For the security of our people, hold out a hand

We, a group of Syrians from different influential circles including political, religious, academic, military, business and and civil society circles and networks are calling all parties for a cessation of fight for the duration of Eid al-Adha.

Starting: Friday 3rd of October, 6 am Damascus time.
Ending: Wednesday 8th of October, 6 am Damascus time.

We issued our appeal “For the security of our people, hold out a hand” (full text bellow) with a humanitarian apolitical motivation to save lives and end misery.

We hope that this will be the first step on the road towards sustainable and just peace in Syria, and stability in the region.

We do appreciate your support to our call, which need the good offices and influence of many actors to succeed.

Best regards,

Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib
Monday, 29 September 2014

For the security of our people, hold out a hand

In the name of God, the Merciful,

O patient and proud people of Syria,

Our people have endured the tragedy of the era for four painful years now. The yearning to monopolize power caused grievances and atrocities that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, including many women and children. It filled prisons with many more hundreds of thousands, and similar numbers suffering from injuries and disabilities.

On the horizon lies an agonising future. With most of our people displaced, the continuing bleeding of the Syrian human capital, which is no less devastating than the real bloodshed. More than half of our children and youth are without education; and we lost some of the best Syrian minds and expertise.

Ignorance has been killing us almost as much as the weapons. And as for the loss of infrastructure and institutions, we are suffering from its consequences and will suffer exponentially in the future.

The hope for the survival of Syria is in our unity as people, and in our ability to ensure that Syria does not remain a game in the hands of the regional and international actors. This has turned our country into a war arena with competing agendas that are alien to Syrian interests. This has all ended up in circumstances that may lead us to the most terrible fate and the total destruction of our future.

The suffering of our people and our belief that we are still able as Syrians to stop this tragedy, led us in this sacred month, and on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, to appeal to the revolutionary military forces and to the regime in Damascus to ease the suffering of our people; families, elders, women and children, through a cease-fire on all Syrian territory to start at 6 am Damascus time on Friday the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah 1435 AH, corresponding to the 3rd of October 2014 (The day of the great pilgrimage [Hajj] and the stand on mount Arafat), until 6 am Damascus time on Wednesday, the 14th of Dhu al-Hijjah, corresponding to the 8th of October 2014.

We also call on the military forces of others that have entered our country (including the forces of ISIS, Hezbollah, and the international coalition and any other groups) to be in full compliance with this cease-fire and respect the choices and will of our people.

We envisage the revolution as pursuing dignity and freedom, and foresee our nation as place of peace and security.

At these moments, as millions pray in Arafat [as part of the Hajj in Mecca], we hope to God that we will have an Eid with no further bloodshed, orphans and bereaved mothers, and we hope that this truce will be the beginning for further steps that save lives without dropping the pursuit of rights and demands.

The resilience and power of our people to overcome adversity and its astonishing endurance, despite all what it went through, is the strongest proof that they will never waive their dignity and rights, and will achieve their aim of building a society based on justice and equality for all its people, and will achieve their free and independent state on the land so saturated with the blood of the martyrs and injured.

“For the security of our people, hold out a hand “ is our appeal which we ask you to support. We wish you all mercy, forgiveness and well being during Eid.

Peace and the mercy of God be with you.

Signatories
1. Sheikh Mohammed Krayyim Rajeh (Supreme Qur’an reader of the Levant).
2. Sheikh Osama al-Rifai (President of the Islamic Council of Syria).
3. Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Rateb al-Nabulsi (Preacher and writer).
4. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Muslim (Researcher and interpreter).
5. Sheikh Jawdat Said (Preacher and thinker).
6. Major General Mohamed Nur Khallouf (Former Chief of Logistics and Supply Council).
7. Major General Mohammed al-Haj Ali (Formerly Director of the National Defence College).
8. Major General Mohammed Faris (Syrian astronaut).
9. Prof. Dr. Moutaa Barakat (Former Dean of the College of Education).
10. Prof. Dr. Yahya al-Aridi (Former Dean of the Faculty of Information).
11. Prof. Dr. Emad El-Din al-Rasheed. (Former Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Theology at the University of Damascus).
12. Prof. Dr. Muhammad Kamal al-Sharif. (Writer and consultant psychiatrist).
13. Dr. Fidaa al-Islam al-Majzoub. (Member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Council of Syria).
14. Dr Sheikh Mahmoud al-Masri (A doctor and an expert on manuscripts and the history of science).
15. Dr. Ahmed al-Chahadah. (Member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Council of Syria).
16. Dr. Rim Turkmani (Academic and co-chair of the Syrian Civil Coalition).
17. Prof. Muhammad Amir Zaidan (Writer and director of the Institute of Islamic Studies in Austria).
18. Judge Mamoun al-Afif (Former Judge in Sweidah).
19. Mr. Nizar al-Hiraki (Political consultant, ambassador to Qatar)
20. Mr. Ahmed Riad Ghannam. (Political writer and member of the Damascus Chamber of Industry).
21. Mr. Farouk Khattab (Consultant in international relations).
22. Mr. Tarfa Bagajati (Board member of the European Initiative for Muslim Social Cohesion).
23. Sheikh Mouaz Ahmad al-Khatib (Former President of the Syrian Coalition).

The Carpet Bombing of Damascene Jobar

For the past week, Damascene Jobar has been bombarded so relentlessly that some are calling the strikes “unprecedented” [in Jobar that is], a term that has become extremely rare amidst the genocide and total destruction unleashed by Assad on the country for the past three and a half years. Rockets have been raining upon Jobar and war planes have been carpet bombing this suburb of Damascus, as shown in following footage:

31-8-2014

2-9-2014

3-9-2014

4-9-2014

5-9-2014

Assad TV shamelessly presents this carpet bombing of Jobar as a victory:

The McCain-ISIS Conspiracy


[Obscure blogs and their new "discoveries" about old pictures]

In their efforts to expose cabals and plots around the world, conspiracy theorists often have one major obstacle to overcome: falsehood. On the other hand, conspiracy thinkers are just as often quick to consume and disseminate the fantasy tales thrown at them. Lack of rational thought, ignorance of facts and an inclination to speculate are a few reasons for this. Cooking up conspiracy theories may therefore not be a very hard job, but it’s still a job. A too high level of ridiculousness could translate into a major fail.

Team Assad, consisting of different official and officious media outlets as well as cultist supporters around the world, has become a major player on the international stage of conspiracy theories. Bashar’s cronies have deliberately spread false information and all sorts of fantasies in order to safeguard their positions for the purpose of power and wealth. Their propaganda has booked major local successes at gun point and found allies who would contribute and disseminate shared ideas to an international audience. These include propaganda outlets of allied regimes (Russia and Iran), as well as sympathisers and apologists around the world (politicians, journalists and activists), not to mention the thriving conspiracy industry.

One of team Assad’s major achievements in this regard has been overcoming the many great blunders it made. Take for example the Jazeera-Barca-Weather conspiracy. It was so ridiculous, it looked like a spoof. It wasn’t, but if a tree falls… The same goes for numerous other related antics, such as the “Doha Studios” conspiracy and the “Parks & Recreation” conspiracy. Just going through the archives [in English] of the official state-media outlet SANA would bring up countless of absurd and ridiculous stories and fabrications. Indeed, team Assad is more in league with the likes of team Kim rather than those who do his job for him on an international stage. Take for example the “Nato Data” fabrication or the conspiracies surrounding the chemical massacre in Ghouta, where the Russians had to step in to correct the oft repeated self-contradicting mantra of “nothing happened but the terrorists did it.”

Yet once in a while, it does go terribly wrong. Conspiracy theorists get ahead of themselves and come up with things that team Assad might just as well have produced. A few months ago this was the case with the McCain-ISIS conspiracy. The mother of all conspiracy theories about the Syrian revolution is that it was planned, organised and executed by “the West”. As such conspiracies care little to differentiate between this or that group and their role within [or in this case against] the revolution, the McCain-ISIS conspiracy fits right into this broader notion.

The story goes as follows: Last year, U.S. senator John McCain met with ISIS leaders – including the by now self-declared “Caliph” Baghdadi – and plotted their rise in Syria and Iraq. The evidence for this conspiracy would be several pictures of this meeting. A number obscure outlets parroting one another spread this story, and it took some time but team Assad eventually picked it up as well and published the following on SANA:

New evidence confirms relation between terrorist leader al-Baghdadi and Washington

…In the past few days, a photo went viral on social networks, showing al-Baghdadi with U.S. Senator John McCain near the Syrian–Turkish borders. According to some political analysts and experts on terrorism, this photo is plain evidence of the U.S. role in creating this terrorist and the organization he leads, noting that McCain visited a number of terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq during the past three years, providing them with different types of support. ..

So, who are these “political analysts and experts on terrorism“?

Nice: ISIS Posts Photo of Their Members Chilling With Sen. John McCain
Right Wing News

ISIS brags about links to US Senator John McCain
Conservative News

Busted: Jihad John McCain Met With “ISIS” Head Caliph Ibrahim Back in 2013
American Everyman

ISIS Terrorists Post a Selfie with John McCain
Tea Party News Network

Here’s A Picture Of John McCain Hanging Out With ISIS Freedom Fighters In 2013
Wonkette

EXPOSED: ISIS ROARED TO POWER MONTHS AFTER SECRET MEETING WITH JOHN MCCAIN (PHOTOS)
Now The End Begins

[Video] John McCain’s Whoops Moment: Photographed Chilling With ISIS
Mad World News

Exposed! ISIS Roared To Power Months After Secret Meeting With John McCain (Photos!)
Before It’s News

Photos of Senator McCain “chillin’” with ISIS Leaders in Syria Before Their Rampage Through Iraq
The Minority Report

ABU BAKR AL BAGHDADI, ISIS LEADER, + JOHN MCCAIN, US SENATOR, PHOTGRAPHED AT SECRET MEETING 2006 IN IRAQ
The Whistle Blowers

ISIS Post PR Photos They Took With John McCain
Counter Current News

[Baghdadi's colourful wife? She looks like she's ready to tweet ISIS propaganda. "Mad World News" was the only one catching this picture, yet no questions were asked. Very suspicious, were it not that ignorance reigns and rationality is nowhere to be found in "Mad World", The editing in these pictures stems from the controversy upon their actual release in 2013. That's why not one but two men are encircled.]

A good conspiracy theorist would build his theory around notions that are hard to verify or disprove, and focus his efforts on exploiting the lack of rationality of his audience by way of logical fallacies. The amateur on the other hand, would rather opt for the much easier distortion or fabrication of facts. He can get a long way due to the ignorance on the part of his audience, but it only takes one poor chap to stumble upon actual facts and disprove the entire conspiracy. In this case, we’re dealing with amateurs. So much so, that even Front Page Mag refutes them. There is however a decent and more serious article by Inquisitr debunking the story as well. Another one is found on AZ Central.

A few days ago I stumbled upon one of the writers and “fact checkers” for Counter Current News, the last one on the above list. I’ve had seen the article in question when it came out and recognized the pictures from 2013 [when they were actually released]. So I asked him if he fact-checked this one as well and he replied that it not only was “100% legit”, but that ISIS had “even” bragged about it and added that Khalid al-Hamad “the cannibal Jihadist” [Abu Saqqar], famous for “eating a human heart of a Shi`i man he killed”, was in the pictures too. Why settle for the ignorance at hand when you can add more of it?

It may all seem innocent and “truth-seeking” in the conspiracy world, but in reality there lies a great tragedy behind the story of these pictures. They are of a meeting between U.S. senator John McCain, activists, and leaders of the Free Syrian Army that took place in May 2013. Note that “Whistle Blowers” claims it’s from Iraq in 2006! Among the attendees were the SMC’s Chief of Staff at the time, Gen. Salim Idris. More importantly, the meeting was hosted by Asifat al-Shamal [Northern Storm Brigade]. There was no secret about this meeting after it took place, as it was organized by the Syrian Task Force lead by Mouaz Moustafa, who is in the pictures [on the right with the Palestinian scarf] and found himself compelled to respond to accusations about ISIS.

Counter Current also claims to “remember” that meeting between John McCain, “factions of rebels” and Idris, described as ‘the head of the Free Syria “moderates”’. It then claims that Idris was “booted out for being too moderate.” No mention of who replaced him, namely Col. Abdelillah al-Bashir. I suppose he’s less “moderate” than Idris. If not, then that must have been why he was sacked too. The sacking was actually done by the NC, the most “moderate” of the lot. In reality, none of the schisms between the NC and the FSA or within each of them have anything to do with moderation or extremism, but rather with incompetence, ineffectiveness, personal interests and the interests of countries that back different factions. This is a popular revolution, overall leadership and outside meddling aren’t its strengths.


[Mouaz Moustafa together with Shaykh Moaz al-Khatib]

So where does Counter Current get such an absurd idea? Quite simply, it considers ISIS to be “a subset of rebels” and since it has been asserted that this is the group McCain had been meeting with, it’s assumed that Idris – apparently the only non-ISIS member in the meeting – was not up to their extremist standards and had to go. Such “facts” are impossible to check and consider 100% or otherwise legit, since they are simply conclusions or rather speculations drawn from premises. If the premises are false, not only is the conclusion false, there is no reason for any speculations to begin with.

So, what proves this premise to be true? One of the men in the pictures would be Baghdadi. Why? He supposedly looks like him, don’t all Arabs look alike? In the comments to the “American Everyman” entry, the clueless are actually comparing noses. Since June, we do know what Baghdadi really looks like, and the meeting was only a year before; did he age that badly? He didn’t, but the old picture of Baghdadi that is being used here and there to draw the compare is very old indeed. Someone must have missed the entire “Caliphate” episode or otherwise not have a clue.


[Logo of Asifat al-Shamal - Northern Storm Brigade]

We also know who the “Baghdadi” in the pictures with McCain actually is: an activist known as Abu Yusef. We knew this already in 2013 because this isn’t the first time these pictures have sparked a controversy. Back then, Abu Yusef, Muhammad Nour [also marked in the pictures, the second encircled man] along with the former leader of Asifat al-Shamal were accused by Irish members of team Assad of being involved in the kidnapping of Lebanese pilgrims, something they parroted from Hezbollah’s Al Jadeed TV. Once again, it’s bad news when other propagandists have a completely different story. The actual story of Asifat al-Shamal which includes the meeting with McCain and the controversy that was sparked are excellently covered in the following article:

The Northern Storm Brigade: It’s History, Current Status, and Why It Matters
By Chris Looney, March 18, 2014


[Ahmed Hayyad a.k.a. Abu Yusef, the activist falsely accused of being Baghdadi. Thanks to Yalla Souriya for pointing to this tweet with his pictures]

This brings us to the most relevant faction in that meeting for our purposes: Asifat al-Shamal. Despite being the host, it remained unnamed by Counter Current. It wouldn’t matter much because whoever they are, “ISIS Post PR Photos They Took With John McCain”. They even bragged about it, as the “fact checker” claims. First, these pictures were released at the time of the meeting in 2013 by none other than the organizers and they made it even on CNN and discussed by the person who released them, Mouaz Moustafa:

Of course, ISIS can’t release something they don’t have and they never did. Counter Current doesn’t offer even a mere hint to the evidence that ISIS had made claim to these pictures later on. But what if they did? If ISIS claims something, it must be true? They had something else to say in response to those pictures by September 2013 when it launched the attack on them.

We Fought FSA Because It Conspired With John McCain Against Us

“On Wednesday, we purified the land from what is called Liwa Asifat al Shamal, which God wanted to expose them in front of everyone. These are some examples of their treason before and now:

1. They secured the departure of the Assad army and its tanks that were shelling civilians in Menagh military airbase (which fell after the ISIS sent suicide bombers to kill its defenders on August 5).
2. They called for rule other than what God has prescribed, through democracy, on their official websites.
3. They received Senator John McCain in ‘the hangar’ and they agreed with him to fight the Islamists.
4. They fought fiercely against Muslims to defend the German spy (presumably a German doctor who helped in medical aid) on Wednesday whose camera had images of the ISIS headquarters, their houses and their women
5. One of the prisoners from Asifat Al Ashamal revealed that the group worked with BlackWater, the anti-Islamic company.
6. A few spies were captured from Asifat al Shamal and we had evidence they worked with the American intelligence and this is documented in a video that we will release online soon.
7. They stole and robbed without distributing the goods on Muslims. They humiliated people although the goods belong to the people.
8. They suffocated people on Salama crossing by taking their money, harassing women and humiliating men.”

Based on all that, our jihadi brothers fought them and expelled this criminal gang from Azaz because whoever aligns himself with the Americans will be with them.”

- hhassan.com/2013/09/al-qaeda-in-syria-we-fought-fsa-because.html

More of such statements followed, and this is the tragic part: As discussed regarding the Rise of ISIS in Aleppo, Asifat al-Shamal had been among the first FSA Brigades to have fought ISIS. One of the main excuses that ISIS used to attack them in their home town of Azaz was the meeting with McCain. ISIS declared them to be disbelievers and apostates [partially] on this basis and the group was nearly destroyed until the massive united offensive against ISIS commenced on the 3rd of January, 2014. This takfir against Asifat al-Shamal on the basis of these very pictures with McCain had also been addressed by Jabhat al-Ulema Halab – Aleppo’s largest scholarly body of the revolution – among a long list of transgressions on the part of ISIS back in November 2013:

قاموا بتكفير لواء عاصفة الشمال بناء على صورة مع جون مكين، ولم يأتوا بأي دليل يثبت حصول خيانة داخل اللقاء، وهذه شبهة لا تجيز القتال وسفك دماء المسلمين، فقد اجتمع صلى الله عليه وسلم بعدد من الكفار والتقى بهم. وهذا ظاهر في بياناتهم الصوتية والمكتوبة.

Translation: “They excommunicated Asifat al-Shamal on the basis of pictures with John McCain, even though they provided no evidence that treason took place at this meeting, and suspicions are not an excuse to fight and shed the blood of Muslims. The Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] met with a number of disbelievers. And this [excommunication] is apparent from their [ISIS'] audio recordings and written statements.”

Baghdadi actually calls the FSA “McCain’s gangs” yet he was somehow in that meeting? He’s probably faking it, yet the claim that he was in the meeting is supposedly true? There was no such claim to begin with, the mere thought is beyond ridiculous. I suppose some irrational illiterate finding a fan boy tweeting pictures to “prove the disbelief” of the FSA, might “think” it must mean ISIS claims their leader is sitting there with McCain. At least such stupidity would be better than plain lying.

Mouaz Mustafa mentioned how ISIS considers him an apostate and killed two of his staff members merely for working with him, and how some of the men in the picture had been killed by ISIS as well. Mouaz is a Palestinian activist, the people Counter News with all their posts about Israel purport to care so much about. Yet Mouaz, Abu Yusef, Muhammad Nour and everyone else in these pictures are falsely accused of being ISIS.

Mouaz’ actually responded to these false accusations by Counter Current . Unfortunately, the writer at “The Beirut Report” who published the response and posted the Counter Current article still considers it all somehow a conspiracy by the “US and its allies”. Who needs “facts” when they’re debunked so easily. But with blunders like these, having an opinion is the last thing to worry about.

Say what you want of McCain, but his integrity and intelligence exceeds that of conspiracy theorists and propagandists by far. He has been one of the most vocal supporters of free Syrians in the U.S. and the most outspoken against both Assad and ISIS, but unfortunately little materialized even after that meeting. He did what he could, which is not much since he’s not the one who was elected in 2008 and running his second term. This points to the core notion of the McCain-ISIS conspiracy, namely that McCain would be able to conspire anything to begin with let alone organize a force that would take over a third of Syria and a third of Iraq in a year’s time.


["Because ISIS loves this flag"]

The “fact checker” at Counter Current throws in another name: Abu Saqqar. He’s supposedly also in one of those pictures, though it would have remained a mystery forever if “Conservative News” hadn’t pointed out who he’s supposed to be: the guy on the left in the picture at the top of this entry, holding a weapon and standing next to McCain and in front of “Baghdadi”. All Arabs must be looking alike again.

There are actually clear pictures of him, but “Conservative News” must not have a clue. Abu Saqqar is obviously not there, and why would he be? After all, Gen. Idris had been pressured to look for him after what happened in Qusayr. Besides, he was still in Qusayr as this meeting took place. But apparently, Abu Saqqar was somehow part of ISIS as well. Everyone who acts insane must be, never mind that he was actually one of the first civilians to join Farouq in Homs of all places.

So much misinformation and distortion begs the question: what’s up with Counter Current? Is it simply the same as all other obscure blogs in the list? Little else is found about Syria on the website other than these two pieces:

ISIS Caught On Video Burning the Palestinian Flag
This is Syria Today… Here’s What We Can Do About It.

Counter Current is seeing ISIS everywhere. If only they could understand what they are writing about. First, this is not ISIS, but a Syrian brigade, and that’s not the flag of ISIS. One could also recognize the slogan they chant, even if not speaking the language, as it’s a slogan shared by many revolutionaries except for ISIS for reasons most likely not obvious to the author.

Moreover, whoever understands what they’re saying will find that they are speaking of taking down the Baath flag, you know, of the “Ba`athist Assad regime and dynasty” that the author says to hate and reject. Indeed, it’s not merely a “Pan-Arab flag” shared by Palestinians, but the flag of the Baath party. Is that why some people think Bashar loves the Palestinians? It’s surely not because of Yarmouk, which the famous picture used in the second article is from.

The video is from 2013 [or older], but only picked up by Counter Current after Gaza came in the news more recently. They seem to have a talent for discovering old footage and use it for today’s trends in topics. The second article seems much more earnest and serious in scope. Hopefully the rest of the website tends more into that direction, though the piece on McCain alone is reason enough to throw the entire thing into the can.

It would do Counter Current good to get writers who know something about Syria, ISIS and other subjects to write about them and a fact checker who actually does his job. Hire a comedian if you must, Jon Stewart has some fans over there. I’m sure he wouldn’t fall for it the second time around. It was pretty sad that he had to rely on FOX News of all things, but at least he didn’t imagine Abu Saqqar was there even though he was all over the news a couple of weeks before. Speaking of “ze Jews”, Assad’s cronies also found it necessary to add something:

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN’S NEPHEW KILLED FIGHTING FOR ISIS?!
ISIS is run by Simon Elliot, a Mossad Agent

One would think the first one is a joke, almost forgetting that Shabbiha have no sense of humour. Then again, the man behind “Syrian Perspective” belongs in a mental asylum. As for the second blog, good to know that not only Simon is running ISIS, but that his brother Shmuel is running Turkey too. Jews, Jews, Jews, from 9-11 to Mumbai to Norway, according to the “Syrian Free Press.” So many Jews, only one schmuck: Bashar, the son of a goose. Congratulations to team Assad, as always an excellent job outdoing the competition in the end.