Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 10, 2013

Prospects for the Syrian revolution

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 11:09 pm

Tomorrow or the next day I will be posting a journal of the panels I attended at last weekend’s Left Forum in NY, including an audio archive (with mixed success since about half of the panels involved Powerpoint slides or other visual material). But today I want to single out a particularly interesting panel discussion that did not allow recordings for security reasons. “Prospects for Syria’s Revolution” was held yesterday morning at ten under the auspices of Haymarket Books, the imprint of the ISO. The first speaker was from the http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/ blog, an indispensable resource for understanding Syria from a Marxist standpoint. Even though he is presently not based in Syria, the blogger had to have his identity concealed during a Skype video call since it is entirely conceivable that the Baathist goons might want to track him down. The second speaker was Anand Gopal, who quite simply is the most informed person on the American left about Syria, both theoretically and as a journalist who has taken great risks to tell the true story of the revolutionary struggle

To give you an idea of what the “Syrian Freedom Forever” blogger stands for, here’s an excerpt from his latest blog entry “Syria or elsewhere, there are no pure revolutions, just revolutions…”:

The role of the revolutionary is to be on the side and struggle with these popular organizations struggling for freedom and dignity and to radicalize as much as possible the popular movement towards progressive objectives, while fighting against opportunists and reactionary forces opposing popular class interests.

A banner in Homs expressed very well this feeling: The revolution is permanent against the regime and the cheap lackey opposition.

My feeling is that as long as there is one Syrian expressing such a view and arrayed against him are revolutionary governments in Venezuela and Cuba, as well as dozens of leftist websites, and groups like the Stop the War Coalition in Britain, I will stand with him or her against al-Assad.

His talk took the bull by the horns and challenged some of the myths about Baathism that are circulated on the left.

Baathism as a secular movement:

Hafez al-Assad, the current dictator’s father, was responsible for a constitution that stated that only a Muslim could be president doing so in order to placate the Muslim Brotherhood. Under his reign, there were more mosques built in Syria than in Saudi Arabia. When he organized a coup against the leftist military officer Salah Jadid in 1970, he did so on the basis of orienting Syria to conservative Arab states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. And most importantly, in the early period of the Syrian revolution, his son Bashar al-Assad released Islamist hardliners from prison knowing full well that they would constitute a challenge to the more secular ranks of the democratic opposition. The Daily Star of Lebanon reported on March 19, 2013 that al-Assad ”ordered the release of the Islamist prisoners some two years ago”, dovetailing with the Washington Post report of March 27, 2011 that 246 Islamist prisoners had been released from the Sednaya military prison in Damascus.

Baathism as a socialist movement

In Syria Bashar al-Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf controls 60 percent of the nation’s wealth. 30 percent of the population lives under $1 per day, and 60 percent under two dollars. The IMF has supported every single one of al-Assad’s economic policies and Saudi Arabia is Syria’s primary investor. Under Bashar al-Assad, the economy has evolved away from agriculture into banking and insurance.

You can also consult my own article on “The Economic Contradictions of Syrian Baathism” (https://louisproyect.org/2012/07/19/the-economic-contradictions-of-syrian-baathism/) for more information.

Baathism as an anti-imperialist movement

Besides reminding us of Baathist support for Lebanese fascists against the Palestinians, “Syrian Freedom Forever” made a point that I had been completely unaware of. Hafez al-Assad supported George Bush the senior’s first gulf war on Saddam Hussein. Bashar al-Assad also had summit meetings with Sarkozy in 2008, with his adviser arch-imperialist Bernard Kouchner in tow. El-Marad, a Lebanese newspaper, reported at the time:

Both leaders held a joint press conference in Damascus following their first session of talks.

President Assad said that his earlier visit to France and President Sarkozy’s visit to Syria had both strengthened relations between their countries. Noting that France currently holds the presidency of the European Union, Assad said he supported Sarkozy’s efforts to play a more active role in the Arab world, and said he was happy with “a new dynamic” form of European involvement in the region “after many years of absence.”

Meanwhile let’s not forget how Hillary Clinton viewed Bashar al-Assad until facts on the ground made such a statement untenable:

“There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

–Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on “Face the Nation,” March 27, 2011

* * * * *

For people unfamiliar with Anand Gopal’s reporting, the best thing I can do is refer you to his August 2012 Harper’s article titled “Welcome to Free Syria” that convinced me early on that there was a revolution occurring there that the left should get behind, especially this passage (fortunately the article can be read in its entirety online at http://harpers.org/archive/2012/08/welcome-to-free-syria/):

All around Taftanaz, amid the destruction, rebel councils like this were meeting—twenty-seven in all, and each of them had elected a delegate to sit on the citywide council. They were a sign of a deeper transformation that the revolution had wrought in Syria: Bashar al-Assad once subdued small towns like these with an impressive apparatus of secret police, party hacks, and yes-men; now such control was impossible without an occupation. The Syrian army, however, lacked the numbers to control the hinterlands—it entered, fought, and moved on to the next target. There could be no return to the status quo, it seemed, even if the way forward was unclear.

In the neighboring town of Binnish, I visited the farmers’ council, a body of about a thousand members that set grain prices and adjudicated land disputes. Its leader, an old man I’ll call Abdul Hakim, explained to me that before the revolution, farmers were forced to sell grain to the government at a price that barely covered the cost of production. Following the uprising, the farmers tried to sell directly to the town at almost double the former rates. But locals balked and complained to the citywide council, which then mandated a return to the old prices—which has the farmers disgruntled, but Hakim acknowledged that in this revolution, “we have to give to each as he needs.”

It was a phrase I heard many times, even from landowners and merchants who might otherwise bristle at the revolution’s egalitarian rhetoric—they cannot ignore that many on the front lines come from society’s bottom rungs. At one point in March, the citywide council enforced price controls on rice and heating oil, undoing, locally, the most unpopular economic reforms of the previous decade.

“We have to take from the rich in our village and give to the poor,” Matar told me. He had joined the Taftanaz student committee, the council that plans protests and distributes propaganda, and before April 3 he had helped produce the town’s newspaper, Revolutionary Words. Each week, council members laid out the text and photos on old laptops, sneaked the files into Turkey for printing, and smuggled the finished bundles back into Syria. The newspaper featured everything from frontline reporting to disquisitions on revolutionary morality to histories of the French Revolution. (“This is not an intellectual’s revolution,” Matar said. “This is a popular revolution. We need to give people ideas, theory.”)

The one thing struck me in Anand’s presentation was how the situation had become so militarized in Syria so suddenly. He gave the best analysis I have heard.

To start with, this revolution was rooted in the countryside where the regime’s abandonment of support for the peasantry created mass hatred for the system. But unlike the cities, where an organized working class could mount mass protests even up to and including a general strike in order to put pressure on the regime, the relatively atomized peasantry had to resort to arms almost immediately since this was the only tenable defense.

Very rapidly, those who had access to guns and the money necessary to defend the masses were propelled into the leadership. This meant for the FSA that the owner of a cement factory became a top commander. In a very real sense, Syria was experiencing a kind of bourgeois-democratic revolution. His access to funds was critical. It also explains the rise of the Islamist militias. With money pouring in from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it gave the jihadists clout.

Even though the Islamists have become a major factor in the Syrian struggle, Anand pointed to the more secular and more democratic-minded mass movement’s willingness to take them on. He referred to the conflicts taking place in Raqqa, the first provincial capital under rebel rule. Even though the Islamists are trying to impose Sharia law, and codes that make women second-class citizens, the secular and democratic minded residents are not intimidated. This passage from a recent New Yorker article (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/04/the-black-flag-of-raqqa.html) shows the give-and-take of the unfolding drama:

Two men in their twenties, called Abu Noor and Abu Abdullah, answered, then called me to the door to greet the man from Jabhat. They were both civilians, but supported the uprising. We stood in the stairwell of the apartment building chatting for a few minutes, and then Abu Abdullah went inside and came back with a flyer bearing Jabhat’s name. It called for replacing the tri-starred flag used by Assad’s opponents since the uprising’s earliest days with a black one bearing the words of the Muslim shahada (“There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger”).

“What is this?” Abu Abdullah asked the young Jabhat member. “We were just talking about it, we don’t like it.”

The Jabhat member, who was unarmed, smiled through his face covering. “And what don’t you like about it?” he said. “We are all Muslims, so what is the problem with a flag that bears the shahada?”

“We are not all Muslims,” Abu Noor said. “You and I are but there are Christians here, too. You have insulted them. And besides, what gives you the right to change the symbol of the revolution?”

“We protected the churches,” the Jabhat member said, referring to the city’s two churches, which were left unscathed in the Islamist rebel takeover of the capital. “Let’s not talk out here,” he added. “The neighbors will hear us. Do you have coffee?”

The men walked into the formal living room of the modest five-room apartment. Two older gray-haired men, Abu Moayad and Abu Mohammad, rose from sky-blue couches to greet their guest.

For the next few hours, the men engaged in a combative and highly charged discussion. It was about the black banner, but more than that about the direction the Syrian uprising has taken. The men of the house feared that it had been hijacked by Islamists, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, who saw the fall of the regime as the first step in transforming Syria’s once-cosmopolitan society into a conservative Islamic state. All four men said they wanted an Islamic state, but a moderate one.

A few days earlier, a massive black flag bearing the shahada had been hoisted atop a flagpole in Raqqa city’s main square, in front of the elegant, multi-arched governorate building. “We will become a target for American drone attacks because of the flag—it’s huge,” said Abu Noor, a wiry young man who worked in a pharmacy by day and at night volunteered to guard the post office near his home against looters. “They’ll think we’re extremist Muslims!” (There haven’t been such strikes in Syria yet, though the possibility is much discussed here.)

“There is no moderate Islam or extremist Islam,” the Jabhat member said calmly. “There is only Islam, and Islam is under attack in the West regardless of whether or not we hoist the banner. Do you think they’re waiting for that banner to hit us?” he said.

Abu Mohammad, an older man in a tan leather jacket and a white galabia (a loose, floor-length robe), interjected: “What we’re saying is, put the flag above your outposts, not in the main square of the city. We all pray, we all say, ‘There is no god but God,’ but I will not raise this flag.”

“This is an insult to people who died for the revolutionary flag,” said Abu Abdullah, a former English major at the university.

“We are not forcing anything on anyone,” the Jabhat member said. “We offered it as a choice. We did not take down the revolutionary flags in the city—even though we could have.”

30 Comments »

  1. One only needs to look at events in Turkey, where the revolutionary struggle directly confronts reactionary “moderate Islam” backed by imperialist NATO, rather than reactionary Baathism backed by imperialist Russia, where “moderate Islam” is the main instrument for US-Saudi intervention, to identify the parallels with Syria.

    Comment by Matt — June 11, 2013 @ 4:28 am

  2. The Stalinised left sects now in alliance with the remnants of Stalinism proper are incapable of supporting an actual revolution. Using shitty Stalinist notions adapted by Gramsci of hegemony and designed as a theoretical bulwark against the theory of permanent revolution all they see is the West versus the Rest. Imperialist countries (West) against anti-imperialist countries. And the height of their political ambition? Global socialist revolution? Not on your life. A return to great power multi-polarity where instead of the dominance of one hegemonic unified Western imperialism we have five or six great world powers carving up the world between themselves and balancing power in the name of world peace. This is more of a fascist vision than anything to do with socialism amd om amu case balancing power between several poles is thankfully an imossible task otherwise we would be doomed to an imperialist sponsored permanent form of misery and slavery.

    Long Live the Arab Spring. Long Live the Syrian National Democratic Revolution. Down with Zionism, down with Imperialism.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 11, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

  3. Well no sooner had I written my comment than I spot this new story on the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/jun/11/bnp-nick-griffin-syria-assad

    Comment by David Ellis — June 11, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  4. Yes I presume Nick will briefing the “comrades” at Socialist Unity about the progress of their mutual hero Assad.

    Comment by Harry Monro — June 11, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  5. Well I admire your revolutionary zeal but stop it with this ‘expert’ analysis from people outside Syria already!

    I want the facts and analysis from the ground, I want the view from the people on the receiving end. A Marxist analysis from a far, hastily prepared to keep up with events, is next to worthless.

    And what I won’t sign up to is the puppets the West have in mind, ready to step into the sectarian nightmare armed with greater tyranny than even Assad.

    Comment by SteveO — June 11, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

  6. my friends never aljazeera and fox news will make democracy or freedom,what we have in Syria is a real corrupt government,and the need for more freedoms is a real demand,but destroying Syria and killing innocent people and accusing Assad regime of doing this is not a smart thing nowadays ,because nobody can cover sun and we all sure that Islamist terrorists and extremist are destroying Syria infrastructure,killing innocent people and using them as shields,rapping,robbing,kidnapping and doing as criminal gangs,no government will allow criminal Ganges and they are to protect people from those Ganges using the power that demanded,Islamic terrorist are never human they are less than animals,how can they explode themselves to kill others i do not understand and you can never understand how much you tried.
    never Syrian people will allow those terrorist to lead or govern them

    Comment by Sam Mike — June 11, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

  7. 4. StWC should explain how they turned a 3 million strong legitimate anti-war movement into 200 nutters outside the US embassy demanding Assad be allowed to kill as many of his own people as he likes and how those 200 find themselves in agreement with Fascists like Griffin and indeed with the West’s arms embargo of 800 days duration.

    As for `Socialist’ Unity they are unconditional supporters of the venal Chinese Stalinst bureaucracy so a couple of hundred thousand deaths in Syria barely registers for them.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 12, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  8. Sam Mike,

    we had the same thing with Libya, Islamists wanting to overthrow Gaddafi, but Gaddafi was torturing Islamists and putting electrodes on their testicles, at the behest of the ‘civilised’ West it must be mentioned. I cannot blame the Islamists for wanting him dead.
    We cannot juts look at Islamists blowing people up but ignore the crimes of the imperialists. If we ask how can Islamists kill innocent people then we must ask how can the West do the same and a much grander scale.

    The problem with Syria I think is that some on the left are not critically looking at the ‘rebels’, all they see are ‘revolutionaries’. It is some form of ‘revolutionary’ fetishism I suspect. And I think it is lazy to label those who try to do this as Assad apologists.

    Comment by SteveO — June 12, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

  9. […] published at Unrepentant Marxist. Edits by The North […]

    Pingback by The Syrian Revolution @Left Forum — June 12, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

  10. There’s probably little that can be done to help anyone nuts enough to believe that the ruling regime in Syria is defending secularism or socialism(!). But then again the same could be said about anyone who thinks US imperialism can be a force for good in 2013.

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 13, 2013 @ 1:22 am

  11. ” A Marxist analysis from a far, hastily prepared to keep up with events, is next to worthless.”

    * Throws copies of Marx’s “Civil War in France” and “Writings on the American Civil War” out of the window *

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 13, 2013 @ 2:12 am

  12. “Well no sooner had I written my comment than I spot this new story on the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/jun/11/bnp-nick-griffin-syria-assad

    While I actually agree with the most part of your analysis in the first post, this “birds of a feather” stuff can be dangerous. Right wing extremists, Neo-Nazis and Ron Paulites in the US opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That doesn’t mean it was “fascist” or wrong to oppose those wars. It was totally correct.

    And anyway, if you follow that logic all the way through, the author of this blog would have to be in league with people like US Senator John McCain who want to aid the opposition in Syria.

    Marxists would be wise to go back and review the writings of Rosa Luxemburg who pointed out long ago that imperialism is not just a feature of the great powers, but of all bourgeois states (even incipient). The last hundred years has starkly confirmed her position. Workers have nothing to gain from bourgeois imperialism, nationalism, or “national liberation” … only life, limb and home to lose.

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 13, 2013 @ 2:19 am

  13. Price: McCain’s `support’ is opportunist and pragmatic. It is also provocative. He has in mind not supporting the Syrian Revolution but asserting US power against Russia and China as he thinks probably correctly that US imperialism is looking weak and looking weak is dangerous for it. The people who count however have conceded Syrian to the Russian sphere of influence in exchange for freedom of action in their own sphere. The people who support Assad however do so from a definite world view which has carved the world up into imperialist (West) and anti-imperialist (rest). They actively seek the emergence of multi-polarity in the world i.e. the carving up of the world between five or six major powers abovee the heads of the 7 billion as a means to peace even if it means murderous war. For these ex-stalinists even lip service to socialism is long gone. They actually demonstrated outside the US embassy in support of Gadaffi’s right to bomb Benghazi unmolested and are doing the same for Assad. That’s how 3 million became 200. Imperialism is and always will be as long as it survies the main enemy, the most counter-revolutionary force on the planet but supporting semi-colonial tyrannies against people’s revolutions is not the way to fight it especially when the only intervention that the West has actually made in Syria is the imnposition of an arms embargo on the rebels from day one.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 13, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  14. “Throws copies of Marx’s “Civil War in France” and “Writings on the American Civil War” out of the window”

    The latter is by no stretch the definitive take on the subject, the former is probably the best thing written on it. But Marx had men on the inside (some blamed Marx for the whole thing!), his analysis was years in the making, i.e. the historical events leading up to the commune and it wasn’t written in haste. The analysis of Syria seem woefully lacking to my mind, I mean what the fuck would Ellis know about the reality of Syria, and you proclaim he is probably right! You even call his ignorant spouting off, ‘analysis’. What a joke!

    Comment by SteveO — June 13, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

  15. I’m sorry to have to disillusion you but the Syrian Counter Revolution is a Destabilisation and began with a carefully prepared Color Revolution organised from outside the country.

    From what has been leaked it is clear a fortune has been spent on training and organising what is the latest in a long series of Color Revolutions across the planet. from 1988 and the method of choice for the American ruling class to take over a country.

    Also a vast amount of training by the Washington-based Color Revolution training organisations with “activists” brought at vast expense to conferences and training sessions.

    The standard insignia, logos and slogans of these Color Revolutions like a commericial franchise were used.

    Syria as a country had been on the target list for many years.

    Meanwhile the warnngs from those studying this phenomenon have gone out.

    What you get is;-

    A pro-American government.

    American domination of the region.

    There is a ECONOMIC element, since the economy is being targeted for take over of the most lucrative areas to keep up the profit levels of Wall St. hedge funds and investment banks in a time of economic collapse at home.

    the Social security system and trade union rights are hammered to reduce labour costs and make it more attacive for said financial institutions.

    So the much abused speakers at the recent conference were right.

    You need the

    Landdestroyer

    Color Revolutions and Geopolitics

    Comment by dick100 — June 13, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

  16. I’m sorry to have to disillusion you but the Syrian Counter Revolution is a Destabilisation and began with a carefully prepared Color Revolution organised from outside the country.

    When I read this drivel, I am reminded of Global Research’s characterization of the revolt against Mubarak as a color revolution as well. It is a reflection of the sub-moronic mindset of the conspiracist left.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-engineered-arab-spring-the-ngo-raids-in-egypt/28433

    Comment by louisproyect — June 13, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

  17. I’m afraid the evidence shows it was and all the above apply. As part of a Geo-Political scheme to take control of the Middle East there were four phased Color Revolutions on which a sum of half a billion dollars was spent and it said really serious money was involved.

    But why overthrow their asset was asked – “Mubarak became too independent and tried to forge a foreign policy of his own was the reply”.

    Comment by dick100 — June 13, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

  18. Looks like Louis, Ellis, Labour, McCain, et al got their wish. Headline now running on multiple news outlets: “U.S. to give Syria rebels military aid after chemical attacks.” They must have been won over by the proletarian internationalist line.

    They have some competition though: “The Financial Times reported that Qatar had funded the Syrian rebellion by ‘as much as $3 billion’ over the first two years, but in May 2013 reported that Saudi Arabia was becoming the main provider of arms to the rebels.”

    And more fun to come: “On 22 April 2013 the European Union lifted its embargo on Syrian oil to import barrels directly from rebel groups. Several of the oil fields are believed to be under control of Jabhat al-Nusra. Some analysts say the decision might also set up a deadly competition between rebel groups over the resource.”

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 14, 2013 @ 1:45 am

  19. Another member of the Axis of Evil (Iran, Iraq*, North Korea, Cuba, Libya*, Syria*) down? 3 out of 6 ain’t bad. Any bets on whose next?

    dick100 lives up to his name: a 100% dick. What happened in Egypt and Bahrain is much different than what happened in Libya and now Syria. What nonsense.

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 14, 2013 @ 1:50 am

  20. “U.S. to give Syria rebels military aid after chemical attacks.”

    I always scratch my head when I read this sort of thing from the pro-Baathist left. They say that the USA has been arming the FSA from as far back as May 2011 and then trumpet news like this. It is hard to take seriously but then again that’s what to expect from half-witted trolls.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 14, 2013 @ 2:13 am

  21. Sorry, you can’t pigeon hole me like that. I support neither the Assad regime or the official opposition. Like all other bourgeois wars, the working class has no side to take in this bloodbath.

    But it’s not that tough too understand. Wikipedia can help you out:

    “Since 2012, the United States, United Kingdom and France have provided opposition forces with military aid, including weapons, communications equipment, body armor, medical supplies and non-combat armored vehicles.”

    Sources:

    ^ “Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels”. Reuters. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
    ^ “Syria conflict: UK to give extra £5m to opposition groups”. BBC. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
    ^ “France Gives ‘Non-lethal’ Military Aid to Syria Opposition”.
    ^ “UK to send armoured vehicles to Syrian opposition”. BBC. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
    ^ “UK To Supply Military Aid To Syria Opposition”. Sky News. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.

    Today just happens to be the first time the White House Announced it will actively aid the opposition. From the “U.S. to give Syria rebels military aid after chemical attacks” article coming over the wire:

    In a sharp escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s bloody civil war, the White House announced late Thursday that it will provide military aid to rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad after confirming that his government used chemical weapons against the opposition.

    Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call that President Barack Obama had heard pleas from Syria’s rebel Supreme Military Council (SMC) for more help. “Our aim is to be responsive,” Rhodes said, underlining that the new assistance would have “direct military purposes.”

    Rhodes brushed aside repeated questions about whether this meant Washington would now start providing weapons to the rebels, insisting he could not give an “inventory” of the aid. But while he never explicitly confirmed that Obama had decided to to arm the opposition, he left little doubt about Washington’s new course of action.

    “The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition. That will involve providing direct support to the SMC. That includes military support. I cannot detail for you all of the types of that support for a variety of reasons,” Rhodes said. The assistance is “aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC on the ground.”

    Notice it says “more support” not “support for the first time.”

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 14, 2013 @ 3:06 am

  22. The one thing the FSA needed to resist the fucking filthy murdering Baathist regimes was ground-to-air missiles. And here was the US role in the procurement of such weapons.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/28/syria-middleeast
    Arms and the Manpads: Syrian rebels get anti-aircraft missiles

    Julian Borger
    guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 28 November 2012 13.58 EST

    Just as the clamour for supplying the Syrian opposition with sophisticated new weapons looked to be reaching a tipping point in the Gulf and the west, the rebels have clearly got hold of some arms of their own.

    A video of a government gunship being brought down by a missile outside Aleppo, a first for the rebels, emerged at the same time as European diplomats agreed to change the terms of the EU arms embargo on Syria. From Saturday, it will be rolled over for only three months, signalling to President Bashar al-Assad that weapons deliveries to the rebels could start at short notice if the aerial bombardment of rebel-held areas continues.

    “This sends a strong message to the regime that all options remain on the table and makes clear the need for real change. The regime’s indiscriminate use of violence against their people will not be ignored,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

    The warning came as the rebels’ principal backers, in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been chafing ever more loudly against the US veto on supplies of sophisticated, potentially decisive weapons such as shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles (widely known as Manpads – an acronym for man-portable air-defence systems) to the rebels.

    The US veto was motivated principally by the fear of such a weapon falling into the hands of a jihadist group that would then use it to bring down a civilian airliner, as al-Qaida tried to do with an Israeli plane in Mombasa in December 2002. Some in the Gulf states have argued that there are precautions that could be taken against such proliferation. But until now, they have stuck by the ban.

    “We did this as a favour to Obama,” a Gulf source said. “But now Obama has been re-elected, there is a question of whether we should still be bound by such an undertaking.” Shoulder-launched missiles could be bought in Pakistan or in Africa, the source added.

    So far, there is no evidence that any of the ground-to-air missiles used to date have come from outside Syria, according to Peter Bouckaert. Emergencies director for Human Rights Watch.

    “Everything we have seen so far has been captured from Syrian army bases. We have kept a close watch on what has been coming out of Libya but we have seen no surface-to-air missiles from there used in Syria,” Bouckaert said.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 14, 2013 @ 3:53 am

  23. “They say that the USA has been arming the FSA from as far back as May 2011”

    I would say the US has been funding this from further back than that.

    “and then trumpet news like this”

    Well there is a difference between providing weapons and invoking a no fly zone! The US expected that Assad would be gone by now, I suspect they underestimated how the Syrian people would defend their nation against the hordes from outside and how they would defer their hatred of Assad. The US have decided to adopt plan B and said a big “Fuck Ya” to the Syrian people. As is their want.

    I expect sectarian killing and car bombs will become a permanent feature of the brave new Syria, just like the brave new Iraq. You have to raise a glass to the wonders of Western imperialism.

    “according to Peter Bouckaert. Emergencies director for Human Rights Watch”

    And therein lies the problem.

    Comment by SteveO — June 14, 2013 @ 7:57 am

  24. This opposition to the Arab Spring shows just how much of a grip Stalinist cynicism still has on the world labour movement despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed quite some time ago. Like guns for hire they’ve moved their support to the likes of Putin, Assad, Gadaffi and other grotesques and adjusted their world vision from defending `really existing socialism’ to a multi-polar world in which power is balanced over the heads of the world population by five or six great powers including Russian imperialism and the scab state China. How on earth does this represent any kind of opposition to imperialism whatsoever?

    They say they are opposed to Western intervention in Syria on the side of the rebels. The reality is however that the only Western intervention so far has been to impose and arms embargo on the democratic, popular masses whilst the murdering Assad has been freely re-supplied by Russia and Saudi Arabia has been allowed to arm the Islamists militias and greatly strengthen them against the democratic revolution.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 14, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  25. NY Times June 13, 2013
    U.S. Is Said to Plan to Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels
    By MARK MAZZETTI, MICHAEL R. GORDON and MARK LANDLER

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, concluding that the troops of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have used chemical weapons against rebel forces in his country’s civil war, has decided to begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition, according to American officials.

    The officials held out the possibility that the assistance, coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency, could include antitank weapons, but they said that for now supplying the antiaircraft weapons that rebel commanders have said they sorely need is not under consideration.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 14, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

  26. The chemical weapons issue is just a pretext for winning hearts and minds, they want to win support for this war, as they have for others. Every war is marketed as humanitarian liberation. It is prety desperate stuff.

    This has been a long time in the making, well before the Arab spring. Remember the fake Bush/Blair conversation at the UN, where they pretended their microphones were off and they talked about how Syria were aiding Hezbollah. They did this in full knowledge that the world was listening! They have grasped the opportunity get rid of a thorn in their side. How some of the left can ignore all this I struggle to comprehend.

    This is a not a battle between the toiling masses and a brutal dictator, it is a bloody carnage.

    Comment by Socialism in One Bedroom — June 14, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  27. Of course Syria (like Libya & Iraq) has been in Washington’s cross hairs for ages. Public knowledge. If it wasn’t the “Axis of Evil” announcement certainly made it. That’s one reason US intervention should be opposed (the other being of course principle of opposing ones own ruling class, especially when they intervene in other countries). US imperialism will intervene where it likes, and for its own purposes. The same way anti-war demos with 250,000 participants did nothing to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention Vietnam), a few leftists did nothing to send military aid to Syria (or Australian troops into Timor Leste earlier).

    Louis is free to hold his own position, especially on his own blog! But he increasingly appears to be grasping at straws…

    First Washington didn’t want to arm the opposition. Then they were arming them, but only a little, and secretly. Then they were arming them, but it wasn’t the right kind of weapons.

    His latest complaint from yesterday (“The officials held out the possibility that the assistance, coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency, could include antitank weapons, but they said that for now supplying the antiaircraft weapons that rebel commanders have said they sorely need is not under consideration”) Is shot down (to turn a phrase) by today’s news:

    “The United States is considering a no-fly zone in Syria as it weighs options for intervention into the 2-year-old civil war.” (Reuters)

    Now what?

    “This is a not a battle between the toiling masses and a brutal dictator, it is a bloody carnage.”

    That’s the one indisputable fact here. When you see footage of Syria the streets are empty. The toilers know better than anyone their own real option is to hide or get the hell out. This is fighting but a roughly organized force and a heavily armed state, mostly from a distance. Not mass occupations, strikes, pitched street battles, etc. I

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 15, 2013 @ 1:52 am

  28. Of course Syria (like Libya & Iraq) has been in Washington’s cross hairs for ages. Public knowledge.

    You say crap like this without backing it up. What you call “public knowledge” is the public of the crypto-Stalinist left, the wsws.org, Global Research, Counterfire, etc. I am really not going to waste any more time debating an idiot who refuses to back up his arguments with data but for those interested in how imperialism viewed Qaddafi, up until the uprising began in Libya, check this:

    https://louisproyect.org/2011/06/01/what-5-years-of-lexis-nexis-reveals-about-libya-and-the-west/

    Comment by louisproyect — June 15, 2013 @ 1:57 am

  29. Come on comrade. Some things don’t really a source do they? It’s already widely know. It’s like asking me to source the claim that the BNP doesn’t like immigrants.

    From Wiki:

    “Axis of evil is a term initially used by the former United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, and often repeated throughout his presidency, describing governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. ….

    “On May 6, 2002, then-Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton gave a speech entitled ‘Beyond the Axis of Evil’. In it he added three more nations to be grouped with the already mentioned rogue states: Cuba, Libya, and Syria. The criteria for inclusion in this grouping were: “state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations”. The speech was widely reported as an expansion of the original axis of evil. ….

    “A decade before the 2002 State of the Union address, in August 1992, the political scientist Yossef Bodansky wrote a paper entitled ‘Tehran, Baghdad & Damascus: The New Axis Pact’ while serving as the Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives. Although he did not explicitly apply the epithet evil to his New Axis, Bodansky’s axis was otherwise very reminiscent of Frum’s axis. Bodansky felt that this new Axis was a very dangerous development. The gist of Bodansky’s argument was that Iran, Iraq and Syria had formed a ‘tripartite alliance’ in the wake of the First Gulf War, and that this alliance posed an imminent threat that could only be dealt with by invading Iraq a second time and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.”

    Comment by Price Pluranium — June 15, 2013 @ 2:04 am

  30. […] No recordings were allowed but I blogged about this stellar session here: https://louisproyect.org/2013/06/10/prospects-for-the-syrian-revolution/ […]

    Pingback by Left Forum 2013 | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — June 19, 2013 @ 8:58 pm


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