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Aftermath of the Assad regime's shelling of the city of Homs.
By Tony Iltis
January 14, 2013 -- Green Left Weekly -- The latest United Nations figures put the death toll from the conflict in Syria a third higher than previous estimates by the UN and anti-government activists.
“We can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a January 2 statement. “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking.”
The UN has compiled a list of 59,648 named individuals reported killed between March 15, 2011, and November 30, 2012.
She said both government and anti-government forces were responsible for what could be considered war crimes, a January 2 Associated Press report said.
On January 9, Al Jazeera reported: “About one million people inside Syria are going hungry due to the difficulty of getting supplies into conflict zones … The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is handing out rations to about 1.5 million people in Syria each month, still short of the 2.5 million deemed to be in need, Elisabeth Byrs, WFP spokeswoman, said.”
Tariq Ali on Syria: 'Total solidarity with the people, down with the dictatorship. This remains my position'
Cartoon by Carlos Latuff.
By Tariq Ali
September 16, 2012 -- CounterPunch, via Green Left Weekly -- Angered by the non-stop, one-sided propaganda on CNN and BBC World, usually a prelude to NATO bombing campaigns (including the six-month onslaught on Libya, the casualties of which are still hidden from the public) or direct occupations, I was asked to explain my views on RTV [Russia Today].
I did so, denouncing the promotion of the Syrian National Council by Western media networks and pointing out that some of the armed-struggle opposition were perfectly capable of carrying out their own massacres and blaming them on the regime.
There were doubts at the time about who was responsible for the massacre in Houla in May. No longer. It’s now clear that the regime was responsible.
Prison writings: The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century
By Abdullah Ocalan, translated and edited by Klaus Heppel; preliminary notes by Cemil Bayik
Transmedia Publishing, London, 2011 [Order here.]
Reviewed by Chris Slee
September 6, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Abdullah Ocalan is (or was -- it is uncertain if he is still alive) the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group fighting for the rights of the oppressed Kurdish minority within Turkey and in the Middle East more broadly. Ocalan has been held in a Turkish prison on the island of Imrali since being kidnapped from Kenya by Western intelligence agencies and handed to Turkey in 1999.
This book was written in prison, as part of an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. It was later adopted as a manifesto by the PKK at its 2002 congress.
By Michael Karadjis
August 13, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The continuing mass uprising against Syria’s Bashar Assad dictatorship on the one hand, and the growing intervention by the reactionary Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with Turkey, on the side of the growing armed insurgency on the other, has led to a situation where many on the left are sharply divided over who to “support”.
Some claim the Saudi-led covert intervention requires support for Assad’s bloody regime as a lesser evil “secular” alternative to what they believe is an inevitable “jihadi” regime, given the rise of a vicious Sunni sectarian aspect to the civil war and the Saudi-led backing of such forces. Also, given the largely verbal (until recently) support given to the Gulf states’ intervention by the US and other imperialist states, support for Assad against this allegedly “imperialist-backed” assault on Syria is necessary to prevent the destruction of the Syrian state, which they allege imperialism desires due to Assad’s alleged anti-imperialist credentials (which even most of these writers, however, admit is very tenuous at best).
By Tony Iltis
August 12, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- The 50-year rule of the Ba’ath Party in Syria looks to be effectively over. In the past month armed clashes have spread to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the largest city, Aleppo. Armed opposition forces have taken control of several border points. On August 6, Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to the opposition.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad — who inherited the presidency in 2000 from his father, Hafez al-Assad, who seized power in a 1970 military coup — no longer controls the country.
However, an end to the violence, which has claimed 20,000 lives since the uprising that broke out in March last year against Assad, looks far away. So, too, does the realisation of the uprising’s original aims: democratic rights and economic justice.
The regime has indicated it will cling to whatever power it can with counter-offensives in Damascus and Aleppo. Western demands that Assad face an international war crimes trial, and the nastier fate of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was brutally murdered after his overthrow and capture by NATO-led forces, has given Assad no incentive to compromise.
Anti-Assad protest in Syria organised by the Local Coordinating Committees. Some 300 LCCs have refused to recognise the imperialist-backed Syrian National Council.
By Richard Seymour
Tariq Ali on Russia Today, July 13, 2012: "We have a very grim, polarised situation in which the choices are limited: either a Western-imposed regime composed of sundry Syrians who work for the Western intelligence agencies ... or the Assad regime. It's clear the people of Syria want neither ..."
By Phyllis Bennis
June 28, 2012 -- Znet -- Fifteen months on, the short Syrian spring of 2011 has long since morphed into a harsh winter of discontent. Syria is close to full-scale civil war. If the conflict escalates further, it will have ramifications far outside the country itself. As former UN Secretary-General and current envoy of both the UN and the Arab League Kofi Annan put it, “'Syria is not Libya, it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders.”
Western military intervention will cause more death and suffering in Syria.
Socialist Alliance (Australia) statement
June 13, 2012 -- Socialist Alliance, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Since the uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 the death toll in Syria is now estimated to have exceeded 10,000. As the violence escalates, Western government leaders are openly canvassing launching a military intervention. We oppose imperialist military intervention.
Socialist Alliance supports the Syrian people’s right to rise up for democracy and economic justice. We recognise the secular and anti-imperialist nature of much of the mass democratic opposition.
We do not recognise the Syrian National Council, or any other exile elements now unilaterally being promoted by the imperialist powers, as representative of the Syrian uprising.
We condemn the violence of the Syrian government and the killings by religious sectarian gangs that are directly or indirectly supported by the imperialists or the Syrian regime.
The Syrian people have a right to use arms to defend themselves from the violence of government military and paramilitary forces.
Hillary Clinton (centre) meets King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (right) in Riyadh to discuss Syria. Photograph: AP.
By Rupen Savoulian
May 21, 2012 -- Antipodean Athiest, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author-- In April 2012, a number of high-level political officials attended conferences in Paris and Istanbul organised by the Friends of Syria group. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton attended these meetings, and joined the foreign ministers from the NATO powers and Arab Gulf monarchies in denouncing the killings committed by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
By Omar S. Dahi and Vijay Prashad
April 26, 2012 --Jadaliyya -- At 2 am on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, the Palestinian-Syrian intellectual and activist Salameh Kaileh was arrested from his home “without explanation”, as his lawyer Anwar Bunni of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research put it. This is not Salameh Kaileh’s first time in a Syrian prison. He was a guest of the Assad family in its several jails for eight years and 11 days in the 1990s.
By Rupen Savoulian
March 9, 2012 -- Antipodean Athiest, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, speaking to the US Senate Appropriations Committee in February 2012, stated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets the criteria of a war criminal. The Telegraph newspaper in Britain reported as follows:
Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” she said in Washington.
But I also think that from long experience that can complicate a resolution of a difficult, complex situation because it limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power.
This raises a number of interesting questions regarding the application of international law to heads of state and corresponding government officials. What constitutes war crimes, and how can we evaluate whether or not a state leader is a war criminal?
Nuremberg and war crimes
Members of the self-proclaimed, US-backed Syrian National Council.
By As`ad Abukhalil
March 8, 2012 -- Jadaliyya -- First, let us be clear: the Syrian people have every right to protest, peacefully and violently, against the brutal regime of Bashir Assad. And let us be clear: the Syrian regime has no right to stay in power, and this was true even before it began using violence to quell the uprising. And let us be clear: the Syrian regime is incapable of reforming itself.
It is rather foolish to wait for a group to ascend to power before criticising it. There was no mystery as to the intentions and agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis, or even the Khomeini movement, before their taking the reigns of power. Similarly, the adversaries of the Baa‘th Party began opposing it long before the former began conspiring to seize power by force.
Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, greets supporters after Friday Prayer, where he spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad.
By Michael Karadjis
March 7, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The declaration by Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas, that his movement was backing the popular uprising in Syria against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad was widely reported, as was the significance of his statement to worshipers at Cairo's Al Azhar mosque. Hamas, while ruling the Gaza Strip, had its exile leadership based in Syria; now Haniyeh was perhaps betting on a new strategic relationship with post-Mubarak Egypt. Haniyeh saluted “the heroic Syrian people, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform”.
Tariq Ali spoke to Russia Today on March 3, 2012, on the situation in the besieged town of Homs, bombarded by the Syrian military. “The Assad regime carries on as if it doesn’t realise how hated it is by some sections of the population; the opposition, which is armed now increasingly by the West via its conduits in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are turning nasty.”
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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
Statement by the Socialist Alliance (Australia)
February 9, 2012 -- Socialist Alliance supports, and expresses its full solidarity with, the Syrian people’s democratic uprising against the tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
We also condemn the interference by Western imperialist powers and the threats of military intervention. Further, we call on the Australian government to extract itself from the US alliance and its involvement in aggressive multinational military operations.
The death toll in Syria is now more than 6000. We condemn the Syrian government’s military repression of protests and Assad’s refusal to yield to the wishes of the Syrian people to step down. We also condemn the four decades of repressive rule by Assad and his father Hefaz al-Assad.
Western policy in the resource-rich and strategically important Middle East remains devoted to maintaining Western global dominance. The West’s very selective opposition to tyranny in the Middle East — opposing some, while propping up the most tyrannical regimes in region — is transparently motivated by how compliant a tyranny is to imperialism’s interests.
Adam Hanieh addresses a meeting in London.
Adam Hanieh interviewed by Farooq Sulehria
February 3, 2012 -- Viewpoint -- Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, have been key protagonists in the counter-revolutionary wave unleashed against the Arab uprisings. Indeed, 2011 has clearly demonstrated that imperialism in the region is articulated with – and largely works through – the Gulf Arab states. "Overall, it is important for the left to support the ongoing struggles in the revolutions as the contradictions of the new regimes continue to sharpen", says Adam Hanieh.
Adam Hanieh is a lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He is author of Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (Palgrave-Macmillan 2011) and a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Historical Materialism.
Farooq Sulehria: The outcome of elections in Tunisia and Egypt went in favour of Islamist parties, even though the revolutions in these countries had a secular character. Islamists are also an integral part, if not the dominant force, in the revolutions in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. Is the Arab Spring in fact a victory for the Islamist movements?
By Khalil Habash
January 12, 2012 -- Counterfire via International Socialist Group (Scotland) -- The Syrian popular movement has witnessed an increasing mobilisation in recent weeks – the most important since last summer – despite the continuous violent repression. Defections within the army are still happening on a growing scale. Ten months after the beginning of the revolution – and despite the 6000 martyrs – the popular movement is continuing, though there are profound political divisions among the opposition.
The divisions among the opposition
The two most well-known political opposition groups are Syrian National Council (SNC) and National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC), in addition to the Local Coordinating Committees and other groups on the ground. Many political groups are not yet represented by the two main opposition groups.
Please note: Interview starts halfway through the program. Slide the tab to (^) under the player (after it is finished downloading).
August 26, 2011 -- Australia Asia Workers Links/Asia Pacific Currents, via 3CR community radio, Melbourne -- Interview with Hozan Ibrahim, spokesperson from the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria is one of the main co-ordinating bodies behind the uprising in Syria. Asia Pacific Currents is produced by Australia Asia Worker Links.
Ibrahim explains the background to the uprising, how the Syrian people are organising themselves and expresses opposition to any Western military intervention.