Although this blog deals mostly with Russian politics, political figures and issues, occasionally the connection is purely peripheral. So it is today, when we’re going to talk about Russia and China’s veto of a UN Security Council Resolution centered on the situation in Syria. The fact that Russia is one of the countries which vetoed the resolution is largely secondary to the hysteria going on in the western press as a result of it, the fascinating glimpse of diplomatic maneuvering it offers, and the brass boldness of the western plan for Syria after the cataclysmic wreckage of Libya – brought about by the same regime-change blueprint.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flipped her wig over the veto – to be more specific, she said, “What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty”. America’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went further, pronouncing herself “disgusted” with the vote and, if gossip is to be believed, swearing at Russian Ambassador Vasily Churkin. In a totally unsurprising glimpse of why the vote had been held even with the likelihood of a Russian/Chinese veto (because the framework of the resolution is known long in advance so negotiation can iron out any no-go issues and so the arm-twisting can take place behind the scenes: the actual vote is about as exciting as Little House on the Prairie reruns), Ms. Rice intoned for posterity, “Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands”.
That kind of struck a familiar chord with me; I thought, where have I heard that before? And I remembered – in a discussion with the always-interesting Patrick Armstrong, a fellow Canadian, at Russia; Other Points of View. On that occasion, coincidentally enough, we were discussing the U.N. Security Council Resolution on Libya, which might have served as a copy-and-paste template for the Syrian one which aimed to push Bashar al-Assad off a cliff like Gaddafi.
Anyway, in a comment on the Libyan-resolution vote – in which I argued Medvedev made a fool of himself by publicly criticizing Putin for his “NATO crusades” remark – Mr. Armstrong supported his agreement with Russia’s abstention rather than a veto thus: “NATO says, if only it weren’t for Kadaffy-loving Russia, we could have saved hundreds of lives…” In hindsight, that was a remarkably perceptive piece of crystal-ball work, because it’s eerily close to Ms. Rice’s remark that further bloodshed in Syria will be Russia’s (and China’s) fault. Also in hindsight, Putin was right – the NATO effort in Libya went far, far beyond “protecting civilians”, brought to power a transitional government that had the al Qaeda standard flying above the Benghazi courthouse as soon as NATO pulled out and celebrated with a sea of al Qaeda flags throughout the city, and resulted in a prosperous, peaceful free-market democracy in much the same way that tapping an orange with a spoon turns it into an apple.
Western sources insist, comically, that the resolution on Syria was not about regime change. Let’s take a look at it. Right away, you notice among the co-sponsors appear the newly-back-under-Sharia-law Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The first is a new bobblehead that will rubber-stamp any western initiative likely to result in expansion of Islamic fundamentalist influence. The latter two are reliable western stooges; one advertises itself as “America’s strongest partner in the Gulf”, and the other is a monarchy in which everything is subject to state censorship, the authorities are unelected and unaccountable, women are largely excluded from the labour force and one in seven adults is illiterate. Gallant company, indeed.
Anyway, back to the resolution. Hmm… it calls for Assad to withdraw all his military forces to their barracks, to release all persons detained and to allow peaceful protests. My, that’ll certainly calm things down, won’t it? Additionally, he is to facilitate a “political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition”. In my experience, calling upon the leader to allow a “political transition” is a hint that they want you to take a hike. And, sure enough, the Jerusalem Post gleefully reports that no less than President Obama himself says Assad “must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately”. But the resolution was not about regime change. Of course not.
Sergei Lavrov described the western reaction to the veto as “hysterical and unseemly“, and it would be hard to call that overreaction. He pointed out that Russia had only requested the vote be delayed until the Russian delegation (Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkhov) returned from Damascus. The Security Council would have none of it, insisting the matter be put to a vote immediately and, as I suggested earlier, doubtless well aware it would inspire a veto. It should surprise none that the impatient partner so insistent on an immediate vote – even though it made a veto probable – was newly-pugnacious France, the hard-right prime mover of the Libyan debacle. France didn’t want to wait then, either, airdropping weapons to the Libyan “rebels” without bothering to inform its NATO partners. This time around, France is more cautious, insisting the vote went ahead because there were no objections although it is clear Russia did object and that going ahead in spite of objections would almost certainly lead to a veto.
What’s really going on in Syria? I say “really” going on, because I note western accounts rely exclusively on activists. Activists want a western military intervention that will empower them, and – obviously – have a motivation to offer a colourful narrative and to spin events to suit their objective. This was such a resounding success in Libya that western news agencies actually staged a fake collapse of Tripoli on the rebels’ behalf and broadcast it, to demoralize the state military and enable the rebel offensive – completing the bridge from reporting the news to making the news to making up the news. Since the press has regularly displayed great courage in the past, its reliance now on activist reports rather than its own journalists suggests it does not want to know what’s really happening, the better to pretend ignorance later.
This impression is strengthened by the Report of the Arab League Observer Mission, which largely supports the Syrian government’s version of events while discrediting the hand-wringing, weeping, stop-the-genocide-of-Assad offered by the mainstream media – who, as far as I can determine, ignored the report altogether. Here’s a teaser for you: “Immediately on arriving in Homs, the Head of the Mission met with the Governor of the city, who explained that there had been an escalation in violence perpetrated by armed groups in the city. There had been instances of kidnapping and sabotage of Government and civilian facilities. Food was in short supply owing to the blockade imposed by armed groups, which were believed to include some 3000 individuals. The Governor further stated that all attempts by religious figures and city notables to calm the situation had failed. He made enquiries regarding the possibility of addressing the issue of soldiers and vehicles blocked inside Baba Amr.”
This is Homs, where Britain’s representative to the United Nations would have you believe Assad’s forces were besieging the city with heavy artillery just the night before the U.N. vote. More? Sure: “In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed”. The British Ambassador remarks caustically that jelly-spined Russia would not get with the program even after language that expressed very modest concern about weapons was taken out, because Russia worried it might constitute an arms embargo. And no doubt it would if, say, Russia decided to move a few SAM systems into Syria to deter air attack on government forces. But a few may remember that the great Islamic-fundamentalist-empowerment festivities in Libya kicked off with…that’s right, Resolution 1970, an arms embargo. Did that have any effect on military intervention? Certainly not – Resolution 1973 merely rode right over it; “notwithstanding the provisions of Resolution 1970…”
As noted in the MSNBC link with which I led off, the Syrian government has tried to warn the western media that it is being gamed by opposition figures. Western governments respond that they believe the activists. How you gonna argue with logic like that? “The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded. The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns”.
Why, then, are there no western journalists on the ground in Syria? Too dangerous, maybe? It’s not too dangerous for crazy Irishwoman Lizzie Phelan, reporting from Damascus. Appearing not in the least concerned about danger, she avers that actual events broadly support the narrative of the Observers Report; that much of the spin stovepiped to the western media comes from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a London-based agency with a questionable background and alleged ties to western intelligence services – and that western media descriptions of Assad’s thugs shooting into crowds of peaceful protesters are completely fabricated. A recent interview which I picked up at Sublime Oblivion, conducted by Algeria’s La Nouvelle Republique and featuring French journalist Thierry Meyssan, lends authoritative weight to Ms. Phelan’s conjectures: according to Meyssan, there is no real “Free Syrian Army” as portrayed in the western press. Instead, it consists of a couple of hundred individuals who are based in Turkey and Lebanon, and parades for the cameras whenever the western media wants a money shot. The real resistance to the Syrian government is al Qaeda-affiliated irregulars under the command of Libyan Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Belhaj is a controversial individual who was recently detained leaving the airport in Tripoli with a large bag of cash for the Syrian “rebels”. Qatar – America’s Strongest Partner in the Gulf” – has been fronting the “rebels” weapons. Again according to Meyssan, the U.N. High Commissioner cited some 5000 “victims of repression”, but could supply only two names, neither of which checked out. The armed factions fighting the government are Pashtuns and Arabs recruited by Saudi Arabia and trained by German and French Special Forces. He closes with the observation that the Muslim Brotherhood which the west would like to install in Syria is historically linked to MI6, and is “swimming in grants from the Gulf Cooperation Council”. High-octane stuff.
The west has a solid motive for taking Syria off the board; it is a regional ally of Iran, and Iran is the final domino. But the west wants it isolated and alone. And Washington, at least, is undeterred by the Russia/China veto. Showing more resemblance all the time to Bush-style foreign policy, Washington is busily agitating for an international coalition to support the Syrian rebels, outside the diplomacy of the U.N. You almost have to admire that kind of single-minded unity of purpose. Almost.
But it’s important to remember, in the days to come, that it’s based on lies. Just like the notion that casting a veto to stop irresponsible military action is a disgraceful act on a par with farting in church. Come on; Mrs. Clinton has been in politics a long, long time. She surely remembers the 42 times the United States has vetoed U.N. Resolutions on behalf of Israel between 1972 and 2011 – 3 of them in a row increasingly-desperate efforts to halt the military operations in Gaza which ultimately killed 100 Palestinians for every Israeli who died – and which in each case saw the USA cast the single opposing vote.
I am indebted to readers Yalensis and Alexander Mercouris for material that appears in this post.