Riham Alkousaa writes: “Will I die, miss? Will I die?” asks a Syrian boy in panic. The recent video shot in a wrecked hospital in Aleppo in the aftermath of a chlorine gas attack went viral on social media. Just a few months earlier, Aleppo hit the newsfeeds with another shocking image of an injured child: five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an orange ambulance chair.
Aleppo has been one of the highest trending news on social media in the United States for a while now. People express anger, sadness, disappointment; they like and share; they tweet. And what of it? Nothing changes in Aleppo.
At the same time, across the ocean, in the US, there has been a heated discussion about the major role social media played in the recent elections. Some have argued that Donald Trump’s tweets got him more media coverage and attracted voters’ attention while fake news, which spread on social media, helped him seal his victory.
So why is it that social media can help win an election in one country and cannot stop a month-long massacre in another?
Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the School of International Studies at the University of Denver, has argued that social media is helping dictators, while giving the masses an illusion of empowerment and political worthiness.
At a recent lecture at Columbia University, when asked for an example where social media played a negative role in a social movement, Chenoweth paused a little to finally say, “what comes to my mind now is Syria.”
Indeed, social media hurt the Syrian uprising. It gave the Syrian people the hope that the old dictatorship can be toppled just by uploading videos of protests and publishing critical posts. Many were convinced that if social media helped Egyptians get rid of Hosni Mubarak, it would help them overthrow Bashar al-Assad. [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports: Steep losses by antiregime rebels in Syria have scrambled U.S. policy calculations at a crucial moment in the country’s long-running war, with the election of Donald Trump already pointing to the possibility of a dramatic shift when he takes office in January.
Mr. Trump hasn’t detailed his plans for Syria, but has outlined a likely break from the Obama administration, which has supplied small amounts of arms and funding to militias attempting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and has separately fought the Islamic State extremist group.
The recent gains by Mr. Assad’s forces have added impetus to calls among some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, as well as other top U.S. strategists, to cut back on support for the Syrian opposition. Some believe the war to oust Mr. Assad already has been lost and the U.S. should ally with Russia and possibly the Syrian government in an all-out assault on extremists.
“Show me a strategy right now that gets rid of Assad,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a close Trump adviser, said in an interview, suggesting no such strategy exists. “The Russians are for him and the Iranians are for him, and there’s no coalition of forces in the region that defeats him. So it starts with reality.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also has met with Mr. Trump, said in an interview that it is unlikely Americans would support the kind of military commitment needed to unseat Mr. Assad.
“I think we have to begin by being realistic,” he said. “Assad is going to remain in power, and the Russians are committed to that.” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Syrian government troops pushed deeper into the rebel-held section of Aleppo on Sunday, now controlling about half of what had been for years the rebels’ enclave in the divided northern city.
Also on Sunday, airstrikes apparently carried out by the government or its ally Russia hit the towns of Maarat al-Noaman and Kafr Nabl in rebel-held Idlib Province. The strikes killed at least 20 people in each location, according to residents and White Helmets rescue workers. Footage from Maarat al-Noaman showed destroyed buildings and market stalls, and the crushed body of a toddler.
Airstrikes and shelling also continued in Aleppo, where there was no sign of a cease-fire in a bloody battle that could prove a fulcrum in the war. If the government manages to seize all of Aleppo, it will control Syria’s five largest cities. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The US and UK have been holding talks to explore ways to airdrop food and medical supplies to eastern Aleppo and other besieged populations in Syria.
The talks have been going on for months in Washington and have considered a broad range of possibilities, from parachute drops to creating an air bridge with drone flights, and even flying in edible drones that can be taken apart and eaten.
However, the discussions have been mired in disagreements between government agencies, the reluctance of the military to get involved and concern among officials that flying in aid without permission from the Damascus regime and its allies could hamper conventional humanitarian deliveries.
However, as the talks have stalled, the plight of the people of eastern Aleppo has steadily become more desperate. No road convoy has got through to the enclave for five months, hospitals have all been destroyed and rebel-held areas are under constant bombardment. [Continue reading…]