Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘middle-east

Call to Arm the Syrian Opposition: Which?

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There are further calls to arm the Syrian opposition from the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste,

“Nous devons obtenir la livraison de l’aide indispensable (vivres, soins, équipements, armes) aux représentants des collectifs syriens qui se battent pour la démocratie, la justice sociale et la dignité nationale dans le respect de toutes les composantes du pays. ”

We must ensure that indispensable aid – food, medicine, necessary equipment, arms – is delivered to representatives of the Syrian collectives battling for democracy, social justice and national dignity and who respect the diversity of the country.

September the 5th.

Jacques Babel (a member of the NPA responsible for international work and in particular coordinating work with and in the Arab region).

At the end of August (that is prior to the latest threat of intervention) an important on-line debate on the left on the Syrian opposition took place organised by the  US Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD).

The issue of arms played an important part in this in the discussion.

Michael Karadjis has thoroughly put the case that there are strong reasons to back democratic forces on the ground,

Throwing the whole Syrian uprising into the “jihadi” camp undermines the very forces within the revolution that confront this reactionary trend on a daily basis (see for examples of popular demonstrations, slogans, declarations etc. against these currents and their actions hereherehere,herehere and elsewhere).

His position is summarised as, while  “defending the right of Syrian revolutionaries to obtain arms, he believes that the ongoing militarisation of the conflict favours both Assad and the Islamists; therefore he thinks a ceasefire would be in the best interest of the revolution, allowing a revival of the mass movement that initiated the revolt against the regime.”

Salameh Kaileh begins from the standpoint of the Syrian Revolution. He states that, “rebels should find other ways to get weapons, and must establish real army forces capable of struggle until victory.”

Others roundly attack any idea of intervention, direct, or indirect. Michael Eisenscher calls for an arms embargo.

CDP Co-Directors, Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy,  conclude.

 “Consistent with our strong opposition to any kind of military intervention in Syria by the U.S., or other foreign powers, we also oppose providing air cover or establishing no fly zones. We do believe, however, that the democratic opponents of the Assad dictatorship have the right to get guns where they can, while resisting all attempts by those who provide arms to acquire political and military influence in return.” We continue to defend this right, and we agree with Karadjis that merely receiving arms from foreign countries has never been the “final determinant” of a revolutionary movement’s politics. But we also recognize that since none of the governments in the region or in the West actually favour a mass popular democratic victory, they are extremely reluctant to offer the democratic opposition significant weaponry. Moreover, like Karadjis, we do not call on the United States to arm the rebels, because we are unwilling to take responsibility for the way that the U.S. government will inevitably use any offer of weapons to attempt to manipulate the struggle and buttress its ongoing reactionary role in the Middle East.

Joseph Daher  (of the the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current – closely inked to the NPA) argues that there are groups in Syria that meet the description of those favouring the democratic opposition. Daher’s own Blog is here. It contains this statement, there are “two fronts in Syria right now: the jihadists on the one hand, and the regime on the other.” There are not a lot of  posts on display with which to gauge the grouping’s influence.

Daher, the NPA, and many others (such as their British comrades in Socialist Resistance, Workers Power and teh International Socialist Network,  appear to place their hopes in the ‘Local Coordination Committees‘.

The Committees’  site is important.

It includes, amongst many others,  links to articles from International Viewpoint and the British SWP.

Their profoundly moving declaration includes this statement,

As we insist, in the present very special circumstances, on the direct right of the Syrian people to affirm its right of self-determination before the international community, we assure that all calls based on the ground of “droit d’ingérance,” “devoir d’ingérance,” “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect” should not hinder the aspiration of the Syrian people to cause peaceful change by its own forces; or lead to dealing with the Syrian people as yet another sphere of influence in the game of nations.

It concludes,

The recalcitrance of the Syrian regime to meet its international obligations in terms of respect of human rights and international humanitarian law, may require, in this particular moment, that the international action contemplated above be supported by the sending of a United Nations observers mission, to be approved by a resolution of the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The mandate of the observers mission must emphasize prevention and assistance in building appropriate political conditions to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Syria. The observers mission must comprise civilian components holding nationalities of countries known historically for their neutrality, and under the direct supervision of the Secretary General of the United Nations, in cooperation with the League of Arab States. The observers mission’s staff members must be in such numbers as to allow them to be present in or reach any town or village at any time, to monitor and report to the United Nations Secretary General, on any violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as on progress of the political process to achieve a peaceful democratic transition pursuant to appropriate constitutive procedures as shall be solely determined by the Syrian People.

We affirm the priority of using dialogue and peaceful persuasion, including the use of non-coercive and non-violent measures. Yet we have no illusions as to the Syrian regime’ obstinate responses and its attempts to buy time. Experience has shown that the granting of time has not rendered the Syrian regime less resolute in committing yet further violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Such time costs the Syrian people more killing and destruction. Every day that passes means more people killed, and Syria finds itself even more remote from any possibility to find political solutions.

There is no mention of arms.

No doubt times have changed since this statement was made two years ago. But the NPA’s case includes an argument is that weapons should have gone to these bodies then.

We have also few means to gauge the real importance of these groups.

But the side-bar  “LCC in the news” lists their (‘a group of anti-regime activists’) declarations on unfolding events.

There are reports that the Pentagon is preparing more serious attacks than thought - here.

The situation is increasingly unclear, though Jihadists are now openly attacking Christian targets. .

Perhaps this is one reason some on the left who back the Syrian Revolution are starting to flail about.

Louis Proyect posts this,

From documentary film-maker Ben Allinson-Davies:

The Free Syrian Army are hugely different to the al-Qaeda-linked fruitloops that so many leftists, regime apologists, and unsavory, sneering internet experts (most of whom have restricted their research to listening to the incoherent, generic ramblings of Syrian expat Syrian Girl Partisan for a few minutes) would have you believe. I didn’t see a single jihadist or hardline Islamist during my travels across Idlib. If the closest I can get to finding one is a fighter from Tunisia who took his religion seriously, then it doesn’t cast the media coverage of the Syrian genocide in a good light at all. It seems like they parrot reports which parrot reports which come from shady sources with affections for the Assad regime – notorious ‘journalists’/shills like Cockburn, Fisk, and countless others.

When they’re not fighting, they’re living with their families in neat, respectable looking homes (despite shortages, family homes are still where the heart is for everyone) where children toddle around playing, and relatives and friends come and go for a meal, a glass of tea, or a chat – many spend much of their time looking after their children, using radios and the internet to coordinate and plan their next moves (again, the picture of fabulously armed, US-backed rebels really doesn’t add up at any point whatsoever), and enjoying family life.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2013 at 11:14 am

The Sceptical Case for Opposing Western Intervention in Syria.

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Al-Nusra Already Threatens Alawites over Chemical Attacks.

Patrick Cockburn writes (Independent),

The priority for Syrian foreign policy for the past two-and-a-half years has been to avoid foreign military intervention on behalf of the rebels. By the same token, the opposition has tried by every means to secure armed intervention by the US and its allies sufficient to win the war.

He then goes on to say,

Experts specialising in chemical weapons had hitherto expressed scepticism, even derision, at supposed proofs of chemical weapons use in the media.

But,

So it is difficult to think of any action by the Damascus government more self-destructive than the Syrian army launching a massive chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held districts in its own capital. Yet the evidence is piling up that this is exactly what happened last Wednesday and that the Syrian army fired rockets or shells containing poison gas which killed hundreds of people in the east of the city. The opposition may be capable of manufacturing evidence of government atrocities, but it is highly unlikely it could do so on such a large scale as this.

After weighing up the situation detail Cockburn concludes,

The Syrian government denies it had anything to do with the gas attack, but it has not given a credible account of what did happen. Initially, there was disbelief that it would do something so patently against its own interests, but all the evidence so far is that it has done just that.

This morning on France Inter, the well-informed geopolitics commentator Bernard Guetta expressed the  view that all the Western governments were convinced that the chemical attack had taken place.

The issue now is what kind of action they will take.

In France, Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius says on  Europe 1    that “toutes les options restaient “ouvertes” et que la décision concernant une “réponse proportionnée” serait prise “dans les jours qui viennent”.

All options remain open, and that a decision, regarding a proportional response, will be taken in the coming days.

In the UK the BBC reports,

Diplomatic pressure on Syria has failed and the UK is considering its response to a suspected chemical attack, Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

He told the BBC it would be possible for the UK and its allies to respond without the UN’s unanimous backing.

He said the UN Security Council, split over Syria, had not “shouldered its responsibilities”.

Today we learn that (Independent),

The White House signalled on Sunday night that the Syrian government’s decision to finally allow weapons inspectors to analyse the site of last week’s alleged chemical attack was too little too late after bluntly rebuffing an invitation issued by Damascus.

Options for a military strike drawn up by the Pentagon are already on President Barack Obama’s desk.  However as he contemplated them last night – most likely a strike by cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean – he was on the receiving end of strong warnings to desist from both Moscow and some leaders of his own party at home.

The administration official stressed that President Obama had not made up his mind and was awaiting a final assessment from the US intelligence services on the circumstances of the use of chemical weapons. But he made clear that the outcome of that assessment was hardly a matter of suspense. “There is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident.” Any final decision may also await a meeting of top Western and Arab defence ministers in Amman expected in the coming few days.

This is not a question of arming “Syrian democratic leftists”.

Not is a matter (as Socialist Unity believes) of defending an “axis of resistance”  – Syria, and Iran – against the ‘West’ – imperialism or as they call it, the “West’s hegemonic objectives” .

We would not defend these blood drenched regimes.

It is is doubtful if the Syrian tragedy is a “proxy war” (for whom, for what?), as the Stop the War Coalition alleges.

There are profound democratic reasons to want Assad and the Baathist tyranny to go.

The reason is that intervention will not help Syria to create a democratic society based on social rights.

Western direct involvement in the Syrian civil war will not help the cause of the peoples.

There is indeed a wide range of opposition groups in Syria, many involved in the fighting (see Wikipedia for the long list).

It is said (Reuters)  that they intend to create a National Army.

“Once we get the (battle)field organised, then everything will be organised,” he said. “This will be the army of the new Syria. We want to integrate its ranks and unify the sources of funding and arms,” the Syrian National Coalition member said.

Saudi Arabia has prevailed over Qatar to impose itself as the main outside force supporting the Syrian rebels, in part to counter the influence of Qatari-backed Islamist militants.

Riyadh has put forward $100 million as preliminary funding for a force planned to be 6,000 to 10,000 strong, rebels say.

Sources in the Coalition said the aim was to form a core of several thousand well-trained fighters that would also serve as the base for a bigger national army once Assad was toppled, avoiding a military vacuum and anarchy.

Yet the hard-line Islamist groups, Salafists and Jihadists (list here) within the armed opposition have not stopped growing.

They have shown utter contempt for democracy and human life.

Their hatred of minorities, from Christians, Alawites, to the Kurds, has been demonstrated through gore and horror.

The Al-Nusra Front has already threatened Alwaite villagers (not Assad) as a reprisal against alleged Chemical warfare.

Many of us would not put much faith in a Saudi backed force to replace them – or to rein them in.

The West’s action will be pouring petrol on the fire.

Oppose Western Intervention!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Gilbert Achcar, ‘Social Imperialism’, from the Lambertists to the Weekly Worker.

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This is hard to write, since I respect both Glibert Achcar and  Yamssamine Mather.

In the Weekly Worker (25.7.13) Yassamine Mather conceded that, “Gilbert Achcar does not fit the description of a stereotypical social-imperialist.” He “has distanced himself from both conspiracy theorists and those who defend reactionary dictators in the Arab world – those who claim that the enemy of the US is necessarily a friend or that Muslim fundamentalists are the ‘anti-imperialist allies of the international working class’.”

She then says,

However, we are all judged by our current political stance and this is where Sarah McDonald, takes issue with Achcar’s position in last week’s Weekly Worker to which he has strongly objected,5 will know the Achcar who came out in support of western intervention in Libya, Mali and Syria. Although Achcar does not sit easily alongside those whose politics is often dictated by their soft attitude towards Israel, such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, at the end of the day his support for military intervention is of a social-imperialist character and, whether he likes it or not, what he has written on Libya, Mali and Syria has been praised and distributed by the Eustonites, the AWL and other social-imperialists. What made his stance on those countries all the more harmful was the fact that it stood in sharp contrast to his previously impeccable anti-war recrord

Achcar’s recent statements on Libya and Syria have been unambiguous. In relation to Libya he wrote: “Every general rule admits of exceptions. This includes the general rule that UN-authorised military interventions by imperialist powers are purely reactionary ones, and can never achieve a humanitarian or positive purpose.”entials.

When it came to Syria, he actually advised the opposition on how to go about getting foreign intervention: “… the Syrian opposition must define a clear stance on the issue of foreign military intervention, since it is clear that its position has a major influence on whether or not intervention might take place.

This the nub of a dispute.

Achcar has replied saying, after objecting strongly to the rhetoric about ‘social imperialism’,

Then comes Mather’s discussion of my new “social-imperialist” record. It is about “the Achcar who came out in support of western intervention in Libya, Mali and Syria”. “Whether he likes it or not,” pursues Mather, “what he has written on Libya, Mali and Syria has been praised and distributed by the Eustonites, the [Alliance for Workers’ Liberty] and other social-imperialists”. Well, I do not know if all the above-mentioned have distributed what I have written on Libya and Syria, but I am positively sure that no-one ever distributed what I have written on Mali – for the simple reason that I have written not a single line on that country!4 Mather is such a scrupulous prosecutor that she adds to her accusation figments of her own imagination.

He adds,

She pretends that I “actually advised the opposition on how to go about getting foreign intervention” and produces as proof a long quote taken from an article based on the talk I gave at the meeting of the National Coordination Committee referred to above, in which I explain why it is important for the Syrian opposition to “define a clear stance on the issue of foreign military intervention”.6 However, what Mather overlooked (or maybe she stopped reading the article at this point) is that this was a preamble to an argument against any calls for a no-fly zone over Syria and other forms of direct western military intervention. A few quotes from that article are here in order, since this same canard is also propagated by the Lambertists:

“The Syrian opposition must be aware that the cost of allowing direct foreign military intervention (as opposed to indirect intervention, such as providing arms) in Syria will be much higher than in the Libyan case for several reasons …

Achcar had noted that,

The slander (about social imperialism – TC) stuck so strongly in the mind of sectarians of all sorts that other imagined positions have been attributed to me since then – the most vicious being the canard spread by a Lambertist multilingual website (the Lambertists are a Trotskyist equivalent of the CPGB), according to which I took part in a meeting of the Syrian National Council (whereas it was actually a meeting of the leftwing National Coordination Committee) in order to urge them to call for an imperialist intervention in Syria (whereas my contribution to the meeting was dedicated to exactly the opposite).

This is a taste of what the Lambertists (Parti Ouvrier Independent) said,

Fourth International

A Review that Supports NATO’s Intervention in Libya: Inprecor

by Dominique Ferré
June 201La Vérité/The Truth n° 7

Achcar, author of the report on the “Arab revolutions” in the main meeting of the Pabloite USec leadership, levelled this terrible accusation against NATO: “In Operation Desert Storm launched by the US-led coalition against Iraq in 1991, it took only 11 days to equal the above number of air sorties flown over Libya in 78 days. The total number of sorties in 43 days of Desert Storm reached 109,876—an average of 2,555 per day. After the devastation brought about by that “storm” and further bombing campaigns during the 12 embargo years between 1991 and 2003, 41,850 sorties were flown during the first 4 weeks alone of so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of these, 15,825 were strike sorties, averaging 565 per day. (…) The crucial questions are then: why is NATO conducting an aerial campaign in Libya that is low-key not only in comparison with the air component of the war to grab similarly oil-rich Iraq, but even compared to the air war for economically unimportant Kosovo? And why is the Alliance at the same time refraining from providing the insurgents with the weaponry they have consistently and insistently requested?” For Achcar, the problem in Libya was that there had not been enough air-strikes, in contrast with those carried out during the wars of extermination against the Iraqi people in 1991 and 2003, or the NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999! Read the rest of this entry »

Gilbert Achcar: Warnings on the ‘long-term’ Revolutionary Process in the Arab World.

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Gilbert Achcar: “Social-imperialist” says Weekly Worker.

This very recent interview with Gilbert Achcar (which I cannot find in English) is extremely important.

From Gauche Anticapitaliste (Extracts).

The revolutionary process in the Arab region continues to surprise the media. How do you analyse the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia?

While there are qualitative changes that have taken place,  but the fact that there are twists and turns in the process is not surprising. We must  understand that what began in late 2010-early 2011 is a revolutionary long-term development. The idea that the electoral victories of the forces of Islamism (intégrisme islamique) in Tunisia and Egypt would close down the changes under way proved completely wrong.

These forces were doomed to failure since, they, like the regimes they replaced,  had  no response to the serious social and economic problems that caused the uprisings. They are a continuation of neo-liberal policies and therefore can not solve these problems which have only got worse.

The revolutionary process can take surprising forms, but we will continue to pass from upheaval to upheaval in the region as a whole, before the situation stabilises. This,  would require, according to a positive hypothesis,  a profound change in the social nature of the region’s governments and their move towards policies based on the interests of working people .

How do you see the battle going on today in Egypt?

In Egypt today, we must distinguish  two levels: the manoeuvres and conflicts between those concerned with  political power, and the underlying wave of popular discontent. The second has been unleashed, but like the the unrest  of  2011, has ended in  a military intervention.

Mubarak, had already been dismissed in February 2011 by the military, which then placed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at the top of the executive. This time, they kept their distance from a repetition of  the past operations, having burnt their fingers trying to govern the country in a state of upheaval.  This is because any government carrying out neo-liberal policies is bound to wear itself out rapidly.  But while civilians have been appointed to head the executive one can not hide the fact that it is the army that has the power.

However, it is a very right-wing view of democracy to adopt the the argument that the army intervened against a democratically elected government. That is to say that elected officials have carte blanche to do whatever they want for the term of office, even if they blatantly betray the expectations of their constituents. A radical conception of democracy involves the right to recall  elected representatives.

It is this form that the movement took in  Egypt with the petition calling for Morsi to go and for new elections to be held. The youth movement “Tamarrod” (Rebellion), gathered in a few months an impressive number of signatures for their petition calling for this, a much higher total  than the number of votes Morsi obtained in his election to the presidency. From this point of view, his dismissal was entirely legitimate.

By contrast the big problem is that rather than organising the broad movement to overthrow Morsi by means of mass struggle – a general strike, civil disobedience – we saw the opposition leaders, both liberal and left agree with the military and applaud the  coup. This action’s ultimate logic is to capture the potential for popular mobilization and impose a return to hard-line ‘order’, which has been confirmed by the actions of the military. This is extremely serious. In this respect there is a strategic gap on  the majority of  Egyptian left. The army’s image has been restored, and the commander in chief of the army (Al-Sissi) has been covered with praise.

Al-Sissi is the  strong man of the new ‘ancien regime’. Although only Defence Minister, he allowed himself to call on the people to demonstrate in support of the army –  completely ignoring the new government.

Today, even the youth of  Tamarrod have begin to worry – rather late. They have fallen into a  trap of their own making.  The coup has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to rejuvenate ,  posing as martyrs, and the victims of a military coup. They reconsolidated their social base, albeit minority – it is now clear – but important. The military action has polished their image anew.

The position of the Islamist movements who occupied the place of the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt has quickly deteriorated , but the weakness of the left is now equally a big problem …

Apart from the revolutionary left that remains marginal in Egypt, most of the left have put their forces behind  the  National Salvation Front . Most of those who originate in the traditional Communist movement and  those from the Nasserist current, which remains the left with the most influence on the people at large, have  participated in the process of  mystifying the role of the army. This is all the more unfortunate in that these forces were in the streets against the army in the months leading up to the election of Morsi!

Hamdeen Sabahi, the Nasserist leader, explained a few days before June 30, that it had been  a mistake to have shouted a year earlier “Down with the military government,”. In this respect he drew the wrong lessons from history. This is a real error, to repent and to say now that we should be applauding the army.

What do you think of Tunisian plans to end the power of Ennahdha?

Unfortunately, there is a risk that Tunisia will develop into a similar scenario to Egypt: a left that does not have the political insight to fight on a left-wing agenda, and is preparing to build alliances even with the parts of the former regime. These links are  present in Nidaa Tounès ["Call of Tunisia" - an initiative launched by Beji Caid Essebi, former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs under Habib Bourguiba, a lawyer specializing in arbitration cases - become party recognized and authorised in July 2012]. Such an approach ultimately benefits the Islamist forces who have a golden opportunity to denounce the agreements  of the left with remnants of the former regime. This allows the Muslim Brotherhood or Ennahdha to pose as bearers of the legitimacy and continuity of the revolution.

There is a problem of political representation of the working classes in the revolution?

Yes,. The problem is that instead of trying to win hegemony in the mass movement – fighting primarily on social issues- which would unite against it supporters of neo-liberalism ranging from fundamentalists to men of the old regime and even the Liberals, the Tunisian left has made a short-sighted alliance with sections of the old regime.

In a country like Tunisia, in my opinion, the trade union Federation, the UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) is a socially hegemonic force and can easily become the politically dominant one. But a wall is erected between union struggles and the political.Tunisia’s left now heads the UGTT. But rather than launch the union federation into the political battle, with a strategy of forming a workers’ government, this left  seems to be moving towards alliances – against its own interests –  between its different political groups organised in the Front Populaire, on the one hand, and the Liberals and the remnants of the former regime, on the other.

More here.

Interview with Gilbert Achcar, led by Jacques Babel.  Interviewed Monday, July 29 by Jacques Babel. Published on Alencontre.org

Achcar’s  political conclusion can be summarised simply,

The left must assert a third, independent, way, against the old regimes and against the Islamists (Intégristes), to satisfy the social demands of those who who created these uprisings.

How far the Arab left is in a position to do this, is, one may say, quite a question. 

See also,

The neoliberal policy of Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsi looks very much like a continuation of that of Mubarak. It is increasing social tensions.

by Gilbert Achcar

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Bob Lambert: not only a Vile Police Spy but an ally of Islamism.

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I am rebloging this in the light of recent news.

McLibel leaflet was co-written by undercover police officer Bob Lambert

Exclusive: McDonald’s sued green activists in long-running David v Goliath legal battle, but police role only now exposed.

Bob Lambert Political Policeman, Father, and Islamism.

Bob Lambert, expert on Islamophobia, friend of Islamists, and welcome guest on anti-racist platforms, is in the news again.

The Guardian reported yesterday on two police infiltrators who had children with activists they conned into thinking the backed their causes,“One of them is Lambert, who adopted a fake persona to infiltrate animal rights and environmental groups in the 1980s.

After he was unmasked in October, he admitted that as “Bob Robinson” he had conned an innocent woman into having an 18-month relationship with him, apparently so that he could convince activists he was a real person. She is one of the women taking the legal action against police chiefs.

Now the Guardian can reveal that in the mid-1980s, just a year into his deployment, Lambert fathered a boy with another woman, who was one of the activists he had been sent to spy on.

Lambert did not tell her or the child that he was a police spy as he needed to conceal his real identity from the political activists he was spying on.

The Guardian is not naming the woman or the child to protect their privacy.”On the 15th October 2011, Lambert was a star speaker at Celebrate Diversity, Defend Multiculturalism, Oppose Islamophobia and Racism (Here).

Indy media reported,“UNDERCOVER POLICE AGENT PUBLICLY OUTED AT CONFERENCECampaigners today outed the most-senior-yet police spy responsible for infiltrating environmental and social justice campaigns.Former Detective Inspector Bob Lambert MBE had just spoken at a “One Society, Many Cultures” anti-racist conference attended by 300 delegates at the Trades Union Congress HQ in Central London. He was then challenged by 5 members of London Greenpeace who called on him to apologise for the undercover police infiltration of London Greenpeace, Reclaim The Streets and other campaign groups – an operation he took part in or supervised over two decades, whilst rising to the rank of Detective Inspector.”

What  has Lambert’s role been over the last years that brought him to this Conference?He is no longer a clandestine infiltrator.Lambert is an academic studying Islamophobia.

That is, “Dr. Robert Lambert is Co-Director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter.”He has tried to combat ‘extremism’. To this end he  has engaged in ‘dialogue’ with Islamists.Lambert was part of the Special Branch’s Muslim Contact Unit (MCU).

This was replaced in 2007 by the ‘Prevent’ strategy to counter terrorism, in term under review as the government claims to try to prevent non-violent as well as violent extremism.  In his own view, described in the Times Literary Supplement by Jonathan Benthall (20.1.12)  as “self-important’,  he has helped prevent Al-Qaeda, or similar, organisations attacking British targets.

This is what he said in The New Statesman,“My modest contribution to public debate, published next month, Countering al Qaeda in London challenges much received wisdom about terrorism, counter-terrorism and public safety in Britain. I argue that the best kind of counter-terrorism remains narrowly focused on the terrorist threat and seeks to avoid stigmatising or criminalising those communities where terrorists seek recruits.

”In particular I challenge the popular assumption that many politically active Muslims have either wittingly or unwittingly been part of the terrorist problem – sometimes described as a “conveyor-belt” model of radicalisation.

“Having worked closely with many of these so-called Muslim subversives for many years I am inclined to suggest that the vast majority are far less subversive to British democracy than some of the individuals funding and implementing this new Cold War strategy against them. Significantly, many of them also have far more impressive counter-terrorism credentials than their counter-subversive opponents.”

Lambert criticises, with some reason, the right-wing agenda of the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange. This think-tank attacks Islamism in all its forms from the standpoint of the British state

“In my book I explain how Policy Exchange has gradually won government backing for a Prevent strategy that is a counter-subversion strategy in all but name. Significantly Prevent no longer purports to be tackling ‘violent extremism’ but simply ‘extremism’.As a result several outstanding Muslim community projects that have reduced the adverse impact of al-Qaeda influence in Britain have been shelved and risk stigmatisation as ‘extremist’ or ‘subversive’ instead.”“One of the most powerful lessons from Ed Husain’s remarkable book, The Islamist, is that the people most intimidated by Islamist extremism in this country are Muslims themselves….We need to realise that every time the wider society enters into dialogue with the extremists we are not only dealing unwittingly with bad people, we are also empowering them against good people”.

Lambert also defends the interests of the British state. He notes, then, that Islamists have “ community legitimacy and support”. His position is that dialogue, not repression, is needed to appease them. In particular he has used his experience of working with Salafists to argue against casting them as extremists.

This, in the light of the activities of Salafists in Tunisia and their counterparts, Al Noor, in Egypt, is not a generally held opinion.Lambert follows a long British tradition.In  Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (2010)  Mark Curtis. described Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam “The Home Office has long sought out contacts to negotiate with domestic Islamists. At the moment the Foreign Office is attempting to establish relations with ‘mdoerate’ Islamists, from the Moslem Brotherhood spectrum.

The spectre of more extreme Salafist, not to mention jihadist, groups, is brandished to make this strategy seem respectable. In fact it is bad on sheer self-interest.This realpolitik is not surprising.More astonishing is that any anti-racist group can make excuses  the same right-wing anti-feminist, ultra-conservative parties like the Moslem Brotherhood.In their own way they are trying to reach a modus vivendi with them. They claim that the fight against Islamophobia (defined to include political criticism of Islamism)  takes precedence over the interests of secularists, feminists and the left in Moslem countries.Bob Lambert’s sordid career should cause some rethinking. It should make at least some wonder what kind of players get involved in this kind of  game. Or to what ends it is aimed.

As Benthall notes, “it is not irrational for those who accept Enlightenment values to be phobic about the laws against apostasy and blasphemy current in some major Islamic states”. Or to recoil at the wider social and moral agenda of Islamists.

We await the response of Lambert’s friend at Islamophobia Watch.

The Guardian reported yesterday on two police infiltrators who had children with activists they conned into thinking the backed their causes,“One of them is Lambert, who adopted a fake persona to infiltrate animal rights and environmental groups in the 1980s.

After he was unmasked in October, he admitted that as “Bob Robinson” he had conned an innocent woman into having an 18-month relationship with him, apparently so that he could convince activists he was a real person. She is one of the women taking the legal action against police chiefs.

Now the Guardian can reveal that in the mid-1980s, just a year into his deployment, Lambert fathered a boy with another woman, who was one of the activists he had been sent to spy on.

Lambert did not tell her or the child that he was a police spy as he needed to conceal his real identity from the political activists he was spying on.

The Guardian is not naming the woman or the child to protect their privacy.”On the 15th October 2011, Lambert was a star speaker at Celebrate Diversity, Defend Multiculturalism, Oppose Islamophobia and Racism (Here).

Indy media reported,“UNDERCOVER POLICE AGENT PUBLICLY OUTED AT CONFERENCECampaigners today outed the most-senior-yet police spy responsible for infiltrating environmental and social justice campaigns.Former Detective Inspector Bob Lambert MBE had just spoken at a “One Society, Many Cultures” anti-racist conference attended by 300 delegates at the Trades Union Congress HQ in Central London. He was then challenged by 5 members of London Greenpeace who called on him to apologise for the undercover police infiltration of London Greenpeace, Reclaim The Streets and other campaign groups – an operation he took part in or supervised over two decades, whilst rising to the rank of Detective Inspector.”

What  has Lambert’s role been over the last years that brought him to this Conference?He is no longer a clandestine infiltrator.Lambert is an academic studying Islamophobia.

That is, “Dr. Robert Lambert is Co-Director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter.”He has tried to combat ‘extremism’. To this end he  has engaged in ‘dialogue’ with Islamists.Lambert was part of the Special Branch’s Muslim Contact Unit (MCU).

This was replaced in 2007 by the ‘Prevent’ strategy to counter terrorism, in term under review as the government claims to try to prevent non-violent as well as violent extremism.  In his own view, described in the Times Literary Supplement by Jonathan Benthall (20.1.12)  as “self-important’,  he has helped prevent Al-Qaeda, or similar, organisations attacking British targets.

This is what he said in The New Statesman,“My modest contribution to public debate, published next month, Countering al Qaeda in London challenges much received wisdom about terrorism, counter-terrorism and public safety in Britain. I argue that the best kind of counter-terrorism remains narrowly focused on the terrorist threat and seeks to avoid stigmatising or criminalising those communities where terrorists seek recruits.

”In particular I challenge the popular assumption that many politically active Muslims have either wittingly or unwittingly been part of the terrorist problem – sometimes described as a “conveyor-belt” model of radicalisation.

“Having worked closely with many of these so-called Muslim subversives for many years I am inclined to suggest that the vast majority are far less subversive to British democracy than some of the individuals funding and implementing this new Cold War strategy against them. Significantly, many of them also have far more impressive counter-terrorism credentials than their counter-subversive opponents.”

Lambert criticises, with some reason, the right-wing agenda of the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange. This think-tank attacks Islamism in all its forms from the standpoint of the British state

“In my book I explain how Policy Exchange has gradually won government backing for a Prevent strategy that is a counter-subversion strategy in all but name. Significantly Prevent no longer purports to be tackling ‘violent extremism’ but simply ‘extremism’.As a result several outstanding Muslim community projects that have reduced the adverse impact of al-Qaeda influence in Britain have been shelved and risk stigmatisation as ‘extremist’ or ‘subversive’ instead.”“One of the most powerful lessons from Ed Husain’s remarkable book, The Islamist, is that the people most intimidated by Islamist extremism in this country are Muslims themselves….We need to realise that every time the wider society enters into dialogue with the extremists we are not only dealing unwittingly with bad people, we are also empowering them against good people”.

Lambert also defends the interests of the British state. He notes, then, that Islamists have “ community legitimacy and support”. His position is that dialogue, not repression, is needed to appease them. In particular he has used his experience of working with Salafists to argue against casting them as extremists.

This, in the light of the activities of Salafists in Tunisia and their counterparts, Al Noor, in Egypt, is not a generally held opinion.Lambert follows a long British tradition.In  Secret Affairs. Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (2010)  Mark Curtis. described Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam “The Home Office has long sought out contacts to negotiate with domestic Islamists. At the moment the Foreign Office is attempting to establish relations with ‘mdoerate’ Islamists, from the Moslem Brotherhood spectrum.

The spectre of more extreme Salafist, not to mention jihadist, groups, is brandished to make this strategy seem respectable. In fact it is bad on sheer self-interest.This realpolitik is not surprising.More astonishing is that any anti-racist group can make excuses  the same right-wing anti-feminist, ultra-conservative parties like the Moslem Brotherhood.In their own way they are trying to reach a modus vivendi with them. They claim that the fight against Islamophobia (defined to include political criticism of Islamism)  takes precedence over the interests of secularists, feminists and the left in Moslem countries.Bob Lambert’s sordid career should cause some rethinking. It should make at least some wonder what kind of players get involved in this kind of  game. Or to what ends it is aimed.

As Benthall notes, “it is not irrational for those who accept Enlightenment values to be phobic about the laws against apostasy and blasphemy current in some major Islamic states”. Or to recoil at the wider social and moral agenda of Islamists.

We await the response of Lambert’s friend at Islamophobia Watch.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Syria: Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Calls to Supply Weapons to Free Syrian Army, A Critical Response.

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http://en.shiapost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Protest-against-Shiites-in-London.jpeg

Sectarian anti-Shiite Demonstration.

“The Syrian conflict is expected to dominate talks among leaders of the G8 nations meeting in Northern Ireland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet US President Barack Obama during the two-day annual summit for what could be prickly talks, as both leaders now offer military support to opposing sides in the war.” Reports Al-Jazeera.

“UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned there is no “palatable option” for dealing with the crisis in Syria.

He told the BBC there were “extremists” supporting both President Assad’s government and rebel forces, but said help would go towards “moderates”.”

Says the BBC.

The French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) has joined calls for arming the Free Syrian Army. As the governments of the US, Britain and France, will put this into practice it is worth examining the NPA’s  views. We will  place them within debates on the British left.

The NPA  begins by outlining the present developments in Syria, and the desperate state of the population. They note the self-organisation of the Syrian people, opposed to Assad regime, and assert that they largely do not recognise the authority of the opposition in exile. They then criticise the limited help given by the French, Socialist-led, government, to the resistance to the Baathist state.

Solidarité du mouvement ouvrier et démocratique

15th of June.

Alongside other European governments, the French state always finds  good reasons not to deliver weapons, especially the air defence and anti-tank  rockets demanded by the Syrian people who are bombarded daily. The French government’s response way to shake this off, and, without giving any specific response, to favour  “serious negotiations for peace” in Geneva. This leaves Assad strengthened by its Russian, Iranian and Lebanese allies and ready to accelerate its criminal offensive against his own people.

In this twisted game the fundamentalist Gulf monarchies are supplying weapons – by drips . They thus give  arguments to the Western powers (to whom they are allied against the “terrorist threat”), and Bashar al-Assad is making the civil war into a sectarian religious – confessional –  struggle.

To top it all, while Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon welcome over a million and a half refugees the French government has restored the need for a transit visa  for Syrians. This helps prevent their escape from death.

Faced with this situation, the responsibility of the international workers’ and democratic movement to demand that our governments immediately provide weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which should be obliged to defend  the Syrian revolution.

Justified mistrust of any direct imperialist intervention should not lead to the abandonment of the Syrian people, but to the demand for the democratic control of supplies and aid, including a greatly increased level of humanitarian assistance.

Our responsibility is to immediately provide all possible assistance to the insurgents,  from our civil society to their civil society,  and to defend Syrian refugees who manage to get into ‘fortress’  Europe.

Jacques Babel

(Rendered into idiomatic English)

The NPA’s position begins from (we summarise) the premise that the war in Syria started as (and remains) a  “massive popular uprising against a  fascist regime that has launched a modern armoured army with all its firepower against the  people.”

One would add that a sense of urgency is propelled by accusations about the use of poison gas (sarin) and the most recent battles.

These are nevertheless some points that arise from the NPA statement.

Before making them I note that one can criticise anybody not deeply familiar with the position on the ground. Yet, when you say what somebody  agrees with this kind of remark is normally immediately  forgotten.

  • However the uprising began the NPA fails to consider in detail the growing international importance of the “confessional” element in the war. In Britain former violent critics of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood equally downplay the idea that a battle is raging  between their politicised strand of Islam and the Shiite-Alawite, forces lined up behind Assad. This has led, according to many many reports, to vicious religious inspired murders, on both sides.
  • Let us be precise, Al-Qaeda’s direct involvement in Syria  exists. Al-Qaeda affiliated networks are operating in the country, including elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Fatah al-Islam and Jordanian Salafi-jihadists. They are said to be “small” but they are gaining strength. This means that  that the armed opposition to the Syrian regime contains a strong Sunni reactionary sectarian element determined to impose its agenda on any future state. They are already supplied, with the other opponents, from Saudi Arabia and Qutar, not to mention less open help from the US, Turkey, Libya and other sources.
  • This political-religious fracture has spread to the heart of Arab world. Egypt’s President Morsi has now taken sides, “Last Saturday Morsi attended a rally by hard-line clerics who have called for jihad and spoke before a cheering crowd at a Cairo stadium, mainly Islamists. Waving a flag of Egypt and the Syrian opposition, he ripped into the Syrian regime, announced Egypt was cutting ties with Damascus and denounced Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas for fighting alongside Assad’s forces.” Associated Press .
  • The Free Syrian Army’s political allies may have a democratic programme. There are (we are reminded in Le Monde and elsewhere) that there remain powerful democratic elements in Syrian civil society. They have protested against sectarian killings. Some of them are on the left. The  National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change is one umbrella grouping. It is not recognised by the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) and has no ties to the  Syrian National Council. It is, in other words, like the rest of the Syrian left, marginal.
  • The British left is largely opposed to any form of intervention in Syria. A section of it  is morally and politically soiled. That the same left has had close relations with the same Muslim Brotherhood in undeniable. The SWP even endorsed voting, in the second round of the country’s elections,  for the Brothers’ President Morsi in Egypt. Socialist Action backed  Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s visit to Ken Livingstone – the same man now calling for “holy war” against Shiites. George Galloway, the vociferous pro-Syrian regime MP,  only recently supported the Bangladeshi extreme right Islamists,Hefazat-e-Islami,  whose views on Muslim heretics are as bigoted as you can get. The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) is led by members of Counterfire who appear to think that anything, absolutely anything, that comes from America and the West has to be opposed.
  • There remains the suspicion that opposition to Assad from those backing intervention is motivated by his reliance on Iran and Hezbollah.

Going further into the reasons that lie behind people’s positions on Syria is important.

We could expand them to consider the motives for US, British, French and European government stands, not to mention Russia and Iran.

One can speak for a long time, a very long time, about the very good reasons to fight against Assad, (Anand Gopal discussing  here), but this analysis from North Star indicates a useful initial way of looking at things,

To start with, this revolution was rooted in the countryside where the regime’s abandonment of support for the peasantry created mass hatred for the system. But unlike the cities, where an organized working class could mount mass protests even up to and including a general strike in order to put pressure on the regime, the relatively atomized peasantry had to resort to arms almost immediately since this was the only tenable defense.

Very rapidly, those who had access to guns and the money necessary to defend the masses were propelled into the leadership. This meant for the Free Syrian Army that the owner of a cement factory became a top commander —  his access to funds was critical. In a very real sense, Syria was experiencing a kind of bourgeois-democratic revolution. It also explains the rise of the Islamist militias. With money pouring in from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it gave the jihadists’ clout.

Yet, he argues,

Even though the Islamists have become a major factor in the Syrian struggle, Gopal pointed to the more secular and more democratic-minded mass movement’s willingness to take them on. He referred to the conflicts taking place in Raqqa, the first provincial capital under rebel rule. Even though the Islamists are trying to impose Sharia law and codes that make women second-class citizens, the secular and democratic-minded residents are not intimidated.

But the main issue remains the one posed by the NPA: should we back the arming of the Free Syrian Army?

What possible help will this bring to the cause of the Syrian people’s freedom?

Seamus Milne, the Guardian commentator, has himself has an ambiguous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. He has said of  its right-wing Tunisian branch (he used to call them “progressive” now he labels them ‘centrist’ ), the governing  Ennahda “its newly elected Islamist leaders pluralist enough to lead a successful democratisation and offer a progressive model for the rest of the region” (Here).

But is he wrong to say this?

The reality is that what began in Syria more than two years ago as a brutally repressed popular uprising has long since morphed into a vicious sectarian war, manipulated by outside forces to change the regional balance of power and already dangerously spilling over into neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq.

The consequences for Syria have been multiple massacres, ethnic cleansing, torture, a humanitarian crisis and the risk of the country’s breakup. The longer the war, the greater the danger of a Yugoslavian-style fragmentation into sectarian and ethnic enclaves.

The Assad regime bears responsibility for that, of course. But so do those who have funded and fuelled the war, bleeding Syria and weakening the Arab world in the process. The demand by Cameron and other western politicians to increase the flow of arms is reckless and cynical.

In summary these are further reasons why we are deeply sceptical about Louis Proyect’s call  for “solidarity with the Syrian revolution.

That should be enough: don’t take an active part in that war.

Update,

Comment, ” je l’espère n’est pas la position officielle du NPA”

I hope this is not the official position of the NPA.

Is it, or isn’t it?

Harlem Shake from Tunisia to Egypt.

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Capture d'écran du Harlem Shake des lycéens de Père-Blanc, à Tunis
 
At the Lycée Pères-Blancs, Harlem Shakin’ to the  great scandal to the Tunisian Moral Police. 
 
Echange d'invectives et de coups: étudiants et salafistes se sont affrontés mercredi à Tunis autour de la mise en scène du buzz planétaire "Harlem Shake", devenu en quelques jours un sujet de querelle en Tunisie entre tenants de la morale islamique et jeunes laïcs.

The Salafists ready to smash moral degeneracy
 
“un sujet de querelle en Tunisie entre tenants de la morale islamique et jeunes laïcs.”
 
It is not just the hard-line Salafists who have reacted by attacking young people.
 

There have been quick condemnations by the Islamist Ennahda-led government and other  religious figures. The Minister of Education, Abdellatif Abid, a member of the once ‘socialist‘ party, Ettakatol, who has called the dancing ‘indecent‘.

 
This is the result,
 
Parodies of Tunisian political figures.
 
 
The Harlem Shake is now sweeping the Arab world, from Morocco, Egypt to Lebanon.
 
Agence France Presse reports,

From Tunis to Beirut or Cairo, Arab youths have posted YouTube videos where one person starts dancing before the video cuts to a large group of people, in costume or in their underwear, moving frenetically to electronic music.

While in the West the “Harlem Shake” is the latest bizarre — and hilarious — internet trend, the break-dancing performances have turned into a light-hearted way to protest against Islamists in several Arab countries.

Dozens of Tunisian university students scuffled this week against Salafi extremists, who were trying to prevent them from filming what they regard as “indecent” dancing.

There doesn’t appear to be much the Islamists can do to stop young people enjoying themselves and demanding freedom.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm