Day 1,134: Is the US government communicating with Syrian rebels via YouTube?


As of March 1, the software giant will link information across its services so that information gathered in one place – for example, a user’s Google search terms – can be used to recommend content elsewhere – when they next use YouTube, for example.


Alexandra Wyman

Today is Day 1,134 of the Syria conflict.

It appears that earlier today, the Syrian government conducted an airstrike on a vegetable market in Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death count at at least 25, adding to the what is thought to be a toll of hundreds in the Aleppo governorate due to this most recent aerial campaign. The videos and photos from the attack, which as usual are something less than officially confirmed, are not pretty.

Some fodder for that grimmest of ongoing parlor games: "Is the US About to Step Up Military Aid?" A Syrian opposition member has told NPR that those American-made missiles seen in recent rebel videos are indeed a "test" by the US government. (Recall that an analyst the New York Times talked to earlier this week said the same thing — what the rebels really want are the missiles a notch above, the ones that can shoot down government planes.) NPR also reports that "fighters are encouraged to post videos on YouTube to prove they are using the missiles for the intended purpose."

If the idea of YouTube being the center of the US's arms accountability plan has you nervous, don't worry: There are other methods, too. "One fighter reached via Skype," the NPR story reads, "said that they were required to return the casings of the missiles to 'a foreign intelligence agency' to prove they had used them." If all goes well, apparently the Defense Department may start sending over US military trainers, while the rebels' first request is likely to be those surface-to-air missiles (which could shoot down, for example, aircraft like the ones that dropped barrel bombs on the vegetable market in Aleppo this morning).

This morning, the UK government has announced what the BBC calls an "unprecedented appeal to Muslim women to persuade their relatives not to go to Syria to fight." This initiative also involves procedures for those with concerns to call the police without the information being passed on to MI5 (the British equivalent of the FBI), and to be contacted by "engagement officers" who will offer "support." Not everyone's sold on the program, though the need to address possible radicalization, particularly among Britsh youth, is widely acknowledged. The announcement of this latest push comes only a day after France unveiled a more comprehensive package of policies to fight this threat. France's approach, inaddition to asking parents to report suspicious activity, also involves making it more difficult for minors to leave the country without parental consent, and includes a number of initiatives targeting online recruiting.

In other news, President Obama announced from Tokyo this morning that "eighty-seven percent of Syria's chemical weapons have already been removed." This count does not include chlorine gas, which the regime allegedly dropped on Kafr Zita this past month.

The conflict continues.