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Aleppo, Syria: Politicians, 'experts' and journalists will have to reboot their stories

'Our political masters are in league with the Syrian rebels, and for the same reason as the rebels kidnap their victims – money'

By Robert Fisk

Western politicians, “experts” and journalists are going to have to reboot their stories over the next few days now that Bashar al-Assad’s army has retaken control of eastern Aleppo.

We’re going to find out if the 250,000 civilians “trapped” in the city were indeed that numerous. We’re going to hear far more about why they were not able to leave when the Syrian government and Russian air force staged their ferocious bombardment of the eastern part of the city.

And we’re going to learn a lot more about the “rebels” whom we in the West – the US, Britain and our head-chopping mates in the Gulf – have been supporting.

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CIA, MI6 and Turkey's rogue game in Syria

Theresa May to have dinner with leaders who support beheading, executing gay people, and 'disappearing' their critics  

They did, after all, include al-Qaeda (alias Jabhat al-Nusra, alias Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), the “folk” – as George W Bush called them – who committed the crimes against humanity in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001. Remember the War on Terror? Remember the “pure evil” of al-Qaeda. Remember all the warnings from our beloved security services in the UK about how al-Qaeda can still strike terror in London?

Not when the rebels, including al-Qaeda, were bravely defending east Aleppo, we didn’t – because a powerful tale of heroism, democracy and suffering was being woven for us, a narrative of good guys versus bad guys as explosive and dishonest as “weapons of mass destruction”.

Back in the days of Saddam Hussein – when a few of us argued that the illegal invasion of Iraq would lead to catastrophe and untold suffering, and that Tony Blair and George Bush were taking us down the path to perdition – it was incumbent upon us, always, to profess our repugnance of Saddam and his regime. We had to remind readers, constantly, that Saddam was one of the Triple Pillars of the Axis of Evil.

So here goes the usual mantra again, which we must repeat ad nauseam to avoid the usual hate mail and abuse that will today be cast at anyone veering away from the approved and deeply flawed version of the Syrian tragedy.

Read more

Fisk: The rebels of Aleppo, Syria are no heroes

Syria and Iraq wars: Here is why everything you’ve read could be wrong  

Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces stands next to a tank in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they recaptured the area. AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. AFP/Getty Images
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching through the streets of east Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Government forces and rebel fighters have fought to control the 12th century mosque in the last four years, until Syrian troops seized control of it this week. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching through the streets of east Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a graveyard in east Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching through the streets of east Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching through the streets of east Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Syrian rebels said Tuesday that they reached a cease-fire deal with Moscow to evacuate civilians and fighters from eastern Aleppo, after the U.N. and opposition activists reported possible mass killings by government forces closing in on the rebels' last enclave. (SANA via AP)
TOPSHOT - Syrian opposition fighters fire towards positions held by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in al-Bab on the northeastern outskirts of the northern embattled city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Saleh ABO GHALOUNSALEH ABO GHALOUN/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces walks in eastern Aleppo's al-Kalasseh neighbourhood on December 13, 2016. Civilians and opposition fighters will start evacuating east Aleppo "within hours" under a deal with Syria's regime, a rebel official said, as global outrage mounted over reports of atrocities including summary executions. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Lebanese woman holds a paper in Arabic that read "Aleppo" as she chants slogans, during a sit-in to express solidarity with residents of the Syrian city of Aleppo, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on the attacks in eastern Aleppo, where Syrian government forces appear poised to take the last rebel holdouts. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A Syrian man carries his sister who was wounded after a government airstrike hit the neighborhood of Ansari, in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Abdullah al-Yassin, File)
A Syrian child cooks in the street in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, on December 13, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Aleppo's citadel on December 13, 2016, after government forces captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces walks at Aleppo's citadel on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Aleppo's citadel on December 13, 2016, after government forces captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian boy is seen among other civilains leaving a rebel-held area of Aleppo towards the government-held side on December 13, 2016 during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRIKARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian and Lebanese activists hold papers in Arabic that read "Aleppo," during a sit-in to express solidarity with residents of the Syrian city of Aleppo, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on the attacks in eastern Aleppo, where Syrian government forces appear poised to take the last rebel holdouts. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Syrian pro-government forces stand on a tank near the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces stand on a tank near the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo in the foreground and the city's citadel in the background on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows destruction in the ancient market of the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after pro-government forces captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian army soldier places a Syrian national flag during a battle with rebel fighters at the Ramouseh front line, east of Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
Smoke rises following a Syrian government air strike on rebel positions, in eastern Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian child cooks in the street in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, on December 13, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo in the foreground and the city's citadel in the background on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
In this photo, provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man, right, runs for cover from a Syrian government forces airstrike attack, in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 27, 2014 . (Aleppo Media Center, AMC, via AP, File)
A general view shows Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo in the foreground and the city's citadel in the background on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHANYOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo in the foreground and the city's citadel in the background on December 13, 2016, after pro-government forces captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian civilians leave towards safer rebel-held areas in Aleppo, on December 13, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian child cooks in the street in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, on December 13, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian civilians leave towards safer rebel-held areas in Aleppo, on December 13, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm over reports of atrocities against civilians Monday, as the battle for Aleppo entered its final phase with Syrian government forces on the verge of retaking rebel-held areas of the city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces walks holding a Syrian flag in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016 after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian pro-government forces take a selfie in the courtyard of the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian pro-regime fighters, gesture as they drive past residents fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian civilians flee the Sukkari neighbourhood towards safer rebel-held areas in southeastern Aleppo, on December 12, 2016, during an operation by Syrian government forces to retake the embattled city. The crucial battle for Aleppo entered its "final phase" after Syrian rebels retreated into a small pocket of their former bastion in the face of new army advances. The retreat leaves opposition fighters confined to just a handful of neighbourhoods in southeast Aleppo, the largest of them Sukkari and Mashhad. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk in the ancient Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces walks in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk in the Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo on December 13, 2016, after they captured the area. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-government forces walk in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after they captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian woman leaves Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood after pro-government forces captured the area in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A member of the Syrian government forces stands in a severely damaged street in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian government forces walk in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian government forces warms his hands on a fire in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian government forces walk in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian government forces stands in a severely damaged street in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, keep warm next to a fire as they arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Syrian government forces stands in a severely damaged street in Aleppo's newly captured Al-Kalasseh neighbourhood in the eastern part of the war torn city on December 13, 2016. After weeks of heavy fighting, regime forces were poised to take full control of Aleppo, dealing the biggest blow to Syria's rebellion in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIANGEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian pro-regime fighter speaks with a child, as residents flee violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian pro-regime fighters, gesture as they drive past resident fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian residents, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian woman, fleeing violence in the restive Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, reacts as she stands with her children in Aleppo's Fardos neighbourhood on December 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. Syrian rebels withdrew from six more neighbourhoods in their one-time bastion of east Aleppo in the face of advancing government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGERSTRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
AFP PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2016 People walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 28, 2016. The death toll from an upsurge of fighting in Syria's second city Aleppo rose despite a plea by the UN envoy for the warring sides to respect a February ceasefire. / AFP PHOTO / AMEER ALHALBIAMEER ALHALBI/AFP/Getty Images
AFP PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2016 Fighters from the Free Syrian Army take part in a battle against the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in the northern Syrian village of Yahmoul in the Marj Dabiq area north of the embattled city of Aleppo on October 10, 2016. Syria's main opposition group called for foreign allies to supply rebel forces with ground-to-air weapons to counter deadly air raids in Aleppo. / AFP PHOTO / Nazeer al-KhatibNAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
AFP PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2016 Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held Salihin neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo, on September 11, 2016. Air strikes have killed dozens in rebel-held parts of Syria as the opposition considers whether to join a US-Russia truce deal due to take effect on September 12. / AFP PHOTO / AMEER ALHALBIAMEER ALHALBI/AFP/Getty Images

Yes, Bashar al-Assad has brutally destroyed vast tracts of his cities in his battle against those who wish to overthrow his regime. Yes, that regime has a multitude of sins to its name: torture, executions, secret prisons, the killing of civilians, and – if we include the Syrian militia thugs under nominal control of the regime – a frightening version of ethnic cleansing.

Yes, we should fear for the lives of the courageous doctors of eastern Aleppo and the people for whom they have been caring. Anyone who saw the footage of the young man taken out of the line of refugees fleeing Aleppo last week by the regime’s intelligence men should fear for all those who have not been permitted to cross the government lines. And let’s remember how the UN grimly reported it had been told of 82 civilians “massacred” in their homes in the last 24 hours.

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East.

Anti-Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, at Kafranbel town, in Idlib province, northern Syria (AP)
Anti-Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, at Kafranbel town, in Idlib province, northern Syria (AP)
Rebels from al Qaida affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra at Taftanaz air base in Idlib province, northern Syria (ENN/AP)

And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Only a few weeks ago, I interviewed one of the very first Muslim families to flee eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire. The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.

Around the same time, Syrian soldiers were privately expressing their belief to me that the Americans would allow Isis to leave Mosul to again attack the regime in Syria. An American general had actually expressed his fear that Iraqi Shiite militiamen might prevent Isis from fleeing across the Iraqi border to Syria.

Destroyed building in the village of Al-Amrieh, south of Aleppo, Syria (AP)
Destroyed building in the village of Al-Amrieh, south of Aleppo, Syria (AP)

Well, so it came to pass. In three vast columns of suicide trucks and thousands of armed supporters, Isis has just swarmed across the desert from Mosul in Iraq, and from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria to seize the beautiful city of Palmyra all over again.

It is highly instructive to look at our reporting of these two parallel events. Almost every headline today speaks of the “fall” of Aleppo to the Syrian army – when in any other circumstances, we would have surely said that the army had “recaptured” it from the “rebels” – while Isis was reported to have “recaptured” Palmyra when (given their own murderous behaviour) we should surely have announced that the Roman city had “fallen” once more under their grotesque rule.

Words matter. These are the men – our “chaps”, I suppose, if we keep to the current jihadi narrative – who after their first occupation of the city last year beheaded the 82-year-old scholar who tried to protect the Roman treasures and then placed his spectacles back on his decapitated head.

Damaged buildings after airstrikes hit the Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria (Thiqa News Agency/AP)
Damaged buildings after airstrikes hit the Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria (Thiqa News Agency/AP)

By their own admission, the Russians flew 64 bombing sorties against the Isis attackers outside Palmyra. But given the huge columns of dust thrown up by the Isis convoys, why didn’t the American air force join in the bombardment of their greatest enemy? But no: for some reason, the US satellites and drones and intelligence just didn’t spot them – any more than they did when Isis drove identical convoys of suicide trucks to seize Palmyra when they first took the city in May 2015.

There’s no doubting what a setback Palmyra represents for both the Syrian army and the Russians – however symbolic rather than military. Syrian officers told me in Palmyra earlier this year that Isis would never be allowed to return. There was a Russian military base in the city. Russian aircraft flew overhead. A Russian orchestra had just played in the Roman ruins to celebrate Palmyra’s liberation.

So what happened? Most likely is that the Syrian military simply didn’t have the manpower to defend Palmyra while closing in on eastern Aleppo.

Syrian Civil Defence workers search through rubble in rebel-held eastern Aleppo (AP)
Syrian Civil Defence workers search through rubble in rebel-held eastern Aleppo (AP)
An injured child after air strikes in Aleppo (Thiqa News via AP)

They will have to take Palmyra back – quickly. But for Bashar al-Assad, the end of the Aleppo siege means that Isis, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and all the other Salafist groups and their allies can no longer claim a base, or create a capital, in the long line of great cities that form the spine of Syria: Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.

Back to Aleppo. The familiar and now tired political-journalistic narrative is in need of refreshing. The evidence has been clear for some days. After months of condemning the iniquities of the Syrian regime while obscuring the identity and brutality of its opponents in Aleppo, the human rights organisations – sniffing defeat for the rebels – began only a few days ago to spread their criticism to include the defenders of eastern Aleppo.

Take the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. After last week running through its usual – and perfectly understandable – fears for the civilian population of eastern Aleppo and their medical workers, and for civilians subject to government reprisals and for “hundreds of men” who may have gone missing after crossing the frontlines, the UN suddenly expressed other concerns.

“During the last two weeks, Fatah al-Sham Front [in other words, al-Qaeda] and the Abu Amara Battalion are alleged to have abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians who requested the armed groups to leave their neighbourhoods, to spare the lives of civilians...,” it stated.

“We have also received reports that between 30 November and 1 December, armed opposition groups fired on civilians attempting to leave.” Furthermore, “indiscriminate attacks” had been conducted on heavily civilian areas of government-held western as well as ‘rebel’ eastern Aleppo.

I suspect we shall be hearing more of this in the coming days. Next month, we shall also be reading a frightening new book, Merchants of Men, by Italian journalist Loretta Napoleoni, on the funding of the war in Syria. She catalogues kidnapping-for-cash by both government and rebel forces in Syria, but also has harsh words for our own profession of journalism.

Reporters who were kidnapped by armed guard in eastern Syria, she writes, “fell victim to a sort of Hemingway syndrome: war correspondents supporting the insurgency trust the rebels and place their lives in their hands because they are in league with them.” But, “the insurgency is just a variation of criminal jihadism, a modern phenomenon that has only one loyalty: money.”

Is this too harsh on my profession? Are we really “in league” with the rebels?

Certainly our political masters are – and for the same reason as the rebels kidnap their victims: money. Hence the disgrace of Brexit May and her buffoonerie of ministers who last week prostrated themselves to the Sunni autocrats who fund the jihadis of Syria in the hope of winning billions of pounds in post-Brexit arms sales to the Gulf.

In a few hours, the British parliament is to debate the plight of the doctors, nurses, wounded children and civilians of Aleppo and other areas of Syria. The grotesque behaviour of the UK Government has ensured that neither the Syrians nor the Russians will pay the slightest attention to our pitiful wails. That, too, must become part of the story.

Independent News Service

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