Friday, 24 August 2018

The Assad’s Recipe to staying in Power

Syria got its independence from the ending of the French Mandate in 17 April 1946. In the aftermath the young independent country witnessed series of military coups.
The first military coup in modern Syrian history was led by the Syrian Army chief of staffHusni al-Za'im. It overthrew the country's democratically elected government. This coup was engineered by the CIA.
Hashim al-Atassi came to power in 1949 by a coup led by Sami al-Hinnawi who acted as president for one day. It took one year before another coup led by Adib ShishaklI took the power from Al Atassi.
In February 1954 another coup overthrew the government of Adib ShishaklI after he stayed in power for one day.
Syria became the northern region in the United Arab Republic, which unified Egypt and Syria in 1958. In 1961, one more coup broke up the united republic and restored an independent Syrian Republic.
The 1963 coup brought the Ba'ath Party to the power. It is referred to as “the 8 March Revolution” by the Syrian government and was inspired by a similar Iraqi military coup.

The 1966 coup came after events between 21 and 23 February ended with the replacement of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Al Ba'ath Party were removed from power under the leadership of Salah Jadid.

“Governing Syria has never been easy, as the commanders of punitive expeditions from Titus to the Ottomans' last general could attest. Two years into the French League of Nations Mandate over Syria and Lebanon, a Scottish traveler, Helen Cameron Gordon, toured the country and later described conditions that would daunt any sovereign, foreign or local. She wrote:
"Her inhabitants are made up of at least dozen different races, mainly Asiatic, and worse still, of about thirty religious sects, all suspicious and jealous of each other.
Sir Mark Sykes, in his Dar Ul-Islam: A Record of a Journey through Ten of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey (1904), similarly observed:
The population of Syria is so inharmonious a gathering of widely different races in blood, in creed, and in custom, that government is both difficult and dangerous.”[1]

Hafez al-Assad’s coup on 13 November 1970 was the last coup in Syria. he called it “The Corrective Movement”.
Hafez Al Assad’s coup was not a unique case, in which a coup seizes the power for decades after several previous coups. Many countries witnessed this exact scene, like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Algeria, North Korea etc..
This poses a few questions: How could these military governors seize the power all these decades? Did they use special techniques to end the frequent coups phenomena?
How can we explain that they did that almost in the same era? Did they just learn from each other or there are some superior entities supported them with unified recipes?
In my opinion, these leaders and families stuck in power can’t do such a job alone. No matter how charismatic these leaders or how smart they are, Muammar Al Qaddafi, Hafiz Al Assad or Saddam Houssine, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez and others can’t do such a complicated job of controlling nations in a semi-royal way without external help.

According to the Newsweek:

“After Nasser’s defeat of the region’s old colonial masters—Britain and France—in the 1956 Suez Crisis, Russian arms and money began pouring into the region. Soviet engineers dammed the Nile at Aswan, and helped construct modern cities in Baath Party-run Syria and Iraq. At the same time, an entire generation of Arab officers, doctors and professionals studied in Moscow—including future Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Haftar, who received training in the Soviet Union in the 1970s after graduating from Benghazi Military Academy. KGB generals helped build the security services of Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Syria in the image of the Soviet secret police. Anxious to stop the Communist domino effect in the Middle East, Washington threw money at the problem. Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—after Nasser’s fall—became major recipients of U.S. military aid. Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, hosted American planes, warships and, most controversially, Jupiter medium-range missiles. […]Moscow’s key ally was Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who earned a doctorate at the Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow in the 1970s. Israeli researchers, citing documents that KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin smuggled out of Russia in 1991, have claimed that Abbas was recruited by the Soviet security service under the code name “Krotov”—although Palestinian officials dismissed the allegation as an Israeli smear. Agent or not, Abbas “likes the Russians, he wants to please them,” says Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian minister and negotiator. [...]One by one, Moscow’s clients began to fall. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein—who had at times received U.S. support—was the first to go. [...] Cairo has long been a key military, intelligence and diplomatic partner for Washington. As the recipient of the second-largest amount of U.S. military aid, Egypt continued this partnership even when relations with Obama strained following Sisi’s power grab in 2013. While close ties with Washington have been maintained since then, Egypt has also acknowledged Moscow’s new-found status by hosting an air drill for Russia last year—the Kremlin’s first such exercise in Africa. Last November, Egypt also signaled its support for Putin by becoming one of only four countries to support Russia’s resolution on Syria in the United Nations. Moscow, in turn, has pushed to lift U.N. sanctions on Libya, where Haftar, Sisi’s ally, is still vying to become the country’s military strongman. “Putin will undertake to revoke [sanctions],” Haftar told reporters after his video conference in January with Shoigu on Russia’s aircraft carrier."[2]

Assad’s family belongs to a minority sect which used to be highly discriminated against throughout their history. The Syria community is a complicated one, which contains a lot of contradicting sects, tribes and clans. In a country like Syria, where people are very racist, a family like the Assad family has no chance to govern the Syrians in a semi-royal way for decades without very intelligent techniques.
The danger in such a situation comes from the fact that the president becomes completely dependent upon the entities which train, qualify and update the capabilities of his services and directorates. The power of the president relies merely on the organizational capabilities of these entities which are created and updated by a foreign power. The president’s chance to say “no” to any instruction that comes from his “Godfather” is almost zero. Qualifying the capabilities of the security services is a constant work and not a one-time job. It needs to always update according to the local and global developments and non-stop overseeing of all kind of updates.
However, if the sponsor has pledged to protect the president and keep his family in power or prosperity, why would such a family say “no” or even think about it, no matter how crazy the instructions actually could be?




[1] Charles Glass, Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe. ISBN-13: 978-1784785161

In this chapter, I will describe some techniques that the Assad regime used to minimize the possibilities of any coup that could take him out of power and guaranteed that the Assad’s family govern Syria in a semi-Royal way for decades.

Multiplying the security services agencies

Hafez Al Assad had many security services agencies. He inherited some from past regimes, and created others. The main 4 security directorates are:

·         The General Intelligence Directorate (Amn Addawlah) was formed few months after Hafiz Al Assad came to power.
·         The military intelligence service of Syria (Al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya) was established in 1969. Hafez Al Assad was the minister of Defense at the time. Its roots go back to the French mandate period (1923–1943)[1].
·         “The Political Security Directorate (Idarat al-Amn al-Siyasi) conducts surveillance within the country, looking for signs of opposition political activity. Its role overlaps to some extent that of the General Security (or Intelligence) Directorate (Idarat al-Amn al-'Amm), the principal civilian intelligence agency in the country. The latter also has an external security division equivalent to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, as well as a Palestine division, which oversees activities of Palestinian groups in Syria and Lebanon.”
·         The fourth intelligence service, the Air Force Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya) is only nominally tied to the air force. Its role as the most powerful and feared intelligence agency in Syria comes from the fact that Hafez al-Assad was once air force commander, and later turned the air force intelligence service into his personal action bureau. In addition to intelligence work, the directorate has assisted numerous terrorist operations abroad.”[2]

Each of the above directorates has a branch in every one of the 14 Syrian provinces, except for several platoons in big cities.
It is expected that there is a sort of distribution of roles between these directorates, but this is not the situation. Each of these services was given unrestricted power to oversee and report everything that was happening. For instance, the role of “Palestine division” was not really overseeing “activities of Palestinian groups in Syria and Lebanon “. It has been known as the most brutal division that tortured thousands of Syrians who were not necessarily connected to Palestine nor to Lebanon.
In my opinion, the aim of creating multiple divisions was to make these services observers of not only the activities of any potential threaten of the regime’s power, but rather to oversee each other as well.
Every general or director of these directorates could be a victim of reports written by a small spy in another directorate. With this technique, the Assad regime could minimize the possibility of any potential coup or rebellion. It created horrifying directorates which terrorized the citizens. However, terrorists were themselves terrorized by the ghosts of their counterparts and colleagues.

The above-described directorates were the secret police. There was the regular police directorate which was responsible for the regular issues and enjoyed much less power than the secret police. Other secret police divisions were added in Bashar Al Assad’s era like the Anti-terrorism division or Anti-drugs division. Again, they were just a replication of the main directorates with different names and same function. 



Breakthrough the potential opposition:


This is the other tactic which modern security services developed to complete their control over the nations. It is one step further. It implies not waiting until the opposition arise before facing it. Rather, the security services predict this raise and breakthrough any “potential” movement in the very early stages. In each potential rebellion there should be insider agents, and, in some cases, these agents even play the main role in starting the rebellion itself. This is a very advanced tactic but very smart as well. During the Syrian revolution’s years, thousands of such double-agents were discovered. Some of them were the main triggers and leaders of the rebellion.


In some advanced stage of this process, the services started to create some factions and movements in parallel with the natural ones and give them power or legitimacy. I mentioned some examples and will mention others throughout the book. Important here: These “Trojan horses” don’t necessarily need to be aware of this game. They play their role naturally. The services gave them possibilities in many ways. They trigger the media to create some Aurora and noise around them. It prevents their competitor to appear by assassinating them, arresting or using any other tools. The modern strategy is: There should be always opposition and we can’t prevent that. Let’s then create some opposition to keep it under control, while minimizing the influence of any other opposition which we have less control over it.

This is a common method which is applied by almost all international intelligence agencies. Throughout this book I mentioned many examples of this technique, applied by United States, the Syrian regime, Iraqi regime and others…

The third technique which guaranteed the exceptional position of Assad’s family was mind control. I will not go through this as it needs another book to describe it. However, reading George Orwell’s 1984 could describe the scene to a large extent. There were not “telescreens”, but the Syrians had the impression that they did exist. There was a popular saying which said “Don’t speak, walls have ears”. 
The Syrian regime controlled all media sources. In Hafez Al Assad’s era there were 3 main newspapers belonging exclusively to the government and Al Baath Party. They were directed by the intelligence services.  Photos of the “Big Brother” and his inspired sayings were everywhere: on walls, on the first page of every single publication, even children’s school books.
Praising the “Correction Movement” was inserted in each curriculum, including 3rd grade biology books . During the first 2 decades of Assad’s power, the Syrians had one single TV channel which broadcasted 12 hours a day. Later, another one in the English language would be launched, which broadcasted around 6 hours a day.  Until the end of the last century, the Syrians barely had any other source of visual media or news. Assad’s exclusive channels broadcasted only the materials which praised “Big Brother” the government’s one-sided view. The Soviet fingerprints were clear in creating such a media control system in the exact way that it was created in sister countries like Iraq, Libya, Algeria and so on.

The extreme brutal events of Hama 1982 guaranteed the necessary fear to keep the Syrians away from any oppositional thinking. Using quick and intensified brutality secured afraid and reluctant nations from any political activity against the government. They also were keen to teach their children from their early childhood to “love the homeland and its Master, the Big Brother”. Abstaining from that could mean losing these children in unknown places, where “they wish to die, but can’t”.
No matter how much the exact causalities of the events of the ‘80s, or what exactly happened there, the rumors that the Syrians believed were enough to domesticate them for decades with no troubles. 

The international weakness during the Syrian existence in Lebanon renewed the Syrians’ conviction. It assured them that the whole world was complying with their dictator. Some of the Syrians started to link this power with divine powers and became convinced that Assad was just a Frankenstein Monster which couldn’t be defeated or toppled.

By the time the Internet and satellite receivers came to life it was too late. The Assad already achieved a full generation of a brainwashed nation. Even when part of the nation started to be informed and enlightened, the majority of the nation stayed loyal to the “Big Brother” and his inspired family. However, there was an increasing feeling that things couldn’t stay like this for long. Some action should have to be taken to compensate for the loss of control over the nation. 




When you try to read the political landscape of a foreign country, you have to learn –besides the words- the direction of writing. Some nations write from right to left. Others write from top to bottom. If you learn the meanings of words while insisting on reading from left to right, you would almost understand nothing.

When somebody asks me questions like: “Is Assad’s regime secular or Islamist?” or “How much did Assad get in the last elections?”, I answer: “You know what, you don’t need to know the right answer. The question itself is wrong”.



[1] Hizbollah–Syrian Intelligence Affairs: A Marriage of Convenience, a study by Carl Anthony Wege
College of Coastal Georgia

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Memories - Summer 2011 - Saraqib – North Syria


Summer 2011 - Saraqib – North Syria

The weather is too hot. I woke up this morning and turned the TV on. This channel shows movies 24 hours and I watch it to improve my English. I was still not awake from the stupor which covered Saraqib for the last few days.

Just a few days ago, my father came at the same time in the morning, telling me that the army entered the city with tanks and soldiers to implement the arresting campaign and inspection. He was afraid. He took our cash and hid it somewhere in the bathroom. We were not sure if the army might come to the farm area which is 3 Km away from Saraqib’s City center. A few hours later, heavy gunfire started nearby. My father got even more scared. Nothing justified such heavy gunfire. There were no weapons or armed people in the whole area. After a few seconds, there was a knock on the door. I dared to go out and invite him to the farm to “honor” us and enter, calling him as usual in Syria at that time “My Sir”. While he entered, he asked me about my name, my ID Card and my youngest brother who was very involved in the demonstrations against the regime. After the inspection were done, they left, taking one of our 2 cars as it was registered in my youngest brother’s name, and stealing some other stuff. A few minutes later, my mother called my father asking him to come as another army group was inspecting our house in the city center. When we went there, a third group stopped us and checked our ID cards comparing them to their lists. My father’s name was there. They arrested him. We could get him released a few days later along with the car. We paid some bribes and used some connections. He came home stunned, swinging between fear, anger, grudge, and courage.
In this inspection, which was the first of two, nobody was killed. The army arrested some intellectual persons including my father, and released most of them later, after insulting and torturing them.

The movie is still playing. I feel as if I am drugged. I see scenes of inspections in rural areas by heavy vehicles and armed soldiers, I hear words like “minority” and “historical grudge.” I see that this minority is becoming armed and hectic. Yet I also see an unarmed, scared majority. They stay tuned to terrifying rumors that something horrible is coming soon. Propaganda channels broadcast with soaring tone and provoking content. International Organizations watch, helpless but aware of what is happening. The majority trusts that the international community is not going to allow massacre, hope for a western intervention that would arrive sometime, maybe at the last moment. It doesn’t.

At some point I asked myself, am I watching a film about what happened in Saraqib few days ago?  But the men are black and the scenes seem to be in Africa. But the scenario is so fucking similar. Am I still asleep or just raving? Which film is this?
I read the title of the film in the corner “Hotel Rwanda”.
Ah, Rwanda? Is that what happened in Rwanda?
And why does that scenario look so similar to our reality?

Monday, 6 August 2018

Was the Assad Regime the Victim of the Syrian Revolution or its Creator?

In this chapter I will illustrate in facts what I called in the preface the “mysterious behavior of the Assad regime” during the Syrian crisis. . I will list 10 facts as examples of this ambiguous behavior and describe them briefly.

This behavior was explained by the stream media as merely “stupidity” or “the expected reaction of a dictator trying to maintain his position”. Obviously, I don’t agree with this.
This part is about FACTS, no theory here. I witnessed these facts first hand and added -when possible- references from various trusted sources. However, I would appreciate if the reader went even further and investigated these facts from other sources they might trust more.
My own theory to explain this behavior will come in a later essay. That explanation is my own. The reader can contradict it. No facts there. However, I will also use several outside sources to support it.

***
While thousands of foreign fighters were flooding into Syria, the Syrian regime’s army was working at full capacity to destroy Syrian cities one by one[1]. This didn’t change when the Russian air forces took over part of the destroying operation[2]. The fighters were crossing the Syrian borders on a daily basis, armed with tons of weapons and vehicles. They came mainly from the Turkish borders and partially from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. In almost no cases were the fighters’ convoys attacked. They were moving in plain sight, without challenge. Neither the Syrian regime’s nor the Russians’ air forces tried to stop them.

Further, and Soon after the rebellion started, the regime released thousands of arrested radicals who were detained in the famous prisons Sednaya and Palmira[3]. These prisons were described as “labs for manufacturing the terrorists”.
General Khaled Al Mutlak, a defected Syrian officer, wrote in a very informative article:
“Sednaya prison has been and still is a labor for the Syrian regime intelligence service agencies. It produces personalities who are against the regime, who are suspected of terrorism and who became, upon their release, the main tools in achieving the goals of the Assad regime. […] They took command positions of the factions which were described as Islamist, with full support from Arabic and International Intelligence Agencies.”[4]
General Mutlak named some examples of these figures like:

·         Abu Lokman, one of the founders of the Al Nusra front in Syria, who also worked as ISIS Leader (Emir) in Al Raqqa [North Syria, and the capital of ISIS in Syria]
·         Mahmoud Al Kholaif, the security officer in ISIS
·         Haj Fadel Al Agha, the relations officer
·         Abu Abdul Rahman Al Hamwi, Al Nusra leader in Hama
·         Abu Naser Darwasha, the cousin of Abu Mohammad Al Jawlani, the leader of HTS (Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, previously Al Nusra Front)
·         Abu Hafs Al Keswani, the Islamist leader in Daraa, and others.

“‘The reason the regime released them at the beginning of the Syrian revolution was to complete the militarization of the uprising,’ said Naser, who defected in late 2012. ‘And to spur criminal acts so that revolution would become a criminal case and give the impression that the regime is fighting terrorists’ […] John Kerry, the outgoing secretary of state, said in November 2015 that ISIS ‘was created by Assad’ and by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom released al Qaeda prisoners in their respective countries. Assad’s aim was to tell the world, ‘It’s me or the terrorists.’”[5]

Most analysts, opposition thinkers and writers agree with this analysis.

My objection to this simple explanation is: the Assad regime achieved this goal within the first two years. There is a big question mark hovering over this. By 2013 Isis occupied large parts of Syria and Iraq. With the news dominating international media and Syrians fed up with the Islamists and foreign factions, the Assad regime had the justification it needed to end the armed rebellion and restore its control over Syria. As I will explain in the following points, the Assad regime did the exact opposite.

The different headquarters of the armed opposition stayed unmolested during the seven years of the militarized rebellion. Armed rebels grew in number in each small town or city center across the area controlled by the opposition. The factions of this opposition, led now by unknown foreigner fighters, occupied government buildings and schools and turned them into military buildings. These headquarters were always surrounded with armed vehicles. They were completely visible and could be easily monitored and observed. The Syrian and Russian aircraft were flying over these headquarters on a daily basis while their raids attacked the civilian hospitals, markets, childrens’ schools and houses[6]. Neither the Syrian aircraft and later the Russian ones tried to bother the headquarters of the armed opposition. They even avoided causing any harm to them.
In many events, the tanks of the opposition were marching peacefully towards their destination without any attack, or even fear of the attack.
One of the most illustrative examples was when;
 “An entire 1,000-strong rebel brigade based in Syria’s Idlib province has reportedly defected to the Islamic State group […] The Dawud Brigade, which was based in Sarmin and fell under the umbrella of the anti-government Sham Army, arrived in the northeastern city of Raqqa last weekend, the main headquarters for the Islamic State (IS) – previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria[7] (ISIS/ISIL). [The distance between Sarmin and Raqqa is over 200 Km, plain land, during that time the Syrian airplanes were flying and attacking the civilians not so far[8]] The rebel group arrived in a convoy of over 100 vehicles, including 10 tanks seized from Syrian government forces.[9]
This actually poses two questions, not just one.
First, why were these convoys not bothered by the Russian and Syrian airplanes? In some cases these airplanes were attacking hospitals and civilian markets, while flying over these moving tanks.
The second question mark is even bigger: where did this trust and serenity of the opposition tanks came from? Where did they get the assurance that they wouldn’t be attacked, so they didn't even try to hide?


On the other hand, the Assad’s regime was keen to arrest or kill peaceful activists and publicly insult the intellectuals and the elders[10] in many targeted areas. During the eight year revolution, the arrest of innocents, women, children and peaceful activists didn’t stop. They were tortured and degraded[11] in horrible ways. This became a phenomena represented by thousands of cases, many of which were leaked and documented.
In many cases, the arrested or tortured were merely neutral innocents or even pro regime citizens.
Many thinkers explained this behavior of the regime as a tactic to militarize the revolution. According to them, the peaceful revolution was dangerous to the regime and scared it because of the potential for regime collapse. This explanation sounds logical to some extent. However, this behavior of the regime continued even after the revolution was deeply militarized, Islamized and even globalized. The regime got enough indications and proof of radical and armed rebellion in the first year of the revolution. That could be enough justification to suppress the rebellion. So why didn’t this unjustified brutality stop during the eight years of the revolution?

The regime has been clearly and systematically encouraging the armed movements, while brutally suppressing any peaceful activities.

At the start of the rebellion, the rebels obtained most of their weapons from the Syrian regime itself. The Assad regime’s officers sold the rebels everything they needed. This initially appeared as mere corruption. However, anyone who has a basic knowledge of Syrian affairs will know that it is impossible for such a thing to happen without a green light from the central command of the Assad regime’s intelligence services. The risk is very high and the discovery of such deals is almost certain. No sane officer would risk so much for a few thousand bucks. This could mean an eternity in hell for the officer, their families and even their clans. After the Hama Massacre in 1982, no Syrian would have had the courage to sell a cigarette to someone fighting against the regime. Even just speaking to some suspected person was a crime, let alone selling weapons. When such deals start to take place on a regular basis, under similar conditions across the whole country, that cannot be accidental. This is a systematic process, with full consent from the high central command of the Assad regime’s intelligence agencies[12]. Most of these officers who committed such deals moved to areas controlled by the regime, where they would live for many years. None of them were investigated or punished for these deals.



Also the Telegraph report about the same issue: “Sednaya Prison, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Thousands of political prisoners have been held here by President Assad's regime, and it is well attested that President Bashar al-Assad ran hot and cold on jihadists throughout his reign. He encouraged them to go to Iraq to join Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda offshoot, the predecessor to Isil, and fight America after 2003, but also jailed many on their return home if they seemed to pose a similar threat to his own rule. When the uprising in Syria began in spring 2011, he released hundreds of them under an amnesty. The amnesty, supposedly for political prisoners, was denounced at the time as a fraud, or too little too late. In fact, it was one of the most important political acts Mr. Assad made. The prisoners released were mostly Islamists, who went on to join or form a string of armed groups, while secular and peaceful protesters and activists continued to be jailed and killed.” http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/isis-jihad-syria-assad-islamic/
[4] https://www.syria.tv/content/مختبرات-ترويض-الإرهاب . Mutlak thinks that “the story of manufacturing and preparing those persons among others started on 2005. The Syrian Intelligence agencies implemented a practical training program to prepare Jihadist Islamists and civilians who have been qualified as a part of a bigger test of internal expected conflict. The place of this test was Sydnaya prison where the prison was gradually handed to the Islamists prisoners starting from the first intractableness (27 March 2009), then the second one (5 June 2008)”.
[5] “Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS” a two-year investigation by The Daily Beast shows. https://www.thedailybeast.com/assad-henchman-heres-how-we-built-isis
[7] The exact scene was also seen in the battle of liberating Idlib city center in the north of Syria. The convoys of opposition tanks were marching gloriously towards the City Center under the sun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ71KXgNAU4. On that day, the Syrian aircrafts attacked Sarmin city, which is 3 Km away from Idlib. These attacks killed many civilians and caused a lot of damage to the central market, hospitals, and children schools in Sarmin and its countryside! “On March 28, 2015, a coalition of Islamist rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham and jihadists from the Al-Nusra Front, now known as Fatah al-Sham Front, seized the Sunni-majority city. […] Syrian warplanes, and later Russian jets, have repeatedly targeted cities and towns in Idlib province.”
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-4386878/Idlib-Last-Syrian-rebel-stronghold.html
Read also in the same report: “Brigade’s leader [was] Hassan Abound [which is also ex-Sydney prisoner who was freed by the Syrian regime 2011]
“Meanwhile there have been reports on Monday that several rebel factions affiliated with the FSA have pledged allegiance to the IS in the border town of al-Bokmal in eastern Syria. […] The reports of the defections come as the Obama administration ratchets up efforts to arm the Free Syrian Army. Last month the White House asked Congress for half-a-billion dollars in aid to go towards the opposition fighters.”
[10] As I promised the reader, I will postpone my own explanation of the events to the next essay, and keep this essay for facts only. However, I would take this opportunity to wonder here if the above described behavior of Assad’s regime has anything to do with an exact similar behavior somewhere else in this world, namely in Pakistan as James Risen reported in his exceptional book “Pay Any Price”:
 “On March 17, 2011, American drones fired at least two missiles into a gathering in Data Khel that killed more than forty people. The U.S. government insisted that the drone strike killed a Taliban commander, but villagers later told investigators that drones had attacked a meeting of a local elders gathered to negotiate a dispute over a chromite mine. Many of those killed were men who were both local elders and heads of large families. Their deaths triggered yet another round of anti-American protest in Pakistan.” Pay Any Price, James Risen, PP 2015, P 55.
[11] “Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went on a systematic killing spree, murdering at least 108 people. Most shockingly, the killers targeted women and children. A U.N. representative said the victims included 49 children who were younger than 10. The al-Assad regime denied it carried out the atrocities, but U.N. officials said they saw clear evidence that the Syrian government was involved in the attacks.” https://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/31/opinion/ghitis-syria-killing-children/index.html
[12] In one of the inspection campaign processed by Assad Regime against Saraqib, my town, the soldiers caught an armed leader from the opposition. The soldiers called the high command happily to inform them of the siege. The brutal furious answer came from their command: Release him, you bastards.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

The media traps


I consider manipulation as the most homicidal weapon in our time. The reason why I think so is: There are few people in the world that are in favor of the continuance of wars. How could the warlords still start these wars against the will of the majority? The answer is simple: With manipulation they can! 

During the Syrian crisis years, I could observe and define many suspicious media behaviors and tactics which were used to distract the crowds from what was really going on or what should have been done.


Telling the crowds what they want to hear, not what is really going on


This sort of manipulation could be inherent to the media. The media does not necessarily practice such manipulation deliberately or consciously. It just responds to how people interact and react and what they would like to hear. The crowds are interested in listening to facts which back their view or their ideas about life and the world.
The western audience, for instance, would like to believe that Middle Eastern nations are, finally, rebelling for their freedom. This came from their paradigms surrounding a historical development and their own view of life. They project their own history on current events and recall events like the French Revolution and the World War harbingers. The intellectual Syrians wanted to hear only this exact story. They ignored any other facts. The Salafists in Syria and in the Arab Gulf countries would like to hear a completely different story. They preferred to see the revolution as a rise of Sunni Islam against the Alawite or secularity. Each party found a media which responded to their wish and repeated the story that fitted their liking. The truth of what was going on was not important for any party.

But how much does it really matter to know the real reason and trigger of wars?

The importance of knowing “why the war starts” lies in the fact of “unless we knew the reason for the war, we wouldn’t be able to finish it.”
All mankind has tried to stop wars but it has resulted to be useless…
War-lords can let the media explain the reasons for wars by telling unlimited stories about the Sunni-Shia conflict, Dictatorship-Freedom conflict, Kurdish-Arabic conflict, and Turkish- Russian conflict. They also could talk about conflict over gas and oil, profit conflict between the Russian axis and NATO, competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, between Capitalism and Socialism, or drought and desertification, Star Wars, Harry Potter, whatever… These reasons have existed for ages. I don’t deny here the fact that they are there. I just claim that they didn’t cause a war until “war-lords” used them to launch wars all over the world according to their own demand and profits. The media entertains its audience with what they would like to hear, while the war-lords complete the process by profiting from these wars and adding fuel to the fire. The point is: none of these reasons CREATED the war, the real creators and their motives hide somewhere out of this landscape and are rarely mentioned.

The media tends to talk about persons or events: Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, 9/11, Deraa’s children, Tunisian policewoman, etc. while the real reason(s) for the war are somewhere else… The wars in our age represent the ultimate edition of organized crime, and it is not about men or events. Even if Assad dies the next morning (or his whole family, Putin or Erdogan), the war or crisis won’t end because it is not about them…

But even this illusion and misunderstanding doesn’t come spontaneously… In the Syrian war (for instance), thousands of sponsored social media groups and accounts, video channels, news agencies, and figures were devoted to keeping eyes on “persons” or events… focusing their eyes on some clan, sect, or party, while spreading news implying that these symbols were in their last days… By using this technique (among others), the Syrians (all fighting parties) have lived 8 years (so far) expecting that the end of the war will happen soon, while the country has been destroyed and gradually disappears!


'We Can't Solve Problems by Using the Same Kind of Thinking We Used When We Created Them'



Albert Einstein








Overwhelming the crowds with irrelevant details and narrative


This kind of manipulation is used almost all the time in our media, in the tabloids as well as more reputable sources. It distracts its audience with names, personal behaviors and minor details.
We have to realize that we live in the age of international poles and axes. History can’t be decided solely focusing on the views of individual people or groups of people. Countries are now connected to each other and the superpowers won’t allow personal behaviors and views to threaten their interests or to risk the world order on which they worked. Some media tries to convince us otherwise by telling us unlimited irrelevant stories. 

Some media tends to explain international events based on people such as Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and so on.   Other media explain huge events based on single events, while the real triggers of the events on the international stage lie somewhere else.  Noam Chomsky explained this idea by saying once:

Trump's role is to ensure that the media and public attention are always concentrated on him. So every time you turn on a television set: Trump, open the front page of the newspaper : Trump, you open the front page of the newspaper: Trump. He's a conman, basically a showman and in order to maintain public attention you have to do something crazy, otherwise nobody's going to pay attention to you. If you do normal things you'll be way back somewhere. So every day there's one insane thing after another and then you know the media, he makes a crazy lie, you know, he had the biggest crowd in history or something, then the media looks at it and says No, that isnt the biggest crowed, but meanwhile he's on to something else and then you go to that one and while this show is going on in public, in the background the wrecking crew is working. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnel; the guys in the cabinet who write his executive orders, what they are doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population, this goes from workers rights, to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, I mean anything you can think of is being dismantled  and all efforts are being devoted, almost with fanaticism, to enrich and empower their actual constituency, which is super wealth and corporate power.[i]


The Pepsi VS Coca-Cola trap


In this trap the media serve their audience two options as if there is no third one. It raises endless disputes in which people try day and night to prove which choice is better. “Who is the liar, the Western or Russian media?” “Is NATO good or the Putin-Assad-Iran axes”? “Should we destroy Iraq, or close our eyes and turn our back leaving the Iraqi tyranny to kill whoever he wants?”
As if the rejection of one option necessarily implies acceptance of the other.

This trap played a homicidal role in the Syrian crisis. Many intellectuals, thinkers and even academic scientists fell in this trap. A wide range of the western audience found themselves in a pre-taken attitude and biased to Assad’s side. They refused to believe any reports about the Assad regime’s crimes against millions of civilians. Assad’s media and its allies, mainly the Russian, Iranian and their public relations arms made great use of this trap and profited from it until its last edge. After the Iraq war, the global mood was against any similar war. The media uncovered a lot of manipulation used by the western media to justify the war against Iraq and the Saddam Hussein regime. In the Syrian crisis this meant that the crowds automatically adopted the attitude of defending Assad and tending to hear only good things about him. This enabled Assad’s regime to go in brutality to the most severe edge. The crimes which were committed by Assad’s regime could exceed what the Nazi regime did in World War II.       
However, but we need in each incident sort of answer, correct?
Correct!
There are always unlimited possibilities and answers. Nevertheless the media distracts the crowds from seeing any third answer or even posing a third question.
In a world that we would hope for, it is not acceptable to leave a tyranny to slave or kill its nation. I have a complete disregard towards what “legal experts” wrote in the constitution of the UN Security Council. 
The alternative option is not necessarily delegating to one or two entities like the CIA or the British military complex to destroy a nation without any responsibility. 
The presidents and directors who dictated the invasion of Iraq or the operations in Syria were not investigated. The victims of this behavior in each case are in the millions.



The role of Social Media in the Syrian crisis


The entities which sponsored TV channels, newspapers and other propaganda tools were of course aware of the modern tools like social media.
 The social media platforms were used heavily during the Syrian crisis. The Arab spring might not arise without these platforms, mainly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
 The role that the social media platforms played was not completely or necessarily part of a “conspiracy”.
Here is an example that illustrates why it is difficult to decide if the events happen naturally or as a part of a conspiracy, and what we should do towards that. 

Platforms like Facebook or even the online stores are responsive. This means that they observe the behavior of the consumer and respond in the future accordingly.

When a customer buys a political book from Amazon, it is expected that Amazon would suggest them other political books in future.
The same can be said for Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and so on…
It is understood that the platforms adopt such quality. The commercial logic implies that.
However, this responsive quality is responsible for polarizing the communities and nations in a very dangerous way.
Imagine that 2 neighbors use social media for couple of hours every day or buy their stuff online. One of them might like, perhaps accidentally, a few funny images of cats or they might have bought a few books about gardening. The other meanwhile “liked” or “shared” a few posts about dogs or might have bought some science fiction books. Here is what will happen afterwards. The book stores and social media will show each of them thousands of similar material according to each one’s behavior. It will not take more than a few months until these two neighbors become strangers. Each one wouldn’t be aware of what the other is talking about or in which planet they live.
It is difficult to claim here that it is a “conspiracy”. However, mankind should be aware of this danger and deal with it as if it were a homicidal conspiracy.
This can split nations, create wars, and isolate families and inhabitants.
Some organizations could make out of this point unlimited wars and conflicts. All they need is a budget and to be free from values or ethics.
Besides the normal accounts which belong to individuals there were the sponsored ones. These accounts played a big role in shaping the collective minds and leading them in specific directions.
Some of these accounts behave in suspicious way. It is clear and easy to recognize that they were created systematically and used all the platforms’ possibilities as if their creators were trained to do that in a professional way. Part of this job was discovered later[1]. Others declared their activity as a part of solidarity[2].
It is completely understood that the security services wouldn’t spare using artificial intelligence and social media to observe the crowds and spread targeted ideas. Before the social media revolution, these services used other techniques like Radio, word of mouth propaganda and rumors to achieve the same goals.


[i] Prescribed from Noam Chomsky interview,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQvig0KvUaE