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:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail