‘Syrian insurgency holding seven of G8 hostage’

Afshin Rattansi
Afshin Rattansi is a journalist, author of “The Dream of the Decade – the London Novels” and an RT Contributor. Afshin Rattansi began his journalism career on The (London) Guardian in the late 1980s as one of the newspaper’s youngest ever columnists. He went on to work for Britain’s Channel 4, BBC, Al Jazeera Arabic, CNN International and Bloomberg Television and many other media. In the run-up to the Lehman Brothers crash of 2008, he published a collection of four of his novels as “The Dream of the Decade – The London Novels.” As US pressure increased on Iran, Afshin moved to Tehran to anchor the news on the new satellite TV channel, Press TV which was later banned in Britain. He set up Alternate Reality Productions in London in 2010 making Double Standards, a comedy satire show as well as other TV news commissions. His writing has also appeared in the New Statesman; Counterpunch; The Oldie; Plays and Players; Mitchell Beazley’s Encyclopaedia of 21st Century; The Journal of the British Astronomical Association; Association of Lloyd's Members Journal; Critical Quarterly; Makers of Modern Culture (Routledge, 2007); “Brought To Book” (Penguin, 1994); Flaunt; Attitude. He is a founder member of the Frontline Club in London and he won the Sony Award for outstanding contribution to international media in 2002.
The Syrian rebels are holding seven of the G8 states ‘hostage’ and in complete disarray with their preconditions ahead of the Geneva conference, Afshin Rattansi says, adding that those trying to dump weapons into Syria don’t understand the region at all.

Although the G8 have agreed to launch a UN probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, the investigation might encounter some difficulties, RT's contributor Afshin Rattansi added.

RT:How do you assess the summit's results in terms of the Syrian issue?

Afshin Rattansi: It’s incredibly embarrassing for these leaders in their own countries, you got to remember President Obama, the perpetual war president who does so many things that are illegal, he is back at home, he has no support for this idea of arming al-Qaeda in Syria. As for European leaders, it looked in most of the media here, that the G8 was just supine to American concerns.

Perhaps at the end Vladimir Putin got his way because Israel was telling President Obama, look we’re a bit worried about you creating an al-Qaeda state right here in what was a quasi-secular government here in the Middle East. So over the whiskey custard, Cameron was tweeting about the menu, the very idea that you have the G7, seven of the G8, desperately trying to torpedo talks, trying to send weapons. You’ve got to remember that they are sending these weapons, light mortars and RPGs, President Obama right now. I don’t think many of the American public realize that.

RT:On the one hand, the final statement did not mention Assad stepping down - on the other, in his earlier media conference Cameron did say Assad's political future in Syria was unthinkable. So to what extent does this joint communiqué reflect the member countries' real agenda?

AR: The British government’s incomprehension was palpable when president Obama eventually started saying that the US was going to arm the rebels, only to have William Hague, the Foreign Secretary here in Britain saying, oh not just yet. They are in complete disarray. They don’t seem to understand the region. They seem to have an orientalist understanding that they think that they can start pouring weapons into these sorts of groups.

We’ve got to remember that Iraq is still continuing, 2000 deaths since April 15, 51 dead on Sunday. Maybe they should finish up with al-Qaeda in Iraq before they start messing around. And of course there’s danger, that this is spreading, that some of those weapons, who knows maybe they’re secretly supplying, are killing people in Iraq. And certainly, there were two dead in Lebanon today. 

Destroyed cars sit at the site of a blast in Baghdad on May 30, 2013. (AFP Photo / Ali Al-Saadi)

RT:As for the proposed Geneva 2 peace conference - the agreement which caused some optimism among the leaders - so far the opposition has shown no inclination to take part in talks, unlike the Syrian government. Do you think the West could make the rebels change their approach?

AR: This loose coalition of rebels seems to have held 7 of the G8 hostage already, because they seem to be saying ‘we want this and we want that.’ Mr. Putin was very clear and Mr. Lavrov that there must be no preconditions whatsoever about rebels coming to the table. And it was good to see Francois Hollande of France saying that he would not mind if Iran, being a big regional player, appearing there. I suppose we should also have Saudi and Qatar.

We’ve got to remember when all of this was occurring in Ireland while president Obama’s people were saying that they were going to be negotiating with the Taliban. So many years after 9/11 they are planning to arm the people who caused 9/11. At the same time, the whole Afghan war, what was it for? They are going to be talking with the Taliban anyway rather than using guns. 

Rebels clash with Syrian government forces at Saif al-Dawla district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

RT:The British Prime Minister said the G8 agreement requires Al-Qaeda-linked militants to exit the fighting - do you think he really believes that is physically possible, or was it said to sway those who are hesitating over supplying the rebels with lethal weapons...

AR: There is some history. Some commentators are saying that the British prime ministers go crazy after a couple of years in Downing Street. We all know what happened to Tony Blair as he took his focus to foreign policy. David Cameron presumably has this polite Etonian background to think he can politely ask the Al-Nusra front, can you please exit the theatre. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Matt Cardy)

This is absurd in all ways. And it is amazing. You’ve got to remember that these delegates in Ireland have huge teams. They’ve got the National Security Agency advising Obama how possibly they think that they can make sure that weapons will not reach al-Qaeda in Syria, or the de facto Al-Nusra front. It is frighteningly breath-taking.

In his news conference, Vladimir Putin said Russia was not the only country having doubts over the claims that the Assad government had used chemical weapons - can you speculate who they might be?

AR: I presume that those countries would have been reading the UN report presented by Carla de Ponte some weeks ago. She seems to have disappeared. We had character assassinations against her when she said that it was by no means clear that it was the government using it, in fact it was probably the rebels. And now, they are going to send these two UN institutions, I understand OPCW (Office of Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and WHO to go and investigate. But the idea that this was pre-empted by the British government and the US government before the UN were going in.

We all know about ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ The US and its intelligence agencies cannot be trusted in scribing chemical weapons use to any government. And the idea that they can start lecturing the world or the other 7 leaders in Ireland, they know that they were using sarin gas, is ridiculous. What now must happen, as the communiqué outlines that all these UN agencies must be allowed to go in. But we must remember also that UN agencies and also the memoirs of those leading UN weapon agencies afterwards revealed to all of us, they are often under huge amounts of pressure, all kinds of pressure to come up with the goods.

We only need to hear about David Kelly, the government scientist, weapons of mass destruction expert here and his suicide to realize  that even UN institutions when they go into Syria, those people that are preparing their reports back in Europe and the US, what result will they come out with? We have information already that the US will be using chemical weapons as a false flag.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.