Though I have been very preoccupied over the last few days I am writing this short post to explain what actually took place in the Security Council on 19th July 2012 since this is not being reported properly.

The Security Council’s meeting stems from the Geneva Conference, which took place a few weeks ago to discuss the Syrian crisis.  Over the course of that conference all five permanent members of the Security Council (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) pledged to support a peace plan proposed by the UN envoy and former Secretary General Kofi Annan.  This plan calls for an immediate ceasefire and negotiations leading to the establishment of a transitional government to take Syria out of the crisis.  The purpose of the Security Council meeting was to extend the UN monitoring mission set up to support Annan’s peace plan and to enshrine Annan’s peace plan in a Security Council Resolution so as to give the plan legal force.

The Security Council on 19th July 2012 was presented with two competing drafts.  The one that was eventually put to the vote was drafted by the British government but was supported by all the other western powers including the US, France and Germany.  The other draft was prepared by the Russian government but was not put to the vote and has now been withdrawn.

The text of the proposed draft Resolution is here:

The draft Resolution is clearly stated as being made under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  This empowers the Security Council to take action (including military action) where there is a perceived threat to peace.

The draft does, though rather grudgingly, recognise that some responsibility for the current violence in Syria rests with the Syrian rebels as well as with the Syrian government.  The draft calls on the rebels along with the government to observe a ceasefire.  However the draft still puts the overwhelming weight of the blame for the violence on the Syrian government.  The rebels by contrast are let off very lightly.  The preamble for example

“….. (condemns) the series of bombings that have made the situation more complex and deadly, some of which are indicative of the presence of well-organised terrorist groups” (italics added).

These words leave open the possibility that the bombings, which have killed many civilians, are the work not of the rebels but of the Syrian government.  Coming the day after the killing by a terrorist bomb of the Syrian Defence Minister and other high ranking Syrian officials this seems to me an extraordinary choice of words to put it mildly especially as Al Qaeda has itself admitted that it is now operating in Syria alongside the rebels and given that this has been confirmed by the US government’s own intelligence agencies.

The crucial paragraphs in the draft are paragraphs 4 and 14.  Paragraph 4 requires the Syrian government to withdraw all its heavy military equipment from urban centres.  Paragraph 14 says that if the Syrian government fails to do this within 10 days the Security Council will “immediately” impose sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter.

Article 41 of the UN Charter authorises financial sanctions but does not authorise the use of force.  Paragraph 15 of the draft however requires the Secretary General to report to the Security Council compliance with the Resolution every 15 days.  This opens the way for authorisation of military action under Article 42 once the Secretary General reports that the Article 41 sanctions are not working.  Article 42 says

“Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security….” (italics added).

Contrary to what is therefore being said (including by Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the Security Council) the draft Resolution therefore paves the way for eventual military action against Syria.

As the drafters of the Resolution know if the Resolution had been passed it would have been suicide for the Syrian government to comply with it.  At a time when there is a rebel offensive underway against Damascus the Resolution orders the Syrian government to withdraw from Damascus the heavy weapons it is using to defend Damascus.  The Resolution makes no comparable demand or threat to the rebels.  If Syrian rebels fail to observe the ceasefire the Resolution orders (as on past experience they would be certain to do) the Resolution imposes no threat or sanction upon them.

The purpose of the Resolution was not therefore to put into effect Annan’s peace plan.  The purpose of the Resolution was to overthrow the Syrian government.  Had the Resolution been passed the Syrian government would have been ordered to withdraw its heavy weapons from Damascus and the other cities in the face of a rebel offensive under threat of sanctions and with the ultimate threat of military action if it did not.  The collapse of the Syrian government’s military position and its overthrow would be certain to follow were it to comply.  Article 41 sanctions would follow within 10 days when it did not. Even after the Article 41 sanctions had been imposed the Syrian government would however still be unable to comply with the Resolution by withdrawing its heavy weapons from Damascus and the other cities without jeopardising its own survival.  In the event however that it do not withdraw its heavy weapons from Damascus and the cities the Secretary General would be bound to report within 15 days to the Security Council that the Syrian government was still failing to comply with the Resolution notwithstanding the Article 41 sanctions that had been imposed.  Since the Secretary General would in effect  be reporting to the Security Council that the Article 41 sanctions had failed to achieve the desired effect demands for a further Resolution authorising military action under Article 42 would become irresistible.

In other words this draft Resolution is as biased and as lopsided as the previous western draft Resolutions that were vetoed in the Security Council in October and February.  Its purpose was not to make possible a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis but to pave the way for a rebel military victory whilst opening up the prospect of western military action if this failed to happen.

In the event Russia and China vetoed the Resolution just as they vetoed the two previous western draft Resolutions proposed to the Security Council in October and February.  This is consistent with their foreign policy position, which I discussed in my previous post.  Once again there appears to have been a concerted attempt to pressure and embarrass Russia and China to change their position with Obama actually telephoning Putin on the eve of the Security Council vote in what appears to have been a last ditch attempt to persuade Russia to support or at least to refrain from opposing the Resolution.  Once again this attempt was a failure.

Of greater concern to the US and the other western powers should be signs of growing exasperation with their Syrian policy on the part of the Security Council’s non permanent members.  Whereas in October and February Russia and China acted alone in voting against the western proposed draft Resolutions on this occasion they were joined by Pakistan and South Africa, which refused to vote for the Resolution but instead abstained.  The summary of the discussion of the Resolution in the Security Council provided by the UN’s information department  ( shows that the Pakistani ambassador complained that a Resolution under Chapter VII was inappropriate whilst the South African ambassador complained that the draft Resolution was unbalanced since it made demands and threats of the Syrian government but no counterbalancing demands of the Syrian rebels.  The summary also shows the obvious and continuing skepticism of the Indian ambassador who however as on previous occasions suppressed his doubts to vote for a Resolution one senses he thinks is wrong.

In summary what we have seen in the Security Council is yet another attempt by the western powers to use the authority of the Security Council to engineer the overthrow of the Syrian government.  Though the Resolution purportedly was drafted to support Annan’s peace plan in reality it sacrifices Annan’s peace plan to that objective.  Annan’s peace plan calls for a ceasefire to be followed by negotiations between the parties to set up a transitional government.  The draft Resolution instead demands the unilateral disarmament of the Syrian government in the face of a rebel offensive.  In the meantime though the Syrian government has appointed a negotiator to negotiate with the rebels in accordance with Annan’s peace plan the rebels have not only not appointed such a negotiator but are continuing with western support to demand that Assad resigns and the Syrian government dissolves itself before they enter into talks.  The only purpose of talks would then presumably be to transfer power to them.

I will finish this post with one final observation.  The draft Resolution vetoed yesterday was presented to the Security Council eight days ago.  The rebel offensive against Damascus began six days ago.  The draft Resolution was however clearly written with the purpose of helping that offensive.  The demand that the Syrian government withdraw its heavy weapons from Damascus and the cities under threat of sanctions and  with the ultimate threat of military action cannot be interpreted in any other way.  Since the draft was prepared and presented to the Security Council before the rebel offensive began this can only mean that the persons who drafted the Resolution knew in advance that the rebel offensive was going to take place.

In other words the text of the Resolution provides further confirmation of the collusion (to put it no higher) between the western powers and the rebels in the conduct of military operations.  This together with the way Annan’s peace plan has been sacrificed to the objective of overthrowing the Syrian government shows where the real responsibility for the continuing violence in Syria lies.

Postscript: Shortly after I completed the above post confirmation was received that the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the UN observer mission by 30 days.  Here is the text of the relevant Resolution as provided by the UN information department

The text of the Resolution extending the UN monitoring mission was drafted by the British government.  An alternative draft text was proposed by Pakistan but was not adopted.  The difference between the two drafts is that the British text intimates that the UN monitoring mission will only be extended  beyond 30 days if the UN Secretary General reports that fighting has ceased and that a peace process is underway.

Following the defeat of the draft Resolution on 19th July 2012 the US government said it was opposed to any continuation of the UN monitoring mission.  The ostensible reason was that there is no ceasefire or peace process for the UN monitoring mission to supervise.  The real reason is that the UN monitoring mission has performed its functions impartially and has refused to take sides against the Syrian government.  For example it refused to blame the Syrian government for the Houla massacre and after carrying out an investigation it contradicted rebel claims of a massacre at Tremseh by confirming that the dead in that town were armed rebels who had been killed by the Syrian army during a battle.

There is however overwhelming support in the Security Council for the continuation of the UN monitoring mission.  Rather than be put in the position of having to veto the Resolution proposed by Pakistan extending the UN monitoring mission the US and its allies arranged for Britain to propose an alternative draft Resolution extending the UN monitoring mission for 30 days but making any further extension dependent upon a favourable report from the Secretary General.  Rather than press for the Pakistani draft, which would have faced a US veto, which would have brought the UN monitoring mission to an immediate end, Russia and China supported the British draft, which at least allows for the UN monitoring mission to remain in existence for a further 30 days.  At the conclusion of this period there will likely be a renewed struggle in the Security Council to decide whether the UN monitoring mission should be further extended or not.  Given US hostility to the UN monitoring mission its prospects frankly looks bleak.

To my mind the importance of this episode is that it shows how opinion on the Security Council is shifting.  Pakistan seems to have gone over completely to the Russian and Chinese side as witness its absention from the British supported Resolution yesterday and its decision today to propose a draft Resolution apparently extending the UN monitoring mission unconditionally.  The fact that the US and Britain had to propose an alternative Resolution extending the UN monitoring mission by 30 days shortly after the US had said publicly that it was opposed to any further extension of the UN monitoring mission shows that on this question the US and its allies are in a minority on the Security Council and that they were forced to propose their own draft Resolution extending the UN monitoring mission to avoid the embarrassment of being forced to exercise their veto.



  1. It’s worth noting also that even the “attack on Damascus” is itself a publicity stunt for western edification. The “rebels” have not won a single battle in Syria, while attacking Damascus itself is intended to imply the rebels have fought a grinding war of attrition which has made Assad’s forces withdraw inch by inch until only the very core of Damascus is his, and that one more big push will finish him. This was used with great success in Libya, as nobody believed (least of all me) the rebels would ever take Tripoli, and it is a tremendous psychological victory to storm the very capital. The Libyan rebels – which are of course also the Syrian rebels to a large extent – would never have been able to achieve any of those victories without NATO’s close air support, and that is what is missing now despite their attempts to create an atmosphere of inevitability. The Libyan rebels drove Gaddafi’s forces out of city after city because NATO bombed them silly beforehand and continued to bomb them as they retreated; the flip-flop “army” really had only to specialize in mopping up and holding victory parties involving a lot of yelling about Allah u Akbhar and shooting great loads of their endless ammunition into the air.

    The west would love for this to be a rerun of the Libya operation, with its aircraft blasting a road to victory for its sandal-sporting sycophants and pet army of religious nuts. But so far that has been denied it, so the rebels have to create the impression of momentum somehow.

    This is turning out not to be an easy victory militarily or politically, as more now mistrust the west’s motives and methods. They keep on with the teary-eyed rhetoric about protecting civilians only because they have no other ideas that look like they would have a good chance of overcoming broad skepticism. The “attack on Damascus” is just another special effect designed to demoralize and weaken Assad and make him cave in and do what the west demands of him – step down or flee, or both. It should serve as a warning, though, that the west will not stop short of being an accessory to murder to achieve its goals.

    • Dear Mark,

      I am sure your analysis of the fighting in Damascus and elsewhere is the correct one. As always there is a huge gap between events as they are reported in the western media (which draws for its reports from opposition activists and fighters) and reports from people on the spot. I remember the reports that came out of Libya in February 2011, which gave the impression that Tripoli was at that time slipping out of Gaddafi’s control. When western journalists arrived in Tripoli what they instead found was that whilst there had indeed been a rebel attack on the city (which managed to burn down the parliament building) overall the city was quiet and firmly under Gaddafi’s control. Needless to say though the reports about the supposed collapse of Gaddafi’s hold on Tripoli were completely untrue the western media never admitted that its original reporting had been wrong and continued to publish reports from opposition activists and rebels long after they were proved to be unreliable. I remember for example how Reuters continued to publish reports it was purportedly receiving from a rebel fighter who claimed to be fighting in Zuwiyah for several days after the two had been recaptured by Gaddafi’s forces and the fighting there had ended.

      As Yalensis will no doubt point out this sort of reporting is itself partly intended for propaganda effect and as you rightly say it is in part intended to demoralise Assad’s army and supporters and to embolden the rebels. This is surely also the case with the various claims that have been circulating over the last few days that Assad has fled Damascus and is hiding in one of the coastal cities (Latakia gets mentioned)) and that his wife is now in Russia. Those claims incidentally remind me of William Hague’s similarly bogus claim during the uprising in Libya in February 2011 that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

      Speaking for myself I only give credence in these situations to reports from reliable journalists on the spot who have no obvious axe to grind. The Guardian published yesterday a series of reports from a Dutch journalist in Damascus who said that the city was largely quiet and that the government seemed to be fully in control and who said that he found continuing strong support for Assad in many areas of the city. Another journalist who I consider equally reliable is a young Russian woman journalist currently working in Damascus for RT who has basically been reporting the same thing.

  2. Since the draft was prepared and presented to the Security Council before the rebel offensive began this can only mean that the persons who drafted the Resolution knew in advance that the rebel offensive was going to take place.
    This is an excellent point. The rebel leaders are an outside mercenary force (led by Al Qaeda warriors like Belhaj), they apparently take their tactical orders (even on a day-to-day basis) from Hillary Clinton. I guess Hillary got frustrated that Rebs kept losing their enclaves in the countryside, so she ordered them to launch a “Tet” in Damascus.
    This “Tet” type offensive was supposed to culminate with the UN resolution, and Syrian government drawing down and fleeing, leaving the capital to the Rebs.
    In Libya, the strategy went the other way: build enclaves and surround the capital, then take the capital as the final blow. Americans initially tried the same way in Syria, but it wasn’t working, so now they have tried the opposite tactic. It is also not working; latest news is that Syrian army is pushing back the Rebs out of Damascus. All things being equal, Rebs are still no match for the Syrian army.
    I only quibble about one thing, @alexander, you use the word “terrorist” to describe the bomb attack against the Syrian defense ministers. There are various vocabulary standards, but I personally prefer to reserve the word “terrorist” for acts against civilians. In a civil war, bombing or assassinating government officials could be considered a legitimate act of war, and if I were on the other side in this conflict (which I am not), then I would probably approve this tactic. Whereas I would NEVER approve attacks on civilians (or random attacks), no matter what side I was on.
    Similarly, in the 9/11 attack against America, I consider the Saudi downing of the Twin Towers to be an act of “terrorism” against American civilians, because it attacked whatever random people happened to be inside those buildings. However, the attack against the Pentagon, which occurred on the same day, I would not regard as terrorism, but as a legitimate target in a war. (What war exactly, has never been explained, and still does not make any sense, since Americans and Saudis are allies, so why attack each other? But still… you get my point…)

    • Dear Yalensis,

      I don’t have any doubt that the attack on Damascus was planned some time ago in conjunction with the west’s intelligence services and was timed to coincide with the Security Council session. Even the fact that the attack was given a code name speaks of western involvement. Remember Operation Mermaid Dawn?

      I would also add that the assassination of the Defence Minister and the other officials appears to me to have been preplanned as part of the rebel offensive. Presumably the assumption was that with rebel troops in Damascus the people of the city would rise up to join them and that with the murder of the Defence Minister and the other senior officials the army would become leaderless and would disintegrate.

      On the subject of whether or not the bomb that killed the Defence Minister and the other officials was or was not a “terrorist bomb”, I do understand your point. The reason I referred to the bomb as a “terrorist bomb” is that that is the language the US would have used to describe it if it had been its military who were the target. The words in the preamble of the draft Resolution specifically refer to “bombings”, which supposedly “indicate” the possible presence of “organised terrorist groups”. The words were obviously designed to leave open the possibility that the government itself had planted the bombs. Yet here we have what the US would undoubtedly in other circumstances call a “terrorist bomb” that killed the government’s Defence Minister and other senior officials. It beggars belief that the government would itself plant such a bomb, which killed its own Defence Minister and senior security officials so that bomb at least, which as I said the US would in other circumstances undoubtedly call a “terrorist bomb” must have been planted by someone else.

  3. Additional note on role of International Red Cross:
    I read a few days ago that Red Cross has declared Syrian conflict to be a “civil war”.
    Initially I thought this was good news for Assad government, since rules of civil war allow him to use force against the other side, without being accused of attacking civilians or “killing his own people”.
    However, reading further, I guess I should have known better, since Red Cross is part of the “world order” which always somehow ends up supporting American adventures abroad. So, apparently, this designation is part of some larger plot to put Assad in front of war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
    However, I am confused about the legal ramifications, and would appreciate if you could help to explain and comment on this.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      As it happens I have quite a lot of confidence in the Swiss Red Cross, which of all these agencies seems to me the one that has most successfully defended its independence and integrity. I gather by the way that it comes in for relentless pressure and a fair amount of private abuse for doing so.

      There is no universally accepted definition of a civil war. However the Swiss Red Cross as an impartial agency has developed its own criteria to determine what is or what is not a civil war. This basically says that the rebels who are fighting against a government have become a sufficiently organised military force that the Swiss Red Cross can deal with them as it seeks to provide help to the wounded. The Swiss Red Cross also expects in that case that such rebels, being an organised force or army, will observe the many and various laws of war and will conduct their part of the civil war in a legal way. Since the Swiss Red Cross is a very highly respected and experienced agency its decision about whether or not a conflict is or is not a civil war is largely considered authoritative by the various courts and tribunals, which administer international law.

      I do not think the Swiss Red Cross’s decision to recognise the Syrian conflict as a civil war has any bearing on Assad’s legal position. As President of Syria he has always been subject to various international laws that govern or are supposed to govern the behaviour of governments and state actors when a conflict takes place. What the Swiss Red Cross’s definition does is that it imposes on the rebels and on the rebel leadership (which by the way includes those from the western intelligence agencies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are “advising” the rebels) the same legal obligations as up to now have been exclusively borne by Assad and his military. What this means by the way is that the Swiss Red Cross considers that the rebels can be held as much accountable for war crimes as can the Syrian government.

      On balance I would say this helps Assad though in practice I doubt this is going to make any great difference.

      • Thanks for explanation, @alexander. This confirms my initial reading of the Red Cross ruling: That if there is a civil war going on, then both sides are allowed to go at it and have at each other. Rebels are allowed to use their automatic weapons and rocket launchers. But Syrian army is allowed to do their thing too. Helicopers and tanks trump automatic weapons. So Rebs lose.
        Before, Assad was told he was not allowed to lift a finger or do anything except turn the other cheek,.no matter what Rebs did. So, this is a plus for him. Now, according to Red Cross, he is allowed to fight back, so long as he does not massacre POW’s or go after civilians, or any of the other forbidden things.
        Hence, when sources like Bloomberg claim Red Cross ruling means for sure Assad will be going on a one-way trip to the Hague, I guess they are just trying to put their own spin on something that does not really support their view of what is supposed to happen.

  4. Western media reporting today that Syrian Rebels have “switched tactics”. There were an esimated 5,000 Rebs who launched the guerrilla attack on Damascus, whatever remains of that bunch are now “tactically withdrawing” from Damascus and marching on the city of Aleppo. Just double-checked a google map: Aleppo is completely inland, no outlet to Mediterranean, but close to Turkey border. I deduce Hillary’s stategy = order Rebs to seize border posts with Turkey, so that more arms and mercenaries can flow in from Turkey. Assad will probably have to move more tanks up there, to put a stop to that.
    Obama apparently giving Hillary a free hand to run the Syria war (bypassing the regular generals and usual military chain of command) because her unorthodox methods “produced results” in the previous Libya operation. I am guessing regular American army brass probably secretly hoping she makes an ass out of herself, this time around!

    • Dear Yalensis,

      I am no military expert but I notice that people like Mark who are more knowledge and who have a far better understanding of military matters than me were far more skeptical of rebel claims from than outset than some of the more excited media commentators.

      Anyway, on the point you have made, it is really quite remarkable how silent on the subject of Syria Obama is. I can only interpret this to mean that despite his clashes with Putin on the subject his heart basically isn’t in this further adventure. I am sure you are right and that it is Hillary Clinton who is making the running on Syria just as last year she did in Libya. This is actually a very depressing thought since it suggests that Obama is too weak to control what his own government is doing.

      As for the fighting in Syria itself, it seems that Operation Damascus Volcano has been a failure and that the attack on Aleppo is turning out to be a failure as well. The trouble with any military operation that depends on psychological warfare tactics to panic and demoralise the enemy is that if the enemy is not panicked or demoralised the defeat can be severe. Last year in Tripoli the psychological warfare tactics were successful. Against the far tougher and more disciplined army of the Syrian regime it was a failure. I would not be surprised if by bringing the rebels into the open and forcing the Syrian government to deploy the full weight of its army (including its tanks and helicopters) the authors of Operation Damascus Volcano and of the attack on Aleppo have done the rebels a serious disservice.

      Incidentally I am sure you remember how last year Gaddafi was claiming that some of the rebels were high on drugs. The claim was widely ridiculed in the western press but Robert Fisk in the Independent has written an article quoting a Syrian rebel witness who claims that some of the rebel fighters in Syria are also high on drugs and that this is making shoot indiscriminately. I know that it was German policy during the Second World War to give German soldiers (especially paratroopers) amphetamines and I have heard stories that the US military once did the same. If these stories about some at least of the rebel fighters in Syria being also high on drugs are true then this may also be a sign of the support they are getting from abroad.

  5. Dear Yalensis and Mark,

    I have been overwhelmed with unexpected work commitments this week and I will shortly have to return to them. However I would just say that for the first time in several days I have been able to access the website of the Syrian news agency SANA. Throughout Operation Damascus Volcano I was unable to do so. This might of course be a coincidence but I wonder whether the website might not have been under some sort of attack as part of Operation Damascus Volcano.

    Anyway here is the latest report from SANA on the latest fighting

    It goes without saying that reports from SANA need to be treated cautiously but one indication that the fighting is indeed going the Syrian army’s way (other than the fact that it is now once again possible to access SANA’s website) is that the SANA reports names some of the rebel leaders who have been killed in the fighting.

  6. Dear Alexander: Even standard American media (like CNN, MSNBC) are reporting on Rebel “lack of success” in Damascus, and that some Reb leaders were captured and hanged.
    They were better off, IMHO, posing as unarmed “activists”. Once they rushed into the streets and launched their version of the “Tet” offensive, then Western media no longer allowed to sob crocodile tears about them being gunned down and hanged.
    [And speaking of “Tet”, I believe most historians nowadays are agreed that “Tet” was a huge tactical and strategic mistake for North Vietnamese, they took a huge risk, and it was a military defeat for them. (Not something you would actually expect from such a brilliant military tactician as Ho Chi Minh.) The fact that Vietnamese went on to win and defeat Americans was due to the psychological effect that “Tet” had on American public.]
    Absorbing (and mis-applying) lessons of “Tet” must be the reason why Hillary forced this small mercenary force to go out into the streets and stand against a real army. Maybe she assumed the people of Damascus really would rise up to support them? If that is the case, then that woman truly is deluded!
    On the drugs: yes, it is fairly well documented now that anti-Gaddafi rebels were given some kind of stimulant drugs to make them more aggressive and braver in battle. Many of them were brave enough anyway, being fanatical Wahhabists who believe they will arrive in Paradise and given 70 virgins the moment they are killed; but just in case Religion isn’t enough of an opiate, there are actual opiates available.
    Re. Obama: I have no doubt his heart IS “in” the Syria war, in the sense that he REALLY REALLY wants to defeat Assad and score yet another laurel to crown his swelling head. The fact that he is listening to Hillary and letting her run the show, is indicative only of his gross ignorance. If I were him, I would listen only to the REAL generals, the ones who actually went to military school and came up through the ranks. Hillary did produce “results” for Obama in Libya, that was a big win for Americans. Probably why he trusts her to conduct this one, even down at a tactical level. It would be fun to speculate that there is rift within Obama administration, and maybe Barack not getting along with Hillary and so on, but I don’t believe that is the case, I believe they all get along pretty well and are all united in their quest to impose pro-Saudi Islamist Sunni regimes throughout Middle East, believing that this is somehow in their geo-strategic interests.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Briefly (because I am very busy) I have no doubt that one of the assumptions behind Operation Damascus Volcano was that the people of Damascus would join the rebels. Importantly that did not happen. Even western journalists noticed that there were no signs of rejoicing (people coming out onto the streets, guns being fired into the air etc) when news came of the bomb that had killed the Defence Minister and the other officials. The rebellion clearly has support in the traditional Muslim Brotherhood strongholds of Homs and Hama but elsewhere support for it even in Sunni areas looks patchy at best.

      By the way an often forgotten fact is that this is the second time outside powers have tried to stir up a rebellion against the Syrian government. Syria experienced a long and bitter civil war between 1976 and 1982 in which the Syrian government faced off against a Syrian rebel movement backed by the west and Saudi Arabia centred on the Muslim Brotherhood. The fighting then was every bit as bitter as it is now and over the course of the war several very senior Syrian officials were killed in a manner very similar to the slaying of the Defence Minister and the other Syrian officials in Damascus on Wednesday. In the end however the Syrian government prevailed notwithstanding confident predictions identical to those being made now that it would fall. I vividly recall an Economist cover from about 1980 with a picture of Hafez Al Assad (Bashar’s father) slipping with the sand down an hourglass under the caption “time runs out for Assad”. Here we are 30 years later and the same predictions are being made.

      By the way on reflection I am sure you are right about Obama.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        You might find this article from the Wall Street Journal discussing the covert help the US is giving to the rebels interesting. Essentially it confirms all you say. Notice also the threats being made against Iraq and the attempts to impose a blockade on the Suez Canal to prevent Iranian arms supplies from reaching Syria. Notice also the evident frustration of US officials at the failure of their efforts and their demands for an escalation.

        I would just make two points:

        1. The threat to Iraq that it is breaching Security Council Resolutions by allowing arms supplies from Iran to reach Iraq is false. There is no arms embargo on Syria and Iraq is not acting contrary to the will of the Security Council or breaking international law by allowing arms supplies from Iran to reach Syria. Similarly the attempts to blockade the Suez Canal (presumably through the agency of the Egyptian government) look illegal to me given that the Suez Canal is supposed to be an international waterway.

        This whole question of arms supplies to the Syrian government is anyway bizarre. The one thing the Syrian government is not short of is weapons. A few plane loads of weapons from Iran is not going to change the situation within Syria any more than would a consignment of three refurbished helicopters from Russia. I can only assume that all this energy on imposing what is in fact an illegal weapons blockade on Syria is intended to increase the feeling on the part of the Syrian government that it is isolated and under siege. If so it is pointless because what must surely concern the Syrian government is not the odd consignment of weapons from Syria or Russia but the situation in the Security Council where Russia’s and China’s stance remains firm. Of course an alternative explanation is that the US really does think that it is engaging in some sort of chess game in Syria with Russia and Iran and that its attempts to cut off arms supplies to Syria from these countries are moves in that chess game. If so then this merely shows how utterly deluded US foreign policy has become.

        2. The news this morning is of US manufacturing output falling and unemployment rising, of Spain and Italy running out of money, of yields on Spanish bonds rising to unsustainable levels, of Sicily lurching towards bankruptcy and of Cyprus needing a bailout of around $12 billion. One might have thought that rather wasting time and energy overthrowing the government of Syria these are the matters that ought to be the focus of the US government’s attention. In the meantime oil prices are rising again in a way that can only make the west’s economic problems worse as a direct result of the crisis atmosphere in the Middle East caused by the US government’s own policies. Where is the logic in this?

      • Dear Yalensis,

        This is more Mark’s territory than mine but in an idle moment I decided to look up the specifications of the “AN 76” the Wall Street Journal says has been ferrying weapons between Iran and Syria. It turns out that no such aircraft exists.

        Possibly there has been a mistake and “AN 76” is journalistic confusion for one of the one of the following aircraft (all Russian made0

        AN 26 – this is a turboprop aircraft operated by both Syria and Iran. I wonder however whether it has the range to ferry weapons from Iran to Syria. Also its payload is only 5 tonnes so it is difficult to see what weapons it could supply other than small arms of which Syria has an abundance.

        AN 74 – this is a jet powered aircraft but its payload is only 7.5 tonnes so again one wonders what weapons it can carry that Syria would actually need? Also whilst Iran appears to own a few it seems that Syria doesn’t and the Wall Street Journal specifically referred to the aircraft flying between Iran and Syria as Syrian government owned.

        IL 76 – this is a far more powerful jet powered aircraft with a payload of 50 tonnes, which most definitely does have the range to fly between Syria and Iran. If Syria were short of weapons it would be an obvious aircraft to airlift weapons to Syria. Both Syria and Iran operate several. However again we come up against the obvious question of why given the abundance of weapons in Syria such an airlift is necessary?

        Bluntly the whole thing looks to me like a case of spin. Presumably some flights have been taking place between Iran and Syria but the fact that there is confusion about the aircraft that is being used suggests that they cannot be of any great significance.

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