|Written by Fábio Bosco and Cecília Toledo|
|Wednesday, 04 January 2012 00:30|
|The revolution in Syria has already lasted nine months; the masses have been facing a very harsh repression by the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. Despite the growing number of casualties, the masses do not leave the streets and the Arab bourgeoisie is already showing signs of not being able to endure such intense pressure.The betting of Assad and the Arab League, who thought that putting the Army on the streets could stop the revolutionary process, has failed and has caused the opposite effect. Not only did it not stop the revolutionary process but also caused deep fissures in the Army as well as increased the political opposition and the international isolation of the regime. The option was to find a plan B to try to control the delicate situation in the country, which walks towards a civil war. The most important American newspaper, The New York Times is making room for the Arab bourgeoisie who negotiate with the Syrian government as much as they can without breaking up with the regime, so that the regime can change the way it faces the popular revolt without resorting to armed intervention, which, due to the geopolitical position of Syria, could ignite the entire Middle East. Syria is bordered by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north. That is, a highly explosive region.
The first response Assad’s government to stop the masses was the direct confrontation with gunfire, tear gas, including poison gas, water cannons, arrests and torture. For the last nine months the image of Syria is of a daily massacre and increasingly violent because the masses do not surrender. The result to date is that of a civil war against the population. According to UN report, at least 3,500 people have been killed by Assad’s government, including civilians, security forces and soldiers who deserted. According to the opposition, however, the death toll is expected to exceed 5,000, with 600 children, besides 7,000 missing persons. Prisons are overcrowded, with more than 100,000 detainees.
An investigation by the UN Commission on Human Rights, led by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian diplomat, reveals details of Assad’s repression against the population. According to this investigation children were executed and there are reports of torture in hospitals. UN officials said they were “deeply scandalized” by the reports. “Very few times a system of repression so complete has been seen, with torture being used politically and in many different sectors. Apparently, a machine of torture was designed to silence an entire country. It occurs not only in prisons, but also in hospitals, schools, assistance centers and ministries. “(O Estado de S. Paulo, November, 26)
The violence is so hard that the number of opponents to the regime has been increasing every day in Syria. Outside the country, former allies, like the Turkish government, now ask the dictator Bashar al-Assad to slow down its massacres against the masses. France, through the Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, has proposed the creation of “humanitarian corridors” for, according to him, carrying medicines and other supplies to civilians. France’s proposal came after the bloodbath had already been installed widely across the country and after the dictatorship policy of slaughtering the rebellion had managed to keep Assad in power a while longer, even after the fall of other dictators in the region, Mubarak and Gaddafi. But people should not be fooled, because this type of offer is a way through which imperialist countries start to intervening in the Syrian revolution to try to abort it and prevent it from toppling Assad and taking the power.
It’s the same kind of policy that imperialist countries used in Libya, when the situation got out of control due to the armed rebels insurrectional action turning Gaddafi a troublesome ally. France and Britain, Gaddafi’s allies, began to press his government aiming at to abandon the dictator and attempt to interfere via the CNT (National Transitional Council) on the Libya’s destiny. In Syria however, it is much more complex to produce something similar to what was the no-fly zone. So, they try to get themselves into the country in another way
So much so that a Western diplomatic source said the French plan, with or without Damascus’ approval, will be able to join the civilian centers within Syria’s borders with Turkey and Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast. This would allow, according to them, carrying humanitarian supplies and medicines to the population. To make it possible, the humanitarian convoys will, obviously need armed protection, which sets up in a military intervention in Syria. “There are two alternatives, the source said: that the international community, the Arab League and the United Nations be able to persuade Syrian regime to accept the humanitarian corridors, but otherwise we’ll have to find other solutions. In this case, we will need armed protection, but that does not mean a military intervention in Syria”. If this is not a direct military intervention it is a disguised intervention. This may mean that the French and UN troops, on behalf of protecting the population, would be positioned to force the rebels to disarm and / or impose a control over the rebels and the Syrian people, in case Assad is overthrown. Today the population is struggling against the regime, but imperialism wants to prevent it from organizing militias that threaten to take over the country.
Army in crisis
The major evidence that the Syrian regime is undergoing a serious crisis is its Armed Forces status. Main body of the regime, the Syrian Army has been splitting day after day; its deserters have been breaking up with the Armed Forces and are joining the rebel forces fighting against Assad. So far, however, the Army’s dome remains loyal to Assad and willing to continue the repression on protesters. “We will cut any malign hand that wants to blood Syria,” said an army statement (O Estado de S. Paulo, 26/November). However, a series of attacks against government buildings have been perpetrated by young rebel officers, including with the use of rockets and grenades. There had already been military attacks against the regime in Damascus. On November 16, the intelligence center of the Syrian army in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, was attacked. The next day, ELS (Syria Free Army) said it had attacked the Baath Party’s office in the north. On November 20 the Baath Party’s office in Damascus was also attacked; the information was given by ELS, but not confirmed by the CNS (Syrian National Council). Anyway, information on armed attacks on the outskirts of Damascus and on the existence of cities and regions out of the regime’s control has been increasing.
The desertions in the army – that have occurred since the first months of the revolution in Syria – have endangered the unity of the country’s armed forces, a major concern of the Arab League and imperialism, as occurred in Libya.
The policy adopted by the Syrian regime to massacre the masses’ uprising denies Assad’s rhetoric. He wished to play with an alleged anti-imperialist role, but the truth is that in recent years, his government has been fulfilling a key role in favor of imperialism to ensure stability on the border of Israel. Therefore, in the first months of the revolution, imperialism and Israel unconditionally supported the Syrian government and avoided, by any means, its destabilization, which would, ultimately, leave undefended the important and dangerous border with Israel.
However, despite supporting Assad, the imperialism and the State of Israel have found it prudent to keep distance from him, because of the demonstrations in Syria haven’t stopped and especially because of the policy adopted by the regime, e.g. the direct massacre, whose results are completely uncertain. Not to mention that supporting Assad wears out the image of the imperialist governments, who claim to be human rights defenders. Due to this scenario Syria international isolation has expanded and, as happened with Gaddafi, imperialism has started applying sanctions to force him to negotiate with the opposition or to withdraw.
The United States have already applied economic sanctions and are on standby. European countries have stopped buying Syrian oil, expanding its economic crisis which has already been greatly affected by the wave of protests. Turkey, Syria’s main trading partner, whose trade has reached $ 2.5 billion per year, has turned to be an increasingly demanding partner: The Turkish government has demanded Bashar’s resignation and the overthrow of the government and, moreover, Turkey has been sheltering the oppositionist Syrian National Council as well as the newly formed Free Army of Syria, led by Ryiadal-Asaad and composed of defected military personnel of the Syrian Army.
Recently, the isolation of the regime has greatly increased due to, first, the decision of the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to suspend Syria as a member due to its failure in complying with the resolutions to cease the repression, and second, due to the free entry of the Arab League observers.
On the late 22 November, the UN General Assembly voted 114 for and 9 against, to convict the Syrian regime for human rights abuses. Brazil had been supporting the regime, but also voted in favor, while Russia and China abstained. Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were against the resolution, a clear demonstration that they have not learned anything from Kaddafi’s overthrow and, similarly, advocate an unconditional defense of the murderer Assad on behalf of an alleged anti-imperialist struggle. Thus, they leave, again, the defense of democratic rights in the hands of the hypocritical imperialism and refuse to defend the Syrian people, massacred by the Assad dictatorship.
The opposition and the international “aid”
The Syrian opposition is currently divided into two sectors. The minority sector, formed in Damascus by Syrian individuals, advocates the regime’s reform and is opposed to foreign intervention. The second sector has formed the Syrian National Council after meetings in Turkey and Brussels, with 190 members, of whom 60% are within Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, liberals, the various Kurdish factions and apparently the local Coordinating Committees participated in the formation of this Council. These committees were those who called the demonstrations and today make up the real engine of the revolution. They are the Syrian expression of the same phenomenon of youth activists in different cities, using the Internet tools and the social networks to articulate the mobilizations against the murderous regime.
The majority decision of the Council is for Assad’s resignation before matters get worse, however the Council is flirting with the possibility of foreign intervention, be it limited to the Arab countries and Turkey, be it limited by the so-called no-fly and no-naval zone. Burhan Ghalioun, president of the CNS, when he was asked about a possible request for foreign intervention, he replied that currently no country wants to intervene militarily in Syria, but “when we stand before this desire, we will take the appropriate position.”
Such a possibility is a great danger to the revolution: it would mean a brake on the revolutionary process, the disarmament of the committees that coordinate the demonstrations as well as an even greater repression against activists and fighters.
The option for foreign intervention is not a majoritarian one within the Free Army of Syria. Only a portion of this Army, which is comprised of dissident military officers who have not yet joined the CNS, calls for international intervention to create a no-fly and a no-naval zone, plus a portion of the northern Syrian territory so that the Free Army of Syria can operate militarily safe from Assad’s troops.
Similar to Libyan process, where Castro, Chávez and their supporters were at the side of Gaddafi, because they considered his government a democratic and nationalist one and because, according to them Gaddafi was under the imperialist pressure to step down, now in Syria the same interpretation is back. These same currents have been analyzing the revolts in Syria not as a democratic and popular revolution, but as a United States provocation to oblige Assad’s government to break off relations with Iran and at the same time, to stop supporting the Palestinian forces who fight against Israel. In an article published on the website Rebelión, which expresses these political positions, it is said that:
“What worries the Arab states which support the overthrow of the Syrian regime is not the confrontation between the regime and the supporters of a reform in Syria. According to a senior diplomat in the Gulf, it was invested an entire decade and millions of dollars trying to remove President Bashar al-Assad of his alliance with Iran and to convince Assad to change the foreign policy of his country in two key areas – Iraq and Lebanon – but all in vain. According to this diplomat, the Palestinian issue was not included in these conversations, but it is also part of the U.S. pressure against Assad to make the Palestinian resistance groups close to Syria to stay away in order to set in motion the creation of a Palestinian State undermining the armed resistance supporters”.
In fact, this article ignores the fact that Syria has been negotiating and accepting the U.S.’s impositions since long ago. That is why Syria withdrew from Lebanon six years ago and maintains the border with Israel as well as the Syrian territory usurped by Israel in the Golan Heights in a rigorous truce.
Returning to the history of Syria
This discourse of “colonial conspiracy” has been used by the Syrian government and its supporters as a way of showing that the masses’ revolution against the regime is just a ploy orchestrated by U.S. imperialism to overthrow Assad and get hold of the country’s wealth. It is a discourse that assumes, first of all, the distortion of the history of Syria, its role in the Arab world and its relationship with imperialism. And then, the total suppression of the facts that led to the revolution and its own development, with the mass occupying the streets and squares and the incalculable death toll, the imprisoned and tortured rebels, including young and helpless children, including the Press persecution so that none of this is disclosed.
Since its independence from France in 1946, the history of Syria as a parliamentary republic was marked by a series of military coups and coup attempts. Soon after independence, the country went to war against Israel in 1948 suffering a military defeat. In 1963 in the aftermath of the national liberation struggles that shook the Middle East, the Baath took power in a military revolt and experienced a period of confrontation with imperialism, aligning with the Egyptian Nasserism and the Iraqi Baath. It faced Israel in several wars and put itself as a defender of the Palestinian cause, intervening in a series of confrontations with Israel, as the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the defense of Lebanon against Israel in 1978.
The Baath domination comes from that period, but as it slowly stopped to defend the pan-Arab nationalism, its reactionary character turned to be clearer and clearer. The current president, Bashar al-Assad, inherited power from his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled as from 1970 up to his death in 2000. He took advantage of his military post and the leadership of the Baath Party to come to power, perpetrating a coup within the party and exerting a fierce control of the state apparatus. He was reelected president of the country over and over again, while he remained as the secretary-general of the Baath Party. At the beginning of the successive terms, he still presented himself as a defender of the Arab nationalism and rejected peace talks with Israel. He also broke with Sadat when he led Egypt to sign the peace treaty with Israel. Later, his government, as the Iraq Baath of Saddam Hussein and other currents which claimed to be Arab nationalists, began to vanish and pursue negotiations with imperialism. Bashar al-Assad accepted intervene in Lebanon against the Palestinians and to impose a stabilization that would prevent the fall of the government, which maintained the Lebanese confessional State and deployed the Syrian troops in the territory to guarantee order for years, with the blessing of imperialism. It was part of the holy alliance promoted by the U.S. government in 1990 (Bush Father) to invade Iraq ruled by the Baath. Bashar al-Assad betrayed the Arab cause and even their coreligionists in the neighbor Baathist Iraqi Party.
Since he took power, Assad intensified the negotiation policy with the imperialism and took the necessary steps to reconnect Syria with the U.S. government which served as a support for Israel in the Middle East, as it had already occurred prior in Egypt with Mubarak and in Libya with Gaddafi. So much so, that Hamas forces in Syria have already been suffering persecution by the regime and being asked to leave the country. The attritions with Israel in the past are now being used by Assad’s supporters as an alibi to prove the U.S. pressure against Syria. However, these supporters do not take into account the meaning of their surrender and betrayal of their people and of other Arab countries just to beg a little of the crumbs that fall from the imperialism’s table.
Reviewing a bit of Syria’s history is essential to understand the political relations between the Arab bourgeoisie, who defended a nationalist project between 1950 and 1970, especially after the creation of Israel in 1948, and how these relations were transformed by the imperialist domination of the Middle East. It is a demonstration of inability of the national bourgeoisie and the bourgeois nationalist movements to lead a national liberation struggle for their people. Sooner or later, they end up by capitulating to imperialism according to their interests. Totally dependent on the world market for the oil export, the Arab bourgeoisies submitted themselves and abandoned any attempt of an independent solution and had to swallow the presence of the imperial enclave of Israel as a watchdog in the region. Today, these bourgeoisies rather than partners of imperialism are supporters of its policy of plundering the wealth of the Middle East, condemning the masses to poverty and bloody dictatorships.
It is precisely against these governments and their totally pro-imperialist policy that the “Arab spring” exploded. And in its wake came the revolution in Syria, a revolution whose fuse has been lit by the government itself when they violently repressed a small demonstration in Damascus for democratic freedoms and that has been even more ignited after the Tunisian and Egyptian victorious revolutions. The fierce nature of the regime and its secret police, owners of Syria for four decades, came to light, being clear to whom it might concern. Another wick that helped ignite the revolution in Syria was the Government’s total indifference towards the people’s demands. As Elias Khoury said in an article for the site Rebelión, “the Syrian regime has replaced the word ‘rats’, used by Gaddafi to describe the Libyan protesters, by ‘microbes’, a show of arrogance that could only make way for the merciless repression as the only way to stop the popular movement, thereby converting each event in a fertile field for the murder and violence.” (Who conspires against Syria?, Rebellion, 11/11)
These are the facts, and any analysis of the Syrian revolution, if one does not want to distort reality, must come from them. It is only coming from these facts that it is possible to understand the Syrian revolution’s character as a popular revolution. It was started by the population in order to defend their human dignity, trampled by military boots and humiliated by a despotic regime that condemns the country to hunger, unemployment and to the fragmentation threat imposed by the imperialism that only the revolution can prevent.
There is another attempt to discredit the Syrian revolution: Assad’s supporters characterize the riots as an inter-religious conflict between the Sunni majority, influenced by Islamic fundamentalists, and the minority religious communities (Christians, Shiites, and Alawites and Druses), protected by the “secular” regime of the Baath Party.
In fact, there are large inter-religious divisions in Syria and they form an integral part of its rich history. The majority of the population is of Semitic origin. Muslims are about 90% of the total, 74% Sunni and 15% other, including the Alawites, the Shiites and the Druses. There are entirely Catholic cities, like Khabab. There is still a small community of Syrian Jews (about 4,500 people). Christians, about 10% of the population, are in large majority composed of Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic. One of the most ancient patriarchates of Christians, of Antioch, was transferred during the Middle Ages to Damascus. Today this city is the headquarters of the Church of Antiochian Orthodox confession. There is also in Damascus a Greek-rite Catholic patriarch.
However, the set of ethnic and religious communities that make up the country, both Muslim and Christian, as well as the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism, has never represented a source of conflict because generally they coexist peacefully. The sectarian conflict that arose in Homs has actually started and fed by the regime to create a culture of fear among Christians, Alawites and Druses, and thereby prevent them from massively join the revolution. The slogan chanted in demonstrations is clear: “One, one, one, the Syrian people are only one.”
A democratic and popular revolution
The true character of the revolution in Syria has to be found, then, in the concrete living conditions of the masses. A 40 years old military dictatorship regime has been breaking the country production capacity, leading the people to the debacle and the bourgeoisie itself to economic paralysis. The hostility reached such an extent that even the majority of the bourgeoisie, including the Sunnis, who supported Bashar, has been opposed to him and increasing the isolation of the regime. Even the Alawite community, which overwhelmingly supports the regime, does it not by religious ties or “tribal”, but because of the disproportionate presence in the upper ranks of the State and the Armed Forces.
So, what has been happening in Syria is a democratic and popular revolution for better living conditions and an end to military dictatorship.
Despite the five thousand killed by the regime, the thousands of prisoners and exiled in Lebanon and Turkey, the balance is shifting against Bashar. It is time to deepen the revolution with an anti-imperialist and democratic political project that appeals to the ranks, leading to the collapse of the regime. A victory in Syria will have a tremendous impact throughout the region and the world, showing that the path of revolutionary transformation of society is back to the diary of the workers’, the youth’s and the peoples’ struggles.
The latest events in the region have strengthened the revolution in Syria. In Egypt, the youth returned to Tahrir Square and demand the immediate removal of the military officers. In Bahrain, the protests are coming back. In Yemen, Saleh’s resignation was welcomed in the streets, but his amnesty is widely condemned in the demonstrations. The revolution in the Arab world is still beating, albeit with grave dangers.
The first and most important danger is the absence of a revolutionary leadership with mass support, which may lead the revolution to the seizure of power by a workers’ government. The second is to disarm the population. It is necessary that people urgently organize themselves into armed militias before they are totally wiped out by the government. After the Army’s defections, numerous military groups now belong to the Free Army of Syria. The split in the Syrian Army weakens the Syrian regime and it is very important for the masses’ victory, but it is necessary that this Army is under the control of a revolutionary leadership of the Syrian masses, so that it does not become a bourgeoisie and imperialist instrument. The third danger is a foreign military intervention, which would come to crush the revolution and not to “save the masses,” as boasts the imperialism.
The only way to avoid these dangers is to move forward, strengthen and centralize the coordination of local committees, extend them to the armed forces and continue fighting until Assad’s final defeat.