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

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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’

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

The Left and Solidarity with East Ghouta.

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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 . .

..

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

Pro-Assad Conspiracy Theories add to Syrian Suffering.

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As more and more news about the plight of Ghouta reaches the world people are deeply concerned.

Al Jazeera reports,

More than 440 civilians have died in just six days in Eastern Ghouta alone.

The area is now being hit by incendiary bombs that are appearing in the night skies, weapons that are intended to start large fires when they hit the ground.

There are many reasons to stand by the people, as the Guardian today reports: ‘We can change this reality’: the women sharing news of war in Ghouta.

One troubling feature of the war is the attempts of pro-Assad groups to smear those under attack.

Just to cite one example, French comrades are disgusted by pro-Assad supporters who have been calling the inhabitants of  Ghouta ‘cafards’, cockroaches.

As they point out one of the nerve centres for pro-Assad propaganda in the Francophone world is the UPR, Union Populaire Républicaine.

They describe themselves as the “mouvement de libération nationale” for French people. The ideology of the party is a Eurosceptic and seeks the withdrawal of  France from the European Union and NATO.  They seek nationalisation of entities such as TF1La PosteGaz de France, motorways (privately managed at present), water management and troubled banks.

Its leader, François Asselineau, a hard-right sovereigntist, is also known for his conspiracy theories.

Like Réseau Voltaire or Alain Soral‘s Égalité et Réconciliation  (both equally strongly ‘anti-Zionist’)  Asselineau is pro-Assad.

This is just one example of the international reach of Pro-Assad propagandists.

At the end of last year the following indicated the direction the regime’s supporters were going in.

How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian organisation made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.

They have also exposed, through first-hand video footage, war crimes including a chemical attack in April. Their work was the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and the recipient of two Nobel peace prize nominations.

Despite this positive international recognition, there’s a counter-narrative pushed by a vocal network of individuals who write for alternative news sites countering the “MSM agenda”. Their views align with the positions of Syria and Russia and attract an enormous online audience, amplified by high-profile alt-right personalities, appearances on Russian state TV and an army of Twitter bots.

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.

Here, this week,  is a deeply saddening account of the effect these lies can have.

Syrians explain how pro-Assad conspiracy theories are hurting them

The background of this unrelenting human suffering are the increasingly high-pitched squeals emanating from the keyboards and social media accounts of Western supporters and defenders of Assad.

An amalgam of far-left and far-right bloggers, cranks, conspiracy theorists and loons have converged since the beginning of the conflict to disseminate pro-Russia generated propaganda that serves only to conceal both Russia and Assad’s war crimes, and smear victims of their genocide.

No doubt you’ve heard each one of these entirely and widely debunked pro-Assad conspiracy theories by now: that the peaceful protests against Assad were the product of a foreign driven “regime change” operation; that the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group that has been credited with saving more than 100,000 lives in rebel held territory, is somehow either a “regime change” propaganda tool or a public relations front for al Qaeda or both; that Assad didn’t use chemical weapons but the rebels used them on their own families to gain international sympathy; that Assad is fighting “terrorists,”; that the entirety or majority of Assad’s opponents are foreign-born jihadists; that the rebels poisoned Damascus’ water supply; and so on and so on.

The purpose of this article is not to debunk all of these smears, false narratives, and crackpot conspiracies. They’ve been comprehensively debunked and discredited here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and also here.

“The sad thing is that so many Syrian activists and journalists spend a lot of time refuting these s**t conspiracies because they can have such a damaging impact on real people and their lives,” tweeted Leila al Shami, a Syrian human rights activist and author, in response to a claim that the White Helmets belong to Al Qaeda.

These pro-Assad conspiracies have gotten so out of hand that Vanessa Beeley — who has become one of the most prominent dispensers of total and utter nonsense — called on Russia to carry out airstrikes against the White Helmets, and for me to be imprisoned for “enabling the destruction of Syria and its people”.

Others like Eva Bartlett have falsely accused the White Helmets of either being a figment of Hollywood’s imagination, or staging their videos.

Patrick Hilsman, a freelance journalist who has visited rebel held territory three times, laughed when I mentioned these claims about the White Helmets.

“I first encountered them by simply asking my driver what the building to our right was, and he said ‘It’s civil defense.’ We then walked in unannounced and encountered people without weapons, hard at the unglamorous work of digging a well,” he told me.

“I wasn’t helped by any think tank, no one told me what to say, no one warned the rescuers to start acting for the freelancers with their crappy cameras.”

Unfortunately, however, pro-Assad/Russia loons and propagandists have been so effective in muddying the waters, casting aspersions on Assad’s victims, and deflecting criticism away from this century’s most brutal dictator that they undermine any coordinated and sustained international effort to protect the Syrian people from a genocide.

So I asked a number of Syrians what damage these debunked conspiracy theories have imparted on the Syrian people and the pro-democracy revolution.

“This propaganda facilitates the gas attacks, hospital bombings, sectarian cleansing, and so on, “Robin Yassin-Kassab, co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, told me.

“It also contributes to the general demonization of Muslims and Arabs in our culture. Beyond hurting Syrians, Arabs and Muslims, it is also damaging our civic and political life in the West, but the main purpose of this propaganda, because it has been carefully planted and guided, is to distract attention from the crimes committed by Assad and the Iranian and Russian occupations against civilians in Syria, and to prevent solidarity with those victims.”

When I interviewed Alaa al Ahmad, a Syrian journalist, he told me finds it deeply distressing to read pro-Assad Westerners describe him and the 300,000 other Syrians he is trapped alongside with in besieged Eastern Ghouta as a “terrorist,” asking, “Am I terrorist because I demand a civil state and I fight the factions that seek to establish an Islamic caliphate or the like?”

Qusay Noor, another Syrian journalist who is documenting the Assad’s regimes crimes against humanity in Ghouta also believes these conspiracy theories are meant only to smear Assad’s opposition as “terrorists,” and thus have only empowered Assad’s authoritarian rule, setting back the ideals of the revolution.

Ultimately, these conspiracy theories will evaporate any international pressure on the Assad regime, and at a time when Syrians need that pressure the most.

“It is essential the international community remains united with those in Syria who want a democratic solution, free from Assad and free from terrorism. That is why we need the international community to apply pressure on Russia to cease its bombing and its support for Assad, so that we can work towards a peaceful political settlement,” writes Mardini.

And when all has been said and done, a peaceful political settlement was the only thing demanded of Assad in the first place, seven long and bloody years ago.

For an important summary of more ‘fake news’ about Syria see:  Truth wars, continued Bob From Brockley.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 24, 2018 at 11:53 am

Galloway: Mr Khan killed “to defy President Assad’s decision to release him.”

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The BBC announces,

Respect MP George Galloway, who has liaised with the Syrian authorities and was due to collect Mr Khan on Friday, said the death was “murder most foul” and it was “inconceivable that he committed suicide”.

The MP for Bradford West said he believed somebody within the regime had killed Mr Khan to defy President Assad’s decision to release him.

Latest Galloway tweet on this,

18h

 nobody is saying President Assad was responsible. He is not. But someone is…

Galloway on Radio here.

Yesterday Galloway found this death “inexplicable”.

Now he has other ideas….

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm