Al Qaeda Is Attacking Major Syrian Cities With US Weapons — But You Wouldn't Know That From the Media
Here is the deal. At the moment Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi coalition gathered around Syrian al-Qaeda, is staging an offensive towards the Syrian city of Hama. They've also launched a separate attack in Damascus.
Rather than lead with the fighter's very newsworthy al-Qaeda affiliation, the mainstream press in the west has been burying this fact or omitting it altogether.
AlterNet's Ben Norton who went through numerous reports found examples such as these:
In her coverage of the assault on Damascus, the Washington Post's Liz Sly provided a prime example of how this media whitewashing works: Sly did not even mention Tahrir al-Sham's links to al-Qaeda, referring to the group simple as "extreme." She also described a U.S.-vetted FSA faction that was fighting alongside rebranded al-Qaeda, Faylaq al-Rahman, as "moderate."
Tahrir al-Sham's attack near Hama on March 21 received extremely inadequate media coverage. Reuters described the extremist militants merely as "Syrian rebels," titling its report "Syrian rebels press major assault near Hama." The major international news agency did not mention until the 11th paragraph that this "attack is being led by Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of Islamist factions dominated by a group that was formerly al Qaeda's official affiliate in the Syrian war."
In another brief article entitled "Syrian rebels advance to within 4 km of Hama city - Observatory," Reuters noted that the assault was being "spearheaded by the jihadist alliance," but did not report this alliance's ties to al-Qaeda.
Middle East Monitor wrote early in its report that "the Hama offensive also includes Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who had agreed to a truce in December brokered by Russia and Turkey." The news outlet, which tends to take a pro-Gulf editorial stance, refers to Syrian government-aligned fighters as "Iranian-sponsored Shia jihadist militias," yet does not disclose until the 11th paragraph that, "Although the FSA are involved in the operation, the attack is being spearheaded by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, or the Syrian Liberation Organisation (SLO), an alliance of Islamist factions dominated by a group that was formerly Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian war."
Syria Direct — a non-profit journalism organization that is partnered with the U.S. State Department and Canadian government and that is funded by the Global Peace & Development Charitable Trust, which in turn is partnered with and funded by Western governments and large corporations — was even more disingenuous in its coverage.
Syria Direct did not even mention Tahrir al-Sham's connections to al-Qaeda; it simply described the extremist Salafi group as an "Islamist coalition," and noted it was fighting alongside an FSA-affiliated militia. The website also ambiguously titled its report "Syrian rebel forces launch campaign, again, to breach Hama city and airport."
While referring to numerous Salafi militias without mentioning their ties to al-Qaeda, Syria Direct also quoted three unidentified "rebel spokesmen," who "all stressed that the attack was not just a diversionary tactic but rather an all-out effort to breach the fortified regime bastion of Hama city, a long-sought prize for Syria's northern rebels."
The Guardian published a report by the Associated Press titled "Clashes in Damascus after rebels tunnel into government-held areas." The article did not mention until the eighth paragraph that the "Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), a group linked to al-Qaida, and the independent Failaq al-Rahman faction also participated in the attack."
The Associated Press article put the word terrorists in "scare quotes," writing, "Syrian state media said the military had repelled an attack by a group linked to al-Qaida after 'terrorists' infiltrated through tunnels in the middle of the night." Yet it did not use such scare quotes on the word "liberated" when writing, "The ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction said fighters had liberated the area."
"Artillery shells and rockets had landed in the heart of the city," the leading international new service noted, citing local residents. Like the pro-Gulf Middle East Monitor, the Associated Press stressed the presence of government-aligned "Shia militias" before it even acknowledged the fact that the militant-offensive was being led by an al-Qaeda-linked group.
In the second paragraph of her report, titled "Resurgent Syrian Rebels Surprise Damascus With New Assaults," The New York Times' Anne Barnard conceded that the fighters were "a mix of Islamist rebel groups and hard-line Qaeda-linked jihadists."
Reuters was much less open in its reporting. The major international news agency did not acknowledge until the 20th paragraph that these attacks were led by an al-Qaeda-linked group, and only then indirectly, through the Syrian government. "The government says the attack is being carried out by fighters of the Nusra Front, a jihadist group that was al Qaeda's official affiliate in the Syrian war until it declared they had broken off ties last year," Reuters wrote near the end of its report. "The Nusra Front is now part of an Islamist alliance called Tahrir al-Sham."As Norton notes the US mainstream media has also virtually ignored videos of Tahrir al-Sham attacking the Syrian army with US-made TOW guided anti-tank missiles. TOWs were handed to CIA-backed groups which fought side by side with al-Qaeda, and many eventually came to merge with it.
Western media outlets have consistently treated Jabhat al-Nusra, in its various rebranded forms, differently than other branches of al-Qaeda, as it happens to be attacking Western enemies: the Syrian government and its allies Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham made it clear that their rebranding efforts were an attempt to gain more legitimacy and support. Major corporate media outlets are helping the extremist group accomplish this goal.