NBC News interviewer: “[The first draft of history] is saying that you are a brutal dictator. You’re a man with blood on your hands. […] How do you think history will remember you?”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “How I hope history will remember me? […] I hope history will see me as the man who protected his country from the terrorism and the intervention, and saved the sovereignty and integrity of the land.”[1]

In part 2 we have exposed the fallacy that “moderate democracy-seeking rebels” were forced to take up arms after “peaceful protests were cracked down by Assad’s loyalists.” In reality, without the Western and Gulf monarchies’ arming and financing of the jihadis, who hijacked the Arab Spring protests from the very beginning, there simply would not have been a war. Fortunately, more and more people are reaching this level of understanding. Yet, at this point, while acknowledging the crimes of the armed opposition, there is still a very large consensus that at the same time, Assad is “killing his own people.” Moved by powerful clips like those of the White Helmets and Qatari-funded AJ+, the Western public is to believe that the Syrian people need saving from the hands of a ruthless dictator.

In a twisted use of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, our Western leaders are therefore trying to convince the world that, in order to save the Syrian people, “Assad must go.” And as the Western masses are reluctant to boots on the ground, this means giving even more finances and weapons to the “moderate” terrorists. But hold on a second, wasn’t there hardly any support for these alleged moderates among Syrians? Didn’t Syrians overwhelmingly reject armed protest and foreign involvement? Has the Syrian government not shown itself willing to make concessions by pursuing an inter-Syrian reconciliation policy, granting various amnesties to rebels, and allowing constitutional changes that urged for real presidential elections? Wasn’t Assad democratically re-elected in 2014 with a stunning 88,7% of the vote by 64% of the eligible electorate?[2] And isn’t the Syrian army possibly even more popular than Assad, as Syrians opposed to the Ba’ath party as well as violent protest often choose to back the army, while not defending the Assad presidency?  Doesn’t this imply that maybe just maybe, the Syrian army rather than the West is the one that is really committed to fighting terrorism? “No,” Western officials tell us, “Syrians are probably heavily indoctrinated.” To me, this is an outright insult to the intellect of the Syrian people. Calling out insults of course does not make good arguments, however. Therefore, let us examine some of the allegations that are used to smear Assad as a “brutal dictator.”

The east Ghouta chemical weapons attack

On 21 August 2013, the Syrian army launched a major military campaign in Damascus to retake full control of the capital city. Although it was confronted with an organised fighting force of 25.000 Islamist militants, mainly belonging to Jabhat al-Nusrah and the Saudi-backed Islamic Front, the army broke through the insurgent lines, resulting in a crushing and decisive strategic defeat of the jihadis. By the time the battle was over, however, the Islamic Front claimed that rockets from the Syrian army containing chemicals had killed hundreds of civilians in the east Ghouta suburb of Damascus. These accusations were then picked up by the US government and the US-based Human Rights Watch, and in no time mainstream media around the world concluded that Assad had “gassed his own people.”

The allegation that the Syrian army used chemical weapons on its own people already becomes highly unlikely merely by taking a closer look at the underlying context alone. By mid-2013, the war had turned in favour of the Syrian government. Although parts of Aleppo, east Damascus, and some parts of eastern Syria remained held by Islamists, most incursions were beaten back by the army. In this context, in the months prior to the east Ghouta incident, it were several opposition forces, not the government, that were accused of using chemical weapons. Most notably, the Assad government complained to the UN that Islamists had used sarin gas in a major battle in the west Aleppean district of Khan al-Assal on 19 March, which left 25 people dead. Russian experts would later put forward strong evidence that it was indeed the insurgents, not the army, that used chemical weapons in this incident.[3] Moreover, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said in May that she had reliable testimony from victims that it were the so-called rebels that used sarin gas.[4]

The UN got involved when an impartial independent mission was established after a written request from the Syrian representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, a day after the Khan al-Assal attack,[5] but it was only in July that the UN investigators accepted an invitation of the Syrian government after the combined pressure from Assad, whose forces had seized 281 barrels of chemicals from opposition forces, and the Russians, who had presented their own investigative results of the Khan al-Assal attack to the UN.[6] By the time the inspectors arrived on 18 August, the Syrian government had thus been reiterating the need for an independent UN investigation on the ground into the allegations of chemical attacks for months. Ask yourselves, how stupid would Assad be to launch a chemical attack on his own people just three days after the UN inspectors – who he himself invited – finally arrived to investigate the usage of chemical weapons in the conflict? Furthermore, why would Assad use chemical weapons instead of the far more modern conventional weapons that the Syrian army possesses, even more so after Obama said in 2012 that the usage of chemical warfare by the Syrian government would be a red line for further US intervention?[7] It all just makes very little sense.

Research is of course not based on presumption alone. Already on 30 August, the White House concluded, citing classified intelligence, that “there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack.”[8] A study at MIT, however, showed the rockets to have a much shorter range than was suggested. Referring to an intelligence map that was published by the White House on the same day that the US government made the above statement, the MIT study concluded that the rockets could not have been fired from government-controlled areas.[9] The assertion that only the Syrian government was technically able to launch a chemical weapons attack, called into life by the US government and Human Rights Watch, turns out to be false too. In September 2013, a video emerged in which militants used improvised truck rocket launchers, from which rockets containing chemicals could easily be launched.[10] Moreover, the jihadis not only have the technology, they also have access to sarin gas and other chemicals, as numerous reports document non-opposition forces discovering chemicals in opposition-controlled areas.[11]

While the evidence thus clearly dismisses the Islamic Front claim, it does implicate the insurgents themselves in chemical warfare. When the UN special mission on chemical weapons returned to Syria in September, it was not assigned to determine responsibility but rather to discover if chemicals had been used. It concluded the usage of chemical weapons on five occasions, including in the Ghouta and Khan al-Assal attacks, but more significantly, it acknowledged that in three of the five occasions chemicals were used against soldiers.[12] Logically, this means that the perpetrators must have been opposition forces rather than the Syrian army. As the Khan al-Assal incident was among these three occasions where soldiers were targeted, and as, according to the Human Rights Council, the chemical agents used in the Khan al-Assal attack bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in Ghouta,[13] the two attacks are most likely connected.

In the east Ghouta incident, however, the decision to use chemical weapons could have been made at a far higher level, as the Islamic Front is a de facto Saudi Arabian sponsored mercenary brigade under the auspices of the Saudi Interior Ministry. In a piece of outstanding journalism, Christof Lehmann brings forward several traces of circumstantial evidence that implicates Saudi Arabia, and possibly even the US, in the attack.[14] Although his research is not clear proof, it surely indicates, considering the links between the Saudi and US intelligence on the one hand and the armed opposition on the other, that the green light may well have been given to the terrorists by their foreign masters.

A pattern emerges

This leads me to conclude that the east Ghouta incident was in all likelihood a false flag attack on a long list of false flag incidents, in which the terrorists commit massacres and blame it on the Syrian government in order to persuade the West to increase its support to the armed opposition. Throughout history, such events, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Lavon Affair, have been blamed on an entity other than the actual perpetrators to push a certain agenda, which often involves provoking a war.

One of the first times the armed opposition employed this mechanism on a big scale was in the Houla massacre of May 2012. In this terrible atrocity that was widely blamed on the Syrian government in international circles, over 100 mostly pro-government civilians were massacred at the time when the Syrian army was driving the Farouq Brigade out of Homs. Although two shamefully biased UN Security Council reports pointed the finger at the Syrian government, Prof. Tim Anderson has put all the evidence and eyewitness accounts together and has concluded that it was the Farouq Brigade and other FSA-affiliated rebels themselves who had murdered the numerous innocent civilians.[15]

He also stated:

“The idea that almost any sort of atrocity could be blamed on the Syrian government, with little fear of contradiction in the western media, must have played heavily on the minds of Islamist armed groups. […] Farouq and others were in desperate need of military backing. Inflaming moral outrage against the Syrian government just might bring in NATO air power, as it had in Libya. In the meantime, they could carry out major crimes with impunity.”[16]

Indeed, from 2012 onwards, a pattern of false flag terror committed by the armed opposition emerges. As revealed by American journalist Nir Rosen, who has spent time with Syria-based jihadis, it is common practice to portray dead opposition fighters as innocent civilians killed by the Syrian army.[17] But the deception happens on a larger scale too. Before the events in east Ghouta in August 2013, two other major Islamist atrocities falsely blamed on the government were uncovered by Western journalists. Internationally renowned Middle East expert Robert Fisk was the first Western journalist to visit the Damascus suburb of Daraya, where a couple of days earlier at least 245 people were massacred. Although he came under fire from the insurgents during his dangerous trip, he nevertheless was able to talk to survivors and villagers, who all said that it were the FSA militants rather than the Syrian army who were responsible for the atrocity.[18] Similarly, British journalist Alex Thompson was the first foreign journalist to visit the Aqrab village, where, according to “activists,” pro-government militiamen had massacred 120 to 150 civilians of Assad’s own minority Alawite branch of Islam in September 2012.[19] Unlike the rest of the Western media’s coverage of the event, Thompson got his information directly from three separate key-witnesses, whose accounts corresponded with one another without them being aware of each other’s identity. They all said that the rebels, among them foreigners, had held 500 Alawite civilians for nine days straight, many of whom died as rebels fired bullets through the windows when a shooting broke out.[20]

A more recent example is the alleged Syrian or Russian airstrike in April 2016 on the Doctors Without Borders-supported al-Quds hospital, situated in an eastern Aleppo district that has been a Jabhat al-Nusrah stronghold for several years. While the international media was all over this incident, it had been quite silent on the years-long indiscriminate shelling of hospitals by Western- and Gulf-backed armed groups. According to a statement by Syria’s then Health Minister, by December 2013 opposition forces had already damaged two thirds of the country’s public hospitals. This includes the total annihilation by a suicide attack of the al-Kindi hospital, once the fourth biggest hospital specialising in cancer treatment in all of the Middle East.[21]

Again, there seems to be some huge discrepancies in the official story. First of all, it turns out that the al-Quds hospital did not exist prior to the war, as it was not on the Health Ministry’s official list of Syrian hospitals before the war broke out.[22] It was thus probably nothing more than some sort of an opposition field hospital, which is corroborated by photo analysis that shows the hospital to be situated on a sand-bagged ground floor of a residential building.[23] Furthermore, the Russian Defense Ministry has published comparing satellite footage of the building from before and after its alleged destruction.[24] While on both photos the building appears to be damaged, the damage on the first picture seems to resemble the damage on the second. This would explain why the three main air forces that claim to target terrorists in Syria – the Russian, the American, and the Syrian air force – have fiercely denied involvement. In all likelihood, it simply did not happen. This would not only make the al-Quds hospital bombing a false flag, but also a hoax.

A last event which I cannot leave aside are the “Caesar torture papers.” On 20 January 2014, a sensational story was triggered of a former Syrian army photographer, code named Caesar, who came forward with a myriad of photographs allegedly showing 11.000 tortured and killed detainees in Syrian prisons. Following the above pattern, suspicion already arises merely by looking at when the story popped up, and who it was that broke it. Indeed, the story was presented just two days before a Geneva peace conference, and it was the Qatari government, along with Saudi Arabia the primary funder of the jihadis in Syria, that financed the investigation. Moreover, investigative journalist Rick Sterling has found at least 12 problems concerning the grotesque claim that the Syrian government would be responsible for the “industrial scale killing” of its own citizens. Most notably, almost half of the photos show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of car bombs and other violence, i.e. the exact opposite of brutal killings by “the regime.” The remainder of the photographs primarily show a wide range of deceased persons, from Syria militia members to opposition fighters to civilians to dead people on hospital beds, most of whom seem to have died as a result of war rather than by torture.[25] In addition, we have no way of verifying in which year, circumstance or even in which country these photos, including the ones that do show signs of torture, were taken. Sadly enough, there is no shortage of photos of dead bodies in the Middle East. Needless to say, this all makes the claim presented by the “Caesar torture papers” hardly credible. However, there is some evidence that the Syrian army has executed captured terrorists. This certainly would be a war crime, but probably a quite popular one, as most Syrians have family members who have fallen victims to terrorist attacks.[26]

Note that the above-mentioned examples are by no means an exhaustive list of all war crimes falsely attributed to the Syrian army. It is beyond the scope of this article to tackle them all.

Conclusion

Throughout history, the West has tried to demonise leaders of sovereign countries around the world that were not willing to fall in line anymore. Similarly, in order to justify an active mission of “regime change” in Syria, demonisation of its leader and government are necessary to gain the support of the masses. The constant flow of disinformation is therefore absolutely necessary to sustain the “Assad must go” narrative.

Lacking real evidence, false claims therefore have to be made. When those are repeatedly being refuted, the propaganda machine has to resort to decrying actions that it would otherwise not denounce. An example of this is all the gibberish about “Assad’s barrel bombs.”[27] First of all, most claims about the usage, content and implications of “barrel bombs” lead back to the terrorists themselves, which, as we will see extensively in the next part, completely downgrades the credibility of the claims. Furthermore, the US and its allies have used far more indiscriminate weapons – including airstrikes and drone attacks, not to mention depleted uranium, napalm and white phosphorus – in illegal military interventions around the world. But somehow, it is the Syrian government that is depicted as an inhumane and indiscriminate killing machine, when it is in fact trying to defend its country by bombing areas controlled by terrorists responsible for countless terrible atrocities. Again, ask yourselves, what would your government do when a foreign funded bunch of extremists, hated by most of your own people because of their crimes, start to kill civilians? Would your government stand by and do nothing, or would it express its right to defend its sovereignty and protect its citizens?

This is of course not to say that, tragically enough, innocent civilians occasionally die at the hands of bombing by the Syrian and Russian army, but what about those civilians killed in anti-Daesh airstrikes by the US-led coalition? Are they just “collateral damage,” just like those killed in the allied bombing of Dresden in World War II, the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the destruction of Indochina in the Cold War era, the illegal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the countless drone strikes employed across Middle Eastern and North African countries in recent years. Has the international community ever even contemplated “regime change” in response to these atrocities? I don’t think so.

Notes

[1] “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: exclusive interview,” Youtube channel of NBC News, 14.06.2016, consulted on 29.08.2016, http://.youtube.com/channel/UCeY0bbntWzzVIaj2z3QigXg.

[2] Compare this 64% to the recent American elections, in which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each received around 26% of the eligible votes.

[3] Christof Lehmann, “Syrian army seizes massives chemical stockpile from insurgents. Enough to wipe out entire country,” NSNBC International, 10.07.2013, http://nsnbc.me.

[4] “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’,” BBC, 06.05.2013, http://bbc.com.

[5] United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, Final report (United Nations, 2013), 2-3.

[6]  Christof Lehmann, “UN inspectors accept Syrian invitation after Russian pressure and seizure of massive chemical depot from opposition,” NSNBC International, 11.07.2016, http://nsnbc.me.

[7] James Ball, “Obama issues Syria a ‘red line’ warning on chemical weapons,” The Washington Post, 20.08.2012, http://washingtonpost.com.

[8] The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Government assessment of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013 (Washington, DC, 2013).

[9] Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol, Possible implications of faulty US technical intelligence in the Damascus nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 (Washington, DC: MIT, 2014).

[10] Tony Cartalucci, “Video: rockets in Damascus CW attack fired from makeshift flatbeds,” Land Destroyer Report, 26.09.2013, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be.

[11] Lehmann, “UN inspectors accept Syrian invitation;” “Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian islamists – reports,” RT, 30.05.2013, http://rt.com; “‘Abandoned’ barrels containing deadly sarin seized in rebel-held Syria,” RT, 08.07.2014, http://rt.com.

[12] United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, Final report, 18-21.

[13] Human Rights Council, 7th Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, A/HRC/25/65 (United Nations General Assembly, 2014), 19.

[14] Christof Lehmann, “Top US and Saudi officials responsible for chemical weapons in Syria, NSNBC International, 07.10.2013, http://nsnbc.me.

[15] Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance, chapter VII: the Houla massacre revisited (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), 71-9; also online: Tim Anderson, “The dirty war on Syria. The Houla massacre revisited,” Global Research, 07.12.2015, http://globalresearch.ca.

[16] Anderson, The dirty war on Syria, 79.

[17] “Q&A: Nir Rosen on Syria’s armed opposition,” Al-Jazeera, 13.02.2012, http://aljazeera.com.

[18] Robert Fisk, “Inside Daraya – how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre,” The Independent, 29.08.2012, http://independent.co.uk.

[19] “‘Alawite civilians killed’ in Syria village,” BBC, 12.12.2012, http://bbc.com.

[20] Alex Thompson, “Was there a massacre in the Syrian town of Aqrab?”, Channel 4 News, 14.12.2012, http://blogs.channel4.com.

[21] Tim Anderson, “The ‘Aleppo hospital’ smokescreen: covering up Al Qaeda massacres in Syria, once again,” Global Research, 09.05.2016, http://globalresearch.ca.

[22] Silvia Cattori, “Alep – L’information mensongère continue. Par Nabil Antaki,” Arrêt Sur Info, 01.05.2016, http://arretsurinfo.ch.

[23] Rick Sterling, “Open letter to MSF: about bias and propaganda on Syria,” OffGuardian, 07.05.2016, http://off-guardian.org.

[24] “Russian Defense Ministry refutes claims of strike on Syrian hospital,” Sputnik, 04.05.2016, http://sputniknews.com.

[25] Rick Sterling, “How propaganda feeds war on Syria,” Consortiumnews, 17.03.2016, http://consortiumnews.com.

[26] Anderson, The dirty war on Syria, 31.

[27] Unfortunately, this article is getting too long to go deeper into all the fuss about “barrel bombs” in detail. Therefore, I will direct you to three articles to my linking which analyse the claims made about the usage of this weapon more thoroughly: Robert Parry, “Obama’s ludicrous ‘barrel bomb’ theme,” Consortiumnews, 30.09.2015, http://consortiumnews.com; Paul Larudee, “Mythology, barrel bombs, and Human Rights Watch,” Counterpunch, 21.07.2015, http://counterpunch.org; Tim Anderson, “The dirty war on Syria: barrel bombs, partisan sources and war propaganda,” Global Research, 07.10.2015, http://globalresearch.ca.