Hack reveals UK’s propaganda campaign to drive Syrian regime change

Hack reveals UK’s propaganda campaign to drive Syrian regime change

Reported by Johanna Ross, September 25, 2020

When I reported on the leak of Integrity Initiative documents back in 2018/19 which exposed the extent of the UK’s propaganda war against Russia, I didn’t think it could get much more organised and coordinated than it was. Involving hundreds of journalists and academics across the globe to spin disinformation about Russia and paint the country in as negative a light as possible in the mainstream media, the UK government-funded campaign was as sophisticated as the information war gets. But here we are in 2020, still uncovering the true scope of western government influence on the narrative plugged by the mainstream media. And it doesn’t speak well for our ‘democracy’.

On 8th September the hacker group Anonymous published shocking revelations of how a concerted and organised campaign has been waged to support the anti-government rebels in Syria. One set of documents relates to the NGO ARK, which although brands itself as a humanitarian organisation, effectively functions as a vehicle for western-led regime change. In one of the papers it states:

‘ARK’s focus since 2012 has been delivering highly effective, politically- and conflict-sensitive Syria programming for the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Canada, Japan and the European Union.’

This is a somewhat different picture from the mission statement on their website:

‘ARK was created in order to assist the most vulnerable, particularly refugees, the displaced and those impacted by conflict and instability.’

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? But this organisation is far from charitable. In the last few years it has received $66 million from western governments to drive regime change in Syria. It boasts of relationships with Syrian opposition members that have been built up ‘over the years’, and we know that they date as far back as 2011, if not before, as its  documents read ‘ARK staff are in regular contact with activists and civil society actors whom they initially met during the outbreak of protests in spring 2011’.

ARK also had a targeted propaganda campaign package for Syrian media. In the documents it is discussed how best to reach Syrian audiences to promote the regime change narrative, with success being achieved it is said, on digital media such as Facebook, but also through broadcast media. If there was ever any evidence that the mainstream media was bought, this is it:

‘To achieve a strong digital presence, ARK/Accadian will draw on its existing relationships with media organisations… Using its existing networks and connections, ARK/Accadian would target key Syrian satellite TV networks (Orient TV, Souria al-Shaab, Souria al-Ghad, Barada) and regional Arabic networks and primary international channels.’

What is extraordinary is the repeated use of the word ‘independent’ to describe the media outlets being promoted by ARK. The authors are clearly blissfully unaware that by interfering in the media of this sovereign state to promote the overthrow of the government, the media can hardly be termed ‘independent’ but instead an arm of the British state and its own particular political aims and objectives. The document reads:

‘Since ARK first began training citizen journalists in 2012, as part of HMG’s efforts to develop professional, 2 independent and self-sufficient local Syrian media organisations, it has trained more than 200 journalists and has been a key implementer of a multi-donor effort to develop media platforms inside Syria, maintaining close links with these organisations’.

It boasts having produced over 2000 news reports for various mainstream Arabic channels, including Orient, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Sky Arabic which it says are ‘broadcast almost every day’. Some of the statements are pure, straightforward admissions of propaganda:

‘ARK has also facilitated contact between the Syrian opposition and international media, seeking to address the perception of an uncoordinated opposition by fostering the image of a united front.’

It is extraordinary the sheer brassneck with which this author writes about manipulating the Syrian public through propaganda. It has the stated goal of creating the impression of a united Syrian opposition, which of course there never was.

These documents contrast with the UK government’s website on ‘what it is doing in Syria’. There we are told that British involvement is limited to humanitarian aid as it ‘suspended all services of the British Embassy in Damascus and withdrew all diplomatic personnel from Syria in 2012’. The Anonymous hack shows that this is far from the truth. There has clearly been considerable British involvement in fostering regime change in Syria. If it weren’t for these leaked documents, the UK taxpayer would remain completely ignorant as to what foreign meddling is being carried out in his or her name.

For more detailed analysis and context of the hacked documents, please see Ben Norton’s report on The GrayZone.

Johanna Ross is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

At Least 37 Million People Displaced by US War on Terror, Study Finds

At Least 37 Million People Displaced by US War on Terror, Study Finds

 

Sputnik – 08.09.2020

A new report by the Costs of War Project has found that at least 37 million people have been displaced by the US War on Terror; however, the group warns that the estimate is conservative and the real total could be far higher.

According to a report published on Tuesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, at least 37 million people have been displaced, either internally or been forced to become refugees, in eight different countries as a result of the US War on Terror, begun in 2001.

For comparison, the population of the US state of California is 39.5 million, and the population of Canada is 37.59 million. However, the researchers warn that is a “very conservative” estimate, as the true number could be closer to between 48 and 59 million people.

The report focused on eight conflicts, including declared and undeclared war zones, where the US has carried out military operations under the guise of destroying international terrorism: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.

The group’s data was compiled from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In Afghanistan, some 5.3 million people have been displaced in total since 2001, although this number is in considerable dispute, as the researchers concluded that 2.1 million Afghans had fled the country since 2001, but they also found evidence that as many as 2.4 million had fled just between 2012 and 2019. Another 3.2 million have been displaced internally. The researchers noted, however, that war and civil turmoil in the Central Asian country has continued almost nonstop since the late 1970s.

In neighboring Pakistan, the US war near the Afghan border has displaced some 3.7 million people, including 360,000 refugees abroad and 1.56 million from the border area.

Meanwhile in Libya, where the US supported the 2011 overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, at least 1.2 million people have been displaced in what the IDMC called a “state collapse trigger[ed] mass displacement.” At the start of 2020, the report notes, 451,000 remained internally displaced, and the civil war continues to rage.

Iraq has the largest total number, with 9.2 million people displaced by several wars. In March 2003, the US launched a massive invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the brutal counterinsurgency war that erupted afterward had displaced some 4.7 million people by 2007. While the US war in Iraq officially ended in 2011, war erupted again just three years later in 2014, when Daesh roared into existence, and the US once again became involved in major combat operations in Mesopotamia. By 2020, 650,000 Iraqis remained refugees abroad, and 1.4 million had been internally displaced.

In neighboring Syria, where Daesh first established its would-be caliphate amid a civil war raging since 2011, the US became involved at several distinct levels over the years. The report was very truncated in its analysis, looking just at the five provinces where US forces fought on the ground – Aleppo, al-Hasakah, al-Raqqa, somDeir ez-Zor and Homs – and only since 2017.

By those criteria, 7.1 million had been displaced, including 470,000 internally. However, 220,000 of those have been just since October 2019, when the Turkish invasion of eastern Syria pushed 220,000 Kurds from their homes, including 17,900 who crossed the border into Iraq for safety.

However, the report notes that if a different metric were used – one including all of Syria beginning in 2013, when the US started arming Syrian rebel militias – the number of displaced persons increases massively to between 44 and 51 million people.

In Somalia, where the US has waged or supported wars for decades, “virtually all Somalis have been displaced by violence at least once in their life,” the Norwegian Refugee Council is quoted as saying in the report. From a population of 15 million, some 4.2 million have been displaced by US operations, including 80,000 refugees and 3.4 million internally displaced persons.

Like Somalia, Yemen has seen war rage for decades. The US began airstrikes in Yemen in 2002, pursuing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but conditions deteriorated catastrophically in 2015, when Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, including the US, launched a war against the Yemeni Houthi movement.

The ongoing war, in which Saudi, Emirati and Moroccan aircraft have bombarded the country and supported militias on the ground as well as forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has displaced 4.4 million people. In 2019 alone, 400,000 more people were displaced. According to the OCHA, 100,000 Yemenis have been killed by combat operations since 2015, and another 130,000 have died from hunger and disease.

The Philippines is the only country on the list not located in southwestern Asia or northern or eastern Africa. However, the US-supported military operations in Mindanao against groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group have displaced some 1.7 million Filipinos, nearly all of them internally.

“In documenting displacement caused by the US post-9/11 wars, we are not suggesting the US government or the United States as a country is solely responsible for the displacement. Causation is never so simple,” the authors note in the report. “Causation always involves a multiplicity of combatants and other powerful actors, centuries of history, and large-scale political, economic, and social forces. Even in the simplest of cases, conditions of pre-existing poverty, environmental change, prior wars, and other forms of violence shape who is displaced and who is not.”

Saving Syria’s Children – Notes for Editors by Robert Stuart: How MSM Faked Atrocities in Syria

Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’

Analysis of the 30 September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children and related BBC News reports.

 

via Saving Syria’s Children – Notes for Editors


Footage from the BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children (SSC) was first shown on the BBC News at Ten on Thursday the 29th August 2013 as parliament was voting on whether to join a US-led military strike on Syria.

The report by Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway showed adolescent victims of an alleged incendiary attack writhing and groaning in apparent agony. The scenes were harrowing, but oddly unreal. The most frequent comparisons people make upon seeing the sequences are to The Walking Dead or Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

SSC was broadcast a month later on 30 September 2013. Former local newspaper reporter Robert Stuart began corresponding with the BBC using its complaints procedure. As Stuart’s research continued a wealth of troubling information was brought to light:

  1. Accounts of when the alleged attack took place vary by up to six hours.
  2. Local witness statements – including from a Free Syrian Army commander – deny the attack took place.
  3. One of the alleged victims filmed by the BBC being stretchered out of the back of an ambulance screaming in agony can be seen in YouTube footage a short time earlier walking calmly and unaided into the same vehicle.
  4. Medical opinion is highly sceptical of the veracity of the alleged injuries presented in SSC. A GMC registered doctor concluded “the scene of the school children coming in with the burns was an act.”
  5. A former BBC employee, who has worked in Syria and knows Ian Pannell, has stated: “It was obvious to me that the casualties had been dressed up using CASSIM [Casualty Simulation].”
  6. One of the “stars” of SSC, Dr Saleyha Ahsan, fronted a BBC Newsnight report about highly sophisticated British military casualty simulation exercises – is there a connection with the alleged injuries seen in SSC?
  7. One of the alleged victims appears to have been identified as a resident of The Netherlands. Subsequent social media images suggest she was not scarred by an incendiary substance.

During production of SSC Ian Pannell and Darren Conway were embedded with Ahrar al-Sham, a then ISIS partner group co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers“, Mohamed Bahaiah. Spanish authorities believe Bahaiah delivered surveillance tapes of the World Trade Centre to al Qaeda leaders in 1998. The BBC itself describes Ahrar al-Sham as “hard-line Islamist”.

Less than three weeks before filming on SSC began, Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and other groups jointly killed over 190 civilians, including women, children and elderly men, and kidnapped over 200 mostly women and children.

After passing through an ISIS checkpoint unmolested – a remarkable occurrence in retrospect – the BBC Panorama crew is then able to film, at close quarters, an ambulance bearing the ISIS emblem as it unloads victims of the alleged incendiary attack. This was flagged with then Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry but she did not respond.

Numerous other issues include:

  • The BBC failed to inform viewers that the other medic featured in SSC, Dr Rola Hallam, is the daughter of a prominent Syrian opposition advocate, who has publicly called for the west to arm the Free Syrian Army.
  • An employee of the UK charity of which Dr Hallam is an executive has been photographed posing with an arsenal of weaponry, including assault rifles, an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. The Charity Commission found that this did “not raise sufficient regulatory concern”.
  • The BBC blocks all footage from SSC on YouTube while ignoring countless other editions of Panorama on the platform – why?
  • Why is London’s Frontline Club withholding video of an event at which Stuart confronted SSC cameraman Darren Conway over the alleged attack?

In 2019 actor Keith Allen fronted a crowdfunding campaign to make a documentary about SSC. Criticisms of the campaign levelled by The Huffington Post are addressed here.

In May 2019 talkRADIO host Matthew Wright interviewed Robert Stuart and Keith Allen. Wright said on Twitter: “This is going to be fascinating – do look again at the footage in question by following the link (it follows straight after Keith Allen’s intro).”

Notes

The view that SSC contains fabricated scenes has been endorsed by:

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray

“This video of Robert Stuart is a must see. Let me pin my colours to the mast and say that I am absolutely convinced that the BBC did deliberately and knowingly fake evidence of chemical attacks.” https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/03/moderate-rebels-use-yellow-phosphorus-kurds-aleppo/

“Finally, it is worth noting that this Gdansk experience was one of a number which led me immediately to understand that the famous BBC report on “Saving Syria’s Children” was faked. The alleged footage of burns victims in hospital following a napalm attack bears no resemblance whatsoever to how victims, doctors and relatives actually behave in these circumstances.” https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/12/gdansk/

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook

“But Stuart’s sustained research and questioning of the BBC, and the state broadcaster’s increasing evasions, have given rise to ever greater concerns about the footage. It looks suspiciously like one scene in particular, of people with horrific burns, was staged.” https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2017-03-08/is-the-bbc-still-lying-over-syria-footage/

US online magazine Paste

“Speaking of atrocity propaganda—very chic these days—the eminent BBC joined the club in 2013, throwing journalistic integrity to the wind with its broadcast of Saving Syria’s Children, a documentary that ostensibly showed the aftermath of an incendiary bomb raid. According to the report, the Syrian government used either napalm or thermite to attack schoolchildren in a remote district of Aleppo. The resulting footage, filmed in a nearby hospital, is bizarre in the extreme, with the alleged burn victims clearly taking stage directions from people off-camera. The story was dissected and ultimately exposed as a sham by journalist Robert Stuart, at which point the BBC began removing all traces of the film from YouTube, citing copyright issues. No formal retraction was ever made, to the BBC’s everlasting shame.” https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/04/lets-call-western-media-coverage-of-syria-for-what.html

Crowdfunding campaign video featuring Keith Allen

Presentation by Robert Stuart, Media on Trial, London, October 2017 (age restricted). Bitchute copy here.

Other presentations and interviews on Saving Syria’s Children

Copy of Saving Syria’s Children (most contentious section from 30:38)

Robert Stuart’s blog

BBC Panorama team embedded with ISIS partners Ahrar al-Sham

BBC Panorama team films ISIS vehicle at close quarters

Medical opinion on alleged injuries in Saving Syria’s Children

 

Responses to BBC Panorama’s footage on Twitter

180829_2180829_1

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children.