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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  • mike

    Neocons Inc. — permanent war guaranteed. Affiliated to ZionTech, experts in olive grove removal.

  • Mary

    An extract from Oded Yinon’s ‘A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties’

    The foreword from the translator Israel Shahak

    The following essay represents, in my opinion, the accurate and detailed plan of the present Zionist regime (of Sharon and Eitan) for the Middle East which is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states. I will comment on the military aspect of this plan in a concluding note. Here I want to draw the attention of the readers to several important points:

    1. The idea that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units, occurs again and again in Israeli strategic thinking. For example, Ze’ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha’aretz (and probably the most knowledgeable in Israel, on this topic) writes about the “best” that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq: “The dissolution of Iraq into a Shi’ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part” (Ha’aretz 6/2/1982). Actually, this aspect of the plan is very old.

    2. The strong connection with Neo-Conservative thought in the USA is very prominent, especially in the author’s notes. But, while lip service is paid to the idea of the “defense of the West” from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power. In other words, the aim of Sharon is to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.

    3. It is obvious that much of the relevant data, both in the notes and in the text, is garbled or omitted, such as the financial help of the U.S. to Israel. Much of it is pure fantasy. But, the plan is not to be regarded as not influential, or as not capable of realization for a short time. The plan follows faithfully the geopolitical ideas current in Germany of 1890-1933, which were swallowed whole by Hitler and the Nazi movement, and determined their aims for East Europe. Those aims, especially the division of the existing states, were carried out in 1939-1941, and only an alliance on the global scale prevented their consolidation for a period of time.


    The Western front, which on the surface appears more problematic, is in fact less complicated than the Eastern front, in which most of the events that make the headlines have been taking place recently. Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.14

    Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.15

  • ESLO


    “The Western leaders are equally as bad, if not more so,”

    I disagree – but then I know something about the UK, Russia and the US having lived in all three. I suggest you read a little wider.

  • ESLO

    Quite right Courtenay. Aaron Russo was Jewish. He confirms who was responsible for the attack on 9/11. What did a dying man have to gain by telling lies about the Rockefellers.

    John, I suit your indefatigability combining two conspiracy theories in a single paragraph.

  • Clark

    ESLO at 12:27 pm wrote:

    “I just don’t think that there is any political appetite for military intervention in Syria among the major Western powers.”

    Really? In the UK, the Prime Minister recalled parliament for a vote on the matter, and imposed a three-line whip. They only just lost the vote, and the Prime Minister was widely described as “humiliated”. In the US:

    “August 28, 2013, 1:59 p.m. WASHINGTON – A final Western effort to win a United Nations blessing for military action against Syria appeared to collapse Wednesday, but the United States and its allies were still expected to launch a retaliatory attack in response to President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.”,0,618597.story

    Where have you been, ESLO? Watching Tellytubbies?

  • old mark

    Excellent post; the sources and provenance of those publicising the latest atrocity linked to Assad need to be scrutinised, and the Beeb have failed to conduct even an elementary smell test here.

    Desmond de Silva certainly has form here, as his whitewash of the murky Finucane assassination indicates.

    Geoffrey Nice is also a busy little bee; he was knighted shortly after leading the prosecution at the aborted Milosevic trial, and twice stood for the SDP in the 80s, at a time when the higher reaches of the party were heavily infiltrated by spooky ‘atlanticists’.

    More on him here-

    More on the Milosevic trial, in which Nice was a principal actor, here-

  • writeon

    But we don’t live in Syria or North Korea, and most of us don’t want to I imagine, so we have precious little to say about those countries. What goes on inside those countries isn’t our primary responsibility and we cannot influence what happen, we can influence what Britain does and comment on it. Essentially it’s up to the people of Syria to sort out their own problems minus foreign intervention.

    I still can’t figure out why the West wants to topple the Assad regime, it can’t be because of human rights or democracy, because our leaders don’t give a fig about these things, not at home, and they care even less about what happens to foreigners in countries we know next to nothing about. Then why are we attacking Syria with our al Queda affiliated militias? Well, it would appear that Syria is merely another bloody square on the blood-soaked chessboard in the conflict with Iran. Saudi Arabia and Quatar have begun a war with Iran and the campaign goes through Syria. Topple the regime in Syria and Iran is weakened. Topple Iran and then Russia’s soft underbelly is weakened. Then on to China, hussar!

    International politics is similar to Puso’s The Godfather, with rival Dons and gangs attempting to carve out ‘territory’ and spheres of influence for themselves, and forging unstable alliances, and murdering rivals, then taking over their rackets. Only in our territory the Dons employ smiling, smooth-talking, respectable, lawyers and judges as ‘fronts’ most of the time, men like Obama and Blair, the Clintons, Cameron. We live in Gangsterland too, a more honest label than plutocracy which most don’t even understand.

  • ESLO


    You should note we have moved on from last summer – those efforts collapsed for very good reasons i.e. a lack of public support and the lack of a clear strategy to deal with the underlying problem – nothing has changed. Of course there still exist hawks but western democracies have a way of dealing with them.

    It is almost like you would derive immense schadenfreude from a war going ahead.

  • OrwellianUK

    ESLO: You can disagree if you like. You’re entitled to your opinion, just not your own facts. Ask the people of Fallujah in Iraq, ask the people in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Yemen. Ask the people of any number of countries who have been subject to the consequences of the Empire building of Western Governments and the corporations and banking industry they represent. Simply living in the countries in question (UK, US, Russia) has nothing whatsoever to do with their foreign policy which affects the populations of countries where for instance, the oil happens to be. I have read extremely widely. Just not as selectively as you appear to have.

    I’m not denying Putin is essentially a ruthless gangster. The point I’m making is that our supposed democratically elected leaders (and the ones who have the power but are never subject to election) are at least as bad. The US has garrisons in about 150 countries, 800+ overseas bases (not including all the secret torture sites), and spends as much on “defence” as everyone else put together. Now that is a rapacious Empire far worse than anything Putin is currently doing.

  • Clark

    ESLO, you accuse me of wanting Western war in Syria. I wrote to my MP before the UK commons vote, telling him exactly the opposite. I said that I remembered the Dodgy Dossier, the Downing St Memo and the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. No, I oppose Western war upon Syria, and if I had any power to do so, I’d have the UK government withdraw its support for Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    ESLO, do you support Western military intervention in Syria?

  • guano

    ‘The inability of the British left to understand the Middle East is pathetic.’
    Ah yes, but it does have the ability to know which side its bread is buttered on… in a year’s time!

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Clearly you have never been to Russia – ever. In the last 16 years more than 100.000 Chechens have been murdered and this to add to countLESS political assassinations of political opponents INSIDE Russia. Outside, Russia with its limited (comparing to US) resources is still drugging behind (at least in terms of economic development) republic of former USSR. Postsoviet institutions and leaderships (which Russia still strongly support and promotes) are one of the main reasons of economic stagnation and underdevelopment in many post soviet republics and my native Uzbekistan included. Russian main and foremost priority in Central Asia is keep these nations reduced to the raw materials supply base. In order to achieve this Russia monopolized their economic development to simply supplying Russian gas and oil pipelines to Europe and reducing export potential of Central Asian republics by high tariffs. In case you have not noticed Russia is the only exit for Central Asia to the world market. So far Russia has successfully prevented every attempt by Central Asian republics to establish new way of exporting their goods to the world. It is doing so by various methods which include support for tyrannical regimes and open blackmail using Russian minority as in case with Kazakhstan or more brutally with Georgia.

    Considering limitness of Russian resources with its negative effect Russia delivering to the dependent nations, I can conclude that in case of growing Russian influence and ability to project its powers far outside of its national borders Russia will have much more negative impact on everywhere it is involved.

    Case with Syria is mare coincidence where Russian interests (so far) helped preventing western intervention. However again it is WORTH mentioning that this cost Syrians 200.000 lives so far, this is the price Syrians piad (so far) for the regime security of Mr Assad.

  • writeon

    I was tempted to write that war is a whore. Then I remebered that I used to have a little place in Soho, and I chatted to some of the women who worked around there and they seemed rather nice, just trying to get along and earn a living like many others. Are our politicians whores and our leading journalists too? I dunno. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. They’re honest people doing difficult jobs, isn’t that what they say? On second thoughts calling them whores would be a insult to the working girls I used to know, at least they don’t lie countries into wars, destroy them and slaughter their people.

    It struck me that the West wants to destroy these countries and if the ordinary people get massacred in the process, then that’s just too bad. It isn’t an accident or because we are stupid and make mistakes in our urge to help. The terrible, horrible, and criminal truth is far, far, worse. If we destroy these countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria; we push their development back decades. This weakens them profoundly. Makes them dependent on us, and stops them using their own resources on themselves, forcing them to sell to us and basically do as they are told, leaving much more for us. They remain poor and powerless and that’s how we like it. Destoy, devide and rule, keep the world order the way we want it to be. Sure there are setbacks, but our trajectory is clear, smash anybody who could possibly become a rival centre of power and a threat to our interests. Nothing to do with democracy and freedom at all. Makes one so proud to be a citizen in the Great Western Empire.

  • mark golding

    In what I call the dynamics of consciousness, we appear to be connected by intention. It is that intention that must advance.

    Clark puts relevance on the power of intention by invoking the British vote on Syria. I respect that moment highly. It was a defining point in our time.

    Intent is clearly visible in Mary’s posts and is our only way forward to a better environment, a preferable, worthier world where equality and truth are obvious. That is not subjective thinkin, that is reality.

  • ESLO


    Deal with the arguments and information presented without resorting to threats please.

  • ESLO

    ESLO, do you support Western military intervention in Syria?

    Not in present terms and conditions – difficult to see what it could do to improve the situation. Humanitarian intervention is clearly needed.

    Uzbek in the UK

    Thanks for point out the true nature of the Putin regime to Orwellian UK. I am not denying that Western democracies interfere where they shouldn’t – the difference is that there is some accountability and they can sometimes be dissuaded from such actions – witness what happened on Syria.

  • Uzbek in the UK


    Can I remind you that it was in fact Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (in 1979) and Soviet occupation that invoked civil war (with western meddling) that also destroyed Afghan economy and turned the country into the major heroin producer in the world. When Soviets left, civil war continued as the export of heroin and radical Islam well outside of the Afghan borders. I realise that Europe is very far from Afghanistan but living in the country which shares border with it, trust me it was not that secure when Taliban was getting deeper and deeper to the north, ethnically cleansing non-Pashtun population.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    From John Goss:

    “Quite right Courtenay. Aaron Russo was Jewish. He confirms who was responsible for the attack on 9/11. What did a dying man have to gain by telling lies about the Rockefellers.”

    Wow, the Rockefellers, eh?

    Thanks John, that makes a most welcome change from the Rotschilds and/or the Bilderbergers.

    Good to see that your thinking is evolving.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    ESLO to OrwellianUK:

    “I disagree – but then I know something about the UK, Russia and the US having lived in all three. I suggest you read a little wider.”


    “equally as”?

    I recommend not only wider reading but also a refresher course in grammar.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Clark quotes:

    ““August 28, 2013, 1:59 p.m. WASHINGTON – A final Western effort to win a United Nations blessing for military action against Syria appeared to collapse Wednesday, but the United States and its allies were still expected to launch a retaliatory attack in response to President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.””

    But they didn’t, did they.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ Writeon;

    “But we don’t live in Syria or North Korea, and most of us don’t want to I imagine, so we have precious little to say about those countries. What goes on inside those countries isn’t our primary responsibility and we cannot influence what happen, we can influence what Britain does and comment on it. Essentially it’s up to the people of Syria to sort out their own problems minus foreign intervention.”

    Do you feel that the thoughts expressed in this passage of yours also apply to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians?

    If so, you must be at odds with a fair number of the commenters on this blog.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    ESLO said;

    “It is almost like you would derive immense schadenfreude from a war going ahead.


    Just Freude, I think, rather than Shadenfreude, but I do agree that thought and indeed made the same point at the time.

    And while I’m blowing my own trumpet, I would immodestly remind everyone that Habbabkuk was the first to say, on this blog, “there will be no Western attack on Syria, nor is this the start-up of WW3”!

    There will be no war this time round either.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ Daniel


    I hope you have got a good lawyer.”

    Grow up, Daniel.

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