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Turkish journalist reports from Aleppo; finds Syrians oppose Jihadism, support Assad, grateful to Hezbollah and Russia

Turkish journalist Fehim Taştekin in second report from Aleppo casts further doubts about Western claims about the Syrian war.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Turkish journalist Fehim Taştekin has provided Al Monitor with a highly interesting follow up to his previous report on the situation Aleppo, which cast doubt on some of the claims the Western media made during the fighting there.

As I have said previously, Taştekin is the only mainstream media journalist of a NATO country I know of to have visited Aleppo since the end of the fighting there apart from the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen.  However in contrast to Jeremy Bowen’s bland and disappointing report, Taştekin’s reports are informative and interesting.

Based on interviews Taştekin straightforwardly contradicts Western claims that the Syrian conflict is a religious civil war pitting President Assad’s Alawite regime against Syria’s Sunni majority

Contrary to persistent popular analysis from abroad, the country is not divided. Despite sectarian campaigns and clashes by jihadis financed with money they received from the Gulf, Syrians did not split along sectarian lines. There was no sectarian divide between the Syrian army and the people, as some said. When you carefully observe the internal dynamics, you can see it was not a war between Alawites and Sunnis or Christians and Muslims.

Only in Homs, when the clashes began, did systematic attacks by Sunnis against Alawites, Shiites and Christians trigger a sectarian divide, but that was short-lived.

Aleppo is the best example that this was not a sectarian war. At least six Sunni religious notables were killed in Aleppo because they rejected an armed uprising. Sunni religious figures were constantly under threat for not joining the war. The most annoying question you can ask soldiers on the Aleppo front is whether they are Sunni or Alawite. Nothing angers Syrians as much as this question.

Though I have never visited Syria my numerous interactions with various Syrians over several decades tend to bear this out.  I wrote about this back in February 2016.  Here is what I said

The reality of Syria [……] is of a society that prior to the war had successfully avoided the sectarian divisions that disfigured politics in neighbouring Lebanon, and where the prevailing ideology not just of the state but also of the great majority of the people was founded not on religion but on Arab nationalism.

People in Syria identified themselves first and foremost as Arabs and Syrians, not as Sunnis, Shias, Alawites, Christians or Druze.

My own experience in dealing with many Syrians is that the fact the country’s leader – whether Hafez Al-Assad or his son Bashar – was from an Alawite family was always of much more interest to outsiders than it was to Syrians themselves. In the case of Hafez Al-Assad his undoubted intelligence, and his success in defending Syrian and Arab interests by standing up to the US and Israel, earned him a grudging respect even from those Syrians who deplored his regime for its arbitrariness and corruption……

This is not to say that there has not always been in Syria a minority of people who are hardline sectarian Sunni religious fundamentalists. Whilst it is impossible to say what proportion of the population before the start of the war held these views, the best estimates I heard from people who know the country is that they were less than a tenth of the total population, and that they were concentrated disproportionately in a small number of provincial cities such as Hama, Idlib and Homs.

At this point it is necessary to say that the common view that religious sectarianism in places like Syria is a rural peasant phenomenon is wrong. Most rural Sunnis in Syria and elsewhere are devout. However extreme Sunni religious sectarianism of the sort that spawns violent jihadism is – as shown by numerous studies of the background of violent jihadis – overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon.

Note Taştekin’s comment that

Only in Homs, when the clashes began, did systematic attacks by Sunnis against Alawites, Shiites and Christians trigger a sectarian divide, but that was short-lived.

Which corresponds exactly with what I had previously told by my Syrian informants that “hardline sectarian Sunni religious fundamentalists” account for

less than a tenth of the total population, and that they [are] concentrated disproportionately in a small number of provincial cities such as Hama, Idlib and Homs

(bold italics added)

I would add the “hardline sectarian Sunni religious fundamentalists” my Syrian informants spoke about before the war were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.  By comparison with today’s Wahhabi Jihadists who are waging war against the Syrian government they might even be judged ‘moderates’.

Taştekin also reports something else: that over the course of the war President Bashar Al-Assad’s stature and authority has massively increased, as Syrians have rallied behind the strong leadership he has given.  Interestingly this extends to the numerous critics of the regime he leads

As far as I could see, Assad is more popular today than before. Of course, this popularity doesn’t cover his entire regime.

According to bureaucrats, politicians and citizens Al-Monitor spoke with in Aleppo and Damascus, the system is mired in bribery and corruption and cannot survive for long. People will want to see some of the ruling officials punished. The country has paid an extraordinary price for the war and will not tolerate those profiting from cronyism, nepotism, corruption and abuse.

An Aleppo University professor who requested anonymity spoke of the war’s influence on politics.

“I oppose the regime, but I have to admit Assad managed the crisis well. At the moment, we have no alternative to him. If there were an election today, he would get more than 70% of the vote. Of course, my criticism of the regime hasn’t changed. People put their criticisms on the back burner temporarily because they realized the country was about to disintegrate. It wasn’t the right time to settle scores with the regime. But when the war is finally finished, people will want drastic changes. The government is aware of this mood and is trying to change some things. Be assured, nothing will be the same as before,” he said.

An academic who joined our discussion said, “Many heads will roll. [There is] no other way.”

As the regime has been given some period of grace by its opponents, there is no serious debate on Assad’s presidency and his legitimacy. What we have is the foreign-supported opposition holding Assad responsible for the bloodshed, and then those identified as legitimate internal opposition seeing Assad as the guarantor of the country’s integrity.

This exactly corresponds with my own impression, which I recently gave in a panel discussion for Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear.  In it I said that I had got the impression that President Assad’s stature and support had hugely increased during the war, and that any hopes or fears he would be gone when the war was over as a consequence of a peace settlement are profoundly wrong.

Lastly, Taştekin reports respect and gratitude towards Russia and Hezbollah, but considerable suspicion of Syria’s other ally Iran

Nobody challenges the role Russia will play. But it is not the same for Iran, the other major ally. It’s not hard to detect resentment among the people and even government officials of Iran’s interventionist attitude. Many Syrians even prefer an alliance with Russia because they believe Moscow is not interfering in their domestic affairs. Moreover, Al-Monitor was told that Iranians’ overbearing, superior attitude especially annoys the Syrian army.

A veteran Syrian journalist told me Iran’s assistance won’t result in Iranian influence on Syrian politics. “You have to understand the political structure in Syria. Syria’s alliances don’t allow [for] influence on the country. Assad is balancing Iran with Russians and vice versa. If Iran presses too hard, he cites Russian reservations. If Russia presses too hard, Assad then refers to Iranian objections.”

Curiously, Syrians’ unease with Iranians doesn’t apply to Iran-supported, Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which hails from the same cultural basin as Syrians. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is no less prestigious in Syria than Assad. In Damascus, Homs and elsewhere — even in Aleppo, with its prominent Sunni identity — you will see Nasrallah posters all over, and there is widespread affection for him among Christians.

In the government offices I visited, all I saw were joint photos of Nasrallah and Assad. Some shops even have Nasrallah’s portrait painted on the shutters. Street vendors sell lapel pins, cigarette lighters and wallets with photos of Assad and Nasrallah. I didn’t see a single photograph of Iranian leaders. You see Iranians on the front lines but not in city centers. In short, people distinguish between Hezbollah and Iran.

Though Taştekin does not report the fact, it is possible that some of the resentment towards Iran is due to a fairly general belief – not just in Syria but also in Russia – that last year Iran did less than it promised, sending poorly trained Shiite militias from Iraq rather than the properly trained Iranian ground troops both the Syrians and the Russians had been expecting.  However the greater part of the reason is surely the one that Taştekin says: Russia intervened in Syria in order to save the country from being overrun by Jihadi terrorists, whereas for Iran Syria is a pawn in its greater geopolitical play, which is directed at the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.  It is not surprising if some Syrians resent this.

Altogether Taştekin’s two reports from Aleppo are models of how proper reporting should be done.  They give a clear picture of the state of opinion in Aleppo and Syria.  That his reports are not being given wide coverage is a reflection of how unpopular the image he gives of the mood in Syria is with some people in the West.

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Every dirty Democrat trick shows in bid to oust Kavanaugh

American democracy truly is mob rule now, and the mob is stupid, with no one taking a moment to truly consider the situation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The most amazing thing about what is ostensibly the last minute “Hail Mary” smear campaign by the left against Judge Brett Kavanaugh is how utterly transparently partisan it is. Let’s look at the list of tactics used thus far in this very dirty escapade:

  • Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein sat on this allegation for three months, until after the confirmation hearings were over (and after no other barnstorming tactic during the confirmation hearings worked against the nominee).
  • The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is a registered Democrat, and a feminist. RT notes that she appears to have a strong interest in politics.
  • Reports of “death threats” against Dr. Ford have been reported. This is a common feature of any anti-Trump attack, to relate him to some sort of “right-wing” radicalism. This radicalism does not exist among conservatives, but the media is determined to say otherwise.
  • Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, naturally, believes Ford’s story.
  • Every Democrat senator is in agreement that this matter should table the confirmation vote. Some Republicans were at first but appear to be backing away.
  • A woman Democrat senator,  Mazie Hirono, went on record telling men to “shut up and step up.” It seems abundantly clear that this assumes that there can only be one “step” that the men are expected to do. A second lady senator , Patty Murray of Washington, gave all men a warning against stepping off the plantation by saying “Women are watching.”
  • The Senate Republicans offered a chance for Dr Ford to testify on Monday. She refused, but now she is offering to come “next Thursday” – this is ten days later, past the October 1 start date of the US Supreme Court, and closer to the November Midterm elections.

We interrupt this list to make this point. The issues at hand are threefold.

First, the Democrats and other left-wing activists are terrified that they will lose the “Warren Court”, which is the name of the Supreme Court Justice who was a major left-wing judicial activist that enabled the Court to “legislate from the bench” along liberal policy lines since 1969. If Kavanaugh comes in, even if President Trump is somehow magically removed from office, his mark will remain on the Court for at least a generation. Of course, the removal of President Trump is predicated on the Democrats regaining control of the House, which actually looks somewhat likely if polling data is to be believed, and of course a Democrat Senate. (The actual tiny caveat that the President has done absolutely nothing which warrants impeachment will not be taken into consideration. He is to be eliminated. That is Democrat point number one, and make no mistake.)

Second, if the Judge is confirmed, it will look great on the President’s achievement list and energize his voter base even more than it already is. The result could be that the Senate expands its Republican majority, and gains Trumpian conservatives in its ranks, which would likely help the President continue his really great agenda. A defeat in the House that holds or expands GOP, again with Trumpian conservatives, would solidify this, and make it more difficult to stop Trump’s re-election and further solidification of reforms in 2020.

Third, and probably even more important, is that the possibility of a third seat getting vacated on the Court in the time period between now and 2024 is relatively high. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest Justice on the Court, and she is a raving liberal. If she retires (which she promises not to do), or if she is retired by the processes of old age, Trump can score a three-peat and get a third constitutionalist justice into the Court and that will signal the closure of one of the biggest avenues of liberal activism.

To return to the list, some of the further characteristics that make this situation patently obvious are these:

  • As reported in The Duran, the smear job is looking a bit ragged around the edges as time goes by. President Trump called Dr Ford’s bluff by saying he is interested in having her come to testify and that it would be “unfortunate” if she didn’t do so. Ford’s response was as shown above, to try and delay this testimony.
  • The Hollywood “sisterhood” is on record defending Dr Ford. For them, she’s right. She said Kavanaugh did this, so she is right. And why? Because she is a woman, a feminist and a Democrat. She is one of them. It would very interesting to know if the sisterhood would stand behind a conservative woman raising such a concern against a Democrat, but we have President Clinton to show how well that all went.

This by no means concludes the list of characteristics, but as noted earlier here, anyone that does even just a little critical thinking about this can see that this issue is no moral outrage, it is strictly partisan hackery, making use of the greatest weapon against conservative men put in use over the last fifty years – the sexual allegation from a woman, who must always be believed, because the woman is always right. 

The unfortunate truth is that this tactic works. It works because most men are actually gentlemen. We honor women, and we are taught to defer to them in America, because that is what a gentleman does. Feminism takes this characteristic of men, especially in modern times who really want to make sure they treat the ladies right, and it throws it back in their face in contempt. It is so bad it even has a physiological effect on men, who are now marrying less, and having fewer kids. There are even physiological changes that result from this abuse.

Further, there is an appalling lack of critical thinking in our society. The British news site, The Independent offers a poll with questions about the Kavanaugh case. The astonishing lack of critical thinking is clearly evident as the reader votes his or her thought and then sees the results for that question. Going through the questions and observing their responses can be very illuminating.

Dr Ford is demanding an FBI investigation, but she has no date, time or location attached to the incident she accuses now-Judge Kavanaugh of perpetrating. Rush Limbaugh did a great job at showing just how absurd this demand actually is, given these glaring areas of non-knowledge and we include some of that transcript below:

What would happen, let’s say — I don’t know — in the last 10 years up to last week if any woman had walked into any FBI office in the country and said the following: “Hi. I’m here to report that I was abused 35 years ago. I was — I was — I was at a party. Uh, I was 15, a little bit to drink, and a 17-year-old guy pushed me down on top of a table and laid on top of me. And then — and then and then I think — I think — a friend came in and did something and anyway they left and I was left locked in the room. And I want to you to investigate.”

Do you think if somebody shows up at an FBI office with that story, if they show up in person with that story, that the FBI is gonna give it any time whatsoever? The agents are gonna look at each other with kind of wary eyes and they’re gonna crack silent jokes to one another. I’m not kidding. You take this out of the realm of a letter to a crazed, partisan United States senator, Dianne Feinstein, and just move this into the victim walking into an FBI office, “It was 35 years, 34 years. I’m not sure where. But I know that when I was 15, I was at a party, and some guy jumped on top of me.”

So let’s say the FBI agent decides to actually take this further and in a very respectful way says, “Well, Miss, were you raped or injured?”

“Uh, no, not really.”

“Did you report this or tell anyone at the time, 36, 35 years ago?”

“Uh, no.”

“What year was this, again, that this happened?”

“Uhhh, I’m not — I’m not sure. I think it was 1982.”

“Where did this happen?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know. I was so traumatized; I don’t remember any of it. I just remember some guy jumping on me and I was drunk and — and I don’t know. But I want you to investigate it.”

“Okay. Ma’am, were there any witnesses?”

“Just the one friend of his that pushed him off, and then they left before he could do anything.”

What would the FBI do with this, if that scenario happened in one of their field offices? I will tell you what they would do: Zip, zero, nada. And the reason for bringing it up this way is to try to shine some kind of a different light on this and try to put this kind of allegation in some kind of context. The president is handling this in a quite fascinating way. He’s saying, “I hope she shows up. I want to hear what she has to say. I really hope she shows up. I’m very interested in what she has to say. We all are. And if she shows up and if she’s credible, why, then we’re gonna have to do something about that.”

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Russian Hierarch explains Ukrainian issue in detail (VIDEO)

A Russian Orthodox Hierarch explores the incursion of earthly politics into the life, pastoral activity and needs of the Orthodox Church.

Seraphim Hanisch

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RT’s “Worlds Apart” interview program recently interviewed Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), a hierarch who heads the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. The Duran has covered the crisis in Ukraine surrounding the activity of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, of Constantinople, intended to create a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This effort falls completely outside the normal and authorized operating procedures of the Orthodox Church, but to the lay listener it is difficult to understand what the fuss really is all about.

Metropolitan Hilarion and Oksana Boyko do an excellent job with both the answers, but more importantly, the questions, since Ms. Boyko asks the questions that someone who knows nothing about the Church might ask. This situation is completely about politics and not about the true work of the Church, and Met. Hilarion answers these questions very completely and thoroughly.

One of the really interesting points that Met. Hilarion makes is the idea that the Ecumenical Patriarch seeks to bring about the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church from these four groups:

  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (which is canonical and which has not requested self-rule, called autocephaly
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church “Kyiv Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko, which is a completely schismatic group. This group, and Filaret, are leading the charge.
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church – another schismatic group that is not in communion with Filaret’s church
  • The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine – and this is truly interesting, because this group is not even Orthodox, but is an Eastern Rite group under the Pope of Rome, and is in fact Roman Catholic.

The notion of bringing together such a disparity of groups is stunning to the Metropolitan, and yet he understands the motives of the men driving this idea, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Filaret Denisenko.

While the United States is not mentioned in this interview in any prominent sense, it should be noted that this move also does have strong US support as the American political leadership has been advocating for the Poroshenko government in an effort to continue to surround and isolate Russia. As we have noted elsewhere, this series of moves may well create more problems for Russia, by design.

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James Woods Suspended From Twitter Over Satirical Meme That Could “Impact An Election”

James Woods crushes Jack Dorsey: “You are a coward, @Jack.”

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Outspoken conservative actor James Woods was suspended from posting to Twitter over a two-month-old satirical meme which very clearly parodies a Democratic advertisement campaign. While the actor’s tweets are still visible, he is unable to post new content.

The offending tweet from July 20, features three millennial-aged men with “nu-male smiles” and text that reads “We’re making a Woman’s Vote Worth more by staying home.” Above it, Woods writes “Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible.”

According to screenshots provided by an associate of Woods’, Twitter directed the actor to delete the post on the grounds that it contained “text and imagery that has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election.

In other words, James Woods, who has approximately 1.72 million followers, was suspended because liberals who don’t identify as women might actually take the meme seriously and not vote. 

In a statement released through associate Sara Miller, Woods said “You are a coward, @Jack,” referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “There is no free speech for Conservatives on @Twitter.

Earlier this month, Woods opined on the mass-platform ban of Alex Jones, tweeting: ““I’ve never read Alex Jones nor watched any of his video presence on the internet. A friend told me he was an extremist. Believe me that I know nothing about him. That said, I think banning him from the internet is a slippery slope. This is the beginning of real fascism. Trust me.”

Nu-males everywhere non-threateningly smirk at Woods’ bad fortune…

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