Part of me, of course, is happy to see bombs fall on the heads of the international jihad-fascists tormenting the Syrian people (I refer to ISIS, not the Shia jihad-fascists fighting for Assad, who I’d love to see bombed too). Mostly, I’m just disgusted. In the name of disengagement the West not only refused to arm and supply the democratic Syrian opposition – even as Assad launched a genocide against the people – the United States actually prevented other states from providing the heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weaponry the Free Army so desperately needed. It was obvious what would happen next. The Free Army – and the Syrian people – were increasingly squeezed between Assad and the ISIS monster. And now the Americans are bombing both Iraq and Syria. This is where ‘disengagement’ and ‘realism’ has brought us.
ISIS, like Assad, can be hurt from the air but defeated only on the ground. Obama and the Congress have just agreed to spend $500 million on training 5000 vetted members of the Free Syrian Army – the same people that Obama mocked as irrelevant “pharmacists, farmers and students” a few months ago. The training won’t be finished for eight months, and anyway will be of little use. The Free Army now houses some of the best, most battle-hardened fighters in the world. They don’t need training; they need weapons. In the present balance of forces, in any case, the wounds inflicted by America’s photogenic bombing run may not translate into any improvement on the ground. Only Syrians can improve things on the ground.
The West was not moved to act by 200,000 (at least) slaughtered, or nine million homeless, or by barrel bombs, rape campaigns, starvation sieges or sarin gas. It was only moved when an American was beheaded. The inconsistency is noted well by Syrians. In some quarters, an assault on ISIS which is not accompanied by strikes on Assad and aid to the Free Army will be perceived as a Western-Shia-Assadist alliance against persecuted Sunnis. This could increase the appeal of ISIS and successor Sunni extremist groups.
ISIS has many parents, but the first of these, in Syria at least, is Assad. He released extremists from prison while he was assassinating unarmed democrats. He sectarianised the conflict by setting up sectarian death squads and by bringing in Iran-backed Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanon. His scorched earth policy made normal life impossible in the liberated areas, creating the vacuum in which organisations like ISIS thrived. And until this June, he had an effective non-aggression pact with ISIS, not fighting it, buying oil from it. From January, on the other hand, all opposition militias – the Free Army groups and the Islamic Front groups – have been fighting ISIS (and losing thousands of men in the struggle). These fighters are not about to become an on-the-ground anti-ISIS militia, as the Americans seem to want. They know the truth – that both states, the Assadist and the psychotic-Islamist, are absolute enemies. There’s no destroying one without the other. And both must be destroyed by Syrian hands, not by foreign planes.
Worth reading Yassin al-Haj’s comment, from here:
I am ambivalent about a Western attack against ISIS.
On the one hand, I would like to see this thuggish gang wiped from the face of the earth. ISIS is a criminal organization that has killed thousands of Syrians and Iraqis while leaving intact another criminal organization—the Assad regime—that is responsible for the deaths of close to 200,000 people. ISIS has destroyed the cause of the Syrian revolution as much as the Assad regime has destroyed our country and society.
On the other hand, an attack against ISIS will send a message to many Syrians (and Iraqis and other Arabs) that this intervention isn’t about seeking justice for heinous crimes, but is rather an attack against those who challenged Western powers. This will lead to more resentment against and suspicion of the outside world, which is the very nihilist mood on which ISIS capitalizes and profits.
Western powers could have avoided this had they helped the Syrian resistance in its battle against the fascist Assad regime. The right thing to do, ethically and politically, is to build a coalition against both ISIS and the Assad regime, and to help Syrians bring about significant changes in their country’s political environment.
Let me finally say that I am very skeptical of the plans and intentions of the American administration. ISIS is the terrible outcome of our monstrous regimes and the West’s role in the region for decades, as much as it is the result of grave illnesses within Islam. Three monsters are treading on Syria’s exhausted body.—Yassin al-Haj Saleh, one of the leading writers and intellectual figures of the Syrian uprising, imprisoned from 1980 to 1996 for left-wing activities, now living in exile in Istanbul
One thought on “Three Monsters”
No to US airstrikes on Syria and Iraq!
All support to popular movements in Syria and Iraq!
A statement by Syrian Revolution Bases of Support
As the US once more beats the drums for its “war on terror” we affirm our opposition to US/coalition airstrikes on Syria and Iraq. Such imperialist intervention will only lead to propping up the sectarian occupation regime in Iraq and the genocidal Assad regime in Syria. It will further pave the way for expanding US economic and strategic interests in the region (namely exploiting resources and supporting the Zionist State).
Obama’s move towards airstrikes comes following the assassination of American journalists and the persecution of minority communities (Christians and Ezidis) by the Islamic State. Such acts highlight the barbarity of the Daesh fascists but we question why Obama was not equally moved by the deaths of the countless Muslims who have been the primary victims of the Islamic State or the death of Syrian Muslim journalist Bassam Raeis who was executed by Daesh in August to no global outrage. The biggest terrorist threat remains the Assad regime which has killed thousands through daily barrel bombing of civilian neighbourhoods, chemical massacres, starvation sieges and torture. Such double standards show that humanitarian motives do not drive US intervention or international concern.
Airstrikes cannot defeat Daesh as they are spread through civilian areas. They would result in heavy collateral damage. Only boots on the ground (which the US has not offered and which have been rejected by the FSA) can defeat the Islamic State. The Syrian rebels, including Kurdish fighters, have been the ones fighting Daesh for the past year, know the local geography, terrain and people, and are the best placed to strike a real blow to the Islamic State. But to do this they must be provided with the weapons they need.
Attacking ISIS without toppling the tyrant Bashar Al Assad will only lead to exacerbating sectarian divisions in the region. Assad has been responsible both directly and indirectly to contributing to the growth of the IS, and until recently has not attacked ISIS positions focusing instead on attacking the FSA and civilians. Assad is now begging to be a partner in the US coalition, seizing the chance to gain international legitimacy. Any action seen as allying with Bashar Al Assad will lead to a backlash and exacerbate sectarian tensions. This fits well with America’s ‘divide and rule’ policy. We see in Iraq that the US is allying with the criminal government which is dropping barrel bombs on civilian neighbourhoods (recently committing a massacre at a school in Falluja) and using sectarian militias which are carrying out atrocities. The US has also focused its rhetoric on the Islamic State ignoring that popular elements (as well as remnants from the Baathist regime) are also rising against the Iraqi government. The US insistence that Malki steps down, but not doing the same for Bashar, again shows double standards.
Whilst we oppose US/coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, we are appalled by the position of sections of the “anti-war” movement and “anti-imperialist” left which have rallied around tyrannical states instead of supporting the Syrian popular uprising against both Assad and Daesh and for freedom from tyranny. It should be highlighted that the largest foreign intervention so far in Syria has been from the imperialist State of Russia and Iran which have provided massive military, economic and political support to the Assad regime to continue carrying out atrocities against the Syrian people.
The grassroots forces of the Syrian Revolution have shown over and over again their willingness and ability to resist in battle – and often to defeat – any reactionary armed force, be it regime or reactionary “Islamist.” How else explain, after three and a half years of genocidal attacks, the continued mobilization and self-organization for daily survival of liberated towns and neighborhoods throughout the country? We reject the calls of the pseudo-Left to rely upon condescending saviors, whether in Washington or Moscow, in Damascus, Tehran or Riyadh. The steadfastness of the Syrian Revolution originates in the regionwide revolution of which it is an integral part – a revolution which on most fronts is now in retreat, but whose renewed advance depends in no small part on support, politically and materially, for the grassroots Syrian Revolution.
Syrian Revolution Bases of Support