Media Middle East Politics

Gathering Intelligence in Syria

The term ‘intelligence’ when used in military and political context is something of a misnomer. The word suggests knowledge and information, but in the vast majority of instances ‘intelligence’ is nothing more than guesses, opinions and – the mother of all fuckups: – assumptions. Admittedly, intelligence is based on understanding and usually is provided by experts in the field, but it is far from being anything like an exact science.

I have been supplying intelligence on Syria since the beginning of the crisis in 2011. I have been in and out of Syria since 2008. I know something of the country, its political and religious makeup, and I have an extensive network of people living and working in Syria.

Whilst western media was convincing the world that ordinary Syrians were holding back regime tanks using nothing but sticks and stones, yet on the other hand saying the powerful regime was oppressing its people, I – along with others – were providing the intelligence that foreign weapons and military presence was on the ground in Syria fighting against Assad’s men.

I provided emails of eye-witness accounts. I had exclusive videos and photos of events in Syria.

In 2012, I announced on the BBC ‘World Have Your Say’ programme that Al Quada now has a strong presence in Syria. I was ridiculed on-air and on the programme’s facebook page; no-one would doubt the accuracy of my statement now.

Intelligence about the divisions within the opposition and the lack of a co-ordinated opposition ‘army’ has been gushing out of Syria since the crisis began.

The best type of intelligence is classed as ‘evidence’. This is hard factual information that is undisputable and derived from something physical, such as a photo or verified leaked documents. ‘Intelligence’ should never be assumed as being ‘evidence’.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that new evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria; that evidence is traces of sarin in soil samples. I have no doubt that such evidence is true. There have been reports of Sarin use in Syria for around 18 months. I know, because I am one of the people who have been supplying that intelligence; although not the evidence.

 

Evidence and intelligence as to the impact that western sanctions are having on ordinary Syrians was supplied to the west – again, some of that came from me.

A lot of this intelligence has formed into hard evidence with videos and photos littered throughout the social media, but even when it was just intelligence: guesswork, hear-say, a sense of mood in the country – it was still being supplied to western governments. It is impossible to believe that Obama, Cameron and the like were not aware of the true reality in Syria.

So we come to the intelligence of chemicals weapons. There seems no doubt that they have been used. My intelligence is that they have been used from the very start of the conflict. I have been told that in rebel areas people make homemade versions using household productions, rat poison, fertilizer, etc. They also make homemade bombs

 

To some extent, we are all intelligence-gathers. If you go on holiday and get chatting to a soldier in a bar who tells you he is based X number of kilometres down the road, you have just been supplied with intelligence. Know the location of a checkpoint and how many people man it – that’s intelligence. Take a photo of the checkpoint and you have some evidence in your camera phone and have taken your first step to becoming a James Bond character.

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