Peter Hitchens, Mark Curtis, Craig Murray, Peter Ford, Robert Fisk – On Syria
Peter Hitchins: In talking of the recent chemical gas attack that is being used as a pretext for direct conflict with Russia, Hitchins says: “In this (interview) I mention that Jaish al Islam, the Islamist group in control of Douma at the time of the alleged gas attack, had itself been accused of using gas against Kurdish fighters in 2016.”
In another blog piece, Hitchins concludes that we are in a pre-war era, indeed the one just prior to the First World War: “My feeling that we are in a pre-war era, and are being prepared for that war almost every day, grows. I am not feeling especially well at the moment, and my days are tinged with a certain darkness anyway, despite the arrival of spring, but I cannot at any point in my life ever recall being gripped by such a feeling of impending, unavoidable disaster.
It began early on Sunday morning with claims of a gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus. Although the BBC were careful to state that the reports were unverified, my heart sank. The prominence being given to the story suggested that it didn’t much matter that they were not verified. Why lead a news bulletin on a main national material with unverified material, if you think verification matters a lot? Surely the old rule was ‘verify first’, then publish’?”
Hitchens then asks: “Is it 1914 again?”
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Mark Curtis: When it comes to Middle East policy, the UK is nothing but a rogue state – is the headline of Mark’s latest piece. It reminds us all that “British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has written that “Russia cannot break international rules with impunity” and that Last year, “Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the UK was “a world leader in promoting, defending and shaping international law”. Yet the reality is totally different says Curtis: “Britain has been promoting at least seven foreign policies that can be strongly argued to be violating international law, and which make a mockery of its current demonisation of Russia.“
This article makes interesting reading and highlights Britain’s involvement with Israel and the blockade of Gaza, the case of the Chagos islands where Britain expelled the inhabitants to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the wars of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. It is impossible to disagree with Mark’s conclusion that UK is a rogue state and where Britain is now heading.
Two Ex-British ambassadors have also questioned claims that Assad is behind a chemical attack that killed dozens of Syrians. Peter Ford and Craig Murray expressed doubt, urging the UK government not to rush into a war without proof.
Ford’s comments reflected the same concerns with intelligence sources that he expressed to the BBC a year ago. “Based on previous experience, we can see that we cannot take on face value what the so-called intelligence experts tell us,” he said, in reference to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack.
“In August 2016, [the Jihadis] mounted a chlorine gas attack on civilians and they tried to make it look like a regime operation. Mark my words, [the jihadis will make it look like the regime did it] and it will get the warmongers coming to tell us that Assad is defying us and we must go in more heavily into Syria.”
Murray’s comments are just as much to the point: “The notion that Britain will take part in military action against Syria with neither investigation of the evidence nor a parliamentary vote is worrying indeed. Without Security Council authorisation, any such action is illegal in any event. It is worth noting that the many commentators who attempt to portray Russia’s veto of a Syria resolution as invalid, fail to note that last week, in two separate 14 against 1 votes, the USA vetoed security council resolutions condemning Israeli killings of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza.
The lesson the neo-cons learnt from the Iraq war is not that it was disastrous. It was only disastrous for the dead and maimed Iraqis, our own dead and maimed servicemen, and those whose country was returned to medievalism. It was a great success for the neo-cons, they made loads of money on armaments and oil. The lesson the neo-cons learned was not to give the public in the West any time to mount and organise opposition. Hence the destruction of Libya was predicated on an entirely false “we have 48 hours to prevent the massacre of the population of Benghazi” narrative. Similarly this latest orchestrated “crisis” is being followed through into military action at a blistering pace, as the four horsemen sweep by, scything down reason and justice on the way.”
SkyNews reports that “The Prime Minister has won the backing of her Cabinet for action to prevent further chemical attacks by Syria’s President Bashar al Assad.” However, she is set to defy calls from opposition parties for Parliament to be recalled in order for MPs to vote on authorising intervention.
Sky News continues: “Mrs May later spoke to US President Donald Trump during a telephone call, in which Number 10 said the two leaders agreed “it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime”.
A Downing Street spokesperson added: “They agreed to keep working closely together on the international response.”
Here comes the important tell-tale now that the May government have learned – that you simply cannot state an outright lie and get away with it. “The Cabinet agreed with the Prime Minister’s assertion it is “highly likely” President Assad’s regime carried out a “shocking and barbaric” suspected gas attack in the Syrian city of Douma on Saturday.”
In the meantime, French President Mr Macron claimed on Thursday he had “evidence” that chemical weapons were used in Douma by the Syrian government, including chlorine gas – and produced … nothing at all when asked.
Just like the Scribal poisoning case, where there is no evidence at all that Russia carried out this attack on British soil, we are left with the statement only that it was “highly likely.”
One wonders how likely it will be that if Russian soldiers are killed defending their friends and allies in Syria that this time, they will react with force. We will not know until it is too late.
As far as evidence goes everyone should remember that on April 9th 2016, a group of Syrian rebels admitted it used chemical weapons against Kurds in a mainly Kurdish populated area in the city of Aleppo, northern Syria.
Jaysh al-Islam, a coalition of Islamist units involved in the Syrian civil war, said in an official statement, “One of the field commanders in Aleppo used weapons that he was not authorized to use in these kinds of confrontations.”
Whether this story is true or not is almost irrelevant. It chimes with Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s story about the use of chemical weapons, inasmuch, we simply don’t know who is, or is not, telling the truth when it comes to the use of chemical weapons.
Britain is moving submarines carrying cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean, the French air force is getting ready to carry out punitive strikes, Saudi Arabia has signaled a desire to join in and Russia is moving its planes to the Khmeimim air base in northwestern Syria – and as far as possible from Assad’s soldiers, who are like sitting ducks.
Haaretz reports with its headline: “There’s Only One Show in Syria Right Now: A Battle Between Two Superpowers” -that: “When Israel’s inner cabinet convened Wednesday, Military Intelligence officials told its members they had concluded that Trump is intent on attacking in Syria, and that Iran is similarly intent on taking revenge on Israel for the bombing of the T4 air base near Homs on Monday.”
To sum up then. America, Britain and France will have lined up by next week in readiness to take out the Syrian regime. Saudi Arabia wants to join in. Iran is readying to attack Israel. Haaretz confirms that “Israel is ready to fight back with Tehran already planning a retaliatory attack.” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared this week that Israel will stop Iran “regardless of the cost.” Russia is bracing and preparing itself for what is likely to be a declaration of war. Iraq has sided with Iran, Syria and Russia. Whether all this action with competing factions thrown in to the equation can be contained within the borders of Syria is yet to be determined.
Robert Fisk is a journalist with much experience of wars in the Middle East. He now writes for The Independent and here is his take on current events: “So there we are. May holds a “war cabinet”, for heaven’s sakes, as if our losses were mounting on the Somme in 1916, or Dorniers were flying out of occupied France to blitz London in 1940.
What is this childish prime minister doing? Older, wiser Conservatives will have spotted the juvenile quality of this nonsense, and want a debate in Parliament. How could May follow an American president who the world knows is crackers, insane, chronically unstable, but whose childish messages – about missiles that are “nice and new and ‘smart’” – are even taken seriously by many of my colleagues in the US? We should perhaps be even more worried about what happens if he does turn away from the Iran nuclear deal.
This is a very bad moment in Middle East history – and, as usual, it is the Palestinians who will suffer, their own tragedy utterly forgotten amid this madness. So we are going to “war”, are we? And how do we get out of this war once we have started it? Any plans, anyone? What if there’s a gigantic screw-up, which wars do tend to usually produce? What happens then?”