February 26, 2015
February 3, 2015
Interview with Yassin Al Haj Saleh
New Politics Winter 2015
Syria and the Left
by Yassin Al-Haq Saleh
Yassin Al Haj Saleh is one of Syria’s leading political dissidents. He spent from 1980-1996 in Syrian prisons and became one of the key intellectual voices of the 2011 Syrian uprising. He spent 21 months in hiding within Syria, eventually escaping to Istanbul. He was interviewed via email by New Politics co-editor Stephen R. Shalom in early November 2014.
New Politics. You have written eloquently about the ongoing struggle for progressive values in Syria. In most Western nations, particularly in the United States, the left has relatively little power. What do you think the Western left could best do to express its solidarity with the Syrian revolution?
Yassin Al Haj Saleh. I am afraid that it is too late for the leftists in the West to express any solidarity with the Syrians in their extremely hard struggle. What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria, its society, its regime, its people, its political economy, its contemporary history. Rarely have I found a useful piece of information or a genuinely creative idea in their analyses. My impression about this curious situation is that they simply do not see us; it is not about us at all. Syria is only an additional occasion for their old anti-imperialist tirades, never the living subject of the debate. So they do not really need to know about us. For them the country is only a black box about which you do not have to learn its internal structure and dynamics; actually it has no internal structure and dynamics according to their approach, one that is at the same time Western-centered and high-politics centered.
The problem is that their narrow anti-imperialist worldview only sees Obama, Putin, Holland, Erdoğan, Khamenei, Qatari Emir Hamad, Saudi King Abdullah, Hassan Nasrallah, and Bashar al-Assad. Possibly they see also Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. We, rank-and-file Syrians, refugees, women, students, intellectuals, human rights activists, political prisoners … do not exist.
I think this high-politics, Western-centered worldview is better suited for the right and the ultra-right fascists. But honestly I’ve failed to discern who is right and who is left in the West from a leftist Syrian point of view. And I tend to think that these are the poisonous effects of the Soviet experience, fascist in its own way. Many Western leftists are the orphans of the late father, the USSR.
Besides, what prevents them from seeing the victims of Bashar, when they see perfectly well ordinary people in Kobanê? Why wasn’t there the slightest interest in the slaughter of 700 people at the hands of ISIS thugs themselves in Deir Ezzor last August? One is forced to ask: Do victims have different values based on who their murderers are? Why, as the regime is bombing many regions in the country every day, killing dozens of people every day, are the leftists in the West as silent as the rightists? Could the reason be that the public killer Bashar and his elegant wife are symbols of the First World inside Syria, a couple with whom those in the First World identify easily?
Before helping Syrians or showing solidarity with Syrians, the mainstream Western left needs to help themselves. Their views are totally misguided, and the Syrian cause was only a litmus test of their reactionary and decadent perspectives.
As a Syrian, I only need them if they are well-informed. Syria is a microcosm, and I do not think that the nature of their understanding and their policies in relation to the macrocosm is in any way better when their position on the Syrian cause is mistaken to this degree.
Of course, these remarks are not meant to deny the existence of a small number of courageous dissident Western leftists who saved the moral and political dignity of the left in the United States and the West at large.
January 8, 2015
While it is understandable why the international left should offer the maximum solidarity to the Kurdish struggle centered in Kobane, a Jacobin article by Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır offered in that spirit and titled “The False Friends of Kobanê” does require some scrutiny. Published originally in Infobrief Türkei, it vehemently opposes outside intervention, particularly from Turkey. The article reflects a fairly widespread belief on the Turkish left that there was nothing of value in the Syrian uprising since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was backing it. If it wasn’t enough that Erdoğan was intervening, he was implicitly intervening on behalf of the worst elements:
Given that IS militants have reportedly been crossing the Turkish-Syrian border with ease, and in the context of Turkey’s longstanding hostility to Kurdish interests, it was clear that such a plan would amount to the fox guarding the henhouse.
And as is so often the case with pro-Kobane material, there is a sharp distinction between the pure as the driven snow PYD—the Kurdish militia—and the sneaky Syrian rebels who apparently conspired to draw imperialism into the fray from the beginning:
The PYD had previously made known that its activities were independent of the wider Syrian opposition. When the latter began conferring with Turkey and, with Western support, took up arms against the Syrian government and started calling for foreign military intervention, the PYD spoke out against such outside intervention and stressed that a democratic Syria could only be the collective project of all Syrians.
If you click the link to “calling” above, you will be directed to an article in Jadaliyya.com by As`ad Abukhalil—the “Angry Arab”—that was written in 2012. My friendly advice to Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır, if they ever stumble across this article, and to Bhaskar Sunkara who surely will, is to avoid referencing the Angry Arab if they want to be taken seriously as analysts rather than cheap propagandists. The Angry Arab’s article is a long diatribe describing the war in Syria as an American-Israeli cabal and is just one brick in the edifice he has been constructing for the past four years to demonize the FSA. There are far better Baathist propagandists than him, like Nir Rosen or Joshua Landis. That is, if you want to be taken seriously.
Babacan and Çakır describe a virtual socialist utopia in Syria that was threatened by the imperialist-beseeching Syrian rebels:
Democratically decided price controls, a constitutional justice system, and free schooling in any student’s mother tongue are additional distinguishing features of Rojava’s egalitarian structures. Under exceedingly adverse conditions, the region has managed to sustain its people on the basis of self-organized production collectives.
At the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Rojava’s representatives did not merely reject outside military intervention. In negotiations with the Syrian opposition, they also argued for the autonomy of the Kurdish region in a possible future Syria. The Syrian opposition organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council categorically rejected both these stances.
Once again it would behoove the authors, and the editors at Jacobin, to look a bit more closely at these matters before drawing such a sharp distinction between good and evil, or black and white. As it turns out, it was not just between the Kurds and the SNC. There was another important player, namely the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus that decided to focus on destroying the FSA rather than the PYD just as it would also for Machiavellian purposes refrain from attacking ISIS.
As it turns out, the co-leader of the PYD had come around to the conclusion that Syria’s future and the preservation of the Baathist dictatorship were inextricably linked. That’s what ALMonitor reported in October 2013:
Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said a solution in Syria without President Bashar al-Assad is not easy. “A solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites,” he said.
Muslim, who gave an exclusive interview in Rojava to Hilmi Hacioglu of the popular Turkish TV news program The 32nd Day, said his party wanted to participate in the Geneva meeting not as part of the Syrian National Coalition but as an independent Kurdish movement. Yet, some countries, including Turkey, were trying to block this.
Muslim said a solution without Assad would have been possible two years ago, but it was now impossible. “All Alawites now support Assad. Insisting on a solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites in the country,” he added.
Asked if they were cooperating with the Assad regime, Muslim replied: “No, never. Whoever says this is disrespecting our martyr brothers. We have been fighting with the regime since the 2004 Kurdish uprising. We have nothing in common with them. They don’t recognize Kurdish identity. But others are worse than the regime.”
In terms of whether the PYD was collaborating with the Assad regime, there are different opinions on that as well. Here is one that departs from the socialist utopia narrative that came from Eva Savlesberg, a scholar responsible for the website http://www.kurdwatch.org, which reports on human rights abuses against the Syrian Kurds.:
For more than a year, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Defense Forces (YPG) have exercised state-like power in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Supported by Iran with weapons and ammunition moved through central Iraq, the PYD—a Syrian affiliate of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—controls large parts of the border region between the Kurdish areas of Syria, Turkey and Iraq. Activists criticizing or not cooperating with the PYD have been abducted, tortured and sometimes killed. The PYD imposes taxes on gasoline, collects border fees and has established a system of courts. Since summer 2012, the Syrian regime has handed over the administration of an increasing number of cities and villages to the PYD. The fact that the PYD took over all the cities they now control without any significant fighting indicates that there was a deal between the regime and the PYD and PKK.
There are several reasons for the Syrian regime’s cooperation with the PYD. First, the PYD has, particularly in the second half of 2011 and the first half of 2012, violently suppressed dissident demonstrations on behalf of the regime, for example in Afrin. This allowed the Syrian army to concentrate on fights elsewhere and avoid having to open a second front against the Kurds, back then hesitant to join the revolt.
Second, since the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist groups have started to operate in Kurdish areas, handing over control of those areas to the PYD means the YPG—not the Syrian army—is fighting the armed opposition there.
Finally, Syria is once again playing its Kurdish card against Turkey. In summer 2011, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) angered Damascus by siding with the opposition. Like his father before him, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is using the Kurds to apply pressure on Turkey. The AKP cannot afford—politically or militarily—for the PKK and PYD to establish a major stronghold in Syria.
So ironically as Bashar al-Assad was leveling Aleppo and Homs to the ground, two experiments in social/economic development were being conducted in Syria in relative safety—all because of deals struck with Damascus. ISIS was building its dungeon caliphate with its own medieval laws while the PYD was building something that was inspired by Murray Bookchin’s anarchist writings. While clearly Bookchin is more inspiring than ISIS barbarism, the most pressing need since 2011 has been unity among all people living in Syria for a republic based on equal rights rather than privilege protected by torture.
Turning now to the question of outside intervention, it is remarkable that an article so consumed with the need to demonize the FSA for supposedly being a tool of Israel and the USA will in the same breath motivate the need for more “effective” delivery of weapons to the PYG, the Kurdish militia in Kobane:
It is perhaps conceivable that the US had to react to public pressure, but other questions persist. Why weren’t more arms delivered directly to the people’s self-defense forces (YPG/YPJ)?
Maybe the authors should have submitted their article to Foreign Affairs rather than Jacobin if their intention was to make the case for a more effective arms delivery mechanism. And while they are at it, maybe they can make a pitch for the weapons-starved FSA that fought on behalf of the PYD, even after its co-leader accused them of virtually plotting the extermination of the Alawites as he rallied around Bashar al-Assad.
I would add that unlike Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır, the PYD sees the question of where it gets weapons or who bombs on its behalf as a tactical question, just as has been the case for most of the 20th century when the Irish and the Indians conspired to get weapons from German imperialism to use against the British Empire. For the pro-Assad left defying Russia, Iranian or Syrian policy goals became an act of class treachery. This is a debased “anti-imperialism” hardly worthy of the name.
On October 17, 2014 Business Insider described how the PYD and US-led warplanes worked closely together to smash ISIS:
US-led warplanes pummelled jihadists attacking the Syrian town of Kobani on Friday as the Pentagon said there was no imminent threat to Baghdad despite a wave of deadly bombings.
Six strikes hit Islamic State group positions close to the front line in the east of Kobani, taking advantage of new coordination with the town’s Kurdish defenders, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In neighboring Iraq, sandstorms hampered the US-led air campaign against the jihadists, but despite recent advances west of Baghdad, IS is not poised for an assault on the capital, the Pentagon said.
The dawn strikes in Kobani came after US Central Command said American warplanes struck 14 times around the town on Wednesday and Thursday, including “successful” raids on 19 IS-held buildings.
“There is coordination between the Kurdish forces and the Americans,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“The Kurds are giving them the exact coordinates of where the fighting is.”
So what conclusions do we draw from all this? My position—put simply—is to oppose American intervention everywhere and anywhere. It does not have the right to function as the world’s policeman. More to the point, it has largely been lost on the “anti-imperialist” brigade that its actions in that capacity helped keep the filthy tyrant Bashar al-Assad in power largely by permitting his air force a free rein. In one of the most underreported stories of 2012, we learn how the USA blocked the shipments of weapons that could have turned the tide of war:
U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.
The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.
In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.
“We were told that we need to get our house in order on the ground, and that it wasn’t time yet,” said a rebel representative involved in the delivery.
Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2012
The slogan of a genuine anti-imperialist movement might have been “CIA out of Syria–Let the MANPAD’s in!”
December 29, 2014
If a link to Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley’s article “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars” had not been posted on Marxmail, I probably would have missed it since Robert Parry’s Consortium website is not part of my daily tour of pro-Assad propaganda. The World Socialist Website is about all I can bear, especially since I don’t want to do anything to bring my blood pressure up to worrisome levels.
The article is a smear job on Minneapolis peace activists who have had the temerity to oppose Bashar al-Assad. But before getting into the article, some words about the authors are in order.
Coleen Rowley is well known for being an ex-FBI agent who became something of a whistle-blower after 9/11. She faulted the FBI for not acting on information about the hijackers that the Twin Cities office had supplied. Her intervention led to her being co-named Time Magazine “Person of the Year” in 2002. Despite becoming a peace activist and a critic of governmental abuse, there is some connection between her present-day activism and the vigilance she displayed after 9/11—namely a belief that “jihadist” terrorism has to be exposed and fought wherever it rears its ugly head. She might oppose the “war on terror” but by the same token sees most forms of Muslim resistance to oppression as outside the pale. For example, in an article on the Boston Marathon bombings, she decried the FBI’s failure to arrest the Tsarnaev brothers prior to the terrorist attack but shows little interest in what would cause Chechens to resort to such desperate measures. By analogy, you cannot write about the rise of ISIS in Iraq without understanding how Sunnis were being oppressed by the Shiite government.
Her co-author Margaret Sarfehjooy is an Iranian-American with clear affinities for the Islamic Republic. For example, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York in 2010, she was part of a delegation that included Brian Becker of the ANSWER coalition, a pro-Assad outfit. That Ahmadinejad’s cops had been torturing the men who were trying to organize a bus driver’s union in Tehran did not seem to discomfit them.
As might be expected, Sarfehjooy is one of those people who saw the Syrian revolt as the first stage in a military assault on Iran:
A new geopolitical monster, NATOGCC, includes the key role of Qatar and the UAE in the NATO invasion─and destruction─of Libya. After the NATOGCC win in Libya, they are on a roll. The GCC strategy of regime change in Syria is the preferred way to weaken Iran.
If this was bullshit in 2012, think how much more so it is in 2014 when the USA, Syria and Iran are in a de facto coalition against Sunni rebels. If in Rowley’s eyes, “jihadism” is a major threat to world peace and security, why not sling mud at activists in Minneapolis who took up the cause of Syrian rebels? And if it requires writing lies about them, so be it. The ends justify the means, doesn’t it?
All in all, the article reminded me of what someone told me on Facebook in late 2013 during Obama’s empty threat about crossing “red lines”: even if the accusation that Syrian rebels gassed their own people in East Ghouta was false, it doesn’t matter as long as it benefits the antiwar movement. I have a different attitude toward such matters. If the left is seen as capable of telling lies, it will lose its credibility. That is one of the reasons the CPUSA lost 90 percent of its membership after the Khrushchev revelations.
Let me now roll up my sleeves, don some wading boots and turn to the article itself.
It purports to be an exposé of a Quaker group called “Friends for a Nonviolent World” (FNVW) and a group it helped launch, the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria” (CISPOS). Both are based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, as are their accusers. Most of the attacks are on CISPOS but FNVW comes off as willing dupes: “Do the real pacifist members approve? Or even know?”
They write: “In Minneapolis, FNVW and its spin-off CISPOS hosted several events with Syrian expats who were on record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country.” This charge stopped me dead in my tracks. As Michael Karadjis noted in a comment about this article on Marxmail, this is a charge they had an obligation to back up but did not:
Yet the only “evidence” provided in the article is “In Minneapolis, FNVW and its spin-off CISPOS hosted several events with Syrian expats who were on record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country.” Read it again – that’s it! No names, no details, not even another sentence to elaborate. We take the authors’ seedy words that other speakers were allegedly “on record” for calling for bombing Syria. Is it even true? And if, so, what meetings? Were the meetings about bombing Syria? Was it a discussion, where some speakers advocated bombing Syria, while people like Mohja Kahf, who is well-known to oppose bombing, speaking against this view? Was it a meeting where those who the authors allege “are on record” supporting bombing perhaps didn’t discuss that issue at all? Who knows? Who can judge? No-one, because the authors are just slimy slander-mongers, so they think detail is irrelevant.
The brunt of Rowley and Sarfehjooy’s attack is directed at Mohja Kahf and her ex-husband Najib Ghadbian, who are likened to the Iraqis who met with neocons in the years leading up to the invasion in 2003:
Often Syrian “experts” speaking to peace groups, such as FNVW/CISPOS’s upcoming speaker, Mohja Kahf, have ties to the early destabilization of Syria. This American Prospect article documents how Najib Ghadbian, Kahf’s husband of over 20 years (apparently up to last year when they divorced) was one of the Syrian dissidents who attended the early 2006 meeting with Liz Cheney (then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter), along with other Syrian dissidents to plan how to destabilize Syria and topple its government. Like some Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi, the neocons’ choice to run post-invasion Iraq, Kahf’s husband apparently got himself invited to Liz Cheney’s “Iran-Syria Operations Group” by having signed the “Damascus Declaration” in 2005, the year before.
There’s so much here that is crap, one hardly knows where to begin. To start with, the “destabilization” of Syria must be a reference to the peaceful protests that Kahf hailed in any number of her articles. In fact she is committed to nonviolence and regrets that an armed resistance was formed. As a reminder of how those protests were dealt with by the Baathist dictatorship, here’s a reminder. In February 2011, after schoolchildren from Dara’a wrote anti-Assad graffiti, the cops arrested 15 of them and took them to jail where they were tortured. All of them were 16 years old and younger. Had these kids met with Liz Cheney? Inquiring minds want to know.
Dara’a was an agricultural center, a hick town in other words It might be useful to recall what drove people in such towns remote from the glittering capital of Damascus to rise up. Ironically you can find the facts on the World Socialist Website, which before it became a mouthpiece for the Baathist dictatorship was capable of distinguishing black from white as this article written just before the uprising began indicates:
The situation in the agricultural areas is dire. Twenty percent of Syria’s economy derives from agriculture. According to government and UN estimates, 1.3 million people have been affected by drought over the past three years, mainly in the north and east of the country where 800,000 have been severely affected. Up to 80 percent of them live mostly on a diet of bread and sugared tea, which does not meet their daily calorific and protein needs.
Unable to afford to feed their animals, many herders sold all their livestock at low prices, while an estimated 5 to 7 million animals died, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. People have left their homes for the towns and cities. So great has been the distress that the UN World Food programme has signed an agreement with Syria to provide US$32 million to provide food, seed, animal fodder and other assistance to 300,000 people.
That’s what destabilized Syria, not anything that Mohja Kahf and or her ex-husband wrote or did.
Now to the question of Mohja Kahf advocating American intervention in Syria, which is coyly implied in the article but not openly stated since that would cross the line into Big Lie territory. It is worth looking at her Facebook page, where you will search in vain for any statement in support of American bombing.
I also invite you to visit the Facebook page for CISPOS, where you will not only find no calls for bombing Syria but instead a post that calls for just the opposite:
Does this matter to Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley? I am sure it doesn’t because the real crime of CISPOS is not advocating “regime change” in Syria but calling attention to the genocidal policies of the Baathist tyranny. It is quite depressing that people on the left can stoop so low as to sweep its crimes under the rug but a lot of this has to do with Islamophobia. As the term phobia implies, there is fear and hatred of the Syrian poor who invoke Islamic rhetoric in a desperate struggle to keep their spirits up in a war that has cost 200,000 lives. If Syria were as populous as the USA, this would equate to 3 million dead, all within four years.
The pro-Baathist left has taken up a cause that is remarkably reactionary. Assad’s soldiers, particularly the more fanatical Alawite detachments, post graffiti stating, “God, Bashar, Syria and Nothing Else” and “Al-Assad or we burn down the country.” It looks like they are making good on their promise.
December 6, 2014
Syria: Top 12 Essential Articles
The Top 12 list is the result of a poll, which was presented in several media collectives working on Syria.
The “Further Reading” list below contains the articles that didn’t make the top 12. We encourage you to read all of them to gain a better understanding of the situation in Syria.
1. Syrian rebels overwhelmingly condemn US bombing as an attack on revolution
By Michael Karadjis
In extraordinary developments, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan have launched a joint air war, on Syrian territory, with the full support of the Syrian tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).
What hope is there then in Syria, where the Assad regime has been far more murderous than Maliki, has wiped entire Sunni towns and cities off the map and sent millions into exile? While the US now acts as Assad’s airforce to help smash the revolution, a stabilisation of the situation will eventually require the long-term US aim of doing some deal that encourages Assad and a narrow circle around him to “step down” in order to save the Baathist regime and its military-security apparatus, and to “widen” it by allowing in some select conservative opponents into the regime. The so-called ‘Yemeni solution.’ The difficulty being that the Assad ruling family and mega-capitalist clique is so much more completely associated with the state than a mere Saleh or Mubarak ever was.
Is an attempt to crush the revolution for the regime a prelude to a plan with regime insiders and international factors to gently push Assad aside when it’s over to gain a modicum of Sunni support to replace ISIS on the ground? Like everything else, this remains to be seen, but is one of the possibilities – as is the possibility that the crushing of the revolution simply means the current regime becomes the “factor of stability” in the region.
By yasmeen mobayed
the syrian revolution began in march 2011, after 9-15 year old kids were inspired by the uprisings in the MENA. the first protests began in dara’a, syria – several children graffitied anti-government slogans on their school wall and were taken by assad’s forces, interrogated, and tortured (they were severely beaten and their nails were removed). on march 15th, the children’s families and the community responded by protesting for the children to be returned; however, not all the children were released. this sparked the beginning of the revolution.
on friday march 18th, cities throughout syria collectively united in solidarity with dara’a, but security forces immediately responded by firing bullets on the peaceful demonstrations, killing 6 people on the very first day. after march 18th, syrians went out to protest every day (the ba’ath flag was used by demonstrators for nearly a year and a half before the independence flag that we see today was fully adopted). it’s important to note that at first the revolution’s demand was for mere reforms, but after experiencing the regime’s hostile and vicious response, the people demanded the downfall of the regime in its entirety.
By LAUREN WOLFE
Alma Abdulrahman’s story fits her name — alma can mean a number of things in Arabic. It can mean “dark” or “black” but it can also refer to a lush kind of tree that is a metaphor for beauty. And the horrors she describes have positioned her to become the face of powerful women survivors in Syria. She says she has fought and killed; she also says she has done it for her country. She says she has endured torture and violation but that she is “capable of standing up against oppression.” Speaking out has been a decision she has made after many months of being told to stay quiet.
“We have to share this with the entire world to show that women are fighters,” she says. “The Arab woman is very strong. All she needs is just a little freedom.”
By Mahmoud E.
Comrades and friends, let’s put an end to this Anti-Imperialism of fools and be principled to our ideals and not fall into supporting those who blindly back the fascist,social chauvinist and bourgeois nationalist Assad regime that is oppressing the Syrian masses we have to unite and support the syrian people’s struggle and progressive forces of Syria against the Assad regime and Imperialism whether it is US/Western Imperialism, Russian imperialism or Iranian and Arab gulf countries interventions in Syria.
BY BASSAM BARABANDI AND TYLER JESS THOMPSON
The March 2011 uprising presented an irresistible opportunity for Iran to assert permanent dominance throughout greater Syria. Iran acted quickly, sending Secretary Jalili to Damascus just days after protesters took to the streets in Daraa. Jalili pitched the Iron Curtain plan to Bashar’s inner circle, assuring them that he knew the formula to neutralize protesters effectively. Iranian officials encouraged Assad to avoid concessions that could limit their influence over Assad’s inner circle. As the tensions evolved into armed conflict, Iran immediately sent advisors, snipers, and special forces to support Bashar. To compensate for defections from his officers, Bashar padded his loyalist camp with fighters and strategic planners from Iran and Hezbollah. Hafez spent decades protecting himself from such an incursion, but by late 2011, his son was desperate for a friend.
By Simon Speakman Cordall
Mohammed Al-Saud is under no illusions. “In 2011, the majority of the current ISIS leadership was released from jail by Bashar Al Assad,” he said. “No one in the regime has ever admitted this, or explained why.” Al-Saud, a Syrian dissident with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, left Syria under threat of arrest in 2011.
Alghorani is convinced that members of ISIS were released strategically by Assad. “From the first days of the revolution (in March 2011), Assad denounced the organisation as being the work of radical Salafists, so he released the Salafists he had created in his prisons to justify the claim … If you do not have an enemy, you create an enemy.”
Fellow Syrians agree. “The regime did not just open the door to the prisons and let these extremists out, it facilitated them in their work, in their creation of armed brigades,” a former member of the Syrian Security Services told the Abu Dhabi newspaper, the National, on condition of anonymity in January this year.
“The regime knew what these people were. It knew what they wanted and the extent of their networks. Then it released them. These are the same people who are now in Iraq,” Al-Saud added.
Originally published in Arabic on Al-Manshour
By Hisham Al Ashqar
Translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak from Arabic for Tahrir-ICN
News of the visits of fascist and far-right groups to Syria, to show solidarity with the regime, have recently started to emerge, especially with the beginning of the revolutionary process in the Arab region. It seems that the Syrian issue ranks highly on the agenda of the European far-right. So, is it axiomatic to say that the majority of the European far-right supports Assad’s regime and stands against the revolution in Syria?
by Nicole Gevirtz
The Ba’athist kind of, dare I say, tribal imperialism, can only rule through brutal terror and oppression. This is exacerbated when a minority rules. Sectarian animosity has been relentlessly exacerbated by the regime’s narratives and actions, not by the popular rebellion for democracy. Sectarian blackmail remains one of the last tools in Bashar’s arsenal that can still mobilize large segments of the Syrian population to support him. Every undermining of the government, no matter how slight, is seen as a challenge to the neo-Ba’athist tribal hegemony. Such a security state apparatus, by its very nature, is destined to be immersed in a bloodbath of its own making. The horrors in Syria today are absolutely comparable to the Nazi death camps, yet the American anti-Zionist Left is denying their pain while quoting Hannah Arendt. Even American pro-Palestinian organizations are describing the Syrian people as Wahabi-NATO-Zionists. Lebanese pseudo-secular hipsters and Hezbollah fanboys don´t know, or seem to care, that Iran cooperated with George W. Bush in Iraq but they use the disastrous Iraq war as an example for not intervening in Syria. They don´t even know basic facts about Syria, and as a result, Western Leftists have become pro-fascists; they are making speeches in praise of Assad in Syria itself – at the scene of the genocide. Others, often the same ones who refused to recognize George Bush’s election results, were praising Assad’s alleged victory in the farcical election there over the forces of imperialism and Islamism.
This is not unlike going to Germany to praise Hitler’s plan to “settle the Jews in the east” as a victory over the Jewish plot. At least the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide did not attempt to have a presidential election in the middle of the bloodshed. The Western Left has become an obstruction in the way of truth, life and freedom… at least for Syrians; the victims of this generation’s greatest humanitarian crisis. Real revolutionaries, and anyone with some common human decency, should treat these fascists the same way they treat any other fascists; with absolute contempt.
By Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand
The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.
Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly.
On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.
“Where are the human rights committees? Where is the International Criminal Court?” asks the voice of the man inspecting Hamza’s body on a video uploaded to YouTube.
“A month had passed by with his family not knowing where he was, or if or when he would be released. He was released to his family as a corpse. Upon examining his body, the signs of torture are very clear.”
10. Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer
By Annia Ciezadlo
To Bashar and his wife, it wasn’t the Syrian regime that required real reform. It was the Syrian people. Asma’s official biography, passed to me by an old friend of Bashar’s, distills their governing ideology. It reads like a tract from Rand Paul: Syrians need to stop depending on the state and assume “personal responsibility for achieving the common good,” the document proclaims, adding, “the sustainable answer to social need is not aid but opportunity” and “creating circumstances where people can help themselves.” That the Assad family and its loyalists have been helping themselves to Syria’s national wealth for decades does not enter into this narrative.
By Workers International
While the Assad regime may have ‘nationalised’ the oil and gas sectors of the economy, these are partnerships with imperialist companies and not under workers control. For example the Loon Lattakia oil company is a partnership with Mena which is a Canadian oil company; Gulfsands Petroleum operates extensively in Syria- Gulfsands is in part controlled by the infamous Blackrock Investments, Schroder Investments, Goldman Sachs and Cheriot Norges bank. The bank of America, Barclays, AIG and Merrill Lynch, as shareholders in Blackrock are thus also participants in the imperialist operations in Syria. Earlier this year, imperialist magazine, World Finance, awarded Rami Makhlouf an award as visionary business leader. Makhlouf is part of the Assad family that through Cham Investment Group, Mada Transport (a motor assembly operation) and Real Estate Bank, control over 60% of the Syrian economy on behalf of imperialism. Makhlouf and other Syrian capitalists have opened their warehouses as prisons as the official prisons are overflowing with the regime’s captives. Yet the Syrian CP insists that the regime is ‘anti-imperialist’!
The Communist Action Party in Syria confirms that when the Assad coup took place the local capitalist class was not expropriated and continued to operate. Thus when the oil and gas sector were nationalised, it was a state capitalist regime that made this raw material available for imperialist exploitation- the state using part of the revenue to create perks such as free education and health care to create capitalist stability. [Free education and free health care are not in themselves indicators of a ‘socialist’ regime. Saudi Arabia and some other capitalist countries also have free education and health care but are brutal anti-worker regimes. Even if education may be offered free, under capitalism it is still a tool to brainwash the working class and produce tame and obedient wage slaves for capitalist needs.]
By Not George Sabra
The democratic people’s revolution in Syria has accomplished something of world-historic importance: it has united both the imperialists and the anti-imperialists against it. Eastern imperialism led by Russia arms Bashar al-Assad to the teeth, Western imperialism led by the U.S. continues its heavy arms blockadeon Assad’s opposition, and so-called anti-imperialists led by As’ad Abu Khalil,George Galloway, Rand Paul, Cynthia McKinney, Stop the War Coalition, andANSWER Coalition relentlessly slander the uprising every step of the way in every conceivable way.
One fact that exposes the falseness of the imperialist-anti-imperialist alliance narrative is how the revolution’s supporters choose the names of their weekly mass protests. These protests have taken place in cities and villages across Syria after Friday prayers on every Friday without exception since the revolution began on March 15, 2011; they are the pulse of the struggle, the voice of the formerly voiceless, a chronicle of each twist and turn their struggle for freedom has taken.
Anywhere between 14,000 and 30,000 people vote democratically for their preferred slogans.
Blog Rolls and Compilations
– Everything from Michael Karadjis
– Everything from Clay Claiborne on Syria
– Everything from WE WRITE WHAT WE LIKE
History and Analysis
Neo-liberal Politics of the Syrian Regime
The Position of the Western ‘Left’
November 16, 2014
October 22, 2014
The latest issue of the New York Review of Books has an article by Charles Glass titled “In the Syria We Don’t Know” that has been making the rounds on the Internet. I have seen links to it from Vijay Prashad on Twitter, on the Greenleft mailing list in Australia, and just this morning on ZNet. Apparently, those who link to it must have taken heart in Glass’s assurance that the Baathists were getting the upper hand:
As Bashar’s prospects improve with each American sortie against his enemies in the east of the country, Damascus and the populous towns to the north have been enjoying a respite of sorts from war. The Syrian Ministry of Education reported that, of the 22,000 schools in the country, more than 17,000 of them reopened on time in the middle of September. Needless to say, almost all of the functioning schools are in government-held areas. The souks in the old city of Damascus, unlike their more extensive and now destroyed counterparts in Aleppo, are open. Shops selling meat, vegetables, spices, and other basic items to the local population are doing well, although the tourist boutiques in and around the famous Souk Hamadieh have no customers apart from UN workers and a few remaining diplomats. At night, restaurants in most neighborhoods are, if not full, nearly so. Everything from wine to grilled chicken is plentiful, albeit at prices higher than before the war. Traffic remains heavy, although somewhat less obstructed since June when the government felt confident enough to remove many of its checkpoints. Electricity is intermittent, and those who can afford private generators use them in the off-hours.
So, any normal person—especially those who prefer RT.com to Aljazeera—would conclude that it was best for Assad to stay the course, no matter how many barrel bombs it takes to level Aleppo and other cities to the ground just as long as there is meat, vegetables, and spices for sale in Damascus.
I took note of Glass in an article titled “The Betrayal of the Intellectuals on Syria” that was rejected by the publishers of Critical Muslim because they feared it would run afoul of British libel laws. I post the relevant section below:
Arguably, the New York Review of Books and its counterpart the London Review of Books have served as latter day equivalents of Action Française, serving propaganda for a vicious dictatorship that has little connection to its self-flattering image as a beacon of human rights.
Even when the title of an NY Review article foreshadows a condemnation of the Ba‘athists, the content remains consistent with the “plague on both your houses” narrative that pervades this intellectual milieu. In a December 5th 2013 article titled “Syria: On the Way to Genocide?”, Charles Glass ends up echoing the talking points of more openly Ba‘athist elements:
The introduction of chemical weapons, which have been alleged to have been used not only by the government but by the rebels as well, was only the most dramatic escalation by combatants who seek nothing short of the annihilation of the other side.
As is so often the case, the use of the passive voice allows the writer to condemn the rebels without any evidence. “Alleged to have been” leads to the obvious question as to who is responsible for the allegation. Was it Vladimir Putin? Assad’s propaganda nun Mother Agnes Mariam? Inquiring minds would like to know.
On August 20th 2012 Glass penned another article for the Review titled “Aleppo: How Syria Is Being Destroyed” that portrayed the rebels as a wanton mob invading the civilized city. He wrote:
While the urban unemployed had good reason to support a revolution that might improve their chances in life, the thousands who had jobs at the beginning of the revolution and lost them when the Free Army burned their workplaces are understandably resentful. There are stories of workers taking up arms to protect their factories and risking their lives to save their employers from kidnappers.
Since Charles Glass is a Middle East analyst for NBC News, it is not surprising that he can allude to ‘stories’ of workers taking up arms against the rebels to protect the bosses. NBC is a subsidiary of General Electric, and naturally its analyst will find arguments for preserving Ba‘athist rule. You can do business with al-Assad, but the plebian rebels might be as difficult to deal with as the Libyan militias.
Glass was in the graduate program of the American University in Beirut, but did not complete his PhD. His best-known work is “Tribes With Flags: A Dangerous Passage Through the Chaos of the Middle East”, a title redolent of Orientalism. In a March 22nd 2011 NY Times column, Thomas Friedman adopted Glass’s thesis to explain why the natives might not be ready for self-rule:
[T]here are two kinds of states in the Middle East: “real countries” with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called “tribes with flags,” or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens.
Libya and Syria were unfortunate enough to be the kinds of ‘artificial states’ that were unsuited for democracy.
September 29, 2014
Well, I hate saying that I told you so but I did tell you so: When the USA finally intervenes in Syria on a serious basis, it will be against exactly those forces that the “anti-imperialist” left claim are his proxies.
On August 8, 2013 I posted from two articles that anticipated to Marxmail what is happening now.
From the March 15, 2013 LA Times:
“The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.”
From the August 8, 2013 NY Times:
“As foreign fighters pour into Syria at an increasing clip, extremist groups are carving out pockets of territory that are becoming havens for Islamist militants, posing what United States and Western intelligence officials say may be developing into one of the biggest terrorist threats in the world today.”
All those comparisons with Reagan backing the Afghan jihadists turned to be complete and utter bullshit. Reagan not only put the red carpet down for them in the White House, he armed them with Stinger missiles. The “anti-imperialist” left embarrassed itself by even making such a comparison in the first place, but then again they are so cynical and so lacking in principle that it would hardly matter.
* * * *
From last night’s interview:
KROFT (voice-over): Syria is more challenging because the U.S. has few viable allies on the ground there. The regime of Bashar al- Assad is fighting ISIS, but the U.S. wants Assad deposed for committing horrific crimes against his own people, and other opposition groups like the Al-Nusra front and a terrorist cell called Khorasan, which was plotting attacks against Europe and the U.S., are both affiliated with Al Qaida. The coalition is hoping to train 5,000 moderate Syrian fighters in Saudi Arabia.
(on-screen): Is there a moderate Syrian opposition?
OBAMA: There is. But right now, it doesn’t control much territory. It has been squeezed between ISIL on the one hand and the Assad regime on the other.
KROFT: These are the people that you said — the farmers, the doctors, the pharmacists — who stood no chance of overthrowing the government.
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind, two years ago, that was absolutely true. This is in response to the mythology that’s evolved that somehow if we had given those folks some guns two-and-a-half years ago, that Syria would be fine.
And the point that I made then, which is absolutely true, is that for us to just start arming inexperienced fighters who we hadn’t vetted — so we didn’t know and couldn’t sort out very well who’s potentially ISIL or Al-Nusra member and who is somebody that we’re going to work with. For us to just go blind on that would have been counterproductive and would not have helped the situation, but also would have committed us to a much more significant role inside of Syria.
KROFT: You said that we need to get rid of Assad. And while we’re saying we have to get rid of Assad, we are also bombing and trying to take out some of the — his most threatening opponents and — and the…
OBAMA: I recognize the — I recognize…
KROFT: And the beneficiary of this is Assad.
OBAMA: I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance. We are — we are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad, because the Sunni areas inside of Syria view Assad as having carried out terrible atrocities. The world has seen them.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions have been displaced. So for a long-term political settlement, for Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process. On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan group, those folks could kill Americans. And so…
KROFT: They’re more important than Assad at this point. That’s what you’re saying.
OBAMA: What I’m saying is that they’re all connected, but there’s a more immediate concern that has to be dealt with.
September 11, 2014
When I checked my blog this morning, I saw a number of page views emanating from Asad AbuKhalil’s (aka the Angry Arab) blog, the man with a bad hairdo and worse politics.
This is now the second time he has referred to me as a “Trotskyite”, showing a grasp of my politics that can be compared to George W. Bush’s command of Marxist value theory. Frankly, I don’t mind being called a “Trotskyite”. I get called worse things 5 times a week by anonymous trolls.
But the real problem is trying to engage with this professor who at one time had a publicist capable of landing him guest spots on Bill Maher’s show. Now he has lapsed into the obscurity he well deserves.
In terms of believing that the “US is secretly backing Assad against FSA”, I have never said anything like that. (How would the Angry Arab know what I believe since there is zero evidence that he is familiar with my blog that regularly finds fault with the Trotskyist movement on one score or another.)
Instead I have said that Baathists and IS were attacking the FSA from different angles. The Angry Arab, like most of the “anti-imperialist” left has written 1000 articles (all as superficial as the one above) making an amalgam between the FSA and jihadism. Now that this analysis lies on the ground in a smoldering rubble, he is at a loss presumably to explain why he screwed up so royally. Maybe he would be better informed if he became one of my regular readers rather than relying on WSWS.org or Global Research for his talking points.