Syria and Diplomacy 2917

The problem with the Geneva Communique from the first Geneva round on Syria is that the government of Syria never subscribed to it.  It was jointly chaired by the League of Arab States for Syria, whatever that may mean.  Another problem is that it is, as so many diplomatic documents are, highly ambiguous.  It plainly advocates a power sharing executive formed by some of the current government plus the opposition to oversee a transition to democracy.  But it does not state which elements of the current government, and it does not mention which elements of the opposition, nor does it make plain if President Assad himself is eligible to be part of, or to head, the power-sharing executive, and whether he is eligible to be a candidate in future democratic elections.

Doubtless the British, for example, would argue that the term transition implies that he will go.  The Russians will argue there is no such implication and the text does not exclude anybody from the process.  Doubtless also diplomats on all sides were fully aware of these differing interpretations and the ambiguity is quite deliberate to enable an agreed text. I would say that the text tends much more to the “western” side, and that this reflects the apparently weak military position of the Assad regime at that time and the then extant threat of western military intervention.  There has been a radical shift in those factors against the western side in the interim. Expect Russian interpretations now to get more hardline.

Given the extreme ambiguity of the text, Iran has, as it frequently does, shot itself in the foot diplomatically by refusing to accept the communique as the basis of talks and thus getting excluded from Geneva.  Iran should have accepted the communique, and then at Geneva issued its own interpretation of it.

But that is a minor point.  The farcical thing about the Geneva conference is that it is attempting to promote into power-sharing in Syria “opposition” members who have no democratic credentials and represent a scarcely significant portion of those actually fighting the Assad regime in Syria.  What the West are trying to achieve is what the CIA and Mossad have now achieved in Egypt; replacing the head of the Mubarak regime while keeping all its power structures in place. The West don’t really want democracy in Syria, they just want a less pro-Russian leader of the power structures.

The inability of the British left to understand the Middle East is pathetic.  I recall arguing with commenters on this blog who supported the overthrow of the elected President of Egypt Morsi on the grounds that his overthrow was supporting secularism, judicial independence (missing the entirely obvious fact the Egyptian judiciary are almost all puppets of the military) and would lead to a left wing revolutionary outcome.  Similarly the demonstrations against Erdogan in Istanbul, orchestrated by very similar pro-military forces to those now in charge in Egypt, were also hailed by commenters here.  The word “secularist” seems to obviate all sins when it comes to the Middle East.

Qatar will be present at Geneva, and Qatar has just launched a pre-emptive media offensive by launching a dossier on torture and murder of detainees by the Assad regime, which is being given first headline treatment by the BBC all morning

There would be a good dossier to be issued on torture in detention in Qatar, and the lives of slave workers there, but that is another question.

I do not doubt at all that atrocities have been committed and are being committed by the Assad regime.  It is a very unpleasant regime indeed.  The fact that atrocities are also being committed by various rebel groups does not make Syrian government atrocities any better.

But whether 11,000 people really were murdered in a single detainee camp I am unsure.  What I do know is that the BBC presentation of today’s report has been a disgrace.  The report was commissioned by the government of Qatar who commissioned Carter Ruck to do it.  Both those organisations are infamous suppressors of free speech.  What is reprehensible is that the BBC are presenting the report as though it were produced by neutral experts, whereas the opposite is the case.  It is produced not by anti torture campaigners or by human rights activists, but by lawyers who are doing it purely and simply because they are being paid to do it.

The BBC are showing enormous deference to Sir Desmond De Silva, who is introduced as a former UN war crimes prosecutor.  He is indeed that, but it is not the capacity in which he is now acting.  He is acting as a barrister in private practice.  Before he was a UN prosecutor, he was for decades a criminal defence lawyer and has defended many murderers.  He has since acted to suppress the truth being published about many celebrities, including John Terry.

If the Assad regime and not the government of Qatar had instructed him and paid him, he would now be on our screens arguing the opposite case to that he is putting.  That is his job.  He probably regards that as not reprehensible.  What is reprehensible is that the BBC do not make it plain, but introduce him as a UN war crimes prosecutor as though he were acting in that capacity or out of concern for human rights.  I can find no evidence of his having an especial love for human rights in the abstract, when he is not being paid for it.  He produced an official UK government report into the murder of Pat Finucane, a murder organised by British authorities, which Pat Finucane’s widow described as a “sham”.  He was also put in charge of quietly sweeping the Israeli murders on the Gaza flotilla under the carpet at the UN.

The question any decent journalist should be asking him is “Sir Desmond De Silva, how much did the government of Qatar pay you for your part in preparing this report?  How much did it pay the other experts?  Does your fee from the Government of Qatar include this TV interview, or are you charging separately for your time in giving this interview?  In short how much are you being paid to say this?”

That is what any decent journalist would ask.  Which is why you will never hear those questions on the BBC.




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2,917 thoughts on “Syria and Diplomacy

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  • Mary

    On Medialens

    Something we may have missed….Bibi visits the troops..
    Posted by David macilwain on February 23, 2014, 12:06 pm

    In the Golan Heights!

    On Tuesday, Netanyahu travelled to the occupied Golan Heights to visit IDF field hospitals set up to treat wounded anti-Syrian fighters, and offer words of encouragement before they were made ready to return to kill more Syrian soldiers and loyal civilians.

    This little act of appreciation and support was praised by a man in the so-called Syrian Opposition, Mohammed Badie, who said the act sent ‘an important message’:

    Speaking from Istanbul, Badie thanked those working to assist the Syrian people in their struggle.

    He added that Netanyahu’s pubic presence near the Syrian wounded was an “important message.”

    On Tuesday, Netanyahu spoke at an IDF base where injured Syrians are receiving medical care. He said Israel’s humanitarian efforts to help the Syrian wounded highlighted the difference between Jerusalem and Tehran, which backed Assad.

    As nuclear talks commenced in Vienna, Netanyahu said, “On the day on which world powers begin negotiations with Iran, it is important that the world sees footage of this place, a place that separates the good in the world from the bad.”

    He said the “good” was embodied by Israel’s endeavors to save the lives of Syrians hurt in the ongoing conflict, which he termed a “daily massacre,” while Iran continued to support Assad’s violent ways.

    Well the appropriately named Badie was right in one respect – it is an important message that Israel is fully backing anyone and everyone ‘regardless of creed or ethnicity’, who will fight Syria. So anyone still trying to suggest that Israel doesn’t really have a position, and may even prefer Assad to stay, needs to think up another story.

  • Mary

    This is Yarmouk and the people are Palestinian. Terrible.

    Scale of suffering at Syrian refugee camp is revealed by photo of huge queue for food
    Wednesday 26 February 2014

    Aid is distributed at the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, where the UN says people have been reduced to eating animal feed. Since the photograph was taken, aid has ceased to be delivered because of security concerns

    Refugee camp in Damascus, Syria–013.jpg

    It is a scene of unimaginable desolation – a crowd of men, women and children stretching as far as the eye can see into the war-devastated landscape of Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. This was the queue for aid at a UNRWA distribution point in the capital, Damascus, on 31 January. The UN relief agency has distributed more than 7,000 food parcels in the Palestinian camp, home to about 160,000 people, since 18 January. The UN has reported infant malnutrition in the community, which has been reduced to eating animal feed. As of this week, all aid distributions have been suspended because of security concerns. Chris Gunness, a spokesperson, said UNRWA had received assurances that a deal allowing humanitarian access to Yarmouk would be implemented as soon as possible. He said: “They have suffered enough.”
    Photographer: UNRWA/AP

  • Mary

    On Medialens

    Email to BBC on ‘Syrian forces are believed to have carried out a chemical weapons attack’

    Posted by The Editors on February 27, 2014, 8:12 am

    Dear Davids

    For your information here is the text of an online complaint I have made today re the above report:


    In the story headed “Syrian forces ‘kill many rebels’ in Eastern Ghouta”
    dated 26 February 2014 and timed (at point of reading it) “Last updated
    at 18:34”, there is the following paragraph:

    “The Eastern Ghouta, a collection of rural towns outside Damascus, is a
    rebel stronghold where Syrian forces are believed to have carried out a
    chemical weapons attack last year.”

    No further information is given for the application of responsibility for
    this very famous chemical attack; no information about ‘who’ claims to
    ‘believe’ that the chemical attack was carried out by ‘Syrian forces’; no
    information on what evidential basis it is suggested ‘Syrian forces’
    carried out the attack; no added sentence to say ‘but this belief is

    Impartiality, let alone balance, has gone right out of the window in that
    awful sentence.

    The writer should have known that the suggested military reasons given
    to support the ‘belief’ that Syrian forces carried out that attack have
    been analysed by several articles which seem to show that it was
    *militarily impossible* for the attacks to have been launched from the
    sites that those who ‘believe’ it was a Syrian state force have suggested.
    One of the many reports to question the ‘evidence’ for it being a Syrian
    force attack is the journalist Seymour Hersch here:
    I am disgusted that the BBC is again playing fast and loose with both
    ‘facts’ and ‘beliefs’ in favour of one side of a dispute.”

    Best wishes
    Steve Stannard

  • Mary

    Chilling words.

    Look at all “The amazing array of pro-war speakers who are here today!”

    “Apache helicopters even drones used to kill Palestinians…very moving to me”

    For the first time in AIPAC HISTORY we are beginning to lose our iron clad weapon “Congress”.

    “We haven’t bombed Iran, we haven’t bombed Syria and all these peace talks are killing us.”

    “Our job is to prevent a third Palestinian Intifada, ensure a nuclear armed Israel and an Israel that always gets American tax payer money”

    “I thank you… and I thank you for standing up for the Apartheid State of Israel”

    See Video here:

    Code Pink : AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 – Boycott AIPAC

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