Russia’s Helpers — Disinformation and Conspiracy Trolling After Assad’s Latest Chemical Attacks

Blogger Vanessa Beeley (4th from R) with Bashar al-Assad, July 2016

How Russia and its social media allies are “running interference for the Assad regime” with latest false claims and attacks on rescuers, journalists, and activists


Bethania Palma writes for Snopes, the site specializing in debunking of false claims and conspiracy theories, with a contribution from EA: “Scott Lucas noted that there has been an overlap between pro-Assad trolling, disinformation, and propaganda and support for the regime from the American alt-right and far right.”


On 7 April 2018, reports began emerging from the opposition-held city of Douma, east of the Syrian capital of Damascus, that scores of civilians had been killed and hundreds injured in a chemical attack. In response to mounting global criticism, the Russian government, which has allied with the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, ramped up its military-grade propaganda machine in an ongoing to attempt to obfuscate facts.

Although no blame has yet been officially ascribed, this latest deadly attack in the now seven-year Syrian civil war is not unique. The Assad regime has for years been condemned for using chemical weapons against civilians. In 2013 the regime was accused of using sarin, a nerve agent, in an attack that killed more than 1,400 people in Ghouta….

The disinformation machines have cranked up their propaganda offensive in response to criticism. Russia’s state-funded networks like TASS and RT began churning out stories reflecting the government’s talking points….

Official Russian government channels are not the only sources of misleading information. [There are] a coterie of Western social media personalities and bloggers who have concentrated their efforts on running interference for the Assad regime.

Although their motivations are not entirely clear, they generally fall under three categories — people who cling to what they consider anti-imperialist views and fear potential Western-led regime change in Syria, people who equate current events in Syria with the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war, and another group of activists who, without explanation, have migrated their activism from support for Palestinians in Gaza to support for the Assad regime.

These bloggers have actively participated in campaigns to denigrate the White Helmets, even opining the rescuers are legitimate military targets….

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, rubbishes claim Assad used chemical weapons on Douma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxs53OqAkN8

    Partial Transcript:

    Ford: What are the sources of the information of this attack in this stampede to war? The sources are the Syrian-American Medical Society which is a pro-Islamist propaganda outfit based in the U.S and funded by the CIA……

    Interviewer: Are you suggesting this attack was staged, and people haven’t died?

    Ford: Yes! Yes! Yes! In all probability, the incidents have been staged. Come on, look how easy it is to stage things like this on social media. Please engage your brain! Why would Assad do such a thing when the battle of Eastern Ghouta was virtually over. Why would he do the one thing that would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

      • That’s like implying that ex-chancellor, Norman Lamont, is an Iranian stooge because he head the Iran-Britain chamber of commerce. Ford knows Assad and is a strong critic of the jihadist forces who oppose him.

        • Not really. The Iran-Britain Chamber of Commerce is not headed by the Supreme Leader’s father-in-law.

          But you are right that Peter Ford has never uttered a word of criticism about Bashar al-Assad while he has painted Assad’s opponents as “jihadist”.

          • The Iran-Britain chamber of commerce is strongly supportive of diplomatic and economic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Lamont, a frequent visitor of the Iranian embassy in London (I saw him there several times at public events), never once criticised President Ahmadinejad during his 8 years in office: at one time he even described his views as “interesting”. Ford is absolutely right that Jaish-al-Islam and Jabhat-al-Nusra, not to mention Ahrar-al-Sham and ISIS, are “salafist jihadists”. He has recommended that the non-jihadists of the FSA and YPG/SDF, on the other hand, could become part of a peace settlement.

            • The Chamber of Commerce does business with Iran, but is independent. Is the chamber chiefed by any of the deep state Amniyatees or IRGC entrepreneurs?

    • Ah yes, the old “but Assad is winning, why would he …” line. A perennial favourite, very over used.

      But then I guess the textbook of bullshit is pretty thin.

    • Assad needs WMDs to consolidate his regime for the next 50 years. It is no longer a matter of winning the war. What he is doing is to terrorize the population to never ever think out of the box again. It is extortion that Assad wants. He wishes to terrorize and extort the Syrians for the position of president-for-life. It makes a lot of sense.

  2. Chemical attack in Syria’s Douma staged by foreign special services [says Lavrov]: http://tass.com/politics/999569

    “Russia has indisputable data that the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma was staged by special services of a foreign country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday. “The mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] has set off to Syria not so quickly and without abundant enthusiasm but under our and Syrian pressure. It is due to arrive in Damascus in the morning of April 14,” the Russian foreign minister said. “We expect the mission to go without any delay to Douma where Russian specialists who examined this place have not found any confirmations of the use of chemical weapons,” Lavrov noted. “We have the irrefutable data that this [chemical attack] was staged,” the minister stressed.”

  3. Red Cross has no information on chemical weapon use in Douma: http://tass.com/world/998627

    “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not have verified information on the alleged use of a chemical weapon in the city of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, because there are no ICRC representatives in the region, the ICRC Spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet informed TASS on Monday.”

  4. Sky News cuts off British general, Maj-General Jonathan Shaw, after he asks ‘Why would Syria launch a gas attack now?’ https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tv-news-interview-former-army-12358938

    Partial transcript from video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFnbLPQOdrc

    Shaw: What we are not asking is what possible motive might have triggered Syria to launch a chemical attack at this time in this place….I mean, the Syrians are winning! And then suddenly you get this….

    Presenter: Ok, I’m afraid we are out of time and have to leave it there. Thank you.

  5. Viewers and vistors make webpage counter go up but quality goes down the drain. I have no respect for these users, thats why i confront them harshly. They should be banned but its not my call. They are an insult to anybody with an IQ higher than 50….nuff said.

  6. Ahem — I just got up. Has WWIII started? Isn’t Russian and Iran going to hit back decisively at the US and unleash their monstrous powers in order to punish the imperialist who is trying to steal Syrian oil? Well, if WWIII has started, I see no signs of it … lol

    • Isn’t Russian and Iran going to hit back decisively at the US and unleash their monstrous powers in order to punish the imperialist who is trying to steal Syrian oil?

      They may well do, but they will do so on their own terms. As they say, revenge is dish best served cold.

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