Below is a comment I sent to an interview with Tariq Ali on “Gaza, BDS, ISIS and Iraq” in Links http://links.org.au/node/4009.
Asked whether he agrees with the widely held view (not just Clinton’s) that the rise of ISIS can be attributed to the failure of the US (or anyone else) to help rebels in Syria, Tariq Ali responds:
“Another absurdity. The US did help and arm the Syrian rebels via Turkey.”
I guess when you are a celebrity revolutionary like Ali you don’t actually have to know much, still less try to provide evidence, any sweeping statement will do because you think everyone will just listen to you because you’re Tariq Ali. Unfortunately, for thousands of activists who are very well aware of what has been going on in Syria, Ali’s shallowness is self-evident. The US did not “arm” the rebels as Ali baldly states, and even then “help” via Turkey can only mean one of two things, either (1) the non-lethal aid, ie, tents, radios, night-goggles, ready-meals and so much other useless rubbish, which presumably Ali thinks “helped” them confront Assad’s helicopter gunships, barrel bombs, ballistic missiles, incendiary bombs, chemical weapons etc, or (2) it means the CIA role in making sure an already existing (no thanks to the CIA) arms pipeline via Turkey greatly limited what weapons actually got from the storehouses in Turkey into Syria, in actively vetoing any groups they didn’t like getting anything, and in preventing Manpads (shoulder-fired anti-aircraft guns, the actually useful thing) getting in at all to anyone.
The absolute paucity of the rebels’ weapons right throughout the conflict, in comparison to the regime’s massive use of conventional wmd, is only too obvious to anyone that actually looks. Whatever the FSA and others did get from Saudi Arabia and Qatar (*not* from the US) was never of any kind of quantity, still less quality, to make any difference to the struggle.
Ali simply avoids the fact that if the secular and moderate Islamist forces had better access to proper arms they would have been much better able to fight both the regime and ISIS but also would be able to be a more effective force themselves, holding back the kind of radicalisation and hopelessness that results from extraordinary suffering, which groups like ISIS can prey on, and also preventing so many rebels drifting over to better armed and thus more effective jihadist groups, including at the most extreme end ISIS.
He also avoids the well-known fact, at least to anyone who reads and has an analysis beyond the Ali-style shallow, that it has been only the FSA and its allies that have actually been fighting ISIS for the last year, all across Syria, while the whole time the regime hasn’t touched ISIS and in fact has often actively collaborated with it against the rebels. How could it be that arming the main force fighting ISIS would not have stemmed its rise?
Yet Ali then jumps on to a complete red herring:
“They did not bomb Assad out of existence, as they were unsure of the consequences.”
The question was about whether the popular masses and their armed organisations confronting a fascist regime should have been able to get better arms and Ali responds that the US didn’t bomb Assad out of existence! What a bombastic fool. As if there is any connection between the two. Moreover, as if there was ever even the remotest likelihood or interest in the US in “bombing Assad out of existence”. What a non-sequitir. Even last August, the one moment in the last 4 years when it looks vaguely possible that the US might send a few air strikes after Assad’s chemical genocide in East Ghouta, “bombing Assad out of existence” was not on the table. Then only thing on the table was a few “punishment strikes,” which in any case were mostly more a figment of the “anti-imperialist” left’s imaginations than a serious likelihood.
“After all, Clinton, who supported the war on Iraq, should see what happens if you destroy a regime unilaterally. The rise of ISIS in Iraq is because they destroyed all the structures of the old regime. Had they done the same in Syria, we would have had an even worse situation than now, with at least three different wars taking place.”
The guy has completely lost it. The question is about allowing the FSA a few arms to fight itself, he takes that to an imaginary US bombing of Syria, and then a full-scale Iraq-style invasion, which has never even remotely been US strategy – the maximum US strategy for Syria has always been the “Yemeni solution” of rearranging the Baathist state, ensuring the “core” of the regime, especially the “military-security apparatus”, is maintained, in order for it to better crush the revolution (the imperialists usually put this in the language of “fighting terrorists” or “fighting jihadists”, which, by some amazing coincidence, just happens to be the same language as that of “the anti-imperialist left”).