Thursday 6 April 2017

Gas Attack In Khan Sheikhoun! But Why Would Bashar al-Assad Blow Himself Up?

A War Crime? Yes - But Whose? The most obvious interpretation of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun is that it was intended to inflict as much damage on the Syrian Government as possible. Stopping in their tracks all moves towards accepting that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be involved in the peace-making process. Ensuring that the flow of arms to Assad’s enemies continues – or is increased. Placing the Russians under massive international pressure to abandon their alliance with the Assad regime. And forcing the Trump Administration to back away smartly from its “Assad can stay” position.
JUST ONCE, it would be nice to encounter a Western journalist willing to challenge the “International Community’s” official line. Someone willing to acknowledge that the term “International Community” is, itself, a cynical misnomer intended to cloak the self-interested policies of the United States and its Nato allies in the highfalutin language of global solidarity. A journalist willing to have a crack at sifting a nugget or two of truth from the dross of convenient lies.
Take this latest story about the use of poison gas against Syrian civilians. It seems certain that on 4 April 2017, the deadly nerve agent Sarin was released in in the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun, killing scores of civilians, including women and children. Before the last victim of the attack had been loaded into an ambulance, however, the world was being told that the party responsible for this unlawful attack was the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Nobody thought to ask the obvious question: “Why would Assad do such a thing?” Syria was en route to a new round of peace talks. More importantly, she was about to enter negotiations in which the usual American, British and French demands that “Assad must go!” were to be, for the first time since the Syrian Civil War broke out in earnest, quietly put to one side. Having won the war on the ground, the Assad regime was on the brink of clearing away its enemies’ unrealistic preconditions. Finally, a serious conversation about Syria’s future could begin.
And yet, we are being invited to believe that, with all this at stake, President Assad ordered the use of Sarin gas on his own citizens. Somehow, instigating a reprehensible war crime against women and children was going to strengthen his moral authority. Somehow, by revolting the entire world, he would improve his chances of being accepted as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Somehow, by embarrassing the Russian Federation, his country’s most valuable military ally, he would enhance Syria’s national security. The whole notion is absurd.
The much more obvious interpretation of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun is that it was intended to inflict as much damage on the Syrian Government as possible. Stopping in their tracks all moves towards accepting that Assad must be involved in the peace-making process. Ensuring that the flow of arms to Assad’s enemies continues – or is increased. Placing the Russians under massive international pressure to abandon their alliance with the Assad regime. And forcing the Trump Administration to back away smartly from its “Assad can stay” position.
So many birds with just one, Sarin-smeared stone.
The failure of Western journalism to ask “cui bono?” (who benefits?) is made all the greater by the fact that its “Assad uses poison gas on his own people!” headline has been used before. On 22 August 2013, the world awoke to the news that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Syrian civilians living in the rebel-controlled Ghouta suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, had been attacked with what appeared to be chemical weapons, specifically, the deadly nerve agent Sarin. The author of the attack? Yes, you guessed it, Bashar al-Assad!
Surely, the International Community, opined (through its journalistic mouthpieces) President Barack Obama’s “red line” had been crossed? Surely, it was time for the USA to intervene?
Then a story appeared on the Mint Press News website based in the US state of Minnesota. Following numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, two freelance journalists, Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, concluded that the attack had been carried out by rebel forces using chemical weapons supplied by Saudi Intelligence.
The International Community and its flacks weren’t buying any of it. And yet, for some reason, Obama declined to be stampeded into war by the Ghouta outrage. Could it be that US intelligence officers and their Israeli counterparts uncovered exactly the same evidence as Gavlak and Ababneh? Did Russian Intelligence come forward with corroborative intercepts? Whatever the explanation, the USA declined to escalate the Syrian conflict.
Those peddling the same “Assad did it!” line in 2017 should, perhaps, ask themselves whether the person currently occupying the White House; the man who believes himself besieged by his own intelligence agencies; the man whose quick temper and sensitivity to criticism is legendary; the man currently in the market for a major political distraction; will, like Barack Obama, allow himself to be steered away from diplomatic and military responses that could only further inflame an already critical situation in the Middle East?
Just once, I wish the Western news media would use its fucking head!
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 5 April 2017.


PhilToms said...

Excellent post Chris. Thank you.

Kiwiwit said...

Well said. I so much share your frustration with the mainstream media's incurious, sycophantic, compliant and lazy coverage, particularly of international affairs that I have come to believe that their imminent extinction is a very good thing.

Polly said...

Chris a well written and challenging piece fact, I endorse every word you wrote.
I do not believe that Putin/ Russia will abandon Assad/ Syria but there is a reasonable chance that Trummp could abandon his pro-Russian stance on Syria, I sincerely hope not but he is an unknown in real-politic internationally.

The Saudi's have a Country to gain if Assad falls.

Nick J said...

Well said. It pretty much echoes what Meijer wrote in his savage condemnation of the MSM on today.
We live in a truly sinister epoch where objective reporting has long since been replaced by Goebbels children.

Psycho Milt said...

Nobody thought to ask the obvious question: “Why would Assad do such a thing?”

Wrong. Plenty of us did. In my case, the answers were:

1. The regime needed to take out Khan Sheikhoun to clear the path for an advance on Idlib.

2. The last five years have taught the regime it can act with complete impunity.

Anyone wanting to claim this was some kind of false flag attack has to come up with a plausible mechanism for it that involves military aircraft other than Syrian or Russian ones over Khan Sheikhoun - good luck with that.

David said...

A thought provoking piece that chilled my preconceptions. Thank you.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Psycho Milt.

The Russian Federation has offered an entirely plausible explanation for the release of deadly chemical agents in Khan Sheikhoun - i.e. that chemical warfare munitions stored in a rebel warehouse/arsenal had exploded when the building was bombed by Syrian and Russian aircraft.

But, this explanation does not fit the Western narrative frame - which cannot permit any clouding of its simple and unequivocal depictions of Syrian and Russian perfidy.

That those responsible for this outrage are prepared to risk American and Russian military forces colliding in Syrian air space - with potentially devastating global consequences - speaks volumes about their reckless mendacity.

Not that you, Psycho Milt, are able to concede any of this - being far too closely aligned to the geopolitical objectives of the American Right.

Guerilla Surgeon said...
The Guardian seems to disagree. You'd have to answer the scientific questions before you get into the politics I think. Because dictators will do what dictators will do.

Victor said...


There is mounting evidence (if not yet firm proof) that this was an air attack. Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge, no firm evidence has come to light with respect to the existence of a chemical weapons dump in the vicinity.

So the only people who can be responsible are either the pro-Assad forces or their Russian backers.

The Russians are seeking to scale down their involvement in Syria and are seeking improved ties with the US, as well as with Turkey. So it's extremely unlikely that they were responsible.

But you ask the not unreasonable question as to why Assad should have ordered this atrocity when, thanks to Trump's desire to cosy up to the Russians, his survival seemed (however briefly) assured.

A simple (and perhaps over-simplistic) response is that massacring its rebellious Sunni subjects is what the Assad family does. It doesn't involve crossing a moral Rubicon and, from Assad's point of view,is probably no big deal, ethically. Like father, like son!

A second is that he felt free to do so as a result of Trump's (now reversed) public emollience over the Assad regime's continued existence.

Perhaps we should recall that Middle Eastern autocrats tend to work on the basis that bravado is strength and hence essential to their authority. Conversely, concessions or passivity tend to be seen as weakness.

Sometimes, this mindset leads to what seem to be self-defeating strategies. A good example was Saddam Hussein's reluctance to let in weapons' inspectors, even though this helped furnish the Anglophone powers with a bit more of a fig leaf for the invasion of his country.

But Assad may have had broader aims in mind. As Paul Buchanan suggested to you yesterday on Radio Live, Assad may have been trying to show that he's still in the game as an independent player and is not just a Kremlin pawn.

I would go further than this and tentatively suggest that he might also be starting to distance himself from Moscow, now that it's cuddling up to the Trump administration and also pursuing closer ties with Israel and Turkey.

At the same time, Assad will want to convince his other key allies, Iran and Hezbollah, that he's still determined to quash their common foe of Sunni militancy and won't be party to a deal imposed by Washington and Moscow that ignores Teheran's militant Shi'ite agenda.

Alternatively, there might be an anti-Assad faction in the Ba'athist leadership and/or in the Syrian armed forces. These might wish to damage Assad's reputation even further in the hope that both Moscow and Washington would look benignly on an internal coup.

Either way, I ask you to read the item in yesterday's Guardian by on-the-spot reporter, Kareem Shaheen,and tell me what you disagree with and why.

Archduke Piccolo said...

A frame so obvious must surely stretch the credulity of even Western leadership and the MSM. But it appears that disbelief among them is suspended upon an extremely elastic acceptance of what they are told.

Anonymous said...

I never thought I'd say this, but we've been sold a pup by western governments through their compliant corporate media.
The Syrian war reportage is another spreading pool of regime change vomit.
Iraq, Libya, Syria - all a trail of chaos, destruction and murder.
Who benefits? Not the population of any of those countries.
Its a war against terrorists by a sovereign nation on their own turf.
Who are the so called freedom fighters? - ISIS, and a conglomeration of 'moderate beheaders' -supplied by the west.
The greater scum are not those shooting up the town, but those in Washington, Tel Aviv, London, Paris and Istanbul who are enabling the whole show.
The war is turning against the ISIS maniacs and the 'rebels', mostly due to Russian intervention. Now we have to panic and have the US take 'take our own action' according to the shallow Nikki Hayley who read her UN speech like a school essay.
Israel claims to be the only democracy in the area, yet Syria held elections with a 73% turnout in 2014 - The same year it handed over it's chemical weapons. It suits Israel to have its neighbours savaging themselves like dogs, and it suits the rat's nest west to supply 'moral' and military support for the same.
It suits the 'rebels' to have an outrage like this. As if the thousands of civilians they've killed and maimed by projectiles are somehow different.
A pox on the lying, murdering lot of them. In particlar the feckless press.


Victor said...

Further to my previous post, I should make clear that I in no way approve of the US air assault on Syrian bases as just announced.

Who did what and what should be done about it are two separate questions.

Galeandra said...

"Expert commentary" on MSM (the BBC, IIRC) today said that scenario (the Russian one) was unlikely as tests provided no traces of the additional other chemicals/weapons that would be expected were such a stockpile to be attacked.
BTW Saeva indignatio doesn't excuse ad homs....even 'use their fucking heads' is a bit OTT.

Andrew Nichols said...

Gee Pycho. I'm sure glad you dont run a justice system. Never mind due process and innocent before proven guilty. A fan of Duterte by any chance.

No. The Wesley Clarke list just had another tick. Syria to be the new Libya?

Guerilla Surgeon said...
I guess Trump has already done it as we have just found out, but this guy talks some sense.

Nick J said...

In the light of Trumps missile attack it begs the question about due process and facts.

The US media and political class placed enormous pressure for a response without any substantiated evidence.
The President acted to form: a useful fool for the neocons and Pentagon hawks.
McCully locally agreed the action as would a good vassal. Again he had no evidence.

Fortunately Trump did prewarn Putin. And this strike might put to bed the Trump Putin love in accusations.

So what are we to make of this? That getting rid of ISIS is not the priority for the US? That Trump is as trigger happy as Hillary? That the US has learnt zip from the war in Iraq?

From an overall viewpoint there seems to be a headlong rush to act without proof, without due process and without respect for law. This is the hallmark of a society gone post truth and post democratic. McÇullys response ehoes how we in NZ are not greatly removed.

Victor said...

You might also like to comment on this item, Chris:

Sanctuary said...

"...The Russian Federation has offered an entirely plausible explanation for the release of deadly chemical agents in Khan Sheikhoun - i.e. that chemical warfare munitions stored in a rebel warehouse/arsenal had exploded when the building was bombed by Syrian and Russian aircraft..."

This excuse was self serving flim-flam from the Russians, arrant nonsense for the consumption by the credulous. Are we really expected to believe the rebels had a stock of pre-filled unitary nerve agents? Nerve agents in munition form are never stored "live" and premixed in a unitary form by anyone. Such munitions are always prefilled only immediately before firing, because of how dangerous they are - and even then, only for agents like mustard gas, never for Sarin. The rebels, somehow, captured some unitary Sarin munitions and then transported these highly hazardous weapons for storage in a frontline position for an unknown period of time and for an unknown reason.

Yeah, right.

Sarin is always stored and used as a binary munition - i.e. the toxin is stored as two harmless precursor agents that only mix when "armed" by being fired or dropped. This is by far the most obvious source of the sarin used in these attacks, and is a source that doesn't require conspiratorial theories and unlikely circumstance.

Only the other day the Guardian editorial was complaining that "...Assad knows he acts with impunity..." and had the strap line "...The suspected nerve agent attack on a rebel-held area on Tuesday has underlined the regime’s confidence – bolstered by the Trump administration..."

Assad got it wrong, because amateur hour president Trump reacted with one thing hardened butchers like Assad didn't consider - a naive horror at the sight of the corpses of gassed children.

Psycho Milt said...

I'm not willing to concede any of it because it's plainly wrong, not because I'm a fan of the US government.

The Assad regime and the Russian Federation have offered an entirely im-plausible explanation for the release of chemical agents. Various experts have weighed in on just why it's a ridiculous claim, but the Guardian has a nice summary contained within this article.

The most important points are:
1. The effects were too widespread to have come from a single building - distribution via air-dropped canisters was far more likely.
2. The amounts involved were clearly large to have affected such a wide area. Large amounts suggests state actors rather than terrorists.
3. Storage would involve precursor chemicals rather than sarin gas.

Andrew Nichols said...

The western world and its media are in total Empire mode with ittheir lockstep support for Caesar Trump the First as judge jury and executioner. We are screwed.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It looks like whoever did it is irrelevant. We are all fucked.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chris I've been arguing that it didnt make sense for days you have succinctly identified my suspicions keep it up.

jh said...

I wondered why Asaad would use Sarin. Paul Buchanan said it was to scare off neighboring states?
I can't see anything good to come out of the Syrian ethno-religious war. It seems to involve overpopulation, climate change mixed with ethic and religious interests. The UN see these sort of problems solvable if they can just move people across borders.
The complexity of the globalised world means everyone has to be an expert since people no longer trust anybody and that has extended to Walter Cronkite, Judy Bailey etc.

Scouser said...


There are now various strongly worded rebuttals that it was not a rebel store that exploded. Terms like "laughable" and "implausible" have been used. I'm no chemist but it looks like it needs to be mixed from two components and isn't stored in its final form. The Russian explanation is implausible on that basis. This does not mean it was Assad's regime who used the gas but this and other information we're seeing does point at a likelihood it was.

In terms of “cui bono?” it does seem stupid from our perspective for Assad to use chemical warfare but he is not the first dictator to do stupid and brutal acts. I can posit several explanations why he might. The most obvious being he is sending a message to his populace and does not care what the West thinks of him as he has his mate Putin protecting his back, everyone wants to see the back of ISIS and the Syrian refugee problem is causing Europe so many problems they just want it all ended. He may well feel he is safe. Who knows? I certainly don't.

The evidence that Assad's regime is responsible does not appear to be rock solid and the fact that there has been so little real debate on the likelihood whether Assad is responsible is a concern. The haste at which most countries have dived in behind Trump's actions is also perturbing. I suspect that some combination of dislike/fear of Putin/Assad combined with dealing with a fait accompli may well be the reason.

I am, however, surprised at the stridency of your tone. The quality of mainstream media has dropped right off and this has been self-evident for years. Across a range of subjects, we regularly see the majority of media all fall in line on a given issue. I despair of hearing contrasting opinions to help understanding all sides of an issue.

Anonymous said...

Exactly my thoughts Chris when I heard the news. It makes absolutely no sense for Assad.

Paulus said...

I believe that the production of Sarin gas can only be done shortly before use by the mixing of at least two agents. Each on their own are inert - so the belief that there was already a mix of Sarin is not evidenced.
Whole thing is tragically beyond belief.

Brendan McNeill said...

We are on the same page Chris, Assad may be many things but he is not irrational. Trump and his advisors on the other hand...

jh said...

That's what they are saying at Vdare (the political group of white people hiding in a greasy junk yard somewhere in flyover country)

"And all of that assumes that Tuesday’s gas attack in Syria actually was perpetrated by the Syrian air force against rebels. As many commentators have observed, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, has pretty much won his civil war. He was in no need of desperate measures. As an intelligent guy, he surely realized that using gas would make for a lot of really bad publicity. Even if he’s crazy, which I don’t believe, he’s not that kind of crazy.

So maybe the whole thing was a false flag by … who? The Rebels? ISIS? The Saudis? The Israelis? I wouldn’t rule it out.",%20too.

Guerilla Surgeon said...
It's complicated obviously.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Amazing how people manage to psychoanalyse Assad from a distance. Basically we don't know too much about his rationality. But as I thought I said but it doesn't seem to have appeared, the science questions must be answered before we look to the answers in politics. And the science seems to suggest that it was Assad. As I also (thought) I had said – dictators will do what dictators will do.
The whole thing is a mess. There are those who are saying that Assad has not actually won the war, and that the Russians are getting tired of it. And there are those who are saying that the US is bombing the Syrian government in defensive an Al Qaeda affiliate. It's possible that the truth will come out in time, but it seems to me not without an independent investigation by proper scientists.

Anonymous said...

I can recall reading in Time about Saddam's James Bond grade underground bunkers. However the intercepted conversations regarding chemical weapon's (and/or gas) were somewhat slim evidence. I thought - "Is that all there isssssss?" [song]. Nevertheless the machine went into action and it was a great show watching the Abraham's tanks wheeling into Iraq (somewhat spoilt by Americas most decorated soldier scoffing that it was a turkey shoot and would be over before it had started).

jh said...

The bigger question is: what does the Sryian ethno-religious war represent? Too many people on too few resources a failure of multiculturalism?

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Mr Trotter

It is entirely possible and even probable that the reason Assad 'blew himself up' is that he, like you and most on the left and in the media, completely misjudged President Trump, whose unpredictability is one of his great assets.

Assad thought he was dealing with another vacuous dope like Obama..

Victor said...

There is no mystery as to why Assad might have ordered the Sarin attack and (see my earlier post and those of 'Sanctuary', 'Scouser', 'Paulus' et al) probably did so.

Autocrats normally regard fear as an essential tool for staying in office. Rebels need to be punished and not merely defeated. Moreover, potential rebel communities (in Syria's case, the whole of its majority Sunni population) need to be cowed.

For this reason, Francisco Franco delayed the triumph of the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War until he had destroyed Republican strongholds one by one, with maximum carnage and the studied humiliation of Spain's once defiant working class. I recommend Paul Preston's "The Spanish Holocaust" for those with strong stomachs who wish to explore this subject further.

But Franco was not seeking to install or prop-up his own dynasty. I suspect that, when you wish to pass on a functioning autocracy to the physical fruit of your loins, you might repress your opponents with even greater savagery, thus ensuring that the shadow of fear will endure for longer.

Hence, the tyrannical behaviour engaged in by some of the most effective medieval and early modern monarchs( e.g. William the Bastard, Edward I or Henry VII) and, hence, Hafez al Assad's ordering of the butchery in Hama in 1982. I note that Bashar also has sons. So, I repeat, there's no mystery here.

But there's still a bit of a mystery surrounding Trump's sudden volt-face over Syria and, cynic that I am, I find it difficult to accept that it's all the result of this quintessential narcissist being moved by the fate of slaughtered children.

Indeed, in my cynical way, I can't help thinking that it was remarkably useful for Trump to have his forces committed to combat whilst he was playing host to Xi Jinping.

Not only would Trump have underscored his (and America's) prestige through the apparently effective use of military force. He would also have planted worries of what he might get up to in the context of North Korea or the South China Sea. And he would have taken Xi by surprise, thus derailing any plans the Chinese leader might have had for the summit.

Alternatively, Trump may have had his Russian debts payed-off by mainstream Republican money men, on condition that he drops his courtship of Putin and adopts a more conventional Republican foreign policy. This might also explain Steve Bannen's sudden removal from the National Security Council.

And, there again, Trump and Putin may just be pretending to have fallen out, so as to dampen down speculation about Russian involvement in the US election. Moreover, given our Orwellian tripartite division of the globe, Putin might not be too unhappy to see Xi under a little bit of extra pressure, particularly over Korea.

Last week, Oceania was allied to Eurasia and had always been allied to Eurasia against East Asia.

This week, Oceania is allied to East Asia and has always been allied to East Asia against Eurasia .

And next week, who knows?

David Stone said...

The Reaction of the western world's leaders, including our own, and public media in the west, to Assad"s use of chemical weapons against his own people is entirely predictable. He is a highly intelligent man leading a country in a desperate situation . Most of his neighbours and the so called democratic countries have been baying for his blood ever since the Arab spring uprising moved with al Qaeda into his country 7 rears ago.So he is as aware as any of the commenters here joining that chorus of politicians and MSM ,that the world would be crying out his destruction if he did this. When his need for approval ' his countries' need for his approval,is desperate.
You all have to completely suspend your own intelligence to maintain the position that he might chose to do this.
Grow some balls, place yourselves in his shoes and go where your own reason impels you.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Victor.

In reply, Victor, I would direct you to Seymour Hersh's "Whose Sarin?" in the LRB (just Google it), or, watch this clip on the Real News Network. The interviewee, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, was a senior staff member in Colin Powell's State Department.

Bushbaptist said...

I don't agree that Assad was responsible for this attack if that is what it was. As Chris puts it so eloquently, it makes no sense.

He's on top of the rebels, his forces control almost all of the Syrian territory except for some small areas and a few towns. Why would he do it at this time?

Even Bernie Sanders is beating the war drum about Assad and he should know better.

Info Clearing House have an interesting look at this issue:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Too many people on too few resources a failure of multiculturalism?"
Short answer no. And it's only really worth a short answer.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Assad thought he was dealing with another vacuous dope like Obama.."
You mean the vacuous dope that actually listen to his foreign policy experts? And avoided getting involved in the Syria mess as far as possible? That vacuous dope? You know the last time the State Department was totally ignored was in 1950 in Korea, when they predicted the Chinese intervention. How did that work out? Oh – let's leave foreign policy to amateurs then.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor. There are some as say that it's a similar reaction to Bill Clinton bombing the powdered milk factory. To try to take away some of the heat from his first hundred days, which let's face it has been a complete disaster for him politically. Every time a US president sends the troops into action his approval rating tends to go up. Though I'm afraid not in this case, but it least it stayed the same when it was trending down. :)

Nick J said...

Victor, your take on dictators need to punish is quite accurate, the only question I would have is whether Assad is that stupid with regard to timing? He is very aware of the stakes, and I doubt that either he or Vlad are stupid.

The demo for the Chinese might be a factor, as would multifarious scenarios visi a vis the hawks of the Deep State etc etc. We can however only speculate in the absence of clear evidence. To affirm more would be to become the equivalent of the Washpo media orchestra whose regard to the presentation of evidence would in a legal scenario see them laughed out of court.

Victor said...


Thanks for those two references, both of which are much more credible than the type of scumbag material normally adduced on this and similar sites by those contesting the conventional wisdom of professionally-edited mainstream media.

Hersh's narrative confirms that there was a rush to judgement over the 2013 chemical weapons incident. Quite rightly, he doesn't come down firmly in accusing either the Syrian government or the opposition of this atrocity. But he does reinforce the status of sarin as a "use it or lose it" weapon, which is surely the main reason why, in this most recent case, the Russian narrative is implausible.

The Wilkinson interview is also impressive but is at its weakest on this very point. The only new (as far as I'm aware) suggestion that Wilkinson makes is that agricultural phosphates may have been part of the toxic mix which caused so many terrible deaths.

I was under the impression that we already knew for sure that sarin was responsible. Even if this fact is contested, I'm dubious as to whether phosphates could have caused such damage, but would certainly defer to a qualified opinion on this matter.

Of course, I'm aware of the long history of false reports used as an excuse for carnage. But the whole point of the fable about "The Boy who cried Wolf" is that sometimes (however rarely) there is in fact a wolf in the fold.

And, yes, I agree, it was all very convenient for Trump for this to happen more or less precisely when he was entertaining his Chinese guests (see my post of 16.47 yesterday). But, if it hadn't happened, he'd have found some other way of knocking Xi off balance. Whatever else you can say about Trump, he's clearly a highly talented and inventive opportunist. Hence his career as a Reality TV star.

Finally, may I repeat that I'm not advocating US or (more generally) western (let alone, NZ) intervention in Syria. There's no good that we can conceivably do there. Our task, for the moment, is to help those displaced by this horrendous conflict. Later on, there might be a more active role we can fulfill as peacekeepers. But that's a long way off at present.

Victor said...

GS and Nick J

Thanks for your comments. No excessively strong disagreement from me on any of the points raised.

jh said...

Too many people on too few resources a failure of multiculturalism?"
Short answer no. And it's only really worth a short answer.
Syria had a population explosion (up until 2010) but climate change is also a factor as is the fact that it is an ethno-religious war. W.D Borie said this about the Pacific Islands (1965)
“to a demographer these Islands represent populations, however idyllic they appear to be at the moment, nearer the brink of overpopulation in the Malthusian sense than almost any other groups of peoples”.
Then what happened?- It became about dawn raids and "moral panic" and "othering" . How much potential scholarship has been lost thanks to the left-wing disease.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. Still not worthy of a longer answer.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. I might have been a bit harsh when I said your post is not worthy of a longer answer. But if you could provide me with some evidence that the government of Syria attempted to develop a multicultural society, I might give you one. Without one, there can be no failure of one – one suspects.

Bushbaptist said...

GS Syria did have a multicultural society and a secular one as well until the CIA/Saudis got involved and stirred up a revolt.

Everyone regardless of their religious belief or ethnicity was treated equally there.

GS, I usually have a high regard about your comments but please do proper research on this subject.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Syria was multicultural to the extent that religious and ethnic tensions did not surface because they were run by a dictator. It was secular I suspect for the same reason. I don't regard this as a genuine multicultural society. When you take away the dictator – as happened in Yugoslavia – all these tensions come to the surface because people aren't afraid of being shot for expressing them. And how did that work out when Tito died? To me a multicultural society is one where the government encourages respect for different cultures, not one where people hide their dislike out of fear.

Bushbaptist said...

GS I was in Syria in 2000 and I saw and experienced life there. It was just as I said; Multicultural, multi religious and very secular. There were no underlying tensions and Christians, Sunni, Shia, and Kurds all intermixed without any friction. There certainly wasn't any hidden fear. People could criticise the Govt. and many did, without any repercussions.

As I pointed out before Assad was voted in twice in free open and fair elections. Not by a huge majority but enough for him the run the country.

Assad was regarded by most western leaders and a stabilising force in the region until he refused to allow an oil pipeline through Syria and then the fertiliser hit the oscillator.

The Saudis in particular want to impose a Wahhabi Sunni Govt. there as well. Assad is Alawite (Shia). Remember that ISIS is Wahhabi Sunni.

I think you are confusing Assad with his daddy who was a nasty prick.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Bushbaptist. If there were no underlying tensions, how come everything's gone to shit now? There must've been underlying tensions. Particularly as the Alawites were a distinct minority, and regarded by many Sunni as heretics. I suspect that people are not likely to mention these to a stranger. And those elections were regarded by many as controlled, not free and fair.

Bushbaptist said...

More info on the Gas Attack;

Bushbaptist said...

GS Not sure where you get your info from mate but it is wrong. Everything has "Gone to Shit" because the CIA/Saudis put hot-headed Sunni jihadists into the mix. As I explained before the Saudis and the USA want to put an oil pipeline across Syria to Turkey and on to Europe. The purpose is to bypass Russia who relies of oil/gas sales to Europe for their economy.

I have never said that Assad is an all-round nice bloke, he isn't, but he's not as bad as he is painted and he is well liked in Syria. He is disliked by the US because he is aligned with Russia.

Think of the extreme Evangelical Christians and extrapolate that to the Sunnis. The Sunni Muslims are the majority of all the Muslims in West Asia. Not all Sunnis are nutters in fact most are just like us; toiling away to pay their bills at the end of the month and not concerned about extremism.

GS I know how the Yanx work and think, I was in Vietnam and saw it first hand. Nothing has changed except the geography.