Wrong about Syria
I started to critique this article because of a few factual errors. But it quickly became obvious something more sinister was at play. There were reasons for these errors.
Malik al-Abdeh has written his first article for The Guardian. Unsurprisingly it is about Syria. Why do I say unsurprisingly? Because Malik al-Abdeh runs a group calling for regime change in Syria - but that's not mentioned anywhere on the page.
He says of his organisation: "we propose a non-violent strategy, which targets the regime where it is most vulnerable: popular support." And it looks like he is using The Guardian as part of that propaganda strategy.
So on to the article. He talks about the recent two-and-a-half year imprisonment for a number of activists:
"In its desperate attempt to emerge from isolation, the Syrian regime appears to have moderated its treatment of oppositionists to avoid further escalation with the west."
Syria is generally accepted to have moved out of the period of isolation. It is not acting desperately. In fact, many claim it is cracking down on dissidents precisely because it feels emboldened.
"Eight years on, the so-called "reformists" and the "old guard" have been shown to be one and the same."
This shows a very basic ignorance of Syrian politics. The "old guard" have been involved in a sometimes quite visible battle with the reformists - take Aymen Abdel Nour for example, or the attitudes of Abdullah Dardari compared to Walid Al-Muallem.
"Until he was temporarily reprieved by President Sarkozy, Assad's fate looked sealed."
This ignores all of the developments of the past three years, and squeezes them into one incorrect sentence. It wasn't just Sarkozy. It was the EU (Javier Solana), America (Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Nancy Pelosi), Spain (the King visited) and of course - Israel! Plus the Doha Accord, which brought Syria to centre stage in the region.
There are a couple of intriguing sentences: "Despite its defiant rhetoric", followed soon after by, "It is very keen to get back in favour with the west." So which is it?
But best of all, al-Abdeh's basic point of the article contradicts itself.
He starts by saying: "Despite being courted by the leaders of France and Britain in the naive belief that he could be relied on to deliver the reforms expected of him."
But then ends with a plea: "Now is the time for the west to press home the advantage by insisting on only conditional engagement with Syria, engagement which is made provisional on tangible improvements in human rights and political freedoms."
He can't deliver reform. So now the west should demand reform.
Full article here.