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The concept of transparent war: Russian bases in Syria available to NATO journalists

A year ago, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced a new conception of the so-called "Transparent war" which aims to make Russian anti-terrorist operations fully accessible to the domestic and foreign media.
Syrian and Russian forces (photo: Bog-rata)

The Russian army has recently shown a tendency of atypical openness to foreign media representatives, which is not characteristic of the armed forces when it comes to world standards. This represents the conception of the so-called "Transparent war." Specifically, Moscow has completely opened up space for journalists from the NATO and EU countries, who seamlessly monitor the large-scale military exercises of the Russian army, test new weapons, and most importantly, detail its role in the Syria conflict.

On this occasion, journalists visit all parts of this country that are controlled by regular Syrian army. On the spot, they can see the extent of this country's devastation during the years of battle with the most extreme forms of international terrorism, which has been actively supported by the West throughout the years.

The ruins of ancient cities and temples, destroyed infrastructure and large civilian casualties speak for themselves. It is hard to find a Syrian who did not lose at least one family member in the past 8 years. Those who experienced the true tragedy and character of this bloody war strongly support legitimate President Bashar al-Assad and the Russian army as the only factors that can bring peace and prosperity to the region.

In the spirit of the proclaimed "Transparent war" strategy, the Russian Ministry of Defense allowed foreign journalists to visit Syria and see for themselves the consequences of long conflict against terrorism. No selection is made when it comes to countries from which journalists can come. Syria can be visited equally by journalists from countries that are part of the NATO pact, just like their counterparts from countries that are friendly to Russia, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan. All that is expected of them is a kind of impartiality and objectivity in interpreting what they saw on the spot.

Recently, the Kremlin has allowed the Fourth Estate to undertake major journalistic tours that provide multi-day visits to the Middle East, more specifically Syria. The basic idea of ​​this action is to convey the truth about the war in this country. Journalists who often follow this conflict from diametrically opposed positions should be able to be convinced of its character on the spot in order to understand the real situation on the ground.

So, at the end of last month, the first group of journalists from NATO (Bulgaria, Greece and Italy) arrived in Syria, and their colleagues from Serbia and Spain will soon join them. It is interesting to note that some domestic Russophobic media and social media groups immediately responded to the first reportage made by Bulgarian journalists, criticizing its content. The unfounded media aggression went so far that a group of Bulgarian journalists had to deal with justifying their travel expenses instead of the main purpose of their trip, which is to give a more realistic account of the real situation in Syria.

Igor Georgiev i Boris Pintev, the BTV journalists from the Bulgarian private national television, recently had a chance to visit Syria. They even received permission to visit the anti-terrorist operation at the border of Hama and Idlib provinces. The reporters were also given the opportunity to visit a wider area of ​​Han Sheikhun, as well as a number of populated areas, all recently liberated. This city became famous in April 2017 when it underwent a special operation, colloquially called a false flag operation in modern war theory. Specifically, 89 civilians from the city were killed by the sarin nerve agent and the attack was blamed on the Syrian army, which had nothing to do with it.

What is a false flag operation? In particular, it is the name for all covert operations and similar activities such as armed and terrorist attacks, assassinations or sabotages undertaken by a state or organization with the primary purpose of attributing it to another party, most often a rival state or organization, all for propaganda purposes. The main task of it is to attract the domestic or international public in some dispute, that is, to create an excuse that meets the constitutional and political criteria for entering a war, state of emergency or escalating a conflict. As in countless previous cases known to the worldwide public, the United States and its global media services have used this method for pre-coordinated action aimed at the crucial demonization of their opponent. In this particular case the opponents were the regular Syrian armed forces, and only three days later the false flag attack had been followed by air strikes on Syria's Shirat base.

A team of Bulgarian journalists could testify to all the horrors of the Syrian war on the spot. They repeated their story that "the regime of Bashar al Assad is not so democratic," as the political system in EU countries. However, seeing what was left of the terrorist formations that were fighting against the legitimate authorities in Damascus, they were convinced that winning of the other side would be the worst possible option.

According to them, the main opponents of the Damascus government are the most militant Takfiri groups. There are numerous testimonies from the local population that speak of the terrorist rule, i.e. times when radical groups gathered around the Hajat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organization (the successor of 'Jabhat an-Nusra,' Syrian branch of the al Qaeda) harbored the area. Thus, in a statement to the Bulgarian media, the city leader Han Shaykhun Muhammad Fadi said that "over one thousand people were killed in the area of ​​this city alone, while more than one million people fled from the wider region."

"Life under the occupation of terrorists was unbearable. We did not have electricity or water, which led to the creation of a large wave of refugees," Tarat Harir, a man who spent the entire war in the town of Han-Sheikhun, told Bulgaria's TV team. A particularly poignant testimony is the statement of Abdul Lush, who lost 16 members of his family during the occupation. This medical student and future dentist has no strength to talk about his difficult fate that has plagued him in this area. He only said that he welcomed the day when the Syrian army defeated the terrorists of Hajat Tahrir al-Sham and liberated his city.

Bulgarian journalists reported that the most striking thing is the devastation of these regions which, without significant humanitarian and any other assistance, could lead to a new wave of refugees. They saw in their work that the Syrian army, in cooperation with the Russian military contingent, is making every effort to alleviate the plight of the local population for so long. During their visit, Bulgarian journalists expressed their desire to visit the town of Homs, which the hosts provided for them. They had the opportunity to visit the Orthodox Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 59 AD, which is one of the oldest Christian religious sites in the world. On this occasion, they met with priest Luke Saudad, who is the head of this church:

"A few months after the war began, the rebels' attitude toward Christians changed. One day a group of rebels came to our door and said that the essence of their war was not the fight against the authorities in Damascus, but against the Christians. Not far from Homs there's the orthodox village of Sadat in which, in just a few days, 51 innocent people were killed, whose only fault was that they were Christians. That pogrom happened in 2013," said Father Luke. About 150,000 refugees have escaped in this city as a result of religious persecution by radical Takfiri groups.

Bulgarian journalists also managed to visit a center that houses members of rebel formations who voluntarily surrendered to Syrian forces. They are now undergoing a "rehab" phase, before returning to normal life in the affected territories. "We lived in hell for four years. We had no food, no water, no medicine. Three people in my family were killed. One was slaughtered, while the other two were shot," says Muhammad Ali for the Bulgarian TV team. "We felt the difference here. The Syrian army treat us like humans here, while there is nothing human in hearts of their enemies," said his colleague Mashur Saleh Suleiman.

A journalistic excursion through Syria took the Bulgarian duo to Aleppo, a metropolis in northern Syria. They stated that the battle for this city showed the determination of the Syrian authorities to fight for every foot of their territory. However, the overall situation in this city is still very difficult, as local authorities are unable to revitalize destroyed towns and villages and restore normal life. The western parts of the city are controlled by the Syrian army, but bullets are still being heard. At this point, Syrian units are attempting to push the Hajat Tahrir al-Sham units as deep as possible into the province of Idlib, which is their last stronghold. Bulgarian journalists have noted that this city is still somehow "cut off" from other Syrian-controlled territories. The fastest and safest transportation from the depths of Syrian territory is by air. Road communications are usable, but still targeted by rebel formations grouped in Idlib province.

A visit to the church of St. Elijah, located in the center of the city, was also organized. This temple has been on the border between the ISIL terrorist forces and the SAA for four years. Local residents, regardless of their religious affiliation, consider this temple as a sanctuary of their city. Bishop of the Diocese of Aleppo, Father Joseph Tobi, said that before the unlucky war Christians and Muslims lived in this city, where there was no unemployment. "And then the world's powerful ones sowed the evil seed of takfirism here, which was the backdrop for the thieving exploitation of Syrian oil."

In addition to Bulgarian journalists, their colleagues from Greece (antinews.gr) and Italy (insideover.com) also took part in the trip. Together, they noted that the successful strategy of Moscow has led to a turnover in the battlefield, and that the Syrian army has literally revived in recent years. Italian journalist thus talks about the significant technological and tactical advancement of the best Syrian units which, thanks to the Russian instructors, are able to perform even the most complex forms of ground combat operations. This was especially indicative of the latest Syrian army offensive during which the city of Han Shaykhun was liberated. At the moment, the Syrian army, in coordination with the Russian allies, is trying to stabilize the situation in the newly liberated areas. This applies in particular to the delivery of humanitarian aid, but also to mine-clearing and providing security of road communications.

Vladimir Gujanicic

Vladimir Gujanicic served in the special forces of Serbia and finished his studies in history at the University of Belgrade. He regularly consults Fort Russ’ parent organization, the Belgrade based think tank, Center for Syncretic Studies on related matters. His specialty is modern history and the history of the Soviet Union.