, , ,

(not satire – it’s the surreal world of international diplomacy)

With war looming, probably best to bury these links between the UK and Syria – wouldn’t want them embarrassing anyone important, would we?

1) Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Several high-ranking Syrian military officers were trained at top-notch Ministry of Defence training colleges like Sandhurst and other MoD training colleges.

In defence of its decision to train officers from dictatorships such as Syria and other countries known to have abused human rights, the Ministry of Defence said (with apparently not even a trace of irony): “Providing training to the same high standards used by UK armed forces helps to save lives and raise awareness of human rights.

Given how things have turned out, the MoD will be a bit embarrassed about that I would imagine.

2) Asma Al Assad

President Assad’s beautiful clothes-horse wife Asma is a Londoner – born and bred in Acton. I’m not being sexist referring to her as a beautiful clothes-horse – that really was her main role in the regime until the uprising made it difficult for western magazines like Vogue to give her any more fawning puff pieces.

And in a surreal bit of diplomatic nonsense, she’s actually banned from entering the EU along with all other high ranking Assad loyalists. Except she’s British – so she can’t be banned from entering her own country. Which means she can’t be banned from the EU at all – except symbolically.

Which is probably just a tad embarrassing.

3) Lord Tim Bell

Margaret Thatcher’s spin master who helped engineer her three election victories was employed by the Syrian government to spin their image, along with other notable despots such as brutal Chilean dictator Pinochet as well as ‘the last dictator of Europe’, Belarus leader Alexandr Lukashenko.

Mind you, after spinning Thatcher for so many years, I would have thought spinning a few tinpot dictators would be an easy task.

Still – a bit embarrassing now that Bell’s own party is about to take us to war with one of his ex-clients.

4) The Blair Government

In the run up to Assad’s official visit to Britain in 2002, the Blair government seriously considered asking the Queen to bestow an honorary knighthood on the Syrian dictator. Of course, this was at a time the Blair government was hoping Assad would be amenable to reforming Syria into a country the West could do business with.

Pretty embarrassing all the same.

5) St Andrew’s University

One of the oldest and most respected universities in the UK, St Andrew’s accepted over £100,000 raised by Syria’s ambassador to the UK, Dr Sami Khiyami.

It seems academic leaders of this supposedly eminent university weren’t clever enough to have noticed they were receiving money supplied by a dictatorship infamous for its appalling human rights abuses.

Which is probably a bit embarrassing for them, I would think.

6) Jeremy Hunt (and other MPs)

Until 2009, the British Syrian Society – headed by Assad’s father-in-law – regularly organised visits to Syria for UK MPs from all parties.

This includes the present Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who declared he had received flights and hospitality worth £1,065 from the British Syrian society for a three-day visit to Syria in May 2007.

Other MPs to have accepted President Assad’s hospitality include David Davies and Brooks Newmark.

Yep. Pretty embarrassing too I’d say.


Please feel free to comment – you don’t need to register and I’m extremely minimal with the moderating – so please go ahead.


By the way, if you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks: