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Dr Amer Ghantous on Al Jazeera March 2011 lies on Syria

Eva K Bartlett | May 17, 2018

When in Syria, and before going to Dara’a itself, I interviewed Dr. Amer Ghantous about his experiences and observations on having worked in a military hospital in Dara’a governorate in March 2011. He spoke of being instructed to give priority to treating any civilians who came to the hospital before soldiers. He also spoke of the hospital receiving soldiers who had clearly been shot by snipers.

In this short clip, Dr. Ghantous speaks of the lies of Al Jazeera, and touches on the pre-planned nature of events in March 2011. Full interview to follow.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

State owned Qatari propaganda bullhorn links Bashar al-Assad with US far-right

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | August 13, 2017

State owned Qatari propaganda bullhorn Al-Jazeera has tried to link Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad with the American far-right and in particular with the man currently under arrest for yesterday’s vehicle ramming incident in the United States.

First of all, Bashar al-Assad is a socialist. He is a member of Syria’s ruling Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Although the clue is in the name, it helps to understand the intellectual origins of Ba’athism.

The three leading founders of Ba’athism Salah al-Din al-Bitar, Zaki al-Arsuzi and Michel Aflaq were all Syrian Arabs, Aflaq being a Christian Arab with Salah and al-Arsuzi were Muslims. Ba’athism’s essence combines traditional Arab cultural values with the anti-imperialist concept of Arab nationalism while harnessing the ideas of traditional socialism as both a bulwark against imperialist aggression and as a means of allowing post-colonial peoples to elevate their economic independence efficiently and rapidly.

Ba’athism, unlike Marxist-Leninism is not anti-religious and encourages the integration of Islam and Christianity with modern forms of government. Ba’athist organisations throughout the Arab world continue to attract all varieties of both Muslim and Christian men and women. Religious tolerance under a secular government and female rights are key features of Ba’athism.

But somehow Al-Jazeera thinks this philosophy is a talking point of the America far-right.

The following is a quote from an Al-Jazeera piece on the man whose car was used in the attack on marches in Virginia.

“Others (other far-right Americans) showed support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who alt-rightists and other far-right activists have publicly stood with in recent months”.

There are several grave problems with this statement. Most so-called far-right and alt-right groups online are a combination of parody, semi-intelligible and often random rage, support for the iconography of Adolf Hitler and extreme hatred of anything that actually is or is falsely assumed to be Islamic or Arabic in nature. This is hardly a place where the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party would find support and in fact it does not find support in such places.

Of course many people in the United States and throughout the world support the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party of the Syrian President. They support it because they generally prefer a secular tolerant vision for the Middle East to the extremist Wahhabi Sunni dictatorship that the terrorists fighting the Syrian government seek to establish.

People who support a secular, tolerant Syria are not far right, they are best called ‘moderates’. Ironically, the Wahhabi extremists were called  ‘moderate rebels’ by the US, Turkish, Qatari and Saudi media throughout the duration of the conflict. A more accurate term for such people might be the far-right of the Middle East or perhaps better yet ‘alt-Islam’.

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

New ‘CIA Officer Whistleblowing’ Video Reeks Of Disinfo

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By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | July 2, 2016

Making quite the circuit on the internet landscape is a new video purporting to show a former CIA agent speaking out against the manner in which the “war on terror” is prosecuted and portrayed to the American public. The video has been shared and discussed thousands of times particularly within the alternative media community as evidence that the “war on terror” is one big snowball of bad decisions and blowback.

The video, is a short clip of an interview conducted by AJ+ with Amaryllis Fox, a former CIA Clandestine Services Officer, who makes a number of claims during the three minute clip that range from the reasonable to the absurd. While many alternative media outlets have hailed Fox’s video as “brave” and Fox herself as a whistleblower, it would be wise to analyze her statements for what they are as opposed to praising them simply because they are being presented as “anti-establishment.”

Fox makes a surprising amount of claims for three minutes and she also manages to conflate issues, concepts, and people in a cleverly designed monologue that is clearly scripted for effect.

Fox begins by saying,

If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA it is this: everybody believes they are the good guy. I was an officer with the CIA Clandestine Service and worked undercover on counterterrorism and intelligence all around the world for almost ten years. The conversation that’s going on in the United States right now about ISIS and the United States overseas is more oversimplified than ever.

Fair enough. Lower level agents of the CIA and most lower level fighters in terrorist organizations or national militaries believe they are the good guys. The propaganda surrounding the “war on terror” is oversimplified. All of this is true indeed. But Fox moves from information easily verified such as the statement above to much more questionable claims. For instance, she says,

Ask most Americans whether ISIS poses an existential threat to this country and they’ll say yes. That’s where the conversation stops. If you’re walking down the street in Iraq or Syria and ask anybody why America dropped bombs, you get: “They were waging a war on Islam.” And you walk in America and you ask why we were attacked on 9/11, and you get “They hate us because we’re free.” Those are stories, manufactured by a really small number of people on both sides who amass a great deal of power and wealth by convincing the rest of us to keep killing each other.

Fox is correct on the latter part of her statement. Much of these stories are indeed manufactured by a small number of people in order to drum up support for foreign invasions and a police state back at home. But who exactly is Fox talking to on the streets of Syria and Iraq that would respond “a war on Islam” to the question of why the United States is dropping bombs on their country? It certainly isn’t the average Syrian as she tries to portray. In fact, if one were to go to the average Syrian on the street and ask “Why is America dropping bombs?” the answer would almost always be centered around Israel. Almost every researcher is aware of this fact but not one time was the word “Israel” mentioned in Fox’s interview. The “war on Islam” line is typically reserved only for the more fanatical religious zealots who make up the so-called “opposition.” So what is Fox suggesting? Is she suggesting that the average Syrian holds the same belief system as the average al-Qaeda fighter?

Actually, that is exactly what she is doing, regardless of whether or not she states it explicitly or not. She continues,

I think the question we need to be asking, as Americans examining our foreign policy, is whether or not we are pouring kerosene on a candle. The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them. If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not, you might have made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours. An al-Qaeda fighter made a point once during a debriefing. He said all these movies that America makes, like Independence Day, and Hunger Games and Star Wars, they’re all about a small scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel and outside, technologically advanced invader. And what you don’t realize, he said, is that to us, to the rest of the world, you are the empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.

Fox is implying that there was a “fundamentalist al-Qaeda” problem before America’s foreign policy was formed. In other words, that the problem existed and that the United States perhaps acted rashly in dealing with it. But the fact is that the al-Qaeda issue never would have existed in the first place had the United States not invented it. Indeed, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other related terrorist organizations are entirely creations of the U.S. government and the NATO apparatus. While Fox may be forgiven for not knowing this little detail, not knowing the difference between a fundamentalist al-Qaeda fanatic and an average Syrian is not excusable. That is, assuming that the mistake is actually a mistake and not an intentional attempt to mislead the audience.

Fox also provides questionable analogies when she discusses the al-Qaeda fighters’ interpretation of Hollywood movies. If the fighter was so convinced that the U.S. is the empire (fair point – it is) and al-Qaeda is the equivalent of Luke and Han, why did al-Qaeda attack the Syrian government? Why did they attack the Iraqi government? Why did they attack the Libyan government? This would be the equivalent of Luke and Han attacking the Galactic Republic while claiming to fight the Empire. It doesn’t make sense. Continuing with the Star Wars analogy, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and Muammar Ghaddaffi would represent the Republic and those nations’ militaries along with Iraq’s “insurgents” fighting back against the U.S. would be the true rebels. Fox should know this very well.

Nevertheless, Fox concluded her statements by saying,

But the truth is when you talk to the people who are really fighting on the ground on both sides, and ask them why they’re there, they answer with hopes for their children, specific policies that they think are cruel or unfair. And while it may be easier to dismiss your enemy as evil, hearing them out on policy concerns is actually an amazing thing. Because as long as your enemy is a subhuman psychopath that’s going to attack you no matter what you do, this never ends. But if your enemy is a policy, however complicated, that we can work with.

So, again, the question would be “who is Fox actually talking about?” When she references “the people who are really fighting on the ground on both sides, does she mean U.S. forces and terrorists vs the Syrian military? Does she exclude the U.S. military? Her statements simply do nothing to clarify the reality on the ground, only to confuse it.

One good question for Fox would be how the Syrian government should listen to and hear out a “policy” coming from an organization that crucifies women, beheads “heretics,” and seeks to impose Shariah law on a civilized people? How should Syria simply listen to the “concerns” of the United States after the latter power has funded those “subhuman psychopaths” (yes, it is an accurate description) who have invaded their country? Is it possible that the “policy” of the United States and its proxy terrorists is simply wrong? Is it possible that the other sides might not be so willing to have a couples’ therapy session?

While Fox makes a number of good points regarding the fact that the narrative surrounding al-Qaeda and the situation in Syria and Iraq is indeed manufactured by a small number of people in high places, Fox herself makes an incredibly wrong description of the conflict, equating average Syrians and Iraqis with jihadists in terms of their mindset and suggesting that the upsurge of terrorism is a result of blowback as opposed to outright funding and conspiracy to overthrow sovereign states in search of world hegemony.

Fox’s statements simply serve to continue to drag Americans off into the abyss of misinformation surrounding the crisis in the Middle East while claiming to do otherwise. After watching Fox’s video, (notably produced by AJ+ – al-Jazeera, a Qatari news agency that has long been pro-jihadist), we can safely say that Ms. Fox is either misinformed herself or simply good at her job.

Image Credit: Anthony Freda

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Western media largely ignored State Dept-Google-Al Jazeera plot against Assad

RT | March 26, 2016

The Western media has quietly ignored an unexpected collaboration between Washington, Google, and “independent” Al Jazeera aimed at helping to overthrow Syria’s Bashar Assad. Would they be as oblivious to a similar cozy “partnership” involving Russia?

Last Monday, WikiLeaks lifted the lid on a correspondence between Jared Cohen, the President of ‘Google Ideas,’ and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff in the summer of 2012. In his July 25, 2012 email to top State Department’s officials, Cohen pitched his about-to-be-launched “tool” to Clinton’s inner circle, asking it to “keep close hold” of it.

The leak revealing the project, which would seem to be an outrageous scandal to some, has actually been quite difficult to spot in the news. Since WikiLeaks released the latest batch of Clinton’s emails on March 21, a Google news search spits back about 30 web sources related to the story.

Of those, only two – The Independent and Daily Mail – could arguably be considered major mainstream media outlets. That means there were slim chances that the eye of an average newsreader would catch wind of the State Department’s teamwork with the US’ biggest tech giant, Google, and Arab media outlet Al Jazeera.

According to what Cohen wrote, it appears that Google’s innovative visualizer worked to “publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from.”

“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition,” he said.

Google also collaborated with Al Jazeera, which took primary ownership over the tool, because of “how hard” it was to get information out of Syria.

At the State Department, the idea was lauded and passed on to Clinton via her private email by deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan as “a pretty cool idea.”

RT asked media expert Lionel why the revelations failed to receive much attention in the Western media.

“I don’t expect a reaction from Western media because Western media hasn’t even read this, has no idea about this,” Lionel told RT. “But can you imagine if the same set of facts were involved with the different countries, different corporations around the world depending upon your frame of reference. This would either be an outrage or ‘well, maybe this is a delightful and benign cooperation, an independent tech giant… and all for the common good of liberty’ and whatever. It depends upon your perspective.”

Another curious aspect is the fact that the WikiLeaks release directly involved Clinton’s email, which has been a hot topic tainting her presidential campaign for a year now. Clinton’s opponents as well as the US media have been taking nearly every opportunity to poke her for her “careless” misdeed – with the notable exception of this story.

The three parties in this collaboration did not end up together by chance, either.

Funded by the Qatari government, Al Jazeera portrays itself as “the first independent news channel in the Arab world” and “one of the world’s most influential news networks,” whose main goal is it to give “a global audience an alternative voice.”

Qatar has been largely supporting the rebels in the Syrian conflict, along with Washington and other anti-Assad powers that even mulled launching a direct military intervention on Syrian soil last October.

It turned out that Google’s Syrian Defector Tracking was a good fit for Al Jazeera. It even ended up winning the channel a prestigious Online Media Award for “Best technical innovation.”

“This is going to show you very fascinating aspects of the new warfare – how media, and corporations and various platforms are merging together. We are not sure who the military is, who is the government,” Lionel said.

He suggested that the State Department’s reluctance to release Clinton’s emails could be explained by the intention to hide “the conflation of allegedly private industry with the government.”

“We have this new world here. We have the government and we have the Pentagon, DAPRA and defense advanced research program agency, we have private industry, we have these various platforms. We have this new introduction of mercenary groups and private contacting teams. [But] our country [the US] has had a very strict barrier, Posse Comitatus, that separates private law enforcement from military,” Lionel said. “There have always been distinctions and barriers and jurisdiction alliance. In this new world, these barriers are being eliminated, dissolved.”

As Lionel says, the collaboration between Google and the US government only seems to be “innocent” if there is a bias towards “who you like… and the information that’s being propagated.”

When contacted by RT, Google declined to comment on the situation, yet did not hesitate to proudly stress Al Jazeera’s achievement.

“No comment, but pointing out that this data visualization project was very public, Al Jazeera won a journalism award for it,” the tech giant said in an email.

Given these circumstances, it would not hurt to wonder what the Western media’s reaction might have been if the same collaboration had occurred across the ocean and involved, let’s say, the Russian government, a well-known media outlet, and a Russian internet giant.

Since its inception in 2005, RT has often been labeled as anything ranging from a “Russian propaganda machine” to a “propaganda bullhorn” by high-profile Western officials and politicians.

“If RT wanted PR in American media, this is exactly the move it should make. You would never hear the end of that on American media,” Ted Rall, a political cartoonist and author, told RT. “You really don’t have a right to call anyone a propaganda if you yourself is doing the same thing.”

As for Al Jazeera’s prize winning tool, it appears to be currently defunct for unspecified reasons.

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Qatar charts a new diplomatic path to Russia

By Firas Al-Atraqchi | The BRICS Post | January 16, 2016

The visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be considered by some to be unexpected, but it is hardly surprising.

Although the two countries maintain considerable trade ties to the tune of half a billion dollars a year, they have for more than a decade been erstwhile adversaries.

As two of the greatest gas exporters, they rarely agree on production quotas, vying for control of this essential market. In the past 20 months, Russia has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for refusing to curb oil production output as global prices plummeted.

A major oil exporter, Russia – already reeling from EU and US sanctions – has suffered considerably as prices drop to the $30 mark.

The rhetoric between both countries peaked after Russian fighter bombers and naval vessels began pounding Islamist extremist groups fighting to remove Moscow’s Syrian ally President Bashar Al Assad.

As the Sunni-funded campaign to remove Assad appeared to reach a stalemate, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have since May 2015 significantly increased their support (financially, logistically and with materiel) to Wahabist Islamist factions in Syria.

The increase in support came as both countries realized that Washington was unable – or unwilling – to provide such groups as Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army with the upper hand to turn the tide against Assad.

When Russia moved to reinforce its bases in Syria and presence in the Mediterranean, the Qataris in late October 2015 announced they could militarily intervene in the civil war there to aid their Islamist allies.

“If a military intervention will protect the Syrian people from the brutality of the regime, we will do it,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said at the time.

If such bravado was meant to nudge Washington to up the ante against Assad, it failed.

Russian diplomacy moves forward

A week later, the US appeared to cave in to Russian pressure to bring together senior representatives from Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, as well as the UN’s special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to meet in Vienna to resolve the Syrian civil war.

It marked the first time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran joined discussions on Syria. The two countries have backed opposing sides in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts.

The armed Syrian opposition – classified as moderates by the US – did not participate in the talks.

By expanding the number of countries meeting on the crisis – and bringing Assad’s critical backer Iran to the table – Russia effectively minimized Qatar’s and Saudi Arabia’s influence in the conflict.

In late November, on the sidelines of the third summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran, Putin thanked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for his help in Vienna.

Moscow and Tehran have supported Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad and insisted that he be part of an interim political process and future elections.

“All this is done, of course, in agreement with the Iranian partners … I think that without them it would be impossible,” Putin said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

Russia also played a critical role in ensuring that Iran and the other permanent Security Council members (and Germany) sign a deal which would curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of debilitating sanctions.

If it wasn’t clear yet, a rising Russia was increasingly flexing both its military and diplomatic muscles in the Middle East.

Even Egypt, which has been financially sustained by Saudi Arabia, defied its Riyadh benefactors and backed Russia’s approach to resolving the conflict.

On December 18, Russia and the US agreed to a UN Security Council resolution “to convene representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process on an urgent basis, with a target of early January 2016 for the initiation of talks, pursuant to the Geneva Communiqué, consistent with the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement, with a view to a lasting political settlement of the crisis”.

A week later, the previously chest-pumping Qatar Foreign Minister al-Attiyah was in Moscow where he praised his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for Russia’s efforts to stabilize the Middle East.

The two diplomats agreed on the need to move the UNSC resolution forward.

“We discussed in detail what’s necessary to be done to implement the agreements on the Syrian settlement,” Lavrov said at the time.

In early January, Russia’s BRICS ally China, which is also increasingly playing a political role in the Middle East, separately hosted members of both the Syrian government and the opposition. It encouraged the latter to drop its preconditions to meeting with Syrian government representatives.

In less than six months, the momentum to bring Assad down has shifted toward ensuring that a political peace process get off the ground.

So, what changed?

Qatar’s ambitions to become a regional and global player have in recent months been tamed.

Its ‘soft power’ approach to controlling the Middle East has backfired as it rushed head on against countries that have for centuries been well-versed in the art of Machiavellian empire-building and proxy manipulation.

At the same time, Russia’s aggressive immersion in the Middle East muddle has altered not only the narrative in the region but physical realities on the ground.

Anti-Assad forces have been losing significant territory to the Syrian military and its Hezbollah allies.

As Russia pounds and destroys the weapons bought by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the US appears to have retreated despite Arab Sunni protestations.

As Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani himself likes to point out, Qatar is a peace-loving member of nations that will work with the US and Western allies to bring the Middle East back from the brink of chaos and collapse.

He has blamed the international community for not supporting Arab youth in their drive for democracy, justice and economic security. That is really a scolding of the US and the West for not doing more to bring the Assad regime down.

Iran rising, Russia to stay

New realities have been forming in the Middle East.

The Iran nuclear deal, which has alarmed Washington’s Sunni allies, will not only be a moral and propaganda boost for Tehran but also allow tens of billions of dollars to flow into its cash-strapped coffers.

Iran is soon expected to flood already saturated oil markets with an additional one million barrels – a day.

Iran has successfully ‘managed’ its new ally Iraq, kept Assad in power, and maintained its proxy Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon.

With Iran and the US appearing to be at the very least cordial now, Tehran’s influence is only set to grow.

For Iran to grow as a geopolitical power, other players must first retreat.

Backing the wrong horse

By continuing to back Islamist factions in Libya, Syria and Egypt, Qatar misread and miscalculated the response of erstwhile allies in its own front yard.

Nowhere has that been more evident than in Qatar’s commitment to Egypt following the 2011 uprising which resulted in President Hosni Mubarak stepping down and the Muslim Brotherhood eventually winning power through the ballot box.

Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist factions in Egypt.

Egyptian hardline cleric Yussuf Al Qaradawi, who was a vociferous critic of the Mubarak government, returned to Cairo from his home in Doha just a week after the president stepped down.

Qaradawi, who is close to Qatar’s ruling family, is also a strong advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

When the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi was forced from power, many in Egypt felt that Qatar’s Al Jazeera was biased in favor of the Islamist group and openly belligerent against the new government.

According to prominent Middle East commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Al Jazeera was used by the Qatari leadership to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even after Morsi was imprisoned and put on trial, Al Jazeera continued to support the Muslim Brotherhood despite the advice to the contrary and objections of many of its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the latter having been directly threatened by Brotherhood officials in 2012 and 2013, urged Qatar to back away from supporting the group.

After failing to persuade Qatar to terminate its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and in the wake of Saudi Arabia classifying the group as a terrorist organization, key GCC states turned on Qatar.

They accused Doha of failing to live up to a 2013 GCC security agreement to end support for the Muslim Brotherhood and stop providing sanctuary to its leaders and members.

GCC, oil and Al Jazeera America

In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha.

This was unprecedented among the usually unified and resolute GCC.

The diplomatic rift indicated that there were significant fissures within the GCC and marked a shift in Qatar’s fortunes. How could it influence the region like it once did if it was becoming a pariah among its closest friends and allies?

As Europe, the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE declared support for the new Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi, Qatar was growing increasingly isolated.

The drastic fall of global oil prices has also delivered a debilitating blow to GCC countries, Qatar included.

Brent Crude was at nearly $110 in 2013; on January 15, 2015 it closed below $30 a barrel – more than a 75 per cent drop.

Funding a civil war that is not paying dividends is not the best of financial decisions given the current oil glut.

Some media analysts have speculated that the drop in oil prices played a role in Qatar deciding to shut down its media operations in the US – Al Jazeera America.

Having lost leverage, Qatar is adopting a more pragmatic approach to carefully chart a way back to international cooperation.

Ahead of his trip to the US last year, Sheikh Tamim said in a New York Times editorial that Qatar sees itself as a force of good. It aggressively seeks to resolve conflict and enjoys playing the role of mediator and arbiter.

Russia has in recent months made significant overtures to several Arab countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar cannot afford to be left out. When Sheikh Tamim arrives in Moscow this weekend he will likely discuss current gas and oil crises with his Russian counterpart as both seek ways to raise global prices.

Qatar could also offer to mediate between Russia and Turkey, one of its strongest allies in the region, following the diplomatic spat between Moscow and Ankara in the wake of the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Syrian air space.

Middle East commentator Camille Otrakji, however, cautions that “one can expect Qatar’s ruler to talk to Russia, without necessarily being ready to stop financing and arming the Jihadists”.

“[The] Qataris show interest in any promising investment, and Russia is today looking very attractive,” he added.

In 2006, then Secretary of State Condi Rice said that the Middle East map was being redrawn.

She likely could have never predicted the Qatar-Russia detente we see today.

January 16, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Madaya hunger reports aim to demonize government: Syria

Press TV – January 12, 2016

Syria’s ambassador to the UN says media reports of starving civilians in the southwestern town of Madaya have been fabricated in an attempt to defame the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Actually, there was no starvation in Madaya,” Bashar Ja’afari told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, where the UN Security Council met to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Jaafari said journalists from the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera broadcaster and the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV network are “mainly responsible for fabricating these allegations and lies.”

He said false information about starvation deaths in the Syrian town are aimed at “demonizing” Damascus and “torpedoing” peace negotiations due in the Swiss city of Geneva on January 25.

The Syrian diplomat also said aid delivered to Madaya in October had been looted by terrorist groups and sold to civilians at high prices.

“The Syrian government is not and will not exert any policy of starvation on its own people,” he said, adding the “terrorists are stealing humanitarian assistance.”

On Monday, a convoy of 44 trucks loaded with food, baby formula, blankets and other supplies entered Madaya. An equivalent amount of aid would also arrive in two other besieged towns of Foua and Kefraya.

The Syrian government recently agreed to facilitate the flow of relief aid into Madaya, which has been the scene of fierce clashes between pro-government forces and Takfiri elements.

Locals told the Lebanese al-Manar TV on Sunday that terrorist groups had stored aid packages for Madaya and sold it to the locals at inflated prices.

According to the UN, up to 4.5 million people live in hard-to-reach areas of Syria which has witnessed a deadly conflict fueled by foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists since March 2011.

Over 260,000 people have reportedly lost their lives while millions of others have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence.

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The West’s Voluntary Blindness on Syria

By Eldar Mamedov | LobeLog | July 2, 2015

Recently Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg sent a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria end the use of barrel bombs. The foreign ministry of a European country that still maintains a diplomatic presence in Damascus, one of the few, asked for the opinion of its embassy on the matter. The embassy recommended to sign the letter: barrel bombs are indiscriminate and kill an awful lot of civilians. But the embassy also advised its government to condemn the opposition’s use of improvised mortar bombs (known as “hell cannons”) against the neighborhoods under government control. Diplomats say that the rebels have specifically targeted Christian areas for their perceived support for the Assad regime. Back in Europe, the foreign ministry officials admitted that they “haven’t heard anything” about the “hell cannons.”

This is only one example of how dysfunctional EU policy toward Syria has become, as a European Parliament (EP) delegation that visited Lebanon in mid-June learned. An early EU decision to cut off all ties with the Assad regime has not been vindicated by the developments on the ground. Not only has the regime survived, but radical jihadist elements have increasingly dominated the opposition to Assad. The EU, however, failed to modify its strategy accordingly. As a result, regional actors with often disruptive and sectarian agendas have taken center stage. And individual EU member states have also pursued their own policies, which are not necessarily in the interests of the EU as a whole.

The latest example of the distorting influence of the regional actors is the Syrian opposition’s failure to accept the “freeze plan” in Aleppo and surrounding areas proposed by the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura as a first step toward a negotiated solution. In the UN assessment, the opposition´s foreign sponsors—mainly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan—bear primary responsibility for this failure, because they have insisted on removing Assad from power as a pre-condition to any agreements.

Such a position is not new. What is new, however, is that these sponsors do not hide anymore that they work directly with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda´s affiliate in Syria. They still pretend, however, that al-Nusra is the face of the “moderate opposition,” even though this assertion stems from a PR operation, widely believed to be Qatari-driven and carried out in Western mainstream media and think-tanks. An interview al-Nusra’s chief Al-Golani gave to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera was part of this PR campaign, but it backfired when Al-Golani made it clear that al-Nusra is al-Qaeda and expressed borderline genocidal views on Alawites.

The Dangers of Supporting Jihad

To make matters more complicated, even those rebel groups that are not part of al-Nusra, espouse deeply troubling views. According to a credible UN source in Damascus, a fighter from an obscure group Jaysh al-Ababil active in Syria´s south, has reported that “Syrian people deserve a democracy like in Saudi Arabia.” He boasted that the group “gets anything it needs” from Jordan and that a major offensive to take Damascus from the south, as well as the north, will be launched “very soon.”

If the US and EU had real strategy to end the war they would, in addition to pressuring Assad, demand that their regional allies curb the flow of weapons and recruits to terrorist groups. But they can’t credibly do that, since they are involved in this effort themselves. According to Conflicts Forum, the southern rebel front is managed from US Centcom’s Forward Command in Jordan, which is run jointly by American, Jordanian, Saudi, Qatari, and British officers. … Full article

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Libya, ISIS and the Unaffordable Luxury of Hindsight

By AHMAD BARQAWI | CounterPunch | March 9, 2015

Who are you?” the late Muammar Gaddafi once rhetorically asked in a famous speech of his towards the end of his reign; (rightly) questioning the legitimacy of those seeking to over-throw his government at the time, calling them extremists, foreign agents, rats and drug-addicts. He was laughed at, unfairly caricatured, ridiculed and incessantly demonized; a distasteful parody video poking fun at the late Libyan leader even went viral on social media; evidently the maker of the video, an Israeli, thought the Libyan colloquial Arabic word “Zenga” (which means an Alleyway) sounded funny enough that he extracted it from one of Gaddafi’s speeches, looped it on top of a hip-hop backing track and voila… he got himself a hit video which was widely (and shamefully) circulated with a “revolutionary” zeal in the Arab world. We shared, we laughed, he died.

But the bloody joke is on all of us; Gaddafi knew what he was talking about; right from the get-go, he accused the so-called Libyan rebels of being influenced by Al-Qaeda ideology and Ben Laden’s school of thought; no one had taken his word for it of course, not even a little bit. I mean why should we have? After all, wasn’t he a vile, sex-centric dictator hell-bent on massacring half of the Libyan population while subjecting the other half to manic raping sprees with the aid of his trusted army of Viagra-gobbling, sub-Saharan mercenaries? At least that’s what we got from the visual cancer that is Al Jazeera channel and its even more acrid Saudi counterpart Al-Arabiya in their heavily skewed coverage of NATO’s vicious conquest of Libya. Plus Gaddafi did dress funny; why would anyone trust a haggard, weird-looking despot dressed in colorful rags when you have well-groomed Zionists like Bernard Henry Levy, John McCain and Hillary Clinton at your side, smiling and flashing the victory sign in group photo-ops, right?

Gaddafi called them drug-addicted, Islamic fundamentalists; we know them as ISIS… it doesn’t seem much of a joke now, does it? And ISIS is what had been in store for us all along; the “revolutionary” lynching and sodomization of Muammar Gaddafi amid manic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, lauded by many at the time as some sort of a warped triumph of the good of popular will (read: NATO-sponsored mob rule) over the evil of dictatorship (sovereign state), was nothing but a gory precursor for the future of the country and the region; mass lynching of entire populations in Libya, Syria and Iraq and the breakup of key Arab states into feuding mini-statelets. The gruesome video of Colonel Gaddafi’s murder, which puts to shame the majority of ISIS videos in terms of unhinged brutality and gore, did not invoke the merest of condemnations back then, on the contrary; everyone seemed perfectly fine with the grotesque end of the Libyan “tyrant”… except that it was only the beginning of a new and unprecedented reign of terror courtesy of NATO’s foot-soldiers and GCC-backed Islamic insurgents.

The rapid proliferation of trigger-happy terrorist groups and Jihadi factions drenched in petrodollars in Libya was not some sort of an intelligence failure on the part of western governments or a mere by-product of the power vacuum left by a slain Gaddafi; it was a deliberate, calculated policy sought after and implemented by NATO and its allies in the Gulf under the cringe-inducing moniker “Friends of Libya” (currently known as the International Coalition against ISIS) to turn the north-African country into the world’s largest ungovernable dumpster of weapons, al-Qaida militants and illegal oil trading.

So it is safe to say that UNSC resolution 1973, which practically gave free rein for NATO to bomb Libya into smithereens, has finally borne fruit… and it’s rotten to its nucleus, you can call the latest gruesome murder of 21 Egyptian fishermen and workers by the Libyan branch of the Islamic State exhibit “A”, not to mention of course the myriad of daily killings, bombings and mini-civil wars that are now dotting the entire country which, ever since the West engineered its coup-d’etat against the Gaddafi government, have become synonymous with the bleak landscape of lawlessness and death that is “Libya” today. And the gift of NATO liberation is sure to keep on giving for years of instability and chaos to come.

In an interview with the western media misinformation collective that is the BBC, ABC and the Sunday Times in February 2011; the late Muammar Gaddafi told his condescending interviewers; “have you seen the Al Qaeda operatives? Have you heard all these Jihadi broadcasts? It is Al Qaeda that is controlling the cities of Al Baida and Darnah, former Guantanamo inmates and extremists unleashed by America to terrorize the Libyan people…”. Darnah is now the main stronghold for ISIS in Libya.

In a bizarre coincidence (or some sort of cosmic irony); the date on which ISIS chose to release its video of the beheading of Egyptian captives, thereby officially declaring its presence in the war-torn country with three oil fields under its control, (appropriately) marked the 4th anniversary of the start of the so-called Libyan revolution on February 15th, 2011; a more apt “tribute” to commemorate the Western instigated regime-change debacle in Libya could not have been made.

But even long before ISIS became the buzzword, the acrid nature of a “revolutionary” Libya showed in full, sickening splendor almost instantly right after the old regime fell, everything the late Gaddafi was falsely accused of doing was literally perfected to a chilling degree by the so-called rebels; massacres, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, car-bombings, mass arrests, torture, theft of oil and national resources… the whole lot. In 2013; two British pro-Palestine activists, on their way to Gaza with an aid convoy, got to experience first-hand the rotten fruits of the Libyan chapter of the so-called Arab Spring when they were abducted by a motely crew of Libyan revolutionaries-turned-warlords in the city of Benghazi and gang raped in front of their father.

Proponents of Humanitarian Interventions must be patting themselves on the back these days; now that Libya has completed its democratic makeover from a country with the highest standard of living in Africa under Gaddafi’s rule into a textbook definition of a failed state; a godless wasteland of religious fanaticism, internal bloodletting and wholesale head-chopping, in fact Libya became so “democratic” that there are now two parliaments and two (warring) governments; each with its own (criminal) army and supported with money and caches of weapons from competing foreign powers, not to mention the myriad of secessionist movements and militias which the illegal coup against Gaddafi has spawned all over the country while free health care, education and electricity, which the Libyans took for granted under Gaddafi’s regime, are all now but relics of the past; that’s the “Odyssey Dawn” the Libyans were promised; a sanitized version of Iraq sans the public outrage, neatly re-packaged in a “responsibility to protect” caveat and delivered via aerial bombing campaigns where even the West’s overzealous Gulf Co-conspirators Club (GCC), driven by nothing beyond petty personal vendettas against Gaddafi, got to test the lethality of its rusted, American-made military aircrafts alongside NATO on the people of Tripoli and Sirte.

This is what Gaddafi had predicted right from the get-go and then some; the ephemeral euphoria of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions was just too potent and too exhilarating for us to read the fine print; was it a conspiracy or a true revolutionary spirit gone awry? It doesn’t really matter now that ISIS has become the true legacy of Tahrir Square; “they will turn Libya into another Afghanistan, another Somalia, another Iraq… your women won’t be allowed out, they will transform Libya into an Islamic Emirate and America will bomb the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism”, the late Libyan leader had said in a televised speech on February 22nd, 2011, and more prophetic words were never spoken.

America’s “clean war” Libyan prototype proved to be such a success that it was replicated with a wanton abandon in Syria; Paul Bremer’s “Blackwater” death squads of old, which reigned terror all over Iraq, are back… with an Islamic twist; bearded, clad in black and explosives from head to toe and mounting convoys of Toyota Land Cruiser trucks with an ever-expanding, seemingly borderless Islamic Caliphate (that somehow leaves the Zionist regime unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine) set in their sights.

Everyday the Arab World is awakened to a new-videotaped atrocity; steeped in gore and maniacal terror courtesy of ISIS (or IS or ISIL), and countless of other “youtubeless”, albeit more heinous crimes courtesy of America’s very own ever-grinding, one-sided drone warfare; the entire region seesaws between machete beheadings and hellfire missile incinerations. Death from above… as well as below; the War on Terror rears its ugly head once again; to bring in line those nasty terrorists that the West itself funded and sponsored in the name of democracy to destabilize “unsavory” regimes; an unrelenting Groundhog Day that starts with the Responsibility to Protect and ends with the War on Terror, with thousands of innocent lives, typically chalked up to collateral damage, crushed in the process.

This is exactly what Gaddafi foresaw; a Libya mired in utter chaos, civil conflict and western diktats; a breeding ground for Jihadi fundamentalism and extremists… too bad we just laughed his warnings off to an Israeli-made parody tune.

Ahmad Barqawi, freelance columnist and writer.

March 9, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mosa’ab Elshamy: On escaping death and capturing tragedy

By Sarah El Sirgany – Al-Akhbar – 2013-12-16

As the deadly crackdown on the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi was coming to an end on August 14, word spread that a photographer called Mosa’ab Elshamy was killed. It wasn’t long before the 23-year-old photographer assured his friends and colleagues that it was another photographer by the same name who had been killed in Alexandria. The relief was soon replaced by the realization that another set of strangers were mourning the loss of their friend. This type of tragedy and conflict is what Elshamy is skillful at documenting.

His portfolio is spread out on the front pages of the world’s top publications. One of his photos was chosen among Time magazine’s top ten this year. It depicts a man carrying a lifeless body during a deadly crackdown on Morsi supporters on July 27. Three years abundant with street clashes, with no professional training but with “a lot of trial and error,” have honed an eye capable of capturing both emotion and motion. Elshamy’s courage is often commended by his more seasoned peers.

I first knew of the young photographer when he was arrested in May 2011 during clashes near the Israeli embassy. A military court handed him and others a suspended sentence. He was still a pharmacy student when his eye was injured with glass shrapnel while covering clashes in December of the same year. This paper gave him his first professional assignment in 2012. The first time we worked together was in Suez while covering the presidential elections.

Sitting with him over a year and a half later, his signature smile frailly masked the violence and loss he had witnessed. Our conversation moved from the financial and security risks of being an independent photojournalist to the struggle to maintain professional integrity in a heavily politicized society, especially with his older brother, al-Jazeera journalist Abdallah Elshamy, behind bars. The guilt of having a flourishing career in the midst of tragedy pierced through.

This is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Since June, what has been your most memorable photo?

I think it’s the picture I took in Iman Mosque, which was where the bodies were moved from Rabaa after it was cleared. Some were torched and it was really awful. But there is a picture that really stuck with me which was the photo of the wife of one of the victims. The man was called Mohamed Yaqoot– an engineer. The Iman Mosque was very big and there were over 400 bodies being sorted out, many unidentified. [The wife] has been looking for over an hour for the body. He was lying in a coffin with no identification. So, she was actually going through every unidentified coffin and when she found him, she threw herself on him and obviously it was heartbreaking. So, it was this picture that really stuck with me for such a long while, because it just showed so much of the catastrophe, so much of the human disaster and the insanity that has torn so many families apart.

I remember your tweets on August 14 describing that you left because a bullet flew next to your ear. Was this the most dangerous and life threatening situation you’ve ever been in?

Yes.

Do you think you were targeted or was it random?

I’m more inclined to believe it was random. Perhaps, it would have been a bit safer to know that they were actually there for the sake of law and order, that they were actually confronting the people who had guns, but that wasn’t the case. I was there for more than six hours and people at the very back were being shot. People who were sitting under a tree were being shot. All of these people who were falling next to me showed absolutely no form of distinction. That was the scariest part about Rabaa.

I’d like to believe I was really cautious and I knew I had to be extremely cautious that day and I did stick to all these rules I made for myself. Like not getting close, always being under or next to a car or a tree or a block. Always keeping my head really low, staying in side streets most of the time, making sure I’m not in the middle. They had this pattern of teargassing then shooting in the middle. Never staying in a place for more than 20 seconds. These were the sort of things that I had developed and learned over the months since January [2011]. But the thing about Rabaa is that really it was about how lucky you were that day. That’s what I came to realize – that I was absolutely lucky.

[Photoset of the Rabaa crackdown here].

What got you into photography, specifically photojournalism? You got interested at the time when it was the most dangerous.

I got into photography in 2005. I was 16. The concept of composing pictures really did take over me – mostly just different genres of nature photography. It always terrified me a little bit to go out on the street. Then in June 2010, which was also around the same time I actively got into politics like so many who were moved by the Khaled Said incident and the wave of protests that had taken over the country, I was starting to break at least this fear of going into the street. There were very few incidents where I would take my camera with me. I wouldn’t say it was more dangerous than now, but it had its own risk [of] being on the street with your camera in a protest, especially that [protesters] almost always would get beaten.

In 2011 when the protests started, I also took my camera – not on the first day, not on January 25, but on the 26th and the 27th when there were sporadic protests. It was on Talaat Harb Street. We were sitting at the Borsa [café] and there was this protest that began out of nowhere and it was quite big and it was night. All of a sudden the [protesters] were faced by a cordon and the police started beating everybody, and I had my camera. So it got completely destroyed.

Since then, you’ve lost…

Yes quite few. But that one was really painful because I had gotten it a few months earlier. It was in Summer 2010 that I invested actual money in a camera and then it got broken on January 27, which was such a bummer because then I spend the next 15 days, especially the Friday of Rage, without a camera.

So there is always this bitterness and this extra anger that I don’t have my camera on me and so much is happening, so the most I did was tweet and take some phone pictures.

Being an independent journalist, how do you manage the loss of equipment?

There’s definitely an extra risk. As an independent you really don’t get covered. Not to mention sometimes you don’t have a press identification on you. So it’s not just about the camera. With my brother [in jail] – there’s an independent photographer and he can’t prove to them that he’s a journalist.

The financial aspect of it gets much more pressuring because you have no one who could cover you if you lose equipment, except on very few occasions when you are being assigned. How do I cope with it? I’ve had days when I wasn’t able to do that and had to borrow lenses. It’s rewarding when you are able to [find ways around it].

You mentioned that you became interested in photojournalism when you got interested in politics. How do you balance both and maintain your integrity as a journalist?

This has always been a very difficult. I would say that as a rule: When it comes to choosing, not sides, but choosing what to cover – because there’s always so much to cover – I always find myself inclined to choose the [side of the] ones who get very little media attention. Not just that, but the ones actually facing the wrath of the state, including its media institutions and sometimes even public opinion. So this is why in 2011, when the revolutionaries were always in the streets I was naturally inclined to be out with them. And even though on a very political and personal level, which I obviously almost always keep to myself, I would be with them, I would cover these clashes because they were the weaker side.

The dynamics are always changing. And now, it’s the Brotherhood who are basically back in this spot. It’s easier to take this decision to be in Rabaa, to be in Nahda, rather than be in Tahrir when you know all the cameras are there. I also tend to think, which will be more challenging to cover: a random celebration in Tahrir or a protest which will get teargassed to hell?

As a journalist, I know that at a lot of times I will have to be covering something that on a very personal level I’m not invested in, or even sometimes I’m completely against. But I need to do that because otherwise you are risking your integrity. Which is why June 30 was very difficult on the professional level … a conflicting task. [In Tahrir], the mood was very jubilant, and then going to Rabaa that same night when Morsi was toppled and seeing the complete opposite of that.

There is this conflict and in Egypt as these lines are being drawn and the polarization is [getting] more solidified, it just becomes more difficult trying to keep what I would say your journalistic neutrality – as in being here and being there.

Your brother was arrested in Rabaa and he works for al-Jazeera which is …

The devil!

The devil – yes. How do you factor all of this into your reputation as a journalist away from your older brother?

As a general rule I have absolutely no problem with this fact. We are three in my family and my brother works for al-Jazeera. I’ve expressed to him my discontent with some of al-Jazeera’s work. When he was here reporting I would always try and tell him what I think very honestly and he took that very well. It’s something that did harm him in the end, because even before he was arrested, there’d been too much defamation going on against him. Generally speaking, what he works for doesn’t really change what I think of his own journalistic integrity, especially since I [have been] following his work very closely since he was in Misrata during the Libyan revolution, in Mali, and in Syria. That’s something to be actually proud [of], regardless of the outlet he works for, which I think does have many of its ups and downs. And to be honest, I think they have been vilified a lot more than they should have, but that’s another story.

But when it comes to me, I know that I should be accounted for what I do and there have been instances where also I’ve been accused of such things. It does get crazy because this is the general mood.

To end it on a happy note, what has been the most gratifying moment in your career?

I don’t think this is going to be happy. Starting with June 30 and Manasa [July 27] and Rabaa and Ramsis [Aug. 16], somehow these were the most terrible things I have ever covered or clashes I’ve been to, and the pictures and all the memories. But in a way this completely pushed me forward on a professional and career level. I’ve been to places I’ve always dreamed of featuring my photos in and I got invitations to exhibit my pictures and have been considered for workshops that I’ve always loved. This is always the conflict that we are in: that it takes a disaster or sometimes a very gruesome event for you to be able to move forward in your career. Very, very sadly.

I’m thankful more than anything that I was here when this happened and I at least showed what I wanted to show, which is the loss of humanity on the streets of Egypt, and this has been very morally satisfying. Very simply on Twitter, people told me that they didn’t care much about the people in Rabaa until they saw some of my pictures. On the other side, some people were happy about the Copts being killed in Warraq but when they saw my pictures they were like, “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have thought like that.” More than anything, this is really what I find very satisfying. I’m able in my own very individual and unique and humble way to keep people slightly more human.

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Al Jazeera Americas Launches, Concerns Over Corporate-Driven Agenda Persist

By Adrienne Pine and Keane Bhatt | NACLA | August 20, 2013

As Al Jazeera geared up for the August 20th launch of its new channel Al Jazeera America (AJAM), excitement was in the air, judging by its Twitter feed. CNN veteran Joie Chen expressed on her Twitter profile that she was “thrilled” to anchor AJAM’s flagship nightly news program America Tonight, and would engage in “fierce journalism.” According to AJAM’s official account, Chen “can’t wait to bring you the news.”

Bringing U.S. viewers “fierce journalism”—or even simply “the news”—promises to be a welcome change from her previous work as the host of a public-relations video masquerading as an investigative report, all paid for by gun manufacturer Remington to defend its Model 700 rifle from reports of its defectiveness. (In her defense, Chen’s presentation was not done in her capacity as a journalist, but rather as Executive Vice President of Branded News Worldwide, a firm that “creates online platforms for organizations and industries to deliver news and programming models for niche audiences.”)

In anticipation of her special reports for AJAM, Soledad O’Brien of CNN fame casually tweeted about “[getting] a chance to chat with Jean Claude Duvalier”—the one-time Haitian dictator who, despite being responsible for crimes against humanity, remains a free man. The excitement continued as AJAM offered tours of its Washington, D.C. and New York studios for reporters, and promoted a Variety piece consisting of little more than quotes from a conference call hosted by “interim CEO and prez” Ehab Al Shihabi, former senior management consultant at Arthur Andersen, Andersen Consulting and Deloitte.

In preparation for AJAM’s launch, Al Shihabi met with “members of the business community” as well as political figures such as Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), and promised that AJAM would be “the voice of Main Street”; another Variety article reported that “Al Jazeera has also spent time making its case to advertisers, reaching out to ad-buying concerns to dispel any notions that the network may be biased or have an anti-American lens.”

This message was further reinforced when America Tonight’s senior executive producer, Kim Bondy (formerly of CNN) said the show will have “some of the sensibilities of CBS Sunday Morning; it should also look a little bit, probably, like [NBC’s] Rock Center, and we’re stealing a couple pages out of [HBO’s] Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” AJAM president Kate O’Brian—a 30-year veteran of ABC News—confirmed a trend: “The formats, the talent, the producers will be American.”

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The authors of this article have appeared as frequent guest commentators to discuss U.S.-Latin America relations on Al Jazeera America’s predecessor, Al Jazeera English (AJE), which will soon be redirected exclusively toward international audiences and rendered inaccessible to most U.S. viewers, even online. With regard to much of AJE’s coverage of the Americas, we have been impressed with the rigor and dedication of AJE reporters, anchors, presenters and producers. The channel often delved into crucial yet often under-reported developments throughout the region, and proved itself an indispensible English-language source for regular, in-depth news and analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean.

But Al Jazeera’s new direction raises serious questions about AJAM. The channel now boasts a new, advertiser-revenue-driven dynamic; it has apparently taken compromising stances in its courtship of U.S. cable distributors; its recruitment of management and on-air personnel demonstrates caution and conservatism; and it has paid top dollar for close consultation with lobbying firms possessing deep rightwing ties. All of these factors may threaten to weaken Al Jazeera’s strengths and guide it toward the most insipid and insular tendencies of U.S. cable news.

A month ago The Guardian’s journalist Glenn Greenwald reported on the internal strife over Al Jazeera America, highlighting serious concerns raised in a leaked email by the host of Al Jazeera English’s program Empire, Marwan Bishara. The email excoriated management for capitulating to the “fear of contractual obligations with carriers” in attempting to expel any traces of what might appear as “anti-American,” including the “diversity, plurality and even accents of its journalists.”

Greenwald revealed highly paid consulting and lobbying firms like Qorvis Communications, ASGK Public Strategies and DLA Piper were influencing many of the channel’s questionable decisions; the temporary removal of an opinion article by Columbia Professor Joseph Massad from Al Jazeera’s website, for example, was done at the insistence of a DLA Piper consultant, according to an anonymous Al Jazeera insider.

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One of the primary functions of public relations firms is shaping news to favor their corporate clients. While this approach is a reality in today’s corporate media environment, news organizations such as AJAM naturally sow doubt regarding their own professed commitment to hard-hitting journalism when they rely upon such firms. ASGK, one of the agencies AJAM has hired, explains its techniques of “Crisis Management,” which create clear conflicts of interest for the news agency:

From the halls of Congress, offices of the Executive Branch and Fortune 500 board rooms to the busiest newsrooms, our team knows the media inside and out. At ASGK, we have a wealth of experience in every facet of running a successful media relations campaign. We have established relationships with print, broadcast and online media outlets in local markets and on the national level. We hone messages based on our knowledge of specific reporters. From developing creative events that grab media attention and arranging reporter briefings or meetings with editorial boards, to writing powerfully and persuasively, ASGK is skilled at using media to reach key audiences.

While Al Jazeera’s business model—receiving continuous funding from the government of Qatar—has meant that reporting in some areas of the world has been decidedly biased toward that government’s interests (e.g., Syria, Libya), thus far the network has eschewed a model in which specific reporters repeat messages honed especially for them by corporate advertisers.

But the consultants AJAM has hired go beyond just converting day-to-day corporate talking points into news. On its “Crisis Communications” webpage, ASGK brags, “We have significant experience helping companies and institutions navigate through negative situations with effective communications strategies.” Examples include working “with multiple telecommunications companies on regulatory issues at the FCC” and representing “one of the largest entertainment companies with issues at the Department of Justice in the face of its merger.” Reading not too far between the lines, it is clear that ASGK is actively involved in promoting the kind of corporate media consolidation that has systematically undermined journalistic integrity within the confines of major news outlets over recent decades.

For its part, AJAM consultant Qorvis Communications has engaged in the production of what some would consider outrageously unethical news production. Before hiring Qorvis, Al Jazeera published an article titled “Suppressing the narrative in Bahrain,” detailing Qorvis’s efforts to suppress reporting on the ongoing deadly crackdown against opponents to the U.S-backed monarchy in that country:

Qorvis, which disclosed in a US Foreign Agents Registration Act a $40,000/month contract with the government of Bahrain from April to September last year, is one of a number of western PR firms that have been hired by the government. Matt Lauer, a partner at Qorvis, wrote in an email to PRNewser in August: “We help communicate the positive work the government [in Bahrain] is undertaking.”

Law and lobbying firm DLA Piper, in a flier titled “Dispute Resolution: Our Latin American Practice,” promotes its work on behalf of telecom consolidation. According to the document, it “[a]dvised a major Venezuelan telecommunications operator before Venezuelan telecommunications regulatory authorities in a dispute over interconnection rates” and “[r]epresented Spanish purchasers of Latin American telecommunications infrastructure interests in multi-jurisdictional parallel litigation proceedings against the sellers.”

Al Jazeera paid DLA $220,000 over the course of three months this year. Although the firm’s representation of the clients below does not in any way imply unethical behavior on the part of Al Jazeera, it is remarkable that the following list begs for the kind of investigative journalism that AJAM promises to provide:

  • PR firm Burson-Marsteller paid DLA $140,000 for its services in 2003-4; It is infamous for its own work representing clients like the Argentine military junta government of General Jorge Videla (1976-1983), whose security forces murdered or disappeared at least 15,000 people.
  • Venezuelan banker Nelson Mezerhane paid DLA at least $60,000 in 2012. He is the former co-owner of Venezuela’s Globovisión television station, which supported the short-lived overthrow of elected president Hugo Chávez in 2002.
  • The Drummond Company (which paid DLA $100,000 from 2003-7) was reported to have hired private security forces to murder opponents of its open-pit mining operations in Colombia.
  • Great Lakes Chemical ($100,000 from 2003-4), is the largest U.S. methyl bromide supplier in the U.S. The toxin is responsible for serious health problems to vulnerable agricultural workers, many of whom are migrants from Latin America.
  • Triple Canopy ($640,000 between 2010-2012), is a private military corporation that works extensively in Latin America. In 2005, a Triple Canopy subsidiary was expelled from Honduras for illegally training Honduran and Chilean mercenaries to be sent to fight in Iraq. The company was condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.

Earlier this year, DLA announced that Spain’s former Prime Minister José María Aznar (who had previously paid DLA Piper’s predecessor firm Piper Rudnick $2 million of Spanish taxpayer money in a failed attempt to secure the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal) had been named to the firm’s board as Senior Advisor on Latin America. Aznar is also a member of the Board of Directors at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. To call Aznar a major player in Latin American politics would be an understatement. From his 2002 support as Spanish Prime Minister of the 48-hour coup against Venezuela’s Chávez to his work at the powerful, rightwing Latin American Board at Georgetown University, Aznar, now at Johns Hopkins, has used his considerable political and economic clout to promote reactionary policies throughout the hemisphere.

An Al Jazeera America spokesperson responded by phone to a request for comment, asserting that there was a “misconception about the role of consulting firms such as ASGK and Qorvis” with relation to AJAM’s efforts to launch its cable channel. “They are not at all involved in any editorial decisions,” he added. Regarding the reduced role that is anticipated for AJAM’s international reporting, he said, “As far as coverage of Latin America, Al Jazeera International will continue to cover the region as strongly as Al Jazeera English did.” He conceded that this content would be unavailable to U.S. viewers, but especially given “America’s substantial Latino community,” he stated that AJAM will provide news that’s “relevant to Americans” from across the region.

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It appears, based on several news reports, that AJAM has in fact made a decision, responding to advertisers and cable providers, to reduce the scope of its predecessor’s international coverage in favor of a U.S.-centric orientation. What remains of its coverage toward the Americas—while perhaps not directly influenced by consulting firms—seems unlikely to avoid being mediated by the considerations of agencies that have publicly touted their ability to circumvent and downplay the kind of fearless, confrontational reporting that Al Jazeera English has done to expose the unsavory activities of multinational corporations and the U.S. government throughout Latin America. This tendency seems to be the principal factor behind the transformation of its flagship nightly news program Inside Story Americas.

Shihab Rattansi, the host of AJE’s Inside Story Americas, has consistently shed light on crucial if neglected issues on both continents, often by inviting on to his program human-rights activists, social critics, and grassroots and community organizers. His program also routinely probed the structural defects of the mainstream media and the Washington establishment.* In its AJAM incarnation however, Inside Story Americas has been stripped of the plural noun “Americas” and Rattansi has been replaced. In contrast, the program’s new host, Libby Casey (formerly of C-SPAN), touts her ability to connect “Americans with top leaders in Washington including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, members of Congress, governors, journalists and think tank experts.” (Rattansi declined to comment about the nature of his departure.)

Rattansi and his colleagues at Inside Story Americas were exemplars of the most commendable aspects of Al Jazeera, as they provided viewers with a range of news that could be found on no other television network. Rattansi’s team doggedly pursued the case of a lethal 2012 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raid in Ahuas, Honduras; they offered some of the earliest and most consistent coverage of detainees’ hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay; and for years the program invited experts to discuss the UN’s negligent introduction of cholera into Haiti, which has killed over 8,000 so far. Climate activists conveyed the high stakes of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal; human rights lawyers elaborated on the illegality of U.S. drone strikes; and a heterodox economist and independent journalist questioned the durability of capitalism—all on Inside Story Americas.* As Bishara wrote, such critical coverage is an “essential element of [U.S.] democracy and freedom of speech, not to speak of the role of global media,” despite the predictable accusations of “anti-Americanism” that are surely hurled in response.

AJAM management has expended great energy to avoid the dreaded “anti-American” label; instead, they appear to have insinuated the network into the stratum of the most powerful economic and political actors within the United States. Not only does this jeopardize Al Jazeera’s most unique and socially valuable aspects, but in the process, Bishara writes, AJAM is “insulting” the intelligence of its U.S. audience “through empty gimmicks and poor marketing theatrics.”

As recurring contributors to Al Jazeera’s programming, we also worry that AJAM—now clearly embedded within a nexus of corporate, state and mainstream-media norms and behaviors—will fail to live up to its immense potential. The network has the opportunity to offer tens of millions of people in the United States a desperately needed worldview—one that is more independent and more challenging than the deeply compromised perspective that corporate television already provides.

* The videos of the examples cited can no longer be accessed online by U.S. readers due to Al Jazeera English’s content restrictions.

Adrienne Pine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. Her latest book is Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras (UC Press 2008). She regularly writes about Honduras and U.S. foreign policy at her blog, Quotha.net.

Keane Bhatt is an activist in Washington, D.C. He has worked in the United States and Latin America on a variety of campaigns related to community development and social justice. His analyses and opinions have appeared in a range of outlets, including NPR.org, The Nation, The St. Petersburg Times, and CNN En Español. He is the author of the NACLA blog “Manufacturing Contempt,” which critically analyzes the U.S. press and its portrayal of the hemisphere. Connect with his blog on Twitter: @KeaneBhatt

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kurdish leader says Syria Kurds not after forming own government

Press TV – July 21, 2013

A senior Syrian Kurdish leader has rejected earlier reports that Kurds are planning to establish an independent Kurdish government in northern Syria.

China’s Xinhua news agency on Sunday quoted Salih Muslim, the leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as saying, “There is no intention among the Kurds to form their own government, nor to secede from Syria.”

On Saturday, Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network quoted Muslim as saying that Syria’s Kurds were planning to create a “temporary autonomous government to administer their regions in the north.”

The Syrian government has granted the Kurds a certain level of autonomy since 2012 and they are now controlling security of the region.

In recent months, Kurdish fighters, who are opposed to foreign interference in Syria, have been battling foreign-backed militants in the north.

This comes as clashes continued between PYD-linked Kurdish militants and foreign-backed Takfiri militants around several villages in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey on Saturday.

The Kurdish militants took control of a checkpoint and also seized light weapons, ammunition, a vehicle mounted with a heavy machinegun, and a mortar launcher.

On July 17, the Kurdish fighters took control of the town of Ras al-Ain in the border province of Hasakah, forcing out the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Foreign-sponsored militancy has taken its toll on the lives of many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, since March 2011.

Western powers and their regional allies including the Israeli regime, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting anti-Syria militant groups, including al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on Kurdish leader says Syria Kurds not after forming own government

Manufacturing Dissent

Manufacturing Dissent is a documentary about the psychological-warfare by the media and political establishment of the west and their allies aimed at facilitating the US, European and Israeli agenda of getting rid of the current Syrian government. It demonstrates how the media has directly contributed to the bloodshed in Syria.

The documentary de-constructs the main allegations those actors have presented, namely that the Syrian government was systematically repressing peaceful protests and that it has lost legitimacy. It shows how such claims are supported by scant evidence and are therefore little more than propaganda to serve the foreign policy interests of their countries.

Manufacturing Dissent includes evidence of fake reports broadcasted/published by the likes of CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others and interviews with a cross section of the Syrian population including an actor, a craftsman, a journalist, a resident from Homs and an activist who have all been affected by the crisis.

Produced by journalists Lizzie Phelan and Mostafa Afzalzadeh.

Edited by Lizzie Phelan.

Website for the documentary here http://www.manufacturing-dissent.com/ designed by Shahinaz Alsibahie.

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments