Thoughtlines with BOB CARR
Senator Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, presents Australia’s policy on Syria on his blog, “Thoughtlines on Bob Carr”. Those who manage the blog have occasionally allowed critical comments to be posted, sometimes not. To ensure there is a public response to Bob Carr’s ‘thoughts’ on Syria, responses to some of his postings will be collected here.
Editor 15 July 2012
A slide show of images taken from Syrian satellite TV in July 2012. They include the most recent news report on the killings in Tremseh
Massacre in Tremesh, Syria
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has renewed calls for Russia to support the removal from office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as a step towards ending the ongoing civil war which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
“The world has again been appalled by the reported slaughter of up to 200 civilians in the town of Tremseh,” Senator Carr said.
“This is another brutal and barbaric crime against innocent civilians.
“The use of artillery, tanks and helicopters provides clear evidence of the Assad regime’s involvement.
“The only solution to the Syrian civil war remains the six-point peace plan brokered by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
“But an immediate stumbling block is President Assad, whose complicity in these massacres impedes negotiations between government and rebels.
“We share the views of the United States and other nations, that a transition of power away from President Assad would be a step toward implementing the ceasefire that the people of Syria so desperately require.”
Senator Carr said he had instructed his Department to communicate Australia’s views to the Russian Chargé d’Affaires, Mr Nikolay Nozdrev.
Australia remains committed to a unified international response on Syria, through adoption of a new Chapter VII resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
Senator Carr said Australia is seeking international support for this action through the Ambassador to the UN, Mr Gary Quinlan.
the interpreter – Lowy Institute for International Policy
Syria: Bob Carr’s rush to judgment
By Rodger Shanahan – 16 July 2012 4:34PM
It would be nice to believe that the entirely abhorrent Assad regime in Syria is being opposed by a group of morally upright freedom fighters rigorously observing the rules of war.
The reality is otherwise. While Syria has been a ruthless mukhabarat state for decades, the fact that the regime has been able to hold on for so long is only partly a testimony to its military power and ruthlessness. It also speaks to a suspicion on the part of many Syrians that the opposition is simply a group of ruthless Sunnis wanting to right the sectarian imbalance. And while there is no doubt about the brutality of the Syrian Government, the anti-regime forces, be they Free Syrian Army, jihadists or journeymen, have also earned the attention of the UN and human rights groups over their use of child soldiers, summary executions and improvised explosive devices in populated areas.
Which makes Foreign Minister Carr’s rush to judgment yesterday, before all the facts have been gathered on recent events at Tremseh, smack of naiveté. Claims of a massacre were first aired by the Free Syrian Army, hardly an objective source. Facts are still emerging, but the New York Times has a more nuanced story which raises significant questions about claims, repeated by Senator Carr, of 200 civilians being massacred. Reports of the initial UN investigation lend more weight to the NY Times story than the DFAT claim.
In the fight against the Syrian military a lot of civilians will die. Rebels fight among the civilian population to minimise their own casualties but civilians die as a result. And the army employs standoff weapons to minimise its casualties and maintain unity; it doesn’t care about civilian casualties.
It’s a tough choice for the armed opposition: become a guerrilla force outside populated areas and expose yourself to the Syrian military’s conventional capabilities, or stay within populated areas to minimise the technological disadvantage. It is even more difficult when the Syrian military (or its proxies) attacks villages regardless of the presence of armed opposition.
The complexity of the situation in Syria makes it all the more important to obtain objective evidence when there has been fighting in civilian areas. A willingness to place the label ‘civilian massacre’ without examining the facts reflects a desire on the part of the West to try to embarrass the likes of Russia into supporting more robust international action against Syria. The trouble is that when you get it wrong, it gives those same countries cause to question the West’s judgment, intelligence information and motives.
16 July 2012
Senator Christine Milne
Leader of the Australian Greens
Australian Parliament House
Dear Senator Milne
Re. Corporate Media Lies on Syria and Greens Change Bias
We, Australians for Syria, are concerned about the misinformation being spread by western media and how this has infiltrated public opinion as well as the views of prominent MPs, including the Greens.
We believe some of the Greens public comments have been naïve and biased.
For example, on Feb 12, 2012: “Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania—Leader of the Australian Greens) (11:57): I move: That the Senate—
(a) condemns the appalling human rights abuses and escalating violence in Syria, that has seen thousands of innocent civilians killed; and
(b) calls on President Assad to step down, to finally put an end to the intolerable bloodshed of the Syrian people.
Question agreed to” (1)
Section b of former Senator Brown’s motion meddles into Syria’s internal affairs. Mr Brown at no stage condemns the real terrorists, who are being funded, trained and armed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, NATO with the support of the US and Israel.
The same can be said of the Australian Government’s position on Syria. The expulsion of the Syrian Charge d’affairs and other Syrian diplomats by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Bob Carr, after the Houla massacre, was arbitrary and biased.
Senator Carr’s inconsiderate action took place two days after the Houla massacre. A UN Report dated June 27 wasinconclusive about the perpetrators and stated 3 possibilities about the crime: “‘First, that the perpetrators were Shabbiha or other local militia from neighbouring villages, possibly operating together with, or with the acquiescence of, the Government security forces; second, that the perpetrators were anti-Government forces seeking to escalate the conflict while punishing those that failed to support – or who actively opposed – the rebellion; or third, foreign groups with unknown affiliation.’”(2) Yet, the Australian Government became judge and jury, deciding to take action against the Syrian Government based on malicious lies. [An article by David Edwards in Media Lens provides an insightful analysis on the corporate and mainstream media lies in regards to the Houla massacre. (3)]
It is difficult to discern the truth when we are bombarded by corporate media lies. However, when our MPs decide to accept these corporate media lies as truth, especially when they have the resources and staff to seek alternative information, it reflects badly on our democracy.
We know there are a large number of articles and comments made by lazy journalists, whose sources are Syrian opposition forces, many of them residing in the West. Much of this is malicious spin designed to cause harm to Syrian and its government. For example, on the “Houla massacre” on May 27, 2012, the BBC published on their website a photograph taken in Iraq in March 2003. The photographer, Marco Di Lauro, said on his facebook page:
…[T]he attached image which I took in Al Mussayyib in Iraq on March 27, 2003…was front page on BBC web site illustrating the massacre that happen in Houla the Syrian town and the caption and the web site was stating that the images was showing the bodies of all the people that have been killed in the massacre and that the image was received by the BBC by an unknown activist…(4)
A half hearted apology from the BBC News Editors can be found in their blog under the title: Houla massacre picture mistake. (5)
Media Watch, Episode 14, of May 16, made critical comments about ABC 24 and SBS. Both TV channel news of Sunday May 8, 2012, aired a “disturbing video of protests in Syria” which happened to be a video taken in Lebanon and placed on Youtube on “20 August 2008.” (6) They have been ‘ethnically cleansed’ by the Salafist elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
However, we have heard little from the corporate media about the more than 135 thousand Christians forced to leave the city of Homs. Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross has given a number of interviews providing detailed information of the unfolding tragedy. (7)
In April 2011, more than 13,000 Syrians demonstrated in support of the Syrian Government in Sydney. Did any MP seek their opinion? Today the Australian Syrian community is being intimidated and targeted by criminal elements that have a campaign of terror against them. (8) We have not heard The Greens condemning such actions.
We believe it is time for The Greens to remedy their past biased stand. Therefore, we ask that the Greens condemn the foreign regimes currently funding, training and arming mercenaries and anti-Syrian terrorists, that they condemn the proxy war taken place in Syria; that they demand the reinstatement of Syrian diplomats and offer an apology to them; and that they condemn any intimidation and/or criminal actions against the Australian Syrian community supportive of their government. All this is consistent with international law, respect for sovereignty and non-intervention.
Marlene Obeid, Dr Tim Anderson, Hanadi Assoud, Dr Mohamad Assoud, Tania Boulos, Wayne Sonter, Tony Backhouse, and Adam Haddad.
Australians for Syria, Sydney
c/- PO Box 109, Glebe 2037
Here are additional links to information on Syria: