'German skepticism of SOHR could be connected to possible Coalition war crimes'

'German skepticism of SOHR could be connected to possible Coalition war crimes'
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was considered as a reliable source only when it was reporting in a way that reflected badly on the Syrian government, says Gregory Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs website.

Germany's Foreign Ministry admitted that the information provided by the monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), might be unreliable after the organization blamed the US-led coalition for deadly bombings in Syria, including a strike on a school that reportedly killed up to 200 children.

However, the organization had the full trust of the West while it was covering the earlier battle for Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is based in Coventry in the West Midlands, the UK. The organization is run by Abdel Rahman from his home in Coventry

RT: Why is the monitor's credibility only being questioned now?

Gregory Copley: Because until now it has been reporting in a way which reflected badly on the Syrian government and in favor of the UK and US government’s position on Assad. So, it was never really a major intelligence collector. It always had a political agenda. It was quite clear that it was an anti-Assad group. Did it have some good information? Possibly, on occasion. Would that information be good enough to use as a targeting medium? I would say not. And it is actually interesting that the coalition has indicated that it used information from the SOHR as valid targeting data in a highly fluid situation. So, when the mistakes are happening with targeting, it is very easy to blame it on the SOHR. But the reality is that it was never a credible intelligence tool.

Everything that is going on now is involved in a global propaganda war. So, every side is trying to discredit the other side. A lot of these sources are possibly just relying on wrong internal sources that happen to be biased, that happen to be pushing an agenda, whomever they may be speaking to. But the larger point is the sort of propaganda that is involved as a central feature of how foreign policy is being conducted these days… In the United States, the propaganda directed against the Russian involvement in the Middle East is merged with attacks on President Trump, mainly by the Democratic Party. - Gerry Sussman, professor, Portland State University, to RT

RT: German officials say the Syrian observatory's sources on the ground may be biased, which could be Western-backed rebel groups. Do these groups no longer trust their Western partners?

GC: I think there are two factors. Firstly, nobody on the ground in Syria at this stage is unbiased. They all have a position one way or another. And rightly so. That is the nature of warfare. Secondly, are they going to be able to credibly do anything? No, I don’t think so. It is basically an unreliable source. They reflect the fact that the UK government, and to a greater degree the US government, is less and less interested in interfering in Syria in the way that they want interference. The Syrian Observatory wants Assad out of office. The US government has said that that is no longer a primary objective, it may be an incidental objective, but it is not a primary objective. So, the US is not interested in supporting the Turkish-Saudi and Qatari objective which is to overthrow the Syrian government. That being the case, the so-called moderate and extreme groups against Assad are losing trust and faith in Washington and London.

This is the first time I have ever heard any Western government questioning the Syrian Observatory. They have just accepted it and taken it as an authorized source all the way through so many years since the civil war has been raging in Syria. I believe this is connected to the potential for a war crimes investigation. This school was hit with some 200 pupils killed; it is clearly not a military target; it is clearly subject to international law. The Americans seem to have indicated that they were involved. The Germans must be aware that they could face potential prosecution over any attack on a school and therefore they have to try and rubbish the source. I think all of bodies such as this have to be aware that one moment you could be the flavor of the month with Germany, America, Britain, France and so on. But as soon as you cross their interest, they are going to turn on you, drop you like a stone, but also abuse you and throw everything they can at you to make sure that you no longer are regarded as a credible source. So maybe the Observatory is going to learn the hard way here. - Political analyst Chris Bambery, to RT. 

RT: The German Foreign Ministry says the Syrian Observatory remains an important partner. What other sources can European governments use if it no longer trusts the Syrian Observatory?

GC: That is the reality. There are no single sources and there are no small groups of sources that can be trusted to give an overall impression. I think the evidence can only be drawn from the results. We see movement of one group or another in a certain direction – you start to get an idea as to what is happening, but the reality is that we are seeing divisions now between the US and its allies, on the one hand, and the Turkish, Qatari and Saudis on the other. There are divisions on the battlefield, as well. We are seeing the US actually trying to block the Turks in certain areas on the ground in Syria and try to contain them. So, we are seeing a lot of dislocation within the so-called coalition. We are seeing the fact that this is going to erupt further. I think we will start to see an eruption out of Syria as ISIS gets more and more cornered as Al-Qaeda starts to regroup. I think that will flow into Lebanon very shortly and I think we will start to see great dislocation there. We will probably see Turkish-US antagonisms rise to a new level, particularly after the coming referendum in Turkey.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.