Archive for the ‘Arab Spring’ Category

The article below was written late last year by a veteran Canadian Marxist and anti-imperialist.  It appeared in the Australian-based international Marxist journal Links.  We’ve included the discussion on the Links site, as it contains comments representative of the two positions taken by anti-imperialists: one which focuses on the imperialists’ machinations against the regime and one which focuses on the nature of the Syrian regime and its backers in Tehran and Moscow.

by Richard Fidler

November 14, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — In Syria the rebel cities that rose up four years ago in revolt against the brutal Assad dictatorship are now under a genocidal siege, bombed and assaulted from the air by Assad’s military aided and abetted by Russian fighter jets and bombers. Their desperate fight for survival, if unsuccessful, will put paid to the Arab Spring and with it the potential for building a democratic, anti-imperialist governmental alternative in the Middle East for an extended period to come. Socialists and antiwar activists everywhere have every interest in supporting the Syrian people and opposing that war.

But where is the antiwar movement? And what if anything is it doing about Syria? The most recent statement on the Canadian Peace Alliance web site is headlined Stop Bombing Syria. But it is focused on NATO. Not wrong in principle, but the statement, addressed to Canada’s previous bombing of ISIS positions in Syria, is many months out of date. There is nothing on the CPA site about the current murderous air and bombing assault on Syria’s cities. And it would appear that across the country the movement is doing nothing to protest the war.

Why the silence? Is it only because Trudeau has pulled Canada’s fighter jets out of Syria; after all, Canadian planes and troops are active in other parts of the Middle East. The CPA denounces the bombing of Syria by Harper and Trudeau but says nothing about the bombing now by Putin. And most of the left and labour movement are likewise maintaining a disquieting silence on the war in Syria.

Part of the reason lies no doubt in the complex and confused situation on the ground in that country, and throughout the Middle East.

In Syria the Assad regime has from the outset responded with brutal repression, displaying no willingness to negotiate with the democratic and popular opposition forces. It has sought to deflect attention from its war by various tactics, including the release from its prisons of Islamic fundamentalists who are now fighting with Daesh, the reactionary Islamic State forces that have been drawn into Syria from Iraq as a result of the civil war.

Iran and now Russia have intervened in support of Assad, while traditional allies of the United States (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, with the obvious sympathy of Israel) have backed the opposition, although for their own reactionary purposes and without providing the opposition forces with the weapons and other material support they so desperately need.

The United States, no friend of Assad but fearing his overthrow will further destabilize the Middle East and jeopardize Israel’s defense, has doled out aid to the opposition as if through an eye-dropper, denying it the (more…)

Al-Nusra fighters, aided and abetted by Western powers

Al-Nusra fighters, paid and directed by Western powers

A different perspective on Syria to that presented in the interview below is provided by veteran Iranian Marxist Yassamine Mather, who suggests that a popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship quickly became dominated by reactionary forces backed by the Western powers.

by Yassamine Mather

Anyone who has had direct experience of the violent conflicts and wars that have engulfed the Middle East will tell you that one of the most difficult tasks facing those on the ground is distinguishing fact from fiction. The region has seen hundreds of small-scale civil wars, as well as major battles between states and internal opposition forces, and, of course, imperialist intervention.

Often, even if you are a reporter in the middle of a war zone, embedded in one of the many warring factions of opposition groups or with government troops, what you see and hear about military advances, defeats and casualties does not necessarily have any connection with reality. It is not that the reporters are usually lying, but also that the information available to them is often inaccurate.

The current situation in Syria is no exception. All sides have their own version of (more…)

Massive anti-regime protest, Hama, Syria, July 2011

Massive anti-regime protest, Hama, Syria, July 2011

As part of our policy of publishing different left points of view about the conflict in Syria we are reprinting an interview with Syrian socialist Ghayath Naisse, a member of the Revolutionary Left Current.  The interview was conducted by Simon Assaf about the brutalisation of Syria, the goals of those intervening and the prospects for socialists in the region.1  We’ve taken it from the International Socialism journal site, here.

Simon Assaf: Let’s start with imperialism. What do those intervening in Syria—Russia, the Saudis, the US and Turkey—hope to achieve?

Ghayath Naisse: Syria makes for a very particular case study in that virtually all the imperialist and regional powers are in action in the same territory.

First, let’s talk about the intervention by Russia and its allies. Russian imperialism has an important geostrategic interest in the region. After Libya, Syria is now the last bastion where Russia has had a military presence for decades. It has the naval base at Tartus, which has grown in recent years, and the air base at Hmeimim near Latakia. So, on a geostrategic level, if it loses Syria, Russia has no presence and no conduit for diplomatic influence in the Mediterranean basin.

That particular interest combines with a more general one. Since the ascent of Vladimir Putin, Russia has sought to recover its place among the great powers—to make the other imperialist powers recognise its place among them, by force if necessary. That shaped its actions in Ukraine and it’s also shaping what happens in Syria.

To understand the other imperialist “camp”, the United States and its allies, we must start from seeing that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 ended in failure and defeat. The departure of US forces in 2011 was a striking show of failure for US imperialism in the whole region and in Iraq in particular. What’s happening now with ISIS has allowed the US to return to the region, not just to Iraq but to Syria too, at least within the limits of a “low cost intervention”. That means it doesn’t need to put its troops on the ground but has a major aerial presence.

So, supposedly to confront ISIS, there has been a return of the US in Iraq. And in Syria, where the US previously had a minimal, largely diplomatic presence, it now intervenes directly. It has special forces around the border and in the north, and an incontestable air supremacy. That is what’s at stake for the US—its interest in returning to a region it had been forced out of. This is an important region for the US, where its allies such as Israel and the Gulf states were threatened by the uprising and revolutions that swept the region.

Part of the radical left criticises the US policy in the region for “doing nothing”. But that’s not true. The US has (more…)

Redline has run articles with different perspectives on Syria – from those who emphasise imperialist involvement to those that emphasise the awfulness of the Assad regime and the need to solidarise with its victims and those fighting it.  Below is the third perspective, presented by one of our Iranian readers (Redline is blocked in Iran, but we have readers there as well as Iranian readers around the world).  This third perspective is that the Assads are brutal and corrupt dictators but the alternative is even worse, as happened in Iran in 1979 – and, for that matter, more recently in Libya.  This perspective also suggests that western leftists who place emphasis on getting rid of Assad, at virtually any cost, are playing with fire but that it is not them who have suffered the consequences of the replacement of Gaddafi and it won’t be them who will suffer the consequences of the replacement of Assad by Islamic fundamentalists – it will be the working class, women, and national and religious minorities; the western left will just walk away unscathed (and unreflective).


As bad as the Assad regime is, the alternative is even worse

by Karim Pourhamzavi

The tragic and brutal chaos is getting close to completing its fifth year. Recently, the siege of Aleppo by the Syrian army and its allies, along with the Russian heavy bombardment, has attracted a large amount of media attention, particularly by the anti-Assad camp. The extensive advance of the troops loyal to the Syrian regime, at the time of writing, put an end to the controversial siege.

Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, did not witness a large-scale uprising in 2011, when the wider rebellion took place and steadily became a transnational armed struggle by the end of the same year. Various militant groups who fight in Syria, most prominent of which is the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, took over eastern Aleppo in 2012. The eastern part of the city includes approximately 300,000 residents and the western part, which has remained under the control of the Syrian regime to this day, is home for over one million residents, although you would not know this from ‘mainstream’ media coverage – you would think the whole of the city has been in ‘rebel’ hands and is being bombarded by the regime.


Any attempt of the Syrian regime to regain the eastern part of Aleppo was confronted by extensive propaganda in much of the western media. Not to mention the increase of multi-dimensional supports to the militants, including the Nusra Front, by the anti-Assad camp. The focus on civilian casualties whenever the Syrian army tries to regain Aleppo is, however, only one side of the story. The other side is that (more…)


In October 2011 the corrupt and repressive regime of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya by a set of rebel forces backed by NATO.  Very quickly the country descended into chaos, broken up into a series of areas run by rival warlords and their militias.  The Libyan people have paid a high price for their ‘liberation’.  The following article was written a year later, in October 2012, and explains what happened and why.  The article has certainly been confirmed by events since.

After NATO, another key imperialist institution, the United Nations, began playing a central role in the ongoing chaos.  Now a new peace deal is supposed to unite the country behind a single parliament – two parliaments emerged after the overthrow of Gaddafi – and a government has been appointed.  The prospects of peace, let alone peace and prosperity, seem very limited however.  Once again Western intervention has wreaked havoc.

by Workers Fight

_81052882_libya_strikes_624v2On October 23rd it will have been exactly one year since Libya was officially declared “free” by the governments of the imperialist powers, after seven months of “humanitarian” carpet bombing which they carried under the official pretext of protecting the Libyan population from Gaddafi’s guns.

However, if it was not for the inconvenient death, right in the middle of the American presidential campaign, of the US ambassador in Libya and three of his diplomatic staff, killed by gunmen in Benghazi, on September 11th this year, Libya’s dire situation would have been left under the carpet where it was swept many months ago.

Apparently the Obama administration had at first hoped that this killing could be explained away as the collateral damage of a wave of protests which had been taking place at the time throughout the Middle-East and beyond, following the release of a US video accused of “insulting Islam”.

But any cover-up would have been immediately exposed, since the diplomats had obviously been killed as a result of well-organised rocket attacks on two US facilities in Benghazi. Instead of a fanatical mob going mad, this was a serious military operation against a western power, which had been planned in advance to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New-York. And this, in a country whose population was supposedly eternally grateful to the US for its help in overthrowing Gaddafi’s dictatorship!

While US politicians of all shades were bickering over the lack of protection given to diplomatic personnel, what these developments really exposed, once again, was the myth of the West’s “humanitarian” intervention in Libya. Just as in Iraq and Afghanistan, “regime change” in Libya was carried out by Western bombs – the main difference being that, this time, it had been done at a (more…)

6192086589_76b3c01820by Kenan Malik

The ambitions of the Islamists have been checked, those of the left revived. That is how most commentators viewed the results of last week’s Turkish general election. The ruling AKP, whose roots lie in the Islamist tradition, lost its parliamentary majority, in part because of the rise of HDP, a leftwing, secular Kurdish party. However, to view developments in Turkey through the prism of ‘Islamism’ v ‘secularlism’ is to misunderstand the real drivers of political change. For a start, whether the AKP is an Islamist party is a matter of debate. Despite its Islamist links, it is probably best seen as a deeply authoritarian, socially conservative organization.


More importantly, the pattern of political change that we are witnessing in Turkey is visible in many countries across the world, and not just Muslim-majority ones. From India to Algeria, from Egypt to South Africa, the organizations that led struggles for freedom from colonialism, or the ideologies that claimed to represent the identity of the free nation, have become senile or corrupted. People have become disaffected with the old order. But the new opposition movements that have emerged to give voice to that disaffection are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are often sectarian or separatist in form This then leaves a hole where national progressive movements should be.

Every country has a distinct political history and culture, so the ways in which these trends express themselves are highly (more…)