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.

103 thoughts on “Know Your Limits: Syria

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  • writerman

    To be honest I’m shocked at the cover of the conflict in Syria in our media. The bastions of liberalism, the Independent and the Guardian, which are supposed to be the ‘best’, are as biased and full of warmongering trash, as the ‘worst.’

    The lack of scrutiny, criticism, analysis of motives, and examination of the stories emanating from Syria, especially as they all come from one side, the rebel side, is extraordinary and deeply troubling. One would think that natural link between war and propaganda were completely alien concepts to the journalists employed by the Guardian and the Independent!

    But I suppose the editors have been briefed by ministers and officials who vouch for the provenance and truth of these stories, and it would be a brave journalist or editor that would dare to ask too many akward questions when confronted with William Hague in full flow, so, as in Libya, it’s off to war we go!

    And this ‘credulity’ and voluntary ‘self-lobotomization’ on the part of our ‘free’ journalists, if after Iraq, and after the bullshit about Libya and mass-rapes, massacres, aerial bombardments, threats of genocide, thousands of African mercenaries, the murder of chilren, waves of mutilation and torture, and on, and on. Propaganda and exaggerations on a colossal scale in the service of war. These journalists are incapable of learning anything, except how to sell the wars more effectively.

    It’s like we’ve entered the totalitarian phase of democracy, where there is ‘no alternative’ and no opposition any longer, and the once active and critical liberal intellectuals have been duped into supporting blatant imperialist expansionism tarted-up as a ‘crusade for freedom.’

  • Mary

    Writerman I have never thought of the Guardian and the Independent as ‘the bastions of liberalism’, or perhaps you were being ironic.

  • writerman

    Isn’t William Hague’s statement about the UK moving to arm the Syrian rebels, (a public admission of what’s been happening covertly for months) tantamount to an act of war against Syria? And as the UN Security Council has specifically not santioned war against Syria or supplying arms to the rebels, isn’t the UK brazenly breaking international law, and argubaly committing a war-crime?

    But I suppose these ‘old-fashioned’ concepts like international law, territorial integrity, and national soveriegnty no longer apply in our brave, new, totalitarian, democratic, world?

  • lwtc247

    The political actions of Russia and China make me sick. they knew full well what NATO would do in Libya,. It’s is simply retarded to believe otherwise. Of course past experience has taught them e.g. USuk’s past military slaughter fests in Yugoslavia and Iraq.
    I suspect R&C had some reason to go along with the ‘western’ take over of Libya. It just so happens that in the case of Syria, R&C this time think it’s in their interests (they don’t give a shit about the Syrian leadership or the Syrian people) mean that this time thy think the same hegemonic door shouldn’t be opened.
    So to believe R&C this tim won’t go along with Obomber and Cocaine Camerons plan because have felt like they have been taken advantage of seems incredibly silly.
    I fear that the same perceptions of advantage will see them do nothing to prevent an ariel attack on Iran. Perhaps part of that plan or a new plan meant.
    Damn them all, and as you say “Saudi Arabia – the apostle state of repression”. That Israyhell is to be damned is automatic.

  • lwtc247

    “China and Russia would not for many years agree to any SC Resolutions which might be open to similar abuse.” – Uttrely wrong. They will cooperate when it’s in their interests to do so. If you still believe so, then how many years? 2.3, 2.4? Many moons ago on it was said R&C were suckering the US to overextend itself with the aim of causing their eventual collapse. I don’t believe that either but it’s a lot more credible than R&C being duped previously and going in a huff. Still playing the diplomats pseudo game, China will simply have to use it’s debt laden dollars to buy out US/UK oil companies and franchises.

  • craig Post author


    I don’t think the UK is actually breaching international law by supplying arms to the rebels, absent an arms embargo. I think it would be for the government of Syria to deem it an act of war. It is what we would characterise as state sponsorship of terrorism. I should be interested in other views; it falls under the law of armed conflict.

  • DownWithThisSortOfThing

    “The Machiavellian hypoctricy of the US/UK and the fawning servility of the Western MSM in matters of so called ‘foreign policy’ can be truly breathtaking.”

    Foreign policy and the British armed forces have been contracted out for sometime now (hint: think Werritty/Gould).
    Whenever the UK government reports on it’s latest war-crimes in parliament the first thing the opposition leadership do is jump to their feet to offer their complete support to the government and the “people of” Libya/Syria/Iraq/Iran/Somalia/Yemen/Sudan/Nigeria/Uganda or whoever it is getting a good going over by the West, they then both agree that the latest banker bonus or tit implants is what they need to be talking about for the next two hours because the “British people deserve better”. No shit.

  • Azra

    @Writeman, It is not only UK arming the rebels, a plane with supplies was detained at Beirut airport, with all sorts of supplies (guns, credit cards, passports,,,) from USA and Brazil, no doubt bound for Syria. We live in a dirty world with dirty governments, we need a European Spring, but I am afraid people are so depoliticised
    that will not happen, (remember Bliar was elected even after disaster in Iraq, because the bubble had not burst at that time).

  • writerman

    Craig, thanks for clarifying. So, state-sponsorship of international terrorism is ‘better’ and not so illegal under international law, as supplying arms to a revolt inside a country, how interesting, or is it the other way around? I’m getting confused. Maybe Syria is my limit after all?

  • kingfelix

    Such a great set of comments, everybody! I really took a lot from this. For anybody not aware of it, reading round the Syria situation, I found this site that is, in my opinion, well worth a look.
    They are a little bit into the ‘world systems theory’ of Wallerstein, it seems. Feeling is that blocking the US intervening in Syria will curtail the neocon plan for a unipolar world. We’ll see.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Your post duplicated in the Telegraph gathered 12 recommends in one minute Craig – Bravo!
    Moussa Koussa believed to be in a safe house in Doha, Qatar is according to a believable source at risk of assassination by a paid assassin of MI6 currently in transit from Saudi. HRO and lawyers Leigh Day and Cohave have documents that may well prove Sami al-Saadi was tortured with the MI6 complicity.
    Assad himself is accused of using his secret police to torture political opponents. His actions are comparable to the West, control of the media, detention in poor conditions, biased judiciary and denial of trial. Torture, sexual abuse, disappearances and murder are unproven by UNHCR.
    In an evil world Assad is an avid and vehement supporter of the Palestinian course and also used Syria’s seat in the UNSC, attempting to prevent the Iraq war. Accused of antisemitism Assad is protecting the ancient minute Jewish community in Syria.
    Wife Asma Fawaz al-Akhras, slammed Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip as “barbaric” and, “as a mother and as a human being,” called for an end to the violence.

    “This is the 21st century. Where in the world could this happen? Unfortunately it is happening,” she said in a calm, soft voice.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Well, what is happening in Syria today is obviously horrible and this should be stopped. But the main question is how?
    On the one hand we have Russia and China that always support tyrannical regimes to their own gain. It is much owed to Russia that only 3 former Soviet republics have made it to the liberal democracies while 12 others including Russia itself remain neither liberal nor democratic and includes such tyrannies like Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan and yet many here see Russia playing positive role.
    It is certain fact that regimes, dictatorships and tyrants do not give up their power without fight unless they managed to secure safe haven for themselves and their families. Both sides in Syria today are engaged in fighting in which day after day larger and larger number of civilians are getting involved. Whether or not regime change in Syria was on table it is certain that ignoring casualties and allowing Assad to continue to rule over Syria would be greater evil. Syria like Iraq also suffers from postcolonial syndrome where different religious groups with common ethnic roots are engaged in power distribution and where national borders were formed ahead of nation itself.
    Situation in Syria today is difficult but then those who think that tyrants would give up their power easy and that after over 30 years of tyranny peaceful regime change is an option are very much mistaken. Particularly when great powers are involved in maximising their gain and treat troubled nation like Romans treated non-Romans.

  • Alexander Mercouris

    Dear Craig,

    I have never been an international lawyer but my understanding is that sending an armed man across a country’s border is an act of war as is supplying weapons to a country’s internal enemy. Besides as I understand it international law forbids interference in the internal affairs of other states except in very exceptional circumstances where these have been authorised by the Security Council. In the absence of such authorisation I would have thought that arming rebels who are fighting against a country’s government would be interference and would therefore be illegal.

    In saying this I want to stress again that I am not and never have been an international lawyer. If someone better qualified than me knows otherwise I would be interested to know.

  • Alexander Mercouris

    On the subject of the report by the Arab League monitors my overall impression is that it said that though the protests were provoked by repressive actions by the Syrian authorities the Syrian authorities now are making a genuine effort to permit peaceful protests and that most of the violence whilst the Mission was underway was being initiated by the opposition.

    The report also complains of a press campaign directed against it, which it says had the side effect of aggravating tensions within Syria itself, and says that many of the incidents of violence reported in the international press were outright fabrications.

    Again I am not saying that all this is true. I am merely summarising the report as I understand it.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    @ Alexander Mercouris
    It is hard to judge from what is actually going on in Syria as reports are very much biased and bias degree depends on where you are getting the information from. But one thing is certain that from the nature of Assad regime it does not look like it will settle with a truth with opposition. It might have backed down slightly but only to hit everyone who opposes it even harder.
    And also International law is pretty much based on so called Westphalian system with its unconditional respect for sovereignity. It does not take into account legitimacy of the state or authority. Thus if like in city of Andijan in May 2005 Karimov ordered to kill hundreds of people including women and children current International Law with bunch of pencil pushers in UN will defend Karimov from any sort of responsibility because IRONICALLY he was acting within International Law (restoring order within national borders of sovereign state). Not sure about you but my respect for such LAW is equal to absolute zero.

  • Paul Rigby

    SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage

    by Felicity Arbuthnot

    “In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. …[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, …

    Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. …Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …

    Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS [MI6 should use … capabilitites in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957)

    “’The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” (George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950.)

    For anyone in two minds about what is really going on in Syria, and whether President Assad, hailed a decade ago as “A Modern Day Attaturk”, has become the latest megalomaniacal despot, to whose people a US-led posse of nations, must deliver “freedom”, with weapons of mass, home, people, nation and livelihood destruction, here is a salutary tale from modern history.

    Have the more recent sabre rattlings against Syria* been based on US-UK government papers, only discovered in 2003 – and since air brushed (or erroneously omitted) from even BBC timelines, on that country?(i)

    In late 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, Matthew Jones, a Reader in International History, at London’s Royal Holloway College, discovered “frighteningly frank” documents:1957 plans between then UK Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and then President, Dwight Eisenhower, endorsing: “a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion (of Syria) by Syria’s pro-western neighbours.” (ii)

    At the heart of the plan was the assassination of the perceived power behind then President Shukri al-Quwatli. Those targeted were: Abd al-Hamid Sarraj, Head of Military Intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, Chief of Syrian General Staff: and Khalid Bakdash, who headed the Syrian Communist Party.

    The document was drawn up in Washington in the September of 1957:

    “In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, reduce the capabilities of the regime to organize and direct its military actions … to bring about the desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals.

    “Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, and in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”

    In the light of President Assad’s current allegations of foreign forces and interventions, cross border incursions (as Colonel Qadafi’s before him, so sneered at by Western governments and media – and, of course, ultimately proved so resoundingly correct.) there are some fascinating, salutary phrases:

    “Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

    “Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus … care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures.”

    Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention”, by Iraq and Jordan – then still under British mandate.

    Syria was to be: “made to appear as sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments … the CIA and SIS [Her Majesty’s Secret International Serivce, MI6] should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

    Incursions in to Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, would involve: “sabotage, national conspiracies, and various strong arms activities”, were, advised the document, to be blamed on Damascus.

    In late December 2011 an opposition “Syria National Council” was announced, to “liberate the country”, representatives met with Hilary Clinton. There now seems to be a US – endorsed “Syrian Revolutionary Council.”

    The Eisenhower-Macmillan plan was for funding of the: “Free Syria Committee” and “arming of political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities”, within Syria.

    CIA-MI6, planned fomenting internal uprisings and replacing the Ba’ath-Communist-leaning government, with a Western, user-friendly one. Expecting this to be met by public hostility, they planned to: “probably need to rely first on repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power.”

    The document was signed off in both London and Washington. It was, wrote Macmillan in his diary: “a most formidable report.” A Report which was: “withheld even from British Chiefs of Staff …”

    Washington and Whitehall had become concerned at Syria’s increasingly pro-Soviet, rather than pro-Western sympathies – and the Ba’ath (Pan Arab) and Communist party alliance, also largely allied within the Syrian army.

    However, even political concerns, were trumped by Syria then controlling a main pipeline from the Western bonanza of Iraq’s oil fields, in those pre-Saddam Hussein days.

    Briefly put: in 1957, Syria allied with Moscow (which included an agreement for military and economic aid) also recognized China – and then as now, the then Soviet Union warned the West against intervening in Syria.

    Syria, is unchanged as an independent minded country, and the loyalties remain. It broadly remains the cradle of the Pan Arab ideal of Ba’athism, standing alone, since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

    In 1957, this independent mindedness caused Loy Henderson, a Senior State Department official, to say that:“the present regime in Syria had to go …”

    Ultimately, the plan was not used, since, British mandate or not, neighbouring countries refused to play. However, the project, overtly, bears striking similarity to the reality of events over the last decade, in Syria – and the region.

    In a near 1957 re-run, Britain’s Foreign Minister, William Hague has said President Assad “will feel emboldened” by the UN Russia-China vote in Syria’s favour.

  • Mohamad

    Hello Craige.
    It seems you know nothing about Syria but what Fawaz Alakharas and Sami Alkhiyami tell you.
    You should know that the revolution in Syria was sparked from Syria and the job to remove Alasad family will be completed by Syrians their selves. Peaceful protesters are left alone without any support from outside. It isn’t true that Saudi finances the Free Syrians Army. If FSA is really getting any support the situation would be completely different. (FSA consists from defected soldiers, it doesn’t enrolled civilians and it isn’t armed or terrorist gang. These soldiers are struggling to protect their own lives first and trying to protect the peaceful protesters, they don’t do attacks).
    I think this article in fact just for expressing the view towards the USA’s policy. Ok. I may agree with you. But don’t mix your ideology or political view with the responsibilities of the international community towards the facts of the crimes against humanity in Syria.
    We all know how USA protected Israel, but you – maybe -don’t know how Alasad’s regime protected Israel for decades. That why Israelis don’t want Alasad to go and they think he’s better than any alternative regime.
    If you think Americans and the west support dictatorships, that doesn’t mean to keep our mouths shut towards obvious crimes against civilians in Syria. Also you should remember that USA and Europe in addition to Gulf states all used to support the dictator in Syria at least since 2000 when Bashar Alasad inherited his position from his father Hafiz. And we still remember how man detainees were sent to Syria by CIA to be tortured and interrogated in very dirty and horrific security branches. Is USA real enemy to Alasad’s regime?
    I would like to reassure you that Syrians aware of these “vultures” and whom (Russia, China and Iran) support and protect the criminal regime in Syria.
    Finally, most of Syrians reject any military invasion. But did think how many would be killed by Mu’mmar Algaddafi in Libya if the international coalition wasn’t involved? Surely, more than the 50,000 whom known to be killed in fact.

  • harry

    How refreshing to see the genocidal Libya con stated so clearly and accurately. It actually seems somewhat arrogant for NATO to attempt the same crimes against Syria, using the same methods: special forces creating tensions and unrest, with a compliant and dysfunctional (as far as proper reporting is concerned) media to keep the sheep onside.

    Thank you Mr Murray. Keep it up sir.

  • Mary

    I did not know that the same propaganda, used at the start of the Iraq war about babies in incubators being killed, was being used against Assad last August. Must have missed it amongst the reports of the slaughter and mayhem of the NATO assault on Libya. The same propaganda was being pumped out by the BBC this morning. This time it was 18 babies being killed.


  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    The media are subjecting us to the biggest snowjob in history about what seems to be going on in Syria, especially around Homs.

    While no one can be sure, I would urge everyone to be more sceptical about it.

    Too many reports and photographs appear just too much of some kind of charade – e. g., bombs always going off where no Western reporters are, and no follow-up by them; photographs of people allegedly dying in hospital when little or most likely nothing is being done to prevent it; what few deaths that do occur could be natural ones or those committed by the rebels instead of by Assad’s regime; bodybags of alleged deceased where the contents fill them up as if it were sand; doctors who are used to most difficult emergency conditions running around, wringing their hands and expressing the utmost grief: old women being filmed extensifly screaming about about some unidentified loss, etc.

    Seems to me that this is a ‘false-flag’ effort to overthrow the regime internally when there is too little to support it, and none from outside to strengthen it.

  • Passerby

    The Egyptian delegation to US have abruptly cancelled meetings with some politicians in Washington, hence the usual suspects; John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Joe Lieberman, having failed to see the Egyptians face to face to threaten and humiliate them in person, instead have resorted to megaphone diplomacy. As reported by zioBBC; the government in Cairo is exacerbating tensions in order to “advance a narrow political agenda”.
    Then the auntie grudgingly accepts to fleetingly expand upon the current difficulties arising in Egypt;
    “The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) – loosely associated with the US Republican and Democratic parties – were among 17 US-based and local foreign-funded groups whose offices were raided by Egyptian prosecutors in December”
    Further adding the news of detention of one Sam LaHood, the son of US transport secretary Ray LaHood, who is the director of the IRI in Cairo.
    Evidently the zioBBC researchers have had no time to check on the wikipedia entry on IRI, a US government funded shop front that has been active during the so called Arab Spring.
    As found here:
    IRI was involved in Haiti prior to the 2004 Haitian coup d’état,[4] in Honduras following the 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis,[5] organised right-wing political parties in Poland,[6] and has been involved in political activities in Egypt during the Arab Spring.[7]

  • Michal

    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.

    You take an upper moral ground trying to frame it as an issue of western coalition trying to “start another war” while in fact nothing could be further from the truth. You even fail to consider that there is, in fact, a war going on. Unless min. 6000 dead and an artillery bombardment is some sort of an ordinary skirmish to you.

    Hey Craig, why won’t you instead talk about how Russia is backing it up its arms sales customer? Strange how silent you are about that part of the story.

  • Fedup

    “always offering latent support for repressive regimes”
    When did Craig ever support the apartheid theocracy regime set up as Isreal?
    As for the rest of your diatribe, considering that the constant update of the tally of the dead and the continuous loop of shaky phone clips with added bells and whistles in the various editorial rooms are not cutting the mustard, however, you have the audacity of repeating the bilge in cyberspace too?

  • Anon the one and only


    You talk as although murdering its own citizens is only a recent and contested phenomenom of the Assad dynasty. Might I suggest you look up the Hama massacre if you want to see that the Assad’s have long had blood on their hands.

    Please try and get it into your head that human rights are meant to be universal (and that is what International Law says) and that decent members of the human race don’t believe that they should just be stood up for in those countries one opposes.

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