International Forecaster Weekly

Syrian Surprise Endgame Draws Nigh

      What you may not have known is that the script has flipped early in Syria, where the same players have been trying to effect a Libya 2.0... So what has caused this turning of the tide in the reporting on Syria? Why are so many truths coming to the surface all of a sudden? Perhaps a large amount of this is attributable to the logistics of an ongoing propaganda campaign.

James Corbett | August 11, 2012

            It was almost one year ago that Libya finally succumbed to the NATO bombing campaign (sorry, “kinetic military action”) and the foreign-funded and supplied “rebel” insurgency seeking to topple the Gaddafi government. Tripoli fell in August of last year, Gaddafi was killed in October. Almost immediately, the media that had been cheerleaders for the destabilization of Libya began blithely reporting on all of the things that they had “somehow” neglected to inform their readers about during the fighting.

            Just days after Gaddafi's murder Human Rights Watch exposed the carefully crafted narrative of the “peace-loving democracy-promoting freedom fighters” from Benghazi as a farce. They reported on the execution of 53 Gaddafi supporters at the Mahari Hotel in Sirte. According to the report, the victims were massacred execution style, their hands tied behind their backs with plastic ties, spent AK-47 and FN-1 cartridges littered near their corpses. This was just one of many such massacres that had been occurring during the months-long fighting, mostly atrocities committed by the rebels against Libya's black population. The difference was that none of those massacres gained the attention of the war cheerleading press. But in the wake of Gaddafi's summary execution the Human Rights Watch story gained some traction...for about a week. There were calls for the so-called National Transitional Council to investigate, but within days of Gaddafi's death Libya was yesterday's news and the massacre was forgotten.

            In January of this year, the BBC finally admitted what the alternative media had been reporting for months: that British Special Forces had been actively participating in the insurgency with the anti-Gaddafi terrorist forces. In the report, Mark Urban of Newsnight revealed the existence of “E Squadron,” the British answer to the elite, secretive “SEAL Team 6” that supposedly murdered Osama Bin Laden and dumped him in the ocean before anyone had a chance to look (or something like that). And like SEAL Team 6, the report about E Squadron in Libya seemed more like PR for the British special forces than a glimpse behind the curtain at Britain's covert operations. To some extent, the report revealing the existence of E Squadron was damage control; they were humiliated in March 2011 when six members of the squad were captured and held by the NTC. Intercepted communications of a British diplomat pleading with the NTC for the squad's release were leaked to the press. Although the incident was quickly memory-holed, denial of British involvement on the ground in Libya was by and large impossible by that point.

            Also in January, the very same UN Security Council that plunged Libya into chaos by authorizing the bombing campaign (sorry, “no fly zone”) over the country admitted that their actions had led to a direct increase in arms proliferation, organized crime and terrorism. In other words, they confirmed everything that the anti-interventionists had been saying since the whole campaign began. In a report that was read by almost no one and reported on even less, the UN Inter-Agency Assessment Mission to Sub-Saharan Region blithely admitted that the toppling of Gaddafi (the express aim of NATO from the very beginning of the war) had plunged not only the country but the entire Sahel region into chaos, as Libya's crisis precipitated a refugee problem, rampant criminality, various militia movements, the spread of weapons, and a rejuvenation of terrorism. All in a year's work for the peace-and-freedom-loving humanitarian bombers in Washington, Paris, and London, I suppose.


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            In March, the entire premise of the war itself was called into question when Cyrenaica, the eastern region of Libya, elected its own congress and declared semi-autonomy from the National Transitional Council, which claims to be ruling the country. The farcical national election in July (which was reported on in the mainstream media just long enough for a bit of self-congratulation about how we brought peace, freedom and democracy to yet another backwards country) did nothing to effect the fundamental east-west split which, ironically enough, was the very same division that the NATO terrorists seized on to effect the toppling of Gaddafi. The nation is still split along tribal lines and the east-west tension is as relevant as ever, with the vast majority of Libya's oil and resource wealth residing in its politically alienated eastern region. No matter how much the newly-elected government wants to pretend that it has control over the country, people on the ground have a different story.

            As we reported in these very pages just a few months ago, the behind-the-scenes jockeying of the British and American oil majors for access to Libyan oil began to emerge earlier this year during an international investigation into ENI, Total, and some of the other European players and their “financial irregularities” during their days dealing with Gaddafi. That the intense international attention on Libya may have been motivated less by a concern for human rights than a concern for oil access was verboten in reporting on the crisis while it was underway, but after the fall of Tripoli it was reported on in the pages of the Wall Street Journal as if it had been understood the whole time.

            What every one of these cases highlight is that, during a wartime propaganda campaign, the only thing that the lapdog mainstream media cannot report is the self-evident truth. Thus the Libyan operation was about peace, love and humanitarianism...until the war was over. Then the atrocities, back room politics, covert operations and underhanded dealings could be brought out in the open. This could be done because the self-same people who threw their political support behind the destruction of Libya were the ones who get all of their information from the 6 o'clock news. Convinced by the now completely discredited reports of the UN Human Rights Council in the mainstream echo chamber, they suddenly decided after 42 years of Gaddafi's rule that he was the worst person on the planet and needed to be rubbed out. After Obama declared “mission accomplished” and Clinton enjoyed a good chuckle over Gaddafi's execution, they were ready to move on to the next political fad. It's the same story with Egypt: those who believed themselves to be in solidarity with the protestors in Tahrir Square have no clue what's taken place in Cairo since the media stopped paying attention last year, nor do they care. It's all a mirage, a spectacle that plays out in the headlines like a soap opera. Introduce the villain, paint your side as the heroic underdogs, fund, support, train and aid them until the government has been overthrown, and move on to the next geostrategic imperative. It has nothing to do with a concern for the people of the affected countries. But you already knew that.

            What you may not have known is that the script has flipped early in Syria, where the same players have been trying to effect a Libya 2.0. Certainly the elements were in place: the villian (Assad), the heroic underdogs (the foreign-funded terrorists, jihadists and special forces opposing him), the public support for intervention. This time, however, Russia has stuck to their guns (literally) in opposing outright intervention and the Syrians have proven that a no-fly zone will be problematic. Now, as the conflict stretches out into its 16th month, it has proven considerably harder to maintain the media blockade of truth around the Syrian campaign.

            In January of this year, Assad was roundly condemned for daring to suggest that there was a foreign conspiracy to undermine his government. Coming as it did after the revelation that the US State Department had been actively funding the Syrian opposition since 2006, this should have been seen as self-evident fact. Instead, it was condemned in the western media as an outrageous “conspiracy theory.”

            Eventually, though, chinks began to appear in the armor of the mainstream narrative suggesting that the Syrian opposition was actually Syrian. In February the BBC ran a report admitting that foreign money, arms, and even jihadists were being actively smuggled into Syria via long-established Iraq smuggling routes, mainly funded by the Saudis. The report was hardly mentioned and quickly shelved, but in the ensuing months it became more and more difficult to cover up the role of the very foreign conspiracy Assad fingered in January as attempting to topple his government. The Wall Street Journal ran a report last month in which even the US State Department confirmed that Al Qaeda in Syria (or, formally, “Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant") are securing the routes to smuggle aid and supplies into the country. Reuters has been given the green light to report on the fact that Obama signed off on active and ongoing CIA operations in Syria months ago. A cold-blooded execution of captured Assad supporters in Aleppo received attention and has been widely touted as a war crime by the so-called “Free Syrian Army.”  The Telegraph is reporting on how the Muslim Brotherhood has established its own presence in the country. The plight of the Syrian Christians and the possibility of wholesale ethnic cleansing if the Sunnis overthrow the Shiite government are now being openly discussed. Reports have finally emerged in the mainstream press confirming that the Syrian opposition is receiving training at a US Air Base in Turkey. And the concern over Syria's chemical weapons in the wake of a government toppling is now meriting serious discussion.

            So what has caused this turning of the tide in the reporting on Syria? Why are so many truths coming to the surface all of a sudden? Perhaps a large amount of this is attributable to the logistics of an ongoing propaganda campaign. These types of truths can be suppressed (for the most part) during a short campaign, like we saw in Libya. After nearly a year and a half of ongoing strife in Syria, however, these types of stories will eventually get reported. This gives the added bonus that, now that the media is getting the green light to report on these aspects of the story, they can even turn these narratives around to further bolster their case for intervention.

            Yes, Al Qaeda might be the active element within the ranks of the supposedly spontaneous Syrian uprising, but rather than giving pause for thought about who it is the NATO powers are supporting there, some are arguing that this fact provides the perfect justification for committing to military intervention on the ground. After all, if the US and others don't commit ground troops than the jihadists will have their way once Assad falls. If the NATO forces are there on the ground, though, they can presumably make sure that the supposed peace-loving hand-holding placard-waving Syrian opposition get into power instead of the terrorists.

            Even more startlingly, some incredibly influential people and organizations are actually openly embracing this new twist to the story. In a head-scratching op-ed published on the Council on Foreign Relations website, CFR Fellow Ed Husain argues that Al Qaeda is helping to bring “discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results,” and goes on to conclude that “the FSA (Free Syrian Army) needs al-Qaeda now.” That the CFR is actually praising the terrorist involvement in Syria probably shouldn't be surprising to those who saw Susan Rice and the White House itself praising the recent suicide bombings in Damascus, and it certainly won't be surprising to those who know the longer history of how radical Muslim jihadists have been a tool of western geostrategy from Afghanistan in the 80s to Serbia in the 90s to Libya last year. But it should still make even the most dedicated 6 o'clock news devotees at least take a second look at what's happening in Syria.

            It's impossible to say how things are going to develop in Syria from this point, but even if the terrorist insurgents fail in their current campaign to seize Aleppo and Damascus, it seems more and more likely that Russia and China will eventually have to persuade Assad into some sort of power-sharing agreement or some other compromise in order to defuse the situation. The only other alternative is all-out confrontation and an escalation to open military involvement of NATO or the Arab League, which is an almost unimaginable step closer to a full-scale theatre war and the launch of WWIII.  It is very interesting to see Iran also stepping in and trying its role as mediator in the crisis, even going so far as to accept an invitation from Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Makkah on August 15th and 16th. While any sort of breakthrough regarding Syria is not expected at the meeting, the fact of the dialogue itself is an interesting development on its own.

            For the time being, we'll see if the so-called self-proclaimed “Friends of Syria” will be able to get their media lapdogs back on the same page with the “Assad Evil / Rebels Good” script and to stop reporting the pesky little details of FSA massacres, Al Qaeda involvement, and potential ethnic cleansing. And if you happen to see one of the 6 o'clock news watchers who have suddenly made the fall of Assad their number one political priority, you might want to share some of these news stories with them. You might even get them to actually care about what's happening in Syria.