The Barrel Bomb Conundrum 364

Virtually every mainstream media article or broadcast on the United States aerial massacre of Syrian government troops, manages to work in a reference to barrel bombs as though this in some way justifies or mitigates the US action.

It is a fascinating example of a propaganda meme. Barrel bombs are being used by Syrian government forces, though on a pretty small scale. They are an improvised weapon made by packing conventional explosive into a beer barrel. They are simply an amateur version of a conventional weapon, and they are far less “effective” – meaning devastating – than the professionally made munitions the UK and US are dropping on Syria, or supplying to the Saudis to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Yemen, or to Israel to drop on children in Gaza.

If a bomb were to drop near me, I would much prefer it to be a barrel bomb as it would be less likely to kill me than the UK and US manufactured professional variety. If however my guts were to be eviscerated by flying hunks of white hot metal, I would not particularly care what kind of bomb it was. The blanket media use of “barrel bomb” as though it represents something uniquely inhumane is a fascinating example of propaganda, especially set beside the repeated ludicrous claims that British bombs do not kill civilians.

It is of course only part of the media distortion around the Syria debacle. Western intervention is aimed at supporting various Saudi backed jihadist militias to take over the country, irrespective of the fact that they commit appalling atrocities. These the media label “democratic forces”. At the same time, we are attacking other Saudi controlled jihadists on the grounds that they are controlled by the wrong kind of Saudi. You see, chopping off the heads of dissidents and gays is OK if you are one of the Saudis who directly controls the Saudi oil resources. It is not OK if you do it freelance and are one of the Saudis who is merely acting at the covert behest of the other Saudis who control the Saudi oil resources.

I do hope that is clear.

364 thoughts on “The Barrel Bomb Conundrum

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  • Alan

    Don’t forget that when the US drops bombs on something like a Doctors Without Borders Hospital, it’s always an “error”, but this reveals how much they truly believe in the “Precision Bombs” they always claim to be using. “Precision” is only as “precise” as they choose to make it.

    • lysias

      At the time of the Kosovo War, I had a part-time job transcribing CNN. Whenever the on-air talent referred to the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, they invariably called it the “accidental bombing”. There must have been a memo instructing them. “Das ist die Sprachregelung [That is the required language].” To explain how such an accidental bombing could occur, the U.S. government released a most implausible story about out-of-date maps at the CIA.

      I was later informed by people in the U.S. military that the bombing was not accidental at all, that the Chinese had been furnishing data to the Serbs (or at least that is what the U.S. military believed).

  • Clark

    “A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

    The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.””

    “Salafist”; that’s what the Saudis like to call their ideology, rather than Wahhabist. Our media tend toward “jihadist”, but it’s the same thing – Saudi-inspired religious fanatics used as proxy forces for the “West”.

    • Paul Barbara

      Nice to have you on board,Clark, for a change. That’s what we ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ have been saying since day 1.

    • Resident Dissident


      Might I suggest you try and source the actual claims made on the website to the actual US Government document linked from the website.

      Start with the one you quote

      “The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.””

        • Resident Dissident

          NO it isn’t the article makes false quotes and assertions based on the underlying documentation – I was hoping you would correct your own errors.

          • Clark

            This is the link to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch:


            I copied that link from the fifth paragraph of the article I cited:


            The article is based upon and makes many quotes from the document. The document became public only through a persistent campaign of Freedom of Information requests by Judicial Watch, so the extensive redactions probably conceal facts that incriminate the US still further.

          • Clark

            The article quotes the document accurately. However, the document itself seems to reflect inconsistency and conflicting objectives in the underlying US policies. The US wishes to support groups that attack Syrian government forces, but by supporting such cross-border combat groups weakens Iraqi government control of Iraq, which the US is committed to support. The US apparently wants its creation the Iraqi government to be respectable, abiding by international law, but also wants Iraq to harbour combat groups attacking an adjacent country. The document fails to address this fundamental contradiction, and thus falls into rather confusing and contradictory language.

          • Clark

            RD, you asked that the following claim be sourced:

            “The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.””

            PDF page 3, Document page 289, section 1 paragraphs B and C:

            “The Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria, […] the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition [ie. the insurgency]”

            PDF page 5, Document page 291, section 7 paragraph B:

            “…opposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas [of Syria] (Hasaka and Der Zor) adjacent to the western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighboring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey are supporting these efforts

            PDF page 5, Document page 291, section 8 paragraph C:

            “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

          • Clark

            However, I have made a mistake which I should correct. At 12:02 I wrote:

            “The US apparently wants its creation the Iraqi government to be respectable, abiding by international law…”

            Reading the document more carefully, the actual US concern seems to be the stability and border security of its new oil-rich client state, Iraq.

          • Resident Dissident


            It is quite clear if you read to the end of the document that the US did not want ISIS to be established as a state because of the impact it would have on Iraq – it is not one of the supporting powers referred to on the last page of the PDF. Also so much of the document is redacted it is not clear what the attitude of the US was different sections of the opposition or those who were supporting the Salafists. You and judicial watch are just filling in the blanks with what you think supports your position.

          • Clark

            On the contrary; the document PROVES that in August 2012 the US already knew that their policy of supporting their allies’ attacks upon Syria was likely to produce something like ISIS. That they continued, and indeed ended up with ISIS, MUST therefore be regarded as deliberate. ISIS may not have been their favourite outcome, but presumably it was judged as preferable to taking the pressure off Russia’s ally Syria, and had the additional advantage of pleasing their own allies.

          • Clark

            Resident Dissident, what exactly are you suggesting? That “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition” (sect. 2 para. C) but the US does not? That “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts” (sect. 7 para B) but the US isn’t? That “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want” (sect 8 para. C), but not the US?

            I haven’t heard any objection from the US about the behaviour of its allies; have you? I don’t remember the US advising the UK not to attack Assad’s forces lest they create more territory, chaos, spare weapons and recruits for the likes of ISIS, Al Qaeda or a Salafist principality. On the other hand, they have supplied funding through their Gulf state allies, haven’t they?

            But yes, the US has paid lip-service to the integrity of the borders of its victim, Iraq. Big deal.

      • Brianfujisan

        That’s a perfect description for that video Macky – ” blood-soaked ghoul, pointing a finger at someone else, in the hope that the corpses at her feet will not be noticed;”

        i gotta dash catch ya

  • Macky

    How nauseating is this;

    At least most people with a functioning brain can see a blood-soaked ghoul, pointing a finger at someone else, in the hope that the corpses at her feet will not be noticed;

    Notice also the non apology of “we regret”, reserved for official “enemies” .

      • Macky

        Sure is, but some will fall for it, because they want, and indeed need, to believe “we” are morally better than everybody else.

        • Habbabkuk

          ” some will fall for it, because they want, and indeed need, to believe “we” are morally better than everybody else”


          Well, Macks, you are obviously not amoung that “some”.

          So where are you?

          Do you believe that “we” (please define, by the way) are worse than “everybody else” or do you merely believe that “we” are morally the same as everybody else, neither better nor worse?

          If the latter, then according to your lights there are an awful lot of morally doubtful people out there, not only “we”.

          That being so, why do you never condemn them in your posts?

  • Tom Welsh

    Ah yes, “barrel bombs”! To tell the truth, I really don’t believe they exist – not as weapons used by the Syrian armed forces, anyway. Very possibly this is yet another example of the hydra-headed lies sprouted by Washington, in which it accuses those whom it wishes to destroy of all the crimes that it has committed itself. It seems very likely that the terrorists have used improvised weapons of this kind, just as they patched together a few half-baked, barely viable rockets containing poison gas. These didn’t have to work, in the sense of doing much harm – they just had to provide fodder for the slavering Western media.

    Whenever I hear the “barrel bombs” trope I always think, “Napalm, Agent Orange, white phosphorus, fuel-air bombs, bunker-busters, Hellfire missiles, tactical nuclear weapons…” (I probably left out a few – the list is long and horrible).

    • Tom Welsh

      Oh, it’s only a way of talking about white phosphorus, but do you remember how American soldiers engaged in the genocide of Fallujah used to talk laughingly about “shake and bake”? That referred to their technique of softening up an area with heavy artillery and mortar fire to “shake” the inhabitants out into the open, whereupon the white phosphorus would arrive and do the “baking”.

      Nice people.

    • michael norton

      I don’t believe in the gassing that the Americans, keep repeatingly claiming that the Syrian Government forces do.
      It is twaddle.
      I do hope that horrible Clinton person does not get in.
      She will bring even more terrible troubles to the region.

      • lysias

        The evidence that the Syrian government has used poison gas is questionable.

        The evidence that the rebels have used poison gas, up to and including sarin (which there is no evidence that Assad’s government has used), is unequivocal.

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Tom Welsh September 18, 2016 at 10:59
      Absolutely. I was going to post virtually the same; why on earth should the Syrian Armed Forces have to ‘improvise’ barrel bombs, when they can get far deadlier ordinance from Russia (legitimately, to defend their country and people from a horde of bloodthirsty thugs sent in at the behest of the West, by the Saudis and their Gulf henchmen)?
      Rubbish, pure and simple, like the allegations (still repeated ad nauseum, that the Syrian Government forces used Chemical Weapons).
      Pull the other one, perps of the ‘Maine’, Operation Northwoods plan, Gulf of Tonkin LIE, Pearl Harbour ‘incitement’, 9/11, ‘Spotty Lincoln’ adventure, ‘USS Liberty’ plot, Libyan catastrophe, Iraqi WMD LIE, and so on
      Also, from day one many members of the ‘Truth’ community have held the belief that the so-called intervention against ISIL/ISIS/IS/XYZ was just a smokescreen for attacks on the Syrian regime, just another ‘Regime Change’ scenario.
      Recently, the US admitted ‘accidentally’ bombing Syrian Government forces, killing 80-odd and injuring 100-odd. About as ‘accidental’ as US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, etc etc.
      ISIS/ISIL/IS/XYZ were created by the West with their Middle Eastern partners in War Crimes, and continue to serve their purposes – amazing how the ‘tewwowists’ immediately attacked after the US had bombed the Syrian defenses – ALMOST as though they were expecting it….
      Then check the ‘Yinon Plan’:
      Look vaguely similar to what is occurring? Surely, that couldn’t be; WE wouldn’t do that sort of thing.
      But, Wesley Clark and Roland Dumas beg to differ – ‘General Wesley Clark: The US will attack 7 countries in 5 years’:
      ‘Roland Dumas: The British prepared for war in Syria 2 years before the eruption of the crisis’:
      Both men are also on other TV interviews, saying the same thing.
      So much for a Syrian Regime of terror, firing on ‘peaceful protesters, – as peaceful as the protesters in Ukraine), using CW on their own people, using ‘barrel bombs’ on civilians, and any other lies ‘OUR’ side can conjure up.

  • K Crosby

    I don’t watch the shite spewed by COMbbc, C4 and the rest of the corp-0-rat news but I have noticed that being blown up by a bomb made by Corporal Jones is apparently worse than being blown up by US-, tsinoiz- or British-made ones. I suppose the British squaddies who made jam tin bombs in 1915 are also being condemned.

    As you point out, it’s a propaganda manoeuvre reminiscent of the sort of feeble excuses that bent Tory MPs use when they’re in court, so that the judge can manipulate the jury into an aquittal.

  • Clark

    Craig wrote:

    “These the media label “democratic forces”. At the same time, we are attacking other Saudi controlled jihadists on the grounds that they are controlled by the wrong kind of Saudi.”

    Is this the government line now? I thought they avoided all mention of the Saudi “religion”, its role in the projection of Saudi power, and the convenient alignment of Saudi and US/Neocon objectives against Russia and Russian allies which has persisted for decades.

    Oh I suppose there is some muted admission that “jihadism” is Saudi-inspired, but it’s never in the headlines, is it? Some prince will go out to Saudi Arabia next year to do the Sword Dance and sell them the latest weapons.

  • Macky

    “They are simply an amateur version of a conventional weapon, and they are far less “effective””

    Propagandists, intent on demonisization in order to win support for illegal military aggression/crimes, do not respond to logic or obvious rational points; they have to play stupid &/or go on distracting whatabouteries, which is why they end-up as internet trolls.

  • michael norton

    I wonder if it is all about stopping a Shia / Russia block stretching from the Mediterranian to the Gulf of Persia.
    Syria, Iraq, Iran, Russia

    • Resident Dissident

      You may not have noticed but Russia has no border with any of the countries you name – old habits die hard eh.

      • michael norton

        Russia has beach on the Caspian Sea, also a naval presence,
        Iran has beach on the Caspian Sea,
        what is it that you can not understand?

          • Resident Dissident

            Beaches on the Caspian Sea are not the same as borders. the UK and the US have beaches on the Atlantic but we don’t have any borders either.

            Russia may be allied with Armenia but they don’t have a common border – the sovereign nations of Azerbaijan and Georgia get in the way.

            I presume you are both American given you lack of geographical knowledge.

          • michael norton

            O.K. let’s go through this slowly.

            There used to be a super state known as the Russia, that had common land borders with Persia/Iran & sharing the Caspian Sea,
            Then Russia became the U.S.S.R. again having land borders with Iran & sharing the Caspian Sea.
            Then the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist but no actual land vanished.
            Russia kept the Nuclear weapons.
            Iran has been under U.S.A. sanctions. Russia is under U.S.A. sanctions as is Syria.
            The U.S.A. “encouraged” the Iran -Iraq war, a lot died.
            The U.S.A. had two wars with Iraq, totaling the place.

            If the former states of the U.S.S.R. and Iran and Iraq and Syria build pipelines, possibly traversing the bottom of the Caspian Sea, to transit oil/gas/water through these countries for thei mutual benefit.
            Turkey / Israel / Saudi Arabia / The Gulf States /The U.S.A. will be “quite” unhappy.

            The Caspian Sea is the link-pin.

          • Resident Dissident

            Still a little hole in your block – in order to get from Russia to Iran through the Caspian Sea you still have to go through waters that belong to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan – which are now independent sovereign nations and not part of the Soviet bloc as much as you might wish.

            I suspect you have no problem with Russia now having a military base in Iran.

  • Mick McNulty

    I consider an improvised explosive device as legitimate as conventional munitions, because IEDs are laid in the field by soldiers defending their country from foreign invaders while conventional munitions are made by war profiteers thousands of miles away. And most IEDs are made from conventional munitions anyway.

    And firing a precision bomb at a cafe and hitting it is less precise than a militia drive-by shooting up that cafe when their target is in there, except fewer bystanders die from stray bullets than bomb blasts. No politician has ever called a drive-by shooting a precision attack.

    • YKMN

      I used to drive around Switzerland, noticing all their self-defence IEDs, the mined bridges, disguised tank-traps, pneumatic-road-blocks, hidden planes.

      I wondered, idly, why the inventors of the cuckoo-clock(*) would militarise their whole nation, ready to defend against an external aggressor, at such cost. Who was the putative enemy? Seriously, who!

      Contemporaneous with their big spending on all those tanks which are now parked dustily near Züg, was the tail-end of the OTAN gladio-mess across europe.

      Did the Swiss primarily arm & protect themselves against NATO?, I’ve heard of the tippy-toes respect that secret squirrels still afford Helvetia in committees, perhaps there is mutual trust and dis-trust between the power blocs to this day. . .
      Putin did buy a cottage by a lake somewhere near Neûchatel.

      (*)In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
      [i disagree slightly with Orsen on this, personally accepting a triple Stratum One atomic cuckoo-clock from ‘Swatch’ to plesiochronously run half of the U.K. telecoms infrastructure. I bet it is still running somewhere in a cupboard]

      • Habbabkuk

        “Did the Swiss primarily arm & protect themselves against NATO?”




        “Putin did buy a cottage by a lake somewhere near Neûchatel.”

        Perhaps you know something about the cost of property in Switzerland?

        If so, d’ye think Mr Putin bought it on his official salary…? 🙂

      • fred

        Switzerland didn’t invent the cuckoo clock, the first known cuckoo clock was made in Bavaria, Switzerland didn’t even make cuckoo clocks they imported them from the Black Forest to sell in large numbers to foreign tourists who just assumed they had been made in Switzerland.

      • Republicofscotland

        “Did the Swiss primarily arm & protect themselves against NATO?, ”



        Thank you for your thoughts on driving around Switzerland.

        I’m not sure about that, (your above sentence) but the proposal for the EU army now the dis-United Kingdom is out of the way, will hopefully weaken Nato’s hand, and move at least some power back towards the EU, in respect of, acting at the Great Satan’s request, to follow them into battle, in mainly unjust causes.

        I’d like to see more nations drift away from the Nato alliance, Sweden have of late decided not to join Nato.

        • YKMN

          thanks WbO, great wikipedia article that I’d completely missed.

          it seems that the Swiss have always defended against everyone, with a focus on anti-soviet land invasion until the 1990’s;
          since when their military budget has continued to shrink, as environmental & economic voting by the citizens has neutered the Swiss Military Industrial Complex’s wish to waste money. After all, there’s no endemic threat anymore. The Swiss are very practical.

          Currently they rent a few SAAB military aircraft as the population probably would vote down any suggestion of buying them!

  • Republicofscotland

    The Western press, is an obedient propaganda machine, especially when it comes to denouncing the Assad regime. Assad isn’t a very nice man, and in a ideal world Syrians would be able to democratically vote to remove him, they can’t yet.

    However, the Great Satan and its compliant minions, the dis-United Kingdom being a foremost loyal servant. Have used Assads, undemocratic position to try and remove him. It’s done in the usual fashion, first demonise the regime in the press, to get the public onside. Then use NGO’s to give your demonisation some credibility, add proxy fighters who commit atrocities against the civilans, and blames those neferious act on the Assad regime, barrels bombs have a particularly nasty image to them, thats why the Western press constantly repeatedly the use of them, in their news bulletins.

    The hypocrisy of it all comes to light when you look back and see that the Great Satan and its minions, were and still aren’t adversed to doing business with autocrats and dictators, so long as it benefits them. However when that benefit no longer applies, in cases such as Gaddafi or Saddam, then the demonisation process begins. In Syria’s case the Great Satan and its minions, probably didn’t think that Russia would back the Assad regime so strongly, it has, and an my opinion that’s why Assad still clings to power.

    Saudi Arabia is still a useful ally, for now, thats why the Saudi’s can commit terrible atrocities in their own country, atrocities that would see other less prominent dictatorship overthrown in a very short time. Israel another ally to the Great Satan, is a different kettle of fish it has very powerful and prominent men, high in the government, and very powerful lobbies influencing foreign policy. That’s why Netanyahu can act with near impunity. As for the dis-United Kingdom, one wonders why, it follows US foreign policy most of the time, with regards to wars and regime changes.

    Does it hark back to those Ruritanian days, when Britannia ruled the waves? Maybe that’s it, hanging onto the Great Satan’s coat tails, at very least instills, a feeling if kudos.

    • michael norton


      That Dave Cameron wanted to bomb Syria but brave Little Tim and brave J.C.
      put a stop to his tricks

      • Republicofscotland


        David Cameron was particularly compliant to Obama’s foreign policy in Syria, dis-United Kingdom pilots flew sorties (and probably still do) into Syria, and the SAS, were sent into Syria, and are probably still there, causing untold havoc, on who’s behalf? We’ll probably never know, it’s certainly not in the name of freedom and democracy.

        The dis-United Kingdom, in my opinion, has no real reason to be in Syria, other than to help the Great Satan, and its minions aid a regime change under the guise of liberating the oppressed Syrian people.

    • Habbabkuk


      “Assad isn’t a very nice man,”

      So that’s fine, then. 🙂 Carry on…


      “and in a ideal world Syrians would be able to democratically vote to remove him, they can’t yet”

      Yes, the world’s a wicked place, isn’t it.


      But I acknowlege your use of the word “yet”. Reliable reports have it that “President” Assad Jnr is about to turn over a new leaf and give democracy a try. Coming soon! 🙂

      • Loony

        Democracy does not sit well with sectarianism.

        If you had a democracy in a sectarian society the majority would vote for policies designed to persecute the minority. Any lack of democratic leanings on the part of Assad is not the fault of Assad it is a consequence of the makeup of Syrian society. If he were to convert to the cause of democracy then he would simply be overthrown by some other anti democratic strongman.

        Your concern for a lack of democracy in Syria (where democracy cannot work) is in contrast with your absence of expressed concern for a lack of democracy in Bahrain (where democracy may be able to work)

  • Bob

    The point about barrel bombs is that they cannot be targeted effectivly, and kill indiscriminately. The Assad regime uses them not to attack opposition military forces but to terrorise the civilian population. The regime has been able to drop barrel bombs with impunity, because the US has blocked the anti-Assad forces from acquiring the MANPADS (shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles) that would enable them to defend opposition-held areas from these attacks. Here’s a list of barrel bomb attacks in Syria:

    Craig generally shows little grasp of the details of the war in Syria. He writes: “Western intervention is aimed at supporting various Saudi backed jihadist militias to take over the country.”

    But the Saudi regime hasn’t been been backing jihadist militias – for the simple reason that if there’s one thing all jihadists agree on, it’s on the need to destroy the apostate Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime initially gave its backing to the mainly secular forces operating under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, and later they promoted Jaish al-Islam as a non-jihadi Salafi alternative to Jabhat al-Nusra.

    US intervention is primarily directed at combating Daesh, not the Assad regime. So far as it has provided limited backing to FSA-branded militias fighting Assad, the aim of the US has been to pressure the regime into accepting a political compromise, not to overthrow it. The CIA has carefully vetted US-backed groups, precisely to exclude any organisations that might allow arms to get into the hands of jihadists. The last thing the US wants is for jihadist militias to take over Syria.

    • Derek

      The Jihadists do have Manpads (donated by the USA), and have used them to down Syrian and Russian helicopters. That is also the reason why the bombs dropped by Syrian helicopters are not as precise as they would like them to be. They have to be dropped from above Manpad range.

      Do you really believe the Syrian Army want to terrorise and kill civilians? Who do you think make up the Syrian army? They are the sons and brothers of the Syrian civilians. Maybe you believe the nonsense about the Government forces being all Alawites, and the war in Syria being a war between Sunni and Shia/Alawite? The truth is that Syria is a majority Sunni country, and the majority of the SAA is similarly Sunni. Only these Sunnis do not want to chop the heads off their Christian and Alawite neighbours.

      • Habbabkuk


        “Do you really believe the Syrian Army want to terrorise and kill civilians? Who do you think make up the Syrian army? They are the sons and brothers of the Syrian civilians.”

        “Do you really believe President Assads’ (father and son) secret police want to terrorise and torture and kill civilians? Who so you think make up the Syrian secret police? They are the sons and brothers of the Syrian civilians”‘

      • Bob

        “The Jihadists do have Manpads (donated by the USA)”. Really? In what parallel universe did that take place?

        The guiding principle of the (very limited) US intervention in Syria in support of the anti-Assad opposition has been to try and prevent arms falling into the hands of jihadists. There was some discussion in the US about modifying MANPADS so they could be neutralised if jihadists did get hold of them. But that technical problem was never resolved so far as I know. And if it had been, the recipients of those modified MANPADS would have been a few select CIA-vetted FSA-branded groups.

        It is true that some opposition forces have managed to acquire MANPADS, mainly seized from Assad’s forces it would appear. These are so limited in number that they are rarely used. There certainly aren’t enough of them to provide a defence of opposition-held areas against Assad and his Russian allies, who of course have a monopoly of air power.

        And I had to laugh at the suggestion that Assad’s barrel bombs are killing civilians because they “have to be dropped from above Manpad range”. That would mean that the regime’s helicopters are flying at around 15-20 thousand feet. Are you seriously suggesting they are dropping barrel bombs from that height? I think you’d be better off if you followed the example of other contributors to this thread and just denied that the regime is dropping barrel bombs at all. (After all, Assad himself “has been very clear that he doesn’t use barrel bombs”. And who could doubt his word?)

        As for Assad’s armed forces being made up predominantly of Sunnis who would not “want to terrorise and kill civilians”, here’s a Stratfor analysis from 2011:

        “The Syrian military, as it stands today, is a direct reflection of hard-fought Alawite hegemony over the state.

        “Syrian Alawites are stacked in the military from both the top and the bottom, keeping the army’s mostly Sunni 2nd Division commanders in check. Of the 200,000 career soldiers in the Syrian army, roughly 70 percent are Alawites. Some 80 percent of officers in the army are also believed to be Alawites…. Most of Syria’s 300,000 conscripts are Sunnis who complete their two- to three-year compulsory military service and leave the military….

        “Even though most of Syria’s air force pilots are Sunnis, most ground support crews are Alawites who control logistics, telecommunications and maintenance, thereby preventing potential Sunni air force dissenters from acting unilaterally. Syria’s air force intelligence, dominated by Alawites, is one of the strongest intelligence agencies within the security apparatus and has a core function of ensuring that Sunni pilots do not rebel against the regime.”

    • Laguerre

      “But the Saudi regime hasn’t been been backing jihadist militias – for the simple reason that if there’s one thing all jihadists agree on, it’s on the need to destroy the apostate Saudi monarchy.”

      Nonsense. The Saudis have openly said they support the jihadis in Syria. Bandar bin Sultan was the one who gave the most detailed exposition of the policy. It is mainly paid for from private pockets (there’s of course no real difference between private and public – it’s the same princes). And no, far from all jihadis are opposed to the Saudi dynasty – after all, they appreciate who’s paying them.

    • Mick McNulty

      Yesterday the US used a ceasefire to attack Syrian Army positions to assist ISIS. ISIS is the US, UK, Israel, France and Saudi Arabia.

    • Clark

      Bob, 13:04:

      “if there’s one thing all jihadists agree on, it’s on the need to destroy the apostate Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime […] later […] promoted Jaish al-Islam as a non-jihadi Salafi alternative to Jabhat al-Nusra”

      There is no such agreement, and such clear distinctions cannot be made; all are motivated by the Saudi dynastic / religious power structure, which has great internal tensions. Names of leaders can be presented as figureheads, but tonnes of weapons are distributed, tens of thousands of indoctrinated individuals get armed and trained; groups splinter, coalesce and change allegiance. One British national accused of terrorism in Syria had his case dropped because the UK had been funding the very group he was going to join! No one knows the fuck who’s who, and I have no reason to believe that “our side” actually care beyond whether they’ll attack Syrian government forces or not:

      You can stick up for the Saudi monarchy but their hold over the power structure is partial and unstable at best. It’s playing with fire – Saudi Arabia’s brutal religious indoctrination and international religious propaganda campaign produces violent extremism, and the West make use of it at everyone’s peril.

  • Habbabkuk


    At the top of the blog you are styled – inter alia – as a human rights activist.

    The present post is about ostensibly about Syria (but then goes on to Saud).i

    The founding of this blog predates the beginning of the current conflict in Syria, IS, etc.

    Can you remind me if you have ever devoted a post about human rights abuses and violations in Syria by the Assad governments (father and son)?

    If so, how many times (whether entirely or in part)?

    • Loony

      What a puerile set of questions you pose.

      Is Assad a good humanitarian? Well no. Does he commit human rights abuses? Yes

      Does he rule over a state best by sectarian tensions? Yes. Until about 2011 did he keep a lid on these tensions? Yes.

      Was his authoritarian rule better than any likely alternative? Probably.

      Other than authoritarianism rule is there another way of dealing with sectarian hatred? Well the British did not find it in Northern Ireland and entire books have been written about a shoot to kill policy, Internment and Bloody Sunday. All this for a state with the fourth largest economy in the world, and many hundreds of years experience of the rule of law, and peaceful representative government. Syria by contrast has only existed in its present form since 1948 and prior to the rise of the Assad clan was beset by instability.

      Even if these historical arguments fail then what is the alternative? The alternative is ISIS or something similar. If you want to know the future without Assad look at Libya today.

      The only question of relevance is whether Assad is more or less acceptable than iSIS. Support for ISIS may well serve your anarchist agenda, but unfortunately for purveyors of such nihilism the Russians are on the case and have no intention of allowing Syria to fall to ISIS.

        • Loony

          No. I am writing on behalf of reason, something that seems to appeal to you as much as sunlight appeals to a vampire.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        Maybe we should remind those who favour Assad’s replacement with something worse (if it is only perpetual sectarian warfare due to the inability of anyone else to impose a nice banker as the new leader), that the US was flying rendered Iraqis and Afghans to Damascus for, er, processing before this blew up. So the Habbas can relax in the knowledge that human rights abuse in Syria was fine by the democratic West – then. What’s changed?

        Underlying all this, of course, is the slow working out of ‘A Clean Break’: naked aggression and destabilisation aimed at weakening Iran and its allies in the interests of we do not speak its name.

      • michael norton

        A hi-tech laser weapon that could shoot down enemy missiles mid-flight is to be developed for the British military.

        The futuristic “energy” cannon is set to be created under a £30m deal being finalised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

        It forms the first part of a programme aimed at showing how pioneering technology, once confined to the pages of science fiction, can be exploited by the military in future.

        Are we gearing up for Dave Cameron’s World War Three?

      • Resident Dissident

        “The only question of relevance is whether Assad is more or less acceptable than iSIS”

        Don’t you think that ordinary Syrians might want some other choices? Or it is because that they are offered such a miserable choice that so many have already left Syria. The Left used to believe in self determination – the Syrians are not getting it. The Left used to believe in solidarity with progressive forces – there is none of that at present. The Left used to believe in humanitarianism – the Syrians are definitely getting none of that at present. The Left used to believe in the role of International Organisations to defend human rights from dictators and totalitarians – there is no thinking as to how this should be achieved. Joining the Putin fan club and using Syria as a proxy in the war against the great American Satan is not how the Left or decent human beings should think about these matters.

        • Clark

          The main reason why ordinary Syrians have such an allegedly poor choice between Assad and ISIS is that the West destroyed Iraq, and then armed, trained, funded and encouraged groups that would attack Syrian government forces. These conditions gave rise to both ISIS and the armed conflict, depriving ordinary Syrians of peaceful means of change.

          First, do no harm.

  • Geoff Bridges

    Are you sure the Syrian armed forces are using them?
    “Barrel bombs” is such a pejorative statement used as propaganda time and again by Western Governments and their mouthpieces in the main stream media and US government funded NGO’s and supposedly neutral humanitarian organisations that it is no surprise that Assad refuses to admit that his forces use them.
    Why would Syria use homemade devices when they have a fully functioning jet airforce with bomb ordinance in ready supply from Russia? Assad has questioned why he would deliberately target civilians when he is trying to unite the country from foreign jihadists? He has also questioned why the Syrian people would still vote for him in their millions if he was deliberately killing them?
    There have been videos of helicopters dropping what appears to be homemade devices but this can be explained by the fact that the Syrian Arab Army had captured gas cannisters containing explosives from the terrorists who were using them in their “hell cannons” against innocent civilians. The SAA were giving them a taste of their own medicine by dropping the terrorists own bombs on their positions NOT civilians.
    Any sort of aerodynamic IED or vertical bomb ‘dropped from helicopters’ using GPS and co-ordinates would be far less devastating and indiscriminate than most missile attacks, not to speak of the depleted uranium, napalm, white phosphorous and cluster bombs used by Washington.
    The areas in Syria being bombed by Government forces are held by various Islamist groups virtually all of whom are internationally proscribed terrorist organisations responsible for multiple atrocities in Syria. It is hardly surprising, then, that the Syrian Arab Army regularly bombs the armed groups in these areas.
    Photos and statistics supplied by the terrorists themselves or NGO’s funded by neo-cons in Washington have quite often been falsified to back up the propaganda that Assad is bombing his own civilians which is not true. Most civilians in the areas said to have been ‘barrel bombed’ left a very long time ago. Most of those remaining are probably sympathetic or family members of the terrorists and if Assad had wanted to harm them instead of trying to reunite the country he could have easily carpet bombed those areas where the Islamist rebels use the civilians as human shields.
    Don’t forget that the Free Syrian Army and foreign terrorists are still using homemade “Hell Cannons” firing gas cylinders filled with explosives and nails against Government supporting civilians.

    • Habbabkuk


      “Why would Syria use homemade devices when they have a fully functioning jet airforce with bomb ordinance in ready supply from Russia?”


      Perhaps for the same reason as murdering IRA bombers used bombs filled with nuts and bolts (so-called nail bombs) when they could have used simple explosives?

      I’ll leave you to work out the reason for yourself, it shouldn’t be difficult for the “expert” you are.

      • Republicofscotland

        “I’ll leave you to work out the reason for yourself, it shouldn’t be difficult for the “expert” you are.”



        British forces in NI, during Operation Banner killed over 300 people, of which more than half were citizens. Only four British soldiers were convicted of murder. All of whom were released after serving only three years of a life sentence, they went straight back into their army units.

        You may try and compare Assad with the IRA, but the British estsblishment, has way more blood on their hands, than Assad, and the IRA, put together.

        • Habbabkuk

          Actually, ELIE, I was suggesting a comparison between Syrian govt barrel bombs and IRA terrorist nail bombs.

          • Geoff Bridges

            There is no comparison whatsoever as Assad still denies he uses them. Also the IRA didn’t have a fully functioning airforce with traditional bomb ordinance.

        • Kempe

          During the same period PIRA killed over 1,700 people the overwhelming majority of whom were citizens in one shape or form and many of those responsible have never even stood trial.

          I can’t see how this is at all relevant to Assad’s use of barrel bombs against his own people.

          • Ba'al Zevul

            The meme ‘using barrel bombs against his own people’ is a persistent one. But it’s pretty clear that the people he’s fighting either never have been or have ceased to be his own people, whether inspired by alluring hints of western support for the Arab Spring ( remember that, eh?) or by fundamentalist Wahhabist imams. They are adept at embedding themselves in local communities, and the use of terrorist methods is not unique to Assad. He’s fighting fire with fire. It may seem like a regional conflict to us*, but it’s total war as far as he’s concerned: no quarter given or expected. Morality is very far down the agenda here. He saw what happened to Gaddafi.

            The Excrescences have not yet addressed the very salient question of whether they would rather be disembowelled or fried by a barrel bomb or a Paveway. Implying that the former is less moral than the latter is a distraction from the real question, which is, who kicked this off in the first place, and why? In the full knowledge that Assad would use any means available to retain power?

            *if we read the Sun

          • Kempe

            Ah so they’re Syrians but they’re not Syrians if they cease to support the murderous hereditary dictatorship that has kept them oppressed for the last however many decades.

            ” The Excrescences have not yet addressed the very salient question of whether they would rather be disembowelled or fried by a barrel bomb or a Paveway. ”

            Mainly because it’s a pointless and ridiculous question. Let’s put it another way, what would you rather the Syrians used in urban areas*? Weapons with pin point accuracy or crude, indiscriminate home made devices that can’t be aimed with any precision whatsoever?

            *Really it would be best if they didn’t have to use any weapons at all of course.

  • Laguerre

    I rather think this air-strike by the Yanks on the Syrian army in Deir ez-Zor is going to backfire on the Americans. It’s such a big f*ckup, and makes it look like they really are doing close air-support for ISIS. I really have no idea whether or not it was an accident, but the question has been well put: What was the US (and Australia, apparently) doing bombing down there, far from any interest of the US, where the two sides are only the SAA and ISIS? It is hard to believe they were defending the Syrians, as Russia correctly points out. And if not defending the Syrians, there is only one conclusion.

    Anyway, according to Masdar, at least the Syrians have now retaken the position, and it has not led to the fall of Deir ez-Zor to ISIS. The Americans must be relieved.

  • Kate Buffery

    Assad in interview (available online) has been very clear that he doesn’t use barrel bombs. As he says – there’s nothing in it for him to do so. He says that of course he has to use conventional bombs against the insurgents as he’s protecting Syria from terrorists and only retains power because he still has the support of huge numbers of Syrian civilians – strategising to heighten the pain for the hell of it would lose him that support. So he knows barrel bombs can only do damage to his credibility both at home and abroad. And he is clear that they are used by rebel fighters in order to smear him. In support of his position there has been evidence of bombs set off from sewers in rebel held territory at the point when aerial bombing occurs. it would be an unnecessary risk for anyone other than rebels – in rebel held territory – to gain access to those sewers when there are plenty of bombs being dropped from the relative safety of the skies. It is suggested that these bombs set off in the sewers are barrel bombs used by the rebels for propaganda purposes. I have no vested interest either way – beyond trying to fathom out the truth. But that makes sense to me.

  • michael norton

    Russia needs a naval base on the Mediterranean Sea,
    it has had one for fifty years in Syria, although not very active since the fall of the U.S.S.R.
    Russia has made friends with Persia, sometimes firing missiles from the Caspian Sea, over Persia and Mesopotamia into Syria, this with the agreement of Syria, Iraq and Iran, let’s see the U.S.A. pull that off.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Quite clear, and has been for some time. But perhaps we need to understand that making your own bombs out of beer barrels deprives the global markets of your participation, and threatens growth. This is obviously the real crime against humanity. More seriously, I am wondering why Assad, like his opponents, uses IED’s when so much ordnance is on offer from commercial sources at very reasonable prices. Perhaps when Liam Fox has stimulated our lazy businessmen enough, we will be able to undercut the barrel bomb trade and substitute the use of these vile weapons with our beautiful precision self-guided ones?

    Is my disgust showing yet?

  • Old Mark

    The YouTube video of Samantha Power’s incredible act of chutzpah posted above must rank as one of her greatest hits, a worthy successor to the tripe she wrote on the Balkans 20 years ago, and which ‘made her name’.

    That book, ‘A Problem from Hell’, is given a thorough rubbising here in the LRB. (In passing I would note that one of the quotations Holmes uses quotes the butcher’s bill for the Bosnian War as 200,000 dead. As you would expect when Power gets anywhere near atrocity statistics, this ‘estimate’ was later proved to be a serious over the top- the generally accepted figure is now 100,000 dead.

    For those of Craig’s readers who don’t have the time to read the whole review, here is Holmes’ central criticism of Power’s book-

    ‘the 1990s advocates of humanitarian intervention have unintentionally bequeathed a risky legacy to George W. Bush. They have helped rescue from the ashes of Vietnam the ideal of America as a global policeman, undaunted by other countries’ borders, defending civilisation against the forces of ‘evil’. By denouncing the US primarily for standing idly by when atrocity abroad occurs, they have helped repopularise the idea of America as a potentially benign imperial power. They have breathed new life into old messianic fantasies.’

    The review in its entirety is here-

  • John Goss

    Barrel bombs, if they are being used by the Syrian armed forces, is a total distraction. The important thing is that John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov brokered a ceasefire in Syria which was broken by one of the brokers of peace. What this means is that:

    A) John Kerry, as Secretary of State, has no control over the military and is unable to prevent attacks on the Syrian State Army.

    B) John Kerry is a liar and his word meaningless.

    Using these possibly non-existent barrel bombs as an excuse the US (peacemakers indeed) went straight into attack mode. What they should have done was consult with the other major player, Russia, to see what the best way forward might be. They did not do this. There used to be a saying that somebody’s word is supposed to be their bond. The US has no integrity whatsover. The word diplomacy might be in the dictionary but is not in common usage.

    Of course, the bigger picture, relates to the pressure of certain power elites which want to create a Middle East of states dictated over by one apartheid government, part of the so-called New World Order. This is the biggest threat to the world today, one declining power trying to promote the interests of another. It is why there is mayhem in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and other failed states. There can be no other reason. Every problem is seen as a nail to which a big hammer is the only solution.

    • michael norton

      There is also energy,
      which would help Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Egypt and Russia and former states of the U.S.S.R.
      Now imagine if these countries got together and built pipelines from the Caspian Sea, via Iran, Iraq, Syria, with off-shoots,
      linking Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, all possible, if peace comes to the region.
      Cheap oil and gas from the former Soviet Union, cheap oil and gas from Kuwait, from Iran and from Iraq, linked into the Mediterranean.
      Who would this upset.

      Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.S.A.

      Any pennies dropping yet?

      • michael norton

        If this scenario came about,
        Peace in the Middle East, a linked pipeline system for gas and oil and maybe water, joing the Former Soviet Union, through these countries to the Mediterranean and Egypt, can you imagine how cheap a barrel of oil would be, ten dollars or fifteen dollars a barrel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States might become almost irrelevant, the arse would be gone in the North Sea, fracking would be a no-go.

        The politics of the World would be turned on its head.

      • John Goss

        I agree energy is a major factor. One perceived reason for the start of the war and the removal of Assad was because the Syrian leader would not allow a pipeline from Saudi Arabia or Qatar through Jordan and Syria. This was the purpose of the secret Kerry-Abdullah agreement.

        All this though is linked in with the creation of a United States under an Apartheid Dictatorship.

        • John Goss

          Furthermore voting-stations in Russia have now closed. But who in the west knew there was an election? Briefly it is a low turnout. Voting has been totally transparent with full knowledge of the candidates personal wealth, what car(s) and property(ies) they personally own, but the turnout has been low (as low as 20%) and that could affect the ruling United Russia balance of power allowing the Liberal Democrats (neither liberal and democratic but nationalist) more control.

          I shouldn’t be telling you this but how else would you know?

          • Habbabkuk

            “with full knowledge of the candidates personal wealth, what car(s) and property(ies) they personally own”

            Sure about that?

          • Resident Dissident

            They are just following the proud example of the Presidential election where the winning candidate declared an annual income of under £100k, an old Volga and a lockup. Of course all Russians believe this to be true.

            Back in the real world plenty of reports, including videos, of ballot stuffing, carousel voting and bussing in voters – the head of the electoral commission has now threated people with legal action if they cannot back up their allegations.

          • Resident Dissident

            Lets not worry about turnout – Kadyrov Putin’s contract killer has promised a 90% turnout in Chechenya.

          • Resident Dissident

            In St. Petersburg, 550 patients from Psychiatric Clinic No. 7 in St. Petersburg were bused to vote at precinct no. 44 at No. 134 Fontanka Embankment, an observer told Gazeta.

          • Resident Dissident

            Translation of tweet from the Communist Party of Russia

            “Observing these lines of ‘carousel riders’ you make a clear conclusion: the President’s pledge for honest elections is being CYNICALLY ignored.”

          • Resident Dissident

            Translation of tweet from Yabloko

            “Buying of voters in Khimki. A United Russia calendar is given for each ballot, then upon exit, cash is given for the calendar. Reported to police.”

          • Resident Dissident

            Zhirinovsky’s pro Putin fascists currently running at c17% of the vote – but of course it is Ukraine that has the main fascist problem as they got 2% of the vote at the last election.

          • Resident Dissident

            BTW I very much doubt that Putin’s party will lose control of the Russia Parliament – given the 5% threshold, the way Independents are paid to toe the Putin line and the way Zhirinovsky’s fascists do so even without being paid. Real opposition is not allowed in these elections.

          • Resident Dissident

            The longtime leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, condemned United Russia’s victory as “deceitful.” He said he regretted trusting President Vladimir Putin’s promise to conduct the vote with real competition. The presidential administration, he added, created several “false parties” in order to draw votes away from the Communist Party and help LDPR and United Russia win the majority of seats in the parliament.

          • Resident Dissident

            “A source close to the Kremlin has told The Moscow Times that officials in Moscow expect United Russia to win more than 300 seats in the State Duma (in combined proportional voting and winner-take-all races), giving the party a majority large enough to amend the Russian Constitution. “This is possible,” the source said.”

            Told you so

          • Resident Dissident

            “The overall turnout in Russia is estimated at 39 percent (in 2011 it was 51 percent). The lowest turnout was in Moscow (28 percent, compared to 50 percent in 2011) and St. Petersburg (25 percent, compared to 54 percent in 2011). In two regions of the North Caucasus — Chechnya and Karachaevo-Cherkessia — turnout was recorded at 84 percent and 81 percent, respectively.”

            Why has the turnout in Moscow and Petersburg halved since 2011 – perhaps people are not quite as happy with Mr Putin as some would have us believe?

          • Habbabkuk

            Why be ordinary

            “If the Russian people can’t be bothered with it, why should anyone else?”

            Would the same point not apply to Israel/Palestine?

            If the Israeli people are not bothered – for example – about the separation wall, travel restrictions on people from the West Bank and the stern treatment meted out to presumed terrorists, why should anyone else (eg, the Vociferous Ones on this blog) be bothered?

  • michael norton

    One key country in this is probably SYRIA.
    Syria has a Mediterranean coast.
    Another key country is RUSSIA, which has a naval port in Syria.
    Russia may still have the second most powerful armed services in the world, it is definitely a major Nuclear Power,
    another key country is IRAN, with shores on The Gulf of Persia/Indian Ocean,
    the other key county is IRAQ.

    Wind back a few years IRAN – IRAQ WAR.

    who arranged that = U.S.A.

    IRAQ WAR 1 =U.S.A.
    IRAQ WAR 2 = U.S.A.
    Who has been holding IRAN to sanctions = U.S.A.
    Who has been holding RUSSIA to sanctions = U.S.A.
    Who has been holding SYRIA to sanctions, who is bombing the Syrian army = U.S.A.
    Who is funding the Syrian war = Saudi Arabia

  • Tony_0pmoc

    In terms of effect during what maybe your last moments alive – I think burning white phosphorous on your skin may be the most painful. When at school – I used to play with pure sodium very closely related to phosphorous in the periodic table. It is perfectly stable except when it comes in contact with water…and it self ignites.

    Normally any treatment for a skin burn is massive dousing with very cold water…that doesn’t work with sodium – it just makes it worse.

    These war criminals should be in jail awaiting the full force of the law.

    So what are We going to do about them?

    Carry on Watching Coronation Street???

    (same rules apply to chip pan fires – water is the last thing you need if you want to survive)


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