Reporting inconsistencies, a peculiar set of names, and implications on strategy call into question the veracity of a much publicized letter by “the last few doctors in Aleppo,” but do not outright disprove its authenticity.
“It has not been possible to verify the names of all the doctors listed in the letter,” stated an article by the Guardian that set forth a firestorm of Western articles demonizing the Assad regime and its Russian allies after 15 medics in East Aleppo, reportedly the last remaining doctors in the al-Nusra controlled portion of the city, begged the Obama administration to intervene to permanently break the Syrian Army’s siege.
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“We have seen no effort on behalf of the United States to lift the siege or even use its influence to push the parties to protect civilians,” read the letter. “Unless a permanent lifeline to Aleppo is opened it will be only a matter of time until we are again surrounded by regime troops, hunger takes hold and hospitals’ supplies run completely dry.”
The letter also alleged that Syrian and Russian forces are engaged in a systematic “targeting of hospitals” and blasted the Obama administration for its failure to intervene on behalf of so-called rebel groups.
The letter exploded onto the pages and television screens of the Western media described as “heartbreaking” and championed as a call to “stop the sins of Aleppo” in a full-on publicity offensive against the Assad regime that ignores the reality that Daesh or al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra are the likely alternatives to the Syrian President.
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The letter also appears to be inconsistent with previous reporting with six of the 15 doctors who signing the document claiming to be pediatricians despite reports that the last pediatrician was killed in east-Aleppo on April 28. This startling inconsistency can potentially be explained if a new batch of doctors was recruited to fill a humanitarian gap, but no such mass influx of doctors has been reported.
Another disconcerting component of the letter is that several of the names listed are the same as well-known Daesh and al-Qaeda operatives including Abu al-Baraa, Abu Muhammad, Abu Tareq, Abu Zubeir, Abu Maryam, and Abu Bakr while a seventh name, Abu Abdo, is a famous parlor in Aleppo.
The possibility exists that these are nicknames or pseudonyms with “Abu” meaning quite literally “the father of” which in an alternative interpretation may suggest that the medics are using the names of their sons to avoid exposing their identity.
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Although evidence remains insufficient to completely refute the validity of the letter that The Guardian alleges was provided by 15 Aleppo medics, the inconsistencies with previous reporting and the fact that six of the 15 names match with well-known jihadist operatives should have mitigated against publishing such an explosively charged indictment without first verifying the identities of the authors.
Instead, the Guardian pushed the letter to print on a whim behind the statement, “It has not been possible to verify the names of all the doctors listed in the letter” and with it potentially altered the course of the international community’s policy and position on Syria.