In recent weeks, the surge in protests in Syria has dominated the international stage. Suddenly, countless individuals have become experts on the current situation in Syria after reading a few articles on CNN, watching Barbara Walters interview Bashar al-Assad, and because Barack Obama said so. However, the situation in Syria is unique from its sister protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of the conveniently timed uprisings in the Middle East. It should be noted that this article is far from an absolute gospel on who to believe about Syria and which side to be on. Instead, it is an invitation for readers and concerned global citizens to consider the facts and disparities between what the mainstream media is reporting about Syria and the actual conflicts taking place inside the country.
Ironically, many individuals who typically question the objectivity of the media have eagerly believed the mainstream narrative about Syria, despite clear contradictions between independent reports regarding the situation and the media's spin. This is where the uniqueness of Syria comes into play: Bashar al-Assad is by no means an angel, and he is certainly not in the running for world's most compassionate leader award. However, very little initiative has been taken to answer the following questions:
How reliable is the United Nations Human Rights report on Syria? The report authors, who happen to include munitions manufacturer Raytheon (they supplied NATO with salvos for its operations in Libya), themselves admit that they were never inside Syria to complete their investigation. Instead, they interviewed witnesses provided by the Syrian opposition. The Syrian government did not respond to allegations in the report, and to say it is one-sided would be putting it gently. Media outlets have done little to investigate the UN report and have instead used it to promote sensational headlines calling for regime change in Syria.
What's at stake for the United States? Hidden interests in the Middle East are nothing revolutionary to expose. In fact, everyone expects the United States and other Western powers to meddle in the affairs of sovereign nations. What is surprising is the lack of questioning directed towards US interests when it comes to Syria. According to the Washington Post, "Classified US diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as six million dollars to opposition groups since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria."
Why is the Arab League Mission being questioned? Initially the opposition in Syria welcomed the visit by 150 Arab League observers into Syria. The mission was also endorsed by Syria in what was an Arab League plan which called for the withdrawal of military forces and a halt of violence against civilians. However, the Arab League mission has taken issue with some of the narratives emerging from media sources concerning Syria. Many were anticipating the Arab League mission to fail in stopping the violence and allow for possible foreign military intervention in Syria. Instead, the officials in the mission are reporting findings that contradict accusations which were previously wildly held against the Syrian regime, including that of government snipers attacking protestors. However, the Syrian government has also complained that snipers are attacking both protestors and Syrian troops. The head of the Arab Parliament recently called for the withdrawal of the Arab League monitors, claiming it gave Syria "cover" for its ongoing violations. The timing of the call to pull the Arab League out of Syria and the ongoing campaign to discredit the head of the Arab League monitors, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, raise questions regarding the motive behind the mission and whether or not a truly independent task force can be sent to Syria.
What and who is backing the Free Syria Army? Very little is known about the movement to overthrow the Syrian regime aside from the clear foreign backing it receives. Are the protestors aligned with this movement? How many opposition parties are involved, and what is the end goal of the protests? Civil unrest in a country rarely warrants the funding and backing of numerous outside countries, unless there are vested interests at stake. Recent terrorist attacks which are unusual to Syria but common in countries where foreign intervention has been staged have added to the growing list of puzzles when it comes to Syria. What is known, according to the Telegraph, is that Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, "met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey," said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. "Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there." What should be questioned or at least researched into is Belhadj's ties to al-Qaeda and the fact that his organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is listed by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. Is it a mere coincidence that as soon as groups affiliated with terrorism start associating with segments of the Syrian opposition that car bombs start to go off in the middle of Damascus?
When it comes to Syria, asking one question leads down a road populated with others. Although it would be more convenient to simply believe what the media and world powers are insisting about the country, individuals with conscience should consider the above questions and the many ahead when it comes to the situation in Syria.