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President Obama and his team should discard the propaganda and read then reflect on some of the articles written about Syria by recently murdered American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Although they were both embedded with Syrian “moderate rebels”, they documented some of the reality not myths about the Syrian “revolution”.
Reporting by Steven Sotloff
In a Time magazine article titled “Libya’s Fighters Export their Revolution to Syria”, Sotloff documented the transport of Libyan fighters and weapons to Syria.
“Within weeks of the successful conclusion of their revolution, Libyan fighters began trickling into Syria. But in recent months, that trickle has allegedly become a torrent, as many more have traveled to the mountains straddling Syria and Turkey, where the rebels have established their bases.”
The article suggests that Qatar is funding the operation.
Sotloff traveled within Turkey where he reported on the strong support for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad from Turkish Alawite communities. He gave voice to people who see the conflict in Syria as essentially being Saudi and Qatari funded extremists , assisted by Turkey, against a secular state. One Turkish citizen in the border region described what is happening:
“At night the fighters sneak into Syria and kill the soldiers. Turkey allows this and this makes us angry.”
While in Turkey Sotloff broadcast news of Syrian rebels being found and arrested with chemical weapon Sarin gas. He used Twitter to send out the Turkish news report. That was in May, three months before the August 21 2013 chemical weapons deaths in outer Damascus. The Syrian rebels were arrested by Turkish police but quickly released, giving evidence to claims of Turkish government support for Nusra. Sotloff was puzzled why the mainstream media was not giving this event coverage.
One of Sotloff’s last major articles on Syria was titled “In Aleppo Bread Lines and Disenchantment with the FSA”. In the article he documents the public perception of Free Syria Army: thieving , harassing, incompetent and brutal. Sotloff quotes one Aleppan regarding the rebels: “They have already destroyed our country.”
Reporting by James Foley
James Foley was another freelance journalist who did war reportage from Libya in 2011. At one point he was captured by Libyan government forces, held for a few weeks, then released.
Later, Foley joined the stream of journalists who traveled to Turkey then into Syria with rebel guidance.
On October 16, 2012 the Global Post published Foley’s article titled “Syria: Rebels losing support among civilians in Aleppo”. He described the situation:
“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.
“The rebels in Aleppo are predominantly from the countryside, further alienating them from the urban crowd that once lived here peacefully, in relative economic comfort and with little interference from the authoritarian government of President Bashar al-Assad.”
A few months earlier Foley had taken note of a New York Times article which documented Al Queda presence within the so called Free Syrian Army. He did not recognize the flag of ISIS in a photograph taken with the FSA rebels. Foley innocently asked if the flag was from “some misc jihadis” rather than Al Queda. Two weeks ago (about two years after Foley’s tweet) these “misc jihadis” murdered him.
What is Islamic States’ Goal in the Sensational Murders of Foley and Sotloff?
Both James Foley and Steven Sotloff were murdered by Islamic State (IS) to receive maximum publicity. The black hooded Islamic States spokesman intentionally taunts the US. Their goal may be to generate more publicity, more misguided fanatical recruits, and to provoke the US into more foolish intervention and aggression.
If Islamic State’s members read the writings of Foley and Sotloff they would also know that these journalists were willing to write what they saw.
It will be a travesty if the US government manipulates the tragic deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff to increase funding of “moderate rebels” who Foley described (in 2012) as “deeply infiltrated by foreign fighters and terrorist groups”.
The names of James Foley and Steven Sotloff can be added to those of about 200,000 Syrians who have died as a direct consequence of US policy of regime change by proxy war in Syria.
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org