Interview with Ankhar Kochneva, writer and sole foreign journalist permanently living in Syria

Damascus: A Syrian government supporter holds a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad during a pro-regime rally in Damascus on January 26, 2012
Ankhar Kochneva, writer and sole foreign journalist permanently living in Syria, tells RT what is really up in the country, who funds the opposition, how international media fake images of unrest and why it is so important to watch weather forecasts.
RT: You have lived in Syria since October 2011. Media reports tell us about unrest in the country. How does the situation look from within? 
AK: Life is absolutely normal in an absolute majority of communities across the country, although some news agencies deliberately picture the situation as its exact opposite. Israeli media outlets catering to Russian-speaking audience are among the most active in this regard. For example, in reporting on a terrorist incident it is sometimes enough to lie about its exact location to have the world convinced that there is no peace in Syria. I am referring to an explosion that went off on the outskirts of Damascus on January 6th this year. Although the explosive device actually went off under a bridge, news reports could make you think the whole of downtown Damascus was reduced to debris. 
I hosted a group of tourists here for New Year. Some of them actually came for as long as 17 days. We rode across the country and did a lot of walking around Damascus. My guests saw a lot of smiling people in the streets. We sat in restaurants with some nice music, we went to a local street market, and they had a great time. They realized there is no war going on in Syria. 
RT: There is no war, but there are explosions. So who is planting the bombs? And where is the opposition headquarters located? 
AK: What makes Syria peculiar is that the so-called unpatriotic opposition here has no center, no leaders, no agenda and no specific premises. Nor do they have the numbers to create disturbances in multiple locations at a time. Most often there is unrest in a specific neighborhood, while other areas are calm. 
The people behind the explosions are the same people who shoot at passing vehicles, plant IEDs targeting oil pipelines and attack random targets with grenade launchers. There have been six terrorist attacks targeting railway tracks. A female student dormitory in Homs was recently assaulted with grenade launchers. Many of its inhabitants are girls coming from rural communities and low-income families, because rich families rent apartments for their girls. 
The perpetrators are the same people who kidnap civilians and demand ransom, and once they get the money, they return the abductee sliced into pieces. There have already been a hundred incidents of the kind. 
Some of the culprits who have been arrested are regular criminals, but there are also people who come to Syria from Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. There are also young men coming from Dagestan, who are often ignorant about the actual situation in Syria and are therefore easily misled. They are agitated with tales of injustice into doing things that really are unjust. 
RT: Why would Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya disseminate all these falsified reports on Syria? 
AK: These TV networks have been employed as propaganda tools serving to destroy Syria as a state. Some of those propaganda tactics are stunningly elaborate, and you can only tell a lie if you live in Syria and focus on details. 
For instance, there has been a fantastic weather forecast for Syria broadcast on TV, where temperature indices actually stand for the time when protesters will assemble in a specific location to provoke unrest. If you are with the opposition, this broadcast tells you that there will be a rally in Homs tomorrow at 12pm, and specially instructed camera crews will be waiting for you and your associates to turn up to act as the angry masses. You spend five minutes yelling “Down with Assad” in a square and leave with hard cash in your pocket, and the world gets TV images of “a street revolution rocking Syria.” 
I witnessed this technique in action once. Al Jazeera reported on a street protest erupting near the Russian Cultural Center in Damascus in December 2011. I happen to live nearby, and I can see the Center from my window. There was nothing happening at this location at the time of the report. But exactly two hours later, a bunch of people turned up and launched an aggressive protest action. So it was not really a news report – it was coded instructions communicating the time and place of a staged disturbance. Similar tactics was used to announce the assault against the Syrian embassy in Amman early in December 2011. 
What these TV networks do is not reporting: they dispatch instructions for people to rally, stage riots and assault specific individuals. It is almost a competition for deliberately misreporting on Syria, where the perpetrators do not even bother to coordinate their propaganda activities. For example, when reporting the casualties for a specific day of unrest, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya claimed diverging numbers. If they had been citing a particular source, such as the notorious Mr. Rami, who is based in London, then their figures would have matched. But they vary, which means the news people simply make them up. They do not even care if it looks plausible or not. 
RT: An Arab League observer mission has spent a month monitoring the situation in Syria. What have they come up with? 
AK: The Arab League mission comprised about 160 observers. The Syrians did not believe that these people were coming with good intentions. And their skepticism turned out to be legitimate from the very start. For one thing, the observers refused to inspect the site of the terrorist attack launched on December 24th. 
But as time went by and reports from Syrian civilians targeted by the criminals piled up, the observer mission experienced a radical shift in perception. At first, they went around stony-faced and declined to comment on anything, but later on they turned into normal individuals with a heart for the locals. This delegation is accompanied by a camera crew that follows them everywhere and runs chronicles of their monitoring activities on Syrian TV. 
When you meet several hundred people every day asking you to do the right thing and report the truth, anyone with a glimpse of decency in their heart will not be able to go on lying. This is exactly why many of the people in the Arab League who had initially contemplated this observer mission were very unhappy with its eventual findings. They suggest swapping individual observers, then they prolong the mission for one more month, as if extra time will help them find the fictional “atrocities of the regime” in Syria – at least, that is how things stand on January 25.
RT: Are you saying the regime has not committed any atrocities whatsoever? 
AK: I personally have not heard of anything I would find plausible. Either we are shown footage of people from other countries dressed as the Syrian army, or we see people in uniform wearing white flip-flops, or alleged Syrian military with beards, which are banned by the Syrian army’s grooming standard. However, Syria has general conscription, which means there might be people in the army who have friends or relatives among the insurgents, so they might assist them in smearing the military. 
RT: Some people within the Islamic community accuse President Bashar al-Assad of killing a total of 300 children. What are they talking about? 
AK: In the instances that I know of, it was criminals and not the military who actually murdered children. For example, when someone asked Saria, the mother of a murdered Christian boy, whether Al Jazeera was right in claiming it was the army who killed her son, she replied that if the army had been in town at the time, her son would not have been killed. In another case, international media passed a juvenile rapist killed in Daraa for a victim of the regime, whereas in reality he had been executed by the father of one of his victims. President Assad personally came to Daraa to investigate the incident and eventually decided not to disclose the actual facts so as not to compromise the girl who had been raped. But after the international media peddled the story of “a boy killed by the Syrian army,” the authorities had to expose the actual crime. 
There was another characteristic example, when an internet banner was passed around social networks depicting the sons and the nephew of a Syrian colonel who had been murdered by criminals in Homs on 19 March 2011. Everyone in Syria is aware of the true circumstances of the murder, but for the international public, that banner was compelling as evidence against the Syrian government. 
I know a reporter who was once abducted by criminals and brought to a secret location, where he was presented with the body of a murdered child. The kidnappers forced him at gunpoint to record a video saying he had personally witnessed the military killing that boy. The journalist was told they would kill him too if he ever told the truth about the incident. He sat on the true story for several days out of fear, but eventually he exposed it for his own TV network. This reporter is a Syrian working for the Lebanese Al-Manar TV station. 
A lot of well-meaning and trusting people in other countries fall for such deliberate lies. Some of them earnestly believe that they are supporting justice by passing around these stories about 300 children killed by the army, so they do their best to destabilize the situation and undermine the regime. But in reality, all they do is promote bloodshed and harm their own kinsmen. Even their donations serve the wrong purpose. 
RT: The opposition has no center and ringleaders, but there are endowments and donations. Who is entrusted with handling the money? 
AK: Criminals apprehended by the military admit having been paid for their actions. The payment is always in cash. Sometimes it is US dollars, sometimes it is Syrian pounds. They also admit being supplied with weapons, ammunition, grenades, launchers and explosives. 
Some of the grenades used by the opposition are labeled as made in Israel, by the way. We do not claim that Israel directly arms the opposition, but the fact is that they get their weapons abroad. The Syrian army does not have any Israeli-made arms, just as it does not have weapons made in the United States or in Europe, the kind that have been confiscated from captured insurgents. 
The insurgents also make money by kidnapping people for ransom. The captured criminals have named the specific people who had been paying them to abduct people, as well as the exact prices. A kidnapper is paid a share of the ransom that equals about $200. That is a lot of money in Syria. 
RT: What is known of the endowments that finance the opposition? 
AK: I was once invited to meet a woman in Moscow, who heads one of these organizations. Her name is Stephanie Brancaforte, and she is a Campaign Director for an international association called Avaaz. They have a website located at This organization has recently taken interest in meeting with bloggers who regularly report on Syria and tell the truth. They found our contacts and proposed a personal introduction, and the head of the endowment specially came to Moscow to meet us. I guess we must be really important for them. 
Since I permanently reside in Syria, that woman quickly realized that I would not be duped, nor would I sell out to them. That lady has never been to Syria herself, she does not speak Arabic, and she draws her opinions on the situation in the country from other people’s reports. Nonetheless, she is extremely categorical in her assessment of what is going on there. 
When I asked her straightforward whether she had ever visited Syria, she ended our meeting abruptly. Notably, she had learnt about me from Syrian opposition members based in Moscow. That means they maintain contact with each other. Nobody will ever convince me that an organization that explicitly admits to financing the opposition within Syria does not sponsor opposition members who live in Moscow. 
RT: Is Bashar al-Assad hiding right now? 
AK: There was a demonstration in Damascus recently to manifest the citizens’ solidarity with the government. It was not the largest among such rallies, in fact. Bashar al-Assad showed up together with his wife and children and delivered a public address. I personally saw people running ecstatically to the square to hear him speak and show their support. 

Syria - the last frontier


Syria - the last frontier. 46446.jpegWhat happens in the international community is not by chance, what is happening in Syria and Iran is not by chance. And what is happening in Syria and Iran? Who is behind the acts of terrorism? What is behind the assassinations and murder of high-ranking officials in both countries? We are building up to what, exactly? And where is the truth in the international press?
As usual, the international "bought" press has managed to come up with the same goods time and time again and so long as a gullible public, obediently swayed to where it is supposed to be by swallowing the tidy controlled media package daily, it is going to work: public opinion will acquiesce to the schemes of the arms and energy and banking lobbies which control Washington, and by proxy, NATO and the USA's allies.
For people to know what is really going on, let us take a look at what happens when you go shopping. OK, we all know by now that your costermonger, your greengrocer, your fishmonger, your butcher, your hardware store, your haberdashery and your baker belong in the deepest recesses of the reader's grandparents' memories and that these days if you want to buy something, you drive to a "Big Space", park your car, walk inside, put a coin in the trolley and push it around the store.
What you do not know is that you are controlled from the second you walk in, to the moment you leave. Not only are the goods placed strategically to make you more likely to buy them, the target products for your average two-year-old are higher up than those of the average five-year-old because the two-year-old will be seated on mummy's trolley and the five-year-old will be trailing behind looking at things at his/her eye level. The Big Space then relies on what it calls Pester Power for the buy.
The smells are controlled (coffee to make you feel like buying, bread to make you feel relaxed and at home), the music is controlled to make you move faster or slower and the impulse buys are placed at the check-out where you will spend your three to ten minutes waiting and you or your kids will eventually succumb.
What you also do not know is that the squeaky-clean media package placed before you daily in your nice crisp newspaper or your TV News programme is the result of a similar process of sinister manipulation. How many people were informed of Colonel Gaddafi's positive humanitarian record - for which he was to receive an award from the UNO? How many people knew he was spending his time trying to reduce casualties among the terrorists attacking his country to the minimum, negotiating with them before an attack took place?
Who informed the readers that NATO broke the rules, broke international law, supported terrorists on their own proscribed lists and committed acts of murder and war crimes?
Now let us move on to Syria and Iran. Where are the stories about the mass acts of murder inside both countries, taking out Generals, strategists and high-ranking politicians and scientists? Who is perpetrating these evil deeds, who are these terrorists? Why are these acts being committed?
The answer is perfectly simple. Syria is the last frontier between sanity and a balanced international community, a world ruled by the forces of right and reason and good, and the Satanic desires of the evil and invisible lobbies which are currently in power in Washington, and which in turn control the foreign policy of its allies. We are speaking here of those responsible for torture, for maintaining concentration camps such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, those who urinate in food, commit acts of sodomy on prisoners, those responsible for torture, for maintaining concentration camps such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, who detain persons without due process, without the right to a lawyer, to an accusation or a trial, who commit rape and murder, who break international law, who breach the UN Charter and Geneva Conventions and commit war crimes.
And this same evil clique is now swinging into action in the Middle East. First objective: Lebanon and Syria; second objective: The Islamic republic of Iran; third objective: the resources of Central Asia, leading to direct confrontation with Russia and the People's Republic of China, which passes by installing Washington-friendly regimes in all these countries so that guess who can siphon off the resources?
This is why Syria is the final frontier, this is why Syria must resist the intrusion of the Satanic Arab League and this is why Syria must destroy the demonic elements running amok inside the country committing acts of arson, butchery, terrorism, vandalism, murder and torture.
It is not difficult to stir up trouble, take advantage of internal divisions, divide and rule and reap the consequences from the chaos that is sown. That is exactly what the west has been doing for hundreds of years and continues to do today. It has to do not with freedom and democracy - why did NATO not allow the Libyan Jamahiriya government to hold an election? It has to do with control of resources and guaranteeing that the USD is used as the international currency in major deals, and that includes oil.
Why is it that when a country threatens to swap the USD for another currency in its dealings, it is invaded? As for what we can do, the bottom line is keep informed and hold the politicians responsible for their actions. Democracy does have a fatal fault for those who try to manipulate it, and that is the fact that the power lies ultimately in the hands of the voters.
Bring international policy onto the political agenda and don't let them lie to you and fool you about what is really going on. If you really feel your vote makes a difference, then create the conditions for this to be the case. Let us use citizen power to avoid world war three. After all those who push for it, will their sons be on the front line?

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


13 January 2012
By Richard Walker

Since the middle of 2011 the Western mainstream media has been parroting allegations of genocide in Syria at the hands of the country’s security forces. So far, the media has unquestioningly reported these claims, knowing full well that the sworn enemies of Syria’s current leader, Bashar al-Assad, have been the ones promulgating the stories. Guess who these enemies are? They include neocon war hawks in Israel and Washington, who have supported regime change in Syria since 2003, and their allies in Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

One prominent body, which has been the source for many of the headline-grabbing stories about Syria, is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, whose leaders have chosen to hide their identities. When the observatory fed a story to the Western media that the Syrian military had murdered one of its generals because he defected to run protests against the regime, no one checked with his family. Eventually, the general’s son had to show journalists a medical certificate confirming his father had died of kidney failure years ago, before anyone believed him.

A story that captured the most attention at the close of 2011 was one claiming massacres were taking place daily in the city of Homs, about 100 miles north of the capital, Damascus. The Observatory provided Western news outlets with regular updates, alleging Syrian troops were bombarding the city and were dug in all around it. It was claimed as many as 30 civilians had been shot dead in one day alone.

On Dec. 28, however, monitors from the Arab League visited Syria and traveled to Homs to check out the claims of massacres. Contrary to the stories, the monitors reported they found the atmosphere in Homs “reassuring” and announced that the Syrian government appeared to be in compliance with an agreed-upon peace plan between it and protesters throughout the country.

In many of the reports condemning the regime, there was no mention of the rebel outfits operating like lawless gangs across the country. Those gangs have been engaged in a deliberate campaign to destabilize Syria, and there is evidence they have been backed by Israeli and Western intelligence agencies.

In another report, the Syrian National Council, which is opposed to Assad, told media outlets that Arab League monitors who visited Homs had been duped. Council representatives made the ridiculous claim that the Syrian army had somehow swapped thousands of residents with regime supporters, who were then paraded in front of Arab monitors. This story was published in the mainstream without ever being fact-checked.

Americans should not forget that, in 2003, Congress gave the White House authority to attack Syria under the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003. It remains in force to this day, providing Barack Obama with the authority to wage a clandestine campaign to bring down Assad.


Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.


Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media

by Jonathan Steele - 21 JANUARY 2012

The Guardian’s former international affairs correspondent debunks the Western media and their governments’ distorted view on Syria. If the Arab League mission in the country is challenged, it is not because it lacks objectivity, but because it is likely to reveal the extent of the deception: President Bashar al-Assad enjoys wide support among his people, who are well aware that, behind the armed militias that are sowing terror in the country, lurks NATO’s shadow and that of its clients.

A demonstration in support of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in Damascus. ’Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war.’Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP

Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news? Especially as the finding would go against the dominant narrative about the Syrian crisis, and the media considers the unexpected more newsworthy than the obvious.

Alas, not in every case. When coverage of an unfolding drama ceases to be fair and turns into a propaganda weapon, inconvenient facts get suppressed. So it is with the results of a recent YouGov Siraj poll on Syria commissioned by The Doha Debates, funded by the Qatar Foundation. Qatar’s royal family has taken one of the most hawkish lines against Assad – the emir has just called for Arab troops to intervene – so it was good that The Doha Debates published the poll on its website. The pity is that it was ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go.

The key finding was that while most Arabs outside Syria feel the president should resign, attitudes in the country are different. Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a spectre that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria’s borders. What is less good news for the Assad regime is that the poll also found that half the Syrians who accept him staying in power believe he must usher in free elections in the near future. Assad claims he is about to do that, a point he has repeated in his latest speeches. But it is vital that he publishes the election law as soon as possible, permits political parties and makes a commitment to allow independent monitors to watch the poll.

Biased media coverage also continues to distort the Arab League’s observer mission in Syria. When the league endorsed a no-fly zone in Libya last spring, there was high praise in the west for its action. Its decision to mediate in Syria was less welcome to western governments, and to high-profile Syrian opposition groups, who increasingly support a military rather than a political solution. So the league’s move was promptly called into doubt by western leaders, and most western media echoed the line. Attacks were launched on the credentials of the mission’s Sudanese chairman. Criticisms of the mission’s performance by one of its 165 members were headlined. Demands were made that the mission pull out in favour of UN intervention.

The critics presumably feared that the Arab observers would report that armed violence is no longer confined to the regime’s forces, and the image of peaceful protests brutally suppressed by army and police is false. Homs and a few other Syrian cities are becoming like Beirut in the 1980s or Sarajevo in the 1990s, with battles between militias raging across sectarian and ethnic fault lines.

As for foreign military intervention, it has already started. It is not following the Libyan pattern since Russia and China are furious at the west’s deception in the security council last year. They will not accept a new United Nations resolution that allows any use of force. The model is an older one, going back to the era of the cold war, before “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect” were developed and often misused. Remember Ronald Reagan’s support for the Contras, whom he armed and trained to try to topple Nicaragua’s Sandinistas from bases in Honduras? For Honduras read Turkey, the safe haven where the so-called Free Syrian Army has set up.

Here too western media silence is dramatic. No reporters have followed up on a significant recent article by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer who now writes for the American Conservative – a magazine that criticises the American military-industrial complex from a non-neocon position on the lines of Ron Paul, who came second in last week’s New Hampshire Republican primary. Giraldi states that Turkey, a Nato member, has become Washington’s proxy and that unmarked Nato warplanes have been arriving at Iskenderun, near the Syrian border, delivering Libyan volunteers and weapons seized from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenal. “French and British special forces trainers are on the ground,” he writes, “assisting the Syrian rebels, while the CIA and US Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers …”

As the danger of full-scale war increases, Arab League foreign ministers are preparing to meet in Cairo this weekend to discuss the future of their Syrian mission. No doubt there will be western media reports highlighting remarks by those ministers who feel the mission has “lost credibility”, “been duped by the regime” or “failed to stop the violence”. Counter-arguments will be played down or suppressed.

In spite of the provocations from all sides the league should stand its ground. Its mission in Syria has seen peaceful demonstrations both for and against the regime. It has witnessed, and in some cases suffered from, violence by opposing forces. But it has not yet had enough time or a large enough team to talk to a comprehensive range of Syrian actors and then come up with a clear set of recommendations. Above all, it has not even started to fulfil that part of its mandate requiring it to help produce a dialogue between the regime and its critics. The mission needs to stay in Syria and not be bullied out.

Jonathan Steele

Source The Guardian (United Kingdom)

Qatar, Al Jazeera, and Emir of Qatar

Qatar has an unelected, monarchic, emirate-type government. There are no democratic institutions or elections, and power is assumed on a hereditary basis. Its legal system combines limited aspects of Islamic (or Sharia) and civil law codes in a discretionary system of law totally controlled by the Emir. Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. The most important positions in Qatar are held by the members of the Al Thani family, or close confidants of the al-Thani family. Beginning in 1992, Qatar has built intimate military ties with the United States, and is now the location of U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center.

Al Jazeera Satellite Channel was established with a loan of $137 million provided by The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa and much of Al Jazeera's funding currently still comes from the Qatar government. Chairman of the channel is Emir's cousin Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani. In January 2003, the BBC announced that it had signed an agreement with Al Jazeera for sharing facilities and information, including news footage. Increasingly Al Jazeera's exclusive interviews and other footage are being rebroadcast in American, British, and other western media outlets such as CNN and the BBC.

Released by WikiLeaks as part of the 2010 United States diplomatic cables leak, the U.S. State Department internal communications claim that the Qatar government manipulates Al Jazeera coverage to suit political interests.

Having said all that: The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani speaking to CBS's '60 Minutes', called for military intervention in Syria... He has so much experience on the subject, he is adamant that he can bring democracy and peace to Syria! - Yeap, we believe you Emir (!) - Joke of the century, isn't it?

What Is Really Going On In Syria

What Is Really Going On In Syria: Insider Update

By Boris DOLGOV (Russia)

What Is Really Going On In Syria: Insider Update
The current situation in Syria remains one of the most important components of the Middle Eastern and international policies. Using Syria’s domestic crisis and pursuing their own goals NATO, Israel, Turkey and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf are trying to undermine the Syrian regime.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have made two trips to that country as a member of international delegations in August 2011 and in January 2012. If we watch the dynamics of situation’s development over that period on the one hand we can state intensification of terrorist groups in Syria and on the other hand we see a broader people’s support of President Bashar Assad and a clear demarcation of political forces’ positions.

Two car bombers blew themselves up outside the heavily guarded compounds of Syria's intelligence agencies, killing at least 44 people and wounding dozens more in a brazen attack in December 23, 2011.
In the last two months Syria has seen a number of terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacked Syrian servicemen and military facilities, law enforcement agencies institutions, blasts on oil pipelines, railroads, murders and taking of hostage among peaceful citizens (In the city of Homs insurgents killed five well known scientists), arson of schools and killing of teachers (since March 2011, 900 schools have been set on fire and 30 teachers have been killed).
Terrorist attacks in Damascus became one of the bloodiest. Two of them were carried out on December 23, 2011 when cars loaded with explosives went off in front of the buildings of state security service killing 44 and injured about 150 people. On January 6, 2012 on a busy street a suicide bomber attack killed 26 and wounded 60. There were officers of the law enforcement agencies among the victims but most of the victims were occasional by-passers.
In January 2012, Damascus has a more severe look in comparison with summer of 2011. Security officers check passports on the way to the airport, asking people what country they are from. Entrances of many state institutions are protected with concrete blocks. There are check points with sand bags near the police stations which are protected by soldiers in bullet proof vests. Lifting gates which close entrances to some of the streets are also by guarded by soldiers and young people with machine guns – these are volunteers from pro-governmental youth movements. But everyday life has not drastically changed. There are no servicemen, armed vehicles or document checks in the city. Damascus is still a busy city, with no vacant seats in internet cafes and on weekends streets are crowded with family couples and young people.
After terrorist attacks in Damascus demonstrations with slogans supporting Bashar Assad and condemning terrorists were held everyday. Similar demonstrations were organized in other large cities such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Daraa, Deir az Zor. These demonstrations were covered by the Syrian TV. During our stay in Syria we could move around the city freely and speak with people as we liked but we did not see any single anti-governmental rally. Most of the rallies’ participants were young people.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waves at supporters during a public appearance in Damascus on January 11, 2012 in which he vowed to defeat a "conspiracy" against Syria.
The most massive rally which gathered tens thousands of people was held on January 1 in the center of Damascus. At that rally Bashar Assad addressed to the nation starting his speech with the words: “Brothers and sisters!” He was speaking about a thousands year long history, the need to fight terrorism and the support terrorists receive from abroad. Assad’s speech was received with real enthusiasm and there were no signs that this reaction had been staged.
The whole square (tens thousands of people) shouted a popular slogan “Allah, Syria, Bashar!” (“Allah, Syria va Bashar bas!”). On January 8, in the memory of victims of terrorist attacks in Damascus a commemoration ceremony was held in St. Cross Cathedral in Damascus. The Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the prior of the Catholic monastery spoke at the ceremony. In their speeches they condemned “the killers and those who put weapons in their hands and sent them to Syria”. The tragedy of the mufti of Syria, whose son was killed by the members of the Islamist terrorist group after the mufti had refused to act on the side of the foreign opposition, which goal was to overthrow Bashar Assad, is a telling example in itself.
After the adoption of a new law on political parties an active process of their creation has been underway in Syria. Although formally the constitution envisaged a multiparty system and seven parties were represented in the parliament, in compliance with clause 8 the leading role belonged to the ruling Baath party. Currently there is a wide discussion in Syria about this clause. An official with the Syrian Foreign Ministry told us that in the new constitution (on which the national referendum would be held in February), this clause would be abolished if most of the public and political forces spoke for it.
In his address to the nation Bashar Assad said that the new constitution would be approved in March 2012. The parliamentary elections are to be held in May-June 2012. Along with the law on political parties new laws on general elections, local administration and mass media were adopted. In compliance with the new law in December 2011 elections to the local governments were held. But because of the threat of terrorist attacks the turnout was only 42%, which was confirmed by the Baath officials. Nevertheless, the local administrations were elected and began to work. Under the recently adopted law new mass media are being formed in addition to the current 20 TV channels, 15 radio stations and 30 newspapers.
At present there are three main trends in the Syrian patriotic opposition – democratic, liberal and left, which is mainly a communist one. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is the most influential party among the democratic forces. It is also the oldest party which was established in 1932. As Iliah Saman, a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party said, the party’s program is more conservative in comparison with the Baath’s program. Nevertheless there are no differences of principle between the two parties. According to him, the policy of the US, France and England is the main destabilizing factor in Syria. He said that those countries were acting in the interests of Israel and had the goal to divide Syria into five state formations on the basis of religious and ethnical differences.
The liberal trend of the opposition is represented by the recently registered secular democratic social movement led by Nabil Feysal, one of the Syrian intellectuals, a writer and a translator. He is an outright opponent of the Islamic fundamentalism, supporter of the liberal democracy. His goal is to turn Syria into “Middle Eastern Denmark”.
The National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists is the most influential component of the left (communist) trend of the opposition within the country. Recently it has changed its name for the Popular Will Party which is headed by Qadri Jamil, a prominent Syrian economist and the professor at the Damascus University. He is the only representative of the opposition who entered the committee on the design of the new constitution. Jamil believes that the national dialogue and creation of the government of the national unity (which would include representatives of the patriotic opposition) is the only way out of the crisis. At the same time he thinks that it is necessary to remove all the politicians who are not interested in conduction of reforms from the government, to clean up the opposition from destructive factors and to suppress its radical members who tend to use violence.
The coordination committees are also significant political force which has contacts with the Popular Will Party. These committees on the one hand organize demonstrations demanding concrete reforms and better living conditions on the other hand act as self-defense units which armed people protect their districts from attacks of terrorist groups in particular from a so called Liberal Syrian Army. It should be noted that although in the beginning of protests in Syria, part of the population, including intellectuals shared the opposition discontent with the regime and supported demands on democratization now, after intensification of terrorist groups, they tend to support the regime and the reforms proposed by the government.

French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier
A telling example of terrorist crimes was the shelling of a quarter in Homs on January 11 which killed eight local residents. Giles Jacquier, a reporter with France-2 TV, became one more victim of the attack. We spoke with Jacquier shortly before his tragic death and he was convinced that people’s protests were suppressed by the authoritarian regime in Syria. He was looking for the opposition everywhere trying to make a report. On failing to find it in Damascus he moved with a group of Dutch and Swiss colleagues to Homs. But in Homs he also met people who were supporting Bashar Assad and demanding to protect them from terrorists. A group of local residents and Giles Jacquier who happened to be near came under a grenade thrower fire, which was a common thing in that district. Commenting the tragic death of the French reporter Mother Agnes Mariam, who is the prior of the St James Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, said that there is no protesting opposition in Syria but only bandits who are killing people.
Many people we contacted in Syria including independent foreign reporters told us about the information war against Syria. According to them, Qatari channel Al Jazeera, for example, in order to broadcast a report on mass anti-governmental rallies in Syria made a fake footage with the help of computer editing using dozens of atmosphere players and decoration of Syrian streets, a kind of “Hollywood village”.
As for the Syrian opposition abroad, its political part is represented by the Syrian National council with the headquarters in Istanbul. It is headed by Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian-French political scientist at the Sorbonne University in Paris. It is quite a heterogeneous formation which comprises groups with different goals. They represent the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunnite organizations, Kurdish separatists, Liberal-Democratic dissidents who usually reside in Europe and in the US.
The armed opposition which conducted terrorist attacks in Syria is represented by a number of groups from a military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to the Libyan radical Islamists and Al Qaeda. According to the information we receive from our Syrian colleagues there are training camps for insurgents in Lebanon and Turkey. The officers of security services of NATO, Turkey and some Arab states are in charge for the training and armament of the insurgents, while the monarchies of the Persian Gulf provide the financing.
The future development of the situation in Syria depends in many ways on the ability of the ruling regime to consolidate public forces and conduct the announced reforms. Other priorities are the liquidation of terrorist groups and stabilization of the domestic situation. In its turn this issue is directly linked to the development of the global policies and will depend on the activities of the leading countries of NATO, Turkey, the Arab League (which sent its monitors to Syria) Russia and China.
As for Russia, it firmly declares that repetition of the “Libyan scenario” in Syria is inadmissible.


The Truth Behind the Coming "Regime Change" in Syria

After meeting again to decide Syria's fate, the Arab League again decided to extend its "monitoring mission" in Syria. However, some Arab League nations under U.S. diplomatic control are clamoring for blood. These countries — virtual sock puppets of U.S. foreign policy — want to declare the Arab League monitoring mission "a failure,” so that military intervention — in the form of a no fly zone — can be used for regime change.

The United States appears to be using a strategy in Syria that it has perfected over the years, having succeeded most recently in Libya: arming small paramilitary groups loyal to U.S. interests that claim to speak for the local population; these militants then attack the targeted government the U.S. would like to see overthrown — including terrorist bombings — and when the attacked government defends itself, the U.S. cries "genocide" or "mass murder,” while calling for foreign military intervention.

This is the strategy that the U.S. is using to channel the Arab Spring into the bloody dead end of foreign military intervention.

For example, the U.S. media and government are fanatically giving the impression that, in Syria, the local population would like foreign militarily intervention to overthrow their authoritarian president, Bashar Assad. But facts are stubborn things.

After spinning these lies, The New York Times was forced to admit, in several articles, that there have been massive rallies in Syria in support of the Syrian government. These rallies are larger than any pro-government demonstration that the U.S. government could hope to organize for itself. The New York Times reports:

"The turnout [at least tens of thousands — see picture in link] in Sabaa Bahrat Square in Damascus, the [Syrian] capital, once again underlined the degree of backing that Mr. Assad and his leadership still enjoy among many Syrians, nearly seven months into the popular uprising. That support is especially pronounced in cities like Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two largest." (January 13, 2012).

The New York Times is forced to admit that the two largest cities — in a small country — support the government (or at least oppose foreign military intervention).

This was further confirmed by a poll funded by the anti-Syrian Qatar Foundation, preformed by the Doha Debates:

"According to the latest opinion poll commissioned by The Doha Debates, Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign." (January 2, 2012).

If people in Syria do not want foreign intervention — a likely reason that so many attended pro-Assad demonstrations — what about the so-called Free Syrian Army, which the United States has given immense credibility to and which claims to speak for the Syrian people?

The Free Syrian Army — like its Libyan counterpart — appears to be yet another Made-in-the-USA militant group, by route of its ally Turkey, a fact alluded to by the pro U.S.-establishment magazine, Foreign Affairs:

"Why does the Syrian [government] military not rocket their [Free Syrian Army] position or launch a large-scale assault? The FSA fighters are positioned about a mile from the Turkish border, near enough to escape across if the situation turned dire."

The article also quotes a Free Syrian Army member who states: "Every [Free Syrian Army] group in Turkey has its own job," Sayeed said. "[The Turks] gave us our freedom to move." (December 8, 2011).

The article also mentions that the Free Syrian Army is calling for a "no fly zone" over certain regions of Syria, which would destroy the Syrian government military; the possible starting locations of this no fly zone are on the Syrian borders of either Turkey, Jordan, or Iraq — all three are either strong U.S. allies or client states.

A “no fly zone” is the new euphemism that means the U.S. and its European military junior partners in NATO will intervene to use their advanced fighter jets to destroy the Syrian military, as happened in Libya. In Libya the no fly zone evolved into a “no drive zone” and eventually a “no survival” zone for anything resembling the Syrian military — or anybody who armed himself in defense of the Libyan government.

As in Syria, Libya's largest city, Tripoli, never had large anti-government demonstrations. The anti-Libyan government/pro-U.S. paramilitary group that attacked Libyan forces was so tiny that it took months to take power after 10,000 NATO bombing sorties (bombing missions) that destroyed large portions of Libya's infrastructure, as documented by the independent Human Rights Investigations.

It's totally unimaginable that any large section of Syrian society would invite a NATO-backed no fly zone, i.e. war, into Syria. The examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are too glaring for any Middle Eastern nation not to notice. For the Free Syrian Army to demand a NATO invasion of Syria is enough to label the FSA a U.S. puppet group striving for political power, deserving to be condemned.

This strategy of using a proxy army to undermine an anti-U.S. government has a grisly past. This strategy is celebrated in the book Charlie Wilson's War, which tells the true story of the U.S. government sending weapons and cash to Islamic extremists to wage a terrorist campaign against the Afghan government, which was an ally of the Soviet Union at the time. The attacks eventually led to the Afghan government asking for Soviet military re-enforcements, whose presence in Afghanistan created a degree of popular support for the extremists who eventually became known as the Taliban.

The same scenario also played itself out in Kosovo, where the tiny, U.S.-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began a terrorist campaign against the government of Yugoslavia, intending to separate Kosovo into an independent nation. When the Yugoslav government attempted to defend itself from the KLA — while imitating its violent tactics — the U.S. and other western governments labeled it genocide, and invaded Yugoslavia, calling it a "humanitarian invasion.” To this day the U.S. is one of few nations that recognizes Kosovo as an independent nation while Kosovo faithfully serves the interests of the United States.

The same proxy war strategy — by the U.S. and other European powers — played a crucial role in numerous wars throughout Africa, which culminated in the massive Congo War that killed over five million people, as French journalist Gerard Prunier describes in his book, Africa's World War.

In Syria history is repeating itself, and some non-U.S. allies are very aware of it. The New York Times reports:

"[Russia's Foreign Minister] said that foreign governments [the U.S., Turkey, etc.] were arming ‘militants and extremists’ in Syria."

The Foreign minister also gave an accurate description of U.S. foreign policy towards Iran:

"Mr. Lavrov offered a similarly grave message about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, which he said would be a “catastrophe.” He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran were “intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.” (January 19, 2012).

Most ominously, the Russian Foreign Minister said that U.S. foreign policy in Syria and Iran could lead to a "very big war,” i.e., a war that becomes regional or even international in scope, as other powers intervene to uphold their interests in the region.

Russia has offered a way to avoid war in Syria and is pursuing it through the UN Security Council; it is the same path being pursued by the pro-U.S. government in Yemen: maintaining the current government in power until elections are called. Unfortunately, Yemen is an ally of the U.S. and Syria is not — the U.S. and its allies are blocking the same approach in Syria in order to pursue war.

The Syrian government opposition bloc inside of Syria, the National Coordination Committee, opposes foreign military intervention. A leader of the NCC is Hassan Abdul Azim, who wisely states;

“We refuse on principle any type of military foreign intervention because it threatens the freedom of our country,” (January 19, 2012).

This is very likely the prevailing opinion inside of Syria, since the threat of no fly zones will result in the same mass bombings experienced by the citizens of Tripoli in Libya. The fake Syrian opposition outside of the country, The Syrian National Council, is yet another U.S. puppet — now allied with the Free Syrian Army — begging for a military invasion of Syria in order to "liberate" it. Of course the western media tells only the perspective of the pro-U.S. Syrian National Council.

The U.S. has proven on multiple occasions that military solutions solve nothing, having torn asunder the social fabric of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya. The working people of Syria and Iran do not desire "help" from the U.S. government and its allies to prevent bloodshed. The working people of these countries could liberate themselves from their authoritarian governments, as did the Tunisians and Egyptians, which is precisely the point: the U.S. is intervening militarily to re-gain control over a region that slipped out of its hands during the Arab Spring. This military approach serves to push the working people of the targeted country into the hands of their government while creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the invaded nation. The working people of the United States have no interest in aggressive war and have a responsibility to learn about U.S. government propaganda so that they can demand its end in the streets.

Shamus Cooke is a social worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( ),3

Shamus Cooke is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Shamus Cooke