Drawing Red Lines on Shifting Sands 134

In general I refrain from commenting on Syria, because the politics of that country are hugely complex and I simply do not know enough about it. If in the media in general people refrained from commenting on things they know they do not clearly understand, life would be easier for readers – except, of course, that most columnists don’t understand that they don’t understand.

The West is already heavily involved in Syria, giving large amounts of cash, and channelling weapons through the vicious despotisms of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, to opposition forces, some of which are Islamic jihadist, some representing different tribal or religious power factions.

This makes life very confusing – the kidnappers and killers of UN Peacekeepers on the Golan Heights are some of William Hague’s “Good guys”, which is why those stories are so quickly glossed over. The truth is, of course, that the whole fallacy of the Blair interventionist model is that there are “good guys” in these situations who ought to be put in power by our military force, our money and the blood of our soldiers. As I explain at length in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, this “good guy” fallacy led to the British Army installing the most corrupt government on earth in Sierra Leone, and we have gone on to do precisely the same thing, installing incredibly corrupt and bad governments, in Kabul and Baghdad. Having, of course, bombed the infrastructure of Iraq back to the Middle Ages first, A great deal of fog still shrouds Libya, but I expect we will soon see clearly exactly the same thing there.

Doubtless if western intervention becomes more direct in Syria, we will there again achieve regime change and the brilliant achievement of installing a government even more corrupt than the Assad regime. Of course the political proponents of the policy don’t really care about good governance or corruption, or death in war or devastation of infrastructure. They want governments which are allied with them. The wars themselves serve the interests of the politicians’ paymasters in the arms industry, mercenary companies and logistics providers like Halliburton. The subsequent corrupt governments are supposed to be friendly to western commercial and financial interests.

The motives and mechanics of the interventionists are clear. We have seen it all before. But their own militaries have had enough of being embroiled in endless conflicts, and there are no quick win solutions in ultra complex Syria. The Israelis have been signalling very, very hard to the US that the Assad family are OK by them and the last thing that Israel wants is a genuine democracy in Syria, which might want the Golan Heights back.

Obama, Cameron et al have thus been reduced to financial and vicarious weapon supply to the anti-Assad forces, and limited numbers of special forces assisting with sabotage operations to no great purpose. Meantime, hundreds of thousands have been killed in the ongoing civil war.

There is a clue there; civil war. Nobody is attacking us, and here is a hard lesson for politicians. There are wars we should not join in. We should have a role, indeed, in urging peace and trying to deploy all the means of conflict resolution. But it is not for us to fund or arm any side in a civil war. It is not our business and we have no legal right to do so. Work for peace, yes. Fuel war, no.

Within all this, Obama’s foolish decision to make the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons a red line makes matters worse. Of course chemical weapons should not be deployed. But I am not sure whether I would prefer to die with my guts spilling out after red hot metal ripped through my abdomen, or coughing my lungs out after inhaling chemicals. That hundreds of thousands can die one way, but hundreds dying the other way would be a cause of joining in the war, is not inherently logical to me.

I remain, I should say, very sceptical of evidence produced so far that chemical weapons have been deployed. Even if they had been used, given the consequences that might follow, one has to ask by whom. The cui bono would not point to Assad, quite the opposite.

I shall return to avoiding blogging about Syria. If I can’t blog about it because it is too complex and I don’t fully understand it, think how unwise you must be to imagine that bombing it or providing still more weapons will help.

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134 thoughts on “Drawing Red Lines on Shifting Sands

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  • Exexpat

    Thank you craig.

    Habbabkuk (La Vita È Bella!)
    26 Apr, 2013 – 10:32 pm

    Thank you so much to the poster who posted the script to block it. Life is definitely good well at least better without his garbage.
    Please post the script again and maybe Mary might be tempted to come back?

  • Iain Orr

    Craig, There is an excellent quotation to illustrate your point:

    “Anyone who knows anything isn’t talking
    And anyone with any sense isn’t talking.
    The people that are talking to the media,
    By definition, people who don’t know anything,
    And people who don’t have a hell of a lot of sense.”
    Donald Rumsfeld “They Know Nothing”, on media availability en route to Poland, 22 September 2002 in “The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld”, compiled and edited by Hart Seely, Simon and Schuster 2003 p60.

  • Chienfou

    Totally agree. “fuelling war” is exactly what is being proposed (and actually being done but we are not supposed to know that of course).

    Funny interview on R4 yesterday with US commentator trying to reconcile the idea that some of the rebels are linked with ‘Al-Queda’.

  • sjb

    Craig wrote: The Israelis have been signalling very, very hard to the US that the Assad family are OK by them […]

    Are you sure about that?

  • Horseman Joe

    If Barry Obama was really concerned about chemical weapons he would have made more than a token gesture towards clearing up the residue of Agent Orange in Vietnam, to say nothing of all the white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq, Serbia etc

  • Adriana

    Obomber talks about a ‘red line’ – he took the words right out of Netanyahu’s mouth (UN General Assembly 27/9/13 posturing on Iran) – couldn’t even be bothered trying to make it look as though he thought of it himself.

  • Bandolero

    “… The Israelis have been signalling very, very hard to the US that the Assad family are OK by them …”

    Have look at this:

    “Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be a boon to Israel and the Mideast, even if radical Islamists try to fill the vacuum left by his departure.

    “There’s the possibility that you’ll have Sunni extremist elements who will try to come to the fore,” Oren said yesterday in Washington. “Our opinion is that any situation would be better than the current situation” in which the Syrian regime has a strategic alliance with Iran and the Lebanese Shiite Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, he said.

    U.S. officials repeatedly have expressed concern about jihadi elements within the Syrian opposition …”

    Source: Bloomberg, 2012-12-12 “Israeli Envoy Sees Radicals Risk Preferable to Assad”


    I don’t know much about diplomacy, but I find it an odd way to signal the US that the Assad family are OK by Israel.

  • Chris Lee

    “the kidnappers and killers of UN Peacekeepers on the Golan Heights”

    I can`t find any reference to UN people being killed , can
    you provide a link.

  • CheebaCow


    Your welcome, I’m glad people are getting some use out of it. People can still find the instructions and download link at http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/04/the-official-tsarnaev-story-makes-no-sense/#comment-404193

    I’ve been too busy to do any more work on it the last few days, but when I get a chance, I will improve it some more and then post some more links to it (I don’t wanna spam up the forum about it every day). I’m also going to investigate a better distribution method, the current copy/paste isn’t very elegant.

  • nevermind

    “I remain, I should say, very sceptical of evidence produced so far that chemical weapons have been deployed. Even if they had been used, given the consequences that might follow, one has to ask by whom. The cui bono would not point to Assad, quite the opposite”

    One cannot but agree with your sentiments as yesterdays pictures of people foaming at the mouth look/ have nothing to do with a Sarin attack.

    Nowhere in the medical report of the Tokyo underground attack using Sarin was there a mention or pictures of victims foaming at the mouth. That said, increased mucus production is an emergency response of our body.


  • wikispooks

    I reckon that’s a pretty good summary of current Western interference in Syria. Machiavellian calculation is what guides policy and its explanation/MSM reporting to the public. Any and all apparent ‘humanitarian’ concerns are simply part of it when wavering public support needs bolstering.

    Just a couple of points.

    1. Pace Machiavelli, I doubt Western power brokers care a jot about stability in Syria. Better that there is turmoil no matter the humanitarian costs, than that a government which declines to see things the Globalists way should remain in power and free to conduct an effective opposing foreign policy.

    2. Putin’s arrest of 140 people ‘tied to Islamist extremist groups in the Causasus’ in Moscow yesterday may be an indication that a US quid-pro-quo has been reached. Moscow drops Syrian blockage in exchange for a nod-and-wink to crack down in Chechnya and other Central Asian ‘problem’ areas. See Sibel Edmonds. Looks like there may indeed be a connection to the Boston bombing deabacle and further public opinion manipulation over alleged chemical weapons use.

  • Chris2

    Surely there is sufficient information available to demonstrate that what is going on in Syria is a attempt a “regime change” on behalf of the most reactionary elements of the imperial system?
    The information that Craig summarises- the hypocrisy of those calling for democracy, the appalling record of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the massive carnage of an invasion of terrorists posing as a civil war- is quite sufficient for people to conclude that the only role our governments should be playing is to assist in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the current nightmare.

    I, too, am profoundly grateful to whoever was responsible for ridding this forum of the scourge of Habbakuk. “His” fatuities and insolence were making this most valuable blog unreadable. He should be permanently banned on the basis that his clear purpose is to prevent the free exercise of speech. I trust that, that staunch friend of the powerless, Mary will replace Habbakuk’s malicious drivel with her valuable commentary on current events.

  • craig Post author


    Just because Israel wants the US public to think something, doesn’t make it their real position. I should have thought that hardly needs saying.

  • harpie

    U.S. believes Syria may have used chemical weapons; experts offer caution; McClatchy; 4/25/13

    Jeffrey Lewis** is one of those:
    A few thoughts on where we are with the allegations of chemical weapons us in Syria.; 4/25/13

    ** Jeffrey Lewis is Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Dr. Lewis also founded and maintains the leading blog on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, ArmsControlWonk.com. […]

  • Passerby

    Syria is on the hit list because of zionistan and its aspirations are channelled through the plethora of the PR companies bribing their way into occupation of the other occupied territories; Capitol Hill.

    Fact that Assad has a lot of support among the ordinary Syrians whom have been scuppering the “resistance” (read mercenaries sent in by the various interested bodies) by actively helping the Syrian Armed forces, to weed these foreign elements out.

    Al Sauds trying to throw their weight around were in fact warned by Assad way back in 2006/7 in a speech that he admonished; those setting themselves as the power brokers in the mid East. However Saudi death row inmates, and lifers have been given the option of getting their heads lopped off, or staying in the rotten Saudi jails indefinitely. Or get a pocket full of cash and go to Syria to indulge in their hobbies of murder, rape, pillage and causing mayhem (this will not be even hinted at by the corporate media).

    As we write in Qatif (eastern Saudi Ras TaNura province) residents are openly marching in the streets and chanting; “death to al Sauds”. Bahrain is experiencing its second year of unrest, Jordan has seen the demonstrators protesting against the Hashemite dynasty, and so on. These legitimate protests not getting any air time, or debated in any of the corporate media in the West, yet the same bunch of stenographers have been busy waxing lyrical about the supposed “chemical attacks” on the “rebels” in Syria. The evidence for such claims are based on the shaving cream clad “victims” lying around and looking miserable.

    Well I for one have bought into the propaganda!!! because I have never seen the bubbles frothing from the corner of mouths of those with collapsed lungs due to stabbings on the streets of Britain, or the difficulty of these victims of stabbings in trying to breath (a common sight these days). So the red line makes a lot of sense to me. Fact is if these chicken hawks have the balls let us see how well they cope with fire from the Russian forces when they go to strut their stuff in Syria. Surely these guys ought to remember Saakashvili and what happened to him.

    Let us face it, the collapsing US empire is running out of money, and steam, and the threats of huffing and puffing are no longer cutting the mustard with their target audiences. Further, the solipsist lies propagated by the minions of the empire, somehow fail to explain away the fact; Syrian army did not use Chemical weapons at the height of the mercenary attacks, now that the same army has drilled a new butt hole for the mercenaries, why should it use such a crude weapon?

    However those wishing to start World War Three seem to have forgotten this war is not going to be fought over there, and it will be fought over here, even little DPRK pointed that out to the warmongers, hence the aggression lite, on display with caveats and the need for proofs etc. just to appease the forces of reaction and the ziofuckwits.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Chris2 :

    “I, too, am profoundly grateful to whoever was responsible for ridding this forum of the scourge of Habbakuk”


    Wishful thinking, surely? Last time I looked I was still around.

    BTW, it ill behoves you to talk of my ‘insolence’ and then call for me to be banned. Perhaps you need reminding that this is not your blog and that I have as much right to be heard as anyone else. If that makes you unhappy, tough.

  • Villager

    Michael Stephenson
    27 Apr, 2013 – 1:26 pm

    Thanks for that Michael.

    While on the Middle East, the latest Frost interview with Munib al-Masri on Al Jaz is worth watching, though no references to Syria.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Exexpat says (here, as on the previous thread) :

    “Please post the script again and maybe Mary might be tempted to come back?”


    Are you quite sure she hasn’t done so already?

    Left in April and returned as April, so to speak?


  • nevermind

    So what is your contribution justifying you being here, by right as you say habbakuk?
    what have you contributed to the free flow accumulation that evolves a thread, apart from trying to be a school masterly bore.

    This is not a university and you are not our teacher, so unless you contribute anything that advances the thread perse, why should anybody take any notice of your incessant personal attacks?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Nevermind :

    “This is not a university and you are not our teacher, so unless you contribute anything that advances the thread perse, why should anybody take any notice of your incessant personal attacks?”


    Here’s some food for thought for you :

    Are you aware of the concept of life-long learning, Nevermind?

    Are you certain that your own various contributions ‘advance the thread’?

    Is it conceivable to you that what you call ‘personal attacks’ might appear to others as justified questions and the exposing of silly and tendentious assertions?

    As to what you grandiosely call the “free flow accumulation that evolves a thread”, is that your term for posting anything that comes into your head irrespective of the theme of a thread as set out by Craig? If it is, then I would suggest that Craig ends every post of his with something along the following lines : “I would prefer it if your comments related to the subject of this thread, but do of course feel free to post on whatever is exercising you particularly at this moment”. Alternatively, you and your buddies could of course start up your own blog.

  • doug scorgie

    “Red lines” are all over the place:

    Oxfam blackmailed (?) into accepting Board of deputies “red lines”

    “Oxfam has confirmed that it will continue to work on a joint project with the Board of Deputies after accepting a series of “red lines” presented by the Jewish organisation.”

    “There was confusion this week after a meeting between Board leaders and Oxfam’s Middle East director to discuss the Grow Tatzmiach food poverty programme ended without obvious agreement on the rules.”

    “The Board had told Oxfam that any hardening of its stance on Israel [i.e. criticism] would lead to the termination of the scheme, a threat which the charity did not immediately agree to at the private meeting on Wednesday.”

    [An Oxfam spokeswoman said on Thursday] “We hope we will be able to continue this partnership with the Board. The partnership supports our Grow campaign which is about making sure that everyone on the planet has enough to eat.[except in Gaza] One billion people currently go to bed hungry.”


  • Cryptonym

    The sheer arrogance of it is beyond belief, surely a principle of modern international relations, if any exist, is the abrogation of interference from without, of the interal affairs of another nation. Israel collectively may express all the opinion it likes, but coming from them where the stench of hypocrisy goes hand in hand with that of rotting and charred human flesh, it is only natural that their opinion is discounted -completely ignored. They seem to presume for themselves the right of veto over by whom and how other countries are governed, in this case, Syria, whilst occupying part of that country. Itself is not a state in the accepted sense of the word, but a protracted genocide, practised on the Palestinian people. Israel, the pariah state, laying down the law like some conquering fiend. If there could be a parallel, it would be like Nazi Germany, telling Britain that Churchill has to go, to be replaced forthwith by Oswald Mosley or some other fascist amenable to them. Zionist terrorists, backed by dull-witted power drunk yanks deferring to these parasites, dictating to the world is the ultimate absurdity of our times. Of course when troubles, death and destruction rain down on other arts of the middle-east, smiting the paranoic Israeli’s enemies, Palestine they hope is off the radar, but it isn’t, it is all the same thing as was Iraq, and now Syria. What goes around comes around, the Israeli state is not now tenable, when the certain backlash gathers momentum, it can only be rent asunder.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Nevermind :

    Not that I would for a second compare myself to Craig, but I thought it would be fun to adapt your post to reflect an imaginary ticking-off that PUSS might have given Craig at the FCO in London. It could then read as follows (PUSS’s grammar and syntax would of course have been more elegant):

    “So what is your contribution justifying your presence in Uzbekhistan, by right as you say Mr Murray? What have you contributed to the gentlemanly dialogue that develops harmonious relations between our two countries, apart from being a human rights bore. The Embassy is not a human rights NGO and you are not our teacher, so unless you contribute anything that advances UK interests, why should anyone take any notice of your incessant attacks on the pratices of the Uzbekhistan government?”

    So can you see how foolish your post was?

  • nevermind

    Nothing of substance then, as I expected.

    Your pomposity knows no bounds, comparing yourself to Craig is off course, such fun, isn’t it, you big head.

  • Pan

    @ Chris2 – Irrespective of who one is talking about, to say that someone “should be permanently banned on the basis that his clear purpose is to prevent the free exercise of speech” is somewhat ironic, given that the “banning” that you propose would itself “prevent the free exercise of speech”!

    See Nick Cohen’s “You Can’t Read This Book” for a thought-provoking read on the subject of censorship.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Intended, or unintended consequences considered as equals, it seems Isolationist attitudes will be rising once, again. I’m not sure what benevolent rescue of those being annihilated through foreign policy or UN action can ever be trusted to be the true agenda for the voting public, who is just fed-up with having those tax dollars go to furthering a catastrophe. Shall outside Nations stand by and watch the slaughter of innocents, as though it’s merely a function of Darwinian principles? Millions of species went extinct even before we showed up. Is it right or wrong to intervene in complexities of Nature we don’t understand? Does our compassion for those species on the precipice of extinction, require us to keep our hands off matters we don’t fully comprehend? I am not equating the passing of animals with the deaths of people, you understand. I am trying to draw a comparison only from the standpoint of interventionism, and this matter in Syria, as Craig said, is as complex as you get. Also, I am including any form of aid, including food, which seems never to arrive at the intended doorstep, but is just more fodder for power, control and annihilation by those who control the local and regional landscape.

    Shall we ever intervene?

  • nevermind

    Thanks for that stark reminder Jay, does that mean I’m standing against a fascist?

    Conservatives: All Conservatives, appeasers or anti-appeasers, are held to be subjectively pro-Fascist. British rule in India and the Colonies is held to be indistinguishable from Nazism. Organizations of what one might call a patriotic and traditional type are labelled crypto-Fascist or ‘Fascist-minded’. Examples are the Boy Scouts, the Metropolitan Police, M.I.5, the British Legion. Key phrase: ‘The public schools are breeding-grounds of Fascism’.

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