By Jerry Alatalo
“Take my word for it, if you had seen but one day of war you would pray to Almighty God that you might never see such a thing again.”
ARTHUR WELLESLEY, DUKE OF WELLINGTON (1769-1852) British military leader, statesman
r. Peter Ford was the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Syria from 2003-2006. His view of the six-year long war in that nation directly contradicts the media reporting and narratives from the western countries of the United States, UK, France, Israel and others. Ambassador Ford gave an interview recently to Iranian media group Press TV, on their program titled “Face to Face”.
Early on in the interview, Mr. Ford talked about his experience while living in Syria where his residence came under attack by a group of jihadis, during which his Syrian police guard lost his life. This would seem to solidify for any skeptics his qualifications to speak with authority and seriousness about conditions in Syria.
He clears up any misunderstanding of, or misinformation about, so-called Alawite domination in Bashar al Assad’s (Assad is an Alawite) government by naming high-level Sunni government officials he dealt with as ambassador.
He goes on to correct the record on the false narrative that initial protests in 2011 were peaceful. He says the so-called “revolution” begun in 2011 was not peaceful “but for the first five minutes”, and that “…very, very quickly armed men came on the streets, and shot demonstrators precisely to provoke these kinds of reactions that we’ve just been discussing”.
“Syrian colleagues of mine who live in Daraa have told me this. I can’t put my hand in the fire and say that this is the truth, but to me it has the ring of truth”.
“I’m not saying that the Syrian government didn’t make tactical errors, didn’t overreact, but this myth that it was all very peaceful, that people had to arm themselves in order to defend themselves against the brutal regime, is nonsense and propaganda”.
The interviewer asked Mr. Ford for his thoughts on the West role in the Syria conflict.
“After the Iraq fiasco public opinion would not wear another western military direct intervention other than in the shape of bombing as happened in Libya. So Washington, London and Paris were unable to carry through on their wishes to depose the Assad government by force. They went for the next best thing – they provided offshore help. This is another myth, however – that the West has not provided military, not had a military role, in Syria. It has very much provided military advice, training, equipment, strategic advice, manipulation; it’s operated rear bases for the opposition in Turkey and in Jordan”.
“It is a myth that America, in particular the Obama administration, did not intervene militarily… It did – to the tune of billions of dollars of materials and training and other forms of assistance”.
Asked about the level of support Syrians had for Assad, Peter Ford replied:
“It (the government under Assad) certainly has the support of the minorities, even though in the West we try to hide this fact, but the Christians, the Druze, the Shiites, the Alawites obviously, and a very high proportion of secular Sunnis”.
On western and Arab media accusations of Assad being a war criminal:
“A lot of this is straightforward disinformation and propaganda. Let us look at the facts. It’s often quoted that 400,000 or even half a million people have been killed by the regime. Not true. At least half of that number are fighters – on both sides. Half of that half are civilians, again on both sides”.
On claims that Bashar al Assad is collaborating with ISIS:
“It’s a shameful lie. When you look at the daily news, today I could point to half a dozen reports – Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor, Homs.. – where fighting is going on government against ISIS”.
“I give a hollow laugh when I sometimes hear commentators say ‘Assad can’t be a good partner for us against ISIS’. On the contrary, Syria is suffering daily hundreds of casualties at the hands of ISIS. In the West, we might have one in Britain. We haven’t even experienced a single ISIS attack. I think Assad would have every right to ask whether the West is a good partner for him in the fight against ISIS”.
On the roles of Russia and Iran in the conflict:
“Well, thank goodness Russia and Iran have stood behind the government. There was a point a couple of years ago when ISIS were at the gates of Damascus, and it was only the combined efforts of Iran, Hezbollah, Russians with the Syrian Arab Army that managed to turn the tide. So, the people who criticize Iran and Russia need to answer the question: ‘Did you want the jihadis to take over control of Damascus?’ You can’t take down the regime without having something better to put in its place”.
“If the Assad government were to fall… there would be a bloodbath”.
On claims Iran is trying to make Syria Shia, and recreate the Persian Empire:
“I think all those accusations are just fantasy and paranoia. You have only to look at the demographics. …They don’t make sense”.
Asked what he thought of media coverage of the war:
“With the recent Aleppo campaign, we’ve seen new depths plunged in the mainstream media coverage of the Syria conflict. The amount of manipulation, fake news, distortion, lies that were put out was amazing. They (UK media) take whatever they are fed by the foreign ministry or Number 10, as simple as that. I’ve seen it happen many times. When I was in government – remember I used to be in government, I know how it works – you give the story to the journalists, especially lobby correspondents who rely on the availability and access to civilian government officials, and they regurgitate it”.
“It actually takes a bit of thought and independence of mind to realize that the government story is totally wrong, and I’m afraid most of our newspapers don’t have this. Some newspapers have a liberal interventionist mindset, of course. They think that Britain and the West should be ready to bomb in the interests of installing democracy in places”.
“And then there’s the influence of Israel on some parts of the British press. It’s really no secret that Israel would like to keep the fires burning in Syria”.
What would happen were Assad to step down?
“He is the key ingredient of peace, because he’s the only person around which the regime can group. He is the key stone of the arch. Take him out and the arch will collapse. There would be tremendous in-fighting were he to go. But, he commands legitimacy because he has prevailed in six years of conflict”.
What former ambassador Peter Ford has said becomes particularly important given his stature and credentials, knowledge of Syria, and experience accrued with his former high level diplomatic position/service inside the British government. If his statements are honest and accurate the need for prosecuting those guilty of war crimes becomes raised. Mr. Ford’s statements seem clearly to illustrate the prospect that ISIS, al Nusra and other terrorist militias conducting killing, maiming and destroying in Syria since 2011 have received state sponsorship.
For the world community and humanity as a whole, the statements of Mr. Ford and others like him speaking the truth represent or exemplify one of the great legal challenges – perhaps the greatest – to maintaining any existing enforcement of strong and effective, deterring international law. How the world community responds to yet another horrific instance of war criminality and/or illegal war of aggression carried out with impunity will have long-term consequences.
Another failure to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes will increase the possibility of future horrors. Justly punishing today’s war criminals is necessary to deter those contemplating similar atrocities in the days, years and generations ahead.
World peace is possible.
(Thank you to Press TV News Videos at YouTube)