Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 21, 2013

Syria: Journalists Are Misreading The Map

The New York Times:

Mr. Assad could probably take Qusayr, a crucial area because it lies near the border and links Damascus with the rebel-held north and the government-held coast.

The Wall Street Journal:

The bloody battle over the city of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, has the potential to transform Syria's conflict, say fighters, diplomats and analysts. A government victory there could give the regime of President Bashar al-Assad a corridor of territory connecting Damascus to Syria's pro-Assad coastline and to Lebanese territory controlled by Iran-backed Hezbollah.
The Globe & Mail:
The small city, about 100 miles northwest of the Syrian capital, Damascus, is crucial to supply routes for both sides. Qusair is a conduit for rebel supplies and fighters from Lebanon, and it links Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, which is the heartland for Mr. al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
A map of south-west Syria shows Damascus at the bottom, Homs in the upper right and Tartus at the cost in the upper-left. The marker "A" points to the city of Qusayr. It lies across road number 4 which runs from the north-east to the south-west connecting Homs with Baalbek in Lebanon.


Notice that there is no road through Qusayr running from the south-east to north-west. There is not even a minor connection from Damascus to Tartus that runs through the town. If you were planning a trip from Damascus to Tartus would you consider passing through Qusayr? Unless you would want to walk you likely would not do so. Why then are journalists asserting that the Syrian government would do so?

Qusayr does not "links Damascus to the Mediterranean coast" unless you want to walk the direct line through the fields. Its sole military value is its position across the insurgency's supply line from Lebanon to Homs. The insurgents know that very well:
“To lose Qusair would be a disaster; we will lose the whole city of Homs,” said Fadi al-Issa, a fighter with the opposition Farouq Brigade
But why are the above quoted news sources falsely insisting that Qusayr is a link between Damascus and Tartus?

These journalist try to insert an official "western" narrative of an Alawite regime ruling over a majority Sunni land. The sole purpose to connect the fighting in Qasayr to some route between Damascus and the Syrian coast is to introduce and narrate the supposedly sectarian fighting. This despite the facts that the Syrian government includes many Sunnis, that the Syrian army troops are mainly Sunnis and the inhabitants of the big harbor cities in the alleged "Alawite heartland" at the coast are also mainly Sunni. The whole idea of some "Alawite state" at the Syrian coast is therefor pretty stupid but the media keep inserting that over and over.

The fighting in Syria is not about Sunnis versus Alawite. The fighting is rather between those who favor to live in a secular republic versus those who want a Sunni Islamic regime in one form or another.

Misreading the map and thereby inserting a sectarian view of the conflict is contrary to the facts and serious journalistic malpractice.

Posted by b on May 21, 2013 at 8:46 UTC | Permalink


re: "Misreading the map and thereby inserting a sectarian view of the conflict is contrary to the facts and serious journalistic malpractice."

That's their job.

Posted by: Paul | May 21 2013 9:06 utc | 1

I guess plan B is on. (Setting the stage to divide Syria) But, that will fail unless the terrorists gain full control of Aleppo which does not seem likely at the moment.

Posted by: Hilmi | May 21 2013 9:32 utc | 2

It should be noted that if one looks at Google Earth, a wide road can be seen in construction from Al Qusayr going NW, passing south of Lake Qattinah and joining the M1 west of Homs. Is this road complete now? Perhaps.

Google Map coordinates: 34.584464, 36.491003

Posted by: Cine | May 21 2013 9:49 utc | 3

Just in

May 21, 2013
DAMASCUS, SANA_ General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces said that our armed forces destroyed an Israeli vehicle entered from the occupied territories and exceeded the cease-fire line towards the village of Bir Ajam.

" The village is located in the liberated area of Syrian territories where there are armed terrorist groups, " the General Command said in a statement issued Tuesday.

" Following that, the Israeli enemy fired two rockets from the occupied site of Tal al-Faras toward one of our sites in al-Zubaydiah site; no casualties reported, " the statement said.

It added that the aggression aims at raising the terrorist groups' collapsed moral due to the painful blows they received at the hands of our armed forces in more than one a place, especially in al-Qsier area.

The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces said that the blatant aggression confirms again the involvement of the Zionist entity in the ongoing events in Syria and the direct coordination with the armed terrorist gangs.

The statement stressed that any breach or an attempt to violate the state sovereignty will be responded.

Posted by: Hilmihakim | May 21 2013 10:10 utc | 4

Seems the Israelis are getting cocky up on the Golan..This could be the perfect opportunity for the Syria army to solve the Golan question once and for all....

Posted by: Zico | May 21 2013 10:48 utc | 5

It should be noted that if one looks at Google Earth, a wide road can be seen in construction from Al Qusayr going NW, passing south of Lake Qattinah and joining the M1 west of Homs. Is this road complete now? Perhaps.

The current Google Earth image of that area is from March 2012, and the road has been under construction since 2004. They are not likely to have finished in the last year, given the war conditions. Anyway, the road ends in the middle of nowhere. It couldn't be used other than as an al-Qusayr by-pass.

Posted by: alexno | May 21 2013 10:54 utc | 6

You never cease to amaze me. Brilliant critique of the media.

Posted by: tomv | May 21 2013 11:57 utc | 7

an extended look at the jihadis unleashed in tunisia by the arabspring

Posted by: brian | May 21 2013 12:12 utc | 8

The fact that sectarian "fault lines" exist has to be highlighted now. We have to be led to believe that when Syria breaks up (is broken) that it was a natural division, democracy in action, the will of the people, blah blah blah.

As Hilmi says "I guess plan B is on". I agree it's on but I don't think it was ever plan B. The US planners have been dreaming about the (further) fragmentation of the Middle East for a long time.

The planning for this project has been taking place for at least 2 decades.

Then there's "The Road to Tehran Runs Through Damascus". It also looks like the Zio's have permission turn the heat up a bit. All in all, it's not looking good.

Posted by: Billy oy | May 21 2013 12:17 utc | 9

The Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki is chief negotiator in supposedly incoming Geneva II negotiation. He is Sunni Arab named by Assad who is Alawites.

Of course everything is geared towards sectarianism. Western press is inundated by "casualty" numbers that Hezbollah suffered. That is elemental tool in imperialist toolkit. Tribalism, and racial purity is essential in Western political and non-political thought.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 21 2013 12:24 utc | 10

That was a good post by 'b'. I have one quibble with it. 'b' wrote the sentence:

The Syrian government includes many Sunnis, the Syrian army troops are mainly Sunnis and the inhabitants of the big harbor cities in the alleged "Alawite heartland" at the coast are also mainly Sunni.

That sentence contains a false insinuation that the personnel of the Syrian government are not mainly Sunnis. What is more correct is: "The personnel in the upper ranks of all departments of the the Syrian government are mainly Sunnis, the Syrian army troops are mainly Sunnis and the inhabitants of the big harbor cities in the alleged "Alawite heartland" at the coast are also mainly Sunni."

Posted by: Parviziyi | May 21 2013 12:37 utc | 11

The same reason that Al-Jazeera was suspended in Iraq - inciting sectarianism.

Still, recognition that Assad has supporters is a positive development.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | May 21 2013 12:39 utc | 12

Another quibble: it's not good language for anyone to speak of Syria's "big harbor cities... at the coast". Latakia city is the only one that's pretty big, with a population of a little under half a million. The next biggest, Tartous, has a population of roughly 160,000, which you know is a "big town" or "small city" and not a "big city". There are choices about where exactly to draw city boundaries, of course, and those figures could be increased somewhat by including towns in the near hinterland.

The population of Latakia city is estimated to be 55% Sunni. I have not seen an estimate for the Sunni percentage in Tartous city but I vaguely feel it's probably less that in Latakia by a smallish amount. Tartous also has a non-tiny minority of Christians. In Syria's two coastal provinces, outside the larger towns and cities the Sunnis are a large minority but only a minority.

Posted by: Parviziyi | May 21 2013 13:28 utc | 13

Good read about Al-Qusayr:

"Besides reams of incriminating documents conclusively demonstrating the connivance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanese Forces, the Mustaqbal Movement, Turkey, France, the United States and Britain, 76 foreign officers were apprehended in several tunnels" "French intelligence officers who spoke North African Arabic; "Israeli" agents ("katsas"), operatives from Sameer Ja'ja's Lebanese Forces who were trained in the Zionist Entity and who spoke Modern European Settler Hebrew, Turkish agents working for the MIT, spies and gun-smugglers who were paid by Sa'ad Hariri, were all CAPTURED ALIVE. In addition to this, our readers will be delighted to know that several agents from Saudi Arabia and Qatar were also found and are warbling as we write."

"The big issue today is not so much the defeat of the rats in Al-Qusayr, but the participation of Hizbollah in the fighting. Some reports give the number of dead Hizbollah fighters at17 and some at 28. The real fact is that the "Rat Opposition" view any Southern Lebanese-accented person as a member of Hizbollah. We must remember that our National Defense Forces were cobbled together from Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian volunteers. Many of the fighters inside Al-Qusayr are of Lebanese stock: some are members of the NDF, some members of the Ba'ath Party and some who are long-time residents in Syria who belong to a militia sanctioned by the government. Don't believe all the nonsense about Hizbollah."

"We can confirm that the following areas of Al-Qusayr cleansed of the rat population:

All East Al-Qusayr, the area of the Township Arena, Western Neighborhoods, area around the Municipal Offices, Cultural Center, Al-Kaneesa (Church), parts of the North Neighborhood and Central Neighborhood and the Roundabout at Al-Ghaita have been decontaminated. More areas are being pest-controlled as we write. The SAA has found many tunnels and numerous IEDs in residents' homes."

Estimated death toll among the terrorists so far: 1,300.

Posted by: Harry | May 21 2013 14:06 utc | 14

About the settler-state interest in Syria.

Finally, the understandable preference for having strong states, rather than failed states, on Israel’s borders – because such states are easier deterred – is not necessarily a good rule of thumb. Instability in Syria, the probable outcome of the opposition’s victory, seems more dangerous than an Assad regime that has internalized the rules of the game. Yet, a stable Syria can become a rogue state like North Korea. History tells us that states do not always behave rationally and in a responsible way. Moreover, the fundamental truth is that states have greater capabilities than non-state organizations to inflict pain on their neighbors. Therefore, by definition strong states are more dangerous than failed states. Only strong states can support a long-range missile program or develop nuclear weapons. For example, a strong Salafist regime in Egypt is potentially more dangerous than an Egypt that has problems enforcing its sovereignty over all its territory. Chaos among Israel’s neighbors should not be altogether feared, as it weakens them. The most significant result of the Arab upheavals in recent years is the weakening of the Arab state, which has increased the power differential between Israel and its neighbors.

Yep, this is the way I was always thinking about Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Afganistan, etc. Eurocentric, neocolonial one. As Joseph Massad eloquently explained it.

Less interested in expediting the second coming of Christ as were the Millenarians, these secular politicians, from Napoleon Bonaparte to British foreign secretary Lord Palmerston (1785-1865) to Ernest Laharanne, the private secretary of Napoleon III in the 1860s, sought to expel the Jews of Europe to Palestine in order to set them up as agents of European imperialism in Asia.

The so-called leftist (although to me, it is quite irrelevant term) such as this ambitious guy who allegedly strive to "analyses" West Asia affairs. He come up to this conclusion bellow:

Angry Arab, Tarik Ali and unfortunately many Occidentalized and liberalized native Asians, let alone indigenous Western liberals have the same opinion like him. Who is "useful idiot" here the think-tank guy has answered on that question.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 21 2013 14:52 utc | 15

Billy oy,

Don't be so pessimistic. ZATO is losing, and Russia has taken a stand. The insurgents have lost many strategic locations, and won't be able to regain them. The 20 years that ZATO has been planning was based on faulty assumptions. They assumed the Arab countries would fall easily. Libya took a long time, and Syria has gone from perhaps 20% supporting a revolution to perhaps 1%, with a huge percentage hating the insurgents and the West. Also, the West has angered the whole world with its abuse of the dollar standard, so even supposed friends, such as India or Thailand, would be glad to see a change to a BRICS standard, not a dollar one.

Posted by: Paul | May 21 2013 15:05 utc | 16

Reportedly the rebel forces in Qusayr are fighting under the banner of the powerful Farouq Brigade, of the Free Syrian Army, which has been supported by a Lebanese faction.

Guardian, Oct 11, 2013

The Farouq Brigade, a fighting force that emerged from Homs, is the best armed in the country, thanks in part to the supply of weapons it has received through Lebanese MP Orkab Sakr, who is aligned to Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, and worked on behalf of the Saudis until recently.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 21 2013 18:23 utc | 17

@17 correction - make that Oct 11, 2012

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 21 2013 18:24 utc | 18

@Don Bacon #17&18

I don't know whether Sakr's role of funneling fighters and arms through Turkey continued after he was exposed last year in AlAkhbar. At first he denied the allegations, but when they produced the evidence, he protested that there was nothing wrong with his actions. It was a major news story (yet not covered by American MSM). Rightwing Lebanese factions have been involved in channeling fighters and arms into Syria since early in the conflict -- a fact that missed the attention of American reporters covering the Syrian conflict from Beirut.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 21 2013 21:06 utc | 19

@15 One problem for Israel is what happens if the Syrian Army wins, and wins big.

Because this is an obvious truth: the Syrian Army can't win against a west-supported armed rebellion if it remains a hapless, hopeless bunch of water buffalos. It can only win if it successfully transforms itself from a corrupt police-state rabble into an efficient battle-hardened Army.

Net result is, of course, that the comparison isn't as it was in 1967 (i.e. a professional IDF against a ramshackle police-state Syrian Army). Instead it will be a battle-hardened Syrian Army facing up against a conscript army that thinks it's tough because it abuses old men and women in the West Bank.

Israel has a peerless air force, no question. But if I were an Israeli grunt I wouldn't be too cocky about facing off against this Syrian Army.

Posted by: Johnboy | May 21 2013 23:19 utc | 20

Al Qusayr would connect Damascus to Tartus, if only the new motorway bypassing Qusayr to the southwest would be finished. Google Earth says it has been under construction for the last 10 years. What is now missing is one set of pillars in the bridge in Qusayr's southern intersection. (One TV report from the spot mistakenly claimed that the bridge had been "destroyed".)

Posted by: Petri Krohn | May 22 2013 4:22 utc | 21

@20 Very good point. If the Syrian Army can transform itself into a fighting force as effective as Hezbollah, but with a population of 20 million and access to the state of the art weapons, Israel better watch out.

Ah, unintended consequences...

Posted by: guest77 | May 22 2013 15:08 utc | 22

interesting re Qusayr.

Leader of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front in al-Qusseir Abu Omar was among killed terrorists, local media said.

and this morning the propaganda site long wars journal is claiming a video from the Muhajireen Brigade came out the day before he was killed...and then ends the article just happening to mention ..." Fighters from Europe are known to have been killed while serving with the Muhajireen Brigade."

nothing about " 76 foreign officers were apprehended in several tunnels " but wapo mentions :

In Germany, the weekly Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence chief has revised his assessment of the Syrian civil war. The chief, Gerhard Schindler, told a small group of politicians dealing with security issues in a secret briefing that Assad’s military is stronger than it has been in a long time, according to Der Spiegel. Additional successful offensives of the regime are possible anytime, he said.

The German intelligence agency BND believes this is a turning point. At the end of 2012, it appeared the regime was in its end phase.

He said the channels for restocking the regime’s weapons supplies are now open

timing by germany/interesting

Posted by: annie | May 22 2013 16:14 utc | 23

annie @ 23 --

So, since Kerry, as reported on the news, just said Assad was "miscalculating" again, thinking he could win by using the force of the government against the rebels, and reiterated that "Assad must go," is it now a matter of time before the US decides to launch actual war against Syria? Take out, oh, maybe the electrical grid? The radar stations? The Syrian air force?

Obama and Kerry, perfect go to another illegal unnecessary war?

Also, what is it with this use of "calculation" that the NeoLib warmongers so love? Does it make things sound mathematical to them? Scientific? If it's merely testing the "calculations," does that mean they can claim they really know how it will all come out at the end of this long equation? Heh.

Posted by: jawbone | May 23 2013 15:53 utc | 24

Yes, everyone seems to be misreading the map.

Posted by: tsisageya | May 26 2013 23:26 utc | 25

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