Some sensible thoughts on Syria

Stephen Franks blogs about a discussion in his office over Syria, especially over the Onion satire piece about Syria.

[The Onion is ] Funny as usual.

However, jokes aside, I think it buys into a misunderstanding about what is going on there.  The pieces just don’t fit the public narrative. Although, I must acknowledge “John’s Law” –  those who think it is a conspiracy don’t understand the power of the plain old  f—   up.

I don’t agree with the portrayal of Assad as in the least insane.  Only a few years ago he was being feted (and, ahem,  wined and dined)  by pretty much everyone as a practical reformer, trying to bring Syria out from under his fathers murderous shadow (remember, his father had a whole town liquidated to quell a rebellion).  Acts of horror abound in the Middle East, where strength and lack of pity are virtues. 

al-Assad isn’t insane…brutal, but not insane.

I still don’t believe the public version of the gas story.  The cost benefit analysis was just too negative for Assad – score a very localised tactical victory (and even that isn’t clear) at the risk of forcing  Obama across his “red line”, and certainly facing a massive increase in funding for the rebels and probably some sort of air strike.  So we are left with the only motive as insanity, but there is no actual evidence he is of unsound mind at all.

And I don’t believe anything Kerry, Obama or anyone else says about the intelligence information, given previous misinformation about Iraq and straight out lies about Benghazi.  From what I can tell, the evidence of a military style poison gas attack by Assad’s forces is equivocal – its likely, but far from certain.

I’d follow the benefits (i.e. follow the money).  The parties who benefit from the media furore over the attack most are the Rebels and the Russians.  The Rebels because they score intervention, to partially counterbalance Iranian and Russian support for Assad.  The Russians/Iranians on the other hand have a huge interest in testing the West’s resolve and in humiliating Obama, who they have already sized up as a blow-hard who holds traditional diplomacy in contempt.

So I think a likely scenario is that once Obama had issued his foolish ultimatum, and Russia was sure there could be no “coalition of the willing”, Russia (directly or via Iran) gave Assad personal security guarantees in return for him ordering gas to be used.  It is such an easy power politics win for them it is embarrassing. As long as they don’t get caught red handed, its all upside.  On this theory the gassing happened precisely because Obama issued the ultimatum.  we know from past performance that ordering the deliberate killing of thousands of civilians wouldn’t give Putin or the Ayatollahs even a moment’s pause.

In any event, for Obama to make a big deal about a ‘red line’ without having first stitched up a coalition behind the scenes was a monumental unforced foreign policy blunder, for which the Middle East and Eastern Europe will pay dearly.

I’m hoping the US does launch missile attacks, to at least salvage some measure of deterrent credibility.  It doesn’t matter either way to the Syrians, who have the misfortune to have become the playthings of great powers.  I hate being on Obama’s side on anything, but having made such a foolish ultimatum, he simply must make good on it.  Otherwise  Russia will be hugely emboldened, and that could lead to a bad place – an arms race in Europe.

The whole place is screwed, there are no good sides, best thing to do would be to leave them at it…let them kill each other…will save on a bigger effort at a later date.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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