American Resistance To Empire

The “Truth” Is That “Western Media” Is An Instrument of Mass Deception

‘Western media’ and mass deception

What does the coverage of the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza tell us about the truth of ‘Western media’?

Palestinians evacuate the body of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, 31, who was shot and killed by an Israeli sharpshooter in the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018 [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
Palestinians evacuate the body of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, 31, who was shot and killed by an Israeli sharpshooter in the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018 [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

“Gaza-Israel border: Clashes ‘leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured’.” That is a typical BBC headline when Israeli soldiers start killing, with coldblooded precision, defenseless Palestinians. “Palestinian officials say,” they would then add, “at least 16 people have been killed by Israeli forces and hundreds more wounded during protests at the Gaza-Israeli border … The Israeli military said soldiers had opened fire after rioting.”

Where did this particular noncommittal news prose come from, this language of equivocation, this pathological penchant for the passive voice, systemically compromising truth as you report it – what does diction of inbred prevarication mean, what would people around the globe reading these lines think had transpired on the “Gaza-Israel border” as BBC puts it?

It scarcely matters what did actually happen on that “border”. What matters is what and how BBC, or any other self-designated honorary club member of “Western Media” says happened. But what about the truth? What did actually happen? Who had lethal firepower at hand, who had bare bones and flesh exposed? One of the few Palestinian journalists who could tell the world the truth of what happened, Yaser Murtaja, was targeted by an Israeli sharpshooter and deliberately murdered. So, the world is at the mercy of BBC or the New York Times, etc, to say what actually happened.

What is the distance, the difference, between what actually happened as Palestinians experienced it, walking like innocent gazelles in front of a gang of vicious human hunters, and what the BBC, or CNN, or New York Times, etc, say what happened?

The case of mass deception

In their groundbreaking book, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), the founding figures of Critical theory Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer devote a by now legendary chapter to what they called “Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.”

Israeli forces kill Palestinian journalist covering Gaza rally

In this chapter, they investigate how advanced capitalist societies manufacture the social subjects as consumers of mass culture – as they are consumers of Starbucks coffee or MacDonald’s hamburgers – which is to say their subjectivities are the creations of a culture industry, receptacles of a massive body of disinformation that do not just entertain and preoccupy them but, in fact, engineer them as passive receptacles of an ideological domination beyond their recognition or critique. They give them a sense of false autonomy of choice.

What today we call “Western Media” is the paramount example of Adorno and Horkheimer’s insight, the production of “news” as perfect examples of commodity fetishism. Such news outlets as BBC, CNN, New York Times are brands under which this commodity that calls itself “Western Media” manufactures both a truth to be reckoned with and in effect the normative consciousness of the person who consumes that news and thinks herself informed. They may think themselves objective news outlets that occasionally feature or air a commercial for an airline or a washing detergent. But they are themselves a brand just like the other brands they advertise.

This “Western Media” has historically posited itself initially as the opposite of the news as used to be broadcast in the Soviet Bloc, or China, or “Third World” in general, which was branded as “state-controlled,” “propaganda,” and therefore false, and thereby posited itself as “independent”, “objective”, “fair” and “truthful.”

That political branding has now reached the point of normative self-designation of truth. It was, perhaps paradoxically – perhaps not, a rank charlatan like Donald Trump, now the president of the United States, who first put this “Western Media” on the defensive by out-branding them with his own “alternative facts”. His lies and charlatanism are one brand of news as opposed to “Western Media.”

This very “Western Media” is now in a state of self-defensive shock. It thinks itself under the threat of manipulative disinformation, as best evidenced in the Cambridge Analytica scandal where we learned private companies “mine data” from social media in order to manipulate critical masses of voters in national elections. In Cambridge Analytica, this “Western Media” has found a match for itself, a brand new competitor. Cambridge Analytica is a big shining mirror in front of “Western Media” outperforming them in their old-fashioned practices and branding.

Allow me to explain.

Colonialism then and now

Let us take the example of BBC and see how it has branded itself as the measure of fact and truth – while systemically engaging in what Adorno and Horkheimer called “mass deception”.

Let us begin by asking ourselves a simple question: Have the British learned their lessons from their long and vicious history of colonialism during which they ravaged the earth and its inhabitants and its natural resources alike? Do they regret that history – do they look at people from Asia, Africa, or Latin America with a sense of guilt, remorse, or apology? Shashi Tharoor, the distinguished Indian MP, for example, has argued persuasively that the British owe India reparation for the looting of their prized possessions. In any just world, that reparation would be paid both as a factual confirmation of what the British did to India and partial penance for their criminal atrocities.

But you might say let bygone be bygone. What is done is done. Let’s move forward. Fair enough. But has the “British” in the “British Broadcasting Corporation” (BBC) learned its lessons and regrets its atrocities or does it continue to flaunt the selfsame racist colonial attitudes, practices, and discourse of the British colonial conquest of India everywhere else. Just look at the manner BBC covers the Israeli conquest of Palestine and compare it with the colonial diction of their own conquest of India.

Two historic documents are today at the disposal of the world at large to see how the British attitude towards colonialism has remained constant and consistent: one is the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the other the manner – in both prose and the optics – in which the BBC today covers the Israeli colonial occupation of Palestine. They are identical in their treachery.

Compromising the truth

Today, the BBC is integral to the propaganda machinery of Israel – and the evidence for this is out there for the whole world to see anytime Israelis go on a rampage slaughtering Palestinians as they have been doing since March 30, when people of Gaza began commemorating their Land Day. The Israeli army began targeting and deliberately murdering Palestinians, as BBC and other specimen of the brand “Western Media” consistently softened the blow of this vicious massacre of defenseless people. The BBC made that crime against humanity – for which all the top politicians of the settler colony must be arrested and tried in a court of law – palatable, explainable, even justified.

The visual and verbal strategies of BBC for compromising the truth of what the Israelis have historically done and continue to do today are quite simple if not altogether crude and banal. They need to send their staff to get more advanced degrees in Newspeak. Their Newspeak is sophomoric and cliche.

Take a look at any of their coverage: First, show a close up of Palestinians’ raised fists and open mouths and angry faces and raised flags – they are threatening, aren’t they?: violent, dangerous, and menacing. Make sure the frame of your camera is quite tight. Don’t ever open the frame to show Israeli sharpshooters nearby firing live ammunition at thousands of defenseless and unarmed civilians protesting the systemic theft of their homeland facilitated by British colonialism. That will defeat the purpose, expose the lie, and ruin the brand.

Then comes the most pernicious wordings – beginning with “clashes”. What “clashes?” Clashes between what two items? “To clash” is to confront with demonstrably equal force – two swords clash, two punches clash, two armies clash – a live bullet does not “clash” with a defenseless body. A bullet pierces through and wounds and kills (does not “clash” with) a body. By opting for “clashes”, the BBC lies: It pretends there are two more or less identical elements, two armies, two opposing forces. There are no such things. On one side, there is a merciless army, armed to teeth by Barack Obama and all his predecessors and successors, on the other defenseless people. BBC conceals that fact with the word “clashes”- and in plural no less.

Then comes the real gimmick: Use scare quotes: Put “leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured” in quotation marks to compromise its truth. Your own reporters on the scene are deaf, dumb, and blind – they don’t see Palestinians are being killed and wounded by those Israeli sharpshooters – so attribute the “report” – not the truth – of their slaughter to Palestinian sources – that’ll compromise the veritable power of the report. “They” say so many are killed or wounded – the BBC does not acknowledge the truth of these dispensable Palestinians being maimed and murdered.

Doubly, cast doubt on the truth – “Palestinian officials say” so many are wounded and killed – not BBC – for BBC keeps its official reporting of facts only if Israelis are killed or wounded.

When it comes to the paralysing accusation of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, BBC is front and centre, bold and brave, but when it comes to the slaughter of defenseless Palestinians, the BBC’s cameras and words stand right behind the Israeli soldiers, speaking and showing things from their point of view.

The simple truth

BBC is not the only item in this brand of “Western Media.” The New York Times is worse, the CNN worse than both of them together, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

“Western Media” is a brand, a gimmick, a commodity fetishism at the service of systemic mass deception in “the West” itself and around the globe – and BBC is a paramount example of it.

This brand of “Western Media” has historically posited itself against state-controlled media across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which is indeed the stage for the systematic lies at the service of the ruling states. But that media is so blatantly vulgar in its falsehood that there is a healthy dose of public distrust of it. Most people do not believe what the official media says in Iran, Egypt, or Turkey. They read or watch those news sources with a robust dose of suspicion and distrust. The “Western Media” has falsely branded itself against that fact and created a fiction for its falsehood as truth. Dismantling that falsehood and exposing its pernicious lies, or what Adorno and Horkheimer rightly called “mass deception,” is very easy.

The best and most formidable force against mass deception of the brand “Western Media” is simple truth-telling. Contrary to the liberal Zionist deceptive prose, the Palestinian predicament is not complicated at all. It is in fact very simple and it has a very simple solution. It is not the story of two peoples with two narratives. It is the story of one people with truth (Palestinians – Jews, Christians, or Muslims) and another European settler colony (Zionists – liberal or hardcore) with wanton cruelty and violence.

Israel is the last powerful remnant of European colonialism. With astonishing charlatanism it banks on an entire history of Jewish dispossession and Jewish suffering in order to dispossess and cause suffering on Palestinians, steal their land, build a garrison state and put it at the disposal of the continued colonial and imperial interest of Euro-American imperialism.

That is the simple fact, the simple truth, read it once a day and you are immune to all the mass deception of “Western Media”.

The Zionists do whatever they damn please to Palestinians – stealing their land, bulldozing their homes, uprooting their olive trees, coldbloodedly murdering them – and if anyone dares to utter a word against their war crimes and crimes against humanity they and their Zionist fifth columns in the US and Europe start screaming “anti-Semitism” at them – and because anti-Semitism is a European disease deeply rooted in Europe’s history, Europeans shut up when they are called anti-Semites.

But the world at large could not care less about this false accusation. We will fight anti-Semitism, we will fight Islamophobia, and we will fight racism, and above all we will fight colonialism and its last bastion Zionism. We will not be silent. We will bear witness to the historic justice of the Palestinian cause. Zionists are murderous thieves. They are stealing Palestine in the bright daylight and they are murdering Palestinians right in front of the world’s incredulous eyes.

BBC and its ilk can do all their juvenile gimmickry to compromise the truth. But the world is watching. The world is vigilant. Palestinian national liberation as best and most beautifully demonstrated in the global BDS movement and now in the Great March of Return will move on and will triumph over the racist and corrupt Zionist ideology – and BBC will be a bystander in that beautiful feast of truth.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

Israel-Palestine: The conflict and the coverage


Is Russia’s Brokering of Israel’s Golan Land-Grab Enough To Sour US Plans To Engineer the Same Steal?

[SEE: Russian M.O.D. Thanks Zionist Air Force For Allegedly “Striking Islamic State” Missile Launcher Inside Syria ]

Russia Has Become an Unusual Broker in Golan Heights 2.0

The long-disputed territory between Syria and Israel found its way onto the dais in Helsinki. Here’s why.

Israel’s Merkava Tank in the Golan Heights. By ChameleonsEye /Shutterstock

A Syrian fighter jet was shot down Tuesday afternoon by the Israeli Air Force, which claimed the plane had penetrated Israel’s airspace near the Golan Heights. Syrian officials say the jet crashed in southwestern Syria, and was hit while engaged in raids in their airspace over an area known for ISIS activity.

Tensions are clearly running high and the incident offers the most recent evidence that a new post-civil war phase of the Syrian conflict is well underway, with its center the disputed Golan Heights territory between the two countries.

This is the second time in a week that the Golan has pushed its way into the international news cycle. During the now-infamous joint press conference in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin made the case for a restoration of peaceful Israeli-Syrian relations on the Golan plateau. “The south of Syria should be brought [into] full compliance with the treaty of 1974 about the separation of forces [between] Israel and Syria,” he said, adding, “this will bring peace to [the] Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel,” while also ensuring the “security of the state of Israel.”

Amid the predictable hubbub over Russian spies, electoral meddling, and NATO, this seemed to come out of nowhere. So much so that the mainstream press, obsessed as they were with the more buzz-worthy details of the summit, dropped it immediately from their round-the-clock coverage.

But why this renewed interest in Golan Heights, and why did Putin and Trump feel compelled to add it to their most pressing items on the Helsinki to-do list?

The reason is that, in Syria, Humpty Dumpty is indeed coming back together again. Every day brings more evidence that the Assad regime is restoring an uneasy national authority over the width and breadth of the country, large segments of which have been outside state control since 2011. Last week, the Deraa and Quenetra regions—Syria’s southern frontier with Israel—became the latest of the territorial prizes won back by the regime with critical support from Russia. That’s your first clue.

As the defeat of Assad’s opponents progresses, the issue of this borderland between Israel and Syria must be sorted out, not because of the need to resume trade—which never existed—or to return refugees—none of whom were ever welcome in Israel—but, as Putin explained, to rehabilitate the uneasy peace that has kept Syria’s border mostly quiet for almost half a century. (Not surprisingly those aren’t the only motivations at play here. More on that in a bit.)

That is why the Helsinki resurrection of the UN-mandated status quo ante, with important support from Moscow and Washington and including de facto restrictions on the deployment of the “resistance axis” forces—Iran and Hezbollah opposite Israel—is so noteworthy.

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel and Syria are bitter enemies, Netanyahu and Assad agree that as they plan for the future, they should look back to the 1974 Disengagement Agreement as the new old foundation for Syria’s postwar relations with Israel.

These understandings formalized the ceasefire that ended the October 1973 War and left Israel in control of a sliver of Syrian territory initially occupied during the June 1967 war. The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), numbering close to 1,000, was created “to maintain the cease-fire and to see that it is scrupulously observed.”

For most of its 44-year history UNDOF has performed this task without incident. Whatever else they did, both Syria and Israel were at pains to honor the limitations along the frontier. Every six months, most recently in June, the UNSC has reauthorized its mission.

Since August 2014, however, the peacekeeping mission, and more broadly the set of understandings that underpin the system, has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. When the regime lost control of the border region to a motley assortment of opposition and jihadi factions, the UN monitoring system—from patrols to observation posts along the frontier—broke down almost completely. The inability of UNDOF to perform its mission reflected the anarchy that had engulfed all of Syria. Along the frontier it was every man for himself. Both Israel and Syria, not to mention an array of non-state actors battling the regime, regularly violated the terms of the 1974 agreement by moving prohibited forces and arms into the area of separation and the areas of limitation along the frontier. UNDOF, chased from its observation posts and consumed with its own protection from opposition forces, became a metaphor for the breakdown throughout the country and the dangerous vacuum created by the implosion of an agreement designed to prevent a general war between Israel and Syria.

The regime’s crushing of the opposition along the frontier these last weeks has forced the question of how to address postwar deployments, and more broadly of an Israel-Syria ceasefire regime, onto the international agenda. In consultations with Moscow, the Netanyahu government has declared its interest in reaffirming the 1974 agreement. For the first time in years Israeli statements declare that “[Israel] will continue to implement the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that includes maintaining the buffer zone.”

In Moscow, Netanyahu noted that Israel had had no problem “with the Assad regime for 40 years,” and noted that “not one bullet was fired on the Golan Heights” in that time.

The resuscitation of the 1974 agreement is one facet of Israel’s postwar agenda. The other is a diplomatic offensive to obtain Washington’s recognition of its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. In contrast to the era that ended with the war’s outbreak in 2011, the Netanyahu government sees no need to engage diplomatically with Damascus on the question of Israel’s withdrawal from the contested area, where more than 25,000 Israeli settlers (and an equal number of Syrians) live. At the very least, the Israeli effort to win a unilateral declaration of support from the Trump administration serves to preempt other efforts to establish a diplomatic agenda not of Israel’s making.

Assad, who has defied those who questioned the regime’s ability to defeat its enemies on the battlefield, supports the 1974 agreement as a pillar of the restoration of Syrian sovereign control over its borders. The force limitations in the agreement also have the indirect benefit of constraining efforts by Hezbollah or Iran to deploy in force opposite Israel.

Moscow has emerged as a critical player in waging war on the regime’s behalf and mediating and guaranteeing the emerging postwar system along the frontier. The ongoing Russian air campaign remains critical to Assad’s success and to the associated decision to keep Hezbollah and Iranian forces far away from the battle. Russian-sponsored “reconciliations” are a key factor in arranging the surrender of opposition forces. Putin has performed a key intermediary role in winning Israeli and Syrian support to reconstitute the peacekeeping system—including UNDOF and arms limitations restrictions in well-defined disengagement zones.

The new Russian role is not only diplomatic but operational. For the first time Russian “police” forces will deploy onto the Golan to guarantee the new system.

According to the Russian-sponsored agreement, the Syrian army’s Brigades 90 and 61 as well as the Russian police will deploy in the ceasefire line and the demilitarized area of separation zone—under Syrian civil authority according to the 1974 agreement.

The 1974 Agreement, however, made no mention of Russian (Soviet) forces on the Golan. Indeed, Washington and Jerusalem during the Cold War would have vehemently opposed such a suggestion. Today, however, is a new day. Washington has been all but sidelined in both the diplomatic and operational efforts to end the war and reconstitute the peace.

Geoffrey Aronson is chairman and co-founder of The Mortons Group and a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute.     

Russian M.O.D. Thanks Zionist Air Force For Allegedly “Striking Islamic State” Missile Launcher Inside Syria

Russian Defense Ministry: Israel, as a result of a blow to Syria, destroyed IG militants

[source: RUSSIAN LINK]

According to the department, the terrorists tried to provoke an attack by Israeli troops on the positions of the Syrian government army

© AP Photo / Ariel Schalit

MOSCOW, July 26. / TASS /. The Israeli strike on the territory of Syria on July 25 destroyed militants and missile installations of the Islamic State (IG, banned in Russia). This was reported to journalists in the Ministry of Defense of Russia on Thursday.

According to the department, around 21:30 Moscow time, militants IG rocketed Israeli territory from the area of ​​settlements Nafa and Shajar (province of El Quneitra)–[OR, Hafa and al-Shajara–TASS, Eng.].

According to the ministry, in this way the terrorists tried to provoke the Israeli forces’ blow on the positions of the Syrian government army.

The department added that the IDF had promptly destroyed the militants and their missile installations by “an exact response attack from aviation and artillery.”

The command of a group of Russian troops in Syria expressed gratitude to the Israeli military for preventing a major provocation of terrorists and the destruction of militants, the Ministry of Defense stressed.

Earlier, the press service of the Israeli army reported that on Wednesday the military of the Jewish state destroyed in Syria a launcher that fired two rockets in the direction of Israel. The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth wrote that the launcher belonged to the IG.

Why Are Top Democrats So Anxious To Start War With Russia?

President Trump’s refusal to condemn Russia for allegations of meddling in the 2016 US election while accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial has triggered many on the left along with never-Trump conservatives in a blind rage.

After declaring Trump “treasonous” and calling for a coup, many on the left are now calling Russia’s alleged hacking an act of war, with some suggesting it was a modern Pearl Harbor. Aside from the 2,403 Americans who died in Pearl Harbor that just had their deaths casually compared to an alleged cybercrime, sure.

Former Homeland Security & Counterterrorism Adviser to President Bush and CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Frances Townsend is one of those people – tweeting on Tuesday night: “Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor. It was an Act of War and we should recognize it as such.

Frances Townsend


Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor. It was an Act of War and we should recognize it as such. via @politico

Politico drew the same copmparison with their article: “Putin’s attack on the US is new Pearl Harbor,” while trotting out the “Act of War” language as well.

Members of the House and Senate have been briefed, but remain deadlocked in partisan bickering. Some in the House have spent more time investigating the investigators than they have in trying to hold Russia accountable. Trump’s suggestion to accept Russian investigators into this process adds a new layer to the sideshow. When right of the boom feels like left of the boom, it’s easy to miss the fact that what the Kremlin did—is doing—was, and is, an act of war. –Politico


Rep. Steve Cohen, (D-TN) – the guy who wanted to give disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok the Purple Heart – told The Hill‘s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball that Russian interference was clearly an act of war, and that the U.S. should have hit back with attacks on Russian targets.

It was a foreign interference with our basic Democratic values. The underpinnings of Democratic society is elections, and free elections, and they invaded our country. A cyber attack that made Russian society valueless. They could have gone into Russian banks, Russian government. Our cyber abilities are such that we could have attacked them with a cyber attack that would have crippled Russia. –The Hill


Israeli/Zionist Forces Save Syrian “White Helmets”/Terrorist Assets From Certain Annihilation

[SEE: Canada, US & Britain to Rescue Terrorist “White Helmets” At Golan –7/21/18]

Syria conflict: Israel evacuates White Helmets

Members of the White Helmets in Aleppo, June 2014Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Members of the White Helmets operating in Aleppo in northern Syria 

Israel says it has carried out an evacuation of members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defence group from a war zone in south-western Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they had acted on a request from the US and European nations.

Some 800 people were evacuated to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight, Israeli media say.

The White Helmets describe themselves as a volunteer workforce that acts to save people in Syria’s war zones.

Although they operate only in rebel-held areas, they say they are non-partisan.

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and his ally Russia, say the White Helmets support the rebels and also have links to jihadist groups.

The evacuated White Helmets had been working in an area controlled by the Syrian opposition in the south-west of the country and had been trapped by a government offensive.

The IDF said they had “completed a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organisation and their families”, saying there was an “immediate threat to their lives”.

They said the civilians were transferred “through Israel” and “subsequently to a neighbouring country”.

Although Israel is not directly involved in the Syria conflict, the two countries have been in a state of war for decades.

Despite the intervention, the IDF said that “Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict”.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon later confirmed the evacuees were White Helmet members and their families, though neither he nor the IDF named the country receiving the civilians.

However, Jordan’s government confirmed it had “authorised the United Nations to organise the passage of 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan to be resettled in Western countries”.

It said that “Britain, Germany and Canada made a legally binding undertaking to resettle them within a specified period of time due to ‘a risk to their lives'”.

The White Helmet members and their families will be held in a “restricted area” of Jordan.

Who are the White Helmets?

  • Began in early 2013 as a volunteer workforce
  • Known officially as Syria Civil Defence
  • About 200 killed out of more than 3,000 volunteer members
  • Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
  • Act to save people in war zones and carry out repair works on buildings
  • Say they are neutral and have no political affiliation but have been accused of links to jihadist groups by the Syrian government and its Russian allies

The Syrian government began a major offensive in June to retake rebel-held areas in the Deraa and Quneitra areas.

Under a number of agreements, rebel forces have been transferred to rebel-held areas in the north of the country, with the Syrian military then moving in to take control.

The latest deal, agreed on Thursday, saw fighters and civilians evacuated from Quneitra province, which borders the Golan Heights.

Image caption The situation in southern Syria ahead of the latest evacuation agreement on Thursday

Syrian “Four Town” Deconfliction Agreement Passes First Implementation Test

[SEE: The Pentagon, The Saudis, Qatar, Kidnappings and Bustards…All To Enable Open Sponsorship of Al-Nusrah Front]


Syria conflict: ‘Deal reached’ for four besieged towns

“Residents of Foah and Kefraya, two government-held towns in the north-west, would be bussed out.
In return, people in two rebel-held towns near Damascus, Madaya and Zabadani, will be given safe passage.”

Syria: Buses arrive to evacuate two rebel-besieged Shia towns

Some 6,000 residents from predominantly Shia towns of Foua and Kefraya will be evacuated to government-controlled areas.

The opposition has consistently maintained that such evacuation deals amount to forced demographic change [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]
The opposition has consistently maintained that such evacuation deals amount to forced demographic change [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

Dozens of buses on Wednesday entered two government loyalist towns under siege from rebels in the northwest province of Idlib, as part of a deal to evacuate residents to government-controlled areas, according to state news agency, SANA.

Some 6,000 people will leave, emptying out the mostly Shia towns of al-Foua and Kefraya, a commander in the regional alliance that backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the Reuters news agency.

“What are we going to do with our land and property? Oh, my hometown,” a 42-year-old who wished to remain anonymous told AFP news agency.

“I pray this will go well.”

Rebels from Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham – a group formerly linked to al-Qaeda – and Iran-backed forces agreed to the deal to evacuate people in return for the release of more than 1,500 civilians and rebels in state prisons, sources said on Tuesday.

A deal for the evacuation of residents from the two Shia towns was first reached in April 2017 but had only partially materialised with only a group of people evacuated to government-held areas.

Politics of evacuation

The April evacuation was halted after a blast killed 150 people, including 72 children.

Iran, which backs Assad against the mainly Sunni rebels and has expanded its military role in Syria, has long taken an interest in the fate of the Shia in the two towns.

In the past two years, thousands of people, mostly from rebel-held areas, have been forced to move to territories controlled by the rebels as part of evacuation deals.

The opposition has consistently maintained that such evacuation deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of Sunni populations away from the country’s urban centres.

They accuse Tehran of attempting to change the demographics in areas close to Damascus with the goal of partitioning the country.

Another opposition source said the resumption of talks was aimed at deterring a potential military campaign by pro-government forces on the two towns.

Idlib is part of a de-escalation deal – signed by Iran, Russia and Turkey – that calls for the cessations of hostilities between rebel groups and government forces.

The agreement, which initially included Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside and Deraa province in the south, has already been broken with government forces, backed by Russian air support, in control of much of the territory.

Sunni Terrorist Outfits In Syria/Iraq Cannabilize Themselves…Everybody Else Benefits

[Who Is Assassinating Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s Leaders?–November 2017]

Islamic State targets rival jihadists and Islamists in northern Syria

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State continues to operate throughout Syria, including in the northwestern province of Idlib. The group has claimed a series of plots targeting its jihadist and Islamist rivals in recent weeks. The attacks are centered in Idlib province, including its capital city, but have spilled over into the countryside and neighboring provinces as well.

The Islamic State’s propagandists have named the operations after Abu al-Baraa al-Saheli. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) executed al-Saheli after detaining and accusing him of orchestrating a coordinated assassination campaign against HTS and other actors.

HTS is the largest jihadist group in Idlib, which was seized in 2015. The ideologues hope to transform Idlib province into an emirate ruled under sharia. But HTS and its closest allies have suffered a string of setbacks and are relying on Turkey to save their proto-state from a possible invasion by the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. In addition, HTS has been fighting against its own longtime allies, including ideologically similar groups that are also opposed to the Assad government and the Islamic State.

The Islamic State’s clandestine apparatus has further complicated life for HTS and others.

On July 12, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s media team produced three images from an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Idlib city. The target was Sheikh Anas Ayrout, a longtime opposition figure and senior sharia official who has been part of the nascent governance efforts in northwestern Syria. A photo from the IED bombing can be seen below.

Initial reports indicate that Ayrout was injured, but survived the attack. Still, it is telling that the Islamic State could target such a high-profile individual. It does not appear that Ayrout was accidentally struck. Instead, Baghdadi’s men identified Ayrout’s car, tracked it and placed an IED along its route. A targeted attack of this kind requires a sophisticated network of cells deep inside the heart of HTS’s primary redoubt.

On July 13, the Islamic State released three more photos documenting the assassination of Abu Ahmed al-Sansawi in al-Dana, Idlib. According to reports on social media, al-Sansawi was a leader in the Sultan Murad Division, a rebel group that took part in Turkey’s operation in Afrin. Once again, the killing appears to have been a targeted assassination — not a haphazard drive-by shooting. One of the pictures released by the Islamic State can be seen below.

Two other images released yesterday show an improvised device explosion underneath a vehicle driven by “apostates” in the town of Sarmada.

Other images and statements produced between July 10 and July 13 include: pictures of a gunman attempting to assassinate two individuals riding on a motorcycle, three photos of another IED attack on rival insurgents, and a grisly photo of two men who were decapitated in Maarrat al-Nu’man. The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has also published a string of reports claiming that various HTS officials and members have been hunted in recent days.

Some of the images are recorded with cameras positioned close to the action, demonstrating that the self-declared caliphate’s men are operating well behind enemy lines.

HTS has attempted to combat this intrusion on its turf with a security campaign, detaining alleged Islamic State cells and sweeping various areas for IEDs. Like other jihadists opposed to Baghdadi’s caliphate project, HTS refers to the Islamic State’s men as “Kharijites,” a reference to an early Islamic sect that is most often identified with extremism.

Several photos from the HTS security campaign can be seen at the bottom of this article.

While the Islamic State campaign inside Idlib seems to be focused and intense, it is not new. Baghdadi’s representatives have repeatedly targeted HTS, as well as others in northern Syria. And HTS has failed to root out its rivals’ presence despite persistent efforts.

Since mid-2017, HTS has issued multiple reports claiming that various Islamic State cells had been detected and detained. Yet, more than one year later, Baghdadi’s cells continue to pose a problem.

In June 2017, Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al-Muhaysini survived an assassination attempt after attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Idlib. It wasn’t clear at the time which party was responsible, but some online jihadis claimed an Islamic State member was the culprit. Others within HTS have also opposed Muhaysini, a US-designated terrorist with links to al Qaeda. The Saudi cleric subsequently renounced his position in HTS.

In April, the Islamic State’s Damascus “province” released an 18-minute production titled, “So Will They Not Repent to Allah.” The entire video was an attempt to undermine the ideological legitimacy of HTS and al Qaeda.

In addition to the attacks in Idlib, the so-called caliphate has also fought HTS in Hama, the Yarmouk refugee camp outside of Damascus and elsewhere. Thus far, there is no sign that the Sunni jihadists are reconciling to fight their common enemies.

HTS’s photos from its security campaign targeting “Kharijites” (Islamic State cells) in Idlib province:

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.