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Syrian documentary: U.S. has been unsettling force for decades

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Greg Botelho, CNN
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syrian state TV airs an anti-U.S. documentary with archival footage, analysis
  • It says the U.S. has been against Syria due its backing of Palestinian people
  • It also accuses Washington of creating Islamist extremists like al Qaeda
  • The special airs as U.S. officials make case for a military strike against Syria

(CNN) -- An hour-long documentary that aired Tuesday night on Syrian state TV made the case that the United States long has been a force for turmoil, unfairness and violence, not peace, in the Middle East.

The special programming did not focus on the back-and-forth that has precipitated a possible military strike on Syria, instead stepping back decades to offer an anti-American viewpoint that casts the Damascus government as a champion of justice and the Palestinian people.

Since the days of President Jimmy Carter, the documentary alleges, staunchly pro-Israeli U.S. leaders have consistently been against Syria because of the latter's opposition to Israel. What's happening now, the special claims, is the culmination of a decades-long U.S. effort to destroy Syria largely for that reason.

"If Syria is the oldest (community) in the world, then it is now in the heart of the world," the documentary begins.

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The well-crafted piece -- which included archival footage, interviews with analysts and commentary -- was broadcast at 11 p.m. (5 p.m. ET), which happened to be the same time that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made their case for military action against Syria to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Led by President Barack Obama, U.S. officials have accused Syria's government of not only using conventional weapons to kill its own people, but also carrying out chemical weapons attacks. Damascus has denied the latter allegations, though Obama -- who has been supportive of an end game in which President Bashar al-Assad leaves office -- has contended there should be a military response to prevent more such attacks.

The Syrian documentary's arguments were presented within the context of history, albeit a version highly favorable to that of Bashar al-Assad and his father, and predecessor, Hafez, as well as their longtime allies.

It begins in the late 1970s, with video showing Carter's efforts -- in the documentary's words -- to "impose peace" in the Middle East. In this scenario and others to come, Syria was at odds with and isolated by the United States because, the TV special claimed, it chose not to join Egypt in working with Israel.

Iran and groups fighting alongside Syrian troops in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, are characterized in the documentary in a positive light for their steadfast opposition to Israel and support of the Palestinian people. The film alleges the United States pushed late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to fight Iran for eight years to drain both countries' resources.

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The documentary doesn't stop there in casting aspersions on Washington. It accuses the United States of training and funding Islamic extremists, including the group that became al Qaeda, and putting them in Afghanistan to battle troops from what was then the Soviet Union.

The special ends with a clip from the late 1980s or early 1990s that shows Syrian President Hafez al-Assad meeting with his U.S. counterpart, George H.W. Bush. It promises more such programming to come, without detailing when it might air.

The documentary offered scarce mention of the ongoing civil war that's racked Syria since 2011.

The United Nations has said more than 100,000 people -- many of them civilians -- have died since al-Assad's forces began cracking down on protesters, setting off a chain of events that led to a war opposing fighting forces.

Another 2 million people have fled the war-torn nation, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

The big debate: Should U.S. strike Syria?

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