Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 13, 2015

Patrick Cockburn’s alarming support for American air power

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 7:18 pm

Patrick Cockburn

Like most people on the left I relied heavily on Robert Fisk, Robert Parry, Seymour Hersh and Patrick Cockburn’s journalism during George W. Bush’s war in Iraq but became critical as they began covering the war in Syria.

To a large extant, their reporting suffered from a kind of mechanical application of Bush’s war to Syria as if every threat brandished by the Obama White House was on a par with what took place in 2003. This was especially true when Obama warned that a “red line” was being crossed in August 2013 when a sarin gas attack cost the lives of hundreds of people living in East Ghouta. Among such journalists, this became equivalent to Colin Powell or Dick Cheney’s apocalyptic warnings about WMD’s. Most of these journalists gave credence to the idea that the sarin gas was used by the Syrian rebels as a way of drawing the USA into the war in order to accomplish “regime change” even as talks were in progress at that very moment between Iran and the White House to move toward the rapprochement now in full blossom.

This is not to speak of the problems of drawing analogies between Iraq and Syria when the very purpose of Bush’s intervention was to destroy Sunni hegemony and install a sectarian Shiite regime that would obviously have close ties with Iran. As many analysts have correctly pointed out, the top ranks of ISIS are filled with former military commanders in Saddam Hussein’s army, men whose secular nationalist ideology did not get in the way of a partnership with Salafist zealots such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

At its best, the position put forward by some of these journalists amounted to opposition to American intervention even if it stopped short of endorsing Bashar al-Assad. I include Patrick Cockburn in this category—at least up until yesterday when he wrote an article that made the case for American air power against “Al Qaeda” in terms that are disturbingly evocative of Christopher Hitchens.

There were already signs that Cockburn had relaxed his normally high standards in order to promote stepped up American intervention in the region in his recently published Verso book “The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution”. In the chapter on Syria, he states on page 84 that the opposition had become “dominated by ISIS”.

Now, one might expect him to at least acknowledge what had been widely reported elsewhere, namely that a de facto non-aggression pact existed between the Baathists and ISIS but none was forthcoming. A senior ISIS operative told the Guardian on June 28, 2014 that the Syrian air force is not “going to bomb our key sites. Their main enemy is the so-called moderates”, the sort of thing that Cockburn overlooked in his efforts to make an amalgam between ISIS and everybody else opposed to the Baathist dictatorship.

One might have hoped that Patrick Cockburn would be far more direct in his support for American intervention instead of adopting circumlocutions that could conceivably be used in a hedging strategy along the lines of “I didn’t actually call for American bombing” but nevertheless that’s the only conclusion you can draw from “In the Middle East, our enemy’s enemy must be our friend”.

In calling attention to “America’s failure to develop an effective policy for destroying al-Qaeda in the years since 9/11”, he bemoans its advances in Yemen and in the Idlib province in Syria where apparently the al-Nusra Front had led 4,000 fighters in seizing the capital city. Unnamed Saudi sources supposedly revealed that Saudi Arabia and Turkey had been behind al-Nusra and other “extreme jihadis” in seizing Idlib.

It might be useful if Cockburn could show even the most glancing familiarity with what is taking in place in Idlib today, which bears little resemblance to the ghoulish “emirate” created by ISIS in Mosul or Raqqa. In an interview with Abu al-Yazid Taftenaz, one of these “extreme jihadis”, Syria Direct discovered that they had plans far removed from Cockburn’s dark forebodings. Speaking of the Christian minority, Taftenaz stated that “if they want to live among us that’s their right. We can’t impose the jizya (non-Muslim tax) on them. Subsequently, the Christian will live like any other civilian in Idlib city.” When asked about their ties to ISIS, he said, “They won’t have any luck in Idlib. Their presence is far away from the city, keeping in mind that they have some areas of control in the eastern Idlib countryside. The areas of Idlib, God willing, will not witness any IS presence.”

I certainly have no power over Patrick Cockburn and what he decides to report or not report but if you are going to reduce everything happening in Syria to a battle between Bashar al-Assad and “extreme jihadis”, you are seriously compromising your journalistic standards.

The article frets over ISIS and the al-Nusra front taking control of Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp that is supposedly going to turn into a living hell now at the hands of such “extreme jihadis”. In the past, the two groups opposed each other but now there are “worrying signs of cooperation”, the consequences of which would include beheading Palestinians for smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, adultery and the like. With such an awful future in store, who would not support the Syrian army stepping in like the US Marines did to save Haitians from the Ton-Ton Macoute?

A Palestinian who fled Yarmouk some time ago had a different take on the incursion of ISIS. Writing for Foreign Policy, Qusai Zakarya saw a connection with the Baathists that had been obvious in other places as was noted above.

The Islamic State tried to recruit in Yarmouk, but local residents did not take the bait. That is why the Islamic State used areas where it was already established to conquer Yarmouk by force. Assad’s siege of civilians helped the Islamic State even in Yarmouk because — after two and a half years of starvation and bombardment — the local battalions in the camp were too weak to push the group out.

But that is not the whole story. Local residents of Yarmouk were surprised to see a raid of hundreds of Islamic State fighters from southern Damascus successfully enter their area. When al-Hajar al-Aswad and Yalda were controlled by the Free Syrian Army, there were many attempts to break the siege on the camp with similar raids. Each one was a disaster; Assad’s forces have the area tightly monitored and controlled. Simply put, there is no way the attack by the Islamic State could have happened unless Assad wanted it to.

Then there is another question: How did the Islamic State get such large quantities of resources into besieged areas? The Free Syrian Army in besieged Yarmouk had only handmade light weapons, while the Islamic State in besieged al-Hajar al-Aswad had advanced missiles and high-tech rifles. Believe me, infants would not be starving in my hometown if regime sieges could be evaded through tunnels or bribes. Those resources got in because the regime allowed them to enter.

After several more paragraphs of gloomy warnings about the threat of al-Qaeda type movements (whatever that means) spreading to Britain, France and Germany like metastasizing tumors, we arrive at the article’s conclusion which has the takeaway point on the need for a united front with the Syrian army:

In Syria, similarly, “the enemy of our enemy” and the strongest military force is the Syrian army, though it shows signs of weakening after four years of war. But if we have decided that US air power is not to be used against Isis or Jabhat al-Nusra when they are fighting the Syrian army because we want to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad, then this is a decision that benefits Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and extreme jihadis. In Iraq the situation is less dire because, although there is a pretence of not cooperating with the Shia militias, in practice the US had been launching air strikes on the same Isis positions these militia are attacking on the ground. The reality is that it is only by supporting “the enemy of my enemy” that the expansion of al-Qaeda and its lookalikes can be beaten back and the movement defeated.

To start with, it is a bit alarming to see him refer to “we have decided that US air power is not to be used”. This is the “we” of Sunday morning TV talk shows, NPR broadcasts, the NY Times op-ed page et al. For me, “we” means the working class, the poor, the colonized, the disenfranchised and especially those who have suffered from Syrian military scorched earth tactics for the past 4 years.

Furthermore, if you read this paragraph carefully, especially in light of earlier references to Idlib, you must conclude that Cockburn would have cheered American jets stepping in to protect the Christian minority in Idlib that apparently didn’t need any protecting.

Finally and most distressingly, we are told that the situation in Iraq is “less dire” because the A-10 Warthogs had bombed ISIS positions in collaboration with the Shiite militias. Is this what we have come to? What exactly is the difference between this and what the USA was doing in Iraq a decade ago?

If the war against “extreme jihadis” requires American imperialism to join forces with groups capable of the behavior described below, then those who defend such a policy must have surely lost their principles if not their minds. This is from a report from Human Rights Watch on the Shiite militias’ attack on Amerli. Although I have had problems with their coverage of Venezuela and Cuba, this strikes me as quite plausible, especially since they got testimony from Peshmerga officers who had fought alongside them against ISIS:

On the basis of field visits, interviews with more than 30 witnesses, and analysis of photographs and satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch found that an area that included 35 villages and towns showed extensive destruction caused by fire, explosives and heavy earth moving equipment. The evidence showed that most of the damage occurred between early September and mid-November 2014. Using satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch identified over 3,800 destroyed buildings in 30 towns and villages, including 2,600 buildings likely destroyed by fire and a further 1,200 buildings likely demolished with heavy machinery and the uncontrolled detonation of high explosives. This destruction was distinct from damages resulting from air strikes and heavy artillery and mortar fire prior to ISIS’s retreat from Amerli, which Human Rights Watch separately identified using the satellite imagery. Human Rights Watch’s field research together with the satellite imagery analysis indicates that militias engaged in deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian property after the retreat of ISIS and the end of fighting in the area.

Twenty-four witnesses, including Peshmerga officers and local tribal sheikhs, told Human Rights Watch they saw militias looting towns and villages around Amerli after the offensive against ISIS ended and immediately preceding militia destruction of homes in the town. They said they saw militiamen taking items of value—such as refrigerators, televisions, clothing and even electrical wiring—out of homes before setting the houses on fire.

Read full report: http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW_2015_reports/Iraq_Amerli/index.html

April 6, 2015

Syria, Chechnya, and the jihadist gambit

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 11:58 pm

For the longest time now I’ve been making the point that Bashar al-Assad seems to have adopted Putin’s scorched earth military/political strategy in Chechnya. After reading the introduction to Jonathan Littell’s “Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising”, a new Verso book (good for them), I’ve discovered that there’s more there than just the near-genocidal blitzkrieg aspect. Remember how Bashar al-Assad released the jihadists from prison who would go on to provide the shock troops for ISIS? Well, it turns out that this was a gambit used in Chechnya as well:

Jonathan Littell:

Playing the extremists against the moderates — the basic idea being that, having little or no social base, radical forces will be easy to eliminate once they have helped with the far harder job of crushing a main opponent deeply rooted in society — is a strategy that certainly has its lettres de noblesse. Practiced ineptly, as it usually is, it has an unfortunate tendency to turn against its initiators, as in the case of Israel when it quietly fostered the rise of Hamas in the hope of bringing down Arafat’s PLO, or the United States when it armed the more radical jihadists against the Soviets in Afghanistan, sealing the doom of the moderate mujahideen factions and unleashing forces still not contained to this day. But on occasions it can bring a measure of success, at least in the short term. Chechnya is a case in point. After Russia’s humiliating defeat there, in August 1996, at the hands of a few thousand rebels armed only with Kalashnikovs and RPGs, the Russian special services, FSB (the successor organization to the KGB) and GRU (military intelligence), immediately began preparing the grounds for the next conflict. The three years during which a de facto independent Chechnya managed its own affairs rapidly turned into a dis-aster: the systematic kidnappings of foreign journalists and aid workers, culminating in the spectacular decapitation of four British and New Zealander telecom engineers in December 1998 by the well-known Islamist commander Arbi Barayev, ruined any good will abroad for Chechnya and generated an effective media blockade as journalists ceased travelling there; rising political and even military pressure by rogue Islamist rebel groups on the freely elected nationalist president Asian Maskhadov forced him to radicalize his position, eventually declaring a “shari`a law” no one really wanted or even understood; further decapitations of Russian captives and other atrocities, conveniently filmed by their Islamist perpetrators, continued to feed Russian anti-Chechen propaganda, with compilations of these videos being distributed to all foreign embassies at the start of the 1999 reinvasion of Chechnya to help justify the inev-itable excesses of the “anti-terrorist operation.”

What followed is well known: the total destruction of Groznyi, the mass killings and disappearances, the waves of refugees. What is less so, though it has been extensively documented by a handful of courageous Russian journal-ists, is the sinister pas-de-deux played by the special services and the Islamists throughout the years. This is no place to go into details, but a few examples might serve. Documents leaked by frustrated GRU (military intelligence) officials to the Russian media revealed that the FSB (successor to the KGB)  paid Barayev 12 million dollars, out-bidding the four telecom engineers’ employers, to have them gruesomely killed in a manner maximizing the propaganda impact; in the spring of 2000, after the Federal Forces had occupied Chechnya, Chechen colleagues of mine saw Barayev — officially one of the most wanted men of Russia — freely driving through Russian checkpoints using an FSB accreditation; and it was only when his chief FSB protector, Rear-Admiral German Ugryumov, mysteriously died in May 2001 that the GRU was finally able to corner him, in an FSB base, and kill him. On a military level, when Groznyi finally fell in late January 2000, the Russian services manipulated or paid the Islamist rebel groups, which had been sent ahead to the mountains to prepare the withdrawal of the remaining forces from the city, to betray their comrades, leading to the nationalist forces being decimated during the retreat. The evidence is also strong for a form of direct complicity, or at least mutual manipulation, between the ser-v ices and the Chechen Islamist commando that occupied a Moscow theater in October 2002, resulting in the death of over a hundred hostages and further discrediting president Maskhadov and his remaining guerilla forces. In spite of a succession of disastrous incidents, the most notorious being the hideous school massacre in Beslan in September 2003, this insidious strategy would bear fruit: after Maskhadov was finally killed, during a Russian operation in 2005, his successor Doku Umarov renounced the drive for national independence in favor of the creation of a pan-Caucasian Islamic Caliphate — a move that drove virtually all the remaining nationalist commanders into the arms of Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet in Chechnya, thus bringing to an effective and squalid end the long-held Chechen dream of independence. Chechen rebel activity has now been reduced to almost nothing, and Doku Umarov was killed in turn toward the end of 2013; the fact that the Islamist uprising continues unabated in neighboring regions, especially Daghestan, seems to be considered by Russia as a “manageable” problem, for now.

It would be tempting, given this history, to see the hand of Bashar al-Assad’s Russian advisors in the shop-worn idea of allowing radicalized Islamist factions totally to discredit the popular revolt, all the more so as the wave of kidnap-pings and murders of foreign observers that accompanied the rise of the Islamists closely resembles the Chechnya model. There are also some potentially direct links. The appearance in the Syrian theater of several Chechen brigades, aligned either with Jabhat al-Nusra or Da`esh, has gained quite a bit of media attention, as has the main “Chechen” commander `Umar al-Shishani, now a military emir of Da`esh, who is in fact a former Georgian special forces officer of mixed Christian-Muslim descent whose real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili. Less well known, how-ever, is the fact that behind Omar al-Shishani stands a certain Isa Umarov, who left Chechnya to join him in Da`esh territory and has given him his daughter in mar-riage. Umarov, one of the oldest and most influential (albeit highly discrete) Chechen Islamist leaders, whose links to the KGB go all the way back to the 1980s when he was one of the founders of the Islamic Rebirth Party, the first anti-Soviet Islamist organization, is a man who played a key role in the interaction between the Russian services and the Islamists he godfathered all through the two Chechen wars; and his role within Da`esh certainly raises interesting questions. But as a Syrian friend pointed out to me, the mukhabarat too are old hands at these games, and have no need of lessons from their Russian patrons. Their strategic philosophy is explicitly stated in graffiti now very common around Damascus: “Assad or we burn the country.”

 

April 2, 2015

Countering apologetics for the Baathist apocalypse: Once again, Assad regime responsible for sectarianism in Syria

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 7:02 pm

Countering apologetics for the Baathist apocalypse: Once again, Assad regime responsible for sectarianism in Syria.

March 29, 2015

The Syrian Revolution struggles on

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 9:22 pm

The Syrian Revolution struggles on.

March 16, 2015

Dan Glazebrook slimes Hamid Dabashi

Filed under: journalism,Libya,mechanical anti-imperialism,Syria — louisproyect @ 7:22 pm

Hamid Dabashi

Dan Glazebrook

In his Middle East Eye review of Hamid Dabashi’s essay “Can non-Europeans Think?” that appeared on the Al Jazeera website, “anti-imperialist” hack-of-all trades Dan Glazebrook takes the Columbia University professor to task for being connected to the “vested interests” and “ideological priorities of the time” through work that serves to “keep the formal structure of power that privileges [him] intact”. These are words that Dabashi wrote somewhere against the European-dominated academy but that Glazebrook now intends to use against him. Although he tells his readers that they originated in some new book by Dabashi, he does not take the fucking trouble to identify it in his article. That’s some class-A journalism. (We can assume it is “Brown Skin, White Masks”.)

So why does Dabashi, an Iranian by birth and someone often pilloried by the Zionist lobby as an anti-Semite, get slimed as serving imperialism’s interests?

Glazebrook starts off by telling us that Dabashi is guilty of the same kind of sin Marx committed when he wrote for the pro-slavery and big business oriented NY Herald or when Alexander Cockburn wrote for the Wall Street Journal:

Dabashi is featured regularly on CNN and Al-Jazeera, who originally published the vast majority of the articles that make up this book. What is it about what Dabashi is saying that makes his work so attractive to the British imperial relics of the Qatari royal family or the US entertainment conglomerate Time Warner who own his two major publishers?

Anybody who reads this might wonder if we have run into the age-old pot…kettle…black syndrome since the provenance of Middle East Eye is subject to the same sort of “anti-imperialist” finger-pointing (be careful or else you will get poked in your own eye.) Just have a look at an article that appeared in the National titled “Al Jazeera executive helped to launch controversial UK website”. That’s right, conspiracy fans and X-Files devotees. It was an Al Jazeera boss who launched the website that Glazebook’s drivel appeared on:

A senior executive with Qatar’s TV network Al Jazeera was closely involved with setting up the London news website Middle East Eye, some of whose staff have links to organisations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jonathan Powell, an Al Jazeera employee since 2009, spent several months in the UK working on Middle East Eye, which promised “independently produced news, analysis and opinion” at its launch in April. MEE claims to have “no political master, movement or country”.

Mr Powell is understood to have spent up to six months in London between September last year and February 13 as a launch consultant for Middle East Eye.

The news organisation was created as a company in early December last year, registered to an address in North London.

Its website was registered by Adlin Adnan, a Middle East Eye employee, to a different address in Central London at the end of that month.

Mr Powell has since returned to Doha, assigned to special projects for Al Jazeera’s chairman’s office.

But Dabashi’s real sin is that he has no use for Glazebrook’s idol, the late Muammar Qaddafi:

For a start, whilst he is scathing about the Islamophobia of the Western media, and the warmongering of the US, his most passionate invective is reserved for leaders of third world countries targeted for destruction by imperialism. Thus, in an article written on the eve of the NATO bombardment of Libya, Gaddafi was depicted as the “bastard son of [European colonial] militarism, charlatanism and barefaced barbarity”, a “dying beast”, and – of course! – a “mad colonel”.

In my book, anybody who keeps a scrapbook of Condoleezza Rice photos is pretty off-the-wall but what do I know?

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 2.58.52 PM

In a 2007 interview with al-Jazeera, Qaddafi practically drooled over Rice: “I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders … Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. … I love her very much. I admire her and I’m proud of her because she’s a black woman of African origin.” I guess there’s some kernel of anti-imperialism buried deep within this bullshit that I will allow Glazebrook to reveal. But for me, it speaks for itself.

Showing his commitment to the “axis of resistance”, Glazebrook denounces Dabashi for showing disloyalty to the new nearly Communist International:

Elsewhere, Dabashi talks of the “murderous ruling regime in Syria” and the “ghastly opportunism of Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Third world leaderships are constantly equated with their imperial attackers – all the better to discourage any kind of solidarity or defence against such attacks. The BRICS countries – Russia and China in particular – are constantly disparaged throughout Dabashi’s writings, for example, and almost always referred to in the same breath as US imperialism.

Yeah, the nerve of Dabashi to refer to the murderous ruling regime in Syria. Everybody knows that those barrel bombs dropped on open-air markets and tenement buildings are just as necessary to destroy the terrorist threat as the bombs dropped over Gaza. Plus how can anybody in their right mind disparage Russia and China? Doesn’t Dabashi realize that Russia is acting in the interests of radicals everywhere by putting Pussy Riot in prison for acting against public decency? Not to speak of China that is ruled by Communists—no matter that its parliament includes 83 billionaires. These are obviously pro-communist billionaires unlike the filthy pro-capitalist billionaires in the USA.

The rest of the article is basically a rewrite of all the garbage that has been written on behalf of Qaddafi and al-Assad for the past four years. It never fails to amaze me how little new information is provided as a stable of horse’s asses basically plagiarize each other. Is there evidence that a low IQ and “anti-imperialist” journalism are organically linked? I am coming around to the conclusion that is probably the case.

 

February 26, 2015

The Syrian war, Israel, Hezbollah and the US-Iran romance: Is Israel changing its view on the war?

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 1:26 pm

The Syrian war, Israel, Hezbollah and the US-Iran romance: Is Israel changing its view on the war?.

February 3, 2015

Syria and the left

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 12:07 am

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.

read full article

January 8, 2015

A response to a Jacobin article on Kobane

Filed under: Kurd,mechanical anti-imperialism,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:52 pm

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 12.50.43 PM

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

In response to “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars”

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 6:28 pm

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:

Screen shot 2014-12-29 at 12.51.43 PM

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

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 2:01 pm

Syria: Top 12 Essential Articles

 

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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.

2. an introduction to syria – its history and its present revolutionary struggles 

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.

 
3.  ‘Take Your Portion': A Victim Speaks Out About Rape in Syria 

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.”

4. The Anti-Imperialism of Fools 

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.

5. A Friend of my Father: Iran’s Manipulation of Bashar al-Assad​  

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.

6. How Syria’s Assad Helped Forge ISIS 

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.

7. SYRIA: A reading into the new wave of European far-right and the reasons behind its support for the Syrian regime 

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?

8.  Syrian Fascism and the Western Left  

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.

9. Tortured and killed: Hamza al-Khateeb, age 13

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.

11. Exploding the myth of Syria being ‘anti-imperialist’ 

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 companyGulfsands 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.]

12. Every Friday: New Slogans of the People’s Revolution 

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 GallowayRand PaulCynthia 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.
FURTHER READING
Blog Rolls and Compilations

– Everything from Michael Karadjis 

– Everything from Clay Claiborne on Syria 

– Everything from WE WRITE WHAT WE LIKE 

– SYRIAN REVOLUTION: ARCHIVE

– Useful Articles on the Syrian Revolution from MENA

History and Analysis

–  The roots and grassroots of the Syrian revolution 

–  SYRIA: AN ILLUSIONED UNDERSTANDING 

–  SYRIA: The life and work of anarchist Omar Aziz, and his impact on self-organization in the Syrian revolution  

– The Vocabulary of Sectarianism 

– The Multiple Layers of the Syrian Crisis 

 
The Opposition

– A MODERN HISTORY OF THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY IN DARAA 

–  List of armed groups in the Syrian Civil War 

–  SYRIA: The struggle continues: Syria’s grass-roots civil opposition

 
Geo Politics 

– The US, Iran, Russia-Syria and the geopolitical shift: Anything for the region’s oppressed? 

– Why Now? US Airstrikes on Syria 

– Yet again on those hoary old allegations that the US has armed the FSA since 2012  

– We Stand Behind the Syrian People’s Revolution – No to Foreign Intervention 

– Naame Shaam Report: IRAN IN SYRIA – From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force

 

 

ASSad

– Assad emails: father-in-law gave advice from UK during crackdown 

– Inside Assad’s Playbook: Time and Terror 

– Bashar Assad and the Death of History  
ISIS

 On ISIS. How did the sectarian nightmare come true in Syria and Iraq? 

– Assad Has Never Fought ISIS Before 

– SYRIA: ‘Revolution within the revolution’ :The battle against ISIS

– EXCLUSIVE: Shaikh Hassan Abboud’s final interview 

Palestine

– On the Issue of Palestinian Support for the Assad Regime 

 Syria and the Palestinians: ‘Almost no other Arab state has as much Palestinian blood on its hands’ 

 How Not to Be in Solidarity with Palestinians Refugees in Yarmouk  

– A guide for the Palestinian or “pro-Palestinian” shabiha sympathizer in your life 

 

Fascism

– A red-brown alliance for Syria 

– SYRIA: Who are Assad’s fascist supporters?  

– IS FASCISM INFILTRATING OUR RALLIES?

Neo-liberal Politics of the Syrian Regime

–  Revolts in Syria: Tracking the Convergence Between Authoritarianism and Neoliberalism

–  Revolts in Syria: Regime Neoliberalism, Fundamental Changes, Decolonial Arab Revolution, and Syria’s Revolt

Chemical Attacks

– Syria’s Ghouta Gas Massacre of August 21, 2013: The US let it happen and the Left tried to cover it up. 

 Syria: #BreathingDeath Commemorating Actions of Those Killed in Ghouta 

 #BreathingDeath Chemical Timeline English Version 

– Ghouta, the Planned Attack (Only a part of the documentary)

– Promo 2 | first anniversary of the chemical massacre in Syria

– Syria: List of names from the Chemical Attack in East Ghouta- NYC 08/22/14 

 Interview with Hamid Imam: “Ask me what is happening in Syria!”-NYC 08/22/14

Qusai Zakarya: I was gassed by Bashar Al-Assad

– Speak4Syria: Qusai Zakarya

-50 Documented Violations Of The UN Security Council Resolution 2118 Through Using Poison Gases In 50 Attacks-What Is Behind The Red Line?
South-American Connections

– The Cuban Regime’s International Impact on Human Rights: Syria 

– Assad and Kirchner pledge mutual support 

– Syrian TV – Message from President al-Assad to President of Cuba on the latest developments in Syria, conveyed by al-Mikdad 

– How Cuba and Venezuela Scabbed on the Syrian Revolution
Kurds

– Syria-Report From Aleppo 9/30/2014: Assad Continues Targeting Civilians; Special ANA Press Exclusive Report on Kobani  

– On the Syrian Revolution and the Kurdish Issue – an interview with Syrian-Kurdish activist and journalist Shiar Nayo 

 
The Position of the Western ‘Left’

– Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria  

– The role of US Imperialism in Syria and the Left’s Dilemma

– Selective Internationalism: An Activist Disorder

 

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