Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 15, 2020

Syria: From National Independence to Proxy War

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:35 pm


Ever since the civil war began in Syria in early 2011, the left has largely ignored the social and economic circumstances that led to a conflict costing over a half-million deaths and the migration—internal and external—of half the population. The tendency was to see Syria as a piece on a global chessboard with “the axis of resistance” fending off attacks from the West. There was lip-service to the idea that Syrians had legitimate grievances against the government early on, but by the end of 2011, the “anti-imperialist” consensus was that the rebels were jihadists interested more in fighting unbelievers than inequality.

To my knowledge, the first attempt at an analysis of the internal class contradictions appeared in 2015. Long-time Syria scholar Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zintl edited a collection titled “Syria from Reform to Revolt: Volume 1: Political Economy and International Relations”. (A second volume never appeared.) I found this book invaluable in writing an article titled “The Economic Roots of the Syrian Revolution”. My goal was to demonstrate that a rural agrarian crisis provided the fuel for an uprising. An article by Myrian Ababsa provided statistics that revealed the depths of misery that led to the revolt. In 2009, 42 percent of Raqqa governorate suffered from anemia owing to a shortage of dairy products, vegetables, and fruit. Malnutrition among pregnant women and children under five doubled between 2007 and 2009. That was the cause of the conflict, not Saudi desire to impose shariah law on the country.

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  1. Search through this site, it’s full of good information https://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/

    Comment by Pier — May 15, 2020 @ 10:23 pm

  2. The analsis, whether or not it’s accurate, diverts attention from the fact that Syria has been on the list for regime change for some years. The war would never have happended if the CIA had not been funneling support to incipient insurgents–not poor people but commercial interests. The insugents fully expected that the US would come to their aid with military support as it had recently done in other countries on the regime change list, e.g. the recent overthrow and assassination of Libya’s Gaddafi. Libya, incidentally, cannot be seen as having a revolt from poverty as is now wrongly being made out to be the case in Syria; Libya had the highest standard of living in Africa.
    The Syrian war drew fighters–Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to see Assad’s secular govt. replaced by Islamic Sharia, who now make up the rag-tag remnant of the rebels. The diehards regimine changers, including Israel supporters, still hope that some new PR move in the US might yet bring them US military aid.

    Comment by Jerry — May 16, 2020 @ 6:53 pm

  3. Another fucking idiot troll who knows nothing about Syria: “The war would never have happended if the CIA had not been funneling support to incipient insurgents–not poor people but commercial interests.”

    First of all, dude, the word is spelled happened. You need to finish high school to avoid such embarrassments.

    Second of all, the CIA intervened to prevent the rebels from getting their hands on the one weapon that could have led to Assad’s defeat over 7 years ago:

    Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2012:

    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.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 16, 2020 @ 7:33 pm

  4. Or perhaps you misconstrued geopolitical analysis of imperialism as support for Assad and set up a false dichotomy between class analysis and geopolitical analysis. There is no “cognitive dissonance” between a geopolitical analysis of the imperialist assault on Syria and a class analysis of Assad’s capitulation to comprador-merchants. All societies subject to imperialist assault have internal class dynamics; the latter does not somehow negate the former.

    Here is an article that plausibly asserts that the Syrian revolution arose from the longstanding conflict between the Syrian state and Islamicists of various stripes: https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/the-salafist-roots-of-the-syrian-uprising/

    No doubt the impoverished rural Syrian masses contribute fodder to the Islamicist militias but that fact by itself does not determine the political character of the revolution, which to all appearances is overwhelmingly reactionary.

    Comment by marco — May 17, 2020 @ 8:08 pm

  5. Why am I not surprised to see that the Libertarian Institute website article views the Syrian revolution as Salafist. Among the other writers there is one Scott Horton, who invited someone to speak on his radio show about how the rebels gassed their own supporters in a “false flag” incident in Douma. For the most part, the rightwing has been solidly behind Assad since 2011, with David Duke, Lyndon Larouche writers, Richard Spencer, Tucker Carlson all banging on about jihadis. For all I know, you are some kind of neo-Nazi pig yourself.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 17, 2020 @ 9:54 pm

  6. The books you reference can be downloaded for free,at zlibrary.I have downloaded them,but yet to read them.There is a volume 2 of Syria From Reform To Revolt.

    Comment by Roger Kulp — May 19, 2020 @ 1:16 pm

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