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Tuesday, November 3

France and Syria. Oh. Now I understand.

I sat in the hotel bar with the French ambassador and asked what was really going on in Syria. He took the battery out of my Syrian cell phone and then did the same with his. This must have set off an alert, because suddenly Sheherazade materialized in front of us.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Aren’t you sick?” I asked. “Go back to bed.”
The ambassador drew maps of Syria’s shifting boundaries, with dates.
The next day Sheherazade took me to Ma’loula, the village where they still speak Aramaic, the language of the Bible.
She said: “We don’t want you to talk to the French ambassador.”

“You can’t talk to me that way,” I said.
Readers who've studied Joan Juliet Buck's 'unvarnished' version of her Vogue profile of President and Mrs Bashar Assad will recall the above anecdote about her talk with the French ambassador, which she didn't take up again in the writing. So I was left wondering. What was the ambassador's point? Why did shifting boundaries and the dates these shifted explain what was happening in Syria at that time -- December 2010?

Surely the ambassador accompanied his drawings with an explanation that connected them with the present-day sitiuation. Yet from the rest of the writing it's clear she described the incident simply to help clarify what she'd only hinted at in the Vogue piece: she'd met with a police state in Syria. 

But her glide over the ambassador's conversation exasperated me. As with James Miles, the British columnist for the Economist who just happened to be the only outsider in Lhasa with press credentials at the time of the 2008 riots, Joan Buck was in a unique position, one with historical significance. She'd spent days with the Assads just a few months before the lid blew off in Syria. So I was more interested in what the ambassador had told her than her brushes with the Syrian mukhabarat.

Perhaps he'd spoken off the record, I thought grumpily, then I turned to other matters. I had no intention of making a study of Syria's history; my interest in the country was limited to American actions there, as with all other countries in Southwest Asia. If my disinterest in the region comes as a surprise -- the best foreign policy advice I ever got was from a Nigerian taxi driver in Washington, DC; this was after the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

He told me, "America should stay out of the Middle East."

When I asked why, he asked, "Is America in the Bible?" When I replied no, he went through a list of other countries that obviously hadn't been in the Bible: "Is Canada in the Bible, Is Japan in the Bible?" and on and on until I pleaded for the punch line.

He said, "Listen to me. All those people over there in the Middle East are in the Bible. You don't get into the Bible and stay in that Bible for five thousand years unless you're real mean and real smart."

By "smart" he meant slick, but I took his point. Obama recently referred to the allover situation in the Middle East as a quagmire. It's only been a quagmire for even longer than five thousand years.

Where was I?      

On Friday I recalled Buck's anecdote when I saw a photograph of all the delegates seated at the Vienna summit representing 17 individual countries plus the UN and EU. At the head of the two conference tables was a third table seating the three leaders of the meeting. Kerry was in the middle; Lavrov was seated next to him. Seated next to Kerry on the other side -- I squinted, trying to make out who he was. Fabius, I later learned from a press account. Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister. He was also one of the speakers at the press conference after the meeting.

Why would the French be co-chairing this meeting, I muttered. Syria had been a French colony or occupied by France or something, I vaguely recalled, but that must have been a long time ago.

Fabius was set against Assad staying in power. The French government wanted Assad gone in the same way Jubeir, the Saudi FM, had said his government did: "Preferably that afternoon." But what did the French expect to replace Assad with?

Then a Figaro poll was published, showing more than 70 percent of the French public in favor of keeping Assad on. The government remained unmoved. Assad had to go, right away. Why? Because he was the cause of all the trouble in Syria, was the official French position.

What had the French ambassador told Joan Buck?

You and I will never know for certain, but we can surmise much from Thierry Meyssan's October 12, 2015 article for Voltaire Network, titled Why does France want to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic?

It's a long article that goes into history, but skipping to the subheader France’s colonial ambitions in Syria since 2011, then through a few paragraphs, we arrive at the showstopper. Make sure you're sitting down and not sipping coffee or chewing a cheese danish or anything while you're reading:

On the 29th of July 2011, France created the Free Syrian Army (the "moderates").
Contrary to the official communiqué concerning its commander, Colonel Riyad el-Asaad, the first elements engaged were not Syrians, but Libyan members of al-Qaïda.
Riyad el-Asaad is no more than a cover, supposed to give the affair a Syrian veneer. He was chosen because he bears a similar name to President Bachar el-Assad, to whom he is in no way related. However, ignorant of the fact that the two names are not written the same way in Arabic, the Atlantist Press chose to see in him a sign of the "first defector from the [Asssad] régime".
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is supervised by French legionnaires, detached from their services and placed at the disposition of the Élysée and General Benoît Puga, President Sarkozy’s own private chief commander. The FSA now fights under the French colonial flag.
Currently, the FSA is no longer a permanent army. But its trade name is used from time to time for operations dreamed up by the Élysée and carried out by mercenaries from other armed groups.
France persists in making a distinction between "moderate" and "extremist" jihadists. Yet there is no difference in terms of personnel or behaviour between the two groups. It was the FSA who began executing homosexuals by throwing them from the roofs of buildings. It was also the FSA who broadcast a video of one of their cannibal leaders eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier.
The only difference between the moderates and the extremists is their flag – either the French colonial flag or that of the jihad.
At the beginning of 2012, French legionnaires escorted the 3,000 combatants of the FSA to Homs, the ancient capital of French colonialism, in order to make it the "revolutionary capital". They moved into the new area of Baba Amr, where they proclaimed an Islamic Emirate.
A revolutionary tribunal condemned to death more than 150 inhabitants who had stayed in the area, and had their throats cut in public. The FSA held out for a month against a siege, protected by fire stations of Milan anti-tank missiles offered to them by France.
There is more, much more. I'm still trying to absorb all I've learned from Thierry Meyssan; however, just from the above passages I think we can surmise three things:

1. The French ambassador probably told Joan Buck a pack of lies.

2. Governments have told the public a pack of lies about what's been going on in Syria.

3.  The government of France must be in the Bible.


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