Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 20, 2014

Syria: The Geneva II Conference Trouble

We do not yet know the whole story behind this but it seems that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon suddenly grew a pair and that the U.S. is now trying to again cut them off.

Ban Ki-Moon invited, seemingly against U.S. will, Iran to the Geneva II talks about Syria.

I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux. They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian Government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

I have spoken at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif. He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.

Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers. It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.

Therefore, as convenor and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate.

There is little one could say against Iran taking part in the conference. If even Mexico and Luxemburg are invited (what for?) Iran, much more involved in the conflict, surely deserves a place at the table. This is even necessary as any agreement coming out of Geneva II does need Iran's acceptance as it would otherwise likely attempt to sabotage it.

But the U.S. State Department would rather blow up the conference in which it has little to win and set conditions that Ban Ki-Moon with his careful words had tried to push aside:

The United States views the UN Secretary General’s invitation to Iran to attend the upcoming Geneva conference as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva communique including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities. This is something Iran has never done publicly and something we have long made clear is required.

The Iranian foreign ministry replied: As Iran has not taken part in the Geneva I conference it can not be held to or be expected to accept all its results.

Under heavy U.S. pressure the foreign sponsored exile opposition to Syria's government had agreed, with less than half of its membership voting yes, to come to Geneva. It now found a reason to draw back and set an ultimatum for Ban Ki-Moon to withdraw the invitation to Iran or the opposition would withdraw. Ban Ki-Moon is too exposed. He can not let a bunch of nobodies dictate UN policy. He will ignore them. It is up to the U.S. to get the opposition to Geneva.

While the Syrian government has long agreed to come to Geneva President Assad, in an interview published today, made clear that he will not step down or let the foreign sponsored hotel opposition take over the country:

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said there is a "significant" chance he will seek a new term and ruled out sharing power with the opposition seeking his ouster, in an exclusive interview with AFP before the Geneva II peace talks.

Speaking on Sunday at his presidential palace in Damascus, Assad said he expected Syria's war to grind on.

And he called for the talks scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Montreux in Switzerland to focus on what he termed his "war against terrorism".

Focusing on terrorism is by now also the objective of the "western" governments which tried to ouster Assad. Syria is training ground for their own misfits who will eventually come home and make trouble. Even the U.S. needs Assad to stay. Two car bombs exploded today at a Turkish Syrian border post, the last official one not directly controlled by al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS. They remind the Turks that they also have a huge problem. Another exposure of the weapons smuggling by Turkish intelligence officials to Jihadists increases pressure on Erdogan to look for a faster way out the situation. So everyone, except maybe Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is now looking for a way to keep Assad in, at least for a while, and to throw the terrorists out of Syria.

But the U.S. blowing up the Geneva conference over Iran's participation will make it harder for outsiders to influence that.

The recent infighting between the various extremists group on the ground in Syria has allowed the Syrian government to make significant progress on the ground in Damascus governate as well as around Aleppo. If Geneva II does not take place or fails the one loosing the least will likely be the Syrian government.

Posted by b on January 20, 2014 at 16:15 UTC | Permalink

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There was an interesting link, in the comments at Going to Tehran, to a recent (AmConMag?) article by Philip Giraldi, who claims that the US Intel Community has convinced itself that Obama wants Geneva II to include Iran and to succeed in a way favourable to Assad and Syria - but feels obliged to continue blustering to save face.
I personally believe that China and Russia are telling Obama that if he and al-CIA-da don't stop experimenting with ter'rism, there won't be a US of A to "protect" from threats (real or imaginary).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 20 2014 16:52 utc | 1

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 20 2014 17:01 utc | 2

What's the difference between the meetings in Geneva and Montreaux (besides 64 km)? Iran is only invited to Montreaux, yes?

Posted by: ess emm | Jan 20 2014 17:02 utc | 3

No. There's no difference. 'Geneva 2' will be held in Montreaux. That's the one and only 'Geneva 2' conference, not some piddly side thing, that Ban has invited Iran etc to take part in.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 20 2014 17:05 utc | 4

I think that the USA and most of the Western countries secretly prefers that Iran participates in the Conference. That's probably why Ban Ki Moon took the chance.
Geneva II's priority is less about Bashar Al Assad's fate than about how to stop the growth of the Jihadists in the region. Therefore Turkey, the USA and the West would take no chance that this conference be cancelled. It would give the Islamic Front and al Qaeda a political victory and encourage them to expand their grip on the region. It will also give more chance to the Syrian Army to retake territories and disarm rebels. Even if Saudi Arabia tries to boost further its Islamic Front, we have seen that it is bound to face humiliating military defeats.

If the conference is cancelled, the losers are clearly Turkey, the USA and the Western countries and on medium term Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Therefore the objections of the opposition and Saudi Arabia about Iran may simply be ignored as all their objections and pre-conditions have for the sake of saving the West's face.
With this latest blow the opposition's credibility is going even deeper into the void.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 17:10 utc | 5

Robert Ford with the big stick:

SA already rejects Iranian involvement:

Both from Al-Manar so don't know how reliable they are.

Posted by: Neo | Jan 20 2014 17:11 utc | 6

@4 OK. It seemed to me "the one-day gathering in Montreaux" was something different.

Posted by: ess emm | Jan 20 2014 17:11 utc | 7

thanks b! one typo i see in your article - ..."for their own misfits who will eventually come how and make trouble."

"...Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan."

iran wasn't involved in the 30 june 2012 action plan, correct? what kind of action plan doesn't include one of the key players in the area? that doesn't sound like a well thought out action plan, so much as a particular agenda from one side!! what am i missing in that?

Posted by: james | Jan 20 2014 17:23 utc | 8

It is hard to see how Geneva II gets off the ground now. If Ban caves, the United Nations process on Syria led by Brahimi gets outed for what it has always been, a charade meant to boost a foreign-sponsored opposition. If Ban holds fast, then al-Jarba and his claque of hotel commanders will no-show.

I agree with Virgile @ 5 and the identification of the big losers if Geneva II doesn't come off. But I would also add that Iraq and Lebanon will likely be punished in the near term. A pattern has developed that when the Syrian government realizes any sort of favorable turn of events, Iraq and Lebanon are made to suffer.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Jan 20 2014 17:47 utc | 9

UN: 'Urgent discussions' under way on Syria talks Published: Monday, January 20, 2014 at 11:40 a.m.

The U.N. secretary-general says "intensive and urgent discussions are under way" around his invitation for Iran to join this week's peace talks on Syria.

Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Monday morning that he will have more to say on the subject later in the day.

Minutes later, his office abruptly cancelled Ban's scheduled comments to the media. He left the Security Council meeting without commenting to reporters.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 17:47 utc | 10

10) Well, if Iran now says they will not stand in the way of the conference and not attend, what excuse will the Syrian so called opposition find then for not attending?

Posted by: somebody | Jan 20 2014 18:26 utc | 11

Robert Ford with the big stick: link ... from Al-Manar so don't know how reliable they are. Posted by: Neo | Jan 20, 2014 12:11:08 PM | 6">
It's a joke. Of course it is. But it's funny.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 20 2014 18:42 utc | 12

" foreign sponsored hotel opposition "

b, i think you mean hostile opposition?

great post, as usual.

Posted by: annie | Jan 20 2014 18:48 utc | 13

I think this is fairer than the Reuters version:

UN Chief Dismayed Over Iran Invitation Fallout
Cara Anna, AP, Jan 20 2014

UNITED NATIONS - UN Sec-Gen Ban is "urgently considering his options" in light of the "disappointing conduct of some participants" involved in the Syria peace talks after he invited Iran to attend, his spokesman said Monday. Martin Nesirky told reporters Monday that Ban "is dismayed" at the developments after he announced the invitation Sunday. Nesirky says Iran, despite assurances, "has made a disappointing public statement" that suggests Iran doesn't accept the terms of this week's peace talks in Switzerland. Senior US officials say the invitation must be withdrawn unless Iran fully and publicly endorses the formation of a transitional government for Syria that would pave the way for democratic elections. Syria's main Western-backed opposition group says Iran must commit publicly by 1900 GMT to withdraw its "troops and militias" from Syria and abide by those terms, or the UN should withdraw the invitation. "The statement today in Tehran by the foreign ministry spokesperson fell short by some measure of what the sec-gen expected to hear," Nesirky said, adding that the UN has been in close contact with the US and Russians over the weekend. He also denied Ban's invitation caught the US by surprise, saying they were fully aware of the timing of the announcement.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 20 2014 18:51 utc | 14

masks are off now

Iranian foreign minister

MZ: A smart person wouldn’t be offering any prognosis, but I wouldn’t be a minister if I were smart. As for Syria, we need to find some framework that would take into account the interests of all communities in Syria and convince them that they have to go to the polls and vote for their future. There is a need for dividing the power between different communities. We see such examples in Lebanon and Iraq. I think this model would work in Syria as well. It is not right when one community has all the power, whereas others have none.

No, it does not work in Lebanon or Iraq.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 20 2014 18:56 utc | 15

"Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.

Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers."

This sounds like Iran endorses the 30 June 2012 communique? Or perhaps I don't understand the nuances of the diplomatic language? What am I missing?

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Jan 20 2014 19:00 utc | 16

"No, it does not work in Lebanon or Iraq."

In iraq the majority is shia, according to a certain logic having them have all the power should benefit Iran. In lebanon the relative majority (the most numerous among all the etnic groups) is Shia, having them have all the powers should also benefit Iran.

The iranian forreign minister, expressing Iran's strategic understanding of her long-term relationship in the region, is clearly based on an inclusive and non-sectarian logic completely different from the above.

Then how this is a falling of the mask. could you please elaborate on that. In particular why it's not working in Lebanon and Irak.

Posted by: ATH | Jan 20 2014 19:08 utc | 17

@annie " foreign sponsored hotel opposition "

b, i think you mean hostile opposition?

Nah - these folks only protest and fight in hotels. Five star ones preferred.

Posted by: b | Jan 20 2014 19:13 utc | 18

After three years where Qatar, Turkey, the US, France and the UK have beem pumping the opposition's egos so they build a serious opposition group, this is the result, a total disarray.

One of the key obstacles facing the negotiations is the SNC’s lack of legitimacy and its capriciousness, and that its members are mostly exiled Syrian dissidents who are not seen as credible by the fighters on the ground, primarily among Islamist groups that dominate the battlefield. The belief that the SNC can accomplish something meaningful at the negotiating table is cast deeper into doubt by critical assessments from dissenting former members of the group.
In a recent letter explaining his resignation, former SNC Secretary-General Mustafa al-Sabbagh concedes that the organization failed to extend humanitarian relief efforts and to make any political or military progress; he describes the SNC as “a body that is entirely separate from the Syrian domestic arena.” Former member Mohammad Bassam Imadi’s description is no less critical; he stated in a recent interview that the SNC “…was only some expatriates who were living outside Syria, they lost touch with reality in Syria. They didn't know what was going on… They thought that within a few months they will become presidents or ministers so they were not interested in doing anything other than contacting the foreign powers…”

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 19:18 utc | 19

The Turkish State news agency (under direct order of Erdogan) just publishes some of "55,000 photographs of 11,000 people who were systematically tortured to death by Assad regime"

Syria war crimes' evidences

Some Qatari paid lawyers were involved.

Just another stupid propaganda try to blow up Geneva II which Qatar had tried to stop anyway.

One wonders how many of those in the pictures were killed by ISIS and other Jihadists - probably all.

Posted by: b | Jan 20 2014 19:21 utc | 20

CNN is also involved in this propaganda show:

EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime

Posted by: b | Jan 20 2014 19:25 utc | 21

What is not observed here is that what is at stake here-apart from the zombies zusa has released in Syria and the need to fight them is the Principle of Sovereignty and Indepdance according to International law and UN Charter.That's why it is important to reassert the role of Assad and the Syrian Government and favor a climate where they can sort out a new consensus in Syria with the opposition ,otherwise the criminal West will retry this kind of "revolution" in other part of the world.That is at least my understanding of the position of Russia and China.Principles that is what it is all about...

Posted by: Nobody | Jan 20 2014 19:32 utc | 22


Is Kerry claiming to respect the Geneva II statement when he calls for the resignation of Bashar al Assad, an item clearly absent from the statement agreed upon? Was it a last-minute maneuver to lure the reluctant opposition to Geneva by acting as he is supporting their pre-condition?

Kerry appears really desperate to avoid the cancellation of the conference as it will be seen as a second personal failure after the failure of the Palestinian-Israelis peace talks.
He prefers to have a meaningless conference, looking like one of the worthless "Friends of Syria" meetings, than none.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 19:34 utc | 23

It is also in the Grauniad, b.

The intention is sure to make any agreement with the Assad government impossible.

Might be more defense than offense though with news
like this

Children as young as eight are held along with adults in seven ISIL-run detention facilities in Syria's Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, Amnesty said. Many are often held for challenging ISIL's rule, petty crimes like theft or for committing purported "crimes against Islam" such as smoking cigarett

Someone will know the people in the photographs and their story.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 20 2014 19:54 utc | 24

Here we go again. This headlines Huff Post for this afternoon:


This is more propaganda for the morons in the US. How many folks has the US and their minions killed in Iraq & Afghanistan in the name of "American Interests", based on proven lies? Disgusting..

Posted by: ben | Jan 20 2014 20:32 utc | 25

These allegations of torture and execution cannot be dismissed lightly.

The release of the report in this co-ordinated manner clearly indicates that they are part of a propaganda offensive designed to overwhelm the preparations for Geneva.

To put them into further perspective, it should be noted that the “jurists” involved all have previous convictions: they have worked on such kangaroo cases as those against Milosevic and Taylor for example. None of them deserves the position of judge in any properly constituted court.

And then there is the non coincidence that the current business at The Hague is to smear Hezbollah, by promoting Mossad’s fabricated Hariri dossier as an international prosecution based on carefully collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

It is nothing of the sort. In fact it is a gratuitous insult to the animal kingdom to mention kangaroos in the same sentence as anything connected with the Hariri nonsense.

All that having been said, and with the additional observation that Qatar and the others pushing this anti-Assad dossier are implicated up to their ears in unprosecuted war crimes and human rights abuses to which the “west” is happy to turn a blind eye, the fact remains that these allegations deserve to be examined by a dispassionate jury of some sort and, if any basis to do so is discovered, to be the subject of charges and fair trials.

The problem then arises that during the past decade or so the abuse of international law and the corruption of international tribunals (see Hariri above) has been so comprehensive that it is difficult to see any satisfactory legal tribunal being convened.
Which means that the proper course will be simply to leave these allegations to take their place- alongside the notorious ‘slam dunk’ Ghouta gas attack charges- before the people of Syria who alone must be left to choose their government.

And, all that having also been said, that leaves us with the, possibly related, question of what Iran’s Foreign minister said about “transition” in Syria. It is not impossible that a softening of Iran’s position, a change in the attitude of the puppet Ban Ki Moon and the eruption of these sensational slanders (for they are that whether true or not) against the Syrian government might not be part of a carefully choreographed dance of diplomacy designed to impose a settlement on Syria.
I had just about decided, before I read the Guardian piece, that the subject of b’s post was all just another case of factionalism in Washington in which messages were mixed because nobody is really in charge and the inmates, in the intelligence, defense, diplomatic and domestic-political camps were all desperately jostling for influence. I now suspect it is much worse than that, though, as has been argued a lot recently here, any plan involving prior negotiation with Iran would indicate that the tectonic plates are, indeed, in motion.

Posted by: bevin | Jan 20 2014 20:42 utc | 26

So now I see that the invitation to Iran has been withdrawn "under pressure from the US."
Someone please explain!!

Posted by: bevin | Jan 20 2014 21:38 utc | 27

Inner City Press reports that Ban has decided that the talks proceed without Iran.

Posted by: Observer | Jan 20 2014 21:45 utc | 28

26) The photographs are bound to be real, though I do not buy the story. People from all sides and of no side die in Syria.
There is for example the gruesome story of the siege of Aleppo prison.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 20 2014 21:48 utc | 29

It looks like only the first part of Ban's rep's statement is accurate. Iran thoroughly understands the results of Geneva I, a conference from which it was excluded, as well as the goals of those who controlled the first conference for the results from the upcoming second one.

Understanding is not the same as supporting.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Jan 20 2014 21:54 utc | 30

If Geneva I is intended to be the base of Geneva II, then I would say, not much chance.

Posted by: Alexno | Jan 20 2014 21:55 utc | 31

@Rusty Pipes(#30);

So in your opinion, Ban, intentionally or unintentionally, is distorting the truth? So what is Iran's position? Is Iran's position NOT to implement (at least fully) the Geneva I?

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Jan 20 2014 22:27 utc | 32

Re: James @ 8 -- THE hegemon's conference can include or exclude any country or representative it wishes, since, by definition, the hegemon gets what the hegemon wants.

The US simply states it wants such and so, then, no matter how rational, says it wants that...or just moves the goal posts. Bush Boy did it and Obama is doing it.

It's how a modern hegemon does things. Until it can't any longer....

Posted by: jawbone | Jan 20 2014 22:32 utc | 33

@28 -- NPR is also reporting that Ban has withdrawn the invitation to Iran. It's being reported as US calling the shots on this.

Posted by: jawbone | Jan 20 2014 22:35 utc | 34

It looks that the UN and the West wanted to squeeze Iran into accepting a disguised "regime change" after Kerry trumpeted that the conference's major aim is to kick out Bashar Al Assad.
Iran did well to send them to hell.
As it is no more bound by any obligations, it is free to increase its military support to the Syrian army and its local allies.
In the contrary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar will soon find themselves under increase pressure from the Western countries and the UN to stop arming and helping the rebels.
Ban understood very well that keeping Iran out will have disatrous consequences on the conference and on the opposition supporters.
They made their choice and like all the choices they made during this crisis, it is another bad one.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 22:39 utc | 35

According to RT:

"UN retracts Iran's invite to Geneva peace talks, Syrian opposition confirms participation.
However, Iran's deputy foreign minister Hosein Amirabdollahian voiced a different position on Monday.

“Setting such a condition to accept the Geneva 1 agreement for attending the Geneva 2 meeting is rejected and unacceptable,” he said, as cited by ISNA news agency. “Iran will attend the talks without any precondition, based on an invitation by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.”

I am glad that at least on this issue they have stood their ground.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Jan 20 2014 22:43 utc | 36

After Iran's invitation is withdrawn, the previously gloomy opposition is now enthusiastically confirming its attendance to the Geneva conference. Their ego has been boosted because they think that Ban withdrew the invitation because of their threat to boycott the conference...

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 20 2014 22:56 utc | 37

@32 jawbone - i understand that.. it is just that with the usa dictating the direction of any agreements or discussions on syria, most folks with half a brain can read thru that as just another bs attempt at calling all the shots on the welfare of other countries they have no ...n business dictating anything about..

Posted by: james | Jan 20 2014 23:23 utc | 38

Some really good stuff at Information Clearing House including good stuff from Raimondo and Chris Hedges. But the must read piece is Alfred McCoy's on the NSA, which makes one wonder what they know about Ban Ki Moon:

Posted by: bevin | Jan 21 2014 0:20 utc | 39

What is left of the "coalition" once the SNC withdraws?

However the biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council (SNC) said late Monday it was quitting the umbrella Syrian National Coalition in protest over the Geneva II peace talks with the Damascus regime.

The SNC said taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" to not enter negotiations until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad left power -- something he refuses to do.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 2:20 utc | 40

...Moreover, if Assad is deprived of his place in the transitional government in compliance with the demands of the opposition, the peace conference is doomed to fail. The reason: the Syrian government will under no circumstances accept such a deal. And if Geneva II decides to keep Assad in the transitional government, the opposition will not accept it. The stalemate is thus likely to continue.

But still there is reason for optimism. On Jan 3, al-Qaida's Iraqi wing declared the founding of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, triggering a new round of turmoil in the Middle East. The active presence of al-Qaida in Syria makes it increasingly difficult to clear the country of terrorist elements. And given its desperation to bring down al-Qaida, the US will perhaps make a concession and accept a role for Assad in the transitional government. If that happens, it certainly will be a breakthrough...

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 2:27 utc | 41

gutless UN knuckles under

Posted by: brian | Jan 21 2014 2:46 utc | 42

Re 25, 26: You can read the entire allegation of "industrial-scale killing" at the Graun, first of all via this story from Ian Black, their Middle East Editor. I always like to mention the interesting fact that I have heard Ian Black being interviewed on Israeli Army Radio, Galei Tzahal. What is interesting about that interview, which I heard when I used to listen to Galei Tzahal on short-wave, is that Ian Black spoke in fluent hebrew. But anyway, the report itself is a 31-page pdf which was 'obtained' by the Graun and CNN, though it is headed 'Confidential'. It was written by two war crimes prosecutors, one from the trial of Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone and the other from the trial of Slobodan Milosevich, plus a third person with no MO known to me. It was commissioned by the law firm Carter Ruck, who have quite a record of their own in high-profile cases on behalf of the UK Labour Party. I assume the whole thing was coordinated with Obama & Kerry.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 21 2014 4:29 utc | 43

PS: I should have mentioned, the report is based on evidence from a single, convenient defector, who claims to have worked for the secret police and to have taken many damning photographs within the prisons. Doubtless we shall have a field day with those photographs, which may be what they want: people devote too much attention to making micro claims regarding the authenticity of this or that photo, who the victim really was, where it was likely to have been taken, etc, and miss the wood for the trees.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 21 2014 5:01 utc | 44

This Telegram story has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever read.

“Assad’s vow to strike terrorism with an iron fist is nothing more than bare-faced hypocrisy,” an intelligence source said.
The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas
... the deals confirmed that “despite Assad’s finger-pointing” his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria.

This story by Spencer and Sherlock is incoherent.

Posted by: ess emm | Jan 21 2014 5:47 utc | 45

Mr. Pragma made an excellent point recently about being bound in a US-centric orbit. That may be the case here. The world media environment is absolutely super-saturated with US outlets, so we are constantly reacting to the US point of view. Blogs such as this are invaluable in cutting through the crap, but even if one were to read only alternative sources of information - it is impossible to achieve an escape velocity from the black hole of the western media because it is so massive.

That said, something is changing. Perhaps it is the increase in news from other parts of the world. Perhaps it is because of blogs like this. But I think that the war in Syria may prove to be a tuning point in the sphere of public opinion as well as military power.

It seems that folks like us here are not the minority in seeing through this bullshit anymore. The US/Zio/Nato moves in Syria have become so transparent that they are at this point having, I think, the opposite effect of what their western designers desire. These ridiculously overwrought tactics - the sudden "chemical attacks" the day the UN inspectors arrive, the magic appearance of "gory photos" just before a peace conference, the friendly, rebranded, "moderate terrorists" etc., etc., - these things aren't turning world public opinion against the Syrian government. They're exposing the kind of sloppy, simplified model of fourth generation warfare that the US carries out across the globe for the world to see.

The American people are finally having their "Wizard of OZ" moment: standing, jaws dropped, as they watch the little man behind the curtain pulling the levers of power. I mean, who can suspend disbelief for yet another performance by John Kerry - that dumb face pouring out Alex-Jonsian conspiracy theories about Assad's secret plan to ... what was it ... curry favor with the west by fighting against western-backed rebels, but also by secretly supporting them... or something? Or that big phony Obama, giving a speech about "the children" while he fiddles with his finger on the button, ready to pulverize a few hundred more? "Brown Moses", et al?

Really I don't think there's enough sedatives in the country to make these clowns believable.

I do hope that the pure contempt that the American people finally displayed towards the White House war mongers during the aborted bombing campaign will prove to be a sea change in US political history. I hope that never again will the US "leaders" be able to take this country to war with such shabby, hokey half-truths - at least for a while. Hell, it seems like the only people who trusts what the government says anymore are the editors of the New York Times.

We have no reason to fear this latest US PR offensive. If it doesn't founder in its own ham-handed ineptitude, surely the counterattack will make the truth clear.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 21 2014 6:19 utc | 46

The UN has truly become a joke..The SNC throws a small fit and the entire UN apparatus run for cover...Pathetic!

Anyway, the Geneva 2.0, aka Geneva fashion/comedy show, is DOA...

Posted by: Zico | Jan 21 2014 7:10 utc | 47

But this was announced beforehand - and it is not Geneva where peace will be made but on the ground

U.S., Russia call for trust-building ahead of Syria talks, spar over whether to invite Iran

Kerry, Lavrov and Brahimi agreed on the need for confidence-building measures before the scheduled Jan 22 talks in Switzerland between Syria’s warring sides. Among the measures being discussed with forces on the ground, the three diplomats said, are prisoner exchanges, localized cease-fires and an end to blockades by both sides that have prevented access for humanitarian aid to civilians.

Lavrov said the Syrian government has agreed to allow food and medical supplies to enter East Ghouta, a Damascus suburb that has been surrounded by forces loyal to Assad since early last year, as well as other areas. Lavrov called on the rebels to make similar concessions in Aleppo, which in recent weeks has been the site of fighting between rival rebel groups, even as government forces try to retake the northern city, Syria’s largest.

Kerry acknowledged the difficulty that U.S.-backed components of the rebel force have had dealing with extremist elements that are better armed and financed.

“The moderate opposition has said they will agree to a cease-fire,” Kerry said. “We have to begin a process to isolate the bad actors.” That, too, he said, is “going to take some time,” although there are reports this week that the moderates have driven extremist fighters out of Aleppo.

So forces controlled by the US team up with the Syrian army to fight criminals and Al Qaeda. Everything else is cover up.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 21 2014 7:28 utc | 48

30/31 Nobody seems to know what is the meaning of Geneva I - the US has a different interpretation, whilst Russia says there is no room for interpretation.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 21 2014 7:50 utc | 49

The US is talking out of both sides of its mouth. The US seems to be desperate to make a deal with Iran. But there're too many countries (e.g. Israel) & groups in the US (the US army, the arms manufacturers, AIPAC, evangelicals, etc.) who opppose (for a variety of reasons) a deal with Iran. So, the Obama administration is simply FORCED to talk out of both sides of its mouth. And forced to talk tough in public.

On top of that, the US financial situation has worsened since 2008. Don't look at the US budget deficit alone. One has to look at the US budget balance (deficit/surplus) and substract the balance of the US Current Account (surplus/deficit). The higher the outcome of this subtraction the better the US financial situation.
From 1990 up to 2000 the outcome showed that the US financial position actually (dramatically) improved. During the Bush administration this position actually deteriorated but not dramatically. But under the Obama administration this financial situation did worsen dramatically. so, the US is forced to move from a bellicose policy dating from the Bush years towards a much more "non violent" approach. They're simply no longer to pay for a (lot) more wars.

Posted by: Willy2 | Jan 21 2014 8:03 utc | 50

I got my prosecutors mixed up. The report’s authors are London-based Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, the former chief prosecutor of the special court for Sierra Leone, Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, the former lead prosecutor of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and Professor David Crane, who indicted President Charles Taylor of Liberia at the Sierra Leone court.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 21 2014 9:19 utc | 51

Yes, I saw that too. Al Qaeda are coming home to roost, with another two individuals recently caught at Heathrow returning back the UK. This manipulation of reality as far as who is responsible for empowering the thousands of European jihadists is presumably supposed to shift the blame on Assad so that when there is blood on the streets of London or Paris, the public won't turn their ire on their own Governments.

You can couple this with Kerry's absurd remarks the other day about how the Syrian Government is deliberately ceding territory to ISIL. But this can also undermine the strength and stated joint intentions of the Syrian and Russian Governments at turning the first round of Geneva II into an anti-terrorism conference, with the opposition being given something to point at instead of being solely under the spotlight in this respect, however fictitious the argument in their favour.

Again, fresh images emerging on the eve of Geneva which graphically depict accusations of war crimes levelled at the Syrian Government are meant to further undermine the strong position that Syria and its allies find themselves in. The timing is hardly coincidental.

Up until 3 days ago, based on the balance of power on the ground, with ties to extremists groups, and internal squabbling, the opposition was seen to be very weak indeed.

Now, though Syrian armed forces continue to ram home their advantage, suggestions that the Syrian Government is somehow in collusion with terrorists and committing war crimes, in addition to the perceived triumph of the SNC at forcing the UNSG to withdraw his invitation to the Iranians (though I suspect that Moon had originally consulted the US on this but underestimated the almighty hissy hit the opposition bloc would throw), the opposition is now seen to be all the stronger for it - regardless of the true depth of strength.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 21 2014 10:55 utc | 52

Sorry, that BBC link was for two leaving the UK - here's the one about two returning. I lose track.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 21 2014 10:59 utc | 53

The reporting in this Guardian article is very suspicious to me.

"The 31-page report, which was commissioned by a leading firm of London solicitors acting for Qatar, is being made available to the UN, governments and human rights groups. Its publication appears deliberately timed to coincide with this week's UN-organised Geneva II peace conference, which is designed to negotiate a way out of the Syrian crisis by creating a transitional government.

Caesar told the investigators his job was "taking pictures of killed detainees". He did not claim to have witnessed executions or torture. But he did describe a highly bureaucratic system.

"The procedure was that when detainees were killed at their places of detention their bodies would be taken to a military hospital to which he would be sent with a doctor and a member of the judiciary, Caesar's function being to photograph the corpses … There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse," the report says.

"The reason for photographing executed persons was twofold. First to permit a death certificate to be produced without families requiring to see the body, thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths; second to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out."

Families were told that the cause of death was either a "heart attack" or "breathing problems", it added. "The procedure for documentation was that when a detainee was killed each body was given a reference number which related to that branch of the security service responsible for his detention and death.

"When the corpse was taken to the military hospital it was given a further number so as to document, falsely, that death had occurred in the hospital. Once the bodies were photographed, they were taken for burial in a rural area."

First the pictures are of bodies on the floor. Why would the pics not be of corpses in a hospital bed or gurney? Why would photos be taken "to produce a death certificate"? So the "families" could see the evidence of torture?!! If the pics were actually to "document" death, all that was needed was to show the "patient" dead, particularly if they were supposed to have died of "heart attack" or "breathing problems". Documenting torture seems to me to be counterproductive to any purpose of the SAA.

This whole story stinks. Makes me think of a Mossad operation. More likely, though, simply civilians and SAA soldiers tortured and killed by rebels.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 21 2014 11:53 utc | 54

@52: It's obscene and has more holes in it than the Chemical Weapons fiasco. Still, I cannot find reports of the story in Russian publications, and I've struggled to find it on Reuters. Primarily, it's the same unholy alliance of the BBC, Guardian Newspaper and CNN which has worked so hard to promote the cause of Al Qaeda that is now again churning out this material. Even Al Jazeera is looking elsewhere. As it happens, the home page of the BBC news website detailing most read stories suggests that people don't care.

Public opinion matters.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 21 2014 12:23 utc | 55

Some french stupid stuff :

That blog is, officially, the blog of a former diplomat. It's in fact Wladimir Glasman, pro-Z and neo-con ball licker. His latest funny story is that the Syrian Arab Army has no longer anyone to send to fight. With a super twist :
"- 135 000 et plus le nombre des membres de l'armée et des services de sécurité tués depuis le début du conflit. Parmi eux 68 000 (51 % du nombre des victimes) appartenaient à la communauté alaouite ;"

- 135.000 and more, victims inside army and security services since the beginning of the conflict. Among them, 68.000 (51%) were Alawis.

This blog is in truth a press-organ of the opposition, and gathers all its data from All4Syria opposition website. Of course, All4Syria is arabic, so the french reader has no way to check facts. Also, comments have been disabled because he used to get debunkied systematically.

Posted by: Rhysa | Jan 21 2014 12:47 utc | 56

Christ, Le Monde. There's another one. It was Le Monde 'journalists' who were gathering soil samples as 'evidence' of Sarin use around Damascus. You know, as one does.
Meanwhile, the BBC's Ian Pannell was pulling together further 'evidence' of the use of chemical weapons near Aleppo. Also soil samples.

No wonder there was such a huff about Syria's refusal to let 'journalists' enter the country, also known as intelligence officers. If Pannell isn't producing reports from Northern Syria, it's Istanbul or Washington. I wonder why.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 21 2014 13:03 utc | 57


"The reason for photographing executed persons was twofold. First to permit a death certificate to be produced without families requiring to see the body, thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths; second to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out."

These absurb motives given for systematically photographing the 'tortured' prisonnered after their death make me wonder why the Syrian governement would want to document digitally something they should normally hide.
That the report comes from Qatar and Turkey tends to show that the dead may well have been prisoners in Al Nusra and rebels jails under Qatar and Turkey's control. Qatar must have paid a fortune to arrange that propaganda scheme that they have probably started a long time ago.
Like the story of the chemical weapons, Qatar is showing that they are very good in setting up good and convincing propaganda playing on the gullibilty of the West when it come to demonizing further Syria.
The timing is also extremely suspicious, with the opposition in dissaray, and amputated from its the most important members. Yet we got used to Qatar and their PR to come out with scoops just when the Syrian governement has the upper hand.
That would change nothing on the ground. The opposition is in the worst state it has ever been, ridiculing itself in Geneva by its low level of legitimacy, the Syrian army is grabbing back more territories on a daily basis and more rebels are been killed by their 'islamists' brothers.
Qatar will have to work harder to build a new theatrical scoop to sabotage Geneva now that its own creation, the SNC and its military wing are absent from Geneva.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 13:38 utc | 58

The report was funded and commisionned by Qatar, specialist in digital propaganda. Qatar provided all the photographs obtained from an anonymous source, "Caesar". The timing for the release was adjusted to match the opening of the Geneva conference in order to get the strongest media impact. Qatar learned well from its Al Jazeera's numerous theatrical scoops in the last 3 years..

The team was commissioned by a London law firm that was in turn hired by the government of Qatar, a sponsor of the Syrian opposition, according to the report’s authors.

The chairman of the panel and prosecutor of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Sir Desmond de Silva, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the work of the panelists was impartial, despite the funding.

"Ultimately, the validity of our conclusions turn on the integrity of the people involved," he said. "We, the team, were very conscious of the fact there are competing interests in the Syrian crisis – both national and international. We were very conscious of that."

"We approached our task with a certain amount of skepticism, bearing that in mind."

The man who provided the pictures is identified by the pseudonym Caesar. The Guardian reports that Caesar “smuggled the images out of the country on memory sticks to a contact in the Syrian National Movement.”

The anonymity “reminded some skeptics of Curveball, the code name assigned to the Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, whose bogus claims about mobile biological weapons labs formed a central part of the case for the American invasion of Iraq,” the New York Times reports.

“In 2011, just before the first street protests against President Assad’s Baathist dynasty, Mr. Janabi admitted to The Guardian that he had lied to German and American intelligence officials.”

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 13:58 utc | 59

There's this sudden campaign to smear the Syrian government with alleged photos of some tortured people.

I mean, war criminals like Bush, Blair, Netanyahu are all roaming freely yet somehow Assad's a criminal because he's defending his country from terrorists sent by the very same people accusing him of war crimes???

And it gets even better..Apparently the photos comes from some "defected" officer... Yeah right!!!

Posted by: Zico | Jan 21 2014 14:09 utc | 60

Comments on the Telegraph's blog tend to sum up the general attitudes that are prevailing.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 21 2014 14:39 utc | 61

@Pat Bateman

Oh yes, Obama is responsible for the mess in Syria because he did not intervene militarily, as he is responsible for the mess in Libya because he intervened militarily. Before him Bush is responsible for the mess in Iraq because he intervened...


Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 15:02 utc | 62

The stupid military dictatorship in Egypt that many of the commentator here supports have now again shown its true face.
Accusing Morsi with ties to Iran, Hezbollah.

Useful idiots supporting that, Mina, Guest77, whoelse?

Posted by: Anonymous | Jan 21 2014 15:07 utc | 63

Anonymous @ 63

Iran couldn't give a damn what happened to Morsi or the military for that matter... Morsi and the army are both douche-bags and they deserve each other..The losers here are the Egyptian people that are stuck between foreign powers...Sad..

Posted by: Zico | Jan 21 2014 15:09 utc | 64

#61 poor Con Coughlin, like Gabriel Conroy, a west Briton

Posted by: Cu Chulainn | Jan 21 2014 15:18 utc | 65

@Anonymous | 63

"Useful idiots supporting that, Mina, Guest77, whoelse?"

I think you got it wrong. There are no even an option of independent Egypt government, regardless if its Morsi, Sisi, etc. Every single one of them are in bed with USrael.

What me (and maybe Mina, Guest77) were saying in the context of Syria - its better non-interventionist military dictatorship than radical MB extremists, since Morsi was eager to send Egypt's youth to fight in Syria (on top of BS he was doing in Egypt) and was threatening with another war against Ethiopia over water. Comparing to this, even Sisi doesnt look like the worst option.

Posted by: Harry | Jan 21 2014 15:58 utc | 66

On Syria war crimes evidence, b at 20.

The report is signed by living persons who exist and can testify. This is important: compare with the rubbish about Ghouta. The report is written in International English with on occasion a ‘foreign air’ - just possible but weird? It is extremely brief. In this (internet, below) version, it is not dated.

The timing is tight or unclear.

“Ceasar” - the informant - took the photos over 3 years.

Ceasar was interviewed on, 12, 13, 18 January this year, in an unspecified location. Today is 21.

Did the analysis of the photos begin before that? Or did it begin on the day of the first interview? Or the 15th?

Analyzing cursorily 2000 images, then an extra, additional 3,500 in more depth, then 835 out of the 5,500 in detail, with next a ‘dip’ sample of 150 for more analysis, would have taken a long time.

Note the forensic part is signed by the two scientists. Did they do all this alone? (1)

How the 835 distinct-people sample was chosen is not detailed, and that is the crucial point. It should have been described, even if the procedure was ‘rough’.

For the 150 distinct-people sample, we can read ‘randomly selected’ and can presume it was from the whole set, even though that isn’t stated ...Or was that 150 a sub set of the 'selected' 835? For the total no. (5,500) of images examined we are not told if we are dealing with photos or individuals. (There were about 5 photos per body, allegedly.) In view of all this, the % of injuries (etc.) means nothing.

The provenance of the photos rests on Caesar’s testimony.

Here, there is a another problem (beyond the ‘one witness’ thing): the large number mentioned: 55,000. The Intro does state that the photos have been collected from various sources but does not tell us how many were shot/transmitted by Caesar (or his team mates) !!

The photos have not been backtracked to the place origins, dates, names of victims, what have you.

1. With an average of 5 mins per photo one person can classify maybe about 100 - 150 photos a day. With resultant headache and blurred vision. The average time is of course moot. So ??

My own intuition - not more - is that a consequent collection of photos of dead young men exists. The collection will have been compiled from various sources, perhaps motivated by genuine attempt to document the dead. They were then put into one bag and some ‘analysis’ was performed. However, all this does not mean that large numbers did not die from starvation/prison/torture/etc. and that serious war crimes from all sides, did not occur. Which we knew already.

PDF via the Guardian

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 21 2014 16:39 utc | 67

66 / Harry

Thanks for proving my point.
Saying that MB is allied with Israel is absurd conspriacy, thats ignorant.

Egypt hate shia hezbollah, they hate shia syria, they hate shia iran, heck they even hate Hamas.

Egyptian government allies are on the other side, Israel, Saudiarabia, US. And here you are thinking you do something good in defending this?
Yes "useful idiot" still stands.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jan 21 2014 16:50 utc | 68

Suspicious of Geneva's outcome under the Islamist GCC, the Kurds go their own 'secular' way.

Kurds declare autonomy in northern Syria ahead of Geneva II

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 16:57 utc | 69


Qatar had three years to fund and refine the project of building a 'strong' war crimes case against Syria by using the best digital experts and specialist in propaganda. I am sure this has cost a lot of money, but after the humiliation he got, Hamad Ben Jaber, the ex-PM or Qatar, was ready to pay whatever it needed to take his revenge.
Now Turkey, Qatar's long term accomplice is calling for the UN to publicly condemn Syria. As the opposition is extremely weak, a real media campaign is needed to weaken Syria's position in Geneva.
Like the Ghouta affair, the "friends of Syria' want to turn the Geneva conference into a "Nuremberg trial" of the Syrian government.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 17:11 utc | 70

Just the facts of the ‘report’s’ timing plus the fact that it’s been commissioned by the Qatar regime employing wull-known law firm of Carter Ruck (or Carter Fuck as Private Eye prefers to call it), should have us all questioning its veracity. Carter Fuck are infamous for their secret gagging orders that have silenced the press.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jan 21 2014 17:14 utc | 71

Re the MBs: the way I read it is that they became unreliable, I think due to their relatively decentralised, federative structure. Each national MB branch tends to make policy for itself, and over and over the situation has arisen where one branch, whether Jordanian, Egyptian, Gazan (ie Hamas) or whatever, has acquired a new leadership with some unorthodox ideas about who to ask for money (eg Iran). This meant that swarms of MB cohorts flooding into Syria from various directions were all following different strategies, and I suppose the CIA decided it was unworkably chaotic, and a number of things happened almost simultaneously, one being the evident demotion of Qatar as prime organiser of the Syrian invasion, in favour of Saudi, another being the promotion of Bandar to Intelligence Minister there, and a third, closely following, being the Sisi coup. The US State Dept was clearly taken by surprise when the coup occurred, and for several weeks, their Ambassador, the incredibly unpopular Anne Paterson (who was sacked at the end of August) demanded Morsi’s reinstatement. But as I see it, the Israelis were the main beneficiaries of the Sisi coup, and as I put it, ‘green-lighted’ it, that is to say, told Sisi to go ahead, because Morsi was directly responsible for filling the Sinai with Jihadis.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 21 2014 17:29 utc | 72

Has "Ceasar", the morgue "photographer" be submitted to the lie detector? In view of the extent of his testimony, he should.

Who is ready to fund a project documenting the real horrors perpetrated by Qatar and Saudi Arabia's allies in Syria?

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 17:30 utc | 73


Yup, the numbers of documents supposedly "vetted/analyzed" are truly of Snowdenian proportions. Oh well.

Posted by: JSorrentine | Jan 21 2014 18:11 utc | 74

The Geopolitics Of The Syrian Civil War

Iran will try to use its relative advantage to draw the Saudi royals into a negotiation, but a deeply unnerved Saudi Arabia will continue to resist as long as Sunni rebels still have enough fight in them to keep going. Fighters on the ground will regularly manipulate appeals for cease-fires spearheaded by largely disinterested outsiders, all while the war spreads deeper into Lebanon. The Syrian state will neither fragment and formalize into sectarian statelets nor reunify into a single nation under a political settlement imposed by a conference in Geneva. A mosaic of clan loyalties and the imperative to keep Damascus linked to its coastline and economic heartland — no matter what type of regime is in power in Syria — will hold this seething borderland together, however tenuously.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 18:26 utc | 75

Virgile, at 70, I know all that, what you posted.

I simply examined the report ‘on its face’, because imho that is important.

Knee-jerk reactions pro- or contra- reacting to whatever data, submission, Gov. statement, etc. are facile.


assad the ugly dictaror murdered tortured hundreds of thousands


more bs from interested parties who fake stuff

to make it short.

What status the reports have, what the precise content is, why and how they are used, accepted, bruited in the MSM or by Int. or other orgs. such as NGOs, etc. is, well, worthy of attention. That has to do with international relations, governance, science, the status, actions of various entities (such as the UN) etc.

Ignoring all that is precisely what some Gvmts. and others want the general public -and internet posters- to do.

They want ppl to take sides, be emotional, even hysterical, divided, ultimately powerless and violent in their anger, and not ever contesting or examining facts or trying to act on them. Not that they allow the space for that, but you see what I mean.

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 21 2014 19:08 utc | 76


Now the new media mantra is that Bashar al Assad is accomplice with al Qaeda, when it is well known that Al Qaeda has been funded by Saudi Arabia and allowed by Turkey to enter in Syria when the Free Syrian Army was been crushed by the Syrian Army 2 years ago.
The disaster of the rebels on the ground had to be explained somehow.
After criticizing Obama and the West for not supporting enough the so-called Free Syrian army, now Bashar is to blame for having pushed the rebels to befriend with islamist extremists. We can't forget that Erdogan defended al Nusra as 'friends' and asked the US to remove them from the terrorist list.
This new campaign reminds us when Condolizza Rice publicly accused Saddam Hossein of being accomplice to the Al Qaeda terrorists that were behind behind 9/11 so as to give more justifcation in invade Iraq.

Despite all that circus, ultimately there is no alternative to Bashar al Assad, his governement and the Syrian army if the West is serious about wanting to stop Al Qaeda from reaching their allies in the region, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Israel without having to put boots on the ground.
The rest is pure agitation, gimmicks and fantasy.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 20:37 utc | 77

Serious reporters questions the reliability of the Qatar funded report

Syria 'smoking gun' report warrants a careful read

The report by former war crimes prosectors alleges the Syrian regime has tortured 11,000 prisoners. The claim is credible, but don't forget the agenda.

By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / January 21, 2014

But the report itself is nowhere near as credible as it makes out and should be viewed for what it is: A well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad.
The report was given to The Guardian and CNN yesterday and released in full on the web. It was paid for by Qatar and organized through Carter-Ruck, a London-based law-firm hired by the tiny Gulf monarchy.
This is a single source report, from an unidentified man, who is related by marriage (according to a footnote on page 15 of the report) to a similarly unidentified member of the "Syrian National Movement" who "left Syria five days after the civil war against the current Syrian regime had begun and established contact with international human rights groups." The Syrian National Movement has been funded by Qatar and is devoted to Assad's downfall and the source has been working with this unidentified Assad opponent since "around September 2011."

And yet the report was rushed into publication due to unspecified "time constraints" that made it impossible to "produce a detailed report regarding the exact injuries present in each image for each individual."
The document says "Caesar" was interviewed on Jan. 12, 13 and 18 of this year. The report was provided to reporters yesterday, Jan. 20. That's just two days after the final interview and only 8 after the first. That short a time frame simply does not allow for the great care and consideration the report's authors repeatedly assert went into their effort (as they write on page eight, "the members of the inquiry team subjected all evidence heard and viewed to rigorous scrutiny.")

Why the rush for evidence that a source had been providing since September 2011? It's pretty clear that the "time constraint" was set by the government of Qatar, who paid for the document (rather than, say, a neutral party with professional credentials in this kind of investigating like Human Rights Watch). It's a safe assumption that Qatar wanted this released ahead of UN-sponsored peace talks scheduled for Geneva this week. Anything that further demonizes Assad is a good thing from the perspective of Qatar and many of his opponents.
Association with war crime prosecutions is no guarantor of credibility – far from it. Just consider Luis Moreno Ocampo's absurd claims about Viagra and mass rape in Muammar Qaddafi's Libya in 2011. War crimes prosecutors have, unsurprisingly, a bias towards wanting to bolster cases against people they consider war criminals (like Assad or Qaddafi) and so should be treated with caution. They also frequently favor, as a class, humanitarian interventions.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 21 2014 20:48 utc | 78

@20 B

Maybe al qaeda dug up some mass graves that the marines left in Fallujah, then sent them to some friends in Qatar, who sent them to their lawyers in London.

Posted by: Crest | Jan 21 2014 20:54 utc | 79

The report, which was first made ​​available to the Guardian and CNN, was written by a six-person panel of experts assembled by Carter-Ruck, a law firm working for the government of Qatar, which is a sponsor of the Syrian opposition.

Posted by: brian | Jan 21 2014 22:43 utc | 80

That channel 4 piece is pure hasbara. If you watched the first video, it was mentioned that the 'inquiry team' was paid by the legal firm hired by Qatar. To which de Silva stammered a reply denying any quid pro quo for their salaries.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 21 2014 23:19 utc | 81

Syria regime 'will prove photos come from elsewhere'

Geraint Vincent

Syria Info Minister tells me torture photos manufactured outside Syria. Has a team working on proving it #Geneva2

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 22 2014 0:05 utc | 82

Noirette, thanks for that analysis. Like your work on the Ghouta attacks, it is very useful.

Of course now we know how exacting the "regime" is about their record keeping, perhaps we can finally get our hands on those death certificates that the chemical attacks produced.

Should be 1,429 of them as the Americans said... or was that 350 according to the British count? or was it 280 by the calculations of France? or was it... or was it....

This Alternative Views Program: THE CIA, CONGRESS AND THE PRESS (1987) is worth watching for a lesson - with two former CIA agents - on how the press works with intelligence agencies to put lies like this latest Syria story into the press.


Those damn links.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 22 2014 1:44 utc | 83

I join others thanking Noirette for that analysis. And second the motion of Virgile that "Caesar" be submitted to a lie detector test, along with the "expert team" that vetted the pics.

The more I think about this fiasco the more absurd it gets. I want to know how much the "salaries" were paid to the "expert team", I want to know why on earth the SAA would need to document a single death of a single prisoner if they're only "rebels" (most of which would not families in Syria as they're mostly foreign jihadists), I want to know why/how numbers were attached to pics, instead of names if the intent was to provide "cause of death" verification to "families".

The whole thing stinks, stinks, stinks...

Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 22 2014 3:36 utc | 84

It seems the latest torture photo campaign aimed against Assad is falling apart fast..The aim was to influence the Geneva II forum but NONE of the people supporting the opposition have clean hands. With the many photos of torture from Abu Ghraib,Guantanamo etc etc, the West(US/UK/France) have absolutely no right to lecture others on torture and human rights.

The Geneva II fashion/comedy show continues..

Posted by: Zico | Jan 22 2014 10:19 utc | 85

85) It is time the Al Jazeera strategy comes to an end. Unfortunately, it is an incentive to provoke or commit atrocities, or best case just make them up. All in the service of the news cycle.

There is an urgent need for truly independent human rights organisations.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 22 2014 11:12 utc | 86

ok - they go there now - remember the "on an industrial scale" headline?

Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba said on Wednesday that published photos of torture of detainees allegedly committed by Syrian government forces are similar to crimes by Nazis during World War Two.

It's a joke.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 22 2014 11:23 utc | 87

Qatar provided the report just on time to give to Jarba some arguments to hide the debacle of the opposition where half of its members have resigned and its armed gangs are loosing all the territories they have gained with the help of Al Nusra and Al Qaeda fighters.
Let's not forget that the opposition as well as Erdogan vehemently defended Al Nusra's legitimacy when the USA declared it a terrorist organization.
Now that the Al Nusra and ISIL are turning against them, they put the blame on Bahasr al Assad for inviting them in the country.
The opposition representatives are not only traitors and puppets but they are also so stupid, cheap and amateurish that no Syrian would imagine them ever taking power.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 22 2014 13:49 utc | 88

Well Geneva 2 is underway. It quickly descended into a War of Words. After the puppet Ban Ki Moon performed his usual puppet show, Syria's foreign minister made his opening statements and he was on fire.

Extracts of Syrian Foreign Minister opening statement:

They lectured Syria – a distinguished, virtuous, sovereign state, they lectured her on honour whilst they themselves were immersed in the mud of enslavement, infanticide and other medieval practices. After all their efforts and subsequent failures, their masks fell from their quivering faces, to reveal their perverse ambitions. A desire to destabilize and destroy Syria by exporting their national product: terrorism. They used their petrodollars to buy weapons, recruit mercenaries and saturate airtime covering up their mindless brutality with lies under the guise of the so-called “ Syrian revolution that will fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people.”
How can a Chechen, Afghani, Saudi, Turkish or even French and English terrorists deliver on the aspirations of the Syrian people, and with what? An Islamic state that knows nothing of Islam except perverse Wahhabism? Who declared anyway that the Syrian people aspire to live thousands of years in the past?

He quickly shifted to what is left of the Syrian opposition at Geneva.

Our people were being slaughtered while they were living in five star hotels; they opposed from abroad, met abroad betraying Syria and selling themselves to the highest foreign bidder. And yet, they still claim to speak in the name of the Syrian people! No, Ladies and Gentlemen, anyone wishing to speak on behalf of the Syrian people cannot be a traitor to their cause and an agent for their enemies.

When puppet Ban Ki Moon interrupted his speech, saying it went over the allotted 7 minute time Moallem quickly turned his fire onto the empty suit.

Ban: Can you just wrap up in one or two minutes?

Al-Moallem: No, I can't promise you, I must finish my speech. ... You live in New York, I live in Syria. I have the right to give the Syrian version here in this forum. After three years of suffering, this is my right.

Ban: Within 2-3 minutes please, I will give you another opportunity.

Al-Moallem: You spoke for 25 minutes, at least I need to speak 30 minutes.

Few minutes later, Ban interrupts again. Al-Moallem says he has one sentence left, to which Ban asks him to keep his promise.

"Syria always keeps its promises," al-Moallem replied, triggering approving laughter from the Syrian government delegation behind him and a wry grin from Ban.

Indeed, Syria always keeps its promises. Meanwhile the National traitor and whore Ahmad Jarba speaking for the "5 star opposition" quickly broke Goodwins Law by comparing Assad to Nazi's and bringing up the Qatari claims of torture. John Kerry made it obvious that his strategy going into the talks is to just keep saying "Assad has to go" and hoping if he says that line enough times the tooth fairy or Easter bunny will give him his wish.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 22 2014 17:39 utc | 89

Kerry knows well that without Iran, Geneva will not go further than some humanitarian gesture.

Kerry says plenty of ways for Iran still to join Syria talks

January 22, 2014 08:26 PM

Read more:

Posted by: virgile | Jan 22 2014 18:45 utc | 90

Some more scraps of information out of Geneva 2.

1) That transcript I linked to @89 of the argument between Ban Ki Moon and Syrian FM Maollem now available via Youtube here.

2) Laura Rozen has been live tweeting developments from Geneva. Some of her comments:

- One:#Syria's Jafari says regime side was disappointed in format today, that most of 40 countries here today, he said, were 'anti Syrian'.

- Two: Kerry seems to suggest US-Russia- backed parallel efforts/background talks, wont go into detail, to overcome hurdles in #syria conflict res.

- Three: Third journalist came up to me and said thinks there's some behind scenes deal re : Syria.

- Four: Syrian regime and US delegations both staying at same Montreux hotel, but did not see any interaction.

3) Edward Dark has a good article from a few days ago on the view of Geneva 2 from Aleppo.

Significantly, the United States and Russia are now seemingly closer to a consensus as they try to push for localized cease-fires in Syria, something which has in fact already successfully taken place in Madamieh and Barzeh in Damascus, providing a possible template for a broader cease-fire, as well as for prisoner exchanges and access to humanitarian aid for besieged areas across Syria.
The average Syrian quite honestly has very low expectations for the Geneva II talks. The countless millions who are now displaced, hungry and besieged — or just shell-shocked and war-weary — just don’t care for the nuances and finer aspects of international diplomacy. Concrete action on the ground is what they most desire — cease-fires and aid first and foremost; the rest is a footnote to them. Who wins what and which side gains or loses are secondary considerations for the masses longing for a semblance of normalcy and sanctuary from the constant bloodshed. Furthermore, the cynics are across the board, from the most ardent of regime supporters to the most committed of rebels. For them, Geneva II is just another talking shop where the self-righteous and powerful get to feel good about themselves while pretending to help ease the Syrian suffering. “We’ll be up to Geneva 17 before we see an end to this war,” one of them remarked.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 22 2014 23:38 utc | 91

@89 Brilliant! Is there a full version of the transcript?

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 23 2014 1:18 utc | 92

Press TV is reporting the occupation of Aleppo's international airport by the Syrian Army.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 23 2014 4:47 utc | 93

Full Version of Syrian FM Speech at Geneva:

Other: Video Speeches at the Geneva-2 Conference on Syria, by Walid al-Muallem, Bashar al-Ja’afari, Sergey Lavrov, John Kerry, Ban Ki-moon, Ahmad Jarba ~ (Eng-Fra-Arab-Esp)

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 23 2014 4:52 utc | 94

@ Guest77

Thanks for the links just watched Lavrov's speech. Fairly good, bringing up the Iraq example of what happens when the US engages in regime change. Looks like Geneva 2 may achieve a running dialogue between the Syrian government and the "opposition". Talks of continuing meetings beginning Friday between them on a "Week On, Week Off" basis to deal with humanitarian corridors and localised ceasefires.

In my opinion this won't really amount to much. Since the opposition is not recognised by most of the rebel fighters on the ground, it's ability to negotiate ceasefires at a local or city level will be small. But looks like the US will push this and say "we made progress on humanitarian corridors and ceasefires" to hide the fact that little progress was made.

A lot of rumours about some secret Russian-US deal in the background. John Kerry even mentioned behind the scenes talks and the White House says Obama phoned Putin the night before the Geneva 2 talks. I've said a few times that it could be that Assad will win the military war but lose the political war.

Could be a deal to get rid of Assad but maintain the Baath system with a Russian handpicked successor that won't change the status quo much but will allow the US to save face by saying it got rid of Assad (its only demand). Such a move would probably be acceptable to Hezbollah, Iran, Russia since Syrian policies/views would be unchanged and would be acceptable to US. Saudi would scream because the Resistance Axis would be maintained but other than that everyone would win.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jan 23 2014 15:40 utc | 96

Kerry’s Hypocrisy on Syria

Perhaps the worst moment in Kerry’s press conference came when he tried to explain the origin of the civil war in 2011:

What happened in Syria began in the wake of a transformation that began to break out throughout the Middle East, throughout the Maghreb and the Middle East. And everybody knows the events that began in Libya and in Tunisia and Egypt. Eventually, young people in Syria stood up for change and some young kids with graffiti cans were arrested. When their parents came out to protest the arrest of their young children, 120 of them were killed.

That’s the beginning of this. Not a religious revolution, not terrorists. No terrorists were there then. This was people looking for change peacefully in their country, and they were met by bullets and violence and death.

First of all, it’s true that back in 2011, peaceful protesters in Syria were met with bullets. But that’s when President Obama made a huge blunder, calling for the ouster of Assad. Had Obama refrained from that step, had the United States back in 2011 sought to calm passions on all side, had the United States quietly contacted Russia then, had Washington sought to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia into dialogue then, perhaps the situation would not have escalated into war. But, by demanding Assad’s head on a platter, Obama accelerated the rebellion, throwing gas on the fire, and at the same time gave a green light to the Persian Gulf kleptocracies, led by Saudi Arabia, to provide cash and arms to the spreading rebellion.

In addition, Mr. Kerry: in 2013 the Egyptian government gunned down far more than 120 people in violently suppressing peaceful demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and elsewhere. But Obama hasn’t called for General Sisi, the Egyptian coup d’état leader, to quit. If that isn’t a double standard, then I don’t know what is.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 23 2014 16:21 utc | 97

#Virgile 97

Kerry is doing his script , part of 7 years lies and deceptions.
7 years ago on March 5 2007 Sy Hersh published an article Annals of national Security-REDIRECTION about new direction and strategy of US policy for ME.

It is a must read for understanding what is happening in Lebanon and Syria and role of Bandar-Saudi Arabia in supporting AQ.

Posted by: LOYAL | Jan 23 2014 16:55 utc | 98

If anybody still hasn't read Seymour Hersh's "Redirection" after all this time, with Tony Cartalucci citing one and the same passage in every post he writes about the mid-East, they must be new to this business.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 23 2014 17:23 utc | 99

Why did the Iranians refuse to accept the Geneva communiqué ? I do think that they could have found a formula accepting the communiqué without loosing face, if they had wanted to do so.
One of the reasons for their refusal to do so, might have been the close relations they have enjoyed with Turkey which, during these last years, helped Iran to overcome problems with the western sanctions. Had they participated in Montreux, they would have supported the positions of Syria which would have meant critical comments of the Iranian foreign minister in front of TV cameras about the Turkish policy fomenting the war against Syria. Teheran cannot know what will be the results of the negotiations with the P 5 +1 on the final agreement concerning the nuclear questions. As long as the nuclear issue is not settled and a lot of sanctions continue, they will need some help from Turkey; critical remarks about Turkish policy in front of a large public would not have helped them.

Posted by: alpino | Jan 23 2014 21:51 utc | 100

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