In his recent post, ‘Know Your Limits: Syria,’ Craig Murray wrote: ‘An important rule of good blogging is not to comment on matters which you do not understand. An important rule of my own life is not to try to understand everything, as no one man can.’ And that’s from an ex-diplomat who, even if he wasn’t a specialist on Syria, will have been accustomed to making shrewd guesses about what might be going on.
Well about all I can claim to know about Syria comes from having walked across the country from the Turkish to the Jordanian borders in 1976, and what I have gleaned in the last couple of years from a Syrian business student whom I befriended and a friendly Syrian shop assistant at my local corner shop.
From my walk I learnt of Syria (a) that there is a visceral hatred of Israel, (b) that Christians and Muslims often distrust each other, and (c) that from our Western feminist perspective, the women are remarkably free. Of course this might all have changed, but I doubt it. From my student and shop assistant friends I learn that there are plenty of Syrians, including themselves, who are deeply suspicious of the rebels. They tell me that Israeli arms are being smuggled across the border near Deraa and by sea to Jeblé.
The Middle East is said to be the birthplace of conspiracy theories, and I accept that I have no proof, and I doubt if my friends have either, that arms are being so smuggled. But let’s look at it another way. If you were a minister in the Israeli government, wouldn’t you be inclined to stir up trouble in Syria? The Assad regime might be manageable for a while but as an implacable and well organised enemy of Israel, sooner or later it can be expected to attack, and with the help of Hisbullah, it might inflict serious damage on a country whose very existence depends on appearing invulnerable. Once that impression fades, its population is likely to shrink.
Much better for Israel to have chaos in those neighbouring countries which it can’t control diplomatically. So long as their peoples are killing each other, they are unlikely to become a danger to Israel. It is this consideration which makes me more than an little suspicious that Israel is almost never mentioned in news reports on Syria. The Jewish state is, after all, occupying part of Syria and its guns are within shooting distance of Damascus, not to mention the fact that the Israeli air-force can be over the capital within a minute or two of leaving Israeli airspace. I’m not suggesting that Israel is imminently planning an invasion, but the regime in Damascus must be acutely aware of the danger of provoking Israel. And this would be the effect of talking about Israeli weapons being smuggled into Syria.
If neither the Syrian regime nor the rebels are mentioning Israel, the regional superpower, then you could say that this is sufficient reason for our media not to do so either. But aren’t responsible journalists supposed to ask themselves questions like: ‘What is Israel’s role in all this?’ Or ‘Is it really likely that Israel is simply sitting on its haunches waiting for events to unfurl?’ Another thing I’ve picked up somewhere along the way is that Syria is swarming with Mossad agents. Again I can’t prove that, but why wouldn’t it be so? And if they are there, are these people simply enjoying the benefits of working for Israel without doing anything for it?
One is led to the conclusion that our media is either extraordinary gullible, or that it is being controlled by some power greater than itself. If the second is the case, then the finger points to the extraordinary power wielded by Jews in the Western world.
There is a counter argument to this view. Israel fears the rebels more than the lion of Damascus. Indications are that if their revolt succeeds a firmly Muslim government is likely to take power, and this would probably be more hostile to Israel than Assad’s regime. According to this view, Israel should be supporting Assad. Perhaps it is, or perhaps it is supporting both sides. This would at least be good business. Who knows exactly what is going on? I would put my money on Israel supporting the rebels in order to get rid of Assad and cause chaos in the country, with the option of a pre-emptive attack before the rebels get probably organised after their victory.
I’ve focussed on Israel in this post. I’m sure they’re not the only power with their fingers in the pie. An article in xinhuanet reports that the Russians suspect British and Qatari forces may have been deployed at Homs. Do we hear anything about this in our media, or are we only interested if it’s the Iranians becoming involved?
To conclude, the point is not to claim that I know what is going on in Syria, but to warn against accepting the reports we are getting from that country at face value.