The Syrian regime has been dealt its most serious blow in sixteen months of repressing and killing its own people. The bombing of its military heart by revolutionaries may accomplish what has eluded endless and fruitless diplomatic efforts.

Whoever took out the Syrian National Security Headquarters - the command and control hub of Assad’s regime - may well have delivered the catalyst for the final battle for Syria.

The Brigade of Islam and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have both claimed credit for the bombing, which rather symbolically, included the Minister of Defence amongst its casualties. The Minister also happens to be Assad’s brother-in-law, which means he’s finally been affected personally. 

The FSA is most likely to have carried out the operation, which in itself is quite revealing. It shows the rag tag bunch of civilians protesting for reform as opposed to regime change when this all began last March, is developing into a more sophisticated fighting force.

Don’t get me wrong - sophistication when killing is no badge of honour for a regime, revolutionaries, mercenaries or suicide bombers.

The FSA’s sophistication is more about strategic abilities which minimize its own casualty list, and demonstrate it can penetrate the heart of power in the capital Damascus. Something it certainly could not do only a few months ago.

As the fighting, which is raging on still, indicates, the FSA is able to hold some ground against the highly weaponised Syrian army and Assad-loyal militias.

Loyalty is however a concept Assad will be in turmoil over. Oh, how tough that will be, especially if it affects his slumber.

He won’t be counting sheep. It will be endless revision of lists of toadies wondering who in his court could turn on him. It is Shakespeare circa 2012. Chef? Driver? Body guards? Hairdresser? Doctor? Children’s nannies? The list at his level of self indulgence is endless, and that is sure to start inducing paranoia.

If just one, or even a few betrayed the regime by setting up the Security HQ for such a lethal blast, its plausible someone in the palace might also be inclined to do the people a favour.

There’s another serious message in exposing the vulnerability of the Assad regime, and that’s for those top level politicians, military and businesspeople who ensure the continuation of the regime.

Visualising their own immunity being stripped away, is it now time for them to do some serious calculations and decide to jump ship?

Trickles of military personnel and diplomats have already been sneaking away hoping to save themselves, their families, their reputations and perhaps their fortunes by defecting.

Do those closer to the leader’s throne start doing likewise? And with them, Russia and China? After all, if this is the beginning of the final battle (and not a “dead end” as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov insists on referring to the FSA) it’s time to start working out how to do business with Assad’s imminent replacement/s. 

Yes it’s all conjecture at this stage, but while there have been a dizzying array of turning points in this murderous drama, none has struck at the heart of power like the systematic taking-out of the most secure venue in the country.

This is the hub for all the military operations information that comes to Assad. Talk about throwing the replacement Defence Minister a hospital pass. He’s in the job with absolutely no operational archive.

That said, the presence of helicopter gun ships, explosions, gunfire and shelling in the streets of Damascus overnight indicates Assad troops are not yet ready to desist from killing their own people.

Syrians have a right to be terrified about the destruction their President can, and no doubt is unleashing right now. The question is, is he determined to fight to the end - the absolute, bitter, kill me, my wife and children end as the Syrian resistance is? 

Or, will someone in the palace do the honours, before the FSA reaches the front steps? 



Comments (36)

by on July 19, 2012

In a once again dizzying dispay of willful ignorance with regards to the entire spectrum of Geopolitical currents and forces Jane heralds with an almost venal hatred for a regime of a country which does not live by our meme of Democracy the "final battle for Syria". Just like she did the final battle for Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya I suspect.

In her world we are the good guys and the bad guys are those leaders which rule countries in an autocratic way and do not seem to want to adapt to our liberty loving ways.

That is the ones who actually make sure there is religious tolerance, Free housing, healthcare and schooling. The sheiks of Saudi arabia, Bahrain and Quatar who kill and torture their own populations with abandon are happily ignored.

Never mind it's in Saudi arabia were women can get the death penalty for merely driving a car and in Libya, Iraq and Syria women were among the best educated and free to live the life they choose.

In her limited world the laws of science can be broken by Muslims with box cutters and we are justified to unleash Depleted Uranium and kill milions of people savagly in the name of Democracy.

In her world the destruction of ancient civilisations for the next 4.5 billion years is justified because we are white, wear the right kind of clothes and they are borwn and weare the wrong kind of clothes and above all they have a different way of doing business and religion.

And even more bizarrely Jane believes that we while we had to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is perfectly OK to fight by their side in order to liberate both Libya and Syria.

Jane believes that she as a journalist and pundit does not need to do any research in her line of business because her opinion is all that matters. Why is it all that matters? Because everby in the MSM parrots the same ignorant MSM speak and nobody challenges them.

Jane do me a favour and do some research into what happens in the countries we "liberated". Stooge governments, Corporate take over of resources and no more free Healthcare, University studies or Housing, Religious intolerance and hundreds if not thousands of misformed babies due to Depleted Uranium.

And above all Jane, opinion is not the same as sound journalism especially when promoting violence and destruction of an entire country in what will be once again an illegal war of aggression.

I understand that the amount of links I can make is limited becasue of spam danger.

For those of you sick of this mainstream drivel and interested in learning more about the real geopolitical situation our world finds itself in please visit my blog: about Geopolitics, Finance and how we connect to both in far away New Zealand

by Andrew Geddis on July 19, 2012
Andrew Geddis


Charging into a comments thread to roundly vilify the author and accuse her of all sorts of heinous crimes against truth and humanity (without providing one iota of evidence for them), only to at the end linkwhore to your own supposedly infinitely superior blogsite, is pretty average netequette. Do it again, and your Pundit commentating rights will be suspended.

On the substance of your rant (insofar as it is able to make it out), other readers may care to consider how it squares with Jane's comments like this:

The US has damaged its foreign policy very badly in the region with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, propping up various dictators and sending detainees off to jails in the region knowing that torture was a staple.

Or this:

Desperate to repair its image on the so-called Arab street [the US] dropped its immoral – or perhaps more kindly amoral – stance when it came to domestic/foreign affairs concerns for stability trumping the rights of citizens of those strategic nations.

But all this seems to grind to an abrupt halt when it comes to the rights of Palestinians who are imprisoned, shot, tear gassed, evicted, harassed and disenfranchised every day by the occupying Israeli forces.

What the hell is the difference between rights for Palestinians and those of Egyptians, Libyans, Bahrainis, Algerians, Yemenis or Tunisians?

Or this:

The well known pollster of Arab opinion, American Arab James Zogby in his latest book Arab Voices, makes extremely valid points about how Muslim attitudes to issues such as women’s rights can be perceived in the West.

When confronted by Dick Cheney’s lawyer daughter Liz on the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, Zogby was able to refer to a legitimate poll (of 800 individuals) which showed that Saudi men were slightly more liberal in their social views than Saudi women, and more likely than their female counterparts to support expanding women’s rights.

Cheney Junior flat out dismissed the poll, preferring to rely instead on views expressed by four Saudi women who had visited her office the week before.

As Zogby noted, he was not surprised by Cheney who, like other hard-liners in the Bush administration frequently displayed a tendency to reject empirical data about the Middle East in favour of a convenient anecdote – or to twist the data when a useful example didn’t present itself.

Essentially stereotypes when it comes to Islam are very easy political fodder, and to heck with how damaging or dangerous they have often proven to be.

Having done so, readers may make up their own minds as to whether Eveliene's characterisation of Jane's writing is fair or not. They can even go and have a look at her blog and draw their own conclusions on whose voice they think the more reasonable and informed. Without resorting to name calling.

by on July 19, 2012

Andrew,First off my name isn't Eveliene but Evelien. To me that is a first sign of disrespect'. To not be bother to use someones proper name when taking the moral highground is just as personal and insulting. Added to that the "to all of you who are reasonable" talking over the head of the person you are accosting is equally nasty and personal as you accuse me of.

It's patronising and shows you up as a typical pakeha middle class male. Just like the chivalrous defence of Jane's piece. Is Jane incapable of defending her own writing or is that your job?

Further more, large swats of copy and pasting is equally shoddy nettiquette.

I wasn't reacting to previous articles but to the drivel she put up in this one.

I am happy to support all my points with links making a joke of her piece but alas only a limited amount is permitted as I indicated in my response to her "opinion piece".

Her total acceptance of the Main stream media vilification of the Assad regime without so much as reference to the many journalists contradicting the main stream media stories of massacres allegedly "perpetrated" by the Assad regime such as the Houla massacre, the Homs bombings, the Tremseh massacre which were all used in the Western media as a reason to, just like they did in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya
to destabilise local governments is irresponsible journalism. If you want to give an opion about a dangerous situation you owe it to all concerned to inform yourself as much as possible about all sides before you write your piece.

If she had she would have known that we are not observing the "justified" toppling of a despot by the local population but a meticulously engineered destabilisition attempt in order to create a situation in which the "global" community must invade in order to save the country, and that the deep unpopularity of the US leaders is not an unfortunate side effect of the US making unfortunate political decisions but the seething anger of whole populations who do know the reality of what is the US murderous politics and who are sick and tired of being manipulated and murdered at the pleasure of the likes of the Clintons and their puppet masters.

If she informed herself as she should have had she would have marvelled at the similarity of how every country in the crosshairs of NATO and the US all of  sudden had people falling all over themselves blowing themselves up and exploding car bombs on the side of the roads destabilising those countries. making them easy targets for the bombs of the US empire. She would have seent the same system of propaganda and destabilisation initiating every illegal, genocidal war started in the aftermath of that other joke they played on us: The events of 9/11, the day on which every law of science was broken.

We are watching a purposeful destabilisation and destruction of every single Muslim country which is not at the back and call of the US empire while leaving similarly deplorable despots in power because they do toady to the empire.

That is criminal, illegal and if International war laws were applied to the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bush, Obama and Blair they would end up hanging from the same gallows as the Nazi's after the second World War.

New Zealand has just signed up to fifty years of submission to NATO and military bondage to the US. That means we are going to be involved in every misbegotten military adventure the US and NATO might dream up next. This is not a time for polite narrow minded opinion pieces but for real and courageous journalism. For the sake of the people who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and next Syria and Iran.

And damn the consequences.

And Andrew you would be wise to check out my site once in while too. Not because it's superior but it deals with subjects the MSM would like to disappear and you just might learn something about what is happening in the real world.

by Andrew Geddis on July 20, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Jane needs no defending from anyone and if she could be bothered I'm sure she'd swat you away herself, but as a part of the Pundit collective I am interested in actively enforcing the rules of behaviour expected of participants on this site.

No doubt your site has copious "evidence" as to how the Syrian uprising is all a Western plot against someone determined to oppose their will (or something). But I'm not particularly interested in debating a defender of a regime that uses torture camps to retain their hold on power. So you stick to your truth, I'll stick to mine. Thanks.

by Matthias on July 20, 2012

Andrew - while I would distance myself from some of the claims made by Evelien, on this issue she might just have a point. A broken clock is correct twice a day, after all.

In fact, if you or others were to do some actual research or talk to some people who may know something about Syria and the nature of western interventionism, you may be able to stop from recycling tired and shrill cliches. Perhaps you should consult some blogs by people with actual linguistic and historical knowledge of the region before hopping on to fashionable causes, and without acknowledging the full implications of what you're saying, especially when it's a matter of life and death, or being used to further others' ulterior geopolitical aims. 

For example, the fact that the Assad regime may still have significant domestic support does not fit in to a liberal democratic fairy tale about evil dictators. And while the brutality of the regime has received plenty of western media attention, the roaming Islamist and Salafist gangs which make up much of the so-called 'Free Syrian Army' has received much less attention. You're also neglecting the fact that Syria has been sucked in to a great power rivalry, with Russia admittedly arming one side, but with the other being amply supported and armed by bastions of democracy and enlightenment like Gulf Emiratees, Saudis, and the CIA. So what we have is a foreign-fueled domestic political conflict, in which it is entirely legitimate to have concerns about both sides, and where supporting a peaceful resolution most certainly involves opposing forceful interventionism.

You cite a biased Human Rights Watch report, which was based exclusively on interviews with stated opponents of the regime. Compare that to their 'Open Letter' which politely asks the armed opposition to refrain from documented "kidnappings, the use of torture, and executions by armed Syrian opposition members".

And this is where you go most horribly wrong - as construing opposition to the dominant propaganda of western governments as 'defending the regime'. You're doing exactly what the neo-cons did in the lead-up to Iraq.

And even the most universalist liberal would have to conceded that the secular socialist tyrannies of the Middle East have done some admirable things for women and for religious minorities, which can all be regarded as some components of a more comprehensive conception of democracy.

Meanwhile, the calibre of Jane Young's opinion piece above suggests she's way out of her depth and is simply recycling a bunch of tired cliches.

by Andrew Geddis on July 20, 2012
Andrew Geddis


I'm intrigued at all these claims about "Western interventionism" in Syria, given that today's NY Times quotes one of the military leaders of the uprising as saying:

“When you think of why we are improving and getting stronger, it is not because more weapons are coming in from outside. The main reason is because we are becoming more organized, and because of our bombs.”

But of course, it is reported in the NY Times and hence comes from a mouthpiece of the US administration (just like those biased Human Rights Watch people, who insist on reporting what is told to them!), rather than a reliable source like some blog post by "people with actual linguistic and historical knowledge of the region". Because nothing says "credible" better than the fact some person has gone to all the trouble to write a blog about an issue that says something you agree with!

As for my "doing exactly what the neo-cons did in the lead-up to Iraq" ... bollocks. If I were inventing threats to Western interests as a smoke-screen for invading Syria and imposing a new political and economic order upon the country in the name of a rigid ideological belief in its manifest superiority, you might have a point. I challenge you to show where I have done so anywhere in my 3 comments here (or in any of my other writings on Pundit). However, I would note that your accusing me of acting like the neo-cons is just what the apologists for Hitler did before the outbreak of WW 2. (See how quickly we reach the point of extreme sillyness once we start down the "you're acting just like ..." route?)

Finally, all Jane's piece says (in my eyes) is that (1) the FSA's improved military techniques are off-setting the Assad regime's advantage in weaponary; and (2) it looks more and more likely that that regime will fall as a result (whether through an FSA victory or internal coup). How exactly this is "simply recycling a bunch of tired cliches" is beyond me. Perhaps you might actually care to read what has been written in a post, rather than use the comments thread to make declarative statements about what people "really" are saying? That way you won't use up your entire stocks of outraged sanctimony before lunchtime.

by on July 20, 2012



Moving the goal posts are we? I responded to you with plenty of links supporting my assertions as you demanded but here we are with the next and oh, so predictable move: The "if you're not with me you are against me" response also known as "the if you are not against the villain du jour you must be defending him" move.

No Andrew, all I did was point out that there is a vast amount of different grays and that bombing countries because you don't like their political figurehead is illegal and killing hundreds of thousands if not millions of citizens and polluting their countries with radioactive material while removing said leaders is genocide and a war crime no matter who does it.

I'm glad we agree on one thing though: Governments which torture are wrong so the owners of Guantanamo were waterboarding was authorised by the supreme leader and the dark holes in Poland and Afghanistan and the country which happily used Assad's torture camps should be prosecuted with the same ardour Jane seems to think we should put towards getting rid of Assad.

Oh, oops, that would be the USA!
Well, like they say: What's good for the goose is good for the gander

Oh, and for Jane swatting me? Bring it on!

by Andrew Geddis on July 20, 2012
Andrew Geddis


(1) I abjure the US's actions in the Middle East, I oppose the war in Afghanistan, and I marched against the Gulf War (versions 1 and 2). So whatever point you think you've made against me, congratulations ... but I suspect you are really arguing with your assumptions rather than me as a real person and what I've actually said. 

(2) I think Assad is an evil man and the Syrian people would be far better off without him as their "leader" (in reality, oppressor). Whether the FSA (or whomsoever rises up instead) will be any better, I don't know ... but unless and until Assad goes, there is no chance for a better life for ordinary Syrian people. And as Assad would rather kill and brutalise thousands than give up power, you have to choose a side - so is that side him and his amply demonstrated murderous nature? A simple question in the context of the actual post that you are commenting on (rather than some imagined post that you appear to think has been written).

by on July 20, 2012

And finally real communication.

Thank you Andrew, it's hard to come off your high horse I know but it's so much easier to actually be able to exchange ideas.

Great to hear that like me you abjure the illegal wars of aggression started by the US and NATO and I hope you are just as opposed to NZ joining the NATO and US war machine as I am.

I too am convinced that the systems of which Assad, Gadaffi and Sadam Houssein are the figureheads are oppressive and it would be better if their people were free to elect their own representatives.

What irks me is that while you and I may think that people should be free and if need be elect people to represent them in some form or other we seems to accept that it is up to us to select which countries leaders should go.

As I pointed out countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain (Whose sheik recently was present at the lunch celebrating the Queens jubilee) and Quatar are equally oppresive if not more so but they can buy massive ammounts of arms from the US and NATO to supress their populations with.

We support terrifying despots suach as in Kazhakstan Nursultan Nazarbaev who has a penchant for boiling his opponents in oil.

The Iraq war has cost more lives than the entire regime of Sadam Houssein and displaced millions of innocent citizens as has the kinetic military action in Libya.

What I point out is that our sentiments about how we should all be free to elect our own oppressors (Let's face it Americans  really don't have free elections anymore) a small group of ruthless powerful individuals uses our sentiments to achieve an agenda which has nothing to do with liberty and justice for all but everything with oil and resources.

Wars of aggression and conquest no matter who perpetrates them are war crimes. And whether we like it or not at this moment the only ones doing that are the US and NATO allied countries.


by Andrew Geddis on July 20, 2012
Andrew Geddis


I think you radically undervalue the agency of the populations of those countries in the Middle East that have risen up and cast off their oppressors. Making out that these developments are (for the most part) some sort of a Western plot is as reductionist as is the claim that they represent an inevitable move towards a liberal-democratic ideal end-state.

That said, of course the West seeks to take advantage of such movements ... what else would we expect from imperialist nations? But given that the West will act as the West will act, what do you actually want in the concrete situation of Syria today?

by on July 20, 2012

See, that is the crux, it is not what I want that matters.

When I look at what is happening in Egypt I see a movement which (while there may have been some involvement of foreign agitators) for the most part seems authentic and really from the people. The way Christians protected Muslims during prayer and their refudsal to resort to violence indicates to me that people were really intend on taking their country back from their ruling elite and their anger at Hillary Clinton is real and I think the military is going to have a hard time trying to hold onto power.

When I look at Libya and Syria a look at manifactured violence (Armed by NATO, foreign troops training local and imported "rebels") in order to achieve a hidden (not so hidden really) agenda.

I would like that for starters to stop. the Syrian opposition has regularly claimed they did not want forein intervention and they had just voted in a new constitution and multi party elections had just been held. Now you might argue that this is just another way for Assad to hold on to power but that is what was happening in Syria when these armed thugs started killing civilians and everytime it turned out not to be Assad's troops.

I really like the way this thread developed and appreaciate real communication with regards to these issues and will read your response if you respond later but I have obligation I need to fullfill.

by DeepRed on July 20, 2012

I think one of the wider points being made is that there's little use throwing out one dictator, if he only ends up being replaced by another. It's happened all too often with armed revolutions of all stripes.

by David Farrar on July 20, 2012
David Farrar

I see that Evelien thinks Barack Obama should be executed.

Does this mean she is a Republican? I've heard a few of them say the same thing.

by stuart munro on July 20, 2012
stuart munro

Frankly, Obama is a disappoiment. Nevermind the failure to engage with economic problems that NZ governments will slavishly follow 2-3 years from now, when Obama said "Yes we can" his supporters at least did not expect he was referring to torture, or rendition.

by on July 20, 2012


I would be an equal opportunity war criminal executioner if I had my say. It was with great pleasure that I noted that Bush had to cancel a trip abroad for fears of a citizen arrest in Zwitserland and I would support the arrests of other war criminals such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, General Patraeus, Perle, Wolfowitz, Condi Rice and lawyers such as John Yoo who perverted international  military law by telling President Bush that waterboarding was OK. They are all neocons and republicans but to be honest I don't think it makes a flying f*&k of difference who get's elected in the US at the moment because most certainly neither the congress nor the President nor the legal system runs anything.

I think that is a point well made Deep Red.

In Libya after the fall of the Gaddafi regime the Muslim Brotherhood or a namesake took over and introduced Sharia law. Women are back in the stone age as far as their human rights are concerned and there is a tribal war going on killing slews of people and while under Gaddafi black Libyans were equal citizens, today they are casts as the lowest of the low and are in fact killed and tortured just for being black.

In Iraq, women could once walk the streets at any time of the day or the night unaccompanied by male relatives. They held good jobs were doctors, scientists and lawyers. The day the new Government took over that was gone.

In Iran there are two female students for every male at the universities and there are now more students than ever under the Shah. The studies women prefer in Iran are engineering and physics and they are very well regarded among their peers and are getting good jobs and are first rate inventors appreciated around the globe.

Added to that contrary to what the mainstream media want us to believe there is a thriving Jewish community in Iran with in Tehran alone 25 fully functioning Synagogues. (Watch this video made by a Jewish film crew in Tehran about the Jewish community in Tehran.)

The same religious freedom is guaranteed in Syria with a huge diversity in Muslim, Christian and other religious groups.

In Egypt the Muslim brotherhood has been elected in and already calls are made to destroy the Pyramids and ancient temples because they are "Pagan" in a manner reminiscent of the Taliban destroying the ancient giant Buddha's just before the invasion of the coalition of the killing.

by Matthias on July 20, 2012

Hi Andrew – frankly, yes, if you read the New York Times you know they are chronically incapable of providing any distanced or reflexive coverage of the Middle East (I won’t say ‚objective‘, because that is indeed not possible IMHO). Compare their coverage of Syrian brutality now to the Israeli war in Gaza, or anything to do with Israel really. Also, do you remember 2003 and the drum-beat to war?


I’m amused that you cite a quote by “one of the military leaders of the uprising”, as providing some kind of evidence that the armed opposition has nothing to do with western intervention. Who might have an interest in saying such a thing? It’s a bit like going to Assad for a statement on what happened in Houla.


And finally, I would call you out on "doing exactly what the neo-cons did in the lead-up to Iraq”. Namely, equating criticism of western interventionism as support for a violent dictator. To my ears, this is what you did when you said:

"But I'm not particularly interested in debating a defender of a regime that uses torture camps to retain their hold on power. So you stick to your truth, I'll stick to mine."

(You also at the end seem to embrace some kind of truth relativism, which sounds very Straussian neo-con, but it’s probably supposed to be ironic somehow.)

To recapitulate my major points, which I have not seen sufficient evidence here to overturn:

1. The violence of the conflict has been exacerbated by external actors, including Russia, but also including the west and its proxies.

2. The situation is complicated, and it’s entirely legitimate to have real concerns about the opposition.

3. This does not mean that you must be a supporter of “a regime that uses torture camps to retain their hold on power“, although in fact the burden of proof must presumably fall on you to point to a better alternative.

4. Please do more research, other than Googling the NYT, before writing blogs about such a conflict. I can’t claim to have invested my life in understanding the region, but I’m not the one putting up blog posts about it, which might end up being taken seriously.

I support the people of Syria, neither the Baath Party nor much of the FSA.

by Matthias on July 20, 2012

(The last point (4) obviously intended for Jane Young.)

by Andrew Geddis on July 21, 2012
Andrew Geddis


You seem to pick and choose your goodies and baddies on a somewhat arbitrary basis. So - Egypt good because the people really seem to be behind the uprising (despite the fact the Muslim Brotherhood won subsequent elections and hardly are friends of women's rights - so maybe the Mubarek era military actually should retain power?); Libya bad because the West armed the insurgents (despite the fact that the large majority of the tribal peoples there wanted Gaddafi gone ... to the extent of riding into battle against tanks on the back of pick-up trucks); Iran good because of the Mullahs let more women study (despite the fact they also violently repressed demonstrations calling for greater democracy and openess). I know the Middle East is a messy place full of greys, but your preparedness to give/withold your blessing seems somewhat arbitrary ... and I'd also point out that your acceptance of some pretty dodgy behaviour in Middle East states contrasts with your vehement denounciation of the evildoings of the West (which may have been the point David Farrar was (in his usual stirring way) seeking to make ... ).


In response to your 4 points:

(1) Of course the violence has been "exacerbated" by outside actors - if there were no weapons (as well as moral/political support) provided to each side, then there would be less killing. But this is a fatuous truism ... and as I say, imperialist nations will be imperialist nations (not, I note, that all the outsiders are from "the West" or Russia ... there are various regional actors involved here, too). However, Syria is not Libya - the opposition groups are not being actively supported militarily by the West in anything like the same manner, so I don't think we are seeing some sort of a sock-puppet battle between outsiders (not, I hasten to add, that I am accusing you of claiming this ... but it's still worth noting).

(2) Of course the situation is complicated - as is every situation. Not sure how saying that adds much to our understanding of the world.

(3) But even recognising that "it's complicated" (as is everything), there presently are two choices on the ground in Libya. There is the Assad regime, and there is the FSA (albeit that the latter is not an homogenous bloc). An abstentionist "to hell with the both of you" position may be morally pure, but insofar as Assad represents the status quo (complete with his torture camps and heavy weapons and preparedness to kill to stay in power) then without change he stays on. So, in the real world as it presents itself to us, saying you don't want the only avaliable change - which is for the FSA to overthrow Assad - is saying you want him to stay on. Now, you may say you want him to stay on until a "proper" opposition arises that you can morally support ... which is effectively saying you are prepared to countenance consequences like the last time an uprising against the Assad's Baathist regime failed.

(4) At the risk of being a middle class pakeha male and defending Jane, perhaps you'd actually care to point to the bits of her post that - in your view - misrepresent the situation in Syria? Because I (once again) note that none of the various criticisms you (and Evelien) make in your various comments actually engages with what Jane has written in her post (as opposed to what you seem to think she might have written or has been written by other people in other places).

So, seeing as you are so free with unsolicited advice, here's some for you. Read what you are talking about before you talk about it.

by on July 21, 2012


Your comment is what in Psychology is called projection. I don't pick and choose, I observe. Big difference. I don't look at the countries we discus here in order to decide what the West should do. I look at them and try to determine what it is the populations of these countries want and while I abhor the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and all it entails for women and gays and other religious minorities that is their choice and a such I have to respect that.

Webster Tarpley an American Journalist who actually went to Libya and was in Tripoli during the bombings was asked why the West was attacking Libya. They may have wanted to get rid of Gaddafi but the majority of Libyans were well aware that the West did not want to help them but to further their own agenda such as the possession of one of the biggest aquifers in Africa, Libyan oil and gold and where strongly opposed to a US and NATO intervention.

When the same Webster Tarpley went to Syria and stayed in Homs while snipers were attacking people of Homs willy nilly the locals told him that they wanted the Syrian troops in Homs to stop the sniper attacks and when he spoke with legitimate local opposition leaders they all vehemently opposed foreign Military intervention. They may not have liked the Assad regime very much but they did not need foreigners to solve their problems for them.

In Afghanistan the Taliban is ruling the country side and the Afghan people prefer it that way and while the thought of having to live under feudal rule in a male dominated society would scare the shit out of me I have to respect the choices of the people who live in that area.

It seems to me that you have the greatest trouble realising that while you as a middle class white male think that the globe revolves around your privileged white ass and that therefore everybody has to live the way you deem the best way, you really aren't that important and neither is your idea of Democracy. (And make no mistake I'm a white middle class woman and equally privileged)

All these countries have their own systems and histories and none of them are particularly Democratic but they serve as a framework in which people can function all the same and to change that with violence because people like you provide a "moral" framework for our ruling elite to attack these countries and destroy their cultural heritage and their infrastructures in order to install puppet governments with a democratic sheen (a bit like the Romney/Obama choice in their own power centre) is hypocritical, shortsighted and dangerous as the millions of dead and displaced victims show.

In closing your remark about my picking and choosing would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious. The Propaganda machine you and Jane are part of (in the US only five corporations and here only one own the news) is the one picking and choosing. The stories about the countries we are about to invade are full of brown people over there bad and white people over here good and we are the heroes who have to save the brown people who are oppressed and a oh, well we can't help it if they have trillions worth of resources under their soil and the depleted Uranium kills the ones we "liberated" so we can conveniently dig it up.

I just point out that for every story about what is so bad in those countries there are good things too. 25 free and open Sinagogues in Tehran while Ahmedinajad is such a jewhating anti Zionist should be of interest shouldn't it or the fact that women in Iraq, Syria and Libya had more freedom to study, work and marry whom they wanted to marry should have been of interest shouldn't it.

Or the fact that for every man there are two women in the Iranian Universities and are they free to work should be of interest shouldn't it or the fact that Ahmadinejad donates money to the local Jewish hospital or the actual speech (where John Key as the global lackey that he is walked out on upon command of his US masters) he gave to the UN in which he talked about how Jesus and the Bible are of immense importance to the Muslim people because like Mohamed they consider him a prophet and part of their religious history.

That is the part your propaganda machine leaves out. That information would only emphasize that all those faceless brown people we have to liberate with Kinetic military action otherwise known as carpet bombing are actually people of flesh and blood and they have their own lives and aspirations, their own system and culture  and have no desire to be invaded and "liberated" and that is what I object too.

by Andrew Geddis on July 21, 2012
Andrew Geddis


It seems to me that your "observation" of issues extends to thinking that because whatever "the West" want is bad, then anything that is oppositional to "the West" is good, and thus deserves to be supported. For example, you cite a journalist who spoke to people in Tripoli who opposed NATO's actions (hardly surprising, given that members of certain tribes benefitted significantly under Gaddafi's rule and stood to lose heavily if it ended) ... but ignore the celebrations in Benghazi on the first anniversary of NATO's actions. Why prefer one source over another? 

Further, if my views are nothing more than a reflection of my ethnicity/gender/class status, then I guess yours must be too. Which means neither of us are reflecting anything like "the Truth". And so further conversation is pointless.

by on July 21, 2012

No Andrew, Starting illegal wars of aggression is no matter how you sell it and who does it.

Others here have already pointed out that just because you are against illegal wars of aggression you don't automatically side with the people who are the victims of the aggressor. Russian is not attacking anybody at the moment and while it would be nice if the Tibetans could have their country back the Chinese are not bombing a new country every year and neither are countries in Africa or South America. The only countries doing that are the US and NATO allies.

Illegal wars of aggression have always been sold as beneficial to the victims or justified because of racial superiority, territorial disputes or whatever. The fact is that it is the West is the only one starting new wars in on average one country every year since 2001 if you include the drone bombings of "terrorists" in Pakistan Yemen and Somalia and dropping bombs on countries we deem to be "wrong" for whatever reason.

Benghazi is the capital of a tribal region with a particularly vehement dislike for any memgers of the tribe Gadaffi belonged to and they were most definelty celebrating their victory. The victory of one tribe over another with the destruction of not just the leader of that tribe but the total bombing of his home town. Not really an uplifting liberation story now is it!

Maybe you should do some research and try to break away from the myopic the West is always right and therefore justified to bomb the shit out of everybody else meme.

Have a nice day Andrew. I'm going to retire from this conversation as I get the feeling that I have to repeat myself and it's getting boring . But I'll be back for more when it gets interesting again.

by Matthias on July 21, 2012

Andrew – I can see the conversation is drawing to a close, but since you invite me to "point to the bits of her post that - in your view - misrepresent the situation in Syria", I can only oblige, since it is so egregious:

"The bombing of its military heart by revolutionaries may accomplish what has eluded endless and fruitless diplomatic efforts.“

Firstly, it’s interesting how a suicide bomber is represented in the media and in Jane’s blog when the target is a government they don’t like. The celebrated New York Times called it a ‚brazen bombing attack‘. Can you imagine they (or the writer of this blog) calling a suicide attack on the American defense secretary or Israeli cabinet ministers ‚a brazen attack‘?

Secondly, how about these ‚revolutionaries‘. People who just yesterday, according to eye witness accounts from Iraqi border police, „detain[ed] a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs“, and then executed 22 Syrian soldiers. This is not the only such report, and according to the UN Human Rights Council, both sides carry out summary executions. Meanwhile, the CIA and Mossad seem to have quite strong ties to these ‚revolutionaries‘. Because, you know, America and Israel are such friends of Arab revolutionaries.

"The bombing of its military heart by revolutionaries may accomplish what has eluded endless and fruitless diplomatic efforts."

"Endless and fruitless" presumably because they haven’t resulted in what the author really wants, which is violent regime change.

"The Brigade of Islam and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have both claimed credit for the bombing, which rather symbolically, included the Minister of Defence amongst its casualties. The Minister also happens to be Assad’s brother-in-law, which means he’s finally been affected personally."

It’s like the author is taking personal satisfaction that a relative of Bashar al-Asad has been killed by a suicide bomber. Nice one. Meanwhile, perhaps it would help to wait for firmer information about the attack before writing about it.

"The FSA is most likely to have carried out the operation, which in itself is quite revealing. It shows the rag tag bunch of civilians protesting for reform as opposed to regime change when this all began last March, is developing into a more sophisticated fighting force."

This is complete ignorant nonsense, with zero evidence.  If Hamas manages to get a suicide bomber into Israel, can we then conclude that it must have patched up its differences with Fatah and become a 'sophisticated fighting force'? Also, how does she know the FSA did it, when even regional experts do not know?

She then proceeds to whimsically speculate about the possibility for assassinating Asad, which in her view (as a super-informed observor from the moon) would be "do[ing] the people a favour". But who exactly is 'the people'? Perhaps the different sectarian and ideological groups within Syria might see it differently, a possibility completely missing from this 'punt'.

In fact,  I was looking through the rest of the article, but it then just degenerates into speculative nonsense, which she herself acknowledges: "Yes it’s all conjecture at this stage". Well indeed. Maybe you should wait until you actually know something before putting up misleading and triumphalist conjectures for all to see.

by glenn p on July 22, 2012
glenn p

Evelien and Matthias,

look, I just want to say that although it's great that you have your opinions and all, your comments are, in my view, spoiling the website here. The thing I love about this site is that the writers and audience treat each other with respect. It is great because we all learn from each other, and no-one gets belittled in the process. And on the Internet, that is a very rare thing. Another way of looking at it is, if you were sitting face-to-face with the other person over a cup of tea, would you use the same words that you use here, because I doubt you would.

I'm not trying to be all high and mighty - I don't always express myself with as much thought for the other person as I should - but it would be great if we could put the onus on ourselves to respect that the writer is a person (and is thus deserving of respect) and has gone to the effort to start a discussion in which we can participate.

Finally, thanks to Jane for the article.

by Matthias on July 22, 2012

Glenn P - your tolerance for polemic is obviously lower than mine. I assume Pundit readers are grown-ups who can accept that in matters of war and peace, passions can be (legitimately) aroused.

by Matthias on July 22, 2012

Also, reviewing Jane Young's other posts on Syria. Similarly well-researched. Including this howler:

"That it is exactly thirty years ago that Assad’s father Hafez crushed Syrian Islamists in the city of Homs, wiping out between 10,000 and 20,000, has not gone unnoticed by those now caught in the violent struggle for their futures."

By Homs, she presumably means Hama. I guess they're pretty close together, but really.

by Andrew Geddis on July 22, 2012
Andrew Geddis


You've rather proved my point. Your problems with Jane's actual post appear to lie in what you think she really means when she says things (which could, of course, be nothing more than "speculative nonsense" on your own part ... couldn't it?), or what you think she ought to have written instead (which is all well and good, but since when did you become her editor?), or that she dares as a mere observer of the world to speculate on the future (while explicitly acknowledging that it is mere speculation without a pretence of prediction). Was this really worthy of such a display of heated and excited condemnation? Really?

And yes, Jane should have written "Hama" instead of "Homs" - checkmate! But that brings me back to my challenge to you. Given the real-world choice between the FSA and Assad, and given the prior example of Hama when the Baathists win, your money is on ... ? And rather than wasting your wisdom in a mere comments thread, you can go to the "send us a story" link on the right of the page and write an entire post in which you put your superior analytic skills and predictive abilities on display for all to see. Seeing as how you have so much writing advice for everyone else, and all ... .

by Matthias on July 22, 2012

Hi Andrew, look. I've provided plenty of textual evidence to document what is wrong with this piece. I understand you might have reasons to defend a colleague, but when they write drivel, them's the breaks. There are just so many factual errors and silly speculations. It's worth critiquing, in my view, because of the (not quite) unprecedented propaganda and misinformation war about the situation in Syria, which this blog post merely amplifies.

I vehemently disagree that there is a dichotomous 'choice' between the existing government and the FSA and other armed gangs. Do you remember hearing the argument that if you opposed the invasion of Iraq, you supported Saddam Hussein? Remember that probably 80% of the Syrian population are neither involved in the armed opposition nor fighing for the government. Many are terrified of both the regime's forces and the armed opposition. It's a testament to the way the Syrian conflict has been portrayed that advocating a non-violent resolution has been delegitimised.

There is no need for me to regurgitate good information and analysis which is already available places like here, here, and even here. Take a look. Maybe then Jane Young's future posts, or your comments, will be more insightful. I promise to keep reading them.

by Andrew Geddis on July 22, 2012
Andrew Geddis


I reiterate - you quoted sections of Jane's post and then either said what you thought they meant (which wasn't what was actually written, of course) or what they ought to have said (which is your perogative, if you want to write your own post ... but apparently you won't). Here's a handy hint - if you have to make a post say something other than what it actually does in order to "debunk" it, then you haven't achieved what you think you have.

Over all, the problem I see with your contributions to this debate is not so much what you are saying - none of which is particularly contradictory to what Jane has written, it's just you perhaps are more suspicious of the FSA than she is and assume (without any real evidence, of course) that there is some outside agenda that explains what "really" is going on there - but rather that you are not arguing in good faith. Which undermines your contributions significantly, I'm afraid.

Finally, there are a million and one sources on the internet. One could, for instance, urge people to read this:

Joseph Kechichian, a Middle East analyst based in Beirut, talks to Al Jazeera about whether the fighting within Syria has reached a crucial stage:

"It looks like it has [reached a critical stage] although no one can be sure. But obviously, the opposition has demonstrated this week that it could hit at the very highest levels of the security apparatus of the state...

One has to assume that the opposition has been receiving a great deal of assistance from a variety of sources, both western as well as regional. I mean, that's logical under the circumstances. There is a civil war going on, there are two sides to the story, and presumably, both sides are receiving assistance from their friends an allies."

Which sounds not a million miles away from what Jane wrote in her blog. Or you could look at this:

In Syria's conflict, one side stridently argues that President Bashar al-Assad is under siege by agents of Gulf Arab states and the West. Opposition fighters, they say, are al Qaeda-allied terrorists and Israeli intelligence operatives. They characterize recent reports of Assad-regime massacres in the cities of Homs and Idlib as "a hysterical terrorist media campaign."

As the other side sees it, President Assad is "a monster." His regime, they say, is out to massacre the country's Sunni majority.

These polar views define not only the Assad regime and those who oppose it: They are also the two starkly competing narratives being broadcast across the region by Arabic-language television news channels. These dueling accounts of Syria's conflict are open proxies, observers say, for the political agendas of their backers.

"All you have is propaganda and counterpropaganda," says Marwan Kraidy, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication and an Arab media expert. "The number of channels is staggering, and the intensity of the sectarian hate and rhetoric is scary."

And assume that whatever you read, it ain't the whole truth. Meanwhile, there is a civil war going on in which one side will win and the other will lose, and the reason that "advocating a non-violent resolution has been delegitimised" is because of this.

by Matthias on July 22, 2012

Andrew - You invited me to "point to the bits of her post that - in your view - misrepresent the situation in Syria". Then you criticise me for saying "what you thought they meant". Hmm. Apparently only you are qualified to interpret this blog. 

Meanwhile, the things that you actually quote above do indeed sound "a million miles away" from what Jane Young wrote in this blog. I think that's pretty obvious. Compare them yourself.

The difficulty I have with your comments (which are equally in 'bad faith', and even resorted to mild profanity) is you apparently won't concede ANY critiques of this blog post at all. Not lack of evidence, not hyperbole, not biased speculation. Where is the evidence that "The FSA is most likely to have carried out the operation"?  Where is the evidence that this bombing attack constitutes "the systematic taking-out of the most secure venue in the country" ? Apparently, despite the dizzying array of competing and overlapping security and intelligence outfits which form part of the Baath regime, only Jane Young knows that "This is the hub for all the military operations information that comes to Assad." I thought in law they taught you the value of evidence.

Meanwhile, if you really believe that it's your only choice to throw your lot in with the FSA, I hope you stick to that line in the months and years ahead, and won't forget it. Nobody knows what the outcome of the conflict will be, but I hope it's better than what they're offering.

by on July 22, 2012

look, I just want to say that although it's great that you have your opinions and all, your comments are, in my view, spoiling the website here. The thing I love about this site is that the writers and audience treat each other with respect. It is great because we all learn from each other, and no-one gets belittled in the process. And on the Internet, that is a very rare thing. Another way of looking at it is, if you were sitting face-to-face with the other person over a cup of tea, would you use the same words that you use here, because I doubt you would.


Glen P,

I don't have time for linguistically intricacies so yes, I'm usually pretty blunt. Added to that writing something down and getting across what you are trying to convey is not the same as having a face to face conversation. In fact any writing course worth it's salt will tell you to exacerbate and over-emote. I have done for years at the Standard and they have grown to appreciate some of the controversy and the heated debate it brings and their tolerance for sturdy and heated debate has allowed the Standard to become the third biggest blog after the sewers that are Kiwiblog and  Whaleoil.

And after about five years of bringing it to the table at the Standard there are plenty of people who like me are openly calling for a new and independent investigation (and won't be bullied into silence anymore by the Conspircay nut stigma) into the events of 911 for example which set this whole "war on terror" and the blatend attacks on Muslim countries in motion.

So if it's alright with you I will keep on speaking my mind on Main stream media Drivel such as Jane's.

by Andrew Geddis on July 22, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Sorry, ... but when you say things like:

"It’s like the author is taking personal satisfaction that a relative of Bashar al-Asad has been killed by a suicide bomber. Nice one. "

in response to Jane's purely factual statement that the Minister of Defence (who also factually happens to be Assad's Brother-in-Law) was killed in the bombing, you're not "interpreting" what she says ... you are flat out rewriting the post to say something new. Which, I say, you can do. Just put your name to it in a post of your own. Except, given that you also say:

"Meanwhile, perhaps it would help to wait for firmer information about the attack before writing about it."

I guess you won't feel comfortable writing about anything presently happening in Syria for what ... another couple of weeks? Months? Or years? However, it's funny how this standard isn't applied to the news sites/blogs you chose to link to. They, apparently, can spectuate/make claims as much as they want on current events without any inconvenient truth standard to adhere to. Because you like what they say, I guess.

As for not being prepared to accept any criticism at all, that is simply not true and if you read the comments threads on my own posts you'll see plenty of places where I accept I got it wrong. Same goes for other writers here. My problem with both yourself and Eveliene is that you have seen the word "Syria" without an attached condemnation of the West and just started typing a generic condemnation of the "mainstream media" ... then when you tried to justify your attacks, you're reduced to frankly silly claims like "how do we KNOW that the Syrian National Security Headquarters (during a meeting of the top military officials in the country) really was the MOST secure place in Syria? Maybe it was only the second!" - and alleging that they are "biased", for crying out loud! I mean - can you really not see how silly you are sounding here?

As for having to stand behind the FSA forevermore ... yeah, it could turn out very shitty (as is always the risk when people power descends into civil war). But Assad staying on in power will turn out very shitty, as history shows - your ongoing silence on Hama is pretty interesting, btw. So it's a given bad versus a (I hope) less bad (but also an admitted risk of more bad). Which is the sort of choice the real world gives to us in the here-and-now, as opposed to your abstentionist neutrality which gives you the self-pleasuring benefit of never being wrong but also makes you functionally irrelevent. Which may sound harsh, but seeing as you just want to say it like it is, then I'm sure you'll accept the criticism.


Sorry - that's your lot. You are welcome to "keep on speaking [your] mind on Main stream media Drivel such as Jane's" on your own blog or at the Standard, but you are no longer welcome to denigrate the contributors here. 

by glenn p on July 22, 2012
glenn p


you spelt my name wrong. It is Glenn, not Glen. Sorry, couldn't resist pointing it out given your second post.

Good on you, Andrew. I also enjoy reading your posts and articles.

And those CAPTCHAs sure are getting difficult :)

by Matthias on July 22, 2012

Andrew - no, one is perfectly justified in writing about Syria even when things are unclear, but it is one's responsibility to recognise the limits of what facts are available, and not to baselessly interpret them to fit one's chosen conclusion. Every link that I have provided has been to demonstrate empirical evidence, not inflammatory speculation based on conjecture (e.g. UNHRC report, HRW open letter, regional expert academics like As'ad AbuKhalil, reports from Al-Akhbar English, etc). If they wrote such speculative nonsense, I would be equally critical. You just would like to think that because I vehemently disagree with you, I must be cherry-picking evidence. 

I see you are convinced that one can only support either the Syrian government or the FSA. You haven't really responded to my points on this, which were (1) empirical, that most Syrians aren't part of either, (2) that the burden is for you to demonstrate how toppling the government through a foreign-supported armed uprising will lead to something better, and which justfies the violence which occurs in the process, and (3) by analogy, you have the same position as those who construed opposition to the 2003 war on Iraq as support for Saddam (which as I pointed out originally, is what the neo-cons did). I mean, which side were YOU on in the Iran-Iraq war? The war between Israel and Hezbollah? The Franco-Prussian war?

So far, this conflict has raged on for 16 months, and nearly every day people in the western media have announced that the regime is on its last legs. Scores of people have been killed, tortured, maimed, and on both sides. I suggest that you should reflect on how the support for an armed uprising led by many unsavoury factions may in fact not be alleviating the violence, but exacerbating it.

If you think it's only legitimate to voice criticism accompanied by a positive programme, I would disagree. But if you like, I'll put my cards on the table: I have long supported a full arms embargo on all sides, the withdrawal of outside forces, and a negotiated transition (however morally compromising you might find it), just like the non-western democracies (and security council members) like India, Brazil, and South Africa have advocated. (So this was a real-world possibility and not a utopian fantasy.) That would be much more useful than misleading conjecture and hoping for a palace coup (a la the original post).

by Pete250 on July 23, 2012

I cannot believe that there are so many people out there that are still naive enough to believe that our role as Westeners is to act as the World police. And that's not all. We also act as if we were the judge and jury as well. Okay, so we started a war in Korea got it wrong and lost. Started a war in Veitnam killed millions of innocent citezens, got it wrong and lost the war, Started a war in Afghanistan and wont leave there until all their mountains have been stipped bare of all their precious minerals including lithium. Forget the locals thay are totally expendible! Stared a war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction that were not actually there and instead detroyed Iraq (want a holiday there?), started a war in Libya in a country that had the best living standards on the whole of the African continent and was 5th in the World standing and watched Hillary Clinton laugh as Gaddafo was murdered, he wanted to bring in the gold dinar for all of Africa, as we have seen this was a bad move for him. Next in line was Syria as in standing out like a sore thumb to be next on the agenda. A great place for a holiday 3 years ago but now a den of rebel iniquity exactly as planned and instituted by the West and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,General Westmoreland has exposed the fact that he was was surrepticiously shown the plans for the invasion of several countries including Syria & Iran. I just cannot understand how some people can be so gullible as to really believe that the West has got it right this time. Right for Israel and Western powers that want control over the planets resources and us the people. And if it's about deaths and or genocide what about Myanmar where thousands of Muslims are being slaughterd. Not a sound from the so called caring West?

by Matthias on July 23, 2012

By the way, see if you recognise this flag, hoisted over border crossings to Iraq recently, as an example of the "less bad" option in Syria at the moment. 

by Nic on July 24, 2012

There are really only two forms of human truth in the world, one which acts as a window from the light of an object and one which reflects it's light in one's own image.


The actual image is in many ways secondary to this ongoing process, being only an aid or obstacle to this process. One can either pass through these type of issues, or book their ticket into them until they have gotten bored or sick of themselves and are ready to move on.

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