Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 22, 2014

Yarmouk, Jonathan Cook and the Baathist left

Filed under: Palestine,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:46 pm

Every so often the name of a town or neighborhood in Syria becomes a symbol of left divisions over the 3-year long civil war. First there was Houla, where a massacre of local villagers opposed to the dictatorship was blamed on the rebels, fueled by bogus reporting from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Next there was Ghouta, the Damascus suburb that once again involved a massacre of rebel sympathizers—this time by sarin gas. From the low—Mint Press—to the high (or at least, one-time high)—Seymour Hersh—the effort of the Baathist left once again has been directed toward turning the victim into the criminal. The latest incident involves Yarmouk, a neighborhood of a half-million Palestinian refugees that has been reduced to the aged, the ill, and those economically incapable of moving out of range of Baathist bombs and missiles.

I was planning to write about Yarmouk at some point down the road but decided to put it on the front-burner after a storm broke out in the comments section of Mondoweiss under a couple of articles written as rebuttals to an article that appeared there in the name of the Cornell chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine. The article adopts the talking points of the Baathist left:

And fourth, we do not forget the US and Gulf role in militarizing the small bright hopeful protests which began in the spring of 2011 across Syria, snuffing out those fires of hope in a deluge of sectarianism, foreign proxies, and destruction. Nor do we forget that it was the Free Syrian Army, the brand-name for the “milder” of the Western-armed gangs which have rampaged across Syria, along with Jabhat al-Nusra and other reactionary militias which went into Yarmouk a year ago. It was their decision to enter the camp in late 2012 which led to the subsequent violence and its emptying out, with its people now in global scatter, some literally drowning in the Mediterranean.

A Facebook friend has told me that Max Ajl, a graduate student in the Cornell development sociology department, wrote the statement. Since Ajl has been an ardent “anti-imperialist” for some time now, this made perfect sense. It also suggests to me why Jacobin, another enterprise he is involved with, has also published a bunch of nonsense about the Arab revolt. It is all the more puzzling in the case of Jacobin since the editorial positions are generally a lot closer to Dissent than Global Research. One imagines that Ajl has powers of persuasion that work wonders on those who are relative newcomers to Marxism.

In discussing Yarmouk, I don’t want to focus too much on refuting the particular talking points of the Baathist left, such as Syria’s right to drop barrel bombs on the neighborhood since there are “terrorists” among the civilian population—an argument recycled from the Zionist trash bin—but instead take up the broader question of whether Syrian rebels have anything in common with the Palestinians. I intend to answer an article written by Jonathan Cook that appeared on Mondoweiss and perhaps a dozen other websites titled “The false analogy of Syria and Palestine”. I didn’t bother replying to Cook when the article came out in November since I had better things to do at the time but will do so now since it is pertinent to the Yarmouk controversy.

Cook starts off by falsely accusing me of being a “diehard interventionist”, a charge that many people accept largely on the basis of my stubborn resistance to Baathist lies. In their mind, pointing out the obvious flaws in the facts and logic of a Mint Press article or Seymour Hersh’s reporting proves that I have been consulting on war plans with Samantha Powers. Since I was in the Trotskyist movement in the 1960s, when Maoists used to recycle Vishinski’s Moscow Trial accusations, such smears roll off my back like water from a duck’s.

Cook’s exercise in prolixity was prompted by an observation made in my article that was mostly about the sarin gas controversy that he totally avoided:

With his long time commitment to the Palestinian cause, [Cook] seems to have trouble understanding that those under attack in Homs or Aleppo have much in common with those living in Gaza. While he is obviously trained enough to understand and communicate the plight of one group of Arabs, another group gets short shrift because it is perceived as inimical to the interests of peace.

Let me take up Cook’s objections to analogizing Syria with Palestine one by one.

He writes:

Gaza is not like Syria because Palestinians live under a belligerent occupation, not in a unified, if failing state run by a dictator.

Any idiot understands that Syria is a unified state that emerged out of the post-WWII decolonization upheaval, unlike Palestine that was cheated out of statehood. But I was referring to cities and not states: “those under attack in Homs or Aleppo”. Right? My point was that Bashar al-Assad was using collective punishment against civilians who were “harboring terrorists”, just as the IDF did in Gaza. How could he not understand this? Well, I suppose that this goes hand in hand with labeling me an “interventionist” in the complete absence of evidence.

Now it seems that Yarmouk has joined Homs and Aleppo as a site of what the US military referred to as destroying a town in order to save it during the Vietnam War. Last week Baathist helicopters dropped barrel bombs on Yarmouk apartment buildings. This was the result:

Here’s the result of IDF bombing in Gaza:

I’ll let you decide whether my comparison is valid.

Cook adds that “external intervention” might apply to Gaza but not to Syria:

The comparison with Gaza is also unhelpful because it is possible to be in favour of external efforts to remove the occupation in Gaza without that also requiring us to be in favour of external efforts to overthrow the state apparatus in Syria.

This argument should be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for speciousness if they had such an award (given the amount of times Thomas Friedman has walked off with an award, maybe they do.) Nobody on the left is in favor of “external efforts to overthrow the state apparatus in Syria.” We are, however, in favor of internal efforts. Of course Hizbollah, Iran and Russia don’t count as “external efforts” to overthrow the “internal efforts” to overthrow the Baathists. In a bravura performance of sophistry, Cook makes the case for reinforcing Baathist rule:

Also to be addressed is the paradox that for the Syrian government to negotiate safely it needs to ensure its strength within the global system of nation-states; but with such strength it has less interest in making concessions to the rebels. This is a paradox that relates to the current world order. We may not like that order, but it is the only one that exists at the moment.

This dodgy statement is basically the negotiating position of the Syria-Iran-Russia alliance and we should make no mistake about it. “To ensure its strength within the global system of nation-states” is a formula for continued Baathist domination of its subject population as Cook admits (“it has less interest in making concessions to the rebels”). At least when you read someone like Pepe Escobar or Robert Fisk, you don’t have to put up with such circumlocutions.

Like most of the analysis proffered by the Baathist left, Cook’s article has the musty odor of having been written during the mass hysteria around Obama’s “red line” bluff:

Syria is caught in a power game, with the US and Saudi Arabia trying to keep Iran and its ally Syria weak on one side, and Iran desperately trying to keep its few remaining allies, among them Syria, as strong as possible in its battle against efforts by Israel and the west to undermine its sovereign integrity. Ignoring this as the main framework for understanding what is happening in Syria inevitably leads to erroneous analysis and faulty solutions.

As I pointed out in the months immediately following the Ghouta massacre, American imperialism had zero interest in “regime change” and would likely do nothing more than fire off some missiles and then resort to the status quo ante. But even I could not have predicted the turn against all the rebels that coincided with the thaw with Iran. It has been Syria and Iran that the USA wants to keep strong, rather than weak. President Rouhani has made it very clear that Iran is open to Western business, a ploy adopted by al-Assad (and Qaddafi) years ago and one that leads to mass discontent so powerful as to unleash a revolution.


  1. “But even I could not have predicted the turn against all the rebels that coincided with the thaw with Iran. It has been Syria and Iran that the USA wants to keep strong, rather than weak.”

    As I said in an off topic comment last week, the US fears a democratized Middle East and Central Asia more than anything else. Hence, when it does intervene on the side of protest movements, it does so for the purpose of shortcircuiting their liberatory possibilities. Iran is, of course, a more democratic state, flaws and all, than any other country in the region, including Israel, if one takes the occupation into account. It is fairly easy for the US to relate to it in much the same way that it has related to other flawed liberal democracies like Colombia, Indonesia and South Korea. Expect the Geneva negotiations to result in the transformation of Syria in a similar direction. The US will push for the retention or departure of Assad based upon whether he facilitates it. To the extent that leftists emphasize the horrors of Assad and the Baathists without placing it within this context, they may accidentally assist in it.

    Comment by Richard Estes — January 22, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

  2. I understand the importance of supporting democratic resistance to tyranny.
    Should it come into the analysis of Syria’s conflict that it is part of a long term plan to have “regime change” throughout the Middle East- Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, mentioned by Gen. Wesley Clark?

    Isn’t it true that at least a significant minority of the pro-Assad forces want democracy, while a majority of the resistance fighters do not?
    If both sides in a conflict are mostly authoritarian, and one is secular and the other is mostly fundamentalist, with both claiming to be democratic, does that affect the analysis?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  3. In the Middle East the tyranny has historically come from those whose eyes pointed West, so it was the Islamists who were terrorised by these states. In Libya, Qaddafi would attach electrodes to the testicles of Islamists. of course the USA also uses these tactics. There is nothing more scary to the western looking Arabs than the voice of the street. Therefore liberalism comes at the price of tyranny, torture and brutality.

    An Islamic insurgence would represent a bottom up form of resistance (though I accept it would inevitably degenerate), rather than the top down rule of the ‘enlightened’ ‘elites’.

    This is preferable to the puppets that Proyect support, who when all is said and done, are just the next bunch of torturers to replace Assad. We saw exactly the same process in Libya. Proyect wants to portray the Western looking Syrians as the good guys and the people on the ground as the bad guys, and those bad guys will need dealing with, and the puppets are the very people to do it!

    Proyect does not support change, he merely wants to change the head of the beast. This is the fundamental flaw of his position.

    It is the fundamental flaw of the left (and I would still describe myself as coming from that tradition).

    Comment by The Man With No name — January 22, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

  4. “Should it come into the analysis of Syria’s conflict that it is part of a long term plan to have “regime change” throughout the Middle East- Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, mentioned by Gen. Wesley Clark?”

    American imperialism never had any intention of “regime change” in Syria. Hillary Clinton referred to him as a “reformer” in the early days of the Syrian protests, Vogue Magazine had a flattering profile on him in the works, and he was invited to meet with Queen Elizabeth.

    “Isn’t it true that at least a significant minority of the pro-Assad forces want democracy, while a majority of the resistance fighters do not?”

    I have no idea what a “significant minority” of Baathist supports are for. Syria has never had the constitutional right for civil society to debate out its preferences. When protests began to secure that right, snipers opened fire on them and then the struggle became militarized very rapidly. The left should be in favor of the Local Coordinating Councils and the militias that support their goals. In terms of the majority of resistance fighters, it is difficult to know what they stand for since they have no vehicle for exchanging ideas in a brutal civil war. But we do know this. It was fucking Bashar al-Assad who released the extremists who went on to form al-Nusra and ISIS. He is the one responsible for the worst of the rebel movement.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

  5. An Islamic insurgence would represent a bottom up form of resistance (though I accept it would inevitably degenerate), rather than the top down rule of the ‘enlightened’ ‘elites’.

    You’d better learn to stop sounding like a broken record or it is in the spam filter you go.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

  6. Louis,

    Thank you for considering my question. and you did a good job showing examples where Assad was portrayed positively. At the same time, might they say one thing and yet desire another? Perhaps there are cases where a powerful country turned on a smaller government (perhaps like that of Morsi or Mubarak) despite claiming it supported them? Does Gen. Wesley Clark’s statement that he was told by top officials about the plan for regime change in Syria come into the picture?

    Even if regime change is not planned, could the insurgency still be planned? Does the 1996 Clean Break Document by top Bush officials about making a proxy war in Syria and regime change in Iraq relate to what is happening?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

  7. Louis,

    I like your statement “The left should be in favor of the Local Coordinating Councils and the militias that support their goals.” Along with this, I note that the LCCs emphasized that they support peaceful opposition on their website, and according to Wikipedia. Perhaps they have said otherwise elsewhere?

    If it was only a matter of the US-govt-fundedLCCs (see Wiki.) vs. the Syrian government, perhaps one could weigh their Movement for Democracy against:
    * Their sponsors’ plan to destablilize Syria,
    * Any doubts about the LCCs’ commitment to democracy in a divided country (Cf. Georgia’s initially Seemingly democratic Color revolution), and
    * The Syrian government’s willingness to make reforms.
    In those circumstances, one might support a transition to a democratic power sharing arrangement where possible?

    In this case, however, we are introduced to a new factor- the fundamentalists. You mentioned “It was Bashar al-Assad who released the extremists who went on to form al-Nusra and ISIS.” I can imagine a government inflitrating a movement or setting up a “bad” opposition. However, according to Wikipedia’s entry “Syrian Civil War”, the Islamic/fundamentalist forces are counted as outnumbering the FSA at 90,000 to 45,000. Perhaps the fundamentalists are too strong in number to be considered Assad’s released prisoners? Perhaps I have the number wrong? ISIL has about 7,000, Nusra has 7,000, but the other ones sound fundamentalist to me.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

  8. If the LCCs or secular democratic forces were not involved and we were only talking about a massive insurgency by intolerant, nondemocratic fundamentalists with US and Saudi backing, wouldn’t we support Assad’s side, because he is secular and being targeted by the Superpowers, while the fundamentalists wanted to create a theocratic, persecutory system perhaps worse than the Taliban?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 7:17 pm

  9. Does the 1996 Clean Break Document by top Bush officials about making a proxy war in Syria and regime change in Iraq relate to what is happening?

    No. To repeat myself, the United States was quite satisfied with the way that the Baathists were running Syria. It is always useful to check Nexis for the years leading up to the revolt in Libya and Syria where there was a consensus around the usefulness of these dictatorships for American geopolitical designs.

    The Guardian (London) – Final Edition

    February 18, 2009 Wednesday

    Syria’s strongman ready to woo Obama with both fists unclenched: Exclusive interview Bashar al-Assad: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is being actively courted by the new US administration, the EU as well as fellow Arab leaders making Damascus the Middle Eastern city to visit. In a rare and exclusive interview he talks to the Guardian’s Middle East editor, Ian Black, in the Syrian capital

    BYLINE: Ian Black

    Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, sits back on a smart leather sofa in his honey-coloured hilltop palace, and gestures expansively – his fists visibly unclenched – as he explains his country’s indispensable role in the Middle East in the hopeful era of Barack Obama.

    Assad is a busy man. Hours before the Guardian called, he had seen a senior EU commissioner and the secretary general of the Arab League. Later this week his visitors will be Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and Howard Berman, a senior Congressman – reflecting the intensifying relationship between old adversaries who seem anxious to make a fresh start.

    In recent months Damascus has become the Middle Eastern capital to visit: Nicolas Sarkozy, with characteristic panache, blazed the way for France and Europe; David Miliband and other EU foreign ministers followed. Turkey is also playing a key role.

    As the world waits for the Obama administration’s first practical steps, expectations of change are high, though tempered by the Gaza war and the result of the Israeli general election, likely to result in a rightwing government under the Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu.

    Assad volunteers he never had high hopes of change in Israel – and certainly not of Netanyahu, who has pledged never to return the Golan Heights to Syria – but puts his faith in a new American role.

    “We have the impression that this administration will be different,” he says “and we have seen the signals. But we have to wait for the reality and the results.” He hopes “in principle” to meet Obama, “but it depends on what we discuss. I will be very happy to discuss peace.”

    He worries though, about the impact of “other lobbies and other players”.

    Relaxed and thoughtful in a dark business suit, Assad seems keen to send out positive messages and to underline his view, inherited from his father Hafez, that Syria is indispensable. “If you want comprehensive peace in the Middle East you can’t achieve it without Syria,” he says. “We are a player in the region. If you want to talk about peace you cannot advance without us.”

    Assad’s relief that the Bush era is over is palpable. Though never part of the former US president’s “axis of evil”, Syria has been out in the cold since 2003: its opposition to the war in Iraq, accusations that it let foreign fighters cross its border, its presence in Lebanon and support for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas made it the bad boy of the region as far as Washington and its allies were concerned. American sanctions under the Syria accountability act remain in force.

    “Bush failed in everything,” says the president. “They (the Bush administration) worked hard to achieve regime change. But it didn’t work. It didn’t work because I am not an American puppet and have good relations with my people.”

    But Assad sees America’s role as crucial if progress is to be made in the quest for peace in the region. Washington must be the “main arbiter”, he says, but the time has come for an approach based on the principle of land for peace, enunciated in UN resolutions dating back decades and embodied in the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the only forum at which Israel faced all its Arab enemies. “Madrid is still viable,” suggests Assad. “It is a good model.”

    The Arab Peace Initiative, first unveiled in 2002 and re-endorsed in 2007, is not quite dead – as he pronounced dramatically at the height of the Gaza bloodshed last month, but rather “in a coma”. Whatever the precise medical analogy, he agrees with a smile, it was Israel that rejected this unprecedented collective Arab offer of peace in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

    Signs are that after the disarray of the Gaza crisis, with the western-backed Arab camp of Egypt and Saudi Arabia confronting Syria, Qatar and non-Arab Iran – there is a fresh urgency to inter-Arab coordination and reconciliation.

    Apart from the Arab League’s Amr Musa, another important visitor to Damascus this week was Prince Muqrin, the Saudi intelligence chief – a move seen as the harbinger of a real thaw between Damascus and Riyadh.

    Next month’s Arab summit in the Qatar’s capital Doha could be the opportunity for a collective Arab response to recent events: a key issue, says Assad, is to restore Palestinian unity after the debilitating split between the PLO in the West Bank and the Islamists of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

    Hamas is a sensitive issue in Syria. Its exiled leader, Khaled Meshal – once the target of a Mossad hit team – is based in Damascus and enjoys the protection of the authorities. But Assad is quick to defend its right of resistance to Israel – widely supported by ordinary citizens – and to minimise his own influence over the Palestinian movement.

    Intriguingly, he says, in one of several thoughtful asides: “You can’t only deal with good people. If they can spoil things or put obstacles in your way you have to deal with them. And I don’t mean Syria and Iran. This is a principle. It applies anywhere in the world. Forget about labels and rhetoric.”

    In the light of comments such as these, suggestions he may downgrade his relationship with Hamas or Hezbollah seem wide of the mark. But western diplomats say if Assad wants to see real change with the US he will face pressure not to allow Hezbollah to be supplied, via Syria, with longer-range rockets or anti-aircraft weapons that could change the strategic equation in Lebanon.

    Overall, his view is that violence is a symptom, not the cause of the Middle East’s problems.

    Nor is Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran, its ally since the 1979 revolution, up for grabs. Dialogue with Tehran should begin at once, he says, and westerners should not “waste their time” on imagining that June’s presidential election will change anything fundamental.

    Assad is blunt in rejecting criticism of Syria’s domestic freedom and of the imprisonment of dissidents such as Michel Kilo and Riyad Seif. “Our laws are tough and strict and whether they are right or wrong that is an issue for Syria,” he says.

    “We don’t allow anyone to make or internal issues a matter for relations. Europeans and Americans supported the occupation of Iraq. Talking about values has no credibility any more. And after what happened in Gaza they have no right (to criticize us) at all.”

    Open for business

    Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, wants the west to understand that his country is vital if peace is to be achieved in the Middle East but he is not going to give up his relations with Iran

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

  10. If the LCCs or secular democratic forces were not involved and we were only talking about a massive insurgency by intolerant, nondemocratic fundamentalists with US and Saudi backing, wouldn’t we support Assad’s side, because he is secular and being targeted by the Superpowers, while the fundamentalists wanted to create a theocratic, persecutory system perhaps worse than the Taliban?

    I don’t deal in hypotheticals. Ever.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

  11. Thanks, Louis.
    I read the Guardian article, and can see that there were or are overtures between the US and Syria. However, perhaps this does not mean the West would not be funding or desiring an insurgency there if it sees Syria as closer to the Russians? That is, perhaps the west, like congressional lobbyists, may play both part of a “game” to undermine an opponent?

    Did the goal to destabilize or overpower the Middle East end or severely weaken with a change in administrations? Or does it have the same plan, but with different strategies? Perhaps opposition movements like that in Georgia can also be used for the goal?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

  12. It is imperative analysis is conducted with objectivity, or at least with some semblance of integrity. As social media is brimming with little of both as too many are driven by ego agendas and/or the task of mis-info I appreciate your literary skills and evolving perspective. The complications in the boiling pot in the MENA is skipping thru a field of land mines. Thank you.

    Comment by bemacomber — January 22, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

  13. However, perhaps this does not mean the West would not be funding or desiring an insurgency there if it sees Syria as closer to the Russians? That is, perhaps the west, like congressional lobbyists, may play both part of a “game” to undermine an opponent?

    Look, you have to begin reading the NY Times. The West is not funding or desiring an insurgency in Syria. It would have liked to have seen another Baathist running Syria in the fashion of Yemen. But the al-Assad clique was so calcified that it decided to destroy the country rather than relinquishing its power. Hafez al-Assad came to power in a rightwing coup in 1970. He fought on the side of the USA in the first Gulf war. He backed the Lebanese fascists against al-Fatah. His son collaborated with the CIA in extraordinary renditions. He also dismantled the state sector in Syria in compliance with World Bank/IMF instructions–thus leading to an economic crisis in the countryside. The Baathists were not an obstacle to imperialist designs in the Middle East. They were its instrument along with Mubarak et al. That is why Bashar al-Assad has hailed Sisi’s coup. A Baathist victory in Syria over the revolt will deepen reactionary tendencies throughout the Middle East.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  14. In Egypt, the US proclaimed it was an ally of the Mubarak, and then of Morsi, who both expected the US to stand by them. It is an enormous donor of aid to Egypt. They were both deposed, in accordance with the will of the people for a change of government- millions of people coming out in demonstrations. However, did both of those changes occur without the US supporting the change? Or perhaps there was support or encouragement for at least one of the changes, despite the overtures?

    As to US support for the insurgency, “The Obama administration has provided more than $515 million in humanitarian and nonlethal military assistance to the Syrian opposition, including food and medicine.”
    (U.S… to provide direct military support to rebels, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-concludes-syrian-forces-used-chemical-weapons/2013/06/13/59b03c66-d46d-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html)

    Might McCain’s visit with the Syrian insurgents in Syria also suggest that the govt supports the insurgency?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

  15. P.S., I think you are making interesting observations, mentioning Syria helped the “War on Terror” and the World bank. Granted, I think Libya was also anti-jihadist and was getting much more involved with globalism, and that did not prevent support for insurgency there.
    In any case, I wish you might write something for Counterpunch or Mondoweiss about the US-Insurgent-Syria relationship. You are a good writer and have a good mind.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

  16. (U.S… to provide direct military support to rebels, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-concludes-syrian-forces-used-chemical-weapons/2013/06/13/59b03c66-d46d-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html)


    What is the point in the reference above? It never followed through.

    In terms of the $515 million, the Washington Post does not give a breakdown on what is strictly humanitarian (like food and medicine) and what is “non-lethal” aid. There are 3 million Syrian refugees. Assuming that half of it is humanitarian aid to refugees, then this means that each refugee has gotten $80. Big fucking deal. Same thing with the “non-lethal” assistance. This is about enough to keep a fighter fed for six weeks, not to speak of the fact that non-lethal aid was terminated a couple of months ago when an FSA warehouse was overrun in the north.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

  17. You are right that $80/ person is not so much. Perhaps much the $515 was not going to handouts to refugees?

    Further, the arming seems to be covert or by proxy using its close allies- Turkey and the Saudis. Perhaps that would make sense, because it could provide deniability, while allowing easy access through borders? Alternately, if the US did not want an insurgency, would Turkey really be arming them?

    The NY Times includes this article from two years ago:

    C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition
    By ERIC SCHMITT, June 21, 2012
    “according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including… antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries… and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.”

    Wikipedia mentions “reports from an Israeli website that SAS Commandos were conducting covert operations within Syrian territory”.


    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  18. Yes, that was true in June 2012 but it is no longer true. That being said, the USA had to maintain some kind of credibility even though the FSA said that the provision of small arms was next to useless. At the very time the USA was supplying small arms, CIA agents were stationed on the borders of Syria to block the shipments of MANPAD’s from Libya, which were desperately needed. In terms of Wikipedia mentioning “reports from an Israeli website that SAS Commandos were conducting covert operations within Syrian territory”, I’d leave that sort of horseshit to the Baathist websites and not drag down the level of discussion here. Also, you need to get up to speed on the Syrian revolution. All this harping on imperialist skullduggery reduces you in my eyes to a typical “put a minus where the USA puts a plus” type thinker. Keep in mind that the OSS provided arms and training to Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong. Keep in mind that MN Roy tried to get weapons from German imperialism to use against British imperialism. Keep in mind that Lenin boarded a German train to the Finland Station. You are trying to simplify things when the real need is to handle contradictions.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 22, 2014 @ 9:18 pm

  19. It is interesting writing about this, and I am surprised to hear Ho Chi Minh was trained by the OSS. As I see it, there are several factors to consider, like our important support for democratic change, what portion of an insurgency is how democratic and secular, and how it plays into the international arena.

    Lenin getting help from the Germans, as well as American Revolutionaries getting help from the French are interesting analogies.
    Actually, in both cases there was a “minus” involved. The Germans and French both wanted to weaken or neutralize Russia and the British, respectively.
    The Russian Revolution did bring alot of chaos and Russia lost territory. Likewise, Syria’s conflict has brought massive casualties to Syria’s population, and weakened it severely in accord with the 1996 Clean Break Document seeking a proxy war. Therefore, it does meet an objective of the Powers in ruining Syrian society.

    A difference however may be Germany and France did not expect to dominate those countries after the dust settled, but the Powers do wish to dominate Syria, including economically, like the rest of the Middle East.

    On the other hand, the American and Russian Revolutions did not work out as expected, because they brought democratic and/or socialist revolutions elsewhere. Plus, America and Russia ended up recovering successfully, albeit a decade or two afterwards. Therefore, as you correctly suggest, the Powers’ goals are not the only consideration. Thus we should also consider how much the democratic revolutionaries in America, and those in Russia, are similar to the insurgents in Syria. The situation in Syria has an extra dimension, because it is not just democratic forces vs. tyranny, but rather secular dictatorship vs. harsh fundamentists vs. liberal democratic forces.

    I would like to learn more like you said about the democratic opposition, particularly its strength. As I understand it, some opposition cooperates with the government (you may doubt their validity), while another opposition (the LCCs) have anounced their support for peaceful opposition. I also do not know how much of the FSA is moderate or nonreligious.

    In any case, both the international arena and the makeup of the insurgency both seem like important considerations to me.

    All the best.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 22, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

  20. H Smith – ‘the LCCs have anounced their support for peaceful opposition’
    This was the position of the LCCs and most Syrians in 2011 before they armed themselves in self defence. Like most revolutions, the people had to go through the learning experience of giving peace a chance and watching the dictator slaughter their children.

    Statement by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria Regarding the Possible Military Strike against the Assad Regime September 1, 2013
    …A limited strike to merely warn Assad will lead to nothing but increase in his violence, as well as to his complete confidence that no one would prevent him from killing. Any strike to the regime must aim to paralyze, with attention and precision, its Air Forces, artillery, and missiles arsenal, being used continuously against civilian areas, with an impact not far from that of Mass Destruction weapons. A strike must also prioritize civilians and their safety, rather than being at their cost. Moreover, it needs to be accompanied by close coordination with, and sufficient support to the Syrian opposition, both political and armed…

    Comment by Duen — January 23, 2014 @ 6:55 am

  21. “You’d better learn to stop sounding like a broken record or it is in the spam filter you go.”

    If you change the record, I will sing along with different words!

    Comment by The Man With No name — January 23, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

  22. #21: You appear to have no interest in any discussion going on here, except Syria, and only on the narrow basis of backing al-Nusra and ISIS. I am getting sick and tired of you.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 23, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

  23. Duen,

    Thank you for posting the statement by the LCCs supporting intense US military strikes. I thought that we, and Syrians, do not support those kinds of military strikes?

    I was a bit surprised they used the term WMDs, but perhaps they are using a looser definition? After all, Saddaam had chemical weapons but no WMDs. My concern when reading this might be that I would question how much the US-funded* LCCs represent Syrians and should I agree with their positions? While the quote you made was not actually a call to rebellion, certainly you can conclude, as you do, that the LCC favors rebellion if they want the army to be attacked.

    I do “get” the idea of rebelling against a regime, but it looks to me like a generalization to break it down into sides- the rebels vs. the Syrian army, when in fact there are three positions – the democratic rebels, the fundamentalists, and the secular regime. Further, among those who do want democracy it looks to me like they disagree on whether it is better to cooperate with the regime or with the fundamentalists.

    *See Wikipedia’s entry on the LCCs. I would admit that US funding does not make something bad, but it should be noted.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 23, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

  24. According to the New York Time, the Local Coordinating Committees work with 100-200 people, citing US officials and activists. It says they have 35 committee leaders.


    The LCCs pulled out of the Syrian National Council because it did not consider it representative of Syrians.

    The World Socialist Website complained that as f February 2012 (two years ago) there were no real ties between the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. Perhaps that has changed?

    If the LCCs are tiny (not even mentioning their strong foreign connections), and the SNC is not representative, then who are the clearly democratic, moderate forces on the ground, in a country with over 22 million people?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 23, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

    I said that because when you type in http://www.lccsyria.org it takes you to the English website. Still, their website is registered in Germany.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 23, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

  26. I’m afraid H. Smith that you are looking for some kind of neat and orderly process in Syria that you can stick your favoured labels onto. Unfortunately history rarely works like that. Syria is a shifting and tangled set of forces, groups and improvised organisations. There’s no Congress of Soviets – but there are the lcc’s, local elected councils, media teams, field hospitals, medical teams, groups trying to provide aid to besieged areas, human rights groups, groups of fighters, federations of fighting groups…
    And I don’t share your (and much of the western left’s) prejudice that “secular” is an adjective that trumps all others. There have been plenty of secular fascists around; and for much of human history the oppressed have assembled under religious banners. I suggest you use a little imagination and try and think what it must be like to wage a war in which the enemy has a monopoly of airpower and heavy artillery, and is happy to blast your home to rubble and slaughter your nearest and dearest where they sleep. See then if even you would not be tempted to look for some divine comfort. (Remember that when Marx spoke about religion as the “opium of the masses” he was talking about something in which the oppressed seek relief from the brutalities of evey day life)
    If you are serious about trying to undestand what is happening in Syria take a look at the videos of the recent teach-in held in New York: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOClzKXfaReFN5ZD7XSlt_g?feature=watch

    Comment by magpie68 — January 24, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  27. You are right that “Syria is a shifting and tangled set of forces”. If I am going to generalize and support the insurgency as a whole, then I want to please know how much of the fighting groups are tolerant in their religion and are democratic? I was surprised that the LCCs have only 100-200 people, which makes me think that their power has been overestimated.

    I do understand that people can look to God for comfort, and this explains people voting for Hezbollah or Hamas. However, in a dispute between Hamas and a secular group, the latter is much preferred. If we are to bring Marx or the Bolsheviks into this, then a party that was strongly religious was definitely considered a major downside.

    Within a country they would support a democratic uprising against a dictatorship. Therefore, if I am to support an armed insurgency as a whole, then I need to know how religiously tolerant they are and how democratic. How do I know that they are going to treat regime supporters better than the regime treats people?

    Based on experience, how do I know this will better than the situation in Iraq or Libya, which also brutalized their conquered opponents?

    Further, they judged international conflicts in terms of class analysis, not spreading democracy. In fact, a major problem with WWI was that it was framed in terms of French and British democracy vs. the Germans’ Militarism and Autocracy. And there is an international dimension to the conflict, involving western domination of the region using various tactics to achieve “regime change”.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 24, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

  28. I’m afraid your knowledge of Bolshevik hisory is deficient. Try taking a look at Lenin’s views on the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916 – a movement that was heterogenous in class composition, entirely democratic in its programme, and strongly influenced by religious idealism. Or the relationship between the Bolsheviks and various Islamic forces during the civil war, and their flirtation with pan-Islamism subsequently (with Zinoviev – perhaps ill-advisedly – adopting the rhetoric of “jihad”).
    You are insistent on demanding certainty in an uncertain situation. All I know is that there are important popular forces in Syria who are both democratic and anti-sectarian (which is not the same thing as “secular”) in their beliefs. They cannot flourish under a dictatorship that uses mass murder, “industrial scale” torture, and destruction of entire cities, to cling on to power. And you can’t build anything progressive on the foundations of such a regime. But as I said previously- watch the teach-in videos to get an informed picture of the situation on the ground in Syria.

    Comment by magpie68 — January 25, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

  29. I do not know what a correct Left position re Syria would be. It seems to me that the loathsomeness of the Ba’ath is pretty much beyond dispute. However, the loathsomeness of Islamism, however understandable, is also beyond dispute. Even in its most civilized form–for example, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt–Islamism seems incapable of not at the very least overreaching Morsi-style and bringing the revolutionary house of cards down on its own head; at its worst of establishing a tyranny at least as bad as that of the Ba’ath.

    Please do not tell me that the Taliban are Afghanistan’s “glorious people’s heroes.”

    Yet again it seems clear that an Egyptian-style revolution of bourgeois democrats, with some General Sisi lurking at the end of it, would delight the U.S. imperialists. It is also clear that a “stabilized” Assad regime would serve those interests equally well. Is there a proper Socialist left in Syria? If so, they are only a small component of the resistance to Assad and cannot be considered contenders.

    Neither some new and unprecedentedly successful form of third-world socialism nor a European-style bourgeois democracy not under imperialist control appears to be in the cards
    –Assad himself, like Qaddafi at the end, being clearly for all practical purposes an imperialist water boy (and remembering that both Russia and China are now indisputably imperial powers).

    This isn’t a counsel of despair, but it seems to me that anybody following contemporary history, if honest, will admit to being tempted by that–Syria being a particularly agonizing case.

    It does seem to me however, that, while Proyect is right to chide his antagonists about not doing their homework on Syria, the revolutionary ball is in the hands of workers in the advanced nations, and that only there can a real revolution concur–probably for the most part through non-insurrectionary means. No insurrection in the colonialized world can ultimately overcome the superior force of world imperialism.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — January 25, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

  30. concur=occur. oh for an edit button

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — January 25, 2014 @ 1:06 pm


    The Easter Rising is a good example. There the revolutionaries were democratic, nationalist and generally Catholic, rebelling against the British empire, but were not calling for theocracy as far as I am aware. In Syria, how democratic are each portion of the insurgents? In Syria, it looks like the secular Bathist regime is the one opposing empire, although I am aware that anti-imperialism is not the only factor to consider.

    As to the Russian Civil War, I learned that it was the more secular and progressive of the Muslims who were more likely to side with the revolution, while as in Afghanistan the more conservative forces (Basmachi) were more likely to resist. The Bolsheviks were not going to impose Islamic rules, but rather they intended to liberate from religious law.

    Yes, I do demand at least a bit of certainty if I am going to support a rebellion. Lenin had the certainty that the Easter Rising was at least democratic OR was against the British empire. Where is the certainty that what percent of the rebellion is democratic, if that is what this is supposed to be about?

    Finally, yes a regime makes democratic change much more restrictive. But perhaps there are regimes, and periods in them, where change and reforms are possible. Perhaps Greece was one such example. But even if regimes could not democratize, perhaps a secular one will still be better than martial law with sectarian warfare and strict theocracy? Isn’t Assad more tolerant to opposition parties, some of which cooperate with him, than Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Taliban are?

    I have in fact watched a few talks at a US conference, which I think were linked to by the pro-insurgency “Revolutionary Left Current”. If you have a specific one that is going to show just how much of the insurgency is democratic and tolerant, I am fine with watching it.
    I am, however, familiar with generalities about the need for a democratic movement, generalities about organizing Syrians to protest, etc. And in fact I do sympathize with democratic movements for change as a general rule. This is why I would like, as you put it, certainty, about their place in an insurgency that appears to a significant extent fundamentalist or sectarian.


    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

  32. I have in fact watched a few talks at a US conference, which I think were linked to by the pro-insurgency “Revolutionary Left Current”. If you have a specific one that is going to show just how much of the insurgency is democratic and tolerant, I am fine with watching it.

    It’s all here: http://revolution-news.com/syria-context-arab-uprisings-conference-nyc-nov-17th/

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

  33. Kalosar,

    I read that much of Syria’s economy is in the heads of a company owned by a government official?

    I am aware that Russia Today is biased, however it gives some reasons why it believes TPTB opposes Syria. I remember reading that one of the reasons for invading Iraq was because Iraq’s government controlled the country’s oil.

    Russia Today quotes an Argentinian saying about Syria:

    Syria’s Central Bank is state-owned & controlled
    Syria has no IMF (International Monetary Fund) debt.
    Syria has massive oil and gas reserves
    Syria opposes Israel
    Syria is one of the last secular Muslim states in the Middle East

    I understand the need for democratic change nonetheless. But perhaps these are reasons suggesting Syria is not a mere water boy?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  34. I read that much of Syria’s economy is in the heads of a company owned by a government official?

    And even if that was the case, who cares? This is a Marxist blog that expects people to understand that such ownership means little. SOE’s in China are capitalist in every sense of the word. But that being the case, here’s who owns most of the Syrian economy:

    NY Times April 30, 2011
    Syrian Businessman Becomes Magnet for Anger and Dissent

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — When protests erupted in March in the forlorn Syrian border town of Dara’a, demonstrators burned the president’s portraits, then set ablaze an unlikely target: the local office of the country’s largest mobile phone company, Syriatel, whose owner sits at the nexus of anger and power in a restive country.

    Syriatel is owned by Rami Makhlouf, first cousin and childhood friend of President Bashar al-Assad and the country’s most powerful businessman. In the past decade, he has emerged as a strength and a liability of a government that finds its bastions of support shrinking and a figure to watch as Mr. Assad’s inner circle tries to deal with protests shaking his family’s four decades of rule.

    Leery of the limelight, he is alternatively described as the Assad family’s banker or Mr. Five Percent (or 10, or whatever share gets the deal done). His supporters praise him for his investment in Syria, but they are far outnumbered by detractors, who have derided him in protests as a thief or worse. Sometimes more than Mr. Assad himself, he has become the lightning rod of dissent.

    “We’ll say it clearly,” went a chant in Dara’a. “Rami Makhlouf is robbing us.”

    Egypt had Ahmed Ezz, the steel magnate who favored tight Italian suits (and now faces trial in white prison garb). In Tunisia, it was Leila Traboulsi, the hairdresser who became the president’s wife, then a symbol of the extravagance of the ruling family. Mr. Makhlouf, 41, is Syria’s version, a man at the intersection of family privilege, clan loyalty, growing avarice and, perhaps most dangerously, the yawning disconnect between ruler and ruled that already reshaped authoritarian Syria even before the protests.

    Like Mr. Ezz in Egypt, he has become a symbol of how economic reforms turned crony socialism into crony capitalism, making the poor poorer and the connected rich fantastically wealthier.

    “A huge liability,” was how a Syrian analyst described him.

    “On the economic side, he really symbolizes what the people hate about the regime,” said the analyst, who asked not to be named. “They hate the security services and they hate Rami Makhlouf. On the economic side, Rami symbolizes the very worst about the way the country is run.”

    An e-mail sent to Mr. Makhlouf’s company on Saturday, asking for comment, went unanswered. Calls to the headquarters seeking comment were not answered Saturday.

    The origins of Mr. Makhlouf’s wealth mirror the consolidation of the Assad family’s rule over Syria. Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, a former air force commander who took power in 1970 and soon forged an alliance between officers like him from the Alawite minority and Sunni Muslim businessmen in Damascus, the capital, offered privileges to his wife’s family, the Makhloufs. Mr. Makhlouf inherited the mantle, while his brother, Hafez, went into the other family business — state security — taking over as intelligence chief in Damascus.

    “Together they make quite a duo,” an Obama administration official said.

    Though prominent even before Mr. Assad’s ascent in 2000, Mr. Makhlouf grew even wealthier as he and Egyptian partners won one of two mobile phone contracts. (The partners were eventually forced to sell.) Syriatel has about 55 percent of the market, Syrian economists say. As the reforms moved Syria away from a state-led economy, he penetrated the economy’s most lucrative sectors — real estate, transport, banking, insurance, construction and tourism — and his interests run from a five-star hotel in Damascus to duty-free shops at airports and the border. He is the vice chairman and, Syrian analysts say, the real power in Cham Holding, which was set up in 2007 with 73 investors and $360 million, in what seemed an attempt to tether wealthy Sunni businessmen to the government. It has effectively been charged with renovating Syria’s aging infrastructure, attracting Arab capital in another network of support for Mr. Assad’s rule.

    Some praise him for the work, especially employees in Syriatel, whose sleek offices and good salaries make it the first choice of many young graduates for jobs.

    “No one can say he spends his money in nightclubs with girls,” said a manager at Syriatel who only gave his first name, Muhammad. “He spends his time thinking how to build a new Syria. He is the ideal for Syrian youths as a successful businessmen.”

    But many contend his success came by way of no-bid contracts and leverage with the force of the state behind it, where the government and his interests are merged. A former government adviser recalled Mr. Makhlouf’s father insisting on amendments to a banking law, even after it was passed by Parliament. (It was revised, he said.) The American government, which imposed sanctions on him in 2008, accused Mr. Makhlouf of manipulating the judicial system and using Syrian intelligence to intimidate his rivals.

    “Everybody knows that you can’t do anything without him,” said Amr Al Azm, a Syria expert and professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio. “He has his fingers in so many pies. Anything you want to do you partner with him, or you give him a share.”

    In a country where criticism of Mr. Assad himself was long taboo, Syriatel became an early proxy for protest under his rule, much of which centered on the government’s failure to profit from the sale of its license.

    Riad Seif, an opposition member of Parliament, criticized what he called irregularities in the phone licenses and was soon arrested and imprisoned. So was Aref Dalila, another dissident. Rami Nakhle, an activist who fled Syria for Lebanon in January, began an Internet campaign to boycott Syriatel in 2008 over its high fees. They urged people to switch off their phones for four hours on the first day of the month. An online petition that he and other young activists circulated received 5,000 signatures.

    “We were touching Rami Makhlouf but not naming him,” Mr. Nakhle said. “We were doing something political but in a way that we thought was safe.”

    His efforts were humbled when the mother of one of his friends figured out what they were doing. She smashed her son’s laptop, Mr. Nakhle recalled, and barred him from the Internet for a month. “Do you want to disappear?” he recalled her asking her son.

    Like Mr. Ezz’s place in Egypt, Mr. Makhlouf’s profile illustrates deeper changes in Syria that have made the uprisings more than simply calls for individual rights.

    Mr. Assad’s father was famous for his ability to hold together disparate elements of the country, most remarkably in 1982, when merchants in Damascus sided with the government in its brutal suppression of an Islamist revolt that culminated with the killing of at least 10,000 people in the central city of Hama.

    Since then, the tacit understanding that underlined his rule — Alawite officers and Sunni merchants — has weakened, as the sons and grandsons of those Alawite officers enter business. Administration officials and economists say there are growing indications that support of the traditional Sunni commercial elite has begun to falter, too.

    Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma, called Mr. Makhlouf “the tendons that reach out to the new capitalist class that was empowered.”

    But others see him as more divisive, emblematic of a state that once brought electricity to every town but, as in Egypt, can no longer afford the social contract of taking care of its people’s needs. As that falters, figures like Mr. Makhlouf grow richer, alienating the traditional elite and people who view him as a symbol of injustice.

    “Ideologically the regime doesn’t stand for much anymore beyond the interests of certain individuals,” said Nadim Houry, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Beirut. “ He’s a symbol of what is perceived as private interests controlling large chunks of Syria’s economy.”

    Even some sympathetic to the government have speculated whether Mr. Makhlouf might be sacrificed in an attempt to preserve the government, as Mr. Ezz was early on. But, others note, Mr. Ezz never had the ties of blood and clan that matter so much in Mr. Assad’s Syria.

    “Right now, they will do anything to hang on to power,” the Obama administration official said. “That might lead them to do something, kick Rami aside, but I don’t see it going there quite yet.”

    The official added: “At the end of the day, they’re family.”

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

  35. Thanks for the link to the talks.

    THE WEBSITE MENTIONS: “the revolutionary movement has assumed the task of coordinating economic and political life by establishing more than 130 local councils in towns and villages… But… we don’t often hear about local coordinating committees (in the west)”
    I do want to find out more about this. The Local Coordinating Committees are supposed to be a main group in the Opposition, yet the NY Times and other sources put their number at most at 200 activists.
    The councils in this quote must be different, but unfortunately the fact that villages set up councils to govern themselves does not really tell me enough of those councils’ politics. After all, any city needs some kind of council for management.

    NEXT, it gives information that should raise two red flags:
    “Razan Ghazzawi, based in the liberated areas…
    (1) has increasingly found herself having to answer questions about why she’s single, why she’s an activist and why she doesn’t cover her head.
    (2) She also described how NGOs use money to entice people like her to collaborate with the West, explaining that she had been offered a handsome salary to work at an organization based in a neighboring country.”
    That is, this example goes along with the impression that fundamentalism is higher in areas under the insurgency, and that there is serious collaboration between the Opposition and the West.

    NEXT, ANOTHER SPEAKER, Yasser Munif, “describes Russia and the West as fighting out a mini-Cold War in Syria.”
    Doesn’t this goes along with the idea of western designs being used in Syria?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

  36. Louis,

    I was not proposing the official’s ownership of the company as a sign of socialism, but rather I was contrasting it with how the country’s bank is state run and thus independent of the West. I remember Monthly Review explaining that the war on Iraq was motivated in part because of its independent control of its oil.

    So I support democratic change and activists who want it, but have a very hard time generalizing the insurgency as democratic, tolerant, or independent, although I will keep an open mind.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

  37. yet the NY Times and other sources put their number at most at 200 activists.

    Hal, don’t you realize how transparent you are as a Baathist tool despite attempts to appear as a sincere interlocutor looking for the truth? Over on Mondoweiss that is now a boiling cauldron of Baathist fan boys, I heard the same exact talking points:

    Are you aware that the much touted LCCs, the foot soldiers of the Arab Spring, work with 100-200 people?


    the Local Coordinating Committees are made of 100-200 people,

    These numbers come from an Anthony Shadid article written in June 2011, just 2 months after the revolt began. He says, however, that the number is indicative of those activists *fully* involved in the LCC’s. He dies shortly afterwards. Syria has a population of about 8 percent of the USA. If we had the same number of full-time activists proportional to our population, this would mean 2845 full-timers. Most people would understand that the emergence of an organization of nearly 3000 people in the USA in 60 days would be a significant development. But none of that matters to you really. You betray your orientation by referring us to WSWS.org and RT.com, two running sewers of the Baathist left.

    Years ago I thought that you were a bright young man. I wonder what caused your brain to rot out in this fashion.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

  38. One of the links includes an article mentioning how a 64 year old anarchist was not cared for in a cell with 85 people and died from a heart attack. it’s sad.

    The article mentions a demonstration in “June 2013 [that] was held in front of Sharia Court in Aleppo after the killing of a child for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammad.”

    Aleppo is one of Syria’s main cities and is in control of extremist insurgents. They have created a Sharia court in their major city and executed a child?

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 10:34 pm

  39. Aleppo is one of Syria’s main cities and is in control of extremist insurgents. They have created a Sharia court in their major city and executed a child?

    And don’t forget that a rebel ate a piece of a dead Baathist’s heart. God, how tedious you are.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 10:37 pm

  40. I was contrasting it with how the country’s bank is state run and thus independent of the West.

    You really don’t have a fucking clue about the Syrian economy, do you? Why don’t you google Syria and IMF and you will find this sort of thing (same with Libya under Gaddafi). From 2009:

    IMF gives Syria high grade for economic reform: http://www.thenational.ae/business/imf-gives-syria-high-grade-for-economic-reform

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

  41. although I will keep an open mind.

    Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 25, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

  42. LOUIS,

    I AM SORRY TO HEAR THAT Anthony Shadid died, and it’s true that the LCCs could have grown since then, although I was not able to find larger figures. You are also right that 3000 activists in America would be a big number. I would prefer for the LCCs to have expanded their numbers since then to make up a significant percent of the opposition. WSWS and RT have their biases, although for what it’s worth WSWS claimed to support democratic revolutionaries or activists in Syria. However, the NYT and other outlets have biases too.

    REGARDING MY OWN VIEWS, when I was writing about Hungary some years ago, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I saw that some revolutionaries wanted a democratic workers’ state, and I believe they set up some councils to that effect. Nagy, the Hungarian Socialist president, joined the rebels, I think, and later was brutally executed for it. Meanwhile, NATO clearly supported the rebellion and in fact some of the rebels were anti-semitic, if not fascists from the Horthy regime about a decade previously, and lynched Stalinist secret police brutally in the streets. The fascist Cardinal Mindszenty flew in from Vienna. And NATO favored the rebellion, although it did not invade of course.

    Meanwhile, they were rebelling against the Hungarian government’s hardcore Stalinism, and Khruschev personally later admitted this on a sympathetic note. Khruschev himself was trying to get rid of hardcore Stalinism, and after the revolt was crushed, Kadar became the new president who was not hardcore and made some reforms.

    The Socialist line was and still is generally to look at the socialists among the rebels in Hungary and to see it as a socialist, democratic revolt, while seeing the USSR as reacting to crush it in favor of Stalinism. For me, this feels too simplistic, because of NATO’s interests at hand, the role of fascists, and the interests of the USSR, in the process of reforms, against fascism and capitalist restoration.

    THE SITUATION IN SYRIA OF COURSE IS NOT QUITE ANALOGOUS. But I am open minded and like to see different sides of things, which is why I would like to see how much of the revolution or insurgency in Syria is democratic and tolerant.

    I enjoy talking with you on these comment pages. I don’t expect you to have all the answers, and found your links interesting. I like the work of democratic activists in Syria, and wish it was so simple, and that they were in control of the insurgency. I value your ideas and hope to better understand them and the situation there.

    Take care, Louis.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

  43. Thx for posting this, Louis! And btw readers, if you’re looking for an additional independent & aggressive progressive media org (think of it as establishment-level writing without the accompanying establishment-level politics), check out FourthEstateWatch dot com. Cheers and solidarity.

    Comment by fourthestatewatch — February 6, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

  44. Though this discussion is old, I just noticed it, and as H. Smith is asking about the relative weight of seculars and Islamists among the rebels and what this means etc, he might be interested in my assessment of exactly this question: http://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/report-on-relative-strength-of-armed-rebels-in-syria/

    Also, regarding your comment 17, on the CIA role in 2012 in allegedly coordinating weapons to rebels, here is what I wrote on that:

    An article “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) from the March 24 New York Times, has often been quoted by those who want to show that the US is already involved. And the article does show this. But what it also shows about the US is far from what those highlighting this often want to show. Indeed, one may ask, does the CIA’s role in this operation have anything to do with the contradiction noted? To answer, one need go not further than the article itself, which describes the CIA’s specific role in the following terms:

    “The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles that might be used in future terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft. “These countries were going to do it one way or another”, the former official said. “They weren’t asking for a ‘Mother, may I?’ from us.”

    “But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft. Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought.”

    To summarise: the arming of the Syrian rebels was a Saudi-Qatari initiative, who were not asking US permission; the US steps in to help “coordinate” it by “limiting supplies”, “steering weapons away” from groups they don’t like and making sure that none of the weapons the rebels actually needed to fight Assad’s heavy weaponry, e.g. anti-aircraft missiles, got through to the rebels.

    Another report by Nour Malas in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578062842929673074.html) was even more explicit, pointing out that “the Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border” precisely after more weapons began to flow in to the rebels in mid-2012, especially small numbers of portable anti-aircraft weapons (Manpads), some from Libya, “smuggled into the country through the Turkish border”, others “supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising and smuggled in through the Lebanese border”, or some even bought from regime forces.

    “In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.”

    Comment by mkaradjis — February 10, 2014 @ 11:57 pm

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