[update below] [2nd update below]
There has been a certain disgust the past few days—on Facebook, via private communication—over Alastair Crooke’s
suck up laudatory piece on Bashar al-Assad, on the Foreign Policy web site. As one observer put it, Crooke “writes like a paid functionary of the Syrian Ministry of Information.” This should not be surprising, as Crooke is already a well-known apologist for Hizbullah and Hamas, so why not the Syrian regime too while he’s at it? Crooke no doubt seriously believes what he writes—like most of us, the man presumably has his convictions—but as for doing so like a “paid functionary” of the Syrians, well, this poses an interesting question.
In France it’s an old story of journals, glossy magazines, and newsletters specializing in the Maghreb singing the praises of one authoritarian regime or another, of acting like “paid functionaries” of the regime in question, e.g. of Algeria in the Boumediene years, Morocco under Hassan II, and, most notoriously, Ben Ali’s Tunisia (the director of one Paris-based Ben Ali-hymn singing publication—disclosure: I know him personally, as I’ve published in his journal in the past; he’s a nice guy—really went overboard; it’s going to take him a long time to wipe all that egg off his face). Now, it has been rather obvious that these various publications could never maintain their life styles, as it were, solely from subscriptions, kiosk sales, and advertising. Like American magazines of opinion, they cannot cover their costs. They need a sugar daddy. In the US, these are wealthy benefactors and foundations, whose identities are fully disclosed. There is no mystery. For Paris-based Maghreb-oriented publications and other endeavors, there aren’t too many philanthropists or foundations. And transparency works differently in France. So when publications act like PR agents of such-and-such a regime, one puts two and two together. There have indeed been innumerable stories and anecdotes on this over the years (of suitcases of cash from Algiers and Tunis, that sort of thing). It is a secret de Polichinelle.
Back to Alastair Crooke, he heads an outfit called the Conflicts Forum. It is based in Beirut (with antennas in London and Washington.) It appears to be well-heeled. Well, you can take it from there.
UPDATE: Hussein Ibish and Michael Weiss have a piece (July 31) in HuffPost’s The World Post on Alastair Crooke, “his odious views, and his nefarious organization”… We learn, among other things, that the Conflicts Forum received an EU subsidy between 2007 and 2009. A scandalous misuse of the EU taxpayers’ money. One wonders who’s picked up the slack since.
2nd UPDATE: David Samuels had an informative article on Crooke in Mother Jones, dated September 23, 2009, “The spy who loved Hamas. And Hezbollah. And Iran. Just who is ex-MI6 superstar Alastair Crooke working for, anyway?”