World Must Fix Historical Injustice against Palestine’, Proclaims Chinese Foreign Minister
Apr 14 2017 / 3:51 am
A young Palestinian boy attends a protest in Ramallah with his mother. (Photo: Patrick Strickland)
On Thursday China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said Palestinians must be able to build an independent state to correct a “historical injustice.”
In a press conference in Beijing with Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Wang reiterated China’s longstanding support for an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Wang noted that 70 years after the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for the creation of an independent Palestine alongside Israel, Palestinians are still being denied their independence.
“This is unfair. This kind of historical injustice must be corrected. It cannot continue,” Wang said.
In Arab League talks earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged that East Jerusalem should be established as the capital of the Palestinian state and warned against the “marginalization” of the Palestinian struggle for statehood.
“China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East (and) the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem,” the Chinese leader said during an address to the Cairo-based Arab League. “Maintaining the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people is the responsibility of the Arab League as well as the international community.”
Wang further noted the urgency of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which remain stalled in the face of Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements and a U.S. administration seemingly hell-bent on entrenching the most extreme of Israel’s apartheid policies.
Palestine’s al-Maliki said he hopes China will play a greater role in brokering a peace agreement.
“And we do encourage China to do more of this kind of approach, in order to see peace ultimately achieved in our region,” he said.
China has pledged 50 million yuan ($7.3 million) in humanitarian assistance to Palestine and will help it build a solar-power station, Wang said.
Wang’s statement came as a group of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel’s Nafha prison announced they would join the upcoming mass hunger strike, led by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, scheduled for April 17, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.
In a statement released on Wednesday the prisoners — who come from several different political factions of the Palestinian independence movement — said they would unite in their demands for an end to repeated humiliations and deprivations at the hands of Israeli authorities.
“We shall gain our dignity and rights by facing the arrogance of the occupier with our empty stomachs, armed by the justness of our cause and popular support.”
Two US air attacks in July 2015 triggered the confrontation between ISKP and the Afghan government.
The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now
However, the absence of any attacks by ISKP against ANSF and government employees during May and June 2015 begs an important question: if the Afghan government had already irked a segment of the Pakistani militants in December 2014, why did ISKP not show any signs of opposition to the government during the initial one and half months of its public presence?
While the Afghan government’s (casual) moves against the Pakistani militants apparently sowed the seeds of a divorce from December 2014, they did not seem to amount to a full unravelling of relations. What looks to have upped the ante came months later. Two developments in the first week of July 2015 seem to have been instrumental in triggering an all-out confrontation between ISKP and the Afghan government. The first was the unleashing of a series of deadly strikes by planes or drones by the US from 6 July 2015 onwards; the US air attacks coincided with security agencies in Kabul talking, for the first time, about the need to stop ISKP. On 6 and 7 July, three air strikes targeting ISKP in Achin killed dozens of the group’s members, including three of the most important leaders after Sa’id Khan. They were Gul Zaman Fatih, the second in command to Sa’id Khan, the ISKP military Jihadyar and the former TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, who had been instrumental in liaising between the ISKP and the IS centre when the provincial franchise was launched.
Simultaneously with what quickly became the US’s air campaign (5) against ISKP, government officials from the Ministries of Interior and Defence announced that they were joining forces with the US in order to combat ISKP. The NDS also claimed credit for providing intelligence for the strike that led to the killing of the ISKP leaders. In the meantime, NDS announced the formation of a special unit made up of elements from all three security agencies (MoI, MoD, NDS) with the task of fighting ISKP.
The second development that unfolded in conjunction with the air strike campaign was a series of joint initiatives (if not outright uprisings) by the local population with the Taleban’s offensives against ISKP. In the offensives for retaking territory lost to ISKP in the southwestern districts in late June and the southeastern districts in early July, the Taleban managed to secure support from the local population. The support came from local political elites (including tribal elders), both those already sympathetic to the Taleban and those usually seen as pro-government. According to local journalists, some government officials did indeed incite (and possibly support) the local people to take on ISKP. True or not, ISKP, as inferred from its propaganda later, saw an active government hand behind the popular ‘uprisings’. The fact that ISKP was bloodied by the air strikes on one hand, and by popularly supported Taleban offensives on the other – both happening against a backdrop of the government’s security agencies talking of ANSF’s plans to fight ISKP – led to a turning point in ISKP’s attitudes towards the government.
Today, one year later, the US has stepped up its air campaign, especially after its designation, in mid-January 2016, of ISKP as a global terrorist organisation. The ANSF, together with local militias, have engaged more actively, at least in a number of instances, in ground offensives against the group. US and Afghan forces conduct joint night raids against alleged members of the group, and the Afghan air force has entered into regular ‘pounding’ of ISKP positions in Nangarhar. These developments, together with the Taleban’s unceasing and highly sophisticated campaigns against ISKP, have reversed the group’s initial momentum in Nangarhar. In more than one case, the fight against ISKP has even brought traditional enemies, the Taleban and the ANSF, together in Nangarhar. All this has enhanced the effectiveness of the battle against ISKP.
ISKP’s botched attempts outside Nangarhar
Before the Pakistani militants started operating as a franchise in Nangarhar, local groups elsewhere in Afghanistan also affiliated themselves with the IS in an attempt to be its flag-bearers.
The first verifiable news of an IS emergence in Afghanistan came from Helmand in January 2015, right in the centre of the Taleban’s heartland. The group suffered a first setback when their leader Abdul Rauf Khadem, once the second-most important Taleban commander from that province, was killed in a drone attack on 9 February 2015, less than a month after he announced his affiliation with the IS. It entered a pre-emptive ceasefire with the Taleban and ceased to grow. Fighting erupted again in late September 2015 between the two sides in northern Helmand, in Kajaki district, where the IS cell was based, and the 60-strong group was almost routed in two days of fighting. One sub-commander managed to escape to remote mountains further north in Baghran district. Since then, only one incident involving this IS cell has been recorded (for more background, see this AAN dispatch).
After Helmand, a group of self-proclaimed IS fighters emerged in Farah under the leadership of two disgruntled mid-level Taleban commanders. The Farah group, with over 60 people, was widely reported to be well-equipped and well-funded (while, as in other instances, the source of this funding remains an area of speculation). When the group was trying to expand its presence from Khak-e Safid district to other areas in late May 2015, the Taleban led an offensive against it, putting an end to the Farah cell as well. According to ISKP sources talking to AAN, the surviving commander, Abdul Raziq (aka Mehdi), later re-emerged in Nangarhar as a deputy to Sa’id Khan.
The third failed attempt outside Nangarhar was the closest to Kabul, in Logar province, with a mobile base in Khoshi and Azra districts. It was led by yet another disgruntled Taleban commander, Abdul Hadi aka Saad Emarati, who was officially ousted by the Taleban in 2013 but continued armed activities into 2014 in the Pakistani tribal agencies, as well as amid the Pakistani militants in Nangarhar. His men were reportedly involved in a few cases of sectarian targeting of the local Shia population in Khoshi between April and June 2015. This cell was eliminated in July 2015 by the Taleban, who laid siege to it. In the last moment before the Taleban attacked, Emarati slipped through the siege and fled to Nangarhar.
The fourth attempt took place in Zabul, and saw a bloodier end than the previous three attempts. The Zabul ISKP cell was made up of approximately 200 Central Asian (and perhaps North Caucasian) militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who had been driven out of their decade-long shelter in North Waziristan by Pakistani army operations in the summer of 2014. From spring 2015, they rebelled against their Afghan Taleban patrons who had helped them to settle among the Zabul population, and rebranded themselves as IS. In the summer of 2015, some of these militants left Zabul to join ISKP in Nangarhar, increasing the number of Central Asians there to more than 100; others left to northern Afghanistan and continued living with the Taleban. The remaining militants, including their leader Usman Ghazi, pledged allegiance to IS. In November 2015, the Taleban brutally crushed this group in clashes that lasted for a week (more background here; for an account by colleague, Kate Clark, of her probably encounter with Ghazi, see here). A small number of fighters who managed to escape the kill-capture fate fled to the ISKP’s headquarters in Nangarhar.
These four events either preceded ISKP’s establishment in Nangarhar or were unrelated to it, calling into question the Nangarhar-based ISKP’s claim that they represent all IS sympathisers in Afghanistan. When, however, the group in Nangarhar remained as the only surviving IS base in the country, it became an area of retreat for survivors from other provinces and later turned out to be the group’s only active stronghold.
ISKP has yet to see whether it can make a comeback in at least one additional province. At least two groups based in Kunar, one that belonged to a district governor of the Afghan Taleban and the other to the Pakistani Taleban originally from Bajaur, have defected to the IS. Most members of these two groups have been fighting in Nangarhar, but their influence back in Kunar seems to have allowed ISKP to establish some sort of a base, albeit not yet an area of expanding influence or control, in that province. Various sources have talked about ISKP training ‘camps’ in Kunar, but there have been no reports of any military activity in that province. So far, it looks as if ISKP might have deliberately avoided raising its profile in Kunar in order to keep it as both a rear area inside Afghanistan and as a ‘human resources’ centre for training, harbouring reserve forces and as a retreat. AAN has been told of Salafi fighters from Kunar leaving for Syria, as well as commanders sent to Nangarhar (where they have subsequently been killed). Indeed, Kunaris make up the third largest contribution to ISKP, after Orakzais (and their Afridi partners) and Bajauris. Further north, Nuristan province is another area of possible ISKP expansion. AAN has heard rumours of ISKP activity there, but has not been able to verify any of these.
From the northeast of the country, reports of ISKP sightings have occasionally been made from various provinces, most notably Kunduz and Badakhshan. However, there are no signs yet of any open ISKP activities in the north. Should ISKP have managed to establish a significant toehold in the north, this would not have gone unseen, especially after the Taleban adopted their approach of zero-tolerance towards the group.
What can, however, lead to mistaken sightings of IS in the north is the relatively abundant presence of foreign fighters and an array of smaller splinter groups, with local members and sympathisers, from or outside the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), like Jundullah, all of which fly black flags. They range from close allies of the Taleban (politically and ideologically) to those who have changed their minds and joined IS, but have yet not openly rebranded. This latter category seems to be waiting for an opportunity to slip away from Taleban control, in order to openly emerge as an ISKP northern branch. The only verifiable example of open ISKP presence has been two short-lived attempts by a single group in Eshkashem district of Takhar and Borka district of Baghlan last year (for more background see this recent AAN dispatch).
Another case of misreading is the mistaking of a non-jihadist Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), for ISKP. HT flies a black flag closely resembling that of the IS and calls for a global caliphate, but it was present mostly in urban centres in Afghanistan long before the appearance of ISKP. Officials and local (as well as international) media misreported HT appearances in Taloqan and Jalalabad last year as examples of IS infiltration of urban centres.
In terms of taking over territory, ISKP’s attempts to expand beyond Nangarhar have failed miserably. However, it does seem to enjoy an appeal much beyond Nangarhar and as far as Kabul in part due to the defection of militants who were previously Taleban, as well as to the presence of a more radical Salafi-jihadist cell in the largest urban centre in Afghanistan. There, it seems to be capable of planning and executing occasional operations against not so-fortified targets, with the help of local recruits, that can cause mass casualties, such as the 23 July 2016 attack. The prospect of ISKP establishing a territorial foothold in Kabul is, however, a distant one.
White House: US 'Must Accept' Political Reality That Assad is Syria's President
In a daily news conference on Friday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer stated plainly that the United States "needs to accept" the political realities on the ground in Syria, namely, that Bashar al-Assad is the sovereign country's president and leader. Rather, the US must concentrate on ousting Daesh from the region, Spicer added.
"We believe there's a need to de-escalate violence," in Syria, Spicer noted.
"With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now," he said.
The Trump White House blamed the previous administration run by Barack Obama for missing out on the chance to remove Assad from power when that was still a viable strategy. "We lost a lot of opportunity during the last administration with respect to Assad," Spicer said.
The US maintains "profound priorities" in Syria and Iraq, according to the White House. Overthrowing Assad will not be on that list of priorities, but "the defeat of ISIS," also known as Daesh, "is foremost among those priorities," Spicer told reporters.
On Thursday, America's top diplomatic corps made a dramatic turn from previous US foreign policy, which aimed to get rid of Assad. The new pronouncements effectively show that the Obama administration's policy in Syria failed.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, explicated that Washington's priorities will no longer be to "sit there and focus on getting Assad out."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, commented that the "longer term" political viability of Assad, who has seen terrorists, militia groups, and standing armies flock to his country since 2011, will be determined by the Syrian people.
January brought a ceasefire between Syrian government forces and various opposition 'rebel' groups. The deal, brokered by Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran, has been constantly strained by the fact that there are so many diverse factions in Syria, including Daesh, which was not included in the ceasefire accord.
On March 29, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov met with Syrian opposition leaders from the High Negotiations Committee, but the issue of Assad's future "was not discussed," Gatilov said.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley took a page out of the Obama administration's playbook on Monday, claiming that the Syrian people no longer want to see President Bashar Assad as their leader. The Syrian president's inevitable response is easy to predict.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Haley blasted Assad, stating that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent comments that the president's status would be decided by the Syrian people did not mean that Washington would see it acceptable for him to participate in future elections.
"We don't think the people want Assad anymore. We don't think he is going to be someone that people will want to have," Haley said.
"We have no love for Assad. We've made that very clear. We think that he has been a hindrance to peace for a long time. He's a war criminal. What he's done to his people is nothing more than disgusting," she added.
Speaking to ABC News a day earlier, the former South Carolina governor-turned UN ambassador went further, saying that "bring[ing] Assad to justice" "remains a priority" for the United States, and that the US would put pressure on Moscow and Tehran over their stance on Syria.
"…We need to start putting pressure on Russia and Iran," Haley said. "We need to get the Iranian influence out of there….We want Russia to know how dangerous it is for Assad to remain in power."
Also on Monday, Europe's foreign ministers issued a communique which said that while their country's future would be for Syrians to decide, the EU's position remains "that there can be no lasting peace in Syria under the current regime." For her part, EU bloc foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said it would be "impossible" and "completely unrealistic" to return to the pre-war status quo after the conflict in which Assad remains president.
The Syrian president has yet to offer an official response to the ambassador, and it remains to be seen whether he will do so at all, given the recent series of contradictory statements coming out of the White House regarding US Syria policy.
However, with Haley seemingly intent on dusting off the old Obama-era 'Assad must go' rhetoric, Sputnik decided to look back on the Syrian president's response to such language from years past to get some indication of his expected response.
For example, in an oft-quoted interview for Russian media from September 2015, Assad emphasized that it would be up to the Syrian people, not any outside power, to decide his fate.
"As for the president, he comes to power with the people's assent through elections, and if he leaves, he leaves if the people demand it, not because of the judgment of the United States, the UN Security Council, the Geneva Conference or the Geneva Communique," Assad said.
In a separate interview for Iranian media a month later, Assad expanded on this theme. Commenting on the widely circulating demands from EU and US officials that he needs to resign, the president stated:
"I would like to be very clear: no foreign officials might decide the future of Syria, the future of Syria's political system or the individuals who should govern Syria. This is the Syrian people's decision. That's why these statements mean nothing to us."
Finally, just two months ago, speaking to Belgian media, Assad again reiterated that if the Syrian were to elect a new president, he would step down immediately. The war, he said, has served as a demonstration of the Syrian people's support for his government.
In fact, he noted, his government was dependent on popular support not only at the ballot box, but for everyday governance as well, particularly in the current difficult situation. "…If you don't have public support, you cannot achieve anything in Syria, especially in a war. In a war what you need – the most important thing – is to have public support in order to restore your country, to restore stability and security. Without [support] you cannot achieve anything."
At the same time, as if to counter Haley's claim that he was a 'hindrance to peace', Assad stressed that achieving peace was about something more than mere negotiations: "How can we stop the flow of the terrorists toward Syria or in Syria? How can we stop the support from regional countries like Turkey, Gulf States, or from Europe, like France and UK, or from the US during the Obama administration? If we deal with that [issue], this is where we can talk about the rest, about the political procedure."
Trump's election-era promises to prioritize fighting the terrorists represented "what we've been asking for during the last six years," Assad said. Damascus was now "waiting" to see the practical implications of these promises, he stressed.
In other words, even if he doesn't end up commenting directly on Ambassador Haley's recent remarks, Assad has already made clear in interviews going back many years that he's been responding to politicians like her while she was still serving as governor of South Carolina.
With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.
This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?
It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on yesterday evenings Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was in “retaliation” for an alleged sarin gas attack by president Assad. However, for the reasons outlined below, such a scenario seems highly unlikely.
New York Times reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard), the latest chemical weapons fake news story intended to fit with the establishment narrative on Syria.
Lack of skepticism
Showing no skepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, the doyen of neocon drum-beating war propaganda in Britain, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged attack:
“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.
Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for military action. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) Monbiot claimed:
“We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”
Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion.
Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, whobroke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:
“Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”
A second major inconsistency in the official narrative are the contradictory claims relating to the sarin issue. Charles Shoebridgereferred to a Guardian article that claims sarin was used, but he counters the claim by stating: “Yet, a rescuer tells its reporter “we could smell it 500m away”. The intelligence and terrorism expert was quick to point out that sarin is odorless (unless contaminated). As blogger Mark J Doranastutely remarked:
“Now, who is going be stuck with lousy, impure sarin? A nation state or a terrorist group?”
Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an incredulous source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012 Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.
“He was accused of imprisoning John Cantlie, a British photographer, and a Dutchman, Jeroen Oerlemans. Both men were held by a militant group in Syria and both were wounded when they tried to escape. Shajul Islam, it was alleged, was among their captors. Shajul Islam’s trial collapsed in 2013, when it was revealed that Mr Cantlie had been abducted once again, and could not give evidence.
Mr Oerlemans refused to give evidence for fear that it would further endanger Mr Cantlie. Mr Oerlemans has since been killed in Libya. So the supposedly benevolent medical man at the scene of the alleged atrocity turns out to be a struck-off doctor who was once put on trial for kidnapping.”
Fourth, there is the question as to why the U.S would launch a military strike in the knowledge that it would risk further sarin leaks into the atmosphere. As the writer and musician, Gilad Atzmon, argues:
“It doesn’t take a military analyst to grasp that the American attack on a remote Syrian airfield contradicts every possible military rationale. If America really believed that Assad possessed a WMD stockpile and kept it in al-Shayrat airbase, launching a missile attack that could lead to a release of lethal agents into the air would be the last thing it would do. If America was determined to ‘neutralise’ Assad’s alleged ‘WMD ability’ it would deploy special forces or diplomacy. No one defuses WMD with explosives, bombs or cruise missiles. It is simply unheard of.”
“The first concern that comes to mind is why do you need a saxophonist to deliver the truth every military expert understands very well? Can’t the New York Times or the Guardian reach the same obvious conclusion? It’s obvious enough that if Assad didn’t use WMD when he was losing the war, it would make no sense for him to use it now when a victory is within reach.”
A far more logical explanation, given the location, is that chemicals were released into the air by Salafist terrorists. The location of the alleged attack is an al-Qaeda-affiliated controlled area in Idlib province. It is from here that the Western-funded White Helmets operate. Rather conveniently, they were soon at the scene of the alleged attack without the necessary protective clothing being filmed hosing down victims.
As these are the kinds of people who cut out and eat human organs as well as decapitate heads, they are unlikely to have any compunction in desisting from an opportunity to use Syrian civilians, including children and women, as a form of ‘war porn propaganda’ in order to garner public sympathy as the pretext for Western intervention.
Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan, who has been living in the country for the last four years, claims no gas attack happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.” This seems to be the most plausible explanation.
Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:
“Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:
The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.
The former colonel’s testimony is extremely persuasive and exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda. Another convincing reason to discount the official narrative, is because Assad doesn’t possess any chemical weapons. Even The Wall Street Journal, citing a Hague-based watchdog agency,conceded on June 23, 2014 that “the dangerous substances from Syria’s chemical weapons program, including sulfur mustard and precursors of sarin, have now been removed from the country after a monthlong process.”
The alleged attack follows a recent pattern of anti-Assad stories exemplified by four similar controversial events in which the media have attempted to pass fiction off as fact. The first of these on February 13, 2017, relates to the findings of a report by Amnesty International which contends that Assad was responsible for the “execution by mass hangings” of up to 13,000 people. The alleged atrocity that evoked in the press comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, was within days criticised for its unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claims.
It should be recalled that it was Amnesty International who uncritically supported the emergence of a fake news story during the first Gulf War in which Iraqi soldiers were said to have taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City leaving them to die.
The second press release, three days after the mass-execution story aired, concerned the heart-rending case of a Syrian boy who Anne Barnard of the New York Times reported on twitter as having “his legs…cut because of attacks from Assad and Russia.”
It soon transpired, however, that the organization credited with filming the “attacks” was Revolution Syria, a pro-insurgency media outfit who also provided the videos for the equally fraudulent claim that the Russians bombed a school in Haas in October 2016. Dr Barbara McKenzie provides a detailed background to the story which can be read here.
The third piece of false reporting to have emerged, is in connection with Security Council resolution 2235 which highlights the conclusions of a August, 2015 OPCW-UN report. The said report, aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria (which Russia and China vetoed), didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.
Security analyst Charles Shoebridgepointed out on March 1, 2017, that “most media didn’t even seem to bother reading the report”. Shoebridge confirmed that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings that did not correspond to what the public was being told. Pointing out the reports many caveats and reservations, the analyst said the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the White Helmets.”
Finally, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 reportby the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry“ which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were based on pro-rebel Syrian White Helmets testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”
Extraordinarily, in March, 2016 German journalist Dr. Ulfkotte brought the lies of the mainstream out into the open by confessing live on television that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job. Sharing this information in front of millions of people (reminiscent of the film Network), Ulfkotte said:
“I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I was educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public. But seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia — this is a point of no return and I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past because they are bribed to betray the people, not only in Germany, all over Europe.”
The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of Ulfkotte’s claims that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.” But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.” The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another middle east resource grab.