Michael Lüders on the Propaganda War in Syria: “An Incredibly Dirty Geopolitical Game”

Michael Lüders is a German political scientist and scholar of Islam who works as a publicist and a political and economic advisor. The following discussion about the chemical attack in Syria aired on the ZDF public television outlet on April 5.

Many thanks to Egri Nök for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:


00:00   …why? First, we must realize, the war in Syria is bloody;
00:03   it is dirty, and there are many players.
00:06   It is not just a civil war, it is primarily a proxy war
00:11   in which, to put it simply, two large sides oppose each other:
00:14   On the one side, the USA, the European Union, Turkey, and the Gulf States.
00:18   They all want the fall of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
00:21   And that is exactly what Russia, Iran, and China do not want.
00:25   They do not want the West to, shall we say, imbibe Syria.
00:29   So they hold on to Bashar al-Assad at any cost.
00:32   It is of course the Syrian population who pay the price.
00:35   Because this caused a proxy war which is waged brutally.
00:39   In Western perception, we were persuaded right from the start
00:43   that it was “the” Syrian people who stood up to the dictator Assad. —Right.
00:47   And that we, in the West, in order to defend our values,
00:50   had to stand at the Syrian people’s side, against the oppressors,
00:53   raise our voice, and support them with weapons, too.
00:56   It might be understandable, this view,
00:59   but it bears relatively little relation to reality.
01:02   It has always been only a part of the population that
01:05   rose against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, never the whole
01:08   Syrian population, especially not the religious minorities.
01:11   Not because they love him, but because they know, if he falls,
01:15   it will not be the good guys who get into power, but the Jihadists.
01:18   The fact that we keep disregarding in the West is that the so-called “rebels”
01:21   are not kind and loving democrats, but Jihadis,
01:24   either Al-Nusra Front, or Islamic State —
01:27   The Al Nusra Front is close to Al Qaeda?
01:30   They are the Al Qaeda offshoot of Syria, you might say, exactly.
01:33   So now, all sides are waging a dirty, appalling war,
01:37   in which the parties who want the regime to fall at any cost
01:41   have taken it to the furthest extremes in the past.
01:44   There was the famous red line that president Obama drew in August 2012:
01:51   if the Syrians use chemical weapons, then we, the Americans, will act.
01:55   And one year later, on August 21, 2013,
01:59   there was a terrible chemical attack, much worse than this instance —
02:02   With hundreds of deaths, in that case, right? —Exactly.
02:05   Probably far more than a thousand deaths, we do not know the exact number.
02:08   It was in the region Ghouta, a Sunni suburb
02:12   southeast of the capital Damascus, and immediately it was declared:
02:15   this is as clear as day, it was the regime, and now Obama must take action.
02:19   Because he had said: red line. And I remember the editorials,
02:22   from F.A.Z. to New York Times, they all agreed, without knowing the facts and circumstances:
02:27   Now the West must take action. —Right! —We must stand beside the Syrian people.
02:31   That was what was demanded back then, people said, we must intervene now,
02:34   we cannot let this happen, the world cannot avert its eyes.
02:38   That was the situation. —That was exactly what the situation was.
02:41   And it looked as if Obama would give the order to attack,
02:44   and for days, the Americans brought more weapons into the region,
02:47   and the bombers and long-range missiles were ready,
02:52   but in the last moment, at the end of August 2013,
02:56   Obama did not give order to attack, but quasi-adjourned it.
02:59   He said: Assad was to blame, but Congress had to decide on the deployment.
03:03   Why did he not give order for deployment?
03:06   because his own intelligence services told him, dear President, be careful.
03:10   Their own intelligence services, the British and the American, had
03:13   examined the chemical that was used in Ghouta, and came to the conclusion, one moment,
03:18   this sarin that was used there, was not in the stocks of the Syrian army.
03:22   This made the Americans, the intelligence services, careful; they warned Obama.
03:27   By now, we know that with great probability
03:32   it was not the regime that was responsible for this chemical attack —
03:36   not that they are not capable of doing it, but a suspicion is not proof —
03:40   It is not a fact, no. —No, not a fact. And today,
03:43   the evidence points in the direction that this attack, chemical attack,
03:46   was a so-called “false flag” attack.
03:49   From what we can presume, and what appears verified,
03:54   this was a collaboration of the Al-Nusra Front, one of the worst Jihadist groups,
03:59   Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, with the Turkish intelligence service MIT.
04:03   This means two were collaborating there
04:07   that you would not have on your radar there. —One wouldn’t suspect so.
04:11   Why the Turkish intelligence service? Why do they work with the Al-Nusra Front?
04:14   Because the Turkish government, Erdogan and the intelligence service,
04:18   realized early on that they can use this war in Syria for their own ends;
04:21   we will use the radical Jihadists to fight the Kurds
04:25   in the north of Syria, who themselves are closely connected to the PKK.
04:28   It is all interconnected in this conflict, which is what makes it so complicated.
04:32   And Turkey has obviously equipped the Nusra Front with sarin gas.
04:37   There are initial investigations by the American intelligence services,
04:41   which are publicly available to read, starting back on June 20, 2013, which clearly state:
04:46   We know that Turkey equipped the Nusra Front and other groups with sarin gas,
04:52   and they manufacture sarin gas themselves. And the first ones
04:55   to report on that were Turkish journalists, among them Can Dündar,
04:59   who, as we know in Germany, had to flee from Erdogan,
05:02   and now lives in exile in Germany. He was the chief editor of the newspaper Cumhuriyet.
05:05   He reported on that, right. —He reported on the deliveries of arms
05:08   by the Turkish intelligence service to the Nusra Front and others.
05:14   And as a reaction to that, Erdogan personally pressed charges against him for high treason.
05:18   The result is that all journalists who have reported on that
05:21   in the past are either in jail or in exile.
05:24   What astonishes me is that when you research these things — and you can research it,
05:28   if only you want to — but it will of course destroy your enemy stereotype,
05:32   you won’t be able to say anymore, “These are the good guys and we are with them;
05:35   and these are the bad guys; we support the good guys in the fight against evil;
05:38   and then the representatives of the civic society in Syria will get into power.”
05:42   That is, in simple terms, the belief that prevails here. But it has nothing to do with reality.
05:47   We have supported an opposition that is 90% composed of Jihadists,
05:51   people who if they came to Germany would immediately draw the attention of the security agencies.
05:56   What is going on here is not black and white, but an incredibly dirty geopolitical game.
06:01   It can be meticulously read in your new book.
06:06   It reads like a crime thriller, required reading in my opinion,
06:09   the chapter about this chemical attack,
06:13   to read and understand what was going on in the background,
06:18   and who pursues which interests.
06:21   Do you have more examples for pictures,
06:24   recordings — it is also a war of the pictures that is being fought here —
06:28   where you would say, look closely, we were manipulated?
06:33   There is the famous photo of the small boy
06:36   who always serves as a symbol — this picture
06:41   this picture of this small, completely shell-shocked child,
06:44   It has become a symbolic picture for the cynicism and the cruelty of this war
06:50   that is waged at the expense of the children. But what is the story behind this photo?
06:56   This photo is indeed an icon of the Syrian war.
06:59   It was taken in August last year, and published worldwide in all newspapers,
07:03   and linked with a moral accusation of course: “Look, what this terrible Assad regime —”
07:08   When you see this, you do not have to explain anything to anyone anymore.
07:11   We know exactly who is the enemy, who is the bad guy, don’t we have to help the poor people?
07:15   And of course we need to help the people in Syria, but not in the way
07:18   that those who fire up this war probably want.
07:21   The story of Omran is — Omran is the little boy — He is the little boy we just saw.
07:25   You want to take little Omran in your arms and comfort him because of what has happened to him.
07:29   His photo was taken by a man by the name of Mahmoud Raslan,
07:33   who was working for the Aleppo Media Centre. This Aleppo Media Centre
07:37   served as a source of information for near all Western journalists and media.
07:42   This Media Centre was and is financed
07:46   by the French Foreign Ministry, other EU institutions, and the USA.
07:51   The uncomfortable, embarrassing thing was that Mahmoud Raslan
07:56   who was being interviewed, like, “so amazing of you that you took this photo,”
08:00   was closely connected to the Jihadists in the east of Aleppo,
08:04   and a few days before he took this photo, he
08:08   showed himself, posing with what you have to call terrorists,
08:12   a Jihadist militia, who demonstrably, two people in the photo,
08:18   had shortly before beheaded a 12-year-old child for a propaganda video.
08:23   So the person who took this photo, this icon,
08:26   is closely connected to the Jihadists. —The one who
08:30   formulated the accusation with the help of this photo. —Exactly.
08:34   He abused the child in this manner, apparently. —Absolutely. I mean, what happened to the child
08:37   what happens to the children, the people in Syria, is harrowing.
08:42   But it is perfidious to see how such dubious media centres,
08:47   financed by us, the taxpayer in Europe, in the West,
08:50   are being instrumentalized by Jihadist groups, who are being sold to us as freedom fighters.
08:56   And the fact that frankly astonishes me is
08:59   that there is no German paper that would explain these contexts.
09:03   I can’t read anything about this in Die Zeit, I can’t read anything about this in Der Spiegel.
09:06   One would assume that all journalists who are interested in research
09:09   would have an interest in taking up these things, but they don’t.
09:13   I have the impression that it is not about informing,
09:16   but about keeping images of the enemy vivid — serving them —
09:19   keeping a black and white image: we are the good ones on the side of those who want freedom,
09:23   and the others are the bad guys, especially Russia and Iran.
09:26   This is a strong allegation. Would you go so far, or —
09:30   to say it is about creating enemy stereotypes, or
09:33   isn’t it rather about the question, how, in times like these,
09:37   where everything is fueled by speed,
09:41   you have to be the first at Facebook, Twitter, wherever,
09:44   who trumpets a headline to the world.
09:47   You don’t have the time to go into it in depth, on the one hand,
09:51   and, on the other hand, it is so difficult to find verified information.
09:54   It is difficult to get verified information, especially when everything must happen right now.
09:59   But the experience of the attack in Ghouta of August 2013
10:04   should make every responsible media outlet aware
10:08   that we should be careful with recriminations.
10:11   Fundamentally, everyone in this war, above all the regime, is capable of anything.
10:15   You do not exclude that it was them, but you say that
10:18   at present, we cannot know for sure that it was them.
10:22   That is exactly the point. But when I look, for example, at the news today,
10:26   the editorials that were published today, then the direction of reporting is very clear.
10:32   The direction of impact is clear, yes. —The direction of impact is clear. Assad is pilloried
10:35   once again; why haven’t we done anything —You can see a pattern in it.
10:39   Quickly the Russian side will come with a totally different explanation.
10:44   Like, “Let us put something out there, it will find its way.”
10:50   And you do not have any certainties anymore upon which you might rely.

17 thoughts on “Michael Lüders on the Propaganda War in Syria: “An Incredibly Dirty Geopolitical Game”

  1. Very lucid analysis. The Western public has been misled by the mainstream media and politicians on the situation in Syria. They have been applying the usual clichés to the Syrian reality: big bad dictator, oppressed people dreaming of overthrowing the dictator and bask in the sunshine of a Western-style secular democracy, and nice little freedom fighters who have actually undertaken the task of overthrowing the big bad dictator but are too weak to succeed without outside help. And, of course, Putin, the Dark Lord of the Empire of Evil who takes an irrational sadistic pleasure in supporting big bad dictators and squashing little nice freedom-fighters.

    But this picture is totally false and Western clichés are as useful for understanding Syria as are Norwegian skis for crossing Sahara.

    For this simple reason, Western interference in Syria, officially intended to do no end of good to the Syrian people (and supported by no end of pious lies), has resulted in a bloodbath of apocalyptic proportions.

    It’s about time the people in the West woke up and tried to stop their politicians from turning a regional bloodbath into a global war that would surely cause enormous suffering to billions of people.

  2. Since Friday, I’ve felt as though Hillary won the election. Actually, the feeling is more like a family member stole from me. Now I’m afraid I may have made a mistake in November.

    • I have the same feeling as you do, except I disagree about voting for Hillary. She was completely open about not only foreign interventions, but about continuing to replace the American population. If nothing else, Trump got a Constitutionalist on the Supreme Court and stopped persecuting the border guards.

      Now, if we knew what we now know about Trump, we might have simply sat on our hands in November, other than actually voting for Trump.

      You can’t watch the video of Trump shamelessly promoting the Trump University scam without realizing the unlimited capacity of Trump to sell a lie. But, his was the only game in town. If the migration of aliens is slowed, at least we might have the time for a second round.

      • Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m deeply disappointed that he’s destroying the trust of many millions of Americans who’ve been keeping this country together for the past eight years. Maybe he’ll end up getting back on track, but from the looks of things, his goal now is a family dynasty he must’ve seen on A&E.

  3. We did make a mistake last November by thinking that an independently man could not be corrupted.. no So. Trump marketed himself brilliantly. Unfortunately ; he exhibits the attributes of an Ego Maniac, and that combined with his sense of entitlement and limited mental capacity will be the ruin of the United States. The fact that he now relies on the counsel of a couple young { immature and inexperienced family members } will be the death of us. How many of us older people look back to our younger years at the idiotic ideas we had….and cringe at the stupidity of our judgements because we lacked the wisdom that ONLY AGE BESTOWS. A close look at the hairdo on this president is all that one needs to see in order to make a judgabout his true core.ment

    • Goodness, you’re right about the hair…I never thought much of it.

      I pray we don’t all end up incinerated in a nuclear exchange. As I write from Southern California, there’s a bunch of USN and Canadian submarine hunters 40 miles offshore doing circles looking for a submarine…

  4. I almost think it would be better if the United States contracted to the size of Rhode Island, PROVIDED Rhode Island were a Republic, than that the United States go on as a participant in the obscene game of realpolitik with all the other spiders.

  5. If the Western politicians who claim to be so concerned about the lives of children really did care, they would not be supplying the Saudis with the weapons with which they are presently committing genocide in Yemen. As such, the hypocrisy of these animals is nauseating. The latest chemical attack was obviously a false flag, and Merkel, May, Hollande and Trump know it. These folk may be many things, but they’re not stupid. But it’s not about morals, it’s about the projected Qatari gas pipeline. They are quite prepared to arm Islamic terrorists, destroy a secular and independent country and risk nuclear war with Russia for economic gain. These are the Doctor Strangelove lunatics who now rule the West. Not since 1914 has such an unprincipled shower of scum held power throughout the West.

      • The chances of Trump doing some good for us conservatives versus none if Hilary were Pres. — is the reason most Republicans voted for him. I could not bring myself to vote for him and sleezy Melania, but I was sure glad when Hilary lost.

        I do not expect a man who cheats on all his wives , declares bankruptcy, becomes anti-abortion at age 70 and flip flops political party membership his entire adult life– to keep his campaign promises or suddenly have great integrity. That does not mean he still won’t do great things as Pres.- maybe he will– but I have never had high expectations regarding this man. Nothing he does “disappoints” me.

        • An excellent comment, esp. your last sentence.

          There is passionate commitment in the political leaders of the West though – passionate commitment to damaging the citizens and their interest in a coherent country.

          Listen to the weasel Macron. Is he even French? Pee-wee Herman was hilarious but he was an actor. Macron, his twin, is not acting when he says absurd stuff. I sense a Photoshop opportunity.

          For now I exclude Trump from the company of the other Western leaders. His actions in Syria and Yemen are a huge mistake but I still think he possesses a visceral patriotism.

        • My previous reply was to Mr. Scott.

          You make good points. Allow me to say that I believe Trump’s bankruptcies were in fact bankruptcies involving separate legal entities formed to promote particular ventures. It is not immoral to make a bad investment or to clean up the pieces through bankruptcy.

          Personal bankruptcy is also not necessarily a sign of bad character but that is not what Trump elected.

  6. For a while there (after Anton) I wondered if the comments came from the MSM, then I read Emmet’s comment–faith restored.

    BTW, at least in my book, I could understand the word ‘sleazy’ (“sleezy”) being applied to Hillary Clinton, but Melania Trump? That is just low.

    • No, it’s not sleazy so much as it is Leftist politics as usual. Obama’s mother was even more sleazy, but she was very young, seventeen or so, and at the time, under the influence of a much stronger, older man…but the Left never talks about it.

      • No, curious, what the world’s first black president was allowed to get away with.

  7. Come on people- did you see all the nearly and totally nude photos of the first lady posted all over the internet including her naked with another woman in lesbian poses? If this is not cheap, sleezy and decadent and immoral to social conservatives on this site– it’s really all over in my book! Do you think an upstanding girl marries someone her father’s age already twice divorced with a reputation of being a womanizer yet is super, super rich and wants her to look as sexy as possible at all times as being a normal, wholesome order of things like courtship and marriage? This is all so stupid and obvious. This Melania does not deserve the highest honor in the land for a woman and I am by far not the only one who thinks that.

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