Home » Making Sense of Syria in 2014

Making Sense of Syria in 2014

As the Syrian crisis enters its 4th year, there are more and more rallies across the country to support the Syrian regular army.  Former rebels and soldiers are joining forces as reconciliation efforts succeed on the ground.

Reconciliation is the hope for peace in Syria.  It may be the hope for all of us.

Syrian war lands on our doorstep

The Age, March 19, 2014, by Anthony Bergin

Australians joining the Syrian conflict pose a threat to our security.


In the meantime, the United States chooses to expel Syrian diplomats, close Syrian consulates, and severely curtail the movements of the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar al-Jaafari.

U.S. shuts Syrian consulate in Troy, along with embassy in Washington

Detroit Free Press, March 18 2014


All three offices “must immediately suspend operations” and any employee who’s not a citizen or permanent resident “must depart the United States,” said Daniel Rubinstein, the U.S. government’s Special Envoy for Syria.

“Syrian diplomats at the embassy and Syrian honorary consulates are no longer permitted to perform diplomatic or consular functions,” Rubinstein said in a statement released Tuesday by the State Department.

The people of Syria are hungry for peace. What is the United States Administration hungry for? Obviously not diplomacy.

Who owns the story of Syria: the people of Syria or those who would wish to destroy Syria?

The following reference list is offered as a guide to help make sense of the crisis in Syria.

Women collage 3


Syrian soldiers and rebels unite in Babbila, February 2014

The Babbila Reconciliation: a Light at the End of Syria’s Dark Tunnel


Local Reconciliations in Syria: Supporters and Opponents, 21 Feb 2014


Contradictions in Syria’s reconciliation process, 12 March 2014



Writers to note on the Syrian crisis with examples of articles which shed light on the crisis:

1. Dr Jeremy Salt is an Australian academic based at a university in Turkey.  He is the author of “The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands”.  Dr Salt has been writing on Syria since the first year of the crisis there.  He has been interviewed by Phillip Adams on ABC’s Late Night Live.

Truth and Falsehood in Syria, 17  October 2011

‘As insurrection in Syria lurches towards civil war, the brakes need to be put on the propaganda pouring through the Western mainstream media and accepted uncritically by many who should know better.


Magician’s Diversion: Bleeding Syria to Death Dec 22, 2012

“Like Iraq and Libya, the justification for the onslaught on Syria of the past 20 months is the ‘dictator’ or the ‘regime.’ More plausibly, the real target is the country itself. Like Saddam and Qadhafi, the ‘dictator’ is the magician’s diversion, flourished with one hand so the audience does not see what is being done with the other.”

2. Alastair Crooke “is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which works for engagement between political Islam and the West”.  He has been a British diplomat and has worked for MI6.

Syria: Straining Credibility 9 March 2012

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


Syria and Iran: The Great Game 5 November 2011


‘This summer a senior Saudi official told John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, that from the outset of the upheaval in Syria, the king has believed that regime change would be highly beneficial to Saudi interests: “The king knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.”’

3.  Ms Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East, and a Senior Associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.”

Questioning the Syrian “Casualty List” 28 February 2012

“There are many competing Syrian casualty lists with different counts – how does one, for instance gauge if X is an accurate number of deaths? How have the deaths been verified? Who verifies them and do they have a vested interest? Are the dead all civilians? Are they pro-regime or anti-regime civilians? Do these lists include the approximately 2,000 dead Syrian security forces? Do they include members of armed groups? How does the list-aggregator tell the difference between a civilian and a plain-clothes militia member?”



Questions Plague UN Report on Syria 23 September 2013

‘A senior United Nations official who deals directly with Syrian affairs has told Al-Akhbar that the Syrian government had no involvement in the alleged Ghouta chemical weapons attack: “Of course not, he (President Bashar al-Assad) would be committing suicide.”’


Mother Agnes Mariam: in her own words  29 November 2013

‘You know, before working in reconciliation, I thought the so-called “democratic world” was really protecting freedom of expression and political choices. I am not involved with politics but they are ‘framing’ me; politicizing me. Am very shocked to learn that in this democratic world it is forbidden to think differently, talk differently and act differently from people who proclaim themselves as the ‘absolute reference’ for public opinion.’


4. Mother Agnes Mariam is a Palestinian Lebanese Carmelite nun who headed a monastery she set up in Syria about 20 years ago.  She has visited Australia twice. Mother Agnes organized an international peace delegation to Beirut and Damascus in May ’13. It included 3 Australians.

The AGE, “The Two of Us”, – Mother Agnes and Sister Carmel 1 December 2012
(Video) Interview by Ireland’s RTE in August 2012

In the Flood of Disinformation: The Situation in Syria  April/May 2011 by Mother Agnes

What bothers us is not the phenomenon of protests against the regimes in our region. What is insufferably frustrating is to watch the satellite channels report misinformation that is in perfect coordination with the agenda of certain governments. The major channels seem to have been prepared to the year, the day and the hour. Al Jazeera, once booed by the coalition forces in Iraq, has been transformed into an international spokesperson for the all-too ambiguous liberal values of “uprising” and “revolution” of the new Middle-East. Al Arabiyah speaks in the name of liberty while paradoxically being based in the greatest theocracy of the Arab world, Saudi Arabia. Al Hurra1 was born out of the ashes of the regime of Saddam Hussein thanks the help of Washington. All of these western puppets together with CNN, BBC, France 24 are all reporting the same things in the same way in their international and Arabic versions. These mastodons use such internet pages as Facebook, Tweeter, YouTube and the written press on line. All of this gives the appearance of objectivity while the reality on the ground, the reality that we see here in Syria lies in stark, not subtle but stark contrast to what the news channels choose to highlight.


5. Dr Fiona Hill is an Australian ME expert who has worked both as an archaeologist and anthropologist in Syria.  She speaks fluent Arabic.  She has had two trips to Syria since the crisis started.

Syria’s ‘Arab Spring’: failed or hijacked? 14 February 2012

‘I also went to Syria specifically to dig out all the details of my adoptive nephew’s kidnapping by opposition ‘forces’ a couple of weeks earlier. The 18-year-old is in the first months of his obligatory military service and was returning back to his military posting after a short leave pass home, riding a civilian bus between a provincial town near his home and Damascus. The bus was stopped outside Homs by what appeared to be a security roadblock. Eight heavily armed men in military uniform boarded the bus and demanded that those serving in the military raise their hands. My nephew did so, along with a few others. They were taken off the bus, blindfolded, put in cars and driven away.’


To note:

1. Challenges to the claims that the Syrian government was responsible for massacres:

A. The Houla massacre in May 2012 prompted Australia’s then foreign minister, Bob Carr, to expel Syria’s two senior diplomats.

Report: Rebels responsible for Houla Massacre by John Rosenthal, 9 June 2012

‘It was, in the words of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, the “tipping point” in the Syria conflict: a savage massacre of over 90 people, predominantly women and children, for which the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed by virtually the entirety of the Western media. Within days of the first reports of the Houla massacre, the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, and several other Western countries announced that they were expelling Syria’s ambassadors in protest.’



The Houla Massacre Redux by John Rosenthal, 15 June 2012

B. The Ghouta Chemical Attack

This alleged chemical attack on 21 August 2013 almost led to a US and NATO military.
Whose Sarin?  by Seymour Hersh, 19 Dec 2013

‘…the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.’


MIT Study of Syria Chemical Attack Challenges US Intelligence 16 January 2014


‘A new MIT report is challenging the US claim that Assad forces used chemical weapons in an attack last August, highlighting that the range of the improvised rocket was way too short to have been launched from govt controlled areas.’



VIDEO: Mother Agnes Discusses Evidence of Chemical Attack Videos

D. Analysis and Questioning of UN Reports on Syria
Questions plague UN report on Syria by Sharmine Narwani, 23 September 2013 (referenced above)

‘The UN official’s accusations mirror statements made earlier this year by another senior UN figure Carla del Ponte, who last May told Swiss TV in the aftermath of alleged CW attacks in Khan al-Asal, Sheik Maqsood and Saraqeb that there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels had carried out the attack. Del Ponte also observed that UN inspectors had seen no evidence of the Syrian army using chemical weapons, but added that further investigation was necessary.’

Is war the biggest crime committed in Syria against Syrians?  Interview with a UN Commissioner by RT reporter Oksana Boyko



UN Commissioner report on Houla?  But they only talk to Syrian opposition on phone 30 May 2012

‘What worries Marinella Corregia, an activist from the “No War Network,” is the sources the UN Commissioner for Human Rights uses to draw their reports, as their opinions do not seem in accord with UN monitors’ prudence. General Robert Mood, who heads the observing mission, has not yet pointed to anyone for the killings.’

Critical Flaws in UN Report by Susan Dirgham

Some of the main criticisms of this COI report can be summarized as follows:

  1. No information is given about the interviewees. Those directly quoted in the report all present accusations against the ‘government and pro-government armed forces’. This indicates that the sample of interviewees did not include a broad range of Syrian people, and so raises questions about the methodology and bias of the research.
  2. No information is presented about researchers or interviewers involved in supporting the four Commissioners, which means it is impossible to check if there were any conflicts of interest….


2. The Media War – looking at the BBC and Al-Jazeera
A.  The BBC reported an alleged napalm attack on a school in August 2013 just at the time UK MPs would be voting on a military strike against Syria following the alleged chemical attack in Damascus.  Robert Stuart, a British peace activist, has rigorously researched the BBC report, the video footage and images which allegedly relate to the attack.

Fabrication in BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, First Letter of Complaint


2nd Letter of Complaint

B.  Quite a few journalists have resigned from Al-Jazeera in protest against its biased coverage of Syria, Bahrain and other countries affected by the ‘Arab Spring’. Ghassan Bin Jeddo, a Tunisian who headed the Beirut Al-Jazeera office, was the first prominent one I was aware of. He resigned in April 2011, very soon after the beginning of the crisis in Syria. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve0Vn3bmS9A  But bin Jeddo hasn’t been presented in western media.  One journalist who resigned and has spoken out is Ali Hashem.  These two video interviews with him are interesting. He reports that he witnessed armed men crossing from Lebanon into Syria in May 2012, but he was not allowed to report it on Al-Jazeera.

“No Independent Journalism Anymore”


Al-Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage


3. Prominent clerics sowing sectarian hatred and inciting violence and condoning terror in Syria.


Sheik Adnan Arour, formerly a Syrian cleric who broadcasts on satellite TV from Saudi Arabia. He works with the western sanctioned ‘opposition’.

Video: Syrian Sunni Cleric Threatens: “We shall mince (the Alawites) in meat grinders”

Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, a very controversial but popular Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, appears (or used to appear) on a weekly Al-Jazeera program. He is closely linked with the Muslim Brotherhood and the royal family in Qatar. Before the Syrian conflict, he was denied a visa to the UK.

Video: Fatwa by Al Jazeera’s Top Cleric: Pro-govt Syrian Citizens are Legitimate Targets

Video: Sheik Qaradawi – Russia is the Number One Enemy of Islam and Muslims…


Sheik Qaradawi declared on Al Jazeera towards the end of 2011 that “it is OK to kill 1/3 of the population of Syria if it leads to the overthrow of the heretical regime”.

4.  Prominent clerics working for peace in Syria

In a speech following his son’s assassination in October 2011, the Grand Mufti of  Syria makes reference to Sheikh Qaradawi’s fatwa concerning the possible need to kill 1/3 of Syrians :   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj0QmykxMQs

Sheik Al-Bouti, the former imam of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, spoke out against the armed ‘revolution’, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist extremists.  He was assassinated in early 2013.

Clerics as well as priests who have worked for peace and reconciliation and spoken out against the militarized opposition have been assassinated.

5.  Christian voices from Syria

As well as Mother Agnes Mariam, there have been other prominent Christians who have spoken out against the armed militia and the campaign to destroy Syria.

This site is managed by an Irish peace activist.  It presents Christian voices and stories in Syria:

Orontes Syria: Syrian Christians in a Time of Conflict


Some Christian Syrian voices to note include the following:

Syrian Archbishop: Western Leaders are Screwing all Syrians by Supporting Terrorists


Jan 2012: France 24 – Interview with Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clement Jeanbart

Interview: Reverend Adib Awad, General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon

Video: Open Letter to President Obama from a Syrian Reverend from Aleppo

6. Other Syrian Voices

Manufacturing Dissent: The Truth about Syria is a documentary which presents the voices of Syrians who do not support the armed opposition. One Palestinian actor interviewed in it was assassinated after the release of the documentary.


The Syrian Diary is a documentary made by a young female Russian journalist based in Syria.


This homemade militarized opposition documentary presents interviews with people in a town controlled by the armed opposition in the north of Syria: “Islamists Gift to Obama and his Stooges in the Coalition”


The Syrian Opposition: who’s doing the talking  by Charlie Skelton

Members of the “Third Current” discuss their position on the government and the militarised opposition; May 2013, ‘Socrates and Syria’ (scroll to the bottom of ‘First Person’)


7.The Horrors of Syria

The brutality that is being experienced by people in Syria is almost beyond comprehension. It is so horrific that a natural response is to back off.  It is almost impossible to verify videos uploaded onto the internet. There is killing, rape and torture, but who is committing the violence, and who are the victims?  Sari Saoud’s story shows children have been killed for propaganda purposes and to terrorise a community.  In his case, the Christian community in Homs were being terrorised: more than 50,000 of them fled their homes in the old quarter of the city. Those militia members and their families who took over the homes of Christians become the ‘victims’ when the army tries to expel them, and inevitably the army is responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians, so the propaganda war has more fuel, and the war and hate continues.

Interview with Mother of Sari Saoud,  Published 11 June 2012


Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes, Catholic News Agency, 27 March 2012


In war, it has to be assumed that all armed participants are capable of committing brutalities and so no one side is ‘innocent’.  A reason why an armed conflict should be avoided at all cost. However, who is most likely to commit atrocities in Syria: the thousands of militias that make up what the media refers to as the Syrian ‘opposition’, a majority of them presumably incited to kill by extremist clerics? Or soldiers from the regular army, which is made up mostly of conscripts from all religious backgrounds?  If the Syrian army is not supported in this conflict, what will the fate of Syria be? How can a failed state help the people of Syria? What will be the impact on the region if Syria disintegrates and the bloodletting continues for decades?

We can get rid of Assad or fight al-Qaeda, but we can’t do both, by Peter Osborne, 26 Feb 2014

To get a proper picture of the Syrian conflict, the West needs to listen to its enemies


:Syria: The Descent into Holy War, by Patrick Cockburn

‘It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.’


Innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of the siege of Adra as Islamist rebels are accused of massacre, Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 28 Jan 2014

‘They are also reported to have killed doctors and nurses in a clinic and workers in a bakery who were thrown into their own ovens. Given that the jihadis still hold this part of Adra, the exact details cannot be checked, but survivors who have taken refuge in an enormous cement plant three miles away have no doubt that a massacre took place.’


Massacre in Lattakia, August 2013

‘Another little girl was hiding in the forest for eleven days without food or water until rescued by the army. Her Aunty is with her in the hospital and said the child has hardly spoken but described that the terrorists came from all directions and took many hostages who till today are still missing. The Aunty described her niece as so traumatized that she barely speaks at all and appears scared of everyone including her family. The child recollected walking with her father and brothers when suddenly they came under attack. She was unsure whether her father was hit by gunfire but she hid in the forest. The Aunty ponders how this child will react when she comes out of shock and realises that 50 members of her family have been killed.’


“Takfiris strangulate Syrian girl in public”

Video showing the execution of a ‘family’ (execution of males shown)

“Free Syrian Army (al-Qaeda) executing two Syrian boys”

A young girl’s account of sex abuse by Syrian rebels: victims of US sponsored insurrection”


Syria’s women refugees fear sham marriages and rape, Channel 4, 28 March 2013 (Video)

“US approved rebel group recruits 13 year-old boy as sniper who killed 32, including 12 civilians”

8.  The Role of ‘Humanitarian’ Organizations in War

The agendas of ‘humanitarian’ organizations which work outside Syria in refugee camps or in opposition held territory close to the borders must be questioned.  They work in refugee camps, such as Zaatari in Jordan.  Analysis of these camps and the people in them is necessary for an understanding of Syria.

Of Dons and Dust, The Economics of the Zaatari Refugee Camp

As the writer of the above article notes, the camps are controlled by ‘dons’.  Who are these people?  How did they come to lead them and how do they wield power?  Will they have an interest in maintaining the camps?  Can people challenge their point of view? Why do  western aid agencies go into camps such as these but don’t also make a point of going to Syria to meet the educated professional Syrians who are committed to taking Syria forward and repatriating the refugees. It is almost as if some NGOs are creating a Syria in our minds and also in reality which is destitute and made up of poorly educated people who hate the government and fight the regular army. They are people who can be seen to need our pity and aid.  A war and refugee situation is being institutionalized with the strong support of people and organizations that claim to work for the opposite.  By ignoring the large educated middle class of Syria and supporting their efforts, we in the west can unwittingly support war and terror. (How many NGOs ever willingly work under the direction of the educated, articulate middle class of a country? Are such people conveniently ignored as if they didn’t exist?)

A.  An Australian doctor Dr Annie Sparrow has spoken to refugees in camps outside Syria and presented the claims of refugees to ABC audiences.

Life Matters: Why healthcare in Syria is now at breaking point


Dr Sparrow is the wife of Kenneth Roth – CEO of Human Rights Watch – so rubs shoulders with the elite. ‘Humanitarian’ organizations are no longer grassroots.

Guests Arrive At State Dinner For Chinese President Hu Jintao At White House


One of the main contributors to Human Rights Watch is George Soros, who is also a generous donor to Amnesty International and the International Criminal Court.

George Soros to give $100 million to Human Rights Watch


B.  Amnesty International has taken a partisan stand on Syria since the beginning of the conflict. At the end of 2011, Syrian Australians took reports to Amnesty Australia of the killing of Syrian civilians by armed gangs as well as the fatwas of extremist clerics, but Amnesty International refused to report the reports. Instead, it focused on the claims of supporters of the armed opposition.

Amnesty International Silence about Killings by Militias

The keynote speaker at an Amnesty US conference in 2012 was US ambassador to Syria, Mr Robert Ford, who may have had an active role in the war in Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria in charge of recruiting Arab Muslim death squads

B. World Vision supports Syrian refugees but does not work in Syria with groups such as the Syrian Red Crescent.  Instead of simply presenting humanitarian aid to these refugees in camps in Jordan or Lebanon, it has also presented the claims of people who presumably support the militarized opposition without challenging those claims and without relating the personal stories of people suffering at the hands of the militarized opposition.

Inside the Syrian refugee camps by Kate Rose, World Vision Australia

NB: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent received the Red Cross Red Crescent Peace Prize in November 2013. The award ceremony was in Sydney.

Peace Prize awarded to Syrian Arab Red Crescent


Voices of volunteers in Red Crescent, Syria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6vQLdZNkyA#t=43

Collage of women 2

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