...last year when I brought up the White Helmets, he only had a vague notion of legitimacy: "Aren't they part of the UN or something? I just assumed they were some kind of UN-sanctioned thing."
Elvis » Tue Nov 26, 2019 3:17 pm wrote:Still trying to figure out how to play the video; the "I understand and wish to proceed" button doesn't work!
Elvis » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:18 pm wrote:I'm always logged into YouTube, so that wasn't it. Anyway, the button finally worked when I checked just now.
I'm mainly worried about a few such complaints getting them kicked off YT.
[Note: YouTube restricted the original due to graphic footage of White Helmets members assisting with executions in Syria. We have deleted the original & re-uploaded this version without that footage to ensure that it reaches as a wide an audience as possible. Links to the deleted footage:
https://twitter.com/BenjaminNorton/stat ... 45538?s=20
I talked to everybody I could in Syria, controversial or otherwise. That's how you find out the truth
In a second exclusive clip from This Is Not A Movie, a documentary film by Yung Chang about the foreign reporting of Robert Fisk, we see Homs and Aleppo through the eyes of the Independent's Middle East correspondent
Robert Fisk - 2 days ago
I’ve spent months these past eight years in Syria’s amputated cities. They are a scar on all our lives – the Russians, the Syrians, the armed Islamists, the western powers that spent more time trying to destroy Syria than the Syrian regime.
The bodies buried deep within these heaps of concrete, the survivors, and those invisibly but forever mentally wounded have paid the price of our military cruelty and indifference. Many of those who fled these gaunt cities are now in Europe – or at the bottom of the Mediterranean. And we don’t even know – or care? – about the statistics. Did 350,000 die here? Or 450,000? Or 500,000? These figures have all been used, a careless 150,000 separating the first from the last.
Beirut, Mostar, Sarajevo, Aleppo, Homs, and now Mosul and Raqqa – we are forced to ask ourselves if these sepulchral ruins are something we have come to regard as natural, something we accept or have accepted for hundreds of years: that destruction is a natural part of history.
I hope I don’t believe this. I’ve driven thousands of miles across Syria, with no minders (they are mostly called up into the army) and no protection to reach front lines where Syrian government soldiers, often wounded, have run and crawled through the broken concrete to show me Isis flags in the next field or broken house.
If they cross the lines, journalists will have their heads cut off – which is why there are no Western reporters based in the government-besieged province of Idlib (they only very rarely ever visit). And I’ve always believed that regimes are to be avoided. I’m one of the few journalists I know who has not interviewed Assad. Talking to armies can reveal the truth.
I reckon half the Syrian soldiers I’ve interviewed have later been killed. The total dead of the entire army is a state secret, but I’ve discovered the real figure: around 85,000 – quite a toll for the Assad regime’s only real defenders. Until the Russians came.
I talk to them all. It’s my job. One general, ‘The Tiger’, was so used to gunfire that he spoke while sitting in a field erupting with shell explosions – until I realised he was already, in his own mind, ready to be killed, and I explained that I could hear him more clearly if we were in a trench.
That’s what you’ve got to remember in all wars: that you are going there to report – not to die.
Danny Sjursen reviews the totally insane outcome of US intervention in Syria. wrote: Syria’s Assad is allied with Russia and Iran, all of whom are attacking Idlib; Turkey - though it deals with Russia - backs the mostly Islamist rebels holding Idlib; in the process Syrian army and Turks exchange fire (you know, like in a war); meanwhile, US holds part of East where it (sometimes) backs Kurds who fight against America’s NATO ally Turkey; everyone hates and helped fight ISIS, except, that is for our “allied” Turks and Israelis; nuclear-armed Russia and US still face off along Euphrates River one mistake away from existential war; and all the while US and Iran - though both loathe ISIS - bomb one another and are locked in a de facto state of war.....EXHALE....
This report presents evidence that the US government lied when it blamed "Iranian-backed militias" for the December 27 missile attack on an American base in Iraq. Do you know what is unusual about it? It is in the New York Times. It is detailed, and gives a fair hearing to the Iraqis making the case. Is something happening here?
To review the significance of the December 27 incident:
"The rockets wounded six people and killed an American contractor, setting off a chain of events that brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war.
Was U.S. Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran?
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/worl ... dence.html
"The United States blamed an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran and bombed five of the group’s bases. Angry Iraqis then stormed the American Embassy. The United States then killed Iran’s top general. Iran then fired missiles at American forces and mistakenly shot down a passenger jet, killing 176 people..."
'Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events."
me wrote:Turkey is threatening full-scale war against the Syrian Arab Army, after losing dozens of soldiers in Idlib province battles. Thus also a war with Russia? Does NATO get activated? Turkish government has declared open borders to allow 3-4 million Syrian refugees to flee to the EU. Greek-EU border forces are teargassing desperate Syrian civilians. Greece is attempting to build sealed prison camps for refugees on Aegean islands, where protesting residents have for now blocked the plans. My American friends, is there any chance you're first hearing about these latest developments from this post? How comes that?
A Washington-based guy I follow who sings praises of McCain and Graham and acts like a lobbyist for the 'moderate rebels' wrote:
Yesterday, Turkey took military action in Syria that was long overdue, against the Assad regime which has brutally massacred its own people for nine years. Dozens of Assad regime military targets were neutralized. The international community could have done this years ago, under President Obama's leadership. It would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives and allowed millions of refugees to stay in their homes. It would have spared thousands from being killed by chemical weapons and it would have allowed hundreds of hospitals to remain in operation instead of bombed.
To everyone who says "there is no military solution to the conflict," the Assad regime and Russia have been pursuing a scorched earth military solution for years and lip service to a political solution has done nothing to save civilians or bring us closer to a real solution. The only way to reach any solution in Syria is to stop the bombs of the Assad regime, by any means necessary. Military force is always a last resort. It's apparent that Turkey came to the conclusion yesterday that Russia & Assad will continue to break ceasefire agreements. Military force is the only way to protect Idlib's 3.5 million civilians & halt the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. The world should support Turkey now.
Diplomatic agreements between Turkey & Russia have all failed. Astana, Sochi, & multiple ceasefires since resulted only in more Russian & Assad regime attacks which forced 1,000,000 people from their homes. Hospitals, schools, and markets continued to be bombed. What choices were left? More empty condemnations and urgent calls for a ceasefire from the UN would have resulted in more Syrians dead and displaced. The whole world was just watching as Syrians were being slaughtered. Turkey put its own soldiers in harms way to try to stop the mass atrocities.
Let's not forget: as a result of Russia's military intervention, the UN worked with Russia to evacuate (i.e. forcibly displace) 1,000,000+ Syrians to Idlib from their homes in Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa, & Homs. In Idlib, they were supposed to be safe. But Russia had other plans: to kill them and displace them again once they were all gathered in Idlib. One would think that after the UN had agreed with Russia to displace Syrians from their homes, to allow Assad to take over their neighborhoods, that the UN would own that outcome & make sure they stayed safe. But instead, the UN stood by idly watching even more brutal mass atrocities. Why should this surprise anyone? After all, this is the same UN that asked Syrian medical workers to share coordinates of their hospitals with Russia as a "deconfliction" mechanism. And then Russia went on & deliberately bombed those exact coordinates. The UN claims it will "investigate."
In summary, no non-military options were left because Russia & Assad regime flagrantly violate all agreements & norms. Because 14 Russian vetoes at the UN Security Council prevented mere investigation & condemnation of war crimes. World powers should recognize their failure & act now. It's not too late.
Update, 18.40 Uhr: Am Samstagabend hat Erdogan nach Angaben der staatlichen Nachrichtenagentur Anadolu mit dem iranischen Präsidenten Hassan Ruhani zu Idlib telefoniert. Details zu dem Gespräch waren zunächst nicht bekannt.
Update, 11.30 Uhr: Die Türkei hat nach Worten von Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Syriens Provinz Idlib umfassende Angriffe gestartet. Dabei seien Anlagen zum Bau von Chemiewaffen sowie Luftabwehrsysteme und Landebahnen zerstört worden, sagte Erdogan am Samstag. Mehrere Ziele, darunter auch Waffendepots und Flugzeughangars seien „unter schweren Beschuss genommen und zerstört“ worden, sagte Erdogan am Samstag in Istanbul. Mehr als 300 Militärfahrzeuge seien zerstört worden, darunter mehr als 90 Panzer.
https://www.thenation.com/article/world ... aks-syria/
Did Trump Bomb Syria on False Grounds?
The American media is ignoring leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that suggest a whitewash.
By Aaron MatéTwitter
July 24, 2020
A series of leaked documents from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) raise the possibility that the Trump administration bombed Syria on false grounds and pressured officials at the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog to cover it up. Two OPCW officials, highly regarded scientists with more than 25 years of combined experience at the organization, challenged the whitewash from inside. Yet unlike many whistle-blowers of the Trump era, they have found no champion, or even an audience, within establishment circles in the United States.
The Trump administration’s April 13, 2018, bombing of Syria came days after it accused Syrian forces of killing nearly 50 people in a chemical weapons attack on Douma, a Damascus suburb. Widely circulated video footage showed scores of dead bodies inside an apartment complex and another group of alleged gas attack victims treated at a hospital. Although the White House did not provide evidence for its allegations against Syria, the harrowing images convinced Congress and the media to cheer on military strikes (as they did under similar circumstances the year prior).
Yet there were early grounds for skepticism. The Syrian government was on the verge of retaking the last Douma holdouts of Jaysh-al-Islam, a Saudi-backed militia that was relentlessly shelling the Syrian capital. To suddenly deploy chemical weapons would mean that Syrian forces knowingly crossed the “red line” that would trigger US military intervention. Subsequent reporting from British journalists Robert Fisk of The Independent, BBC producer Riam Dalati, and James Harkin’s investigation for The Intercept found evidence that the civilians filmed in the hospital were not exposed to toxic gas.
The US government narrative received a boost in March 2019 when the OPCW issued a long-awaited final report. It concluded that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that a chemical weapons attack occurred in Douma and that “the toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.”
The report, however, was not the OPCW’s last word. Since May 2019, internal OPCW documents, including a trove published by WikiLeaks, reveal that the Douma investigators’ initial report reached different conclusions than their organization’s published version. They were overruled by senior officials who kept evidence from the public.
The leaks’ key revelations include:Senior OPCW officials reedited the Douma investigators’ initial report to produce a version that sharply deviated from the original. Key facts were removed or misrepresented and conclusions were rewritten to support the allegation that a chlorine gas attack had occurred in Douma. Yet the team’s initial report did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred, and left open the possibility that victims were killed in a “non-chemical related” incident.
Four experts from a OPCW and NATO-member state conducted a toxicology review at the OPCW team’s request. They concluded that observed symptoms of the civilians in Douma, particularly the rapid onset of excessive frothing, as well as the concentration of victims filmed in the apartment building so close to fresh air, “were inconsistent with exposure to chlorine, and no other obvious candidate chemical causing the symptoms could be identified.”
Chemical tests of the samples collected in Douma showed that chlorine compounds were, in most cases, detected at what amounted to trace quantities in the parts-per-billion range. Yet this finding was not disclosed publicly. Furthermore, it later emerged that the chemicals themselves did not stand out as unique: According to the author of the initial report, the OPCW’s top expert in chemical weapons chemistry, they could have resulted from contact with household products such as bleach or come from chlorinated water or wood preservatives.
The author of the initial report protested the revisions in an e-mail expressing his “gravest concern.” The altered version “misrepresents the facts,” he wrote, thereby “undermining its credibility.”
Following the e-mail of protest over the manipulation of the team’s findings, the OPCW published a watered-down interim report in July 2018. Around that time, OPCW executives decreed that the probe would be handled by a so-called “core team,” which excluded all of the Douma investigators who had traveled to Syria, except for one paramedic. It was this core team—not the inspectors who had been deployed to Douma and signed off on the original document—that produced the final report of March 2019.
After the e-mail of protest, and just days before the interim report was published on July 6, a US government delegation met with members of the investigation team to try to convince them that the Syrian government had committed a chemical attack with chlorine. According to veteran reporter Jonathan Steele, who interviewed one of the whistle-blowers, the Douma team saw the meeting as “unacceptable pressure and a violation of the OPCW’s declared principles of independence and impartiality.” Interference by state parties is explicitly prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The inference drawn from the OPCW’s final report—widely disseminated, including by the Trump administration—was that gas cylinders found in Douma likely came from Syrian military aircraft. An unpublished engineering study reached the opposite conclusion. The study evaluated competing hypotheses: Either the cylinders were dropped from the sky or they were manually placed. There is “a higher probability,” it concluded, “that both cylinders were manually placed…rather than being delivered from aircraft.” At “Location 4,” where a cylinder was found on a bed, the study determined that the cylinder was too large to have penetrated the hole in the roof above; at the other site, “Location 2,” the observed damage to the cylinder and to the roof it allegedly penetrated were incompatible with an aircraft bombing. Ballistics experts also said it was more likely that the crater had been made by an explosion, probably from an artillery round, a rocket, or a mortar. With both cylinders, the study concluded, “the alternative hypothesis”—that the cylinders were manually placed and that the craters were caused by other means—”produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”
The OPCW leadership has yet to offer a substantive explanation for why they excluded critical findings and radically altered the original report. Instead, it has denigrated the two members of the Douma fact-finding mission team who challenged the manipulation of their investigation.
The first dissenting inspector is known only as Inspector B (his identity is publicly unconfirmed). B was the Douma mission’s scientific coordinator, the primary author of the draft report, and subsequent author of the e-mail of protest about the unwelcome editing.
The second inspector, described by the OPCW as Inspector A, is Ian Henderson, a chemical engineering and ballistics expert who authored the study that concluded that the cylinders were likely manually placed. Henderson went to Douma and took detailed measurements at one of the cylinder locations.
In public comments, OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has claimed that the pair committed “deliberate and premeditated breaches of confidentiality,” but has not accused them of leaking the OPCW material. Arias maintains that Inspector B’s “concerns were taken seriously,” without meaningfully accounting for why findings in B’s original report were left out of the final version. He has also dismissed the pair as minor players who refused to accept that their conclusions were “erroneous, uninformed, and wrong.”
Yet the two inspectors are unlikely candidates to go rogue. Henderson and Inspector B had served with the OPCW for 11 and 16 years, respectively. Internal OPCW appraisals of their job performance offer effusive praise. In 2005, a senior OPCW official wrote that Henderson has consistently received “the highest rating possible.… I consider [him] one of the best of our Inspection Team Leaders.” Inspector B, an OPCW superior wrote in 2018, “has contributed the most to the knowledge and understanding of CW [Chemical Weapons] chemistry applied to inspections.” In a different evaluation, another manager described B as “one of the most well regarded” team leaders, whose “experience of the organisation, its verification regime, and judgment are unmatched.”
The internal praise for the inspectors contrasts with what the OPCW leadership now says about them in public. This includes making untrue statements. Arias has said that Henderson “was not a member of the FFM [fact-finding mission]” in Douma, but leaks that I obtained show that claim to be false. Contemporaneous OPCW documents describe Henderson as an FFM member and list him among the “Mission Personnel” and the group of inspectors on the Douma mission.
The two inspectors are also not the only ones to raise concerns. Earlier this year, another OPCW official told me, on the condition of anonymity, that they were “horrified” by the “abhorrent…mistreatment” of the pair. “I fully support their endeavours,” the official wrote. “They are in fact trying to protect the integrity of the organisation which has been hijacked and brought into shameful disrepute.”
The treatment of the whistle-blowers by Western media is also due for criticism. Despite the story’s explosive nature, it has elicited a collective yawn. Whereas previous WikiLeaks disclosures fueled entire news cycles, no major US media outlets have reported on the organization’s Douma archive. CNN and MSNBC, which both supported Trump’s decision to bomb Syria, have ignored the OPCW story. The only time a New York Times reporter has mentioned the Douma scandal was in passing. The Times downgraded the extensive OPCW leaks into a mere “email from an investigator.” (It also deferred to assurances of Syria’s culpability from Bellingcat, an open source investigative outlet, without mentioning its Western government funding, including from the United States via the National Endowment for Democracy.) Even progressive, adversarial outlets that have traditionally defended whistle-blowers and challenged US wars have shunned this story. The Guardian described the whistle-blowers’ claims as “a Russia-led campaign,” rather than as an effort by two veteran inspectors to defend their investigation.
What explains the prevailing silence? It is certainly true that the Syrian government and its Russian ally have vigorously denied allegations of chemical weapons use, including in Douma. But just as was the case when Iraq was falsely accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction, skepticism of Western claims should not be equated with support for the targeted regime. If anything, the Iraq case reminds us that such allegations should not be politicized and are worthy of scrutiny, especially if used to justify military action and other aggressive measures, including crippling sanctions.
The possibility that the United States may have bombed Syria based on falsehoods—and pressured a global investigative body to grant that intervention legitimacy after the fact—should break the media blockade. So too should the fact that it was exposed by whistle-blowers who face risk for speaking out.
The US government’s own recent past with the OPCW offers a stark reminder. In 2002, the Bush administration forced out the organization’s first director general, José Bustani. The veteran Brazilian diplomat was negotiating weapons inspections with Baghdad that potentially impeded the Bush administration’s drive to launch a war. Bustani has since revealed that John Bolton, then serving as an undersecretary of state, personally threatened him and his family to force him to resign.
Bustani once again finds himself on Bolton’s opposing side. In his new memoir about his tenure as Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton recounts that he oversaw the US strikes on Syria over the Douma allegations, lamenting only that Trump did not authorize a larger attack. Bustani, meanwhile, took part in an October 2019 panel that heard an extensive presentation from one of the Douma whistle-blowers.
“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had,” Bustani wrote. “The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing.” His hope, he added, is that the outcry over the Douma leaks “will catalyse a process by which the [OPCW] can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”
Bustani is among the prominent signatories of a letter urging the OPCW to let the Douma inspectors discuss their investigation freely. Henderson delivered a statement at a UN session in January, but the United States has thwarted other attempts. (According to Russia’s envoy to the OPCW, a US representative objected on the grounds that a Douma hearing “would encourage the Russian [side] to replicate Stalinist trials, with cross-examinations and intimidations of witnesses.”)
The inspectors just want to be heard. In statements this year to Arias, both whistle-blowers requested an opportunity to air the Douma evidence in a transparent, scientific manner. “Our sole duty is to be true to the facts and the science, and once that has been achieved, we will gladly accept the proven and agreed scientific outcomes,” Henderson wrote.
“Something had gone wrong inside the OPCW sir,” B told Arias. “And we wanted you to know. It’s that simple.”
The confession of James le Mesurier
Rescue workers from the White Helmets in Syria risk their lives for a small fee. The directors of the Dutch organisation receiving the grants pay themselves bonuses in cash and borrow money from the safe for their wedding. $ 50.000 goes missing. Founder James le Mesurier admits fraud three days before he died last year.
By Ana van Es & Anneke Stoffelen
17 juli 2020, 05:00
On Thursday, 7 November 2019, four days before his death, James Le Mesurier has an appointment at the Novotel Bosphorus in Istanbul. Le Mesurier has earned international prestige with his work in Syria. He trains rescue workers, the ‘White Helmets’. After a bombardment they hurry into the rubble with stretchers, looking for victims. In their war-torn country they save numerous lives.
But now the laurelled aid worker has a problem. Because of a few receipts.
In the hotel lobby the 48-year-old Brit meets his auditor, a Dutchman. Le Mesurier trains and supports the White Helmets from a Dutch foundation: Mayday Rescue. The multi-million subsidies from European governments, Canada, and Qatar all go to Mayday’s bank accounts in Amsterdam.
This is why an auditor versed in Dutch law was flown in to take a critical look at the foundation’s finances. The auditor has already been working for a full week at the Istanbul office of Mayday, the organisation’s nerve centre. And now he’d like an answer to a question. A question that has been growing like a dark cloud, hovering over the organisation over the course of this week.
What happened to the 50,000 dollars in cash that were taken by Le Mesurier over a year ago?
Operation Magic Carpet
One thing is certain: it all started with Operation Magic Carpet. It’s the name of a daring international evacuation from war zones in Syria. It sums up everything James Le Mesurier is good at: military planning, diplomatic negotiations at the highest level and, finally, a cool-headed operation in the dead of night at an ordinarily hermetically sealed border in the Arab world.
The White Helmets work in opposition-controlled areas in Syria. They rescue victims of bombardments carried out by the air force of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia. Assad hates them. If they fall into the hands of his secret services, torture and possibly death awaits them.
But Le Mesurier, who has served in the British Army for many years, is not one to leave his people behind. When Assad regains control of parts of southern Syria, the time has come to rescue the rescue workers themselves.
Operation Magic Carpet evacuates almost a hundred White Helmets and their families in a single night, on 21 July 2018, bypassing the advancing forces of Assad and cells of ISIS, across the Golan Heights to the evacuation points Tom, Dick, and Harry – named after the tunnels in the movie The Great Escape, which is based on true events.
The Israeli army brings the White Helmets to safety along the border, which is normally closed to Syrians. Israel gives the rescue workers—who feature in an Oscar-winning documentary and have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice already—free passage to Jordan, pending their new life in the Western world.
‘An absolutely extraordinary international rescue operation’, Le Mesurier will say later to the American monthly Reader’s Digest.
Unfortunately, fewer White Helmets than intended were rescued. And so it turns out that 50,000 dollars taken by Le Mesurier from the Mayday safe in Istanbul four days before the evacuation, are not spent.
And then the money disappears.
In early 2019, a British auditor already asks for an explanation. Le Mesurier then says that the bank notes have been put in a separate safe, for an emergency.
But now the Dutch auditor has doubts.
So, the question is: what happened to the 50,000 dollars?
It’s not the first time that questions are raised about financial transactions at Mayday. James Le Mesurier, founder, chairman, and director, is described by others in the organisation as a leader with a great vision. An innovator who inspires people. He works continuously and firmly defends the White Helmets trained by him. James is Mayday, his colleagues say.
But Le Mesurier cannot ‘sit at a desk’, says a former fellow administrator. ‘Not a financial man’, says one of his former financial colleagues. Even Le Mesurier himself reports to the donor countries that it is often ‘a chaos’ at Mayday.
At Mayday they prefer saving lives in Syria to spending time on bookkeeping. ‘It was always about keeping the field operations running’, says a former employee. Someone else says that Mayday should be regarded as a start-up.
Meanwhile, huge sums of donor money flow into the foundation: roughly a hundred million euros over the course of four years. Donor countries are practically queueing to support Mayday. Whereas other Western aid projects in Syria are working on long-term goals, such as boosting democracy, the White Helmets make a difference on the ground: saving fellow citizens from death. In addition, the organisation has roots in Syria itself. Inhabitants of Daraa, Homs, and Aleppo were already adapting their improvised ambulance services to the conditions of a horrible war in which Assad drops barrel bombs on residential areas, when Le Mesurier brings them into contact with Turkey’s search and rescue experts, in 2013.
For the donor countries, rescue workers also serve another, more strategic interest: the White Helmets are their eyes and ears in the war zone. With the cameras on their helmets they film the air raids by Assad’s forces. The video material may later be used as evidence of war crimes.
When Russia starts bombing Syria in 2015, Mayday reports to the Dutch government every day for six weeks in order to ‘inform the government – at a strategic level’. Later, ‘The Hague’ pays them compliments for their ‘invaluable work’. In Great Britain Le Mesurier is awarded a royal honour.
The counter propaganda from Damascus and Moscow is meanwhile running wild. If one is to believe the mouthpieces of Assad and Putin, Le Mesurier is a spy for the British intelligence service MI6 and the White Helmets are part of the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda who stage rescue actions and fake attacks with chemical weapons.
While the smear campaign gains force, Mayday remains the darling of the donor countries. In late 2017, Dutch civil servants become aware that almost half a million euros of subsidy for Mayday has ended up with an unknown aid organisation in Istanbul. It turns out to be a subsidiary company of Mayday that no one in The Hague has ever heard of.
But then the web of Mayday organisations is rather complex. In addition to the foundation in the Netherlands there are commercial Mayday companies in Istanbul and Dubai. The man behind all these Mayday branches is James Le Mesurier, who is also active in a limited company in the Netherlands and in a Turkish organisation behind the White Helmets.
However, the fuss at the Dutch Foreign Affairs Department is soon over. Mayday is a ‘relatively young and learning organisation’, the civil servants conclude. They have little experience with acquisition and administration, and working in war zones in Syria does have its inevitable risks.
The Secret Forensic Inquiry Report
After the death of James Le Mesurier in November 2019, the donating governments invited the firm of Grant Thornton to do a forensic audit of Mayday’s books. Their report has not been made public. The current Mayday chair Cor Vrieswijk says that the donor countries do not wish to share the information.
De Volkskrant did have access to the summary of the inquiry. It says that much information is missing from the financial administration of the Mayday foundation. The auditors also conclude that they found no evidence of financial abuse. The cash withdrawals by Le Mesurier and his wife Emma Winberg were accounted for, it says. The course of events surrounding the disappeared 50,000 dollars, reported by Le Mesurier himself as fraud, is the result of a ‘misunderstanding’, according to the auditors.
Le Mesurier is a spy for the British intelligence service MI6 and the White Helmets are part of the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda who stage rescue actions and fake attacks with chemical weapons.
Leaked docs expose massive Syria propaganda operation waged by Western govt contractors and media
by Ben Norton, September 23, 2020, The Grayzone
Leaked documents show how UK government contractors developed an advanced infrastructure of propaganda to stimulate support in the West for Syria’s political and armed opposition.
Virtually every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western government-backed public relations firms, from their political narratives to their branding, from what they said to where they said it.
The leaked files reveal how Western intelligence cutouts played the media like a fiddle, carefully crafting English- and Arabic-language media coverage of the war on Syria to churn out a constant stream of pro-opposition coverage.
US and European contractors trained and advised Syrian opposition leaders at all levels, from young media activists to the heads of the parallel government-in-exile. These firms also organized interviews for Syrian opposition leaders on mainstream outlets such as BBC and the UK’s Channel 4.
More than half of the stringers used by Al Jazeera in Syria were trained in a joint US-UK government program called Basma, which produced hundreds of Syrian opposition media activists.
Western government PR firms not only influenced the way the media covered Syria, but as the leaked documents reveal, they produced their own propagandistic pseudo-news for broadcast on major TV networks in the Middle East, including BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Orient TV.
These UK-funded firms functioned as full-time PR flacks for the extremist-dominated Syrian armed opposition. One contractor, called InCoStrat, said it was in constant contact with a network of more than 1,600 international journalists and “influencers,” and used them to push pro-opposition talking points.
Another Western government contractor, ARK, crafted a strategy to “re-brand” Syria’s Salafi-jihadist armed opposition by “softening its image.” ARK boasted that it provided opposition propaganda that “aired almost every day on” major Arabic-language TV networks.
Virtually every major Western corporate media outlet was influenced by the UK government-funded disinformation campaign exposed in the trove of leaked documents, from the New York Times to the Washington Post, CNN to The Guardian, the BBC to Buzzfeed.
In other words, the UK Foreign Office and military crafted plans to wage a comprehensive media war on Syria. To establish an infrastructure capable of managing the propaganda blitz, Britain paid a series of government contractors, including ARK, The Global Strategy Network (TGSN), Innovative Communication & Strategies (InCoStrat), and Albany.
The work of these firms overlapped, and some collaborated in their projects to cultivate the Syrian opposition.
Western government contractor ARK plays the media like the fiddle
One of the main British government contractors behind the Syria regime-change scheme was called ARK (Analysis Research Knowledge).
ARK FZC is based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It brands itself as a humanitarian NGO, claiming it “was created in order to assist the most vulnerable,” by establishing a “social enterprise, empowering local communities through the provision of agile and sustainable interventions to create greater stability, opportunity and hope for the future.”
In reality ARK is an intelligence cutout that functions as an arm of Western interventionism.
In a leaked document it filed with the British government, ARK said its “focus since 2012 has been delivering highly effective, politically-and conflict-sensitive Syria programming for the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Canada, Japan and the European Union.”
ARK boasted of overseeing $66 million worth of contracts to support pro-opposition efforts in Syria.
On its website, ARK lists all of these governments as clients, as well as the United Nations.
In its Syria operations, ARK worked together with another UK contractor called The Global Strategy Network (TGSN), which is directed by Richard Barrett, a former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6.
ARK apparently had operatives on the ground inside Syria at the beginning of the regime-change attempt in 2011, reporting to the UK FCO that “ARK staff are in regular contact with activists and civil society actors whom they initially met during the outbreak of protests in spring 2011.”
The UK contractor boasted an “extensive network of civil society and community actors that ARK has helped through a dedicated capacity building centre ARK established in Gaziantep,” a city in southern Turkey that has been a base of intelligence operations against the Syrian government.
US-UK program Basma cultivates Syrian media activists
The Syrian opposition media war was organized within the framework of a project called Basma. ARK worked with other Western government contractors through Basma in order to train Syrian opposition activists.
With funding from both the US and UK governments, Basma developed into an enormously influential platform. Its Arabic Facebook page had over 500,000 followers, and on YouTube it built up a large following as well.
Mainstream corporate media outlets misleadingly portrayed Basma as a “Syrian citizen journalism platform,” or a “civil society group working for a ‘liberatory, progressive transition to a new Syria.'” In reality it was a Western government astroturfing operation to cultivate opposition propagandists.
Nine of the 16 stringers used by Al Jazeera in Syria were trained through the US/UK government’s Basma initiative, ARK boasted in a leaked document.
In an earlier report for the UK FCO, filed just three years into its work, ARK claimed to have “trained over 1,400 beneficiaries representing over 210 beneficiary organisations in more than 130 workshops, and disbursed more than 53,000 individual pieces of equipment,” in a vast network that reached “into all of Syria’s 14 governorates,” which included both opposition- and government-held areas.
In 2014, ARK produced a long-form documentary on the White Helmets, titled “Digging for Life,” which was repeatedly broadcast on Orient TV.
While it was running the White Helmets’ social media accounts, ARK bragged that it was boosting followers and views on the Facebook page for Idlib City Council.
The Syrian city of Idlib was taken over by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which then went on to publicly execute women who were accused of adultery.
While effectively aiding these al-Qaeda-aligned extremist groups, ARK and the British intelligence cutout TGSN also signed a document with the FCO hilariously pledging to follow “UK guidance on gender sensitivity” and “ensure gender is considered in all capacity building and campaign development.”
After regime change comes Nation Building Inc.
InCoStrat has apparently been involved in numerous Western-backed regime-change operations.
In one leaked document, the firm said it helped to train civil society organizations in marketing, media, and communications in Afghanistan, Honduras, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. It even trained a team of anti-Saddam Hussein journalists inside Basra, Iraq after the joint US-UK invasion.
In addition to contracting for the United Kingdom, InCoStrat disclosed that it has worked for the governments of the United States, Singapore, Latvia, Sweden, Denmark, and Libya.
After NATO destroyed the Libyan state in a regime-change war in 2011, InCoStrat was brought in in 2012 to conduct similar communications work for the Libyan National Transitional Council, the Western-backed opposition that sought to take power.
Coordinating with extremist militias, cooking news to “reinforce the core narrative”
The leaked documents shed further light on a UK government contractor called Albany.
Albany boasted that it “secured the participation of an extensive local network of over 55 stringers, reporters and videographers” to influence media narratives and advance UK foreign policy interests.
The firm helped create an influential Syrian opposition media outfit called Enab Baladi. Founded in 2011 in the anti-Assad hub of Daraya, at the beginning of the war, Enab Baladi was aggressively marketed in the Western press as a grassroots Syrian media operation.
In reality, Enab Baladi was the product of a British contractor that took responsibility for its evolution “from an amateur-run entity into one of the most prominent Syrian media organizations.”
Albany also coordinated communications between opposition media outlets and extremist Islamist opposition groups by hiring an “engagement leader (who) has deep credibility with key groups including (north) Failaq ash-Sham, Jabha Shammiyeh, Jaysh Idleb al Hur, Ahrar ash-Sham, (center) Jaysh al Islam, Failaq al Rahman, and (south) Jaysh Tahrir.” Many of these militias were linked to al-Qaeda and are now recognized by the US Department of State and European governments as official terrorist groups.
Unlike other Western government contractors active in Syria, which often tried to feign a semblance of balance, Albany made it clear that its media reporting was nothing more than propaganda.
The firm admitted that it trained Syrian media activists in a unique “newsroom process” that called to “curate” news by “collecting and organising stories and content that support and reinforce the core narrative.”
In 2014, Albany boasted of running the Syrian National Coalition’s communications team at the Geneva Peace talks.
Albany also warned that revelations of Western government funding for these opposition media organizations that were being portrayed as grassroots initiatives would discredit them.
When internal emails were leaked showing that the massive opposition media platform Basma Syria was funded by the United States and Britain, Albany wrote, “the Basma brand has been compromised following leaks about funding project aims.”
The leaks on social media “have damaged the credibility and trustworthiness of the existing branded platform,” Albany wrote. “Credibility and trust are the key currencies of the activities envisaged and for this reason we consider it essential to refresh the approach if the content to be disseminated is to have effect.” The Basma website was taken down soon after.
These files provide clear insight into how the Syrian opposition was cultivated by Western governments with imperial designs on Damascus, and was kept afloat with staggering sums of cash that flowed from the pockets of British taxpayers – often to the benefit of fanatical militiamen allied with Al Qaeda.
While Dutch prosecutors prepare war crimes charges against the Syrian government for fighting off the onslaught, the leaked files are a reminder of the leading role that Western states and their war-profiteering companies played in the carefully organized destruction of the country.
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