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Tariq Ali on Syria: 'Western intervention would be disastrous; Assad must go'; Western hypocrisy condemned

Tariq Ali interviewed on Russia Today, February 15, 2012. Ali warns that the consequences of Western military intervention would be "worse than in Libya". “The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people in Syria want the Assad family out – and that is the key thing that we have to understand and [Assad] should understand ... If the Assad clan refuses to relinquish their stronghold on the country, sooner or later something disastrous will happen ... Syria needs a non-sectarian national government to prepare a new constitution", Tariq Ali stressed.

On February 16, 2012, Tariq Ali, again interviewed by Russia Today, speaks about the double standards of the US and other Western governments towards protesters in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Despite publicly backing rebels in Libya and Egypt, the US government is supporting the brutal crackdown on protesters in states more friendly to US agendas. Tariq Ali discusses the political reasons behind this two-faced political dealing and why we don’t see rebellion in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the news.

Comments

Already Intervention progresses

Already Intervention progresses. Russia, Iran and Venezuela export arm to Assad
Western countries and Arab league try to arm anti-Assad,and CIA, Mosad, turk intelligence already entered in SYria, They maneuver in Syria and secret operation progress.
As Independent's Hamiltion says(Friday, 24 February 2012), If we can't intervene, at least we can isolate Syria.And Adrian Hamilton says "Arms, not diplomacy, will decide the fate of Syria"(Friday, 10 February 2012) or Adrian Hamilton: "Only a mass uprising will rid Syria of Assad(Friday, 10 February 2012)"
No intervention? Well you argue like China as bystander

Already Intervention

I must agree with Tatsuo that "intervention" has been well underway for some time now. Tariq Ali is right however when he describes the BBC and AlJazeera as being Govt. mouthpieces for propaganda. That being the case;how can any of us assume that 80% of Syrian people want Assad to go.Where is that information verified... who do we trust? Russia, Venezuala and China support the (legitimate/recognised?!) Syrian Govt. and support it but just who exactly is the unholy alliance of the US Imperialists, Zionist Israel and Al Queda supporting? How many of their agents are fighting? Libya post Ghadaffi is a complete mess with unaccountable Brigades running torture camps alonside "official" Govt. ones! Dreadful atrocities are being perpetrated including ethnic cleansing.Is this what NATO killed for? The answer is that as long as Ghadaffi fell they didn't care about the aftermath. Unless a coup or similar neutralises the Syrian Army how exactly will the civil war create peace ,freedom or security? Will the army infact stand aside only to control later as in Egypt? The only beneficaries of this "intervention" are US Imperialism and the march of Zionism. Surely the killing must stop and negotiated reforms take place."Assad must go" is hardly an indication of what will take his place!

funny thing about Libya, Syria, and socialists

"Worse than Libya?" Libya is now the most democratic of the three overturns the Arab Spring has led to thus far (the other two being Tunisia and Egypt). While socialists in the West are scribbling their criticisms of various wings of Syria's revolutionary movement, left-liberal groups like Avaaz are doing real revolutionary work by raising money for cameras and other material aid for the uprising to be smuggled into Syria: http://www.africasia.com/services/news_mideast/article.php?ID=CNG.bed6d5... This came as a surprise to me since I'm on their email list and had no idea they were doing this kind of thing. I guess I should read those emails more closely.

So democratic the entire working class was ethnically cleansed

If Libya post-intervention is democratic, then so is Afghanistan. 8000 people being tortured in detention, and you call this democratic?

Just because Gadafi was a tyrant, and there was a spontaneous uprising against him, is no reason to support a brutally violent NATO intervention. The number of killed in Libya following the March 18 UN Security Council resolution is higher than the bodycount of the rest of the Arab Spring combined. It dwarfs the number killed in Libya before NATO inervened to protect civillian lives.

There's nothing funny about Libya, Syria and socialists. Fortunately much of the left have proved capable of understanding that things can change their nature, that a genuine peoples uprising hijacked by NATO becomes something else. However, too many seem incabable of seeing anything other than fixed catergories, ie. either it was always an imperialist plot, or it remains a democratic revolution.

This leads to the current debate between 2 camps of mass-muder denialists. Patisans of dictators such as Gadaffi or Assad versus partisans of Western "humanitarian" mass murder.

I support the right of Syrians to armed resistance against their dictatorship. I will never support the West arming the Syrian opposition because there is no single Syrian opposition and the West's assistance will always be to promote whatever violent anti-democratic thugs are willing to act as their proxies.

Western arms to the Syrian opposition is not about helping the opposition but hijacking it. This is already happening in Syria, where Saudi and Qatari arms and intererence have been promoting Sunni sectarian currents and have already diluted and damagedof the secular, anti-communalist politics that initially characterised the uprising.

This has ironically benefitted Assad. There is clear evidence that support for the revolt from religious and ethnic minority communities was initially high but has decreased as increasingly people from these communities are becoming more scared of Sunni sectarian violence than the are of the dictator.

Of course, Assad accused the opposition of being dominated by Sunni Islamist communalists from the beginning. This was initially slander. Western involvement (through the supply of money and arms which so excites the pro-Assad Western left and through the West's appointment of the unrepresentative Syrian National Coouncil as the official sole voice of the Syrian uprising) is working to give reality to Assad's slanders.

I read my Avaaz emails. There are a couple of genuinely progressive campaigns (notably Bradley Manning) but mostly what I observe is a remarkable convergance with US foreign policy. They never go after pro-US tyrants, only tyrants the US is gunning for. And only when the US is gunning for them.

Avaaz's campaign to bring Sudanese dictator to the international court for war crimes stands out in this regard. The US pushed his war crimes indictment as leaverage to force his regime to follow through with the independance referendum in the South. Bashir delivered, the South is now independant, and the US went quiet on the indictment, despite it referring to war crimes in Darfur (still occupied by the Khartoum regime), not the South. Avaaz went quiet on Bashir too.

oh really?

"So democratic the entire working class was ethnically cleansed"

So who is pumping Libya's oil now? The petty bourgeoisie?

"The number of killed in Libya following the March 18 UN Security Council resolution is higher than the bodycount of the rest of the Arab Spring combined."

Killed by who? NATO, Ghadafi, or the revolution?

"8000 people being tortured in detention, and you call this democratic?"

Ever hear of the Cheka? Woefully undemocratic!

"I support the right of Syrians to armed resistance against their dictatorship. I will never support the West arming the Syrian opposition because there is no single Syrian opposition and the West's assistance will always be to promote whatever violent anti-democratic thugs are willing to act as their proxies."

And what if the Syrians who have taken up arms ask, nay beg, for Western arms? Can you really blame people for asking for an American RPG to take out a Syrian tank?

"This leads to the current debate between 2 camps of mass-muder denialists. Patisans of dictators such as Gadaffi or Assad versus partisans of Western 'humanitarian' mass murder."

You talk as if there are only two protagonists in Syria and Libya: Western imperialism or the dictatorial regimes. You are missing the key protagonist: the revolutionary people who are fighting, suffering, and dying.

Yes, really

"So democratic the entire working class was ethnically cleansed"
So who is pumping Libya's oil now? The petty bourgeoisie?

Filipinos, mainly.

"The number of killed in Libya following the March 18 UN Security Council resolution is higher than the bodycount of the rest of the Arab Spring combined."
Killed by who? NATO, Ghadafi, or the revolution?

All sides. The point is that the intervention's (sorry "no fly zone's") premise was to save civilian lives. A lie.

"8000 people being tortured in detention, and you call this democratic?"
Ever hear of the Cheka? Woefully undemocratic!

I have heard of the Cheka. Not sure what they've got to do with Libya or Syria. I wasn't debating history.

"I support the right of Syrians to armed resistance against their dictatorship. I will never support the West arming the Syrian opposition because there is no single Syrian opposition and the West's assistance will always be to promote whatever violent anti-democratic thugs are willing to act as their proxies."
And what if the Syrians who have taken up arms ask, nay beg, for Western arms? Can you really blame people for asking for an American RPG to take out a Syrian tank?

No, I couldn't blame them one bit. But as any Western aid won't actually put an RPG in the hands of your typical Syrian oppositionist but will be channeled to reactionary, anti-democratic thugs, with the agenda of changing the uprisings democratic, inclusive nature into an undemocratic, sectarian one. As someone in the West I will continue to campaign against Western inteference. At the same time, I vehemently oppose those in the anti-war movement currently trying to prettify Assad or paint the whole Syrian uprising as a Western conspiracy.
I support the uprising. But that doesn't mean supporting my bourgeisie's "support" for the uprising because they're not really trying to help. If Syrian democrats have illusions in the West's intentions I don't condemn them, but I'll still oppose Western interference/intervention.

"This leads to the current debate between 2 camps of mass-muder denialists. Patisans of dictators such as Gadaffi or Assad versus partisans of Western 'humanitarian' mass murder."
You talk as if there are only two protagonists in Syria and Libya: Western imperialism or the dictatorial regimes. You are missing the key protagonist: the revolutionary people who are fighting, suffering, and dying.

I don't talk that way at all. I've spent much of the past year arguing with other Australian leftists and anti-war activists some of whom are supporters (or a least defenders) of Gadaffi/Assad and some of whom are supporters of Western "humanitarian" intervention. (Unfortunately, both thse currents exist in the Australian movements, although I think most have a similar perspective to what I do.)
I support neither because I support the revolutionary people. I supported the Libyan uprising in February 2011. But I cannot support what NATO's intervention turned the uprising into because it's horrible. The wiping of Tawergha off the map because of its inhabitants skin colour happened. As did the extreme violence against the Sub-Saharan African migrants.
No doubt you get indignant when Western leftists deny the reality of what is happening in Homs. But why is theses Leftists' mass murder denial any different from denying the crimes being commited in the "new" Libya.
The Western imperialists are right now working hard to hijack the Syrian uprising. I think the best support the Western left can give the uprisings is to oppose this threat.

I very much agree with Vijay Prashad when he writes:
"We have to be vigilant on two fronts: (1) to not let our anti-imperialism lead
to the defense of authoritarian regimes in the region and (2) to not let our
enthusiasm for rebellion lead to cheering on the cruise missiles from US
warships." http://links.org.au/node/2765

Libya

The U.N. says NATO killed 60 civilians:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/05/1071286/-UN-NATO-killed-60-civi...

This isn't to justify NATO's airstrikes (much less support them) but to turn this into a fact-based discussion. The anti-imperialist left in the West mostly opposed the airstrikes based on predictions that it would turn into another Iraq, Bosnia, etc. and it didn't. There are no boots on the ground and Libya is the most democratic of the three successful Arab revolutions. Do you dispute this? If so, let's check the figures for imprisoned/tortured for Tunisia and Egypt. Furthermore, how do you expect to make a revolution against a dictator like Ghadafi without human rights violations, violations of democratic norms (hence the Cheka reference)?

Clay Claiborne has a good piece on that issue as well:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/18/1066055/-Amnesty-International-...

If you support the Syrian revolution and the revolutionaries demand and want imperialist aid in the form of airstrikes, no fly-zones, arms, would you oppose that? Would you take action to block that aid from getting to them by agitating, organizing, and propagandizing?

The best thing the left could do for Syria is send food, water, medical supplies, cameras, weapons, and anything else the revolutionaries say they need. If they go to Uncle Sam out of desperation for any of that I can't blame them.

A lot of broken eggs

So your reference to the Cheka is basically saying you can't make an omlette without breaking eggs. Well no one could ever accuse you of being a bleeding heart liberal! 8000 or so people in detention, torture is routine, and for many of these detainees the evidence of them being pro-Gadaffi is nothing more than that they have Sub-Saharan origins. They were workers not mercanaries and Sub-Sahara African workers were not, as your "revolutionaries" claim, privaleged under Gadaffi — quite the opposite, in fact.

I strongly dispute that there is anything democratic about Libya at the moment. If you think that having a large proportion of the male population heavily armed and in militias is a sign of revolutionary democracy then Somalia for the past couple of decades must be the greatest revolutionary democratic experiment in history.

Another Afghanistan would be a better description than another Iraq or Bosnia. Combining airstrikes with local opposition militias as allies to do the on-the-ground fighting.

And there are covert Western boots on the ground (and have been since before March 18), but that's not the main point. If the UN, in whose name the airstrikes were carried out, says they only killed 60 they're lying, but that's not the main point. I have no idea how many of the 30-50,000 killed were killed by which side (and think anyone in the West claiming that they do is probably making it up). But what is very clear is that a hell of a lot fewer people would have been killed if NATO hadn't intervened. About 1-3000 were killed in Libya before March 18 and it was to stop this killing that NATO intervened, cheered on unfortunately by some who should have known better.

Compare the bodycount with Syria (where the uprising started within a month of Libya). Or is this because Assad is not as much as a killer as Gadaffi?

On the subject of Syrian oppositionists calling for Western intervention, the first point to make is that most aren't. The Syrian National Council is not a body that organically grew out of the Syrian uprising it is a Western-promoted alliance of exiles, opposed by other anti-Assad exiles and, it seems, by a lot of the internal opposition. Other elements of the internal opposition (which is highly amorphous) may not oppose them but are in no position to influence.

The second point is that if genuinely democratic elements in Syria do have or develop illusions in the possibility of the West saving them with air-strikes, they are mistaken. Not to propagandise, organise and agitate in the West (where the Western left is located) against a Western intervention would be condemning them to a steep increase in the rate of killing and their revolution being hijacked so that instead of democracy they get religious sectarianism, more tyranny but with the added bonus of permant communal warfare.

Both the pro-Gadaffi/Assad and pro-"humanitarian" intervention currents in the Western left seem prone to forget where we are. A favourite accusation is that such-and-such a statement or article will "give comfort" to Gadaffi (not any more, obviously), Assad or Western-armed Islamist thugs. Not wanting to burst any bubbles, but I don't think any of the aforementioned read our statements.

The Western left's audience is people in the West. We may not able to always (or even often) change public opinion, let alone galvanise it enough to force our capitalist governments to reconsider their actions, but if we can't influence public opinion in the West, what can we do? We should at least try rather than pretending we can materially aid struggles which we have difficulty even observing.

So how do we try to influence Western public opinion? For or against our capitalist states intervening in these struggles. But lets not be delusional — we can make it politically easier or harder for our imperialist states to intervene in these countries but we cannot intervene ourselves. So the nature of any Western intervention will be determined by them not us, even if it was in an instance where the left movement's support was politically essential for an intervention (that is a hypothetical instance, btw).

I can't send weapons to the Syrian opposition because I don't have any weapons & frankly wouldn't really know where to find an affordable RPG. This is something I have in common with most Western leftists. Lebanon and Iraq would be much better bet for Syrians wanting to get their hands on weapons.

But if I did have some spare lethal weapons lying around, or decided to send the non-lethal aid you suggested, how should I send it? Through the US State Department? Or, perhaps, through Avaaz? I would trust neither to put it in the hands of democrats.

The question isn't how many

The question isn't how many people are being tortured and detained. The question is who are they, what is the overall context, is that getting better or worse, etc. I reject the omlette/eggs analogy; after all, Bush Jr. tortured quite a few people, but he was no revolutionary.

"I strongly dispute that there is anything democratic about Libya at the moment. If you think that having a large proportion of the male population heavily armed and in militias is a sign of revolutionary democracy then Somalia for the past couple of decades must be the greatest revolutionary democratic experiment in history."

So the existence of an independent press and popular militias mean nothing then? Wow. OK. The right to demonstrate in front of a government building without being murdered also counts for nothing too?

"What is very clear is that a hell of a lot fewer people would have been killed if NATO hadn't intervened. About 1-3000 were killed in Libya before March 18 and it was to stop this killing that NATO intervened, cheered on unfortunately by some who should have known better."

NATO didn't step in to "stop the killing." Who are you kidding??

If NATO didn't step in at the revolution's request, right now Gadhafi and Assad would be in a race to the top in terms of the body count. This is what you keep evading -- the revolutionaries, not just the NTC but the mass of the people fighting and protesting -- wanted airstrikes, weapons, etc. And they got it. And the same is true in Syria now: http://www.lrb.co.uk/2012/03/01/jonathan-littell/syrian-notebooks

"I can't send weapons to the Syrian opposition because I don't have any weapons & frankly wouldn't really know where to find an affordable RPG. This is something I have in common with most Western leftists. Lebanon and Iraq would be much better bet for Syrians wanting to get their hands on weapons.

But if I did have some spare lethal weapons lying around, or decided to send the non-lethal aid you suggested, how should I send it? Through the US State Department? Or, perhaps, through Avaaz? I would trust neither to put it in the hands of democrats."

In the old days the socialist left sent volunteers to the front lines (Spain 1936). Nowadays we just write polemics attacking desperate people who seek aid from the wrong forces in a life-or-death struggle on the grounds that (heaven forbid!) they aren't "democrats" and because we are "principled" anti-imperialists. And then we wonder why no one in Syria or Libya give a damn what we Western socialists think.

btw

In case anyone thinks my political colouring is relevant to this discussion (I'm still trying to work out what Binh was getting at by mentioning the Cheka) I'm in Socialist Alliance and write for Green Left Weekly.
SA statement on Syria http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=1171
SA policy on Arab Spring http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=1168

This is getting repetative

1. LIBYA
I agree with Trotsky that torture is never justifiable by revolutionaries. Whether the Cheka erred in this regard is a historical question over which I won't claim any particular knowledge.
As for who the detainees are, to be defined as pro-Gadaffi in the new Libya can mean coming from the wrong town, or, of course, being an Afro-Libyan or Sub Saharan African migrant. At the same time many of those who were actually part of Gadaffi's regime are now part of the new regime.
The existence of "popular militias" can mean a lot of things. Ask a Somali or Congolese person.

2. SYRIA
Please read this article by As`ad AbuKhalil http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/4593/opposition-to-the-syrian-oppos... I think this article might get reposted on this site.

WE seem to have different views on the role of international solidarity. I write in English for an Australian left newspaper so I'm not trying to inform Syrians and Libyans what I think. And I think the Western left should get a bit more serious about trying to stop the war drives of our ruling classes.
What did the International Brigades achieve in Spain? Perhaps if the left at the time had stayed home and campaigned against the West's blockade of the Republic things might have worked out better. Or perhaps not.
But I seriously think our main task should be educating people in our own countries, which means challenging, not repeating, the lies of our ruling classes. At the same time opposing the lies of our ruling classes with lies of Assad or the Iranian theocracy (as unfortunately some in the anti-war movement are doing) is stupid (and just giving a free kick to the ruling class propaganda which puts the West & its preferred puppets up as the only alternative to Assad).

Finally, you have repeatedly distorted some of the things I said. I never attacked desperate people for seeking aid from the wrong forces. I just pointed out that any Syrian democrat who makes this call is making a mistake they will live to regret (or maybe not live). I don't attack them. But in my GLW articles I do point out to my audience of Westerners that any intervention by the Western ruling classes in Syria will increase the bloodshed and reduce the chances of a democratic outcome. I don't think it shows lack of solidarity not to help someone make a mistake that will cost them (not me) dearly.

But as I said before, the calls for Western intervention are at the moment are not representative of the whole opposition.

SNC

Most of the criticisms of the SNC in the article sound like a rehash of what the socialist left said about the Libyan NTC/TNC, although the "lies" listed sound more like shifts imposed by the reality of the situation rather than evil, bourgeois duplicity. The Libyan NTC also rejected foreign intervention, i.e. ground troops, but welcomed airstrikes on Ghadafi's military under a no-fly zone for example.

The SNC isn't the main enemy of the Syrian revolution or the main roadblock to its victory, so I don't get why so much ink is spent blasting it.

"I think the Western left should get a bit more serious about trying to stop the war drives of our ruling classes."

Again, the main enemy of the Syrian revolution isn't Western imperialism, it's the Assad regime. Stopping the "war drive" isn't going to further the Syrian revolution; it might allow Assad a free hand to crush it. If Ghadafi had smashed Ben Ghazi Libya today would look a lot more like Bahrain.

My idea of international solidarity is to listen to what people on the ground are saying they need and want and respond to that instead of thinking we in the West know better than they do that the main danger they face is imperialist war (a remote possibility at this point; airstrikes, maybe). Avaaz has managed to raise $3 million for high-tech communications equipment and smuggled in over $2 million worth of medical supplies. That's pretty impressive in my opinion because it will make a concrete difference in the outcome of the revolution. Without food, water, and medicine there won't be any revolutionaries left to act in solidarity with.

I also have to question your assertion that "the calls for Western intervention are at the moment are not representative of the whole opposition." What evidence do we have of that? Most of the reports from within Syria indicate that airstrikes and other aid would be welcomed by most of the fighters and protestors. The no-fly zone in Libya was welcomed by the rebellious masses as their only hope of beating Ghadafi because he had such a tremendous military advantage.

interesting article on Syria

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