Friday, 31 August 2012

No sheikh-up here

Luke O'Sullivan "notes that no-one seems to have told the UAE about the so-called 'Arab spring'. And it's now less likely they'll be hearing about it in future"frown emoticon…/american-professor-suddenly…]
"In one sign of twitchiness, the government in February punished some 60 Syrians who had protested outside their country's embassy by cancelling their residency permits, a harsh move considering conditions in Syria. Officials explain that foreigners so outnumber native Emiratis—by six to one—that the UAE cannot afford to let them practise politics."
Political rights might make immigrants think they live there.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

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Star Witness: Top Syrian Media Host Abandons Assad for the Truth

'She drove to work every morning through downtown Damascus to the state television building. "I often sat crying in my car. The thought of having to read Bashar's messages every day almost broke my heart," Abbas says. She spent more than a year telling Syrians that there was no uprising, that the rebels were merely armed terrorists determined to sow chaos, that there was an Israeli-Saudi-Western conspiracy against her country, and that Assad was the protector of the country's sovereignty.'

Which Side Are You On?

"George Galloway has signed up to present a fortnightly show for al-Mayadeen, a new Arab television channel said to be linked to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad."*
Two questions occur as relevant ones for him to be asked:
1. You said earlier this year that Assad must go now. Are you going to put this point on your new show, every time you talk?
2. If the politics of this station are pro-Assad, do you really think it is appropriate to be appearing on such a station?
Syria is not Iran. At first when I saw people compare this to his work with Press TV, I was tempted to care no more about this than I did about that (which did include objecting to the station allowing a Holocaust denier to propagate his views, but not to get worked up that they employed Galloway). But Iran is still a country targeted hypocritically by the most powerful countries, while Syria is a country where politically now there is only one over-arching question; and if you are financially tied to the wrong side of that as a propagandist you deserve to lose Respect.**
**I'd still tend to say that if he was working for the Hezbollah TV station that would be reasonable, depending on what he actually said on there, as Hezbollah is not the Syrian government.
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian president, Bashar Assad, performs Eid prayers in the Hamad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. Assad prayed early on Sunday at the start of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The last time he appeared in public was on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 when he gave a speech in parliament. (AP Photo/SANA)

Robert Fisk: The Syrian army is far from squeaky clean

"Our very own beloved Free Syria Army has actually advertised its own murders in Syria. Chucking policemen off roofs and shooting shabiha to death after torturing them doesn't burnish the reputations of La Clinton or the messieurs Fabius and Hague."
That's some shitty opinionating, but the rest of the article is fine.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Those struggling for freedom in Syria "must not sell out their revolution to foreign backers", writes Barkawi [EPA]

Democracy and the nation-state in Syria and the world

"The challenge in Syria is to make use of its violent opportunity to create a new national people and with it, a new republic. Democracy in the Middle East was never going to be implanted by foreign powers and their occupations. But it can be seized by a politically alive and mature people, who come to collective awareness in and through struggle."

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Child Victims Of Syria's Civil War

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Members of the Free Syrian Army in Damascus suburb of Saqba (file photo)

Syria fighting heightens fear in Damascus

"There are really two groups of people in Damascus - those who have benefited from the regime who fear the loss of their livelihood and businesses if the government falls, and those who see clearly the damage the regime has done."
Bab Touma (July 2012)

Syria's minorities drawn into conflict

"The regime is doing everything it can to divide and rule, but luckily there are still wise people around."

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Robert Fisk: 'They snipe at us then run and hide in sewers'

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 Robert Fisk does point out the range of the insurgency's weapons, originating in such salafist strongholds as Sweden and Belgium, but this seems to combine the possibility of gullibility with reliance on hearsay:

 "So many Aleppo citizens talked to me, out of earshot of soldiers, about armed "foreigners" in their streets along with Syrians "from the countryside" that the presence of considerable numbers of non-Syrian gunmen appeared to be true."

Monday, 20 August 2012

Pursued by violence, pawns in Syrian conflict await an endgame

Free Syrian Army fighters in Saqba, Damascus

 "We asked the FSA to come and protect us. When they arrived, some were local people whom I knew, others were outsiders. People gave them food but they didn't sleep in our houses. For five or six days they were there but when word came of a government offensive they withdrew so as not to have ordinary people get hurt," he said.

 Gives a lie to the subtitle of Jonathan Steele's article:'Criticism of FSA tactics is building,' I recall that 'Building the Syrian State' has been saying much the same all along. Somebody with more focused counter-knowledge might be able to conclude definitively that this piece is absolute rubbish.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The left, imperialism and the Syrian revolution


 "On a mound of twisted metal and concrete shards that had once been a house, a group unfurled a banner that read: EVEN FROM THE RUBBLE, WE WILL FIGHT THE REGIME." Corey Oakley with the best demolition so far of the bypassed by history left.Thanks to Louis N. Proyect for the link.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Spanish Bombs

Many Spaniards were more offended by General Franco's fascist dictatorship than Basque and anarchist bombs, just as most Syrians today are more concerned about Assad than al-Qaida.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Syrian regime is on brink of collapse, says former PM Riyad Hijab

'The regime is collapsing, spiritually and financially, as it escalates militarily," Hijab said. "It no longer controls more than 30% of Syrian territory."'
When the government counter-offensive in Aleppo began, somebody mentioned that they were pulling troops from everywhere else to conduct it; those claiming the stalemate in Aleppo means the failure of rebel strategy might wish to consider this.

Friday, 10 August 2012

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Syria and Jordan troops clash on border
"Syrian forces opened fire on some 300 refugees attempting to flee into Jordan. The Syrians had targeted Jordanian forces by mistake."
You can see how that happens. You're happily taking potshots at refugees when you shoot at someone who has a gun.

In the Shadow of Assad's Bombs

'He was afraid of what might happen if they gave up and the regime survived. “Young men will turn toward fundamentalism and extremism." '

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Daily Star

Do the Assads fear Alawite anger?

"The Assads will continue to be masters of the Alawites for as long as they remain in Damascus. However, once they flee the capital their ability to govern their community will very likely fray severely, or even collapse."
It might also be remarked that as the government increasingly has to destroy areas in order to re-take them, the prospect of it ever ruling normally again recedes.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Quotations Page

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
“Finding myself in the capital,” Tice writes, “made me re-evaluate the rebels’ prospects for a victory soon. The city is huge, just huge, and seizing it will be an enormous undertaking.” It will come as no shock to those aware of CounterPunch that it isn't at its best on Syria.[…/07/stoking-the-syrian-inferno/]
Image result for the washington post

Syrian rebels feel abandoned, betrayed by U.S.

'When the regime falls, as the rebel battalion spokesman assumes it eventually will, Syrians will not forget that their pleas for help went
unanswered, he said.
“America will pay a price for this,” he said. “America is going to lose
the friendship of Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore. Already
we don’t trust them at all.” '
Men search rubble in Tal Rifaat, near Aleppo

Syria conflict: Key Aleppo district sees fierce clashes

"A Russian general whom rebels claimed to have killed in Syria, has turned up alive and well in Moscow. Rebels said Gen Vladimir Kuzheyev was an adviser to the Assad regime."
Somebody has messed up.
"Photographs published on Facebook appear to show that Syrian rebels have for the first time obtained a heat-seeking, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launcher, the New York Times reports"
That's nice for them.
"Turkish lawyer Osman Karahan, who defended suspected al-Qaeda militants linked to four Istanbul truck bombs in 2003, has died in fighting in Aleppo, Turkish media reported."
Pity. Of course "suspected", as well as "lawyer", are important words here.
"Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to call for outside military intervention in Syria, similar to the operation he authorised in Libya while in office last year"
Former sounds good.
"Iran's foreign minister said a group of 48 Iranians abducted by rebels in Syria on Saturday included a number of retired Revolutionary Guards and soldiers but denied they played any active military role"
Am on the verge of saying, "pull the other one son, it has got bells on."
"King Abdullah of Jordan suggested Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might try to create an enclave for his Alawite Muslim sect if he loses control of the country"
And epic fail if he does.

"The defection by Syria's prime minister is the most high-profile coup yet in a well-funded programme, though unlikely to signal any imminent regime collapse." This was where I found Seamus Milne to be too biased to be worth reading. []

Syria Analysis: The Local Coordination Committees

Issue a "Code of Conduct" for Free Syrian Army

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Understanding the regime and the revolutionary process

"Opposition to foreign military intervention in Syria is not enough. Such a position is meaningless if not accompanied by clear and strong support for the Syrian people’s movement."
A Syrian leftist wrote in May on the website of the Fourth International, the oldest trotskyist organization. Their British section, Socialist Resistance has nothing on their website. I see another group, Permanent Revolution [Bill Jefferies] don't seem to have anything since this uncertain bit in January,

Monday, 6 August 2012

Abdelbasset Seida

Syrian opposition 'will negotiate with

'What is the context of this quote from Macbeth?
“Here’s the smell of blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” '*
I think I may have it:…/syrian-opposition-negotiate-gov…
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Syria TV 'hit by bomb attack' in Damascus

I think the desire to stop the régime's propaganda machine is entirely understandable, and may be a good idea, but I am reminded of the American bombing of Serbian TV on the pretext of weakening the state's command and control. On the other hand it's a pity the régime's liars came through unscathed.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Walid al-Muallem

Why Iran needs Assad in power

"Iran may have to find new ways of making friends."James Reynolds seemed like a bit of a fool when he was Jerusalem correspondent, so I'm not sure whether this classic piece of understatement is deliberate.
"Iran appears to be determined to continue supporting Syria. But, in recent months it has also begun to cast an eye to a future in which it may have to do without its main ally." Someone said much the same on the World Service tonight, and this piece now carries a headline that reflects that probability of change more than the one you can see below in preview, "Why Assad's fall would diminish Iran's power".


Here is a short film I made today, with music from Philip Glass and images of the Syrian uprising. Koyaanisqatsi is supposed to mean 'life out of balance' or a state of affairs that cannot continue I think. Unfortunately the pictures from the Syrian Revolution documentary at the end didn't come out quite as wished.
Homs Cemetery

Assad Using Cluster Bombs On Syrian

Civilians, Says Human Rights Watch

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:
"As my wise leftist friends remind me Assad is engaged in a struggle which is objectively anti-imperialist and his cluster bombs aren't shredding civilians to bits, they are merely protecting Iran from western intervention and thereby advancing the Palestinian cause."

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Syria's Crumbling Pluralism

"Instead, rebel fighters on Saudi payroll launch coordinated attacks on high-value targets, the Syrian Army retaliates with disproportionate force, and videos of the ensuing devastation are posted on the Internet."
was the point where I thought this Op-ed descended into an offensive fantasy world. Up to that point there seemed to be several genuine opinions from those that have sided with the régime, but I don't think the opinion laced together from them bears scrutiny.

The Syrian crucible

"The increasing class polarisation in Syrian society also meant that the relationship between the state and the people became increasingly based on harassment and corruption."
I met an Iraqi at the World's End* once. After asking me why I was against the coming Iraq War - "because it will strengthen American imperialism in the region" was my instinctive answer - he told my friend Andy and me that he'd had to leave, not just because of politics, and asked if I could guess why. I hazarded that in a totalitarian police state, they nick everything, which turned out to be the right answer.
I generally expect that Syria will become a lot more pro-American if the revolution succeeds. When Communism was overthrown in Eastern Europe, the same occurred, and the disillusionment with the US is still nothing on the scale it is in Western Europe. Tony Cliff used to tell a story about how his friend in Palestine received a pair of sandals from the Soviet Union, and he kissed them and said something like "God bless the Soviet Union!" The worse your circumstances, the more you are likely to see your enemy's enemy as your friend.
* A pub in Camden

Noggin The Nog

Once Noggin receives an aerial attack force from the Turks and Saudis, I think we have to consider seriously if Nogbad the Bad is all that wicked, or the victim of the Western spin machine.
Syria: Assad regime launches new offensive against rebels as the UN talks

Muslim Brotherhood establishes militia inside Syria

"Our mission is to build a civil country but with an Islamic base," he said. "We are trying to raise awareness for Islam and for jihad."
A lot of people would simply ignore the word 'civil' here. The Telegraph does seem to have done some actual journalism, but this is a bit of a mish-mash, which makes it doubly difficult to assess the statements elicited from rebels, and the conclusions in the headlines may thus be a bit premature.
A mosque damaged by what activists say is shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is seen at Faylon near Idlib on 3 August 2012

Syrian crisis: Fresh fighting hits Damascus and Aleppo

"The focus of the fighting is also on the southern edge of Damascus where shelling and gunfire were reported from the Tadamon quarter, despite it having been earlier stormed by government forces,"
What they have, they can't hold.
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Duncan Hallas
Against the Stream

The August 4th of the Communist International

"In January 1933 Hitler came to power and destroyed, in a matter of weeks, the strongest labour movement in the world. He did so without resistance. The collapse of the world’s biggest social-democratic party was to be expected. It was a continuation of the collapse of the international social democracy on 4 August 1914. The collapse of the German Communist Party, the largest party in the Communist International outside the USSR,was a different matter altogether."
Robin Yassin-Kassab speculates:"So many people who I considered allies, or admired, or even (in nasrallah's case) idolised have proved themselves to be ignorant and arrogant blanket thinkers, or pretend revolutionaries, or Islamophobes, or (unconscious) anti-arab racists, or just ideologically blinkered f***g idiots. It's a great shame. I expect clear-eyed socialists felt the same in 56 and 68, when so many of their 'comrades' convinced themselves that Soviet imperialism in Europe was in the interests of the proletariat, the future, etc..."
For most of the Trotskyist tradition those were secondary events, the point at which the Communist International had made such a debit in its credibility that it was utterly bankrupt had come much earlier. With the current generation we have what Marx and a half might say, "Hegel remarks somewhere that historical events occur thrice. He forgot to add, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce, third as community theatre, with a cast of unknowns and a tiny audience, worth only a couple of sad laughs." The two most significant parties of the far left in Britain, the SWP and Socialist Party (what used to be the Militant) have done fairly well on Syria, the latter may have been a bit mechanistic in their ideas of how the revolution should develop, but their hearts have been in the right place. And so those with something of an Aug 4th situation are most noticeably those from the last few splitlets from the SWP, which might have something to do with their orientation since the first US war in the Gulf in 1991, but that's a much less important question than getting the big questions right.