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.




2,917 thoughts on “Syria and Diplomacy

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  • ESLO

    “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”

    Could Craig let us know who has any democratic credentials among the various parties involved in Syria?

    The BBC report I read on their website makes it pretty clear that the torture report was commissioned by Qatar. Perhaps its contents should be addressed rather than shooting the messenger – do you wish to rubbish all the forensic scientists as well.

    I fear that the only mechanism for change in Syria will be the application of pressure on Russia whose client state Syria has now become. Yes there has to be some power sharing if only to stop the score settling. It should also be remembered that this whole conflict is now placing very significant strains on Lebanon and Jordan.

  • craig Post author


    It is plain the intention of the commissioners of the report is not to investigate atrocities in Syria, but to push again for Western military intervention. Part of a strategy which will next involve a staged breakdown of the Geneva talks.

  • Mary

    Here is one of Carter Ruck’s inquirers – a Yank

    ‘Before assuming his position in Sierra Leone, Crane worked in the federal government. He served as an officer in the U.S. army for 20 years, including serving as a paratrooper and a special operations officer. After retiring from the military, he spent 10 years as a senior intelligence officer in the U.S. Department of Defense. And if you knew what Crane did for the department, he’d have to kill you.

    No, really. It’s classified.’

    What crap. Who wrote it? Ian Fleming?.

    It was an easy move from ‘intelligence’ to law professor. He has the highest ideals for the gold and diamond coast dwellers – just like BLiar. This beautiful world gets worse by the minute – and we are funding and promoting every evil, the BBC especially.

    Note the dates when ‘Caesar’ was interviewed – supposedly. Copy written before interview. Does Caesar actually exist one asks?

  • ESLO


    We have been here before – while Qatar may have different intentions I just don’t think that there is any political appetite for military intervention in Syria among the major Western powers. I daresay you will disagree given your views of said Western powers but you were wrong last time and I think it will be the same this time. The sad truth is that change will only happen in Syria when Putin thinks it is in his interest to force change – if you want to understand Putin the works of Mario Puzo should be the starting point.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Craig :

    As you have allowed yourself a comparison in your 9th para, I shall allow myself one as well.

    In 1941 the Germans discovered the bodies of over 4500 Polish officers and other prominent people in Katyn Forest.

    The Soviet govt attempted to discredit that finding by saying that the bestial Nazis had carried out that massacre – that is was fully consonant with Nazi practice.

    The Nazis were bestial, but the fact remains that the Soviet govt was responsible (and admitted this over 50 years afterwards.

    I think you see my point.

  • Mary

    Info on two others.

    On Radio 4 today in the 30 minute ‘news bulletins’, no mention was made that Milosevic died/was killed before the verdict. No matter, no matter the truth.

    Stuart Hamilton

    Fact or fiction?

    Silent Witness is indeed very entertaining – as much as these allegations.

  • mark golding

    Hi Craig – welcome, so good to hear from you.

    Listening to grass roots activists in Turkey I cannot agree that ‘the demonstrations against Erdogan in Istanbul, [are]orchestrated by very similar pro-military forces to those now in charge in Egypt. The situation in Turkey is very different to Egypt.

  • craig Post author


    There are a tiny number of genuine grass roots activists in Turkey. The combined forces of the left got 1% of the vote in the last Turkish elections. The mass protestors on the street wearing red were Kemalists. That is who are trying to overthrow Erdogan. It is the same as Egypt, and those supporting the overthrow of Morsi were saying exactly the same as you are saying now about the “grass roots activists” in Cairo.

  • ESLO

    “Silent Witness is indeed very entertaining – as much as these allegations”

    It takes a strange sort of person to find entertainment from the allegations contained within the report whether they true or otherwise.

    Do you wish to deny that the Assad regime bombed Palestinian refugee camps or do I have to call George Galloway (or at least his words before he took the Assad shilling) as a witness?

  • Rhisiart Gwilym

    Thank god you’re back in active blogging mode, Craig! Your insider understanding and contacts, plus your forthright clarity are simply indispensable. Wrestle with the Black Dog when you have to, bro., but don’t ever let it tell you that hopelessness is right. We need your insights, Craig. They’re really valuable, and things do benefit from them, however subterraneanly the work of a single individual may operate.

    PS: George Galloway ‘took the Assad shilling’? I think we know now how much discount to apply to ESLO’s input.

  • mike

    Bang on, Craig!

    Assad’s is an unpleasant regime, for sure, but given the alternative — funded and armed, as you say, by Gulf theocracies — it has to be a case of the lesser of two evils. This ongoing attempt at regime change is also about the integrity of Syria as a nation. I think most Syrians can see that, especially given what has happened to Libya.

    The goal is the same as it’s been since the get-go which, according to this article, was as long ago as 2006:

    There was a little wobble over Ghouta, but the fork-tongued neocons in Washington, and their supporters elsewhere, simply changed tack for a while. However, Syria is still firmly on the menu, and they’ll do their level best to serve it up to their favoured corporations one way or another.

  • Dunc

    “The inability of the British left to understand the Middle East is pathetic.”

    I’d say it’s more the inability of just about anybody to understand anything that can’t be boiled down to “goodies vs baddies”.

  • Mary

    For information

    President Bashar al-Assad’s interview with Agence France Presse (AFP) ~January 20,2014

    AFP: Mr. President, what do you expect from the Geneva conference?

    President Assad: The most basic element, which we continuously refer too, is that the Geneva Conference should produce clear results with regard to the fight against terrorism in Syria. In particular, it needs to put pressure on countries that are exporting terrorism, – by sending terrorists, money and weapons to terrorist organisations, – especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and of course the Western countries that provide political cover for these terrorist organisations. This is the most important decision or result that the Geneva Conference could produce. Any political solution that is reached without fighting terrorism has no value. There can be no political action when there is terrorism everywhere, not only in Syria but in neighbouring countries as well. From the political side, it is possible for Geneva to contribute to a process of dialogue between Syrians. There has to be a Syrian process within Syria and whilst Geneva could support this, it cannot be a substitute for it.

    AFP: After nearly three years of devastating war and the big challenge of reconstruction in the country, is it likely that you will not be a candidate for the presidency?

    President Assad: This depends on two things: It depends on personal aspirations or a personal decision, on the one hand, and on public opinion in Syria, on the other. As far as I am concerned, I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand; as for Syrian public opinion, there is still around four months before the election date is announced. If in that time, there is public desire and a public opinion in favour of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election. In short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant.


  • Mary

    As aside from Medialens. 🙂

    Craig Murray’s blog – alive and well again
    Posted by fugazi on January 21, 2014, 1:06 pm

    nice to hear – why was he down?
    Posted by emersberger on January 21, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Posted by fugazi on January 21, 2014, 1:28 pm
    Dunno – no new posts for months…. then the sight of bliar at sharons funeral kicked it off again…

  • writeon

    It’s so refreshing to hear from Craig again. I’ve missed him terribly.

    I think one needs to calmly examine and scrutinize the propaganda coming out of Syria, regardless of which side it comes from. I’m therefore sceptical and inclined to doubt the provenance of this material and the allegations about mass-murder which have so fortuitously appeared at this particular juncture. Haven’t we been here before, just before a confernace about Syria? One can hardly call the source of this story neutral, can one? Qatar is actively involved in trying to topple the Syrian regime, need one say more? This doesn’t mean the allegations are complete fabrications, only that in a war like this one needs to be cautious.

    For example; the West almost launched an attack on Syria recently, based on allegations about a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb which supposedly killed 1500 innocent civilians, and western governments led by Obama, Kerry and leading US politicians immediately blamed the Assad regime with 100% certainty. There was no doubt. Subsequently Seymour Hersh has revealed in an article in the London Review of Books, an article that has recieved scant coverage in our media, that, in reality, the US government was anything but 100% sure of the facts in this case, and manipulated the story in order to justify a military attack on Syria, they made the facts fit around the policy, does that sound familiar? Remember Iraq and WMDs? The Obama aministration was also informed that the Syrian rebels had the capability to produce nerve gas, and not just the Syrian regime, a fact they also chose to ignore in the propaganda rush towards war. Subsequently doubts have been cast over the range on the rocket involved in the attack. Put simply, the rocket had a range so short that it couldn’t have been fired from government controlled territory. Also it’s odd that when the regime provided the UN with lists of its chemical weapons and the means to deliver them, a rocket of this type was absent from the list, which is odd.

    The rebels in Syria cannot win the war and topple the Syrian regime without massive western support. It’s like Libya all over again. They want us as an airforce to tip the military balance in their favour, therefore they, and our leaders, have an obvious interest in creating war-propaganda that supports western intervention and regime change. How do we know who the people in the torture pictures are? How do we know they weren’t regime soldiers murdered and tortured by the rebels?

  • ESLO

    Very interesting Mary

    To summarise: Dictator announces intention to remain in power. Anyone who opposes him is a terrorist by definition. Any problems are not his fault.

  • writeon

    The British left, whatever that really means these days, contains many revolutionary romantics, who are both arrogant, naive, ignorant, well-meaning, and credulous as hell. Their faith in the neutrality of our media is… touching, and this despite all one knows about the role of the media in spreading propaganda in wartime, and we are at war with Syria and desire regime change, only we’re using al Queda as our fighters this time around, as we did in Afghanistan when were at war with the Russians.

    The left have become bizarre, and it’s right across the West. The right want to go to war mostly on nationalistic grounds, protecting the homeland and defeat extremism, whilt the liberal/left are obsessed with ‘progress’ and crusade for freedom, and the idea of healing the world for peace, nice ideas, but as Craig said, pathetic too.

  • mark golding

    Folks, I believe, in the grand scheme of things, and, considering the desecration and genocide in Iraq, the smashing of Libya, the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi and the ‘red line’ WMD plot against Syria we may be confronted by that ‘big picture’ conundram, a puzzle in which we try to formulate the ‘good versus the bad.’

    That is why I agree with Craig that Iran should have accepted the ‘communique’ to be involved in the dialogue. I do not agree with Craig when solidly and absolutely, although consistently expurgates the Assad government as a ‘very unpleasant regime indeed.’

    Did Syria attack anyone? – did Iran? did… No! ESLO speaks in terms of multiplication – can this be the way forward?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    You are absolutely right Mr Murray. This guy will do exactly the opposite if paid to do so.

    Here are some services he provides taken from his web site

    Advising clients who are or may become the focus of investigation over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity

    Representing clients who are indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity

    So providing money (the amount) is right he might soon be defending very people who he is acting against now.

  • ESLO

    Did Syria attack anyone?

    Yes Lebanon even if we don’t bother to count its own people.

    I agree that it is not a simple picture of good vs bad – what is? But lets not avoid calling what is bad, what it is. Assad will never be part of a peaceful solution – there can never be a reconciliation with millions of refugees.

  • OrwellianUK

    Eslo: “if you want to understand Putin the works of Mario Puzo should be the starting point.”

    This description is hardly exclusive to Russian Leaders. The Western leaders are equally as bad, if not more so, although they hide behind a faux concern for “Human Rights” and “Democracy”. It’s also fair to say that Putin has attempted to stop a wider war and more violence and destruction, which would undoubtedly happen if NATO “intervened”. While Russia’s own agenda is clearly behind this stance, this is far from as immoral a motive as the West’s continuing supply and support of the various disparate groups in Syria, some of which are Extremist to well beyond the point that they would be considered “Terrorists” were they fighting against one of the even worse pro-Western regimes in the region, many of which are worse Police States than Syria was before this war began. Like our so called free media, you appear to be inflicted with a major case of Double Standards.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ ESLO

    Do you not, as I do, find the idea of a “family firm”** running a country at the beginning of the 21st century totally absurd, not to say abhorrent and medieval?

    If this were the case with any Western country, the screams of anger from the denizens of this blog would be deafening. But I suppose that in this case, since Assad counts, broadly speaking, as anti-Western, it’s perfectly OK.

    I suppose that’s why there’s never a word on here about North Korea and its charming family firm either.

    (** “Assad & Sons – torture, murder and imprisonment our speciality. Gassings undertaken” )

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