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On Louis Proyect’s The Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism and the European left.

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Idlib, Syria: Thousands protest peacefully against Assad’s war, Friday 14 September.

Louis Proyect has just published this article (in Counterpunch), of significance not only in the US but for the European left, and across the word.

On the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism.

Beginning with an overview  of “Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism” it extends to a wider series of reflections.

Project tunes into some of the key ethical and political problems, thrown up by a number of intense  conflicts across the world since 2011 and the response of various parts of the left to them.

In each of them the politics of an ‘anti-imperialism’, limited to opposing the ‘West’ (and de facto backing, amongst others, Assad’s regime, Putin and , though he mentions this to a much lesser degree, Iran) has been called into question.

Rohini Hensman’s recently published Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism is an important contribution to the debate that has divided the left since 2011, the year that Syria became a litmus test. For some, support for Bashar al-Assad became tantamount to backing Franco in the Spanish Civil War while others saw my perspective as lending support to the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other reactionary states carrying out the same neoconservative foreign policy that turned Iraq into a failed state.

In other respects, he observes that on a range of social and economic issues the US left was united (“ranging from defending immigrant rights to opposing fracking),at the start of the decade.

But, “The polarization deepened in 2014 when the Euromaidan protest became litmus test number two.”

“As was the case with Syria, the overwhelming majority of the left sided with Yanukovych who was seen as a progressive leader ousted by a coup organized and funded by the CIA. When war broke out in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin-backed militias were freedom fighters while Kyiv became a tool of NATO and Western banks. Trying to avoid such geopolitical dualities became difficult, if not impossible.”

This could equally be seen here. The left (with at least some hope of a wider political influence than the US left, which was increasing after Ed Miliband began his Labour leadership)  has in general terms  been united on issues such as anti-austerity. This has parallels across Europe, although since that time the EU (UK) or sovereigntism has become  dividing lines.

It was during the Ukraine crisis that the same divisions over international issues, as in the US, became serious.

There was (lightly covered) with support for Putin and the Russian Federation’s claims  from the Morning Star, and the Stop the War Coalition (Counterfire-led) – a position not reflected so widely in the rest of Europe outside of the direct inheritors of the Stalinist parties – but also present.

Here is their activity in sharp focus,

Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ launched in London Socialist Appeal. 2014

Lindsey German (Counterfire), Boris Kagarlitsky (Institute for globalization studies and social movements), Andrew Murray (Communist Party of Britain), Alan Woods (International Marxist Tendency) and Sergei Kirichuk (Borotba) discuss the threat of fascism in Ukraine, the role of imperialism in the current situation and the need for a campaign in support of the antifascist resistance in Ukraine to provide a counterweight to the lies and distortions of the Western media.

Then there is the Middle East, where unity over opposition to the Invasion of Iraq began to crack, above all as the Arab Spring brought forth a movement for democracy against the Assad dictatorship.

Proyect talks of Syria, the cause of whose people he has been a consistent champion.

He cites US writers who have sided with Assad (and not, odd as it may seem, the worst of the red-brown Assad apologists….)

For Syrians, the notion put forward by Stephen Gowans et al that Syria was some sort of socialist utopia rivaling if not besting Kurdish Rojava was a cruel joke. Hensman writes:

Finally, it is an irony that people who see themselves as socialists fail to note the class dimension of the uprising. Janine di Giovanni provides a vivid description of the Damascus elite who support Assad: “[In June 2012,] for several weeks running, I watched the fevered hedonism of the Thursday afternoon pool parties at the Dama Rose Hotel … By lunchtime, women were rushing to hairdressers; the roads leading out of the city … were clogged with luxury cars … Restaurants such as Narenj, which … served traditional Arabic food to the elite, were still packed.” (di Giovanni 2016, 8). By contrast, in 2007 a third of Syrians were living beneath the poverty line, with nearly another third only slightly above this level. Swiss-Syrian socialist activist and scholar Joseph Daher (2016) writes that “even the regime-controlled Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions deplored in 2009 that “the rich have become richer and the poor poorer … (and) low income earners who make up 80 percent of the Syrian population are looking for additional work to support themselves”. He continues, “We must not forget that the popular revolution in Syria began as a result of social economic injustices and widespread poverty, in addition to political issues.”

This is the crucial, the crunch point: his summary of what’s facing people in Syria now:

We are now in the final hours of the seven-year ordeal in which attempts to restore the democratic values of Hourani’s government have been crushed by overwhelming air power and massive intervention by Iran, Hezbollah and Afghan mercenaries. The looming victory against “imperialism” leaves the country in shambles with dismal economic prospects and inescapable environmental disaster.

He continues, looking at the “campists” now backing, more or less openly, Assad.

A certain political myopia exists in such quarters. Despite their anti-fascist pretensions, they cannot fathom how Assad’s victory will strengthen reaction throughout the Middle East and Europe. In an interview on Portuguese television, General al-Sisi stated: “The priority is that we support the national armies to impose control over the territory, deal with the extremists, and impose the necessary stability in Libya, Syria and Iraq.” When the interviewer followed up with “When you refer to the National Army in Syria, do you mean the Syrian army?”, the General replied: “Yes.”

In  Proyect’s conclusion he suggests that capitalists, and those states who wish for  Assad’s victory, have their own interests at heart.

Hardly a surprising claim but can this be extended to speculation that a bloc is being formed out of “With Assad, al-Sisi, Putin and Haftar” in a “new axis of resistance against Islamists” or, even more speculatively, “would anybody be surprised that Netanyahu would apply for membership?2

One can only note that Louis’s belief that Boris Johnson is still UK foreign Secretary is one, amongst many reasons to doubt the emergence of such an alliance. And there is a leap from a certain support for Libya’s Hafter to….Assad, and Putin, Israel, Macron….. which is hard to jump. (“In July, Haftar met with an Israeli intelligence officer in Amman, to “deepen security coordination between him and Israel”. Not only does Haftar have these considerable forces in his corner, he can also rely on the backing of France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as well as the United Arab Emirates.”).

The conclusion is, nevertheless, worth serious reflection:

 In all their heartfelt objection to imperialism, Assad’s supporters on the left seemed to have forgotten that Lenin wrote a book titled “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. If you forget about the capitalism part of his analysis, you don’t get very far.

One cannot imagine that Iran (whose capitalist rather than geopolitical and religious-ideological interest, if there is one, which it far from sure,  goes unmentioned) and Putin’s Russian Federation, have backed Assad out of a wish to strengthen a multipolar world contesting American dominance purely out of hearty anti-imperialist good will. The extent to which religious ideology as a material force in the conflicts remains unclarified, but who can seriously doubt that it plays a substantial role in these wars.

While one is certain that much of the US left, anxious at all times to distance itself from any hint of support for its own imperialist military machine, has good reason to be wary of its state’s involvement.

But today this is of utmost urgence: 

Indefensible: Idlib and the left Leila Al-Shami

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Neither Norman Finkelstein nor Jonathan Sacks but Democratic Socialist Internationalism!

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Just when you thought Jonathan Sacks had scraped the bottom of the barrel.

There is hysteria, and there is hysterical foam-speckled raving.

British politics has seen the two merge over the last month as some people have made what can only be called – charitably – as the Media Madness of Crowds.

The most offensive delusions, that the a Labour Government, led by, Jeremy Corbyn, would pose an “existential threat” to British Jews, have been peddled.

The wildest seers, like Norman Finkelstein, have been given free reign to speculate on the site of the Flagship publishers of the New Left about whether Jewish wealth, “didn’t translate into outsized Jewish political power” in Britain. Having found that, “Were it not for the outsized power of British Jews, it’s hard to conceive that British society would be interminably chasing after a hobgoblin.”

At present Finkelstein feels armed from his American pulpit to intervene in the British debate on what kind of procedures the Labour Party should adopt on fighting anti-semitism FINKELSTEIN CRITIQUES IHRA ‘DEFINITION’ – AND REJECTS IT WHOLE.

The author of the Holocaust Industry uses all the moral authority of John Stuart Mill to defend the right to rant – something he so far not had much success with when lecturing his close friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Norman Finkelstein: Teaching John Stuart Mill in Iran  2014)

Then there is this.

Corbyn’s “Zionist” remarks were “most offensive” since Enoch Powell, says ex-chief rabbi

New Statesman.  GEORGE EATON

Whatever the Conservative former Chief Rabbi’s politics are today, this is what the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, who gave Enoch Powell’s discipline Nigel Farage a platform in his paper, had to say after the Brexit vote:

Brexit: It’s a wonderful day for Britain – and its Jews

It’s certainly a truism that when times are troubled, the Jews are often the first target. But the referendum demand from voters that we regain control over immigration isn’t an attack on immigrants, on foreigners – or on Jews. It’s an attack on people being denied any say on a core issue of politics.

Indeed, far from Brexit hurting minorities, the real problem for minorities comes when politics ignores such concerns – when the mainstream loses touch with people and the only vehicles left to make a point are extremists. Marine Le Pen is surging in France not because all the French are fascists but because the French governing class – Eurofanatical to the core – treats its voters with contempt.

That has been the EU’s fundamental flaw. It regards voters as uncouths who need to have what’s good for them imposed on them. Just look at Greece. That’s how and when extremists prosper – and that’s when the Jews suffer.

Our freedom from the EU will make extremism less, not more, likely, as the pressure cooker is released.

We will take no lessons on far-right extremism from Pollard – who looks even more of an empty vessel after we’ve seen the ‘Tommy Robinson’ campaign merge into a pro-Brexit, pro-Trump one.

Nor, as David Rosenberg writes, is Sacks in a strong position to attack Powell.

You were never my Chief Rabbi, bruv.

When asked last year what were his four favourite books of 2017, Sacks included Douglas Murray’s the Strange death of Europe, which the “respected rabbi” described as “unsettling” and “disturbing”. Sacks continued: “Murray weaves a tale of uncontrolled immigration, failed multiculturalism, systemic self-doubt, cultural suicide and disingenuous political leadership. Accurate, insightful and devastating.” (1) Lots of Powellite themes there which Sacks found strangely attractive. Needless to say Murray included an apologia for and re-interpretation of Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.

But then again it wasn’t the likes of Rabbi Sacks, and the cushioned middle classes who experienced on the streets the fallout from Powell’s hate speech. It was predominantly the Asian communities facing vicious racial violence, including racial murders, and the anti-racist movements, abused and attacked by the far right forces Powell encouraged. Those Asian communities, the anti-racist movements, the refugee communities today, in the face of brutal attacks, have continued to resist. And through those years of resistance they have known they can rely on solidarity from allies beyond their own communities. One absolutely constant and ever-present ally, at their side then and now, is Jeremy Corbyn.

We do take seriously the threat posed by the racist far right.

If there are attacks on Jews in Europe, they are not alone.  Let’s begin with the events in Chemnitz where, “For two nights running, hundreds and then thousands of right-wing extremists and sympathisers have taken to the streets.” Their targets? “Far-right vigilantes ‘hunting down’ migrants in Germany after man’s death.” (Sky)

This Blog is not a supporter of the extreme ‘anti-Zionist’  politics presented as the core of ‘anti-imperialism’ which many consider one of the origins of this dispute. This approach has resulted in a failure to defend Syrian democrats, even the Kurds in their to-the-death-struggle against the ISIS genociders, and an obsessive concentration on Israel in a world rent with human rights abuses, from Myanmar to Central Africa. (1)

Nor do we wish to turn the Labour Party into a forum for people all-too-anxious to ‘debate’ playground motions expressing their hatred of ‘Zionism’.

But it is hard to argue that pro-imperialist, or pro-West politics are anything other than despicable faced with their equal inability to bring a solution to the Syrian civil war, the creation of a viable two-state solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict,  or the horrors taking place in Yemen.

The present frenzy looks less and less to do with such issues.

For the first time in many years this Blog agrees with  Lindsey German on what the relentless campaign means,

There can be no doubt about what this represents – the serious attempt to remove a twice-elected Labour leader who has left wing politics, who supports a range of causes and movements including those for the Palestinians, who is committed to redistribution of wealth and power, who wants more money spent on decent public services, and whose election as prime minister would inspire working people around the world.

When the lying has to stop – weekly briefing

It is as simple as that.

Common decency, as they say, ranges the left behind Labour.

********************

(1)  I have read the Murray book, which draws on somebody I am lot more familiar with, Renaud Camus, the theorist of the “great replacement” (the take-over of Europe by immigrants) and a pillar of the French far-right.

(2) For a thought-provoking introduction to different views read the latest at Shiraz: A history lesson for Corbyn on antisemitism, Zionism and Stalinist-influenced “anti-imperialism”

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people! (Fourth International).

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Image result for syria devastation

Syria’s Devastation Continues. 

For this blog the civil war in Syria overshadows every other single international tragedy.

Around  400,000  people have died (Casualties of the Syrian Civil War).

Figures in 2016 state that 13.5 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria

The news in the last weeks that millions of refugees will have their property in Syria seized is another blow.

Analysts say law leaves citizens who have opposed Assad regime facing permanent exile.

Repression continues by the Assad regime.

 

The refugees still streaming outwards, including to Europe, have not gone away.

That supporters of the Jihadist genociders have just been gaoled in the UK illustrates that the war is not in some remote ‘out there’.

The Fourth International has the decency to get its priorities right on this burning issue.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people is more necessary than ever!

The Fourth International reaffirms its solidarity with all the bombed, massacred, tortured, starving and displaced civilians in Syria; its solidarity with the democratic and progressive forces that continue to defend the aspirations of a heroic insurrection. Seven years after the beginning of the Syrian popular uprising, it has been gradually transformed into a deadly war with an international character, the situation in the country is catastrophic at all levels.

Probably more than half a million are dead and missing, over 80% of whom were killed by the regime’s armed forces and allies. More than 6 million people have fled across borders and 7.6 million are internally displaced, out of a population of 22.5 million in 2011. Over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The World Bank estimated in June 2017 that about one third of all buildings and nearly half of all school and hospital buildings in Syria had been damaged or destroyed.

Against the Assad regime and its allies, first component of the counter-revolution!

The Fourth International condemns once again the barbarity of the despotic regime of the Assad family and its allies, symbolised at the beginning of 2018 by their offensive on Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Military offensives and bombardments against civilians, including the use of chemical weapons, continue in various areas outside the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Since 2015, the latter, which was in desperate straits at the time, seems to have continued to strengthen itself and to increase the territory recovered by relying on its Russian and Iranian allies, as well as on Lebanese Hezbollah. Today, Damascus controls almost 60% of the territory and over 80% of the population.

It is in this context that state actors with very diverse and even contradictory political and economic agendas but which all bombed and participated to the destruction of Syria, are now raising the question of reconstruction, whose costs are currently estimated at more than 350 billion dollars. For Assad, his relatives and the businessmen linked to his regime, reconstruction is seen as a means of consolidating the powers already acquired and re-establishing their political, military, security and economic domination, also with the forced resettlement of populations. This process would also reinforce the neoliberal policies of a heavily indebted regime that does not have the capacity to finance reconstruction on its own.

At the same time, the countries allied to the Syrian regime, in particular Russia and Iran – after their direct participation in the worst crimes against the population – but also China, are in the front line to benefit economically and strategically from the reconstruction.

Jihadists and Islamic fundamentalist forces lose ground but retain the ability to harm

The jihadists of the Islamic State (EI or “Daesh”) have lost the vast majority of Syrian and Iraqi cities and urban centres they occupied. Only isolated border regions between Iraq and Syria currently remain under EI control, in addition to a few pockets on Syrian territory. Other Jihadist and Salafist organizations – sometimes opposing Assad regime while fighting democratic forces – have also lost ground.

However, the loss of vast territories by these organizations does not mean the end of their existence and their ability to strike by terrorist attacks.

The Fourth International reaffirms its opposition to these ultra-reactionary organizations, which constitute another side of the counter-revolution. We must never forget that their rise to power against the democratic forces of the insurgency is as much due to the manoeuvres of the Syrian regime seeking to justify its unlimited repression in the eyes of the world as to the intervention of financiers and advisers from other states in the region. We must stress the need to tackle the sources of their development: the authoritarian regimes in the region that repress all forms of democratic and social resistance, regional and international foreign interventions, neoliberal policies that impoverish the popular classes.

PYD attacked, Kurds threatened

In January 2018, the Turkish army, assisted by Islamic and reactionary militias of the Syrian armed opposition, launched a massive air and ground offensive against the north-western Syrian province of Afrin, with the majority Kurdish population controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG). This region is now occupied by forces of the Turkish army and Syrian militias in its pay, who are continuing human rights violations and forced displacement of the population.

The Turkish military operation against Afrin in Syria and the rejection by the Iraqi government of the result of the referendum on independence organised by the Barzani leadership. in Iraqi Kurdistan in October 2017, show once again that the international and regional powers are not prepared to see Kurdish national or autonomist aspirations come true. It is clear that Moscow and Washington’s support to YPG at different times, such as YPG’s support to the Russian military and air campaign alongside Assad’s regime launched in late September 2015 around Aleppo, did not prevent Ankara’s military aggression against Afrin. In his rush to dictatorship, Turkish President Erdogan wants to crush the Kurdish people like any democratic aspiration in his country.

The Fourth International reaffirms the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people, a right which can take various forms in the different countries of the region (such as independence, federalism or recognition of the Kurdish people as an entity with equal rights within a State). We welcome the heroic commitment of the forces that are leading this struggle against the obscurantist forces, even if we can express more or less strong criticism of their leadership, particularly in Iraq concerning the Barzani leadership, but also in Syria concerning the tactics of the PYD – while welcoming the emancipatory experiences it has attempted in Rojava. In any case, the widest solidarity with the Kurdish people is necessary against the fierce repression they suffer in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which is also reflected in the practices of European countries.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian people in all its components!

All the counter-revolutionary forces, despite their rivalry, acted simultaneously to defeat the Syrian revolution.

- Whether they are those who support the Bashar al-Assad regime (Russia, Iran and their militias) and who are involved in serious war crimes;
- the American and European imperialists who made declarations of principle about democracy but refused to allow the democratic components of the uprising to defend themselves, and also bombed civilian populations in the name of the fight against terrorism;
- the Turkish regime which used the Syrian revolution to appear as the leader of the “peoples of Islam” and transformed itself into an occupier of part of northern Syria, and bombed cities to fight Kurdish organisations;
- or the Gulf States which financially support all ultra-reactionary movements and militias as long as they serve their objectives;
- and finally Israel which, by carrying out targeted bombardments in Syria in order to weaken Assad and prevent the military expansion of Iran and Hezbollah, in fact strengthens them politically.

In this context the Fourth International calls:

– for the cessation of all military offensives. This means that all means of pressure must be used to sanctuarise the last regions that have escaped the regime and where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians have taken refuge.

– to continue to denounce all foreign military interventions, that oppose aspirations for democratic change in Syria, whether in support of the regime (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah) or by proclaiming themselves “friends of the Syrian people” (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, United States, etc.). The Syrian popular classes struggling for freedom and dignity have no friendly state in their struggle… even if they may seek to take advantage of inter-imperialist rivalries to advance their own interests while maintaining political independence and autonomy.

– to reaffirm the opposition to the Assad regime, to refuse its relegitimisation internationally, not to forget the war crimes, the tens of thousands of political prisoners still tortured in the regime’s jails , the disappeared, the refugees, the internally displaced, etc. A blank cheque given today to Assad and his crimes would be a further abandonment of the Syrian people and their heroic revolt, and would inevitably increase the sense of impunity of all authoritarian states, allowing them in turn to crush their populations if they were to revolt. Similarly, all actors who have committed human rights violations against civilians must be punished for their crimes.

Internationalist solidarity with the Syrian popular classes is more necessary than ever!

Then there is this:

Syria’s President Assad ‘to visit North Korea’

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

As Alternative Facts Sites Deny Growing Proof, Anti-War Patrick Cockburn, “Mounting Evidence” of Chlorine Gas Attack in Douma.

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Alternative Fact media and Web sites continue to cast doubt on the Chlorine gas attacks in Syria.

Yesterday  the Morning Star published this,

Today, the pretext for escalating Britain’s military involvement in Syria is that the Assad regime — the internationally recognised, legitimate and elected government in Damascus — is guilty of a poison gas attack on the citizens of Douma.

Film of the aftermath, broadcast across the world in recent days, shows a troupe of very camera-conscious young men washing down the victims, all of whom are children, most of them looking more bewildered than wounded or incapacitated, and without a distressed parent or relative in sight.

Skwawkbox peddles this line,

The gas attack

The video footage of distressed children and adults being given inhalers and oxygen in Douma has been powerful – but has not been verified.

Russia has said it found no trace of a chlorine attack in Douma when its personnel visited the town. Many will immediately and understandably dismiss that statement – but the Russians may not have been the only ones to visit.

Russian media claim that the Red Crescent – the equivalent of the Red Cross in Muslim areas – also visited the city and found nothing to suggest a chemical attack had taken place. This information can currently be found only in Russian sources – but should be easily verifiable if true. The SKWAWKBOX has sent a press enquiry to Red Cross headquarters to ask whether the organisation will verify or deny the claims.

Horrific incidents in the Middle East have been fabricated on at least one occasion. The ‘Nayirah testimony’ to US politicians in 1990, for example, helped to cement the case for the 1990-91 invasion of Iraq.

The Canary makes the following speculations,

1) Syrian opposition forces may have chemical weapons.

2) Assad regime was on the verge of victory in the area anyway.

3) The sources are linked to the anti-Assad opposition.

By contrast on the ground reporter and long-term writer on the region Patrick Cockburn writes today,

How can we know that a chemical weapons attack took place in Syria?

Analysis: Even seemingly blatant war crimes can be denied in a war characterised by lack of access. But evidence pointing to chemical attack continues to mount

…the Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.

But there is mounting evidence from neutral observers to confirm that chlorine was used last Saturday. The World Health Organisation says that local health authorities in Douma, with whom it is cooperating, confirm that on the day of the alleged bombing they treated 500 patients with the symptoms of exposure to toxic chemicals. It reports that “there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to the central nervous systems of those exposed”.

Other evidence for the gassing of civilians is cumulatively convincing: large gas cylinders, like those used in past chlorine gas attacks, were filmed on the roof of the building where most bodies were found. Local people report that Syrian government helicopters were seen in the area at the time of the attack. Such helicopters have been used in chlorine gas bombings in the past.

The Russian and Syrian government accounts of what happened, varying between saying there were no attacks or that evidence for them has been fabricated, are contradictory. A Russian spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the use of “smart missiles” on Syrian government forces could be an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Will an attack by the USA, endorsed by President Macron and Teras May help?

For all the furore about the proposed missile strike on Syrian forces – likely to happen in the very near future – it is difficult to see what it will achieve other than as a general sign of international disapproval of the use of chemical weapons. Hawks in the US and Europe may want to use the occasion to reopen the door to armed intervention in the Syrian civil war with the aim of weakening or displacing Assad, but the time for this is long past, if it was ever there.

There is a widely held myth that US air strikes against government forces in 2013, which President Barack Obama is blamed for not having carried out, would have brought the war to a different and happier conclusion. But such air strikes would only have been effective if they had been conducted on a mass scale and on a daily basis in support of ground troops. These would either have been Sunni Arab armed opposition forces, which were already dominated by al-Qaeda-type movements, or the US army in a rerun of the Iraq War of 2003.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2018 at 3:37 pm

As Jewish Board of Deputies Protests, Labour, the Left, Jeremy Corbyn and Anti-Semitism.

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Jewish groups attack Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism

BBC.

“Enough is enough,” Jewish groups have said in a letter accusing Jeremy Corbyn of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader has said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn said he would be meeting representatives of the Jewish community to “rebuild” confidence in his party.

However, the organisations behind the open letter are planning a protest outside Parliament later.

The letter – drawn up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council – said there has been a “repeated institutional failure” to properly address anti-Semitism. (1)

It accuses Mr Corbyn of being unable to “seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”.

The organisations refer to Mr Corbyn’s apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012 and his attendance at “pro-Hezbollah rallies”.

They say the Labour leader has “sided with anti-Semites” either because of “the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism” or “a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy”.

The letter says those who push anti-Semitic material view Mr Corbyn as “their figurehead” and that he is “the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops.”

Response.

Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement. We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

We recognise that antisemitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.

Our party has deep roots in the Jewish community and is actively engaged with Jewish organisations across the country.

We are campaigning to increase support and confidence in Labour among Jewish people in the UK. I know that to do so, we must demonstrate our total commitment to excising pockets of antisemitism that exist in and around our party.

I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months to rebuild that confidence in Labour as a party which gives effective voice to Jewish concerns and is implacably opposed to antisemitism in all its forms. Labour will work to unite communities to achieve social justice in our society.

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Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party

Jewish Socialists’ Group statement

The Jewish Socialists’ Group expresses its serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP.

This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.

Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.

Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies, was one of the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President of the United States on behalf of the Board. This action was harshly criticised by many Jews he claims that the Board represents. He also gives unqualified support to Israel’s pro-settler Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys good relations with the very far right political forces in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who are fanning bigotry against minorities, including Jews.

Until very recently the Jewish Leadership Council was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory Party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Some of us have long-standing views on the issues raised in this controversy.

For many on the left, including groups on the ‘far left’ there is a problem with anti-Semitism in today’s Britain and the rest of Europe.

That we consider that some parts of the more vocal left (notably those groups that run the Stop the War Coalition) in the name of ‘anti-imperialism, misunderstand the issues to the extent that they show a tolerance towards anti Semitism.

A stark example was given by the present Labour Executive Director of Strategy and Communications  Seumus Milne’s reaction to the Charlie Hebdo and the  Hypercacher massacre in 2015: The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. (Guardian January 2015)

Milne threw a few words around about nothing justifies the murders – except that it can be explained in the context of Charlie’s  ” repeated pornographic humiliation” of the ‘Prophet”.

He then went on to claim an insight into the origins of the killings, which singled out not just Charlie Hebdo but a Jewish supermarket.

“Of course, the cocktail of causes and motivations for the attacks are complex: from an inheritance of savage colonial brutality in Algeria via poverty, racism, criminality and takfiri jihadist ideology.

He concluded,

But without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week’s attacks clearly wouldn’t have taken place.” 

Labour’s present head of spin not only ignored any moral responsibility in the killers themselves but failed to ask why “Amedy Coulibaly singled out a Jewish supermarket and  murdered four Jewish hostages, and held fifteen other hostages during a siege in which he demanded that the Kouachi (the gunmen in the Charlie attack) brothers not be harmed. The police ended the siege by storming the store and killing Coulibaly.”

Apart from this ‘anti-imperialism’ there is also the growth of “confusionist” politics, represented in the infamous Tower Hamlets Mural, which align anti-globalisation themes, classical hatred of Jews with conspiracy ideology on the New World Order.

Harry’s Place indicates one case today,

Antisemitism, homophobia and the NUS’s National Executive Council

Ayo quite proudly asks people to call him a ‘conspiracy theorist’ as he shares an antisemitic video about the “Rothschild’s master plan”. The video he shares goes on to talk about how the Rothschild’s run every central bank in the world (apart from North Korea, Iran and Cuba). It discusses how the Rothschild’s manipulate countries to go to war for them as they have an “unlimited amount of money and power”. The video suggests 9/11 was an inside job, carried out in order for the Rothschild’s to gain control of Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s banks. The video is quite simply a piece of antisemitic propaganda. Ayo tells people to “do a little research on this” – we did. Google “Rothschild’s master plan” and you will get taken into a world of antisemitic conspiracies, much coming from far-right, neo-nazi sites and forums.

It is true that limited parts of the left, and wider society, reflect these prejudices.

But to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of anti-semitism, as some in the Jewish community and commentators in the press are now doing (most openly on social media) is not only false, but beneath contempt.

Phil puts many related points in this post today.

Corbynism and Anti-SemitismPhil Burton-Cartledge

Unfortunately anti-semitism has yet again resurfaced and as everyone reading this knows, this time it’s Jeremy Corbyn who’s in the firing line for failing to notice the image above, which he commented on, was racist. In the world of social media there is a tendency to shoot from the hip without looking properly at what or who you’re commenting on/sharing. It’s happened to me enough times when posts shared on Facebook have been construed as supporting the Tories because of the titles (as such I was expecting some earache for Friday’s effort). And I’m happy to accept that Jeremy’s explanation that he wasn’t paying attention. After all, over the course of his career he has put his name to eight Early Day Motions attacking anti-semitism, and under his leadership Labour has adopted a line far harsher on anti-semitism than any of his predecessors. And still, this happened.

While the Labour Party does not have an anti-semitism problem distinct from the anti-semitism problem of society as a whole, unfortunately a section of the left does, particularly those that have historically prioritised anti-war and Palestine solidarity activity. We’re not talking conscious Jew hate a la neo-Nazis and assorted fash riff-raff, though some on the fringes of anti-war work order their conspiracy theorising with a side of anti-semitism, but rather a certain carelessness which, persistent and unchecked, amounts to anti-semitic behaviour. Cast your eyes over the Socialist Workers Party, for example. Previously the key organising force of Stop the War, Respect, and ‘official’ anti-fascism as per Unite Against Fascism, when it came to matters anti-war they tended to put a plus wherever the British establishment put a minus. They weren’t hard “defencists” (i.e. calling for the defeat of one’s own military and victory to whoever they are fighting), but in practice this meant tolerating far right Serbs on the small marches against the war in Kosovo, ditto with Islamic fundamentalists in the anti-war movement and, in the case of notorious anti-semite Gilad Atzmon, not just rubbing shoulders with but actively sponsoring his events. The SWP has a history of turning a blind eye to such characters. Sometimes this was for expediency’s sake, such as not wanting to threaten the “united front” of whatever bandwagon they’re riding at that moment. For others it’s because they are of some use. Atzmon was so promoted because a now disgraced former leading member was really into jazz.

The SWP have diminished influence these days, but their attitude to problem people is typical. For them, overlooking the foibles of allies could be justified in terms of their lust for the big time, which was always one more demo, strike, and paper sale away. For others not so invested in sect building, making episodic common cause with people who shouldn’t be touched with a barge pole was simply a fact of life of doing left-wing politics: you work with what you’ve got. Up until the sudden change of fortunes occasioned by the 2015 Labour leadership contest, self-described leftists were a small and dwindling bunch. The likes of Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, both of whom are prophylactics for socialist politics, were tolerated because there wasn’t exactly a massive pool of activists to draw upon. And it had been this way for a long time, so turning a blind eye was in many cases a condition of getting things done. Which also meant “left” anti-semitism wasn’t taken seriously – a culture of sensitivity was absent.

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What should be done then? The party is now institutionally anti-anti-semitic, but there remains a persistent and stubborn layer of members who either believe there is no issue, don’t think it’s worth talking about, or is entirely a weapon used against the leadership by the usual suspects. Clearly, there is much political education to be done. I don’t mean every branch and CLP hosting its own diversity training or whatever, but rather a left declaration of war against anti-semitism specifically and the kind of thinking – conspiracy thinking – that incubates it and, in turn, finds a ready audience among large sections of Corbyn’s online support. As a rule, the so-called alt-left media sites are dismal failures in this regard and, indeed, stoke the fires of click bait conspiranoia. This has to be opposed by materialist analysis, of understanding the world as it is so we can make the world what we want it to be. This takes a concerted effort at building an intellectual culture that encourages comrades to think critically for themselves, and treat with extreme prejudice any and all explanations that place social ills, however they’re defined, at the feet of secret cabals working away in the shadows. Then, perhaps, the culture of carelessness can be overcome and “left” anti-semitism goes back to being what it should be: an oxymoron.

I do not think Corbyn is personally antisemitic, but it is evident that he has difficulty recognising that the problem takes a specific form on the left and the “anti imperialist” milieu. This stems from his own lack of political sophistication, his background in crude New Left “anti imperialism” and (possibly) with the fact that Stalinists are influential in his inner circle. Corbyn’s difficulty in recognising the problem is, sadly, typical of significant sections of the left.

What lies behind Corbyn’s difficulties with “left-wing antisemitism”?

(1) Full Text of Letter.

Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough. We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn “opposes antisemitism”, whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads. There is a repeated institutional failure to properly address Jewish concerns and to tackle antisemitism, with the Chakrabarti Report being the most glaring example of this.

Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing antisemitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate antisemitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.

When Jews complain about an obviously antisemitic mural in Tower Hamlets, Corbyn of course supports the artist. Hizbollah commits terrorist atrocities against Jews, but Corbyn calls them his friends and attends pro-Hizbollah rallies in London. Exactly the same goes for Hamas. Raed Salah says Jews kill Christian children to drink their blood. Corbyn opposes his extradition and invites him for tea at the House of Commons. These are not the only cases. He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly antisemitic views, but claims never to hear or read them.

Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with antisemites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, Jews expressed sincere and profound fears as to how such politics would impact upon their wellbeing. Our concerns were never taken seriously. Three years on, the Party and British Jews are reaping the consequences.

Routine statements against antisemitism “and all forms of racism” get nowhere near dealing with the problem, because what distinguishes antisemitism from other forms of racism is the power that Jews are alleged to hold, and how they are charged with conspiring together against what is good. This is not only historic, or about what Jeremy Corbyn did before being Party leader. It is also utterly contemporary. There is literally not a single day in which Labour Party spaces, either online or in meetings, do not repeat the same fundamental antisemitic slanders against Jews. We are told that our concerns are faked, and done at the command of Israel and/or Zionism (whatever that means); that antisemitism is merely “criticism of Israel”; that we call any and all criticism of Israel “antisemitic”; that the Rothschilds run the world; that ISIS terrorism is a fake front for Israel; that Zionists are the new Nazis; and that Zionists collaborate with Nazis.

Rightly or wrongly, those who push this offensive material regard Jeremy Corbyn as their figurehead. They display an obsessive hatred of Israel alongside conspiracy theories and fake news. These repeated actions do serous harm to British Jews and to the British Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops. Enough is enough.

Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Leadership Council

The Left and Solidarity with East Ghouta.

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Image result for east ghouta

Arbin Hospital after an airstrike carried out by Assad regime forces in Arbin district of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on 21st of February Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Left and East Ghouta  

This piece merits reading in full but these extracts can give a taste of this deeply thought out and heartfelt article.

Why has East Ghouta become a living hell recently, even more so than in the past? Perhaps this is the result of Assad finally turning to a remaining rebel enclave after final victory in places like Homs and East Aleppo was achieved. Once East Ghouta has been “liberated”, the regime will be free to finally deliver the death blow to Idlib, the last sanctuary for “terrorists” in the country.

For much of the left, especially the Gray Zone 3, East Ghouta is condemned territory—a haven for al-Qaeda that deserves to be annihilated. Not much research is available on East Ghouta but a few things should be kept in mind. It is part of a belt of mostly agricultural towns and cities that abut Damascus to the east and south. It is like most of the places that rose up against Assad in 2011 and that were largely invisible to the Western press that found Damascus irresistible. After all, it was a place where you could enjoy scotch in a hotel bar, eat at 3-star restaurants, and stroll around in the evenings absorbing local color. Yes, there were people being tortured in Syrian prisons through the CIA extraordinary rendition program but they probably deserved it.

The revolutionary struggle in Syria certainly had goals that seem quite modest in comparison with the July 26th Movement in Cuba or any other leftist cause I have been involved with over the past half-century. But in order to overthrow capitalism, you need the freedom to organize the workers movement. That is why Marx and Lenin always stressed the need to oppose absolutism whether it took the guise of the Junkers monarchy or Czarism. That the left has lost track of such an elementary need is a terrible deficit. To build a worldwide revolutionary movement that can abolish class rule once and for all, we have to support the right of people to speak freely and to form political parties without fear of being tortured or killed. It is impossible to say how events will unfold in the Middle East and North Africa over the next 25 years or so but if we can’t defend basic liberties such as the kind the Arab Spring demanded, we are useless.

Louis’ views will be endorsed by those of us on the left who support universal human rights.

In a piece in French on the anti-capitalist left an even more heart-rending contribution is made by

LETTRE À LA GHOUTA : “C’EST LE CŒUR EMPLI DE HONTE QUE JE T’ÉCRIS”

Via the website of the International Socialist Organisation (US),

We, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists oppose the various military attacks on Afrin, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta  and support all the innocent civilians in Syria. . . There has been a consensus between all the international and regional powers on the necessity to liquidate the revolutionary popular movements initiated in Syria in March of 2011 . .

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Solidarity with Idlib and al-Ghouta against the attacks by Assad’s regime forces and its Russian ally

At the same time, we condemn the Assad regime’s attacks on Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, areas which are supposedly considered “de-escalation zones” according to the Astana « peace » negotiations, led by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

In the face of this counter-revolutionary consensus,  what is desperately needed is  solidarity between all (Arabs, Kurds and all other ethnic minorities) revolutionaries who are against the Assad regime and all the regional and international imperialist powers and support the struggles for social justice, women’s rights and the rights of oppressed minorities.  

 The Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists supports the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people in Syria and in other countries. This does not mean that we take an uncritical stand  on the policies of Kurdish parties leading these struggles, whether the PYD or  the Kurdish Democratic Party or others, notably regarding violations of Human rights against civilians.

Oppose all forms of sectarianism and racism

Our destinies are linked

Join the Alliance’s Campaign in Solidarity with Middle Eastern Political Prisoners.

Syria and the Problem of Left Solidarity by Donya Alinejad & Saskia Baas.

Salvage. 1st of March 2018.

Crude notions of anti-imperialism have for too long yielded dubious analyses of Syria and the Middle East. The contribution of the Left has often been dominated by an unsophisticated ‘campism’ wherein the enemy of our enemy should not be criticized. This has recently taken startling and contradictory forms: a recent petition calls for the leaders of Russia, Iran, and the U.S. to “ensure that the sovereignty of Syrian borders is not breached by Turkey.” The petition was signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt and David Graeber. Staggeringly, the petition appeals to the key perpetrators of war crimes in Syria for help in the protection of Afrin.

There are a multitude of ways we might explain such a turn, among them a Euro/American-centrism wherein the Left’s positions simply mirror and are dictated by those of their liberal opponents, the Western left’s long-running ideological links to the PKK, Left sectarianism, refusal to update expired Cold War categories, incidental ignorance and laziness, and the relative sophistication of the YPG/J’s communication networks and media branding with Western audiences. We end up engaging with Syria as no more than a distant war in which our task as the Left is merely to discuss and select the correct armed faction to support. But this filters out the less spectacular but equally courageous initiatives for self-organization still going on in various parts of the country and among its refugee diaspora; compelling cases such as the recent women’s campaign against forced disappearances. In ignoring these, we surrender our key principles of upholding the value of human lives in the face of militarism, state interests, and divisive borders.

Our internationalism must cultivate a willingness to grasp the complexity of Syrian polity, society, and culture as it unfolds in everyday life under the current circumstances of extraordinary duress. Rather than a lapse into apolitical humanitarianism, defending the lives of those brutalized by violence is based on an international solidarity that registers survival in this context as struggle. Similarly, our welcoming and hospitality to those who fled Syria in recent years must not smother them into politically pacified victimhood. We must seek out and listen to what a variety of Leftist Syrian political activists and intellectuals have to say about Syria. Their migration experiences and diasporic self-organization are part of the story of the Syrian revolution, an inexhaustibly rich resource for understanding and learning from the realities of this important contemporary struggle. It is a struggle that lives on in many of them and contains intimate knowledge of the notions of racial and ethnic discrimination, prison state, political disenfranchisement, and neoliberal policies we also fight against. The vast contextual differences make articulating the common ground all the more profound.

In short, let us stop approaching Syria in the way a colonial power approaches its subject’s civil war, calculating which intervention(s) of force to back and then vehemently spreading the chosen party’s war propaganda. Let us focus, instead, on building a socialism that modestly but consistently puts into practice the radical internationalist idea that we inhabit the same world as all those who struggle for a dignified human existence.

This is how the so-called People’s Daily, the Morning Star, is ‘reporting’ the tragedy.

UN aid convoy enters Islamist-held enclave near Damascus

Syrian forces are besieging Eastern Ghouta, a largely agricultural area to the south and east of Damascus.

It is one of the last holdouts of mainly foreign-backed jihadist rebels, who have been firing shells and mortars at Damascus proper from their positions there.

The Syrian government has been pursuing tactics similar to those that broke the grip of Islamist fighters on Homs and Aleppo, shelling rebel-held areas and then using ground forces to retake districts.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2018 at 1:06 pm

New Arms Race? Putin announces new strategic, nuclear-capable weapons

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Putin, “new high-speed cruise missile” “unlimited range” “can penetrate any missile defence”

The Guardian reports.

Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had developed and was testing a new line of strategic, nuclear-capable weapons that would be able to outmanoeuvre US antiballistic missile defences, suggesting a new arms race between Moscow and the west.

Speaking in a nationally televised address to Russia’s political elite, the president showed both video and animation of Russian ICBMs, cruise missiles, and other weapons that he said Russia had developed as a result of the US pulling out of the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union.

“You didn’t listen to our country then,” Putin said during the speech, where he said that some of the weapons were already being tested. “Listen to us now.”

The remarks came during a state of the union speech heavy on economic promises for the Russian people and sabre-rattling against the US in a presentation widely viewed as Putin’s first stump speech for Russian elections, set for 18 March. He is expected to win a fourth term as president.

More details soon …

The Russian state funded French language Sputnik adds that ‘supersonic’ weapons are planned,

La Russie possède des armes hypersoniques, a déclaré jeudi le Président Poutine dans son message annuel au Parlement.

«La Russie possède des armes de ce type [hypersoniques]», a déclaré Vladimir Poutine jeudi en prononçant son discours annuel devant l’Assemblée fédérale (parlement) russe.

Sky News has just confirmed this,

Russia developing nuclear arsenal ‘immune to interception’, Vladimir Putin claims

The Russian President claims a new high-speed cruise missile has an unlimited range and can penetrate any missile defence.

Comment.

There will doubtless be  renewed concern about nuclear weapons.

It would be unfortunate if left-wing opinion were now  to focus on this issue.

It would be extremely unhelpful if, for example, the Stop the War Coalition were to mount a campaign on a potential new nuclear arms race.

The horrors of Syria, in which Russian intervention and the actions of Assad’s regime, Turkey’s armed incursion against the Kurds and their allies, not to mention the killings by the genociders of Daesh, have have taken place without nuclear arms playing any part.

One may not agree with everything Patrick Cockburn says but his latest article puts these issues where they rightly are, centre stage.

Syria: Attack on Afrin will bring devastation and suffering like that seen in Eastern Ghouta, Kurds warn

The Wars in Syria: In the first of a new series, a senior Kurdish official tells Patrick Cockburn that conflict in Syria will last at least another four years, with no end in sight for civilian suffering

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm