Know Your Limits: Syria 103

An important rule of good blogging is not to comment on matters which you do not understand. An important rule of my own life is not to try to understand everything, as no one man can. I have never tried to master the intricacies of Syrian internal politics, (or Lebanese for that matter). Assad senior perpetrated atrocities on a grand scale without ever getting much attention from the West. Hopes that Assad junior would make things much better seemed to come to nothing. If the revolutionary tide swept away the Assad crew, I should be pleased.

I do not know in depth why Homs is a hotbed of opposition, and what the tribal divisions are. I do know that Saudi Arabia – the apostle state of repression – is funding and arming the Free Syrian Army, which is anything but a good sign. I am very interested that the BBC reports bombings in Damascus as false flag bombings by the Assad regime, when I found that to note false flag bombings by UK/US ally Karimov in Tashkent was treated as crazed conspiracy theory.

But what I understand most is the diplomacy. On Libya, NATO took a UN Security Council Resolution authorising a no fly zone, and twisted it as cover to wage all out aerial warfare on one side in a civil war. Long after pro-Gadaffi sources lost any serious offensive capability, NATO were carpet-bombing Sirte, killing many times more people than Assad has killed in Homs to date.

If given an inch you take 500 miles, you should not be surprised when in future nobody will give you half an inch. That is the context of Russian and Chinese veto of any UNSCR authorising action against Syria. The total disregard for the spirit and precise wording of the resolutions on Libya to which Russia and China agreed, has stymied the chances of future united security council action, perhaps for many years. I actually predicted this, blogging on 5 October 2011

“Having absolutely abused UNSCR 1973, plainly NATO was seriously damaging the ability of the Security Council to work together in future, and making quite certain that China and Russia would not for many years agree to any SC Resolutions which might be open to similar abuse.”

All the sham indignation about a consequence the US, UK and France so directly brought upon themselves, and which was so obviously predictable, is pathetic.

It is fascinating the way this has been presented in the media, with graphics on all the major news channels showing the national flags of the thirteen countries who voted for the resolution, compared to the two against. There is some interest here – Azerbaijan is certainly a surprise and will be causing real heartache in the Kremlin. But the language from Clinton on the irresponsible use of the veto and on need for action outwith the United Nations, is completely out of order.

The United States has stymied UN action against Israeli aggression on numerous occasions, very often vetoing alone. I do not recall the BBC ever showing a graphic of all the national flags on one side versus just the stars and stripes on the other. Funny that. The threat of a veto is usually enough to stop a motion being tabled, but I am fairly confident in saying that the USA has exercised its veto to protect Israel on over thirty occasions. That US prevention of international action includes over Operation Cast Lead, not so long ago, where again the Israelis were killing far more civilians than are dying in the current – still deplorable – assault on Homs.

The drive for another war in the Middle East, from the same old suspects who profit from such wars, is relentless and pretty well any war of opportunity will do. What is happening in Syria is sad in its violence, and also hopeful insofar as some of it is motivated by a genuine spark of freedom. Those who purport to believe that internal conflict anywhere is best resolved by us bombing the hell out of a country and/or invading it, are a combination of cranks and cynical profiteers.

What worries me most is not the turmoil in Syria; it is the vultures circling over it.

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103 thoughts on “Know Your Limits: Syria

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  • Fedup

    Might I suggest you look up Deir Yassin massacre, and the continual mass murder of Palestinians by the zionists, which evidently does not concern you or your “human” counter parts. Further, any criticism in this direction is always harangued down as the racist hatred of antisemites etc.
    Further given the bloody history of the zionists, and their mass affliction by nassada syndrome, we all know that Syria is being destroyed so that zionists can go after the big fish in the area.
    That is the situation that the world is witnessing and fully aware of, and no amount of whitewash and obfuscation is going to change that perception. Hence spare me the usual homilies about “human rights” and crocodile tears of concern for the dead Syrians.
    How dare you, to think you can fool all the goyim, all of the time?

  • Courtenay Barnett


    Like yourself – I do not have a detailed or more than superfluous “understanding” of the dynamics of Syrian politics. So you say:-

    “If the revolutionary tide swept away the Assad crew, I should be pleased.”

    I ask:-

    A. Pleased about what ( just look at the state of Iraq or Libya at present post regime changes)?
    B. Leading to which powerful grouping centralising and controlling power in Syria post regime change?
    C. Moving from a secularist regime to a fundamentalist one after the ouster of Assad?

    Seems like very backward prospects to me at present – cum regime change – given the immediate options.

  • Jon

    With regard to the correct response to Syria, take a look at this:
    I am really stuck on this one. Avaaz is normally a force for some good, but they write:
    > Right now, the regime is murdering men, women and children and
    > tearing cities apart. **China and Russia just handcuffed international
    > action at the UN and gave Assad license to unleash his murder machine to
    > crush the Syrian Spring once and for all** (my emphasis).
    There is no note as to why Russia and China have vetoed UN action – no hint that the ‘humanitarian intervention’ that might come about from US/UK could end up killing more people. I am worried that Avaaz is actually in favour of intervention – I should think quite a lot of US liberals position Libya as a success, in contrast to Iraq & Afghanistan. Maybe they want another Libya, despite all of the bloodshed that entailed?
    I may write to them, but I think I’d be wasting my time.
    @Michal – I think you do Craig, and most liberals opposed to military intervention, a great disservice. It is quite clear from Craig’s writing that he is no friend to the Syrian regime. Opposition to military action comes from a good faith calculation of least-harm. Maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong – but mocking from the sidelines is unhelpful. All people who want more justice and less suffering should be working together regardless of their politics.

  • Jon

    @Michal – one other thing of note is that in discussions like these, it is difficult to see where other people are coming from. I try to assume good faith of everyone, but you’ll appreciate that your views could come from aggressive militarists and/or super-power unilateralists, whose positions generally I regard as being antithetical to peace and justice.
    I am not opposed to all intervention, but it needs to be carefully framed so that UN resolutions are not torn up, as per Libya. With that in mind I would rather that, if military action were to go ahead – and I am not in favour of that option generally – that UK/US is not involved. Perhaps that is wishful thinking. Maybe an arms embargo or a good financial embargo (not the kind that killed half a million children in Iraq, mind).
    My fundamental problem is that – sadly – Nato governments are always calculating what they can get out of an invasion. The sum total of actions at the top of governments is selfish – and I desperately wish it was not.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Michael,

    You posted:-

    “Ahh good old Craig Murray, always offering latent support for repressive regimes. “I disagree with them! But don’t you dare to do anything that threatens them!”

    The claims that anyone is attempting to “bomb the hell out of a country” is absolutely and patently false. The resolution has been thoroughly cleaned of anything that could be in any way construed as an approval of an intervention. The US and other forces have repeatedly stated that a mass armed intervention is absolutely out of question.”

    A few questions for you:-

    ” The claims that anyone is attempting to “bomb the hell out of a country” is absolutely and patently false.” ?

    Myself a lawyer, I would argue that:-

    In much the same way, on the domestic level, that the police are expected to abide by the law, they sometimes don’t.

    Likewise, in international law there are rules to be abided by, and the fact that so recently in both Iraq and Libya the bounds of the law have been overreached, seems to weigh as nought, in the mind of someone, who would not even consider the probability that the true intent does have within it an element of seeking the cloak of legality ultimately to pursue illegal ends ( based on quite recent precedent). But of course, one must inquire:-

    A. On which planet does one live , who could conclude that bombing and/or military intervention are off the table, but that person would also have to be asked – what century is this ( just to be sure that we are speaking about the same place and time)?

    B. Was it not UN Resolutions misused in both the case of Iraq and Libya that led to the debacle that Iraq is today and leading fast to the one that Libya is becoming post liberation bombings.

    C. For a country with a small population of some 6 million to have been bombed for 9 months, by the very forces who are trying to repeat the scenario in Libya, quite similar to the situations stated at B above – how, with a sane mind, a clear focus on world events, more specifically – a reasonable grasp of recent and current events in the Middle East, can anyone seriously post the words “The claims that anyone is attempting to “bomb the hell out of a country” is absolutely and patently false.” But, in all fairness you may have a point:-

    “The US and other forces have repeatedly stated that a mass armed intervention is absolutely out of question.”


    True – mass bombing is not the same as mass armed intervention.

    Your words were designed to provoke responses. You got them. So, ahh, over to you – good old Michael.

  • Fedup

    What did Lenin say about leading an opposition?
    Interesting how the forces of progression suddenly prove to be mere recalcitrant reactionaries?
    You should hear the truly Al-Jazeera’s shocking anti Syrian propaganda

  • Michal

    Courtney if you wish to engage in lawyer discourse, then you should surely realise that it can be, in fact, very successfuly argued on legal grounds that the resolution has not been overreached in Libya. This is however irrelevant.

    We are not talking about Libya. We are talking about Syria.

    Please show me how could have the presented resolution condemning Bashar Al Assad’s regime be in any way construed as permitting any armed or other intervention, considering it has even barred an embargo from taking place, and considering repeated statements from western countries that they have no intention of militarily intervening, and considering that these countries have repeatedly said that in their mind, this resolution does not permit them from taking military action?

    So far, not even the Russians have attempted to do so, they merely keep repeating their mantra about how they hope Arab people can live together in harmony, and that everyone must come to the table. That’s why they won’t sign a resolution condemning Assad’s forces. All the while we all know the situation is highly assymetrical, and Bashar Al Assad’s forces very clearly are crushing the democratic forces under their heel.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    Thank you for your reply. You ask:-

    ” Please show me how could have the presented resolution condemning Bashar Al Assad’s regime be in any way construed as permitting any armed or other intervention”

    With respect I believe that you miss the point.

    My reference to Libya, had in mind UN Resolution 1973. The point being made, that the excessive bombing accompanied by arming an opposition to effect regime change in Libya went well beyond the bounds of Resolution 1973. Now, one can argue that the forces that exceeded the bounds of the Resolution in Libya, first sought a legal fig leaf to cover the ulterior motive behind having obtained the Resolution. By partity of reasoning, the Russians and Chinese having recently observed the abuse made of Resolution 1973, are now resolved, with regards to Syria, not to permit a replay of the misuse of another UN Resolution by the same powers that had recently acted in the Libyan situation.

    Kind regards.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    …”very successfuly argued on legal grounds that the resolution has not been overreached in Libya. This is however irrelevant.”
    Sadl Michael, you miss the point:-
    You should have a close look at a fundamental principle of international law which is that no state shall use force against another State. The principle appears at article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations. There should not be violation of this principle of international law. The reason is that post-World War 11 framers of the UN Charter (see: the preamble) were fully aware of the effects of wars of aggression given the state of human knowledge and armaments at the time that the Charter was written. Neither can a State nor the Security Council violate this principle of international law, should one give strict and proper interpretation to Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter requiring that the Security Council “shall act in accordance with the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations.”( and ) :-
    “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
    Preamble to UN Charter:-
    • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
    • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
    • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
    • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I just got this from a Syrian friend, whom I do not wish to name. I’d asked them their views on what has been happening and also expressed the wish that their family remain safe. It is heartbreaking.
    “My father, mother and brother are fine since they are in Damascus but two of my cousins who are in the army have been seriously injured by the armed gangs who are attacking the civilians and the army and sarcastically are claiming the opposite.
    My country is suffering from a fierce global media war and an internal war with the terrorist gangs who mostly have the same fanatic beliefs as alqaida (the Muslim brotherhood) who will bring Syria to the dark ages if they will rule, and who are doing jihad against the army and civilians as if these people are not Syrians like them. The other side of these gangs are paid people to disturb the peace of the country.
    One of the things which makes my heart ache is that the behind the scenes players, Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia, Qatar among others, grew hatred between Syrians to create a civil war (divide and rule) which is a new thing because all Syrians from all religions sects political beliefs were an example of harmony and peace.

    As for the government, they are not perfect and it’s so easy to throw everything on the president but the government has done, and is doing, reforms which made a lot of difference in Syrians’ lives which not a single media channel has spoken about. I believe that the media is desperate to make it another Lybia, another Iraq, which I believe is not going to happen because we have friends who know the real situation.

    Syria has always been with the resistance and with the Palestinians since many years and that’s why we are paying for our stands now. As for the shameful Arab League, they remind me of a folklore tale which talks about a village invaded by a foreign army in which all women have been raped except one, and when the other women got to know that the woman was still a virgin all of the women united to rape her! I hope I answerd your concerns and please feel free to share any thing on this topic.”

  • Komodo

    I’ve been giving your blog a rest, Craig, because I think you generally have the right end of the stick as regards world affairs, and that conclusion is infinitely depressing. However, as an aside on this one, I think you’ll find the US has defied most of world opinion and sided with Israel at the UN something over 140 times, not just 30. Still depressing….

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Two interesting blogs on Syria (and much else) are those of Robin Yassin Kassab ( and Rana Kabbani ( They both express views which are different from that quoted in my post of 11th February 2012.
    So, there seems to be a broad spectrum of opinion within Syrians/those of Syrian descent on the current situation.

  • Clark

    Komodo, I have missed your incisive comments and your research. I hope you’ll drop in and contribute from time to time.

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