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!

    Israel declared itself a state after that UN Resolution either Anon or Resident Dissident referred to.

    Why did the West Bank not similarly declare itself an independent state? Could it be because the Jordanians were sitting on them (and continued to do so until 1967)?

  • Herbie

    Dearie, dearie me.

    It’s even in The Economist now:

    “Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.””

  • Mary

    New post please Craig.

    As Macky so adroitly observed at the bottom of page 1, ‘nothing has changed on this blog’.

    PS In Surrey, as elsewhere, trees are leafless from Autumn until Spring. That is the meaning of ‘deciduous’ in case of non familiarity with the word.


    shedding the leaves annually, as certain trees and shrubs.
    falling off or shed at a particular season, stage of growth, etc., as leaves, horns, or teeth.
    not permanent; transitory. .

  • Phil

    Glenn_uk 15 Feb, 2014 – 2:55 am
    “Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet. It’s a bit old now (2007), but stands well. We’re screwed, basically…If you have children or grandchildren, total denial is your best bet.”

    I have just read this article linked from the ‘Six Degrees’ Wikipedia page. I am taken aback. Does everyone else here dismiss these predictions as ludicrous? Glenn has just pointed out your children are condemned to die in hell on earth and he is ignored. Come on, you must have really good reason to not fear such predictions. Please tell me them.

  • fred


    It’s quite simple, Resolution 181 obviously didn’t create the state of Israel or it would have also created a state of Palestine. Admitting Israel to the UN did not create the state of Israel, by that time they already claimed to be a state.

    At the time the British and American governments still supported apartheid regimes in Africa, in fact America still had segregation. Despite the best efforts of people like you that has now changed, it is seen as the injustice it was and those who supported it seen for the racists they were. Despite the best efforts of people like you we will now campaign for justice for the people of Palestine.

  • Sofia Kibo Noh

    Fred. 2 43pm

    Re endless din about antisemitism.

    “It just doesn’t bother me either way.

    What concerns me is the injustice imposed on the people of Palestine. How come you keep trying to focus on one person? How come you keep trying to incriminate those on this forum because they state the facts not your prejudices.

    Just look at the facts, the people of Palestine are being denied their basic human rights. That is what matters, not if some bloke I never heard of is an anti-semite or not.”

    I can’t add to that. Thanks.

  • Anon

    Phil, it was some time ago we read in the Times that our children would never see snow again.

    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is”, said Dr David Viner of the now thoroughly discredited CRU of the University of East Anglia, in 2000.

    All sorts of wild predictions are made but they barely ever come to pass. The article you link to is nothing short of hysterical.

  • Anon


    I hope you won’t call me a troll, but I thought this had been put to bed after a conversation I had with you or someone else some months ago.

    The PressTV article cites 260,000 dead from the Dresden bombing raids. This figure has been found to have been falsified Nazi propaganda, which you appear to have no qualms buying into. The actual figure, virtually all studies now agree, and which is accepted by Dresden’s own city council, is around 25,000.

  • Phil

    Anon 15 Feb, 2014 – 8:47 pm
    “Phil, it was some time ago we read in the Times that our children would never see snow again…The article you link to is nothing short of hysterical.”

    Anon I don’t know how old you are but I can remember when snow regularly snowed round here. Now we hardly see it. I was hoping for more substantial reassurance.

  • Resident Dissident

    “I think everything PressTV covers is undeniably true”

    No appealing to reason there I’m afraid – the patient is too far gone. I presume that you agree with their view that Dieudonne is anti Zionist rather than anti-Semitic and that my own examples reflect perfectly respectable behaviour for an anti Zionist.


    I know what deciduous trees are living in England – but they are also pretty common elsewhere: plenty of silver birch around Moscow as you are no doubt aware. I must say I wouldn’t take the tree analogy too far, since I have a particular dislike for leylandii – they fill up a lot of space with little elegance, blot out the light and sse it as their aim to stop a thousand flowers blooming.

  • glenn_uk

    Phil (15 Feb, 2014 – 8:30 pm) – there you have it. “Anon” airily dismisses the entire work as “nonsense”. No need to go into any detail, just declare it “nonsense”. And if more proof were required, drag out something that someone once claimed which didn’t actually happen.

    Here’s a site that self-declared “sceptics” won’t ever bother visiting:

    That site terrifies the bejesus out of “sceptics”. It is packed with solid references, actual facts, provides different levels of detail depending on the readers’ preference.

  • John Goss

    Anus, it wasn’t me. You sound like David Irving, denying the Nazi holocaust figures. The article says no such thing about 260,000 in Dresden. Read it again. Or read this. It was not just Dresden that was bombed.

    Of course as I’ve mentioned to your crony over torture if you are the one being tortured numbers do not matter. If you are one of the victims of that twat Harris numbers do not matter.

  • Anon

    I believe “leafy Surrey” refers to that county’s higher density of tree cover than any other in the UK, as well it’s reputation for affluence.

    Mary is wrong to claim that all trees are leafless from Autumn to Spring, as a glance from her window to the hornbeam hedge would testify. She might also note the bay trees and holm oaks which are popular throughout the county.

  • nevermind

    It is undeniable that scientific facts doe not persuade those who cannot see, Phil and Glenn. It is tragic that humanity has regressed into a specie that cannot see its own destruction and unsustainability.

    Life has been railroaded into accepted alleys and we somehow are all living in the alleys, not looking left or right or seeing the wall at the end. Its probably better so for what species are left when we had our nuclear unpleasantness.

    You’re looking much slippier than I remember Phil….;)

  • fred

    “Dieudonne is anti Zionist rather than anti-Semitic”

    Thanks for the info Res Dis, you saved me looking him up.

  • Sofia Kibo Noh

    25,000 or 500,000. What’s all the fuss about? After all they were only Germans.

    A hero of the British state here.

    Even the Daily Mail had this to say about the architect of the Dresden Holocaust.

    “Arthur Harris had no such excuse. Nor did the architects of the deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes. That, by the way, is what we did. As Harris himself said, the aim of his offensive should be unambiguously described as ‘the destruction of the German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany’.”


    Good to see you back Phil.

  • Resident Dissident


    You missed your vocation – you could have worked for an advertising agency promoting films and books by extracting the appropriate words from reviews.

  • Anon

    Nevermind, I can see mankind’s destruction and unsustainability all too well, which is why we need to be concentrating on real conservation issues. Do I believe the unknown certainties of a bunch of pseudo-science fraudsters with their jobs on the line, and the vested interests in politics and the media, Al Gore, Tim Yeo, the BBC et al? Sorry, no I don’t.

  • Anon

    Dross, the article states that 260,000 bodies and residues of bodies were found. It suggests there were even more. This is a complete lie, but not one that appears to bother you as the narritive is in the right direction.

  • fred

    “It’s rather important actually.”

    Still sounds like an awful lot of innocent civilians to roast to death in two days to me. Considering Britain only had 67,000 civilian casualties in the entire war.

    A crime against humanity either way.

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