It all started with a phone call by a woman claiming to be the Syrian ambassador in France who made a live phone call to the channel:
“I can no longer continue to support the cycle of extreme violence against unarmed civilians [...] I can no longer ignore the young men, women and children who have died. [...] I have informed the president’s private secretary that it is my intention to tender my resignation to (Syrian) President Bashar al-Assad
Usually, when a high-ranking diplomat calls a news channel to make potentially consequential statements, you expect any self-respecting, professional channel to triple check the identity of the caller.
But then, an obviously infuriated Lamia Chakkour (the ambassador) called Syrian TV to categorically deny that she made that call. She then called Al-Arabiya, and with equal fury denied the “impostor” and said that she will sue the “vindictive” France 24 channel. Alarabiya then played the France24 clip while Ms. Chakkour was on air, and it was obvious that the voice of the woman who called the channel is not the same as that of Ms. Chakkour.
So France 24 was caught red handed? Not so fast. Here’s the channel’s statement following Ms. Chakkour’s denials:
Ahead of Tuesday’s “Debate” show on FRANCE 24, the channel invited the Syrian ambassador to France using the email address commonly used by our channel to contact the Syrian Embassy press office. Since Ms. Lamia Chakkour’s response was favourable, we called her at the appointed time on a number that was provided to us by the embassy press office [...]
Following the broadcast, the Reuters press agency received an email from the Syrian embassy in Paris confirming what she had announced [...] We cannot rule out either manipulation or provocation
In other words, someone from Inside the Syrian embassy in France was engaged in a massive act of deception. That happened on the same day that France’s foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that President Assad has “lost all legitimacy” to rule Syria. This could of course be a coincidence, but I’m smelling a botched act of intelligence by the French, perhaps calculated to start a snowball of international resignations of Syrian diplomats.
Let’s wait and see how this plays out..