Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit 2

October 8, 2013

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Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II

October 8, 2013

false flag operation posterIn my earlier article – Whodunnit in Syria I claimed that there’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21st attack outside of Damascus – and probably on a smaller scale before that – but there is a reasonable doubt if the Assad regime used sarin gas in this operation. Since then new aspects what happened are emerging and when there is some perspective about diplomatic solution it is also important to note for future developing that the roles of actors are changing in operation theatre. While these newest developments are shaping the future in Syria it is in my opinion still important to study Aug. 21st attack as it might help to plan further actions – and alliances.

The UN Report made on 13th Sep 2013 on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on Aug. 21st , 2013 has clarified many issues but left the key questions unanswered: who committed the attack and who are the victims?The UN report does not confirm anything other than chemical weapons were used. More interesting is an other report made by a Syria-based human rights group ISTEAMS. This later report has also been submitted to UN and it clarifies a bit the core question – Whodunnit?

Syrian rebels using CW

UN report

To launch a chemical weapons attack in Damascus on the very day that a United Nations chemical-weapons inspection team arrives in Damascususing an out-of-date missile in an ancient launchermust be a new definition of madness.” (George Galloway in British parliament on Syria late August)

The UN report tells that CW and sarin gas was used in Damascus 21. Aug. 2013 – and that’s it, practically none has claimed the opposite. The report does not tell who were implementing or ordering gas attack nor answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?”. However the critical analysis of UN report makes clear that the narrative “only the Syrian regime could have carried out the attacks” will not hold. I would like to highlight following points which cast a reasonable doubt against mentioned one-sided (US) approach. As source I have used mainly Land Destroyer Report by Tony Cartalucci.

1. Chemical weapons were delivered with munitions not used by rebels: these particularly larger diameter rockets (140mm and 330mm) have not been seen in the hands of terrorists operating within and along Syria’s borders, however rockets similar in construction and operation, but smaller, most certainly in the hands of the militants. According to UN chemical weapons inspectors, unguided 140 mm rockets were used in the attacks. The UN inspectors suggested that Soviet BM-14-17 (MLRS) rocket launchers were used. However, Syria long ago removed those systems from its arsenal, and the army does not use them. They were replaced by modern Soviet 122 mm “Grad” (MLRS BM-21) and Chinese 107 mm Type 63 light rocket launchers. Syria may have also used 220 mm Soviet-made Hurricane rocket launchers (MLRS 9P140). (Source: The New Eastern Outlook/NEO http://journal-neo.org/2013/09/20/rus-siriya-himicheskaya-ataka-ili-provokatsiya/ )

The Washington Post contends that somehow these larger rockets require “technology” the militants have no access to. This is categorically false. A rocket is launched from a simple tube, and the only additional technology terrorists may have required for the larger rockets would have been a truck to mount them on. For an armed front fielding stolen tanks, finding trucks to mount large metal tubes upon would seem a rather elementary task – especially to carry out a staged attack that would justify foreign intervention and salvage their faltering offensive. That the same rocket used in Damascus has now been seen launched from makeshift flatbeds and not olive green military rocket launchers, along with answering the basic question of “to whose benefit?” and considering that militants are confirmed to have US training in handling of chemical weapons – all at the very least tear down the narrative that “only the Syrian regime” could have carried out the attacks. So how did the obsolete MLRS BM-14-17 systems get there? Perhaps they came with the rockets supplied by external opposition supporters who had previously obtained those sorts of weapons from the Soviet Union. As an alternative explanation, one cannot exclude the possibility that the opposition captured the munitions from Syrian weapons depots that might have held them.


2. The sarin was fired from a regime-controlled area: The report concludes that the shells came from the northwest of the targeted neighborhood – from area which was and is controlled by Syrian regime forces and is awfully close to a Syrian military base. If the shells had been fired by Syrian rebels, they likely would have come from the rebel-held southeast. However the “limitations” the UN team itself put on the credibility of their findings. On page 18 of the report (22 of the .pdf), the UN states [emphasis added]:

The time necessary to conduct a detailed survey of both locations as well as take samples was very limited. The sites have been well travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation. Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.”

It should also be noted that militants still controlled the area after the alleged attack and up to and including during the investigation by UN personnel. So possible tampering or planting of evidence would have been carried out by “opposition” members – and surely the Syrian government would not point rockets in directions that would implicate themselves.

false flag definition3. Chemical analysis suggests sarin likely came from controlled supply, butany staged attack would also need to utilize stabilized chemical weapons and personnel trained in their use. From stockpiles looted in Libya, to chemical arms covertly transferred from the US, UK, or Israel, through Saudi Arabia or Qatar, there is no short supply of possible sources. Regarding “rebels” lacking the necessary training to handle chemical weapons – US policy has seen to it that not only did they receive the necessary training, but Western defense contractors specializing in chemical warfare are reported to be on the ground with militants inside Syria. CNN reported in their 2012 article, that: ”The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.”

4. Cyrillic characters on the sides of the shells: Terrorists operating inside of Syria also possess rifles and even tanks of Russian origin – stolen or acquired through a large network of illicit arms constructed by NATO and its regional allies to perpetuate the conflict. (Source and more in Land Destroyer Report )A label found on a warhead. Mikhail Barabanov, an expert with the Russian Centre for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies commented that this label matches those on missiles produced in 1967 in Novosibirsk (Russia). One might justifiably wonder why the Syrian Army would launch a 46-year-old missile when it holds abundant stockpiles of far more reliable modern weapons. It is also worth noting that the production of chemical weapons in Syria began in the 1990s, when chemical facilities were built near Damascus, in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. Thus, those missiles, filled with chemical agents, should be dated accordingly or later. If the date of a missile’s production does not match the production date for its chemical agent, it stands to reason that the warhead was filled in an underground laboratory or was even homemade.(Source Voltairenet )

5. A closer look at the charts shows a massive discrepancy in lab results from east and west Ghouta. There is not a single environmental sample in Moadamiyah ( west Ghouta) that tested positive for Sarin. Yet it is in Moadamiyah where alleged victims of a CW attack tested highest for Sarin exposure. Sothere is stark discrepancy between human and environmental test results in Moadamiyah. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British military’s chemical defense regiment and CEO at CW specialists, SecureBio Ltd notes:

“I think that it is strange that the environmental and human samples don’t match up. This could be because there have been lots of people trampling through the area and moving things. Unless the patients were brought in from other areas. There doesn’t seem another plausible explanation.”

All the patients were pre-selected by Ghouta doctors and opposition groups for presentation to the UN teams. Although the highest rate of Sarin-exposure was found in Moadamiyah “survivors,” the UN team found no traces of Sarin on the 140mm rocket identified as the source of the alleged CW attack – or in its immediate environment.

The discrepancies in the story of the Ghouta CW attacks are vast. Casualty figures range from a more modest 300+ to the more dramatic 1,400+ figures touted by western governments. The UN investigators were not able to confirm any of these numbers – they only saw 80 survivors and tested only 36 of these. They saw none of the dead – neither in graves nor in morgues. (Source: Questions Plague UN Report on Syria – “Saudi Intelligence Behind the Attacks…” by Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada )

Obama's logic with Syria

Report from ISTEAMS

The US intelligence community selected or nominated 13 videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government. It was job of US intelligence to examine and authenticate these videos however it seems that they made sloppy or even worse purpose-orientated job. ISTEAMS – a Syria-based human rights group working in conjunction with the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights – got its motivation to study case further as follows:

From the moment when some families of abducted children contacted us to inform us that they recognized the children among those who are presented in the videos as victims of the Chemical Attacks of East Ghouta, we decided to examine the videos thoroughly.

ISTEAMS found some conflicts between videos and reality on the ground as well between videos and conclusions made from them. That analysis was later expanded on by a report from ISTEAMS, In this thorough report numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies in the footage are documented.

ISTEAMS report on Syria CW attackThe ISTEAMS report raises many troubling questions about the scenes in the Ghouta videos. Were the victims of the attack local children? If so, why were they there after these areas had been largely abandoned? Where are their parents? An answer to threse questions might be found from videos posted by the Mujahedeen Press Office to YouTube just six days before the attack confirming that the terrorists had kidnapped hundreds of women and children from the rural villages of Alawite stronghold Lattakia to use as bargaining chips in the conflict. Were these kidnap victims moved to Ghouta to be killed in the chemical weapons attack? Is this why so many children were there in these largely-vacated areas, and why so few parents appear on video mourning their children? If true, are evidence of the most disgraceful war crimes imaginable and the most cold-blooded manipulations of evidence to suit an agenda.

One of the core conclusion from the ISTEAMS report:

Contrary to the claims of the Free Syrian Army and the Western services, the only identified victims of the Ghouta massacre are those belonging to families that support the Syrian government. In the videos, the individuals that show outrage against the ‘crimes of Bashar el-Assad’ are in reality their killers.”

The report documents through eyewitness testimony and video evidence that the affected areas had been largely abandoned by local residents in the days prior to the attack. Yet in the footage of the aftermath, there are large numbers of child victims who are portrayed. There exists very little footage of parents with their children, and what little footage exists portrays some of the parents apparently “discovering” their children on multiple occasions in different locations. Other footage shows the same children arranged in different formations in geographically distant neighborhoods. The report concludes that the footage was carefully stage managed to create the greatest emotional impact on foreign audiences. These videos were then used by the Obama administration to convince the Senate of their case for military intervention.

Conclusion: What the study [ISTEAMS report] does is logically point out through its observations that there is empirical evidence that the sample of videos that the US Intelligence Community has analyzed and nominated as authentic footage has been stage-managed.

Some discrepancies and inconsistencies in the videos that the Obama Administration used in their case against the Syrian government:

  • The same couple appears as parents looking for their children in two different videos and each time they claim a different child as theirs among the corpses.
  • The same groups that have been involved with posting and disseminating the videos that the US Intelligence Community has selected have also tried to pass pictures of Egyptian civilians killed in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square as Syrian victims.
  • The body of a little boy in a red shirt that was filmed in Zamalka and then in filmed again among different bodies in Jobar and the inanimate bodies of at least nine of the children that filmed in Kafarbatna also oddly appear at makeshift morgue in Al-Majr a few hours later.
  • Syria cw fabrication
  • Also some of the same bodies were planted or recycled in different scenes and makeshift morgue that were supposed to be in different locations. The same bodies of the same children are spotted in different locations.

  • Why, in many instances, are the same individuals shown as both dead and alive?
  • The report also highlights the fact that there have been no public funerals or announcements about all the dead children. This is outside of both cultural and religious norms.
  • In the footage of one burial, only eight people are buried and three of them are not even covered in white shrouds, which is a compulsory ritual.
  • Where are remaining 1,458 corpses other than the eight whose burials have been documented?
  • A large amount (150 cases are known) of women and children were abducted on August 4, 2013 in Latakia by the anti-government forces, specifically by Jabhat Al-Nusra, as hostages to be used for negotiations and trade with the Syrian government for captured insurgents. ISTEAMS mentions that that Syrians from Latakia have come forward claiming that their relatives were on display in the footage that the US Intelligence Community has showcased to justify bombing Syria. The Latakia connection would explain a lot of the questions that arise about the bodies of the unaccompanied children.

The revelations implicate the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States and discredit it in the same tradition as the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There are serious flaws in the US Intelligence Community that equate to either a lack of professionalism or/and its outright subordination to Washington’s political agendas that involve false analyses. The US intelligence community has been put to shame by the dedication and determination of a lone Christian nun. Her – and ISTEAMS – modest study of the videos of the Syrian chemical attack shows they were productions involving staged bodies. ISTEAMS submitted this report to the United Nations and as it is now published so everybody else can study the report and make their own conclusions.

Source and more in The Chemical Attacks in East Ghouta Used to Justify a Military Intervention in SyriaBy Mother Agnes Mariam, September 16, 2013 and in ISTEAMS report .

Some other related random excerpts about the Syrian CW case:

  • An indictment from the Adana Public Prosecutor’s Office has declared that anti-Assad gangs are known to be producing chemical weapons inside of Turkey.Prosecution attorney presented the court with a 132-page document which contained prosecution attorney’s gathered evidence of the suspects’ links to terrorist groups in Syria including al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic States on Iraq and Levant (Ahrar al-Sham).On May 28 Turkish security forces found a 2-kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of terrorists from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.
  • The recent findings on the chemical weapons attack of Aug. 21 on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, was “indeed a self-inflicted attack” by the Syrian opposition to provoke U.S. and military intervention in Syria. An Italian former journalist Domenico Quirico and a Belgian researcher Pierre Piccinin who were recently freed from their al-Nusra captives say they overheard their captors talking about their involvement in a deadly chemical attack “last month,” which would have been the Aug. 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

  • The sarin nerve gas used in the Allepo attack, sources say, had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brig. Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi. It then was supplied to Baath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation, through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.

  • Currently a UN team of CW inspectors are in Syria and investigating three chemical weapons attacks alleged to have happened after the 21 August attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead and sparked a threat of US military action.The UN said its team, led by Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Syria for its second visit on 25 September and it is working on a “comprehensive report” that it expects to have finished by late October. The UN listed the alleged attacks, which all took place this year, as Khan al-Assal on 19 March; Sheikh Maqsoud on 13 April; Saraqeb on 29 April; Ghouta on 21 August; Bahhariya on 22 August; Jobar on 24 August and Ashrafieh Sahnaya on 25 August. Damascus pushed for the investigation of the three post-21 August incidents, accusing “militants” of using chemical gas against the army in Bahhariya, Jobar and Ashrafieh Sahnaya.
  • And a short background video about use of CW in Syria:

Consequences

September 25 is the date of dramatic turn of events in Syria. The consequences may affect the way the situation unfolds further on. The plans to stage a provocation and get the West involved in the conflict had failed, so the opposition threw away the democratic veil and showed its real face. Thirteen most combat capable groups severed ties with the National Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to form an Islamic alliance of their own. Jabhat-al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliated group, is the core element of the new coalition. Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam and Suqur Al-Sham and a number of smaller groups joined the new alliance.

There is no other way to preserve any influence for secular opposition but to reach a reasonable compromise with Bashar Assad within the framework of Geneva peace process. More in my recent article Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War

media fabrication

Related articles

anti-US poster related to Syria

The main conclusion is that the type of sarin used in that [Aleppo, March 2013] incident was homemade. We also have evidence to assert that the type of sarin used on August 21 was the same, only of higher concentration.” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov


Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

October 2, 2013

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (https://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (https://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )


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