Delusion–part one:

delusion:1) a mistaken or misleading opinion, belief, idea etc 2) psychiatry a belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is resistant to all reason

My thanks to the Collins English Dictionary (Millennium edition) for the above definition.

The treatment plan:

You have to feel some sympathy for most western politicians in general, and US Secretary of State John Kerry in particular, for their obvious mental difficulties when it comes to Syria. Perhaps it’s because they all have such stressful jobs, or perhaps it’s the result of some undisclosed childhood trauma. To help them recover from their collective delusion, I’m going to adopt a step by step recovery program, and because most of those who stride the digital stage that is the world today appear to have problems with long-term memory, the first step is to examine the most recent events first. Try and stay with me ladies and gentlemen, it may be painful at first, but believe me the longer term benefits will be not only felt by yourselves, but by many people around the world–hell, you (some of you) might even get re-elected, and wouldn’t that be fine? I must warn you that the real situation is complicated, but try and stay with me. Take as long as you need and feel free to ask questions at any point, there’s no rush because the situation isn’t about to change any time soon.

Today:

President Assad of Syria says that he will fight on for as long as it takes, but he will take back control of his country. It may take up to a year but he is confident of success. A US State department spokesman said that President Assad was delusional if he thought that there was a military solution to the war in Syria.

Notes: which country is Assad referring to? One assumes Syria, a country which is now effectively split into four parts. That part which Assad (and his friends) control, the part that ISIS controls, the part that the so-called Syrian Opposition controls and finally the part that the Kurds control. You have to admire the man’s optimism. As to the US State Department’s comment, they are delusional if they think there is not a military solution. In the long-term they are, of course, correct. Once Assad has regained control of most of Syria, there will have to be a political process, but we are a long way from that yet.

The Syrian Opposition–there is a problem with the label ‘Syrian Opposition’. There is no unified group, there are about thirteen different groups (some split into sub-groups) who loosely cooperate in armed resistance to the Assad regime, when they aren’t fighting each other and/or ISIS (remember them?)–still with me in the back–OK so far, John–Angela? Good. Dave, Dave stop doing that, Angela doesn’t like it. Right, let’s not get bogged down in detail for the moment, and simply refer to the various groups as ‘the opposition’. They announced that they will fight on for as long as it takes to remove Assad from power.

Notes: you also have to admire their optimism. With Vlad the Invader’s boys bombing the hell out of them, Iran providing support on the ground, not only in the shape of Iranian ‘advisors’ but Hezbollah fighters taking a break from being smacked around by Israel, they are losing ground–fast. The agreement yesterday that everybody thought they had reached–more on that below–didn’t include Vlad stopping the bombing of ‘terrorists’. Part of the problem was there were several different definitions of ‘terrorists’. To keep it simple, in Vlad’s world a terrorist is anybody who opposes him, and in this specific case, opposes his old pal Bashar. Specifically, that would include all the Syrian Opposition groupings, ISIS, the Turkish Government, all the Saudi Royal family, the Gulf Arab States and, probably, John Kerry. In the wider context, his list of terrorists would include NATO, the Ukrainian Government, those Baltic States which Russia used to own and which now oppress (sic) the ethnic Russians living there, those Chechens who are still alive and, possibly, North Korea. John Kerry has a more nuanced view of the world (it says in his cv). In his world view, the terrorists are ISIS, or ISIL–he has a problem deciding what to call them–and that’s it. Short and simple, except that he also has a sub-list, war criminals; Assad is a war criminal because he’s bombing his own people. So, that should mean that Vlad is on the list because he is also bombing Assad’s people. Barack (John’s boss, when he’s in the office and not playing golf) has told him not to be too rude about Vlad, because Vlad has lots of really big bombs (if he can find them) which might come in handy when dealing with North Korea–or just possibly Iran at some point in the future. I did warn you that this wouldn’t be easy.

 

Yesterday:

At the end of a much-advertised conference in Munich–a location that ought to figure in long-term memory as the place where the inevitable was once put-off for about five minutes– John Kerry proudly announced that agreement had been reached regarding the implementation of a cease-fire in Syria, to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to those who needed it–that would be most Syrians, when you come to think about it. It sounded great, cue the sound of champagne corks popping and sighs of relief when, for a brief moment, western political leaders thought that they weren’t actually going to  have to do anything. Then reality set in. Kerry admitted that it wouldn’t be easy (oh, really?) and mentioned that Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had actually proposed that the ceasefire take effect on March 1st. This wasn’t to allow time for aid to be assembled, it was to allow time for President Assad’s forces–with the help of Vlad’s bomber boys–to take control of Aleppo, an opposition stronghold. This would effectively cut off ‘the Opposition’ from Turkey, through which most of their supplies flow–Sergei got a big pat on the back from Vlad when he slipped that one past John-Boy. Additionally, when John-Boy announced the plan, he had to say that whilst they were hoping for a ‘nationwide cessation of hostilities’, this did not include hostilities against Jihadi groups, specifically ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. At this point, I need to remind you that the US regards ISIS as terrorists (as do Vlad and Bashar), but the al-Nusra Front is part of the ‘Syrian Opposition’, so whilst Vlad and Bash regard them as terrorists, the US–and the West–are slightly ambivalent (that means they hold their noses, and avoid mentioning the al-Nusra Front when they can get away with it). What the statement really said was Vlad can quite happily continue to bomb ‘the Opposition’ because they are a Jihadi group, because a component of the opposition is the al-Nusra Front, which the US has defined as a Jihadi group. Still with me? Well done.

Homework:

  1. list the groups that make up ‘the Syrian Opposition’. Extra sheets of paper will be required. Make sure that you number the sheets. Extra marks will be awarded to candidates who submit the sheets in consecutive order and with no tear stains on them.
  2. Study the following extracts from recent press releases. As an aid to understanding, the first extract, from Sputnik news agency, can be read in full here . The second extract, courtesy of the BBC, can be read in full  here.

Representatives of Russia, Egypt, China, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates will take part in a meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) in Bavaria, Germany, according to the German Foreign Ministry.

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Context matters. As the Syrian army advanced towards Aleppo a few days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry was angry at the Russians for not agreeing to an immediate ceasefire and for enabling Assad to gain a strategic advantage over the rebels.

As they began their meeting in Munich, Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov sang to different tunes.

While Mr Kerry said he planned to have a “serious conversation” with Mr Lavrov about the urgency to make progress on humanitarian access and a ceasefire, Mr Lavrov was non-committal and threw the ball back into the American court.

Q1: Looking at the first extract, name that government and organisation(s) missing from the list who are involved in the conflict in the former country of Syria, and whose agreement in implementing the ceasefire might be really, really important, if not actually crucial.

Hint: think the letter ‘S’.

Q2:Still looking at the first extract, (A) name those countries that Vlad the Invader shares the same world view with (B) name those countries which Vlad the Invader might regard as terrorist organisations.

Hint: read the notes carefully.

Q3: Considering the second extract: (A) do you think that the ‘serious conversation’ took place, or do you think that Mr. Lavrov was just having a laugh? (B) In the context of today’s events, who would you say won the ball game? Give your reasons in not more than 26,000 words.

 

Answers to be submitted not later that March 1st. Classes will resume next week.

 

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