Syria: world betrays Aleppo (of course)

Tell us again how the "mainstream media" are prejudiced against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad? Regime warplanes again hit Syria's divided largest city of Aleppo and neighboring rebel-controlled towns May 8. The Reuters headline is straight-up regime propaganda: "Syrian warplanes counter-attack rebels near Aleppo." First, these are populated towns that are being bombed, and we can assume that civilians and their homes are being hit at least as much as (if not more than) any "rebel" targets. Second, the word "counter-attack" is used, with the explanation that the strikes came "as the government tried to push back a [sic] insurgent advance in the area." How many things are wrong with this? First and foremost: the insurgents are advancing in the face of ongoing regime terror of precisely this nature. The word "counter-attack" makes it sound like the rebels started the fighting arbitrarily. This is like Israel framing each new bombardment of Gaza as a "counter-attack" to Palestinian rocket-fire. Second, while we know that Reuters has to maintain its "objectivity," it is a little late in the day to be flattering the outlaw regime of Bashar Assad with the label "government."  As we've said before: At this point, Assad controls only some 20% of the country. Assad is just Syria's most well-armed (and bloodiest) warlord, with powerful foreign patrons—but nothing more. Third (although it seems petty to mention it), Reuters could use a proof-reader.

When Assad regime forces backed by Russian air power were advancing on Aleppo earlier this year, we warned that the fall of Aleppo could widen the war. This was forestalled by a lull in the fighting due to the partial "ceasefire" that took effect in March—and which definitively ended with the horrific bombing of a hospital in Aleppo on April 28 by regime or Russian warplanes. Now, the Great Powers are scrambling to revive the "ceasefire," with Washington and Moscow issuing a joint statement pledging to step up efforts to persuade the warring parties to abide by the agreement. But aerial bombardment of Aleppo and Syria's north continues—and despite Moscow's supposed withdrawal from Syria, it remains unclear if Russian warplanes are still involved. (Reuters, May 9)

In but the most headline-grabbing incident, a least 28 were killed in air-strikes on a displaced persons camp at Kamuna, Idlib governorate, May 5. Many of the dead women and children. (CNN, May 6) UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien issued a statement calling for an immediate investigation of the ongoing air-strikes, saying they may amount to war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians. (Jurist, May 6)

But the dreaded "mainstream media" that in "leftist" conspiracy theory is shilling for Washington's supposed "regime change" agenda in Syria implicitly legitimizes the regime's carnage. And don't even get us started on the far worse pro-regime propaganda of the "alternative media."

Meanwhile, the incessant line that we have to support Assad to fight ISIS is dealt a further blow by new evidence that the regime has actually been collaborating with the "Islamic State" all along. A cache of leaked documents from an ISIS defector was turned over to Britain's Sky News. One document suggests that Palmyra was intentionally handed over to the regime by ISIS in March. A directive to local ISIS commanders just before regime forces took the city read: "Withdraw all heavy artillery and anti-aircraft machine guns from in and around Palmyra to Raqqa province." Another loans credence to suspicions that Assad has been buying ISIS oil. The document requests safe passage for a driver through ISIS checkpoints "until he reaches the border with the Syrian regime to exchange oil for fertiliser." (New Arab, May 2)

This casts a rather perverse light on the performance by a Russian classical music ensemble of a "A Prayer for Palmyra" in the same ancient amphitheater where ISIS militants carried out widely publicized killings when the city was in their hands. Vladimir Putin himself addressed the audience by video, saying he regards the concert "as a sign of gratitude, remembrance and hope." (AP, May 6) As his warplanes rain down terror on Syrians. Another one file under "Orwell Would Shit."

The regime's genocidal campaign also continues on the ground. Assad's troops on May 5 stormed a prison in the central city of Hama, firing tear-gas to try to put down an inmate uprising. The insurrection apparently began when inmates took some guards hostage in response to plans to transfer them to the army-run Saydnaya prison near Damascus where they feared they would be tortured and summarily put to death. (BBC News, AFP, May 6; The Telegraph, May 5)

These fears are hardly unfounded. The UN now accuses the regime of a systematic "extermination" of the civil population in areas under his control—beginning with the prisoners. It should also be noted that Hama was the site of a 1982 massacre in which an estimated 30,000 were killed and parts of the city razed to put down an uprising against Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez Assad. Over the past five years there have been subsequent, repeated massacres in Hama at the hands of the younger Assad.

The most perverse thing about the "leftist" cheerleading for Assad's genocidal regime is that these so-called leftists are convinced (relentlessly assured by sources such as the Orwellianly-named Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) that they constitute the cognoscenti who can "see through" the anti-Assad propaganda of the "mainstream media." In fact, they share the same pro-Assad bias as the "mainstream media."

  1. BBC accused of bias on Aleppo

    From the Centre for Strategic Research & Analysis (CESRAN):

    Anti-regime activists in Syria have accused the BBC of bias after the broadcaster used footage of the aftermath of a government attack on rebel-held Aleppo while reporting the attack took place on regime-controlled areas. The news reports in question are also alleged to have exaggerated deaths in regime areas. The controversy has led to widespread condemnation, including threats of legal action, from activists, journalists and across social media. This is despite BBC Arabic tweeting an apology for misusing the footage, which was broadcast on 30 April.