Syria is cynical about UN peace plan (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT Damascus | 22nd Apr
Syria has "no confidence in the objectivity and neutrality" of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said an official to this correspondent, pointing out that Mr Ban had "in all that he said or did, never deviated from the Nato line". He asked why the UN Secretary-General was reserving "all his venom for the Syrian government" led by President Bashar Assad, "while ignoring the arming and financing of armed rebels by the so-called Friends of Syria Group". He asked if this meant that "Ban favoured Nato's policy of instigating civil war in Syria, by seeking to split different communities in the country the way the British did in India".
So far, only six UN "observers" have come, led by a Moroccan officer, who is regarded as "not independent, but close to any position favoured by Paris". Syria was a former colony of France, and under Ban Ki-moon, the UN has given France the lead role in ongoing efforts at regime change in Damascus. A Syrian official said that the UN mission "sought the same extra-territorial rights that similar missions enjoyed in Iraq during the decade prior to the 2003 occupation", but that the Syrian government "was firm that as an independent country, its sovereign rights had to be acknowledged and protected". This difference in perception, he said, had led to "frequent disagreements with the UN about the powers of the mission".
Another official revealed that "some members of the observer mission sought to exit the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus" (where they have been hosted in 5-star luxury) without giving prior information to the Syrian authorities, but that these individuals (who, not surprisingly, were from countries that openly favour regime change in Syria) were "warned to obey the protocol and inform the authorities before any visit was made". The UN mission had sought to "procure its own helicopters from one of the countries that are arming the rebel groups" but the worry that "such machines may carry concealed intelligence-gathering devices" made the Syrian authorities reject such a move, and insist that all transportation should be locally provided. "We have seen what happened in Iraq, the UN was used by Nato for its colonial objectives. We have no wish to be made a slave of Nato," a Syrian official told this correspondent.
Other officials, including the Governor of Damascus Rural, asked why the UN was ignoring "numerous human-rights violations by terrorists (i.e. rebel fighters)". He documented several cases of rape and murder of citizens because they belonged to minority faiths such as Christianity, "but so far, Mr Ban is silent on these atrocities and has accepted Nato's falsehood that all such acts are being carried out by the Syrian authorities". An official claimed that "detailed information has been provided to the UN about killings and torture by terrorists, but so far, the organisation is sleeping on the matter".
Another official claimed that more than 200 Christians were killed just in Homs, a city with a significant Christian population. This was confirmed by a Christian family that had fled the city last week.
While Damascus was calm, there were reports of stray clashes in outlying areas. Tourism, the mainstay of the economy, has been crippled by the travel advisories and sanctions imposed by the Nato powers, with arrivals falling by more than 60% from a high of 8 million in 2010, "although almost all of Syria is still safe", an official of the Tourism Ministry claimed. Others said that there was "a Nato plan to divide the Arab world and see that Arabs fight and kill each other" and that "what was happening in Syria is part of this strategy".
Clearly, the UN has some way to go before it wins the trust of not only the regime change pack meeting in Paris, but ordinary people in the country who are apprehensive at the civil war that is being manufactured from afar, and which is being actively assisted by Turkey and Qatar.