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March 2012 Updates

March 7, 2012

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Images: Many of the 150 plus images in the slideshow are of people interviewed on Syrian TV in March 2012, as well as some photos of Syria pre-crisis.


There have been some significant news items as well as analyses this month which has rarely made it into the mainstream Australian media. Note the recent Wikileaks cables, both significant, particularly in regard to US, UK, and French interference in Syrian affairs.

Highlighted near the beginning of this update page are some links which present reminders of the horrors of war. (29/2/12) There are also several articles on Al-Jazeera and its new approach to ME politics, apparently determined very much by the politics of the emir of Qatar (and the US base there?).

On this page, there is also reference to older articles which help with an understanding of what is presented here, or which have not been published on previous pages of this blog.

There will be updates put onto the page during the month.

It is hoped that the information and analysis presented on these pages can help ensure the media in Australia in its reports on Syria is held to a higher standard.


By As’ad AbuKhalil – Wed, 2012-03-28 15:27- Angry Corner

For some reason, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is the guru of Islamists in the Arab world. In fact, the reason is obvious: there is such a dearth of leaders in the movement that this man has become widely influential.

It would be unfair to say that his influence stems solely from the exposure that he is provided by Qatar through his weekly TV program on Al Jazeera. Qaradawi is a prolific author and he uses simple language to issue his declarations and rulings about interpretations of Shariah.

He also knows what the basic Muslim reader is looking for. His book The Permissible and That Prohibited (Religiously) in Islam has sold well over the years. But Qaradawi is also a political figure.

Qaradawi fled Egypt when Nasser figured out that he could not allow the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to remain as a fifth column inside Egypt. It was no secret that while Nasser was aligned with the socialist camp, the MB served as a tool of the US and Gulf regime during the Cold War. There is no question that the MB did in fact try to assassinate Nasser, and there is no question that the Brotherhood was aligned against the forces that were working on a plan for the liberation of Palestine.


This analysis of Bishop Rai in Lebanon indicates how difficult it must be for public figures in the ME to manage the pressures from many different sides.

The Maronite Patriarch: Staying the Course One Year After His Election

By Nicolas Nassif Published Thursday, March 29, 2012

After establishing himself as a major player in the Christian political arena, Bishara Rai is reaching out to other religious figures in Lebanon while standing firm in his outlook on the region.


As Kofi Annan, BRICS and Syrians work for peace through diplomacy, discussion and the cessation of fighting, McCain and friends have other ideas.

McCain resolution calls for safe zones and arming the Syrian opposition

Posted By Josh Rogin Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and five like-minded lawmakers unveiled a new resolution on Syria Wednesday that calls for establishing safe zones inside Syria for civilians and support for arming the opposition against the regime of Bashar al Assad.

The non-binding resolution stops short of calling for direct U.S. military intervention in Syria, which McCain supports, and is meant to create a consensus on increasing U.S. support for the Syrian opposition that the greatest number of lawmakers can rally around. As of now, the resolution has six sponsors, mostly Republicans. In addition to McCain, they are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and John Hoeven (R-ND).


There is some optimism in this interview with three analysts in Syria and Lebanon.  Peace is possible, they believe. But not around the corner,  yet.  (A transcript is available.)

Press TV  March 28, 2012

‘West retreats from aggressive stance on Syria’

Syrian government has accepted the international peace plan in an effort to put an end to the yearlong unrest inside the country.

Press TV talks with Taleb Ibrahim, a political analyst in Damascus, to further discuss the issue.

The program also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Dr, Issa Chaer, with the Syrian Social Club in London, and professor of international University, Jamal Wakim from Beirut.


Another good resource for analysis which is not easy to find in the mainstream media is Strategic
Culture Foundation ONLINE JOURNAL.  These articles might be on a reference list for political science students.

Also: Kofi Annan’s plan – way to peace or utopia?

The article’s conclusion:

Experts say that Kofi Annan’s plan does have some chances to be implemented, but only under certain conditions. The main condition is that no force from abroad should support or encourage the Syrian opposition’s attempts to overthrow the Assad regime. Otherwise, all the efforts to bring peace to Syria will remain noble but utopian.


SBS DATELINE:  Saving Syria    By Yaara Bou Melhem 25th March 2012

Editor: This story by Yaara Bou Melhem is interesting in that it exposes some of the wheeling and dealing of people funding and supporting the militia/terrorists/rebels.  It focuses on Haitham Al Maleh who has broken away from the Syrian National Council, ostensibly because it is not ‘democratic’.  (Al Maleh, on the other hand, apparently has bona fide democratic credentials, and he plans to be Syrian president through a violent revolution to prove it!)

The Dateline introduction:

Haitham Al Maleh is preparing himself to be the next Syrian president, but he says he’s also number one on the Syrian regime’s hit list for assassination.

Al Maleh is a leading figure in Syria’s opposition, known as the country’s father of human rights, who’s spent many years in prison for his work.

Yaara Bou Melhem gets close-up access to him in exile in Cairo, as he works to arm and finance the Free Syrian Army in its fight against the Assad regime and its violent crackdown on opposition.

But at the age of 81 and constantly fearing for his life, will he ever see a free Syria?

A Comment from a viewer:

Shame on SBS for promoting terrorists

As you so willfully cheered on the destruction of Libya,Im not surprised by your lopsided coverage of what is essentially a repeat of criminal civil war in Syria. When the Arab League observers report certified that armed terror gangs were responsible for civil strife in Syria,Qatar very conveniently [ being chair of AL] forgot to attach copy of Report and as it exposed their lies.Majority of Syrians are happy with their regime and new constitution.Stop misleading with such shallow reporting.

Editor’s comment: It is unfortunate that ABC and SBS reporters based in the Middle East seem to be reliant on ‘stringers’ who support the armed opposition.  To take the side of the armed opposition and their supporters outside Syria must automatically rule out a reporter’s chance of entering the country.  (Mark Davis showed in his Dateline report that it is not necessary to take sides to inform.)  It is a great pity, for example, that the views of Syrian women are not being heard. Yaara Bou Melhem, knowing Arabic and being a young Lebanese Australian woman, would be a perfect person to present their views if she weren’t so committed to presenting just one side, the side that supports male war games. One question to ask the women of Syria is: What do you think of an armed  ‘revolution’ in your country which is led by fighters (including many from Libya, Iraq, northern Lebanon etc) who are funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, and many of whom are inspired by the fatwas of extremist clerics? 

US reporter, Reese Erlich was able to interview quite a few women in Syria last December.

And Sharmine Narwani interviewed many within the opposition inside Syria when she was in Damascus in January.

‘Anatomy of a Massacre’  Dateline 25 March 2012

On the same Dateline program, there was a report from Afghanistan.  It is a reminder of the horror of war and the atrocities that can be committed by soldiers on ‘our’ side.  Yalda Hakim, the SBS reporter who presents it, gives the people of Afghanistan, her country of origin, a voice.

Libya Evidence: Rebels Using Rape As A Weapon

An interview with a fighter in the war in Libya. He admits to some of the atrocities he committed, particularly against women.

There can never be enough reminders of the horrors of war and killing. The SBS program “Insight” on 27 March presented views and stories of some ‘killers’.

And back to Syria:

Asma Al-Assad speaks to a CNN reporter, February 2012.

One story of a victim of the ‘revolution’ in Syria:

Other victims of the ‘rebels’ who are motivated to kill in Syria:

For a reminder of the big merchants of war:

2009: Former marine Josh Rushing reports on how the US prisons in Iraq are turning into big business.

He visits the world’s biggest arms exposition and travels to Iraq to see how one prison is attempting a new strategy with its inmates.



Al Jazeera in Syria: A Case of Tunnel Vision

By: Elias Mahdi

Published Wednesday, March 28, 2012

With the onset of the crisis in Syria, Al Jazeera dropped any pretense of balanced coverage. Those who tried to buck the trend failed and eventually had to toe the line of the Qatari government.

For some time, Al Jazeera has been inundated with media leaks about its inner workings, most notably when the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the main server and leaked some of its contents.

Al-Akhbar obtained a copy of the “order of the day” sent on the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising. The channel’s head of news Ibrahim Helal sent out a memo dated 15 March 2012 with the title “Our Coverage of Syrian Affairs.”

Reading on:

Senior employees admit in their private circles that no one who works for the channel can express opinions on Syria contrary to those of the Qatari emir. Otherwise, they will be ostracized and humiliated until they leave


A letter from a member of Australians For Syria addressed to ABC Lateline, 29 March 2012:

Dear Lateline,
In the current fog surrounding Kofi Annan’s mission in Syria, I think it is vital that your audience should listen to the viewpoint of the Syrian Government, and this interview with their eloquent English speaking spokesperson Jihad Makdisi spells out quite clearly many aspects of it to a Dutch journalist.:  ( the interview is in English )
I am sure that Mr Makdisi would be happy to do an interview with Lateline, and answer the undoubtedly similar questions once again.  I have previously suggested the ABC talk to this representative, following enquiries about suitable spokespersons, and it is quite annoying to me to listen to him in the knowledge that my suggestion has been ignored.  I simply do not understand why this is.
The current situation in Syria is that Russia and China and Syria have signed up to Kofi Annan’s UN/Arab league peace plan, but the Opposition has NOT. There is no other story, yet the ABC persists in talking about alleged Syrian army abuses and attacks, and the circus of foreign powers trying to put up a front for regime change and support for ongoing violence.
Yours etc,
 David Macilwain
In the video interview, Dr Makdisi answers the hard questions most people would like to put to a Syrian official, but who outside Syria will listen to his responses, or at least give them considered thought? 



RT: Syrian govt accepts Annan’s 6-point peace plan

Published: 27 March, 2012, 14:36
Edited: 28 March, 2012, 02:01

Damascus has accepted Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to stop bloodshed in the country, a spokesman for the UN envoy to Syria announced.

Kofi Annan has praised Damascus’s acceptance of the plan as “an important initial step” towards ending violence in the country and creating an environment to start a dialogue between the regime and the Syrian opposition.

Although Kofi Annan has not called on President Al-Assad to step down, a spokesperson for Turkey at a meeting for the Syrian National Council in Istanbul (28th March 2012) presented another view:

Turkish foreign ministry official Halit Cevik said there was no alternative to Assad’s regime going, and he extended support to the SNC as a platform for the different strands of the opposition.

Syria authorities target children, says UN rights chief

What also makes Kofi Annan’s efforts for peace difficult is the intrusion of UN’s  Navi Pillay’s voice at this time, basically making the same claims she made in December 2011 regarding “Syrian authorities systematically detaining and torturing children”.    (Claims which insult the Syrian people: they would not stand by and allow their government or army to target and kill Syrian children.)

The claims come at a time when efforts are being made for peace, while war is being pushed onto Syria by so many outside forces.  They remind this editor of the claims heard in the UN in the lead up to the Iraq war.\

Powell presents US case to Security Council of Iraq’s failure to disarm

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence,” Mr. Powell told the ministerial-level session of the 15-member body.



Diplomatic snubs exchanged at Baghdad summit on Syria

29th March

Interview with reporter in Istanbul, and a report which includes:

Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been pushing for military intervention and arming the opposition. Host country Iraq, on the other hand, has been opposed to intervention and has been more in favor of a peaceful resolution.


New Phase in Syria Crisis: Dealmaking Toward An Exit

By: Sharmine Narwani

Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In recent weeks, there has been a notable shuffle in the positions of key external players in the Syrian crisis. Momentum has quite suddenly shifted from an all-out onslaught against the Assad government to a quiet investigation of exit strategies………


Open Letter to the Leaders of the Syrian Opposition

Regarding Human Rights Abuses by Armed Opposition Members    March 20, 2012

……..Now, in the face of evidence of human rights abuses by armed opposition members, Human Rights Watch calls on the leadership of leading opposition groups including the Syrian National Council (SNC) and its Military Bureau to condemn such practices by the armed opposition and to work to prevent such unlawful practices.  

While the protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011, since then Human Rights Watch has documented apparent crimes and other abuses committed by armed opposition elements. These crimes and abuses include the kidnapping and detention of security force members, individuals identified as members of government-supported militias (referred to locally as shabeeha), and individuals identified as government allies or supporters. They also include the use of torture and the execution of security force members and civilians. Some of the attacks targeting Shias and Alawites appear to be motivated by sectarianism.

Abuses of this nature, including torture, taking of hostages, and executions by armed opposition members, have also been documented by the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry in its February 2012 report. In addition to concluding that armed members of the opposition have committed gross human rights abuses, the Commission’s report also references and appends documentation received from the Syrian government indicating that armed opposition members have kidnapped, killed, and disappeared civilians and security force members and displaced civilians………….


Joint prayer held for the souls of Syria’s martyrs… Patriarch Laham: Syria strong and resilient

DAMASCUS– A joint prayer was held on Wednesday in Kyrillos Church in al-Qassa neighborhood in Damascus for the souls of Syria’s martyrs and the martyrs of the two terrorist bombings that targeted Damascus last Saturday.

In a speech, Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch and All The East said that this prayer is held for the sake of Syria, which is strong and resilient, noting that this cycle of violence must not persist and calling on Syrians to resort to dialogue, reconciliation, repentance and calm to preserve unity and vanquish enmity.

He called upon Syrians to pray to God to preserve Syria and its people, stressing that Syria can continue the process of renewal and change and emerge from violence through dialogue……..


Constructing Consensus – The ‘Victims-And-Aggressor Meme’

Journalists are supposed to tell the truth without fear or favour. In reality, as even the editor of the Independent acknowledges, MPs and reporters are ‘a giant club’.

Together, politics and media combine to provide an astonishingly consistent form of reality management controlling public perception of conflicts in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Alastair Crooke, founder and director of Conflicts Forum, notes how the public is force-fed a ‘simplistic victims-and-aggressor meme, which demands only the toppling of the aggressor’.

The bias is spectacular, outrageous, but universal, and so appears simply to mirror reality.…..


RUSSIA TODAY  14 March 2012  Video interview with former Al-Jazeera reporter.

‘No independent journalism anymore’ – ex-Al Jazeera reporter

Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.

In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth. ….

THE REAL NEWS  March 20, 2012

Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera has become a “media war machine” and is “committing journalistic suicide”

(Video interview with Ali Hashem)

RUSSIA TODAY  12 March 2012

Al Jazeera exodus: Channel losing staff over ‘bias’

Key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut Bureau have resigned citing “bias” in the channel’s stance on the conflict in Syria.

Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban reportedly quit last week, after his correspondent and producer had walked out in protest.

A source told the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar that Al Jazeera’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem had quit over the channel’s stance on covering events in Syria. “… his position [which] changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh [implying a regime loyalist],” a source told Lebanese press.

Ali Hashem was also infuriated by Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle. “[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” he said.…..


In the garden of good and evil: the media and Syria

Posted on March 16, 2012 by Matt

Objective analysis of the brutal conflict in Syria has been generally conspicuous by its absence over the last 12 months, where the mainstream media has generally followed the narratives propagated by their governments with all the independence and perspicacity of  trained seals.

One of the few exceptions is the political analyst and blogger Sharmine Narwani.  An associate of St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University, Narwani has been a remorseless and forensic critic of the inadequacies in western media coverage of Syria, and she has penned a typically stinging indictment on her blog, entitled ‘Dear Western journalist‘, which laments the failure of so many reporters to do their job properly…..


MIDEAST SHUFFLE  by Sharmine Narwani

Dear Western journalist,

Please cease using the argument that the reason you are writing crap about Syria is because “media is not allowed there.” The Arab League report lists 147 media outlets – Arab and foreign – working in Syria in January, 2012. I and a few others who were there at the time were not even on the list. Ahead of me in line at the border was the CBC crew, who was on that list. Perhaps the reason you have such a hard time getting in is because you need to wait – like CBC Suzy – for visas for 47 staff and support staff members, including people to hold your over-sized coffee cup as you interview an opposition gunman in that special breathless way you do it. Of course you need a translator for that too, because otherwise you wouldn’t have a fucking clue if you were in Idlib or Homs now, would you?


Lebanese Druze Clergy to Jumblatt: Not in Our Name

By: Firas Choufi

Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walid Jumblatt’s relationship with the spiritual authorities within the Druze community is temperamental. The sheikhs are partners when they share Jumblatt’s view on a particular decision, and when the clerics defy the lord of Mukhtara, suddenly it is all about socialism and the separation of politics and religion…… 

Today, Jumblatt and the Druze clergy are on opposing sides of the Syrian crisis.

Below is a link to a skit on Lebanese TV in regard to Walid Jumblatt:



George Joffe on Syria and the chessboard of Middle East politics

Editor’s note: I hope the comment page is as interesting as the interview with Joffe, perhaps more enlightening even.


VT Veterans Today: Military & Foreign Affairs Journal

The Bloody Road to Damascus: The Triple Alliance’s War on a Sovereign State

by James Petras   9 March 2012


There is clear and overwhelming evidence that the uprising to overthrow President Assad of Syria is a violent, power grab led by foreign-supported fighters who have killed and wounded thousands of Syrian soldiers, police and civilians, partisans of the  government and its peaceful opposition.

The outrage expressed by politicians in the West and Gulf State and in the mass media, about the ‘killing of peaceful Syrian citizens protesting injustice’ is cynically designed to cover up the documented reports of violent seizure of neighborhoods, villages and towns by armed bands, brandishing machine guns and planting road-side bombs.

The assault on Syria is backed by foreign funds, arms and training.Due to a lack of domestic support ,however, to be successful, direct foreign military intervention will be necessary.  For this reason a huge propaganda and diplomatic campaign has been mounted to demonize the legitimate Syrian government.  The goal is to impose a puppet regime and strengthen Western imperial control in the Middle East.  In the short run, this will further isolate Iran in preparation for a military attack by Israel and the US and, in the long run, it eliminates another independent secular regime friendly to China and Russia.

For complete article, go to above link.


THE INFORMATION WAR:  In regard to Syria, Alastair Crooke is an analyst who deserves attention in Australia.  He challenges the very comfortable narrative most people have accepted.  In Australia, it seems you are on the side of the ‘goodies’ if you damn the Syrian government. It’s irrelevant that you are also on the side of the Pentagon, the US State Department, John McCain, extremist clerics, Salafist jihadists, Al-Qaeda, the oil-rich monarchies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  And a good guess would be 20 million of the 22 million people in Syria are not on your side. What is the real David and Goliath story here?

ASIA TIMES,ON-LINE:  Syria: Straining credulity?
By Alastair Crooke   9 March 2012

The UN Secretary General was reported on March 3 saying that he had received “grisly reports” that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Homs after retaking control of the Baba Amr district from insurgents. Did he really believe this; or was he just “saying it”?

“One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims” the US officer assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Intelligence), charged with defining the future of warfare, wrote in the US Army War College Quarterly in 1997.

“But fear not”, he writes later in the article, for “we are already masters of information warfare … Hollywood is ‘preparing the battlefield’ … Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable……


In April 2011, several Al-Jazeera reporters resigned from the station in protest, apparently, at the station’s reporting on Syria, Bahrain and the ‘Arab Spring’ in general.  The most well-known of these journalists was Ghassan Bin-Jeddo, who was the head of the Al-Jazeera Beirut office and a highly-regarded journalist (once banned from entering Syria).  Bin-Jeddo spoke about the ‘smear campaign’ being waged against Syria.  So the recent report of dissatisfaction among AJ reporters and the resignation of one should be seen with this context in mind. The following is from an article on English Alakhbar.

Al Jazeera reporter resigns over “biased” Syria coverage

Published Thursday, March 8, 2012

Al Jazeera Arabic’s Beirut correspondent, Ali Hashem, resigned on Tuesday after leaked emails revealed his frustrations over the news channel’s coverage of Syria, according to a source within the television network.

Hashem’s resignation comes weeks after pro-Assad hackers leaked emails that revealed the dismay among Al Jazeera’s staff over its “biased and unprofessional” coverage of the Syrian uprising.

“Hashem’s misgivings are clear and well-known, and are no longer a secret to anyone,” the source, wishing to remain anonymous, said.

“You can check the emails he sent to his colleague, Rula Ibrahim, to know his position which changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh (implying a regime loyalist).”

The source also said that Hashem reported his dismay to several officials in the station, not just to his colleague, Ibrahim.

Complicating matters for Hashem was Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover the uprising in Bahrain.

“[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” the source added.

According to the source, Hashem was not the only Al Jazeera reporter to express his frustration over its coverage. Staff members in Al-Jazeera’s offices in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain also voiced similar opinions.


This latest article by Sharmine Narwani (referred to below) indicates the difficulty writers or speakers can have if they want to present evidence of something else going on in Syria which differs from the commonly held single narrative. For the complete article which was published on 7 March 2012 in “Alakhbar English”, go to the following link:

Syria Censorship at AOL-Huffington Post? Wednesday, Mar 7 2012

By Sharmine Narwani

Let me be clear that this blogpost is not about sour grapes.

But the media cacophony on Syria has just become too shrill – reporters, too reluctant to raise obvious questions – to just sit back and let this one slide.

Especially when it is taking place under my nose at the place I have blogged for two and a half years. There’s no other way to look at this: by refusing to publish all but one of my seven Syria articles, AOL-Huffington Post is censoring a viewpoint that challenges the dominant narratives on Syria in the mainstream media……..

The battle for narratives is the frontline of this war, and it is a dirty one. Where once we thought fabrications of WMDs in Iraq and yellowcake uranium in Niger would never, ever pass through our vigilant scrutiny again – today, those stories barely compare to the barrage of unverified propaganda that filters through both social and mainstream media sites every, single day.

NB: “Alakhbar” is an alternative source of information about events in the Middle East.  For more information, go to:

“Your foreign correspondent in the Middle East”

On August 14 2006, Beirut-based Al-Akhbar was launched as a “calculated adventure” by prominent Lebanese journalist Joseph Samaha and a team of like-minded colleagues. The late Samaha (1949-2007) envisioned a publication that would uphold the highest standards of journalistic integrity while remaining true to the principles of anti-imperialist struggle, progressive politics, and freedom of expression.

Five years later, Al-Akhbar embarks on another calculated adventure amid a period of historic significance in the region – the year of the Arab uprisings. By providing much-needed in-depth reporting on the uprisings and other news in the region, Al-Akhbar English will reflect the diverse and dynamic realities that make up the communities undergoing these transformations. The English edition also aims to make debates and analyses circulating in the Arabic media sphere accessible to English speakers worldwide. Al-Akhbar depends on young and creative writers that challenge conventional forms of reporting and aspires to speak truth to power. Al-Akhbar English intends to preserve this tradition by translating selected articles from the Arabic edition to an international readership.

The site also features original content of opinion, analysis, and field stories as well as photo blogs chronicling the latest developments across the Middle East.



The Grotesque and Disturbing Ideology at the Helm of Avaaz

Mar 07, 2012 Avaaz, The International Campaign to Destabilize Syria, The War on Libya – There Was No Evidence

Imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism – the 21st Century Theme within the Non-profit Industrial Complex

As far as America’s war against terrorism is concerned [the] senator provides unequivocal support to Barrack Obama.” – The Perriello of Congress website 

In the 2012 winter issue of ‘Democracy Journal’ Avaaz Co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello penned a grotesque and delusional article (below) titled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed”.

The views within the article are a complete reflection and validation of the U.S. administration’s rhetoric intended to justify the annihilation and occupation of sovereign states under the false pretense of “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect”.

Make no mistake, this is the ideology of the world’s most powerful NGO, that of Avaaz, and the matrix of NGOs within the non-profit industrial complex.

Next week we will begin publication of our investigative report on Avaaz, the Avaaz co-founders, the Avaaz corporate media partners, the Avaaz strategy, and finally, the role Avaaz played in the NATO-led annihilation of Libya, which, prior to the strategically planned and unprovoked invasion by Imperialist states, held the highest standard of living in Africa. This slaughter has left as many as 150,000 Libyans dead. NGOs must be held accountable for paving the way for these crimes against humanity.



The Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar Ja’afari, has become a hero to many Syrians because of the strength, dignity, intelligence and integrity they believe he presents in the UN.

1. Background Information:

H.E. Dr. Bashar Ja’afari was born in Damascus , Syria on April 14, 1956. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Literature from the University of Damascus in 1977. Dr. Ja’afari continued to receive a Diploma of Higher Studies in Translation and Arabization from the University of Damascus in 1978. He furthered his education in France where he received two Diplomas of Higher Studies; one in International Political Relations from the International Institute of Public Administration (IIAP) and another in International Organizations’ Management from the University of Sceaux in 1982. Dr. Ja’afari received two Doctorates in Political Science, one from the University of Sceaux in Paris , France and another from the University of Paris La Sorbonne in 1989. Dr. Ja’afari received a third Doctorate in 2002 in the History of Islamic Civilization in South East Asia from the University of Sharif Hedayatuallah in Jakarta , Indonesia . Dr. Bashar Ja’afari is fluent in Arabic, French, English and Persian.

2.  Dr Bashar Ja’afari talks to UN Media Reps  January 2012

3. Anderson Cooper’s interview with Dr Bashar Ja’afari on CNN illustrates how difficult it is for spokespeople for Syria to inform people about the terror faced by the people, army and government of Syria. In this interview, Cooper does not want to hear.  He believes he has enough ‘youtube evidence’ to condemn Syria; he doesn’t need to hear or consider the other side.

In regard to the terror the Ambassador refers to, many Syrian Australians can confirm that Syrians have been facing fear and terror since April 2011, if not earlier.  For example, on 17 April, three children as well as the father of two of them were killed by armed men in Homs.  This is quite a well-known story in Syria and the Diaspora, but it has never been reported in the Australian media or by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.  The uncle of a Syrian Australian was killed by gunmen along with two of his friends in April. They were young farmers on their way to sell their produce at the market. The father of another Syrian Australian disappeared in Homs several months ago.  There have been scores if not hundreds of assassinations; the victims include university professors; people who have taken part in the political reform process; businessmen; a mufti who preached peace, and the son of the Mufti of Syria; Air-force pilots; doctors and surgeons; a chemist; army personnel and family members, including a baby in one incident. There have been many abductions of people from buses and the shooting deaths of people taken from buses.  The ‘nephew’ of Dr Fiona Hill was abducted off a bus and told he had four choices: join the ‘Free Syrian Army and kill; be killed, blow up infrastructure; or convince his family to pay a $8,000 ransom to be released. These are just a few of hundreds of stories that are known by many in the Australian community, but of which the wider community is ignorant.

4. The US delegation in the UN walk out of the General Assembly in protest while Dr Ja’afari is speaking


The guy who runs al Jazeera’s Syrian coverage is the brother of a SNC bigwig


In Syria, al Jazeera’s Credibility Implodes


As’ad AbuKhalil, proprietor of the Angry Arab newsblog, hails from the atheist/Marxist/feminist quadrant and is no friend of the Bashar regime.  He had this to say about recent trends in programming on Syrian state TV:

“It seems that Syrian regime had agents among the rebels; or it seems that the Syrian regime obtained a trove of video footage from Baba Amru.  They have been airing them non-stop.  They are quite damning.  They show the correspondent or witness (for CNN or from Aljazeera) before he is on the air: and the demeanor is drastically different from the demeanor on the air and they even show contrived sounds of explosions timed for broadcast time…

“PS This is really scandalous. It shows the footage prior to Aljazeera reports: they show fake bandages applied on a child and then a person is ordered to carry a camera in his hand to make it look like a mobile footage.  It shows a child being fed what to say on Aljazeera.”

Later in the day:

“This is rather explosive.  You know how low Aljazeera has sunk when Syrian regime TV stations have a field day with the shoddy journalism and fabrication procedures of Aljazeera.  It seems that people inside Aljazeera have leaked raw footage and pre-air reports to someone in Syrian regime TV.  I am not surprised of the leak at all: I am in contact from people inside Aljazeera who are disgusted by the propaganda work of the network in the last few months.  …  I know how those things work and they know that I know.  The footage that are being shown show staging of events of calling a civilian an “officer” in the Syrian army, of faking injuries and feeding statements to people before airtime, etc. Aljazeera seems to be writing its own professional obituary.  I don’t know how it can really resurrect itself again.  It is mortally wounded. I know that there are people in the network who are pained about what is happening but royal orders are royal orders in the network and no one dare to disobey.  I am told that orders came down to the effect that no half-position would be tolerated and that categorical adoption of the Qatari foreign policy on Syria is a job requirement.

For one of the videos being referred to above, please go to:

Danny’s response to the charges against him.  (NB: Anderson Cooper interviews Danny as a defense lawyer might.)

For an analysis, on “Prison Planet”:

Information about Danny, from a previous page on this blog:

Who is a Credible Witness?  So often the media’s  ‘big’ stories in regard to Syria are both shocking and outrageous, and often proven to be unfounded.  On ABC RN”s Breakfast 9/2/12, Fran Kelly interviewed “Danny”, introduced as a ‘resident of Homs’. She listened to him listing all the possible war crimes an army could be guilty of, telling listeners that he hopes the Syrian president is killed, and then she  wished him ‘well’.  Danny had been interviewed by the BBC in September and it appears from the questioning the interviewer wasn’t quite as gullible as Ms Kelly, though he made an effort to be respectful. But it is not just the ABC which is putting its trust in Danny to tell the world what 22 million people in Syria want and need. Avaaz is using an interview with him in its latest campaign to ‘help’ Syria and, at the same time, to raise funds.

From London, a critical view of Danny and his claims:



Below are extracts from this cable. Please view in full to understand bigger picture.

in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia
proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.  Though
often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni
community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused
on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through
activities ranging from mosque construction to business.
Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as
prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving
increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate
more closely with their governments on ways to better
publicize and focus regional attention on the issue.
-- Vulnerability: 

-- THE KHADDAM FACTOR: Khaddam knows where the regime
skeletons are hidden, which provokes enormous irritation from
Bashar, vastly disproportionate to any support Khaddam has
within Syria. Bashar Asad personally, and his regime in
general, follow every news item involving Khaddam with
tremendous emotional interest. The regime reacts with
self-defeating anger whenever another Arab country hosts
Khaddam or allows him to make a public statement through any
of its media outlets. 

-- Possible Action: 

-- We should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to
allow Khaddam access to their media outlets, providing him
with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry. We should
anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its
isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors. 

-- Possible Action: 

The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about
coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and
military.  Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should
be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at
Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate
leaking of the meetings afterwards.  This again touches on
this insular regime,s paranoia and increases the possibility
of a self-defeating over-reaction. 


Bashar keeps unveiling a steady stream of initiatives on
economic reform and it is certainly possible he believes this
issue is his legacy to Syria.  While limited and ineffectual,
these steps have brought back Syrian expats to invest and
have created at least the illusion of increasing openness.
Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar,s reform
efforts )- pointing, for example to the use of reform to
disguise cronyism -- would embarrass Bashar and undercut
these efforts to shore up his legitimacy.  Revealing Asad
family/inner circle corruption would have a similar effect. 

-- Possible Action: 

-- HIGHLIGHTING FAILURES OF REFORM:  Highlighting failures of
reform, especially in the run-up to the 2007 Presidential
elections, is a move that Bashar would find highly
embarrassing and de-legitimizing.  Comparing and contrasting
puny Syrian reform efforts with the rest of the Middle East
would also embarrass and irritate Bashar. 



RT:  13 undercover French army officers seized in Syria – report

5 March 2012

Thirteen French officers have been captured by the Syrian Army, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. It claims it received the information from a pro-Syrian Palestinian in Damascus.

­According to the source, the officers were taken captive in the city of Homs – the heart of the internal conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and insurrectionists – and are being held in a field hospital there. The source claims the French and Syrian governments are locked in negotiations over the fate of the men.

If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment to France.  However the French Foreign Ministry has categorically stated that there are no French soldiers in Syria. Perhaps more intriguingly, the Ministry of Defense has not issued an outright denial, saying instead that it has no knowledge of the situation.

Official Damascus has similarly refused to comment.

Despite imposing ever-tougher sanctions on Syria, the West has consistently denied that it has troops on the ground, although there have been occasional rumors. There have also been several reports of NATO powers supplying arms to the rebels.

Editor’s note: It may be in Russia’s interests to support peace and stability in Syria.  Will that mean RT is more or less likely to present objective news from Damascus?  Certainly it is presenting a much bigger picture than any Australian media outlets.


RT: Stratfor leaks: NATO commandos in illegal special ops in Syria

6 March 2012

Undercover NATO troops are already in Syria despite denials from their parent governments, according to a leaked brief from a highly-placed analyst.


The information comes from a hacked email from leading private US intelligence agency Stratfor, whose correspondence has been released by Wikileaks since February 27. The email appears to be written from the address of Reva Bhalla (, the company’s director of analysis, for internal use, and details a confidential Pentagon meeting in December. The consultation is alleged to have been attended by senior analysts from the US Air Force, and representatives from its chief allies, France and the United Kingdom.

Western powers have categorically denied military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, for which they have no international mandate. But if the information contained in the letter is reliable, a radically different picture of Western activity in Syria emerges.


On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces

Email-ID 1671459
Date 2011-12-07 00:49:18

A few points I wanted to highlight from meetings today --

 I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic
 studies group - guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain
 to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they're operating in. It
 was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level,
 including one French and one British representative who are liaising with
 the US currently out of DC.

 They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I
 got to grill them on the military picture. There is still a very low level
 of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what's the
 strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a
 couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams
 (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground
 focused on recce missions and training opposition forces. One Air Force
 intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn't much of a Free Syrian
 Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are
 being done out of 'prudence.' The way it was put to me was, 'look at this
 way - the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the
 best it's been since 2001.' They have been told to prepare contingencies
 and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is
 all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

 I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working
 toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a
 Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from
 that idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla
 attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite
 forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn't be a need for air
 cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in
 columns anyway.



BREAKING NEWS: Dubai Threatens Youssef Qaradawi With Arrest Over Criticism Of UAE

(Muslim Brotherhood, Daily Report)

Financial Times Report:

Dubai police chief hits at cleric on Syria

By Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Dubai’s police chief has launched a war of words with an influential Qatar-based cleric who criticised the United Arab Emirates for revoking the visas of Syrians demonstrating against the regime in Damascus.

Dhahi Khalfan al-Tamim late on Sunday threatened to arrest Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi after the senior cleric branded the decision to revoke the Syrians’ visas as “forbidden” under religious law, reminding the rulers of the United Arab Emirates that the protesters were only “human”.

The sheikh has been an enthusiastic champion of Arab revolutions and has ties with Islamist groups in the region that have emerged as major beneficiaries of the political upheaval.

Appearing live on Al Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite TV channel, Sheikh Qaradawi said the leader of the Syrian opposition had asked him to raise the issue of around 100 families that face the threat of expulsion from the UAE after taking part in a February rally against President Bashar al-Assad outside the Syrian consulate in Dubai.

The UAE government has said the visas of around 30 Syrians were revoked for unidentified political activity unrelated to the demonstration. Human Rights Watch, the campaigning group, has called on the Emirates to reverse the decision.

The UAE, while active in Arab attempts to end the bloodshed in Syria, is concerned about the political unpredictability of a post-Assad environment.

For one view of Sheik Qaradawi he would perhaps not want you to see today, please go to:

NB: Sheik Qaradawi issued a fatwa against the ‘heretical’ Syrian government in March 2011. He broadcasts regularly on Al-Jazeera and has told his followers that if it is necessary to kill 1/3 of the population of Syria, that is OK as long as you bring down the government.

Editor’s note: Contrary to what many commentators in Australia claim, the crisis in Syria is not a civil war between the different sects, though there have been concerted efforts to create conditions for such a war.  Instead, the sides in this crisis could be seen as (1) the secular government, the army, security forces and people (from all sects, including those who oppose the Baath Party) who believe in a united, secular, secure Syria which can implement political reform peacefully up against (2) those who are encouraged by the ideology of extremists such as Qaradawi or who are paid by forces with seemingly unlimited funds to use violence to topple the secular government. And of course, people who have the best of intentions perhaps can get caught up  in supporting a war in which propaganda is being used relatively successfully outside Syria to promote ‘revolution for freedom’ and ‘war for peace’. Forget about Peace.


John McCain wants to bomb…again

Posted on March 6, 2012 by Matt

Republican Senator John McCain is one of those American politicians who rarely comes across a war he doesn’t like.   During a 2000 Republican debate,  he advocated a new variant on the Reagan Doctrine which he called ‘rogue state rollback’ and declared that if he were president

I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically- elected governments.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in October 2001 he called for an all out assault on the Taliban in Afghanistan without ‘half-measures’,  as part of a wider war which aimed at  ’the complete destruction of international terrorism and the regimes that sponsor it’.   A Vietnam war veteran, McCain conceded that ‘war is a miserable business’ but nevertheless insisted that

However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that will be lost when war claims its wages from us. Shed a tear, and then get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly as we can, and as ruthlessly as we must.

Please visit Matt Carr’s blog for remainder of article.


Planned Regime Change in Syria

By Stephen Lendman

March 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria had peace and calm until Washington intervened belligerently. 

Strategies and tactics vary. Objectives are consistent. They involve replacing independent regimes with pro-Western ones by any means, including war. 

Three unwinnable ones rage. Nonetheless, Obama plans more. Syria’s target one. For the past year, US-instigated violence ravaged parts of the country. Thousands have been killed, many others injured. 

Syria’s gripped by fear. Heavily armed killer gangs rage out of control, and direct foreign intervention looms.



On Sunday 4 March 2012, Salifis and supporters held a rally in Beirut. The leader of the Lebanese Salifis spoke at the meeting, and called for a jihad against Syria. It is a pity ABC reporter, Peter Cave who is based in Beirut, did not report on this. It was broadcast live on Lebanese satellite TV, so many people in the Diaspora would have been aware of it.

For some understanding of Salafism and the particular dangers posed by the extremists in this school of Islam who believe in violent jihadism, please go to:


Proven provider John McCreary observes that the U.S. government and al Qaeda apparently are on the same side in calling for change in Syria:

Syria-al Qaida: Al-Qaida’s new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri praised anti-regime protestors in Syria in a video released Wednesday claiming the United States is seeking regime change in Damascus, U.S.-based monitors said. Calling the pro-democracy activists ‘mujahideen,’ or holy warriors, Zawahiri hailed their efforts in “teaching lessons to the aggressor, the oppressor, the traitor, the disloyal, and standing up against his oppression” in a video the SITE Intelligence Group said was posted on extremist online forums.

Comment: For perhaps the only time on record, The US and al Qaida apparently are supporting the same policy end state for Syria: regime change. That bizarre coincidence cannot be good for Israeli security or regional stability.

Zawahari sees the conflict as a Sunni fundamentalist vs. Alawite struggle, not as a movement for plural political rights, women’s rights and liberal freedoms against a repressive regime.”


Yasser Fouzi al-Abd  who claims to be a Salafi jihadist has confessed to assassinations he and others are responsible for in Aleppo, March 7, 2012:

“One day, four persons visited us and said they want us to kill a businessman named ‘Mahmoud Ramadan’, they asked us to help them in planning the assassination because we had weapons and experience in this field.”

Terrorist al-Abd said that they had a ‘Facebook’ page and they were listing posts on all of their operations, adding that the name of the page was ‘Abu Amara Battalion’.

“After we killed Mahmoud, we were surprised that he was a brother of one of Istanbul Council’s members whose name is ‘Ahmad Ramadan’. Istanbul Council asked Ahmad to delete the post about the assassination from Abu Amara Battalion page because they had other plan.”

“At that time we had an account in Turkey opened and funded by two persons, Hassan Hashem Abu Omar and Yassin Abu Ahmad who had connections with Turkey. I told them that if they want to delete the post from the page, they must support the battalion financially through our account in Turkey and they agreed. We sent them the account number and deleted the post. After two hours, the Council issued a statement in which Ahmad Ramadan accused the Syrian security forces of killing his brother Mahmoud, but they didn’t send us any money.”

He added that he brought two pump-action shotguns to a person named ‘Jihad Albo Assi’, adding that he turned to be a member of al-Qaeda.

“I was told that they are preparing for something big in Aleppo, they gave me a list of materials to bring, they told me these materials are the recipe used by al-Qaeda to make explosives.”

“They had a leader in each town in Aleppo Countryside, they called the leader ‘The Hajji’ –religious rank-, the Hajji of Mari’a town was a jihadist in Afghanistan, The Hajji of Indan city ‘Abdul-Aziz Salama’ was the general leader of the countryside, they told me that he takes direct orders from al-Qaeda.” He concluded.


Questions should always be asked about the independence, integrity of journalists.

Rundle: Colvin was brave in Syria, but her cause is unjust

An excerpt from this article:

Thus the whole cause is neatly contained within the Western drama of salvation, and the Syrians themselves become a backdrop in their own country — as in the last photo of her that has now become iconic, and a more telling picture than many war correspondents would want to admit to. Did her death add to our understanding? Or become part of the drama in ways which make clear-sighted action less possible?

The question can be widened to one that is rarely asked, and that is abut not merely the personality, but the class basis of many such journalists. Overwhemingly drawn from a fairly privileged elite — especially in Britain — or ex-forces personnel, their default setting seems to be a cynicism about organisational politics of any type, and a celebration of individual “conscience”, tied in with eye-witness, and often uncontextualised, accounts of suffering. For many such correspondents, trying to understand the meaning of a conflict is what Colvin disparagingly called the “desk job”, a hint of the wilful anti-intellectualism that often pervades war reporting (making all the more visible the quality of the work of those — such as *Robert Fisk and John Pilger — who do put in the desk time).

*Editor’s note: Robert Fisk is often seen in the West as ‘the expert’ on the Middle East, much as Somerset Maugham was seen as the expert on the Orient 70 or 80 years ago (  Really, Robert Fisk is one of millions of ‘doors’ to a better understanding of the ME; he should not be given the position of gatekeeper to that understanding.

Robert Fisk is perhaps influenced in his views on Syria by someone he has presented as a personal friend, Walid Jumblatt, who is notoriously fickle in his political allegiances.  At the moment, Jumblatt may be more anti-Syrian than pro.  As for tomorrow, it is impossible to predict.  See:  Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze and my favourite nihilist (and dinner host) ….

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