The silence on Syria

In a candid interview, Laura Hughes talks to journalist Charles Glass about Syria and the silence eminating from the world powers

Charles Glass is a broadcaster, journalist and writer, who has in his lifetime covered wars in the Middle East, Eritrea, Rhodesia, Somalia, Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Charles has witnessed the October Arab-Israeli War on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. In 1988 America refused to acknowledge Charles’ uncovering of Saddam Hussein’s then-secret biological weapons program, until Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Charles was the only US television correspondent in northern Iraq covering the entire Kurdish rebellion in 1991.
Since the spring of 2011 Syria has been plighted with a devastating internal conflict between the current regime and protesters calling for the dissolution of the Ba’ath party government. The Obama administration recently admitted to Congress that there was evidence that chemical weapons, most likely involving the nerve agent sarin, have been used in Syria, against Saraqeb, a rebel-held town south-west of Aleppo on 29 April, something that Obama has referred to as a “red line.” Critics have suggested American inaction stems from a fear of supporting Islamist rebels with links to al Qaeda. Charles commented, “Who is Obama to set red lines, whatever they may be? There are international conventions on the use of chemical weapons that have severe sanctions attached. Has no one heard of international law?” It is counter to the interests of the Syrian government to use chemical weapons. In a desperate bid to avoid chemical conflagration, this might provoke foreign military intervention.
It is worth recalling that the West tolerated Saddam using poison gas on a mass scale against Iranians and Kurds in the 1980s.
Commentators have said there is a real danger Syria’s huge chemical weapons stockpile could either be used or fall into the hands of so-called ‘jihadists.’ Charles suspects “there is no possibility of that.” Syria is a country that has actively advanced the growth of Iranian influence into the Arab world, has provided headquarters for Hamas, and has supported Hezbollah with the transfer of advance missile systems. The United States has been slow to act. Iran meanwhile is pouring vast resources into the country, including Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps encampments, weapons and advisers.
Hezbollah has denied sending any fighters into Syria; however Charles believes Iranian and Hezbollah actions are in fact supporting the Assad regime. The leader of the Lebanese Shia militant Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has promised his supporters they will prevail in Syria, where they are backing President Bashar al-Assad. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently accused the militant Lebanese Shia Islamist group Hezbollah of perpetuating President Bashar al-Assad’s “campaign of terror.” The latest figures from the United Nations suggest more than 80,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011. An estimated 4. 25 million internally displaced people and 1. 5 million refugees.
Supporting the ill-equipped rebels will intensify the chances of a sectarian civil war.
Western intervention poses far greater a challenge than it did in Libya- where the Transitional National Council, the Arab League, and the United Nations endorsed intervention. Syria is almost 30 times as densely populated as Libya, and the Syrian army is better equipped and five times larger than the Libyan army was. Furthermore Syrian opposition forces are fragmented; there is no unified credible chain of opposition command. In light of a video which appears to show a Syrian rebel taking a bite from the heart of a dead soldier. How does Charles believe this war can possibly end? “It could end at the Geneva Conference, if the backers of the two sides are serious about ending the war. It’s unlikely they are, so it may go on for some time. Terrible for the Syrians.”