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From 'good guys' to ruthless extremists: How Washington & allies supported jihadists in Syria

From 'good guys' to ruthless extremists: How Washington & allies supported jihadists in Syria
Throughout the bloody Syrian conflict that has gone on for almost 9 years, the US has always found groups on the ground it could portray as "good guys" to push its own narrative. The groups, however, rarely fit that image.

Almost from the beginning of the Syrian war, Washington and its Western allies spared no effort in seeking to portray various militant groups fighting against the Syrian government as the "moderate opposition," "rebels" and "freedom fighters" seeking to liberate their homeland from an "oppressive regime" in Damascus.

However, Western politicians and journalists alike, mostly opining from the safety of being very far away from Syria, often disregarded the actual situation on the ground.

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Such an approach led them to support the groups that turned out to be not particularly close to Western democratic ideals, as Washington and its allies looked the other way and their mainstream media outright ignored everything that did not fit their narrative.

As a result, they ended up supporting the "moderates" that were in fact anything but.

Heart-eating ‘rebel’

The first warning signs came when Human Rights Watch started to ring the alarm bell by saying that some armed opposition groups were committing abuses. However, the West’s faith in those fighting against the “dictatorship” in Syria was truly shaken only when one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders was filmed actually cutting out and eating a heart of a Syrian Army soldier back in 2013, two years into the conflict.

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While the mainstream media habitually continued to name the cannibal “a rebel fighter” while referring to his victim as a “regime soldier,” they still condemned the act by calling it gruesome and horrific.” Skepticism about the Syrian “moderates” lingered for a while, some questioning who these “rebels” really were. Others even called on the establishment not to “rely” on the moderates as they simply do not exist.”

However, the lesson was not apparently properly learned, as the media eventually returned to their traditional mantra.

Arming moderates?

Throughout the Syrian conflict, the US repeatedly attempted to boost the armed opposition performance on the ground with some generous gifts, which usually came in a form of weapons caches. Washington also repeatedly said that the support went solely to "moderate" rebels.

However, the arms sent by the US as well as its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, often somehow ended up in the hands of extremists and even terrorists, such as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front. That, however, never stopped the US administration from having another try… definitely more than once.

Now we are seeing an increasing number of reports that say terrorist groups were actually the ones to benefit from the US military (as well as humanitarian) aid to Syria's "moderates" – whether due to a lack of proper control or just close ties between the supposed "freedom fighters" and extremists.

'Defenders' of Aleppo

The battle for Aleppo in late 2016 was portrayed by the Western media as hell on Earth. Washington considered suspending talks with Russia on a ceasefire in Syria over the operation to liberate the city at that time, while calling the offensive no less than a "gift" to Islamic State terrorists.

Militants entrenched in parts of the city were referred to solely as "rebels" fighting against the "dictatorship." The fact that they held local residents at gunpoint, deprived them of food and water, as well as forcibly prevented them from leaving (thus using them as human shields) were simply ignored. The "rebel-held" part of the city was in fact controlled by some hardline Islamist factions, such as Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, as well as Al Nusra terrorists, among others.

'Freedom fighters' of Eastern Ghouta

Marred by a chemical weapons incident that was used by Washington, London and Paris as a pretext for an airstrike against the Syrian Army, the liberation of the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta has given the Western media and officials another opportunity to tell the tale about the "opposition fighters" struggling to repel the offensive of Damascus loyalists.

Once again, the same hardline Jaysh al-Islam militants were called "rebels" while the eventual recapture of the area by the Syrian Army as a result of a deal with the militants was described as a "fall" of the "last rebel stronghold" near the Syrian capital.

As the fighting and evacuation of militants was over, it turned out that the way the militants treated civilians in the "last rebel enclave" was far from the Western standards of humanity and freedom.

'Humanitarian concerns' about 'besieged' Idlib

As soon as most militant groups opposing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad crowded together in the Syrian province of Idlib following a string of evacuation deals with Damascus, the Western democracies felt the urgent need to defend yet another "last rebel stronghold."

Deeply concerned with a potential "humanitarian crisis" in an area where the "besieged rebels" were supposed to take their last stand against the Syrian Army, Washington and its allies were seemingly absolutely not bothered about the fact that most of the province was actually controlled by Al Nusra terrorists – now rebranded Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – who claimed to have united all smaller militant factions under a single banner.

Controversial 'volunteers'

Arguably no organization in Syria received more Western support and praise than the notorious White Helmets – a self-proclaimed rescue group working solely in militant-held areas, whose exploits are dubious at best.

Western media and officials spared no effort promoting them. They were hailed as heroes here and there, received praise from the former UK foreign minister Boris Johnson, and were even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, the group was suspected of being an extension of a terrorist network. They were described as organ traders and looters, as well as accused of staging their rescue operations and faking chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Last December, eyewitnesses accounts and reports on the atrocities allegedly committed by the group were presented at a UN panel.

All these facts, however, seem to be of no importance for the Western nations, which orchestrated a special operation to extract the supposed heroes from Syria and are now resettling them as refugees.

Just this week, the State Department announced the US would give another $5 million to the White Helmets, calling them “heroic first responders” whose actions are “based on strict humanitarian principles.”

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