Erdogan: The Sultan Of An Illusionary Ottoman Empire

Global Research, March 09, 2017
Erdogan-turquie

This is the fourth and last in a series of articles based in part on eyewitness accounts about the rapidly deteriorating socio-political conditions in Turkey and what the future may hold for the country. The first, second and third articles are available here: First, Second, Third.

In many conversations and encounters I had over the years with former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, he emphatically echoed his boss President Erdogan’s grandiose vision that by 2023 (the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic), Turkey will become as powerful and influential as the Ottoman Empire was during its heyday. Under the best of circumstances, Turkey cannot realize Erdogan’s far-fetched dream. Had he stayed the course, however, with his socio-political and judiciary reforms and economic developments, as he had during his first nine years in power, Turkey could have become a major player on the global stage and a regional powerhouse.

Sadly, Erdogan abandoned much of the impressive democratic reforms he championed, and embarked upon a systematic Islamization of the country while dismantling the pillars of democracy. He amassed unprecedented powers and transformed Turkey from a democratic to an autocratic country, ensuring that he has the last word on all matters of state.

In retrospect, it appears that Erdogan had never committed himself to a democratic form of government. The reforms he undertook during his first nine years in power were largely induced by the European Union’s requirements from any country seeking membership, which he exploited as a means by which to propel himself toward his ultimate goal. A quote attributed to him in 1999 describes precisely what his real intentions were from the day he rose to power. “Democracy” he said, “is like a bus, when you arrive at your destination, you step off.”

His role model is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (meaning “Father of the Turks”), who founded the Turkish Republic in 1923.  Both share similar personal attributes as they sought to lead the nation with an iron fist while disregarding any separation of power. However, Atatürk was determined to establish a Westernized secular democratic state while Erdogan went in the opposite direction.

Erdogan steadily moved to create a theocracy where Islamic tradition and values reign supreme while assuming Atatürk’s image, which is revered by most Turks. Erdogan presents himself as one who leads with determination and purpose, generating power from his popular support, ultimately seeking to replace Atatürk; with the new amendments to the constitution, he will be endowed with powers even greater than Atatürk ever held.

With his growing popularity and most impressive economic growth, Erdogan successfully created the status of a strong and resolute leader—the “father” of a new Turkish Republic—and artfully penetrated the consciousness of the Turkish public while using Islam as the undisputed pathway that will lead Turkey to greatness. He is determined to preside at the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic over a powerful nation among the top ten largest global economies and that extends its influence East and West, akin to the prodigious influence that the Ottoman Empire enjoyed.

To realize his grand vision, Erdogan took several measures to consolidate his absolute power.

First, clearing the way: Erdogan embarked on the complete marginalization or elimination of anyone, in and outside the ruling AK Party, that challenged his authority or advanced new ideas for solving the country’s problems. Those who did not support his policies and dared to question his judgment were not spared. He resorted to conspiracy theories, accusing his political opponents of being enemies of the state aiming to topple his government, in order to continue unopposed to realize his vision for the country, analogous to the influence and outreach of the Ottoman Empire. He even fired his long-time friend and confidant Davutoglu because Davutoglu differed from him in connection with the Kurdish problem, and especially because of Davutoglu’s reluctance to support the constitutional amendments that will grant the president sweeping and unprecedented powers.

Second, the need for a culprit: Erdogan needed a scapegoat to blame for any of his shortcomings, and found the Gulen movement to be the perfect culprit that would provide him with the cover to overshadow the massive corruption that has swept his government. This also provided him with the “justification” to crack down on many social, political, and institutional entities, silencing the media, controlling the judiciary, and subordinating the military.

The aftermath of the attempted military coup in July 2016 gave him the ammunition to conduct a society-wide witch-hunt, providing him with the excuse to purge tens of thousands of people from academia, civil society, judiciary, military, and internal security. This has allowed him to assume total control of all departments in the government and private sector. He described his purge as a necessary evil to cleanse the public of the ‘cancer’ that has gripped the country. In so doing, he ensured that the political system revolves around the presidency, leaving him completely unchallenged to pursue his imperial dream to resurrect the stature of the Ottoman Empire as the country prepares to vote in the constitutional referendum on April 16.

Third, the creation of Ottoman symbolism: To project his grandiose vision, Erdogan needed to instill Ottoman images into the public consciousness, including the building of a 1,100-room ‘White Palace’ as his residence at a prohibitive cost to taxpayers. His most recent project was the Çamlica Mosque, the now-largest mosque in Istanbul, standing on the eponymous hill that overlooks the entire city.

Recently, Erdogan started the construction of another mosque in Taksim Square—once the site of the fiercest protests against Erdogan in his career—with all the style of the Ottoman era. Erdogan has even instructed that the national anthem be played on modified drums and brass instruments to make the music sound as if it were being played by bands of the Ottoman period. His purpose is to indoctrinate the public in a subliminal way to his perspective of the glorious Ottoman period.

Fourth, foreign policy assertiveness: Under Erdogan, Turkey has become increasingly assertive and forceful in the region. In Cyprus, he is determined to strike a deal largely on his terms. In Iraq, he placed Turkish troops over the objections of the Iraqi government to maintain his ruthless war against the Kurds. In Syria, he allowed thousands of foreign fighters, including many who have joined ISIS, to cross the border to strengthen the anti-Assad fight, while fighting the Syrian Kurds to prevent them from establishing their own autonomous rule, fearing that the Turkish Kurds would also demand autonomous rule of their own.

Erdogan further promoted the policy of “zero problem with neighbors,” and although presently Turkey has problems with just about every neighbor (and its prospective EU membership has completely diminished), he continues to claim that Turkey enjoys good relations internationally. Erdogan still uses Turkey’s membership in NATO as a sign of greatness; the fact that Turkey has the second-largest number of ground troops in  NATO reinforces his illusion that Ankara enjoys unrivaled military prowess in the region and commands the respect and attention of the international community that the Ottoman Empire was accorded.

Fifth, promoting Islam as a powerful tool: Erdogan is also using Sunni Islam to promote the country as a republic with Islamic ideals supported by a loyal state apparatus. He portrays himself as the leader of the Sunni world that would restore the Ottoman era of influence while cementing his authoritarian rule in the form of a neo-Sultan. To be sure, Erdogan is vigorously promoting – with the support of his party – Islamic nationalism systematically and meticulously. Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish analyst of politics and culture and author of the new book The Islamic Jesus says that “political propaganda is in your face every day, every single moment. If you turn on TV, if you open newspapers…”

Former Prime Minister Davutoglu said in 2015 that Turkey “will re-found the Ottoman state.” Although Davutoglu was fired, he—like most Turkish officials—depicts the government as the rightful heir of the Ottoman legacy. To that end, Erdogan uses Islam as the unifying theme that would propel Turkey to the greatness that the Ottoman Empire enjoyed. In fact, Turkish religious leaders have always thought of themselves as the standard-bearer of Islamic civilization, and though this failed with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, to them it must now be corrected. As they would have it, “Turks once again should lead the ummah [Islamic community] as the new Ottomans.”

Sadly, Erdogan, who is still seen as a hero by nearly half of the Turkish population, is leading the country on a treacherous path. Turkey and its people have the resources, creativity, and institutions to make Turkey a significant power. Erdogan, who demonstrated an uncanny ability to harness his country’s natural and human resources, could have made Turkey such a power on the global stage. Indeed, he would have been the Atatürk of the new era had he simply continued with his historic reforms while protecting the rights of every individual and creating a real model of Islamic democracy.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire was largely precipitated, among other things, by its internal political decadence, the arbitrary exercising of power, and gross violations of human rights that dramatically eroded the foundation on which the empire was built.

In whichever form Erdogan wants to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, he will fail because no country can survive, let alone become great, as long as the government walks on the backs of the people and stifles their freedom to act, speak, and dream.

There is where the greatness of any nation rests and endures—the Ottoman Empire never provided a model worthy of such emulation.

 

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Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah … two current constants: Coordinate with the Syrian government… and no for taxes السيد نصرالله… ثابتتان راهنتان: نسقوا مع الحكومة السورية ولا للضرائب

Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah … two current constants: Coordinate with the Syrian government… and no for taxes

Written by Nasser Kandil,

فبراير 15, 2017

Among his fixed attitudes defending the system of relativity which achieves the fairness or suggesting “give us your alternative”, in addition to his clear readings of the variables of the US administration which will not change anything the Secretary-General of Hezbollah Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah talked about two current duties one is Lebanese and regional duty that is related to the position of Hezbollah and its responsibilities within its concept of the partnership in the war in Syria, entitled a practical plan to solve the issue of the displaced, and in the second duty Hezbollah determines its initial red line in the financial and social policies, and thus the identity of the Lebanese system,  it is entitled no new taxes.

In the issue of the displaced Al Sayyed Hassan Nasrollah surpasses the talk about the hypotheses that worth discovering, he also ignored the debated language for responding to his opponents. According to what he said the words of the Lebanese government and the political parties concerning the issue of the displaced are no longer a reason for warning from the threat of relocation and the humanitarian tragedy, they only related to the begging and the political hypocrisy. The issue in which Al Sayyed participates and which they say that it has a burden on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is possible and must be solved through a Lebanese initiative according to a road map that was proposed simply by Al Sayyed Nasrollah, it begins with making communications with the Syrian government through the Lebanese government that has official contact committees with the Israelis through a truce, but refuses to make an official contact with the Syrian government. The continuation of the financial and political trading of the issue is no longer acceptable to be continued.

The road map includes a survey about the main areas of displacement from which the departing groups to Lebanon are formed, and the cooperation with the Syrian government to form three steps; first determining the degrees of the achieved security to ensure the conditions of the return and the settlements. Second, organizing delegations from this areas and joint committees between the residents and the displaced to present the guarantees for a good return and creating practical local conditions to achieve that. Third official Syrian and Lebanese committees in which Hezbollah is committed that it is ready to participate in them to put a temporal practical plans to start implementing the return on sequential stages.

In the second issue, Hezbollah and his Secretary-General start a new stage of dealing with the internal affairs, it is not a party for just the resistance, for just the resistance and presidency, and for just the resistance, presidency, and politics, it is a party for the people. Socially it biases for the poor, and in the concept of the sponsoring state that is against the liberalism as an approach, culture, and policies it has the left-wing trend and identity, it is ready to raise veto against the main characteristic of the liberal politics, saying no more new taxes, this is anticipated by the people, the experts, intellectuals and elites and those who are committed to the idea of the sponsoring state , who will raise it in front of what was included in the budget of the tax regulations that form  burdens that the poor have no ability to bear them. If the Minister of Finance who belongs to the movement of the deprived at the time of the government of the consensus has to submit a budget that has some issues that belong to the era of the Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora as a tax for having a portfolio, then the support will come from the partner ally at the mouthpiece of the its Secretary-General,  that these taxes will not be recorded on its history and the history of Amal Movement and that the government has to search for new resources to finance the needs of the budget.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah

السيد نصرالله… ثابتتان راهنتان: نسقوا مع الحكومة السورية ولا للضرائب

فبراير 13, 2017

ناصر قنديل

– من بين وقفاته الثابتة دفاعاً عن النظام النسبي الذي يحقق الإنصاف أو «هاتوا بديلكم»، وقراءاته الواضحة لمتغيّرات الإدارة الأميركية التي لن تغيّر شيئاً، وقف الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله عند مهمّتين راهنتين واحدة لبنانية إقليمية تتصل بموقع الحزب ومسؤولياته ضمن مفهومه للشراكة في الحرب في سورية، وعنوانها خطة عملية لحل قضية النازخين، والثانية يحدّد فيها الحزب خطه الأحمر المبدئي في السياسات المالية والاجتماعية، وبالتالي في هوية النظام اللبناني، وعنوانها لا ضرائب جديدة.

– في قضية النازحين يتخطى السيد نصرالله الحديث عن فرضيات تستحق الاستكشاف، ويتجاوز اللغة السجالية للرد على خصوم، فوق ما قاله لم يعد لكلام الحكومة والأطراف السياسية اللبنانية عن قضية النازحين، من التحذير من خطر التوطين إلى الحديث عن المأساة الإنسانية، إلا صفة التسوّل والمتاجرة والنفاق السياسي، فالقضية التي يشارك السيد الذي يقولون بثقلها على لبنان واللبنانيين، ممكنة وواجبة الحل بمبادرة لبنانية وفقاً لخريطة طريق عرضها السيد نصرالله ببساطة، تبدأ بالاتصال بالحكومة السورية، من قبل حكومة لبنانية تملك لجان اتصال رسمية مع الإسرائيليين عبر صيغة الهدنة، وترفض إقامة اتصال رسمي مع الحكومة السورية، وهذا ما عاد مقبولاً أن يستمرّ لتستمر المتاجرة المالية والسياسية بالقضية.

– خريطة الطريق تتضمّن مسحاً لأماكن النزوح الرئيسية التي تتشكّل منها كتل النازحين إلى لبنان، والتعاون مع الحكومة السورية لبرمجة ثلاث خطوات، الأولى تحديد درجات الأمن المحققة فيها لرسم أولوية ما توفرت فيها شروط العودة والتسويات، والثانية تنظيم وفود من هذه المناطق ولجان مشتركة بين المقيمين والنازحين لتقديم الضمانات لعودة كريمة وبلورة شروط محلية عملية لتحقيق ذلك، والثالثة لجان لبنانية سورية رسمية، يلتزم حزب الله بأنه مستعد للمشاركة فيها لوضع خطط زمنية وعملية للبدء بتنفيذ العودة على مراحل متتابعة.

– في المسألة الثانية يفتتح حزب الله وأمينه العام مرحلة جديدة من التعاطي مع الشأن الداخلي، فهو ليس حزباً للمقاومة فقط، ومن ثم للمقاومة والرئاسة، فالمقاومة والرئاسة والسياسة، بل هو حزب الناس، يأتي بالمعنى الاجتماعي من الانحياز للفقراء ومن مفهوم دولة الرعاية المعادية لليبرالية كمنهج وثقافة وسياسات، هو يساري التوجّه والهوية، جاهز لرفع الفيتو بوجه السمة الأساسية للسياسات الليبرالية، قائلاً لا كبيرة لفرض ضرائب جديدة. وهو ما ينتظر الناس ومعهم الخبراء والمثقفون والنخب الملتزمون بفكرة الدولة الراعية، مَن سيرفعها بوجه ما تضمنته الموازنة من لوائح ضريبية تتشكل من مجموعها أثفالاً مرهقة لا قدرة على الفقراء لتحمل أعبائها، وإذا كانت ضريبة حمل حقيبة المالية على وزيرها المنتمي لحركة المحرومين في زمن حكومة التوافق، أن يقدّم موازنة فيها بعض من مواد تنتمي لحقبة الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة، فإن المعونة تأتية من الحليف الشريك بلسان أمينه العام، بأن هذه الضرائب لن تمرّ وتسجل على تاريخه وتاريخ حركة أمل، وعلى الحكومة أن تبحث عن موارد جديدة لتمويل حاجات الموازنة.

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Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria

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Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria


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Over the past five years, the increasingly ridiculous propaganda against President al-Assad and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has ranged from the scripted (OTPOR fomented -“revolution“) “peaceful protesters under fire” rhetoric, to other deceitful lexicon like “civil war,” and “moderate rebels.”

As the intervention campaigns continue with new terrorist and “humanitarian” actors (literally) constantly emerging in the NATO-alliance’s theatre of death squads, it is worth reviewing some of the important points regarding the war on Syria.

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Million Person Marches

On March 29, 2011 (less than two weeks into the fantasy “revolution”) over 6 million people across Syria took to the streets in support of President al-Assad. In June, a reported hundreds of thousands marched in Damascus in support of the president, with a 2.3 km long Syrian flag. In November, 2011 (9 months into the chaos), masses again held demonstrations supporting President al-Assad, notably in Homs (the so-called “capital of the ‘revolution’”), Dara’a (the so-called “birthplace of the ‘revolution’”), Deir ez-Zour, Raqqa, Latakia, and Damascus.

Mass demonstrations like this have occurred repeatedly since, including in March 2012, in May 2014 in the lead-up to Presidential elections, and in June 2015, to note just some of the larger rallies.

In May 2013, it was reported that even NATO recognized the Syrian president’s increased popularity. “The data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support” the Assad government. At present, the number is now at least 80 percent.

The most telling barometer of Assad’s support base was the Presidential elections in June 2014, which saw 74 percent (11.6 million) of 15.8 million registered Syrian voters vote, with President al-Assad winning 88 percent of the votes. The lengths Syrians outside of Syria went to in order to voteincluded flooding the Syrian embassy in Beirut for two full days (and walking several kilometres to get there) and flying from countries with closed Syrian embassies to Damascus airport simply to cast their votes. Within Syria, Syrians braved terrorist mortars and rockets designed to keep them from voting; 151 shells were fired on Damascus alone, killing 5 and maiming 33 Syrians.

For a more detailed look at his broad base of popular support, see Professor Tim Anderson’s “Why Syrians Support Bashar al Assad.”

A handout picture released on July 26, 2015 by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows President Bashar al-Assad waving to the crowd following a speech in the capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

The Reforms

Prior to the events of March 2011 Syrians did have legitimate desires for specific reforms, many of which were implemented from the beginning of the unrest. In fact, President al-Assad made reforms prior to and following March 17, 2011.

Stephen Gowans noted some of those early reforms, including:

  • Canceling the Emergency Law;
  • Amending the the constitution and putting it to a referendum [8.4 million Syrians voted; 7.5 million voted in favour of the constitution];
  • Scheduling, then holding, multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections

The constitution, according to Gowans, “mandated that the government maintain a role in guiding the economy on behalf of Syrian interests, and that the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, oil companies, and other corporations.”

It also included:

  • “security against sickness, disability and old age; access to health care; free education at all levels”
  • a provision “requiring that at minimum half the members of the People’s Assembly are to be drawn from the ranks of peasants and workers.”

Political commentator Jay Tharappel further articulated:

The new constitution introduced a multi-party political system in the sense that the eligibility of political parties to participate isn’t based on the discretionary permission of the Baath party or on reservations, rather on a constitutional criteria….the new constitution forbids political parties that are based on religion, sect or ethnicity, or which are inherently discriminatory towards one’s gender or race. (2012: Art.8)

No surprise that NATO’s exile-Syrian pawns refused the reforms and a constitution which ensures a sovereign Syria secure from the claws of multi-national corporations and Western banks.

In his article, “Decriminalising Bashar – towards a more effective anti-war movement,” writer Carlos Martinez outlined Syria’s positives, including its anti-imperialist, socialist policies; its secularism and multiculturalism; and—poignantly—its continued support for Palestinians and anti-Zionist stance.

These are all points that contradict the lies spewed over the past nearly five years, and shatter the feeble justification for continuing to wage war on Syria.

Twisting the Numbers to Serve the War Agenda

The number and nature of Syrians killed varies depending on which list one consults. Many talking heads draw from one sole source, UK-based SyrianRami Abdulrahman of the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights(SOHR) (run out of his home and based on information provided largely by unnamed “activists”). Abdulrahman hasn’t been to Syria for 15 years, and, as Tony Cartalucci noted, is “a member of the so-called ‘Syrian opposition’ and seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.” Further, Cartalucci explained, “Abdul Rahman’s operation is indeed funded by the European Union and a “European country” he refuses to identify.” So not an impartial source.

In her February 2012 “Questioning the Syrian Casualty List“, political analyst Sharmine Narwani laid out the logistical difficulties of collating the number of deaths, including:

  • Different casualty lists and difficulty confirming accuracy of any of them.
  • Lack of information on: how deaths were verified and by whom and from what motivation.
  • Lack of information on the dead: civilian, pro or anti government civilians; armed groups; Syrian security forces?”

She found that one early casualty list included 29 Palestinian refugees “killed by Israeli fire on the Golan Heights on 15 May 2011 and 5 June 2011 when protesters congregated on Syria’s armistice line with Israel.”

Jay Tharappel looked at two of the other prime groups cited regarding casualties in Syria: the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) and the Violations Documentation Center (VDC).

He noted that neither of the groups “are ‘independent’ in the sense that they function merely to provide facts, they’re all open about their agenda to overthrow the Syrian government…and for the imposition of a no-fly zone on behalf of the ‘moderate rebels’, whoever they are.”

Further, according to Tharappel, “the SNHR doesn’t provide any evidence to substantiate its assertions about the numbers killed by government forces. They claim to have ‘documented [victims] by full name, place, and date of death,’ however none of these can be found on their website.”

Regarding the VDC, he wrote, “there are good reasons to believe the VDC is listing dead insurgents as civilians, as well as mislabeling dead government soldiers as FSA fighters.”

One example he cited was the listing of a Jaysh al-Islam militant, ‘Hisham Al-Sheikh Bakri’, killed by the SAA in Douma (infested with Jaysh al-Islam terrorists), in February 2015, which al-Masdar News reported. The VDC alsolisted ‘Hisham Abd al-Aziz al-Shaikh Bakri’, “however this one is listed as an adult male civilian and not a Jaish Al-Islam fighter,” Tharappel wrote.

Even embedded war reporter Nir Rosen, Tharappel recalled, in 2012 wrote:

Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes.

It would be an understatement to say there are considerable, and intentional, inaccuracies in the lists of these groups. In fact, most of the aforementioned groups fail to note what commentators like Paul Larudee did:

The UN estimates 220,000 deaths thus far in the Syrian war. But almost half are Syrian army soldiers or allied local militia fighters, and two thirds are combatants if we count opposition fighters. Either way, the ratio of civilian to military casualties is roughly 1:2, given that the opposition is also inflicting civilian casualties. Compare that to the roughly 3:1 ratio in the US war in Iraq and 4:1 in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-9. (The rate of Palestinian to Israeli casualties was an astronomical 100:1.)

“Leftists” Keeping the Myths Alive

Public figures like Owen Jones, and pro-Palestinian sites like the Middle East Eye and the Electronic Intifada, have a following for their more palatable (and safe) solidarity stance on Palestine, but routinely spew rhetoric against Syria, which is then echoed by their well-intentioned, if very misinformed, followers.

Much of grassroots “Leftists”’ anti-Syria propaganda is as poisonous as corporate media. Routinely, at ostensibly anti-war/anti-Imperialist gatherings, the anti-Syria narrative is predominant.

For example, at the March 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis, some Syria-specific panels spun the fairy tale of “revolutionaries” in Syria, one panel alleging: “The protests in Syria were peaceful for almost six or seven months; 6-7000 unarmed people were killed; only then did ‘rebels’ eventually take up arms.”

Yet, it is known that from the beginning, in Dara’a  and throughout Syria, armed protesters were firing upon, and butchering, security forces and civilians. Tim Anderson’s “Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa” pointed out that police were killed by snipers in the March 17/18 protests; the Syrian army was only brought to Dara’a following the murder of the policemen. Additionally, a storage of protesters’ weapons was found in Dara’a’s al-Omari mosque.

Prem Shankar Jha’s, “Who Fired The First Shot?” described the slaughter of 20 Syrian soldiers outside Dara’a a month later, “by cutting their throats, and cutting off the head of one of the soldiers.” A very “moderate”-rebel practice.

In “Syria: The Hidden Massacre” Sharmine Narwani investigated the early massacres of Syrian soldiers, noting that many of the murders occurred even after the Syrian government had abolished the state security courts, lifted the state of emergency, granted general amnesties, and recognized the right to peaceful protest.

The April 10, 2011 murder of Banyas farmer Nidal Janoud was one of the first horrific murders of Syrian civilians by so-called “unarmed protesters.” Face gashed open, mutilated and bleeding, Janoud was paraded by an armed mob, who then hacked him to death.

Father Frans Van der Ludt—the Dutch priest living in Syria for nearly 5 decades prior to his April 7, 2014 assassination by militants occupying the old city of Homs—wrote (repeatedly) of the “armed demonstrators” he saw in early protests, “who began to shoot at the police first.”

May 2011 video footage of later-resigned Al Jazeera journalist Ali Hashem shows fighters entering Syria from Lebanon, carrying guns and RPGs (Hashem stated he’d likewise seen fighters entering in April). Al Jazeera refused to air the May footage, telling Hashem to ‘forget there are armed men.’ [See: Sharmine Narwani’s “Surprise Video Changes Syria “Timeline””] Unarmed protesters?

aljewzeera_weapons

The Sectarian Card: Slogans and Massacres

What sectarianism we see in Syria today was delivered primarily by the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and by Turkey, with NATO’s blessing and backing. The cross-sect make-up of both the Syrian State and the Syrian army alone speaks of Syria’s intentional secularism, as well as the prevalent refusal of average Syrians to self-identify along sectarian lines.

On the other hand, from the beginning, the West’s “nonviolent protesters” were chanting sectarian slogans, notably, “Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the grave.” Other popular chants included: calling for the extermination of all Alawis; pledging allegiance to Saudi-based extremist Syrian Sheikh Adnan Arour and to extremist MB supporting Egyptian Sheikh, Yusuf al-Qardawi.

Qatar-based Qaradawi advocates killing Syrian civilians: “It is OK to kill one third of the Syrian population if it leads to the toppling of the heretical regime.” The inflammatory Arour said about Syria’s Alawis: “By Allah we shall mince them in meat grinders and feed their flesh to the dogs.”

The NATO alliance’s terrorists have committed numerous massacres of Syrian civilians and soldiers, many of which were intended to sow sectarianism, including:

  • The June 2011 Jisr al Shugour, Idlib, massacre of up to 120 people (soldiers and civilians) by between 500-600 so-called FSA terrorists; blamed on the SAA as having killed “military deserters”. [see Prem Shankar Jha’s  article“Syria – Who fired the first shot?”]
  • The Houla massacre of over 100 civilians on May 25, 2012, which only 2 days later the UN claimed—without an investigation— had been committed by the Syrian Army. [See Tim Anderson’s detailed rebuttal, “The Houla Massacre Revisited: “Official Truth” in the Dirty War on Syria” In the same article, Anderson also looked at the August 2012 Daraya massacre of 245 people and the December 2012 Aqrab massacre of up to 150 villagers.
  • The August 2013 massacre of at least 220 civilians (including a fetus, many children, women, elderly) and kidnapping of at least 100 (mostly women and children) in villages in the Latakia countryside.
  • The December 2013 massacre of at least 80 residents (many “slaughtered like sheep”, decapitated, burned in bakery ovens) in Adra industrial village.
  • The continued terrorist-mortaring of civilian areas and schools; the repeated terrorist-car-bombing of civilian areas and schools. [see: “The Terrorism We Support in Syria: A First-hand Account of the Use of Mortars against Civilians”]

Yet, in spite of outside forces attempts to sow sectarianism in Syria, the vast majority of Syrian people refuse it. Re-visiting Syria in July 2015, Professor Tim Anderson recounted that Latakia alone “has grown from 1.3 million to around 3 million people – they come from all parts, not just Aleppo, also Hama, Deir eZorr, and other areas.” He also visited Sweida, a mainly Druze region, which has accommodated “135,000 families, mainly from Daraa – others from other parts”. Mainly Sunni families.

SAA-20140512-2-700

The Syrian “Civil War”?!

Given that:

  • At least 80,000 terrorists from over 80 countries are fighting as mercenaries in Syria;
  • Israel has repeatedly bombed Syria [examples herehere and here];
  • Israel is treating al-Qaeda terrorists in their hospitals and enabling their transit back and forth into Syria, as well as arming them—even Israeli media have reported that Israel is providing aid to al-Qaeda terrorists; even the UN has reported on Israeli soldiers interacting with Jebhat al-Nusra in the occupied Syrian Golan;
  • Turkey is not only arming and funneling terrorists into Syria but also repeatedly co-attacks Syria;
  • the whole crisis was manufactured in imperialist think tanks years before the 2011 events;

…“Civil war” is the absolute last term that could be used to describe the war on Syria.

In 2002, then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria (and Libya, Cuba) to the “rogue states” of George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil,”…meaning Syria was on the list of countries to “bring democracy to” (aka destroy) even back then.

Anthony Cartalucci’s “US Planned Syrian Civilian Catastrophe Since 2007” laid out a number of pivotal statements and events regarding not only the war on Syria but also the events which would be falsely-dubbed the “Arab Spring.”

Points include:

  • General Wesley Clark’s revelation of US plans to destroy the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
  • Seymour Hersh’s 2007 “The Redirection” on NATO and allies’ arming and training of sectarian extremists to create sectarian divide in Lebanon, Syria and beyond.

The 2009 Brookings Institution report, “Which Path to Persia?”, on plans to weaken Syria and Lebanon, to later attack Iran.

Further, Stephen Gowans reported:

  • U.S. funding to the Syrian opposition began flowing under the Bush administration in 2005.
  • Since its founding in October 2011, the Syrian National Council has received $20.4 million from Libya, $15 million from Qatar, $5 million from the UAE.

Former French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas, in a June 2013 TV interview spoke of his meeting (two years prior) with British officials who confessed that:

Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.

More recent evidence of the NATO-alliance plot against Syria includes a June 2012 NY Times article noting the CIA support for “rebels” in Syria, including providing and funneling “automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons” from Turkey to Syria.

The article said:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

In October 2014, Serena Shim, a US journalist working for Press TV, was killed in a highly suspicious car crash near Turkey’s border with Syria shortly after reporting she had been threatened by Turkish intelligence. Shim hadpreviously reported she had photos of “militants going in through the Turkish border…I’ve got images of them in World Food Organization trucks.”

Similar statements have been made. For example, testimony of a Turkish driver explaining “how vehicles would be accompanied by MİT agents during the trip, which would start from the Atme camp in Syria and end at the border town of Akçakale in Şanlıurfa Province, where the militants and cargo would reenter Syria.”

In July, 2015, Press TV reported that terrorists caught in Aleppo confessed to receiving training by US and Gulf personnel in Turkey.

As I wrote, “in a November 2014 report, the Secretary-General mentioned the presence of al-Nusra and other terrorists in the ceasefire area ‘unloading weapons from a truck,’ as well as a ‘vehicle with a mounted anti-aircraft gun’ and Israeli ‘interactions’ with ‘armed gangs.’”

Given all of this, and America’s plan to train up to 15,000 more “rebels” over the next three years, it is beyond ridiculous that the inappropriate term “civil war” continues to be propagated.

DA’ESH and Other Moderates

In June, 2015, Anthony Cartalucci wrote about a recently-released 2012 Department of Defense document which admitted that the US foresaw ISIS’ establishing a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want….”

He outlined the flow of weapons and terrorists from Libya to Syria, via Turkey, “coordinated by US State Department officials and intelligence agencies in Benghazi – a terrorist hotbed for decades,” as well as weapons from Eastern Europe.

Earlier “moderates” include the Farouq Brigades‘ (of the so-called “FSA”)organ-eating terrorist “Abu Sakkar,” and those numerous “FSA” and al-Nusra militants who committed the massacres listed above, to name but a portion.

“Human Rights” Front Groups Promoting War Rhetoric

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Avaaz, Moveon, and lesser-known, newly-created groups like The Syria Campaign, The White Helmets, and Action Group for Palestinians in Syria, are complicit in war-propagandizing and even calling for a (Libya 2.0) no-fly-zone bombing campaign of Syria.

On HRW, geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser noted:

Human Rights Watch is undeniably an appendage of US foreign policy. It is in many ways part of the ‘soft power’ arm of US power projection, a means of delegitimizing, demonizing, and otherwise destabilizing countries that do not play ball with the US…

Vigilant Twitter users have called out HRW’s lying Ken Roth for tweeting a photo he claimed to be Aleppo’s destruction from “barrel bombs” but which was, in fact, Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) post-Da’esh attacks and US-coalition bombs. In another outrageous case, Roth tweeted a video of the flattened al-Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza, devastated by Israeli bombing in 2014, purporting it to be Aleppo.

Again, he was called out, forcing a weak retraction. Post-retraction, he tweeted yet another image of destruction, again claiming it to be from “Assad’s barrel bombs” but which was according to the photo bylineHamidiyeh, Aleppo, where “local popular committee fighters, who support the Syrian government forces, try to defend the traditionally Christian district” against ISIS.

On Amnesty International, Anthony Cartalucci wrote:

Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros (whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other “human rights” advocates). Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance, was drawn directly from the US State Department…

Highlighting just one instance of AI’s slick maneuvering, Rick Sterling, in hisMay 2015 “Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria” outed Amnesty for not only normalizing sending weapons to terrorists in Syria but suggesting how to do so in an underhand means.

He emphasized:

This is an amazing statement, effectively sanctioning the supplying of arms to insurgents who agree to follow ‘humanitarian’ rules of war.

Sterling further noted that Amnesty:

  • relied on groups “either based in, or receiving funds from, Turkey, USA or one of the other countries heavily involved in seeking overthrow of the Damascus government.
  • did not seek testimonies from the “two-thirds of the displaced persons in Syria INSIDE Syria…people who fled Aleppo and are now living in Homs, Latakia, Damascus or in Aleppo under government control.”

In “Humanitarians for War on Syria” Sterling elaborated on the intervention campaign:

The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.

The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. …Avaaz is ramping up its campaign trying to reach 1 million people signing a petition for a “Safe Zone” in Syria.

Sterling wrote on the  “White Helmets”, “created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor…” He noted the ties between WH and anti-Syria actors, including Jabat al-Nusra. One example of their propaganda: “Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda (sic).”

Vanessa Beeley’s “‘White Helmets’: New Breed of Mercenaries and Propagandists, Disguised as ‘Humanitarians’ in Syria” further flushed out the propaganda elements of the WH operation and their parroting of the MSM/HR industry anti-Syrian rhetoric.

The list of “humanitarian” actors is long, and the list of their war-propagating lies even longer. [see: “Human Rights” front groups (“Humanitarian Interventionalists”) warring on Syria]

The Yarmouk Card

A district of Damascus formerly housing over one million residents, of whom 160,000 were Palestinian refugees, according to the UN, the rest Syrians, the plight of Yarmouk neighbourhood has been used by “humanitarian” campaigners to pull at heartstrings and to further confuse supporters of Palestine on the subject of Syria and the State’s treatment of Palestinians. In fact, Syria has been one of Palestine’s greatest advocates and friends, providing Palestinian refugees in Syria with a quality of life equal to that of Syrians, including free education, health care and other social services. The same cannot even remotely be said of any of Palestine’s neighbouring countries, where Palestinian refugees languish in abysmal refugee camps and are denied the right to professional employment, and affordable and quality health care and education, much less dignity.

The United Nations, the HR industry, and the media obfuscate on Yarmouk, ignoring or whitewashing both the presence of various terrorist groups and the role of some Palestinian factions in enabling these groups entry, as well as fighting alongside them against the Syrian government. Talking heads also pointedly ignore the Syrian government-facilitated evacuations of Yarmouk residents to government, community, and UN provided shelters.

They likewise ignore the documented repeated and continuous terrorists attacks on government and other aid distribution within the neighbourhood, as well as on anti-terrorist demonstrations held by Yarmouk residents.

One such demonstration occurred in May 2013, with UK-media Sky News’ Tim Marshall present as demonstrators came under so-called “rebel” fire.

He reported:

…Some screamed at us: “Please tell the world the truth! We don’t want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!”… About 1,000 people were in the demonstration. …The shooting began almost immediately. A man went down, followed by others. …As they passed us a man stopped and shouted that he was sure the fighters were not Syrians but men paid to come to Damascus and kill people…

In his April 2015 “Who Are the Starving and Besieged Residents of Yarmouk and Why Are They There?” Paul Larudee asked:

Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others? Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad.

Larudee’s article further addressed the issues of:

  • the Syrian government allowing food aid into the district: “…it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid….”
  • the Syrian military’s siege tactic (combined with evacuation of civilians): “The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender…”

Analyst Sharmine Narwani observed:

The Syrian government has every right to blockade the border areas between Yarmouk and Damascus to prevent extremist gunmen from entering the capital. I have been in Yarmouk several times, including last year, and have talked to aid workers inside the camp, including UNRWA. The Syrian government, in their view, assists in getting aid and food to refugee populations inside the camp – contrary to western narratives and those activists like the EI activists…most of whom appear not to have set foot inside Yarmouk since the early days of the conflict.

Although the figure of 18,000 remaining Palestinians in Yarmouk may have been accurate in October 2013, today, after the evacuation of thousands, anti-Syria publications continue to cite 18,000. Journalist Lizzie Phelan, who visited Yarmouk in September 2015, says the number remaining is around 4,000.

Most media and HR groups are not reporting that there are Palestinian fightersfighting alongside the SAA, in Yarmouk and other parts of Syria, against the NATO-alliance’s fighters.

Al Masdar News reported in June 2015:

…ISIS originally launched a successful offensive at the Yarmouk Camp District in the month of March; however, after a joint counter-assault by the PFLP-GC, Fatah Al-Intifada, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), and members of Aknef Al-Maqdis; ISIS was forced to withdrawal to the southern sector of the district, leaving only the southern axis under their control.

Sharmine Narwani’s “Stealing Palestine: Who dragged Palestinians into Syria’s conflict?” is essential reading, to understand the current situation in Syria vis-a-vis its Palestinian refugees. As for Palestinians themselves, the Syria Solidarity Movement published a statement which emphasized that “more than 1101 Palestinian groups and individuals declare their solidarity with the Syrian people and the Syrian state.” Signatories include Jerusalem’s Archbishop Atallah Hanna, the Palestinian Popular Forum, Yarmouk, and other Palestinian Yarmouk residents.

Serial Chemical Offenders Remain at Large

Israel has on more than one occasion used prohibited chemical and other weapons on the locked-down nearly 2 million Palestinians of Gaza. During the 2008/2009 Israeli massacre of Gaza, the Israeli army rained white phosphorous on schools sheltering displaced Palestinian families, on homes, and on hospitals (of which I gathered video, photo and witness evidence at the time). Israel also used DIME on the Palestinians of Gaza. Yet, Israel remains unpunished, and receives ever increasing billions of dollars and new weaponry every year. Nor has the US ever been held accountable for its widespread criminal use of CW, such as on the people of Vietnam, of Iraq.

The US and HR actors have repeatedly—and without evidence—accused Syria of using Sarin gas, then Chlorine, accusations which have been amply refuted.Seymour Hersh’s probe on the sarin attacks was so damning US mainstream media wouldn’t print it.

In rebuttal to the May 2015 accusation of chlorine attacks — as always followed with human rights groups’ calls for a No-Fly Zone —Stephen Gowans wrote:

As a weapon, chlorine gas is exceedingly ineffective. It is lethal only in highly concentrated doses and where medical treatment is not immediately available. It is far less effective than conventional weapons. Why, then, would the Syrian army use a highly ineffective weapon, which is deplored by world public opinion, and whose use would provide the United States a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria, when it has far more effective conventional weapons, which are not deplored by world public opinion, and whose use does not deliver a pretext to Washington to intervene? (See also Gowans’ “New York Times Complicit in Spreading False Syria Allegations”)

Tim Anderson investigated the August 2013 Ghouta attacks, pointing out:

  • UN investigator Carla del Ponte had testimony from victims that ‘rebels’ had used sarin gas in a prior attack
  • Turkish security forces sarin in the homes of Jabhat al Nusra fighters.
  • Evidence of video manipulation in the Ghouta attacks.
  • “Parents identified children in photos as those kidnapped in Latakia, two weeks earlier.”
  • “CW had been supplied by Saudis to ‘rebel’ groups, some locals had died due to mishandling.”
  • “Three of five CW attacks were ‘against soldiers’ or ‘against soldiers and civilians’.”

The Interventionalists have tried repeatedly to accuse the Syrian government of CWs usage; yet the real criminals remain at large.

20131118-SAA-kiss-mother

Against Incitement, For Peace

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, in May, 2015, said that spreading incitement and lies on Syria is a blatant violation of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution No. 1624 for 2005 and of journalism ethics if any, SANA reported.

Syrian media, which attempts to report the reality of Syria under attack, has been repeatedly targeted, something the MSM refuses to acknowledge (See:Media Black-Out on Arab Journalists and Civilians Beheaded in Syria by Western-Backed Mercenaries).

As the NATO-alliance pushes for a “safe zone”…meaning a “no-fly zone” for the purpose of bombing Syria, anti-war activists and journalists must denounce the lies of anti-Syria governments and “human rights” groups, and must share the truth of Syria’s war against terrorism.

Asma-mets-martirs-mothers

Since drafting this lengthy Syria-101 overview, there have been major shifts in Syria’s war against foreign-backed terrorism, namely Russia’s recent airstrikes against Da’esh and co. This increase in Russian support for Syria—with Russian planes destroying more Da’esh and other western-backed terrorists and their training camps in just a few days than the US coalition has over the past year—is a turning point in the war on Syria. Predictably, corporate media are pulling all the stops to demonize Russia‘s involvement, although Russia was invited by the Syrian government to do precisely what it is doing.

Those following Syria closely have echoed what Syrian leadership has said for years and continues to say: the way to stop ISIS and all its brethren terrorist factions, and to bring security to the region, is to cease arming, financing, training and funneling terrorists and weapons into Syria, silence the sectarian indoctrination coming from Gulf extremist sheikhs, and support the Syrian army and allies in their fight for security and stability in Syria.


Eva Bartlett is a Canadian freelance journalist and activist who has lived in and written from the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Lebanon. Follow her work on her blog ingaza.wordpress.com.

Eva-Bartlett-event-Sept-10b


SOURCES:
Eva Bartlett - DissidentVoice
Submitted by SyrianPatriots 
The real SyrianFreePress.NETwork at:
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/fake-nato-narrative/

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Putin: Political reform in Syria not possible through external interference

 

St. PETERSBURG — Russia is ready to hold talks with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to conduct political reforms in the country, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Putin was speaking Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“We are ready to work with the president to ensure a path towards political transition so as to … move away from an armed confrontation. But that should not be done with the use of force from the outside,” he added, indicating that Russia would urge the President to work with a peaceful opposition on political reforms.

Asked whether Russia might ask President al-Assad to step down, the Russian President said it is up to the Syrian people to decide on this.

“Our fear is that Syria could plunge into the same situation as Libya and Iraq,” Putin said in response to questions at the forum.”We don’t want that … in Syria.”

On June 18th 2015, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) kicked off and will last till June 20. It gathers leading decision-makers from emerging economic powers to identify and deliberate key challenges facing Russia, emerging markets and the world at large.

SANA

 بوتين: موقفنا في تأييد الرئيس الأسد وحكومته صحيح ومن الصعب جداً أن يتوقع منا أي شيء آخر

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Interview with Syrian Minster of Information

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Nasser Kandil: Reading Assad’s Speech

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Why Syria’s people want Assad

Women cast their votes in the presidential election at a polling centre in Damascus June 3, 2014. (Reuters)

Jun 6, 2014, RT Op-Edge

Since the start of the armed conflict in Syria in 2011, voices from Western and Gulf capitals have maintained a common narrative: that the Assad regime lacks popular legitimacy and stays in power by systematically killing its own people.

The sweeping election victory of Bashar Assad not only shows the depth and breadth of popular support for his government, but also it demands an objective interpretation of events inside Syria.

In the midst of a civil war that has seen rebel militia groups and foreign Islamist fighters occupy areas of territory around the country, polling for the recent elections was held only in government-controlled areas. Assad ran against two challengers and won with 88.7 percent, garnering 10,319,723 votes. According to Syria’s supreme constitutional court, 73.42 percent of some 15.8 million eligible voters took part in the elections.

There are many reasons to explain why Assad – though internationally condemned and characterized as a dictator – is able to conjure up mass support at the ballot box. After three years of brutal fighting that has left many areas of the country devastated, Assad is seen as the only figure that can stabilize the country and ensure a stable, secular rule that respects all minority communities.

Assad entered office in 2000 as a reformer, and is credited with ushering in economic reforms that boosted consumer spending, increased tourism, and emboldened the private sector; his government is also highly regarded for providing free education and healthcare, while heavily subsidizing other public services.

Although the fighting in Syria is known to have a sectarian dimension, Syrian society has been regarded as highly tolerant and fair towards a multitude of religious and ethnic groups, such as the Christian, Alawite, Druze and Kurdish minorities, and the majority Sunni Muslims. The recent election results are to a testament to how Assad – who belongs to the Alawite sect of Shia Islam – can still command huge support from the Sunni majority.

There are undoubtedly many Syrians who would like to see greater political pluralism in the country, including expatriates who returned to Syria to cast their vote, but even many of these people voted for Assad because they distrust the opposition. Syria’s opposition groups and parties that are opposed to Assad can be put into three categories.

Assad’s opponents

The first are the domestic non-parliamentary opposition groups represented by the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), which opposes foreign involvement in Syria’s war and supports non-violent resistance and negotiations with the government. This umbrella group consists of mostly left-leaning parties and independent activists, and is a representation of genuine grassroots opposition to Assad’s rule. The organization called for a ceasefire agreement before elections and boycotted the polls.

The second are the hundreds of disparate rebel groups and Islamic militant organizations fighting the Syrian army, which include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusra Front, the Harakat Sham Al-Islam, and other organizations with ties to Al-Qaeda. Though these groups are often opposed to other rebel militia groups and are marred by infighting, they command the strongest presence on the battlefield and are heavily reliant on foreign fighters from all corners of the world.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma cast their votes in the country's presidential elections at a polling station in Damascus June 3, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (Reuters/SANA)
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma cast their votes in the country’s presidential elections at a polling station in Damascus June 3, 2014, in this handout released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. (Reuters/SANA)

ISIL has a large presence in the in northern regions such as Ar-Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo. These groups target minority groups such as Alawites and others suspected of supporting Assad, and mete out brutal abuses and targeted killings that include beheadings, dismemberment, and crucifixions. Women and children are not spared from these horrific acts. These organizations are said to be receiving support from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

The third opposition force is the Syrian National Council (SNC), an umbrella organization based in Istanbul comprised of exiled pro-Western dissidents. The SNC represents a negligible segment of rebel groups on the ground, and is not seen as credible inside Syria. Members of the SNC claim to support moderation, human rights, press freedom and democracy. The organization receives tremendous financial and diplomatic backing from the United States and other Western and Gulf countries, and is the main component party of the Syrian Opposition Council.

The military affiliate of the SNC, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), consists of personnel that have defected from the army, and other volunteers. The group’s influence is severely outflanked by Islamist militias. Washington regards the FSA as moderate, although it fights alongside the Islamic Front and other Islamist groups that are arguably less-than-moderate.

Thwarting the vote

Countries that have supported the rebellion against Assad, including the United States, along with several European and Gulf countries, entirely reject the elections and argue that the results are illegitimate. US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the polls, saying the vote couldn’t be considered fair “because you can’t have an election where millions of your people don’t even have an ability to vote.”

Although these elections were held in the midst of a civil war, and some margin of error may be plausible, nearly three-quarters of Syria’s population of eligible voters participated. The polling was overseen by international monitors and was uninterrupted by major incidents of violence. There is substantial photo and video evidence that show Syrians voting en masse, and the outcome clearly reflects public opinion.

The irony of John Kerry’s statement is that the US, along with authorities in Turkey, Germany, France and other Gulf states effectively banned Syrian refugees from voting at Syrian embassies, forcing many to return to the country to exercise their rights. The opponents of Assad didn’t hide the fact that they prevented Syrians from participating in these elections.

The criterion for Western and Gulf states deciding whether or not an election or referendum is legitimate depends entirely on political considerations. The United States and its European allies enthusiastically supported recent elections in Ukraine, which took place while the government launched military operations against rebellious provinces in the east, whose citizens did not take part in the vote.

In Ukraine, billionaire politician Petro Poroshenko, who supports aligning the country closer to the European Union and the United States, won with 54.7 percent of the vote, while some 60.9 percent of eligible voters participated.

Despite holding elections under similar conditions, the Western countries quickly congratulated Poroshenko’s victory, but condemned Assad’s victory, despite a higher percentage of public participation in Syria’s polls. The double standards couldn’t be clearer.

 

A Syrian national living in Beirut casts his vote ahead of the June 3 presidential election as he holds a Syrian national flag with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's picture on it at the Syrian Embassy in Yarze, east of Beirut May 28, 2014. (Reuters)
A Syrian national living in Beirut casts his vote ahead of the June 3 presidential election as he holds a Syrian national flag with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s picture on it at the Syrian Embassy in Yarze, east of Beirut May 28, 2014. (Reuters)

Legitimizing terrorism

Syria’s polls should be viewed not only as a public referendum on Assad, but also on the actions taken by the Syrian armed forces. Any government has a legal and political responsibility to maintain control of territory, especially when it comes under control of non-state actors and terrorist elements.

The fighting in Syria is not a civil war, but a full-blown international conflict with arms and financing being meted by various intelligence agencies and state actors who want to see regime change in Damascus. The results of the polls demonstrate that the Syrian population rejects foreign interference and stands with the democratically elected government.

Despite the clear majority support that Assad enjoys, the Obama administration is ramping up efforts to aid Syrian rebel groups with a $27 million aid package, and by granting formal diplomatic mission status to the Syrian Opposition Council’s offices inside the US.

The White House has also recently sent anti-tank missiles to rebel groups, and is conducting operations at a secret base in Qatar, where rebels are being trained to use sophisticated weapons. Sources at the base, according to a documentary released by PBS, claim that rebels are being taught advanced fighting techniques, including how to “finish off the soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

While Western countries shed crocodile tears over the dead in Syria, their policies further prolongs the conflict and endangers more civilian lives. The armed opposition isn’t winning on the battlefield, and they do not have popular support. At the current juncture, Washington and its allies treat the unelected exiled dissidents that make up the SNC as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, despite the fact that these people could never unseat Assad at the ballot box. They only represent themselves.

Countries that take a neutral position on the Syrian issue should recognize the extent of popular support that Assad enjoys, and call for an end to the conflict through immediately ending the flow of arms and finances to non-state actors and terrorist groups operating in Syria.

Over 150,000 people are said to have been killed in Syria; the country’s GDP has nearly fallen by half; nearly half the population lives in poverty; millions of refugees have been displaced; nearly half the population is unemployed, while public services such as schools and hospitals have operated sporadically throughout the ongoing fighting.

The people of Syria have put their trust in Bashar Assad to end the fighting and stabilize the country, and the continuation of regime change policies from Western and Gulf capitals amounts to legitimizing terrorism to overthrow a popular and democratically legitimate government.

Those haranguing scowls will continue to blare from Western and Gulf capitals, perched on a moral high ground that has collapsed and given way under the landslide of a sovereign people’s choice. The people of Syria have taken back their name, and those in the West can only claim to speak for them in as much as a bullet can claim to speak for its target.

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