• State Dept Staffs Syria Ceasefire Violations Hotline — With Non-Arabic Speakers

    March 7, 2016

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Syria


    Is there a better way to ensure no troublesome violations of John Kerry’s signature ceasefire in Syria get reported than by staffing the hotline where violations are to be reported by Syrians with non-Arabic speakers?

    Gotta love those clever gals and guys over at the State Department. The Department is all a twitter, high-fiving each other and sending congratulatory emails to Secretary of State John Kerry over his negotiating a ceasefire in Syria. And, in order to monitor compliance with the terms of the ceasefire, State set up a hotline. Ordinary Syrians, out there on the ground, could call in to report violations.

    Now remember, violations by anyone other than the naughty Russkies might make the State Department look bad, as if the ceasefire was only smoke, mirrors and a PR stunt, violated in part by forces to include the U.S.-supported militias.

    So, by some wacky Washington coincidence, the State Department admitted Wednesday it used only volunteers with limited Arabic language abilities to staff that hotline it set up to take calls about ongoing violence in Syria.

    That move led to confusion, as people who speak Arabic, which perhaps unknown to State is Syria’s official language, tried to call with information about violations of the cease-fire, only to get hung up by volunteers who didn’t understand the language.

    See, that volunteer part is another funny. Something as important as a hotline into Syria is staffed only by volunteers at State. No one could be bothered to assign personnel full-time to such a task.

    “In order to help monitor the cessation of hostilities in Syria, we did set up an information hotline that was staffed 24/7, where violations could be reported, I think via a number of different apps,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “There were some language issues among some of the volunteers. Granted, these again are State Department employees who are doing this in addition to their usual jobs.”

    “We are aware that there were language issues, as you note, and we’re working to correct those, obviously, because it’s important that we have Arabic speakers who are able to field incoming calls,” Toner said.

    Toner was asked whether proficiency in Arabic was a requirement for volunteering to work the hotline.

    “It was, just but, you know, given the time limits on setting this up, probably some of the language skills weren’t properly vetted,” he said. “So, we’re working to address that.”

    When asked for the phone number of the Syrian hotline, Toner said he didn’t have it on him. “I don’t have it in front of me, sorry,” he said.

    UPDATE: Apparently State is now redirecting calls from the Washington-based hotline to the American Embassy in Kuwait, where presumably they have someone who speaks Arabic.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Thank you, Peter. The irony is there are wonderful instructors of Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute, but language — and cultural training — is given short thrift at the Dept.

      Not to mention, it is woefully behind on hiring people with Arabic skills — including heritage speakers, ie Americans of Arabic descent.

      Too often people who are trained to learn about this region in a bona fide American program, or who speak Arabic, are viewed as a the 5th Column. Once in while some bright official gets the idea to encourage (at least publicly) the hiring of more Arabic speakers — remember the days of Karen Hughes — but somehow the initiative manages to bite the dust, successfully stymied by … somewhere.

      Yes it is a joke the Department cant consider to staff the hotline with language speakers, it is a bigger joke they do not even THINK that people in a region beset with lack of infrastructure, utilities, the basics, not to mention 15 different state security agencies — can’t call th State Department from a war zone??? Yanno, those buggy phones need something called electricity to be able to operate and then there is the issue of blocking calls as well. Have the State Department officials never heard of Iraq??

      It’s sad how the official conveys we should be happy anything was set up. It’s apalling after all these years, not to mention unresolved conflicts, the Department can’t set up a hotline???

      Intolerable and definitely a case of “what were they thinking?”

      The Department needs to stop discriminating in the hiring of Arabic speakers and anyone who has a degree in Middle Eastern studies. It is just plain stupid. Not one spy has had such qualifications, so this is just unfathomable

      03/7/16 9:38 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      It seems to have been a policy to avoid hiring people with Arabic skills and experience. Back during the big push by some agencies, State, military, intel, to hire people into the system as we geared up for the Iraq invasion — it was a sure-fire way not to get hired if you had traveled to any of the Arab countries or studied it or were a heritage or native speaker. Then that became apparent in hurting our efforts in Iraq and suddenly language speakers were in hot demand but rather than hire people with such skills into the system — they were brought on as contractors or in the Department, as Schedule A or some kind of newly-manufactured category of temporary employee

      03/7/16 9:43 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      That’s odd..I looked through all these photos and didn’t see a single goddamned phone..


      Maybe these people are calling the hotline…

      Insert rolling eye smiley here…
      So…someone calls and says..”Hey, someone just broke the ceasfire and burned down my shelter. Whatta ya going to do about it, hmmmm?”
      There should be a hotline to God for reporting Dictators and their allys for destroying everything in their path and killing anything that moves. Maybe god would send a massive EMP at their heart.

      ya know, the America I grew up in would have taken this motherfucking Assad out in a day 5 yrs ago, and then actually declared war on ISIS. Instead.. we get CIA fighting DOD. fuck.

      03/7/16 1:16 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      03/7/16 1:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Not to mention, it is woefully behind on hiring people with Arabic skills.”

      This will improve greatly when the Donald is presidense.

      03/7/16 1:54 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer- just be glad you aren’t a fender runner on The Donald’s
      motorcade visiting the Border!

      03/7/16 3:26 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Bauer- just be glad you aren’t a fender runner on The Donald’s motorcade visiting the Border!”

      Seriously, I wouldn’t take that gig. The Donald has JFK’s problem: too many suspects. JFK had the Mob, the CIA, the Military, Texas right-wing nutcases, Castro, etc etc, while the Donald has the Muslims, the Mexicans, the GOP establishment, ISIS etc etc. Plus, if he is reelected in 2020 he’s got that hanging over his head. If Christie is his VP, we can kiss our chances goodbye too.

      03/7/16 4:39 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Then again, the Donald may be the one doing the damage:


      03/7/16 4:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Links 7/3/2016: New Linux RC, Firefox in Devices | Techrights said...


      […] State Dept Staffs Syria Ceasefire Violations Hotline — With Non-Arabic Speakers […]

      03/7/16 8:25 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Meanwhile, Mein Furer, demands his supporters pledge allegiance and a promise to vote for him during his latest campaign rally while his security resets to focus on surveillance and ousting of protesters.


      I’m positive it won’t be long before his Stazi group don’s red armbands with Trumps logo, if not uniforms similar to the Nazi party circa 1933, repleat with jackboots, whips and breast belts and mass salutes of outstretched arms.


      Who said it can’t happen here?

      03/8/16 5:53 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “Who said it can’t happen here?”

      Just wait for the next false flag terrorist attack.

      03/8/16 7:48 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      “Just wait for the next false flag terrorist attack.”

      Indeed Rich. The bloodthirsty Trump brigades will explode like a boil full of puss across the landscape.

      Folks, make no mistake. Trump’s campaign has truly festered into something never before seen in the history of political campaigns in this country.

      And here I thought “nationalism” couldn’t get any more fucking bizarre.

      03/8/16 8:49 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      OMG. Now I know Murika has truly gone off the deep end. Just saw one of Google news side bar “editor picks”. Never seen it before. Tell me this isn’t a joke…


      Brain sucking alien parasites indeed.

      03/8/16 8:56 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Hey, the “commies” burned the Reichstag. So “ISIS” blows up Trump Tower. Heil, the Donald.


      03/8/16 9:55 AM | Comment Link

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