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 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.
The surrender of the various mercenary brigades and the breaking of sieges around Damascus is vindication of Russia’s military tactics; and also its narrative about the nature of the whole conflict in Syria.
The Western notion of «moderate rebels» and «extremists» is being exposed as the nonsense that it is. And so Western media are compelled to evacuate any meaningful context from their coverage of recent events in Syria.
Riad Haddad, Syria’s ambassador to Russia, spoke the plain truth in recent days when he said: «We are at a turning point in the Syrian army operations against terrorists – namely the transition from defense to attack… [because of] the effective work of the Russian air force in Syria».
But the ambassador’s comments were scarcely, if at all, reported in the Western media. Simply because those words vindicate Russia’s military intervention and its general policy towards Syria.
Also missing or downplayed in the Western media coverage of the truces across Syria is the question of where the surrendering mercenaries are being evacuated to. They are not being bussed to other places inside Syria. That shows that there is no popular support for these insurgents.
Despite copious Western media coverage contriving that the Syrian conflict is some kind of «civil war» between a despotic regime and a popular pro-democracy uprising, the fact that surrendering militants have no where to go inside Syria patently shows that these insurgents have no popular base.
In other words, this is a foreign-backed war on Syria; a covert war of aggression on a sovereign country utilizing terrorist proxy armies.
So where are the terrorist remnants being shipped to? According to several reports, the extremists are being given safe passage into Turkey, where they will receive repair and sanctuary from the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and no doubt subsidized by the European Union with its $3.5 billion in aid to Ankara to «take care of refugees».
Again, this is another indictment of the state-terrorist links of NATO-member Turkey, which the EU is recently giving special attention to for accession to the bloc.
Russia is not only vindicated in Syria. The Western governments, their media and their regional client regimes are being flushed out like the bandits on the ground in Syria.
If the UN-sponsored peace process due to start in the New Year succeeds to end the conflict in Syria, it will be largely down to Russia’s military campaign that has wiped out the terrorist proxies working on behalf of the Western criminal enterprise for regime change in that country.
Finian CUNNINGHAM | SCF