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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  • Clark

    ESLO, I think that you and I may have a basis for agreement and cooperation. But I’m very troubled that much criticism on these threads lacks compassion and can become aggressive. I’m only human, and suffer as much as others from the positive feedback effect of aggression feeding aggression, leading to polarisation and side-taking. Please help me, and all of us, overcome that.

  • Ba’al Zevul (La Vita è Finita)

    Only if they’ve signed up, ESLO. Israel signed the Charter, but didn’t sign the optional protocol I mentioned above. Revealing as to their intentions – no appeal elsewhere to those arbitrarily arrested by the IDF and confined indefinitely, for instance.

  • John Goss

    It out Nazis the Nazis because it is being enshrined in the Obama constitution which does not need approval from Congress. If you do not read the report in my last comment at least watch the video (2nd link).

  • Ba’al Zevul (La Vita è Finita)

    Have you ever read Resolution 181

    It refers to a “Jewish State” 30 times!

    It also delimits the Jewish State which is to exist, alongside an Arab State, and within borders giving most of the West Bank and 1/3 of the Mediterranean coast to the latter. With access to the whole of Jerusalem to both parties. Not ‘eretz-Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates’, you will kindly note.

  • Ba’al Zevul (La Vita è Finita)

    ‘3. Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in part III of this plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948. The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described in parts II and III below.’

    You cited it: now read it!

  • Clark

    John Goss, I share your concerns at 1:51 pm. Many are concerned with the dangers of overpopulation; it is of course the main driver of CO2 production and hence global warming. But there is a scare story popular mainly among the whacky US Right that the UN is the heart of a conspiracy to “cull” much of the human population, and it is used as an argument against international cooperation through the UN.

    Internet news sources and analysis is doing much to overcome the narrowness of the field of debate within the corporate media, but at the expense of verification and hence credibility. When using the Internet for news, it is important always to seek out contradicting sources and analysis. Please don’t feel I’m being overly critical; it took me a couple of years to address this problem in myself.

  • ESLO

    ” But I’m very troubled that much criticism on these threads lacks compassion and can become aggressive.”

    Why are you only raising this me – I make a point of not being aggressive until being provoked, and even then I will often wait a few times. If others followed the same rule then there would be no problem.

  • ESLO


    No one is saying that Israel has acted in accordance with International Law since its establishment – it clearly hasn’t but then neither has its enemies. The issue being discussed was whether Israel had the right to exist under International Law which has been more than demonstrated to my satisfaction several times.

  • Clark

    ESLO, I raised that matter with you because I am hopeful that you’ll help me with it. Possibly also because I felt ridiculed in one of your comments about “groupthink”, which I intended for all commenters, not just the ones you may think I consider to be “my own side”.

  • doug scorgie

    19 Feb, 2014 – 1:25 pm

    “Have you ever read Resolution 181?”

    “It refers to a “Jewish State” 30 times!”

    Yes ESLO it mentions “Jewish state” and it mentions “Arab state” it was a partition plan after all.

    But it does not declare or even mention Israel as a Jewish state.

    If you can find any UN resolution that defines Israel as a Jewish state please reference it and I will be humbled.

  • doug scorgie

    Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!
    18 Feb, 2014 – 11:26 pm

    “The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human liberty and dignity, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

    I apologise Habbabkuk. In speed reading the Basic Laws [because you didn’t indicate which one] I missed that reference.

    However it does not change my position. I believe Zionism to be a racist ideology and it was the Zionists that created Israel in the first place and a Zionist Knesset that produced that Basic Law you mention, though this was not until 1992.

    The Basic Laws are, as you know, various pieces of legislation from the Knesset that outline the nation’s political structure and have no legal standing outside Israel.

    The Basic Law you cite says “…to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

    The Zionist can’t have it both ways Habbabkuk – a Jewish AND democratic state.

    What we have in Israel is democracy for Jews because, within the 1967 borders, the majority of the population are Jews (75% I believe). Ethnic cleansing and the “ingathering” were responsible for that.It would be impossible for a non-Jewish government to be elected under these circumstances.

    However there is what is termed the “population time-bomb” which poses a dilemma for the Zionists who want to maintain Israel’s Jewish identity.

    That is: to maintain Israel’s claim as a democracy and lose its Jewishness or to maintain its Jewishness and lose its claim to be a democracy.

    Because the Zionists will not give up the Jewish character of the state they must continuously build and expand its Jewish- only settlements in the West Bank, which it is doing; delay every peace process to buy time; which it has (and is) doing; build separation walls and fences, which it has and come up with schemes like land swaps and static transfer to ensure a perpetual Jewish majority within any future borders it may define.

  • fred

    “No one is saying that Israel has acted in accordance with International Law since its establishment – it clearly hasn’t but then neither has its enemies. The issue being discussed was whether Israel had the right to exist under Internation”

    I keep asking people to tell me which laws they are referring to but they never do.

  • Mary

    It turns out that G4S had the contract for running the ‘facilities’ in Manus for the boat people hoping to land in Australia.

    The Manus Breakout
    The Limits of the Gulag


    ‘G4S, the British company dealing with security assumes itself to be on par with the British or Dutch East Indies Company, a thug operating with a degree of impunity across Asia and the Middle East. Its website calls it, “The world’s leading international security solutions group.” Its primary aim is “Securing Your World.”

    The company has had enough difficulty being secure about itself. It has proven to have a ravenous appetite for scandal. It is being investigated by the UK Serious Fraud Office over two contracts. Last November, it admitted to overcharging the UK taxpayer to the tune of £24.1 million for tagging dead criminals. That charming bungle added to its less than ordinary performance during the London 2012 Olympics (The Independent, Feb 18).

    The security firm has proven to be incompetent and brutal. A whistleblower within its ranks came forth last July, outlining to the Australian SBS program Dateline instances of sexual assault within the facility. An independent review followed, one which found wide spread instances of self-harm, protestation and lip sewing (The Guardian, Nov 1, 2013).

    Last January, G4S guards were found mocking an asylum seeker who had swallowed a pair of nail clippers. The messages were posted on Facebook. “Merry Christmas all,” came the comment from one of the guards, Darren Powell. “One of these jokers just swallowed a pair of nail clippers” (The Guardian, Jan 31). Another employee, the very suitable named Jason Drain, had a wish. “I want to be his escort to the shitter when he passes them.” It is with scant comfort that three of those guards no longer work with the firm – G4S could, at best, reproach them for having misused social media platforms.’

  • ESLO

    “The Zionist can’t have it both ways Habbabkuk – a Jewish AND democratic state”

    So would you argue that no state that has a state religion is capable of being a democracy?

  • ESLO

    I keep asking people to tell me which laws they are referring to but they never do.

    Simple answer is the UN Charter under which Israel has been recognised as a member state.

  • ESLO

    But it does not declare or even mention Israel as a Jewish state.

    I think you are just being deliberately obtuse – what did you want it to be called Big Tit Land?

  • Dreoilin

    “Ba’al Zevul – Lord of ….Fire? …. Ring of Fire …… Indonesian Islands including Komodo, where the dragon rules …..???? Hmmm, doesn’t make too much sense when it’s written down, but then again, Komodo didn’t always make sense either ….. I’m going for it, that’s my guess.”

    From Hebrew בַּעַל זְבוּב (Ba’al Zevuv) meaning “lord of flies”, intended as a mocking alteration of בּאל זבל (Ba’al Zevul) “Ba’al the exalted”, one of the Canaanite names for their god BA’AL. In Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ (1667) this was the name of Satan’s chief lieutenant.

  • fred

    “Simple answer is the UN Charter under which Israel has been recognised as a member state.”

    Could you point out which part of the UN Charter states Israel has a right to exist?

  • Resident Dissident

    No Fred – you are absolutely right the Charter says nothing whatsoever about the sovereign equality of members or their rights and benefits – so it is totally ok to drive Isreal into the sea or whatever is the current position in the Hamas Charter. You are quite clearly just a WUM.

  • fred

    “No Fred – you are absolutely right the Charter says nothing whatsoever about the sovereign equality of members or their rights and benefits – so it is totally ok to drive Isreal into the sea or whatever is the current position in the Hamas Charter. You are quite clearly just a WUM.”

    What I am is someone who has questioned the Zionist propaganda.

    More than one person has chanted the same mantra about Israel’s right to exist but the fact is it just doesn’t have one.

    If you would like to check the maps of the Middle East you will see that it is in fact the Palestinians who are being pushed into the sea. 1.75 million people squashed into a 139 square miles.

    Keep posting bullshit and I’ll keep on humiliating you.

  • John Goss

    It’s hard I know, and I am as guilty as anyone, but I tried genuinely to steer the blog back onto how well Craig Murray had predicted the breakdown of the talks in Geneva, and the modern aggressors thirst for a war there and the removal of Assad. However I have watched it deteriorate into a slanging match between those who believe Israel has the right to exist as an independent state, which I believe it has.

    I would expand on this because I also believe Palestine has the right to exist as an independent state, that the theft of Palestinian land and the building of walls everywhere, round Bethlehem, and everywhere is wrong. These walls, like the Berlin wall, must one day fall. They do not engender mutual tolerance and integration, which is a great pity, since nearly every country in the world today is tolerant of Jews. I see the problem being Jewish nationalism, like that of the woman in the film Mary linked last night, who believed that God had given this land to the Jews exclusively. She, an adviser to government, came across as a repulsive Nazi-type person.

    Please, I am calling for peace. But everybody seems so embittered, in agreeably an issue which raises hackles on all sides that I cannot see anything constructive coming from the comments. It is a bad world. We need to start looking at where our various governments are failing us.

  • Sofia Kibo Noh

    ESLO. 1 22pm

    Welcome home. Please accept my commiserations over the Sochi fiaso. Too bad about the medals. Anyone who can steer a rocket-propelled bobsleigh through the wake of Team Ganja has talents too great to be wasted pretending to be dumb on a blog. But if you insist then we’ll have to make the most of it.

    “Have you ever read the Hamas Charter – I don’t think you will find much secularism or democracy.”

    Consider resolution 273 –
    ‘Noting furthermore the declaration by the State of Israel that it “unreservedly accepts the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertakes to honour them from the day when it becomes a member of the United Nations’

    Hasn’t 65 years of blatant disregard for the UN charter rather undermined any claims of legitimacy?

    So Hamas may not be saints. But if you make it impossible for the gentle peacemakers surely you are selecting for fiercer opponents. Just look at how you treat Clark. If you beatup on everyone who works for a civilised negotiated resolution who the feck do you expect to have to deal with in the end?

    The issue is how will the people of Israel and the people whose grandparents and theirs were born there find a way out of the mess that 65+ years of landgrabbing and killing leaves behind.

    Sooner or later, whatever it’s called, people will coexist there again and, just as here in Ireland, it won’t be easy, but it will be a better than war.

    Let’s see Israel legitimate itself by acting in accordance with the Un Charter. Then it will be appropriate to expect others to do the same.

    At some point people will have to negotiate in good faith. Please do us all a favour and start soon.

    Lizardly, Dreoilin and A Node

    Thanks for your kindness in pointing out the bleeding obvious. I’m not too bright myself, am I? And heartbroken again too. My Lovely Lizard dumped me by changing his name and I never noticed! It’s worse than being dumped by text.

    As for you Mister Heartless Demon Reptile. You better pray the UN Charter covers the wreckage of our romance. I will be seeking legal advice.

  • Dreoilin

    It wasn’t bleeding obvious to me, Sofia. These things never are (to me). I wouldn’t have noticed if Lizardly had said nothing. 😉

  • A Node

    Resident Dissident
    Is this Knesset member being anti-Semitic?

    “Knesset member endorses settlement boycott.
    While legislators in Australia, France and the U.S. are seeking to punish those who call for boycott of Israel, the leader of the Israeli party Meretz said she practices a boycott of settlement products and supports a European Union policy to not invest over the Green Line. “I haven’t bought products from the settlements for years,” said Zahava Gal-On in an interview this week with Haaretz:

    ‘The decision by the EU as part of Horizon 2020, an umbrella program for research and development, was dramatic and significant. It stated that the billions to be invested here would be invested inside legitimate and sovereign Israel and not in the settlements. I support that policy. I haven’t bought products from the settlements for years. The governments of Israel, which hid their heads in the sand and did not look reality in the eye, were partying as if they were on the Titanic, ignoring the angry European iceberg that approached them. Israel should not be investing in the settlements. The policy of control of the settlements will cause European friends to stop investing in Israel completely.”

  • doug scorgie

    19 Feb, 2014 – 5:09 pm

    Doug Scorgie says:
    “The Zionist can’t have it both ways Habbabkuk – a Jewish AND democratic state”

    “So would you argue that no state that has a state religion is capable of being a democracy?”

    The Jews ESLO are an ethnic race or tribe many of them are atheists or secularists.

    The Jewish state is for Jews whether they are religious or not.

    It is based on ethnicity and as such racist by putting the Jews above all other ethnic groups in Israel.

    Don’t get mixed up ESLO the Jews are a race, Judaism is a religion.

    The Zionists do not claim Israel to be a Judaic state but a Jewish state.

    There is a big difference.

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