“This is not a revolution. They are terrorists who live in America, France, in Istanbul.” – Syrian civilian
“Battle for Syria: View from the Frontline” is a mini documentary filmed by the Russian POCCИЯ 24 TV channel. What is particularly interesting about this documentary is that it was filmed in the battle fields of Syria, following the forces of the Syrian (regime) army around. Thus, the whole project offers an entirely different perspective on the Syrian conflict from the one the western media present – both in terms of the actual conflict and the not so projected view of the regime. Throughout the documentary one can realize that certain features stand out as they are being emphasized: 1) the military tactics of the Free Syrian Army (i.e. rebels); the struggle of the Syrian Army (i.e. regime) as a counter-terrorism campaign; and the composition of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
FSA Tactics: The documentary presented a number of tactics used by the FSA against the regime including, among others, snipers, suicide bombers, civilian kidnappings, bombings, executions, and massive murders. Also, they seek support from radical Muslims, they do not wear uniforms, and they abandon their weapons pretending to be civilians when faced with a difficult fighting situation. Various civilians were interviewed on camera stating different horrors that they have witnessed from members of the FSA. In many occasions it was made clear that the FSA was not targeting military buildings, vehicles, or troops, but civilian cars, houses, and neighborhoods in order to instill fear and confusion in the Syrian population. Moreover, it was also indicated that the FSA records many of its actions on video and uploads them on the internet to make public their successes over the governmental forces and for religious propaganda purposes.
The Syrian Army Struggle: As far as the Syrian Army is concerned, is often depicted as fighting a noble counter-terrorism campaign against terrorists, insurgents, and radical Islamists. Their difficult struggle is emphasized, and their coordinated military operations praised. Civilians said on camera that while the FSA was in control of their neighborhood they were afraid. Furthermore, the Syrian Army is projected as being very cautious in using heavy weapons and tanks when fighting in populated areas. This of course contradicts what the western media present about the indiscreet shelling of Syrian cities by the regime. On more than one occasion the reporter mentions bombing attacks for which the FSA was responsible and yet western media blamed the regime or clashes between the FSA and the Syrian Army which western media or the opposition presented as attacks on civilian population.
FSA Composition: Extensive mention is made about the composition of the FSA. The idea that the FSA is a genuine revolutionary army which consists of Syrians who want social and political change is constantly challenged and questioned. Rather, it is presented as a western proxy which consists of mercenaries from Europe, the US and Turkey. Some of these mercenaries, the documentary suggests, have connections to Al-Qaeda. Moreover, particular emphasis is given on the role that radical Islamists, and specifically Salafists, play in the FSA, and the Islamic vision that they have for post-Assad Syria.
The Flip Side
What the documentary presents is indeed what we could call “alternative information”. It is also well directed and includes a sufficient number of interviews that support all of its claims. Additionally, it is quite provocative in that it challenges the western media propaganda in a very direct way. It is maybe true that it is not easy for someone to dispute the findings of this documentary. After all, some of the information presented, like the involvement of foreign mercenaries or the exploitation of the rebellion by Islamist groups, was not really new.
Yet, it is quite obvious that this project was developed in a very one-sided way. All these – often random – information was put together to make a case against the FSA. To be sure, the FSA is a western proxy! And Islamist groups do exploit its struggle. But to admit those things is one thing, and to diminish the struggle of the Syrian people against a repressive regime, is another. The FSA is only a reflection of the struggle – an armed reflection. To be calling all those who oppose the regime, or all those who participate in the FSA, insurgents, terrorists, mercenaries, bandits, and so on, is unacceptable. If we take a step back, we can see that the dead bodies of the snipers in the documentary do not look very much American or European – rather Arab. The voices on the radio were Arab too. The Turkish mercenary who was allegedly connected to Al-Qaeda was never proved to be a member of the FSA – nor a member of the Al-Qaeda, nor Turkish, for that matter.
So, is there western propaganda on the Syrian conflict? Yes there is. Should one consider a twenty six (26) minute mini documentary made by a Russian TV channel, to present the regime side of things, objective? I do not think so. It is certainly an important piece of alternative information and one should take it seriously under consideration when examining the facts. However, propaganda can only be cured with the truth. Anti-propaganda is not the truth.
The article was first published on The Globalized World Post, 25/05/2012.
 Russia is one of the very few remaining allies of the Syrian regime along with China, Iran and, most recently, the declared opposition of Egypt to any (western) intervention in the country.