According to Grayzone’s Ben Norton, Western government-funded intelligence cutouts trained Syrian opposition leaders, planted stories in media outlets from BBC to Al Jazeera, and ran a cadre of journalists. A trove of recently leaked documents entitled HMG Trojan Horse: From Integrity Initiative to Covert Ops around the Globe: Part 1: Taming Syria produced under the auspices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office show how UK government contractors developed an advanced infrastructure of propaganda to stimulate support in the West for Syria’s armed opposition.
Virtually every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western (UK-US) government-backed public relations firms, from their political narratives to their branding, from what they said and where they said it. The leaked files reveal how Western intelligence cutouts played the media like a fiddle, carefully crafting English and Arabic language media coverage of the war on Syria to churn out a constant stream of pro-opposition coverage. US and European contractors trained and advised Syrian opposition leaders at all levels, from media experts to the heads of the parallel government-in-exile. These firms also organized interviews for Syrian opposition leader on mainstream outlets such as BBC and the UK’s Channel 4.
More than half of the stringers used by Al Jazeera in Syria were trained in a joint US-UK government program called Basma, which produced hundreds of Syrian opposition media activists. Western government PR firms not only influenced the way the media covered Syria, they also produced their own propagandistic pseudo-news for broadcast on major TV networks in the Middle East, including BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and Orient TV.
These UK-US funded firms functined as full-time PR flacks for the extremist- dominated Syrian armed opposition. One contractor called InCoStart, said it was in constant contact with a network of more than 1,600 international journalists and “influencers,” and used them to push pro-opposition talking points. Virtually every major Western corporate media outlet was influenced by the UK-US government-funded disinformation campaign from the New York Times to the Washington Post, CNN to the Guardian, the BBC to Buzzfeed.
According to journalist Sharmine Narwani, all Western wars have been fought with imagery and disinformation. The US government calls it propaganda and accuses the Russians of doing it, but the US does it better than anyone else. It is literally the main tool in America’s military kit. Otherwise, the American people would never accept the never-ending wars. There used to be laws forbidding the US government from propagandizing the American people but the Obama administration undid many of those legal barriers.
All the firms listed in the leaked files were contracted by the British government, but many also were running “multi-donor projects” that received funding from the governments of the US and other Western European countries. Many of these Western-backed opposition groups in Syria were extremist Salafi-jihadists. Some of the UK government contractors whose activities were exposed in the leaked documents were supporting Syrian al-Qaeda afiliate Jabhat al Nusra and its fanatical offshoots.
In an excerpt from Robert Reuel Naiman’s book “Wikileaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath,” he showed, in the case of Syria, that regime change has been a long-standing goal of US policy; that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its regime-change policy, thus helping lay the foundation for the sectarian civil war and massive bloodshed that we see in Syria today. Wikileaks cables suggest that the US goal as early as December 2006 was to undermine the Syrian government by any means possible. In public, the US was opposed to “Islamic extremists” but in private it saw the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presene of Islamist extremists as an opportunity that the US should take action to try to increase.
According to the US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual, propaganda is fundamental to US efforts to maintain hegemony. Everything starts and ends with “scene setting” and “swaying perceptions” to prepare a population to support invasion, occupation, drone warfare, “humanitarian interventions,” rebellions and regime change. It was no different in Syria.