The state of play

At the time of writing I’ve noticed a significant decrease in reporting on Syria. This coincides with David Cameron giving a clear indication that Britain will not be supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. It also coincides with Obama’s plan to arm the rebels being challenged by Congress – with General Martin Dempsey, the top military officer in the United States, warning senators that each option under consideration would be “costly and uncertain”.

On Friday the 19th of July the Guardian also posted the following editorial;

Middle East: a wall of difficulties
Military solutions, whether arming the rebels in Syria or deterring the Iranians would, it is now more widely agreed, be madness

Many editorials during the Libya and Syria conflicts have been overtly aggressive – as noted in a previous blog post entitled “Editorials For War” – however this latest piece is the polar opposite.

What I find interesting about this obvious change in tone is that it coincides perfectly with UK foreign policy on the situation. As many Western leaders publicly step back from armed confrontation the media seemingly follows suit.

Also worth noting is this article in The Sunday Times. It was actually written in July 2012 but with recent developments regarding Lynton Crosby and the lobbying scandal I think it’s worth another look;

HE WON the nickname “the Wizard of Oz” for helping Boris Johnson to become mayor of London. Now Lynton Crosby, the political spin doctor, has turned his attention to lending the Syrian rebels a hand to win the propaganda war against President Bashar al-Assad.

A leaked document seen by The Sunday Times shows how CTF Partners, Crosby’s consultancy firm, offered to run a six-month public relations campaign for the Syrian National Council (SNC) — the biggest single coalition of anti-Assad groups — for a fee of £180,000.

It proposed opening an office in London to co-ordinate the “public image and statements” of the SNC.

“We believe that the SNC is not winning the important public relations and public affairs battle against the Assad regime in the international media,” the document states.

Another aspect worth baring in mind is the recent reporting on Egypt since the 2013 revolution/coup/unrest. Some readers (myself included) noticed a slight pro Morsi/pro Muslim Brotherhood slant to some of the articles. It’s something that I may write about in the near future. There also seems to be a real lack of criticism with regards to the Qatari and Saudi dictatorships fueling sectarian war in Syria. When one considers the Guardians stance on Libya, Syria and Egypt – and takes into account the lack of critical reporting on Qatar/Saudi foreign policy – it may raise the question of funding. Is the news organisation accepting money from either of these states? I have noticed several positive pieces highlighting the slow and minimal steps to reform that the Gulf States are taking. This would also add weight to my theory of partiality.

An open letter

On July the 10th 2013 the Guardian published an article written by Yassin al-Haj Saleh in which he directly appeals to “friends and leaders of public opinion in the west”. The article is entitled “Help Syria now. Tomorrow it may be too late” and is pretty much a public letter attempting to persuade readers to support some kind of military intervention in Syria on behalf of the rebels – be that weapons shipments or a no fly zone or both.

Here is a link to the article > Help Syria now. Tomorrow it may be too late

The article obviously contains emotive language and for all intents and purposes may be written honestly and directly from the heart – however I find it worrying that this kind of letter would not be published on behalf of someone calling for Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop supplying the rebels with arms and money. This is how the Guardian and other mainstream news outlets continue to give more airtime to one side of the argument (the side of the argument also shared by the upper echelons of the UK Government like William Hague and David Cameron).

The article in question contains numerous statements which could be classed as propaganda. Below, I have highlighted several quotes.

“Finally, after the world established that the regime used chemical weapons, (something I documented myself and verified with friends who have the necessary personal expertise)…”

The perpetrators of the chemical weapons attack have never been fully identified and no evidence is given to back up this accusation.

“There is a fascist regime that has already killed more than 100,000 of its own people…”

Laying the blame for the entire death toll at Assads feet seems inappropriate. According to this recent Reuters article the UN estimates that around 35 to 40% of the deaths have been on the side of pro Assad forces. The writer then goes on to describe the armed opposition to Assad as…

“… a diverse umbrella of revolutionaries, of which some had been radicalized due to the longevity of the conflict and the weakening resistance of Syrian society towards radicalism.”

This statement suggests that radical Islamists are a by-product of the wars longevity but source material tells us that extremists were attacking security forces just weeks after the uprising began. For source material and evidence of this please visit the links posted on my previous blog “Rewriting the Syrian script”.

The majority of the comments below the article dismiss the authors main premise as to suggest that his plea for help has been largely ignored by the readers. I’ll leave you with a few comments which received the most recommendations.

MeandYou Grillo

“Hopefully, the appeal is to our Government to stop selling weapons to the Gulf States who are the culprits behind the violence in Syria.”

SimpleIsBest

“See the foreign office has nudged both the Guardian and the BBC Newsnight program (with their sham debate last night “Syria. Time to act?”) to have a co-ordinated campaign to persuade the british public that it is okay arm the rebel rabble”

olivemonkey

“If you have your country’s best interest at heart stop calling for war and instead call for peace.”

PeterSchmidt

“How can such a biased war mongering article appear in the Guardian? Even a child would see through the author. This article is an insult for even those who hate the Assad government, let alone those who do not believe in western propaganda regarding Syria.
The conflict could have been solved yesterday, had it not for the bottomless purse of the Qataris, who keep sending the Jihadists and the weapons to Syria.
In any of your ‘articles’ have you criticised any of the Gulf states? If not, why not?”

Jihadi PR

The Al-Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra is an Al Qaeda associate operating inside Syria. The group was designated by the United Nations and the United States in December 2012 and Australia in June 2013 as a terrorist organisation. The group is generally described as being made up of Sunni, Islamic Jihadis with its goal being to overthrow the Assad government and to create a Pan-Islamic state under sharia law and aims to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate.

The crimes perpetrated by this group have been documented since their inception. When it comes to peace, stability and general human rights such as freedom of religion – these people are the worst of the worst. And that’s why it beggars belief that the Guardian recently published an article with the following headline;

“How Syria’s mould-breaking al-Nusra Front is winning hearts and minds”

And a sub headline that reads;

“The main jihadi group is organised, centralised and marshalling its resources shrewdly. No wonder the ’emir of gas’ is impressed”

UPDATE 1: The Guardian headline has now been changed. A quick google search of the original headline reveals that other news sites and blogs have cached the original text. See here for reference. 

Despite the cheery headlines the article itself is far from being an outright display of affection for the hardline terrorist group – but one can’t help notice certain segments of the article which act to promote the group and its strategy.

The commander talked about the services al-Nusra is providing to Shadadi’s residents. First, there is food: 225 sacks of wheat, baked into bread and delivered to the people every day through special teams in each neighbourhood. Then there is free electricity and water, which run all day throughout the town. There is also al-Nusra healthcare, provided from a small clinic that treats all comers, regardless of whether they have sworn allegiance to the emirate or not. Finally, there is order and the promise of swift justice, delivered according to sharia law by a handful of newly appointed judges.

The headline is far more disturbing than the article itself. The author gives a good account of what the situation is on the ground but at no point does the positive, PR like headline seem warranted. Many people may read the headline alone and make their own assumptions. Since when did liberal, progressive newspapers give this kind of platform to Islamic fundamentalism?

UPDATE 2: Recently, the news organisation EAWorldView (which many claim holds a bias in favor of the rebels) jumped on the original headline and article to push a PRO Jabhat al-Nusra article. Link here.

 

Screen grab of original headline cached by other media sources: 

heartsandminds