CNN’s Amanpour show edits out criticism by visiting RT host

November 24, 2014 13:20

Screenshot from CNN video
Screenshot from CNN video

Naouai, host of RT’s
 In The Now, was invited to speak along with Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister and a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin’s policies.Last week, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour invited RT’s Anissa Naouai to discuss what the US channel called ‘a heated propaganda war’ by the Russian government. But it never showed viewers Naouai’s criticism of Amanpour's own propaganda exercises.

RT offers a complete video of Naouai's answers, as well as the full transcript of the discussion below.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Mr. Kasyanov, Anissa Naouai in Moscow, thank you both very much indeed for joining me. Let me first ask you, Mikhail Kasyanov, Mr. Putin, President Putin seems to believe that Russia has an image problem and wants to change the way Russia is portrayed around the rest of the world. It is an image problem or is there a problem, a policy problem?
MIKHAIL KASYANOV: That's a deep problem of the policy. The problem of Mr. Putin, because Mr. Putin believes that such a policy he pursues internally and externally, that's normality in 21st century, which is absolutely not. And therefore he is sometimes even angry on the Western society, why the Western society doesn't accept his regime as normal one. Therefore that's a problem of mentality rather than of image.
AMANPOUR: Anissa, let me ask you, do you feel that "Russia Today" and other state-sponsored media is specifically designed to counter what your government, your president believes is a bad image problem, an unfair shake in the West?
ANISSA NAOUAI: Just to be clear he's not my president. I'm an American. He's the Russian president. And "Russia Today" airs to a global audience. So it's not really watched in Russia; it's in English; many people across Russia don't really turn to Russia Today to get their news. And I certainly don't represent the Russian media as a whole. I represent RT and more so myself. But I think specifically about RT – because it's been in the media quite a lot recently to focus on that – I think the thing about RT which is misunderstood by a lot of people, not our viewers, because they know very well, is that we have nothing to hide. People know where our funding comes from. We're "Russia Today." We're funded by the Kremlin, despite the sort of addressing by foreign media that it's some kind of revelation of investigative journalists. Our budget is completely open. It's completely transparent, even though it's misquoted very often. And so it's interesting to us that these kind of questions are asked by the mainstream media, by a channel like CNN, who has journalists that have left the channel because documentaries on Bahrain haven't been run like "I-Revolution" a couple of years ago, which air programs like "Eye on Georgia," "Eye on Kazakhstan," "Eye on Lebanon," which are essentially government-sponsored programs. And that's barely, very, very secretly disclosed to the audience. You really have to go on the site and dig for it to find that these are not sort of just basic, unbiased reporting on the ground. These are government sponsored programs aired on television. So it's interesting to have questions asked of us, staff at "RT," how do we feel about kind of representing the Russian government. Our viewers know that we're funded by the Kremlin. They watch RT with this in mind. And this is why we're getting viewers. Because if you actually turn on RT, you'll see that we cite the Ukrainian government. We cite NATO. We cite the State Department. We cite the American side. Yes, of course, we also cite the Russian perspective, and of course maybe even more so because that's the perspective that we feel is being sidelined.
AMANPOUR: Anissa, you have now had a long preamble. But I didn't actually get you to answer my question and that is does one believe – do you believe that you're there specifically to counter a weight problem when it comes to the weight of information? And let me ask you specifically about the whole idea, which is one of the big issues at play inside Russia and RT’s representation of it abroad, and that is describing the nature of what's happening in Ukraine. For months and months and months now, Russians and Russian state media and Kremlin-funded media, such as yourself, have portrayed Ukraine as sort of phobic to pro-Russian separatists or minorities there as neo-Nazis, fascists who just want to abuse and assault them. And that has appeared on your channel. And President Putin has said it several times. My question obviously is what is the point of that? And let me first just play this piece of an interview from President Putin not to your channel, but he said it before to a German channel just this weekend. [TECHNICAL PROBLEMS] From President Putin, this past Sunday: "We're truly concerned that the wish to start ethnic cleansing may soon arise there." He's talking about Ukraine. "We're afraid that the Ukraine will become immersed in neo-Nazism. You can see people wearing swastikas on their sleeves and the SS insignia on the helmets of some units fighting in the Eastern Ukraine at the moment." And of course, you all remember the big – the big sort of billboards that Russian television and media put up during the Crimea referendum, equating, you know, Russia – or rather saying the choice is Russia or neo-Nazism. So I guess, Anissa, my point to you is, why go to such efforts to brand Ukraine as such, when the polling data itself says that less than two percent of the people actually voted for any kind of far right group? You know, I'm asking you because it's so important in the way people understand what's happening in Eastern Ukraine.
NAOUAI: Yes, I agree it's important. I think what you're trying to say is that it's perhaps being exaggerated, the threat of neo-Nazis, which perhaps is true. I'm not Russian. The Russian people lost almost 30 million people fighting fascism during the Second World War. Who am I to say that this is a made-up threat? There's clear documentation, Christiane, which obviously you have access to, obviously your audience, our audience has access to. There are people that walk through the streets of Kiev with swastikas on. There are – there is this trend of tying in this kind of glorification of Nazism with the anti-Russian sentiment that is trying to be up in the West. And there's also, I think what Putin was referring to there was not so much the Nazi trends, but the civilians being killed, which organizations like Human Rights Watch, like Amnesty International, like your own reporter – one of my, I think, one of the most powerful reports I've seen from the East, to be quite frank, was not from Russia Today. It was from your reporter, Diana Magnay. And she's in the East. And basically it's a phenomenal report. I mean, it's horrific and it was civilians in the East calling themselves Ukrainians and saying stop killing us, Petro Poroshenko. Stop killing us. So to imply that this is not going on, that civilians are not being killed by the Ukrainian army – let's be very specific here – and this is what you have on camera. Was this report run on CNN around the clock? No!
AMANPOUR: But that’s not what I was asking, Anissa. Anissa, I was asking - obviously there's a war going on and we understand there are hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed. I'm talking about the specific characterization of a policy of fascism and neo-Nazism, which your president – or rather the Russian president – and the foreign minister and other senior officials keep repeating. So let me turn to Mr. Kasyanov, who used to be prime minister there. Is there, do you believe – Anissa admitted there might be exaggeration. Is it more than exaggeration? And as such, is it a fair interpretation of what's going on and what are the consequences?
KASYANOV: That's not –
NAOUAI: I didn't admit that it was an exaggeration. I said who are we to say that it’s an exaggerationas non-Russians. 30 millions of them were killed in World War II. I said, “Who are we to say it’s an exaggeration?” That’s what I said exactly.
AMANPOUR: No, you didn't say that. You said they may – that might be an exaggeration, but then who are we to say that fears are exaggerated? I've got that on record. So don't worry about it. That's going to be played.
NAOUAI: Yes, I didn’t admit that it was an exaggeration.
AMANPOUR: All right. But you actually did and I'll play it and you can dispute it afterwards if you like. But I will play it and it's not a problem. It's what you said. Now I'm putting it to you, Mr. Kasyanov. What are the consequences of inflating these numbers? And I will say that there is a huge attempt to tar the Ukrainian government as neo-fascist when two percent, less than two percent, voted for far right groups in the last elections in May.
KASYANOV: I will say that’s not exaggeration, that’s deliberate policy of Mr. Putin. And just all these reasons and arguments Mr. Putin provides, they are simply bizarre. How can –
AMANPOUR: But it’s designed for something, Mr. Kasyanov. What is it designed to do?
KASYANOV: Yes, exactly. Just Mr. Putin thinks just all people just simply just idiots all over the world. Just you have just mentioned nice figures, just less than two percent voted for far right people, politicians in Ukraine. And what the reason for annexation for Crimea, what the reason of acceleration of these military conflict in the Eastern Ukraine? That is, as you said, correctly, that’s some kind of imagination that there is a danger for Russian-speaking people and for just pressing them and just putting them in a just bad position. That’s absolutely lie.
AMANPOUR: How successful, though, has Anissa's channel been and other Kremlin-sponsored state-funded media in Russia? How successful are they?
KASYANOV: All these channels, they never describe reasons why just this annexation and the war started. They prefer to describe what's going on now, there. Hundreds of people killed and just problems – other people just having problems because of the war.
AMANPOUR: Right, but my question to you is how successful is it in convincing people in Russia or around the world?
KASYANOV: In Russia, it’s absolutely successful. People are fooled by state propaganda. All media under full control of Mr. Putin. And this enhanced adoration by him and his team and in fact they popular social – sociological poll for 85 percent of support of Putin's policy in Ukraine, that is a result of – that's the result of this propaganda. And unfortunately, I have to admit that even educated people who understand that it's not possible to behave in 21st century in this manner Mr. Putin does, they think that annexation or just joining of Crimea to Russia is fair, because of the simple reason – all people living in Russia today, they got their information through their textbooks in schools, history that Crimea was always Russian. And they don't support Mr. Putin. But they believe Mr. Putin will disappear but Crimea will still be part of Russia. That's why that there is a such a - I wouldn’t say consensus, but popular view on what's going on in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: Anissa, can I come back to you? Because that's one issue. But another gathering fear, certainly in the West – and the Financial Times has been writing about it – is the idea that President Putin, either publicly or with certain individuals who he talks to and other powerful figures in Russia, are, quote-unquote, "putting the nuclear gun on the table now." And let me read you a few things that have been written over here. Apparently President Putin has told domestic audiences that outsiders should, quote, "not mess with us, because Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers." Does it worry you, that kind of thing? And when Russians start to talk about their nuclear arsenal, do you – does your sensibility start getting heightened? How do you decide to cover this when you have your editorial meetings?
NAOUAI: Again, Russia Today airs to the West. So we have a global audience. And we cover stories that we think affect a global audience and especially with the Ukraine crisis, a lot of the mainstream narrative dictates what exactly we cover. We come to work and we see a lot of holes in the stories that you're telling your audience, holes that can be easily closed by just going online, trying to verify videos, trying to get kind of different sorts of perspectives on the air. So that helps a lot in trying to decide what we're going to cover. And I think it's careful when – you need to be careful when you start bringing these sort of nuclear threats taken out of context. This is a very serious issue. And as journalists, we need to be careful when we pick and choose what quotes we want to give to a global audience. I have to say I do not know what you're referencing specifically about this Russian – what Putin said to a Russian television. To be honest, I work a lot and I don't exactly watch the Russian media every night. RT airs to a global audience.
AMANPOUR: I know you keep saying that, but RT is –
NAOUAI: I’m not sure exactly what channel you’re referring to or what speech you're referring to. But I do know – but I want to – I want to make this clear, that I do know that Putin has made it very clear to the Russian people that he's not looking for war, but he will continue to protect Russian interests. And when you're talking about military aggression and about perspectives of Russia around the world, all you need to do is look at a map. Look at a map and look where Ukraine is and look where Russia is and look where the United States is and then look at all of the countries and bases surrounding Russia. And tell the audience again that Russia is the aggressor here.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because you brought up verifying video – and again it's on a state-run television, it's not RT, but it's state-run television. And let's be – let's be fair also – RT and all its other incarnations does get traction inside Russia. But anyway, Channel 1 made international headlines last week because it broadcast, quote, "sensational photographs of what it said were satellite images of a Ukrainian fighter jet shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17." As we know, what happened then, 289 people on board. Now critics immediately pointed out discrepancies in this imagery. Apparently it displayed the wrong markings for the Malaysian flight and it just was a fake image. When that happens, do you feel that it's in your realm of responsibility also to point that out?
NAOUAI: Again, I have to point out that I don’t represent the Russian media, but RT. I know the image you're talking about, of course. It should be pointed out also that that image was on the Internet for quite a couple of months – unfortunately this channel took the bait. They didn't verify it. We did, of course. That's why we didn't show it. But to sort of condemn the First Channel for mistakes that we've all make – and I remember very well Jim Clancy of CNN showing a video in Donetsk in May of this year of a supposed helicopter being downed by these anti-Kiev fighters. We went online; we checked the video. The video was from Syria. We never even saw a retraction from CNN. So it's a little difficult to judge. Obviously this is a market, they were trying to perhaps have a scoop. It's a dangerous thing. It's very unfortunate that they took the bait and it's a very dangerous trend. So all I can do as a journalist is, yeah, condemn it. It was a mistake. But they're certainly not the only journalists in the world that make mistakes like that.
AMANPOUR: Alright, point taken. Let me ask you, Mr. Kasyanov, what I just started to talk to Anissa about. And this is a sort of a gathering private sending out messages of, “hey, we are a nuclear power, too”. And the NATO commander has said that Russia has moved weaponry into Crimea that is nuclear capable, should is so choose to make it such. Let’s face it. This is Europe; this is a hot war right now, and it’s between a major nuclear power, Russia, and a nuclear alliance. How dangerous is that right now? What message is President Putin trying to send?
KASYANOV: I think it’s very dangerous. That is absolutely irresponsible and reckless policy. I don’t want the president of my country to behave this way and just use us as some kind… getting people scared about just Russia’s behavior in the near future. Therefore, there’s perhaps such a tension between the West and Russia. And Mr. Putin simply destroys the future of our country. And through this policy he’d like to achieve some kind of acceptance that his policy and his behavior is normal.
AMANPOUR: Could this kind of rhetoric, though, this kind of chest beating or quiet warnings in private – could it have unintended consequences? I mean, one of the worst things in history is the tragic miscalculation.
KASYANOV: It could. That’s why I’m saying that’s reckless and irresponsible, because just the leader of such a country, a member of the Security Council, a prominent member of the Security Council responsible for global security, cannot behave this way, and cannot use this rhetoric just in settling other issues, which are absolutely of different nature.
AMANPOUR: All this really is to ask both of you or anybody whether we know what President Putin wants. Anissa, do we know what President Putin wants? There was a ceasefire agreed in Minsk, there was an agreement, it’s been violated, there are Russian forces moving again into Eastern Ukraine. What does President Putin want? What do you think he wants, given that you are a Kremlin funded sanctioned media? We cannot get Russian officials to talk to us.
NAOUAI: I think President Putin has made it very clear to both Russia and to the international community that what he wants is for Russia to be respected, mutually respected on an equal playing base, and that he wants dialogue to prevail. And so I think it’s very dangerous to sort of talk about these kind of warnings in secret. I mean, there’s nothing secret. All of this gets out. Obviously you went and found this apparent secret nuclear conversation that he had to Russian media that wasn’t supposed to get out. Everything is available.
AMANPOUR: I didn’t say secret.
NAOUAI: There are so many perspectives available. You can go online. You can analyze Russian media. You can analyze CNN. And the audience can go and view for themselves. But I think Putin has made it very clear that he wants stability in his – for his country, and in this region, and he wants to get there through dialogue.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Kasyanov, what do you think President Putin wants?
KASYANOV: In fact, I think Mr. Putin doesn’t want just to build up a new Russian empire. What he wants, the main motivation for all these aggressions – first talking about for in Georgia and Mr. Putin at that time tested waters. And as we all remember, three months after this aggression, so-called just peace plan of Mr. Sarkozy – at that time he was chair of European Union – was destroyed. None of the points, none of the obligations of Russian government were implemented by Russian government. And three months after, the whole relations between the West and the Russian Federation stand on the point as business as usual.
AMANPOUR: But what's him aim?
KASYANOV: The aim is now…
AMANPOUR: The end game?
KASYANOV: - first just to strengthen his support inside Russia, to keep power. For authoritarian regime it's important always to have external enemy and quick victories. Georgia was one victory, which helped him to establish his own strengthening inside Russia. Now just Ukraine. And secondly, he, of course, wants to – the West to accept his regime as normal.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think his takeaway is about Western leaders, given how they've reacted over the last, I don't know, several months?
KASYANOV: That was a real shock for him. He didn't expect, first of all, transatlantic unity, which is absolute basis right now for all, I would say, just talking of normalization of all this environment, of all this situation. And secondly that European Union just taken just such unified position, together with the United States. And of course Mr. Putin spent quite a lot of efforts to have a – to divide the policy and to divide countries inside European Union. But when major European Union countries just initiated and directly supported those sanctions – sanctions I would underline, not against the Russian Federation, Russian people, but against individuals who are responsible for all just these misdeeds. And also against just instruments, which is in the hands of Mr. Putin, like state corporations and state banks.
AMANPOUR: Listen, last question and then we'll say goodbye and you can get back to your work, because I know you have your show coming up. So here we go. Anissa, you told me that you're American and so I want to know from you what your thoughts are about the whole media landscape because there are less and less independent media there, certainly less and less independent television, more and more of them being shut down. I mean, even the Russian government is legislating to make it impossible for CNN and other external broadcasters to actually broadcast because of the tough terms they're putting on us. Do you think that's a good thing? Is that healthy or bad? I mean, if everything is state controlled media, is that healthy for the society or not?
NAOUAI: I don't think that's a really accurate picture of what's happening. I can’t name one television station that’s been shut down, first of all.
AMANPOUR: But it is…
NAOUAI: What - I can't name one television station which has been shut down. I just came back from News Exchange, where we asked CNN executives why they were supposedly stopping their broadcast in Russia. And they said it was a technical glitch with the cable companies.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm telling you right now…
NAOUAI: You're announcing right now that the Russian government is making it difficult to work in Russia.
AMANPOUR: Alright. I'm telling you right now that there is legislation underway that makes it difficult for us to broadcast. And it's not just us. It's television all over the place. But my real question to you is: do you feel that it's healthy for a society just to get a diet of one side rather than the other? And that is what's happening.
NAOUAI: I disagree that that's what's happening. Certainly at Russia Today, like I said, we always cite the Ukrainian government. We always cite Western governments, Europe. If you want to analyze internal Russian news, I'm not sure I'm the best person to do it, to be honest. But certainly, at Russia Today, we always try to show both sides of a - do we show more of a Russian perspective? Of course we do, because that's the perspective that's being sidelined. But it's an absurd question coming from someone that's propagated the line of the State Department for over 15 years. I mean, it's absolutely absurd.

AMANPOUR: Well, are you talking to me?
NAOUAI: Yes. Absolutely I'm talking to you. Who else would I be talking to?
AMANPOUR: Are you talking to me?
NAOUAI: Absolutely.
AMANPOUR: You've got to be kidding me…
NAOUAI: You've propagated the line of the State Department for over 15 years, starting with Yugoslavia and all the way into Syria. And now you're doing it for Ukraine, essentially. Absolutely, I’m talking to you.
AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness. Have you seen any of my reports about Syria? Have you seen any of my reports about Syria?
NAOUAI: I've seen lots of your reports and in not one report where you find you questioning the United States government and their policy. And we, with our Russian propaganda, question those arms to the FSA, question those arms to al-Nusra and other leagues. And now today we have ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Anissa, I'm really now - listen, I invited you on this program - I invited you on this program to have an adult discussion.
NAOUAI: Absolutely. But your audience should be aware of this, Christiane. Your audience should be aware of this. You should disclose this to them.
AMANPOUR: And I would like you to go back and… Oh, yes. They are aware of it, which is why they've been watching me for a long time. But listen to me, I would like you seriously…
NAOUAI: I’m glad they do, and I’m sure they know who James Rubin is, I’m sure they watch your work in Yugoslavia.
AMANPOUR: - as an act of research and as an act of education, go back and find all my work on Yugoslavia and all my work on Syria and match that with the - with the - with the policy of the United States government and furthermore, go back and watch what launched me and that was a to-and-fro with President Clinton challenging his policy on Bosnia and Yugoslavia. So Anissa, listen, I have respected you but I really don't think that you should be doing this to me, of all people, on this - on this broadcast and on this satellite link. And you're wrong. And I challenge you to go back…
NAOUAI: Yes, how dare someone tell CNN to check who their sponsors are, what governments they are working with!
NAOUAI: How dare someone come on CNN and say that!
AMANPOUR: No! Hey, excuse me, no, no, no, you just said whatever you wanted to say. When you become ad hominem to me, that's a problem, because you're not doing it from a basis of knowledge.
NAOUAI: Well, let your viewers decide, Christiane. I think that's the fairest way out of this debate.
AMANPOUR: You're doing it - I don't know why you're doing it. But you're not doing it from a basis of knowledge.
NAOUAI: Let your viewers decide. Let them go back to your work in Yugoslavia.
AMANPOUR: What did you say?
NAOUAI: Let your viewers decide. Let them go back to your work in Yugoslavia and see if it doesn't fall exactly in line with the State Department’s line.
AMANPOUR: I tell you what. You just go and see the interview with President Clinton and then you'll be able to choose, because you can be sure I'm not putting this on the air, Anissa. It's a personal attack.
NAOUAI: I know that interview very well. I know that interview very well, Christiane, and you were propagating war.
AMANPOUR: You're… Exactly. Good.
NAOUAI: You were basically encouraging Bill Clinton to go to war.

AMANPOUR: Oh, and that was what Bill Clinton wanted, was it?
NAOUAI: I don’t know what Bill Clinton wanted. I'm talking about your work as a journalist.
AMANPOUR: Anissa, come on; you've lost me, babe. Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed. I really appreciate it. I'm sorry; I thought we could have an adult discussion. And we can't. Thank you so much. Alright. Now I have to pretend to thank you.
Anissa, Mikhail Kasyanov, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
KASYANOV: Thank you.

ISIS smuggles $1mn of oil daily

‘ISIS smuggles $1mn of oil daily in water-tanks, fire-trucks’- refinery worker to RT

Dozens of vehicles carrying oil leave Syria’s petroleum capital, Raqqa, currently under IS control, every hour, earning the extremist group a million dollars daily, according to an oil refinery employee in the occupied city, who has spoken to RT.

The man, Abu Al-Hakam, would not agree to a video call for fear of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), and said he himself was not part of the extremist group.

Part of the Raqqa oil, according to Al-Hakam, stays in the region, which is currently cut off from governmental supplies. Another bigger portion finds its way to the black market.

It is being pushed through underground pipes towards Turkey and remote areas where no one can see them,” the whistleblower told RT’s Maria Finoshina. “Part of it is distributed by IS through brokers. Most of it is raw, but there’s diesel and benzene as well”.

With an estimated net worth of $2 billion, the Islamic State is believed to be the world’s richest terrorist organization. The bulk of the group’s wealth comes from oilfields in Syria and Iraq that are under IS control.

The US Treasury has said it believes oil sales earned by the Islamic State are “approximately $1 million a day.”

The Islamic State’s oil revenues are huge despite below-the-market prices.

“The Islamic State is using converted water tanks to transport the petrol. They even use fire-trucks,” Al-Hakam said. “They are using normal routes in front everyone because they are not afraid of anything as IS protects the trucks.”

Abu Al-Hakam doesn’t know where the oil goes exactly and whether the Turkish government is involved in the black market deals.

He believes the US-led campaign against IS in Syria could have been more successful if airstrike targets had been different.

“They only targeted a few IS bases, and most of them were empty,” he said. “It’s an embarrassing position for the Americans because it’s well known where the oil refineries are, even a child in Syria knows. I cannot see anything more shameful than that, because Syrian oil is the main source of money and weapons for IS.”

With oil profits currently steadily flowing in, the Islamic State has even announced plans for minting its own currency to challenge the global monetary system.

The extremist group has been busy looking for ways to boost its revenues. It is reportedly offering a Refineries Manager position - salary $225,000 for the person ready to try and increase the group’s oil earnings.


A 10 km love letter to Syria

12 Nov 2014

National Unity Youth Gathering in Yabroud city, Damascus Countryside signed a 10-km letter expressing gratitude and faithfulness to Syria and its leader.

The celebration of signing the longest faithful letter to Syria was held on Wednesday during a festivity marking the return of the normal life to the city.

Participants stressed that the letter emphasizes the unity of the Syrians in the face of terrorism hitting their homeland and their determination to combat it until restoring security and stability to all Syrian areas.

They expressed support to the Army in defending Syria against terrorism.

The gathering is planning to visit all Syrian provinces to convey the letter of faithful and love to each province which sacrifices its sons in defending the homeland.


Robert Fisk: SAA Strongest Institution, FSA Doesn't Exist, Rebels Targeting Christians

Australian Broadcasting Corporation : Broadcast: 10/11/2014 | Reporter: Emma Alberici

Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the Independent discusses the current situation in Syria.


EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed tonight that Australian special forces are moving into Iraq to help in the fight against ISIS. It comes on the back of a US decision to send a further 1,500 troops to support the air campaign already under way. But how effective is that campaign and is it having any impact across the border in Syria, where ISIS was born?

Robert Fisk, The Independent's longstanding Middle East correspondent has been traversing northern Syria, talking to Syrian troops on front line and flying over ISIS-controlled territory to try and answer that question. He's just returned to Beirut and spoke to me from there just a short time ago.

Robert Fisk, welcome back to Lateline.


EMMA ALBERICI: Now Syria is not a conventional war zone of course. Journalists have become prized possessions of ISIS. Tell us about your recent trip. How did you get in, where did you go and what did you see?

ROBERT FISK: I saw rather more than I probably wanted to see of front lines in Syria. I went to Damascus with a visa. I travelled in Government-controlled areas, which of course is a large part of Syria. But I went to the front lines with, for example, the 43rd Special Forces Parachute Regiment in Qamishli, which is way up in the north-eastern part of Syria, between - wedged between Turkey and the Iraqi frontier. I went into their front line trenches. I saw the weapons that are being fired at them, many of them American, of course. I learned rather grimly, actually, that when I was last in the front line, north of Latakia, I interviewed a general and met about 70 of his soldiers. And four months later - that I didn't discover this until this trip - ISIS drove an armoured vehicle packed with explosives right into their camp and blew it up and the general was killed along with almost every soldier I met on my previous trip there. In fact, his deputy commander survived and said to me, "You remember what he said in his last interview to you? He said, 'I'm either going to live to see a victory or I shall lose my life.'" And he said, "He kept his promise." And I thought, "My God, he did, didn't he?" When I went to Qamishli, it's a very interesting situation there, because part of the Qamishli area and to the east right up to the Iraqi frontier is effectively operated and run by a sort of Kurdish Government with Syrian permission. It's a kind of pro-Ocalan, PKK-type communist group. They've quite a lot of fighters, although I have to say that one of them travelling with me fell asleep for about 100 miles of the journey. But they've got oilfields. They're pumping oil for themselves - 30,000 barrels a day - and therefore are managing to keep that bit of Syria effectively in Government hands, though the Government doesn't operate there. In Qamishli itself, it's Government-controlled. When I landed, I actually flew in the flight deck of an aircraft. So I saw all the deserts beneath me, Deir ez-Zor, right across towards Raqqa, which is a no-fly zone for the Syrians. So I saw all the deserts beneath me with the oilfields, which are now being run by ISIS. When I landed at Qamishli, there were a huge number of anti-aircraft weapons and heavy artillery right on the - next to the runway, with boxes and boxes - more boxes of ammunition than I've ever seen since the Iran-Iraq of 1980-'88. I was then taken special forces troops to their front line positions again. They've actually taken back in the last two months about 20 kilometres of land, most of it wheat fields, from ISIS. And what's particularly interesting is that the Syrian Army there have actually adopted the same methods, military methods as ISIS. You've seen these photographs of these ISIS fighters in black driving in open-top Toyotas with heavy machine guns - that's exactly what the Syrian troops are doing, although they of course are in military uniform, and they too are driving around. And when they see ISIS coming to attack them, they go for them in exactly the same tactic. In that part of Syria, certainly, the Syrian Army has clearly moved forward. Now in another area of desert, they've retaken a gas field. I was not able to go there. I simply ran out of my time. I had to come back to Beirut. But there, the Syrian 18th Armoured Division have recaptured most of the gas field and surrounded ISIS. So there are some Syrian military gains. In the far-north-west of the country, Latakia, where that suicide attack was staged, they don't appear to have moved forward at all. I think there's too many ISIS people coming up to the front.

EMMA ALBERICI: So how much of Syria do Assad forces now control and how much of the country has fallen to ISIS?

ROBERT FISK: I suppose in terms of square miles, Assad's forces probably control - and we're saying Syrian forces rather Assad forces, because, you know, it's interesting: the Army doesn't talk about Bashar al-Assad. It says, "We're the Syrian Army." It doesn't talk about the regime. It can't talk about the regime critically of course. But it's interesting to see that their concentration is on the country, not on the President, as it would've been years ago. The Assad Syrian forces probably hold about 42, 43 per cent, but you know, it's notional. Everything is fluid out there on the desert. One of the problems you have - for example, at one point I drove up to Homs, then to Tartus and Latakia - a long journey, 180 miles, 200 miles by road. And there are sections of that road - it's effectively held by the Syrian Government; there are troops on it. But as one major told me, he said, "The only land the Syrian Army controls is the land that the soldiers' feet are on." In other words, you can go three quarters of a mile down the road, go round a corner and you don't know whose checkpoint is going to be there. And we know at night that rebels cross that road. And there was about 40 kilometres of highway where my driver - my Syrian friend who is my driver in that particular case, he and I were watching the road like hawks to see what was coming up, what checkpoint was coming up round the corner, but we didn't see any rebel checkpoints. And indeed, if we had've done, I don't think I'd be chatting to you - well I might be chatting on a videotape in a very grim place, but I wouldn't be talking to you today on this camera.

EMMA ALBERICI: Let me pick you up on what you just spoke of, and that is the way the Syrian Army refers to Assad. What does that say about the future of the President?

ROBERT FISK: I've had a lot of conversations over the past two years with Syrian soldiers and I've been given access to front line positions, I met generals. And very often they tell me - they ask me what I think. They want - they're not going to tell me what they think, although they'll give you hints. And I tell them the truth. I say, "Look, the Syrian Army is not the corrupt army it was when it was in Lebanon. It's clearly fighting and knows how to fight." I say to them, "The real problem is that this is not a democracy in the Western sense. And on top of that, the problem is the brutality of the Mukhabarat, the security agencies." And sometimes they will sort of just nod. They understand very well what I'm saying. There are no security service agents in the rooms when I talk to these soldiers. They're not there. There are military intelligence officers of course. And I get the impression that, you see, the Army has got to fight because if it doesn't, Syria as a regime will be wiped out and so will the Army. Look what happened to the Syrian soldiers who were captured in Raqqa. 200 of them were taken away and beheaded. So, Syrian soldiers fight for their lives of course as well as for their country. One or two say, "We fight for our President, Bashir al-Assad," but it's a propaganda line that I think has sort of washed away now. The Syrian Army wants - it is a very important institution in Syria and I suspect it's more important than Assad. And I think the reason for that is that Assad knows that without the Army, he's finished and the Army know that. And that's why in Assad's last big speech in a theatre in Damascus - I wasn't there; I was here in Beirut at the time - when he appeared and gave his speech, he constantly talked about the martyr lieutenants, the martyr generals, the martyr soldiers of Syria. And the screen behind him was filled with pictures of hundreds and hundreds of dead soldiers. So, there's a kind of change there. You've got to realise that it's - you've got to - there's a kind of change there and you've got to realise that the Army is probably the most important institution rather than the Ba'ath Party.

EMMA ALBERICI: While you were there, did you get any sense of how effective the US-led coalition air strikes have been in degrading ISIS?

ROBERT FISK: I asked constantly about this. Some of the soldiers on the front line told me that at night they hear explosions far away to the east, which means probably on the Iraqi border. There's certainly - the pilot of the aircraft, Captain Zaha (phonetic spelling), who took me up in an ATR Franco-Italian jet - passenger jet, to Qamishli, he said that on 26th October, he saw a C-130 American Hercules flying over Hasakah at 21,000 feet. This of course is either for surveillance or maybe refuelling. Captain Mohammed, who was on the other side - he was the first office of co-pilot - told me that several days before 24th October, he saw several NATO jets flying at high speed, apparently coming down from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and then turning right, i.e. west, to go into the direction of Kobane, or Ain al-Arab, the besieged Kurdish town, which - of which you've seen the pictures of explosions from air attacks on television. When I - the one point that was made to me by a Syrian intelligence officer on the front lines south of Qamishli was that the Americans clearly are striking at ISIS, but they're not striking in a way that helps the Syrian Army. The Syrians have actually made a formal offer to the United States to give them intelligence information on ISIS and the Americans have not responded to that. And it's clear in the Syrian Army's eyes that the Americans are not trying to help them, even though in effect, as we know, they're hitting the Syrian regime's enemies, just as last year they were threatening to hit the regime.

EMMA ALBERICI: Indeed. And since this civil war broke out some four years ago, the Americans have variously expressed interest in supporting the Free Syrian Army. Who are they and how powerful are they? And what sort of help, if any, have the Americans provided them?

ROBERT FISK: The Free Syrian Army I think drinks a lot of coffee in Istanbul. I have never come across - except in the first months of the fighting, I've never come across even prisoners from the Free Syrian Army. I have to say, by the way, that the Syrian Army is taking no prisoners now. It's quite clear that if you're caught, you're executed - if you're not shot dead in a battle. And that's exactly what ISIS do to the Syrian Army. You know, the FSA, in the eyes of the Syrians, doesn't really exist. They've got al-Qaeda, Nusrah, various other Islamist groups, and now of course ISIS - or Daash, as the acronym goes in Arabic. But I don't think they care very much about the Free Syrian Army. One officer told me that some have been accepted back into the Syrian Army, so they could go home. Others had been allowed to go home and they were not permitted to serve in the Syrian Army anymore. I think that the Free Syrian Army is a complete myth and I don't believe it really exists and nor do the Syrians, because they see, "If we do come across them, we don't mind 'cause they always run away. It's the ISIS people who don't. They fight to the death."

EMMA ALBERICI: We hear that part of Islamic State's strength has come from capturing oil wells. Some reports say it's earning as much as $2 million a day in oil sales. Who are ISIS selling oil to?

ROBERT FISK: Well, they're certainly smuggling it across borders and I think much of it is going to Turkey as well as being used of course in the areas they control all the way up to Baghdad. I flew over in the plane - and I was on a plane flying at 17,000 feet altitude - and I could see the butane gas burn-offs of oilfields which are controlled by ISIS. So they clearly are using them and producing oil and I think it's going over the Turkish border or it's going to their own people inside Iraq, where of course they don't have so many oil wells under their control. They're not huge wells, but the Shadida oil well we flew over was a pretty large area. This was close to Deir ez-Zor. But you've got to realise that it's not about money. They don't need money. I don't think al-Qaeda really needed money. Bin Laden didn't need a lot of money. You can operate this kind of strange organisation without a huge amount of cash. The great tragedy that's happening is the destruction of the Christian communities, as we know, in northern Iraq. And now - I learned on this last trip, I spoke to the Armenian church representative in Qamishli, Father Antranig Ayvazian, and he told me, which I think has not been known before, that the entire 173-year-old church of the Armenians in Deir ez-Zor was three weeks ago blown up. In fact he gave me a photograph by Nusrah, not by ISIS - another Islamist group. That's the picture he gave me which was secretly taken two weeks ago. In this church were the archives of the Armenian genocide in which of course 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered and died on death marches by - where they were sent by the Turks in 1915, 99 years ago. And in the crypt of this church were many bones and skeletons and skulls of the Armenian genocide dead. And Nusrah, according to Father Ayvazian, threw the bones into the street and burned the archives. At one point they telephoned him and said, "We have your precious archives. If you'll acknowledge that we are the legitimate government in Deir ez-Zor, we will give them back to you." And he said, "I refuse," and they burned all the archives. So, those precious archives of an entire people's genocide 99 years ago have gone forever and their bones have been thrown into the streets.

EMMA ALBERICI: And this was al-Nusrah?

ROBERT FISK: This was al-Nusrah that did this, because later on, he actually received messages from al-Nusrah with Koranic quotations at the top offering him to give back other archives to him if we would co-operate with them. And he actually showed me the messages he'd got. There was even a Koranic quotation that was slightly wrong which shows that these various Islamist groups are not quite as Islamist as you think. But there's no doubt that, as I say, the greatest tragedy is that the Christians are leaving the land of their people - Christianity being - some Americans might not agree, but it is an Eastern, not a Western religion. And in the town of Qamishli, for example, 339 Christian families have left and you can drive down the Christian area of the city and just see shuttered shops and bolted-up houses. They've mostly gone to Europe, the Armenians from Qamishli.

EMMA ALBERICI: Finally, what happens if and when Islamic State is defeated? Can Bashar al-Assad regain control of the entire country, or is it more likely that Syria will be perhaps partitioned with some kind of separate Sunni state in the north?

ROBERT FISK: I think that's - I have to sort of deconstruct your question 'cause that's not what I see on the ground. There are Kurdish areas in the north, one of which is totally controlled by Kurdish - Syrian Kurds and they want a federal state. And it was made perfectly clear to me by the Syrian military that they're not going to get their federal state. When the war is won, that will be part of Syria as it was before, where of course Kurds were discriminated against by the Assad regime. You know, I don't think you're going to have the country split up into bits. That may be what some people in the West want, but I don't think that's going to happen. What you are going to have is the recapture of major towns and they will go back to the regime. ISIS won't be defeated. I suspect ISIS will become another of our favourite "moderates" after a while. Almost every group we decide we're going to degrade and defuse or defeat, they all turn out as moderates and we end up supporting them. They are, remember, Assad's brutal enemies. But I think you've got to realise that much of the area that ISIS holds is desert and there's no oil underneath most of that desert. And you can't do much with sand. I suspect what will happen is that Syria will regain its major cities, including Raqqa, which is the ISIS capital inside Syria. Even the pilots of my aircraft wouldn't fly over it; they were worried about missiles, of course. But what will happen is that there will continue to be a guerrilla war in desert areas and that could go on for years. But Syria, I do not think is going to fall apart, not at all.

EMMA ALBERICI: Robert Fisk, we're unfortunately out of time. It's always a great pleasure to get your insights. We'll have to speak to you again soon. Thank you.

ROBERT FISK: You're welcome.


by Ghassan Kadi

(To Speak or Not To Speak)

A lot has recently been said about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL aka ISIS, and IS), but most of the words used were far from the whole truth. Lies and the cover-ups have confounded the problem. Muslim clerics are afraid of facing the truth, Arab anti-ISIL activists are diverting the truth, and the international coalition that is poised to stand up against ISIL, seems to have no idea who, or rather, WHAT the real culprit is.

Yet, criticism and opposition to ISIL are widespread in their origin; including opposition from Muslims who are rightfully saying that ISIL’s actions are giving Islam a very foul and tainted image.

When truth is covered up, problems arise, but in some instances, there are consequences to uncovering it. The world is bursting at the seams with bigots from many opposite dipoles, and any attempt to unmask any one of them would give the opposing party fuel and excuses for retaliatory actions that invariably, and without fail, harm innocent bystanders.

What is then the moral obligation of someone who can reveal some truth about any particular clan of bigots? Would it be better to expose them with the full knowledge that such information can be misused to target others, or should one simply shut up in fear of such retaliations?

Islam is a religion of compassion and love. The Holy Quran is the crown jewel of the Books, but the meanings of its words and their teachings have been distorted like no other book.

The Quran promotes the concept of “Fateh”. There is no real synonym to this word-concept in the English language even though the word literally means “opening”; but this word does not fully explain the philosophical context. The English word that comes closest is “disclosure”; spiritual insightful disclosure that leads to enlightenment. But that original word-concept - which is not at all discussed within a Muslim context in the non-Muslim World - has almost totally lost its meaning in Islam itself. Many such word-concepts in Islam have lost their original meanings. The misuse and distortion of such word-concepts is at its worst/best with the word “Jihad”; a word that literally means “struggle”, is meant to refer to the struggle of the soul in its search for enlightenment. Again, there is no real synonym for it in English, and we may need to borrow the word Yoga from Sanskrit in order to give the meaning of Jihad proper justice.

It is most pertinent to note that the Holy Quran does not directly say that Islam will rule the world. It does however make inferences to that effect, but those hints are not different from saying that the righteous shall inherit the earth. In reality however, the Quran clearly says that only a few (Thullah) of people will be righteous in the latter days; a statement that clearly contradicts any fundamentalist Muslim “prediction” and aspiration that the whole world will convert to Islam.

Like in all other great religions, the teachings say something and practise becomes something else. In total contradiction with the word and teachings of the Quran, “Jihad” was turned into armed struggle that aims for “Fateh”, ie propagation, conquest and expanding the call to join Islam with the sole objective of turning the whole world to Islam.

Many Quranic words have one literal Arabic meaning, and another totally different and distorted one given to them by Muslim clerics. Invariably, without fail, the distorted meaning is one that suits the interpretations of the clerics as they have learnt from their predecessors; and so the distortion continues. This is not the work of ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), or the CIA.

Even the moderate, secular, non-fundamentalist, patriotic Yasser Arafat chose the word “Fateh” to name his Palestine liberation organization. Fateh’s anthem started with the first verse of Surat Al-Fateh of the Quran as an assertion to what the name referred to. And this man, Arafat, had Palestinians from all walks of life fighting alongside him for liberating the homeland. His cause was national, not religious, and it was very natural for Christian Palestinians to join the liberation organization. It seems that little did Arafat want to concede that his war with the Zionists was not a Holy War. After all, the Zionist misunderstanding of Judaism is not any worse than the Muslim misunderstanding of Islam and it was not Arafat’s job to set them straight in this regard.

Most Muslims, like any other group of people, are peace-loving people and they would never partake into any military conquest by choice especially those who are forty years of age and older, but with all the radicalising that is going on, they may not be able to hold back their youths. As a matter of fact, some Muslim youths these days, including those living in Western countries, are managing to radicalise their parents and forcing their sisters and mothers to wear the Hijab, among other things.

ISIL is putting the distortions in the reading of the Holy Quran into practise, without any false pretences, diplomacy or political correctness. They are not hiding that they believe in forceful coercion as a means to spread Islam all over the world. They are not shying away from killing anyone who does not follow their dogma. This is their interpretation of the Book.

The problem does not stem from ISIL any more than it does from Al-Qaeda, the Talibans, Wahhabism, the MB or the Salafists. It is not in the so-called US-created groups and America and Israel cannot be held accountable for such a belief system. The problem is not in a handful of radicals tainting the image of Islam either, the problem is in the fact that the concepts of Fateh and Jihad have not been addressed and properly explained to Muslims by Muslim clergy. Historically, the militarised version was perhaps employed strategically, but right now, no one is prepared to revisit those definitions.

What is more specifically dangerous about ISIL is that it is bringing home stories of “victory”. For a very long time Muslims have heard stories of defeat and suppression. Wahhabism has been based on reclaiming the former glory. Their misinterpretation of the Book compels them to believe that there is indeed such a moment of global military conquest, and that when Muslims hear the “call”, they will have to stand up and fight. ISIL is giving emotionally-vulnerable Muslims the signs that it is the one to lead such conquest. This is why in the eyes of ISIL, all Muslim youths, the whole billion of them are potential recruits.

When and if such a massive recruitment is initiated on a large scale, Muslim youths will be forced to join if not willingly they will be drawn by intimidation and fear of them and their families and property being targeted by ISIS and its supporters. If they do not join, they will be branded as traitors and their blood and property will be forfeit. Most at risk will be Muslims who will actively oppose ISIS and stand up against it. This is already happening in areas under ISIS control.

For an in-home Muslim resolution, Muslims will need to read the Holy Quran properly and listen carefully to its subtle meanings; even if this means having to challenge some existing interpretations that have been taken for granted.

Certainly, without willing and able financiers, organisations like ISIL cannot pose wide-spread danger. But such interested “investors” are not hard to find. After all, there is a whole potential army there that is ready to fight and die, and its soldiers can easily be manipulated should the interested financier know how to play his cards correctly. These soldiers do run with money, but money is only the catalyst, the recruitment magnet and drive is within archaic and distorted Islam.

Try to convince Arab activists who are standing up against ISIL in Syria that the underlying problem is within some false Quranic interpretations, and they will scorn you and tell you that it is all America’s doing. In doing this, not only they would be refusing to see reality, but they are also diverting attention from the main culprit and allowing it to continue to fester under cover.

In the West, try to criticize the reluctance of Muslim clerics in resolving the problem, and an army of well-intentioned sympathizers who genuinely care about peace and freedom of expression will be scrambling to defend freedom of worship, but they have no idea what jihadi recruiters are doing with this freedom and how much poison they are injecting into the minds of Muslim youths.

This time in history is like the time of the crusaders of Christianity; replacing Christianity with Islam. But, no one will admit it and no one in the West wants to be accused of being Islamophobic and no Mulsim cleric wants to be branded a heretic for challenging ancient interpretations. And for as long as the problem is not identified by those who are making claims that they are intending to deal with it, they will all fail.

Back to where this article started, understanding the nature of the beast only solves half the problem. The next pertinent question to ask would be who is morally qualified to oppose ISIL and by which means? Who can guarantee that exposing the driving force of ISIL is not going to give some anti-Muslim bigots enough reason to wage massacres against Muslims, all Muslims, including those who would never take up arms, even non-practising Muslims, wherever they can be found, cornered or outnumbered? What assurance can one have that such atrocities will not reach those who “look like Muslims” or identified as Muslims? Such repercussions have happened in the recent past.

But will more people get killed if ISIL is allowed to operate under wider Muslim tacit silence if this potentially highly dangerous issue is not brought out to the open? No one knows. I have painstakingly toiled and agonised over this and wondered for a long time as to what I should do, and all I can say is that I have had only good intentions in writing and publishing this, and God is my witness.



Oct 26, 2014, Eva Bartlett, Zero Anthropology

Who outside of Syria knows the names Yara Abbas, Maya Naser, Mohamed al-Saeed…? The corporate media has inundated us with news of the two American journalists allegedly beheaded, the first of whose execution video has been deemed faked. But what of the non-Western journalists and civilians beheaded and murdered by ISIS, al-Nusra, and associated terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, as well as the ruthless Zionists in Palestine?

Why didn’t the August 2012 execution (which some reported as a beheading) of TV presenter Mohamed al-Saeed, claimed by the Nusra gang, create the same outrage? Or the December 2013kidnapping and point blank execution in Idlib by ISIS of Iraqi journalist Yasser al-Jumaili?

Why wasn’t the murder of Yara Abbas—a journalist with al-Ikhbariaya, whose crew’s car was attacked by an insurgent sniper—broadcast on Western television stations? Or that of Lebanese cameraman for al-Mayadeen, Omar Abdel Qader, shot dead by an insurgent sniper on March 8, 2014 in eastern Syria.

Maya Naser, Ali Abbas, Hamza Hajj Hassan (Lebanese), Mohamad Muntish (Lebanese), Halim Alou (Lebanese)… all were media workers killed by the Western-backed insurgents in Syria. Their deaths were reported by local media, some even got a passing notice in corporate media, but none resulted in a media frenzy of horror and condemnations as came with the alleged killings of Westerners. Another at least 20 Arab journalists have been killed by NATO’s death squads in Syria in the past few years.

The killing of 16 Palestinian journalists in Gaza, at least 7 targeted while working, during the July/August 2014 Zionist Genocide of Gaza, also fell on deaf ears. Nor were the previous years of murdering Palestinian journalists noted, let alone whipped into a media frenzy. [see also:Silencing the Press, Sixteenth Report, Documentation of Israeli Attacks against Media Personnel inthe opt ]

In Syria, there are thousands of civilians and Syrian soldiers who have been beheaded—and in far more brutal and realistic manner than the SITE videos insinuate—by the so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra, Da’esh (ISIS), and hoards of other Western-backed mercenaries. At the hands of the various NATO-gangs, tens of thousands more civilians have been assassinated and subjected to various sadistic practices—torture, mutilation, crucifixion, burning in ovens, throwing into wells, and a sick lot more. Thousands more, including children and women, remain missing after being kidnapped during mercenary raids and massacres.

Nidal Jannoud, a farmer from Banias (southwestern Syria), was one of the earlier victims of “moderate rebel” assassination. Jannoud was tortured and slaughtered by “peaceful demonstrators” in April, 2011. Omar Ayrout and Yahya Al Rayes confessed later that they aided a mob in killing Janoud. “I heard gunfire and saw a group of people detaining Jannoud….I took a knife from Taha al-Daye and stabbed Jannoud in his right shoulder…Then the group attacked him with knives and mutilated his body afterwards,” Yahya al-Rayyis confessed.

In the case of the organ-eating al-Farouq Brigade militant “Abu Sakkar,” who bit into the lung of a Syrian soldier, there was corporate media notice and general horror. Yet, very quickly corporate media like the BBC, The Guardian, TIME, among others, rushed to justify his cannibalism (see: Face-to-face with Abu Sakkar, Syriasheart-eating cannibal and BBC whitewashes Syriaheart-eating cannibalto justify arming al-Qaeda). How the tides would have turned if the lung in question belonged to a Western soldier, or worse, an “Israeli”soldier… would the BBC have then humanized the perpetrator of this barbaric act? Would the world have so quickly moved on, forgotten? Of course not.

Apart from the thousands more individual slaughters, there are also numerous massacres, mostly overlooked or simply lied about in the media.

In Raqqa, overtaken by al-Nusra and the so-called FSA in March 2013, then two months later by ISIS, civilians have faced floggings (including whipping of women), executions and crucifixions…with bodies left on public display for days, usually for the “crime” of supporting President Assad and the Syrian army, and often for the “crimes” of not living up to the warped version of Islam by their executioners. [see also: Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently]

With the May 2012 slaughter of 108 Houla civilians (including 49 children and 34 women)—among them patients in a hospital and entire families in their homes—most corporate media and political fingers pointed at the Syrian Arab Army as the culprits, without a shred of evidence. The BBC brandished Italian journalist Marco Di Lauros image of dead Iraqi civilians in shrouds, claiming it to portray Houla victims. Upon demand of the aghast journalist, the claim was later retracted and corrected, anaccident…but who was listening by that point? Once the trickery of the BBC and other corporate media was revealed, the massacre was no longer newsworthy. [see: “Syria: Media Lies, Hidden Agendas and Strange Alliances” and “Syria : One Year After the HoulaMassacre. New Report on Official vs. Real Truth” and “Syriasfalse flagterrorism, Houla and theUnited Nations”]

While later investigations into Houla revealed the culpability of the insurgents, the MSM had already moved on, leaving the average person confused, or stuck with the initial lies. Investigative articles aside, there was the confession of an insurgent member who was present that Friday in Houla:

“…we’d been asked by our supporters from outside to do something to inflame the situation…The planning came from outside…On Friday after prayers, a large number of armed men came…they didn’t enter the mosque or pray. …The goal was to attack an army checkpoint and to liquidate these families supportive of the government. There were men, like Haytham al-Hassan, who had weapons including a cleaver. They butchered families….They sent people to announce that ‘Shabbiha’ had entered the village and slaughtered everyone. I was there. There were no Shabbiha.”

The December 2012 slaughter in Aqrab of at least 150 Alawites was likewise misreported, in spite of survivor testimonies. The UK Channel 4’s Alex Thomson met Aqrab survivors whose separately-given accounts corroborated one another:

“…our eyewitnesses say Sunni rebels took hundreds of Alawite civilians as prisoner,” noted Thomson, also writing, “They all insist…rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) corralled around 500 Alawite civilians in a large red-coloured two-storey house…” kept there for 11 days.
“They had long beards, and sometimes you couldn’t quite understand what they said. They were not dressed in the normal way,” said one survivor, Madlyan Hosin. A second interviewee, Hayat Youseh, said, “…they forced us out of our homes and set fire to them.”

A Syrian from a village three kilometers from Aqrab told me, “When Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya started saying that the Syrian Arab Army had attacked Aqrab, I went there to find out. I interviewed a lady from Aqrab who said that no army had come near there at the time of the massacre.”

Kassab, a predominantly Armenian Christian village near the Turkish border, came under heavy assault earlier this year by insurgents and Turkish soldiers. Kim Kardashian tweeted about Kassab…then, otherwise, the world largely forgot. In Latakia, some of Kassab’s internally-displaced spoke of the March 21, 2014 assault originating from Turkey. One young womanreported that the insurgents “raped our older women because they couldn’t find any girls.”

According to a Latakia resident, with friends and a home in Kassab, 88 Christians were murdered, 13 of whom were beheaded, others who were shot dead on the spot. Another 22 elderly were kidnapped and taken to Turkey where they were held for about three months before being released into Lebanon.

The fact that Christians were murdered by foreign mercenaries, let alone beheaded, should have created shock waves in the media. But, not surprisingly, it has had the exact opposite effect, because spotlighting those crimes doesn’t serve the West’s stated agenda to overthrow President Assad, to dismember Syria as the NATO-backed takfiris are dismembering Syrians.

It the case of the Kassab massacre, it became transparent that the lack of any governmental/political condemnation of the massacre and kidnappings was not due to lack of knowledge: Turkey helped commit the attack and housed the kidnapped [see: NATO and TurkeysGenocidal War on Syria and Searching for casus belli: Turkeys assault on Kassab?]; the West’s darling, Ahmed Jarba, visited soon after, sitting with “what appeared to be local rebel commanders in a house that was said to be in Latakia province,” the Daily Star reported, noting “Jarba also said ‘the Coalition has provided assistance to (fighters on) the front’, according to his office.”

Four months after it was liberated of the terrorists, most of the displaced from Kassab still have not returned to their desecrated and looted homes. According to the Latakia resident who keeps informed on Kassab, “The roads are fairly safe, but they have been targeted by short range missiles and mortars from Turkey. The ‘threat’ of attack and lack of money or resources to rebuild their homes and shops has kept most away. A handful will have enough money to repair, and those who are dirt poor may freeze this winter.”

The August 2013 insurgent massacre and kidnappings in the villages of Balouta, Hambushiya, and a number of other agricultural hamlets in the Latakia countryside did briefly receive some corporate media coverage…and also absolutely zero international outrage. That outrage was reserved for the falsified sarin gas attacks not long after, using the kidnapped children to stage their videos. [For a very detailed account of the Latakia massacre and its relation to FSA-falsified Sarin gas videos, see: “Combating the Propaganda Machine in Syria”]

In the nearly two weeks of attacks on these rural hamlets, 220 civilians were massacred (according to doctors in a Latakia hospital), including infants, children, women, and elderly—even a nonagenarian. At least one hundred were kidnapped (mostly children, some women), only 44 of which were nine months later released. These kidnap survivors spoke of torture at the hands of their “moderate rebel” captors. Al Akhbar reported that “according to another freed child, the fighters gouged out the eyes of one of the abducted children.”

The assault took place by roughly 20 coordinated factions, including ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the so-called FSA (with the knowledge and approval of the SNC’s George Sabra).

But, there was no outcry by the humanitarian, would-be interventionalists and their public.

Two months after the fact, the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele reported on the attacks, including the insurgents’ move early on August 4 from their base in nearby Salma village to attack the Latakia countryside. Surprisingly, the article actually quoted Syrian Arab Army and National Defence Forces (NDF) officers’ testimonies:

Special forces officer Hassan told Steele, “I heard a rebel telling another rebel: ‘Kill this one, but not that one’. One rebel asked: ‘What do I do about the girls?’ The answer came: ‘I’m sending a truck to pick them up’. Several were taken and raped, and have not been seen again.”

NDF officer Shadi told Steele, “When we got into the village of Balouta I saw a baby’s head hanging from a tree. There was a woman’s body which had been sliced in half from head to toe and each half was hanging from separate apple trees.’”

SAA soldier Ali told Steele, “We found two mass graves with 140 bodies. They were not shot. They had their throats slit. About 105 people of different ages were kidnapped…Salafists from abroad were behind the attack.”

In a separate video interview, a resident of one of the villages (unnamed for his safety) testifies:

“There were Chechen, Libyan, Saudi, and Afghan terrorists among them….One group was killing people by swords. And the other group was running after those who had been able to escape and killing them by shooting them….They broke into house while people were sleeping and beheaded them. They removed the foetus of a pregnant woman. I lost 42 from my family. Some of them were killed and others arrested (kidnapped).”

In the face of mounds of evidence, eyewitness testimony, mass graves, doctor and coroner reports of death by throat slitting, the massacre in Latakia resulted again in none of the fervor that we’ve seen in recent months…in spite of 220 civilians being brutally massacred, another 100—mostly children—abducted by the West’s freedom-loving terrorists.

Twenty km north of Damascus, Adra industrial town suffered horrific atrocities that went largely unreported in the corporate media. The town came under Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa Al-Islam insurgents attack on December 11, 2013, Russia Today reported, massacring at least 80 residents.

In another report, Russia Today interviewed eyewitnesses, one of whom said:

“There was slaughter everywhere…The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.”

In addition to the massacre of entire families”, bakery workers were executed and “toasted…in ovens used to bake bread ,” an Adra resident told RT.

Professor Tim Andersons report noted “Beheaded bodies from Adra were proudly displayed by the terrorists… Severed heads were also said to have been hung from trees.”

In Latakia city in April, 2014, I met refugees from Harem, a northwestern city 2 km from the Turkish border, who had fled after Harem came under attack by McCains moderates, with the help of Turkey.

One man told me:

“The terrorists attacked us, terrorists from Turkey, from Chechnya, and from Arab and other foreign countries. They had tanks and guns, like an army, just like an army. For 73 days we were surrounded in the citadel of Harem. They hit us with all kinds of weapons. We had women and children with us. They showed no mercy. When they caught any of us, they slaughtered him, and then send his head back to us. They killed over 100 people, and kidnapped around 150… children, civilians, soldiers. Until now, we don’t know what’s happened to them.”

The first Turkish-backed attacks on Harem were in September, 2012, and by October 31, alAkhbar reported that 4,000 civilians were under siege in the town fortress, warning of a potential massacre by insurgents who are “known to have been supplied with Turkish-made short-range missiles and launchers mounted on four-wheel drive vehicles, as well as an abundance of mortars.” The report also noted Turkey’s role in treating the FSA terrorists: “the FSA wounded are transported across the border to Turkey in ambulances,” and in killing Harem residents: “Dozens of people were killed in Harem’s al-Tarmeh neighborhood after it was subject to a missile bombardment from a Turkish police station.”

Once again, the FSA and ISIS attack was misreported in the corporate media, and the kidnappings of Harem residents not reported period. The situation of occupied Harem has been non existent in the media since. Breaking that silence, on October 12, Twitter user “Nutsflipped@Nutsflipped_z_1 ” tweeted a series of updates on Harem:

“I just talked to someone from #Harem near the Turkish borders. 60 SAA held off 5000 Islamist all coming from #Turkey for 1 year. #Syria

They literally killed 1000s of attackers, until the Turks gave Islamist Grad MLRS and flooded the town with fighters from #Turkey. #Syria

#Kobani, #Kessab and #Harem, cities in #Syria near the Turkish border attacked in the same manner by Islamist coming from #Turkey.”

In a personal message, he explained further. His information, he said, is from a contact from Harem now displaced who has “lost many male relatives. Executed. He was almost executed himself fleeing.”

“ISIS is genociding the natives of Harem, throwing their bodies in caves, selling their women and children. This has been going on since 2012, it was first FSA but they were losing. Then Turkey unleashed ISIS. Now ISIS has stepped up the massacre. Turkey is behind this. The West turns a blind eye. Turkey did the same thing all across the border.”

Some of the most recent massacres and atrocities at the hand of the Western/NATO/Gulf-backed/financed/trained terrorists that have gotten scant notice or tears include:
The August 28 and September 6 beheadings of Ali al-Sayyed and Abbas Medlej respectively, and the September 20 execution of Mohammad Hamiyeh, all Lebanese soldiers (captured with another 16 other soldiers) by ISIS and al-Nusra.

The October 1 terrorist double-bombings just outside the Ekrima al-Jadida school, killing 33 (mostly children), and injuring 102 (many seriously). Syrias Foreign and ExpatriatesMinistry denounced the “international community” on the failure “to issue a clear condemnation of the atrocities committed by terrorist organizations in Syria…” [photos]

The relentless stream of mortar and missile attacks on civilian areas which SANA reports have killed 296 civilians and injured 1487 in August and September alone. [see my: TheTerrorism We Support in Syria: A First-hand Account of the Use of Mortars against Civilians]

The October 13 ISIS execution of Iraqi journalist Mohanad al-Aqidi [disputed by family]

Most recently, the highly suspect car crash death of American-Lebanese journalist, Serena Shim, whose timely “accident” occurred just days after she revealed on air with Press TVthat she’d been accused by Turkish intelligence of spying, that she was afraid. Shim had extensively reported on Turkeys role in supporting and funneling terrorists into Syria. [see:The Death of a Reporter]

Shim’s suspect death went unnoticed by corporate media for at least a day; were she a Western journalist who died—accident or assassination—all the major media would have been broadcasting her death endlessly. [see: Journalists under attack, hypocritical Western media remains silent]

And this is the point. The murders of non-Westerners—whether in Syria, Palestine or elsewhere—doesn’t matter to the media and public, unless it serves an Imperialist or Zionist agenda.

In fact, supremacism and racism aside, the only reason the alleged-beheadings of the two Western journalists, among others, is really being trumpeted and shoved down our fear-mongered throats is that these questionable stories serve perfectly the Axis-of-Destruction’s agenda: a justification to bomb Iraq and Syria, to re-invade, to attempt to implement the Yinon Plan.

The murders of Syrians and other Arab journalists and civilians by NATO thugs are not forgotten, even if the corporate media would have it otherwise. And whereas the corporate media shirks their obligation to report these murders, let alone to report honestly on the real agenda to oust President Assad and destroy Syria as per Iraq, Libya,… independent journalists and pro-Resistance activists must fill the gap.

Yara Abbas: Sharmine Narwani’s moving article on the young Syrian journalist.

see also:

Journalists under attack, hypocritical Western media remains silent, Eric Draitser

The History of ISIS Beheadings: Part of the “Training Manual” of US Sponsored Syria “Pro-Democracy” Terrorists, Julie Lévesque

Syria: The hidden massacre, Sharmine Narwani

‘ISIS a pretext for US-sponsored regime change in Iraq’, Eric Draitser