FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mystery of Syria’s Missing Spokesman

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Damascus.

Senior Syrian government officials said that the recognition of the opposition coalition as the legitimate government by the US and many other countries would not change the situation on the ground.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Miqdad, said in an interview that foreign countries were “recognising an artificial structure, a structure that will help promote the objectives of the US and European countries in Syria”. He denied that the opposition represented real political forces inside Syria.

Mr Miqdad’s assertion that the opposition coalition had been created by the US and was unrepresentative was echoed in a separate interview by the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi. In a striking parallel, he said that the US move was rather as if Syria “had recognised Liverpool Football Club as the sole representative of the British people while in fact it represented very little”.

The Syrian government is defiant as it faces growing international isolation, saying that whatever happens it was not going to lose militarily on the ground having withstood heavy pressure from inside and outside the country for almost two years. “I assure you this [move by the US] will not add anything,” said Mr Miqdad. “It is mere propaganda and psychological warfare directed against the Syrians and the Syrian government and is aimed at encouraging those armed groups that have been unable to achieve any real progress in Syria.”

This seemed a bit rich since Damascus had been echoing to the sound of distant gunfire all morning, suggesting that the armed groups had not been wholly ineffectual. But Mr Miqdad responded that in any case armed actions did not give those who carried them out legitimacy and just meant there were terrorist groups “which should have been fought against by Europe and the United States”.

This is a point repeatedly made by Syrian officials asking how come the US and Britain are against terrorists in one country, but favours them in another. What does the Syrian government think of the condemning of the powerful fundamentalist group, the Jabhat al-Nusra, as terrorists. “It is too late, too small,” said Mr Miqdad. “We believe they should have condemned all those who are carrying arms against a legitimate government. They should tell their friends to refrain from supporting terrorism in Syria.”

Why are the US and its allies so keen on getting rid of the Syrian administration? Mr Miqdad thought that there was hostility to Syria because of its support for the Palestinians against Israel and its long- term alliance with Iran.

He had a particular attitude towards the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring which he said were similar to coups d’etat. Challenged on this, he said that, while Syria respected what other countries did, “if the Egyptian army had not changed sides there would not have been that change. But we want that change to come normally and not from outside.” By far the most important ally remaining to Syria is Russia and Mr Miqdad said they “have daily conversations” with their Russian counterparts.

There was one more intriguing question. What happened to Jihad Makdissi, the foreign ministry spokesman, who was reported earlier this month to have left Damascus? Had he been fired or had he defected? Where had he disappeared to?

“He did not disappear. He is on release for three months and he’s enjoying his time, I hope.” Was he still spokesman for the foreign ministry? “For this moment, until now, he is still spokesman,” said Mr Miqdad. “We did not take any other decision.” And where is he? “It is said he is in Beirut.”

Finally and most important, how does Syria and the Syrian government get out of its present crisis? Mr Miqdad spoke of constitutional reforms already introduced, a multiparty system, the end of the leading role of the Baath party, and, if that did not work, national dialogue. The UN was having talks with some of the armed opposition.

But the booming of guns in the distance somehow suggested that events had moved beyond negotiation and compromise and the future of Syria would be decided on the battlefield.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail