Friday, 9 December 2016

Palmyra's Current Situation, Not Good?

53 min.53 minuty temu
: map by opposition media showing the current situation around after regime forces collapsed against on several sides

Actually, this is not a lot different from when the state recaptured the town, but still worrying. The Syrian army never pushed very far beyond Palmyra to consolidate gains, but have left it since March as a vulnerable salient. Russian and other troops were being withdrawn a few days ago, presumably to reinforce the Aleppo offensive... Not looking good.

UPDATE 10/12/16
  2 godz.2 godziny temu
Reports coming in that ISIS has recaptured city of Palmyra. Busy looting Russian weapons and ammunition stores.
That is what happens when you and your allies  drop your bombs on schools in Idlib and hospitals in Aleppo instead of ISIL militants in eastern Homs province. I really do hope that nobody took the decision to abandon Palmyra (with all that this will entail) to draw media attention away from, and justify, what is is happening elsewhere. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how many of the town's population that nine months ago were relieved of ISIL rule are still inside. It is their fate that needs to be our main concern, as it's pretty likely that there is no way of stopping ISIL from using the antiquities again to demonstrate to the watching world its mastery of the region.



Paul D., Paderborn, Germany said...

Dear Mr. Barford,

The loss of Palmyra to the "Islamic State" would be a great tragedy, first and foremost to the Syrian people. Unlike the (scholarly) public in Europe, they stand to loose more than an archaeological digg and some exotic selfie-shooting scenery.

The Syrians' lifes are currently being ruined by Western and Saudi backed "militants" and economic sanctions. It is that which is destroying Syria, its people and the cultural heritage. It is that which is the real root cause for any grand scale looting, not the handful of antiquities corner shops. (They are a red hering!)

You, from your armchair in Poland, however see fit to blame the Syrian army for the loss of Palmyra, a city you have no doubt fought hard to defend. You say the Syrian army is bombing hospitals and schools instead of Isis.

That claim's provenance is however dodgy at best. I bet it was dugg up recently by Syrian rebels and passed on to their Arab and Western patrons in the hopes of obtaining money and weapons.

Those patrons naturally "lost that paperwork" before introducing the item to the open and legal market (of opinion). Here it has been bought and re-sold "in good faith" by unsuspecting collectors ever since.

An important role in white-washing the item was no doubt played by the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" or some similar institution. For it is here that such things receive a repectable pedigree: "from a well established news source", "from the private observations of Mr.D." This allows it to handled by respectable journalists on a no-questions-asked basis. I am speaking of the BBC, the New York Times and others who have promised to abide by a strict code of ethics. You see, they can "feel" if something is fishy.

Cheers from France,
Paul D.

Paul Barford said...

I beg to differ, the war provides the opportunity for looting, the antiquities dealers who'll pay money for some grubby bits of carved stone, fired clay and crusty corroded metal which provide the incentive. Not a red herring at all, but obviously the motor behind this activity.

Warsaw is not exactly a place where anyone who knows what happened here at the hands of the Nazi (and then Soviet) invaders within living memory would feel comfortable sitting in any "armchair" watching this war unfold. Rather with deep and growing concern, and a feeling of helplessness, jibes from the likes of you do nothing to salve the pain. With what are you expecting me to 'defend' a city 2400 km away to the south and why?

I am really puzzled to know then why those hospitals keep blowing up and collapsing 'by themselves' as you seem to be asserting.

Paul Barford said...

Probably another "made up story" (according to Paul D. Paderborn in France)

I wish I could as blithely dismiss this sort of thing.

Paul D., Paderborn, Germany said...

Dear Mr. Barford,

Thank you for publishing my comment on your blog. Let me respond to your answer.

1) On the issue of looting: There will always be people digging up archaeological material with a mind for possession or profit. The question is not "if" but "how much".

A country at peace can choose to protect its archaeological sites and monuments. It can arrange for proper excavations. It can educate its public and make it a stake-holder in tourist revenues. Thus the problem can be minimized.

Syria has lost those options, thanks to the United States, the European Union, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Katar et al. (and yes: Nato-Poland!) Not only have they armed the rebels, contrary to international law. They have also imposed a murderous trade embargo on Syria, which has brought down the economy. The embargo against Iraq in the 1990s killed up to a million people. Anyone want a repeat?
Large parts of Syria are now in anarchy. People have no income, no food, no medicine. Is it any wonder, that holes are appearing in the ground?

Those interested in saving what is left of Syria's cultural heritage must push for:
+ an end to the arms supplies for islamist rebels;
+ the immediate lifting of the embargo against Syria;
+ the withdrawal of all Nato- "special ops" units from Syria.
In short: They must demand their governments respect international law. No more, no less. Here is your way to defend Palymra.

I maintain that focusing on a handful of antiquities corner shops in Europe and the States is barking up the wrong tree. They might be an easy target. But even if you shut them all down, the holes in warn-torn Syria will keep on coming.

2) On "pain" and "jibes". This is a minor point. I am glad to see that you have already updated your original post to acknowledge how it is the Syrian people who are suffering the most. We can agree on that, I'm sure!

I am not sure though of what to make of the accusation of "jibing". Your Blog is full of jibes. Do I have to start posting quotes of you poking fun of people's ("lower class" or American) accents? But as I said: That is minor point.

Cheers from France,
Paul D.

Paul Barford said...

my blog... is (as it says at the top) about portable antiquities collecting and heritage issues.

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