Posts about Syria at the Grayzone Project

On Sky News, challenging the push for US attack on Syria and questioning sources

Max Blumenthal, editor of the Grayzone Project, appeared on Sky News Australia to discuss how corporate media outlets are imploring Donald Trump to launch airstrikes on the Syrian government, after an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta.

“Al Qaeda’s MASH Unit”: How the Syrian American Medical Society Is Selling Regime Change and Driving the US to War

Reports on unproven allegations of a chemical attack in Douma, the Syria city formerly occupied by the Army of Islam insurgent group, invariably rely on a key source: The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Together with the White Helmets, SAMS has been cited by the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and virtually every Western media organization reporting on the incident. In Douma, SAMS staff have claimed that they treated more than 500 people for symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”

The group also played a central role in shaping the narrative of a sarin attack in Al Qaeda-controlled Khan Sheikhoun in April, 2017, providing biomedical samples to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which violated its stated protocol by accepting evidence without a verifiable chain of custody. That incident prompted the launching of 57 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base by the American military. Almost exactly a year later, a strikingly similar event is said to have tripped the “red line” again, and is likely to trigger a more robust assault by the US and its allies.

SAMS claims to be a “non-political, non-profit medical organization,” and is cited as a credible authority by media reporting on the incident in Douma. Scant published material is available on the organization’s origins as an exile arm of the Islamist-oriented Syrian opposition, its involvement in sophisticated influence operations from the Turkish-Syrian border, or its close relationship to neoconservative elements in Washington and Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

SAMS is not merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war torn areas, nor can it be considered a objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organization is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

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Cutting Through Media Propaganda on the Battle in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

The corporate media has grossly distorted the battle for Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, which is occupied by extremist Salafi-jihadists funded by Saudi Arabia.

By Ben Norton

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US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent on Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth

The US government spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, former ambassador Robert Ford disclosed in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

By Ben Norton

The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country.

This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011.

This striking figure provides a further glimpse of the exorbitant sums of money the U.S. spent trying to topple the government in Damascus. It also bluntly contradicts claims by Syrian opposition supporters that the former administration of President Barack Obama “did nothing” in Syria, or that it supposedly did not seek regime change fervently enough.

Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford disclosed this information in written testimony prepared for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on February 6.

“The cost of US military operations in Syria between FY 2014 and the end of FY 2017 was between $3 and $4 billion,” Ford said. “In addition to the cost of those military operations, the FY 2017 budget request included $430 [million] to build local security forces and the FY 2018 request was for $500 million.”

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Genocide in Iraq: When Local Sunni Became ISIS and Slaughtered Their Yazidi Neighbors

When ISIS came to butcher the Yazidis of Iraq, they simply went next door.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

This is the third in a series of articles on the plight of Yazidis in Iraq. Read the first and second installments.

On August 3, 2014, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, orchestrated a pre-planned and systematic campaign of genocide against the Yazidis in northwest Iraq, driving hundreds of thousands of them from their ancestral homeland in Sinjar. Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking people who practice a pre-Islamic religion that ISIS ideologues equate with devil worship. All across Sinjar, wherever Yazidis were captured, the Sunni extremists forcibly converted or killed the men and enslaved the women and children.

The onslaught sent tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing to Sinjar mountain, where they were trapped for days in the punishing Iraqi summer heat. The dusty and rugged mountainous terrain was their refuge, but for some it became a tomb. Hundreds, especially children and the elderly, died of thirst and hunger.

According to Yazidi survivors I spoke to in Baghdad, Sinjar, Erbil and Dohuk, the 2014 assault was carried out not by strangers, but by their Sunni friends and neighbors, by people they trusted and considered family. While much has been documented about the horrors ISIS inflicted on Yazidis, there has been little examination of how their genocide was made possible by the cooperation and collaboration of their Sunni neighbors and its consequences on communal relations going forward. Yazidis are strongly distrustful of Sunnis. They fear and loathe them and never want to live in a place where they are outnumbered by Sunnis again.

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How Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’

A motley crew of toxic interventionists lobbying for regime change in Syria smeared the anti-war left as “alt-left” before Donald Trump did the same.

By Ben Norton / AlterNet

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How a Free Syrian Army Unit Uncovered the Rebels’ Israeli Connection and Switched Sides

Before the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group the Golan Brigade was targeted for destruction by Israel and Al Qaeda, it was allied with them.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

QUNEITRA, SYRIA – Ahmad Kaboul has big shoes to fill. Earlier this summer, his childhood friend and commanding officer of the Golan Brigade, Majed Hamoud, was killed by Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate, which now goes by the name Hayat Tahrir Al Sham.

Founded as one of the dizzying array of fighting units in Syria’s six-year civil war, the genesis of the Golan Brigade was one of the most remarkable. The brigade was established in 2014 by Syrian fighters who had defected from the Free Syrian Army rebel group after they made a shocking discovery: their unit had been coordinating with the Israelis.

After switching sides to support the Syrian government, they witnessed the Israeli military providing direct air cover for attacks launched against them by Al Qaeda. The Israelis even tried to kill Majed on several occasions before Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Nusra, finally did him in.

This July, I met veterans of the Golan Brigade and heard their stories. They painted a picture of the war that stood almost entirely at odds with the dominant narrative of the conflict spun out in Western mainstream media. And this is perhaps why they have received so little attention.

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I Visited Al Qaeda’s Syrian Stronghold and Saw How U.S. Backing of ‘Moderate’ Rebels Is Bolstering Jihadists

Journalist Lindsey Snell reports from inside Idlib, al-Qaeda’s Syrian stronghold.

By Lindsey Snell / AlterNet

I spent a night this past July crammed in a sitting room with a family in Kafr Halab, a small village in the western countryside of Aleppo. The Russian air force was in the midst of a bombing campaign, dropping cluster munitions on homes in the area. I held my breath each time I heard a plane, but the family’s matriarch offered reassurance. “If you can hear that plane sound, it means they are far away.”

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British Gov-Funded Outlet Offered Journalist $17,000 a Month to Produce Propaganda for Syrian Rebels

Emails reveal that the Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a popular source for the mainstream Western press, is a UK-backed propaganda outlet that offered reporters huge sums of money.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a major Syrian opposition media outfit and frequent source of information for Western media, is funded by the British government and is managed by Westerners operating out of Turkey, according to emails provided to AlterNet by a Middle East reporter RFS tried to recruit.

The outlet stirred controversy this November when it released a video at the height of the Mannequin Challenge, a pop culture craze in which people compete for how long they can freeze in place on video. The RFS video depicted a staged rescue by the White Helmets, the Western-funded rescue group that operates exclusively in rebel-held territory. RFS quickly removed the video and issued an apology out of apparent concern that the staged rescue could raise questions about the authenticity of other videos by the White Helmets.

Over the summer, the Middle East reporter, who asked not to be named, was contacted by an American acquaintance and former colleague about working for RFS.

“I’m currently in Istanbul, working on a media project for the HMG [the British government],” wrote the acquaintance in an email time-stamped June 23. “We’re working on media surrounding the Syrian conflict, as one of their three partners.” The email included links to RFS Media’s English website and SMO Media, an Arabic website that covers the Southern Front, a Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group.

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How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing U.S. Military Intervention and Regime Change in Syria

Created by Western governments and popularized by a top PR firm, Syria’s White Helmets are saving civilians while lobbying for airstrikes.

By Max Blumenthal / AlterNet

The following is Part 2 of a two part investigation into the forces cultivating Western public support for regime change in Syria. Read Part 1 on the Syria Campaign here.

It is rare for a short Netflix documentary to garner as much publicity or acclaim as The White Helmets has. Promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope,” the film is named for the civil defense organization whose members have gained international acclaim for saving lives in rebel-held territory in the hellish war zones of eastern Aleppo and Idlib. The film’s tagline, “To save one life is to save all of humanity,” that is remarkably similar to that of Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

The Netflix feature comes on the heels of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for the White Helmets, an “alternative Nobel” award known as the Right Livelihood Award and endorsements from an assortment of celebrities. “The move [by the celebrities] draws attention to both the horror of the conflict and the growing willingness of well-known Americans to adopt it as a cause célèbre,” wrote Liam Stack of the New York Times.

Footage of the White Helmets saving civilians trapped in the rubble of buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally has become ubiquitous in coverage of the crisis. An international symbol of courage under fire, the group has become a leading resource for journalists and human rights groups seeking information inside the war theater, from casualty figures to details on the kind of bombs that are falling.

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