Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Tariq Ali and Syria.

with 7 comments

Highgate Sage Ali Speaks on Syria.

In his latest foray (LLB 28th of August)  Tariq summed up the Syrian situation,

The aim of the ‘limited war’ as set out by the United States and its European vassals is simple. The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.

The present war is essentially driven by anti-Iranian forces,

Ever since the war and occupation of Iraq, the Arab world has been divided between Sunni and Shia components. Backing the targeting of Syria are two old friends: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want the regime in Iran destroyed. The Saudis for factional reasons, the Israelis because they’re desperate to exterminate Hizbullah. That’s the endgame they have in sight and Washington, after resisting for a bit, is playing ball again. Bombing Syria is the first step.

In lines that may well have been an attempt to rival Dean Swift he outlined the position of the United Kingdom,

It’s foolish to get too worked up about Britain. It’s a vassal state, de facto governed by a National Government that includes Parliamentary Labour. Its political parties have accepted permanently situating themselves in the ‘posterior of the White House’. Cameron was gung-ho for a war some months ago. When the US went cold on the idea, Downing Street shut up. Now they’re back in action with little Ed saying that he backs the war ‘reluctantly’, the most pathetic of positions. Conservative backbenchers are putting up a stiffer resistance. Will more Tories vote against than Labour? We shall see.

Ali described how his position evolved until September 2012 as follows (in Counterpunch),

From the very beginning, I have openly and publicly supported the popular uprising against the family-run Baathist outfit that rules Damascus.


But, as in Egypt, once the euphoria of the uprising and its success in getting rid of a hated despot evaporates, politics emerge. What is the strongest political force in Syrian politics today?  Who would be the largest party in parliament when free elections take place? Probably the Muslim Brothers and in that case the experience will be educative since neo-liberalism and the US alliance are the corner-stone of the Turkish model that Morsi and other colleagues in the region seek to emulate. For half of the last century, Arab nationalists, socialists, communists and others were locked in a battle with the Muslim Brothers for hegemony in the Arab world. We may not like it (and I certainly don’t), but that battle has been won by the Brotherhood. Their future will depend on their ability to deliver social change. The Egyptian and Syrian working class have played a huge part in both uprisings. Will they tolerate neo-liberal secularism or Islamism for too long?

His conclusion?

A NATO intervention would install a semi-puppet government. As I argued in the case of Libya once NATO entered the fray: whoever wins the people will lose. It would be the same in Syria. On this I am in total accord with the statement of the Syrian Local Coordinating Committeespublished on 29 August 2011.

What will happen if the present situation continues? An ugly stalemate. The model that comes to mind is Algeria after the military, backed strongly by France and its Western allies, intervened to stop the second round of an election in which the FIS were going to win. This resulted in an attritional civil war with mass atrocities carried out by both sides while the masses retreated to an embittered passivity.

This is why I continue to insist that even at this late stage a negotiated solution is the best possible way to get rid of Assad and his henchmen. Pressure from Teheran, Moscow and Beijing might help achieve this sooner than the military posturing of Sultan Erdogan, his Saudi allies and their surrogates in Syria.

ln criticising this position. the Syrian Leftist site, Syrian Freedom for Ever, claimed that,

TARIQ ALI says we are witnessing in Syria a new form of re-colonisation by the West, like we have already seen in Iraq and in Libya.

Many of the people who first rose against the Assad regime in Syria have been sidelined, leaving the Syrian people with limited choices, neither of which they want: either a Western imposed regime, “composed of sundry Syrians who work for the western intelligence agencies”, or the Assad regime.

The only way forward, in the interests of all Syrians, says Ali, is negotiation and discussion. But it is now obvious that the West is not going to let that happen because they are backing the opposition groups who are against any negotiation.”

What remains of this at present?

With greater confidence Ali now observes,

Every single Western intervention in the Arab world and its surrounds has made the conditions worse. The raids being planned by the Pentagon and its subsidiaries in Nato are likely to follow the same pattern.

After praising Boris Yeltsin as a democratic  socialist (1) , and voting Liberal Democrat in the 2005 General Election (2), Tariq Ali is famed on the left for his canny nose for the Zeitgeist.

That is, his capacity for getting things completely wrong.

The Morsi outcome could be classed in the thick file of Ali’s efforts in this direction.

Now that said many of us will find that Ali’s geopolitical analysis fairly convincing (Robert Fisk says as much).

That he was wrong about the British Parliament and Labour’s willingness to defy Washington puts him the company of thousands, to no disgrace.

Vassals, little Ed, posteriors, and pathetic as they all may be, they didn’t act in the predicted way.

They may continue to show some independence, though this is less certain.

But there is not a word in Ali’s analysis about the fate of the Syrian democrats opposed to Assad.

Or how any democratic forces can be supported.

Not a dicky bird.

That really sticks in the craw.

(1)Ali’s Revolution From Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going? (1988) is also dedicated to Yeltsin, whose  “political courage has made him an important symbol throughout the country.”

(2) “In the tightly fought battle for the Hornsey and Wood Green constituency, the Liberal Democrats have received the support of prominent writer and film maker Tariq Ali, who says he will be backing the party in the forthcoming General Election. Mr Ali, who lives in the constituency, is a long-time critic of the Government over the war in Iraq.” (Here) The Liberal Lynne Featherstone, won the constituency,


Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

7 Responses

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  1. The local coordinating statement is from 2011 and has nothing to do with the present.
    This is the LCC’s position:
    afif Jouejati is the English spokeswoman for the Local Coordinating Committees in Syria and Act2EndAssadsWar which is organizing the counter-demos to the assadists:

    Rafif Jouejati (RafifJ) on Twitter
    Take Action:Support US Action In Syria – Call Congress NOW …

    duen de

    September 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

  2. Your local coordinating committees statement is from 2011.
    This is the LCC’s position today:
    Rafif Jouejati on Twitter
    Take Action:Support US Action In Syria – Call Congress NOW …

    Rafif Jouejati is the English spokeswoman for the Local Coordinating Committees in Syria and Act2EndAssadsWar which is organizing the counter-demos to the assadists:

    duen de

    September 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

  3. If has nothing to do with today then why does Achcar say,

    “However, by denying the mainstream of the Syrian opposition the defensive anti-aircraft and antitank weapons that they have been requesting for almost two years, while Russia and Iran were abundantly purveying the Syrian regime with weapons (and recently with combatants from Iran and its regional allies), the US administration only managed to achieve two results: on the one hand, it has allowed the Syrian regime to keep the upper hand militarily and thus to believe that it can win; hence, the regime has had no incentive whatsoever to make any concessions.”


    Either they were calling for arms, or they weren’t.

    If they were, then who exactly is the ‘mainstream’?

    Anyway here is the Rafif Joujati Twitter link.


    She backs the Free Syrian Army,

    “The Free Syrian Army must develop and adhere to a code of conduct based on international law and the Geneva Conventions. This is already in progress, as several Free Syrian Army battalions have begun signing a code of conduct, which will be instrumental in differentiating between the Free Syrian Army and other armed elements that are creating further chaos.


    War Crimes allegations against the Free Syrian Army,

    “The FSA has been accused of summarily executing numerous prisoners who it claims are government soldiers or shabiha,[159] and people who it claims are informers. A rebel commander in Damascus said that over the months his unit had executed perhaps 150 people that the “military council” had found to be informers. He explained: “If a man is accused of being an informer, he is judged by the military council. Then he is either executed or released”.[160] Nadim Houry, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch argued that “Intentionally killing anyone, even a shabiha, once he is outside of combat is a war crime, regardless of how horrible the person may have been”.[161] On 10 August 2012, a report indicated that Human Rights Watch was investigating rebel forces for such killings. The FSA, for its part, stated that they would put those fighters that had conducted the unlawful killings on trial.[162]
    Witnesses have also reported rebels conducting ‘trial by grave’ in which an alleged government soldier was given a mock trial next to a pre-made grave and executed on the spot by members of the FSA Amr bin al-Aas brigade. One rebel said: “We took him right to his grave and, after hearing the witnesses’ statements, we shot him dead”.[163][164]

    More here (Wikipedia):


    Andrew Coates

    September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

  4. LCC positions from 2011 are historical documents. Anyone who undergirds their positions based on 2011 statements is failing to think through new and qualitatively different issues that confront us in 2013.

    G. Sabra Jr.

    September 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm

  5. Okay let’s start from that: do you lot support the Free Syrian Army and what do you think of the report on Al-Jazeera this morning that it is linking up with Al-Nusra?

    Andrew Coates

    September 11, 2013 at 9:30 am

  6. Many of the people who first rose against the Assad regime in Syria have been sidelined, leaving the Syrian people with limited choices, neither of which they want: either a Western imposed regime, “composed of sundry Syrians who work for the western intelligence agencies”, or the Assad regime.

    gold price

    September 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm

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