Saturday, November 09, 2013

Beyond left and right, Syria and the politics of solidarity

From liberated Kafr Anbel
Beyond left and right
Marko Attila Hoare wrote a very good and really thought-provoking article for Left Foot Forward recently, called "What does it mean to be left wing today?", arguing that on almost all issues the tribal identities of "left" and "right" are basically meaningless and often unhelpful. He does say that there is one issue on which the distinction continues to matter: "the left supports the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor while the right opposes it." I'd phrase it differently (but am having trouble doing so now, as I'm not as articulate as Marko) but it's about right. And following from that is this: "Consequently, to be left-wing in Britain today is to side with popular resistance to the government’s anti-redistributive policies; with anti-austerity protesters and striking workers; with those who campaign to defend their public services and welfare state." I think that precisely because of the unfairness generated by the Coalition government, I've found myself feeling more assertively "left-wing" since 2010, after a decade of feeling myself increasingly uncomfortable with the left.

Syria
One of the issues that Marko mentions in his article is this:
In Britain, old-guard Bennite leftists consider it axiomatic that to be left-wing is to oppose Western military intervention. Yet it was Tony Blair’s Labour government that pioneered liberal interventionism via Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, while much of the conservative right has reacted against the idea of risking British soldiers’ lives to help foreigners. 
David Cameron – Blairite in foreign affairs – could not mobilise enough of his own parliamentary party to win the vote for intervention in Syria. Liberals are more likely to support intervention in defence of human rights and popular revolutions abroad, while conservatives often view dictators like Assad and Mubarak as positive factors of stability.
I was thinking of this tonight as I read two articles I liked whose authors I imagine wouldn't like to see their links sitting next to each other: Ben Cohen on humanitarian interventionism as passing fad and Louis Proyect on the idiocy of the "anti-imperialist" left's analysis. In both articles, a gut sense of solidarity with those in struggle and under attack prevails over ideological dogma. Proyect writes:
There’s a problem in reducing politics to litmus tests as to which state is pro-U.S. or anti-U.S., a bad habit of the “anti-imperialist” wing of the left that has little interest in what Syrian or Iranian Marxists stand for. In my view, the most urgent task facing the left today is uniting socialists, not disgusting third world dictators like Qaddafi or al-Assad who are worshipped because Nicholas Kristof editorializes against them.
I think nobody articulates gut solidarity better than Terry Glavin. His recent articles for the Ottawa Citizen on the exodus Syria are vital reads: A way out of SyriaSyrians in Amman ‘The trust is lost’, and Into the unknown, culminating in the scorching The worst-case scenario in Syria is here now. Here's some of it:
It is important to remember the reasons why this particular Arab Spring phenomenon — which began as a cheerfully optimistic, largely non-violent and fervently pro-democracy uprising led mainly by teenagers — degenerated so quickly into a bloodbath of reaction, repression, counter-revolution and savagery. 
It happened because the NATO countries, “led from behind” by U.S. president Barack Obama, allowed it to happen. It happened because the White House has preferred to avoid any confrontations with Moscow, Beijing, Tehran or Hezbollah. This is the Obama Doctrine. [...] there is no such thing as an America that is a force for progress in the world any more, either, at least not for the moment. History’s clock has turned backwards. 
And on the Jihadi fighters:
“Jihad” is merely armed struggle ordained by the Muslim religion. Syrians are mostly Muslims. Betrayed and abandoned by their erstwhile friends in the western world, they are waging a lonely struggle, surrounded by death and sorrow, and they naturally turn for courage and comfort to the traditions of the faith. 
Besides, just how anemic and spineless would a religion have to be if it did not contain at least some kind of doctrinal obligation to rise up against a war criminal like Bashar al Assad? Any moral claim the NATO countries might have once been able to make against the temptations of jihad — that’s gone now, too. 
Syria is gone.
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Unrelated reading: depraved leftists, gender politics
Phil AVPS on the depravity of the SWP; Karima Bennoune says keep your fatwa out of my face (listen to her on Thinking Allowed); Meriam Sabih on Malala and the white saviour complex fallacy; Lejla Kuric on Malala's real enemies; Eric Lee on what Marxists need to remember about JFK; Nick Cohen on cowering from Islamism; Sarah AB on secular mesalliances against Islamism.

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Previous posts

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Et Tu, eh Bob?

Yet ANOTHER fierce opponent of religious extremism and jihadism, who's lost his moral compass over Syria.

I have no time for anti-Imperialist discourses, I have always sided with sensible humanitarian intervention, and I think anti-semites are dickheads.

But the war Syria is a violent attempt by extremists to impose a sunni supremacists rule over over an ethnicaly and religiously mixed state, which may not have been any sort of democracy, but wasn't all that bad a place in middle eastern terms.
From the very beginning of the troubles there, there was always a violent, sectarian insurection going on, alongside the peaceful protests. The MSM ignored it, but it was there none-the-less.

Peace-intending protestors don't chant "Christians to Beirut, Allawites to the grave", nor do they slaughter cops.`

It f*ckin sickens me, reading people who I've previously admired encouraging the west to appease unappeasable jihadis, warmly quoting bullsh*ters writing transparent sh*te like "Jihad” is merely armed struggle ordained by the Muslim religion..."

That article from the Ottawa paer quotes the Turkish president. You do know the Turks have been directly arming ISIS, right?
Have you been following that or not? A NATO member arming al qeada. You cool with that? I'm not.

Oh and the Janes Defence study it quotes. " reckons that among roughly 100,000 anti-regime fighters about a third are “hard line Islamists,” and a third of those fighters are incorrigible jihadists.".

Sorry Bob, that's just a lie.

The study claimed around 40-45% of the rebels were hardline Islamists, and of those around 10-15% were al qeada. The overwhelming maority of the rest were less extreme Islamists, or Kurds, who are now in a defacto alliance with Assad.

And since then it's got worse, as more groups have given obedience to al qeada and fighters smaller groups have joined them.

You and Cohen and Aaronovich and HP and the guy from Jacobin and the like have sided with al qeada.

It's a total disgrace. Maybe the wankers on IF were right after all, in international terms you're just a bunch of likudists when push comes to shove.

bob said...

Some excellent points and some very bad ones, Anonymous. I will reply later in my lunch break. If you're still here, would you mind giving yourself a name I can use? Also, what's "IF" (as in "the wankers on IF")?

Anonymous said...

Paul.
If was supposed to be CIF, as in the Guardian.
I'm sorry if I came over slightly over vehement, but the fact is the rebels are al qeada style jihadis.
And that's not a recent development.

bob said...

Thanks Paul.

First, a clarification. I know my original post gives that impression, but I am not actually “pro-intervention”. I have no idea what is the right thing for Western governments to do in Syria. One of the many reasons I am glad I am not a politician is that I don’t have responsibility for making decisions like this. Like Ben Cohen in his piece I linked to, I don’t want to see large-scale long-term deployment of Western troops in Syria and a repetition of the disastrous Iraq template. And, like Louis Proyect in his post I cited, I am always suspicious (to put it very mildly) of Western governments’ military motivations. And it is true that a successful regime change led by ISIS and its allies would be a far worse scenario that Assad’s continued rule.

What I do know, though, is that the “doing nothing” option that the UK and US have pursued so far have been responsible for massive numbers of casualties.

Our lack of support for non-Islamist insurgents has driven them closer and close to the Arab Gulf and other forces giving them money and arms and has increased the prestige and relative firepower of the Islamist militias receiving the weaponry.

On your specific comments now.

bob said...

1. “the war Syria is a violent attempt by extremists to impose a sunni supremacists rule over over an ethnicaly and religiously mixed state”. This assumes that “the war” is caused by the rebels, while most of “the war” has been fought by the regime. It also assumes that there is a single war going on in Syria, when in fact there are several simultaneous wars. The Sunni supremacist Jihad (to which I’ll return in a second) is one of those, but not the only one.

2. Assad’s Syria “may not have been any sort of democracy, but wasn't all that bad a place in middle eastern terms.” Well, that might factually be correct, but it doesn’t mean much. I don’t accept the (ultimately racist) idea that people in the Middle East deserve a lower standard of freedom than people elsewhere. And if large numbers of civilians – of every ethnicity – stand up against a dictatorship (as they did in Syria in the spring of 2011), then my first instinct is to support them, and I see no reason to change my mind on that.

3. “From the very beginning of the troubles there, there was always a violent, sectarian insurection going on, alongside the peaceful protests.” The term “troubles” and “peaceful protests” don’t catch what happened in 2011, which was a democratic revolution, supported by people from all of Syria’s ethnic groups. Yes, within that revolution there were sectarian forces at work (as there were within the counter-revolution) and already militarised Islamist forces. But they were marginal elements within the highly diverse revolution. Only after months and months of attrition, as the secular, democratic forces are blasted out of the picture, have the sectarians and Islamists become a central part of the picture.

bob said...

4. “You do know the Turks have been directly arming ISIS, right?” No, and I don’t think you do Paul. There have been allegations that they have – mainly from Kurdish politicians. But I haven’t seen that confirmed by reliable sources. I am opposed to Erdogan’s authoritarian Islamist government. But Turkey is a far better candidate for the “not that bad a place in middle eastern terms” designation, and has the potential to be a force for good in the region’s geopolitics given the other players (Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, Russia). ISIS has attacked Turkish military targets in the last few weeks too, so Turkey certainly has no interest in backing ISIS.

5. “The [Jane’s] study claimed around 40-45% of the rebels were hardline Islamists, and of those around 10-15% were al qeada. The overwhelming maority of the rest were less extreme Islamists, or Kurds.” That’s not quite right. The study claimed that 5% of 100,000 non-Kurdish forces were ISIS, 6% Jabhat al-Nusra, both of which are connected to al-Qaeda but neither of which “are” al-Qaeda. According to Jane’s, the other less extreme Salafi groups account for about a quarter of the non-Kurdish insurgents and the extremely unstable non-Salafi Islamist group SILF a further 35%.

It’s true that over time, the Salafi groups are accreting more and support from the smaller militias and that SILF is acting in closer concert with the most hardline than it was before, but this is not about ideological hegemony; it’s about which way the wind is blowing, who’s got arms and money to give out. Most of these small militias don’t have strong ideological positions and many would buckle down to FSA leadership (and then democratic peace) if it looked like the FSA had the resources to effect regime change. This is where non-intervention has gotten us; our inaction has created the vacuum into which the hardliners have grown.

However, I’m pretty sure the Jane’s report didn’t give an actual figure on FSA members, and most other sources give about 80,000 FSA fighters, which outweighs all of the straight-up Islamist groups put together quite considerably. When you count in the Kurds too (with about 50,000 fighters and many more organisationally active), the Islamist contingent looks less impressive.

6. “Kurds… are now in a defacto alliance with Assad”. That’s not right either. The Kurds are fighting hard on two main fronts: against Assad and against the Islamists. There are also internal conflicts, as well as the conflict with Turkey. At the moment, they are more heavily engaged in fighting Islamists than fighting Assad (and Assad is concentrating his forces away from Kurdistan), but there is no de facto alliance with Assad. The Turkish government, which has much better access to the Western MSM than the Kurds, have disseminated the phrase “de facto alliance”. But there are no examples of joint operations or any other kind of co-operation. The KNC (one of the main Kurdish coalitions) has signed an agreement with the SNC, and the PYD and other Kurdish parties continue to denounce the Assad regime. A better description (used by the same Kurdish politicians who have made the allegations that Turkey is arming ISIS) would be that the Kurds are taking a “third way” position.

7. “Maybe the wankers on [CIF] were right after all, in international terms you're just a bunch of likudists when push comes to shove.” This is the statement I don’t get at all. I haven’t followed Likud’s policy positions on Syria, so I don’t know how hawkish they are now. However, Likud’s supporters (including many so-called “neocons” in the US) were very strong in cautioning against Western support for the revolution in 2011, precisely because they saw Assad (like Mubarak) as a lesser evil than Islamism and as blocking independent Palestinian militancy. If pro-Likud voices had been less listened to by the West in 2011, it is very possible that the US would have been less cautious in its material support for the FSA and we’d be in a far better place now.

Anonymous said...

I've written a reply, but your thing keeps coming up with somnething about a HTML code or summat, and won't let me post it.

Anonymous said...

Here's some indirect evidence for the Turks aiding al qeada...

cnn.com/2013/11/04/world/europe/isis-gaining-strength-on-syria-turkey-border/

And that's about all you'll get from "reliable" sources. Because the MSM has blatantly ignored what going on.
There was a report in der spegal along similar lines a few weeks ago. Here's the thing though- the BBC had a reporter at THAT EXACT BORDER CROSSING a few months earlier, reporting on the plight of refugees the evil Assad had driven out, and failed to see the trucks loaded with war munitions crossing the border into Syria. And the thousands of Jihadis wandering around. Despite the local complaining bitterly about it.
I watched a video recently taken by Kurdish forces fighting right on the Turkish border, you could actually see the border fences. ISIS (who ARE al qeada, along with Jabhat al Nusra) were bringing a tank over from the turkish border and using it to fight the Kurds. They MUST have brought it through Turkish territory. There was no other route that didn't involve going through Kurdish held land. You could see ISIS vehicles in Turkey moving towards their positions at the crossing. Unfortunately I can't find it now.

Anonymous said...

As we speak, Turkey is allowing a large concetration of ISIS fighters to congregate inside their border by the town of Jarabus, near Kobane/Ayn al Arab, having spent the last couple of days clearing mines and obstacles on the border itself. They're about to launch a counter-offensive. ISIS has just carried out a massive truck bomb attack in kobane on the Kurdish Red Crescent. Just now...

Thats the thing with this war. The media have been astonishingly biased from day one. As a news junkie for the last 20 years I've never known a topic dealt with as partially as the Syrian crisis, with the possible exception of the war in Libya (which I reluctantly supported, and now I think I was wrong, being as Libya has become a jihadi wild west)). They have bent over double to avoid covering anything which puts the rebels in a bad light, including the killings of policemen and security personel right at the beginning of the conflict. The BBC described Jabhat as Nusra as moderates on a few occasions.

Anonymous said...

But I'm not dependent on the MSM for information any more. You can follow it step by step from partisans on both sides, hour by hour, with links, videos and map references. Thats how come I've known for months about the Turks aiding al qeada, I don't need "reliable" sources , and nor would you if you started paying more attention to it.
Obviously you learn to discriminate and discount claims made without back-up etc etc, the same as you do with anything else.

As for the Janes report, it didn't state that "less extreme salafis" make up the rest of the extremists. The biggest group he's referring to is a group called Ahrar al Sham, which is every bit as sectarian and extreme as al qeada, they just aren't part of al qeada. The city of Raqqa, Syria's 5th largest, which has been in the news as an al qeada ruled hell-hole is actually co-governed by this group. Ahrar al sham are the single biggest and best unit in the rebel alliance most likely. They carry out loads of joint operation with al qeada, including fighting Kurds and in their bitch slapping of the FSA.
Now some say they're not as bad, because they don't openly talk of spreading their ideology elsewhere. But we both know that's plain bollocks, because if you follow that school of jihadi thought, you are by definition a military expansionist, it's what YOU DO.

The Salafists, by contrast, are included in the "more moderate" group, according to Janes.

Bear in mind as well that Janes is always going to cleave as close to the establishment as it possibly can without damaging it's own credibility. They're part of the UK Military Industrial Complex after all. They claim around 20% are non sectarian nationalists, but for the life of me I can barely find the slightest evidence for the existence of any, let alone tens of thousands of them.

Without going into to much detail from your reply, the Ben Cohen piece openly supported establishing a no fly zone, which would have involved hundreds or thousand of attacks on ground forces, causing huge numbers of deaths, civilian and military. How he squares that with "not taking sides" I have no idea. Anyway, that model didn't work out too well in Libya, did it?

This idea that our neglecting the rebels made them more extreme. Well, here's another idea. Most of them were always like that, and were only pretending not to be to get western aid. Libya is again a comparison.
That's not to say there weren't protestors who believed all the good things- but I'm highly sceptical they ever formed a large fraction of the armed resistance. Some, sure, but not that many.

" And if large numbers of civilians – of every ethnicity – stand up against a dictatorship (as they did in Syria in the spring of 2011), then my first instinct is to support them, and I see no reason to change my mind on that."

Aye, well there's the rub, Bob. It's about whether you have the intellectual and emotional ability to change your mind when the facts change. And the facts have changed.

Paul

kellie said...

My sympathies in this argument are with Bob's position, but I'm uncertain that either side has a firm grip on all the details, and don't pretend that I have a handle on all of them myself either.

• The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, seems to believe that both ISIS and the Nusra Front/Jabhat al-Nusra are al-Qaeda organisations, so it seems justifiable to refer to them as al-Qaeda, as Anonymous Paul does.

• On allegations that the Kurds are in a de facto alliance with Assad, these have been going for some time, but then there have also been allegations for some time that Assad and ISIS are de facto allies. This may be because the worst thing you can now call a competing force in Syria is an Assad ally, rather than a Zionist as in the old days. It may also be that as no party is strong enough to achieve total victory then various sides will seek to gain from temporary shared interests where possible, even in the absence of direct co-ordination.

A story from Reuters on the battle for the Yarubiya border post at the end of October reported an allegation made by the political opposition in exile Syrian National Coalition that Iraqi forces had co-ordinated with Kurdish forces against FSA forces, though other reporting said the only rebels present were ISIS, Nusra Front, and affiliates. The same article also reported an allegation from "Syrian rebel sources" that Syrian warplanes had also bombarded the town. Syrian rebel sources could mean the allegation came from any rebel group. The article didn't corroborate that Assad's air force had attacked, and didn't allege co-operation between Assad's forces and Kurdish forces, though it was spun that way in a tweet from Joshua Landis. This Brown Moses post by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi and Fadel al-Kifa’ee adds detail and nuance to the story.

• On Anonymous Paul's Libya comparison, there are mixed aspects to that. As an example of the risks to casualties of a No Fly Zone, NATO carried out a months long campaign, and for the entire length of that campaign the highest estimate of civilian casualties made by New York Times reporters on the ground afterwards was less than we've seen on many a single day in Syria. The elections after the war showed that the population largely rejected the extremists. This goes against Paul's theory that most Libyan rebels were simply extremists pretending to be moderate. The state of course remains weak, and the 'peace' has not been won.

In Syria losing the peace isn't being left 'til after the war; it's well underway already. Turning it around requires building a force of decisive strength with not just the military capacity to defeat Assad but also the political organisation and economic resources to build a better Syria. Nothing coming from Western capitals right now matches that requirement.

bob said...

Thanks again Paul. Again, some of your points are strong; others I find more dodgy. And thanks Kellie for the clarifications and additions. I have four further comments.

a. On the use of the term al-Qaeda. It is true that both ISIS and the Nusra Front/Jabhat al-Nusra originated with al-Qaeda, but they are themselves so tensely related to each other, internally divided, and loose in their authority over many of their fighting units that to refer to them as “al-Qaeda” is much more confusing than helpful. There is no single “al-Qaeda” entity working to an al-Qaeda script, certainly not under the orders of Zawahiri.

bob said...

b. On the “mainstream media” . Again, it is true that the big English-language dailies and major English-language broadcast news networks are not the best sources on this conflict, or on other Middle Eastern affairs, and the devilish complexity and constant shifts in the tectonic plates of this conflict have often eluded them.

I don’t see, though, the consistent bias you suggest. (For examples, the “de facto alliance with Assad” meme you propagate, originating mainly from Turkish sources, has been widely disseminated in the mainstream media (I most recently saw it in the Economist). The BBC and other Western sources, far from ignoring it, have heavily reported the “al-Qaeda hell-hole” stories you cite, over-emphasised Islamist incursions in Christian areas, and massively overplay anti-Allawi sectarianism among Sunni fighters.)

And I don’t see the motivation for such a bias; Western capitalism’s strategic interests are far from clear in the conflict and I don’t see what other interests the MSM could be sensibly alleged to serve (excluding al-Jazeera, who follow the interests of Gulf oil, and therefore do have a stake in down-playing any badness amongst the Islamist insurgents).

In fact, mentioning al-Jazeera, I don’t buy the idea of some homogeneous MSM: is al-Jazeera part of it? Is al-Monitor? Is Zaman?

I don’t speak Arabic (or any Kurdish languages, or Aramaic, or even Turkish) and I don’t have the knowledge of military ordinance or of the local terrain to be able to look at a YouTube video uploaded by a rebel group or pro-government source and assay its veracity or usefulness. (And I’ve seen enough Western leftists parading fake videos around as “evidence” of this or that claim to “prove” their (de facto pro-Assad) equally fake “anti-imperialist” worldview – although they rarely change their mind when more clued up people falsify these claims.) Nor do I have the hours in the day to triangulate these different sources and judge for myself.

However, I do follow large numbers of smart analysts and reporters who do. There’s the Brown Moses blog Kellie mentioned, for example, or James Miller’s Dissected News, or the analysts published by al-Monitor. I follow lots of these sorts of sources on Twitter, and I have tried to collect the most useful, from a wide range of perspectives, in my “Global Politics” list, which I check regularly.

I also check in with more partisan sources closer to the ground, from groups with whom I am more sympathetic, including the Kafr Anbel revolutionaries at the top of the original post, or the Local Co-ordinating Committees (who are getting information from rebel communities across Syria), or the Kurdish political parties. I take this with a pinch of salt, but these are my people. Again, I have tried to collect many of them (along with revolutionaries from Egypt, Libya, Iran and elsewhere in the region) into my “Scent of Jasmine” Twitter list, which I check regularly.

It’s said that once you stop believing in God you’ll believe anything. It seems to me that in the West, and not just among CiFite leftists, there is a tendency to believe anything that contradicts the narratives of the mainstream media and military industrial complex. Lies circulate much faster than the truth. The Mint News fabrication about rebel chemical weapons, un-contextualised viral videos circulating on YouTube in languages we can’t speak, Kremlin propaganda about al-Qaeda control of the rebels, Ankara’s propaganda about the Kurds: this stuff is seized on as gospel by those who have lost trust in the old news sources. Cock-ups are assumed to be conspiracies; independent action by forces on the ground that don’t fit the alternative narrative are imagined to be “false flag operations”; shady Likudnik and neocon stringpullers are seen behind every shadow. This is a really dangerous mentality, and the struggle for a secular, pluralist, democratic Middle East is ill-served by feeding it.

bob said...

c. On ISIS on the Syrian border, and Turkey’s alleged arming of them. The CNN article and the video you cite do not give evidence, direct or indirect, for Turkish arming of al-Qaeda. No credible reports show them actually actively arming ISIS or al-Nusr at any point. Turkey has 2648 km of land borders (the US-Mexican border is 3,327 km to give an idea what this means) and its border with Syria is necessarily porous. Half of this is the Syrian border: much of it mountainous and sparsely populated, much of it Kurdish dominated. Turkey, entangled with its stand-off with the PKK, has been fairly sloppy about keeping it un-porous, because they’ve wanted arms to get through to the opposition, but they are tightening up now, as they become aware of the weapons getting into the wrong hands and as ISIS and al-Nusra turn the weapons on Turkey. All credible reports over the past month have said they are tightening up now.

bob said...

d. On not taking sides. While I said I was not “pro-intervention”, I didn’t mean I am against “taking sides”. I take sides. I take the side of Kafr Anbel, of Soad Nofal, of the secular rebels, of the anarchist-inspired Local Co-ordinating Committees which have proliferated across the whole of Syria, of the victims of Ba’athist-sponsored and Islamist-sponsored sectarianism, of the Palestinians in Yarmouk getting bombed the fuck out of by Assad, and of the Kurdish people. The facts have changed (in that these guys have been pulverised by Russian-supplied weaponry for two and a half years) but no facts have changed which turn these people from the good guys to the bad guys.

You say you “can barely find the slightest evidence for the existence of any” non-Islamist rebels. A year ago, the fighting forces representing the groups I just mentioned was probably close to 200,000. That number has gone down in the fighting, as Assad’s slaughter continues and as local and tribal militias hook up with better funded Islamists. It is true that whole chunks of the FSA in the South have formed alliances with Islamist groups. But the FSA and the Kurds still have around 130,000 fighters between them, i.e. ten times ISIS and al-Nusra combined. PYD (PKK) forces are making gains in Hasakah across Rojava; the FSA continue to hold large swathes of the country from Daraa to Aleppo.

And behind these fighters are rebel villages, towns and neighbourhoods, both in liberated zones and under Ba’athist occupation, many governing themselves through forms of direct democracy, composed of all of Iraq’s ethnicities (including Allawites), struggling to survive.

Before 2011, were they secret Islamists kept down under Assad’s brutal secular heal, waiting for Gulf oil money to flow in so they could launch holy war? A handful were, but what a gross and baseless insult to suggest more than that.

bob said...

Forgot to leave links for my Twitter lists I mentioned.

Global politics: https://twitter.com/bobfrombrockley/lists/global-politics

Scent of jasmine:
https://twitter.com/bobfrombrockley/lists/the-scent-of-jasmine

Anonymous said...

I've just spent a good half hour writing a response, and f\8ckin google has decided to eat cos it wants me to use google plus.

Very vriefly, the MSM have done their upmost to ignore the sectarian nature of the rebels, not "massivelly" over--emphasied it, and has not over-reported attacks on Christian areas, rather the opposite.

Likethis...http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2013/11/syriac-orthodox-archbishop-alnemeh-in-sadad-the-largest-massacre-of-christians-in-syria/

And the BBc here is a disgrace...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24148322
The town was almost completely de=populated when the bbc put this piece of sh*t on it's website. Everyone had fled. Lying bas*rds.

Bob, you obvipously didn't think about the implications of the Janes defence research we both talked about, even with it's implicit pro-establishment bias, and the worsenning situation since then.
Around half the r3ebels are either al qeada or al aqeada like groups. ISIS, JAN, or ahraar al Sham. Takifiris, into suicide bombing, want a global caliphate, would engage in genocide of non-beleivers,etc etc.

THEN there's a variety of takifiri and MB types who want sharia, then theres; kurds who aren't fighting the govt any more, then there may be some seculars around, possibly, who knows.

The protestors have mostly gone back to the regime...
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/confessions-of-a-syrian-activist-i-want-assad-to-win
Or become hardcore sectarians (As many were in the first place.)

On choosing sides, I side with the people who want a society where girls can wander artounfd in Jeans and a t-shirt without getting arrested for it, and whipped. A [lace where bearded mullahs don't make the rules, a country for a variety of sects and etnicities.

You side against that, and don't kid yourself otherwise. You are on the side of jihadis.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and James Miller’s Dissected News is really biased, yes. He seems to work for EA worldview, which is run by shabby low-rent neocons.

And also the kurds, they're not fighting the govt, they share the control of a coup[le of cities with them, and they haven't fought for over a year.
Thats a de-facto allince in my book.

"It is true that whole chunks of the FSA in the South have formed alliances with Islamist groups"

NO NO AND THRICE NO, Bob.
A whole bunch of Islanmists in the south formed a big alliance. That's what happened.

kellie said...

The ISIS as Assad allies view:

ISIS is the child of the regime
"The Assad regime helped establish the most repressive jihadi groups by releasing its leaders from prison, say activists."

kellie said...

Anonymous Paul - "neocons" really doesn't fit as a label for EA WorldView - have a look at their history, particularly on Iraq and Afghanistan. Biased yes, neocon no.

Anonymous said...

Kellie., Assad released those hardcore militants in a mistaken attempt at reconciliation.
I'm not saying he isn't a manipulative bastard, but claiming some sort of alliance between al qeada and Assad is ridiculous.
Whereas claiming an alliance between al qeda and the Turks, perhaps until very recently (like a week or two, maybe, which might be being reversed as the Kurds continue their attacks) is a statement of the bleeding obvious.

Mind you, he might have decided not to re-take Raqqa in order to show what the rebels were really like. Possibly. It certainly would have been a high risk strategy.

Paul.

Anonymous said...

I agree with absolutely everything you wrote in the paragraph that starts "It’s said that once you stop believing in God you’ll believe anything"

The trouble is, the MSM has rapidly declined in terms of both ethics and reliability over the last 10 years or so, and, I really have to stress this, their reporting of the conflict in Syria has been thoroughly biased and one sided from the very start.

Only the Telegraph reported that Janes defence study, for example. I can't find a single mention of the Saddad massacre in any British MSM outlet. 55 people were killed, in late October, a blatant sectarian killing.

"And I’ve seen enough Western leftists parading fake videos around as “evidence” of this or that claim to “prove” their (de facto pro-Assad) equally fake “anti-imperialist” worldview"

Sure. Same here. One of them was about the BBC story about the regime bombing of that school in Allepo with a napalm like substance. Because there was some slightly suspcious editing of the report, it was immediately assumed by many that the whole thing was fake.

Buuuuut, there WAS something in that suspicion. That piece aired on the 10 o'clock news, just after the Commons was supposed to give the go-ahead for bombing. Perfect timing or what. She was in London ready to give interviews the very next day. It featured a medical "charity" which has the revolutionary flag on it's logo. One of the 2 doctors is the daughter of a member of the exiled coalition's quasi government. The other one has a history of writing what are in effect pro-jihadi puff pieces in the Guardian, whining about the poor people on control orders.

Given that, it isn't really surprising people put two and two together and made five. Because it WAS a bit wiffy, frankly.

Paul

bob said...

i. It is true that the BBC and other (non-Christian) Western news outlets have not adequately reported the plight of Syria's Christians. The reported Sadad pogrom (45 people killed, I think), whose source is Agenzia Fides, has not been noted by any Western non-Christian news outlet.

On the other hand, I don't know that the BBC Maaloula report is a disgrace; it acknowledges that the residents had fled and says it interviewed them in Damascus. What lies does it tell?

ii. It is not true the BBC ignored the Jane's report. They regurgitated it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24403003

iii. It is not true that EA Worldview is "neocon". Yes, they are biased, but so is Agenzia Fides. EA are quite scrupulous in their use of sources and quite good at their analysis.

bob said...

iv. I have no right to challenge the anonymous Syrian revolutionary you cite from BuzzFeed, who says the revolution is on pause. I have no way of knowing if he is typical of his like. And we don't have the right to challenge Christians such as George Sabra and Michael Kilo who continue to hold faith in the SNC and resist the Assad regime.

The Local Coordination Committees are not going over to Assad or to Islamism. Soad Nofal is not going over to Assad or Islamism. Nor are the people of Kafranbel. Nor is the General Authority for Civil Defense in Daraa, or the Raqaa Information Centre, or the Muslim youths in Raqaa who march in solidarity with Christians under attack, or the civilians in government-controlled and liberated areas who despite all the odds continue to stage peaceful protests every Friday, or the Syrian Non-Violence movement.

bob said...

v. You claim my position is de facto jihadist. But if that is true, so is yours, as the Assad regime, its own forces diminished, is now totally reliant on his Shi'ite jihadist allies: Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iraqi Abu al-Fadl Abbas militia.


---
Recommended reading:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/12/the_entrepreneurs_of_cynical_sectarianism


http://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/syria-or-the-revolutionary-masses-will-decide-their-own-future/

http://revolution-news.com/category/revnews/syria/


http://tahriricn.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/syria-the-struggle-continues-syrias-grass-roots-civil-opposition/

http://www.syriauntold.com/en/story/2013/11/13/6608

bob said...

Sorry, one more thing, then back to work!

You talk about Jane's establishment and "military industrial complex" affiliation. It seems to me that they, like all the counterterrorism and security thinktanks, have a strong interest in emphasising Jihadi presence, and ignoring non-violent resistance. They have no interest in downplaying Jihadi presence. And you have also given no indication of why the MSM would want to downplay Jihadism and sectarianism.

Anonymous said...

The " the civilians in government-controlled and liberated areas who despite all the odds continue to stage peaceful protests every Friday," Were all from "liberated" areas as far as I could tell.
Douma, Bustan al qasr, Saqba and the Yarmoullk camp. All under control of the rebels. And I couldn't see a SINGLE woman in any of those crowds. There's your revolution.

The BBC report on the composition of the rebels does NOT cite Janes. It doesn't lean on it in any way in it's frankly misleading and tendentious analysis. It claims that the only jihadis are the al qeada groups. Nonsense.
As for the Malloula story, the headline "Christian villagers cast doubt on jihadi "threat"". doesn't seem a bit off?
"Threat" in speech marks, "challenging the narrative" of jihadi and sectarian motivation, talking to a nun who was still under jiadi control, One single, un-named resident being quoted, Ahrar al f*ckin sham a " group of non-Islamist fighters".
You really don't see anything wrong with that report?
Then you compare that to the al monitor story...
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/09/syria-christians-maaloula-jihadists-opposition-army.html
And you find it was a battle to conquer the capital of the crusaders.

Soad nofel is an exceptionaly brave woman. The people running vital services in Daraa are fantastic, but admit the model hasn't been transferable, because the jihadis won't have it. The Raqqa information centre has been closed by al qeada. The citizens of that town haven't been able to stop jihadis destroying and looting churches.
Pacifist who seem surprised that other pacifists won't support them in an armed insurection. Hmmm.
The thing is, the people who you link to have no power. Power comes from the end of a gun. It's war now, and the strongest will prevail, and impose their will.
That will either be Assad and his regime, or the religious extremists in the armed opposition.
Not the satirists from Kafranbel.

Assad is getting aid from iran and Hezbollah, sure, but they will leave afterwards. They won't be wondering into Christian areas and demanding people convert or die, for example. And their influence is overstated. Lebansese Hezb only had a few thousand full time soldiers, so there can't be that may of them in Syria. The Iranian guards are trainers, and the Iraqi hezb are reckoned to number 4-5 thousand.
There's a quite tremendous lot of bollocks written on hezbollah, making them out to be some sort of shia SAS. They're full time members of a well organised and experienced militia. They got a bit lucky in 2006, fighting the exact war they'd been arming and training for for 5 years, helped by an inept Israeli performance. They're really not THAT brilliant, they're worse man for man than any NATO force.

Janes are MIC, but they'll be around for longer than the Syrian war. They have a reputation for integrity and reliability to keep up.

Why do the MSM report this war so badly? Oligarchic interests, Qatari money influencing coverge (no job with al jazeera if you don't toe the line), the Bildeburgers deciding to give this one to Prince Bandar, MI6 with it's well practiced arts of media manipulation, the US Israeli lobby, the Gulf states twisting arms, sectarian muslim journalists influiencing naive colleagues (take a bow Lina Sinjab), decades of Saudi and qatari funding for western establishment institutions, the common inability of people (yes BOB, this means you) to change their minds....

One or all or several of the above, and there's probably others.

Paul

bob said...

I don't normally like to continue conversations when anything to do with Bilderberg comes up, especially if that's coupled with the claim that the British mainstream media is hoodwinked by the American Israeli lobby (and for that matter the idea that the interests of the Israel lobby might coincide with those of the oil lobby). However, couple of things.

I concede the BBC report on Maaloula is sloppy: if it is saying that Ahrar al-Sham are non-Islamist that's wrong, or else they're being unclear and just saying that the Qalamoun Liberation front are a group of non-Islamist fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, which I have no idea if is true or not.

Here, by the way is "neocon" Scott Lucas taking a similar position: http://eaworldview.com/2013/09/syria-video-analysis-how-medias-obsession-with-extremism-leads-to-bad-coverage/ Note however that whether he's right or not (a) his examples of exaggerated claims about Jihadists come from the MSM, and (b) he is equally trying to debunk paranoia about Iranian engagement on the other side, paranoia disseminated via al-Jazeera.

bob said...

On Hezbollah, I think it's wrong to underestimate them. They were not just lucky in 2006: they had the capacity to fire 4000 rockets into Israel. And it's even wronger to underestimate the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is pretty fucking formidable.

Third, the BBC article on the composition of the rebels (lead author, your Lina Sinjab) not only directly cites Jane's as its first source (at the end) but pretty much recycles most of its numbers from them.

Finally, while never supporting the jihadists, nothing anyone can say can persuade anyone with a working moral compass that we should therefore support Assad in any way.

Anonymous said...

The bilderburg reference was
partly facetious, but you can hardly deny the effect the Israeli lobby has on the US media. Hence on Rupert Murdoch. And it isn't only wild anti-imperialist conspiracy types who talk about a convergence of Israeli and Saudi interest on Syria and Iran.
I grant you that doesn't happen very often, and 98% of the time any talk of a "Zionist/Saudi Wahhabi axis" is purest bullsh*t, but this time the dickheads on CIF may have a point.

Scott Lucas says some strange, disorganised things. Occasionally he hits a true note, most of the time he doesn't. Perhaps he's not strictly a neocon, but he's still low rent and shabby. And absurdly biased on Syria.

That Maaloula report isn't sloppy, it's downright disgraceful. It's blatant propaganda, designed to change and influence opinions. That piece is likely the last thing most people who vaguelly follow Syria see about that attack, or rather the "Battle to Conquer the Capital of the Crusaders" offensive by terrorists, including Ahraar al Sham and al qeada.
People will have been left with the impression it was all a bit of a false alarm and a consequence of a mis-understanding, they might even see a deliberate plot by the army to involve innocent Christians in a fight that would otherwise have had nothing to do with them. `Whereas it was a terror attack designed to de-populate and inspire sectarian fear and loathing.

Furthermore, the report on Syria's rebels might have used janes as a source, I missed that, but it hardly gets to grips with what they said about the place. And it doesn't mention it in the text.
Whereas this is type of headline a prestigous, establishment consultancy should have got for it's reliable, trustworthy, insight,_be quiet the grown-ups are talking about Syria_sort of coverage...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10311007/Syria-nearly-half-rebel-fighters-are-jihadists-or-hardline-Islamists-says-IHS-Janes-report.html
That's what it deserved. But it only got it in the telegraph. Nowhere else.

I'm sorry, but I can't get too worked up by a territorial militia with fewer than 20,000 members, most of who are part timers. They've got a few modern missiles, but the largest stock are designs from the nineteen-forties. Iran, sure, some decent missiles again, you wouldn't want to tangle with them if you're aboard ship in the persian gulf, but their airforce is from the seventies, and they haven't yet repaired the petroleum facilities Saddam blew up.

If it's a conventional threat to Israel you're worried about, the gravest threat by far is Turkish armoured divisions, backed up by Jihadi cannon fodder. The Turks might even get the expensive kit the Saudis bought, which are currently used as obstacles for camel racing courses, to work properly.

A radicalised Sunni block is far more scary for the whole world than the shias.

And your final point, can we support Assad. Well, no, but we can help him beat the worse guys, by stopping them getting weapons and more men.

Paul

Anonymous said...

You could have a read of this guy's twitter feed. He's a former opposition activist, a real one, as opposed to a sectarian thug.
https://twitter.com/edwardedark

He has reluctantly changed sides, although he's never taken up arms. Lives in Allepo.

Anonymous said...

And here's some more BBC bullsh*t.
A fuenral of 5 children killed in Damascus, but no mention of the fact that it was rebels who did it..http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24921938

There's debates on twitter about who was responsible.


https://twitter.com/ShoebridgeC

bob said...

Paul, I don't know if you're still here. I wonder if recent developments in Syria have changed your position at all. All the other Sunni militias and regrouped secular forces in the FSA have turned against ISIS (al-Qaeda, as you call them) and are gaining the upper hand against them. Significantly, they are co-ordinating with the Kurdish militias in doing so. And Turkey is aligning itself more and more against ISIS and, to a lesser extent, al-Nusra. Turkey has claimed "The regime and the ISIL are backstage partners". Seems to me this vindicates my position to some extent, and would call for you to re-think yours.