Barada TV logo

According to Wikileaks-released documents recently published by the Washington Post [1], the U.S. State Department secretly backed Syrian opposition groups to bring about Bashar al-Assad’s downfall and funded their projects, such as the London-based satellite channel, Barada TV.

Barada TV, which takes its name from the river flowing through the Syrian capital of Damascus, is affiliated with the "Movement for Justice and Development", a network of Syrian exiles rooted in London. According to U.S. diplomatic sources in Damascus and the WP article, since 2006 the U.S. State Department has handed over up to 6 million dollars, precisely, for the implementation of the satellite channel, but also to subsidize other activities inside Syria.

The flow of money started under George W. Bush’s mandate, after his administration froze its relations with Syria in 2005 and blacklisted the country because of its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Up to here, there is nothing unusual. After Afghanistan and Iraq, it is quite possible that Bush and his neo-con cabal may have toyed with the idea of "regime change" also in Damascus. However, what is more surprising - going by the leaked diplomatic cables and The Washington Post - is that U.S. financial backing for the Syrian opposition groups continued even after Obama took office (January 2009) and while the new administration was trying to restore ties with Damascus, leading to Washington’s decision last January to name an ambassador to Syria after a hiatus of 6 years.

According to documents disseminated on Julian Assange’s website, U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus started to fret in 2009 upon learning that Syrian intelligence services were on to something and were asking questions about the U.S.-sponsored programs. Some of these officials even prompted the State Department to reconsider its involvement since it was likely to jeopardize Obama’s efforts to forge a rapprochement with Damascus

The Washington Post highlighted its decision, at the request of the State Department, not to divulge any names or details linked to the programs to avoid putting opposition figures at risk.

Source: Il Manifesto

[1"London-based satellite channel, Barada TV", by Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post, 17 April 2011.