Project Censored: News media cover-up of reason for war on Syria — a natural gas pipeline route

Project Censored publishes a book annually of the top 25 unreported or under-reported news stories for the year. This year, the story of a major reason for the Syrian conflict was #8.

8. Syria’s War Spurred by Contest for Gas Delivery to Europe, Not Muslim Sectarianism

At least four years into the crisis in Syria, “most people have no idea how this war even got started,” Mnar Muhawesh reported for MintPress News in September 2015.

In 2011–12, after Syrian president Bashar al-Assad refused to cooperate with Turkey’s proposal to create a natural gas pipeline between Qatar and Turkey through Syria, Turkey and its allies became “the major architects of Syria’s ‘civil war.’” The proposed pipeline would have bypassed Russia to reach European markets currently dominated by Russian gas giant Gazprom. As a result, Muhawesh wrote, “The Middle East is being torn to shreds by manipulative plans to gain oil and gas access by pitting people against one another based on religion. The ensuing chaos provides ample cover to install a new regime that’s more amenable to opening up oil pipelines and ensuring favorable routes for the highest bidders.”

In 2012, the US, UK, France, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, along with Turkey, began to organize, arm, and finance rebels to form the Free Syrian Army, consistent with long-standing US plans to destabilize Syria. These nations formed a pact, “The Group of Friends of the Syrian People,” that implemented a sectarian divide and conquer strategy to overthrow President Assad. “It’s important to note the timing,” Muhawesh wrote. “This coalition and meddling in Syria came about immediately on the heels of discussions of an Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that was to be built between 2014 and 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field through Iraq and Syria. With a possible extension to Lebanon, it would eventually reach Europe, the target export market.” As MintPress News reported, access to oil and gas—not sectarian differences—is the underlying cause of the violent conflict and humanitarian disaster in Syria. “The war is being sold to the public as a Sunni-Shiite conflict” by the Friends of Syria because, if the public understood the economic interests at stake, “most people would not support any covert funding and arming of rebels or direct intervention.”

Based on secret US cables revealed by WikiLeaks, Muhawesh reported that “foreign meddling in Syria began several years before the Syrian revolt erupted.” US State Department cables from 2006 documented plans to instigate civil strife that would lead to the overthrow of Assad’s government. The leaks revealed the United States partnering with nations including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt to fuel Sunni-Shiite sectarianism to divide Syria.

Although there is plenty of coverage in US corporate media about the violence in Syria and the refugee crisis that is sweeping Europe and reaching North America, this coverage has failed to address the economic interests, including control of potentially lucrative gas pipelines, that motivate the US and its allies.  (US corporate news coverage of the Ukraine crisis was comparable in that it too downplayed geopolitical oil interests as a source of tension among Russia, the US, and their respective allies, as Nafeez Ahmed has reported. See “US Media Hypocrisy in Covering Ukraine Crisis,”Censored story #9 from Censored 2015.) Instead, corporate news coverage has characterized the conflict in Syria as a battle for democracy that has been hijacked by Sunni-Shiite interests. For example, Oren Dorell of USA Today identified “a mind-boggling and dangerous stew of shifting and competing alliances” involved in the Syrian conflict—including groups categorized as progovernment, antigovernment, anti-Islamic State, and “other fighters”—but he did not address the gas interests that, according to Muhawesh’s reporting, ultimately underpin the conflict. Instead, much of what passes for news coverage in the corporate press adheres to a pattern that Muhawesh identified and critiqued as simplistic and “Orientalist,” framing conflict in the Middle East and especially Syria as sectarian in order “to paint the region and its people as barbaric.”


Mnar Muhawesh, “Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines,” MintPress News, September 9, 2015, http://www.mintpressnews.com/migrant-crisis-syria-war-fueled-by-competing-gas-pipelines/209294/.

Student Researcher: Salah Mouazen (Citrus College)

Faculty Evaluators: Andy Lee Roth and Lanette Granger (Citrus College)

8. Syria’s War Spurred by Contest for Gas Delivery to Europe, Not Muslim Sectarianism

To find out more information on this year’s stories and order the book: http://www.projectcensored.org

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