Monday, January 9, 2012

SYRIA: false narratives and propaganda

By Elizabeth Kendal

The battle presently taking place in Syria includes a battle by foreign powers for Syria -- a battle for the regional balance of power; a battle that pits the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab Sunni Axis against the Iran-Hezballah Shi'ite axis of which Arab, mostly Sunni Syria is integral.

See: SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 137 | Wed 07 Dec 2011

Aisling Byrne writes for Asia Times Online (5 Jan 2012), that the battle for Syria is essentially the first stage of a "war on Iran". Byrne quotes Saudi King Adbullah who observes: "Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria." Likewise, notes Byrne, the US administration has also commented that regime change in Syria would constitute a massive blow to Iranian power in the region.

"What we are seeing in Syria," she concludes, "is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime 'more compatible' with US interests in the region. [. . .] Not for the first time are we seeing a close alliance between US/British neo-cons with Islamists (including, reports show, some with links to al-Qaeda) working together to bring about regime change in an 'enemy' state."

See: A mistaken case for Syrian regime change
By Aisling Byrne, Asia Times Online, 5 Jan 2012

PROPAGANDA ESSENTIAL TO STRATEGY

Byrne's article is essential reading for anyone confused by the conflicting narratives coming out of Syria, for Byrne's main complaint is against the "deliberate construction of a largely false narrative that pits unarmed democracy demonstrators being killed in their hundreds and thousands as they protest peacefully against an oppressive, violent regime, a 'killing machine' led by the 'monster' Assad." (emphasis mine)

Most of the article's ten pages are devoted to exposing and analysing the propaganda that is pouring out of Syria and being disseminated by those with a strategic interest in regime change and others determined not to let truth get in the way of a sensational story.

Byrne notes: "Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations - the pillars of the narrative - all are part of the 'regime change' alliance".

In particular, the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights -- which is funded by US and Gulf Arab money -- "has been described as the 'front office' of a large media propaganda set-up run by the Syrian opposition and its backers." As Byrne comments, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the narrative of "massacres" and more recently "genocide". Yet not only is the Observatory not legally registered as a company or charity, it has no office, no staff and yet is "reportedly awash with funds".

Byrne reports: ". . . a YouGov poll commissioned by the Qatar Foundation showed last week that 55% of Syrians do not want Assad to resign and 68% of Syrians disapprove of the Arab League sanctions imposed on their country. [. . .] Unsurprisingly, not a single mainstream major newspaper or news outlet reported the YouGov poll results - it doesn't fit their narrative."

HOW TO SECURE A "HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION"
-- (or at least foreign backing)


As was the case in Libya, Syria's is an asymmetric conflict: the Syrian opposition cannot match the Syrian military. As Stratfor has noted, "Thus far al Assad has resisted his enemies. Though some mid-to-low-ranking Sunnis have defected, his military remains largely intact; this is because the Alawites control key units. Events in Libya drove home to an embattled Syrian leadership -- and even some of its adversaries within the military -- the consequences of losing. The military has held together, and an unarmed or poorly armed populace, no matter how large, cannot defeat an intact military force." (Stratfor: "Syria, Iran and the Balance of Power in the Middle East." By George Friedman, 22 Nov 2011.)

Consequently, the Syrian opposition knows that it needs external support, and to get it, it has to make a case for at best foreign intervention, and at least foreign backing.

Of course the West will never intervene on purely humanitarian grounds; it must have economic or geo-strategic interests. This is why multitudes of genuine humanitarian concerns are ignored or worse, treated as embarrassments and inconveniences to be covered up.

In order to launch a "humanitarian intervention", the Western governments concerned -- being democracies -- will first need to convince their constituents that a humanitarian catastrophe is indeed underway. Of course anyone can create a humanitarian catastrophe -- real or imagined. It has been done before by Islamist separatists in Bosnia, Yugoslavia; Albanian Islamist separatists in Kosovo, Serbia; Islamist imperialists in Ivory Coast and Islamist imperialists in Libya. It has also been attempted unsuccessfully by Islamist imperialists in the Palestinian Territories and in South Lebanon. Yes, false narratives have been created and propaganda used before to pave the way for US-NATO bombing campaigns against innocent civilians from Belgrade to Abidjan to Sirte, all so US-NATO states can advance their own economic and geo-strategic interests.

Byrne quotes American Conservative which notes that figures being cited by the UN are based on rebel sources and are uncorroborated. Likewise, reports of mass defections are a fabrication, with few defections actually being confirmed. Furthermore, American Conservative asserts that "Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false".

See: NATO vs. Syria
By Philip Giraldi, American Conservative, 19 Dec 2011

Byrne's article in Asia Times Online includes many more such quotes and claims, including that the US has been pumping money into Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups specifically for the purpose of advancing regime change in Syria with the goal of hurting Iran.

As already noted, Byrne's article is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the situation in Syria.

SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS: ANOTHER INCONVENIENT PEOPLE

Like the Papuans of Eastern Indonesia and the Kachin of northern Burma, the threatened, imperiled, besieged Christians of Iraq and now Syria are just an inconvenience to Western powers that have economic and geo-strategic interests in their sights.

Western Christians need to accept the new reality: their governments do not inhabit a moral high ground. Rather, they are driven by economic and geo-strategic interests (money and power) and will not be hamstrung by inconvenient truths concerning the devastating consequences their actions will have on the liberties, lives and even future survival of local Christian communities.