It was an almost comic exchange on BBC’s Newsnight (the exchange begins at 17 minutes) last night when Jeremy Paxman interviewed Sami Khiyami, the Syrian Ambassador to the UK, over who was behind the plot to destabilise Syria.
It went like this:
“Ambassador: Syria is not a one party state, it is not a one family state. It is the nicest and most beautiful state in the Middle East.
Paxo: Ok, now you’ve got that off your chest, tell us about this plot, who’s behind it?
Amb.: I think all those who thought Syria is at a time when it will cash in on the result of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The changes that occured in the Arab world were about to help the Syrian position a lot towards Israel and the expansionist policies of Israel.
Paxo.: Basically, it’s the Israelis behind it, is it?
Amb.: I’m sorry?
Paxo.: Is it the Israelis behind it, is that what you’re saying?
Amb.: Well, the Israelis could be behind it. They could be behind any bad thing in the world.”
As ever, Paxman looked in on disbelief.
Then again Khiyami was only parroting the line of President Assad of Syria who spoke of an “Israeli agenda” in his speech yesterday about the violence currently taking place in Syria.
The Times reports that a 14 year-old boy was yesterday shot in the head while carrying an olive branch. And many dozens so far have been murdered in cold blood at the hands of Assad’s forces (has anyone seen Judge Richard Goldstone lately?).
Some claim that Assad is basically a reformist President, but one who is kept in a straightjacket by hardline conservative elements in his Ba’athist administration.
Nevertheless, Syria hosts Hamas, supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and will do anything that Iran commands it to, especially considering that the Assads are Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam. The majority of Syria are Sunni Muslims.
I would have liked to have seen Paxman ask Khiyami whether there could be a repeat of events in Hama in 1982 when Assad’s father massacred up to 20,000 of his own people the last time they were impertinent enough to attempt a revolt against Assad totalitarian rule (Here is Robert Fisk reporting on his visit to Hama in June 2000).
But then we know what Khiyami would probably have replied: “Israel slaughtered them!”