Friday, 30 October 2015

Too Weak, Too Strong

LRB Cover

 "The Russian air strikes that have been taking place since the end of September are strengthening and raising the morale of the Syrian army."
 That would be the Syrian army that has been retreating across Hama despite the Russian airstrikes. The pro-Assad lies are strong in this one.
 "Literally from the front line."* No, a liar who has embedded himself with Assad's minders in hotels in Damascus, who never sees the destruction Assad does, never talks to the people he's doing it to, and who is quite capable of making up his presence at an incident Brian Williams style.[]
 "It needs partners on the ground who are fighting IS, but its choice is limited because those actually engaged in combat with the Sunni jihadis are largely Shia."
 This is another lie. It is the Free Syrian Army that has been fighting against ISIS in Northern Syria for the last two years.
 "Shia leaders dismiss the idea, much favoured in Washington, that a sizeable moderate, non-sectarian Sunni opposition exists that would be willing to share power in Damascus and Baghdad."
 A series of untruths. The opposition is not just Sunni, but Christian, Alawite and atheistic too. None of them are willing to share power with the torturers and rapists of the Assad régime, but want a democratic pluralist state. The Shia leaders, Iran and its proxies, don't want to share power, they've been pursuing a genocide in Syria precisely against the Sunnis above all.
 "In the swathe of countries most directly involved in the conflict – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – there are more than a hundred million Shia, who believe their own existence is threatened if Assad goes down, compared to thirty million Sunnis, who are in a majority only in Syria."
 The figures show what a nonsense the excuse for supporting Assad in his genocide against Sunnis is. Very reminiscent of the Israeli claim that if they stop oppressing the Palestinians the Israelis will all be killed.
 "A few miles further on, in the town of Tal Abyad, which the YPG had captured from IS in June, a woman ran out of her house to wave down the police car I was following to say that she had just seen an IS fighter in black clothes and a beard run through her courtyard. The police said there were still IS men hiding in abandoned Arab houses in the town."
 The allegation that Arab residents are member of ISIS is the justification for ethnic cleansing by the Kurdish forces, as Amnesty has noted. As with Assad, or the Russian bombing that Cockburn laments "has taken attention away" from the failure of the US campaign against ISIS, these war crimes just aren't part of his narrative.
 "Between 2011 and 2013 it was conventional wisdom in the West and much of the Middle East that Assad was going to be overthrown just as Gaddafi has been."
 And it was only massive military assistance from Russia, which had to be bolstered by thousands of troops from Hezbollah, and thousands more from Iran's other proxy militias, that saved it from rebels who couldn't get their hands on anti-aircraft missiles, let alone the tanks and aeroplanes Assad has.
 "In late 2013 and throughout 2014, it was clear that Assad still controlled most populated areas, but then the jihadi advances in northern and eastern Syria in May revived talk of the regime’s crumbling."
 If you read Cockburn through 2013 and 2014, you'll see repeated assertions of the strength of Assad, that he controls all the provincial capitals, that the army is strong, that all communities still supported him. As the régime has continued to hollow out, it is his assessment that has proved to have nothing in it, not that that Assad is a dictator who has relied almost entirely on force rather than consent since 2011, and now is a dead man walking with only a skeleton apparatus of power, who would be gone in five minutes if Iran and Russia left him to it, and will only last five minutes when the more united than ever Syrian rebel forces kick Iran and Russia out of their country.
 "Russian air support won’t be enough to defeat IS and the other al-Qaida-type groups."
 Russian air support isn't going to do anything to defeat ISIS when it is used overwhelmingly against the Free Syrian Army. In fact the Russian bombing of the FSA has enabled ISIS to cut the régime's access to Aleppo, leading to the bizarre situation where the opposition has been asked to open a supply route by aid agencies to the area controlled by the people barrel bombing them. Russia's intervention is a disaster all round, but you'll never discover why from a study of Cockburn on its own.

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