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Tous les commentaires

The mainstream reporting of the situation in East Aleppo these past few months has been deranged. Only The Independent's Cockburn and Fisk, plus a few Commenters (where allowed) in The Guardian have any handle on the truth of what's been going on.

There are good reasons for Britain and France, who both compete for Saudi arms supply, to paint a totally unreal picture. The "opposition", armed by the US, has behaved as badly as Assad, for whom I hold no brief. How many times have I been told "the last hospital in East Aleppo has been destroyed", only to hear it again a few days later. That's to say, after the "rebels" have found another flat-roofed building on which to paint an "H" and use as a human shield.

We were told that a quarter of a million were at risk in that sector, but that was exaggerated fivefold. We were never told that the factions within these sainted "rebels" were waging war on each other (with arms supplied by the West), with a brutality only Daesh matches. It does sometimes leak out that variants of Al-Qaeda comprise a good part of the "rebels", but we're assured that the main opposition are all good-hearted flower-bearing hippies. No they're not, they're murderous thugs who have held the civilian population to ransom, stopping them leaving -- on pain of death -- for the western sector where they'd be far safer. When they do try to get there, the Syrian army suspects them of being collaborators for having taken so long.

Talking of Daesh, do you remember British planes going into action against Daesh positions on the Iraq-Syria border? We were told of a couple of dozen sorties in the first week, months ago. Has anyone read anything since?

Almost all of the US-Russian rivalry behind this stems from two competing oil/gas-pipe plans. The US wants a monopoly, Putin an area of control. Let the UN sit Kerry and Lavrov down and get them to agree both lines can exist. Of course, the Sauds wouldn't like it, so the balance of power would shift towards Iran -- which, no matter how often French TV says it, are not really the major player here.