New York Times’ Four-Color Conflict Map of Syria Deliberately Obfuscates 

How the New York Times deliberately avoids displaying among Rebels, the presence of various extremist and Jihadi groups (including al-Nusra and others that have been targeted by the USG itself) in order to mislead its readers as to who Russia is primarily targeting in western Syria.

October 19, 2015

The New York Times has been repeatedly putting out a Four-Color Conflict Map of Syria in which only four belligerents on the ground are highlighted.  Among the sources for the map is the Insitute for the Study of War (ISW), the hawkish Washington think-tank (founded by part of the neo-con Kagan family which Victoria Nuland,  the virulently anti-Russian Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affair, hails from).

Here’s the latest four color map from the New York Times “Untangling the Overlapping Conflicts in the Syrian War“, a Cliff Notes primer for those who want to pretend to understand the conflict at cocktail parties. 


New York Times 4-Color Map (no Jihadist groups)

So for the naive reader – one that reads the New York Times exclusively and has an attention span of less than 2 weeks – there are only 4 factions to worry about.  In particular, all the New York Times wishes to communicate to its readers is the following:

(a) The Rebels (in Yellow) are anti-Government;

(b) The majority of Russian airstrikes are falling on these areas;

The ISW Map: Presence of Al-Nusra

Despite it’s neo-con anti-Russian credentials, even the ISW map that the New York Times references  is more nuanced.  It shows further differentiation of the Rebel area to show the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra

ISW Map – Highlights Jihadist Group (al-Nusra)

And as one can see, even without zooming in, most of the Russian strikes in the “Rebel” zone appear to be falling in al-Nusra controlled areas.

And this without even mentioning that there are other jihadist groups in the Yellow zone which are neither ISIS or Al-Qaeda (as for example, the Taliban or the Haqqani groups operating in Afghanistan and North Western Pakistan are neither, but yet targets of the USG – and reported as such by the New York Times Afghan correspondents). 

New York Times Deliberate Obfuscation

Surely, the targeting of the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria should be pointed out to the American public?

The New York Times doesn’t think so.  In its ABC primer referenced above , it steadfastly refuses to mention the group let alone show it on any maps.   It is apparently irrelevant to the conflict.

Yet, very clearly by the Pentagon’s OWN admission – covered extensively in the Western media including the New York Times – it IS.

Among the biggest reasons why the training of the “moderate” rebels did not work, was that they defected – with arms- to al-Nusra and associated Jihadist groups that were deemed inimical to USG interests.

In addition, a USG military strike on Sunday, October 18th apparently took out the leader of the so-called Khorosan group affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Northwestern Syria – which as one can see from any map is part of the Yellow “Rebel” area.

And in fact the New York Times on July 31st, 2015 – a long 11 weeks ago – reported on some of the complexity in an article titled “Rivals of ISIS Attack US-backed Rebel Group” wherein a USG-favored group called “Division 30” was attacked by al-Nusra (which was expected to be its ally against the Government), while other groups, Jihadi and non-Jihadi stood quietly by.

from New York Times, July 31, 2015

As even the reader whose diet is nothing but the New York Times (but whose memory recall spans a few weeks) can see the simple Pantone Yellow for Rebel is more like a Mosaic of various hues with many Jihadists among the “Rebels” and whose only common feature appears to be being anti-Assad.

Yet the New York Times prefers its readers don’t waste their previous little minds with such details.

The Russian Postion: The Details Matter

The Russian position has been clear.  As Putin said in the UNGA speech on September 28, 2015, immediately prior to launching the Russian airstrikes with full legal authority of the internationally recognized Syrian Government,  this playing footsie with various Jihadist groups, trying to play one of another to achieve some overall goal was doomed to failure – or rather doomed to further bloodshed, anarchy and blowback. 

From Putin’s UNGA speech on September 28, 2015

Russia thus rejects this Goldilocks approach of picking the “moderate” amount of Jihadist, citing experiences not just from just years ago but literally weeks ago. 

Yet the New York Times chooses not to inform their readers about all this.


Contradicting its OWN reporting from just weeks ago, and certain knowledge on the ground of the various opportunistic shifting alliances among anti-Assad groups, the New York Times repeatedly publishes misleading maps and graphics trying to obfuscate the nature of the various Rebel forces (that even a neo-con outfit like ISW finds too misleading), specifically by omitting the powerful Jihadi factions (who are indeed being attacked by the Russians), all in an attempt to bolster the anti-Russian USG narrative.

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