Recalling CNN’s Fraudulent “Interview” With A Seven Year-Old Syrian Girl

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Caitlin Johnstone

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As in Iraq, the American-led assault has also robbed humanity of numerous priceless artistic and historical artifacts.

There’s a thread going around on Twitter by Columbia University’s Sophie Fullerton advancing the claim that I have promoted crazy conspiracy theories about child “crisis actors” in Syrian war atrocities. Fullerton has me blocked on Twitter so I can’t respond to her there, but in her thread she brings up one of the most egregious instances I’ve ever seen of US war propaganda in the mass media, so it’s worth taking some time to unpack her claims here as a public service.

Fullerton has written for The Washington Post slamming social media users who travel to Syria and dispute the official mainstream narrative about what’s been happening in that country, and has served as an expert analyst in a Daily Beast hit piece on the progressive Gravel Institute for their scrutiny of US warmongering. So it’s fair to call her a spinmeister on the side of the US empire, and it’s probably fair to predict that her young career will bring her tremendous success and mainstream elevation as a result of this.

“It takes a special kind of evil to see what happened yesterday in Dnipro and immediately start doing PR for the perpetrator,” Fullerton tweets, with a screenshot of me saying it’s deceitful for people to talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine without also talking about the ways the US empire provoked and benefits from this war. “It should come at no surprise that this account built a following out of claiming Syrian children impacted by Assad/Russia atrocities were crisis actors,” she adds.

Fullerton’s thread has gained a lot of traction because it has been amplified by Olga Lautman, a Senior Fellow at the imperialist think tank Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) with a large following. CEPA’s donor list includes the US State Department, the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, and the weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and General Atomics.

Fullerton uses the phrase “crisis actors” to evoke the image most people have of that term and what it means: conspiracy theories about actors pretending to have been wounded or otherwise involved in a false flag mass shooting or bombing incident, particularly Alex Jones’s infamous claims about Sandy Hook victims. Google defines “crisis actor” as “a person who takes part in a supposed conspiracy to manipulate public opinion by pretending to be a victim of an event such as a bombing, mass shooting, or natural disaster.” Imperial spinmeisters have a history of using the phrase “crisis actors” to smear skeptics of dubious claims by the US empire about what’s been happening in Syria as crazy conspiracy theorists who are the same as Sandy Hook deniers.

But for her evidence of my “crisis actors” conspiracy theorizing, Fullerton cites something very different from any such claim. She cites an article I wrote in 2018 titled “That Time CNN Staged A Fake Interview With A Syrian Child For War Propaganda“, and revealingly she includes only a screenshot of the top of the article rather than providing a link. She did this because the arguments made in the article are unassailable, and she doesn’t want people to see them.

In 2017 CNN conducted a fraudulent interview with a seven year-old Syrian child named Bana Alabed, whose name had earlier been popularized by a Twitter account operated by an adult calling for US interventionism in Syria to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad. I know the interview was fraudulent not because I’m some kind of dogged investigative journalist who spent months digging into the facts and the sources, but because I watched the interview. It is plain as day that the child was either reading or reciting words that had been prepared for her, and every comment I can see on CNN’s YouTube share of the segment agrees with this assessment. To the best of my knowledge, no serious attempt has ever been made by anyone to dispute this.

Fullerton claims that my article “attacks Bana al-Abed”, but if you actually read it you will see that what I am in fact attacking is CNN for staging a bogus interview with a child who is clearly reading or reciting words authored by an adult, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota for playing along with this sham. My article at no time mentions the phrase “crisis actor” (pretty sure I’ve never even used those words except in reference to claims made by other people), and it is quite obvious from the child’s awkward recitations in her CNN appearance that she is not an actor by nature.

No intellectually honest person with any sense of normal human speech will ever claim that this interview was anything but scripted. And, I mean, of course it is. A CNN anchor asked a seven-year-old child for her opinions on who is responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Syria and repeatedly asked her for her perspective on the highly complex and multifaceted conflict in her country; the only way you’re going to get answers to those questions from a child that age is if you feed them to her. This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say.

But even if you accept on faith the idea of a seven year-old child conducting off-the-cuff military analysis and geopolitical punditry on cable television, it is evident from the video that that isn’t what’s happening. She not only speaks like someone with no acting experience reading from a script, she sounds like someone who is not fluent in English simply sounding out English words phonetically.

Which would make sense, because other video evidence indicates that she did not speak English very well around the time of her CNN appearance:

In footage from an interview in Turkey (where according to the CNN chyron Alabed also conducted the Camerota interview from), Alabed is asked in English if she likes the food in Istanbul. She replies “Yes,” and when asked what food she likes, Alabed replies “Save the children of Syria.” Her mother says something to her, and then Alabed replies, “Fish.”

She did not understand the question. But Sophie Fullerton wants you to believe this child was engaging in adult-level conversation about complicated ideas on CNN, in fluent English.

Again, this is not an attack on a Syrian child. It would be insane and ridiculous to expect a seven year-old Syrian to be fluent in English and to be able to articulate highly advanced analysis about what’s been happening in her native country, so I am of course not criticizing her inability to do so. I am absolutely criticizing the war propagandists who put her up to it, though, and I am absolutely criticizing those who run apologia for their having done so.

The US-centralized empire’s dirty war on Syria has had many atrocious elements to it over the years, and an abundance of propaganda and spin have been used to facilitate them. But never has it been so in-your-face brazen as when CNN staged a plainly fraudulent interview with a small child.

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at  or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is , so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on , following my antics on throwing some money into my tip jar on  or , purchasing some of my , buying my books  and . For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, . Everyone, racist platforms excluded,  to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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This is a dispatch from our ongoing series by Caitlin Johnstone

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Caitlin Johnstone is a brave journalist, political junkie, relentless feminist, champion of the 99 percent. And a powerful counter-propaganda tactician. 



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U.S. Sanctions Are Killing Syrians and Are a Human Rights Violation

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ecological murder • endless wars • ingrained racism & social injustice • worker exploitation • incurable via reforms

Steven Sahiounie

Originally posted on December 22, 2022

About 12 million Syrians are facing a deadly winter without heating fuel, gasoline for transportation, and dark houses each evening.

A Syrian city bearing the West's "signature".

Damascus is now bitterly cold and is soon to be blanketed with snow. About 12 million Syrians are facing a deadly winter without heating fuel, gasoline for transportation, and dark houses each evening without electricity. Aleppo, Homs, and Hama are also extremely cold all winter.

Imagine being ill and having to walk to the doctor or hospital. The ambulances in Syria will now respond only to the most life-threatening calls because they must conserve gasoline, or face running out entirely. Gasoline on the black market costs Syrians an equivalent of 50 U.S. dollars for a tank of 20-liter fuel (5.2 gal.)

Sanctions against Syria were imposed by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, the Arab League, as well as other countries beginning in 2011. The sanctions were aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government, by depriving it of its resources. U.S.-sponsored ‘regime change’ has failed but the sanctions were

never lifted.

For 12 years the U.S. and EU have been imposing economic sanctions on Syria which have deprived the Syrians of their dignity and human rights.

New UN report asks for lifting sanctions on Syria

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, Alena Douhan, urged sanctions to be lifted against Syria, warning that they were adding to the suffering of the Syrian people since 2011.

“I am struck by the pervasiveness of the human rights and humanitarian impact of the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria and the total economic and financial isolation of a country whose people are struggling to rebuild a life with dignity, following the decade-long war,” Douhan said.

After a 12-day visit to Syria, Douhan said the majority of Syria’s population was currently living below the poverty line, with shortages of food, water, electricity, shelter, cooking and heating fuel, transportation, and healthcare. She spoke of the continuing exodus of educated and skilled Syrians in response to the economic hardship of living at home.

Douhan reported that the majority of infrastructure was destroyed or damaged, and the sanctions imposed on oil, gas, electricity, trade, construction, and engineering have diminished the national income, which has prevented economic recovery and reconstruction.

The sanctions prevent payments from being received from banks, and deliveries from foreign manufacturers. Serious shortages in medicine and medical equipment have plagued hospitals and clinics. The lack of a water treatment system in Aleppo caused a severe Cholera outbreak in late summer, and the system cannot be bought, installed, or maintained under the current U.S. sanctions against Syria.

Douhan said, “I urge the immediate lifting of all unilateral sanctions that severely harm human rights and prevent any efforts for early recovery, rebuilding, and reconstruction.”

U.S. sanctions are not effective

In 1998, Richard Haass wrote, ‘Economic Sanctions: Too Much of a Bad Thing’. He cautioned U.S. foreign policymakers that sanctions alone are ineffective when the aims are large, or the time is short. The overthrow of the Syrian government is a massive aim, and the sanctions did not accomplish that goal.

Haass predicted that sanctions could cause economic distress and migration. In the summer of 2015 about half a million Syrians walked through Europe as economic migrants and were taken in primarily by Germany.

There is a moral imperative to stop using sanctions as a foreign policy tool because innocent people are affected, while the sanctions have failed.

The U.S. steals Syrian oil, and will not allow imported oil to arrive

According to the U.S. government, the sanctions on Syria “prohibits new investments in Syria by U.S. persons, prohibits the exportation or sale of services to Syria by U.S. persons, prohibits the importation of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin, and prohibits U.S. persons from involvement in transactions involving Syrian petroleum or petroleum products.”

There is a waiver that can be requested from the Department of Commerce, to circumvent the sanctions; however, it only applies to sending items to the terrorist-occupied area of Idlib. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria and is the only terrorist group now holding territory in Syria.

On October 22, the media Energy World reported the U.S. occupation forces had smuggled 92 tankers and trucks of Syrian oil and wheat stolen from northeastern Syria to U.S. bases in Iraq. The theft is ongoing and continuous.

The U.S. has partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is a Kurdish militia that has a political wing following the communist ideology begun by the PKK’s Abdullah Ocalan. President Trump ordered the U.S. military to remain to occupy northeastern Syria and he ordered the U.S. soldiers there to steal the Syrian oil so to prevent the Syrian people in the rest of the country from benefiting from the gasoline and electricity produced from the wells.

The Syrian Oil Ministry said in August that the U.S. forces were stealing 80 percent of Syria’s oil production, causing direct and indirect losses of about 107.1 billion to Syria’s oil and gas industry.

Because the Damascus government is deprived of the oil its wells produce, it is forced to depend on costly imported oil, usually from Iran. The U.S. routinely commandeers Iranian tankers, such as the incident recently when the U.S. Navy took a tanker hostage off the coast of Greece on its way to Syria but was eventually released by Greece.

Gasoline shortage

The government has instituted a three-day weekend for schools and civil offices, as well as suspended sports events to save fuel.

Maurice Haddad, Director of the General Company for Internal Transport in Damascus, told the al-Watan newspaper that the government has set stricter diesel quotas, leading to fewer daily bus services.

Athar-Press news website reported that several bakeries in Damascus have had to shut down because of the lack of fuel.

Fuel is needed to generate electricity in Syria, and the lack of domestic or imported fuel means most homes in Syria have about one hour of electricity at several intervals each day, and the amount is diminishing daily.

Sanction exemptions for Idlib and the Kurds only

The only two areas in Syria which are not under the Damascus administration are Idlib in the northwest and the U.S.-sponsored Kurdish region in the northeast. The U.S. sanctions are exempt from sending items to those two places only. But, those two places represent a small number of Syrians in comparison to the civilians across the country, and the main cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, and Latakia. The U.S. makes sure the people who are against the Syrian government continue to be rewarded with supplies and reconstruction, while the millions of peaceful civilians are kept in a constant state of suffering and deprivation.


Syrians Try to Overcome Fuel Crisis by Turning to Mother Nature


DAMASCUS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Amid a lingering fuel crisis, and the hardships that have come along as a result of the U.S. sanctions, Syrians had to figure out solutions to make up for the lack of diesel and gas.

In the capital Damascus, the demand for firewood has dramatically increased as people started using it for heaters in the winter and for cooking.

In the southern province of Sweida, which is rich in livestock, people resorted to cow dung as an alternative to survive the harsh winter.

In the central province of Homs, olive pomace, which is basically the olive waste leftovers during the oil extraction process, has become many Syrians' first choice of heating fuel amid the shortage of diesel oil.

In the central province of Hama, the area's richness in pistachio has inspired people to create a heating device that works on pistachio shells.

Experts in Syria and government officials blame the prolonged crisis on the U.S. sanctions and control over key oil and gas fields in the eastern part of the country.

In December 2022, Syria's foreign ministry estimated Syria's losses caused by the U.S. military operations on its soil at 111.9 billion U.S. dollars.

The direct losses are estimated at 25.9 billion dollars, 19.8 billion dollars from the U.S. theft of oil and gas. (emphasis added, Ed.)

STEVEN SAHIOUNIE is a Syrian-American journalist; political commentator, and chief editor of MidEastDiscours News

NOTE: The author’s opinions and religious beliefs are his or her own. Greanvillepost.com does not advocate for or against any religion.

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US to establish new military base in northeastern Syria

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By News Desk -The Cradle

US troops recently set up another military base in Naqara village, just three kilometers from the northeastern province of Hasakah

The irony is that just about 100% of the soldiers serving in the US imperialist military have no idea the evil they advance through their actions, as everything is coated in cheap chauvinist rhetoric.

The US-led international coalition forces operating in northeastern Syria intend to establish a new military base in their controlled areas in the countryside of Raqqa.

Local sources said that a convoy of US forces, including several armored military vehicles, arrived in Raqqa city as part of preparations to install a new base in the area.

On the field, the illegal troops began transferring the logistical equipment and necessary gear to the specified location, coinciding with heavy surveillance drone activity.

The US army and international coalition occupy at least 28 declared military sites in Syria, distributed over three provinces, mainly Hasakah (17 sites), Deir Ezzor (nine locations), and Homs (two areas).

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) released photographs showing the construction of a new base near Al-Raqqa Bridge on the Euphrates River, south of the city.

The distribution of Washington’s illegal bases resembles the cordon surrounding the sources of oil and gas located east of the Euphrates River, representing most of Syria’s underground wealth.

The eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor hosts the most strategic military bases, including the al-Omar oil field base – one of the largest in Syria – and the Conoco gas field base, which are regularly subjected to violent shelling by armed groups affiliated with Iran.

Nonetheless, the daily bombing prompted Washington to send massive military and logistical reinforcements aboard hundreds of trucks that crossed from Iraq into the US bases in Deir Ezzor, Hasakah, and Raqqa.

According to the SOHR, US troops recently established another military post in Naqara village, just three kilometers from Qamishli in the northeastern province of Hasakah.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) constantly blocks US military convoys and patrols attempting to move through their checkpoints in multiple locations across the province, forcing them to turn tail.

The Syrian authorities accuse the US of smuggling its oil and selling it abroad to deprive the Syrians of it in a flagrant violation of international law.

Syria’s military deters US convoy from key army base

Former US President Donald Trump openly admitted to stealing Syria's natural resources, a move that has continued under the Biden administration

The heroic SAA is again manning the checkpoints controlling the comings and goings of the US thuggish military.

(Photo Credit: Reuters/Ali Hashisho)

By News Desk - The Cradle— November 02 2022

On 2 November, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers blocked a convoy of US soldiers in the northeastern governorate of Hasakah, forcing them to return to their illegal base.

A video circulating on social media showed a long column of US troops, consisting of eight armored vehicles, which were stopped at a Syrian army checkpoint near Kawkab mountain, 15 km to the northeast of the Hasakah provincial capital.

According to local sources, the government troops stationed around the Kawkab Mountain, which hosts several army bases, prevented the occupation from penetrating an area under the control of the Syrian government.

The US troops were subsequently forced to turn around and return to their destination, with no reports of clashes or injuries.

Similarly, on 24 October, a checkpoint of the Syrian army intercepted five armored vehicles of the US occupation while passing through the Dmeikha al-Sagheera area, southeast of Qamishli city, forcing them to retreat and leave the area.

However, Washington’s troops continue their oil trafficking operations in the embattled country, smuggling natural resources, estimated at billions of dollars, out of the country. The US soldiers also receive protection from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which clear the transport routes from Syria to the Iraqi border.

Earlier, sources in Hasakah said a convoy of 22 tankers belonging to the US occupation, loaded with stolen Syrian oil and wheat, left Syria through the illegal al-Waleed border crossing towards Iraqi territory.

The US military has long stationed its forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of ISIS terrorists.

Damascus sees the deployment as a means to plunder the country’s natural resources. Former president Donald Trump repeatedly admitted that US forces were stationed in the Arab country to plunder its oil.

On 22 September, China called on the US to stop plundering Syria’s national resources and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Arab country.

“We call on the United States to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, unilaterally lift sanctions, and end the theft of Syria’s national resources,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin in a news briefing.

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Can Syria ever forgive Qatar?

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First posted on October 03 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Joining the vile Empire in an all-out attack on a fellow Arab country is as low as you can get in the Arab world, but the Qataris did it.

After more than a decade of a foreign-backed regime-change war, exploitative Turkish and US occupation, and repeated Israeli attacks on its territorial integrity, Syria has come a long way from the regional and international isolation intended to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Of the Arab states that suspended diplomatic relations with Damascus 11 years ago at the start of the war, most have since re-established their envoys in the Syrian capital, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, and Oman, or have re-established security and political dialogues, as in the case of Saudi Arabia.

Going against the grain

However, a notable exception to this current of normalization with Syria has been Qatar. The tiny, resource-rich Persian Gulf state was the first Arab country to shutter its embassy in Damascus and has consistently opposed the idea of Syria’s re-admission to the Arab League following its suspension in the early days of the war.

This unwavering stance has been recently reiterated by Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in light of efforts by Algeria to include Syria in the upcoming Arab League summit in November.

Nevertheless, the invitation extended by Algiers was politely turned down by the Syrian government so as to “to unite the Arab ranks facing the challenges posed by the current situation,” according to Algeria’s foreign ministry.

The feeling is mutual

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a single Syrian official eager to talk about relations with Doha. This, in spite of Syria’s policy of maintaining open communication with Arab states, including with Saudi Arabia which funded opposition militants in the Syrian war.

Yet Damascus has been adamant that it has no intention or desire to restore relations with Qatar, considered to be a hostile country by the Syrian authorities for its continued support for Al-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and other terrorist organizations in northern Syria.

Qatar was one of the first foreign entrants into the Syrian conflict, bank-rolling armed factions in coordination with the CIA, including the precursor to Al-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Doha’s role was even acknowledged by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which stated In 2016 that the Nusra Front “probably received logistical, financial and material assistance from the elements of the Turkish and Qatari governments.”

These allegations can be traced to the ruling House of Thani. In 2020, Issam al-Hana, a Moroccan leader of al-Nusra arrested in Iraq revealed that Qatari Sheikh Khaled Suleiman was financing the group with more than a million dollars a month.

Qatar also found itself implicated in a high-profile British court case in 2021, in which the state’s ruling elite and institutions had allegedly “funnelled millions” of dollars to al-Nusra.

In May 2022 fresh charges were made in the US against prominent Qatari institutions accused of wiring $800,000 to an ISIS “judge” who ordered the beheading of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.

Cooperation or containment?

From President Assad’s ascension to power 22 years ago, up until the March 2011 onset of the Syrian crisis, Syrian-Qatari relations had made great political and economic strides. This, in stark contrast to the strained ties between Damascus and Riyadh, particularly after the assassination of the Saudi-backed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

During the height of relations between Syria and Qatar, senior officials made frequent visits, the two sides exchanged diplomatic and political support, joint companies were established, and the Qataris opened more than one bank in Damascus.

Qatar was not alone in working hard to develop its relations with Syria. Turkey, another key supporter of the Syrian militancy whose troops currently occupy the Syrian north, also enjoyed positive commercial and political relations with the Assad government prior to 2011.

Bassam Abu Abdallah, former cultural attache at Syria’s embassy in Ankara, and current Al-Watan columnist, told The Cradle that:

“It turned out that all the steps of Qatari and Turkish rapprochement before the war were part of an American plan to contain Syria and pass the Qatari gas pipeline through its territory to Turkey and then Europe, which is what President al-Assad was aware of. After the US discovered the difficulty of containing Syria, the decision was taken to overthrow the regime and divide the country, and this is one of the reasons for the war. Unfortunately, Qatar, with its money, media, and support for terrorist groups, spearheaded this conspiracy, and still is.”

The Muslim Brotherhood

An informed Syrian official told The Cradle about a meeting in November 2011 between then-Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem and three senior Syrian Foreign Ministry officials (Deputy Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad, Chancellor Buthaina Shaaban, and Ambassador Yousef Ahmed) and the then-Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

“Throughout the meeting, the emir sat like an emperor, legs spread, preaching about reforms and democracy, and what Syria should do, and in the end he spoke of a partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood in power. It was a very bad meeting,” the official explained.

The official added that after the meeting, the scene in Damascus became clear:

“The Americans placed the Syrian file in Qatar’s custody in the first phase of the war. Al-Jazeera engaged in a media war, Qatari money flowed to the armed opposition, and Doha opened its hotels to host the Syrian opposition. The Qataris believed that with the money they could bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the entire Arab world, and they bear a great responsibility for the destruction of many Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.”

However, an Arab diplomat who asked for his identity not to be revealed, shares a different view, telling The Cradle that:

“The bad relationship between Qatar and Syria began when the Syrians did not know how to benefit from the Qatari role, did not listen to advice, and refused to involve the Muslim Brotherhood in power. The Qataris have repeatedly tried to open a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, but President al-Assad did not want to make any reforms and concessions.”

The diplomat points out that “Qatar supported the Syrian opposition within an international and Arab coalition.”

Continued hostility

To date, the Qataris have not shown any hint of goodwill toward Damascus. For Syrian officials, the hostile Qatari role continues, albeit at a slower pace after it became clear that its regime-change project had failed.

Former Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim, in more than one television interview about Doha’s role in the war on Syria, described it as “prey over which a group of hunters are fighting.”

Columnist Abu Abdallah says “it is sufficient to listen to Hamad bin Jassim’s confessions that Qatar paid $140 billion to finance the war, to realize the great Qatari role in destroying Syria and killing its people.”

He points out that the Qatari media war (1) against Syria continues unabated, and Doha still hosts opposition television stations and digital media platforms that incite violence against the Syrian state.

Who is really isolated?

It should be noted that Syria’s intensity of hostility toward Qatar applies neither to the rest of the Persian Gulf states, nor to security or political contacts with Ankara. “Turkey is a big country and a major player in the region, while Qatar is a puppet of the Americans,” says Abu Abdallah, also a founder of the Syria-Turkey Friendship Movement.

“Relations with the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman were not cut off in the first place, and they have returned to normal with Bahrain, and there are security and political contacts and talks with Saudi Arabia,” he said, explaining:

“Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a meeting with a senior Syrian official that he was not responsible for the [Saudi] policies of the past, and that he was ready to restore relations. The desire of the two sides to communicate, in addition to the Russian role, helped break the ice, and one of the results of that was the end of the Saudi-armed and funded Jaysh al-Islam militant group in Syria. But it is certain that the hard-line US position towards Syria and the Qatari role is what hinders progress in relations with Saudi Arabia.”

On the other hand, according to the Arab diplomatic source, Qatar is benefiting from the US and its western allies’ position – and “even from the Saudi position” – to put some brakes on the Arab push toward normalization with Syria.

He claims that “the Saudis, and not only Qatar, do not want to develop the relationship with Damascus. It is difficult to accept Syria as it was without significant changes and without the implementation of international resolutions.”

In the past years, some third parties have tried to mediate between the Syrians and the Qataris – at whose behest is unclear: “The Iranians and the Russians tried. But President Assad is very strict on this matter, and they understand the rightness of our position,” another Syrian official reveals.

Can we witness a transformation in Syrian-Qatari relations soon? “Nothing is impossible in politics – and in light of rapid international and regional changes,” he muses. “But nothing is currently in sight. This is a very complicated issue and depends on the steps taken by the Qataris, starting with stopping support for terrorism, followed by other necessary steps towards Syria.”

At present, Doha’s normalization with Damascus remains unlikely. The recent momentum toward rapprochement with Syria by Hamas and even Turkey – if successful – would leave their mutual ally Qatar as the only regional state without a pathway back to Damascus.

Only Doha can judge whether its continued hostility is worth the cost of shunning a historic Arab giant. The longer the rift, the higher the price of return.

About the author
Firas Al-Shoufi is a political and security affairs writer and a journalist at Lebanon's daily Al Akhbar newspaper.

(1) Al Jazeera is a state-owned Arabic-language international radio and TV broadcaster of Qatar. It is based in Doha and operated by the media conglomerate Al Jazeera Media Network. 

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Hamas renews ties with Syria, which may signal Qatar repairing its relationship with Damascus

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Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator

Hamas renews ties with Syria, which may signal Qatar repairing its relationship with Damascus

The leader of the group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, recently stated that the dispute with Syria is over, and the relationship between Hamas and Damascus is starting a new phase.  He praised Syria for its unwavering support of the Palestinian resistance cause.

Hamas ideology is viewed by many as Muslim Brotherhood ideology, which is similar to the Radical Islamic political ideology followed by Al Qaeda and ISIS. Founded in 1987, Hamas opposed the secular approach of the PLO, and in 2001 the political bureau established new headquarters in Damascus, Syria.

One unnamed official said the Hamas and Damascus have held several “high-profile meetings to achieve that goal.”

Qatar sponsors Hamas

Haniyeh’s comments would not have been possible without approval from Qatar’s leadership.  Qatar has been one of the main sponsors of Hamas, the Palestinian resistance group based in Gaza, which is considered to be a terrorist organization by Israel and the US but is not classified as such by Brazil, China, Egypt, Iran, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Syria, and Turkey.

[But] Qatar was one of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies which funded the US-backed terrorists fighting in Syria from 2011 to 2017.

In March, Qatar’s Emir Al Thani paid a visit to the White House, and US President Biden designated Qatar a major non-NATO ally, the same distinction that was bestowed on Israel.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia blockade

Saudi Arabia took a change in direction while President Trump was in office, and moved away from the Obama administration directive of funding the terrorists in Syria for regime change.  In 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain cut off ties with Qatar and blocked all air and land traffic to the emirate due to its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, while Qatar worked in tandem with Turkey, which is ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood AKP party, and their leader, President Erdogan.

Syria repairs relationship with Arab countries

Bahrain’s new ambassador to Syria formally took up his post in Syria on Sunday, the country’s first full diplomatic mission there in more than a decade as Damascus continues to improve its relations with Gulf Arab states. The Embassy of Bahrain was reopened in Damascus in 2018.

Syrian President Assad’s visit to the United Arab Emirates in March was the first such trip to an Arab country since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, as most Gulf countries seek warmer ties with Damascus. The Arab re-think of Damascus will aim towards bringing Syria in from the cold based on realities on the ground and Arab national interests. 

According to Dr. Shehata Al-Arabi, “In March 2021, the UAE and Saudi Arabia demanded restoring Syria to the Arab incubator. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan, expressed Riyadh’s support for Syria’s return to its Arab surroundings, stressing that the solution in Syria “will only be political”. In April 2021, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mostafa al-Kadhimi, declared in Baghdad, when he received the Arab League secretary-general, Ahmad Abu al-Ghait, his country’s support for the return of Syria to the Arab league. In May 2021, the Syrian Minister of Tourism visited the KSA, which was the first visit of a Syrian government official to Riyadh since 2011. In the same month, the kingdom sent its intelligence chief to Damascus for talks with his Syrian counterpart.”  

Al-Arabi added, “In September 2021, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shukri, met his Syrian counterpart, Faisal al-Meqdad, for the first time in more than a decade, during his participation in the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. After the meeting, the Egyptian minister announced his support for Syria’s return “as an active party in the Arab framework”.”

Will Qatar re-open its embassy in Damascus?

Recently, Engineer Moaz Hekmat Shaker, who is in charge of maintenance at the Embassy of Qatar in Damascus, said in a phone interview with Q Street Journal Syrian news agency, that he was asked to clean up the embassy, care for the garden and make all necessary repairs.

Qatar had been opposed to Syria’s return to the Arab League; however, a change in Turkey is taking place, Qatar’s former staunch ally, and with Turkey drawing closer to Saudi Arabia, Qatar may find it beneficial to repair ties with Syria.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia repair their relationship

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Turkey for the first time in years on June 22 for talks with President Erdogan, while Erdogan has also been getting closer to Israel and Egypt.

Turkey has hosted the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which was designated as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and headquartered in Istanbul. However, the US has lost interest in the Obama-era regime change they sought in Syria and has generally abandoned all interest in finding a solution to the lingering Syrian conflict.

In 2017, President Trump cut the funding on the CIA program to support terrorists fighting in Syria, which effectively dropped US support of Erdogan’s role in supplying the Radical Islamic terrorists with weapons and cash from the CIA office in southern Turkey. Since then, the relationship between the US and Turkey has been steadily sliding downhill.  

Syria returns to the Arab League

James Jeffrey, a former US envoy to Syria, told the Kurdish officials in the northeast of Syria, partners with the US, that it was in their interest to repair their relationship with Damascus, as it would be the Syrian Arab Army who could defend them against Turkish invasion and attacks.

Turkey and Syria may see a repairing of their former excellent relationship which would serve the purpose of preventing terrorist attacks on Turkey while promoting the departure of Turkish occupation forces from Syria.  Syria would possibly safeguard its northern border from all types of terrorist occupation, including those aligned with the PKK.

The Arab Summit in Algeria, in November, might see the decision taken to restore Damascus to the Arab League.

Steven Sahiounie is Chief editor of MidEast Discourse. Sahiounie is an independent Syrian American political analyst and journalist based in the Middle East and has been covering the Syrian crisis and the Middle East crisis since 2011. He has published articles in numerous media outlets. He has been regularly interviewed by US, Canadian, German, Iranian, Russian, and Chinese media. He has been awarded the Serena Shim Award Twice for the years 2020 and 2021. E-mail: S.n.sahiounie@gmail.com


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Read it in your language • Lealo en su idioma • Lisez-le dans votre langue • Lies es in Deiner Sprache • Прочитайте это на вашем языке • 用你的语言阅读