The only “armed terrorist gang” in Syria

August 02, 2011

* Syrian political activist: “Assad never had any legitimacy to lose”

* What BBC anchors and others don’t seem to want to convey to their audience is that there is only one big “armed terrorist gang” in Syria and it is called the Syrian government

* Syria’s propaganda press agency (the same one that The New York Times has quoted as a reliable source in its reports on Israel) yesterday praised Syria’s army for being “honorable and brilliant” and showing “valor in providing security and stability for all citizens”

* Leading Arab papers carry the reports that many (non-Rupert Murdoch owned) media in the West refuse to print: that not only Muslims but Christians are being tortured in Syria, including widespread use of the “flying carpet” (a procedure during which an electric rod is shoved under the genitals of a prisoner strapped to a chair)

* Obama’s ratings in the Arab world fall below Bush’s


The dispatch below concerns Syria (and also its ally Hizbullah). There is a related dispatch today which concerns Iran, and also touches on Syria. It can be read here.



1. Syrian slaughter continues, world yawns
2. The BBC
3. Even Obama finally condemns Assad, as Obama’s ratings in the Arab world fall below Bush’s
4. Asharq Al-Awsat: Syrian regime tortures indiscriminately
5. Syrian political activist: “Al-Assad never had any legitimacy to lose”
6. Lebanese newspaper: Hizbullah threatened by Syrian unrest
7. UN peacekeepers wounded by roadside bomb in South Lebanon
8. Nasrallah admits hiding in bunker
9. “Syrian e-army foils plots of seditious media targeting Syria”

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


At least 140 peaceful protestors have been murdered by President Assad’s death squads in Hama over the last two days, and scores wounded according to a local doctor who spoke by telephone to the Reuters news agency. He also reported a shortage of blood for transfusions and the presence of unattended bodies in the streets. As is the normal Syrian army procedure, water and electricity were cut to Hama before the siege began and tanks started to move in from four directions, witnesses said. Reuters reported tank shells falling at a rate of four per minute during the height of the attack.

Hama is the city where President Assad’s father killed tens of thousands in order to put down a rebellion in 1982. Peaceful protestors have been shot dead by government snipers in several other cities in recent days too.

On Saturday, Syrian troops fired over the border on families fleeing from Syria into Lebanon according to the leading Lebanese paper the Beirut Daily Star (the editors of which subscribe to this list). According to the report, the gunfire continued for about 20 minutes.



The British foreign office-funded BBC World Service (which is the world’s biggest news broadcaster) yet again gave credence in its reports on Sunday and again today to Syrian government propaganda, claiming there are “armed terrorist gangs” threatening Syria when in fact the protestors were unarmed and peaceful.

What BBC anchors and others don’t seem to want to convey to their audience is that there is only one big armed gang in Syria and it is called the Syrian government.

(There is a further “armed terrorist gang” too, called Hamas, which is headquartered in Damascus under the protection of Assad.)



Even U.S. President Barack Obama, who naively invested so much hope in engaging the despicable regime in Damascus, has finally properly condemned Assad, saying at the weekend that he was “appalled” by the Syrian government’s use of violence against its own people. However, Obama has still hasn’t called on Assad to step down in the way he so clearly did with America’s ally Egyptian President Mubarak.

Over and over again we are seeing how at best Obama has no consistent foreign policy, and at worst, he is making the wrong choices. The millions of dollars Assad has spent in recent years charming Washington politicians, such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Hagel, have obviously paid off.

Obama has come under scathing criticism in the Arab world for his failure to speak out properly in support of democracy and human rights in Syria and other Arab countries, and his poll ratings have now fallen below the lowest point reached by George W. Bush according to Arab opinion polls.

America’s approval in the Arab world has also plummeted. For example, just 5 percent of Egyptians view the U.S. favorably, half the number who viewed America favorably when Bush left office.


For the first time yesterday, Assad’s ally Russia condemned the violence in Syria.

Meanwhile, the state-run Syrian SANA news agency praised Bashar Assad’s army for its “honorable and brilliant image of the military institution ... through its valor in providing security and stability for all citizens.”



The leading pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reports prominently what many (non-Rupert Murdoch owned) media in the West won’t: that the Syrian regime is not only murdering its people, but the widespread and indiscriminate use of torture has very much increased recently.

Asharq Al-Awsat carries graphic accounts of not only Muslims but Christians being tortured in the town of Latakia. The Syrian interrogators used a number of torture procedures including the “flying carpet” (a procedure during which an electric rod is shoved under the genitals of a prisoner strapped to a chair), the “wheel” and others. In addition to this, reports the paper, Syrian civilians have been subject to more mundane forms of torture, including being whipped and beaten.

The paper reports that “last week alone 840 people were arrested in Douma and taken to torture centers, 300 people were arrested in Rakn al-Din, 1,500 people were arrested in Qaboun, and 420 people were arrested in Barzah.”

According to Syrian human rights groups, in addition to the over 2,000 people killed by Assad’s forces in recent months at least 3,000 people have been arrested and “disappeared” (i.e. killed in detention) by the regime.

I have repeatedly drawn attention in these dispatches to the U.S. State Department’s most recent (2009) report on Syria, in which it says the Syrian government has engaged in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life” and “enforced disappearances” and the vanishing of “an estimated 17,000 persons.”

The State Department report describes the methods of torture used in Syria’s prisons. Among them: “electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; other times on the soles of the feet.”

Why is it so hard to find this information from the U.S. government on the BBC and CNN? Why does The International Herald Tribune (the self-styled “global edition of The New York Times”) run op-eds critical of Israel day after day – even though Israel and West Bank are the most peaceful places in the Middle East just now?

Why does the chief Middle East correspondent of The New York Times, Ethan Bronner, who has become even more cruel recently in his denigration of the Jewish state, twice run news reports in the last month suggesting there are comparisons to be made between Israel and Nazi Germany? Why do The New York Times and International Herald Tribune editors continue to highlight and print such wicked reports when they claim to be a respectable newspaper?



Leading Syrian political activist Suhair Atassi has again criticized Western diplomats and politicians for suggesting that President Bashar Assad (who politicians like British Foreign Secretary William Hague has been hailing as a reformer for years) “had any legitimacy to lose”.

She said that Assad did not have any legitimacy to begin with, since he was merely handed power by his equally brutal father. “We shouldn’t be called the Syrian republic. We should be called the Assad republic,” she said.

Atassi is the president of the Jamal Atassi Forum for National Dialogue, which is calling for the ousting of Assad. She was arrested and questioned by the Assad regime earlier this year for her political activities, before eventually being released. She told Western rights groups by phone that she was repeatedly called a “whore”, slapped, insulted, and threatened by police, who accused her of being an Israeli agent.



The Beirut Daily Star reports that with no signs of Syrians backing away from their determination to bring down the Assad regime, Hizbullah is trying to keep a low profile so as “not to be at odds with what is happening on the ground and not to alienate itself.”

Although foreign reporters have been banned from Syria, video clips posted on YouTube by demonstrators show posters of Hizbullah chief Nasrallah being torn down and burned in street protests in Syria. (I have highlighted these in past dispatches, and also posted videos of Syrians burning Iranian and Russian flags, for example, here.)

Hizbullah’s need to keep a low profile is said to be the most likely reason it is refraining for the time being from launching attacks against Israel that were expected as a means to divert attention from Assad’s problems. (On the other hand yesterday there was cross-border fire by the Lebanese army into Israel. One Lebanese soldier was reported lightly wounded by return fire from the Israelis.)



A roadside bomb exploded near the port city of Sidon in southern Lebanon last week wounding five French members of the United Nations peacekeeping force, UNIFIL. The injured were riding in a UN convoy when the bomb was detonated.

The attack is the most recent in a spate of violence aimed at the UNIFIL force. No one claimed responsibility but experts in Lebanon said Hizbullah was almost certainly behind the attack.

Hizbullah wishes to show it still has cards to play and can disrupt life in Lebanon as the tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri closes in on the Hizbullah operatives who most likely perpetrated that attack on behalf of the Assad regime.



The Iranian news agency IRNA reported last week that Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has admitted that instead of fighting he hid in a bunker after the organization attacked Israel in July 2006, sparking a month long war.

He was speaking by video link to a large TV screen as he addressed crowds in the “Dignity and Victory” Festival at al-Raya Stadium in Beirut’s Southern Suburb, commemorating the fifth anniversary of “the Divine Victory achieved by the Mujahedeen against the Israeli enemy in the July 2006 war.”



The Syrian government (propaganda) news agency SANA reports as follows (the bad use of English is theirs):

Syrian E-Army Foils Plots of Seditious Media Targeting Syria

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Administrators of the Syrian Electronic Army Website have succeeded in foiling the schemes of a number of western, Arab and Arabic-speaking media responding to the misleading media attack targeting Syria.

The website administrators said the electronic army is currently engaged in an electronic war whose soldiers are armed with science and strong belief in the cause.

The main vision of the Syrian youth in the electronic army is represented by the phrase “Let’s Fight with their Weapons”. They started their job right from the beginning of the events, working on divulging the falseness of the conspiracy and delivering the complete truth to the expatriates who were exhausted watching the fabricated videos and the detective stories broadcast by TV channels which claim objectivity and honesty.

“Our goal is to convey the true image about Syria and what is really going on in the country,” said one the website’s administrators.

“We are defending Syria’s electronic borders in the same way the army defends the land, air and maritime borders,” the administrator said, adding that the e-army has foiled the plots of the tendentious media through exposing the fabrication of the videos about demonstrations in Syria which either exaggerate the number of demonstrators, or in other times make up non-existing photos.

The e-army members are not hackers; their job focuses on clearing the true image of the events in Syria through monitoring what is being published on Arab and foreign web pages and then leaving hundreds of thousands of messages on these pages the present the truth unfolded, said a member of the website.

The administrators underlined that the e-army website has been able several times to force the pages and the websites to omit comments that include sectarian terms and instigative phrases.

The administrators underlined from the first moment of launching the website that they do not belong to any certain party, pointing out that they are Homeland-loving Syrian youth who chose to convey the true image of Syria and its deep-rooted civilization.

They stressed that the e-army members will not stay arm-folded in the face of the media distortion and seditious campaigns which seek to spread hatred and grudge among the Syrians through the Facebook and YouTube websites.


Among other dispatches on the Syrian uprising:

* Syria: Where massacre is a family tradition
* They couldn’t even muster a press statement (& The Syria Lobby)
* As Syria slaughters hundreds, its ambassador gets wedding invite denied to Blair and Brown
* Peres tells Arab media “Assad must go,” and Netanyahu again hints at it too

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.