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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Syria and the fog of infowar -- By Lisa Lundquist, The Long War Journal

Like innumerable others, we here at The Long War Journal have been trying to piece together on a daily basis what exactly is happening in Syria. It has become evident to us that the Syrian conflict, which is already a proxy war, has also evolved into an information war of unprecedented dimensions.

The major players in the conflict, namely the regime of President Bashar al Assad and the Syrian opposition, have well-oiled publicity machines. The supporting players, which include but are not limited to the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Hezbollah, are industriously managing the flow of information from their own perspectives. In addition to all this, a large number of the groups fighting the Assad regime, including al Qaeda's Syrian branches, the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, issue regular updates on their operations along with other statements. And last but by no means least, activist organizations such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights command a wide audience for their reporting on events inside the war-ravaged country, where at least 29 journalists were killed last year.

This daily tide of information from a disparate range of sources makes accurate analysis of the evolving situation in Syria very difficult. And over the past year or so, starkly divergent views of a number of significant issues have surfaced.

To name a few:

Perhaps most startling is the disconnect in the US government's statements on al Qaeda and its role in Syria. The Obama administration has long pursued a policy of minimizing public reporting on the terror group's organization, operations, and global reach [see, for example, LWJ report, ISAF ends its daily 'operational update' reports, on ISAF's discontinuation of its reporting on raids against al Qaeda in Afghanistan]. In line with that policy, US officials tried last year to portray the Syrian opposition as largely secular, with few jihadists and little al Qaeda presence.

But in Congressional testimony on Jan. 28, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said that al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front in Syria aspires to attack the US and is "one of the newest threats emerging in the past year to US security." In addition, the publicized US estimate of the number of extremist fighters in Syria was recently raised to about 26,000, a number that is probably far below the actual figure.

And while his agency's 2014 global threat assessment reiterated the administration's frequent theme that "core al Qaeda" is "on a path to defeat," indications are that al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri is actively engaged in the management of the global group's expanding branches in Syria as well as elsewhere. Just last week Zawahiri addressed a message to them, urging an end to infighting between ISIS and other Islamist factions and a focus on the common enemy [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda head addresses infighting in Syria].

Calling into question previous US assertions that the al Qaeda emir/al Qaeda core is disengaged and on the run, the Associated Press reported yesterday: "U.S. intelligence officials say Zawahri so far has not called on the Syrian branches to attack U.S. targets, allowing them to focus on the war against Assad."

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