Reprinted from Strategic Culture Foundation
As Syrians gather in their capital Damascus to celebrate, there is a sense that the New Year will bring a measure of peace -- the first time such hope has been felt over the past five years of war in the country.
Russia's military intervention to help its Arab ally at the end of September has been the seminal event of the year. After three months of sustained Russian aerial operations in support of the Syrian Arab Army against an array of foreign-backed mercenaries, there is an unmistakable sense that the terrorist backbone has been broken, as Russian President Vladimir Putin recently put it.
This past week sees several local truces being implemented across Syria with evacuation of militants from towns which they have held under armed siege. The civilian populations in these locations have been effectively held hostage as human shields by the militants, thus preventing Syrian army advances up to now. The Western media, such as US government-owned Voice of America, invert reality by claiming that it is the mercenaries themselves who have been under siege from the Syrian army instead of the fact that the mercenaries have been holding civilians in their midst as hostages, as was the case earlier in the siege of Homs, which was eventually also broken.
What has changed dramatically is the advent of Russian air power -- over 5,000 sorties in three months -- which has enabled the Syrian army to wipe out militant bases, oil smuggling and weapons supply routes in northern Syria along the Turkish border. This has left militants further inland to wither from the severance of supply lifelines. Hence the readiness now to accept truces and evacuation deals -- under the auspices of the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross.
Thousands of anti-government insurgents are being bussed out of locations around Damascus, including Zabadani, al Qadam, Hajar al Aswad and Yarmouk.
An air strike reportedly by Russia forces killing the commander of the Jaish al-Islam militant group, Zahran Alloush, in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, dealt a devastating blow to morale among the self-styled jihadists. Alloush was reportedly killed along with several other commanders. That strike translates into the game is up.
What is interesting is how the Western news media are reporting all this. Their reportage of the truces and evacuations are straining to minimize the context of these developments. This BBC report is typical, headlined: Syria fighters' evacuation from Zabadani "under way."
The British state-owned broadcaster tells of hundreds of fighters being relocated from the town of Zabadani as if the development just magically materialized like a present donated by Santa Claus. What the BBC fails to inform is that truce, as with several others around Damascus, has come about because of Russia's strategic military intervention in Syria dealing crushing blows against the militant networks. The Western media have preoccupied themselves instead with claims from the US State Department that Russia's military operations have either been propping up the Assad regime or allegedly targeting moderate rebels and civilians.
The disingenuous Western narrative, or more prosaically propaganda, then, in turn, creates a conundrum when widespread truces and evacuations are being implemented. That obviously positive development signaling an end to conflict thanks to Russia's military intervention has to be left unexplained or unacknowledged by the Western media because it negates all their previous pejorative narrative towards Russia and the Assad government.
Furthermore, the Western media are obliged to be coy about the exact identity of the fighters being evacuated. As noted already, the militants are variously described by the Western media in sanitized terms as fighters or rebels. But more informative regional and local sources, such as Lebanon's Al Manar, identify the brigades as belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front. These are terror groups, as even defined by Washington and the European Union. So, the Western media has to, by necessity, censor itself from telling the truth by peddling half-truths and sly omissions.
The Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), whose commander was killed, is also integrated with the al-Qaeda terror network. Jaish al-Islam is funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and serves as a conduit for American CIA weapons to the more known terrorist outlets. Notably, Voice of America referred to the terror commander Zahran Alloush with the euphemistic cleansing term as a rebel leader.
What the Russian-precipitated truces and termination of sieges is demonstrating is that the western side of Syria, from Daraa in the south, through Damascus and up to the northern Mediterranean Sea coast around Aleppo and Latakia, are infested with the terror brigades of IS and Al-Nusra and their myriad offshoots.
Western media have repeatedly accused Russia of conducting air strikes against moderate rebels and not the IS brigades, which they claim, were concentrated in the east of Syria. It is true that the IS is strongly based in eastern cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, from where its oil smuggling operations are mounted.
Russia has stepped up its air strikes on IS smuggling routes in eastern Syria with devastating results. But also integral to the air operations is the cutting off of weapons routes in the northwest to fuel the insurgents along the entire western flank, including around Damascus.