How “A Plague on Both Your Houses” Aids Counter-Revolution in Syria

by Pham Binh on January 20, 2013

Unequivocal support for the Syrian edition of the Arab Spring on the Western left is hard to come by. There’s the outright defenders of the Assad’s blood-drenched dictatorship like the Party for Socialism and Liquidation, journalists like Patrick Cockburn who report nonsense as fact about YouTube videos from Damascus’ Green Zone, and then there are those who should know better like the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) whose take on Syria is “a plague on both your houses.”

Arne Johansson of CWI’s report, “Turning Point in Syria’s Civil War?” is a crude version of Marxism where facts are used, abused, distorted, and forced to fit “the party line.” Such a method leads not only leads to bogus political conclusions but also constitutes yellow journalism.

No matter what your favorite ideological flavor is, that is not acceptable for seriously examining or understanding anything.

Johansson’s piece begins by discussing the U.S. State Department’s designation of Jabhat al-Nusrah as a terrorist group and the notes that this move provoked fury among the Syrian opposition, both among the political exiles abroad who are part of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionaries and Opposition Forces and among opposition groups on the ground who protested the decision. Johansson writes:

“The fact that more than 100 opposition groups inside Syria simultaneously demonstrated against the U.S. terrorism designation behind the slogan ‘we are all al-Nusra’ also sends shivers down the spines of all Syrian ethnic or religious minorities.”

Here, we have the first instance of Johansson playing fast and loose with the facts to simplify the contradictions of a complex situation so that they neatly conform to his political conclusions. The unabridged slogan of those demonstrations was, “No to American intervention — we are all Jabhet al-Nusra.”

Why is this relevant?

Because Johansson dismisses the revolutionaries in Syria fighting for their lives and the lives of their families on the grounds that they “subordinate themselves to Western imperialism and the reactionary Arab states that sponsor Syria’s rebels.”

How a grassroots protest under the slogan, “No to American intervention — we are all Jabhet al-Nusra” adds up to subordination to American imperialism after the American government just declared this group a terrorist organization is anyone’s guess. It smacks more of angry defiance than subservience, but hey, why let facts get in the way of a “good” argument?

The next piece of evidence Johansson cites to substantiate his political case is a YouTube video of a boy cutting off a regime soldier’s head at the behest of the dreaded Islamist rebels, the same video cited by Cockburn in his anti-revolution hit piece on Counterpunch. The fact that the footage in question emerged months prior on a pro-regime YouTube channel and television station? Never mind that. That “[t]he heavily-edited video of the beheading is interspersed with scenes from a Turkish soap opera, apparently an attempt to link ‘crimes’ of the Syrian insurgents with the evil behaviour of fictional Turkish characters.” Never mind that either.

Never mind all this business about facts, evidence, and careful investigation, we have a line about the Syrian revolution to push, the more imbued with truthiness, the better.

Johansson’s article then meanders off into what can only be described as fantasyland speculation about U.S./NATO military intervention into Syria. Every time imperialist troops are deployed somewhere in the world part of the left cries “war!” regardless of whether those troops are handing out lunches to Tsunami victims or guarding an embassy from attack.

Clay Claiborne has documented in painful detail how every pretext the West used for past military interventions is present in Syria. Here’s the Cliff notes version:

  • Human rights abuses? Check.
  • Brutal regime? Check.
  • Humanitarian crisis? Check.
  • Possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? Check.
  • Out of control civil war? Check.
  • Regional instability? Check.
  • Use of chemical weapons? Check.

If Western imperialists were going to step in using these excuses, they would have done so by now. It’s only been two years.

Johansson assures us, “Western powers want a regime change as fast as possible in Syria.” Really? Is that why the flow of foreign weapons to the rebels is drying up? Is that why the Central Intelligence Agency has continuously blocked heavy weapons from getting into the hands of people armed with rifles and slingshots against a regime that uses jets to attack Aleppo University, drops cluster bombs on civilian targets, and shells people as they buy their daily bread?

If Western governments wanted to burn Assad’s house down fast and furious, they’d be giving the Free Syrian Army (FSA) gasoline and matches, not preventing everything but water balloons from reaching them.

The final piece of evidence Johansson uses to prove that “class-conscious workers and socialists cannot support any side of this reactionary war” is a report from a young Syrian Christian about a massacre of religious minorities carried out by the FSA in Ras al-Ain. Johansson quotes the lurid details of this report:

“Kurds, Arabs and Christians, more than 70,000 people fled, mostly to Hassake. Within a few hours, the city became a ghost town. Alawites were hit the worst; they were killed just because they were Alawites. One of the victims was a schoolteacher who loved the city so much, and for many years taught all the families’ children. Some militiamen found, captured, and killed him in front of his wife and children, who were kidnapped.”

This report is as truthy as it gets when it comes to Syria. That fighters from the FSA did these terrible things is entirely plausible because, let’s face it, sometimes they do terrible things.

Here’s the problem: the best lies always contain a grain of truth. Based on the source document posted on the Agenzia Fides Web site that Johansson quoted, this is probably one of those lies.

The text is a series of quotes received by Agenzia Fides from what is allegedly a young Syrian Christian. In addition to the text Johansson quoted, he/she wrote the following:

“In the middle of the night, at two on 8 November, residents of Ras al-Ain were awakened by the sound of explosions, of helicopters and machine guns. They were the fighters of the Free Army and Turkish helicopters reached Syrian territory and easily conquered the border crossing and the city. The military began to seize civilian homes to use them as fighting positions. My grandfather’s home was among those that were seized, where there were women, children and paralyzed grandmother. All Civilians were Expelled from their homes in pajamas, without being able to take documents, money or anything else. Military and combatants went further: with a ‘black list’, they went from one house to another looking for their enemies. Among these were the names of the heads of Christian families. Why?”

There are two reasons why this report is not plausible: Turkish helicopters and the “black list”. Do a Google search of “Turkish helicopters” and “Ras al-Ain” and the only results you get are this report. Another Google search of the town’s name, “Ras al-Ain,” with a date range of November 7, 2012 through November 14, 2012 shows that the town was attacked by helicopters — the helicopters belonged to the Assad regime. There’s even video of it. Furthermore, there is no way Turkey could fly its helicopters into Syrian territory without the Assad regime bleating about “foreign invasion” at a press conference or at the United Nations. A Google search of “Turkish helicopters” and “SANA” (the Assad regime’s “news” agency) during that same date range turned up zero results.

FSA fighter sports his faith

Now, anyone who knows anything about the FSA knows it’s not a terribly well-organized group. It’s mostly defected soldiers from Assad’s army and armed civilians. The likelihood of them having a list of Christian heads of household in an area they were just taking over is pretty close to nil. Add that to that the fact that there appear to be zero accounts of this battle that corroborate the “black list” claim in the Agenzia Fides story.

So what are we left with? An anonymous person, possibly an agent of the Assad regime, sends an inflammatory letter to Agenzia Fides about the evil, sectarian FSA and CWI’s news outlet picks it up and runs it, lies and all.

This follows the template established by the Houla massacre. When a German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, reported that dozens of mostly Shia civilians had been massacred by Syrian rebels, it spread far and wide on the left thanks to “anti-imperialist” outfits like the World Socialist Web Site. Unfortunately for them, blogger Darth Nader noticed that most of the names of the victims were, in fact, Sunni, not Shia and when the full truth came out and contradicted the initial reports, those that spread the Houla lie did not print retractions. They carried on as if nothing happened, just as the corporate media did when the WMD they hyped in Iraq never materialized.

What supports the party line is good. What contradicts the party line is bad. And when what seemed to be good turns out to be bad, carry on and hope no one notices.

“Forgive us if we made mistakes; we are dying so you can live”

The next part of Johansson’s article is a polemic aimed at two Swedish socialists, last names Kilden and Åsmans (do they not have first names in Sweden?). He tells us they are members of a “competing” socialist current, USFI, and describes them as “uncritical supporters” of the Syrian revolution who “ignore the growing power of Syria’s Islamic forces.” Aside from Ikea instruction manuals, I do not read Swedish, so I have no way of verifying whether or not this is true. Given how facts and evidence were handled in the first half of Johansson’s article, put me down as “skeptical” that either of these charges is accurate.

To build political conclusions on demonstrable falsehoods is to build on sand. Here is Johansson’s overall sandcastle view of the Syrian revolution:

“But without independent working-class struggles, even along the lines of what took place in Tunisia and Egypt, this sectarian mutation of an originally genuine, but today largely muted and dispersed mass movement against the dictatorship, unfortunately is a logical consequence of a protracted civil war that has mainly been sponsored by some of the world’s most reactionary and least democratic forces in the guise of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and behind them imperialism. …

“Class-conscious workers and socialists cannot support any side of this reactionary war; neither the doomed Assad regime nor the militias run by religious extremists or who otherwise subordinate themselves to Western imperialism and the reactionary Arab states that sponsor Syria’s rebels.

“The task must be to build alliances for mutual protection and security of all threatened neighborhoods and anyone who refuses to be drawn into this sectarian civil war, irrespective of all religious and ethnic boundaries. Alongside this, working people need their own independent movement against Assad, sectarian forces, and imperialism.

“Based on this, sooner or later Syrian workers, democracy activists, and youth will begin the construction of a new socialist movement that draws inspiration from the examples of Tunisia and Egypt’s struggling workers and takes an independent stand against reactionary regimes, religious fundamentalism and imperialism.”

Daraya, Syria. October 14, 2012

To hear Johansson tell it, the Syrian revolution’s mass character is no longer genuine and is at best muted. Never mind the daily and weekly demonstrations held in Damascus, Idlib, Aleppo, Daraa, and Homs whose turnouts and regularity in the middle of a war zone put anything progressive forces in the West can muster in peacetime to shame.

To hear Johansson tell it, reactionary and undemocratic regimes never aid progressive and democratic movements in foreign countries. Never mind the French monarchy arming America’s revolutionaries against the British or the German High Command’s decision to let Lenin travel through their territory to foment revolution in Russia and end Russian participation in World War One.

To hear Johnasson tell it, both sides of the Syrian war are reactionary. Nevermind the FSA’s declarations against summary executions, the groundswell of anti-sectarian feelings among the revolution’s supporters, the creation of revolutionary tribunals in Aleppo to fight criminality, the popular councils regulating the price of bread so the poor can afford it, and the absence of massacres of minorities and mass rapes in rebel-held areas.

To hear Johansson tell it, there are no Christian units of the FSA, no female Alawi officers of the FSA, no Muslim-led Jesus Christ brigade of the FSA, no pro-Alawi FSA commanders, no emphatic statements of solidarity with the Alawi communities of Al-Qardaha (Assad’s hometown) and the coastal area of Latakia by the majority Sunni opposition.

According to Johansson, all is lost because the Syrian revolution did not unfold the way the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions did (all Arab nations and opposition movements being identical, of course). The working class did not organize and come out into the streets on strike; how this could have been accomplished when Assad used machine guns, snipers, and artillery on unarmed demonstrators he does not tell us. How anyone could strike in a fascist state where more than one-third of the workforce is employed by said state, he does not say. His complaints amount to bemoaning that the Syrian revolution is not the smooth pavement of Nevsky Prospect, a mistake Lenin warned us about a century ago and a topic I will explore further in an upcoming piece, “Marxist Idealism and the Arab Spring.”

Nothing is more pernicious in a revolution than “a plague on both your houses” neutrality; this is especially true when that neutrality is grounded in quarter-truths. Howard Zinn was right, you can’t be neutral on a moving train, and no train moves like revolution; it’s why Marx dubbed them “the locomotives of history.”

Who stands to gain from “a plague on both your houses” in the case of Syria? Who stands to benefit from the notion that neither side in Syria is worthy of support, of solidarity, of aiding and abetting?

Obviously, the side that has all the help it can get, the side that enjoys endless Russian arms, Iranian and Hezbollah boots on the ground, Venezuelan oil, and an endless supply of money from without — that is, the Assad regime.

Only the Assad regime stands to gain from Western activists washing their hands of the moral and political imperative to aid the Syrian uprising.

Only the Assad regime benefits when we pretend that Jabhat al-Nusrah, Islamists, and foreign powers control the politics of the Syrian opposition.

People are welcome to criticize me and my views on the Syrian revolution; the more the merrier. People are also welcome to use my name on their fund-raising letters whatever their views on Syria, as CWI’s American affiliate Socialist Alternative has—provided they are engaged in left unity work such as the Sawant campaign or the slate of left candidates in Seattle.

What people are not welcome to do is utilize distortions to force-fit the actuality of revolution into pat formulas and lifeless schemas.

My other writings on the Syrian Spring:

  • David Thorstad

    Typical Manichaean simplistic avoidance of the complexities of the Syrian rebellion, not to mention its history and patchwork of competing religious and ethnic divisions, nor the potentially catastrophic intra-Muslim sectarian ideologies involved. One can support the overthrow of the Syrian regime (personally, I’d be for overthrowing all regimes everywhere and starting over) on several grounds and yet at the same time withhold moral support to the sectarian armed rebels. And mere moral support is all Binh, Northstar, or any leftists anywhere have to offer–not that it will be of much use. In Syria, lending moral support to neither side seems sensible. Pham Binh’s call for support to the rebels is hollow and somewhat pretentious, since neither he nor any of the mostly uninfluential left anywhere in the world has the wherewithal to do anything substantial to support them, especially not the military support. Only the imperialists have that capacity, which suggests that in truth Binh and his cohorts are essentially calling on NATO and imperialism to support the rebels (as some leftists did in the case of Libya).

    This article (and the one by Binh it links to) left me feeling creepy. What’s keeping Northstar from embracing the slogan one hears shouted on virtually every video distributed by Syrian rebels: “Allahu Akbar!” When will you point to and genuine radical leftist forces actually involved in the rebellion? Surely that statement the other day by an alleged new group of Syrians (after two years!) published by the Fourth International was the most absurd twig to grasp onto. It didn’t even mention the ideological/religious pond it swims in, and had not one word to say about class or any other relevant issue. It read like one or two people who had their text written for them by some FI person sitting in a European city, not by someone in the thick of things or even knowledgeable about them.

    Polemics like this one leave the impression of arrogance and going off half-cocked. It is a depressing sign of polemics trumping reason and even fairness. I don’t think the left has any horse in this race, just as it did not in the case of Iraq or Libya. The true enemy here is imperialism. A genuine leftist approach would be to build an antiwar movement to oppose imperialist intervention, but clearly that is not happening. Just when we need an antiwar movement, there is none. Instead, we get navel gazing and pointless polemics like this one.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Typical irrelevant carping about the Western left’s weakness, not to mention borderline Islamophobic comments re: Syrian revolutionaries. One can support fact-based discussion and yet at the same time avoid morally and politically bankrupt “neutrality” on the basis of leftist litmus tests.

      When will you actually write the kind of article you criticize me for not writing? I’m not here to do your job for you.

  • http://www.socialistworld.net K

    Hey, I’ve forwarded your response to Arne Johansson himself. I must say though that I find the tone of the article unnecessarily hostile and lecturing. If you’ve read our previous articles on Syria, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, that our position is not the result of some rigid party line or dogma handed down from above, but one that is evolving with events. Further more, we are in contact with Syrian exiles in Sweden with direct contact with people on the ground inside Syria. I am assuming Arne also got some of his information from them as well. As for why Göte Kildén and Benny Åsman are referred to by their last names only, this was not the swedish original, but it also has to do with the simple fact that it’s their blogs name which is the main forum in which they express their ideas. Also a minor note: You’ve tagged the article with “Andre Johansson” as opposed to Arne Johansson.

    Comradely

    PS Here’s the previous article we’ve written on Syria as well: http://www.socialistworld.net/view/158 You’ll notice that the Houla massacre is indeed brought up there, so, if this article is about criticizing the CWI’s position specifically you’ll find that our position was in fact not the one you present. Overall there’s an unfortunate tendency in this article to try and tar all groups who disagree with you with broadly the same brush.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      I am very hostile to lies, half-truths, and falsehoods, and Johansson’s article was predicated on all three. He could have made the same points on a solid factual basis instead of a flimsy one.

      CWI’s position on Syria has evolved for sure, progressively becoming worse and worse as the revolution in Syria became ugly and militarized as the result of Assad’s repression. Johansson even nearly blamed the revolution for Assad’s bloody war on the Syrian people: “Although the al-Assad regime’s bombardment of houses and neighborhoods infiltrated by the armed resistance is responsible for the overwhelming proportion of civilian suffering, death and destruction, the regime’s justifications for these acts are increasingly confirmed by the rebels’ abuses. “

      All of the above just highlights the moral and political bankruptcy of declaring the Free Syrian Army just as reactionary as Assad’s counter-revolution. CWI is not alone in this; most self-styled Marxists in the West are guilty of the same sort of mistakes in their eagerness to wash their hands of their internationalist responsibilities.

      • http://www.socialistworld.net K

        And I think you levelling these accusations against Arne Johansson is counter-productive to any healthy and constructive debate. We, as you do I am sure, strive to form a position from the facts available to us. It’s obviously in no way in our interest to consciously distort any facts so as to fit some pre-determined dogma. FSA is no doubt a heterodox force, but, as indeed has been brought up several times in articles here on North Star as well, the islamists seem to be the best armed, best organized and best funded, primarily through support from the Gulfstate dictatorships. You also concede, with your lining of the Wall Street Journals article, that the FSA has been guilty of some atrocites of their own. The existence of alawite and christian members of the FSA does not paint over the very real secterian dimensions of the current situation in Syria. It is on the basis of the strengthening of the islamists in the FSA together with the increasing secterian tensions and reported atrocities that we deduce that the FSA is losing support. Also a point on foreign military intervention, we derive our position here not the least from the recent experience in Libya, but also similar supposed progressive interventions in Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland etc. To me at least, the pattern is clear.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          I didn’t simply level accusations at Johansson, I documented them empirically.

          Saying that there are Islamists fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army against Assad’s counter-revolution is altogether different than saying that those elements are the main or predominant ones. Saying that the Free Syrian Army might be losing popular support is altogether different than characterizing them as a reactionary force politically and citing a bogus claim that they drove out 70,000 people as “proof” of that characterization.

          • http://www.socialistworld.net K

            Once more on the form and style then. No, what you did was this:
            “Arne Johansson of CWI’s report, “Turning Point in Syria’s Civil War?” is a crude version of Marxism where facts are used, abused, distorted, and forced to fit “the party line.” Such a method leads not only leads to bogus political conclusions but also constitutes yellow journalism.

            No matter what your favorite ideological flavor is, that is not acceptable for seriously examining or understanding anything.”
            You accuse us, or more specifically, Arne Johansson of consciously distorting facts to make them fit a party line.

            “Because Johansson dismisses the revolutionaries in Syria fighting for their lives and the lives of their families on the grounds that they “subordinate themselves to Western imperialism and the reactionary Arab states that sponsor Syria’s rebels.””
            And I think it is, unfortunately you that are constructing a straw man to fit your own, if I may call it so, “party line”. And through this you seem to, consciously or not, try to shut down debate rather than facilitate it.

            “This follows the template established by the Houla massacre. When a German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, reported that dozens of mostly Shia civilians had been massacred by Syrian rebels, it spread far and wide on the left thanks to “anti-imperialist” outfits like the World Socialist Web Site. Unfortunately for them, blogger Darth Nader noticed that most of the names of the victims were, in fact, Sunni, not Shia and when the full truth came out and contradicted the initial reports, those that spread the Houla lie did not print retractions. They carried on as if nothing happened, just as the corporate media did when the WMD they hyped in Iraq never materialized.

            What supports the party line is good. What contradicts the party line is bad. And when what seemed to be good turns out to be bad, carry on and hope no one notices.”

            This part in particular is preposterous, in that it’s a direct attempt to tar the CWI with the position of the Northite wsws-website when, if you had checked our position beforehand, you would have seen this was obviously not the case.

            “Given how facts and evidence were handled in the first half of Johansson’s article, put me down as “skeptical” that either of these charges is accurate.”
            Again, a direct and ugly accusation towards Arne Johansson of *lying*, something quite different than writing based on what you deem to be incorrect sources.

            “To hear Johansson tell it, there are no Christian units of the FSA, no female Alawi officers of the FSA, no Muslim-led Jesus Christ brigade of the FSA, no pro-Alawi FSA commanders, no emphatic statements of solidarity with the Alawi communities of Al-Qardaha (Assad’s hometown) and the coastal area of Latakia by the majority Sunni opposition.

            According to Johansson, all is lost because the Syrian revolution did not unfold the way the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions did (all Arab nations and opposition movements being identical, of course). The working class did not organize and come out into the streets on strike; how this could have been accomplished when Assad used machine guns, snipers, and artillery on unarmed demonstrators he does not tell us. How anyone could strike in a fascist state where more than one-third of the workforce is employed by said state, he does not say. His complaints amount to bemoaning that the Syrian revolution is not the smooth pavement of Nevsky Prospect, a mistake Lenin warned us about a century ago and a topic I will explore further in an upcoming piece, “Marxist Idealism and the Arab Spring.””
            This entire segment is, sadly, nothing but a straw man.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              Clipping half the slogan of a demonstration to “we are all Jabhat al Nusrah” as Johansson did is 100% dishonest. Unless CWI’s readers have been following the Syrian revolution closely, they would have no way of knowing that the other half of the slogan for those same demonstration was, “no to American intervention.”

              No matter how hard anyone tries to spin it, that was a clear-cut case of willful distortion.

              You object to being compared to wsws.org. Fine. The point of the comparison was that both WSWS and CWI spread misinformation — they did it on Houla, Johansson did it on the alleged sectarian massacre in Ras al-Ain by FSA. The point was not that CWI made the same mistake as WSWS on Houla.

              You accuse me of trying to shut down debate rather than facilitate it in the comment section of a site I helped launch. Where are CWI’s comment sections on any of its news sites where these debates I am allegedly trying to suppress can take place?

              • http://www.socialistworld.net K

                Naturally, I disagree. You insinuated that the massacre at Ras al-Ain was not true, you didn’t prove it. “We are all Jabbhat Al-Nusra!” Tell me is there a figurative reading of this statement because the literal meaning seems quite simple. Does the “no to American intervention” somehow negate the first part? No, of course it doesn’t. You try to paint our position as some kind of apologia for Assad, nothing could be further from the truth. So I see you agree that there are islamists in the FSA. Good. Do you also agree that, given how disorganized most of the FSA are by your estimation, that they are probably the best organized current? Do you also agree that they have powerful allies, Qatar and Saudiarabia in the region? D0 you also agree that they are the best armed? Indeed, your own position, as far as I can see leads to the same conclusion. We have never argued that the rebellion against Assad was artificial. Indeed it is clear that it was inspired by the arab spring. What is the experience with pro-west bourgeoisie and islamists taking the lead there? That’s a rhetorical question. Unless the working class, the poor and the left organize for themselfes, independently from the FSA, the revolution might well be drowned in blood even if Assad’s regime falls. This does not mean, as you try to imply that we “condemn every single member of the opposition”. Your views bear echo of the Iranian revolution. The shah was overthrown. I don’t need to insult you by implying you do not know what happened next. And Khomeini was supposedly a good democrat. The communists and socialists who ignored the real threat of counter-revolution withing the so called “revolutionary ranks” signed their own deathwarrant, well if they weren’t lucky enough not to actually be in Iran.

                • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                  “You insinuated that the massacre at Ras al-Ain was not true, you didn’t prove it.”

                  There is not a shred of evidence that the Free Syrian Army went out of its way to kill Christians at Ras al-Ain. The burden of proof isn’t on me to prove Johansson wrong because his entire case rests on the testimony of someone who claimed that Turkish helicopters were part of this supposed operation.

                  Let me know if you can find anything that corroborates this story. I wish you the best of luck.

                  “Do you also agree that, given how disorganized most of the FSA are by your estimation, that they are probably the best organized current?”

                  No. Jabhat al Nusrah is far better organized and are viewed as beyond reproach morally. They’ve been put in charge distributing bread in Aleppo by the FSA.

                  “Do you also agree that they have powerful
                  allies, Qatar and Saudiarabia in the region? D0 you
                  also agree that they are the best armed?”

                  Qatar and the Saudis almost exclusively arm salafis and not the popular secular-democratic FSA. People are even shaving their beards and pretending to be jihadis to get weapons.

                  All of the above goes to show that CWI’s analysis is not well- grounded factually. Only by lumping the FSA together with the Islamists (and there are different trends among them as well), the Gulf states, and the “pro-West bourgeoisie” into one reactionary mass is it possible to conclude that the Syrian revolution is unworthy of support. Very sloppy.

                  “What is the experience with pro-west bourgeoisie and islamists taking the lead there? That’s a rhetorical question. Unless the working class, the poor and the left
                  organize for themselfes, independently from the FSA,
                  the revolution might well be drowned in blood even if
                  Assad’s regime falls.”

                  What revolution are you referring to here? The non-existent socialist revolution?

                  “This does not mean, as you try to imply that we ‘condemn every single member of the opposition’.”

                  No, CWI characterizes the Syrian revolutionaries fighting Assad as reactionary, a far worse error than condemning every member of the opposition. (Not sure why you used quotes around ‘condemn’ et. al. since you aren’t quoting me there.)

                  “Your views bear echo of the Iranian revolution. The shah was overthrown. I don’t need to insult you by implying you do not know what happened next. And Khomeini was supposedly a good democrat. The communists and socialists who ignored the real
                  threat of counter-revolution withing the so called
                  ‘revolutionary ranks’ signed their own deathwarrant,
                  well if they weren’t lucky enough not to actually be in
                  Iran.”

                  I never said or implied that the Islamists in Syria are “good democrats.” Talk about a strawman.

                  But at least the Islamists are on the right side in Syria. That is more than I can say for CWI.

                  • http://www.socialistworld.net K

                    No, I’m sorry, you misunderstand. My points about best armed, best organized and funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia was in reference to the islamists. And indeed on this page too, the argument (certainly Kildén and Åsman raise it) that the islamists are gaining momentum due to more moderate groups not being armed by the West etc.
                    It’s not about a “non-existant socialist revolution” but the need for an independent pole for the working class, the left and the poor, independent of the pro-west Bourgeoisie elements as well as the islamists.

                    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                      Withholding support from a revolutionary movement on that basis is sectarian, ultra-left, and impedes the development of pro-worker, pro-socialist forces in Syria.

  • http://www.militaryproject.org Thomas Barton

    Thorstad writes “This article (and the one by Binh it links to) left me feeling creepy. What’s keeping Northstar from embracing the slogan one hears shouted on virtually every video distributed by Syrian rebels: ‘Allahu Akbar!’”

    Quite right, anybody shouting “God is great,” especially in some foreign tongue, cannot possibly be up to any good.

    We know from history that soldiers going into battle singing the praises of Christ and the Christian Lord God[the Battle Hymn of the Republic] were up to no good either.

    Case closed.

    T

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    I didn’t simply level accusations at Johansson, I documented them empirically.

    Saying that there are Islamists fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army against Assad’s counter-revolution is altogether different than saying that those elements are the main or predominant ones. Saying that the Free Syrian Army might be losing popular support is altogether different than characterizing them as a reactionary force politically and citing a bogus claim that they drove out 70,000 people as “proof” of that characterization.

  • David Thorstad

    In case any readers have not see the vapid and pathetic statement I referred to by a new left grouplet published by the Fourth International, they can check it out here:

    http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2841

    I await a response to my question as to when the leftist supporters of the mostly Muslim, mostly Sunni, rebels in Syria will be embracing their slogan of “Allahu Akhbar!” They seem well on their way already. Again, where are the revolutionary workers or left forces involved in the rebellion? I guess the heavily religious tinge/taint to their struggle doesn’t bother Pham Binh or his cohorts. It does me. He calls me “borderline Islamophobic,” but that is preposterous, nothing more than low-level name calling. But, hey, virtually all the polemics he has churned out rarely go beyond that. I am, incidentally, against all religion (with an exception of American Indian religions), especially the sky religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, all of which have done more damage to human social evolution than any of the earth-oriented ones. The fact that fanatical Muslims are clearly playing a key role in the Syrian rebellion, perhaps a leading role (certainly there is no left or workers’ movement doing anything of the kind) should be cause for concern, rather than a pollyanna certainty that leftists who do not share Binh’s enthusiasm for a struggle that could well result in a bloodbath for non-Sunni minorities are on the wrong side.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Barton already responded to your objection to “Allahu akbar.” Scroll up.

      Has there been a single bloodbath or massacre of religious minorities in territory controlled by the Free Syrian Army in the past two years? Let me know if you find one. The least you can do is be productive and bring some facts to the table instead of simply bemoaning the absence of political forces in Syria that pass your “left” litmus test.

    • http://www.kildenasman.se Benny Åsman

      The fact that many people are shouting Allahu Akhbar is not more strange than a lot of people in western countries using “O my God” in every second phrase. I saw one Syrian responding like this: “What do you want us to do to get support? Sing Mozart or Beethoven when we bury our dead?”

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Cowards and idiots will find any excuse to abandon a beleaguered people.

  • http://mccaine.org Matthijs Krul

    It’s universally the case that in any protracted conflict, a position of neutrality or ‘third camp’-ism will be promptly denounced by the supporters of either side as secretly or ‘objectively’ favoring the side they oppose. Nobody should ever be blackmailed by this, nor does Marxism, whether ‘anti-imperialist’ or otherwise, somehow compel its supporters to pick a side in every single conflict the earth has ever known or will ever know, out of the necessity of not ‘objectively’ favoring some side or another by neutrality. Such a notion is perverse and ridiculous. One can make an argument in favor of supporting the Syrian rebels, no doubt, but let’s not intersperse that with poorly constructed attempts at manichaean moral blackmail.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Of course. There are cases where two (or more) sides in a war are reactionary politically. This is not one of them.

      • http://www.socialistworld.net K

        It’s interesting how those on either side who says that, that would be people like you who strongly defends the FSA as is and condemns critique as “marxist idealism”, conversely those who defend the regime as the lesser evil or even the “progressive alternative” tend to sound just like you. There’s only one side. Do or die. In this time of crisis no critique is acceptable. I have had to explain to them that some mediaoutlets, like RT, are biased towards Assad, for obvious material reason, do I need to say that a similar bias exist in Al-Jazeera and some U.S media for the FSA?

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          Of course I’m biased in favor of the Free Syrian Army — they are waging a revolutionary war! Trotsky exposed the bankruptcy of the CWI-style neutrality in revolutionary situations in the introduction to his History of the Russian Revolution and in Their Morals and Ours.

          Supporting bourgeois-democratic revolution against fascist counter-revolution should be ABC for Marxists, and it precisely such support that obligates us to criticize the side we favor for making mistakes that get in the way of victory.

          • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

            Out of curiosity, what is the analysis behind describing the Assad regime counterrevolution as “fascist”? For me (as a marxist) this has a very specific meaning. While it necessarily includes mass murder and the attempt to crush all worker/socialist organization, these two criteria are not sufficient to allow a characterization of a regime as fascist. There also exists a decidedly imperialist programmatic element, typically on a grandiose scale.

            Hence (in my book) bona-fide fascist regimes can only really arise in genuinely imperialist or “sub-imperialist” countries. The classic fascist cases were therefore found in Germany, Italy and (again in my definition) pre-war Japan, with the sub-imperial example being Franco Spain.

            This is not a pedantic point: The specifically counterrevolutionary content of fascism – fanatical anticommunism in a word – is also *necessarily* projected onto the international stage. And that is exactly what the most powerful of the classical fascist regimes – Germany and Japan in particular – attempted to do. But this necessary attribute is missing in the Assad regime case.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              Do you view Portugal and Spain from the 1940s onward as fascist?

              I also wonder if you view Syria’s invasion and occupation of Lebanon as “sub imperialist”?

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh
      • http://www.socialistworld.net K

        I’m sorry, I feel my tone has been dragged down to your hostile level. Since I am not interested in exchanging petty insults with you, Pham, I will leave it at this and see if I can avoid it by having a fresh look at this exchange tomorrow.

      • http://www.socialistworld.net K

        So, despite our sharp exchange, hope you are well, comrade. Good night.

  • Michael Pugliese

    “I am Druze, Alawi, Sunni, Kurdish, Isma’ili, Christian, Jewish and Assyrian, I am proud to be the Syrian revolutionary…” https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=311196918992705&set=o.255724547790529&type=1&theater

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Whenever Agenzia Fides is cited by opponents of the Syrian Revolution, one should be very wary. They have relied on the testimony of Sister Agnes Mary of the Cross , who has gone on European tours and quoted by SANA. http://syrian-christian.org/scds-statement-regarding-the-press-conference-of-sister-agnes-in-11182011/
    Reply by http://syrian-christian.org/ . Additional information about her, is folded within this refutation of the Houla dispatches noted above by Pham, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, after the massacre there, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/302606/assad-s-houla-propaganda-aymenn-jawad-al-tamimi and http://www.meforum.org/3271/assad-houla-propaganda-part-ii . Those two pieces in right-wing magazines I would not otherwise rely upon , reflect the debate within the Right, which has its echo on the Left. John Rosenthal the author of the pieces being replied to has written numerous articles in NRO and other rightist outlets which all revolve around the “Global Caliphate,” hysteria that suffuses the Right. I recommend this recent book on this, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims [Paperback]
    Nathan Lean (Author), John L. Esposito (Foreword) , http://www.amazon.com/dp/0745332536 .

    • Brian S.

      Good point – Catholic channels have been used by the regime in the past to spread disinformation, as the role of Sister Agnes Mary of the Cross in the FAZ/Houla affair shows. Johansson’s uncritical adoption of this source, and even more amazingly of the bizarre Cockburn “child beheading” story, demonstrates a complete abandonment of critical faculties in the writing of his account. The real story of Ras al-Ayn/Serikanye was reasonably well covered in the mainstream media from the start: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/10522208;
      and a story that involved 70 000 people fleeing a city with a population of c.55 000 might have sounded some warning bells. I’m inclined to concur with Binh that this is a case of a “narrative seeking sources”.

  • http://www.militaryproject.org Thomas Barton

    “Allahu Akhbar!” [“God Is Great”]

    Thorstad again, in a second communication, above, appears obsessed with this phrase: “I await a response to my question as to when the leftist supporters of the mostly Muslim, mostly Sunni, rebels in Syria will be embracing their slogan of ‘Allahu Akhbar!’”

    In the first, he says “Allahu Akhbar!” “the slogan one hears shouted on virtually every video distributed by Syrian rebels.”

    Leaving aside for a moment the many Syrians who are in arms against Assad and are not “Sunni rebels,” we are instructed that these “Mostly Muslim, mostly Sunni rebels” who shout “Allahu Akhbar!” are not risking their lives fighting a bloody tyrant for any reason worthy of our support.

    This insightful analysis makes clear that, however oppressed and impoverished they may be, and however murderous the regime that oppresses and exploits them, “the heavily religious tinge/taint to their struggle” [Thorstad] supersedes every other political consideration.

    “The fact that fanatical Muslims are clearly playing a key role in the Syrian rebellion, perhaps a leading role” [Thorstad] is to be decisive in putting the question to rest.

    In this balancing, Assad slaughtering his tens of thousands yearly forevermore and the politics some or even much of the resistance leadership are found to be of equal negative weight.

    Therefore, we are told not to advocate for a resistance contaminated by “fanatical Muslims” who are “clearly playing a key role in the Syrian rebellion, perhaps a leading role,” as demonstrated because on some videos they go about shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” at the drop of a kibbeh.

    This is where the argument breaks its neck.

    When the U.S. Imperial army is finally driven out of Afghanistan, the regime that will take power there will make the complicated, diffuse mix of revolutionary organizations in Syria look like an ACLU convention.

    If the resistance to Assad must be treated as an enemy because of “the heavily religious tinge/taint to their struggle,” and all those “fanatical Muslims” running around loose, how can anyone possibly favor today’s armed resistance to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, given the politics of that leadership?

    Or even demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. military forces?

    It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

    It is possible to wholeheartedly support popular resistance to tyranny and/or Imperial occupation that emerges from below without offering up support to the political leadership of a given resistance movement.

    And there is enough heard about “fanatical Muslims” from Fox News.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      I’m sure if someone in the FSA sneezes and his comrade standing next to him says, “God bless you,” that would Thorstad would seize on that as “proof” that the FSA is a clerical-reactionary force unworthy of our support.

      Lenin had a word for this type of “method”: clowning.

  • http://www.kildenasman.se Benny Åsman

    I’m the second half of the Kilden&Åsman and feel the need to add some comments to the article of Arne Johansson. There is one central point in his article that stands out above all the rest . AJ states that what’s going on is a “reactionary war” in wich revolutionary marxist can not support anybody. I already had a debate with AJ in september 2012 following an article by him published in Offensiv.
    In that article he already defined FSA as reactionary and instead argued that people in work places and in neighbourhoods should democraticly elect self defence organisations instead of support and participate in FSA.
    It’s a nice classical schema but without taking in to consideration anything that alreade exists as the LCC, and other forms of local rule by opposition bodies. This comes down to proposing ready made formulas in opposition to the real struggle that takes place and the forms it take.
    Instead AJ found an example of his “democraticly elected self defence groups”. He let understand that in the kurdish region there existed this type of beautiful self defence. The problem was only that what he held up as exemplary was the YPG. And AJ ignored that YPG is the armed wing of the PYD and as such is heavily contested by other Kurdish parties in the Kurdish region of Syria. In his latest article (the one discussed here) he has the prudence of not holding up YPG as the example of self-organisation by the masses. So now he is left over with his schemas of what the people in revolt should do instead of what they actually are doing. If not they will not deserve the support of AJ and his friends.
    Concerning the critics of K&Å that we ignore the dangers that islamist groups poses for the revolution it’s simply not the truth. Anybody, reading swedish, will find a dozen of articles on our blog that discusses the problems that confronts the revolution, especially the islamist groups with an other agenda than FREEDOM from the dictatorship.
    Comradely greetings
    Benny Åsman

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      To be clear, YPG is the People’s Defense Units, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union
      Party (PYD).

      Kurdish politics was infinitely complicated before the Syrian revolution broke out, and is even more so now with the rise of Islamist forces who, unlike the “mainstream” of the Free Syrian Army, don’t seem interested in creating a united front with Kurdish forces against Assad. See for example: http://www.rudaw.net/english/news/syria/5463.html

      What is unconscionable is Johansson’s attempt to smear the Free Syrian Army as sectarian, Islamist, and/or pro-imperialist reactionaries. They are a popular self-defense force with generally secular-democratic politics; the only way a pro-worker, pro-socialist left can hope to emerge in Syria will be under their umbrella.

      • Brian S.

        And of course the PYD is aligned with the PKK,which places them right in the centre of Kurdish factional politics. Binh is right about the complexity of Kurdish politics, which I only dimly understand, but I have a rather positive impression of the YPG – although they too have factional divisions of their own. See http://www.vice.com/read/meet-the-ypg.
        Its not only the Islamists who have negative views on the “Kurdish question” – its a very serious flaw of the whole Syrian opposition – and I think has affected the FSA as well.
        On Binh’s final paragraph, I don’t think we shouldn’t overestimate the capacity of the FSA – if they can manage to bring down the regime that will be sufficient – I don’t think they have many umbrellas to spare.
        But its certainly true that the popular and civil opposition can only emerge in the wake of the downfall of the regime, and the only force that can bring that about is the FSA.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Conflicts between the Kurdish groups and the Islamists in the north are splitting the FSA: http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/syria-the-kurdish-question-the-islamists-and-the-fsa/

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  • Spectrehauntingeurope

    “If Western imperialists were going to step in using these excuses, they would have done so by now. It’s only been two years.

    Johansson assures us, “Western powers want a regime change as fast as possible in Syria.” Really? Is that why the flow of foreign weapons to the rebels is drying up? Is that why the Central Intelligence Agency has continuously blocked heavy weapons from getting into the hands of people armed with rifles and slingshots against a regime that uses jets to attack Aleppo University, drops cluster bombs on civilian targets, and shells people as they buy their daily bread?

    If Western governments wanted to burn Assad’s house down fast and furious, they’d be giving the Free Syrian Army (FSA) gasoline and matches, not preventing everything but water balloons from reaching them.”

    This part is such nonsense, it’s amazing you dare publish it. Don’t you think maybe, maybe Syrian air defences, “overstretch” due to many foreign wars and Russian-Chinese support might have something to do with the lack of a direct NATO invasion? Are you aware that there is serious lobbying going on among the members of NATO at high political echelons in favour of a direct intervention (not without opposition from certain areas, even from generals)?

    It’s an uncontroversial fact that there is widespread support of NATO and the Gulf monarchies for armed groups in Syria. They fund them, they arm them, they train them, they offer them training camps inside Turkey, they place missiles in Turkey for “defence” against Syria, … NATO has publicly called for regime change many times, has even appointed a new puppet council to achieve this goal. Do you honestly believe they want Assad to stay and all of the efforts they put into supporting regime change are just smoke and mirrors? Really?

    Say what you will about communist groups blatantly supporting Assad, at least they engage with the facts and make an analysis on that basis instead of putting their head in the sand. You simply gloss over NATO’s obvious intervention as if it’s unimportant, as if it doesn’t even exist. All you do is refer to totally unverified claims in the public English language press. Gee, I wonder why the FSA is claiming it doesn’t get enough weapons, surely there is no parallel to Libya here. If you want to write an article about why there is still hope for the Syrian revolution (which is not a priori an indefensible position) at least do so honestly instead of whitewashing anything that doesn’t fit in your view. It’s very ironic that you accuse your opponents (a large and varied group which include people in favour of Syrian revolution yet opposed to the obvious ongoing NATO intervention) of twisting the facts to fit the party line. The cognitive dissonance is incredible.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      NATO’s intervention is very important. The CIA’s heavy weapons blockade of the Free Syrian Army has allowed Islamists — the Saudis and the Gulf States — to exercise undue influence over the revolution through their arms shipments and funding.

      All the claims made in this article are verified. You’re welcome to prove me wrong by citing evidence. Baseless assertions won’t cut it here.

      • Spectrehauntingeurope

        Is this supposed to be a refutation of what I posted? It only underlines the influence of NATO and their allies have within the FSA. If you know and accept that significant parts of the FSA are directly in cahoots with NATO imperialism, incidentally also the parts with the most arms, training, and funding, why do you attack Leftists who support neither the FSA nor Assad as aiding counter-revolution? How can you claim it is revolutionary to support people in an overt alliance with NATO proxies against a government that, despite its authoritarianism, its crimes, and its slow descent into neoliberalism, still retains an economically nationalist project counter to Western hegemony, and is specifically and overtly targeted by NATO for it? Isn’t NATO the single most counter-revolutionary organisation on the planet, the greatest enemy of worldwide socialism? If you agree with this, what do you possibly hope to achieve by attacking Leftists who refuse to lend moral support to an organisation that everyone knows is at least in part controlled by and allied with NATO? Do you think the correct course of action for Leftist groups is to shout down critical voices on the FSA even though there is plenty of evidence that it’s infested with reactionary groups and victory for an alliance in cahoots with NATO will only further NATO control over the entire region, as has happened in Libya? Like David says in the first comment, Leftists in Europe and the US can only take one concrete course of action that might actually have a positive effect: to oppose in full force all foreign interference and military interventions. It’s quite telling that you whitewash NATO interference (going so far as to consider the CIA *not* delivering arms a *bad* thing, Jesus Christ) and aggressively attack Leftist groups for not being supportive enough of the FSA. Maybe you should consider what purpose this article actually serves?

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          Of course you couldn’t substantiate your claim re: the CIA’s heavy weapons embargo on the Free Syrian Army with a shred of proof.

          You don’t want Syrian revolutionaries to obtain arms — you prefer that they fight Assad with slingshots and rifles like the Palestinians fight the Israelis. That’s far more reactionary than anything the FSA is up to.

          • Spectrehauntingeurope

            Oh please. You deliberately avoid responding to the actual issues I raise and the actual questions I pose to avoid confronting your own dogmatism. It’s disgraceful.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              There’s no sense in responding point-by-point to people who lurch from making baseless allegations to getting hysterical about alleged “alliances” with imperialism, as if the 10 Commandments of Marxism forbid anyone from getting arms from one enemy to fight another — all in the name of defending an article by someone whose entire case was based on falsehoods and quarter-truths, no less.

              • Spectrehauntingeurope

                I’m hardly hysterical, although your flapping around like a fish on dry land certainly is. You refuse to engage with the issues I raise because you have no real answer to the question whether something good can ever come out of an alliance with NATO. I say no: NATO is the incarnation of global capitalism and Western imperialism. Accepting their help is selling your soul to Satan to get rid of a lesser devil. Assad is certainly a devil and his regime is certainly criminal. But aligning with overtly reactionary groups and the single most counter-revolutionary organisation on the planet will only result in further economic dependence on the West and greater NATO control. Not more democracy, not national independence, not a step forward for socialism, but several steps backwards for the entire region. You disagree, obviously, but the fact that you will not (cannot) engage with the entirely legitimate questions I pose is quite telling and not very hopeful.

                • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                  There’s nothing wrong with taking help from the Great Satan abroad to vanquish the little Satan who is slitting your wife’s throat. Yours is a morally based anti-imperialism, mine is a class-based anti-imperialism.

                  You’re very brave to fight to the last drop of Syrian blood for your anti-imperialist principles from behind your keyboard and comfort. I’m sure the Syrians who are being raped and tortured by the regime appreciate your valiant efforts on their behalf.

                  • Spectrehauntingeurope

                    You’re even braver, openly calling for NATO to wage war and the CIA to distribute weapons. I can hardly imagine the incredible courage you would need to take such a position. You can take comfort in the fact that you place yourself in the company of other great heroes such as Christopher Hitchens. And of course, it’s a good thing the FSA certainly isn’t killing, raping or torturing anyone!

                    Yours is hardly a class-based anti-imperialism. You have no attention for the global dynamics of class war and imperialism at all, focussing solely on the internal affairs of Syria (and not doing a very good job at that) while deliberately excluding the global dimension because it doesn’t fit in your analysis. You go so far as to plead for help from the organisation that incarnates Western imperialism, to call for help from the god-damn C.I.A.! It’s ridiculous that you would call yourself a Marxist. As if that help came without strings, as if it’s entirely unimportant to think about what accepting that help means, as if we shouldn’t have to think about the real consequences not only for Syria but for the entire region. I couldn’t have imagined the depths of your delusion when I started this conversation.

                    I suppose you think Libya is better off now than it was before? Time will tell, but one thing is already certain: the fall of Qadaffi marked the start of a new phase of violent neocolonialism in Africa. The same will be true in Syria and the Middle East.

                    • Spectrehauntingeurope

                      In summary, trading economic independence for NATO-installed bourgeois “democracy”: a pretty bad idea.

                    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                      Ho Chi Minh took arms from the CIA’s predecessor to fight the Japanese and he did not become a pawn and ditto for the Libyans who now have a bourgeois democracy to show for it. Libyan workers now have the freedom to organize, strike, and fight neoliberalism, a huge step forward from the days of Ghadafi.

                      Good luck finding the strings in Libya because the Libyans cut them when they smashed Ghadafi’s state and made imperialist manipulation of their politics from above impossible. “Time will tell” was correct to say in August 2011. You are behind the times.

                  • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

                    Hi Pham, the “class-based anti-imperialism” link is broken. I found the definition of a “morally based anti-imperialism” interesting, and wanted to investigate this line of thought further.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          “I am Kurdish, and as a Kurdish citizen I am fighting side to side with the Free Syrian Army, because you cannot find anybody who was not stepped on by the regime, or was not wronged,” Mr. Haidar said. “We were
          wronged as well.” … “We were colonized by the French, but even France did not do what Bashar does,” he said. “The government kills innocent people. We felt no other option but to fight against this criminal.”

          These words were spoken by Yousef Haidar, a 72-year-old village elder in Alghooz, Syria. Does anyone seriously believe that if the FSA was a sectarian force that Kurdish forces would fight alongside them against Assad?

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      I also like how you put “defense” in quotes when you referred to the Patriot missile batteries deployed along the Turkish-Syrian border. That’s cute. Obviously you’re not an expert in military hardware if you think those can be used for anything other than defense.

    • Arthur

      There are two separate issues.

      1. Whether NATO is supporting or hindering the FSA (or both).

      2. Whether the FSA should be supported or opposed (or ignored)

      Unfortunately discussion among people used to opposing whatever NATO supports mixes these two issues together with people who don’t want to support the FSA insisting that NATO does support it and people who do want to support the FSA insisting that NATO doesn’t.

      My view is that NATO does want the FSA to win and is helping, but currently cares more about keeping heavy weapons from potential enemies of NATO than it does about accelerating their victory.

      I think we should be attacking NATO for not helping enough (and/or hindering too much).

      The key issue is do we want the regime to win (and tyrants throughout the region to feel more confident about crushing the Arab spring) or do we want the FSA to win?

      I agree with Spectre that it is an uncontroversial fact there is significant NATO (and Gulf monarchy) support for the FSA in Syria and also that the absence of greater support is related to such matters as Syrian air defences, overstretch and Russian and Chinese opposition (though I think more due to not caring much about the numbers being killed and hoping to avoid having to spend their own blood an treasure).

      But none of that implies that the Syrian revolutionaries are “puppets” or that the groups opposing the Syrian revolution base themselves on “facts”. Sure they notice the fact of NATO and Gulf support but they not only ignore but lie about the far more obvious fact that there is a mass movement against a vicious tyranny that is engaged in an openly terrorist campaign against its own people.

      As for people “in favour of Syrian revolution yet opposed to the obvious ongoing NATO intervention” they are lying to themselves in a way that will never convince anybody but themselves. Can you imagine trying to explain it to the Syrian people. “Of course we’re in favour of your revolution but other people we don’t like might actually help you one day and that’s more important to us”.

      • Spectrehauntingeurope

        Thank you for responding seriously, in stark contrast with the author who apparently has no interest in actually engaging with what I said.

        I think your analysis here is essentially correct, although I disagree with your conclusions.

        There are really only two positions the Left in the West can take. Remaining neutral consists of turning a blind eye to NATO’s intervention. So we can either support the FSA, which evidently leads to calling for NATO to help or even intervene on behalf of the opposition. The other option is sticking to the principle of non-interference and opposition to war, and thus de facto helping the regime.

        In my view, Left-communists and some Trotskyist groups support the opposition in their democratic revolution (even they wouldn’t go so far as to claim this is in any way a socialist revolution) against an authoritarian regime. However, in order to achieve this they align themselves with blatantly reactionary groups and even NATO imperialism.

        I do not believe that anything good can ever come out of NATO interference. Although it is in a sense still early to judge, I feel the events in Libya vindicate my position. I think you misrepresent the position of groups opposed to the FSA. It seems to me that they start from the primacy of anti-imperialist struggle in the (semi-)peripheries of capitalism. A national revolution which sells their economic independence from Western capitalism in order to achieve bourgeois democracy, is not really a democratic revolution. In this sense even a comparison with the events under Gorbatsjov may be possible. I think it’s interesting that the some of the same groups which supported Gorbatsjov for a while now repeat this stance w/r/t Libya and Syria.

        It’s certainly an entirely legitimate claim that a democratic revolution at the cost of economic nationalism may be necessary in order to lay the groundwork for an advance towards socialism, but I think up to now history has shown this to be an ultimately counter-productive endeavour. Imo the best course of action for the Syrian people would be to extract as many concessions from the regime as possible, but to ultimately side against the allies (not puppets, but certainly allies) of NATO. Although really, there is not much you or I or anyone outside of Syria can do about it. The correct position for us, imo, is to oppose NATO and to oppose imperialism in the Third World, in favour of economic nationalism and independence from the Western dictates.

        • Arthur

          Your welcome to a serious response. Now how about an argument from you that isn’t simply a repetition that you oppose anything that NATO supports?

          That isn’t a serious argument for anyone who isn’t already convinced by it. It means you basically have nothing to say about the actual concrete situation in Syria and don’t expect to be taken seriously by anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

          • Spectrehauntingeurope

            I don’t oppose just anything NATO supports (although taking the opposite position NATO takes probably does put you on the right side of history most of the time), but I do oppose trading independence from Western imperialism for bourgeois “democracy”, I think that’s a mistake that won’t lead to real improvement and I feel history vindicates my position in this. Though I’m open to suggestions why I’m mistaken.

            • Arthur

              I don’t think there’s much chance of convincing you that you are mistaken through argument here. People generally become convinced through experience.

              If you were to make some concrete analysis of what is happening in the various countries going through democratic revolutions in the Arab world, and draw conclusions about the likely future outcome, then there would be some hope that when your conclusions were falsified by history you would recognize that your analysis had been wrong and re-think your position.

              An ingeresting example is that Pham Binh took a very similar position to yours on Libya, with an article denouncing his current position as “Cruise Missile Marxists”:

              http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/03/28/cruise-missile-marxists/

              That article concluded:

              “… the U.S. is scrambling to check the most widespread and powerful revolutionary upheaval since 1848 from sweeping its strongmen into the dustbin of history. The no-fly zone is damage control, an attempt to co-opt the Libyan revolution. Washington is setting the stage for a new client state in eastern Libya to emerge under its air cover and “regime change” in Tripoli would be the icing on the cake (hence why Gaddafi’s compound was attacked early on in the establishment of the no-fly zone).

              All anti-imperialists should oppose the no-fly zone. Revolution? Yes! Intervention? No!”

              Subsequent events made it blindingly obvious that this analysis was wrong. There is no client state in Libya so Pham Binh had to change his position.

              If instead of just abstractly opposing NATO you made some concrete analysis that could be verified as wrong then there would be some hope of you too changing your position.

              There is a (bourgeois-democratic) revolution sweeping the whole region. You can side with the autocracies that were backed by the West for decades or you can side with the people. Although most of the US foreign policy establishment still prefers the autocracies, its a bankrupt policy which no longer makes sense even to NATO.

              • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

                “As for people “in favour of Syrian revolution yet opposed to the obvious ongoing NATO intervention” they are lying to themselves in a way that will never convince anybody but themselves. Can you imagine trying to explain it to the Syrian people. “Of course we’re in favour of your revolution but other people we don’t like might actually help you one day and that’s more important to us”.”

                Not exactly. One can support the call by revolutionaries indigenous to a struggle, for assistance from anyone, including imperialist states, when faced with armed annihilation, without “supporting one’s own imperialism”, i.e., without *you* calling on your own imperialism to do the same.

                And yes as a socialist and revolutionary in the USA I can imagine explaining that to Syrian people, or more precisely to Syrian workers and socialists: “As the Assad regime is your main enemy, the regime in my country, the USA, is *my* main enemy – after all if I am beaten, imprisoned or murdered, it won’t be by the Assad regime, but by the regime in Washington (and it is not like it hasn’t happened before, or won’t happen again). So I completely support *your call* on assistance from any source, including my own mortal enemy, and fervently hope you receive it to succeed in getting rid of the Assad regime. And I am sure you will understand the nature of my situation here in the USA that makes this not *my* call”. I am necessarily opposed to NATO’s very existence, much less “intervention” anywhere. I have no choice if I am true to my actual being, materially speaking, existing as it does in the USA. Conversely, I don’t care where honest revolutionaries in Syria get armed support from, as long as they get it, and in sufficient strength to overthrow the Assad regime. In practice under today’s conditions that means from my enemy. And no, to falsify that hoary old saying usually attributed to the Middle East by “orientalism”, the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend.

                Where is the difficulty in that? I am sure most Syrians could understand that, for the same reason they would want me to understand their own motives (putting aside actual factional differences in the FSA, etc., for the sake of this argument). It only reflects the obvious historical and material differences in situation between being a revolutionary socialist in Syria, and being the same in the USA. I can’t pretend to be a “Syrian revolutionary socialist”, now that would lying to myself. To state the reality forthrightly is telling the god’s honest truth.

                In sum: Supporting unconditionally Syrian revolutionaries call on NATO support is not at all the same as expecting other revolutionaries in those same NATO countries to call on their own enemy regimes to give that support. These are two materially different acts. We here in the NATO countries can no more exercise control over the situation in Syria as we can over the real will of NATO imperialism. In real material terms, we can only determine our own concrete actions in the real concrete situations we find ourselves in. And that is within an imperialist country.

                • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                  Just because our friends get help from our enemies against their enemies doesn’t mean we stop being friends with our friends and enemies of our (and their) enemies.

                  Try saying that 10 times fast.

                • Arthur

                  Matt, there is a REAL revolution in Syria in which real revolutionaries are being killed by real counter-revolutionaries. They need actual weapons and other support from people who are able to provide them. Not hallucinatory fantasies from people pretending that they face similar problems in the USA.

        • Brian S.

          @Spectrehauntingeurope. I’d like to hear more on how the events in Libya “vindicate your position”. I think your IMHO you are partly right about Gorbachov – he was the last hope of saving something distinctive out of the Soviet experience, but the decay of the Soviet Union had gone too far for that to be possible. It was a social formation that had lost any progressive content that it ever had, and there was no historical choice except to watch it collapse and try to start again. That is a close parallel with the once “anti-imperialist” nationalist regimes of the third world. Syria is no upholder of “economic nationalism” – it has alienated any national bourgeoisie” that might have existed in favour of a regime -sponsored business clique whose only interest is in becoming part of the “transnational capitalist class”.
          Its not a very original idea for the Syrian people to “extract as many concessions from the regime as possible” – that’s what the civil oppositon did for several months, but the only “concessions” they got came out of the barrel of a rifle, followed by more from the payload of fighter jets. There are no more concessions on the table. So what do you suggest they do now. Pack up and go home?
          I agree entirely that the correct position is “to oppose NATO and to oppose imperialism in the Third World, in favour of economic nationalism and independence from Western dictates.”(But I think the way to do this is through the victory of popular democracy, not over the corpses of those who are fighting for it.

    • Ben Campbell

      Actually ‘Spectre’, your comments greatly oversimplify the relation of NATO to the Syrian opposition. NATO’s position cannot be boiled down to wanting “regime change”. NATO is, in fact, a heterogeneous entity, whose members do not have the exact same interests in Syria. Turkey’s position is different from the United States, which is more cautious, partially due to the fact that Israel is deeply concerned about the possibility of another Muslim Brotherhood government right on its doorstep. Further, the Gulf States should not be seen as merely US or NATO puppets, and have their own interests in Syria, some of which are aligned with US interests (e.g. weakening Iran) but some of which are opposed to US interests (e.g. support for Salafist groups).

      The United States has relatively little control over the situation in Syria at the moment. They are, of course, trying to increase their control, (e.g. via what you call the “puppet council”), but at this point the US is engaged mainly in damage control, that is trying to reduce the influence of the most reactionary Islamists on the outcome and hence the future government.

      Since proletarian revolution is not on the table, the great irony here is that what the Americans hope to see emerge from this mess (e.g. a stable, pluralistic, secular, liberal democracy), is not all that different from what the anti-”NATO imperialists” want to see. Of course, mentioning this is a sure way to throw them into conniptions.

      • Ben Campbell

        I should probably clarify before my comment is completely strawmaned.

        What the US would really love to see in Syria is some puppet government completely subservient to Western interests. What most anti-”imperialists” would love to see is proletarian revolution. Given what is currently happening on the ground in Syria, neither option is particularly realistic. Thus, what the US reasonably hope for is really not all that different from what many of these anti-”imperialists” would reasonably like to see (e.g. some form of stable, pluralistic, secular, liberal democracy). There are, of course differences, but these differences pale in comparison to many of the other terrible outcomes that are still possible (e.g. reactionary Islamists government, descent into sectarian civil war, Assad unleashing even greater devastation…).

        And so, despite coming at it from completely different perspectives, the reality on the ground has forced somewhat of a convergence between the desires of the “imperialists” and the anti-”imperialists” who ostensibly oppose them, at least for the moment (these desires will likely diverge again in the future). Since these anti-”imperialists” would never admit this, they must fabricate facts or argue in various non sequiturs in order to always position themselves diametrically opposed to the “imperialist” interest.

        • Arthur

          This is wishful thinking. There’s not much evidence the “anti-imperialists” would welcome “some form of stable, pluralistic, secular, liberal democracy”, let alone a proletarian revolution. They know perfectly well that they are trying to keep vicious tyrannies in power and they openly share the same hatred, contempt and fear of the Arab masses that is expressed in the traditional US foreign policy establishment’s support for autocracies on the basis that free elections would inevitably result in anti-Western islamist regimes.

      • Spectrehauntingeurope

        I do realise that, and I think that also factors into why NATO hasn’t simply invaded. Given long-standing US policy to provide arms via proxy states when it’s more convenient for them, I don’t think Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would be providing arms if the US really didn’t want them to. Though I could be mistaken about the balance of power in this regard. In my opinion there is a tacit alliance between Salafists/islamic fundamentalism and imperialism, and the US is content to accept them as allies if it means getting rid of economically independent states.

        I don’t, actually, specifically want a secular liberal “democracy”. If the Syrians want an Islamic state, I don’t think that necessarily has to be a terrible thing. What’s I think is of the greatest importance w/r/t the advancement of worldwide socialism is that the Syrian state remains independent of Western imperialism, manages to stay free from a sort of capitalist re-colonisation and maintains an economically nationalist project that may one day meld into a regional re-awakening/shaking off of Western hegemony, somewhat like what’s happening in Latin-America. I think this will not happen if the FSA wins, in fact the opposite is more likely to happen: accepting NATO/Gulf monarchy help ruins any chance of real independence.

  • http://www.kildenasman.se Benny Åsman

    It’s very strange to see so many “leftists” turning their backs on the Syrian revolution with the argument that NATO/Imperialism/The West/Arab reactionary regimes are trying to influence the outcome of the struggle in Syria. Especially as it’s so obvious that Washington is holding back the deliveries of arms and aid to the rebellion because it don’t wont the FSA to win in a manner that will lead to the falling apart of the Syrian state institutions as happened in Libya.
    It would have been impossible for the same “leftists” to turn their back on the Portugeese revolution 1974 with the argument that bourgeois forces took part in the revolution, that imperialism intervened to influence the revolutionary forces or that the church influenced the outcome in Portugal or especially in Poland. They would then have been the laughing stock of the moment. Behind some of the actual reactions against the “arab spring” I’m more and more convinced that we are finding ourselves in front of some sort of racism. “These arabs are not mature for democracy. Islamist fundamentalism will lead to a disaster worse than the Assad despotism”.

    • Spectrehauntingeurope

      That’s a very superficial analysis, I might even call it intellectually dishonest. If you look deeper the real dividing issue is that of imperialism and independence from Western capitalism. There is no problem for most anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists or Maoists in aligning with (the nationalist parts of the) bourgeois forces if it serves the cause of national independence from imperialism.

      • Brian S.

        @Spectrehauntingeurope:
        “Left-communists and some Trotskyist groups support the opposition in their democratic revolution …against an authoritarian regime. However, in order to achieve this they align themselves with blatantly reactionary groups and even NATO imperialism.
        The first part of this statement is correct (both a correct description and a correct political position); the second half is one of those trick phrases that confuses rather than clarifies debate. What is “align with” supposed to mean? if you mean “find ourselves on the same side as” then sure: but what should we do about that – abandon the Syrian people because we’re in mixed company? On the other hand if you mean “embrace as allies” then, speaking for myself and many who have similar views, for most its pure nonsense: we support the FSA, defend its right, given the concrete conditions of the struggle, to accept support from wherever they can find it; and at the same time denounce the reactionary forces in the struggle (although we’re careful to identify such forces accurately, and not on the basis of preconceived notions); and we warn of the dangers that come with foreign intervention. Just read the many threads on Syria on this site for documentation.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    My point was simply the only areas where anyone could hold a socialist or union meeting are controlled/protected by the FSA, and even that is a dimming prospect as the Islamists grow more powerful by the day as a result of leftists’ and Western governments’ inaction. That was the point of the umbrella remark.

    • David Thorstad

      This is supposed to qualify as a Marxist take on the situation in Syria? Blame it on Western leftists and NATO for not supporting a rebellion that is worth supporting merely because it is against a lousy regime, regardless of its internal dynamics or religious fanaticism? Superficial nonsense. The class, sectarian, and ethnic complexities are swept aside. None of the internal factors to Syria are to blame, only outside (Western, I presume) failures are holding back a progressive revolution. You are not, it would appear, pointing a finger of blame at Syrian leftists–or are you? And why shouldn’t the revolution, if that’s what it is, be the work of the Syrians themselves? And, once again, why not instead call on Western leftists to organize an antiwar movement to oppose imperialist intervention? To the disgrace of the left, there is no antiwar movement on the horizon, and that would seem to be a more worthwhile critique of the left than the one you make. The obvious ascendancy of reactionary Islamist forces in the Syrian rebellion doesn’t appear to faze you. Even that you blame on non-Syrian leftists and the imperialists. This kind of “analysis,” sad to say, makes Obummer and the imperialists look like they have a better grasp of reality. I wonder if you were an Alawite living in Syria, or a Christian, or even a radical communist, possibly a Kurd, you might see things differently. A more subtle analysis is called for than your johnny-one-note approach.

      • Ben Campbell

        This is one thing that quite bothers me about the anti-”imperialist” left. You can’t have it both ways. The reason for the “ascendancy of reactionary Islamist forces” is precisely because there wasn’t much in the way of help coming from the West. The anti-”imperialist” left got what they wanted – the West, by and large, stayed out of things – and as a result the most reactionary Islamist forces, fueled by weapons from the Sunni monarchies, gained ascendance. Now the same anti-”imperialist” left points to those reactionary Islamist forces as some sort of justification for their anti-”imperialist” stance!

        I don’t pretend to have the answers for this mess of a situation, but the poverty of analysis on the “left” is mind-boggling.

        • Brian S.

          Spot on!

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          Their “anti-imperialism” is just a bunch of one-sided tautologies strung together in a closed loop. Factors other than U.S./NATO/Western imperialism simply do not compute.

        • Arthur

          Mind boggling indeed! But not at all recent. Essentially the same stuff was being peddled by the same people when you had not seen through it.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Your idea of a subtle treatment of the complexities of the Syrian uprising is to disown anyone who dares to say, “God is great” as some kind of jihadi fanatic. Barton has already dealt with this Islamophobic idiocy above.

        The rise of the Islamists doesn’t faze me because I, like Brian Slocums and Clay Claiborne of North Star, saw it coming a long time ago when Islamist forces proved in practice to be 1,000 times more internationalist than the West’s pathetic pseudo-lefts who have yammered on for two years straight about the permanently impending U.S. “war on Syria” that never comes and never will. While pseudo lefts couldn’t even muster even a verbal statement of solidarity with the FSA because they were too busy warning about non-existent wars, the Islamists sent money, people, guns, and bread. Given this, you don’t need a PhD in Marxism to see why it is people in Syria would be more inclined to follow the Jabhat al-Nusrahs than so-called Marxists or leftists.

        Obummer and his gang know exactly why they’re starving the FSA of weapons and allowing Assad to cross all the so-called red lines, which is more than I can say for you.

  • Max

    “Obviously you’re not an expert in military hardware if you think those can be used for anything other than defense.”

    Me neither. But if I thought my enemy’s missiles couldn’t affect me, I’d be more liable to use mine in a first strike.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Sure, but there’s no evidence that the Turkish military is preparing an offensive. All the evidence indicates an extreme reluctance on their part towards any type of military option.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Those interested in fact-based discussion about Syria will be interested in the growing friction between the Free Syrian Army and the jihadi-salafi elements:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/17/syria-crisis-alqaida-fighters-true-colours

    Developments like this serve to highlight the folly of lumping Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusrah, the Free Syrian Army, and any/everyone in Syria who says “God is great” together into one reactionary mass.

    • http://www.socialistworld.net K

      It also highlights the folly of, like you are, claiming that the islamists are on “the right side”. And that their growing influence is the result of too little Western influence. As if Western imperialism would be more inclined towards bourgeoisie democrats than islamists. To come to this conclusion one must have forgotten who Qatar and Saudi Arabia are allied with. So what is the other option then? Suggesting that the western left would somehow have any control over which groups the NATO choose to arm is absolutely nonsensical of course. So what then, a carte blanche, somehow assuming the West are naturally inclined towards democracy? That seems to be your position. I of course, disagree, and therefore you put me in the “pro-Assad” camp, just as the actual pro-Assad people say I am with the islamists.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        The Islamists are on the right side of the Syrian revolution.

        Saudia Arabia and Qatar do not have identical interests to the United States, Britain, and France. That should be obvious to all Marxists.

        We should demand arms for the Free Syrian Army, whether they came from Uncle Sam, Great Britain, France, or Uganda makes no difference to anyone in Syria. Waiting for an anti-imperialist tooth fairy to appear (or for the U.S.S.R. to rise from the ashes of history) to arm the revolution helps no one except the Assad regime. Opposing Western imperialist arms for the revolution can, in practice, only benefit the Assad regime, verbal protests about its brutality or economic policy notwithstanding. Talk is cheap. What matters now is deeds, or the lack thereof.

        Not only should we demand arms for the FSA, we should raise money and ship arms, blankets, and whatever else the Syrian people need to win over the heads of the do-nothing imperialist governments. Direct action gets the goods.

        • http://endallwar.wordpress.com Matt

          “We should demand arms for the Free Syrian Army, whether they came from Uncle Sam, Great Britain, France, or Uganda makes no difference to anyone in Syria. Waiting for an anti-imperialist tooth fairy to appear (or for the U.S.S.R. to rise from the ashes of history) to arm the revolution helps no one except the Assad regime”.

          No, the FSA should demand those arms. Aren’t they already? Then that is *sufficient* and *adequate* to the situation. “We” – revolutionary socialists in the above named countries – unconditionally support *their* demand. It is their lives, it is their call!

          That is different from moving in a practical manner to pressure our own enemies at home to supply the FSA arms, which is what the slogan above seems to assert. First of all under present circumstances, it is a completely impotent call, as we lack the mass basis to enact such a pressure. NATO imperialism will make its own call by its own criterion no matter what we try to do. So, no, I don’t think “Western leftists”, meaning here revolutionary socialists (a different thing) matter not one iota in the NATO imperialist calculus. It is to forget who, what and where we are right now to think otherwise.

          OTOH, if we led a mass revolutionary movement in our own countries, the slogan wouldn’t even appear on the program, as we would be moving directly for power against our own enemy at home, and on that same basis we could directly supply them ourselves!

          As per the answer to Arther, this reflects the real material difference in the situations. And it is quite explainable to Syrians or anybody else. I’d be lying to myself to think that “our support” would make any difference to the imperialist calculus, other than to make “us” look like fools.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            I would never insist on such a demand unless I heard it from the people in question first. They (and plenty of people not in the Free Syrian Army) have been demanding arms, all arms, any arms, from any quarter for nearly two years now.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Those who would theorize that Western powers prefer the Salafists in JaN, should acquaint themselves with the analysis from these plugged in think tank scholars. Via https://twitter.com/SyrianSupport/status/293755803893104640 , http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/fallout-from-the-fall-of-taftanaz . WINEP is a Zionist think tank that is a spinoff from AIPAC. “WHO FOUGHT AND WHAT IT MEANS
    Three rebel factions took part in the fight: Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), and the Syrian Liberation Front (SLF). All three are outside the structure of the SMC, a grouping of provincial military council leaders and battalion (katiba) and brigade (liwa) commanders formed in December. The council’s purpose is to unite Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions, implement command and control, funnel SOC support to armed units, and keep weapons out of the hands of extremists.

    Jabhat al-Nusra, an independent faction that is not part of the FSA, is a global jihadist group that follows al-Qaeda’s worldview. According to the State Department’s December announcement designating it as a terrorist organization, JN was established as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq nearly a year ago. Over the past few months, it has gained prominence as one of the country’s best fighting forces, conducting more than 600 suicide bombings, assassinations, improvised explosive device attacks, and strikes on regime checkpoints and security/military buildings, in addition to regular battlefield action. Although JN is capable of attacking most parts of Syria, the majority of its operations have occurred in Aleppo and Idlib, and to a lesser extent Damascus and Deir al-Zour. The group’s ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state in the entire Levant as a starting point to reestablishing the Caliphate.

    The Syrian Islamic Front is a conglomeration of eleven “brigades” outside the FSA. Formed last December, it lacks JN’s coherent structure. Ideologically, the SIF can best be described as a collection of locally focused jihadists with no known connections to al-Qaeda. Three of the brigades took part in the Taftanaz battle: Kataib Ahrar al-Sham (the SIF’s leading unit), Jamaat al-Taliah al-Islamiyah, and Harakat al-Fajr al-Islamiyah. Like JN, the SIF’s goal is to establish an Islamic state based on Salafi interpretations of Islam, but only within Syria proper. The video announcing the group’s creation indicates that its funding comes from the Qatar Charity Organization and Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Fund (IHH), which supports U.S.-designated terrorist groups such as Hamas.

    The Syrian Liberation Front is another grouping of so-called brigades outside the FSA, founded last September. The smallest faction involved in the Taftanaz operation was Liwa Dawoud, one of the eight battalions within Suqur al-Sham, a leading SLF brigade. Ideologically similar to the SIF, the SLF hopes to establish an Islamic state in Syria; its members are a mix of Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists and Salafists who are less radical than those in the SIF and JN. The SLF is believed to receive funding from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and wealthy Persian Gulf donors.

    Given their demonstrated fighting prowess, these Islamist forces have earned much respect from Syrians. Unlike some FSA groups, which have increasingly been accused of corruption in places such as Aleppo, JN, the SIF, and the SLF are viewed as fair brokers that do not take advantage of the downtrodden. Unless something changes, Islamists are likely to play a significant role in northern Syria following the regime’s departure.” Two of the authors of that piece, previous, “Washington has the means of finding and assisting Syrian opposition factions that meet important political and military benchmarks, despite the risks involved.” See http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/how-to-vet-potential-allies-in-syria

    • Brian S.

      The SSG is not a “think tank” but a small group who lobby for the FSA- they probably have some decent intel from inside Syria, but spin it to the point where it has limited credibility.
      Tabler and White are interesting figures: not so much for their intel on Syria (don’t know where it comes from ) but for the insight it gives into vanguard thinking in the US foreign policy establishment. Don’t know how much real influence they have, though.
      This account ,if it is accurate is interesting, because it suggests the coalition of forces involved in the capture of Taftanaz and therefore the benefiicaries of the heavy weapons seized was broader than I understood – the media focused on Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.
      I would take the claim about IHH with a pinch of salt – according to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IHH_%28Turkish_NGO%29
      “That IHH was banned in Germany later turned out to be a mixup between the Turkish İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri and the banned German Internationale Humanitäre Hilfsorganisation. The U.S. government said it “cannot validate” any relationship or connection between İHH and al-Qaida.[60] Turkish authorities made no further efforts after the raid regarding support for Bosnian, Chechen and Afghan fighters[58] and IHH replied that there was an acquittal in the court case and nothing ever came of the charges.[61]“

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Fund (IHH) , noted in my post just above, was the subject of this report by a right-wing Zionist counter-terrorism think tank after the killings on the Free Gaza flotilla, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/data/pdf/PDF_10_126_2.pdf , http://www.tenc.net/archive/itic%20on%20ihh.htm , http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/fallout-from-the-gaza-flotilla-tragedy Needless to say, if they are supporting the Syrian Islamic Front, that isn’t exactly what the Obama admin., the French or the British would like …unless one holds to the thesis of Frank Gaffney about the Obama admin. and creeping Sharia ;-) The IHH played a more recent role in this hostage release, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-group-plays-key-syria-swap-role.aspx?pageID=238&nid=38744 of Iranian IRGC held in Syria. The IHH did have a role in the Chechen and Bosnian Wars of National Liberation which, if you want to dig into the weeds on these questions, is intriguing.

    • http://www.socialistworld.net K

      Yet Mossad provided the initial funding for Hamas, back in the 80′s, to destabilize the PLO. And branches of the Pakistani government have funded islamists, even though Pakistan is an ally in the “War Against Terror”.
      My question is why would Israeli, U.S or Western Government funded militas necessarily be “good democrats” when solid U.S allies in the form of the gulf-state dictatorships are happy to fund islamists? Of course Israel takes a rather sour view to the possibility of an islamist state, literally, next door. Yet at the same time consider the Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennhada in Tunisia, they may have their views on Israel, but they are also in alliance with western imperialism. So I am still curious what result Pham expects from a stronger Nato intervention.

      • Arthur

        I don’t know what Pham expects from stronger NATO intervention but I would expect the regime to be defeated more rapidly with less people killed and less scope for takfiris to cause mayhem afterwards.

        What do you expect from NATO’s non-intervention? Do you expect the regime to survive after having killed tens of thousands of its people and displaced hundreds of thousands? Do you expect the influence of terrorists to be reduced?

        What precisely do you expect to happen?

  • http://www.kildenasman.se Benny Åsman

    Hi Pham,

    Thanks for your message about the visit in Sweden of Razan Ghazzawi . I have transfered the information to those in Sweden responsible for the solidarity work. I , myself, lives in Bryssels since many years.
    Comradely greetings
    Benny

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    The SSG is not a “think tank” but a small group who lobby for the FSA…indeed, which is why I said WINEP is, see
    http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=4884?replytocom=28419#comment-28409 .

    • Brian S.

      Sorry Michael, I didn’t understand the “via” in your post in the way you intended, and thought your “thinktank” was meant to apply to both url’s. Just wanted to clarify the issue.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    When one finds information via one source, such as https://twitter.com/SyrianSupport/status/293755803893104640 and that is given as the source, and the next url given is identified as a think tank, and the political bent of that think tank is given, but, only the latter was identified as a think tank, one should assume that the latter and only the latter is identified as the think tank? http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/fallout-from-the-fall-of-taftanaz . On the SSG specifically a Syrian-American who works with them was interviewed on 60 Minutes recently. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57531527/syrias-war-an-opportunity-for-radical-fighters/ There is another url that can be ignored like the dozens in the piece by Pham ;-) For all the hype about the internet on the left, as elsewhere across the ideological terrain, what I have found as have many, many others who write about the subject or not, what I’ve found is that if you started out as a dogmatist when you got on the WWW , no amount of url’s from those opposing your position was going to change your mind. People cocoon in their ideological comfort zone.

    Raising donations from Syrian-Americans, the SSG has a special license from the Department of the Treasury to send money to rebels who can use it to buy weapons, communication equipment or other supplies for the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s government. The group, which reports regularly to the State Department on its work inside Syria, aims to identify upstanding commanders who agree to protect human rights. Dr. Nana travels to Syria frequently, he says, to check on their activities and to “make sure they are standing for their values.”

    But he warns that, because the rebel commanders he backs are not getting the weapons and funding that they need, they are losing ground to jihadists – some with ties to al Qaeda – who are pouring into the fight. Nana, a moderate, says the rise of these groups is the direct result of the West’s failure to come to the aid of the Syrian rebels. “When you fight for your life, you ask for help,” he tells Ward. “And when good people don’t help you, you’re going to ask for help from anybody else.”

    Ward spoke with the leader of one of the jihadi groups, Ahmed al-Abaid who commands several hundred Muslim fundamentalist fighters based in Northern Syria. In an interview with Ward, he said the free Syria he is fighting for will be ruled under Sharia law but denied reports that, under his command, self-appointed Sharia judges were sentencing prisoners to death. Ward gathered evidence, however, and confronted him in a second interview with a propaganda video showing his brigade executing captured Syrian government soldiers. He was startled by the video but defended the verdict. “No, I was not aware. This is the first time that I see this,” he said, but when Ward reminded him that his men were clearly responsible for the execution all he could say was “I really don’t know, what can I say. I can no[t] speak,” he tells Ward.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Yet Mossad provided the initial funding for Hamas, back in the 80′s, to destabilize the PLO. As a counter-weight vs. what they perceived as a secular leftist Fatah with loads of Soviet funding (which it was ;-) , the immediate predecessors to Hamas, were allowed to receive funding from abroad, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/ZER403A.html according to that article. I do not have handy at the moment, a book by Robert Dreyfuss, with a chapter on Hamas , the Muslim Brotherhood and the Israelis which might assert a stronger version of the assertion by K., above, that Israel itself funded the proto-Hamas, the Mujama al-Islamiya.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Kurdish politics is extremely complex. I scarcely understand the various political formations and their conflicts with opposing forces. This brief report from a well connected think tank , http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/egypt-syria-lebanon/syria/136-syrias-kurds-a-struggle-within-a-struggle.aspx , gives some signals as to where NATO powers would prefer the alignments within Kurdish political forces go. RECOMMENDATIONS
    To the PYD, KNC and representatives of independent youth groups…To the non-Kurdish Syrian opposition, including its armed elements:

    • Brian S.

      @Michael P.: Thanks for the link – looks very useful.

  • Louis Proyect

    I was reminded of the complexities of these kinds of questions when reading an article in the latest Harper’s today about the crackdown on undocumented workers in the Iowa town that is home to a Hormel plant. The local whites were organizing an Arizona-type referendum that would effectively make it impossible for the workers to remain. As it turned out, Hormel–for its own reasons–opposed the referendum. So does the union-busting Hormel management’s support for their undocumented workforce’s right to be superexploited in the USA militate for a “plague on both your houses” stance?

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Setting aside Johansson’s gross factual errors and distortions, his analysis of why Islamists are becoming more prominent in Syria does not add up. He rails against the notion that the imperialist West’s refusal to provide arms to the Free Syrian Army created a military need that Islamists filled and says that it was because Syrian workers did not act as their Egyptian and Tunisian brethren did that Islamists grew in importance.

    This explanation fits perfectly only if one is totally ignorant of the shape of Tunisian and Egyptian politics today, where Islamists are crushing the left in terms of popular support; Egypt even has an Islamist president! The working class in both countries is far more organized and militant than in Syria, played a tremendous role in bringing down their dictators, and yet Islamists dominate the political landscape in both places.

    Johansson’s analysis tells us that should not be the case.

    The only revolution in which Islamists did not end up playing much of a role is in Libya. Islamists there today have as many seats in the freely and fairly elected national legislature as U.S. socialists have in Congress — zero.

    • Arthur

      Actually in Libya the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party is the second largest in the legislature.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libyan_General_National_Congress_election,_2012

      Islamists are underepresented in Libya partly because of the way the elections were held (including the extremely islamist policies concerning Sharia law promoted by the “non-islamist” parties that won).

      Islamists are certain to be prominent in any democratic revolution in the region.

      What is at issue is not islamists who are a conservative and backward component of the democratic revolution, but takfiris who are its mortal enemies.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        I stand corrected.

        I should have been more specific re: Islamists. I was referring to Abdelhakim Belhadj’s al-Watan Party. The politics of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood I will have to study further before I make a fool of myself again in the same thread.

        • Brian S.

          And the Justice and Construction Party may head the largest group in the legislature: several MB supporters stood as independents, and the MB has built a bloc in the GNC with them and others (there are 19 parties represented in the GNC, 15 of which only have one seat) – The Economist reports that this gives them a further 60 seats, for a total of 77 out of 200. http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21569418-muslim-brotherhood-looks-likely-make-further-gains-knack
          Some idea of the balance of power may be derived from the election of the PM: the MB candidate received 85 votes and his opponent, Ali Zidan, 93.
          There a few salafists in the Congress – one recently had an outburst in which he claimed the GNC was paralysed because it had uncovered women sitting among them, and apparently got some applause.
          Its interesting is to look at the party votes in the elections – the Islamists: MB+Al Watan+others got about 15%; Jibril’s group got 48%, and other “liberal” parties got 10% or so. Things will get clearer as we move towards the drafting of the constitution.
          By the way, there’s a group of 20 GNC independents who supported Zidan (so non-MB) who describe themselves as “the Workers Group”: don’t how accurate this translation is, and can’t seem to find anything more about them: but worth keeping an eye out.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            I’ll keep this group in mind with the handful of Arabic-speaking contacts I have. Maybe Libyan Rebel will know.

    • http://www.socialistworld.net K

      As has already been pointed out your claim about Libya is incorrect.
      I am sure our members in Tunisia and supporters in Egypt will be surprised to know that we are apparently “ignoring” what’s going on in their countries. So indeed would anyone who was actually aware of our perspectives vis a vis those countries.

      So obviously you are not reading our analysis correctly. Indeed what Ennhada in Tunisia and MB in Egypt show is the dangers of counter-revolutionary islamist forces. The islamists as such generally stood on the sidelines during the revolutions and only know come in as the “stable” alternative for the bourgeoisie, both internal and in the West. I would give you a list of links, but you obviously know where our website is already.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        I have no problem admitting that I made a mistake. I look forward to Johansson doing the same with his mistakes in whatever he writes next about Syria.

        My overall point was that Johansson’s analysis of why Islamist forces have become more prominent in Syria than in Egypt and Tunisia — the lack of working class action — is wrong. The working classes of both countries were and are very active and yet Islamists are even more dominant in Egypt and Tunisia than they are in Syria, where they remain a minority on the revolutionary side of the war. What you claim is “generally” true about the role of Islamists in the Arab Spring is decidedly not the case in either Libya or Syria where they played an important military (and therefore political) role during the revolutions.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    I was curious about what Pham asserts above. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Libya#List_of_parties_with_seats_in_the_General_National_Congress and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Libya#List_of_parties_without_seats_in_the_General_National_Congress . Given that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_and_Construction_Party is one of the former parties, with seats in the General National Congress and it is the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in Libya, Pham could nuance himself a little on the statement above. They have 17 seats. Intriguing that out of 200 seats in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_National_Congress , 120 are held by independents with no party affiliation? Also there is one Socialist in our Congress, Bernie Sanders. Cue, to denunciations of social democratic, revisionist reformist Bernie ;-)

    • Brian S.

      Hi Michael – the reason that there are such a large number of independents in the GNC is that the interim constitutional law under which the elections were held divided the seats into 80 for which parties could compete; and 120 that ccould only be contested by independents. I think the rationale for this was that there were no historic or established parties in the country and the time for campaigning was short, so that the electorate would not be able to make a judgement on a programmatic basis, but would be able to choose trusted people from their own communities. There was also some lobbyng from traditional leaders – tribal elders and religious figures – who were afraid that they would be squeezed out in an open party-based election. The new constitution is unlikely to reproduce this structure (or at least not this extreme weighting) – so it might be good news for the “liberal” forces, but there are so many factors in play that its different to foresee.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Found via http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2012/12/an-islamist-free-syrian-army-brigade.html , one of the recommended blogs on the right-hand side, http://cjchivers.com/post/41268779988/syrias-kurds-and-those-who-have-rebelled-on , >…On the NYT, a look at Kurdish fighting groups and fighters who have sided with the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

    In much of the popular discourse, Syria’s Kurds are either sitting out the civil war raging around them or have thrown their support behind Mr. Assad’s government. That’s not quite so. Kurdish ambitions and politics have never been uniform, and rivalries and factions with the region’s Kurds have long played out beneath their frustrated quest for statehood. And in Syria as in Iraq, where Kurds predominantly supported the American-led invasion in 2003 and then worked within the post-Baathist government, many of Syria’s Kurds say they oppose — and fight — their longtime rulers. It’s not an easy path.

    Omar Abdulkader, R, a section leader of the Grandsons of Saladin fighting group, a Kurdish wing of the al-Tawhid Brigade, the largest Free Syrian Army formation in the Aleppo region. By the author. A few days ago. Alghooz, Syria.
    More, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/some-syrian-kurds-resist-assad-defying-conventional-views.html?hp&_r=1& . The first url I found because I am looking for more information about allegations contained in this http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/01/24/syrian-rebels-burn-and-plunder-religious-sites-hrw.html . You will note that Sister Mary Agnes and Agenzia Fides, is cited, again. This is a reprint of http://rt.com/news/rebels-attack-religious-sites-580/ . The youtube user cited there is http://www.youtube.com/user/syriarage . This is being covered by sites with far more cred than RT, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/01/201312322462753542.html . That story has an embedded hyperlink to, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuZdTmg4Ncg ,”In the village of Zarzour in Idlib province, researchers found evidence of deliberate damage to the local husseiniya, a Shia place of worship, caused by opposition fighters in December.

    Its windows were broken, prayer stones littered on the floor, walls charred from flames, and what appeared to be the remnants of a burned prayer rug lay on the floor.” This is the HRW press release, http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/23/syria-attacks-religious-sites-raise-tensions . This has been rare by FSA units, but, given how HRW does help to set the human rights agenda, ignoring these incidents will not serve the larger cause of those advocating for the Revolutionary movement. “In three villages – Zarzour, Ghasaniyeh, and Jdeideh – Human Rights Watch found evidence of attacks against religious minority sites after the areas fell under the control of armed opposition groups and government forces had left the area.” HRW and other groups have documented numerous instances of the regime destroying mosques, for an example see pg. 26 of http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria0512WebVersionReduced.pdf . The Kurdish Question and the religious liberties of minorities are two of the ancillary issues over which vigilance will be needed in the post-Assad era, as the Islamist forces that fight on behalf of the FSA but, which refuse to incorporate themselves within its command and control mechanisms , such as JaN, would not appear to be grounded in the same set of political principles as the majority of the FSA and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which would protect the rights of Kurds, religious minorities, political pluralism, a civil state.

    • Brian S.

      Thanks very much for this Michael: I try to to follow HRW, who I have a lot of respect for , but had missed this report. I’ll need to take some time to study it. I’ve seen a video of one of the Shia mosque desecrations and it looked incontestable; I think the authors were one of the smaller salafist groups. I fear its inevitable in a situation like this, where the regime has been built around sectarian alliances, that there will be some sectarian acts on the opposition side. Indeed, its amazing that there hasn’t been more – and its only become significant with the rise of the salafists. I agree with you that we can’t ignore these incidents when they are convincingly documented. The position I had in Libya was full support for the revolutionaries, but also full support for those like HRW who exposed both the crimes of the regime and the failings of the revoluti0nary forces.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    How the Syrian revolution armed itself:
    http://qunfuz.com/2013/01/23/the-revolution-armed-itself/

  • Raed Baroud

    Truly, thank you for speaking out. I will pass this on to family and friends in and outside Syria to help convince them that not everyone on the Western left has betrayed them. My family are Syrian-Palestinian and my disgust at those pseudo-radical media figures and activists who claim to care about Palestinian freedom and to be outraged by Israeli genocide while supporting repression and genocide in Syria – because (they claim) it’s ‘anti-imperialist’ – is hard to even put into words.

    Syria will not forget or forgive the monstrous betrayal by Western ”humanitarians” and ”human rights groups.” In reality these pseudo-radicals don’t care about Syrians, Palestinians or anyone else, and know and care nothing about the Middle East – they care only about posturing and appearing ‘anti-imperialist’ whether or not this involves them supporting totalitarianism and genocide. Thankfully in the age of the internet their support for genocide and totalitarianism will be difficult for them to deny when their willful blindness is finally exposed. I suspect they have lived in a bubble of wealth and privilege all their lives and this is why they support the privileged minority in Syria who benefited from Assad’s rule at the expense of the brutally oppressed majority. Whatever their reasons, they aren’t good enough.

    • Brian S.

      Well said. We do our best to uphold the real traditions of the left – which has always been against tyranny and injustice, and for popular liberation.

    • Arthur

      Hi Raed, great to hear from you! Yes, the pseudo-left are disgusting.I thought some of the Western “human rights” groups were not as bad as the pseudo-left. Can you tell us more about views from Syrians?

    • K

      Just to clarify, the article Binh is responding to, written by a member of the group I am in (who’s international organization certainly has sections outside of the West) is not defending or making excuses for the Assad regime. It is a capitalist, reactionary and dictatorial regime and not in any way a force for anti-imperialism.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    In it, the Qatari prime minister talks of contacting Russia to convince it of abandoning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, offering guarantees from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that Moscow’s naval base can remain in Syria. http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/qatar-leaks-business-foreign-affairs From Document 1…. Mursi: If the Iranians get involved in solving the issue in Syria, they will win and become closer to Turkey and the Gulf.

    But on the Syrian issue, unfortunately it’s the Russians. If they say the word, the Syrian regime will be finished. Hamad: They are starting to think of names. In the past, they had good relations with us and we have common [oil] wells. But on the Syrian issue, unfortunately it’s the Russians. If they say the word, the Syrian regime will be finished. But Russia is still insisting on the issue. I spoke to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on the phone for 40 minutes. It was a bad conversation, although my relationship with him used to excellent, but the call was a failure. Now, they are starting to lose balance and want a solution.
    Mursi: Why do they want it?

    Hamad: They have a marine base in Syria. We told them we will work on an agreement between you and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but they did not accept.

    Mursi: They are part of the problem and he will leave…

    • Brian S.

      Very interesting. And I could think of worse deals. But I doubt the Qatari’s could deliver – and I imagine the Russians know that. But you’d think they’d be looking for a “Plan B” by now, wouldn’t you?

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Still no sign of Johansson’s alleged FSA massacre of Christians though.

    Massacres, no. The HRW press release cited above does note this though. Two Christian churches in Latakia governorate were looted… In Ghasaniyeh and Jdeideh, two Christian villages in Latakia, residents told Human Rights Watch that many of their neighbors fled because of dire humanitarian conditions, fear of armed opposition fighters in their area, and fear of air and artillery strikes by government forces.

    There are lurid accounts such as this, (200 Christians killed in Homs by Free Syrian Army) , that I have found no substantiation for, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2848301/posts , except for a slogan found in that piece being similar to that reported here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarianism_in_the_Syrian_civil_war#cite_note-9 ,”The Christians to Beirut, the Alawites to the grave.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarianism_in_the_Syrian_civil_war#Persecution_and_attacks_on_Christians_and_churches rounds up the allegations, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2255103/Syria-rebels-beheaded-Christian-fed-dogs-fears-grow-Islamist-atrocities.html mainly disseminated by Agenzia Fides. I have also found material on this topic on this neo-con site, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3186/syria-christians , which cites http://sg.christianpost.com/dbase.php?cat=society&id=1926 . This leftist site echos the same charge about 200 Christians killed , http://www.globalresearch.ca/christians-threatened-by-free-syrian-army-seek-government-protection/31952 by reprinting an article from a Christian news site. http://syrian-christian.org/ethnic-cleansing-of-christians-in-syria-facts-and-propaganda/ , again, is a reply to these sets of allegations. Agenzia Fides does allege persecution of Christians in Al-Qusayr, http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=31694&lan=eng , about which there is reportage from reliable news magazines, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/christians-flee-from-radical-rebels-in-syria-a-846180.html . Just as there are Christian FSA units, http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2528 , there are also many Christians, alas, who will likely stay align with the Regime till it falls, if they haven’t already become refugees in squalid camps. The ideological divisions within the revolutionary bloc between those who espouse a non-sectarian, pluralist line advocating a civil state, and those in groups like JaN, which don’t will be among the most divisive issues confronting a post-Assad polity.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Ras Al-Ain was a subject in that piece by Johansson. I see there are major clashes being reported there in the past week, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i5gi0DGCrI8PgEz-_lkZaPIWG1kA?docId=CNG.1b97d97c19ef1173f82b9ae0a3321f2d.181 , http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=744_1358726076 . Those hyperlinks are courtesy of http://mideastwire.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/chivers-at-ny-times-leaves-out-the-meat-turkish-involvement-with-jabhat-an-nusra-implications-for-us-policy-and-relations/ , which I found via, http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2013/01/chivers-at-ny-times-leaves-out-meat.html , which is a source I look to, to check some of my biases. These battles between Jabhat al-Nusra and the PYD and PKK, in Aleppo and elsewhere, underline the difficulties inherent in the Kurdish Question within the overall set of issues confronting the revolutionary coalition. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/some-syrian-kurds-resist-assad-defying-conventional-views.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0 cf. http://www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2013/01/2013124204226512276.html Fighters belonging to the Kurdish minority in Syria are increasingly becoming caught up in the conflict.
    One group, The Kurdish Popular Protection Force, is battling the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the town of Ras al-Ain in the north.
    The FSA is accusing the Kurds of being Assad’s mercenaries.
    But the Kurds say they are only protecting their own people.
    Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports from the border between Turkey and Syria.
    http://www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2013/01/2013124204226512276.html

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    In Tunisia, Ennahda, is a mixed bag, in the words of Rob Prince, http://www.fpif.org/articles/tunisia_at_a_crossroads . Far more reactionary are the Salafists, http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/01/25/ennahdha-party-co-founder-attacked-by-salafists-in-mosque/ , http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/11/tunisia-salafists-clash-with-security-forces-ennahda-on-the-fence.html , http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/11/14/feature-01 , http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6934/the-emergence-of-salafism-in-tunisia . The October 2011 elections, however, offered a different and surprising, at least for some, picture of the country. The Islamist party Ennahda became by far the dominant political movement and now leads a three-party government coalition together with two secular left-leaning parties. This means that former Islamist political prisoners and exiles are today in power. Ennahda’s landslide victory contradicted the assumptions of many analysts and scholars about Tunisia, which was believed to be a haven of secularism in North Africa, thanks to the modernizing policies of both Bourguiba and Ben Ali. If the electoral strength of Ennahda was not enough to question the effective penetration of Tunisian elite-led secularism in society, the very public emergence of Salafism certainly did the trick. Since the departure of Ben Ali, Salafism has acquired a public presence in urban centers, with Salafists from a variety of different movements involved in numerous high profile incidents: holding demonstrations against blasphemy, targeting films and art exhibits, or challenging dress-code regulations in universities. While the actual number of Salafist activists is relatively small, their highly mediatized activities have placed Salafism at the center of both political and scholarly attention. It is this phenomenon, too easily stereotyped, that deserves analysis.

    In particular, the crucial question of the provenance of these Salafists forcefully arises given the reluctance to accept that they are the product of the domestic Tunisian reality. Thus, the francophone press both in Tunisia and France has been covering what they call the “Salafist danger” or the “Salafist cancer,” as if the phenomenon were an aberration in Tunisian society and a significant threat to the construction of a democratic political system. When one looks at the different Tunisian Salafist movements, there are two points that emerge and are worth analyzing. First, far from being simply an externally-generated political phenomenon, Tunisian Salafism has strong domestic roots. Second, and quite paradoxically, the public presence of Salafism might generate a democratic and liberal backlash that could strengthen social and political pluralism in the longer term as large sectors of society mobilize against illiberal and anti-democratic forces. In addition, operating within a more democratic and liberal framework might change the way in which Salafists relate to the state.

    As mentioned above, there are different strands within Salafism that are present on the Tunisian public scene. Broadly speaking, there are two large families within Salafism: scientific and Jihadi. The crucial difference between the two families is over the use of armed struggle to attain political objectives. Within scientific Salafism in Tunisia there are groups advocating political engagement and acceptance of democracy within the confines of Sharia law (Jabhat al-Islah) and groups involved in preaching a purist version of Islam (dawa and Wahhabism-influenced groups). It is, however, Jihadi Salafism that has attracted most attention. In particular, more recently, it is the issue of Tunisian Jihadi fighters in Iraq that has surfaced in the press. Far from simply being treated solely as a security issue, the debate over the fate of Tunisian fighters in Iraq generated intense debates about the history of Jihadism in Tunisia, its validity as a form of political expression, and the role that it plays in the currently volatile politics of the country.

    Far from being a recent foreign import, Tunisian Jihadism has its historic roots in the dissatisfaction of some Islamists with the political thinking and strategies of the 1980s predecessor of Ennahda: the Mouvement Tendence Islamique (MTI). A radical wing of the MTI splintered from the party to create the Tunisian Islamic Front (TIF) in 1988. Mohammad Ali Hurath, Abdallah al Haji, Mohammad Khoujia, and Mongi al-Hachmi are the founding members of the group, which operated in Sfax and Tunis. The group had a very limited influence on domestic politics and due to the repressive policies of the government, some of its militants left Tunisia for Peshawar where they took part in the Afghani jihad. Other militants went into exile. Ali Hurath, for instance, found refuge in London after a long period between Algeria, Pakistan, former Yugoslavia, and Germany. In the UK, Hurath eventually became general manager of the “Islam Channel” television station. On the air he delivered fiery and radical speeches, leading the authorities to accuse him of incitement to religious extremism. After the fall of Ben Ali, Hurath negotiated with the new Tunisian authorities to allow his return to Tunis in order to establish a political party, which would run in the 2011 elections. At the same time, he stated that a number of militants had been freed from Tunisian jails and were ready to return to the public scene. The permit to set up a party did not arrive at that stage because the transitional authorities did not place any trust in the democratic commitment of any form of Salafism. However, Jabhat al-Islah was eventually legalized on 29 March 2012, possibly because Ennahda, by then in power, vouched for its commitment to democratic procedures. In the month of May of the same year, the party was formally presented to the public during a ceremony attended by a number of prominent religious figures and, crucially, Rachid Ghannouchi, president of Ennahda. The president of the first legal Salafist Tunisian party is Mohamed Khouja, who had been a prominent member of the TIF in the 1980s. The legalization of this Salafist party indicates two important developments.

    First, Jihadists of the older generation, like Hurath and Khouja, preferred from the beginning of the post-revolutionary period to fall within the camp of scientific Salafism and to work within the nascent institutions, despite having major reservations about liberal-democracy and pushing the boundaries of legality with their activities. Thus, the older generation of Salafists seems more attracted by the prospect of participating in institutional politics rather than continuing with street politics. Second, the presence of Ghannouchi at the official presentation suggests that the strategy of engagement Ennahda pursued with sectors of Salafism, to encourage them to pursue their goals thorough the new institutions of the country, has been somewhat successful partly because of the personal relations that the older generation of Islamists have with each other. The problem, however, for future developments in Tunisia is that many of today’s Tunisian Jihadists and Salafists do not really recognize Jabhat al-Islah as their natural home because they draw their ideological and political inspiration from other events and political or military experiences. More @ http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6934/the-emergence-of-salafism-in-tunisia

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Would you explain the position of PFLP on the imperialist aggression in Syria?

    I am screaming with the top of my voice: We stand by the Syrian Army and the people of Syria. We are confident in the people of Syria, who have taken us, Palestinians, under their wings and hosted us on their land for over sixty years. We are confident that they will prevail over this problem.

    http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/palestinian-hero-leila-khaled.html found via https://www.facebook.com/groups/287546081278662/permalink/535127643187170/ , which was linked @
    https://www.facebook.com/Russian.Defense.League/posts/300819056687566 , a Russian far right pg.

  • David Thorstad

    Here, from Junge Welt, is a speech to an anti-imperialist protest in Munich by former Red Army Faktion member Inge Viett that hits the nail on the head. She asks, though, why “we are not millions” to protest imperialist meddling in countries like Libya, Syria, and now, most recently, by the French in Mali. One reason might be that too many “leftists,” instead of organizing against imperialism, are calling on imperialism to militarily intervene in Syria and elsewhere. Viett’s speech should put them to shame.

    > Mit der Kriegslogik brechen
    > Dokumentiert. Rede von Inge Viett auf der Demonstration gegen die Münchner »Sicherheitskonferenz« am 2. Februar
    > Von Inge Viett
    >
    > Im Namen der Antikapitalistischen Linken München (AL[M]) begrüßte Inge Viett die Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer der Demonstration gegen die »Sicherheitskonferenz«, die vom 1. bis 3. Februar in der bayrischen Hauptstadt stattfand. Wir dokumentieren den Wortlaut ihrer Rede.
    > Wir sind heute wieder zu Tausenden hier versammelt, um den imperialistischen Kriegsstrategen im »Bayerischen Hof« unseren Widerstand deutlich zu machen. Wir sollten allerdings Millionen sein, angesichts der wirtschaftlichen, politischen und militärischen Mächte, die unsere Welt mit Ausbeutung, Ausplünderung, Krieg und Zerstörung überziehen und uns einer menschlichen Zukunft berauben. Hier vor unserer Nase treffen sich die Repräsentanten dieser Politik: die Organisatoren von Macht und Herrschaftswissen, die Funktionäre der NATO und Bundeswehr, die Kommissare der EU, die Manager der großen Konzerne, vor allem der Rüstungsindustrie, die Direktoren der Banken und die höchsten Regierungsvertreter der kapitalistischen Staaten. Der Imperialismus ist kein abstraktes System! Hier vor unserer Tür beginnen die Kriege.
    >
    > Heute geht es auf der »Sicherheitskonferenz« um die Bündelung militärischer Schlagkraft der imperialistischen Armeen und konkret um die derzeitigen militärischen Interventionen: Afghanistan, Syrien, Mali und um den Iran. Mit der Zerstörung Libyens hat der Westen die Büchse der Pandora geöffnet. Die Konflikte in Nordafrika und Nahost explodieren, und der Westen hat nur die militärische Gewalt als Antwort. Auf der »Siko« arbeiten sie an der Perfektionierung und Koordinierung ihrer gemeinsamen Raubzüge. Sie nennen es »Sicherheitsarchitektur«.
    >
    > Die Krise des Kapitalismus ist offensichtlich. Nur mit Repression und Gewalt kann er sich neue Profitquellen erschließen, um seinen historischen Untergang hinauszuzögern. So haben wir es gegenwärtig zu tun mit einer epochalen gemeinsamen Offensive des Imperialismus – zur erneuten Kolonisierung, der als Peripherie angesehenen nicht durchkapitalisierten Regionen der Welt, in denen große Energieressourcen liegen.
    >
    > Wir sind täglich konfrontiert mit den immergleichen Lügen- und Rechtfertigungskampagnen für ihren gigantischen Militärapparat, der ihren gigantischen Reichtum sichert und ausweitet, der widerspenstige Kräfte vernichtet, soziale Aufstände adoptiert wie in Syrien oder reglementiert wie in Ägypten, Tunesien und Marokko. Oder sie zerschlagen läßt, wie in Bahrain. Je nachdem, ob die aufständischen Kräfte dem kapitalistischen Weltsystem nutzen könnten oder nicht. Demokratie, Menschenrechte und neuerdings die »Schutzverantwortung« sind die zentralen Rechtfertigungsbegriffe. Aber wie sie sich auch abmühen, die Realität ihrer Barbarei dringt durch all ihre Lügen und zwingt die Betroffenen zu Selbstverteidigung und Widerstand.
    > Weltweite Kontrolle
    > Schlag auf Schlag folgen die Militäreinsätze. Deutschland ist seit dem Untergang des realsozialistischen Lagers immer dabei und treibt wieder seine Rolle als Global player oder genauer: als imperialistischer Akteur in der Weltpolitik voran. Das deutsche Kapital und das deutsche Militär samt ihren politischen Vertretern sind sich darin einig, daß es ihr Recht ist, überall auf der Welt zu intervenieren, wo sie ihre gegenwärtigen und zukünftigen Interessen bedroht sehen oder diese nicht umsetzen können. Vorrangig sind dies die weltweite Kontrolle der Handelswege, Eroberung von Absatzmärkten und Sicherung von Ressourcen. Das Kriegsministerium spricht es ohne Scheu aus: »Unser Feld ist die Welt« (Staatssekretär Rüdiger Wolf auf der Handelsblatt-Konferenz »Sicherheitspolitik und Verteidigungsindustrie«, Berlin 19./20.11.2012).
    >
    > Deutschland als weltweit drittgrößter Waffenexporteur hat allein 2011 Waffen im Volumen von fünf Milliarden Euro verkauft. Die deutsche Rüstungsindustrie hat sich nicht nur zu einem ökonomischen Machtfaktor erster Güte entwickelt, sondern auch zum politischen Akteur, der die Innen- und Außenpolitik mitbestimmt. Der Rüstungsexport ist neben den weltweiten Militäreinsätzen, zu einem Mittel strategischer Zielsetzung der deutschen Außenpolitik geworden und wird seit 2012 offiziell als »Gestaltungsmächtekonzept« angepriesen.
    >
    > Nicht nur, daß der Grundsatz, keine Waffen in Krisengebiete zu exportieren, offiziell entsorgt wird, die Panzerlieferung nach Saudi-Arabien zum Beispiel zeigt auch die ganze Perfidie des Konzeptes. Es macht völlig klar, daß es weder um Demokratie noch um Menschenrechte geht, sondern um den Einfluß Deutschlands auf die Nahostregion. Saudi-Arabien, eine erzreaktionäre, patriarchale Diktatur, in der Frauen und Migranten als Menschen zweiter Klasse gelten und ohne Rechte sind, ein fundamentalistisch religiöses Regime und ein Hort religiöser Fanatiker, wird von Deutschland aufgerüstet, mit dem Ziel die Saudis zu befähigen, innerhalb der Golfstaaten für Ruhe und Ordnung zu sorgen. Das heißt, innere Aufstände niederzuschlagen – wie eben in Bahrain geschehen. Zu nichts anderem taugen die 800 »Leopard«-Panzer, die auf dem Weg von deutschen Häfen nach Saudi-Arabien sind. Es geht um die Einflußnahme auf Riad als stärkste »Gestaltungsmacht« in der Golfregion. Im Kampf um die Kontrolle der rohstoffreichen Golfregion, haben die imperialistischen Staaten bereits den Irak, Libyen und jetzt Syrien zerstört, um am Ende den Iran angreifen zu können.
    > Deutschland will mit von der Partie sein bei der »Neugestaltung« des Nahen Ostens.
    > Keine Illusionen
    > Warum sind wir nicht Millionen. Wissen die Menschen zu wenig, was um sie herum vorgeht? Ich glaube nicht, denn zwei Drittel der Bevölkerung wollen keine Kriegspolitik. Was sie hindert, ist zum einen das Gefühl der Ohnmacht und zum anderen die Illusion, die Hoffnung auf eine »vernünftige« Politik, auf eine »vernünftige« Regierung mit »vernünftigem« Personal. Diese Illusion bestimmt das Verhalten so vieler Menschen hier und reicht weit in die linke Bewegung hinein. Gutgläubige, Friedensbewegte und aufrichtige Demokratinnen und Demokraten appellieren an die Herrschenden, machen Aufklärung und Propaganda für eine bessere Welt. Diese Hoffnung erfüllt sich jedoch nicht.
    > Rosa Luxemburg hat 1913 im Vorkriegstaumel des Ersten Weltkrieges geschrieben: »Wir haben auch noch mit einer andern Illusion, die Verwirrung anrichten kann, reinen Tisch zu machen, nämlich mit der Illusion von der Abrüstung. (…) Solange das Kapital herrscht, werden Rüstungen und Krieg nicht aufhören. Alle großen und kleinen kapitalistischen Staaten sind jetzt in den Strudel der Wettrüstungen gerissen. (…) Es ist eine hoffnungslose Utopie, zu erwarten, daß durch unsre Propaganda für die Abrüstung die kapitalistischen Staaten aufhören werden zu rüsten. Die Rüstungen sind eine fatale Konsequenz der kapitalistischen Entwicklung, und dieser Weg führt in den Abgrund. (…) Eine Folge der Rüstungsdelirien ist der schmachvolle Niedergang des Parlamentarismus. In Deutschland ist jede bürgerliche Opposition aus dem Parlament verschwunden, es gibt keine Rüstungsvorlage, die nicht von den getreuen Regierungsmamelucken bewilligt würde.«
    >
    > Wer hat da nicht das Abnicken des BRD-Parlamentes vor Augen: für den Krieg gegen Jugoslawien, bei der alljährlichen Mandatsverlängerung für den nunmehr elfjährigen Krieg in Afghanistan. Für den Einsatz der »Patriot«-Raketen gegen Syrien in der Türkei und jetzt erneut für die militärische Intervention in Mali, den die bürgerlichen Fraktionen im Parlament beklatschen und anfeuern.
    >
    > Was ist zu tun, wenn wir nicht mehr nur zusehen wollen, wenn wir über unsere notwendigen Demonstrationen hinaus den Widerstand aufbauen wollen?
    >
    > Auch wenn unser Leben nicht direkt von den Bomben der NATO und der Bundeswehr bedroht ist, der außenpolitische Militarismus ist ein zwangsläufiges Ergebnis der Profitlogik und hat seine Entsprechung in der Innenpolitik: Verschärfte Ausbeutung durch einen wachsenden Niedriglohnsektor, Sozial- und Bildungsabbau, Aneignung des gesellschaftlichen Eigentums durch Privatisierung etc. Ausbau des Repressionsapparates bis hin zum Einsatz der Bundeswehr im Innern.
    > In Berlin ist gerade das neue Bundeswehrkommando »Territoriale Aufgaben« mit 20000 Soldaten und 10000 Reservisten entstanden. Beflügelt vom Beschluß der Verfassungsrichter, die Bundeswehr auch innergesellschaftlich einsetzen zu dürfen, nimmt das Militär Kurs auf die Bekämpfung von Aufruhr im eigenen Land. Wir haben die zukünftige Überwachung der Bevölkerung und Bekämpfung von Widerstand durch Drohnen zu erwarten. Die Anschaffung der Killermaschinen hat das Militär längst entschieden.
    >
    > Der Militarismus versucht, in allen signifikanten gesellschaftlichen Bereichen seine Weltsicht und seine konkreten Interessen zu implantieren. In Forschung, Kultur, in den Medien, den kommunalen Strukturen und doppelt verhängnisvoll in der Bildung. Es gibt große Anstrengungen von antimilitaristischen Aktivistinnen und Aktivisten, die Bundeswehr aus den Schulen, aus den Jobcentern und den Unis zu vertreiben, um das Kriegswerben zu unterbinden. Aber trotz manch schöner Erfolge geht die ideologische und strukturelle Zurichtung der Gesellschaft nach militärischen Interessen weiter. Und natürlich: Arbeitslosigkeit, soziale Perspektivlosigkeit, Ausgrenzung, Rassismus sind das Reservoir für Kanonenfutter.
    >
    > Unser Kampf als revolutionäre Antiimperialisten orientiert sich an zwei großen Linien: im eigenen Land das Klassenbewußtsein und die Solidarität der Lohnabhängigen stärken durch Initiierung und Unterstützung der Kämpfe gegen die Zumutungen des Kapitals in allen Arbeits- und Lebensbereichen. Und international sind wir solidarisch mit linken und fortschrittlichen Kräften, die für eine Befreiung und Verbesserung der Lebensbedingungen der unterdrückten, ausgebeuteten Klasse kämpfen und sich jeder imperialistischen Intervention entgegenstellen.
    >
    > Mit der Zerstörung der kapitalistischen Machtverhältnisse wird auch die Kriegslogik gebrochen. Wir wissen alle, wie schwer es ist, eine revolutionäre Bewegung aufzubauen. Aber ohne sie werden wir schwerlich vorankommen. Es zeigt sich immer wieder, daß große sporadische Demonstrationen und Kampagnen nicht ausreichen. Um langfristig zu einer Klassenmacht zu werden, ist es notwendig, eine starke Organisierung voranzutreiben, die in der Lage ist, revolutionäre Strukturen zu festigen.
    >
    > Sich organisieren, vernetzen, gemeinsame Ziele und Perspektiven erarbeiten! Den Kapitalismus abschaffen! Die NATO zerschlagen! Bundeswehr raus aus Afghanistan, Syrien und Mali! Für den Kommunismus!
    >
    > aus JW vom 2.4.2013

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    The speech by Inge Viett, submitted by David just above, can be read in an English translation via clicking http://www.jungewelt.de/2013/02-04/008.php , if you use the Google Chrome browser. A tab at the top will ask if you want to translate from German to English. As I look at a lot of material in Arabic, this auto-translate feature of Google Chrome gets steady use.
    David says, “One reason might be that too many “leftists,” instead of organizing against imperialism, are calling on imperialism to militarily intervene in Syria and elsewhere.” Where and who are these leftists, with or w/o “scare” quotes? Unlike as was the case with Libya, where there was a lively debate, within the radical/socialist/communist left, with opposing positions taken by such activist scholars as Gilbert Achcar and Vijay Prashad, there has been very little I have seen on the u.s. left on Syria, and few leftists (whether M-L’s or social democrats or left-liberals) calling for NATO or US military intervention in Syria. The few hints that such could happen are contained, deep within articles such as this. “One Western intelligence official told TIME the U.S. military was poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.”

    Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/02/01/the-fallout-from-the-air-raid-on-syria-why-israel-is-concerned/#ixzz2JtM3gV3w

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    “One Western intelligence official told TIME the U.S. military was poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.”

    Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/02/01/the-fallout-from-the-air-raid-on-syria-why-israel-is-concerned/#ixzz2JtM3gV3w

    That such intervention (in the form of USAF air strikes) , if it occurs , could be given a casus belli , by videos such as this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-nO8vzlR80 , is something we need to on guard against. I saw this video about 24 hrs. ago and took it for what it presented itself as, a Jabhat al-Nusra video. However, today, on at least 6 Syrian opposition Facebook pgs. I receive in my feed it was claimed that this is really a video produced by Syrian Intelligence. Below is a summary, via Patrick Foster on Facebook. “Important Statement: A “fake” video recording attributed for Al Nusra Front was broadcasted on Sunday, February 3, 2013 claiming that Nusra Front possesses maps for chemical weapons. 5:4 1:24 This recording was broadcasted on youtube saying that it belongs to the media office of Nusra Front claiming that they possess maps for huge storage houses in Damascus containing chemical and bacterial weapons in addition to explosive charges.The masked person in the video who broadcasted the speech claiming that he belongs to Nusra Front, that the latter is about to attack and control these locations so that they can use later against Zionists on the Syrian lands and till Jerusalem quoting a verse from Quran that he recited incorrectly while he appeared to be irritated and artificially articulating the speech The Nusra Front denied in a statement the authenticity of the recording ascribed to them and said that it was made by the Syrian intelligence.It’s worth mentioning that the person who uploaded the statement on youtube had created his account at the beginning of this month and this video is the only video he uploaded on his channel. While looking into it more, the uploader only subscribed to the Syrian Coordination page in Aleppo only, knowingly that the Nusra Front media office is in Damascus and the uploader should have subscribed to that page instead.” https://www.facebook.com/patrick.foster.52493/posts/202458236566096

  • David Thorstad

    Instead of “are calling on imperialism to militarily intervene in Syria and elsewhere,” I should have said “are criticizing imperialism for not militarily intervening in Syria…” Binh’s article itself could be exhibit number one. The difference I hold is that the role of the left should be to organize against imperialist intervention, not complain that the imperialists aren’t supporting the hodgepodge rebels, the most effective of whom are Islamist fanatics. The left is so insignificant that it lacks any means on its own to give military support to anyone. That makes this kind of criticism a form of navel gazing. It is a shame that an antiwar movement in the USA is virtually invisible. Or did I miss the protests against Israel’s recent attack on Syria?

    • Brian S.

      Meanwhile, back in the real world the people of Talbiseh are still trying to explain the facts of life to the UN:

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      One MANPAD from us to the Free Syrian Army would be worth 1,000,000 “hands off Assad” protests. I’m also in favor of sending bread, blankets, and whatever else they need to survive and win.

      The invisibility of the “anti war” (can supporting Assad’s war on the Syrian people be considered a truly anti-war position) movement is directly proportional to its political bankruptcy. The world has moved on since 2003, but what passes for thinking in the left-liberal milieu has not.

  • http://www.kildenasman.se Benny Åsman

    David, you should stop holding your nose high in the air. “Hodgepodge rebels”. Hodgepodge yourself. So called marxists that doesn’t even recognize a popular uprising turning into an armed fight are lamentable. Very lamentable.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Thanks to your blog, I just found out CWI considered Hafez al-Assad’s Syria a deformed workers’ state, i.e. a form of socialism:
      http://www.marxists.org/archive/grant/1978/07/colrev.htm

      Good lord!

      • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

        From a resignation letter of a former member of the Workers International League, in Utah, “Smooth Broomhead”.
        “Nearly the same exact dynamic has played out with Syria, with a position shifting for and against those in opposition to Asad, generally depending on whether Fred Weston was writing the article or not (quotes and articles can be
        presented on demand, but I suspect there is no question about what I am saying.) My guess is that there is some dispute at the top levels of the organization that is causing this constant shift in line, but that’s only conjecture since I, and 90% of the organization, have little or no idea as to what is discussed there.” Preceded by,”Another political problem I’ve had with the WIL has been the analysis of the Arab Revolution in countries with bourgeois governments that are opposed to imperialism.The overall approach we have had has been correct in my opinion: that we must
        oppose all bourgeois governments as the only means of defending against imperialism and fighting for socialism. But we have also constantly flip-flopped in our analysis of the forces attempting to overthrow them. For example, after initially supporting the anti-Gaddafi rebels, the IMT took a different approach to the rebellion as the Libyan Revolution descended into civil war. In the article Libyan Interim Government – agents of imperialism, Fred Weston clearly states: They [the LIG] successfully transformed what had started out as a genuine revolution into a war to remove Gaddafi [My emphasis,] but without in anyway changing Libya’s relationship with imperialism, without in any way challenging the economic policies of Gaddafi. In fact on the economy both Gaddafi and the Council have similar positions: opening up to the west, privatisation, and so on. To make sure there was no confusion about the nature of the now scare quote “rebels,” Fred Weston says further down in the article: It is clear that imperialism has been manoeuvring behind the scenes to place trusted stooges in positions of command in the areas that have been
        liberated from Gaddafi’s forces. In all this the initial revolution has been snuffed out. We are no longer dealing here with a revolution to overthrow Gaddafi. It has become a pure imperialist aggression to remove one
        reactionary regime and replace it with a more pliant one [My emphasis.]
        And further: Thus, the only way they [the rebels] can really remove Gaddafi is to step up the level of NATO operations. There has now been some speculation as to whether NATO should arm the rebels. That would be the next logical
        step of the imperialist intervention. The only problem with that is that they are not sure where the arms would end up. That means the imperialists don’t fully trust the rebels to do the job for them [My emphasis.]

        Later on in the year (and after a Summer of supporting and then opposing the militias fighting Gaddafi), Gaddafi was overthrown using these very same “rebel” militias, and our position changed dramatically towards them. In an article entitled “After the fall of Tripoli: The way forward for the Libyan Revolution,” Alan Woods states:
        [T]here must be no trust whatever in the Transitional Council. The Gaddafi regime was defeated by the armed people, and power must be in the hands of the armed people, not usurped by the careerists [My emphasis.] Set up revolutionary committees in every town, city and village, in every factory, school and college. The committees must be linked up on a
        local, regional and national level. Only the revolutionary committees can guarantee the convening of a genuinely revolutionary and democratic Constituent Assembly.

        This has certainly made us appear to be “astonished” over “foreseeing” in the eyes of our contacts. So much so, in fact, that I felt like I could no longer trust In Defense of Marxism’s analysis of events there and that I would have to rely solely or mostly on my own research. Actually, any news about Libya had disappeared from our
        website only two months after Woods had said “The overthrow of Gaddafi was only the first step. The real Libyan Revolution starts now.” Any analysis of it since then I have had to make on my own–that on a subject that an international perspective might actually be helpful for. Nearly the same exact dynamic has played out with Syria, with a
        position shifting for and against those in opposition to Asad, generally depending on whether Fred Weston was writing the article or not (quotes and articles can be presented on demand, but I suspect there is no question about what I am saying.) My guess is that there is some dispute at the top levels of the organization that is causing
        this constant shift in line, but that’s only conjecture since I, and 90% of the organization, have little or no idea as to what is discussed there.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        In 1967, Grant defined Syria as “the first bonapartist workers’ state in the Middle East” and as a “bonapartist revolutionary workers’ state.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/grant/1974/06/middle-east.htm

        Now I’m wondering when does CWI think Syria stopped being a “deformed workers’ state”? They make zero reference to any of their previous analysis in their literature. Now I can see why.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese
  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    Matthew VanDyke via Eliot Higgins
    Eliot Higgins, author of the Brown Moses Blog (http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/), was on ITN discussing the weapons used in the Syria war. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHFOs-s4bho

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Finally, some good news from Syria (although I doubt CWI would agree with me):
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/06/1185076/–Syria-Who-is-the-new-FSA-arms-supplier

    I don’t agree with Clay’s guess though. This stuff could’ve been bought on the black market by the FSA.

  • anitah

    This is a link for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. I subscribed to this group a while ago – it is heartbreaking to get updates on a daily basis about the deaths – but it is interesting to learn in detail about the areas etc.,just wish it wasn’t under such tragic circumstances. I think PB is correct it can hardly be considered an anti-war position to oppose military assistance in these cases. It is more like ostrichville deatheating from the safety of the modern world it makes me vomit.

    https://www.facebook.com/syriaohr/posts/333551603419851

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    “If you ask any rebel in Syria right now, he will say America is our enemy.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/02/11/did-the-cia-betray-syria-s-rebels.html

    Johansson has a lot of explaining to do.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    “For instance, Christian and Alawite dissidents — arguably a minority within their communities — drove to Daraya and Douma to join demonstrations (the slain activist and filmmaker Bassel Shehade was among them). Inside the city, the conservative, middle-class neighborhoods of Barzeh and Midan — whose residents did not benefit from the regime’s largesse and from the growth of the previous decade — also joined the uprising. The same goes for the poor Sunni area of Qaaboun, where protesters have long been coming out en masse.”

    From: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/02/11/syria_s_battle_royale?page=0

    Unfortunately, as the revolution enters Damascus and Latakia, it will only grow more bloody and sectarian-looking.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    We call it tasharthum and we loathe it: we hold it as the main reason for all our losses and defeats, from al-Andalus to Palestine. Yet we love it and bask in it and excel at it, and if there is one thing we appreciate it is a faction that splinters into smaller factions. Yet even by the measure of previous civil wars in the Middle East, the Syrians seem to have reached new heights. After all, the Palestinians in their heyday had only a dozen or so factions, and the Lebanese, God bless them, pretending it was ideology that divided them, never exceeded thirty different factions……

    ‘The Americans gave their blessing,’ Abu Abdullah said, ‘and all the players converged and formed an operations room. It had the Qataris, the Saudis, the Turks and Hariri.’ In their infinite wisdom the players decided to entrust the running of the room – known as the Armament Room or the Istanbul Room after the city where it was based – to a Lebanese politician called Okab Sakr, a member of Hariri’s party who was widely seen as divisive and autocratic. The plan was to form military councils to be led and dominated by defectors from the Syrian army – this in order to appease the Americans, who were getting worried about the rising influence of the Islamists. All the fighting groups, it was assumed, would eventually agree to answer to the military councils because they were the main source of weapons.

    At first, the plan seemed to be working. As summer approached military councils sprang up in Aleppo, Homs, Idlib and Deir al-Zour and some major battalions and factions did join in. Better weapons – though not the sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment the rebels wanted – started entering Syria from Turkey. Until this point, most of the weapons smuggled from Turkey had come in small shipments on horseback or carried on foot by intermediaries and the fighters themselves, but these new shipments were massive, sent by truck….. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/ghaith-abdul-ahad/how-to-start-a-battalion-in-five-easy-lessons

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    DarthNader https://twitter.com/DarthNader
    Video of Abu Mariam (who was imprisoned in Aleppo by “Sharia Cmte”) throwing Islamist banners away in a protest http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/darthnader-video-of-abu-mariam-who-was-imprisoned/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=j7nL_EVpP1c

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    ‎”No sane person can refuse lightly everything that can stop or ease the suffering of our people and their great sacrifices, but this does not mean that we have to accept and support any initiative claiming it is seeking to do so. The judgment on such initiatives is subject, from our point of view, to the criteria’s meeting the following conditions: to provide for the masses the ability to re-establish their fight and struggle to topple the dictatorial regime, and that does not provide for the latter to prolong its time or survival, and in particular that allow the space for radical change from the bottom in favor of the popular classes and to serve their direct and general interests.

    (NCCDC) and Sheikh Moaz initiatives both converge in calling for “change from above”, with the difference that the initiative of Sheikh al-Khatib, whatever is its ultimate fate, reflects clearly the will of the traditional bourgeoisie and especially of Damascus, to find a solution that maintains its class interests, which were served by the current regime for decades, but that became threaten completely with this popular revolution. This bourgeois class became encourage for the need for partial change partial and from above of the dictatorial regime, restricted to political feature, and not social ones. This is originally what is calling for the allies of the regime and also the countries that claim to be the friend of the Syrian people, and both parties do not want or wish for the victory of the popular revolution.

    In this context, we express our rejection of such initiatives that do not meet the root political and social requirements from the bottom of the popular revolution, and does not contribute to the strengthening of the popular movement, on the path to victory.

    All the power and wealth to the people

    Revolutionary Left Current in Syria”

    http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-syrian-people-will-not-kneel-despite-threats-from-outside-and-within/

  • Pingback: Have Islamists Hijacked Syria’s Democratic Revolution? | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    PYD/YPG are now cooperating with the FSA/Islamists against Assad:
    http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=58276

    “We have the same goal as the rebel fighters,” said Engizek, a commander of the People’s Protection Committees (YPG), the armed wing of Syria’s main Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

    “It is to seek the ouster of Assad,” Engizek, who goes by a single name, said in Sheikh Maksud during a lull in fighting interspersed with sporadic bursts of sniper fire but declining to comment on the shift in the Kurdish policy of neutrality.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.pugliese.501 Michael Pugliese

    As opposed to many leftists and Marxists in Syria today and in the world, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm’s position is clear and unequivocal in its support for the Syrian revolution. What are the roots of this leftist ambiguity towards the revolution? And what consequence will this have for the future of the left in Syria?

    Due to the nature of this question, I will begin briefly with an introduction about myself. Many ask me if the popular Intifada in Syria against the tyrannical regime, its corrupt government, surprised me or not. My answer is yes and no at the same time. Yes, I was surprised by the timing of the outbreak of the Intifada, with a lot of apprehensiveness at the beginning due to the possibility of quick repression, which I knew was a possibility due to the institutionalized rigidity of the security apparatus in Syria, as well as its repressive ferocity, penetration of the pores of the Syrian body, and its continuous control of nearly all its movements. This reality constituted a type of inferiority complex (in me and in others) due to my impotence in the face of this military regime’s overall power, as well as due to the impossibility of pronouncing a possible “no” against it (individually or collectively). I dealt with this inferiority complex by adapting slowly to this stressful tyrannical reality, and through the careful introspection of the rules and principles of interacting with it, with all that’s required of hypocrisy and pretending to believe and accept, secrecy, word manipulation and circumvention of the regime’s brute force. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to either continue with my normal life and do my routine work and daily errands, or preserve my mental and physical health.

    So, why would I not align with this overwhelming popular revolution against this form of tyranny and oppression, regardless of the nature of the convictions that I hold whether they be leftist, Marxist, moderate, or even right-wing? However, I do think that Marxist methodology of analysis and interpretation is what gives us the best and finest capacity to understand the eruption of the revolution, to identify its deeper causes, and to research the historical and social background in order to stand beside and defend the revolution.

    No, I was not surprised by the revolution against tyranny–like the regime was–because of some of the experiences and observations derived from living in and experiencing everyday life in Syria, and specifically in Damascus. And the regime came nowhere near understanding these observations and experiences, because the nature of tyranny does not allow that. I repeat that I was not surprised by the revolution because my confusion (and that of others) was a feeling of apprehension, anxiety, and fear for Syria generally after the repression of the “Damascus Spring,” in which I felt that Syria was stuck on the edge of an abyss, and the fall was inevitably coming. Life in Damascus, for example, looks quiet, normal, and monotonous on the surface, however, you could feel and be certain that volcanic lava was brewing underneath, which everyone was trying to ignore as much as possible, in the hope that it will remain below the surface for as long as possible and not float quickly to daily life in the country. When the revolution erupted, it broke this contradiction between the quiet, normal appearance on the surface that was a falsity, on the one hand, and the real volcano that was brewing underneath on the other. Thus, I had to align with the real and the deep, and I stand by its side and leave to others the task of justifying the forged surface, defending the fake, and standing by the idle side. Ordinary people very simply used to express their feelings on this contradiction with spontaneous slogans such as: “It needs a match to light up,” “It needs a spark to explode.” http://therepublicgs.net/2013/04/27/interview-with-dr-sadiq/

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