New Mint Press statement reveals Saudi pressure on reporter.

Following AP reporter Dale Gavlak’s attempt to disassociate from the Mint Press News report: “Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack”  (see previous article for background here) Mint Press Editor in Chief Mnar Muhawesh published a statement in response reiterating her support for, and the credentials of, the two journalists involved, along with the substance of the report they had produced. The report in question included statements from residents and relatives of rebel fighters in Eastern Ghouta, who alleged that Saudi Intelligence Chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, had supplied extremist elements in the  region with chemical weapons.

The Muhawesh statement went largely unnoticed in mainstream media, instead, the usual actors produced a variety of baseless lurid smears and conspiracy theories directed at Mint Press and Yahya Ababneh, the reporter on the ground in Ghouta, in transparent efforts to discredit them and the substance of the report.

One particularly vulgar conspiracy crafted by the BuzzFeed “journalist” Rosie Gray – reminiscent of crass attempts to play on orientalist stereotypes of “Iranian deception” abundant in civilised US media and diplomacy-speak – attempted to portray the Mint Press as bias fabricators, on the grounds of the Editors father-in-law being a Shi’a Muslim. In effect casting him and Mint Press as Iranian stooges intent on subverting the western-promoted falsehood that the Assad government ordered the alleged chemical attacks.

In recent weeks, corporate media has largely gone quiet on the whole affair. With the Russian-brokered deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles thwarting a determined effort by US hawks,  Likudniks, and Gulf monarchs to escalate the Syrian war; the push for overt US intervention has subsided, and along with it the incessant parroting of fantasy narratives and dubious “evidence” attempting to blame the Assad government for the alleged chemical attacks on August 21st.

Muhawesh, fearing for the safety of Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, has remained silent on the issue since the release of the aforementioned communication, but has now released a full statement outlining a timeline of events surrounding the report, which is reprinted in its entirety below, I urge all to read in full:

Dear readers,

I wanted to personally express my appreciation for your continued support and readership following our newsroom’s August 29, 2013 exclusive report titled: “Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack.”

I’ve been silent until today out of concern for the safety of the journalists, Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, while we worked to bring clarity to their findings and ensuing events.  I’m relieved to now be able to share happenings of the past 60 days as Human Rights Watch addresses ongoing threats to co-author Yahya by Jordanian and Saudi actors in Amman, Jordan.

To be clear, my MintPress colleagues and I continue to stand by Dale and Yahya and their reporting. The tragic incident in Ghouta on August 21—and the Syria conflict as a whole—is complex and, as the article stated, some information could not be independently verified.  While efforts to discredit the story and our organization have disappointed us, we have been most concerned by the tremendous pressure placed on Dale by the Associated Press and more serious threats faced by Yahya.

Since the article was published, I’ve been in almost daily contact with co-author Yahya in Amman, Jordan.  He has related ongoing threats of imprisonment by the Jordanian police for his travel to Syria if he were to continue to report on this story or grant further press interviews.  Yahya has also described increasing pressure from Saudi actors to retract his story and the specific allegation by Ghouta residents of a rebel link to Prince Bandar.

In line with Dale’s description of Yahya as “a reputable journalist” to the New York Times, she distanced herself from the article only after stating in emails to MintPress that the Associated Press demanded her name be removed from the byline nearly two days after the article published.  She has not informed MintPress of the AP’s reason for this request—nor why they and National Public Radio (NPR), subsequently, suspended her.  For background on the situation, here is the timeline of events:


  • Feb 8: Freelance journalist Dale Gavlak—an Associated Press stringer for nearly a decade—joins MintPress News (MPN) as Middle East Correspondent and files her first of 26 weekly articles on regional news and politics.
  • Aug 28: Dale pitches the Ghouta story to her MPN editors.  She then conducts research, fact checks with colleagues and Jordanian government officials and writes up article based on interviews her reporter colleague, Yahya Ababneh, conducted a few days prior while on a delegation to Ghouta, Syria.  Dale files the story to MPN.
  • Aug 29: Dale emails with readers about the report after it is published at MintPressNews.com with the byline note: “This is a collaborative report by Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh.”
  • Aug 30: Dale notifies MPN by email that editors at the Associated Press are demanding her name be removed from the article byline by end of day.
  • Aug 31: MPN cites editorial transparency for not removing Dale from byline and, instead, adds clarification of her exact role that now appears at top of article.
  • Sept 1: MPN receives letter from Dale’s attorney demanding it remove her name from byline completely.
  • Sept 3: Dale accepts payment from MPN for her role in the article.
  • Sept 12: Yahya informs MPN via Skype of first visit by Saudi actors.
  • Sept 13: Through legal counsel, MPN offers to remove Dale and Yahya’s names both completely from the byline and replace with the statement: “MintPress, in order to protect the authors of this story from any retribution or outside pressure, has removed the authors’ names from this story.  MintPress believes in the journalistic efforts produced by all of the parties involved in this story but does not want to see any harm come to any of the parties.”
  • Sept 20: Dale claims MPN “incorrectly used my byline” in a statement to bloggerBrown Moses.
  • Sept 21: Dale shares Aug 29 email to MPN on NY Times “Lede Blog”: “Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh’s byline. I helped him write up this story but he should get all the credit for this.”  MPN’s Mnar Muhawesh makes her only public statement on the situation.
  • Sept 26: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cites allegations in MPN report as evidence in talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and in press interviews at the UN General Assembly.
  • Oct 7: Yahya notifies MPN that the United Nations commissioned him to present his witnesses for the UN Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013.
  • Oct 14: Yahya informs MPN via email of visit by Jordanian police: “i am ok, and they find two Saudi arabia one of them his name [REDACTED], he is a Salafi, I know him before, he try to find me and give me to KSA police in Saudi, they know an old police man (he retired) they still fellow, they ask me to make a statement which say opisit of the report about Bender”.
  • Oct 28: Yahya describes conversation with Saudi actors in email to MPN: “any way, they ask me to go to Saudi and say sorry, and talk to Saud TV live to tell them that i was under pressure when i was in Syria. they (my tribe) have a pressure too in Suad, they ask them in the borders and airport about me.”

We deeply sympathize with Dale and Yahya as they continue to endure pressures from interests seeking to silence their reporting.  Their courage, and that of many reporters before them, has emboldened MintPress to expose these threats to investigative journalism and has served to strengthen our commitment to in-depth reporting on social justice and human rights issues.

As an independent journalism startup that found itself embroiled in an international crisis, we’re grateful for the advice and assistance provided by experts at The Poynter Institute and Knight Foundation as well as International Federation of Journalists and Human Rights Watch.

Again, I appreciate your support and truly value your readership.  I welcome any questions about the report, ensuing events and our ongoing coverage of the Syrian conflict.

Best regards,

Mnar A. Muhawesh.

Editor in Chief, MintPress News.

It becomes immediately clear from the above statement that the fantastical conspiracies posited by BuzzFeeds’ Rosie Gray and former Guardian Editor Brian Whitaker, to name but two, were clearly based on nothing more than wild speculation in a vain and somewhat organised attempt to discredit the report; it is no coincidence Gavlaks’ disassociation statement was initially handed to Brian Whitakers eager protegé “Brown Moses”, aka Eliot Higgins, to promote right alongside his lead effort in touting dubious “evidence” pointing the finger at the Syrian army as responsible for Ghouta, much of which has now been thoroughly debunked.

The immediate questions then remain: why so much effort from establishment media players to discredit and smear? Why are elements of Jordanian and Saudi security services threatening Yahya Ababneh and his family, and attempting to force him to retract the statements he gathered in Ghouta if they are merely falsehood, or baseless planted rumour? And why did the AP and NPR suspend Gavlak even though she made (futile) attempts to disassociate from the report to save her career and her colleagues safety?

The logical answer is that those reflected negatively in Yahya Ababneh and Dale Gavlaks’ Ghouta report have something to hide, and are going to great lengths to keep it hidden.

Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”.

Following the news that Mother Agnes Miriam, a nun who heads the Musalaha (reconciliation) initiative in Syria, was due to speak at the Stop The War conference in London, two journalists also due to speak at the event, Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones, decided to withdraw participation unless Mother Agnes was removed from the speaking list. At the time of writing, neither “journalist” has offered to explain their act of public censure and decision to bolster Zionist-led smear campaigns; aside from a few tweets expressing their “concern” over sharing a platform with an evil Assad-supporting nun. It seems baseless conspiracy theories are more than acceptable in the higher echelons of “professional” journalism, as long as the target of said conspiracy is a supporter of an enemy state of the west and Israel.

The justification for this blatant act of censorship came in the form of a crass campaign of smear and character assassination. One primarily led by outright Israeli/Neo-Conservative propagandist-extraordinaire Michael D. Weiss, a former Director of a now defunct Zionist pressure group called Just Journalism, whose stated goals included focusing on “how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media.” Weiss, also a former fellow at the Neo-Conservative war-lobby “think-tank” the Henry Jackson Society, is now a lead rebel advocate pimping his “expertise” at Saudi Arabia/Hariri propaganda outlet NOW Lebanon – all whilst writing up US military intervention proposals for the Syrian opposition. It is also no coincidence that Mr. Weiss was a lead proponent of the fairy-tale narratives of one Liz OBagy, an utter fraud sanitizing the image of the rebels on behalf of a US State Department funded rebel lobbying group and the equally hawkish Neo-Conservative PR outlet The Institute for the Study of War. Needless to say, Weiss, and his cabal of pro-rebel Hariri propagandists and Zionist apologists are more than pleased at Jones and Scahill’s somewhat orchestrated decision to pressure Stop the War into dropping Mother Agnes.

Mother Agnes, according to the plethora of pro-rebel US and Zionist media accounts, is an evil “Assad apologist”. As a result of Agnes’ support of the Syrian government and calls for peaceful reconciliation, the Al Qaeda apologists rife within western and Israeli media took it upon themselves to instigate a campaign of hatred-filled smear and baseless accusation.

Since the onset of the Syrian conflict, Mother Agnes has made efforts to combat the skewed narratives emerging from corrupt western, Israeli, and Gulf Oil and Gas media – not least regarding the controversial issue of the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta, Damascus. Contrary to the smears, Agnes doesn’t deny people died during the incident, nor offer a complete alternative narrative. Her questions surrounding the event are entirely focused on the many inconsistencies and inaccuracies within the “official narrative” and the dubious YouTube videos touted as impartial evidence. It seems the CIA were also less than convinced of the US governments “assessment”; so much so that a mass resignation was threatened if their name was attached to John Kerry’s dodgy dossier. Furthermore, a considerable open source collaborative effort to determine the perpetrator of the alleged chemical weapons attack has drawn the logical, and somewhat scientific conclusion that only the rebels could have been responsible. In addition, the much politicised UN report that attempted to point the finger at the Syrian army has also come under much scrutiny from highly qualified avenues for its poor methodologies and misleading conclusions. Regardless of all the  above, the fact Mother Agnes actually resides in Syria, is the head of an organisation that has mediated between warring factions and enabled the safe evacuation of civilians, and consistently calls for peaceful reconciliation and dialogue, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of rabid western pundits eager to demonize anyone that dare question, or offer a counter narrative to their fabrication-laden fantasies on Syria.

The self-described “leftist” UK political commentator Owen Jones has written virtually nothing on the Syrian conflict. His understanding of events is largely based on the dominant narratives portrayed in western media. No doubt, like any self-respecting petty bourgeois leftist of London, Jones gets his information from the wests supposed liberal establishment newspapers, who in recent years have stood proudly alongside right-wing media in cheerleading for disastrous western-led wars of aggression. The conflict in Syria has been no exception, the Guardian’s totally skewed coverage,  that lends more from Whitehall/CIA/Mossad talking points than it does reality, has been well documented and debunked. Accordingly, Jones’ ideas on Syria fall in line with this narrative: yes, the “Islamist rebels” are BAD guys (meaning there are some GOOD moderate guys that nobody can find yet, or, in Owen’s case even name), but Assad is a dictator, a war criminal, “barbarous”, “he needs to go”. Any reflection on cause and effect; the long and relevant historical context of US-led subversion and instigation of terrorist insurgencies in the name of “revolution”; or the underlying geopolitical dynamics that helped to create and exacerbate the extremist-led insurgency is far too much nuance for Jones’ simplistic binary narratives: Assad is BAD, and anyone that supports the Syrian government or refuses to support its ouster through coercion or violence is also BAD, by definition. What then, do Jones’ simplistic definitions mean for the millions of Syrians that still support their President and government? Well, like the nun, they are obviously evil and severely misguided. I mean, what would they know, Living in Syria and all? This stance of vulgar superiority is indicative of the vast undercurrent of western bourgeois Orientalism which still oozes from the pores of western media and its decrepit “journalists” when their stance on “others” threatens to detriment their self-imposed “credibility”.

The informative blog “Interventions Watch”, explores Jones’ apparent moral confusion further:

Jones is a member and supporter of the Labour party, and thinks other lefties should be as well. As is hardly a secret, Labour is a party that plays host to plenty of major war criminals and apologists for those war criminals, but that apparently isn’t enough for him to want to part ways with them. Indeed, he has in the past quite happily appeared on platforms with John Prescott, who was deputy Prime Minister at the time of the aggression against Iraq – not just an apologist for war crimes then, but an active participant in them.

Yet this predicament seems completely lost on Jones. In one instance, he is a paid-up member of a UK political party that played a lead role in no less than genocide; in an act of military and economic aggression on Iraq totally against International Law, not to mention morality. He sits beside these politicians and pleads with leftist thinkers to join them and “change them from within”. A million or so Iraqi lives can be forgotten, there’s a few good eggs in this elitist manifestation of conciliatory Mensheviks, join us! But when it comes to possibly sharing a stage with a nun from Syria who happens to support her government and army in its fight against a foreign-funded, foreign instigated, foreign-led, and extremist dominated terrorist insurgency, Jones wont be part of it.

This bourgeois trait of selective free-speech through groupthink coercion is indicative of just how corrupt the western media system truly is. Supposed “leftist” anti-war commentators now feel they are an authority to dictate and pressure who should be able to participate in public events, and wilfully swallow the smears of Zionist propagandists rather than do their own research, or, heaven forbid, judge people on the content of what they are actually saying.

Evidently, Jones’ moral outrage is selective at best, one could convincingly argue its nothing more than careerist popularism – with a dash of orientalist superiority for good measure. Sure, sit next to war-criminals of “our” variety, you wont get smeared with the dreaded “apologist” brush in the elitist media you participate and benefit from – hell, most of their “barbarous” crimes are long forgotten, so not much to worry about. But sit next to a nun that supports a current enemy of the west? Forget it.

Stop the War have just released a statement confirming that Mother Agnes has “withdrawn” from the conference. Cheers to Zionist apologists of the apartheid state, propagandists of an Al Qaeda insurgency in Syria, and Owen Jones.

Syria analysts, impartial? Not likely.

As is evident with the vast majority of coverage on the MIddle East, the analysis used to bolster media narratives on Syria is predominantly derived from paid “think-tank” commentators posing as objective scholars. To the discerning reader, this dynamic of the mass media relying on dubiously attached “analysts” is in itself nothing new.

In an op-ed titled “The Sham Terrorist Expert Industry”  journalist Glenn Greenwald offers a compelling in-depth critique of the dominant clique of highly ideological “analysts” pervasive within the realm of US national security and foreign policy media. This “clique” – whose primary objectives are to propagate policies of the states or corporations that created the institutions they work for – has extended into the majority of western “analysis” on the Middle East, not least in regard to the Syrian conflict. Indeed, in many cases the analysts and supposed experts covering Syria are employed by the very same dominant institutions (WINEP, et al), and sit in the very same offices, as the frauds in Greenwald’s aforementioned article. The common talking points provided by this band of charlatans generally fall in line with the current of demonizing Muslim nations in general, in order to “other” the primary targets of western aggression; overblowing the threat of “Islamic terror” in the west to bolster the governing class’ “need” for oppressive National Security laws, solely designed to encroach upon the publics civil liberties and curtail the possibility of domestic dissent to the ruling systems; while advancing whatever bolsters US/Israeli geopolitical interests at any given time.

Yet, during the course of the Syrian conflict, this corporate analysis industry has exhibited an about-turn of discourse, and in stark contrast to the usually anti-Islamic propaganda utilised to bolster fabricated domestic “threats”; the “tailored analysis” of militia in Syria has been in the majority of a favourable approach. More often than not, such favourable analyses regarding opposition militants has been proven to be entirely false. What’s more, in some instances, it has become blatantly obvious that said think-tanks have gone to great lengths to mitigate the fundamentalist ideologies rife within the ranks and leadership of Syrian “rebel” forces.

The much publicised fraud Liz O’Bagy, offers perhaps the prime example of the war-lobby’s propaganda apparatus and its pervasive attempts to build support for the Syrian insurgency under patently absurd “secular freedom fighter” narratives. O’Bagy was formerly employed by the Neo-Conservative lobbying group posing as an objective conflict-analysis center called The Institute for the Study of War. A think-tank whose board of directors reads like a whos-who of past and present US military establishment. Moreover, the ISW’s main donors and “clients”, ie: those that ultimately determine the organisations output, are the biggest military contractors on Earth. It is these same “interests” that represent the direct financial beneficiaries of a possible US-led (overt) war on Syria. Regardless of the ISW’s ties to the military industry, O’Bagy was regularly paraded in western media as an impartial expert on Syria. Only once her fraudulent doctorate claims were exposed was any scrutiny placed upon OBagy or the outfit she worked for. Since then, the ISW continues to be portrayed as an objective source of analysis whilst O’Bagy has become the scapegoat for the whole sordid affair. Any serious investigation of the mendacious agenda at the ISW, and the State Department funded rebel-lobbying group the “Syrian Emergency Task Force” (SETF) has conveniently been forgotten.

In relation, and as evidenced in a detailed report by the Public Accountability Initiative, the military and corporate ties held by prominent commentators pushing for war on Syria became particularly blatant during the immediate aftermath of the alleged chemical weapons attacks. One such commentator, Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to George W. Bush, made a series of high-profile media appearances advocating US military strikes on Syria. On almost every occasion, the fact Hadley served as a director of Raytheon Corp. – the producer of the tomahawk missiles being prepared for use in a “strike” on Syria – and would therefore financially benefit from the imminent use of such weaponry, was totally omitted; giving the viewer the false impression of Hadley as an objective and experienced “National Security” expert.

Regularly quoted analysts providing sound-bites and “insight” regarding the Syrian insurgency in western media have invariably been employees of “think-tanks” with dubious ties to the military and corporate establishments of the west and Israel. This vested interest within analysis ostensibly portrayed as objective is not only prevalent in the higher echelons of the commentariat, nor is it explicit to coverage of critical junctures during the conflict. Rather, it is endemic throughout such analysis and feeds down to lesser-known beneficiaries: manipulable low-level employees and young interns keen to “get ahead” in the realm of “National Security” agitprop. In turn, think-tanks providing analyses that lend credibility to a desired corporate media narrative are promoted and given exposure, regardless of how many times such analysis is proven wrong – or worse still, proven as intentionally misleading.

The Washington institute for Near East Policy (WINEP, founded by AIPAC members including Martin Indyk, now of the monolithic US think-tank the Brookings institution) is arguably the most prominent example of the organised propaganda ubiquitous in western media coverage of the Middle East. Its board of directors exhibits a long history of US establishment Neo-Conservatives and Zionists alike. Described by Columbia University’s Professor of Arab studies Rashid Khalidi as the “most important Zionist propaganda tool in the United States”; WINEP employs a plethora of devout Zionists, US establishment figures, and promoters of the apartheid state with the specific intention of flooding US foreign policy discourse with a pro-Israeli bias. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimers’ book: “The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy” gives a detailed account of WINEP’s methodology: “Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

Accordingly, WINEP has been at the forefront of providing biased and skewed analysis that forms much of western media’s talking points on Syria. The self-described “Hezbollah expert” Matt Levitt (who has incidentally never spoken to a member of Hezbollah), lacking any credible evidence, has consistently exaggerated Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict. In similar vein, WINEP analyst Andrew J. Tabler has been published in western media relentlessly and has consistently advocated further US military intervention. It becomes once again evident that, in the context of Syria, WINEP’s general “analysis” has been built in order to bolster governing narratives required to undertake US/Israeli objectives, whether that analysis is sound, or not, is entirely irrelevant.

The oft-referenced Syria analyst Charles Lister, of IHS Janes’ “Terrorism and Insurgency Center” provides one such example of the corporate end of the spectrum. Lister is prominently touted in western media as an objective, informed source of analysis on rebel groups in Syria. Indeed, his twitter feed and sporadic articles give the impression he spends much of his time studying “rebel” groups in Syria for a benevolent and impartial “terrorism center”. However, contrary to this perception, Lister’s employer, IHS, describes itself as a “global information company… shaping todays business landscape” and promotes itself as “one of the leading global providers of critical technical information, decision support tools and related services to customers in the energy, defense, aerospace, construction and automotive industries,”. Again, and in accordance with the ISW’s military roll-call of directors; IHS Janes board of directors and investors reads like a who’s-who of western corporate special interest of past and present – from Goldman Sachs to Citigroup. To give this elite public relations company, its employees, and its offspring of “tailored information” the credence of objectivity is tantamount to blind stupidity. In line with the uniform analysis, Lister was a leading proponent of the “secular, democratic revolutionary” narrative, which he still upholds to this day. Although his analysis has become less anachronistic and he acknowledges the extremist ideologies and dominance within the rebels; Lister still refuses to abandon the fantasy of a “nationalist” uprising. This disingenuous western-promoted line of a nationalist and democratic militant insurgency morphing into an extremist-led war simply doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny.

An example of the manipulable intern is provided by the analyst Aymenn AJ Tamimi, who has become a prominent source for media on the extreme factions in Syria. Concentrating on coverage of Da’wah and civilian “outreach” that Al Qaeda operatives Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) so kindly provide for the people of Syria, Tamimi primarily writes lengthy reports detailing ISIS’ efforts to learn from their mistakes in Iraq, and how ISIS are now determined to win “hearts and minds” through social programs and so forth. His analysis has consistently highlighted the small instances of ISIS success at avoiding alienating the Syrian communities which they invade and dominate. While providing a knowledgable, and what seems well-sourced overview of ISIS et al, from a supposed objective point of view, there is a distinct aversion to the many well publicised and brutal crimes the ISIS commit. For example; it seems odd that Tamimi, an oft-quoted expert on ISIS no-less, made no effort to analyse the Latakia massacres and mass-kidnappings that occurred in early August 2013. Indeed, any negative reflection of this whole event – led by ISIS no less – is almost entirely omitted from Tamimi’s analysis and impressive body of work. In comparison to his coverage of ISIS Da’wah, or “outreach” as he labels it, his coverage of ISIS crimes and atrocities is minimal. Moreover, Tamimi has relied on anonymous “ISIS sources” to form the backbone of much of his work; often resulting in a favourable or bias interpretation of events.

Tamimi is listed as “Shillman Ginsburg fellow” at the Middle East Forum (MEF), which for all intents and purposes is an outright Zionist/Neo-Conservative think-tank with a stated mission of “promot[ing] American interests in the Middle East and protect[ing] Western values from Middle Eastern threats.” In addition, the MEF outlines those “American interests” as being: “fighting radical Islam; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; developing strategies to deal with Iraq and contain Iran; and monitoring the advance of Islamism in Turkey. Domestically, the Forum combats lawful Islamism; protects the freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers; and works to improve Middle East studies in North America.” (emphasis added)

Upon reading the MEF’s mission statement, it again seems counterproductive for an overtly Islamophobic propaganda outlet allowing its fellowship interns enough freedom to portray ISIS and their affiliates in a favourable fashion. The MEF is affiliated to none other than raging Zionist/NeoCon Daniel Pipes, who has consistently called for heavier US military involvement in Syria. In April 2013 upon (falsely) assuming the “rebels” were winning the fight, Pipes demanded that an about turn was necessary and the US should actively support Bashar al-Assad in order to “guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.” Pipes’ proposal, coincidentally of course, precisely reflects the “optimal scenario” of the Israeli military establishment. Again, it strikes as odd then, that an analyst who spends the majority of his time studying radical Islamic groups in Syria in such a favourable light gains fellowship at an institution headed by Zionist/Neoconservative Islamophobes.

These are but a few examples of a vast and sophisticated propaganda apparatus; built and paid for by global military and corporate institutions to consume the media discourse with preferential analysis and commentary. The “tailored analysis” to sanitize the image of the “rebels” in Syria has required the western/Israeli think-tank industry to engage in a lengthy period of cognitive dissonance.

There is a simple explanation for Zionists and NeoCons promoting and sanitizing Islamic extremists in Syria: the paymasters of Western/Israeli dominated think-tanks promoted in mass media hold a similar objective to that of the paymasters of the brainwashed extremists and criminals engaged in an insurgency being portrayed as a struggle for democracy; that common objective being the overthrow of the Syrian government and the subsequent destruction of the Syrian state. It has become an almost mainstream fact that Israel and Saudi Arabia – the latter being by far the largest supporter of the Salafi/Jihadi militia in Syria, nay, on earth – share many common objectives in the region; their mutual conflict and hostility toward the Resistance bloc, led by Iran, providing the fundamental platform for the increasingly close relationship between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

The “Redirectional” policies of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – designed to mitigate opposition to their regional dominance and bolster radical Sunni fundamentalist ideologues in order to attack their mutual enemy: the Resistance bloc of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah – erroneously labelled “the Shi’ite crescent” – has made unlikely analytical bedfellows. Quite literally, apologists and propagandists of Zionists, Neo-Conservatives, liberal interventionists, and Al Qaeda no less, have all found common ground on Syria. Accordingly, this alliance has manifested itself in the uniform commentary provided by corporate public relations firms that dominate analysis within mass media.

The Guardian’s MIddle East Editor does Israel’s dirty work.

In a report titled “Hezbollah shows strain of Syria war”, The Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black, explains to the reader that Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah “sounds more troubled than defiant when he talks about the Syrian war these days”. Black doesn’t offer the reader a link to Nasrallah’s latest speech to check, nor any translation off this supposed “troubled” tone, nor indeed a single quote. Instead Black offers the reader his own insight into the Hezbollah leaders mindset, bolstered by none other than Zionist agitprop extraordinaire: Matt Levitt. The Guardian also fail to disclose Mr. Levitts’ correct bio, or the fact he is employed by the propaganda arm of the Israel lobby (AIPAC), otherwise known as the Washington institute for Near East Policy, (WINEP).

It comes across as immediately contradictory, then, that Black follows this baseless assertion with a reminder that Nasrallah “lambasted” Saudi Arabia for trying to block a political solution in Syria. It’s almost as if Black is disappointed that his subject isn’t calling for further bloodshed. Not only did Nasrallah “lambast” Saudi Arabia, he pointed the finger at the Saud monarchy for the continuing violence, alluding to the Saudis proxy in Lebanon (March 14/Hariri), Nasrallah said: “All the events in Syria are tied to the events in Lebanon because there is a certain party that has linked everything in Lebanon to what is happening in Syria. They are disrupting political life as they wait for the result of the events in Syria to impose their own conditions.”

Further, in a more direct attack on the Saudis, Nasrallah states: “Saudi Arabia is angry with the way things are going in Syria and is seeking to disrupt and postpone the Geneva II Conference. Disrupting the political solution in Syria means more destruction, more victims, more killing.” Troubled, maybe, but a lack of defiance?

The Guardian report goes on to state that “Thousands of [Hezbollah] men have been deployed in Damascus, Deraa, Homs and Aleppo. Casualty figures are estimated at around 200 killed.” The vague number of “thousands” is a rather broad term, is it two thousand, or ten thousand? Mr. Black, nor the Guardian, have the faintest idea, but “thousands” sounds about right; the Israeli’s favourite American propagandist Matt Levitt told them no doubt. Black’s report claims the organisation is “fatigued and overstretched”, again, he doesn’t provide any evidence for this description, nor a name for the quote itself, it’s just an anonymous breath of fresh air that Black expects his reader to lap-up without question, the author is quite literally placing unattributable, baseless, fabrications to fit his desired narrative.

Black tells the reader that “blowback” has come to Lebanon, as a result of Hezbollah’s incursion into Syria, he again fails to add the relevant context that Lebanese/Syrian border towns had been attacked by extremist Syrian “rebels” for months prior to Hezbollah taking any action. Moreover, Black omits that Al Qaeda ideologues and extremists have used Lebanon’s porous border with Syria as a staging ground and logistics hub to launch the Syrian insurgency since virtually the first week of the crisis; feeding fighters and arms through sympathetic parties – including members of the March 14th alliance MP Okab Sakr and the assassinated former intelligence Chief Wissam a-Hassan to name but two. “Blowback” was indeed inevitable, whether Hezbollah made attempts to curtail this Saudi/Hariri arms pipeline to Al Qaeda in Syria, or not.

Without a single mention of the complete illegality of such aggression, Black then goes on to describe how Israel’s latest extra-judicial murder through air-strike is a “set-back” for Hezbollah, the sixth “raid” in the last few months no less! Aren’t those Israeli’s just great guys? Of course, the target – and we all know how well Israel hit their targets – were supposed SAM’s being transferred from Syria to Hezbollah. Again, not a scrap of evidence has been provided for this claim, or the airstrike itself, other than vague reports from opposition belligerents and eager-to-leak anonymous US “officials”. Equally disconcerting, Black fails to mention that even if such deliveries were being made to Hezbollah, the Israeli “raids” are still a total violation of International Law. Not only this, a surface to air missile system is zero “threat” to his beloved Israel, these systems serve one purpose: shooting things out of the sky. It is primarily a defensive weapon ostensibly used against attacking aircraft; you know, the Israeli aircraft that flaunt international law and bomb Arab countries and murder their civilians with impunity. In the Guardian and Ian Blacks’ eyes, such deterrence is a no-go, indeed, Black points out with glee the new possibilities the Syria conflict has provided the Israeli airforce: “The lesson is that the war in Syria, now in its third bloody year, makes it much easier for the Israelis to strike at Hezbollah without provoking a response. Nasrallah and Assad already have quite enough on their plates.” Blacks’ disguised pleasure in Israel’s new-found ease to bomb Arabs with impunity seems hard for him to conceal.

An equally fact-free assumption follows when Black states that: “Iran’s support for Assad [is] probably far more significant than assistance to the rebels from the Gulf states”. There are a multitude of things wrong with this vapid sentence. Does an editor often include “probably” when discussing such issues? Does Mr. Black provide any evidence that his assumption may be held in fact and not fantasy? And does Mr. Black realise, after three years of having the opportunity, that the Syrian Army and Government is a state-actor perfectly entitled to receive any support it requires from its allies? On the other hand, the “rebels” are a plethora of non-state extremist and criminal militia waging a terrorist insurgency upon a state and its infrastructure. Yet, for some strange reason, Mr. Black continues to place these two belligerents on some sort of moral and legal equal footing. Black attempts to bolster this blatant duplicity with a link to the recently released footage of Iranian revolutionary guards operating in Syria: This dubious “evidence” of “far more significant” Iranian assistance – even if proven – pales in comparison to the tonnes of footage of foreign fighters, and reems of reports on the foreign actors arming and funding the opposition to the tune of billions of dollars. It is virtually the first time in almost three years that IRGC personnel have allegedly been seen in Syria.

Black ends his Israeli propaganda fluff-piece by pitching “terrorist expert” Mathew Levitt’s latest book of fabrications and baseless speculation. Alluding to the marine barracks bombing of October 1983, Black tells us that the “US intercepted” a message (yes, you guessed it, the ever-trustworthy Middle East SIGINT of the US, aka: Israel) from the Iranian intelligence ministry to their Damascus ambassador: “It instructed Iran’s ambassador in Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, to contact Hussein al-Musawi, the leader of Islamic Amal (a precursor to Hezbollah) and to direct him to “take spectacular action” against the Americans. The warning did not prevent the attack, which killed 241 US and 58 French personnel.” Contrary to this “precursor” narrative, and in spite of decades of strenuous Israeli/American efforts to tie Hezbollah directly to the marine barracks attack; there is zero evidence to suggest that Hezbollah as a formal group participated in the bombing. Black is once again playing loose with the facts. Musawi was indeed a founding member of Islamic Amal, a splinter group of the Shi’a Amal movement (an intermittent foe of Hezbollah) formed during the Lebanese civil war, and indeed, his group did pledge allegiance to Iran. Musawi himself later joined Hezbollah and served on the consultative council – before Israel assassinated him. Accordingly, there were several such Shi’a groups operating at the time of the civil war, most of which became part of Hezbollah prior to its official formation in 1985 – two years after the marine barracks bombing. Whether Musawi and others participated in the bombing and subsequently became members of Hezbollah is far too nuanced a point to include in this pathetic attempt to demonize Israel’s enemy.

Black’s article provides yet another example of how western Middle East Editors, when discussing the Arab world, invariably parrot Israeli propaganda with scant regard for relevant context or the facts.