Tariq Ali, on Putin’s Russia Today TV station, and over at the site of the ‘Stop The War Coalition’ traduces the Syrian rebels and gives aid and comfort to the Assad regime:
Reply to Tariq Ali by Syria Freedom Forever – سوريا الحرية للأبد
“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’” -from Stop The War Coalition’s website.
As these words came out from an important figure of the International left, it is necessary to answer and contradict them and for others also on the left to show that this is not an opinion shared by all comrades. This is why I will deconstruct the interview of Tariq Ali and demonstrate not only his wrong analysis and information on the Syrian revolution but his elitism as well.
The UK Stop the War Coalition has of course put this video as fast possible on their website, following the same path they have pursued lately (see previous open letter to STWC on their position regarding Syria, here).
Houla massacre, Opposition’s responsibility?
Tariq Ali has claimed that he had information that the Houla Massacre might not have been carried out by the regime through its shabiha (thugs) but by the armed opposition. The testimonies of eyewitnesses of Houla who survived the massacre claimed actually the opposite and accused the regime to have committed these massacres (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/eyewitnesses-contradict-claims-that-rebels-carried-out-houla-massacre-a-839593.html).
Groups on the ground struggling for against the regime such as the Local Coordination Committees (http://www.lccsyria.org/8607) and others popular committee and political parties have denounced the regime for this massacre and accused the regime to be responsible for it.
Deconstructing the myth of the International Community and Western position: “a new form of re-colonization by the West” and “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”
Yes, the US, France and the UK have declared that it wants a resolution adopted at the Security Council that includes Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows for punitive measures against regimes considered a threat to world peace, including economic sanctions and military intervention, and yes Russia and China have applied their vetos to it several times now. But should we stop the analysis here and therefore say the West wants regime change in Syria?
The international community as a whole and without exception, has actually been trying to implement a solution like Yemen to Syria since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, as we saw during several meetings between U.S. and Russian officials, the US President Obama in June going as far as to declare that “We agreed that we need to see a cessation of violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war,” and the Russian Prime Minister Putin adding that “We have found many common points on this issue,” ( see for more info: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/28/syria-washington-moscow-us-russia). After follow-up meetings, Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s foreign minister, have agreed to attend an international summit on expediting Syria’s political transition to be convened in Geneva end of June by the UN envoy, Kofi Annan. At talks in Geneva, the five countries of the UN Security Council (Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain) along with regional actors including Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq, have agreed on the following framework: a transition government, which would include members of Assad’s administration and the opposition. The role of Assad was not clear in this transition proposal.
The NATO has on its side repeatedly declared its unwillingness to intervene in Syria and that the conflict should be resolved politically.
The solution regarding the Syrian revolution has always been the same: to keep the structure of the regime intact, while the only debate is on Bachar Al Assad’s fate. All the major powers do not indeed see any advantage in the collapse of the Syrian regime because of its lengthy collaboration with western imperialism (see previous articles on the subject on the blog, such as this).
“Many of the people who first rose against the Assad regime in Syria have been sidelined”,
The word Mr Tariq Ali should be using is not sidelined, but more exactly assassinated, imprisoned and forced to exile. Yes, a high number of great activists and opponents, people behind the organization of demonstrations, civil disobedience, and strike campaigns have been indeed targeted specifically by the regime, in addition to the 15 000 other martyrs. Nevertheless, those who have survived still play an important role in the Syrian revolutionary process, and are trying to foment various popular forms of resistance against the regime.
Mr Tariq Ali’s argument misses the millions of people struggling on a daily basis in Syria against the regime? The students, workers, unemployed, peasants, Syrians from all communities and ethnicities, Palestinians refugees struggling against the Syrian regime should be considered by any serious analysis, all the more revolutionary analysis.
Today, not a week goes by without the voices and songs of the students of the University of Damascus being heard at the presidential palace, close to a hundred meters, while almost daily demonstrations take place at the universities of Deraa and Deir al-Zur. Aleppo University has suspended its course for fear of an uprising even more important for young people, while the bullets are more numerous than the books at the University of Homs.
The working people were also targets of repression. During the month of December 2011, successful campaigns of civil disobedience and general strikes were held in Syria. They have paralyzed large parts of the country, showing that the mobilization of the working class and exploited is at the heart of the Syrian revolution. This is why the dictatorship, seeking to break the dynamics of protest, fired more than 85,000 workers between January 2011 and February 2012 and closed 187 factories (according to official figures).
The bulk of the protesters of the Syrian revolutionary movement actually include the economically disenfranchised rural and urban working and middle classes who have suffered from the accelerated imposition of neoliberal policies by Bashar Al Assad since his arrival to power.
Did Mr Tariq Ali saw the position and the mobilization of the Syrian people of the Syrian occupied Golan against the regime and in solidarity with the struggle of their brothers, sisters, comrades throughout their country? They have understood long ago that the liberation of the occupied Golan goes through Damascus and the overthrow of the Assad regime.
Kurds, Assyrians and other Syrian ethnic minorities have also been a driving force in the struggle against the regime, which has discriminated them for the past 40 years.
Palestinians have participated in the revolution among their Syrian brothers and sisters and have paid a heavy price, something that should go amiss within the Syrian and Palestinian struggle for freedom.
Yarmouk refugee Camp has witnessed huge demonstrations Friday July 13th against the regime. The Palestinians refugees in Yarmouk Camp have after the shelling by the regime of Tadamon neighborhood close by to the camp welcomed its residents who fled to Yarmouk camp. They brought to schools and mosques mattresses, blankets and other provisions to aid tens of families that left Tadamon while being shelled. Same scenes have been witnessed in other regions of Syria, Palestinian refugees welcoming in their camps Syrian fleeing the shelling of their cities, neighborhoods and villages. As chanted in the streets Syrian and Palestinians have shown there “are one hand”, in other words united against the regime.
The Syrian people continued as well to repeat their rejection of sectarianism, despite the regime’s attempts to ignite this dangerous fire. The protests and messages of solidarity between Syrians have not stopped (see Statement by the LCC Regarding the Massacre that Happened in Teremsah, here). The popular movement has also reaffirmed its struggle for the unity of the Syrian people and against the divisions, developing a sense of national solidarity and social that transcends ethnic and sectarian divisions.
Therefore should these people be considered and just treated as “sundry Syrians who work for the western intelligence”? Should the downtrodden, the exploited and the discriminated of Syria, who are the bulk of the Syrian popular movement, are just simple instrument of Saudi and US imperialist policies?
Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s role in arming the armed opposition?
Most of the armed opposition groups have denied the reception of weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, despite Western media claims (http://world.time.com/2012/06/22/opening-the-weapons-tap-syrias-rebels-await-fresh-and-free-ammo/).
The far majority of the armed opposition groups are struggling against the regime with basic equipment (including army Kalashnikov, Dragunov sniper rifle, machine gun PKT and rocket launchers RPG-7) stolen or purchased from the corrupt Syrian army. The more sophisticated equipments were, especially Metis and Kornet anti-tank missiles, generally gained and captured in battle with the regular forces of the Syrian regime or by buying them to corrupt officers
This is does not mean some arms and ammos were not delivered to the armed opposition groups but not as we portray it as organized and in big quantity. A first large delivery was provided in few months ago (March or April), and was allocated to various selected groups operation in and around Idlib, Hama, Homs and the outskirts of Damascus. Each area received several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers (with 10 grenades per launcher), Kalashnikov rifles, BKC machine guns and ammunition, according to several sources (http://world.time.com/2012/06/22/opening-the-weapons-tap-syrias-rebels-await-fresh-and-free-ammo/). There were also two smaller consignments since the first delivery, but none of it was made following the demands of the armed opposition groups. These latter just took what were given to them.
According to various opposition sources, only small amount of arms have been sent by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while the Turks have denied any role in arming the Syrian rebels. A large amount of armed opposition groups have actually refuse to pledge allegiance to the Gulf groups, a condition by these latter on delivery of weapons and arms(http://world.time.com/2012/06/22/opening-the-weapons-tap-syrias-rebels-await-fresh-and-free-ammo/).
The claim of Saudi Arabia to pay the FSA elements is still awaited and is not happening until now, while CIA presence in Southern Turkey is more an operation to list the armed opposition groups than to assist them in any way. A high religious cleric member of the High Council of Oulemas, the most important religious authority in Saudi Arabia, has actually issued a Fatwa beginning of June forbidding Saudis to go fight the Syrian regime, or in other words to make the Jihad in Syria.
Some of the armed opposition groups also used to purchase weapons and munitions via smugglers from Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, but these passages have been weakened considerably as these countries have arrested and forbidden increasingly any movement of arms on their borders. And above all how can the oppressed and the oppressor be put on the same level?
The only way forward, in the interests of all Syrians, says Tareq Ali, is negotiation and discussion”
Above all Mr Tariq Ali claims to know what’s best for all the Syrians and this is negotiation and discussion with a regime that has refused both since the beginning of the revolution and has only answered with repression and more violent repression. Syrians started to demonstrate peacefully in the beginning asking for reforms and end of corruption, how were they answered by the regime? With bullets, assassination, arrests and torture!
Today as we speak, not a single party or group in the opposition (the real one and not the one accepted by the regime and included in its last government, which has been refused by the Syrians who are still in the streets struggling against the regime) is asking for a dialogue with the regime. All the forces on the ground refuse any dialogue with the regime. The minimum and first demands are the overthrow of Bachar Al Assad and his close associates, a transition government, the establishment of all civil liberties, the end of the repression, the liberation of political prisoners and the return of opponents in exile.
No, Mr Tariq Ali the Syrian people does not want to discuss and negotiate with a regime that has been oppressing the Syrian people for the past 40 years, that has killed more than 15000 martyrs since the beginning of the revolution, imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands, that has shelled and destroyed cities, villages and Palestinian refugee camps, implemented neo liberal policies that has impoverished a society as a whole while the close family of the dictator Assad ( Rami Makhlouf) accumulated in the same period 60% of Syria’s wealth, that has abandoned and announced the loss of the Golan 11 hours before the first Israeli soldier set a feat in the city of Quneitra, that has not shot a single bullet to liberate the occupied Golan since 1973, that has entered in peace negotiations with Israel on numerous occasions, that has collaborated and served western imperialist regime in the region to crush the Palestinian movement and the left in Lebanon in the seventies and in many other cases (Jordan 1970, black September, Iraqi war in 1991, and 2003 see http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/understand-the-syrian-regime-and-the-dialectics-of-the-syrian-revolutionary-process/).
The Syrian revolution is part of the revolutionary process taking place in the Arab world, and should not be separated. The Syrian people are struggling like Egyptians, Tunisians, Bahrainis and other democrats, socialists and anti-imperialists in the region.
No, Mr Tariq Ali, it is not in the interests of the Syrian people to discuss and negotiate with this regime. And Tariq Ali should be reminded as well of the wise words of the French revolutionary St Just who said that those who make half of a revolution dig their own grave.
The solution is to overthrow the regime and transfer of power to the people of Syria!
Because as written by the French revolutionary Robespierre: “when the government violates the right of the people, insurrection is for the people the most sacred and the most indispensable of its duties!”
Victory to the Syrian Revolution, No to Foreign Intervention, and Power to the people!
[NB: The author, throughout the article, refers to “Tareq” Ali: I have corrected this, but otherwise left the piece virtually as written, apart from some technical improvements to the links provided -JD].