In a second report from Aleppo by Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin, more doubts about the truthfulness of Western coverage in the Syrian war have emerged.
Tastekin’s latest findings were revealed in Al Monitor. His report on Aleppo since the end of the fighting contrast sharply with Jeremy Bowen’s disappointing coverage on the BBC.
Based on interviews Tastekin has contradicted Western claims that the Syrian conflict is a “religious civil war” pitting President Assad’s Alawite regime against Syria’s Sunni majority.
Contrary to the BBC’s reports, Syria is not divided. Analyst Alexander Mercouris says that 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, where short-lived sectarian divides visible, but have since dissappeared.
In Aleppo, Sunni religious figures were killed because they were against the army rising up to overthrow president Assad.
Sunni’s were constantly under threat for not joining the war, Tastekin’s reporting has uncovered. “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.”
“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,” Mercouris notes about the second report.
Over the course of the war President Bashar Al-Assad has grown considerably more popular, as Syrians have rallied behind the strong leadership he has given, Tastekin has revealed.
There is currently no serious debate on Assad’s presidency and his legitimacy. Only the foreign-supported opposition hold Assad responsible for the bloodshed, while those identified as legitimate internal opposition see Assad as the guarantor of the country’s integrity.
Tastekin notes the respect and gratitude towards Russia and Hezbollah, but considerable suspicion of Syria’s other ally Iran, which most deem to have an interventionist attitude.
Many Syrians prefer an alliance with Russia because they believe Moscow is not interfering in their domestic affairs. Moreover, Al-Monitor was told that Iranians’ overbearing, arrogant attitude especially annoys the Syrian army.
But Iranian-funded Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is as popular in Syria as is Assad. In Damascus, Homs and elsewhere — even in Aleppo, with its prominent Sunni identity — Nasrallah’s posters are displayed everywhere, and affection for him among Christians is obvious.
Street vendors sell lapel pins, cigarette lighters and wallets with photos of Assad and Nasrallah, Tastekon says.
As Tastekin suggests, Russia intervened in Syria in order to save the country from being overrun by Jihadi terrorists, whereas for Iran Syria might only be a pawn in its greater geopolitical play.
Meanwhile Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has called on the US to put an end to the “illegal war” she believes it wages in Syria after visiting Damascus and Aleppo, RT reported.
During her trip, she spoke with civilians, religious leaders, opposition leaders, and President Assad.
Gabbard described her privately-funded seven-day trip to Lebanon and Syria as a “fact-finding mission” to learn the truth about the war by speaking directly to the Syrian people.
She met with a number of religious leaders, including The Grand Mufti of Syria as well as the head of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo.
Gabbard also met with several leaders of the Syrian opposition who spearheaded anti-government protests in 2011. She says some of them believe that the originally peaceful uprising was hijacked by jihadists “funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States.”
Contrary to the official US narrative that terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front could be “separated” from the moderate opposition which fights by their side, Gabbard said that the Syrian people she talked with do not distinguish between the various militant groups.
“Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same,” Gabbard said, describing the essence of the Syrian conflict as “a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government.”
The itinerary was kept secret until Gabbard’s return to the US for security reasons.