The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria. Conflict Versus Conflict Resolution. (Part 2/6)
(Part 1/6)(Part 2/6)(Part 3/6)(Part 4/6)(Part 5/6) (Part 6/6)Dr. Christof Lehmann. - After 19 months of violent conflict in Syria a feasible solution seems farther removed than ever. The influx of fundamentalist Salafist or Wahabist fighters which have been streaming to Syria since the failure of two major Free Syrian Army assaults on Aleppo in June and July 2012 made it increasingly difficult to build a coherent and credible Syrian political and military opposition among the proponents of regime-change. The international anti Syrian alliance has difficulties in identifying a political or military opposition that could be used as an argument for regime change. The Turkish-Syrian conflict risks to spiral out of control with potentially catastrophic consequences for Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and the region. After the violence has begun spreading into Turkey and Lebanon, increasing the risk of a regional war with potentially global bearing, the containment of the crisis is becoming increasingly difficult. The international community is as divided as the Syrian opposition. The pressure is on all sides to resolve the crisis. Opinions about how to solve the crisis differ widely. The article offers the necessary analysis, suggests possible solutions and the potential consequences of a protracted and widening conflict.
The Apologetic Discourse.
The majority of the Syrian population, including members of the Baath Party, the NCC, the PWP, and other reformist organizations are aware of that the Baath Party has been too slow to lift emergency laws and too slow at initiating reforms. There is however, also a broad consensus among the non-foreign backed political organizations, that Syria has had to cope with serious threats to its national security, and that reforms cannot be implemented at the cost of neglecting these concerns.
The general consensus within this apologetic discourse is that Syria, beside the armed insurgency, has been and is confronted with the following threats to its national security and integrity.
Israel´s occupation of the Syrian Golan Highs and plans for a permanent annexation of the Golan by Israel; Syria´s support of Palestine against the illegal occupation by Israel and security concerns that arise due to this policy; the lack of convergence in the energy needs of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Russia versus thos of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the USA and key members of the European Union; the position of Syria as the sole remaining ally to Russia in the Middle East, Syria´s role as a stabilizing factor in Lebanon and related security concerns; the threat of religious or ethnic fanaticism and ethnic or religious violence that threatens to undermine the protection of ethnic and religious minorities as well as equal opportunity which is enshrined in the Syrian constitution.
The general consensus among all of the parties and organizations who are participating in the peaceful political discourse in Syria, including the Baath Party, is that the attempted armed subversion is increasing all of these threats to Syria´s national security, and that it is counterproductive to the development of genuine participatory democratic institutions and processes.
The Manufacturing of Consent with the Interventionist Discourse .
Media reports about the crisis differ considerably, are often heavily biased, and reflect a deterioration in regional and global security that is reminiscent of the cold war. The inherent risk in the deterioration of relative objectivity of the media with regards to Syria is that the majority of political decision makers is predominantly receiving information through the same media as the general population, thus poising them to making decisions based on propaganda, rather than on aspects of international law, facts, and accurate analysis.
During a briefing of several groups of European parliamentarians on the situation in Libya and Syria by the author in early 2012 it transpired that the majority of the members of European parliaments received the information about the Middle East, on which they base their decisions, predominantly from either mainstream media or from reports issued by think tanks which are strongly biased. A small group of parliamentarians who are members of relevant select committees, who receive reports from their countries foreign intelligence services stated that the information that is provided to them through these channels also normally is strongly filtered and biased. The potential legal and political and security implication with regards to the Syria crisis, which is the potential of spiraling into a regional war with global implications inherently dangerous.
The following examples elicit the problem the biased media reports pose for political decision making processes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OHR).
Behind the official sounding name Syrian Observatory for Human Rights are two London based bureaus. The OHR was constituted in early 2011 by a small group of London based Syrian expatriates and issued regular reports about the number of arrests and casualties. In almost all of the reports issued by the OHR the casualty figures, and especially the casualty figures attributed to the Syrian police and military forces were significantly higher than the reports that were issued by the Syrian government, the United Nations, and Syria based pro-democracy, anti-regime-change organizations.
Although the Syrian government regularly issues detailed and well documented reports which are far more consistent with those issued by the United Nations, the majority of western mainstream media, including the Qatar State TV channel Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, etc. consistently and disregarding the questionable methodology, used the statistics provided by the OHR.
The methodology of the OHR explains the significant divergence. The OHR is using Facebook and other social media for gathering raw data. That is, the collection of every individual report by individuals, every newscast about casualties, and so forth. In early 2012 the inaccurate and biased reports of the OHR became increasingly embarrassing for those media which used them. The OHR reportedly divided into two offices, of which one denounced the other for being responsible for the flawed methodology and biased or exaggerated reports. However, after the split neither the one or the other OHR bureau in London has issued any report that indicates that a more reliable methodology has been implemented.
The Manufacturing of False Reports and Manufacturing of Violence.
After the massacre in the Syrian city Al-Houla in late Mai 2012 the BBC released an article in which the massacre was attributed to Syrian military forces. Later that month BBC´s news editor John Williams admitted that the report had been based on what Williams called ”opposition propaganda”. 11
On 28 Mai 2012 the Italian photo-journalist Marco Di Lauro discovered that the BBC had illegally used one of his photos. Di Lauro´s photo showed the civilian casualties after a US bombing raid in Iraq. Without Di Lauro´s permission and consent the BBC used the photo in an article under the headline ”Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”. The caption under the disappropriated photo read ” This image – which cannot be independently verified – is believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial”. 12
Despite a thorough investigation was initiated by Syrian authorities, and although both the Syrian authorities and many of the Syria based opposition groups stated that the massacre had not been committed by the Syrian military but the Free Syrian Army the BCC and Al-Jazeera, along with others maintained that initial narrative.
According to statements by Syria based opposition groups, and more importantly, according to statements from survivors of the massacre it had been committed by the Free Syrian Army. According to eyewitnesses from Al Houla the victims of the massacre had been almost exclusively families with ties to the Baath Party or other parties who are taking part in the national reform process.
The Assassination of Journalist Maya Naser.
In late September 2012 the 33 year old journalist Maya Naser was shot dead by a sniper. Maya Naser was working as a correspondent for PRESS TV and Al-Alam TV in Damascus.13 The murder took place after Naser took to the scene of two explosions in Damascus. According to reliable reports, the snipers that opened fire on Maya Naser and his colleague had already been in place approximately two hours before the explosions. It is likely that the assassins have used the journalists Twitter feed to ascertain whether he would arrive at the scene.
During the last two weeks of his life, Maya Naser had found evidence that strongly indicated that the Turkish government is releasing prisoners who are sentenced for terrorism charges to fight in the insurgency in Syria. Most likely against being offered to clear their criminal record. Not long after Maya Naser had entered into an ad hoc investigative alliance with the author of this article, leading members of the Workers´ Party – Turkey and a renown international lawyer he was assassinated. Details are published in the article ”Killing of Journalist Maya Naser in Damascus possibly tied to His Investigation into Turkey War Crimes”. 14
Also other journalists who are working in Syria or Turkey are being targeted. A journalist from the Lebanese Al-Jadeed TV who witnessed how a Turkish military officer in Syria distributed weapons to Salafist fighters and FSA units. The Journalist was kidnapped, investigated and threatened before she was released. A video with statements from the Al-Jadeed Station Chief in Beirut and the journalist is published in ”Turkey´s Decision to allow Cross-Border Military Operations violates Constitution, International Law, and endangers National Integrity”. 15
Information Warfare – Absolute Image Control and Modern Warfare.
According to contemporary US-American and NATO military doctrine, absolute image control is an essential element of modern warfare. In early July, simultaneously with the initiation of the FSA`s military campaign for Aleppo and after pressure from the Arab League (AL), Arabsat and Nilesat stopped carrying Syrian Radio and TV channels. Combined with the blocking internet access to the websites of the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) in western and Arab countries the NATO doctrine of absolute image control was being implemented against Syria. 16 The blocking of Syrian Radio and TV channels, combined with the willful manufacturing of false media reports, the silencing of journalists and more violate among other article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 17 and UN General Assembly Resolutions 110, 381 and 819. 18 19 20. Resolutions 110, 381, and 819 are regulating the erection of obstacles to the free exchange of information and ideas as well as propaganda. The resolutions have been adopted in the post World War II period and are especially pertaining warfare. The protests of the Syrian Ambassador at the United Nations have not yielded any result and a critical analysis of the role of the UN will be given later on in the article.
The adverse effect of this manufacturing of consent by highly questionable to right out criminal methods will, unless addressed within the discourse of genuine conflict resolution:
- Aggravate the crisis in Syria and obstruct national dialog national reconciliation and the building of a genuine democratic culture, genuine democratic institutions and a genuine political discourse toward reforms.
- Aggravate the influx of extremist organizations to Syria, creating grave security challenges not only in Syria but for the region as well as globally.
- Preventing populations in western and Arab nations who directly or indirectly support the armed or pro-regime change opposition from making informed decisions within their nation’s political discourse, thus obstructing both the Syrian reform process, reconciliation and Syrian, regional and global conflict resolution.
- Preventing members of parliaments from making informed decisions which have a direct impact not only on Syria and the Middle East, but which have potentially dangerous global, geo-politic implications.
- Prevent a genuine discourse for conflict resolution at the United Nations General Assembly.
- Psychologically bias honest brokers. The same principles which are active in courts of law, where the accused has been subject to being sentenced by the media are operand within the context of conflict resolution. Even though one has access to all available objective information it becomes impossible to make an unbiased decision.
Dr. Christof Lehmann
Dr. Christof Lehmann is a psychologist, independent political adviser and consultant with 30 years experience on the highest levels of international politics, geo-politics, conflict and conflict resolution. He is a lifelong advocate for human rights, peace and international justice. Christof Lehmann is a frequent contributor of articles to print and online media and is the owner of the blogue nsnbc – no spin news. He can be contacted at Dr.Christof.Lehmann@Gmail.Com .
Notes for part 2:
11) Chris Marsden (2012), BBC Word News Editor: Houla Massacre Coverage based on Opposition Propaganda. World Socialist Website, 15 June 2012, accessed on nsnbc 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/bbc-world-news-editor-houla-massacre-coverage-based-on-opposition-propaganda/
12) Marco Di Lauro (2012) BBC Illegally Uses Image of Iraqi Victims: The US/NATO, UN Demonization Propaganda Against Syrian Government Further Intensifies. 28.05.2012, nsnbc, accessed on nsnbc on 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/bbc-illegally-uses-image-of-iraqi-victims-the-usnato-un-demonization-propaganda-against-syrian-government-further-intensify/
13) Finian Cunningham (2012) Press TV correspondent killed for exposing truth. PRESS TV, 28.09.2012, accessed on nsnbc on 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/press-tv-correspondent-killed-for-exposing-truth/
14) Christof Lehmann (2012) Killing of Journalist Maya Naser in Damascus possibly tied to His Investigation into Turkey War Crimes. Nsnbc 27.09.2012, accessed on nsnbc on 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/killing-of-journalist-maya-naser-in-damascus-possibly-tied-to-his-investigation-into-turkey-war-crimes/
15) Christof Lehmann (2012) Turkey´s Decision to allow Cross-Border Military Operations violates Constitution, International Law, and endangers National Integrity. Nsnbc, 07.10.2012, accessed on nsnbc on 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/turkey%C2%B4s-decision-to-allow-cross-border-military-operations-violates-constitution-international-law-and-endangers-national-integrity/
16) Christof Lehmann (2012) Preparation of Absolute Image Control in War on Syria. Nsnbc 03.06.2012, accessed on nsnbc on 26.10.2012 at http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/preparation-of-absolute-image-control-in-war-on-syria/.
17) UN Documents. Universal declaration of Human Rights. Accessed on 26.10.2012 at http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
18) UN Documents. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 110, accessed on 26.10.2012 at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/038/17/IMG/NR003817.pdf?OpenElement
19) UN Documents. United Nations general Assembly Resolution 381, accessed on 26.10.2012 at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/059/79/IMG/NR005979.pdf?OpenElement
20) UN Documents. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 819. accessed on 26.10.2012 at http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/095/54/IMG/NR009554.pdf?OpenElement