A lot has happened in the last 24 hours, most notably the veto by Russia and China of a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Syrian regime's violent crackdown against protests. India abstained from voting, saying that the wording of the resolution did not place enough emphasis on the violent nature of the protesters in Syria.
"It does not condemn the violence perpetrated by the Syrian opposition. Nor does it place any responsibility on the opposition to abjure violence and engage with the Syrian authorities for redressal of their grievances through a peaceful political process," he said, explaining India's decision to keep away from the vote.The US and British representatives walked out when the Syrian representative began speaking last night, and it is clear that those two countries are greatly displeased with the Russians especially for scuppering the resolution. The new draft resolution had been greatly watered down to appease the Russians, so this was, in every sense of the word, a diplomatic slap in the face.
Russia Today has an article headlined, "Syria hotbed of major geopolitical game". The article mentions one observer:
The West could have used the resolution on Syria as a legal cover for it actions in the Middle East, John Laughland from the Paris-based Institute for Democracy and Co-operation told RT.
I've never heard of the "Institute for Democracy and Co-operation before, but here is their website. The homepage is in Russian, which is a bit odd if they are based in Paris, as RT say. Here is some information about David Laughland that I found on Wikipedia. He appears to be a very intelligent, and very well educated man, but I recognise a lot of similarities between his position and that of well known devil's advocates such as Jacques Verges - himself a very colourful and controversial character. The RT article concludes with the opinion of a Dr Chandra Muzaffar, who believes that the majority of the Syrian people supports Assad and that Assad is genuine in his desire to effect real change in Syria.
So what happens from here? Well Turkey has announced that it will place sanctions of its own on Syria, in addition to those that are in place by the EU. Prime Minister Erdogan said:
"We will now inevitably apply our sanction package … We have a 910-kilometer long border. Moreover, we have cross-border family ties, which increase our responsibility,"It seems Turkey is furious with the way things are playing out in Syria, and if it is true that its military is planning exercises near the border, then we might be seeing the Turk's supporting a nascent "Free Syrian Army" as it begins to cross into Syria and create a safe haven of sorts from the Syrian regime's security forces. The UN Security Council veto was Syria removing its gloves off and forcing the hands of country's that it says are conspiring against it. In effect, the ball is now in the court of the "international community" (for want of a better word).
The defected Syrian Colonel, Riad Asaad, was alleged to have been captured by Syrian regime media outlets, but he quickly appeared in Turkey to say that he is alive and well. This isn't just media outlets being sloppy, or silly, but rather it is a calculated move to flush out the person being hunted and force them to make a statement. Those who remember the confusing reports by the Libyan NTC earlier this year about the capture or killing of members of Gaddafi's family will note the similarity, whereby the target then has to make an announcement to prove they are alive and well.
Col. As'ad, who defected and fled to Turkey about three months ago, leads Syria's main military defectors group, the Free Syrian Army, after merging it with another dissident army group last month, said Omar Idlibi, a spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network.Expect more smoke and mirrors...
In other news, "Syria Will Emerge Stronger from Unrest", reports the pro-regime site, Day Press - News. This is according to the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Karim Ali, after his meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Ali said assassinations targeting civilians, particularly Sunday’s assassination of Sariya Hassoun, the son of Syria’s Mufti Ahmad Hassoun in the town of Idlib, have united the Syrians in rejecting “this conspiracy and those standing behind it.”Now I am sure that Mr Ali did not meet the Lebanese Prime Minister simply to 'discuss' the situation in Syria. There are very likely to be high level discussions between them about ways to bypass the sanctions that are probably starting to affect Syria. Syrian oil must be sold, especially since there have been very few takers - even at discounted prices. Lebanon could be - if it is not already - a useful outlet for the regime to sidestep the sanctions and get itself some breathing space. How, where and with whom are probably some of the things the discussions could be about, but I'm only speculating.
Finally, the town of Rastan appears to now be firmly under the control of government forces. TIME reports that the security forces have detained 3,000 people in the town over the past three days:
In the rebellious central town of Rastan, which the government retook on Saturday, an activist told The AP by telephone that security forces have detained more than 3,000 residents since Saturday. He said the detainees were being held at a cement factory, as well as some schools and the Sports Club, a massive four-story compound. "Ten of my relatives have been detained," said the activist, who asked that he be identified by his first name, Hassan. He said was he speaking from hiding in Rastan. "The situation in the town is miserable," he said, adding that the town of some 70,000 people was heavily bombed for five days starting Tuesday when the army launched an offensive.
Firstly, I'd like to say that I have little time for people who dismiss such accounts, especially misguided leftists who insist on the highest standards of journalistic accuracy for a country where foreign media are banned and who, in usual circumstances, would never insist on such accuracy from places under siege such as Gaza (rightly so). There is no doubt that some exaggerations can occur from both sides, but I don't think a reasonable and sensible individual would doubt that anything but the most horrific repression is taking place in Syria today.
Speaking of exaggerations, the story of Zeinab al Hosni shocked many people when her family received the decapitated and mutilated body of a female said to be her. So it is with some shock that Syrian television paraded her, alive and well, on air to say that she had not been killed and was doing fine. Here is a video of somebody they claim is her:
Again, many who do find the Syrian uprising to be an inconvenience were quick to use this as yet another demonstration of how inaccurate the picture from within the country is, and that somehow this was just another aspect of 'the plot' that Syria was experiencing. Two things make me very sceptical about this whole affair, and suggest to me that this might have been a media coup plotted by the Syrian regime to undermine the legitimacy of the Syrian opposition: Firstly, the body her family received is still person who has been viciously murdered, or at least her body has, and she must have a family somewhere; Secondly, the date on which she was paraded on television was the day the UN security council draft resolution was to be voted on. Like Iran, the Syrian regime is remarkably sensitive to the political calendar. If you recall, the release of the American hikers was timed to be around the same time that Ahmedinejad made his UN speech last month. So wherever, and whoever, Zainab al Hosni is, many things don't add up about the way this whole story developed.