Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 9, 2012

A comment about Syria on Clay Claiborne’s Daily Kos blog

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 12:23 am


It’s a mistake to use the “we don’t know who’s who in Syria” argument.

First off it’s not necessary. Large-scale intervention by the US is not going to happen – at least unless Assad or one of his backers cross one of several “red lines”. These red lines are: use of chemical weapons, or mass replacement of aircraft, possibly including strike aircraft and advanced helicopters.

I expect many of the most vocal opponents of US intervention would pause at least if Assad began to use chemical weapons! And in the hypothetical case of Russia replacing Assad’s lost helicopters and jets with more and better aircraft – at this time they would also have to send PILOTS, and that would weaken Putin’s position at the UNSC, and possibly worsen his political problems at home. Putin is facing a real Velvet Revolution at home and some of his strongest supporters are fed up with him.

Second, we do know who’s who in Syria, and the only real problem there is that we can’t predict when the Syrian Army will break down from defections (but a new wave of high-level defections was reported yesterday, including 7 generals).

Last year, as part of the Arab Spring, ordinary Syrians began to demonstrate for more political freedom. No one suggested that they were being paid by the Kingdom, or by the US. It was obvious who they were.

Assad responded by murdering peaceful demonstrators. And even at that, the Syrian demonstrators were SO peaceful and so rational, even while being killed in twos and threes, that the rest of the Arab world marveled.

Eventually, Assad stepped up the killing. It is and has been his ONLY military tactic, and it was ordered by the Russians. Assad began what we now call “punishment bombing” which continues today. Punishment bombing is what the Russians did in Chechenya. It consists in saying: kill their parents and bomb their homes, and they’ll quit fighting.

Following this policy Assad has massacred civilian males of fighting age, and he has fired mortars at his own cities, like Homs, like he was playing Battleship. Level that block, then level the next. The original explanation was that these were “nests of terrorists”. That explanation made some inhuman sense once, but after over a year, it is obvious that the blood-curdling level of civilian deaths (hundreds per day) is Assad’s GOAL, not some sort of collateral damage.

The Syrian Army has not carried out so much as ONE successful military operation in this war. All they have ever done, is to shell the hell out of an area, and then flood it with troops. All they ever accomplish is to kill civilians.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After months of unresisted murders of demonstrators, two things began to happen. Some demonstrators began to want to shoot back; and many Syrian Army soldiers began to defect.

The resistance of the FSA grew organically out of the demonstrations – to protect them and allow them to take place. And this has worked, and there still are demonstrations, many at night, but they can still be pretty large. (They are on YouTube).

Following this, in late 2011 and in early 2012 we saw more and more “defection videos”. These are impressive. If you don’t like masked jihadi freelance fighters, how do you feel about thousands and thousands of ordinary Syrians and ex-Syrian Army soldiers and officers who stand in front of a camera, show their faces and their ID’s, state their purposes and principles, and then go out to fight for freedom!? That too is on YouTube.

While we’re talking about jihadis, here are some fun facts: there are probably a couple thousand TOPS “foreign fighters” who are loosely collaborating with the FSA. They do not command, and on occasions where they have engaged in improper activities or too much self-promotion, they have been asked to leave.

But on the other hand, Hezbollah and Iran have indeed sent thousands of well-equipped fighters and officers to help Assad. We know about the Iranians because a whole bunch of them got caught (claiming to be tourists), and we also know Iran has provided pilots and technicians. We know about Hezbollah’s actions because they are averaging about three killed per day, the bodies are shipped back to Lebanon, and this is noted. These are important contributions to Assad. It has been said that Iranian officers stand behind Syrian Army soldiers and shoot any who try to retreat or run away.

So anyway, the spontaneously formed FSA brigades, many of them, have by now coalesced into umbrella brigades. The FSA is being led by soldiers, not jihadis. “Rebels” have been guilty of some improper behavior, and there have been some executions. But their discipline is a hell of a lot better than their supply situation.

You have to remember how this all went. In June the FSA were almost a joke. Then they went to Aleppo, and they have not been “rooted out” even by disproportionate and UNRESTRAINED use of force by Assad. Assad is the one who has destroyed cities, and people are blaming the FSA for going there and making Aleppo a target!

The FSA success in Aleppo and their strike against command operations in Damascus (which killed top Syrian officials) created panic on the regime side. But the only response they had was to add the destructive power of their air force to the constant mortar shells. The FSA adapted easily to being strafed, and air-launched rockets are not that destructive in a city. So Assad now rigs up his own bunker-busters, “barrel bombs” that are dropped from helicopters on civilian targets.

That freed up the jets to strafe lines of civilians queueing for bread.

Move on into July and August, and what you have are continuous one-two punches against Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs by Assad – shell, shell, shell and send in troops. The MSM has a fetish about “territory” when reporting on a conflict, but over time people realized it wasn’t like that. The FSA is killing many more Syrian Army soldiers than it is losing. The Syrian Army has lost nearly as many soldiers killed as there have been civilians killed – over 15,000.

In September, though, the story has been the ability of the FSA to kill enough tanks, planes and helicopters to make it possible to say that Assad is going to run out of these things in less than a year – unless he is massively resupplied. It’s noteworthy that the tank kills were the product of brilliant setpiece strategy – clever ways of getting the tanks to roll into the open where they could be3 hit with RPGs.

But the jet plane kills and helicopter kills – many verified via YouTube videos – are the result of magic. The FSA gunners are praying these bullets into the helicopters, or something. They may be getting a few shoulder-fired rockets now, but they haven’t had many at all. Of course, when the FSA realized that Assad wanted them to try to do in Damascus what they had done in Aleppo, they changed their tactics. Catching too many soldiers close to the cities, they rolled out across side roads and attacked lightly guarded military bases and AIR BASES, destroying many aircraft on the ground in several well-attested instances (on YouTube).

They haven’t had much regular small-arms ammo either. When the FSA do a “tactical retreat” in Salah-al-din or some other place, it’s almost always because they are just out of bullets. Mark this: when military history goes back over this successful revolution, the Free Syrian Army will stand as one of the best fighting forces, POUND FOR POUND, in history, and most of them aren’t even twenty years old. Their discipline, and the wisdom of their commanders, is a product of their personal and religious closeness. People here will surely scoff at adolescent soldiers who murmur the name of God continuously…but I bet the Syrian Army doesn’t do it, and ditto for the Lebanese. (As for the Russians, they pray to Mammon.)

The US policy is difficult but defensible (the best foreign policy is always difficult): US inaction guarantees Russian inaction. The key element appears to be, that as long as the US either does not intervene or keeps its intervention (sending some arms) secret – the Russians appear to have realized that their “red line” is replacement aircraft. There are several red lines. If the Russians send a new air force to Assad, it’s cause for a US response of some kind, because the Syrians won’t have the PILOTS. The Russians would have to send pilots with the planes, and that’s a bridge too far.

Now you have Turkey getting into the crisis. This is dangerous, and I think Obama was dealing with this instead of getting his rest for the debate because we are looking at the possibility of major escalation, with consequent OIL SHOCKS. If Turkey goes into Syria, the Russians could say, there, that’s America and NATO going in – and cast off all restraint themselves.

What is the problem with the Russians? Russia is not a geostrategic competitor any more. It’s just a MAFIA STATE that is being run by a cabal of people who want to make billions of dollars. The Russians make a lot of money from running drugs, arms and human beings (trafficking) through Syria. Assad has been just as incredibly venal as Mubarak or Gaddafi, although his personal fortune amounts only to about 60 billion.

There is nothing the West has that can compensate Putin for the loss of his Syrian profit. There is no way to give him Georgia, nothing like that. The Russians are just watching things go from bad to worse.

The most fear-worthy hypothesis is this: at the end of the day, rather than lose their little warm-water port in Tartous and their multibillion dollar drug business, and get nothing back for it, the Russians would just as soon blow up Saudi Arabia and make their own oil worth more. I’m not taking that any further, but I’m not laughing at all. Taking any appreciable percentage of world oil offline would cause the Chinese to freak out.

At the end of the day it may be that more than the freedom of a few million Arabs is at stake, and being championed by a few graybearded defectors and a whole lot of Syrian young people who like Chuck Norris movies.

by frenchman on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 01:02:00 PM PDT


  1. There’s a reason this comment was posted on Dailykos.

    Comment by ish — October 9, 2012 @ 12:36 am

  2. This analysis of Russian motives and their military consequences is not to be taken seriously, is it? Russia bombing Saudi oil fields seems as silly as a Romney presidency and a lot less likely.

    Comment by Richard Greener — October 9, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

  3. ‘I expect many of the most vocal opponents of US intervention would pause at least if Assad began to use chemical weapons! ‘

    he is having a laugh here? usa: hands on syria! is the new tshirt?

    Comment by jp — October 9, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  4. Assuming that “Frenchman”, the author of the comment, is actually French, I can only assume that he is not up-to-date on the North American “anti-imperialist” left gathered around Global Research, et al. My guess is that if al-Assad began using chemical weapons, they’d break out the champagne.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  5. p.cockburn – “An ideal outcome from the American point of view is to seek to organise a military coup against the Syrian government in Damascus. Zilmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote recently in Foreign Policy magazine that the US should take steps “empowering the moderates in the opposition, shifting the balance of power through arms and other lethal assistance, encouraging a coup leading to a power-sharing arrangement, and accommodating Russia in exchange for its co-operation”.
    By becoming the opposition’s main weapons’ suppliers, the US could gain influence over the rebel leadership, encourage moderation and a willingness to share power…”


    no, i’m not claiming this is conclusive and no, i’m not a supporter of assad . cockburn is an excellent journalist – so is fisk, as the record shows [despite idiosyncrasies]

    Comment by jp — October 9, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  6. Patrick Cockburn wrote:

    “Instead of a fight to the finish – and that finish would probably be a long way off – a peace conference with all the players may be the only way to bring an end to the Syrian war. But it is also probably a long way off, because hatred and fear is too deep and neither side is convinced it cannot win.”

    And this is supposed to be a radical or even a progressive analysis? If I didn’t know who the author was, I would have guessed a Washington Post or N.Y. Times editorial.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

  7. People can’t fuck with the analysis so they take pot shots at this or that line or DailyKos. Pathetic.

    Comment by Binh — October 9, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  8. Over a year into the Syrian events and there hasn’t been a single authoritative statement of what the FSA actually stand for.
    Assaf’s anonymous sources in Lebanon, Claibourne’s military prognoses (wasn’t the Assad regime supposed to have fallen 6 weeks ago?)
    or press cuttings from the NY Times are a very poor substitute.

    In the absence of anything more substantive, why should anyone on the left trust these people?
    They’ve attached themselves like leeches to the popular protests in Syria and undermined whatever democratic content they had.
    In its place, they’ve imposed their right wing religious sectarianism and terrorist methods.

    It’s no surprise that the most right wing governments in the Arab world; those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan have provided the FSA with arms and training.
    If the West hasn’t supplied them with anti-aircraft weapons, or created a no-fly zone, it’s mainly due to their fear of how Russia and China would respond.
    Nevertheless, the most confrontational right wing elements in US politics, such as Mitt Romney, want direct military intervention.

    Meanwhile Turkey is carrying out probing attacks with full support from NATO leaders.
    Since the FSA has proven incapable of overthowing the Syrian government, they’re escalating “Plan B”
    The creation of a militarised buffer zone in Northern Syria as a base to launch further attacks.
    Once this is established, it will be afforded air protection.

    Just imagine how the US government would respond if Mexico harboured training camps for forces dedicated to its overthrow.
    Or how such forces would be treated if they tried to take over San Antonio, El Paso or San Diego.
    Actually it requires very little imagination.

    Comment by prianikoff — October 9, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

  9. If the West hasn’t supplied them with anti-aircraft weapons, or created a no-fly zone, it’s mainly due to their fear of how Russia and China would respond.

    Did you just think this up on your own? What a novel idea! How creative. Have you considered writing fiction?

    Comment by louisproyect — October 9, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  10. On the “foreign fighters” all I can say is that they seem to be the guys who showed up too late to fight in Iraq, or they are the fighters from Iraq and elsewhere who have made “insurgent” a lifestyle. If Turkey or Jordan lurched into civil war tomorrow, they would be there as well. In that respect, the Syrian Civil War reminds me of the Lebanese one; back then, every Arab government who wanted to train their armies in irregular warfare sent small teams of men to fight for one side or the other. For example, Robert Fisk ran across a squad of Iraqi soldiers in mufti in the ruins of Beirut around 1980. Now it’s the insurgent groups instead of the governments.

    If Assad can beat the resistance to the ground it will be a Pyrrhic victory for him, because all he can offer is brutality and terror. Ba’athism means nothing anymore, there is no carrot, only stick. In situations like that you often see the palace coup shortly after and the end of the regime.

    Comment by Strelnikov — October 10, 2012 @ 7:35 am

  11. prianikoff – Remember how and why the FSA formed. From Wikipedia:

    > “The Free Syrian Army traces its origin to early defectors from the Syrian army who refused to shoot on unarmed protesters during the Syrian uprising.[30] The first defections occurred when the army was sent into Daraa to quell ongoing protests. There were reports that different units had refused to shoot on protesters and had split from the army.[31] Video footage showed civilians helping defecting soldiers who had been shot for refusing orders.[32] Defections continued throughout the spring as the government used lethal force to clamp down on protesters and lay siege on protesting cities across the country such as Baniyas, Hama, Talkalakh and, Deir ez-Zor. Many soldiers who refused to open fire against civilians were summarily executed by the army.[33] In July 2011, seeing the need for action Riad al-Asaad and a group of officers announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army with the goal to protect unarmed protesters and to help overthrow the regime”
    These are some of the bravest people on the planet right now. Most are soldiers that defected from the SAA in spite of the threat of execution. There are hundreds if not thousands of videos where the show their military IDs, tell of how they were ordered to slaughter unarmed civilians, and pledging their purpose to protect the unarmed Syrian opposition. The other main contributor to the ranks of the FSA are civilian protesters who have taken up arms after living through the Assad regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters. And oh yes, there are maybe a thousand or so jhidists that have take up the fight. Following Assad’s propaganda, you speak only of this small minority, and you throw all those activists and former Assad soldiers under the bus by calling them “leeches”. Shameful!

    You have already declared because some jhadist have joined the fight they have “undermined whatever democratic content they [the FSA] had.” I’ll bet you wrote off the Libyan revolutionaries the same way, replacing “NATO” as the underminers in that case.

    Assad clearly is carrying out a policy of collective punishment and mass murder to suppress any but his tame opposition. How else do you explain the house demolitions in Damascus and the massive shelling and bombing of opposition areas, even those with no armed opposition?

    You don’t even mention this, over 30 thousand dead, most by Assad’s thugs, many before there even was an armed self defense. You don’t cry a tear for the murdered children, instead you attempt to justify Assad’s violence by reference to what the US government would do. Yes, we know what the US government would do, from the bombing of Hanoi to the slaughter in Falluji, we have seen it. I expect revolution to come to Mexico before it comes to the US and I hope that a revolutionary Mexico will provide refuge and support for those fleeing from or fighting US imperialism. But I don’t uphold US imperialism as an example of acceptable or even civilized behavior as you appear to.

    There were two anti-war protests in LA last Saturday. One was called by PSL and the other called by WWP. At one protest I counted 60 people, I heard the other one had “a couple hundred” – and this was from a supporter. (I know that ANSWER-LA always doubles the numbers as a matter of policy) This is a far cry from the 30,000 that protested the Iraq war in LA at the beginning or even the 15,000 (LAPD numbers) that we brought out on the streets for Occupy LA a year ago this weekend. The PSL & WWP couldn’t agree on one unified protest although both proudly waved the Assad flag – at an anti-war rally!

    This, and comments like yours, represents the sorry state of the US “left” today with its craven tailing after RT and dictators that are purported to be “anti-imperialist.”

    So the question is not why the “left” should trust these freedom fighters, who happen to be on the front lines of the fight for humanity, but why these revolutionaries should trust the “left.” I know that in spite of their courage and their successes, they badly need a Marxist-Leninist prospective. I only hope that the work of Marxists like Louis, Binh and myself will convince them that not all “leftists” oppose their revolution.

    I do predict that the Assad regime will be defeated sooner or later, but I never put a schedule on it, so its a good thing this other Claibourne you refer to spells his name different from mind because I would hate to be confuse with him, but then you appear ro be confused about quite a few things.

    Then there is this:
    > 28 movements, parties and activists issue common declaration supporting the Syrian people and calling for the release of political prisoners in the Arab Homeland
    > From the Arab Gulf to Syria, the Nile Valley and the Arab Maghreb – The People Unite in Solidarity!
    > At the time that the Arab states turn toward legal, political and economic reforms, pushed by the popular anger against the legal and economic situation that was afflicted on our Arab countries during the past periods by autocratic and repressive regimes, which acted to weaken the Arab peoples, keep them in ignorance and kill all their creative energies in an orderly and systematic way, we find that some states didn’t stop practicing some violations against the Arab activists in their different countries, in spite of the arrival (to the government) of some of the political parties that suffered a lot from the authoritative practices.
    > This happens while there is still Arab refusal to adopt a decisive stand against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and his armed gangs, which commit daily massacres against the Syrian people and against the youth, who come out every day in peaceful demonstrations against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.
    > In Morocco nearly 80 activists from the youth groups, and at their foremost activists from “The 20th of February Movement”, are still held in detention. In Jordan the authorities arrested nearly 18 activists from “The Jordanian Popular Movement” and referred them to the State Security Court, which is a military unconstitutional court. All the activists in Jordan and Morocco are detained for their political views and their demands for reform programs.
    > In Cairo the Egyptian authorities still use some illegitimate practices against the Egyptian activists who demand some economic reforms and putting an end to the use of military courts against civilians, including demonstrators (Khaled Mekdad, Ahmad Al-Dakroury and Ahmad Manna) and children (Islam Harby and Mohammad Ihab) and the release of the revolution’s officers, which are detained on the order of the former Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi.
    > In Bahrain the authorities did not stop practicing continuous violations that are incompatible with human rights principles. The military’s influence still costs the lives of civilians. The last case was the killing of a demonstrator, aged 17, in his village South West of the Bahraini capital Manama. He was shot by the security forces and died as a consequence. The security forces also arrested dozens and keep them in detention without bringing them to trial. Dozens of prisoners of conscience and people detained for their political views are still languishing in Bahraini prisons, including Human Rights and political activists, which were arrested because of their demands for political, constitutional and legal reforms.
    > In Algeria many Human Rights, trade unionist and political activists are subject to detention and judicial harassment.
    > In Sudan the number of detainees held by the authorities exceeded 1700. The situation was aggravated by the detention of more than 15 Sudanese women. Some of them were released and others are still held under detention in Sudan’s prisons.
    > We, the undersigned groups, declare our full solidarity with the Syrian people, their right to self determination and their demand for Bashar Al-Assad giving up power. We affirm our support for the initiatives of peaceful struggle in Syria.
    > We also demand from the authorities in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Bahrain to respect Human Rights and the freedom of opinion and expression, to act quickly for the immediate release of all the detained activists and to put an end to all the extraordinary actions taken against them. We also call for the implementation of all the legitimate demands raised by those activists, including legitimate economic, legal and constitutional reforms.
    > Signatories:
    > 6 April Youth Movement – Egypt
    > The Constitution Party – Egypt
    > The Egyptian Current Party – Egypt
    > No to Military Trials – Egypt
    > The Jordanian Youth Movement – Jordan
    > I Deserve A Civil Trial – IDACT – Jordan
    > Girifna Movement – Sudan
    > The 20th of February Movement – Morocco
    > ATTAC Morocco association against capitalist globalization
    > Association of Moroccan Workers in France – France
    > Independent Youth Movement for Change – Algeria
    > Syrian Peaceful Movement Group – Syria
    > “One People One Destiny” Campaign – Syria
    > Syrian Week – Syria
    > Demonstration Team – Syria
    > “Waw Al-Wasel” Group – Syria
    > The Syrian Democratic Forum – Syria
    > Youth Against the Settlements – Palestine
    > Palestinians with the Syrian Revolution – Palestine
    > Youth and Students sector in The Democratic Progressive Forum Association – Bahrain
    > Youth Bureau in The Patriotic Democratic Action Association (Wa’ad) – Bahrain
    > Libya Youth Movement – Libya
    > The Libyan Association for Humanitarian Relief – Libya
    > Arab National Figures
    > Human Rights activist – Khaled Ali – former candidate for the presidency – Egypt
    > Engineer Ahmad Maher – member of the Constituent Assembly for the Constitution
    > MP Ziyad Al-Alimi –member of the former People’s Assembly – Egypt
    > Khalaf Ali Al-Khalaf – Syrian writer
    > Rabab Al-Bouti – Syria
    > Ahmad Lanki – member of the Libyan National Congress
    > Mohammad Al-Aouni – head of “freedoms of media and change” organization – Morocco
    > Original English translation from the Free Haifa Blog.
    > Original Arabic link
    and this from a revolutionary left:
    > The Chaos of the Armed Movement and the Organisation of the Syrian Revolution
    > from Yassari, Edition 11, by the Left Coalition in Syria – Mid-September 2012
    > The introduction of arms to the Syrian revolution, after months of peaceful struggle, did not come out of the blue, nor was it simply an emotional reaction. There were some parties who, from the beginning, called for arming the revolution and advocated violence. However, it was surely the increasing violence used by the authorities that made peaceful youth, who completely believed in a peaceful movement, change their minds, especially when the regime involved the Syrian army in a war against citizens at the end of July 2011, and when they adopted increasing tactics of killing and humiliating the people in Syria from August 2011.
    > There is no point, therefore, regretting the move from peaceful demonstrations, or fearing this significant step now. There is not even any point discussing it now. We have moved from the phase that the revolution started with, the peaceful spontaneous demonstrating of ordinary people, to the revolution of all methods, with demonstrating and fighting taking place together. Since we have reached this phase, it is important now to study the problems, as the revolution is now in need of planning, by learning from previous lessons and organising all elements.
    > Sensitive issues need to be addressed here. First, how to organise the armed struggle (connecting groups and finding clear strategies of how to develop this struggle). Secondly, how to coordinate between the armed movement and the popular movement, especially since the armed struggle has stolen all the attention and popular demonstrations have become marginal. Third, we need to think of how to organise and control the free areas, which are not under the control of the authorities anymore.
    > The armed people in Syria are actually separate groups who all call themselves “Free Army” (this is dangerous because it is a vague phrase which anyone could use) – some of them defected from the Syrian army (these are the main foundation), some are sectarian, and the rest, the majority, are ordinary people, with no experience in working with wars and weapons, and therefore they only undertake defence, and when they attack instead, lots of mistakes take place. They have made mistakes, but they haven’t learnt from them. The main mistake has been basing themselves inside residential neighborhoods, and staying there until the regime forces attack and destroy them, which has had a very negative effect on the popular movement there and almost stopped it in some areas. “Liberating” areas without considering the strength of the regime’s forces means aggravating the struggle instead of developing it. What is important now is to focus on attacking the sensitive centres, the army on their way to control cities, and the locations where rockets and cannons are based.
    > Most of these fighters are the same young people who took part in the demonstrations at the beginning of the revolution. They are fighting today without sufficient training, and with light weapons which they obtain from military warehouses or purchasing from weapons dealers at high rates. They won’t obtain any better weapons to win this war because those providing them with weapons don’t want the war to end. Thus, these groups are not able to turn into an army, and they will not be able to compete with the regime’s forces. They shouldn’t locate themselves at the centre of residential areas for a long time. Warfare at the street level requires replacing the policy of being at the centre with a dynamic policy, moving all the time, and the sudden attack of security and army centres, instead of waiting for them to attack first.
    > This requires an advanced military strategy against a regime using all its military abilities. It needs coordination between groups and organisation of their activities. It also requires forming a structure to being together these groups, with rules and laws to control their activities and their relations with the public, as well as their actions towards the ‘shabiha’ forces and the army officers who are fighting against their people, or even those who are in the Syrian army, but have not been involved in killing.
    > We must fear not pushing aside the extremist religious groups, in order to save the revolution from their foolish military or sectarian mistakes. We must not fear any conflict with them now, because it is much better to get rid of them than to wait until they become stronger later. It is one of the Free Syrian Army’s duties to protect ‘minorities’ now, who support the Syrian regime or are silent, to protect them from crimes which these extremist groups could commit against them. Some of these groups were formed to commit such crimes against ‘minorities’, who are part of the Syrian people, even if they are silent, hesitating, or only a small part of them is taking their part helping the Syrian revolution, because they fear the Syrian regime, or because they are not happy with the statements of some people in the Syrian opposition, or even fear the Gulf’s media and those behind it. It is very dangerous to allow some parties to play the sectarian game under the umbrella of the revolution. This only causes more fears for these people, and makes them even more convinced that the regime is the least scary option. What we need now is the exact opposite, we need to show them that the revolution is owned by all the people (including themselves), and we need to protect the public institutions in Syria, and the security of the people, since the situation here could allow gangs to control areas because the police is not able to protect people there.
    > The military strategy we need must support the people and their activities. We must recognise the popular movement, since it is the most powerful tool in this revolution. The revolution will not win without the popular movement, which causes more trouble to the regime than the weapons the revolutionaries have. The might of the revolutionary armed movement is dependent on the popular movement, and should not destroy this movement by moving to the centre of the residential areas in which the popular movement is based. This will eventually cause the destruction of these areas, since it is impossible to defend them, leading to the migration of the demonstrating people from these areas, becoming a burden in need of help rather than the main element in the revolution.
    > The strategy requires re-organising coordinating committees everywhere by learning from the experience they have gained during the revolution, so they can motivate the public movement. They should study the situation to organise when and how to demonstrate and what slogans reflect the revolution’s goals and the demands of the people involved. They also need to draw the main policies, to avoid counting on the international community and focus on the movement inside the country instead.
    > We should prepare to control the areas where the regime has no authority anymore (we are not saying these areas became librated, as mentioned above). We need to fulfill our duties by supplying the people with their daily supplies and to set up an alternative authority, to provide security.
    > To achieve that, we need to find true leadership from local committees and the armed groups together, as well as other community bodies which could organise the relations between parties, draw up the general policies and represent the revolution by working on achieving its goals.
    > In conclusion, the goals and policies of the revolution should be made clear now, after all the complications the revolution has been experiencing. It is very important to organise our work for the revolution, and to prepare to form an alternative authority with the collapse of the regime day by day. The regime may be making a last attempt, but it will fail as previous ones failed too. Therefore, there is no point being spontaneous anymore, and there is no space for confusion anymore. We need to forget about a purely military solution, and realise that the idea of ‘liberating cities’ doesn’t work. We are not Libya, and will not be. We must commit to our popular movement, supported by an armed movement to paralyse the forces of the regime and upset their military logistics.
    > We have progressed very well so far. The regime is no longer the strong side, and therefore we must organise ourselves to use this advantage and move the revolution forward.
    > Yassari, Edition 11, by the Left Coalition in Syria – Mid-September 2012

    Comment by Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) — October 11, 2012 @ 4:28 am

  12. CC”You have already declared because some jhadist have joined the fight they have “undermined whatever democratic content they [the FSA] had.” I’ll bet you wrote off the Libyan revolutionaries the same way, replacing “NATO” as the underminers in that case.”

    I never specifically mentioned the jihadists in Syria.
    Self-described jihadists are operating on both sides of the conflict.
    Hezbollah members, supporting the government Syria, also claim to be on “jihadist” duties.

    But I would be worried about the FSA leader Fahd al-Masri, who said on Tuesday:-

    “We [vow] to take the battle in Syria to the heart of the [Beirut] southern suburbs if [Hezbollah] does not stop supporting the killer-Syrian regime”
    (The Daily Star Lebanon)

    What I concentrated on was the FSA’s militarist tendencies and use of terrorist methods.
    For instance, putting anti-aircraft weapons on the roofs of civilian houses doesn’t strike me as an act likely to enamour the local population to you.
    Nor does the FSA’s lack of political programme.
    It’s also being supported logistically from a NATO country (Turkey) and receveives arms and training from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.

    re. Libya, initially I thought the rebellion had a legitimitate right to defend itself, but when the TNC leaders accepted the no-fly zone and allowed NATO to become its airforce, it moved qualitatively to the right.
    Nothing I’ve seen since convinces me that the TNC government is any better than Gaddafi’s.
    Possibly it’s worse, as the events in Tawergha and the current stand-off around Bani Walid indicate.
    Clearly there are serious unresolved factional differences, as the attack on the US legation showed.

    CC”…comments like yours, represents the sorry state of the US “left” today”

    Maybe, but I’m not actually on the US left.
    I’m a member of the Labour Party in Britain. I am on its left though….
    Nor am I a “Marcyite” who thinks criticizing the TNC or FSA means giving political support to Gaddafi or Assad.
    What these events have shown is that the Arab Spring is finely balanced between revolution and reaction and that a concerted attempt is being by Imperialism made to divert it to the right.
    The lack of independent working class parties aids the reactionaries.
    It’s in Egypt where there is the strongest possibility of developing one.

    Comment by prianikoff — October 11, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  13. BTW, this is an example of the treatment members of an independent working class party could expect to get from the self-described jihadists.

    Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old schoolgirl, shot by the Pakistan Taliban on Tuesday is a sympathiser of the International Marxist Tendency.
    Here’s a picture of her speaking at the IMT’s summer school in Swat last June.


    Comment by prianikoff — October 11, 2012 @ 7:58 am

  14. Putin is quite popular in Russia if one judges by the last election. Yes he’s hated by the urban upper middle class but that does not make a Velvet Revolution.

    If the author cannot make a coherent judgement on Russia it’s doubtful he can about the much more nebulous Syria.

    Comment by purple — October 11, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  15. Nothing I’ve seen since convinces me that the TNC government is any better than Gaddafi’s.

    From your standpoint–namely that of the reeking crypto-Stalinism of Andy Newman’s blog commenters–Qaddafi was much, much, much, better. In fact I can easily imagine a velvet portrait of the grotesque tyrant on your living room wall like that of Elvis seen in many homes in Mississippi.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 11, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  16. “I can easily imagine a velvet portrait of the grotesque tyrant on your living room wall”

    I don’t like velvet, or medallioned generalissimos.
    So dream on.

    Comment by prianikoff — October 11, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

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