The public discourse about events in the country appeared to be more hyperbole than fact. But even behind the scene, sources strained to provide informed analyses, and it was fairly evident that a lot of guesswork was being employed.

By December, it occurred to me that a big part of the problem was the external-based opposition and their disproportionately loud voices. If you were actually in the business of digging for “verified” information on Syria last year, you would have also quickly copped on to the fact that this wing of the Syrian opposition lies – and lies big.

This discovery coincided with a new report by US intelligence analyst Stratfor that claimed: “most of the opposition's more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue, thereby revealing more about the opposition's weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime.”

I had another niggling feeling that just wouldn’t quit: given the amount of regime-initiated violence and widespread popular dissent being reported in the mainstream media, why was the Syrian death toll so low after 10 months of alleged brutality?

Because, if the regime was not engaging in the kind of reckless slaughter suggested by activists, it would appear that they were, in fact, exercising considerable restraint.

Stratfor said that too. The risk analysis group argues that allegations of massacres against civilians were unlikely because the "regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario. Regime forces," Stratfor argues, "have been careful to avoid the high casualty numbers that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds."

For me, the events in Homs in February confirmed rather than contradicted this view. The general media narrative was very certain: there was a widescale civilian massacre in Baba Amr caused by relentless, indiscriminate shelling by government forces that pounded the neighborhood for weeks.

The videos pouring out of the besieged city were incriminating in the extreme. Black smoke plumes from shelling choked the city, piled up bodies spoke of brutal slaughter; the sound of mass wailing was only interrupted by explosions, gunfire and cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

But when it was over, we learned a few things. Contrary to reports during the “siege,” there were only a few thousand civilians in Baba Amr at the time – all others had already evacuated the area. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and its local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), had been administering assistance at nine separate points in Homs for the duration. They would not enter the neighborhoods of Baba Amr and Insha’at because of continuing violence on “both sides.”

The armed opposition fighters holed up in Homs during that month were, therefore, unlikely to be there in a purely “protective” capacity. As American journalist Nir Rosen points out, what happened in Homs on February 3 was a government response to direct and repeated “provocation:”

“Yesterday opposition fighters defeated the regime checkpoint at the Qahira roundabout and they seized a tank or armored personnel carrier. This followed similar successes against the Bab Dreib checkpoint and the Bustan al Diwan checkpoint. In response to this last provocation yesterday the regime started shelling with mortars from the Qalaa on the high ground and the State Security headquarters in Ghota.”

This account contrasts starkly with the oft-repeated notion that armed opposition groups act primarily to protect “peaceful demonstrators” and civilians.

Homs also marks the point in the Syrian crisis when I noticed a quiet cynicism developing in the professional media about sources and information from Syria. Cracks are bound to appear in a story this widely broadcast, especially when there is little actual verifiable information in this highly competitive industry.

Cue the now infamous video by Syrian activist Danny Abdul Dayem – dubbed by the Washington Post as “the voice of Homs” – where he dazzles CNN’s Anderson Cooper with little more than bad 1950s-style sound effects, blurry scenes of fires and a breathless rendition of “facts.” Of all the media-fraud videos Syrian TV broadcast two weeks ago, none were as compelling as Danny’s – his credibility stock plummeting almost as fast as his meteoric rise to media “darling.”

It reminds me of August 2011 news reports of warships shelling the coastal city of Latakia. Three separate sources - two opposition figures from the city and an independent western journalist - later insisted there were no signs of shelling. It was also the first time I learned from Syrians that you can burn rubber tires on rooftops to simulate the after-effects of exploded shells.

Question: Why would activists have to resort to stage-crafting scenes and sound effects of violence if the regime was already “pounding Homs” to bits?

What have we actually seen in Homs? Explosions. Fires. Dead bodies. Injured civilians. Men with weapons. The government has openly admitted to shelling, so we know that is a fact. But how much shelling, and is it indiscriminate? Observers afterward have said Baba Amr resembles a destroyed ghost town. How much of this was done by the regime? And how much was done by the opposition?

Turkish publication Today's Zaman reported on Sunday: "Last week, a Pentagon report stated that IED usage by the opposition has more than doubled since December." How are these Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) - used mainly in unconventional warfare - being employed? As roadside bombs, targeting security forces, inside towns and cities?

On Sunday I was included in a private messaging thread with seven Syrians who I have communicated with over the course of some months. Most are known to me either directly or with one degree of separation. This was not a usual thread on Syria – the initiating participant, who I will call Ziad, was informing the others privately about what was taking place in Idlib as government forces moved into the area.

Ziad’s family is from Idlib, and although I wasn’t a participant in the conversation, it appears that he had spent much of the weekend making phone calls to family members who were reporting the following. I have changed the names of participants to protect their identities. Two things strike me about this chat – the first is the information that armed groups are rigging the town with IEDs before the army arrives, either to target security forces or to create material damage to buildings. The second is that there is a malaise among the message participants about this information. As in, so what? Who is going to believe this? Who is going to do anything about this?

Ziad:
Today the Army went into the city of Idleb (the city itself not the province).
There was no random shelling, they were slowly moving into neighborhoods, starting from the east and southern.

The militants had seeded IEDs (improvised explosive devices, basically remote detonated landmines) across the city, one of them was under my uncles balcony , who now lost half his home, his living room got bigger and has a panoramic view.
They had set up machine gun nests on a few mosques and communication towers.

Around 200 militants were gathered near my grandmother's house and took refuge in the building right next to them. The neighborhood is a Christian neighborhood (cant confirm or deny it’s a coincidence).
The battle lasted all day, my family is safe but both my grandmother's house and my uncle's house got damaged. The first by the IED and the second by exchange of fire, largely done by the militants and the army was returning fire.

The army was moving in slowly and checked Idleb neighborhood by neighborhood. They searched most houses but there were no mass random arrests. Mainly they asked adult men out before searching and they were released after. I assume at this point they have a list of who to arrest so there was no surprise there.

The rumors of electricity and water cuts are not true. The entire country is suffering from electricity cuts, so Idleb will not be an exception. There is no cell phone coverage but landlines are working, though there is heavy pressure and you have to attempt several times for the call to go through.

Ziad:
The plan will probably be pushing them into what is called "the northern quarter" an area already emptied from civilians and largely a militant stronghold. Once they corner them in the northern area the army will take them out decisively. Most people expect this to end within the next two days.

Outside the city there was a clash on the Turkish border with militants attempting to come from turkey to Idleb to reinforce the militants.

Ziad:
Just to make it clear the Army did not finish sweeping the entire city

Joumana:
I don't know what to say Ziad. Should I be happy or sad? I feel sorry for the people caught in the middle, but this has to be done! So is the city clean?

Ziad:
No its not clean. Operation started yesterday from 5 am till around 6. The same thing today but today the army went in deeper. They are doing it progressively and trying to avoid the most damages.

Most damages are caused by the IEDs (some up to 50kgs of explosives) and random firing by militants (using PKT/PKC and DUSHKA/DShk machine guns), with the army returning fire when attacked, but no excessive use of force i.e no artillery barrages as reported by al Jazeera and other channels)

Ziad:
Also, contrary to what is being reported, the town of Benech (بنش ) was not shelled today and was not even attacked.
Oh and since the morning the army was asking people to go down to the shelters and take refuge using speakers across the city.
I just heard on Aljazeera that the army dragged over 20 civilians and executed them in "Dabbit neighborhood"(ضبيط ), that is not true because I have family there too and that did not happen.

Hanan:
Ziad, they are using the propaganda of the 80's. Want to lead people's brains to the Hama massacre. To make it look believable

Joumana:
The MB are insisting on getting their revenge. Linking the events to what happened in Hama. Many people will believe.

Ziad:
Just to give you a perspective on the scale of irresponsibility and damage by the militants. Just under my uncles house there were 4 IEDs, one of them exploded damaging a BMP (and the building) as the army was approaching and the army stopped there and pulled back to reassemble for another try. In that single spot there was over 60 kgs of explosives. Once large one was planted in a 2x2 hole. Right now the army reached their neighborhood and is still there.

These militants don’t even live there and are just making those neighborhoods their front using civilians as shields. Once they are pushed back into the open fields the army will mow them down like grass.
I’m optimistic this will be over in the coming two days.

Jouwana:
But Ziad, why isn't there anyone reporting this to the media?

Mohammad:
if they report it no one (outside Syria) will believe it ...

Ziad:
I think by now we can all agree the pro Syrian media has limited clout and the anti Syria media just doesn’t do any fact checking and research and is resorting to sectarian tone and hysteria.
The government I think it focusing its energy and resources on finishing the security element of the crisis while juggling the economy and foreign diplomacy. They realize they cannot win the media war and might as well focus on what they are good at and what is more important. Syria never was "popular" and it certainly won’t be done during this crisis.

Ziad is not a reporter, he relies entirely on his family’s accounts and estimates in Idlib, and his claims cannot be verified at this point. But these are important testimonies – the anecdotal evidence that provides the basis for further investigation. We used to hear many more of these accounts from all sides in the first few months of the Syrian crisis, before the pressure of the dominant narratives intimidated even the best bloggers into toeing a hyper-cautious line.

Conjecture and hysteria aside, there is plenty of indication that the Syrian government is pursuing a policy of eliminating armed groups in a slow, measured sweep of the country, particularly focusing on towns and neighborhoods where they have allowed these elements to swell in recent months.

There are many who would find this offensive enough to continue raging against the Syrian regime – it is unnecessary to concoct daily stories of civilian slaughters to keep Syria in the headlines.

There is also increasing evidence that armed opposition groups are targeting civilians, security forces and property with violence in ever greater numbers. Is there absolute evidence of this? Not yet. Is there absolute evidence for the allegations against the regime? Not yet. I doubt that there has been a recent conflict with this much finger-pointing, and this little established fact.

Today, reporting from inside Idlib, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught described the bombing as "earth-shaking and relentless." Bombing caused by who?

“Hollywood” in Syria? Oh yes. Scene-setting the likes of which we have not yet seen outside of celluloid fiction. Delivering lines to a rapt audience that seems incapable of questioning the plot. Some of what transpires in Syria in the future will depend on this: Do people want to go behind the velvet curtain and see the strings – or are they content to be simply led by the entertainment.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

Comments

I do NOT need to post anything, anyone could look into torture videos by so-called FSA THEY have put on www. They are SO proud of their torture, no wonder, they are pupils of the real masters - NATO and GCC.

I post it since no one post it. Iran want Arabs to see them only through the prism of Palestine. And Iran have extreme power in the emirates which just recently crashed on syrian protesters.

What a nice little article, how much of SANAA's externbudget is going into this wonderful little piece of slander?

1. Danny has explained the absolutely ridiculous accusations made against him. Some of them were pretty ridiculous - he says to a camera man "shoot it" and that's somehow a proof that he's staging shooting sounds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCkI2O_uJeA

If the regime has nothing to fear from an honest description of reality, why is it banning journalists from Syria? Why has it targeted Marie Colvin and mr. Ochlik?

2. Holy crap did you just base your entire article on anecdotal evidence from a bunch of people who are evidentially on the side of a pretty murderous regime? The artillery barrage has been recorded on video - how can you claim there wasn't any?

Your article completely denies on the site reports in favour of some email conversations! You could read, and see that the rebels have scarcely any ammunition and scarcely even mortar rounds - where would they possibly get 60kg explosives to place in one spot? How could they ever possibly cause all that destruction in Homs?

1) If FSA has nothing to fear from an honest description of reality, why has it MURDERED a French journo?
And enough of the stupid lie - there is NO ban of journalists - a long of them come openly.
2) Colvin were very fond of mass-murder by NATO and their lackeys - she had a thing for KLA, and now for FSA. She was killed (by whom, I am NO sure) but even the worst foes of Assad are NOT claiming she was SPECIALLY targeted - unlike all journalists murdered in Iraq and Palestine by "heroes" of Colvin.

Even such lackey of imperialists and Zionists as HWR ADMITTED that FSA is kidnapping, torturing and murdering, including civilians form "wrong" sect. Are THOSE anecdotal evidence? On the other hand, YOUR "proof" are mostly from a bunch of people who are evidentially on the side of a mass-murderers from NATO/GCC and so on, and were CAUGHT fabricating their "facts".

You work full-time?

Ya I'm also starting to think she's an agent. Her obsessive nato-talk parrots the exact same rhetoric of Dunya TV

of course. the comment sites of all newspapers are flooded with Iranian and Syrian Hasbaras. They even using the same tactics and argumentation. This foreign minister Mualim said just gently that he can`t sit down with fire rocket launching rebels. The same argument ion flip the zionist used in the war on gaza. Blame the victim.

First: I relayed two posts of Sharmine Narwani on my blog and I hope, I’m allowed to do this. In not please inform me, I will remove them immediately.

This is not a comment but a plea for help and I place it here because I hope that somebody competent will read it.

Like Sharmine Narwani I’m trying to make sense of the conflicting information from Syria.
The big strategic picture seems very clear:

The NATO/GCC/Israel alliance needs to subjugate Syria to got in a better position for attacking Iran.

Members of the alliance may have varying additional motives:

Israel has its sights set on both the Golan Heights and South Lebanon. Israel is pumping water from springs in the Golan Heights to the shrinking Sea of Galilee, depriving Syria of major water resources. Water from most springs exploited by Israel would naturally stream downhill to Syria.

Turkey also needs water and is already blocking the course of the Euphrates with dam projects, depriving Syrian agriculture. Syria saw an ally over this cause in the PKK (the Kurdish independence movement), as the Kurds were grieved that the South Anatolia water project was drowning Kurdish villages and orchards. Open tolerance of PKK camps in Syria particularly enraged the Turks who want to weaken and neutralize Syria to root out PKK refuges in Syria.

The Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuweit, Oman want to destroy the last remaining bastion of the Ba'ath Party and its socialist ideology once and for all. The Ba'ath Party has branches in many Arab countries though it only held power in Iraq and Syria.

The USA and Western Europe want to push back Russia’s and China’s influence and sell their stuff -- especially new weapons -- to a new “reformed” (in the sense of neocon economics) Syria.

This conflict is becoming immensely dangerous. The USA has invested so much prestige that a failure to bring down the Syrian government and install a pro-Western puppet regime would be seen as major defeat, would strengthen Americas's adversaries, and impede the implementation of a far reaching global strategic plan that the USA is pursuing.

The big picture is clear, the detail though are blurred, or not visible at all, because this is a complicated puzzle with half or more of the pieces missing. The allegory of a puzzle is unfortunately only of limited applicability, because the Syrian conflict is, like everything else in this world, is a nonlinear dynamic system with an infinite number of forces influencing each other, and as everybody who has learned her or his chaos theory knows, small changes can have immense unforeseen effects.

Therefore knowledge about certain detail would be crucial!

For instance:

What happened in Daraa at the start of the uprising? Was the drought and the resulting economic hardship a reason for the protests? Did the authorities overreact?

What about the pro-regime militiamen, called Shabiha? Are they indeed released criminals, are they involved in racketeering, drug trafficking and other criminal activities? How is their chain of command, how is their conduct?

What about the alleged corruption and cronyism? What is the role of Fawwaz Assad and Munzir Assad?

Are Syria’s security services indeed incompetent and infiltrated by Mossad?

What is the state of the buffer zone in Jordan around the cities of Mafraq and Ramtha, where insurgents are housed in hotels and hospitals and are training and preparing for an assault on Syria? The estimates of insurgent fighters there vary from 10,000 to 40,000. When will this insurgent army be operational and will they try to infiltrate in small groups or start a broad attack? Is there indeed a big weapons shipment underway from Saudi Arabia?

Where is Al Qaeda’s Omar Brigade?

Where are the UAE mercenaries, that Erik Prince trains?

What is the Unity Resources Group in Dubai doing?

I write this text hoping that someone can help me with further information so that I am able to argue against propaganda pieces like this:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,822189,00.html

I wrote some post about Syria but it is hard to get solid information. Everybody seems to guess, embellish, exaggerate. Everybody seems to twist, turn, and fabricate facts. Lies, lies, lies!

http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/news-from-doha/
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/update-to-more-news/
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/more-news-from-the-alternative-me...
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/news-from-the-alternative-media-u...
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/the-truth-is-currently-unavailable/
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-truth-is-hard-to-face/
http://mato48.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/1083/

I'm sorry but a UN estimate of 8,000 dead in a year is quite a lot for a little bit of civil unrest. Even allowing for some exaggeration by any participants. If there is no problem, why was Kofi Anan there? If there is no problem, why has Saudi Arabia closed its embassy? Don't get me wrong, I am sure that there are lies coming from both sides but it is obvious there IS a problem in Syria.

In fact there is no "UN estimate" of the number of dead in Syria. There is the estimate of the SNC affiliated group, which the UN, siding with regime change, uncritically accepts as fact. Is the regime-change team's estimate double the actual count? I don't know. Triple? Don't know. How many dead are soldiers (of either side) and how many civilians? We don't know. And yet regime change PR is vitally dependent on the 8,000 dead number.

There is nothing happening in Syria. Like saddam did nothing to his people. let`s bring saddam back or at least the iraqi Baath Party. And throw maliki back to Iran. ok?

It is SO telling that kh has NOT a better example of what he wants to do to Syria than what USA have done to Iraq! Really, kh is out of his mind!

Saddam was accused (without much proof) of murdering about 250000 Iraqis during his 20+ yeas of rule. USA "liberation" cost was by the opinion of the very reliable sources as more than a MILLION dead - just in less than 10 years, not mentioning refuges, uranium pollution, ruination of infrastructure and so on.

Yes, kh, lets turn Syria into new Iraq! my only question - Iraqis were running from such "liberation" into Syria. To WHERE Syrians are going to flee?

I guess you are just ignorant about the Syrian refugees in Turkey and Lebanon right now...

I would like to make several brief comments about your article, and especially the subsequent comment you made. While it is admirable of you to question the general media slant and ask for verifications for oft-quoted statistics and dominant portrayals, your own journalism and analysis is very problematic.
You are correct in saying that the current death toll (which you seem to take at face value in itself) includes army soldiers, anti-regime fighters, executed collaborators, and civilians killed by armed gangs that are perhaps not connected to the regime. But nothing can hide the fact that a large proportion of these deaths are caused directly by the slaughter of innocent civilians by the regime’s armed forces. I don’t think anyone would dispute the veracity of the videos showing the kinds of wounds that could only have been caused by the heavy weapons possessed by the regime, or footage of peaceful protestors being shot and killed. You state that the army has exercised considerable “restraint”, and you claim that if a massacre was really taking place then there would be many more deaths. However you never once condemn the regime for the slaughter of its own civilians in what you describe as “crackdowns”- as if it’s acceptable for a government to kill its own peaceful citizens as long as the numbers aren’t too high.
More importantly, there are two significant gaps in your coverage. Firstly, you describe the two sides of the armed conflict currently taking place as, on the one hand, “the armed forces of a sovereign state” and on the other, “groupings of armed militias with various degrees of experience, no national command, few common aspirations, who are not yet representative of a significant Syrian population”. Leaving aside the seemingly empirical but actually value-laden assertions you have just made, you in no way address the existence of any pro-regime armed elements besides the army. The most infamous of these is the shabiha, essentially an armed mafia under the control of people associated with the regime and consisting largely, but not entirely, of members of the Alawite sect. That they exist, and existed before the current uprising engaging in criminal activities is a documented fact, as nearly any resident of the Latakia province and indeed some Lebanese can attest to. It is impossible to claim that the sheer scale of testimony coming out of Syria about the growth of shabiha recruitment and the acts of violence committed by them is a fabrication. It is possible for you to speak of apparent “restraint” on the part of the army precisely because the government has the shabiha as a non-official tool of terror and repression. Also you did not at all mention the several intelligence agencies at work in Syria such as the air force mukhabarat, who have been reported as both working with army units and engaging in independent operations.
This comes to my second point. You seem to be very glad to question the dominant narrative of violence in Syria but fail to have a broad perspective of what “violence” means. With your focus on body counts and explosions, whether they are caused by IED or artillery shells, you do not address the thousands of arrests that have taken place since the beginning of the uprising, the verifiable allegations of torture, and the mutilated corpses that have been openly returned to families… by the intelligence services who murdered them in captivity. Was Hamza al-Khateeb’s corpse a fabrication? It is impossible to portray the situation in Syria without taking into account the full breadth of the regime’s repressive apparatus, something that you have not done.
I respect your instinct to question what is shown on the news and try to verify what you see and hear. But you are guilty of presenting only part of the story, and in so doing make your journalism just as if not more questionable than that of those you attack. The situation in Syria is very murky and it will never be possible for anyone outside the country to truly know what is going on. But there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation inside of Syria, and people inside, without even questioning their agendas or interests, are equally unable to acquire a full and accurate understanding of what is going on. While I am sure you are worried about the condition of your associates inside Syria such as Ziad, quoting at length the observations and assertions of three Syrian individuals does not clothe your analysis with a cloak of authenticity. You speak of the importance of a weight of anecdotal evidence, but I can promise that most of the anecdotes I have heard coming out of Syria are very different from what you unearthed- to come up with meaningful, objective conclusions as a journalist you need to take into account ALL the anecdotal evidence and not just some of it. You also seem to oversimplify the opposition- you talk of Syrian exiles grossly inflating the scale of the violence, armed gangs littering towns and cities with IEDs, and internal opposition open to compromise and reform with the regime that is being crowded out by these extremists. But then who is leading the protests that we see every day (or are you going to claim that the videos are fake)? What about the masses of people we saw peacefully protesting in Homs, al-Mezzeh, Hama, Idlib, and all over Syria? What are their motives and if you were to weigh them against the regime on your (self-appointed) scales of culpability, how would they come out? Lastly, what is happening to them? Where do they go when they arrested by the police? And if they are killed, are their bodies sent to a morgue where they can be added to your all-mighty body count… or are they simply burned and thrown into mass graves by their killers?
You have raised significant issues and have taken a hard line, but your own evidence and analysis is replete with glaring gaps and inconsistencies. At best you have just overlooked these; at worst you are a disingenuous journalist trying to cover up the clear crimes of the regime. I have left off of many points and just highlighted a few, and if you have a problem with what I have said then I invite you to respond- I and others would be happy to back up these points with evidence. But if you can’t address all sides of the issue, and cannot face undeniable facts, then please don’t presume to be impartial and entitled to comment about what is going on in Syria. Thank you.

"I don’t think anyone would dispute the veracity of the videos showing the kinds of wounds that could only have been caused by the heavy weapons possessed by the regime"

First of all, the veracity of any video or picture of anything by anyone anywhere does not constitute evidence if not independently verified. Secondly, why do you think that your statement is foolproof when you say that the wounds could *only* have been caused by the heavy weapons. How hard and long did you examine the wounds to come up with such a conclusion. And are you an expert in the field?
You write this long-winded response which I have to admit, I didn't read it all because I didn't care to after you made that statement I quoted and the one that preceded it, which no matter what you say afterwards shows that you are the one who is biased.

And a message to Al-akhbar please put a limit of 10,000 words or less on your comments. This is getting out of hand.

You say "I have left off of many points and just highlighted a few." I am sure you did so because of time and space - just like myself. I have been writing much lengthier articles than usual on Syria because it is such a shockingly under-examined subject, particularly given the fact that the mainstream media covers this story every day. I am glad you had the chance to air your misgivings here - it is important that questions be asked quite relentlessly about Syria. I do not have all the answers, but I can assure you that I am one of the very few that actually bothers to ask questions related to evidence.

To broadly respond to the second part of your comment, I do not address regime brutalities in any great detail because this is not the subject of my article. For articles about regime violence you can switch on to every single major news source in the western hemisphere. The focus of my commentary writing in the past three years has been counter-narratives - primarily challenging US narratives on the Middle East. If you don't take issue with my pieces on Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, etc., then you can rest assured that my Syria pieces are not a departure from my normal line of questioning.

I'm sorry, but your drive to present a "counter-narrative" has clearly driven you to present the government's narrative.

"But nothing can hide the fact that a large proportion of these deaths are caused directly by the slaughter of innocent civilians by the regime’s armed forces."

Yes, NOTHING, because SNC aka GCC/NATO puppets say so? Just like other puppets by the same great humanitarians said in Libya that Qaddafi is "going to massacre"them". Syria does NOT deserved to be turned into Libya-2, and the article helps to prevent exactly such end.

" I don’t think anyone would dispute the veracity of the videos showing the kinds of wounds that could only have been caused by the heavy weapons possessed by the regime, or footage of peaceful protestors being shot and killed."

We ALL could see VIDEO in which a child got her head bandaged, only it was a FAKE bandage, specially for AJ to show you and others like you. There is NOTHING to support your claims, but the words and videos of KNOWN lairs!

So, you seems to be all too ready to lap the prop of "slaughter of innocent civilians by the regime’s armed forces" instead of complex picture including of terrorism (foreign-founded), and reaction of the state to this, and murder of civilians by the forces whose claims you repeat without a HINT of critic.

You talk about torture and arrests. What about kidnapping and torture by so-called FSA? Is it NOT existent? What about FSA (NOT so peaceful) use of heavy weapons?

In short, you could stop to pretend that you are "objective" and start to cite AJ as a credible source. it will be more honest.

The truth is that there is NO proof of SNC/NATO/GCC/Zionist propaganda. NOT at all, no more than in Libya, no more than in Iraq (WMD of Saddam, anyone?) The article is about this fact, and your comment is just a repetition of the propaganda. There are innocent victims in Syria, and part of them are victims of the state, but the reality has NOTHING to do with the propaganda. Anyone who prefers to be willfully blind is not going to get any good from the article. Go to AJ site and be contended.

Quit the demagoguery. Invoking nato isn't going to hide the fact that Ghaddafi and Assad were/are brutal dictators.

It is NOT me who is "Invoking nato" It is NATO itself which BOMBS. Sorry, but it is a fact.
And stop repeating NATO/GCC propaganda about the reason for such bombing is someone being "brutal dictator" It is esp. rich coming from Saudis, but USA itself is NOT known for its habitual hatred for ANY "brutal dictator", only for thous who are NOT their lackeys, otherwise they are not only tolerated, but put into place and supported by USA against their peoples by ANY means.

On the other hand, Mosadeq, Aliende, Lumumba and a lot of others were NOT "brutal dictators" but still were called such by USA propaganda. The more recent examples - Arisitide in Haiti and Chaves.

In short, only a VERY naive person (to put it mildly) could believe that Obama (the same who just made lawful(!) to murder or kidnap anyone HE calls "terrorist" all over the world, who went on with lawful torture by USA and murders ME and Africa people EVERY DAY is the littlest bit interested in "freedom", "democracy" and other hollow terms of USA propaganda, used against Syria.

And that's where your dogmatic argument loses steam. You assume that I support Saudi or the US because of my comment about Assad and Ghaddafi. Wrong. I'm against every single autocratic/oppressive force in the world. Moreover, I wish a revolution would happen in the US first and foremost because of the negative influence that government has on the entire world.

That being said, I'm ecstatic that Ghaddafi is gone. Of course he's just been replaced by NATO puppets who are corrupt oppressors too, but they should also be overthrown.

Only a dogmatic leninist like yourself would try to fool Arabs into believing that russia or china are anywhere near role models for us. Aside from the US empire and the zionists, the russians are the most despisable for their role in the region.

Anon is ECXTATIC that Libya was bombed, turned into NATO/GCC colony and torture chamber for Blacks. Of course, it is all temporary, because anon is going to PERSONALLY see to Libya liberated again. I wonder, has anon let know about his grand design for Libya the masters of Libya - NATO/GCC?

If Somali or Afghanistan could teach us ANYTHING it is NOT be "ecxtatic" because of NATO war crimes. I am NOT sure if anon is quite happy with the state (or non-state) of Somali and Afghanistan NOW, a lot of time after NATO "liberated" them from their "autocratic/oppressive force"

And anon sounds really hollow with hollow words of " I wish a revolution would happen in the US first"

So, NATO is bombing left and right, anon wishes (!) for revolution in USA and while wishing is busy being "ecxtatic" about one more NATO crime. How great!

China and Russia just maybe saved Syria from turning into another Libya, but, sure, anon was also going personally care about Syria after the bombing, so I could understand why anon is disappointed.

By the way, I just like to know WHERE have I said that "russia or china are anywhere near role models for Arabs". I'd like a quotation, even though I am not holding my breath.

Again, dogmatic contradictions. You know very well I'm against NATO (as I've stated), but you still insist on invoking NATO because it's the only strawman you have in this argument. Stick to the subject.

And don't bother bringing up Somalia or Afghanistan. You glorify the russian occupation of afghanistan, and I'm sure you glorify the russian ties to somali dictator Siad Barre. You invoke NATO to rile up sentiments of Arabs but like all orientalists, you only wanna trade the supremacy of one side (the side you don't like), for the supremacy of another. Racist doctrine at its finest.

You didn't say that russia or china are role models explicitly, but you've certainly implied it with your previous comments on here. Until I read otherwise, I'm going to assume that of you, just like you assume so many things about the people you engage with.

One CANNOT be "against NATO" if one FULLY supports their crimes under some ridiculous pretext. And NATO crimes are VERY real, but I suppose anon just does not want to look this way.

But instead anon is fond of reading mine mind and telling WHAT I have meant. Really, it is turning boring. I got it - anon aka "Arab leftist" is fond of NATO/GCC crimes as long as anon could claim they are against "dictators", as if NATO is not the biggest patron of dictators, including GCC.

By the way, what is the date of anon-led second revolution in Libya - now against NATO/GCC puppets? Anon sounds SO sure of it, I am just holding my breath :)

Of course NATO crimes are very real, which is why I'm against them. As should everyone.

No I'm not reading your mind, you could be a zionist for all I know behind that computer screen you type. My summation of your racist ideology can be derived from your numerous comments on this site where you glorify Assad's regime and Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

I've already stated I'm anti-NATO. I've already stated I'm anti-GCC. I've already stated that the US is the WORST influence on the world (including the Arabs with its sponsorship of almost every dictatorship there). But you conveniently ignore my statements about this because it frustrates you. You can't seem to understand that Arabs (including As'ad AbuKhalil) don't aspire to your dogma. Sorry, Arabs are not your tools white "lidia". Stay in your lane ;)

As for Libya, that country is already collapsing under the weight of factional inter-fighting. I cannot predict the date of any revolution, but I can tell you that the NTC will be living on borrowed time if they continue the route they're on.

I am NOT going to explain xth time why cheer for NATO bombs means SUPPORTING NATO.

But in one count anon the NATO leftist seems to get it right - "liberated" by NATO Libya is a big trouble from - from racist pogroms against Blacks to shooting between various "revolutionary" bands. Anon it seems is being optimistic - a bit more and out the gang violence and racism there will be come "right sort" of revolution. Yeah, sure. Just like in Afghanistan 30 years ago, "liberated" by the same forces. I guess there is a prosperous socialism now in Afghanistan?

NATO rape of the country is NOT a thing able turn it into a leftist dream. Somalia is another example in a long sordid history of NATO "liberation". of course, NTC is (and ever was) just a tool of NATO/GCC. If they fall, they would be exchanged for something no less "progressive" by their masters.

And i'm NOT going to explain for the xth my Opposition to NATO bombs anywhere. Learn to read.

And what are you ranting about when it comes to NATO Libya? I know everything you're saying, this is old news. And you also know that I am aware of this, but you deliberately dodge this because you're obsessed with smearing. It's like you can't seem to believe someone disagrees with you if they're not NATO. As for Afghanistan, I am against NATO massacres and landmines as much as I was against Russian ones in the 80s. And the Afghanis handled both of them justly.

As for the NTC, are you implying that Libyans there do not have the ability to lead their future? You're basically saying that NATO's influence in the area is immortal. That's a kooky conspiracy theory (as As'ad would call it). Yes the Libyan revolution was hijacked. Yes the NTC is not good for Libya. But like I said, they won't last forever. And I think the Libyans will realize this sooner or later.

I am NOT implying ANYTHING. I state the FACTS. The fact is - Libya is being gang-raped by NATO and their local lackeys, while anon the NATO leftist calls it "revolution" and wait for something good and "truly socialist" come from the rape. Anyone being gang-raped is NOT in position to "lead one's future". Afghanistan is being in this state from 1979 (when NATO/Saudis started the rape), and it is still is, but for anon the NATO leftist it is NOT a long enough time I guess, after all, anon even find it "exalting".

One more time, for ANY nation, NATO's rape is a way to a long disaster. A VERY long one. To SUPPORT such rape under the pretext that "it is NOT forever" is NOT very smart, not mentioning very moral and leftist, to put it mildly.

I am quitting the topic. I could not change the opinion of anon the NATO leftist, because words, even the most factually sound, could not change a grown-up's mind. I hope anon's wishes of NATO/GCC rape of Syria will NOT be granted, and I hope anon eventually will see the NATO rape NOT as a solution but as a problem and a death threat to any real revolution. I hope it would take anon less than 30 years, but I am not holding my breath.

You are quitting the discussion because you have nothing to say. You resort to sensational demogaguery and ad homenims in your arguments all the time. The greatest example of this is your continuous lies about me supporting the NTC when Ive stated very clearly a thousand times that I'm against. Like a child though you ignored this and continued spewing more imperialist rhetoric at me. I mean, the audacity you have to actually an occupation which ALL the native population of afghanistan despised is very telling within itself. It's like tryin to justify the European massacres of native americans. You are a kooky conspiracy theorist who refuses to believe that the Afghan resistance to the soviets was genuine (insisting on the fairy tale it was all made by NATO. As if even that justifies one country invading another).

I'm not surprised at your rhetoric though (like some have already on this thread, you might be an agent which is a possibility). It's same old tireless Russian ultranationalism dressed with the mask of anti-imperialism. That sorry excuse for socialism collapsed, and now we have an even worse government today. You'd have to delusional to think Muslims aspire to that.

But go ahead and continue screaming NATO like you always do :)

Bravo! You said everything that I was thinking about the flaws of this article.

I trust Hadeel already has your bio?

This is a great article.

We know that this is soon to be over, and Bashar Al Assad will rise stronger than ever.
The Fundamentalist Extremist groups trying to turn Syria into an Islamist Sectarian Countrty will fail. Under the guise of democracy they kill and mutilate. Under the support of the United Staes, and the lable of humanitarian activists they want to devide Syria, and her people.
THEY WILL FAIL.

God Protect Syia Al-Assad and his people.

islamist sectarian country like Iran or Iraq?

Iraq was NOT sectarian before kh friends "liberated" it from Saddam (and more than million others).

At the end of a recent meeting with a Western visitor, Mr Maliki described his personal priorities in terms that would worry many Iraqis. "I am Shia first, then Iraqi, then Arabic, then Dawa (his political party)," he said.

Dear Sharmine Narwani, finally Marie Colvin's mother can get some rest, for her daughter smuggled herself into Homs only to witness the opposition 'SIMULATE regime damage to property and civilian life.' Admittedly her role as an extra was not first-plan, but she so go into charachter, she even took her shoes off! Death by commitment, who could have thought.

ps I notice they took off your blah from Huffington Post, don't despair, next stop - RT.

Dear whatnot, maybe mothers of people murdered by NATO in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya will NEVER get some rest, but the saint Marie Colvin was NEVER bothered by the fate of them. She was all for NATO murder and came to Syria to help the same fate meted to Syrian people. As they said in Russia - a pitcher, who was happy to go to fetch water is going to be broken at the well.

PS, sure, HP the Zionist tool of the big business, which dutifully parrots nonsense from SNC puppets of NATO sourced by Zionist propaganda about "Russian troops in Syria" is something to treasure to be published in. I would say for Sharmine - good riddance of HP and welcome to the sane AlAkhbar.

The Western journalists who where inside of Baba Amr and the other areas besieged and bombarded by the army (some of whom paid their lives for that) said sth totally contrary to the Assad's fabrications the writer in this article is selling. Full Stop! The writer is exposed. Please say the truth or be silent and don't sell yourself to the Assad propaganda.

The SAME Western journos were HAPPY with NATO crimes against Iraq and Afghanistan and defended them. So, I suppose I am NOT going to believe them ONLY because some beholden to "white men" calling himself Mohammad cites them as as reliable witnesses. We also have seen how "news" from Baba Amr were fabricated, including putting false bandages on a child and training her to give "right" answers to the camera.

So, Mohammad is selling us NATO/GCC/Zionist propaganda and calls it "truth"? Thanks, but NO, thanks.

Iran helped NATO in Afghanistan. And Maliki was riding on american Tanks to Baghdad.

This article is a press release from President Assad.

Yeh, because he had nothing better to do than sit there and write this, or dictate to someone.

God is watching, and He knows.

Soon this will all be over, and Syria Al-Assad will be back on its feet...stronger than ever.

Excellent!

I could only laugh (uncomfortably) when I first heard the so-called 'Voice of Homs.'

But this paragraph disturbed me:

"Conjecture and hysteria aside, there is plenty of indication that the Syrian government is pursuing a policy of eliminating armed groups in a slow, measured sweep of the country, particularly focusing on towns and neighborhoods where they have allowed these elements to swell in recent months." (my emphasis)

Sounds to me like you are trying to justify the actions of one side in a civil war. This is the language of sanitization.

There are NO good guys here.

This is not a civil war. The ICRC says that quite specifically, and explains that the legal qualification for the situation in Syria is "other situation of violence." You are correct, I do not equate the two sides. One is the armed forces of a sovereign state, and in my view, the other consists of groupings of armed militias with various degrees of experience, no national command, few common aspirations, who are not yet representative of a significant Syrian population - a population that, so far at least, appears to reject the militarization of this conflict.

If these armed groups had just acted in a defensive capacity to protect civilian populations - which is what they claim (so it is clear that they DO understand the importance of that distinction) - then that is fully defensible. But they have proactively targeted pro-regime populations of both security forces and civilians, making them a very justifiable military target in any court of law. There are never any good guys in politics, but there is "rule of law," and it is interesting how eager we are to shrug that off in a moment of opportunism. I do not at all reject the right of a civilian population to take up arms against a government, but if they are not a representative group from the wider population, then they may be reduced to pursuing the kind of "tactical" warfare we are now seeing that harms the general population and centers of power, i.e. crippling infrastructure (pipelines, electrical/water plants, bridges, etc) and bombing civilian centers to force momentum.

Am not sure that the actions of these groups do not entirely provide justification for the Syrian army to go in and sweep them out of the area, providing they take rigorous precaution to avoid civilian casualties. And I make the point in the article that there is evidence that the regime is being careful in these operations. How? By pointing out that opposition activists are going to some length to SIMULATE regime damage to property and civilian life.

Do keep in mind that a lot of what I write is in reaction to the widespread "sanitization" of certain distasteful elements of the opposition. If the general media cared to make those informative distinctions - and were just as willing to highlight the peaceful, non-interventionist domestic opposition figures and parties - I would have no reason to do so.

When I read the main article, I was really pleased. An article that doesn't affirm, but that questions. Now that I read this precision of Sharmine Narwani, I get enthousiastic. That's journalism as it should be ... and as we can't find it in the 'free' media of the 'free' world. I hope to read you again and again, Sharmine Narwani. Thanks so much!

Thanks for the different perspective Sharmine, I only got to know about your articles on al-Akhbar, but from now on I'll be on the lookout for more!

What is happening in Syria is like "Wag the Dog" movie, creating a war from nothing, using all special effects to make it "news". Unfortunately, they are using innocent blood for their dirty propaganda.

Thanks and regards for "Al-Akhbar" & "Sharmine Narwani" for your efforts in seeking the truth about Syria.

Thank you.

I just want to point to one possible misspelling

"There are many who would find this offensive enough to continue raging against the Syrian regime – it is unnecessary to concoct daily stories of civilian slaughters to keep Syria in the headlines."

Maybe you meant "it is NECESSARY to concoct daily stories...."?

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