Originally from Belfast, Ireland, Finian Cunningham (born 1963) is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio. Finian Cunningham is a frequent contributor to international media, including PRESS TV and nsnbc, where he began contributing in 2012.
Finian Cunningham (SCF) : French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault worked up his frequent-flyer air miles account this week with consecutive flights to Moscow then to Washington in a bid to push through a UN Security Resolution for a new ceasefire in Syria.
Ayrault began his shuttle diplomacy with stern condemnation of the Syrian government for what he said were «war crimes» committed in the besieged city of Aleppo. The French minister also implied Russian complicity in the same alleged crimes. It wasn’t the first time he made such accusations against Russia and its Syrian ally.
When the ceasefire brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov broke down at the end of last month, it was Ayrault who led vociferous denunciations at the UN, along with American UN ambassador Samantha Power, blaming Russia for «barbarous crimes against humanity».
This week on his way to Moscow, Ayrault accused Russia of «cynicism that is fooling nobody» in reference to the renewed Russian-backed offensive by Syrian state forces to recapture the militant-held eastern quarter of Aleppo. That part of the city housing about 250,000 people has been under the control of various Islamist militants dominated by the terrorist group Al Nusra Front since 2012.
France, the US and Britain, amplified by the Western news media, have been conducting a relentless campaign to portray the Russian-backed Syrian operation on Aleppo as criminal and brutally injurious to the civilian population. Since the ceasefire collapsed during the last week of September, the Western media have been saturated with unverified claims of Russian air strikes killing civilians in eastern Aleppo and of targeting hospitals and humanitarian aid facilities.
France 24, the state-owned broadcaster of Ayrault’s country, never gives any reports from the Syrian government-held quarters of Aleppo where the majority of citizens – some 1.5 million – are residing. These areas are routinely shelled by the militants, with hundreds of victims over the past few weeks. Yet, France 24 and the other Western media outlets appear to operate on the basis that the majority of Aleppo’s population simply does not exist.
Nor do the Western media report that the majority of Aleppo’s civilians are willingly residing in the government-held districts out of seeking protection from the Islamist militants. Moreover, neither is it reported that the mainstay of the 250,000 civilians in eastern Aleppo are being held there against their will by the militants as hostages, or human shields. They can’t flee out of fear that remaining family relatives will be murdered in retribution.
The evidently selective humanitarian concern expressed by the French foreign minister and his Western counterparts for the people of Aleppo begins to alert one of a more nuanced – dare we say cynical – agenda.
Claims of Russian and Syrian «war crimes» made by Ayrault and other Western officials are based on «rebel sources» within besieged eastern Aleppo. One of the primary sources is the so-called «volunteer aid» group known as the White Helmets. Video footage purporting to show the aftermath of Russian air strikes is routinely aired by France 24 and other Western channels with the White Helmets logo displayed. It is presented as a bona fide humanitarian agency, when it fact the group is funded by US and British governments to the tune of $ 23 million and is embedded with the Al Nusra terrorist-controlled Aleppo Media Center. In short, a terrorist propaganda outlet, which serves to feed Western media and government ministers with disinformation that is purveyed to the Western public in order to discredit and demonize Syria and Russian forces.
French diplomats told Reuters this week that France is drafting its proposed resolution to the UN Security Council in such a way that Russia would have to exercise its veto if it is to block it. In that way, the French purpose is to project Russia as an unreasonable member of the Security Council and a stalwart backer of the Syrian «regime». This amounts to more cynical Western attempts to traduce Russia and Syria as the perpetrators for the ongoing violence.
Russia is unlikely to support the French-sponsored resolution because the resolution is impossibly one-sided and belies a political objective of undermining Syria and Russia. France is calling for an immediate cessation of fighting in Aleppo, including no military flights over the city; and, secondly, for the complete humanitarian aid access to eastern Aleppo.
This French initiative – under the guise of urgent humanitarianism – is a de facto «no fly zone» that will bolster the fighting capability of the anti-government insurgents, which, as noted, are dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated terror groups.
When Russia and Syrian forces agreed to the ceasefire declared earlier on September 12, they did so on the strict condition that militants not associating with terrorist brigades would henceforth separate physical units. But no such separation occurred, as many observers had predicted, because Western government claims of «moderate rebels» being interspersed with «extremists» are nothing but a cynical charade. All these militants belong to the same terrorist front which Western governments have been arming in a covert war for regime change against President Bashar al-Assad – a longtime ally of Russia and Iran.
The only parties to respect the ceasefire called by Kerry and Lavrov last month were the Syrian army and its allies among the Iranian and Hezbollah militias, as well as the Russian air force. The foreign-backed militants continued to carry out hundreds of breaches of the truce, while also using the initial reduction of operations by the Syrian and Russian forces as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.
What French minister Ayrault is calling for in a renewed ceasefire this week is merely a repeat of the previous one – this time without even a pretense that the terrorists might separate into «moderates» and «extremists».
French and Western anxiety to implement some kind of cessation around Aleppo is correlated with the increasingly desperate, losing situation for the regime-change insurgents. Aleppo is a key battleground. If the Syrian and Russian forces manage to vanquish this bastion for the militants then the six-year war in Syria will be over.
The Western sponsors of the covert war in Syria stand to incur a huge strategic defeat. It should be also noted that 66-year-old Jean-Marc Ayrault was previously French prime minister back in 2012, at the very time that France was beginning to covertly supply weapons to illegally armed groups in Syria – in contravention of a European Union embargo.
This is why Ayrault and his American and British allies are now assiduously piling the political pressure on Russia to desist from its offensive in Syria. The Western sponsors are desperately trying to salvage their proxy assets on the ground and to salvage their criminal regime-change project – using the language and emotion of humanitarian concern and legal niceties.
You can’t get much more cynical than that. Now Monsieur Ayrault, just who is accusing who of what?