Why The Guardian is wrong on Syria
Ian Black has been The Guardian's Middle East editor since the legendary Brian Whitaker moved to a different role at the British newspaper. They were big shoes to fill, but Black has done it admirably.
He knows Syria - ok, not as well as Whitaker did - and he treats it with a degree of intelligence most so-called Syria 'experts' don't.
But in his latest piece he is wrong. Very wrong.
The piece is called Tension grows between Syria and Lebanon after bombings. But the 'Lebanon' position is represented solely by Sa'ad Hariri - a leader on the wane, and certainly not representative of Lebanon - maybe part of the Sunni sect.
Hariri accuses Syria of "infiltrating extremists to north Lebanon to carry out terrorist attacks targeting the Lebanese army and civilians".
Lebanese analyst Nadim Shehadi does back up his view - but it certainly isn't prevalent.
There has never been any claim that terrorists in Lebanon have come from Syria - there have been accusations (by Junblatt - although even he has now retracted these) that FUNDING came from Syria. The opposite is true - there is a widespread belief in Syria that the Damascus car-bombers came from northern Lebanon.
Yes, there is tension between Hariri and Bashar - that's not new. But between Lebanon and Syria? That's a bit more of a stretch of the imagination.
"A "Takfiri" group - standard terminology for al-Qaida".
Takfiris simply view the world through very narrow lenses. It is true that al-Qaida does too, but that doesn't make them interchangeable. al-Qaida supporters are takfiri, but not vice-versa. A militant may view Shia as apostates, and want to kill them, but not agree with the al-Qaida world-view. It may sound like nitpicking, but conflating the two is dangerous, because next we'll be combining all Muslim militant groups.
"The apparent target was a Syrian intelligence office near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeynab, where many Iraqi refugees live."
We've been over this point so many times. It was nowhere near Sayida Zeinab. It was next to Jaramana, and closer to the Christian shrines of Bab Touma than the Shia shrine of Sayida Zeinab. See this.
"Syrian opposition sources have claimed that one of the victims was an intelligence officer."
Farid Ghadry? Oh, please. His "claims' are more like wet-dreams. Reliability factor zero.
"In Beirut, Hariri denounced the deployment of Syrian troops along Lebanon's northern borders. He urged the international community not to allow Syria to intervene in Lebanese affairs under the guise of fighting extremism."
This was well covered a few days ago. There were legitimate fears that the Syrian army was about to re-enter Lebanon. But that all changed when Syria passed tough new laws to fight smuggling, and the real cost of the problem became clear. Oh, and the "10,000 soldiers" Hariri saw at the border were caught on camera as being more like 500.
I have a better title for the article: "Hariri cries wolf - again".