Early January. A facebook discussion. That is, all those who just happen to be on facebook at a particular time and happen to notice an interesting discussion on some individual’s newsfeed, and who happens to be their “friend”, get to take part in this discussion, rather than it taking palce on a discussion list where large numbers of leftists subscribed could take part. This kind of individualisation of discussion strikes me as highly regressive, so I tend to not take part. But since in this case I thought I would do a substantial reply, I will therefore post it here as well, so it doesn;t go entirely to waste.
Quite an air of unreality in some of this discussion. Even if a solidarity visit to a bloodthirsty tyrant (why is Assad different to Pinochet or Suharto except that he uses a greater range of conventional WMD against his people than they did?) could be passed off as an attempt to thwart US/western intervention as someone suggested, what in the world has that to do with anything? What “US-western intervention” are you talking about? Sure, there was some brief jiving about one for a week or two late Aug/early Sep, the rest of the last 3 years there has been nothing even remotely like that, and from the minute Obama and Putin got together the chemical deal in mid-Sep, the US has effectively been (even more so than previously) Assad’s ally in bloody counterrevolution. Here’s my assessment of the alleged war threat at the time https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/syria-war-threat-the-us-russia-deal-and-left-delusions and here on the recent geopolitical shift https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/the-us-iran-russia-syria-and-the-geopolitical-shift-anything-for-the-regions-oppressed which has further consolidated this US shift (in reality that same position, called the Yemeni solution, the US has had all along, but now even clearer). Actually I have no idea where so many people have been if you haven’t noticed the rash of announcements in the last month in particular from all kinds of imperialist quarters stating that the main enemy is Al-Qaida and that perhaps Assad is part of their solution. If you haven’t, some of it is in my article, but there has been so much more since then. Indeed, talking about “US intervention”, are you perhaps talking about the current US beefing up of the sectarian Iraqi regime (Assad’s ally) to fight Al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria (US and Iran’s First Joint Military Venture Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq http://www.debka.com/article/23558)?
At least Michael Berrel has figured out it is not a question of Assad v imperialist intervention, though his “no longer” has no meaning since it never was, and his assertion that there was some “original” US plan to support the overthrow of Assad by “Islamic terrorists” is entirely a figment of his imagination that has zero basis in reality. So Michael thinks that it is instead a matter of Syria under Assad’s barbaric tyranny (which he prefers) v Syria as a “training ground for Al-Qaida”, and although this is not the dichotomy at all, at least if that is what Michael thinks he will concede that this is precisely the current imperialist position, and this is the same old hackneyed imperialist Islamophobic propaganda that we see elsewhere, only in Syria for some reason leftists like to speak the same language as imperialism and think they’re being anti-imperialist. Actually, since the BS, mechanical “anti-imperialist” position was supposed to be to support neoliberal capitalist tyrants like Assad because they imagined, wrongly, that Assad was “anti-imperialist,” then surely now, as the situation is being clarified, you lot should be changing your stance to support for the more consistent anti-imperialists of Al-Qaida, shouldn’t you? I mean following your logic? For me, the fact that Al-Qaida is the most anti-imperialist force in Syria does not lead me to support them, just as this “quality” never led me to support Assad, Milosevic, Pol Pot etc, but that’s your logic, right? For me, Al-Qaida are the most anti-imperialist force in Syria (among regime and opposition) and also the most reactionary force in the opposition. Actually, they are not really even in the opposition – most of ISIS’s repression is actually directed against the Syrian revolution, including kidnappings, killings etc of activists, indeed the FSA has largely been at war with ISISA for about 9 months, and most close observers consider it little more than a creation of the regime. All that said, the claims that the FSA is dead and that the opposition is nothing but Al-Qaida and other jihadists is simply a statement of faith, and again does not accord with the evidence. Here’s an article about the secular forces in action http://www.arab-reform.net/sites/default/files/Protecting%20the%20Syrian%20Resistance.pdf, and here was my assessment some months ago of the weight of the sections of the resistance: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/report-on-relative-strength-of-armed-rebels-in-syria based on sources at the time.
Sure, there has been a marked shift among fighters towards the more Islamist side, including the reactionary jihadists, but it is far from absolute, and in any case the largest blocs are mainstream Islamists no different from Hamas in Gaza or the MB in Egypt, not the jihadist reactionaries. And the reason for this shift is very largely the fact that the US and the West have never given the FSA a bone, or rather, yes, they have provided a few “night goggles”, some inedible “ready meals”, some ancient radios, a few tents and other such rubbish, but not a single gun or bullet (except perhaps a few light weapons around mid-September, then abruptly cut off – here’s a link to what “western governments” have supplied the FSA in total: http://lopforum.tumblr.com/post/71138658649/western-assistance-to-syrian-opposition-forces), so Michael’s claim that the FSA is backed by imperialism has no practical meaning whatsoever. To the extent that the Saudis and Qatar have provided some weaponry it has been largely over the objections and attempted and real obstruction by US operatives which a least made sure that no useful weapons got through most of the time. As for Ray Bergman’s assertion that there are 1000 “terrorist” groups “backed by western governments” this is just purely made-up stuff, empty rhetoric, since the West has provided nothing to nearly all of them and zero arms to all of them, let alone the breathtakingly reactionary way that the entire armed opposition are called “terrorists” in very *exact* replication of very typical imperialist and zionist talk about every Arab or Muslim based group opposed to their interests, for shame that “the left” has lowered itself to talk like neo-cons and paleocons.
In a vicious war, do opposition forces also commit crimes? Yes, like in every other conflict that has ever been, including every conflict where leftists chose a side. Most of it is carried out by undisciplined elements and is almost inevitable in such a situation, whether driven by vengeance, the need to loot to get supplies, real sectarian politics, opportunistic criminal reasons, whatever, and none of it even comes close to the systematic crimes of a regime that uses MiG fighter jets, helicopter gunships, long-range ballistic missiles, cluster bombs, barrel bombs, napalm, tanks, starvation sieges and chemical weapons on its population on a massive scale, reducing much of the country to moonscapes and the attempt to compare them is breath-taking revisionism and moral relativism. That said, there is of course the more serious level of crimes carried out by parts of the armed opposition, notably sectarian massacres, and while their scale and number is miniscule in comparison to those carried out by the regime’s thugs, that doesn’t alter the fact that they are reactionary sectarian crimes that are against the entire spirit of the revolution and of course directly aid the regime by keeping much of the minority population on side, even if grudgingly, making a military solution unlikely of not impossible. However, in their overwhelming whopping majority, such crimes are carried out by ISIS (eg, the Lattakia massacre in August), a clear enemy of the revolution, or by Al-Nusra, the lesser Al-Qaida group, though markedly less so in the last 6 months as it has lost out to ISIS. The latter’s stupid forays into Maloula, while not apparently resulting in massacres, are certainly sectarian ventures with a reactionary effect.
However, the alleged Adra massacre that ray refers to would be a more serious turn of events if the more mainstream Islamist Jaysh al-Islam were involved, because to date it has not engaged in such crimes. However, there is a problem with this alleged massacre of 80 minority people: virtually every photo produced by the regime to show the massacre is a total fake: see http://claysbeach.blogspot.com/2013/12/fake-adra-massacre-photos-expose-bloody.html and marvel at the lengths the Assadistas will go to to create “rebel massacres” and then ask yourself if it is possible the massacre even occurred given this level of fakery.