And just when you thought the situation in Syria was entering into a period of peace, negotiation and reconciliation, and that the propaganda and deception might die down for a while.
Aleppo now continues to be the focus of a renewed and nasty propaganda war, with US and Western officials claiming the Syrian regime has been bombing civilian or moderate opposition targets in breach of the ceasefire. Both points – firstly that these are ‘moderate’ opposition targets, and secondly that the Syrian regime has been breaching the ceaesfire agreement – are refuted, meaning essentially that there’s no real way to know the truth of the matter.
More than 200 civilians, including 35 children, are reported to have been killed as violence erupted again this week, apparently leaving the ceasefire agreement in doubt.
We all know the drill by now, however. When Western officials and corporate media report that an MSF hospital has been destroyed by unknown aircraft, this is basically code for ‘We Did It – But We’re Going to Blame Assad’. We’ve seen all of this strategy before, with the Houla massacre or with the chemical attacks in 2013.
The hospital bombing in recent days, which has sparked outrage, has been blamed on the Syrian government by most Western media, including the comedy act of the US State Department. Both Russian and Syrian officials have refuted this accusation, which in fact is a sequel to the bombing of hospitals that occurred in February, which Washington blamed on Russia, but which Russia accused the US of having carried out.
Just as previous instances, most Western media has fallen into line with the US State Department, running the by-now-familiar stories of ‘Assad, the Butcher’, etc. Even The Guardian, I am disappointed to see, has followed this line, providing a one-sided story and portraying events in Aleppo purely as a regime massacre. It’s worth nothing, however, that their main source appears to be the ‘White Helmets’ (see Vanessa Beeley’s analysis of White Helmets and war propaganda here).
What isn’t highlighted, however, is that for the last several days the government-held parts of Aleppo (and the 2,000,000 inhabitants and refugees there) seem to have been under bombardment with improvised gas-canister mortars and rockets from the al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) side.
The idea that Aleppo is filled with ‘moderate’ opposition is generally refuted. And if you’re experiencing deja vu, it’s probably because you remember that the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and co have played this game before, like when they insisted the Libyan government forces under Gaddafi were carrying out ‘massacres’ in Tripoli and Benghazi when in fact they were simply attempting to retake territories that had been seized by Al-Qaeda and other foreign-backed jihadists/mercenaries.
And just as the much-referenced Benghazi massacre was in fact a Western government/media fiction, we would do well to question the Aleppo narrative now.
According to Russian officials on April 12th, some 10,000 al-Nusra militants were surrounding Aleppo, planning to blockade the city. Russian officials have confirmed that the rebels in Aleppo are primarily al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda – and exempt from the ceasefire) and have asked the United States to prove otherwise. Far from proving otherwise, even US government officials appear to have been acknowledging in recent days that Syrian Army targets in Aleppo are primarily Al-Qaeda – and therefore exempt from the ceasefire agreement.
A week and a half ago, Col. Steve Warren, the US military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that it was “primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities”. This implied fairly clearly that the Syrian government would not be breaching the ceasefire agreement if it tried to attack them.
In February, the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, had confirmed that “foreign terrorists” and not Syrians were trying to prolong the conflict, saying that “foreign jihadists have been given the green light to intensify the bombing of civilians.”
Mons. Georges Abou Khazen, reported “We have been under continuous bombardment in Aleppo with civilian deaths, injuries and destruction… and these attacks are being carried out by the so-called ‘moderate opposition groups’.” The prelate crucially pointed the finger at the front defended by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the West. Crucially, he also suggested that the escalation represented the desire to “derail the peace negotiations” by “regional forces” that he believed were trying to prevent Aleppo being liberated from terrorist control.
In all likelihood, it has been al-Nusra escalating the fighting, quite likely encouraged by their foreign backers, in the full expectation that government forces would have to retaliate – and that this retaliation could then be spun into a ‘vicious regime attack’ narrative.
This latest round of propaganda is presumably attempting to derail the peace initiative, so that the much-talked-about ‘Plan B’ can be initiated – ‘Plan B’ (which is essentially ‘Plan A, Part 2’) is basically to resume arming and backing rebel groups. Which seems to have been going on anyway – even during the ceasefire – with the US recently allegedly delivering 3,000 tons of weapons and ammunition to anti-regime fighters (including al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda), most of who aren’t Syrians anyway.
And so on it goes.