[Posted by Lara Keller 15/1/16]
Where are you? Across Europe in 2003, millions turned out to demonstrate against the US invasion of Iraq. An invasion that was designed to punish Iraq, control oil reserves and demonstrate US military power. These demonstrations did not change this disastrously bad intervention, but at least people united to oppose it. In London for example a million people took part in a mass protest march.
Forward to 2016, and where are the mass demonstrations against the criminal Assad regime in Syria. This bunch of gangsters have been waging a brutal war against their own people for over 5 years. They have been ruling Syria with the iron fist of systematic torture since 1970. The vast majority of Syrians wanted the regime replaced with representative government. The regime responded to this demand with weasel words and a violent crackdown.
Still the Hard Left are talking rubbish about anti-imperialism and the vast conspiracy of corporate capitalist media lies they claim are being told about the Assad regime. Progressives babble on about the need to be careful after the bad interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and to some extent in Libya. The media in the West adopts the “Palestine-Israel” fence perching approach, in which neither side is more to blame, and it is all a bit too complicated. This is garbage.
99% of the truth is this. The Assad regime is an illegitimate clique of gangsters who use violence and extortion to line their own pockets. They are as much neo-colonialists as the Zionists in Palestine-Israel are. The external actors in Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, are also parasitical dictatorships, who use their fake public opposition to each other to justify themselves. I will deal with the “yes but I have heard counter claims” below.
So the vast majority of Syrians in 2011, with the Arab Democratic Uprising in full flow, see their chance to get rid of the Assad regime. The regime responds with a violent crackdown. The moderate armed opposition emerges, and is denied adequate support by the West. Understand that the Assad military have years of Soviet then Russian support to create a military to oppose the bloated Israeli war machine.
The Saudi led dictatorships steps in to support extreme jihadists. Is it bloody obvious what fighters are going to do, join the jihadi groups, give up or die. Five years on and the Assad regime has killed > 200,000 , tortured to death > 20,000, has 1 million under siege and plunged 13 million Syrians into desperate need. Forget Islamic State or the other extremist jihadi nutters, this is over 90% the work of the Assad regime. Now we are told to wait while the various dictatorships involved in Syria decided on a “peace process”. Now the Syrian people have had their faces ground into the dirt, they are expected to return to a version of the Assad regime with cosmetic changes.
There is an alternative and has been for the last five years, more on this below.
To be blunt most people in Europe can see no connection between their political struggles and Syria. This is immensely stupid. To demonstrate “I believe in representative government” is the most important action now. Our democracies are under threat because governments have lost the power to govern their economies. We can vote, but why bother? To take back control means believing in representative government, struggling for something beyond ourselves and having the courage to take on daunting odds and wade through the mess of real politics. We need a cultural shot in the arm from our near neighbours in Syria. Look at the carnage and violence, but also look at the people’s believe and courage.
The alternative is protecting civilians. Give power to Syrians to protect themselves against the regime’s sectarian militias and the extremist jihadis. Give food, by air if necessary, to enable them to carry on. Stop the Syrian and foreign air forces bombing civilians. Hold those from all sides accountable for ordering war crimes. Create a plan for reconstruction.
A central command system is needed for any security force. This can only be created if the leadership have the resources of weapons and training needed. The same applies to civilian infrastructure. Pieces of paper alone cannot unite. All bombing of civilians in Syria must stop, with force used against military infrastructure if this is broken.
Clearly the clique that run the government must go, the regime is over. As much as possible of the government organisation needs to be kept in place.
Sectarian divides have been encouraged by the regime and other dictatorships in the region. Minorities including the Alawite Shia sect have been victims of Assad’s sectarian trap. The revolution in Syria will fail if sectarianism is not fought at every level. The long term survival of the Alawite and Kurdish minorities depends on a non-sectarian state. The state must guarantee rights for all Syrians, backed by an efficient judicial system. It must offer sufficient autonomy to minorities, and pursue the rights of these minorities in neighbouring states. Anything less will waste the sacrifice of millions of people.
Saudi Arabia is not an ancient proud desert kingdom or a defender of Sunni Islam. It is an opportunistic monarchy formed around oil reserves after the First World War, with arms from Britain and US. The supreme leader in Iran decides who can run for president, and who sits in groups who decide who can run for parliament. The supreme leader appoints who chooses the next one, and so on. It is a sham not a democracy.
Then there is the racist dribble about Islam. Religion is always a severe disappointment, and can always be misused. The compassion of the Prophet Mohammed as revealed in Islamic scriptures abhors the evil of the Assad regime. The real origins of so called Islamic State and the extreme jihadists is described above.
It is the duty of every Muslim and every Person who claims the tag “Progressive” whether Muslim or not, to demand our governments give the power to the Syrian people that they need to Stop Assad. Doing anything less, is no challenge to Islamophobia or Western elites. Doing nothing is exactly what they want. It is handing the implementation of Western foreign policy to the elites. The idea that the elites of Russia, China, India etc are somewhere on opposite sides to Western elites is dangerously out of date. The Assad regime is part of the global elite. Opposing partnership with Syrians so they can remove the regime is reactionary.