Syria: hoodwinked – was the ‘resignation’ of Syrian ambassador Lamia Chakkour a set-up/provocation of France 24?

France 24 routines: According to France 24 prior to the interview of Lamia Chakkour on the ‘Debate’ show France 24 contacted the Syrian Embassy’s press section. After France 24 had informed the Embassy of the theme of yesterdays ‘Debate’ France 24 got a positive response. France 24 was informed by the Embassy, which phone number that should call to contact the ambassador. According to France 24 this phone number had previously been used when they wanted to get in touch with Lamia Chakkour.

Reuter’s confirmation from the Syrian Embassy: The same day Reuters news agency could confirm the resignation by Lamia Chakkour by an e-mail from the Syrian Embassy.

The quick reaction from the Syrian regime: The telephone interview by a woman claiming to be Lamia Chakkour was conducted on Syrian State TV and Al Arabiya after the France 24 ‘Debate’ ended points to the fact that the ‘resignation’ was a planned move. After four years in Syria I fell quite emboldened in my claim that when the Syrian regime is caught by surprise their reaction is first one of silence. The information has to travel up the chain of command before a decision can be reached, and this usually takes some time. Hours. Sometimes days or even weeks, if at all. In this case we are talking about less then an hour.

Lamia Chakkour’s reaction: If somebody who is not the Syrian ambassador but claims she is goes on live on a French TV channel, in this case France 24, and resigns you would think that the real Syrian ambassador would contact that channel to set the record straight. But no. Instead the Syrian ambassador contacts Syrian State TV and then Al Arabiya. First after many hours did she make a statement to another French channel, BFM. No contact has been taken by the Syrian ambassador or by the Syrian Embassy with France 24. Indeed, the France 24 has yet not managed to get in touch with the Syrian ambassador or Syrian Embassy.

Lamia Chakkour’s attack against France 24: In the interview with BFM Lamia Chakkour lambasted France 24 – “France 24 … is issuing a message in my name. Naturally, I will bring a lawsuit to condemn France 24 for its acts of disinformation, which are part of a campaign of falsification of information and disinformation which began in March 2011 against”. She also stated that France 24 gave a platform to dissidents.

Con: Now, one cannot ignore other possibilities such as a) the hacking of the home page of the Syrian Embassy/a fake Lamia Chakkour calling France 24 and e-mailing Reuters, b) one or more members of the Syrian Embassy in Paris going rouge or that c) relatives of Lamia Chakkour has been threatened in order to get her in line. But all in all the most plausible hypothesis is that France 24 was hoodwinked by the Syrian regime.

An analysis – why? Primo: The fact that the first interviews, by a woman claiming to be Lamia Chakkour, were to Syrian State TV and Al Arabiya, I would argue, is an indication that the reason for this move against France 24 is mainly for internal Syrian (and Lebanese) consumption. France 24 had, as Lamia Chakkour stated in her interview to BFM, given room to Syrian dissidents/pro-democracy activists and had, in the eyes of the Syrian regime, conducted a campaign of lies since March 2011. This was first and foremost a move to further delegitimize foreign media in the eyes of the Syrian public.

Secundo: France. The same day as France 24 ‘Debate’ Alain Juppé had said that Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy. Furthermore France is together with the UK spearheading a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the violence by the Syrian regime as possible war crimes. The vote in the UNSCR is set to be within 24 hours.


About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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One Response to Syria: hoodwinked – was the ‘resignation’ of Syrian ambassador Lamia Chakkour a set-up/provocation of France 24?

  1. Doc says:

    It sounds to me somewhat unlikely that France24 was set up by the Syrians. France24 can, and has, claim that they acted in good faith. The onus would then fall back on the Syrian embassy as to how someone could fake being the Syrian ambassador. Also the Syrian embassy, in this set up, left evidence in form of email and voice recordings (one can check if its the same voice or not, even if there is an attempt to alter the pitch – I think). Basically, if it was a set-up then it was a clumsy one. Also it must’ve been planned rather hastily as I understand that France24 posed the question to the Syrian embassy the same day as she was to participate in the discussion. No, either an inside job at the Syrian embassy, somebody who has his/her loyalties elsewhere, or she changed her mind for whatever reason. If it was an inside job, i.e. if it was not the ambassador speaking but rather an impostor, then it is poor journalism from France24. This is not some youtube video from a never-heard-before town in Syria, this is French journalists in France allegedly speaking to the Syrian ambassador in France, their own backyard. If it was not her on the phone, they should spot this if not directly then directly after.

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