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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  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ Writeon:

    “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.”

    The above would appear to suggest that you believe that the evil West created (note that I say “created” and not “occasionally supported”) the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Ghadaffi and the family firm of Assad & Son in order to destroy the countries you mention.

    Is that your contention?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    And to (almost) round off this little pre-prandial burst, thank you to Uzbek in the UK, whose posts are always interesting and informative because he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

    No theorizer or wooly-minded conspiracy theorist, he.

  • John Goss

    Habbabkuk, I think Writeon is saying we we went into Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya to steal their resources. And so we did. Ask Tony Buckingham.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    End of pre-prandial burst :

    Splendid news courtesy of the IMF, whose latest forecast had upped UK growth from 1,9% to 2,4%.

    I’m certain that all here who wish the UK well will share my pleasure at this news!

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ Goss

    “Habbabkuk, I think Writeon is saying we we went into Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya to steal their resources. And so we did. Ask Tony Buckingham.”

    Well, I think I’ll wait for Writeon’s own response if he feels minded to give one, but thanks all the same.

    Who is “Tony Buckingham”?

    (Sound like the BLiar weekending with The Queen, but I suppose it can’t be..)

  • John Goss

    Habbabkuk a forecast is a forecast, reality is reality. Growth of what? Cabbages? If it means the growth of GDP then that is fiction.

  • Clark

    No, there hasn’t been world war over Syria. But it took a veto in the UN Security Council to prevent escalation, and that’s the last pre-arranged diplomatic safeguard against world war. The “West” obviously want to attack Syria very much.

    Habbabkuk, 5:25 pm: “There will be no war this time round either”.

    There is already war in Syria. The “West” must stop fuelling that war via Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Qatar.

  • John Goss

    Tony Buckingham describes himself as a former mercenary (Executive Outcomes) who now owns Heritage Oil. He is a big subscriber to the Conservative Party and bogus charities, if my memory serves, like Atlantic Bridge. Oilfields in Libya and Iraq protected by Tim Spicer’s (former Executive Outcomes) private armies funded by the Yanks. That’s just a summary.

  • Daniel


    It won’t be me threatening you after I pass on your potentially libelous remarks to Galloway’s office. Hsve a nice day.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    @ Goss re projected UK economic growth :

    “Habbabkuk a forecast is a forecast, reality is reality. Growth of what? Cabbages? If it means the growth of GDP then that is fiction.”

    Well, I think I’d rather take the IMF’s word (and that of the British Office for Budget Responsibility) for it than yours.

    Perhaps you’re thinking of the old Soviet Five Year Plan figures when you use the word “fiction”?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    From Daniel


    It won’t be me threatening you after I pass on your potentially libelous remarks to Galloway’s office. Hsve a nice day.”

    As Frankie Howerd might have said : ooooooooooh!

    I’m sure ESLO’s quaking.

    Be careful that you yourself don’t become of interest to the State…

  • mark golding


    The United States will deploy the HW Bush Carrier Strike Group into the Black Sea off the coast of Sochi, Russia, to respond to a potential terror attack during the upcoming Olympics, ‘top officials’ said on Monday.

    The USS George HW Bush has been practicing landings by the X-47B armed assault drone which can provide lethal missile attacks on suspected terrorists…

    The positioning of the ships would also enable the rapid evacuation of Americans in the event of an attack, CNN reported. The State Department would take the lead if evacuations became necessary.

    Don Borelli, a former member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, said the terrorist threat in Sochi, Russia, is unique because officials already know terrorists are planning an attack in Sochi sometime during the Olympics…

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “Hababbkuk, you did not say growth of what?”

    This is very revelatory, isn’t it.

    Instead of welcoming the news of accelerating economic growth – probably marking the end of the economic downturn/crisis/whatever you want to call it – the best any of the Eminences can come up is to say “you didn’t say what sort of growth”.

    Had the IMF revised its forecast downwards,I’m sure that Mary would have been first off with the breaking news, followed rapidly by some other Eminences taking pleasure in castigating the Evil Tory-Fascist-Imperialist coalition govt for further grinding the faces of the population into the dust.

    So I say again : rejoice! Or, as Uncle Joe Stalin said (ca. 1932): life is getting better, life is getting merrier!

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “Don Borelli, a former member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, said the terrorist threat in Sochi, Russia, is unique because officials already know terrorists are planning an attack in Sochi sometime during the Olympics…”

    In which case it is surely prudent and indeed praiseworthy of all the authorities concerned to do their utmost to forestall any such event?

  • Pykrete

    Re the above link …. to avoid lots of maths and stuff, skip to page 36 for the summary.

  • glenn_uk

    I wonder if the last administration realised the problem it was creating, when it lied so shamelessly and extensively in its eagerness to join America in its Iraq adventure. All state apparatus – civil service, national propaganda outlets and the armed forces – colluded to deceive the public. As a result, there is no reason to trust them again, whatever the claim. Various supposedly thwarted massive terrorist plots have only served to increase cynicism.

    This is not just unfortunate, it’s positively dangerous – if a genuine threat actually did come along, claims about it would be met with a large degree of scepticism – for good reason.

    Frankly, I don’t know whether these latest claims are real or not. But it’s quite obvious there is an agenda to launch an offensive against yet another country which does not act as a client state, and the last few times we went through this process it was based entirely on lies. It’s also clear that these “experts” who pontificate about the horrors of the Syrian regime are nothing like as independent as we were supposed to believe. One would think the BBC would make great pains to ensure partiality, after their discreditable performance on any number of recent UK/US/Israeli offensives.

    If we’re to choose a side, and if people are going to be killed in our name – as British citizens – we should require a lot more convincing than the mere say-so of government spokespeople and their paid stooges. Particularly when the BBC acts as an unquestioning cheerleader for government’s position.

  • mark golding

    Who are the terrorists that pose a threat to Olympic Games?

    Is it not a case of joining the dots?

    From we learn from a leaked diplomatic cable from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that states, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” The other terrorists we know are Chetchen from further leaks of secret meetings between Putin and Prince Bandar, the Saudi intelligence head. America backs the Saudis, they back al-Qaida, the Taliban and the Chechen terrorists, through its relationship with the House of Saud.

    A testimony from former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, talking about “Operation Gladio B being an ongoing NATO funded operation in cooperation with the Pentagon to stir up Islamic radical terrorism specifically in the North Caucasus region and the surrounding area as a type of threat to Russia and China …,”

    More than 30 people were murdered by two consecutive suicide attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, northeast of Sochi, which will host the Winter Games on February 7-23, 2014.


    On September 1, 2004, a group of Chechen terrorists took hostage and two days later murdered at least 335 schoolchildren and parents in Beslan, a town in the Russian republic of North Ossetia.

    The main Chechen rebel leader during the first Chetchen war, Dzhokhar Dudayev, had a somewhat secular nationalist outlook.

    Alexander Iskanderyan, director of the Center for Caucasian Studies in Moscow, has notably said, “..the Chechen independence movement had no Islamic dimension at all.”

    When the conflict began to attract media coverage, Islamic jihadis migrated to Chechnya. Nearly twenty years on from independence the majority of Chechens just want peace and autonomy. However many prominent Chechnya commanders such as Shamil Basayev have become radicalised into a so called Islamic support network influenced by the West who control such stooges as British national Baba Ahmad and ‘other’ SAS trained mercenaries.

    Chechnya is the new Afghanistan and a diplomatic and military quagmire.

  • writeon

    Well, where to start, that’s the question, and, after all, it’s Craig’s blog.

    If the West effectively destroys a country, smashing it to pieces by delibrately targetting its infrastructure and the state apparatus, which leads to the disintegration of the state, a state which is often held together by a strongman and his army; this result isn’t accidental if one repeats it over and over again. It’s policy a strategy. Perhaps we’d prefer not to destroy these countries, but that’s what we do if we have to, if they don’t obey orders, if we can get away with it, and as the countries we attack are always so weak it’s tempting to just wipe them off the map. Why do we do it? Well, it’s got precious little to do with democracy or freedom, because our leaders don’t give a damn about them. Sometimes it seems like we smash them simply because we can. Empires like our, like all empires abhor a vacuum, and seem to have an urge to move into them if they can. It’s the imperial imperative I suppose.

    We don’t like countries that develop too much, because they might become rivals and stop obeying orders some day. Also if they become too independent they start to use too much of their own resources, which leaves less for us, resources which we consider to be ours. Iraq is a classic example. Saddam was on our payrole for years. A CIA thug who was ruthless and useful to us. But even thugs can get above their station and dream about becoming kings themselves, and that was his big mistake. So he, and Iraq had to be punished and an example made. So we killed our boy and killed Iraq too. Smashed countries are weak and their resources remain in the ground until we need them, and most importantly we make sure the Chinese are kept out.

    This model applies to Libya as well. Over fifty thousand Chinese worked in Libya on various projects, now they are gone, Libya has been destroyed and set back decades, and all of Africa has been weakened as well because Libya was a tremendous source of capital for numerous infra-structure initiatives. So, from our point of view smashing Libya was a strategic masterstroke.

    This is simplifying, but the West, only really accepts two sorts of states; vassals or potential enemies, and the latter are usually those that act too independently or ask to be treated as equals. Vassal states, or protectorates within the sphere of our western empire, can pretty much do they please internally, there’s room for flexabilaty, as long as they know who’s boss and don’t step out of line, obey orders, pay homage and tribute to the imperial centre. The rest had better watch out!

    There are many advantages to destroying states, not least it justifies our vast and disproportionate military expenditure. The corporations that provide for military have their greedy snouts firmly in the treasury and lap up huge profits at the taxpayers expense and a massive transfer of wealth follows from the ordinary person through taxes into the pockets of the people who own the weapons producing corporations. For them war is an eternal Christmas day. So there is an economic incentive in going to war, colossal profits for the few paid for by the many.

    Finally, empires, and ours is no exception, have to expand. It’s part of the imperial imperative. There is no equalibrium with an empire. It is either expanding, or contracting. There is no other way. Now ours is getting ready to confront Russia and China. Makes on glad to live in interesting times.

  • Kempe

    “Over fifty thousand Chinese worked in Libya on various projects, now they are gone ”

    Well most if not all foreign workers in Libya left when the trouble started and the return has been slow. China still holds large contracts in the country and Libya supplies 12% of China’s oil imports.

  • John Goss

    Good answer Writeon. I have a children’s schoolbook, may be quite scarce, about Lord Roberts, which demonstrates the justice of empires. Whether you’re totally right with “Perhaps we’d prefer not to destroy these countries, but that’s what we do if we have to, if they don’t obey orders, if we can get away with it, and as the countries we attack are always so weak it’s tempting to just wipe them off the map.” I’m not sure. But we definitely subjugate the natives. Roberts, the only other military man to have a state funeral, relates how when natives (India in this case) tried to take back land stolen from them their punishment was to be fired from a cannon. Let that be a lesson to them. It is a lesson to me. History they taught in schools lauding ‘great’ men like Roberts and Rhodes was the wrong way to teach children the truth. We are and were thieves. That is the truth.

  • Resident Dissident


    It won’t be me threatening you after I pass on your potentially libelous remarks to Galloway’s office. Hsve a nice day.”

    Quite comical really – I’d beware Eslo’s Dad is probably bigger than your Dad.

    Do you really think that when the Times, Telegraph and Guardian have reported and continue to report a link between Al Mayaden and Assad, and it being a matter of public record that Galloway has received money from Al Mayaden (and Eslo’s maths is correct that at least £50,000 is over a million shillings) that Eslo has anything to worry about.

    The courts would be full of people here if reporting what is said in newspapers and on the internet constituted a libel.

    PS if you are the same Daniel I beat up yesterday, I ‘d keep quite about your other views, I somehow think that the office of the cat impersonator would be none too impressed.

    PPS perhaps I should write to the Office of Tony Blair and tell him of all the nasty things Mary is saying about him – or even better I could write to the lovely Cherie she will now what to do.

    PPPS sorry Mary only joking!

  • hermit

    The Qatar/Carter Ruck report quotes one anonymous witness “Caesar” who was interviewed on 12, 13 and 18 January, in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, for a report issued on 20 January which purported to have some analysis of 55,000 images.
    Given the current PR fog around Syria it’s difficult to take it seriously without much more information.
    On Turkey I strongly disagree with Craig’s viewpoint. But the military has traditionally been the most trusted institution in the country – a poll some years ago put its support at 80%.
    There are a number of fault lines in Turkish society. The 12 million or so Kurds obviously. Less obviously somewhere up to 20 million Alevi – a Shia sect which has been historically oppressed by the Sunni majority and which has, for example, traditionally more western attitudes to the position of women in society and indeed to the demon drink. The division has been exacerbated by Erdogan – naming the 3rd Bosphorus bridge after a sultan renowned for slaughtering 40,000 Alevis and saying – after an act of terrorism in the Syrian border town of Reyhanli – that 50 of so “Sunni brothers” had perished. No surprise really that of the half dozen protesters who died during the Gezi park inspired demonstrations around the country all were Alevi.

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