'White Helmets helping rebrand terror groups to create Syrian no-fly zones' - Vanessa Beeley
Increased terrorist attacks during the peace talks put pressure on the US to divide the militant factions inside Syria to determine who are terrorists and who are not. A terrorist rebranding process comes into play at that point, says researcher Vanessa Beeley.
A spokesman for the terror group which claimed responsibility for Saturday's deadly attack on military facilities in the Syrian city of Homs has appeared on the Al Jazeera TV channel.
The attacks happened at the same time as Syria peace talks were underway in Geneva. During the broadcast, the terrorist claimed the attack was planned well in advance and wasn't aimed at disrupting the talks.
Tahrir al-Sham is an Al-Qaeda-linked terror group, formed in January. The majority of its members were part of a group widely known as al-Nusra.
RT: What do you think about Al Jazeera giving a platform to a terrorist?
Vanessa Beeley: This is not that unusual for Al Jazeera in the sense that although they have not overtly given a platform to terrorists throughout their reporting on the NATO and Gulf State war that is being waged against a sovereign nation, Syria, we’ve seen them consistently produce reports from terrorist affiliates, particularly during the time of the Al-Nusra Front-led occupation of East Aleppo.
We saw them allegedly broadcast from East Aleppo via citizen journalists and activists that we’ve later discovered have clear affiliations to extremist groups, like Nour al-Din al-Zenki, like Nusra Front themselves, for example, Lina al-Shami and other such affiliates who were embedded inside East Aleppo and were producing the NATO-aligned narrative and propaganda to ensure the continued incarceration of the civilians in East Aleppo.
So, this is not unusual for Al Jazeera to be giving a platform so to speak to terrorist organizations, to terrorist operatives. And again, this renaming of Tahrir al-Sham is another rebranding process that is becoming very familiar now.
RT: The militants are rebranding themselves quite often. What's the purpose of this?
VB: I think they have two aspects to this. I think you have the aspect that we have now gangs and counter-gangs throughout Syria – we see splinter groups upon splinter groups particularly in Idlib, we are seeing them fighting among themselves, the various extremist and militant factions. But as regards Nusra Front – we had it already – the last name was Fateh al-Sham, it is a little hard to keep up with it and in fact, I think, the US administration, both under Obama and under Trump, is struggling to keep up with their own rebranding process of Al-Qaeda in Syria.
And what I think we are really seeing is an intensification of that during peace talks when, of course, there is going to be pressure upon the US administration to basically segregate the militant factions inside Syria and to determine those that are terrorists and those that are not. And we always see this rebranding process coming into play at that point.
RT: The group denies the attack on the Syrian military facilities in Homs was designed to disrupt the Geneva peace talks. Do you believe the timing is just a coincidence?
VB: I think the timing is far from a coincidence. I don’t think any of these attacks are ever coincidental, particularly when they come in parallel with the various peace talks that have been held over the last few years. But this one in particular, what is very important to know that for the last four days to a week there has been an intensification of the Syrian Arab Army campaigns against the terrorist factions in Homs and in the surrounding countryside.
What I did notice, which was very interesting, is in the corporate media reporting of this incident, we saw the appearance of actually the White Helmets and their video footage was used by the majority of corporate media. This is interesting because it is one of the few times that I have seen them actually inside Homs and filming a terrorist operation, so to me this demonstrates the fact that the White Helmets will be used alongside with the rebranding of this terrorist group to basically protect the terrorist group by calling in for the ‘no-fly zone’ and in an attempt to derail the Syrian Arab Army activity that is effectively to cleanse the area of the terrorist factions.
RT: What are your thoughts about the documentary on the White Helmets having been nominated for an Oscar?
VB: I think it will be a victory for propaganda, basically. They should be congratulated maybe on their acting skills rather than their humanitarian skills. Myself, and actually Lizzie Phelan of RT were actually in East Aleppo at pretty much the same time during its liberation from Nusra Front-led occupation. And afterward for the many celebrations of liberation leading up to Christmas. And both of us independently in different districts of East Aleppo, as they were being liberated, were speaking to civilians as they were emerging from four and a half years of imprisonment, we were both asking these civilians what they knew of the White Helmets. Now the first point to make was, when I used the term the White Helmets, which is the label that is given to them by their marketing campaign managers and by the corporate media in the West, most of the civilians didn’t have a clue who we were talking about. When we then expanded on the theme, we mentioned that they were civil defense, then almost immediately, the response was: “Oh, you mean Nusra Front civil defense.” And that was entirely unprompted by these Syrian civilians, literally as they were leaving the liberated districts. We also accrued a number of testimonies that basically attested to the fact that they worked alongside the terrorist organizations inside East Aleppo, they worked in facilitating and sometimes even participating in the various terrorist atrocities that were carried out both at East Aleppo and in the Aleppo countryside and then in Idlib…
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.