Emily Thornberry is rightly under fire for talking up Assad’s popularity in a bizarre interview with Prospect magazine:
“There is an argument that if [President Bashar al-Assad] had been as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the west at the outset then he wouldn’t be there. I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated.”
Prospect were certainly unimpressed, reporting: “Not once in our discussion on Syria is she critical of the Assad regime”. The Shadow Foreign Secretary rather gave the game away later on in the interview:
Assad may not get special blame, but others do. Foreign forces, she says, need to leave. That includes Britain, which is currently taking part in air-strikes against IS. “They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people. Any of them.” She lists the countries involved. “UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, America, Britain—have I missed anyone?” She has. “Russians!” she adds, quickly.
Labour MPs tonight joined a pro-Assad rally alongside protesters with flags, hats and scarves bearing the face of the Syrian tyrant. Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, Chris Williamson, Emma Dent Coad and Lloyd Russell-Moyle were among those present at this evening’s Stop the War demo at Parliament Square. Williamson told an audience waving pro-Corbyn placards and communist flags that there was no evidence for the Douma chemical attack and that Assad had no motive to carry it out. Echoing Kremlin talking points, Williamson said:
“Why would the Assad regime at this stage of the appalling conflict in Syria, where he’s virtually won the battle for Eastern Ghouta, launch a chemical weapons attack when it would be bound to bring on the wrath of the West? … The motive is questionable, the evidence – where is the evidence? It just isn’t there. And it’s no coincidence, it seems to me, that on the day before the OPCW inspectors were due to start their inspection, these air strikes took place. What is going on? There are very serious questions, it seems to me, that need to be answered.”
One Assad supporter told Guido said the Syrian leader had not done anything illegal and that it was the UK parliament that was acting illegally. He added his message to Jeremy Corbyn was “well done”.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will share a platform with two Syrian government officials loyal to the butcher Bashar Al-Assad. Williams – who is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge – will address a conference hosted by The European Centre for the Study of Extremism, described by Syrian campaigners as a pro-Assad puppet organisation. The former Church of England leader will speak alongside Ali Haidar, a minister in the Assad government and general secretary of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (which runs a notorious militia fighting for Assad), and Bishr Riyad Yaziji, another Assad government minister. Both Haidar and Yaziji are asset freeze targets of the British government…
The conference will also be attended by Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian Ambassador to the UK. Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock was a patron of the group, but last week withdrew his support citing its “pro-Assad stance“:
@BobDeed I was informed 27 Mar of pro Assad stance of ECSE.Told them 10.53 I withdrew all association with them immediately.Neil Kinnock
— Glenys Kinnock (@GlenysKinnock) 30 March 2017
Williams has proven more stubborn, despite pleas from an alliance of UK Syrian interest groups:
“We are concerned that a great many people who we expect not to share pro-regime sympathies are involved with this propaganda exercise.”
Williams is understood to be issuing this standard reply to concerned:
“I have made it clear that I have no intention of defending the Government of Syria against well-founded charges of human rights abuses, and I have as yet seen no clear evidence that the event is designed simply as a propagandist exercise. You may be sure that I should strongly resist any attempt to make it such. My concern is simply to ask what can be done to move the discussion further towards a just and sustainable peace, guaranteeing the democratic rights of all.”
UPDATE: Rowan Williams tells Guido:
“No other comment beyond the fact that I’d hope others will wait to see if this conference actually delivers a independent perspective.”
Kinnock did the sensible thing and pulled out as soon as he was made aware of the situation, remarkable that Williams is still attending…
A newly-released paper by cyber-security company FireEye has revealed that opponents of Assad’s regime in Syria have been systematically targeted over Skype in an attempt to gain military intelligence. Men fighting for the Free Syrian Army are being targeted by what appears to be a woman, who adds them on Skype, strikes up a conversation and shares a “personal photo”. However the photo is booby-trapped; when it is opened it installs malware that specifically steals any military, political and financial information from the victim’s computer.
While FireEye can’t confirm exactly who is behind the attacks, the fact that battle plans, supply needs and personal information has been stolen from soldiers, journalists and humanitarians opposed to Assad, clearly indicates who the pilfered information is being channelled to.
It’s not just Brooks Newmark…