DEBATE / SYRIA – Civilians, the Western mainstream-media’s double standard

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The IS-Capital is encircled. Thousands of km2 of territory lost in Syria. Tal-Afar in Iraq under pressure. The mainstream-media about the casualties? Silent.

The war zones where the most lives are lost, such as Raqqa in Syria or Tal-Afar in Iraq, host many civilians. Above them mostly Western sponsored warplanes and helicopters hover and drop their deadly bombs. As virtually no news reach the readers of the mainstream media of what’s happening inside Islamic State territory –where there are civilians– one must look at IS propaganda instead. There, all kind of horrors are manifested. This is exactly what the Islamic State wants. If you want to get both sides of the story: you must reach them.

However, there are massive advancements and gains against IS in an uninhabited territory as well. The Syrian desert will soon come under total control of the Syrian Arab Army and Bashar al-Assad’s government. This is under-reported, because of the lack of civilian causalities. Everyone has abandoned the small towns and villages a long time ago and the region was already scarcely populated. No-one lives in Tadmur (Palmyra) or al-Sukhnah, the two biggest towns.

The desert-battles taking place, are between battle-groups, tanks, pick-ups… and by the air. Only the Syrian regime with Russian support has that last key element. The Islamic State has responded with building tunnels in the no-mans-land, but it’s all in vain. The assault is so tremendous that their scattered soldiers are fleeing, surrendering and now encircled in two shrinking points.

Impressively (from a Damascus point of view), the army has not only closed and is shrinking the two IS desert enclaves but has launched an offensive towards Deir ez-Zor as well. At the time of writing, units of the Syrian army are advancing from al-Sukhnah towards the eastern town. However, Deir ez-Zor is not besieged by the regime but by IS, which hasn’t been able to capture the entirety of the town for several years. The 90.000 civilians still living there are supplied by the UN, Russian and Regime air-drops and protected by Syrian regime units.

If the moment arrives when the regime breaks the siege, it’s likely for the Western media to put on display the civilian massacres by Russian and other airplanes (if they manage to get hold of footage). “Collateral damage” is not the word they’ll use. Most likely Syrian allies will punish certain tribes and other IS collaborators.

Just a few kilometres away, on the other side of the border, the Shiite paramilitary units and the Iraqi armed forces have already begun this process.

Before, during and after the taking of Mosul.

Democracy, human rights, equality. How can these notions come about after such atrocities by all sides? What’s the exit-strategy of the actors?

Bashar al-Assad will most likely dump his opponents, who don’t “reconcile”, in his many torture chambers. If the Shiites militias remain in Sunni majority territory the same will happen to their foes.

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Noel Daniel Vig

Political Scientist-Director of The Maghreb and Orient Courier Editions

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