The news that Syria may, or may not, have delivered SCUD missiles to Hezbollah has prompted a frenzy in the commentariat this week. Pieces have appeared in the BBC, Foreign Policy and Haaretz all speculating what this might mean. Whilst the implications of this development deserve analysis in their own right, i’d like to draw attention to the central role of Andrew Tabler: ‘Syria Expert’ in this story.
Not only did Tabler first draw attention to this story in his piece for Foreign Policy, but he then acted as ‘expert commentator’ for Haartetz, the Wall Street Journal and the BBC’s coverage of the event. Tabler, however, is no impartial view. He works for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy – one of the most pro-Israel think tanks in the US. Indeed, it was founded by members of Aipac and any quick glance over their website demonstrates that it frames all its coverage of Syria through an Israeli lens. Though Tabler can claim some expertise on Syria, he spent several years living in Syria founding Syria Today magazine, it cannot be denied that his current employers have a clear political agenda. This sudden escalation in anti-Syrian news is clearly timed to coincide with the approval of a new US ambassador to Damascus in Congress and the WINEP and Tabler have been amongst the most vocal in opposing this reengagement.
I am not saying that Tabler is wrong about the SCUDS – i am not fully aware of the details on the ground and whether or not SCUDS have been delivered. However, i am frustrated that media outlets are willing to take one ‘expert’s’ word as gospel on Syria without looking at his political credentials. I am particualrly surprised at the BBC’s Kim Ghattas, who is usually genuinely balanced in her reporting.
For a far more balanced response, i noticed Josh Landis has written a good reply in Foreign Policy just now. On that note, good on Foreign Policy for showing both sides!