[Midden-Oosten] Michael Karadjis: Issues in the current stage of Syrian revolution 2/2

Jeff meisner op xs4all.nl
Do Jul 18 00:29:30 CEST 2013

Part 2

Why the US and EU have not armed the opposition

With the current change of tack by the US in agreeing to send arms to the opposition, it is important to clarify why imperialism has been so hesitant about arming the Syrian opposition to date, why it took two years, before getting to the specific issues.

None of the pro-Assad left really explains why the US and EU have not been providing arms to the Syrian rebels all this time if they had really wanted to. Apparently arming every other reactionary tyrant or contra movement they choose to is easy, but when it comes to providing a few arms to a movement against a tyrannical regime that is using every possible means to crush it, apparently imperialists have to struggle for years with all kinds of legal restrictions. The idea that maybe they have neither intervened, nor even provided arms, because they don't want to is apparently too radical a proposal.

The general answer is that the US is  opposed to  the Syrian revolution; but since it exists (which never had anything to do with the US), it must try to hijack it; but to do that, it needs a "partner" that the US can control and which can control the ranks of fighters on the ground in Syria , i.e., control the revolutionary process and put it in the necessary straightjacket. But this is the key problem; the US does not have a partner, neither the Assad regime with its Hezbollah links; nor the reactionary Islamist forces such as Al-Nusra, to which it genuinely does not want any arms it may send to "vetted" sections of the FSA to seep to; nor the genuinely democratic-revolutionary forces on the ground in Syria who are not controllable by pliant exile leaderships.

This is why, despite all the talk about the need to arm non-jihadi FSA forces in order to reduce the jihadi influence, the US still took two years to do so. About the only leaders the US seems to have in its pockets are a few of the exile leadership, such as General Salem Idriss of the Supreme Military Command (SMC), a body set up by exile elements of the FSA leadership, which simply has no way of controlling the FSA as a whole and which has no central chain of command.

Before continuing, it is also important to understand what the Syrian rebels are up against when we hear lazy talk of the trickle of light weapons from abroad representing some great "war on Syria."

The Syrian regime possesses:
  >>> Nearly 5000 tanks; 2500 infantry fighting vehicles; 2500 self-propelled or towed artillery units
  >>> 325 tactical aircraft; 143 helicopters
  >>> Nearly 2000 air defence pieces.
It has used all this massive equipment, all this military air power, scud missiles, cluster bombs and virtually anything against its own people and its own cities for more than 18 months, leaving 100,000 people dead, 2 million refugees across its borders and much of Syria covered in moonscapes (such as in these photos: http://syriawitness.middleeastvoices.com). This is the reality of what the Syrian people are up against.

Massive quantities of arms to rebels … or rebels starved of arms?

What of the arms situation before this latest US turn? Many opposed to the Syrian revolution claim that, even if the US hasn't been directly sending arms until now, it has approved Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying arms, and that these allegedly large quantities of arms "escalate" the conflict and encourage the rebels to go for a military solution, and this is part of the "imperialist war on Syria." However, almost every article about alleged massive arms provision by these states, when read right through, show that the rebels on the ground have got next to nothing . First some examples will be given, followed by some analysis of this glaring contradiction.

The May 21  Washington Post  carried an article 
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-21/opinions/39412628_1_geneva-idriss-weapons    that claimed Saudi Arabia had recently sent 35 tons of weapons to the SMC leadership in Jordan. In the same article, SMC commander General Salim Idriss is reported as saying these weapons "aren't advanced enough to combat Assad's tanks and planes in Qusayr". He said the only way there could be any "military balance" before the Geneva talks would be if the rebels could get "modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons". He also claimed the rebel forces "are chronically short of ammunition".

Perhaps Idriss is just angling for more. But even more important than his assertions was the reality on the ground at the time: this was during the Assad-Hezbollah siege of the Sunni city of Qusayr. The question is whether any of those 35 tons of weaponry in Jordan ever reached the FSA forces defending Qusayr; countless reports on the ground suggested the defenders had precious little to defend their town with, certainly not against the vast array of heavy weaponry Assad was using.

Moreover, Qusayr is not near Jordan; yet as was widely reported the previous week, Assad's forces were able to re- take  Khirbet Ghazaleh,  a strategic town in the south, right near the Jordanian border, where the FSA had control of the border, and the SMC exile leadership (being trained and minded by 200 US troops based in Jordan) made sure the rebel defenders didn't get a rifle, which "raised resentment among opposition fighters over what they saw as a lack of Jordanian support for their efforts to defeat  Assad 's forces in the region, according to rebel commanders and activists in the area" ( http://news.yahoo.com/assads-forces-capture-strategic-town-southern-syria-034605544.html). If arms from Jordan couldn't even get across a nearby border, how likely is it they got to Qusayr?

For another example,  a recent  Financial Times article 
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/f2d9bbc8-bdbc-11e2-890a-00144feab7de.html#axzz2TeyItOcb   made the unsubstantiated claim that Qatar has provided $3 billion to the opposition in one form or another (presumably including arms, buying loyalty of individuals, aid to refugees etc.).

Yet the same article, noting the "erratic and limited nature of weapons shipments", quoted Mahmoud Marrouch, a young fighter from Liwaa al-Tawhid, a rural Aleppo group believed to be a major recipient of Qatari arms, saying that Qatar does a lot of promising but not delivering weapons. What the fighters have, he says, was seized from regime bases or purchased on the black market. "The Qataris and the Saudis need a green light from America to help us", implying it is often not given.

An article on the role of the CIA in Turkey 
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0   (more below) likewise claimed the arms airlift from the Gulf "has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes" landing in Turkey or Jordan since early 2012, estimated to be 3500 tons of military equipment.

Yet once again, on the ground:

    Still, rebel commanders have criticized the shipments 
    as insufficient, saying the quantities of weapons 
    they receive are too small and the types too light 
    to fight Mr. Assad's military effectively … "The 
    outside countries give us weapons and bullets 
    little by little", said Abdel Rahman Ayachi, a 
    commander in Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist fighting 
    group in northern Syria. He made a gesture as 
    if switching on and off a tap. "They open and 
    they close the way to the bullets like water", 
    he said.

Thus rhetoric about "massive" quantities of arms going to the rebels from the Gulf and "escalating the war" needs to be taken with entire silos full of salt. What then is behind this apparent contradiction?

CIA coordination of weapons shipments?

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 

    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.

Finally, the reporter Joanna Paraszczuk explained that a US-Saudi conflict has been going on for some time:

    While Saudi Arabia has built up large stockpiles 
    of arms and ammunition for the Free Syrian Army, 
    the US blocked shipments until last Thursday. 
    The US and the Saudis are involved in a multilateral 
    effort to support the insurgency from Jordanian 
    bases. But, according to the sources, Washington 
    had not only failed to supply "a single rifle 
    or bullet to the FSA in Daraa" but had actively 
    prevented deliveries , apparently because of concerns 
    over which factions would receive the weapons. 
    The situation also appears to be complicated by 
    Jordan's fears that arms might find their way 
    back into the Kingdom and contribute to instability 
    there. The sources said the Saudi-backed weapons 
    and ammunition are in warehouses in Jordan, and 
    insurgents in Daraa and Damascus could be supplied 
    "within hours" with anti-tank rockets and ammunition. 
    The Saudis also have more weapons ready for airlift 
    into Jordan, but US representatives are preventing 
    this at the moment.

Some comments can be made here. First, this report strongly confirms the US role has been the exact source of the contradiction between alleged "massive arms supplies" and the rebels having nothing much on the ground. Second, the report makes clear that the failure to supply weapons to the rebels in the strategic south Syrian town, noted above, was directly due to US pressure. Third, the concern about who gets the weapons is probably particularly strong in that region for two main reasons. First, the report notes concern about weapons going back into Jordan and creating "instability". This refers to the fact that Jordan's concern has never been Assad, but on the contrary, the danger that a Muslim Brotherhood-influenced regime could lead the powerful Jordanian section of the Brotherhood, the main Jordanian opposition, to overthrow the monarchy. Second, southern Syria is near the border of the Israeli-occupied Golan, and Israel has made it continually clear that it prefers Assad's a
rmy on the border, which it has protected for 40 years, to any of the Syrian rebels.

All those demanding the  withdrawal of the US from the Middle East  in all forms, including ending its interference in Syria, need to reckon with the fact that this would mean the lesser powers involved in supporting the Syrian opposition would have been far more free  to send any arms they wanted, especially anti-aircraft missiles, to whoever they wanted without the CIA preventing them .

US wants to use FSA to strike Al-Nusra to prove loyalty?

What else does the US role involve? And was the US demanding anything else of the SMC/FSA leadership that might explain the extreme reluctance to provide it with arms for so long?

What is a good way to prove you are willing to be a compliant group of puppets? How about agreeing to become a strike force for the US against Al-Nusra and other "jihadis"?

According to a May 9 article   by     Phil Sands 
http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/americas-hidden-agenda-in-syrias-war   , Syrian rebel commanders met US intelligence officers in Jordan        six months earlier to discuss the possibility of the US supplying arms. "But according to one of the commanders present at the meeting, the Americans were more interested in talking about Jabhat Al-Nusra", especially about "the locations of their bases"."Then, by the rebel commander's account, the discussion took an unexpected turn.  The Americans began discussing the possibility of drone strikes on Al-Nusra camps inside Syria and tried to enlist the rebels to fight their fellow insurgent", offering to train 30 FSA fighters a month to fight Al-Nusra.

When the Syrians at the meeting protested that opposition forces, at this stage at least, need to unite against Assad's far more powerful army rather than war among themselves, a US intelligence officer replied:  "I'm not going to lie to you. We'd prefer you fight Al-Nusra now, and then fight Assad's army. You should kill these Nusra people. We'll do it if you don't."

This is not the only indication of such a role being demanded of the rebels as the price for support.  A recent Financial Times  article   
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/71e492d0-acdd-11e2-9454-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2UPVgOFXt   claims that at the recent "Friends of Syria" conference, the National Coalition "issued principles that pleased western foreign ministers but for now at least, had no particular relevance to people inside Syria", including the declaration's denunciation of "radical/extremist elements in Syria which follow an agenda of their own" (i.e. Al-Nusrah).

The article then quotes Colonel Akaidi, the military defector now heading the Aleppo military council, who claims "the US wants to turn people like him into the Sahwa, the tribal groups in Iraq that were enlisted by the US to fight al-Qaeda", but his view is that "if they 
the US   help us so that we kill each other, then we don't want their help".

France has also been explicit about this. On June 23, France's president, Francois Hollande, told Syrian rebels to "retake control of these areas" that have fallen in to the hands of extremist Islamist groups "and push these groups out" so that they don't "benefit from the chaos in the future" (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jun-23/221321-hollande-urges-syria-rebels-to-retake-extremist-held-zones.ashx#axzz2X5dwF4Mo); this was a necessary condition for the lifting of the EU arms embargo being translated into any actual French arms getting to the rebels.

Curiously, despite this furious hostility of imperialism towards Al-Nusra,   the European Union's recent lifting of the embargo on Syrian oil seems to have benefited Al-Nusra, as most of this oil is in the north-eastern region mostly controlled by Al-Nusra.

This appears to be most likely a miscalculation, especially given that the UN Security Council had just subjected Al-Nusra to sanctions and a global asset freeze, at the initiative of Britain and France  (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/syrian-islamists-to-be-added-to-un-sanctions-list-diplomats-say), meaning the group won't be in much of a position to sell its assets.

Or, if not a miscalculation, was this move aimed precisely at goading the SMC/FSA exile leadership into this imperialist-preferred war with Al-Nusra?  According to the May 19  Guardian    
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/19/jihadists-control-syrian-oilfields   :

    The impact is immediately visible. With a new 
    independent source of funding, the jihadists holding 
    the oilfields between al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor 
    are much better equipped than their Sunni rivals 
    , reinforcing the advantage originally provided 
    by Qatari backing. They have been able to provide 
    bread and other essentials to the people in the 
    areas under their control, securing an enduring 
    popular base.

    This serves to marginalise the western-backed 
    rebels, the National Coalition and the Supreme 
    Military Council (SMC), even further     . The 
    blustering  claim by the SMC commander, Salim 
    Idriss, that he was going to muster a 30,000 force 
    to retake the oilfields  served only to undermine 
    his credibility.

Idris's alleged claim that he would send 30,000 fighters to re-take the oilfields sounds exactly like the kind of war "to kill each other" the FSA colonel in Aleppo was complaining about above.

Interestingly, not all the oil is in the region under Al- Nusra control – part of it is in the region under the control of Syria's Kurdish minority, which, given the recent peace agreement between Turkey and the PKK and Turkey's current rapprochement with Iraqi Kurds against the Iraqi Shiite regime, could perhaps benefit Turkey.

Imperialist-orchestrated jihadi uprising?

In light of all the above facts about the US and EU desire for the Syrian rebels to take the fight to Al-Nusra and other "extremists", it is worthwhile, as an aside, returning to the cartoonish schema drawn up by the pro-Assad left, that the Syrian conflict is an imperialist war on Syria where imperialism, via its Saudi and Gulf allies, is using Islamic extremists and jihadists, including Al-Qaida, to destroy the country.

Considering most supporters of the Syrian revolution oppose both imperialist intervention and reactionary Islamists such as Al-Nusra, it may suit our purposes well to half-support this kind of discourse, and say, "yes, the US supports reactionary Islamists with the aim of diverting the genuine uprising into a sectarian war and undermining the revolution". Indeed, I think Saudi Arabia and Qatar have tried to do this, but I see neither as mere imperialist tools. However, there is a slight problem: reality. It is preferable to not use obvious nonsense to back one's view.

The world is more complicated than all reactionaries simply lining up on the same side (even cartoons are better than cartoonish-left analysis). Just as it is possible for both the Assad regime and the US to be reactionary, so likewise it is possible for Al-Nusra to be reactionary yet still hate and be hated by both the US and Assad.

And as for the Syrian revolution, the fact that Syrians went out into the streets to denounce the US when it labelled Al-Nusra a terrorist organisation  (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Dec-14/198527-syrian-protesters-slam-us-blacklisting-of-jihadist-group.ashx#axzz2F62w5Yns    ), chanting "there is no terrorism in Syria except Assad", makes the allegation that they are US puppets as absurd as the idea that the US is backing Al-Nusra. If that then suggests they support Al-Nusra and its reactionary politics, and the revolution is just an Islamist one, then one would have to read the countless links I point to above with protests, demonstrations, declarations, clashes etc. against the hard-line Islamists. It is just that they didn't want the US telling them what to do, and that they wanted to focus on the main enemy first and not have the anti-Assad ranks clashing.

Imagine: a revolutionary movement that refuses to take orders from imperialism, refuses to bow to reactionary Islamists, when imperialism tells them to fight the Islamists; to some that is a movement that is but a tool for imperialist-backed Islamists. Better get used to the idea that the world is more complicated than that.

Attitude to Syrian rebels getting arms and ‘our' governments sending them

Given the balance of military forces, between a massively armed regime, which uses enormous quantities of mass- murdering firepower against largely defenceless civilians, and rebel forces, most arising directly from the revolution, with short supplies of light arms, the Syrian revolutionary forces have the right to get quality arms, including anti- aircraft weapons, to defend themselves from whoever wants to supply them. It is not up to socialists within imperialist countries to demand our governments not provide arms just because we understand our governments aims are different to ours and such arming demands a political price from the rebels.

In any case, those terribly frightened about the prospect of a trickle of arms reaching the rebels from the wrong people should console themselves with the fact that the main role of the US and other imperialist powers has been to deny arms to the rebels and even intervene to prevent them receiving arms of decent quality or quantity.

However, given this general situation, the question arises: should supporters of the Syrian revolution therefore be advocating our "own" imperialist rulers send massive quantities of arms to the rebels? And if so, would this be equivalent to calling for deeper imperialist intervention, or even effectively for war on the Syrian regime?

In brief, my answers are no, but also no and no.
If imperialist states, after 2.5 years of watching the slaughter, finally do provide some arms to Syrian fighters, who do all the fighting themselves, with their own aims, for their own revolution which they have made and shed blood for, it is wrong to call this "intervention" in any meaningful sense.

Apparently, US blocking arms all this time (while the regime with overwhelming military superiority continues to be further massively and openly armed by Russia and Iran), and the EU embargo on arms, was not intervention, but ending such embargoes is. On the contrary, I regard the EU arms embargo on the besieged revolutionary people to have been an act of intervention, and its lapsing an act of non- intervention. Whether or not one sees an actual move by the Britain and France to send arms to be intervention or not, at this point both governments have declared they have no plans to do so, and the EU as a whole immediately made a joint declaration that it would not proceed to deliver any military equipment.

In any case, the aim of the new type of "intervention" is to attempt to sway sections of the rebel leadership, to try to hijack the revolution, not to launch the revolution against Assad which has been entirely Syrian-made and never had anything to do with US or imperialist support. And there is very little guarantee such attempts to hijack will be successful, given the lack of control the exile leadership has over the rebel ranks. The premise that a genuine locally based movement is turned into an imperialist stooge merely by the receipt of arms has never been a logical one, neither in this case nor in any other. In that case, why shouldn't we call on "our" imperialist governments to send arms, if we support the right of these people to get them?

We should not call on our governments to do anything whatsoever in the Middle East, other than to completely evacuate all troops, military bases, warships, embargoes and so on entirely from the region, and cut off all aid, military or otherwise, to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, and any other repressive regime.

Imperialism's overall  role in the region has always been reactionary by definition, so we cannot demand our governments do anything, because we understand that any bolstering of their position in the region can only give it a stronger position to carry out its overall counterrevolutionary role, regardless of whatever small tactical concessions it may sometimes make to the side of liberation. The very fact that over these two years of massacre the US has refused to provide arms, has vetted and restricted the arms others supply, has ensured no heavier weapons get to the opposition, has encouraged the FSA to attack Al-Nusra, all point to the counterrevolutionary nature of US involvement with Syria, and therefore we should not be giving the US advice to do anything that would inevitably be in its interests, rather than those of the Syrian masses.

However,    if the US or other imperialist states did decide for their own reasons to provide some arms, we should also  not  protest against it, robotic style. Any leftists choosing to stand on a street corner to protest against some US arms getting to people who are currently massively outgunned by a murderous regime, allowing them to protect themselves just a little better than now, open themselves to justified parody. Neither "demand" they do nor "demand" they don't!

It is curious that many have argued that the end of the EU arms embargo, and the recent US announcement that it may provide some light arms, amounts to a "massive escalation of the war". Apparently, two years of Assad's scorched earth, the slaughter of 100,000 people, the creation of millions of refugees, including 2 million in neighbouring countries, the reduction of much of the country to a moonscape, the murderous sieges of towns such as Qusayr recently, Homs yet again now, the horrific sectarian cleansing of Bayda and Baniyas several weeks ago, the ongoing massacres of all kinds of popular protest, even the massacre of dozens of students inside campus buildings by aerial attack, all the time with massive Russian and Iranian arms provision, do not constitute that much of a problem compared to a situation in which the outgunned populace may get a few more light weapons to just slightly better protect themselves with – only the latter is "escalation". I believe no comment is nece

At the same time, while the Syrian opposition should in principle be able to get as many arms as it can from anywhere it can, it could be argued that  just at the moment , it may be  tactically  wise to not emphasise this point (except if arms could get directly to those defending besieged places such as Qusayr yesterday or Homs today), in order to give maximum chances to the possibility of a ceasefire arising out of the US-Russian Geneva process.

That is not to have any great illusions in the aims of either the US or Russia or others involved in trying to bang heads together and bring about a Yemeni solution; they do this for their own reasons. However, given the deep divisions within Syrian society, deepened by the civil war and the rise of sectarianism on both sides, there is no "military solution" in Syria in the sense of a victorious armed rebel movement, as now constituted, marching to power in Damascus. The long-term stalemates in both Damascus and Aleppo, as well as the hardening of an Alawite-dominated coastal region and an Al-Nusra-dominated east, are evidence enough of that. Therefore, any ceasefire that may be gained from the Geneva process, or a different process, would be a necessary breathing space for the movement, to allow popular mobilisation to revive. Especially given the sheer horror of the continuing war and its effects on all Syrians.

Therefore, to be focusing on demanding more arms in general  at this moment  could impact negatively on the possibilities of a ceasefire. I want to stress however that this is only a tactical consideration  – we must remember that  it is the regime imposing the military solution , and it is thoroughly shameful that people on the left, who traditionally solidarised with the oppressed and supported their right to resist bloody repression, now blame the victims for fighting back and call it "escalation".

But what if …?

The fact of the Geneva process and the long-term imperialist preference for the Yemini solution makes it extremely unlikely that the quantities of arms delivered to the rebels under the "new policy" will have any decisive effect, though it may lead to small tactical reverses to Assad's forces. None have been in evidence so far.

And arguing here against a military solution is also not an argument against the imperialist powers, as if they are pushing such a solution; for their own reasons, they are not. Indeed, given the relationship of forces, the only possible military solution would be if the US or NATO carried out the "Libyan solution" and brought the opposition to power riding a massive imperialist onslaught – something that has never been on the cards.

However, this does not mean a deeper level of imperialist intervention is impossible or even unlikely. There is the slippery slope argument; once the US does begin to send more serious arms, there will be pressure to protect supply routes, to set up no-fly zones in border areas of Syria controlled by US warplanes, leading to pressure to ground the Syrian air-force. While so far the Obama administration has ruled this out and these have largely been opportunistic calls from right-wingers out of power, there is the possibility of one thing slipping into another and imperialist intervention sliding out of control.

Then there is the "just got to do something" argument: given the continuation of massive instability in Syria, which is not in long-term imperialist interests (though short term it can be useful for Sunni and Shiite Islamists, including Al-Nusrah and Hezbollah, to kill each other), and given precisely the lack of any clear "partners" in Syria, there is the slight possibility of imperialist leaders deciding they really need their own forces to take control of the situation, even if no obvious solution is at hand. If there were to be an imperialist intervention, it would be this kind, involving the most imperialist control of the process. That is most preferable to Israel, which otherwise is far more comfortable with the Assad regime (preferably under less Hezbollah influence than currently) than with any of the Syrian opposition groups with which the US might otherwise try to use.

While unlikely, if intervention were to eventuate, there should be no illusions that this would offer anything positive to the Syrian people. I make this point because I know there are sections of the pro-Syrian revolution left that have tended to suggest some kind of imperialist intervention may not be an entirely bad thing if it doesn't involve imperialist troops overrunning the country and the initiative remains with the forces on the ground. Some at the North Star Network – with whom I have substantial agreement on the Syrian revolution in general and I much appreciate their solid analysis – have hinted this way before, though I don't think it has been spelt out clearly for some time and hopefully there has been some rethinking.

In any case, below is a list of solid reasons why this is a very wrong-headed idea – these are the likely outcomes of a direct imperialist escalation:

  >>> A huge increase in killing on all sides – an actual escalation – would be first immediate effect, not only of countless civilians inevitably killed as imperialist missiles and fighter jets match those of Assad in unconventional butchery, but also a likely "rush" by Assad and his regime to grab what they can from the chaos (the fact that the onset of NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 led to an immediate dramatic, indeed qualitative, increase in the level of butchery meted out by Milosevic's racist regime against the Kosovar Albanians);

  >>> The bolstering of Assad's entirely fake Arab nationalist "credentials" as a result of being bombed (and is it coincidental entirely that Assad's recent battlefield ascendancy occurred almost entirely since the day of the Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah-bound missiles in Damascus in early May);

  >>> The further evaporation of the non-military aspect of the movement and the further entrenching of the power of military commanders, not necessarily even those favoured by imperialism but as an inevitable outcome of such militarisation, with the anti-democratic flow-on effects later (see the power of the "militias" in Libya, disconnected from the real movement, still causing much trouble);

  >>> A likely orgy of revenge on both sides as the idea of "finality outside our control" approaches as death is rained from the sky on both sides;

  >>> The fact that imperialism has only ever had the "Yemeni solution" in mind in any case meaning that this kind of catastrophe would only serve to oust Assad and a narrow clique while keeping most of his political, bureaucratic, security and military apparatus intact (is that worth it?);

  >>> Or if the logic of the situation forced imperialism to move from a Yemeni to a Libyan solution, such a forced defeat, by a foreign imperialist power, of the sections of the Syrian masses still attached to Assad, however grudgingly, will be rightly viewed by them as a foreign conquest, and the effects would be virulently undemocratic;

  >>> Such a move could also result in imperialism engaging in orgies of irrational destruction as occurred in Libya – regardless of years of disinterest in confronting Assad, wars once decided on have their own logic. For example, in early 2011, the US was still doing great deals with Gaddafi, and he was happily torturing Islamist suspects for the US; yet after he fell in August, the US bombed his hold-out town of Sirte for another two months, as Libyan "rebels" besieged from the ground, with results like this: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29405.htm , which look so much like the results Assad has achieved throughout Syria (e.g., http://syriawitness.middleeastvoices.com).

  >>> As a result of this, the development of an entirely reactionary consciousness on both sides, with the defeated pro-Assad sections of the masses tying support for the tyrant to a false "anti-imperialism", while those believing imperialism "liberated" them would tend to adopt a cravenly pro-imperialist viewpoint (again one of the outcome of the NATO war in Kosova);

  >>> A country emerging more wrecked even than Assad has left it, even more dependent on imperialism and on international loan sharks for recovery;

  >>> An imperialist presence on the border of Israeli-occupied Golan, which would be every bit as loyal to preserving the Zionist peace-of-the-conquest as the Assad regime has been for 40 years, even more loyal in fact, whereas among the revolutionary forces fighting Assad are those who would be much more likely to challenge this status quo, as Israel well knows and has therefore continually expressed its preference for Assad;

  >>> A more solidly entrenched imperialist position in the region, against the interests of the Palestinians and Iran against Israeli or US attack. Critics will  rightly  say that this would be the fault of Assad's terror allowing an opportunistic imperialist intervention to strengthen its hand; the Syrian masses shouldn't be forced to sacrifice their lives forever and what occurs elsewhere cannot really be blamed on them seeking liberation from the regime. I agree entirely.

Given all the above points, it seems clear enough that no great liberation for the Syrian masses would come of this, and so could hardly be considered a worthwhile gain given the loss to imperialism throughout the region. This is a partial list which many could add to.

Whatever the case, this is  not  the current situation, and should not be used to argue in support of the Assad regime which is  now  the one carrying out this unconventional slaughter and destruction of its country, not  the future  possibility of the US or NATO doing it.

Rather than demagogically denounce every new rifle that gets to a desperate Syrian oppositionist as evidence of a "war on Syria", we need to keep our focus on the actual  war on Syria being waged by the regime and continue declare: "Solidarity with the heroic Syrian people's uprising!"
 the heroic Syrian people's uprising!"
d not be used to argue in support of the Assad regime which is  now  the one carrying out this unconventional slaughter and destruction of its country, not  the future  possibility of the US or NATO doing it.

Rather than demagogically denounce every new rifle that gets to a desperate Syrian oppositionist as evidence of a "war on Syria", we need to keep our focus on the actual  war on Syria being waged by the regime and continue declare: "Solidarity with the heroic Syrian people's uprising!"

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