PBS Frontline Talking Points

Here's why the PBS Frontline report was divorced from the realities inside Assad's real Syria:

1. The lie: Smith claimed there was consensus among the people he talked to that there were no moderate rebels and that the protests had been hijacked by foreign jihadists.
The truth: People did not speak freely to Smith -- talking negatively against Assad in Assad's Syria is a death warrant. Even Smith wrote this. So what makes Smith think the "consensus" he saw was real?
The checkpoints near the Damascus Old Suq of Hamidiya are manned by Hezbollah. Why did he not notice this or inquire about them? There are over 15,000 Shiite foreign fighters supporting Assad in Syria. Why did he never attempt to meet with them or even mention them?
Suq Hamidiya -- It is crawling with Mukhabarat which is why the regime allowed Smith to walk there without a minder. The people there were not speaking freely. The woman at 8:00 whose sons all left Syria were probably fleeing conscription as tens of thousands of Syrians have, but she could never have told him so. Did Smith even try to ask why they left?

2. The lie: Smith's contact, Thaer al-Ajlani, is described as just a "war reporter.
The truth: Thaer al-Ajlani is actually a regime official who heads military propaganda for the Damascus area. He previously headed Assad's parliamentary press office. His mom is Ambassador to Greece. This is why he received a huge military parade at his funeral. To describe him as merely a "hero to the regime," as if he were a private citizen, reflects either very shoddy background research or a deliberate omission of information.

3. The lie: Smith described early protest videos as "confusing" regarding who fired first, the regime or the demonstrators!
The truth: This description is an insult to all the media activists who gave their lives to spread the truth. The first protest video from Deraa shows clearly protesters fleeing in panic after the first sounds of gunshots. Even Assad himself said that the protesters did not take up arms until Ramadan (late July 2011). Smith's presentation of such a baldly revisionist viewpoint as fact shows either that he was taken for a ride (which reflects poorly on his judgement as a reporter) or had an initial pro-regime bias (which reflects poorly on PBS for sending him).

4. The lie:  Najdat Anzur is presented as merely a "director." 
The truth: It should be blatantly obvious (and should have been mentioned) that Najdat Anzur is not merely a "director." Anzur was able to transform a three-day official notice to leave the country by a government ministry into a multi-day trip to the Alawite coastal areas. He had an Air Force Intelligence Colonel as his bodyguard and driver. The presence of a Mukhabarat (secret police) agent from the most feared branch during Smith's trip to pro-regime areas again prevented his interviewees from speaking freely.

5. The lie: There is concern among the "internal opposition" that they are at risk of "liquidation" by rebel groups. 
The truth: There is no basis to this claim. Nothing like this has ever happened. It is not just Syrian exiles who accuse them of being fake opposition, as Smith alleged, but it is also thousands of Syrians (many of whom are now dead or in detention) that protested against Mahmoud Marei's fake "internal opposition" efforts Hai'et al-Tansiq al-Wataniya. The "internal opposition" consists of about 25 individuals total who have never held protests, command no rebel brigades, and represent only themselves.

6. The lie: Smith claims that the "tactic of the rebels" outside Damascus is to fire mortars at regime areas and that the regime simply "responds" by barrel-bombing civilians.
The truth: The regime has been bombarding civilians in the Damascus suburbs, including with Sarin gas, ever since those areas fell outside its grasp in 2012. After years of bombardments, the main group in this area (Jaish al-Islam) launched large-scale rocket attacks on the regime for only a few days before it was dissuaded from continuing its attacks. This is in no way the rebels' main "tactic" -- and the regime would have barrel-bombed them regardless.

These are just a few of the grossly inaccurate, misleading and dishonest points in Martin Smith's documentary "Inside Assad's Syria." The entire program is littered with deception, missing background information, and biased reporting. It is clear there was an agenda set by the reporter and the fixers inside. This shamelessly biased and deceptive reporting is an indignity to the thousands of martyrs who were brutally murdered at the hands of the Assad regime, and to all those who still in detention, under siege, and in constant fear of bombardment.