Simon Tisdall was once my boss at the Guardian. Either I’ve changed a lot since I left the paper more than a decade ago (undoubtedly true!), or he’s subsequently become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the US-Israeli security establishments (and there’s plenty of evidence for that!).
This “analysis” of US options on Syria is a case study in how the Guardian’s foreign coverage has become “Americanized”. It would take too long to deconstruct the whole article, but here are some key points:
The framing is provided courtesy of the neocon crowd (Jennifer Rubin) and liberal fellow travellers (Bill Keller) who should have been entirely discredited following their cheerleading of the attack on Iraq a decade ago. Instead, they are presented by Tisdall as learned authorities on US strategic interests.
Obama’s “failure”, in Tisdall’s view, is not that he has backed those forces trying to bring Syria to its knees through the stoking of a civil war; it’s that he’s been “dithering” and “shilly-shallying”. Tisdall’s presumption is that the US needs to behave more like Israel: that is, waging wars of aggression, dressed up as “humanitarian intervention”.
Next, he contributes, like his colleagues at the paper, to the discrediting / marginalising of this week’s UN investigation suggesting that it was the rebels, rather than Assad’s regime, that used the chemical weapon sarin. Yesterday, the Guardian mentioned the news of the UN investigation very belatedly, and only in the context of US denials of its findings. Tisdall, meanwhile, adds a new bit of misinformation: “UN investigator Carla del Ponte’s uncomfortably off-message claim that the rebels may have reciprocated strengthened the impression that the anarchic Syrian crisis is becoming uncontainable.”
In other words, Tidall is claiming that the rebels’ use of sarin was only “reciprocation” for Assad’s prior use, without a shred of evidence for his claim – instead based presumably on the word of his US security agency handlers. At the same time he twists his unsubstantiated claim to imply yet again that the US needs to “intervene” in an “anarchic” Syria.
The US failure to attack Syria is again framed by Tisdall as a “hands-off approach”, despite the evidence that the US is deeply involved, even if chiefly through proxies like Israel and the Gulf states.
So what are Obama’s options, according to Tisdall?
That leaves a minimalist decision to arm the rebels, an idea floated by the Pentagon and encouraged by Britain and France despite fears that anti-western Islamist jihadis may benefit. Beyond that, options include creating a no-fly zone, similar to that imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq after the first Gulf war; so-called “surgical” strikes intended to take out Assad’s airfields, anti-aircraft batteries, artillery and arms dumps and thereby protect the civilian population; a wider, open-ended air campaign to bring the regime to its knees (as in former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis); or an all-out ground intervention if all the above fail.
Those are the only options, it seems. The lessons of the Iraq misinformation campaign have not been learnt by the media, least of all the UK’s supposed bastion of “liberal” journalism.