The following consists of observations regarding entries from two distinct versions of the BBC’s Syria Timeline: One is the 2014 version and the other is the current version (2017). Numerous revisions made by the BBC result in significantly different narratives. Some changes seem to have been made for clarity, while others can be quite perplexing.

In most cases, the latest version of the timeline is not as neutral as the original narrative and tells a very different story about history. Through omission, assumption and sometimes loaded language, the new content takes on a new form that differs in ways not supported by evidence. Strangely, it appears that several facts have either been fabricated or are based on evidence that is not publicly accessible in any media archive or academic library.

It seems that the sudden appearance of previously unknown facts in the 2017 version is not based on intelligence gathering. Our knowledge of the facts seems to be deteriorating, and yet more judgments are being made in mainstream and even alternative media than ever before. This is further elucidated in a 2015 Intercept piece entitled, “The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion.” Stacking the deck against an opponent by omitting inconvenient facts facilitates the fallacious sculpting of public opinion.

Distorted narratives may be misleading but they can also be educational: If it’s worth hiding, it’s probably worth knowing. Luckily, retracting content that will exist indefinitely in web archives is not possible, so we have access to a more factual analysis here. A brief investigation of the issue served as a great lesson on the media’s tendency to create the much-discussed ‘alternative realities:’ If we are deceived, that’s on us. We can choose to ask questions or regurgitate the common wisdom.

So here it is — the revised timeline of the history of Syria from the BBC, along with some educated guesses, where possible, as to why the entries may have been omitted, altered or added.

DP

 

Facts Reported: March
2014

Same Reality, Different
Facts: 2017

archive

Current BBC page

Original Timeline
Content

Changes made

Why was it removed? Possible reasons and notes

2001 5 May – Pope John Paul II pays historic visit.

Removed

Sheds positive light on President Assad

Tensions with US

2001
November

British PM Tony Blair visits to try shore up support for the campaign against terror. He and President
Assad fail to agree on a definition of terrorism.

Removed

Western leaders would rather not highlight collaboration with President Assad

Heading: Tensions with US

2002
May

Senior US official includes Syria in a list of states that make-up an “axis of evil”, first listed by President Bush in January. Undersecretary for State John Bolton says Damascus is acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

That same year, the recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate showed that the intelligence community had concluded Hussein did not have “sufficient material” to manufacture any nuclear weapons and “the information we have on Iraqi nuclear personnel does not appear consistent with a coherent effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.” (The Intercept)

US threatens sanctions if Damascus fails to take what Washington calls the “right decisions”.
Syria denies US allegations that it is developing chemical weapons and helping fugitive Iraqis.

Removed

See the notes above regarding lack of WMD evidence

2003
October

Israeli air strike against Palestinian militant camp near Damascus. Syria says action is “military aggression”.

Removed

Not favorable to public perception of Israel

2004
May

US imposes economic sanctions on Syria over what it calls its support for terrorism and failure to stop militants entering Iraq.

Syria is, and has always been, fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda. If these are the terrorists in question, the foundation of the sanctions are unjustified.

Heading: Pressure over
Lebanon

2005
February-April

Tensions with the US escalate after the killing of former Lebanese PM Hariri in Beirut. Washington
cites Syrian influence in Lebanon. Damascus is urged to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, which it does by April.

2005
October

Interior minister and Syrias former head of intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, dies in what officials say is suicide. UN inquiry into assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri implicates senior Syrian officials.

Testimony leading to the conclusion that Syrian officials were involved in the assassinations came from biased sources like exiled former vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam

2006
February

Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus are set on fire during a demonstration against cartoons
in a Danish newspaper portraying the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Removed

Not damaging to Assad, since his government has never been known to launch attacks on religious grounds.

2006 September – Attack on the US embassy in Damascus. Four gunmen open fire and throw grenades but fail to detonate a car bomb. Three of them are killed, one is captured.

Removed

Likely not linked to Assad.

2007
September

Israel carries out an aerial strike against a site in northern Syria that it said was a nuclear
facility under construction. In 2011 the UNs IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme at
the site.

Removed

New version: “Israel carries out an aerial strike against a nuclear facility under construction in northern Syria.” This assumes what has never been confirmed: that the facility was to be a nuclear one.

2008 April – The US accuses North Korea of having helped Syria to build a secret nuclear reactor
at the site bombed by Israel in 2007.

Removed

Lack of evidence for allegations.

Heading: International acceptance

2008
September

Damascus hosts four-way summit between Syria, France, Turkey and Qatar, in a bid to boost efforts
towards Middle East peace. Explosion kills 17 on the outskirts of Damascus, the most deadly attack in Syria in several years. Government blames Islamist
militants.

Removed

Unlikely that attack was carried out by the Syrian government,, given the diplomatic outreach; inconsistent; attack likely a response to the summit by Islamist militants

Heading: Diplomatic thaw continues

2009
May

2009 May – Syrian writer and pro-democracy campaigner Michel Kilo is released from prison after serving three-year sentence.

Removed

Sheds positive light on President Assad

2009
June

The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says traces of undeclared man-made uranium have been found at second site in Syria – a reactor in Damascus. The IAEA was investigating US claims that the site destroyed in the 2007 Israeli raid was a nuclear reactor.

Removed

Lack of evidence for allegations; more importantly, nuclear reactor had supposedly been destroyed by then

2009
July

US special envoy George Mitchell visits for talks with President Assad on Middle East
peace.

Removed

Sheds positive light on President Assad

2010
February

US posts first ambassador to Syria after a five-year break.

Removed

Heading: Nationwide
uprising

Heading: Nationwide uprising

[image]  Pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011; the government responded with violence

The government announces some conciliatory measures in an attempt to damp down unrest. . President Assad releases dozens of political prisoners and dismisses the government,
and in April lifts the 48-year-old state of emergency. However, he accuses protesters of being Israeli agents.

Omission

Omits allegation that protesters were planted; information originally printed because there was
evidence to this effect.

2011
May

Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs
of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten sanctions. President Assad announces amnesty forpolitical prisoners.

Omission

Omits that President Assad announced amnesty for political prisoners; reflects positively on President Assad

2011
June

The government says that 120 members of the security forces have been killed by “armed
gangs” in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour. Troops besiege the town and more than 10,000 people flee to Turkey. President Assad pledges to start a “national dialogue” on reform.

Removed

Highlights violent militant activity, which provides justification for retaliation; President Assad’s retaliation will appear unfounded without this information; difficult to villainize President Assad in light of such attacks against his government

The IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme. The structure housing the alleged reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 2007.

Opposition organises

Opposition organises

2011
July

President Assad sacks the governor of the northern province of Hama after mass demonstration there,
eventually sending in troops to restore order at the cost of scores of lives. Opposition activists meet in Istanbul to form a unified opposition.

2011
October

Newly formed Syrian National Council says it has forged a common front of internal and exiled
opposition activists. Russia and China veto UN resolution condemning Syria.

Omission

Omits, “Russia and China veto UN resolution condemning Syria.” This information puts Syrian allies in spotlight.

2011
November

Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and
imposes sanctions. Army defectors target a military base near Damascus in the Free Syrian Army’s most high-profile attack since protests began. Government supporters attack foreign embassies.

Omission

Omits, “Army defectors target a military base near Damascus in the Free Syrian Army’s most high-profile attack since protests began. Government supporters attack foreign embassies.” Bloodshed caused by US-backed militants is easy to
prove here; US openly backing the Free Syrian Army militants.

2011
December

Syria agrees to an Arab League initiative allowing Arab observers into the country. Thousand of protesters gather in Homs to greet them, but
the League suspends its mission in January because of worsening violence.

Removed

Shows President Assad’s willingness to compromise

Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44, the first in a series of large blasts in the the capital that continue into the following summer. Opposition accuses government of staging these and subsequent attacks.

Removed

Unlikely that President Assad will bomb his own government-controlled capital.

Heading: UN pressure

2012
February

Russia and China block a UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria, and the government steps up
the bombardment of Homs and other cities, recapturing the Homs district of Baba Amr the following month. The UN says that more than 7,500 people have died since the security crackdown began.

Omission

Omits everything except the bombardment; states that it happened; pointing out that the Homs district
was recaptured shows Syrian army’s strength

2012
May

UN Security Council strongly condemns the governments use of heavy weaponry and
the militia killing of more than a hundred civilians in Houla, near Homs. France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia expel senior Syrian diplomats in protest.

Omission

Landmark event not present.

2012
June

President Assad tells his reshuffled government that they face “real war”, indicating the authorities conviction that the conflict will be long-lasting and require the sidelining of all other priorities.

Omission

Landmark event not present.

Turkey changes rules of engagement after Syria shoots down a Turkish plane that strayed into its
territory, declaring that if Syrian troops approach Turkeys borders they will be seen as a military threat.

Omission

Omits that the Turkish plane shot down was in Syrian territory, thus villainizing Assad.

2012 August – The government suffers further blows. A UN General Assembly resolution demands
that President Assad resign, high-level defections gather pace – most notably Prime Minister Riad Hijab – and US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.

Omission

Omits the pretentious demand that the elected President resign; evidence for chemical weapons not provided.

2012
September

2012 September – The Free Syrian Army claims responsibility for two explosions at the military
headquarters in Damascus. The government says four guards were killed in the “suicide attacks”.

Removed

Highlights violent US-backed militant activity and paints militants as ‘terrorists’ in public perception, since these were suicide attacks

2012
October

Syria-Turkish tension rises when Syrian mortar fire on a Turkish border town kills five civilians. Turkey returns fire and intercepts a Syrian plane allegedly carrying arms from Russia. Both countries ban each others planes from their air space.

Omission

Omits Russian alliance and air space information

Addition

Adds unfavorable President Assad activity that was missing from original accounts. Fabricated? New
entry:
Fire in Aleppo destroys much of the historic market as fighting and bomb attacks continue in various cities.”

Addition

Adds unfavorable President Assad activity that was missing from original accounts. Fabricated? Sources
not provided for attribution of responsibility. This does not entail that the allegations are false, but there is no evidence to provide support.
New entry: UN-brokered ceasefire during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha breaks down as government continues attacks.

2012
November

Several major opposition forces unite as National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition
Forces at meeting in Qatar, including the Syrian National Council. Arab League stops short of full recognition. Islamist militias in Aleppo, including the Al-Nusra and Al-Tawhid groups, refuse to join the Coalition, denouncing it as a “conspiracy”.

Omission

Entry states: “National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Qatar, excludes Islamist militias. Arab League stops short of full recognition.” This suggest that no
Islamist militias were members of the opposition, but this is false, as we know now; the negative claim is provably false and the positive claim clearly
verifiable (that there are such Islamist members); also fails to specify “Al-Nusra and Al-Tawhid,”
since so many groups were forming at the time (now speculated to be in the thousands); it was impossible to demarcate the groups for an accurate report.

Israeli military fire on Syrian artillery units after several months of occasional shelling from Syrian positions across the Golan Heights, the first such return of fire since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Removed

Reflects unfavorably on Israel

2012
December

The US joins Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states in formally recognising Syrias opposition National
Coalition as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.

2013
January

Syria accuses Israeli jets of attacking a military research centre near Damascus, but denies reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon
were hit. Unverified reports say Israel had targeted an Iranian commander charged with moving weapons of mass destruction to Lebanon.

Omission + Alteration of
Language

The “military research center” that was allegedly bombed becomes a “military base,” thus depicting Israel’s actions less tyrannical; denial of allegation against Hezbollah removed; allegations against Israel removed because ‘unverified;’ yet allegations
against President Assad also remain unverified; these are nevertheless reported without reservation.
Entry: “Syria accuses Israel of bombing military base near Damascus, where Hezbollah was
suspected of assembling a convoy of anti-aircraft missiles bound for Lebanon.”

International donors pledge more than $1.5bn (£950m) to help civilians affected by the conflict in
Syria.

It’s unlikely that donors want the destination of these funds tracked.

2013
March

Syrian warplanes bomb the northern city of Raqqa after rebels seize control. US and Britain pledge non-military aid to rebels, and Britain and France propose lifting European Union arms embargo. Rebel National Coalition elects US-educated technocrat Ghassan Hitto as interim “prime minister”.

Removed

Highlights Western-backed militant violence.

2013
April

US and Britain demand investigation into reports government forces used chemical weapons. Prime
Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi narrowly escapes death in bomb attack in centre ofDamascus.

Removed

Shows the failure of the US to appoint a stable interim government; poor planning; poor strategy

Opposition National Coalition chairman Moaz al-Khatib resigns, accusing foreign backers of trying to manipulate the group. Hissuccessor is veteran socialist George Sabra, leader of the older opposition  Syrian National Council.

Removed

Shows poor planning and a poor general strategy on the part of the US-led opposition.

 2013 May

Israeli and Syrian Army exchange fire in the Golan Heights.

Rather not raise awareness of Israeli activities, some of which were questionable (See The
Guardian’s piece, “Israel and Syria exchange fire in the Golan Heights.” May 21, 2013)

EU leaders agree not to renew the blocs arms embargo on Syria, in a step seen as potentially freeing EU countries to arm the rebels.

Removed

EU would rather not accept responsibility for arming rebels killed many civilians.

 2013 May-June

Government and allied Hezbollah forces recapture the strategically-important town of Qusair between Homs and the Lebanese border. Rebel commanders complain that arms supplies taper off over international concerns about Islamists in the opposition camp.

Removed

Shows poor planning and a poor general strategy on the part of the US-led opposition.

 2013 July

In a leadership overhaul, Saudi-backed Ahmed Jarba replaces interim figure George Sabra as leader of the main opposition National Coalition,
defeating a Qatar-backed rival. Interim opposition PM Ghassan Hitto quits, citing his inability to form a
government in rebel-held territory.

Removed

Ghassan Hitto was  the director of operations for a
Texas-based telecommunications company (Inovar). He became interim prime minister of the Syrian opposition coalition.

UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Ghouta area of Damascus in August that killed about 300 people, but do not explicitly allocate responsibility for the
attack.

Notably, UN inspectors weren’t able to determine who the responsible parties were, but this death
count is included in most statistics cited for Syrian government-caused casualties.

President Assad allows international inspectors to begin destroying Syria’s (sic) chemical weapons on the basis of a US-Russian agreement.

Removed

Sheds positive light on President Assad

 2013 December

US and Britain suspend “non-lethal” support for rebels in northern Syria after reports that Islamist rebels seize some bases
of Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

2013 December – US and Britain suspend “non-lethal” support for rebels in northern Syria after reports that Islamist rebels seized bases of
Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

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