Email Correspondence with Senator Bob Brown’s Office re Syria

From: Susan Dirgham

Sent: Friday, 9 March 2012 12:39 PM
To: ………………………(List includes Senator Bob Brown)
Subject: FYI re Syria

Dear All,

Hope you have a chance to consider the implications of these articles in regard to Syria.
Kind regards,


Email from Senator Brown’s office on 20 March 2012 15:30

Dear Susan

Thank you for your e-mail and for drawing our attention to this material.

For your information I have attached copies of Hansard records of occasions on which Senator Brown has recently either asked questions or moved motions related to current events in Syria. You can find these at;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=3;resCount=Default ,;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=2;resCount=Default and;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=syria%20Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Decade%3A%222010s%22%20Party%3A%22ag%22;rec=0;resCount=Default respectively.


John Dodd

Office of Senator Bob Brown


26 March 2012

To: John Dodd, Office of Senator Bob Brown

Dear John,
Thank you for your response to the email I directed to Senator Brown. I am sorry it has taken so long for me to find an opportunity to respond to your email.
I’ve read Senator Brown’s questions to Senator Conroy and also his call for President Assad to step down. My response is that Senator Brown is extraordinarily misinformed in regard to Syria. It greatly saddens me because I have supported Senator Brown’s stands on Iraq and and have respected his courage in publicly standing up to two US presidents. I expected similar courage to be shown by Senator Brown in regard to the US ‘game plan’ for Syria.
For my understanding of what is occuring in Syria, you can go to the report I wrote after a visit there in April ’11, as well as the flyer that was handed out at a rally in Hobart in January this year.
And for more analysis, I would direct anyone to the extensive reference lists on <>.

I believe Senator Brown may be misinformed about Syria for a combination of reasons which would include the following:
1.  Trust in Syrians who have knocked on the doors of MPs, such as Colleen Hartland’s.
Last year, I attended a meeting of the local “Syrian opposition” held in Brunswick Town Hall. Victorian Greens MP Colleen Hartland attended the meeting as a guest speaker. I took notes at the meeting.  This is what I noted Ms Hartland said to the meeting.  (I will be paraphrasing much of what she said, but you would be able to check with her regarding the message. There were several other interested observers present at the meeting, including Dr Fiona Hill who spoke to Ms Hartland during the meeting, I believe.)
Ms Hartland encouraged those at the meeting to get their message to politicians and the media. She said the best way to do that was to
  • send a 2 page briefer with links to books etc
  • ask for a meeting with politicians
  • have 2-3 people attend meetings, making sure there is a woman included
  • work with all political parties
  • write letters to politicians, not ‘formulaic letters’ but personal ones
  • create your own media; use digital media, social media
  • form friendships with politicians (Ms Hartland explained that she has been befriended by two or three men whom she knows are ‘trustworthy’ so if she wants information about Syria she can rely on them and pass on the information to others who want to know what is happening in Syria
  • the more personal you make the story, the more the local member will try to help you
  • tell your story; don’t get caught up in what the ‘others’ are doing.
2.  Trust in the opinions of individual journalists such as Robert Fisk re Syria.

In regard to Robert Fisk’s writing on Syria, I would like to refer you to a comment I wrote after a recent Late Night Live interview of George Joffe:
 I am not a fan of Robert Fisk though, like most of his ‘fans’, I support his blanket condemnation of the US and UK etc war in Iraq; his condemnation of Israeli policies re Palestine and Lebanon; as well as his strong criticism of Tony Blair and George Bush.

However, in regard to Syria and Lebanon over the years his writing has often been very cryptic as well as unpredictable in regard to which ‘angle’ he will take. He, like Joffe, can also mislead by making very general, authoritative-sounding statements without presenting support for them and without presenting the wider context. And like Joffe, he usually omits key elements to a situation; you need to dig deep in his writing to put the pieces he does provide together. He may be able to say to you, “But I wrote about the problem of the Salafi jihadists in northern Lebanon in an article last year”; however, he has not given updates and told us of the violence and terror the Salafis are responsible for in Lebanon and Syria now. Yet, for Lebanese and Syrians, the Salafis are among the critical players in the continuing terror in Syria and the armed conflict that has occurred in northern Lebanon in recent months.

In my opinion, he is influenced by Walid Jumblatt, someone whom Fisk has written about his “favourite nihilist (and dinner host)”. Jumblatt, the Druze ‘warlord’,is notorious for switching sides in a very opportunistic manner. Some months ago he publicly supported Syria; now he supports the Saudi Lebanese political figure Saad Hariri, whom many people in Syria have included on their list of people to blame for the funding of militia and smuggling of weapons into Syria. One can only wonder why Jumblatt is a yo-yo in regard to his political affiliations. If Fisk is indeed a close friend and Jumblatt perhaps a ‘stringer’, Jumblatt’s fickleness would make writing on Syria and Lebanon extremely difficult. Blair and Bush etc are always easy, reliable targets, but Syria and Lebanon are constantly changing pictures … painted by whom? Not the majority of Syrian people who strive for peace, security and reform – the whole package without the interference or the dissembling of outsiders.

I am guilty here of making statements without offering support. But there is support for them, and it can be found at

It is hard work to discover what is happening on the ground in Syria. But for many reasons that work calls out to be done.

P.S. re Jumblatt and Hariri, you might be amused by this skit on Lebanese TV.

3.   Trust in Al-Jazeera reporting of the crisis in Syria.
Ref: March Updates on <>

RUSSIA TODAY  14 March 2012  Video interview with former Al-Jazeera reporter.

‘No independent journalism anymore’ – ex-Al Jazeera reporter

Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.

In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth. ….

THE REAL NEWS  March 20, 2012

Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera has become a “media war machine” and is “committing journalistic suicide”

(Video interview with Ali Hashem)

RUSSIA TODAY  12 March 2012

Al Jazeera exodus: Channel losing staff over ‘bias’

Key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut Bureau have resigned citing “bias” in the channel’s stance on the conflict in Syria.

Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban reportedly quit last week, after his correspondent and producer had walked out in protest.

A source told the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar that Al Jazeera’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem had quit over the channel’s stance on covering events in Syria. “… his position [which] changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh [implying a regime loyalist],” a source told Lebanese press.

Ali Hashem was also infuriated by Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle. “[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” he said.…..

5.  Trust in Amnesty’s stand on Syria.
  • Franklin Lamb, “Amnesty International’s Flawed Libyan and Syrian ‘Hospitals Investigation”, Opinion Maker, Oct 2011

 Ref:   Please see comments on Amnesty Australia page.  Members of Australians for Syria have met Amnesty Australia officers in Melbourne and Amnesty Australia has sent a report to the Amnesty London office but the London office has yet to publish and condemn any of the atrocities of the militia against individuals, nor has Amnesty condemned the fatwas of extremist clerics or the call of Shiek Qaradawi on Al-Jazeera to his followers to destroy the ‘heretical’ Syrian government even if it means 1/3 of the population are killed.
John, I trust that the above is helpful.  It would be good to see the Greens develop a much greater understanding of the crisis facing the Syrian people.  There are Syrian Australians in Senator Brown’s electorate whom I am sure would be happy to meet him to discuss Syria and to tell him personal stories of how their families have been affected by the terrror in Syria. They have spoken to Mr Wilkie, however, I believe they have avoided Senator Brown because of his strident stand on Syria up to now (though I have tried to inform his office).  But I don’t think the ‘stories’ themselves are sufficient. Ms Hartland’s stand on Syria shows the problem with a simple reliance on a few stories.  Research is needed and there must be regard for the bigger picture, including that of  the fate of the 22 million Syrians who confront terror and fear on a daily basis.
Kind regards,


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Critical Responses to Oz Media Reports and ‘Discussions’ on Syria

The necessity for on-going critical discussions regarding what is occurring in Syria is something must people in Australia would accept. Yet, too often the assumption behind any news report on Syria, interview or discussion is the same: ‘a brutal dictator is oppressing his people’.  It is a supremely comfortable view to hold …. from a distance.  However, it belies the experience of millions of Syrians. And their views, their lives and their futures should be considered in the discussion.  On this page, I will attempt to present efforts for a serious debate on Syria.

1. The Syrian mosaic,  ABC Radio National Encounter

Comment posted to Encounter page on 2 April 2012.

It is good to hear a variety of voices and views expressed here; however, I do think it is a great pity there wasn’t a discussion between the interviewees because some of what is said should be challenged.

For example, Father Paulo (someone I interviewed in 2009 )may ‘speak with a certain authority’ but he should not replace the voices of Syrians. They are the people who face terror and an uncertain future ( I see them interviewed on Syrian TV most days and believe their views and fears are being ignored generally. Their faces and to some extent voices and views are recorded here

Mohammad al Famwi is a Syrian in Australia who says “We’ll die or get our freedom” and “there’s no dialogue with a criminal”. Who is he representing? No Syrian Australian I know. ( ) What is his ‘ideology’, his beliefs or platform? Do they go beyond the cliche, “Freedom”? And how many people will be killed to gain his and his comrades’ version of ‘freedom’? What do the modern women of Syria think of his version of ‘freedom’ from a secular society?

Marialaura Conte says Damascus and Aleppo..”remain solidly in the hands of the central government”. What is the implication of this? Does it mean that a majority of Syrians support peaceful reform, stability and security and do not support the armed ‘rebellion’ or outside interference? When it is expressed like that, it makes sense. What population wouldn’t?! I met hundreds of Syrians in the classrooms of the British Council in Damascus and overall they struck me as eminently sensible and politically sophisticated people.

Dawn Chatty suggests the people of Homs are ‘brave’ to stand up to the government. But this denies the terror, suffering and complexity of the fighting in Homs. (For the story of a brave man in Homs and a victim of the militia, go to ) Human Rights Watch finally responded to the terror faced by Syrians in their recent ‘letter to the opposition’. ( ) It requires some work to ascertain what really went on in Homs. An analyst such as Alastair Crooke can help. ( ) In regard to the Bedouins of Syria, all the tribal leaders have expressed support for the government and have condemned outside interference.
There is so much more that can be said. Let’s hope the Syrian people in Syria can say it and the world listens. Hilal Khashan fails to mention in his reference to Al-Jazeera that it gives a regular platform to the extremist cleric, Qaradawi. Robert Bekhazi’s point about Qaradawi’s call to kill (“it’s ok for 30% of the Syrian population to die”) in order to topple the Syrian government mustn’t be lost in the chatter of outsiders who will never experience the consequences of such calls, not in regard to Syria, at least.

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To know Syria is to love Syria

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Enjoy.  May you love the random beauty of them and, from them, know something more of Syria. Have Syria in your heart, too.

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Complaint to the ABC in response to Peter Cave’s report on 7.30 (March 26, 2012)

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Above: Images taken from Syrian TV

Email to Federal and Victorian Politicians, ABC Journalists and other Interested Parties to Warn of the Dangers of Misleading and Biased Reporting on Syria, March 2012


From: Susan Dirgham
Sent: Tuesday, 27 March 2012 11:07 AM
To: Lindsay Tanner; Rudd, Kevin (MP); Bob.Carr; Bishop, Julie (MP); Turnbull, Malcolm (MP); Virtue, Liz (A. Wilkie, MP); Moores, Alex (A. Wilkie, MP); Wilkie, Andrew (MP); Brown, Bob (Senator); Poulter, Lachlan (J. Macklin, MP); Conroy, Stephen (Senator); Macklin, Jennifer (MP); Gareth Evans
Cc: Carr, Kim (Senator); Collins, Jacinta (Senator); Feeney, David (Senator); Marshall, Gavin (Senator); Burke, Anna (MP); Byrne, Anthony (MP); Cheeseman, Darren (MP); Crean, Simon (MP); Danby, Michael (MP); Dreyfus, Mark (MP); Ferguson, Martin (MP); Gibbons, Steve (MP); Gillard, Julia (MP); Griffin, Alan (MP); Jenkins, Harry (MP); King, Catherine (MP); Marles, Richard (MP); Mitchell, Rob (MP); O’Connor, Brendan (MP); Roxon, Nicola (MP); Shorten, Bill (MP); Smyth, Laura (MP); Symon, Mike (MP); Thomson, Kelvin (MP); Vamvakinou, Maria (MP); Reynolds, Anna (Sen B. Brown); Abbott, Tony (MP); Khalil Eideh, Adem Somyurek, Andrea Coote, Andrew Elsbury, Andrew Elsbury, Andrew Katos, Andrew McIntosh, Ann Barker, Anna Vidot, Anthony Carbines, Bernie Finn, Zappia, Tony (MP); Julie Rigg; Jon Faine; John Lenders, Joanne Woods; Joanne Duncan, Red Symons; Alexander, John (MP); John Eren, John Pandazopoulos, John Safran, Barrie Cassidy; Brad Battin; Donna Bauer, Ted Ballieu, Alan Saunders; Kerry O’Brien; Saturday Extra; Muditha Dias; Catherine Taylor; Catherine Freyne; Jonathan Green; Johan Scheffer; John Jacobs; Jonathon hutchinson; Andrew Davies; Annabelle Quince; Sue Pennicuik; Hudson, Phillip; Keri Phillips; Annie Warburton,; Matt Brown (Indonesia); Editor The Scavenger;;;;; Hannah Harborow; Jackson, Megan; Maree Edwards; Media Watch; Combet, Greg (MP); Hunt, Greg (MP); Zoe Daniel; Emma Alberici; Tony Delroy; Tony Eastley; Jones, Ewen (MP); Dee Ryall, Fiona Richardson, Gordon Rich-Phillips; Ross Kavanagh; Sheila Pham; Shevonne Hunt; Peter Crisp; Campbell @ ABC

Subject: Complaint to the ABC regarding dangerous, partisan stand of ABC reporter, Peter Cave, re ‘rebels’ fighting Syria


Dear Mr Tanner, Senator Brown, Mr Wilkie, Mr Turnbull, Senator Conroy, Ms Macklin, Mr Rudd, Ms Bishop, Mr Carr, and Mr Evans,

I am writing to you as I believe you all have an interest in the situation in Syria. Some of you I have spoken to directly about Syria, while others have expressed their views on Syria publicly or in emails to me.

What prompts me to write to you now is the Peter Cave report on ABC’s 7.30 program last night. In the report from Turkey, Mr Cave interviewed an armed rebel and let him have the last word:

ABU MUSTAPHA, FREE SYRIAN ARMY (voiceover translation): It is really bad there. It is common to come across dead people, injured ones. People are killed, are kidnapped. It is a terrible situation. What we want from foreign countries is to give us arms since this regime can only be defeated by armed struggle.

I have lodged an official complaint to the ABC about the report which I consider biased and lacking serious analysis, but my experience with such complaints tells me it will take months to get a response and in the end my complaint will not be upheld.  There are efforts by extremists including Al-Qaeda, Salafi Jihadists, prominent extremist clerics, and oil rich monarchies to destroy secular Syria through violence and terror. Many Western governments and media outlets support these efforts, though they use different rhetoric to the extremists. I believe there is an urgent need for clearheaded analysis, particulaly when Kofi Annan and others are working hard to broken peace. 22 million Syrians deserve peace now, not after a decades long war which is brought about because of the extremism of some and the blindness or lack of integrity of others. This is why I am going public with my complaint.

Note, it is not only the Syrian people I am concerned about. I also worry for people in Australia as we are kept ignorant of the extremist views which are fueling much of the violence in Syria.  Such extremism is already having an impact on communities here in Australia. President Sarkozy and the people of France have recently been made aware of the dangers of extremism and are taking some actions.

Please find below a copy of the complaint I sent yesterday.

I would be grateful if you could check this alternative approach of a UK journalist to the crisis in Syria. It offers analysis and attention to peaceful efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria.  It is titled ‘Syrian voters non-people for the West’ :

It is tragic if the future of secular Syria and the lives of millions of people are to be determined by the efforts of individuals who do not give the impact their work can have on political affairs and on the determination of war or peace.  It is my belief that many in Australia would rather trust the views of two or three people, such as Robert Fisk and Peter Cave, than do the research required to know what the wishes of 22 Syrian people might be and what they actually face in their country.

Kind regards,

Susan Dirgham!/SusanDirgham



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Above: Images taken by the writer in Syria before the conflict and in a refugee camp in Lebanon, May 2013



To: Audience & Consumer Affairs

From: Susan Dirgham

Subject: Impartiality and diversity of perspectives not evident in P.Cave report

Date: 27/03/12 00:15


ABC program: 7.30

Date of program: 26 March 2012

Location: VIC

Subject: Impartiality and diversity of perspectives not evident in P.Cave report


ABC reporter Peter Cave presented a report from Turkey on the situation in Syria (26/3/12) which was not impartial and which did not present a diversity of perspectives as required by the ABC Code of Practice.

Mr Cave “traveled to a refugee camp and rebel stronghold on the Turkish-Syrian border” and interviewed WASSIM SABAGH and ABU MUSTAPHA, from the FREE SYRIAN ARMY and referred to “Footage uploaded to the internet” to support claims. He also quoted ‘villages’ who said that they had seen the Iranian flag flying at a guard post across the border.

Mr Sabagh claims that the Syrian army have committed some horrendous atrocities.

There is much evidence to refute or at least to call into question the claims of Mr Sabagh as well as those of Mr Cave.

For example:

Human Rights Watch has drawn attention in the last week to the atrocities of the armed ‘opposition’ in Syria. Mr Cave must be aware of this. The rebel fighter he interviewed may well be responsible for or supportive of some of the atrocities noted by HRW. Yet Mr Cave does not give any hint to the viewer that rebels are guilty of terror and murder in Syria.

Chris Uhlmann introduces the report with the words: “8,000 people have died in the year-old uprising”. But this figure must be analyzed. Other perspectives are available. For example, political analyst from Oxford, Sharmine Narwani, has examined the casualty lists carefully and calls them into question.

The atrocities which occurred in Homs recently were presented in Peter Cave’s reports as atrocities committed by the Syrian army. This would be disputed by most Syrian Australians and the majority of people in Syria. I view a lot of Syrian TV and I have seen the same images presented on Syrian TV and interviews of many Syrians in the street. In their minds the atrocities were committed by ‘terrorists’ supported by or linked to Al-Qaeda, Salafi jihadists or others.  Sheik Qaradawi, an extremist cleric who has urged his followers to destroy the ‘heretical’ Syrian government, has said on Al-Jazeera that even if 1/3 of the people are killed that is OK as long as the government is destroyed. This information must be presented to viewers so we can better assess the word of armed rebels.  In today’s news (not on the ABC), President Sarkozy has announced that Qaradawi is not welcome in France and several weeks ago, the UAE police chief said he would be arrested if he travelled to the UAE. I have heard people in the streets of Damascus blame Qaradawi for fomenting much of the terror and killings of people. Yet Peter Cave does not present this to us.  On Lebanese television three or four weeks ago, a Salafi jihadist leader urged his followers to overthrow the government in Syria. This is nothing new – I was aware of the terror of the Salafi extremists last year – but Mr Cave has not informed us of it.

In April 2011, the brother-in-law of a good friend was killed along with his two young teenage sons and a nephew. They were shot dead by ‘militia’. There is dreadful terror and violence occurring in Syria which Peter Cave is not presenting to the ABC audience.

Peter Cave allows a ‘rebel’ fighter to have the last word: “What we want from foreign countries is to give us arms since this regime can only be defeated by armed struggle.”

In order to be ‘impartial and present a diversity of perspective’ Mr Cave must point out that there are alternatives to violent armed struggle against the Syrian army. This article by Dr Fiona Hill makes that very clear:

Peter Cave also said in the report that “The Syrian opposition has been able to turn out tens of thousands on the streets week after week to oppose the Assad regime despite more than a year of often brutal repression.” I have found no evidence of this in my searches on the Internet. I have, however, found evidence of huge rallies in support of peaceful reform and a united, secular Syria.

And I have captured the faces of Syrians who support peace and reform in their country and who condemn armed struggle and outside interference.

What Mr Cave should also be noting is the resignation of reporters from Al-Jazeera. One of them, Ali Hashem, is from the Al-Jazeera Beirut office and he speaks excellent English. He would surely be an ideal person to interview in order to present a ‘diversity of perspectives’ and to question Al-Jazeera’s presentation of news on Syria. The claims that there are tens of thousands protesting against the government come first from Al-Jazeera and are then wired around the world.

Ali Hashem says in this interview that there is ‘no independent news on Syria anymore’. Mr Cave’s report certainly supports that claim.

By not informing Australians of the bigger picture in Syria and the dangers of terror inspired by extremists, Peter Cave is letting Australia  down. Our PM and police should be as alert as Sarkozy and the UAE police chief to the dangers of extremism. Peter Cave has a huge responsibility to inform us fully, not just for Syria’s future, but for our own.


ABC Corporate_Affairs5
24 May

to me

Dear Ms Dirgham

Thank you for your email regarding the 7.30 story Turkey refugee camp provides Syrian conflict insight.


Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC.  We have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy and impartiality.

ABC News has provided the following statement on its coverage of events in Syria;

The ABC has covered the violence in Syria extensively, but despite repeated attempts to enter, our applications for visas have been routinely rejected. Because of the difficulty of obtaining permission to enter the country we felt it was important to visit the refugee camps in Turkey to obtain first hand, on the ground, information about the situation in Syria. This was the point of the story.


Our reporter could only report from neighbouring countries and has reported the viewpoint of both Syrian authorities and opposition sources. Of course it is difficult to verify internet sources, but Mr Cave clearly made it clear that the footage was taken from the internet and analysed the footage as not telling the complete picture, as demonstrated by the following par “Footage uploaded to the internet often shows small victories by the Free Syrian Army. But the fact is that the FSA is poorly equipped, poorly organised and losing the battle against the Syrian Army’s overwhelming force and artillery”.


Mr Sabagh’s comments were attributed as his opinion as a refugee who had family members left in Homs and was having difficulty contacting them. He mentioned what he saw and he attributed the violent attacks to Syrian government forces.”

Given the context of the report was the people stuck in refugee camps along the border, who were concerned for the wellbeing of family members still in Syria who they could not contact, Audience and Consumer Affairs cannot agree that there was any editorial requirement for the program to also examine the role of the disparate opposition groups who have taken up arms against the Syrian government.  We cannot agree that the absence of this issue from the report is a breach of the Corporation’s editorial standards for impartiality.  The program continues to broadcast a diversity of perspectives on the situation in Syria and a newsworthy basis over time.

In regard to the claims of Wassim Sabagh, as you are aware the ABC has been unable to gain entry to Syria to report on the violence first hand.  Consequently, reports of injuries and fatalities, which the ABC has been unable to independently verify, will be attributed to their source.  The reporter attributed the claim that the Syrian government had committed sustained and systematic attacks against civilians to the UN.  The reporter also made it perfectly clear that the claims of Abu Mustapha were his view, not the view of the ABC.

In regard to the presenter’s reference to 8,000 dead, the program has advised that it relied on the credible and respected United Nations estimate, recently published, for the figure.  We are satisfied that use of the 8,000 figure is in keeping with the accuracy standards in section 2 of the ABC Editorial Policies.

The ABC has noted a range of reports from respected media organisations around the world that have reported on the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in protest at the Assad government.  We are satisfied that Mr Cave’s reference to this fact was in keeping with the Corporation’s editorial standards for accuracy.

On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the story you refer to was in keeping with ABC editorial standards.  ABC News coverage has included a range of viewpoints on matters relating to Syria, including the views of the Syrian government.

The ABC Editorial Policies are available online at the attached link;

Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority .

Yours sincerely

Kieran Doyle

Audience and Consumer Affairs

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March 2012 Updates

There have been some significant news items as well as analysis this month which has rarely made it into the mainstream Australian media. Note the recent Wikileaks cables, both significant, particularly in regard to US, UK, and French interference in Syrian affairs.

On this page, there is also reference to older articles which help with an understanding of what is presented here, or which have not been published on previous pages of this blog.

There will be updates put onto the page during the month.

It is hoped that the information and analysis presented on these pages can help ensure the media in Australia in its reports on Syria is held to a higher standard.


There is some optimism in this interview with three analysts in Syria and Lebanon.  Peace is possible, they believe. But not around the corner,  yet.  (A transcript is available.)

Press TV  March 28, 2012

‘West retreats from aggressive stance on Syria’

Syrian government has accepted the international peace plan in an effort to put an end to the yearlong unrest inside the country.

Press TV talks with Taleb Ibrahim, a political analyst in Damascus, to further discuss the issue.

The program also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Dr, Issa Chaer, with the Syrian Social Club in London, and professor of international University, Jamal Wakim from Beirut.


Another good resource for analysis which is not easy to find in the mainstream media is Strategic
Culture Foundation ONLINE JOURNAL.  These articles might be on a reference list for political science students.

Also: Kofi Annan’s plan – way to peace or utopia?

The article’s conclusion:

Experts say that Kofi Annan’s plan does have some chances to be implemented, but only under certain conditions. The main condition is that no force from abroad should support or encourage the Syrian opposition’s attempts to overthrow the Assad regime. Otherwise, all the efforts to bring peace to Syria will remain noble but utopian.


SBS DATELINE:  Saving Syria    By Yaara Bou Melhem 25th March 2012

Editor: This story by Yaara Bou Melhem is interesting in that it exposes some of the wheeling and dealing of people funding and supporting the militia/terrorists/rebels.  It focuses on Haitham Al Maleh who has broken away from the Syrian National Council, ostensibly because it is not ‘democratic’.  (Al Maleh, on the other hand, apparently has bona fide democratic credentials, and he plans to be Syrian president through a violent revolution to prove it!)

The Dateline introduction:

Haitham Al Maleh is preparing himself to be the next Syrian president, but he says he’s also number one on the Syrian regime’s hit list for assassination.

Al Maleh is a leading figure in Syria’s opposition, known as the country’s father of human rights, who’s spent many years in prison for his work.

Yaara Bou Melhem gets close-up access to him in exile in Cairo, as he works to arm and finance the Free Syrian Army in its fight against the Assad regime and its violent crackdown on opposition.

But at the age of 81 and constantly fearing for his life, will he ever see a free Syria?

A Comment from a viewer:

Shame on SBS for promoting terrorists

As you so willfully cheered on the destruction of Libya,Im not surprised by your lopsided coverage of what is essentially a repeat of criminal civil war in Syria. When the Arab League observers report certified that armed terror gangs were responsible for civil strife in Syria,Qatar very conveniently [ being chair of AL] forgot to attach copy of Report and as it exposed their lies.Majority of Syrians are happy with their regime and new constitution.Stop misleading with such shallow reporting.

Editor’s comment: It is unfortunate that ABC and SBS reporters based in the Middle East seem to be reliant on ‘stringers’ who support the armed opposition.  To take the side of the armed opposition and their supporters outside Syria must automatically rule out a reporter’s chance of entering the country.  (Mark Davis showed in his Dateline report that it is not necessary to take sides to inform.)  It is a great pity, for example, that the views of Syrian women are not being heard. Yaara Bou Melhem, knowing Arabic and being a young Lebanese Australian woman, would be a perfect person to present their views if she weren’t so committed to presenting just one side, the side that supports male war games. One question to ask the women of Syria is: What do you think of an armed  ‘revolution’ in your country which is led by fighters (including many from Libya, Iraq, northern Lebanon etc) who are funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, and many of whom are inspired by the fatwas of extremist clerics? 

US reporter, Reese Erlich was able to interview quite a few women in Syria last December.

And Sharmine Narwani interviewed many within the opposition inside Syria when she was in Damascus in January.

‘Anatomy of a Massacre’  Dateline 25 March 2012

On the same Dateline program, there was a report from Afghanistan.  It is a reminder of the horror of war and the atrocities that can be committed by soldiers on ‘our’ side.  Yalda Hakim, the SBS reporter who presents it, gives the people of Afghanistan, her country of origin, a voice.

Libya Evidence: Rebels Using Rape As A Weapon

An interview with a fighter in the war in Libya. He admits to some of the atrocities he committed, particularly against women.

There can never be enough reminders of the horrors of war and killing. The SBS program “Insight” on 27 March presented views and stories of some ‘killers’.

And back to Syria:

Asma Al-Assad speaks to a CNN reporter, February 2012.

One story of a victim of the ‘revolution’ in Syria:

Other victims of the ‘rebels’ who are motivated to kill in Syria:

For a reminder of the big merchants of war:

2009: Former marine Josh Rushing reports on how the US prisons in Iraq are turning into big business.

He visits the world’s biggest arms exposition and travels to Iraq to see how one prison is attempting a new strategy with its inmates.



Al Jazeera in Syria: A Case of Tunnel Vision

By: Elias Mahdi

Published Wednesday, March 28, 2012

With the onset of the crisis in Syria, Al Jazeera dropped any pretense of balanced coverage. Those who tried to buck the trend failed and eventually had to toe the line of the Qatari government.

For some time, Al Jazeera has been inundated with media leaks about its inner workings, most notably when the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the main server and leaked some of its contents.

Al-Akhbar obtained a copy of the “order of the day” sent on the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising. The channel’s head of news Ibrahim Helal sent out a memo dated 15 March 2012 with the title “Our Coverage of Syrian Affairs.”

Reading on:

Senior employees admit in their private circles that no one who works for the channel can express opinions on Syria contrary to those of the Qatari emir. Otherwise, they will be ostracized and humiliated until they leave


A letter from a member of Australians For Syria addressed to ABC Lateline, 29 March 2012:

Dear Lateline,
In the current fog surrounding Kofi Annan’s mission in Syria, I think it is vital that your audience should listen to the viewpoint of the Syrian Government, and this interview with their eloquent English speaking spokesperson Jihad Makdisi spells out quite clearly many aspects of it to a Dutch journalist.:  ( the interview is in English )
I am sure that Mr Makdisi would be happy to do an interview with Lateline, and answer the undoubtedly similar questions once again.  I have previously suggested the ABC talk to this representative, following enquiries about suitable spokespersons, and it is quite annoying to me to listen to him in the knowledge that my suggestion has been ignored.  I simply do not understand why this is.
The current situation in Syria is that Russia and China and Syria have signed up to Kofi Annan’s UN/Arab league peace plan, but the Opposition has NOT. There is no other story, yet the ABC persists in talking about alleged Syrian army abuses and attacks, and the circus of foreign powers trying to put up a front for regime change and support for ongoing violence.
Yours etc,
 David Macilwain
In the video interview, Dr Makdisi answers the hard questions most people would like to put to a Syrian official, but who outside Syria will listen to his responses, or at least give them considered thought? 



RT: Syrian govt accepts Annan’s 6-point peace plan

Published: 27 March, 2012, 14:36
Edited: 28 March, 2012, 02:01

Damascus has accepted Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to stop bloodshed in the country, a spokesman for the UN envoy to Syria announced.

Kofi Annan has praised Damascus’s acceptance of the plan as “an important initial step” towards ending violence in the country and creating an environment to start a dialogue between the regime and the Syrian opposition.

Although Kofi Annan has not called on President Al-Assad to step down, a spokesperson for Turkey at a meeting for the Syrian National Council in Istanbul (28th March 2012) presented another view:

Turkish foreign ministry official Halit Cevik said there was no alternative to Assad’s regime going, and he extended support to the SNC as a platform for the different strands of the opposition.

Syria authorities target children, says UN rights chief

What also makes Kofi Annan’s efforts for peace difficult is the intrusion of UN’s  Navi Pillay’s voice at this time, basically making the same claims she made in December 2011 regarding “Syrian authorities systematically detaining and torturing children”.    (Claims which insult the Syrian people: they would not stand by and allow their government or army to target and kill Syrian children.)

The claims come at a time when efforts are being made for peace, while war is being pushed onto Syria by so many outside forces.  They remind this editor of the claims heard in the UN in the lead up to the Iraq war.\

Powell presents US case to Security Council of Iraq’s failure to disarm

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence,” Mr. Powell told the ministerial-level session of the 15-member body.



Diplomatic snubs exchanged at Baghdad summit on Syria

29th March

Interview with reporter in Istanbul, and a report which includes:

Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been pushing for military intervention and arming the opposition. Host country Iraq, on the other hand, has been opposed to intervention and has been more in favor of a peaceful resolution.


New Phase in Syria Crisis: Dealmaking Toward An Exit

By: Sharmine Narwani

Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In recent weeks, there has been a notable shuffle in the positions of key external players in the Syrian crisis. Momentum has quite suddenly shifted from an all-out onslaught against the Assad government to a quiet investigation of exit strategies………


Open Letter to the Leaders of the Syrian Opposition

Regarding Human Rights Abuses by Armed Opposition Members    March 20, 2012

……..Now, in the face of evidence of human rights abuses by armed opposition members, Human Rights Watch calls on the leadership of leading opposition groups including the Syrian National Council (SNC) and its Military Bureau to condemn such practices by the armed opposition and to work to prevent such unlawful practices.  

While the protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011, since then Human Rights Watch has documented apparent crimes and other abuses committed by armed opposition elements. These crimes and abuses include the kidnapping and detention of security force members, individuals identified as members of government-supported militias (referred to locally as shabeeha), and individuals identified as government allies or supporters. They also include the use of torture and the execution of security force members and civilians. Some of the attacks targeting Shias and Alawites appear to be motivated by sectarianism.

Abuses of this nature, including torture, taking of hostages, and executions by armed opposition members, have also been documented by the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry in its February 2012 report. In addition to concluding that armed members of the opposition have committed gross human rights abuses, the Commission’s report also references and appends documentation received from the Syrian government indicating that armed opposition members have kidnapped, killed, and disappeared civilians and security force members and displaced civilians………….


Joint prayer held for the souls of Syria’s martyrs… Patriarch Laham: Syria strong and resilient

DAMASCUS– A joint prayer was held on Wednesday in Kyrillos Church in al-Qassa neighborhood in Damascus for the souls of Syria’s martyrs and the martyrs of the two terrorist bombings that targeted Damascus last Saturday.

In a speech, Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch and All The East said that this prayer is held for the sake of Syria, which is strong and resilient, noting that this cycle of violence must not persist and calling on Syrians to resort to dialogue, reconciliation, repentance and calm to preserve unity and vanquish enmity.

He called upon Syrians to pray to God to preserve Syria and its people, stressing that Syria can continue the process of renewal and change and emerge from violence through dialogue……..


Constructing Consensus – The ‘Victims-And-Aggressor Meme’

Journalists are supposed to tell the truth without fear or favour. In reality, as even the editor of the Independent acknowledges, MPs and reporters are ‘a giant club’.

Together, politics and media combine to provide an astonishingly consistent form of reality management controlling public perception of conflicts in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Alastair Crooke, founder and director of Conflicts Forum, notes how the public is force-fed a ‘simplistic victims-and-aggressor meme, which demands only the toppling of the aggressor’.

The bias is spectacular, outrageous, but universal, and so appears simply to mirror reality.…..


RUSSIA TODAY  14 March 2012  Video interview with former Al-Jazeera reporter.

‘No independent journalism anymore’ – ex-Al Jazeera reporter

Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.

In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth. ….

THE REAL NEWS  March 20, 2012

Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera has become a “media war machine” and is “committing journalistic suicide”

(Video interview with Ali Hashem)

RUSSIA TODAY  12 March 2012

Al Jazeera exodus: Channel losing staff over ‘bias’

Key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut Bureau have resigned citing “bias” in the channel’s stance on the conflict in Syria.

Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban reportedly quit last week, after his correspondent and producer had walked out in protest.

A source told the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar that Al Jazeera’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem had quit over the channel’s stance on covering events in Syria. “… his position [which] changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh [implying a regime loyalist],” a source told Lebanese press.

Ali Hashem was also infuriated by Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle. “[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” he said.…..


In the garden of good and evil: the media and Syria

Posted on March 16, 2012 by Matt

Objective analysis of the brutal conflict in Syria has been generally conspicuous by its absence over the last 12 months, where the mainstream media has generally followed the narratives propagated by their governments with all the independence and perspicacity of  trained seals.

One of the few exceptions is the political analyst and blogger Sharmine Narwani.  An associate of St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University, Narwani has been a remorseless and forensic critic of the inadequacies in western media coverage of Syria, and she has penned a typically stinging indictment on her blog, entitled ‘Dear Western journalist‘, which laments the failure of so many reporters to do their job properly…..


MIDEAST SHUFFLE  by Sharmine Narwani

Dear Western journalist,

Please cease using the argument that the reason you are writing crap about Syria is because “media is not allowed there.” The Arab League report lists 147 media outlets – Arab and foreign – working in Syria in January, 2012. I and a few others who were there at the time were not even on the list. Ahead of me in line at the border was the CBC crew, who was on that list. Perhaps the reason you have such a hard time getting in is because you need to wait – like CBC Suzy – for visas for 47 staff and support staff members, including people to hold your over-sized coffee cup as you interview an opposition gunman in that special breathless way you do it. Of course you need a translator for that too, because otherwise you wouldn’t have a fucking clue if you were in Idlib or Homs now, would you?


Lebanese Druze Clergy to Jumblatt: Not in Our Name

By: Firas Choufi

Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walid Jumblatt’s relationship with the spiritual authorities within the Druze community is temperamental. The sheikhs are partners when they share Jumblatt’s view on a particular decision, and when the clerics defy the lord of Mukhtara, suddenly it is all about socialism and the separation of politics and religion…… 

Today, Jumblatt and the Druze clergy are on opposing sides of the Syrian crisis.

Below is a link to a skit on Lebanese TV in regard to Walid Jumblatt:



George Joffe on Syria and the chessboard of Middle East politics

Editor’s note: I hope the comment page is as interesting as the interview with Joffe, perhaps more enlightening even.


VT Veterans Today: Military & Foreign Affairs Journal

The Bloody Road to Damascus: The Triple Alliance’s War on a Sovereign State

by James Petras   9 March 2012


There is clear and overwhelming evidence that the uprising to overthrow President Assad of Syria is a violent, power grab led by foreign-supported fighters who have killed and wounded thousands of Syrian soldiers, police and civilians, partisans of the  government and its peaceful opposition.

The outrage expressed by politicians in the West and Gulf State and in the mass media, about the ‘killing of peaceful Syrian citizens protesting injustice’ is cynically designed to cover up the documented reports of violent seizure of neighborhoods, villages and towns by armed bands, brandishing machine guns and planting road-side bombs.

The assault on Syria is backed by foreign funds, arms and training.Due to a lack of domestic support ,however, to be successful, direct foreign military intervention will be necessary.  For this reason a huge propaganda and diplomatic campaign has been mounted to demonize the legitimate Syrian government.  The goal is to impose a puppet regime and strengthen Western imperial control in the Middle East.  In the short run, this will further isolate Iran in preparation for a military attack by Israel and the US and, in the long run, it eliminates another independent secular regime friendly to China and Russia.

For complete article, go to above link.


THE INFORMATION WAR:  In regard to Syria, Alastair Crooke is an analyst who deserves attention in Australia.  He challenges the very comfortable narrative most people have accepted.  In Australia, it seems you are on the side of the ‘goodies’ if you damn the Syrian government. It’s irrelevant that you are also on the side of the Pentagon, the US State Department, John McCain, extremist clerics, Salafist jihadists, Al-Qaeda, the oil-rich monarchies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  And a good guess would be 20 million of the 22 million people in Syria are not on your side. What is the real David and Goliath story here?

ASIA TIMES,ON-LINE:  Syria: Straining credulity?
By Alastair Crooke   9 March 2012

The UN Secretary General was reported on March 3 saying that he had received “grisly reports” that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Homs after retaking control of the Baba Amr district from insurgents. Did he really believe this; or was he just “saying it”?

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

“But fear not”, he writes later in the article, for “we are already masters of information warfare … Hollywood is ‘preparing the battlefield’ … Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable……


In April 2011, several Al-Jazeera reporters resigned from the station in protest, apparently, at the station’s reporting on Syria, Bahrain and the ‘Arab Spring’ in general.  The most well-known of these journalists was Ghassan Bin-Jeddo, who was the head of the Al-Jazeera Beirut office and a highly-regarded journalist (once banned from entering Syria).  Bin-Jeddo spoke about the ‘smear campaign’ being waged against Syria.  So the recent report of dissatisfaction among AJ reporters and the resignation of one should be seen with this context in mind. The following is from an article on English Alakhbar.

Al Jazeera reporter resigns over “biased” Syria coverage

Published Thursday, March 8, 2012

Al Jazeera Arabic’s Beirut correspondent, Ali Hashem, resigned on Tuesday after leaked emails revealed his frustrations over the news channel’s coverage of Syria, according to a source within the television network.

Hashem’s resignation comes weeks after pro-Assad hackers leaked emails that revealed the dismay among Al Jazeera’s staff over its “biased and unprofessional” coverage of the Syrian uprising.

“Hashem’s misgivings are clear and well-known, and are no longer a secret to anyone,” the source, wishing to remain anonymous, said.

“You can check the emails he sent to his colleague, Rula Ibrahim, to know his position which changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh (implying a regime loyalist).”

The source also said that Hashem reported his dismay to several officials in the station, not just to his colleague, Ibrahim.

Complicating matters for Hashem was Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover the uprising in Bahrain.

“[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the ‘Gulf’s oppression machine’, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” the source added.

According to the source, Hashem was not the only Al Jazeera reporter to express his frustration over its coverage. Staff members in Al-Jazeera’s offices in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain also voiced similar opinions.


This latest article by Sharmine Narwani (referred to below) indicates the difficulty writers or speakers can have if they want to present evidence of something else going on in Syria which differs from the commonly held single narrative. For the complete article which was published on 7 March 2012 in “Alakhbar English”, go to the following link:

Syria Censorship at AOL-Huffington Post? Wednesday, Mar 7 2012

By Sharmine Narwani

Let me be clear that this blogpost is not about sour grapes.

But the media cacophony on Syria has just become too shrill – reporters, too reluctant to raise obvious questions – to just sit back and let this one slide.

Especially when it is taking place under my nose at the place I have blogged for two and a half years. There’s no other way to look at this: by refusing to publish all but one of my seven Syria articles, AOL-Huffington Post is censoring a viewpoint that challenges the dominant narratives on Syria in the mainstream media……..

The battle for narratives is the frontline of this war, and it is a dirty one. Where once we thought fabrications of WMDs in Iraq and yellowcake uranium in Niger would never, ever pass through our vigilant scrutiny again – today, those stories barely compare to the barrage of unverified propaganda that filters through both social and mainstream media sites every, single day.

NB: “Alakhbar” is an alternative source of information about events in the Middle East.  For more information, go to:

“Your foreign correspondent in the Middle East”

On August 14 2006, Beirut-based Al-Akhbar was launched as a “calculated adventure” by prominent Lebanese journalist Joseph Samaha and a team of like-minded colleagues. The late Samaha (1949-2007) envisioned a publication that would uphold the highest standards of journalistic integrity while remaining true to the principles of anti-imperialist struggle, progressive politics, and freedom of expression.

Five years later, Al-Akhbar embarks on another calculated adventure amid a period of historic significance in the region – the year of the Arab uprisings. By providing much-needed in-depth reporting on the uprisings and other news in the region, Al-Akhbar English will reflect the diverse and dynamic realities that make up the communities undergoing these transformations. The English edition also aims to make debates and analyses circulating in the Arabic media sphere accessible to English speakers worldwide. Al-Akhbar depends on young and creative writers that challenge conventional forms of reporting and aspires to speak truth to power. Al-Akhbar English intends to preserve this tradition by translating selected articles from the Arabic edition to an international readership.

The site also features original content of opinion, analysis, and field stories as well as photo blogs chronicling the latest developments across the Middle East.



The Grotesque and Disturbing Ideology at the Helm of Avaaz

Mar 07, 2012 Avaaz, The International Campaign to Destabilize Syria, The War on Libya – There Was No Evidence

Imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism – the 21st Century Theme within the Non-profit Industrial Complex

As far as America’s war against terrorism is concerned [the] senator provides unequivocal support to Barrack Obama.” – The Perriello of Congress website 

In the 2012 winter issue of ‘Democracy Journal’ Avaaz Co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello penned a grotesque and delusional article (below) titled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed”.

The views within the article are a complete reflection and validation of the U.S. administration’s rhetoric intended to justify the annihilation and occupation of sovereign states under the false pretense of “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect”.

Make no mistake, this is the ideology of the world’s most powerful NGO, that of Avaaz, and the matrix of NGOs within the non-profit industrial complex.

Next week we will begin publication of our investigative report on Avaaz, the Avaaz co-founders, the Avaaz corporate media partners, the Avaaz strategy, and finally, the role Avaaz played in the NATO-led annihilation of Libya, which, prior to the strategically planned and unprovoked invasion by Imperialist states, held the highest standard of living in Africa. This slaughter has left as many as 150,000 Libyans dead. NGOs must be held accountable for paving the way for these crimes against humanity.



The Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar Ja’afari, has become a hero to many Syrians because of the strength, dignity, intelligence and integrity they believe he presents in the UN.

1. Background Information:

H.E. Dr. Bashar Ja’afari was born in Damascus , Syria on April 14, 1956. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Literature from the University of Damascus in 1977. Dr. Ja’afari continued to receive a Diploma of Higher Studies in Translation and Arabization from the University of Damascus in 1978. He furthered his education in France where he received two Diplomas of Higher Studies; one in International Political Relations from the International Institute of Public Administration (IIAP) and another in International Organizations’ Management from the University of Sceaux in 1982. Dr. Ja’afari received two Doctorates in Political Science, one from the University of Sceaux in Paris , France and another from the University of Paris La Sorbonne in 1989. Dr. Ja’afari received a third Doctorate in 2002 in the History of Islamic Civilization in South East Asia from the University of Sharif Hedayatuallah in Jakarta , Indonesia . Dr. Bashar Ja’afari is fluent in Arabic, French, English and Persian.

2.  Dr Bashar Ja’afari talks to UN Media Reps  January 2012

3. Anderson Cooper’s interview with Dr Bashar Ja’afari on CNN illustrates how difficult it is for spokespeople for Syria to inform people about the terror faced by the people, army and government of Syria. In this interview, Cooper does not want to hear.  He believes he has enough ‘youtube evidence’ to condemn Syria; he doesn’t need to hear or consider the other side.

In regard to the terror the Ambassador refers to, many Syrian Australians can confirm that Syrians have been facing fear and terror since April 2011, if not earlier.  For example, on 17 April, three children as well as the father of two of them were killed by armed men in Homs.  This is quite a well-known story in Syria and the Diaspora, but it has never been reported in the Australian media or by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.  The uncle of a Syrian Australian was killed by gunmen along with two of his friends in April. They were young farmers on their way to sell their produce at the market. The father of another Syrian Australian disappeared in Homs several months ago.  There have been scores if not hundreds of assassinations; the victims include university professors; people who have taken part in the political reform process; businessmen; a mufti who preached peace, and the son of the Mufti of Syria; Air-force pilots; doctors and surgeons; a chemist; army personnel and family members, including a baby in one incident. There have been many abductions of people from buses and the shooting deaths of people taken from buses.  The ‘nephew’ of Dr Fiona Hill was abducted off a bus and told he had four choices: join the ‘Free Syrian Army and kill; be killed, blow up infrastructure; or convince his family to pay a $8,000 ransom to be released. These are just a few of hundreds of stories that are known by many in the Australian community, but of which the wider community is ignorant.

4. The US delegation in the UN walk out of the General Assembly in protest while Dr Ja’afari is speaking


The guy who runs al Jazeera’s Syrian coverage is the brother of a SNC bigwig


In Syria, al Jazeera’s Credibility Implodes


As’ad AbuKhalil, proprietor of the Angry Arab newsblog, hails from the atheist/Marxist/feminist quadrant and is no friend of the Bashar regime.  He had this to say about recent trends in programming on Syrian state TV:

“It seems that Syrian regime had agents among the rebels; or it seems that the Syrian regime obtained a trove of video footage from Baba Amru.  They have been airing them non-stop.  They are quite damning.  They show the correspondent or witness (for CNN or from Aljazeera) before he is on the air: and the demeanor is drastically different from the demeanor on the air and they even show contrived sounds of explosions timed for broadcast time…

“PS This is really scandalous. It shows the footage prior to Aljazeera reports: they show fake bandages applied on a child and then a person is ordered to carry a camera in his hand to make it look like a mobile footage.  It shows a child being fed what to say on Aljazeera.”

Later in the day:

“This is rather explosive.  You know how low Aljazeera has sunk when Syrian regime TV stations have a field day with the shoddy journalism and fabrication procedures of Aljazeera.  It seems that people inside Aljazeera have leaked raw footage and pre-air reports to someone in Syrian regime TV.  I am not surprised of the leak at all: I am in contact from people inside Aljazeera who are disgusted by the propaganda work of the network in the last few months.  …  I know how those things work and they know that I know.  The footage that are being shown show staging of events of calling a civilian an “officer” in the Syrian army, of faking injuries and feeding statements to people before airtime, etc. Aljazeera seems to be writing its own professional obituary.  I don’t know how it can really resurrect itself again.  It is mortally wounded. I know that there are people in the network who are pained about what is happening but royal orders are royal orders in the network and no one dare to disobey.  I am told that orders came down to the effect that no half-position would be tolerated and that categorical adoption of the Qatari foreign policy on Syria is a job requirement.

For one of the videos being referred to above, please go to:

Danny’s response to the charges against him.  (NB: Anderson Cooper interviews Danny as a defense lawyer might.)

For an analysis, on “Prison Planet”:

Information about Danny, from a previous page on this blog:

Who is a Credible Witness?  So often the media’s  ‘big’ stories in regard to Syria are both shocking and outrageous, and often proven to be unfounded.  On ABC RN”s Breakfast 9/2/12, Fran Kelly interviewed “Danny”, introduced as a ‘resident of Homs’. She listened to him listing all the possible war crimes an army could be guilty of, telling listeners that he hopes the Syrian president is killed, and then she  wished him ‘well’.  Danny had been interviewed by the BBC in September and it appears from the questioning the interviewer wasn’t quite as gullible as Ms Kelly, though he made an effort to be respectful. But it is not just the ABC which is putting its trust in Danny to tell the world what 22 million people in Syria want and need. Avaaz is using an interview with him in its latest campaign to ‘help’ Syria and, at the same time, to raise funds.

From London, a critical view of Danny and his claims:



Below are extracts from this cable. Please view in full to understand bigger picture.

in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia
proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.  Though
often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni
community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused
on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through
activities ranging from mosque construction to business.
Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as
prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving
increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate
more closely with their governments on ways to better
publicize and focus regional attention on the issue.
-- Vulnerability: 

-- THE KHADDAM FACTOR: Khaddam knows where the regime
skeletons are hidden, which provokes enormous irritation from
Bashar, vastly disproportionate to any support Khaddam has
within Syria. Bashar Asad personally, and his regime in
general, follow every news item involving Khaddam with
tremendous emotional interest. The regime reacts with
self-defeating anger whenever another Arab country hosts
Khaddam or allows him to make a public statement through any
of its media outlets. 

-- Possible Action: 

-- We should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to
allow Khaddam access to their media outlets, providing him
with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry. We should
anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its
isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors. 

-- Possible Action: 

The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about
coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and
military.  Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should
be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at
Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate
leaking of the meetings afterwards.  This again touches on
this insular regime,s paranoia and increases the possibility
of a self-defeating over-reaction. 


Bashar keeps unveiling a steady stream of initiatives on
economic reform and it is certainly possible he believes this
issue is his legacy to Syria.  While limited and ineffectual,
these steps have brought back Syrian expats to invest and
have created at least the illusion of increasing openness.
Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar,s reform
efforts )- pointing, for example to the use of reform to
disguise cronyism -- would embarrass Bashar and undercut
these efforts to shore up his legitimacy.  Revealing Asad
family/inner circle corruption would have a similar effect. 

-- Possible Action: 

-- HIGHLIGHTING FAILURES OF REFORM:  Highlighting failures of
reform, especially in the run-up to the 2007 Presidential
elections, is a move that Bashar would find highly
embarrassing and de-legitimizing.  Comparing and contrasting
puny Syrian reform efforts with the rest of the Middle East
would also embarrass and irritate Bashar. 



RT:  13 undercover French army officers seized in Syria – report

5 March 2012

Thirteen French officers have been captured by the Syrian Army, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. It claims it received the information from a pro-Syrian Palestinian in Damascus.

­According to the source, the officers were taken captive in the city of Homs – the heart of the internal conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and insurrectionists – and are being held in a field hospital there. The source claims the French and Syrian governments are locked in negotiations over the fate of the men.

If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment to France.  However the French Foreign Ministry has categorically stated that there are no French soldiers in Syria. Perhaps more intriguingly, the Ministry of Defense has not issued an outright denial, saying instead that it has no knowledge of the situation.

Official Damascus has similarly refused to comment.

Despite imposing ever-tougher sanctions on Syria, the West has consistently denied that it has troops on the ground, although there have been occasional rumors. There have also been several reports of NATO powers supplying arms to the rebels.

Editor’s note: It may be in Russia’s interests to support peace and stability in Syria.  Will that mean RT is more or less likely to present objective news from Damascus?  Certainly it is presenting a much bigger picture than any Australian media outlets.


RT: Stratfor leaks: NATO commandos in illegal special ops in Syria

6 March 2012

Undercover NATO troops are already in Syria despite denials from their parent governments, according to a leaked brief from a highly-placed analyst.


The information comes from a hacked email from leading private US intelligence agency Stratfor, whose correspondence has been released by Wikileaks since February 27. The email appears to be written from the address of Reva Bhalla (, the company’s director of analysis, for internal use, and details a confidential Pentagon meeting in December. The consultation is alleged to have been attended by senior analysts from the US Air Force, and representatives from its chief allies, France and the United Kingdom.

Western powers have categorically denied military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, for which they have no international mandate. But if the information contained in the letter is reliable, a radically different picture of Western activity in Syria emerges.


On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces

Email-ID 1671459
Date 2011-12-07 00:49:18

A few points I wanted to highlight from meetings today --

 I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic
 studies group - guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain
 to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they're operating in. It
 was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level,
 including one French and one British representative who are liaising with
 the US currently out of DC.

 They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I
 got to grill them on the military picture. There is still a very low level
 of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what's the
 strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a
 couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams
 (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground
 focused on recce missions and training opposition forces. One Air Force
 intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn't much of a Free Syrian
 Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are
 being done out of 'prudence.' The way it was put to me was, 'look at this
 way - the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the
 best it's been since 2001.' They have been told to prepare contingencies
 and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is
 all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

 I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working
 toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a
 Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from
 that idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla
 attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite
 forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn't be a need for air
 cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in
 columns anyway.



BREAKING NEWS: Dubai Threatens Youssef Qaradawi With Arrest Over Criticism Of UAE

(Muslim Brotherhood, Daily Report)

Financial Times Report:

Dubai police chief hits at cleric on Syria

By Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Dubai’s police chief has launched a war of words with an influential Qatar-based cleric who criticised the United Arab Emirates for revoking the visas of Syrians demonstrating against the regime in Damascus.

Dhahi Khalfan al-Tamim late on Sunday threatened to arrest Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi after the senior cleric branded the decision to revoke the Syrians’ visas as “forbidden” under religious law, reminding the rulers of the United Arab Emirates that the protesters were only “human”.

The sheikh has been an enthusiastic champion of Arab revolutions and has ties with Islamist groups in the region that have emerged as major beneficiaries of the political upheaval.

Appearing live on Al Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite TV channel, Sheikh Qaradawi said the leader of the Syrian opposition had asked him to raise the issue of around 100 families that face the threat of expulsion from the UAE after taking part in a February rally against President Bashar al-Assad outside the Syrian consulate in Dubai.

The UAE government has said the visas of around 30 Syrians were revoked for unidentified political activity unrelated to the demonstration. Human Rights Watch, the campaigning group, has called on the Emirates to reverse the decision.

The UAE, while active in Arab attempts to end the bloodshed in Syria, is concerned about the political unpredictability of a post-Assad environment.

For one view of Sheik Qaradawi he would perhaps not want you to see today, please go to:

NB: Sheik Qaradawi issued a fatwa against the ‘heretical’ Syrian government in March 2011. He broadcasts regularly on Al-Jazeera and has told his followers that if it is necessary to kill 1/3 of the population of Syria, that is OK as long as you bring down the government.

Editor’s note: Contrary to what many commentators in Australia claim, the crisis in Syria is not a civil war between the different sects, though there have been concerted efforts to create conditions for such a war.  Instead, the sides in this crisis could be seen as (1) the secular government, the army, security forces and people (from all sects, including those who oppose the Baath Party) who believe in a united, secular, secure Syria which can implement political reform peacefully up against (2) those who are encouraged by the ideology of extremists such as Qaradawi or who are paid by forces with seemingly unlimited funds to use violence to topple the secular government. And of course, people who have the best of intentions perhaps can get caught up  in supporting a war in which propaganda is being used relatively successfully outside Syria to promote ‘revolution for freedom’ and ‘war for peace’. Forget about Peace.


John McCain wants to bomb…again

Posted on March 6, 2012 by Matt

Republican Senator John McCain is one of those American politicians who rarely comes across a war he doesn’t like.   During a 2000 Republican debate,  he advocated a new variant on the Reagan Doctrine which he called ‘rogue state rollback’ and declared that if he were president

I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically- elected governments.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in October 2001 he called for an all out assault on the Taliban in Afghanistan without ‘half-measures’,  as part of a wider war which aimed at  ’the complete destruction of international terrorism and the regimes that sponsor it’.   A Vietnam war veteran, McCain conceded that ‘war is a miserable business’ but nevertheless insisted that

However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that will be lost when war claims its wages from us. Shed a tear, and then get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly as we can, and as ruthlessly as we must.

Please visit Matt Carr’s blog for remainder of article.


Planned Regime Change in Syria

By Stephen Lendman

March 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria had peace and calm until Washington intervened belligerently. 

Strategies and tactics vary. Objectives are consistent. They involve replacing independent regimes with pro-Western ones by any means, including war. 

Three unwinnable ones rage. Nonetheless, Obama plans more. Syria’s target one. For the past year, US-instigated violence ravaged parts of the country. Thousands have been killed, many others injured. 

Syria’s gripped by fear. Heavily armed killer gangs rage out of control, and direct foreign intervention looms.



On Sunday 4 March 2012, Salifis and supporters held a rally in Beirut. The leader of the Lebanese Salifis spoke at the meeting, and called for a jihad against Syria. It is a pity ABC reporter, Peter Cave who is based in Beirut, did not report on this. It was broadcast live on Lebanese satellite TV, so many people in the Diaspora would have been aware of it.

For some understanding of Salafism and the particular dangers posed by the extremists in this school of Islam who believe in violent jihadism, please go to:


Proven provider John McCreary observes that the U.S. government and al Qaeda apparently are on the same side in calling for change in Syria:

Syria-al Qaida: Al-Qaida’s new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri praised anti-regime protestors in Syria in a video released Wednesday claiming the United States is seeking regime change in Damascus, U.S.-based monitors said. Calling the pro-democracy activists ‘mujahideen,’ or holy warriors, Zawahiri hailed their efforts in “teaching lessons to the aggressor, the oppressor, the traitor, the disloyal, and standing up against his oppression” in a video the SITE Intelligence Group said was posted on extremist online forums.

Comment: For perhaps the only time on record, The US and al Qaida apparently are supporting the same policy end state for Syria: regime change. That bizarre coincidence cannot be good for Israeli security or regional stability.

Zawahari sees the conflict as a Sunni fundamentalist vs. Alawite struggle, not as a movement for plural political rights, women’s rights and liberal freedoms against a repressive regime.”


Yasser Fouzi al-Abd  who claims to be a Salafi jihadist has confessed to assassinations he and others are responsible for in Aleppo, March 7, 2012:

“One day, four persons visited us and said they want us to kill a businessman named ‘Mahmoud Ramadan’, they asked us to help them in planning the assassination because we had weapons and experience in this field.”

Terrorist al-Abd said that they had a ‘Facebook’ page and they were listing posts on all of their operations, adding that the name of the page was ‘Abu Amara Battalion’.

“After we killed Mahmoud, we were surprised that he was a brother of one of Istanbul Council’s members whose name is ‘Ahmad Ramadan’. Istanbul Council asked Ahmad to delete the post about the assassination from Abu Amara Battalion page because they had other plan.”

“At that time we had an account in Turkey opened and funded by two persons, Hassan Hashem Abu Omar and Yassin Abu Ahmad who had connections with Turkey. I told them that if they want to delete the post from the page, they must support the battalion financially through our account in Turkey and they agreed. We sent them the account number and deleted the post. After two hours, the Council issued a statement in which Ahmad Ramadan accused the Syrian security forces of killing his brother Mahmoud, but they didn’t send us any money.”

He added that he brought two pump-action shotguns to a person named ‘Jihad Albo Assi’, adding that he turned to be a member of al-Qaeda.

“I was told that they are preparing for something big in Aleppo, they gave me a list of materials to bring, they told me these materials are the recipe used by al-Qaeda to make explosives.”

“They had a leader in each town in Aleppo Countryside, they called the leader ‘The Hajji’ –religious rank-, the Hajji of Mari’a town was a jihadist in Afghanistan, The Hajji of Indan city ‘Abdul-Aziz Salama’ was the general leader of the countryside, they told me that he takes direct orders from al-Qaeda.” He concluded.


Questions should always be asked about the independence, integrity of journalists.

Rundle: Colvin was brave in Syria, but her cause is unjust

An excerpt from this article:

Thus the whole cause is neatly contained within the Western drama of salvation, and the Syrians themselves become a backdrop in their own country — as in the last photo of her that has now become iconic, and a more telling picture than many war correspondents would want to admit to. Did her death add to our understanding? Or become part of the drama in ways which make clear-sighted action less possible?

The question can be widened to one that is rarely asked, and that is abut not merely the personality, but the class basis of many such journalists. Overwhemingly drawn from a fairly privileged elite — especially in Britain — or ex-forces personnel, their default setting seems to be a cynicism about organisational politics of any type, and a celebration of individual “conscience”, tied in with eye-witness, and often uncontextualised, accounts of suffering. For many such correspondents, trying to understand the meaning of a conflict is what Colvin disparagingly called the “desk job”, a hint of the wilful anti-intellectualism that often pervades war reporting (making all the more visible the quality of the work of those — such as *Robert Fisk and John Pilger — who do put in the desk time).

*Editor’s note: Robert Fisk is often seen in the West as ‘the expert’ on the Middle East, much as Somerset Maugham was seen as the expert on the Orient 70 or 80 years ago (  Really, Robert Fisk is one of millions of ‘doors’ to a better understanding of the ME; he should not be given the position of gatekeeper to that understanding.

Robert Fisk is perhaps influenced in his views on Syria by someone he has presented as a personal friend, Walid Jumblatt, who is notoriously fickle in his political allegiances.  At the moment, Jumblatt may be more anti-Syrian than pro.  As for tomorrow, it is impossible to predict.  See:  Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze and my favourite nihilist (and dinner host) ….

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To understand “Arab Spring” in Syria: Basic Reference List

Abdo al Tallawi and his two sons and nephew were killed on 17 April 2011 in Homs by ‘armed men’.  I made reference to the killings of these four people in May, 2011:   They were related to a good Syrian friend.  In regard to Syria’s ‘Spring’, there are thousands of tragic stories to tell, many of them may seem conflicting.  That is why it is vital to keep the big picture in mind.  That big picture must involve a deep concern for the existence of a country – secular, independent Syria – and the lives of  its 21 to 22 million inhabitants, and it must involve a rigorous search for Truth as well as genuine efforts for Peace.

Below is a basic Reference List. There are more up-to-date reference lists on other pages on this blog, but the articles and videos on this page are critical to understand some of the main players in the current crisis in Syria.  It is a good time to highlight it again. (The photographs are of Australians who have attended rallies to support peaceful reform in Syria.)


Articles (online):

  • Jonathon Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from Western propaganda”, The Guardian, 17 Jan 2012,  “Assad’s popularity, Arab League observers, US military involvement: all distorted in the west’s propaganda war”

  • Dr Jeremy Salt,”Truth about Syria: Crazy men in grey suits”,  Eurasia Review, 13 Jan 2012, “The foot soldiers in the campaign to bring down the Syrian government are the armed men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and the random armed gangs. None of them could maintain their violent campaign without outside support.”

  • Patrick Coburn, “Whose hands are behind those dramatic Youtube Pictures”, The Independent, 15 Jan 2012. “..the internet has only increased the possibilities of spreading the fog of war”

  • Interview with Archbishop of Aleppo, France 24, “President Bashar al-Assad is a good man”

  • Aisling Byrne,  ‘A Torrent of Disinformation: the NeoCon Propaganda Machine “Pushing Regime Change” in Syria’,  CounterPunch 6 Jan 2012

  • “MSM Propaganda on Syria, now comes the silent treatment”, by Sibel Edmonds, Counter PsyOps, 5th Jan 2011

  • Interview with Dr Jeremy Salt,  former Age journalist, currently an academic at a university in Turkey. RT. 4th Jan 2012  (NB: the image of fighters is most likely to have been taken in Libya, and not Syria as claimed.)

  • Youtube video of young men kidnapped by armed men near Aleppo


  • ” The ‘Arab spring’ and the west: seven lessons from history” Drawing on the British Pathé archive, Seumas Milne picks out the recurrent themes of imperial efforts to control the Middle East, The Guardian, 19th Dec 2011.

  • “Arab League mission to Syria becomes focus of demands for military intervention”, by Chris Marsden, World Socialist Web Site, 31 December 2011.

  • “The march to war – Iran and the strategic encirclement of Syria and Lebanon”, by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, 30 December 2011, featured on Australians for Palestine webpage.

  • Franklin Lamb, “Amnesty International’s Flawed Libyan and Syrian ‘Hospitals Investigation”, Opinion Maker, Oct 2011

  • Press TV report on Sibel Edmond, FBI whistle blower, claim, “US training Syrian rebels in Turkey”, 9th December 2011  (NB: documentary on Sibel Edmonds,

  • Ibrahim al-Amin, “A Revolution against Resistance?”, Al-Akhbar English, 4 December 2011                                                                                                               
  • Dr Brian Stoddart, La Trobe University academic, “The Situation in Syria; a first-hand account”, 8 Aug 2011″

Youtube Videos:

  • Cleric Al Qaradawi, President of International Union of Muslim Scholars, gives support to Syrian National Council (opposition outside Syria; his support effectively encourages jihadists to go to Syria to fight army, which is what is happening)
  • Propaganda in the American press, “How to brainwash a nation”; the work of Edward Bernays, CIA and coups, terror campaigns                            

Interviews with President al-Asad

John Simpson, January 7, 2008
Charlie Rose, 27 May 2010,


·          “The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar Al-Asad and Modern Syria”, by David Lesch (2005), a biography of the president

·         “Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East” by Patrick Seale, University of California Press (1988)

Rear Vision
ABC Radio National, Rear Vision, “Democracy in Iraq?” 23 November (A useful resource as it is a reminder of the complexity of the region and the difficulties faced by governments and people trying to fast-track ‘democracy’)

360 Documentaries
Inside Syria, a report by Reece Erlich inside Syria, 10 December, 2011. (This has the voices of Syrian people expressing different views so it is valuable for that reason alone. However, Erlich does not give attention to the killings of soldiers from beginning or the terror of the ‘militia’. These things must have been referred to by many of the people interviewed; they are the main topic of conversation in the Australian Syrian community who learn about the killings, abductions and terror from their family in Syria and satellite TV.  Nor does Erlich refer to the fatwas of extremist clerics and their implications for the conflict. The introduction to the report also presents the official US and allies view: “4,000 demonstrators killed by the military”.)

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Syria and Syrians Today and Yesterday

Below is an interaction between a Guest to my Pool page and me.  The responses remain relevant in regard to the current crisis in Syria.


Guest (not verified) said 10 months ago

“Syrians are a sophisticated people.  They would not support the president as they do if there were not good reasons to do so.  They want unity and peace, and they want the government to be given a chance to introduce the reforms.”

For crying out loud – are you completely oblivious to the nature of the Syrian regime? Do you think people there had a choice about what type of government they ‘enjoyed’? Your comments confirm that you know, as you said on another blog, ‘little about the politics’ there. I think it’s time you desisted from offering specious political commentary. Yes your photos are wonderful, you obviously love Syria and its culture but enough is enough – do you really think your friends are going to be frank with you in the current climate? Helas!


Dear (“Helas!”) Guest,

Sorry I was unable to respond to your comment more fully yesterday. You raise points that are worthy of discussion.

For example, on the question as to whether my friends in Damascus were “truly frank” with me considering “the current climate”, I don’t know the answer to that.  I believe they were sincere, but I can’t possibly know what might have been left unsaid.

However, from being in Damascus over Easter, I was able to gather information which is rarely given any attention in the Australian media.  I have recounted all of this already on my Pool page, so forgive me for repeating some of it here.  For example:

1. Soldiers, police, and security people are being targeted and killed by armed people. (As I have related, the brother-in-law of an old friend was killed along with his two sons and a nephew simply because he was an officer in uniform; also, a close friend rang on Easter Sunday to tell me that soldiers had been shot and killed near his home and in a nearby military hospital.  The story Syrian Australians are talking about now is the recent killing of the head of the Homs secret police and three or four of his officers – they had gone to meet some men who had said they were going to surrender their arms, but it was a ruse.  This particular head was quite young, newly appointed and had recently returned from France after completing a PhD.)

2. For many Syrians, the mainstream Arabic media have lost their credibiliy. There is a propaganda war being waged against Syria.

3.  A majority of people support the president and strongly support the reforms. They want the government to be given a chance to implement the reforms, and for stability to be restored.  They believe in a united Syria. Nonetheless, many people in Syria are confused by what is going on. They are not sure who is still protesting and who are behind the killings of many of the civilians and soldiers etc.

4. There is a push from ‘forces’ and individuals outside Syria to cause violent upheaval in Syria and to stir up divisions within and between communities.  Those individuals and ‘forces’ mentioned include Bandar bin Sultan, former vice-president Khadaam, Hariri in Lebanon, Qaradawi in Egypt, Salafists, Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya etc, the US and Israel. The Lebanese army has captured armed men trying to cross the border into Syria.

I make a point about the Syrian people being ‘sophisticated’ because I sense that in the West, it is often assumed they aren’t. For many years, through satellite TV channels, people in Syria have had access to a much broader range of opinions on ME matters than we have had in Australia.  And they live ME politics.  Of course, like most people in the world, they would be naturally cynical about politicians and people in power.  In Syria over the years, I have heard extemely cynical remarks by locals about the government. Power, money and politics inevitably lead to a dirty mix to some degree, everywhere in the world. (Ideologies and ideologues that claim people can be freed from the “human condition” responsible for this have proven to be very dangerous.)

In Australia, we have a prime minister who supports Israel without qualification. And this has been the case for most of our recent leaders.  Why?  Because of money, power and influence?  In regard to other critical issues, such as climate change, our two major political parties are likely to determine their policies in response to the pressure of powerful lobby groups, for example, the coal, car, oil, and mining industries.  And what about the power of the media?  It is accepted by many people that a party can’t achieve power unless it has the support of the Murdoch press and other major media outlets.

It is true that I know little about politics (though I have an abiding interest in it as it was one of my university majors). But who really knows about what is going on in the political world … anywhere?  There is the surface political world, and there is the stuff being done behind the scenes.  When I think of the ME today, I relate it to some extent to South and Central America and south-east Asia in those decades when the US State Department, the Pentagon, and the US “military industrial” complex played a huge role in determining outcomes across those regions.  Other things which could be added to the mix of influences today would include, for example, the oil industry, the finance industry, the security industry, and Israel.

I have a friend whose father-in-law was a political prisoner in Syria many years ago. Perhaps if I had been born in Syria, I would have been a political prisoner there at some point in my life, too (I have been arrested in Melbourne for commiting a political offense).  But I strongly believe Syria now needs stability, reform and progress, not regression. War is where violent protests, sectarian divisions and the machinations of outsiders can take the country. The mix of power, money, and politics will almost always be ugly, to some degree. That is why concerned individuals who have honourable motives and honourable mentors have to continually beaver away in a non-violent and inclusive manner at contributing to their country’s progress and well-being.




Below is a Slide Show of images taken from Syrian TV most of them after the bomb blasts in Damascus on Saturday 17 March.  People in the streets are responding to the bombings.

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