The controversial report by the Dutch newspaper Trouw and the Dutch current affairs TV programme Nieuwsuur appears to be full of errors and incomplete reporting.
In September 2018, the Netherlands was shaken by news items brought to the world by the Trouw newspaper and current affairs programme Nieuwsuur that the Dutch government was to have supported a terrorist-jihadist group, al-Jabha al-Shamiya (Levant Front) in Syria. The issue led to much upheaval in the press and politics and parliamentary debates.
We, Jan Jaap de Ruiter and Rena Netjes had our doubts from the start about whether the news was correct, especially about whether al-Jabha al-Shamiya is actually jihadist. We believe that this is not the case and the claim that the Netherlands would have supported a jihadist movement in Syria is not true.
But that was not the only thing in the news what we thought was mistaken. Therefore, we have made an analysis of the reporting in Trouw and Nieuwsuur of 10 September. We do this because the material is extremely complex and because we want to inform the readers as extensively as possible. Trouw and Nieuwsuur have also given a justification of their reports, but this justification is brief, and in it, names and numbers are hardly mentioned, leaving aside a single Dutch player in the field. We give names and nicknames, including those of our Syrian contacts.
On the site, among other things, we reveal that all five groups mentioned by Trouw/ Nieuwsuur, were supported by the Netherlands and received weapons from MOM, Musterik Operasyon Merkezi, which is co-financed by the United Kingdom and France; Musterik Operasyon Merkezi being Turkish for ‘Joint Operations Centre’. The NLA program in which the Netherlands participated was one of the support programs for the Syrian opposition. There was overlap: this was how the five groups supported by the Netherlands received arms and salaries via the MOM. The aim was to fight against IS. And that is what has happened.
In the opposition area in North West Syria, still more than 1.2 million IDPs are present from other parts of Syria. The enormous refugee camps are located in opposition areas, not in regime areas. The underlying idea behind the support programs was, among other things, to prevent the more than 1 million IDPs in the area from fleeing to Turkey and Europe. And if the opposition area were to fall, that number could even increase. This context is left entirely undiscussed in the controversial report.
Furthermore, we comment on quotations in the Trouw/ Nieuwsuur report that were wrong, or suggestive. For example, these:
Quote by Milena Holdert: “Al-Qaida was there (i.e., in Syria) since 2011.”
This is mistaken. Al-Qaida had been active in Syria since at least 2003. In 2003, the Syrian regime sent al-Qaida jihadists from Damascus to the border with Iraq to sabotage the operations of the Americans. Partly due to this supply of Jihadists from Syria, AQI (Al-Qaida in Iraq) – the forerunner of ISI (IS in Iraq) and later ISIS and IS – has become so big. Charles Lister, director of the Countering Terrorism & Extremism program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, tells us at the beginning of October via Twitter DM: “Al-Qaida was present in Syria since at least 2003, but it did not attack the regime.” In his book ‘The Syrian Jihad’, in chapter 3, ‘Syria’s Flirtation with Jihadism’, Lister describes the origin of Al-Qaida in Syria. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan call Al-Qaida an Assad proxy in their book ‘ISIS, Inside the Army of Terror’. Weiss and Hassan describe how the Syrian secret service deployed Jihadists and bussed them in great numbers on a mission from Damascus to Bukamel, on the border with Iraq.
Another example is that both in Trouw and in Nieuwsuur, there is extensive talk about Ahrar al-Sham. In Trouw we even see a picture of Ahrar al-Sham fighters. Former Syrian envoy Koos van Dam (who was in that office until August 1, 2016) with whom has been talked with for hours, was pestered about Ahrar al-Sham. But the Netherlands has never supported Ahrar al-Sham. That is not really clear to the ordinary viewer. And at least, that should have been mentioned.
For more examples of mistaken or lacking reporting in the controversial report, read our complete file at https://www.dossierjihadisten.nl.
Translated for Jalta by Limwierde Taaldiensten 2019