Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Syrian pound is plunging in value on the black market, trading this past week for more than 300 to a U.S. dollar.

Doubt Over Syrian Steps
to Control Hyperinflation

"The civil war’s effects inside the country have been devastating: towns and cities have been pummeled into ruins, industrial infrastructure destroyed and thousands of factories abandoned.
Oil production, one of Syria’s biggest foreign currency earners, has dropped by 95 percent. Tourism -- another foreign currency mainstay -- has ground to a total halt."

Syria Weighs Its Tactics as Pillars
of Its Economy Continue to Crumble

"The pillars of Syria’s economy have crumbled as the war has destroyed factories, disrupted agriculture, vaporized tourism and slashed oil revenues, with America and Europe imposing sanctions and rebels taking over oil fields."

Supporters of Hezbollah and relatives gesture during a funeral.

'Hezbollah supporters urge leadership: Stop sending our sons to die in Syria'

Via Simon Assaf's twitter feed.
Peashooting world champion Rob Bresler

 Peashooters Blow For 'World' Title

They may be part of the American plan to supply the Free Syrian Army with appropriate weaponry.

Image result for Syria: shelling continues in Damascus and Homs - video

Syria: shelling continues in
Damascus and Homs - video

"Amateur footage purports to show explosions and shelling in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs on Friday and Saturday."

"purports 3rd person singular present of pur·port
Verb - Appear or claim to be or do something, esp. falsely; profess."
What do the Guardian think is being shown if not explosions and shelling? Premature celebration of Bastille Day? At least they've put up the video.

Islamist rejects sectarian violence claim

“I want to reiterate my commitment to the principles of the Syrian revolution, that justice and equality is for all Syrians.”
Palestinian women, who had been living at Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, wait outside the Lebanese immigration authority to have their papers stamped at the Lebanese-Syrian border, in al-Masnaa December 18, 2012. (Reuters/Jamal Saidi)

Attempt to secure return of
Palestinian refugees in Syria fails

"Other reports indicate that the Assad regime attempted to recruit the PLO and viewed their announcement of neutrality as something of a betrayal, particularly in light of the assistance and aid Damascus has offered them in the past.
Over the past month, Palestinian refugees in Syria have found themselves in the firing line of both the Assad regime forces and certain Syrian opposition militias."
I think it is only the government that has been firing at them.

Our Saviours

"If you have been to Syria in the last two years, you would not find this video surprising. Despite the ugliness and savagery reported by the media, by and large the FSA is made up of locals defending their home towns and providing most of the municipal and social services to towns that have been devastated by Assad’s forces."

Friday, 12 July 2013

God Gave Us Life

 Those who say arm Syria's opposition are making a dangerous assumption*
 Assad's regime won't be compelled to negotiate by force: any firepower the rebels gain will be more than matched by its allies

 "Whatever firepower may be provided to the rebels will be more than matched by the regime's allies. SAM missiles may affect the regime's freedom in the skies, but it has sufficient alternative firepower in terms of its massed artillery and armoured forces to maintain its edge. Anti-tank weapons are of limited use in what is essentially an urban war."
 I find this an unpersuasive argument. Wouldn't anti-tank weapons be quite useful against armoured forces? The rest is to repeat the anti-FSA narrative, like Patrick Cockburn they repeat figures for the dead with pro-government assumptions thrown in, and ignoring the probability that given the nature of the war, those killed by the government are markedly underestimated. All done to present the sides as being equal in barbarity, which is an untruth.
 The idea that Assad won't respond to force, but will if you offer him sweeties and ask him to stroke non-existent puppies in the park, is not one that should overly detain us.

Issues in the current stage of Syrian revolution

Michael Karadjis pretty much nails it. I would add to his analysis of the failure of the Obama administration to provide arms, that if they are to obtain leverage over the opposition they will have to provide more than the small arms the rebels can get elsewhere, and there is a wing of the American ruling class (represented by John McCain) that does want to provide real weapons, so the president isn't entirely free from pressure from that direction.
There's a chess reference:
'The Saudi and Qatari offensive in any case does not entirely rely on full-scale sectarian war; if their particular hard-line Islamist supporters can distort the revolution enough for a Sunni Islamist-led regime to be “their” chess piece against Iran and against each other, and to not encourage democratic revolution (especially in places such as Shiite-majority Bahrain chafing under the Saudi-backed repression of the Sunni-minority princes), their purposes are largely served.'
I have got the the point where I disagree with him. I think the answer to the next question is yes, "should supporters of the Syrian revolution therefore be advocating our “own” imperialist rulers send massive quantities of arms to the rebels?"
If our governments have what they need, it would seem impolite not to recommend that it be supplied.
"We should not call on our governments to do anything whatsoever in the Middle East, other than to completely evacuate all troops, military bases, warships, embargoes and so on entirely from the region, and cut off all aid, military or otherwise, to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, and any other repressive regime."
I know it's not a direct comparison, but I'm reminded of Malcolm X's regret that when a white girl asked him what she could do, his reply was nothing. Here's Trotsky:
"Let us imagine that in the next European war the Belgian proletariat conquers power sooner than the proletariat of France. Undoubtedly Hitler will try to crush the proletarian Belgium. In order to cover up its own flank, the French bourgeois government might find itself compelled to help the Belgian workers’ government with arms. The Belgian Soviets of course reach for these arms with both hands. But actuated by the principle of defeatism, perhaps the French workers ought to block their bourgeoisie from shipping arms to proletarian Belgium? Only direct traitors or out-and-out idiots can reason thus."
I think he's wrong here too. Geneva, like the Kofi Annan visits, is part of a process of shoring up Assad, the assertion that there is no prospect of a military victory for the opposition is based on a misreading of the course of events. If the government regains control over much of the country, however constrained it is by promises to the international community, it will mean torture and murder on a mass scale. While the opposition refuses to accede to a phony peace process, that falls short of a genuine transition, the régime can only expel the people, not sustain its rule over them.
"At the same time, while the Syrian opposition should in principle be able to get as many arms as it can from anywhere it can, it could be argued that just at the moment, it may be tactically wise to not emphasise this point (except if arms could get directly to those defending besieged places such as Qusayr yesterday or Homs today), in order to give maximum chances to the possibility of a ceasefire arising out of the US-Russian Geneva process." How one can support only direct arms shipments seems like quite a skilled operation.
'Eventuate' is a pretty crappy verb. Happen.
I agree with his list of reasons why direct intervention causes problems (and indeed, doubt it was quite as tide-turning in Libya as both supporters and advocates claim). But solidarity has to be support for solid weapons. Tony Cliff used to point out that you don't bring a copy of Socialist Worker to a gunfight.

Pound's woes lift Syrian bourse

Pound's woes lift Syrian bourse

I assume the fall of the pound accelerates the financial bankruptcy of the régime.

Syria: the people will not kneel and

 will not accept any new tyranny!

“The green path will cross from Damascus to Tehran, toppling all tyrants. The path of humanity and love from the free Syrian people.”

Help Syria now. Tomorrow it may be too late

Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system

Yassin al-Haj Saleh:

 "An area that had 2 million inhabitants before the uprising, East Ghouta is now populated by only around one million. It was a base from which the rebels headed towards the capital, but is now completely besieged by the regime's forces due to renewed support from Russia and Iran, and the arrival of Iran-sponsored Iraqi and Lebanese militias. During the past three months, I have personally witnessed the staggering lack of arms, ammunition, and even food for the fighters.People fight here with absolute defiance because they realise that a big massacre awaits them if the regime succeeds in regaining control over the area. Those who are not killed immediately will be arrested and tortured savagely."


"The campaign in Homs shows the Syrian government’s difficulty with launching sequential campaigns without operational pause, as well as the challenges it faces from launching multiple, simultaneous offensives in Aleppo, Homs, and Damascus in ways that protract each fight."


Henry Kissinger: Balkanized and Broken-Up Syria “Best Possible Outcome”
Never was a man who believed in punishing dictators. As long as they didn't piss off America of course.

“In the American press it’s described as a conflict between democracy and a dictator- and the dictator is killing his own people, and we’ve got to punish him. But that’s not what’s going on. It may have been started by a few democrats. But on the whole it’s an ethnic and sectarian conflict.”

Note, 31/3/15. I see this is from the conspiracy theory site, the Centre for Research on Globalization. But their contribution does seem to be a direct quote from an actual video.

FBI agents leaving the home of Farooque Ahmed in Ashburn, Virginia

How phony fear of US jihadis obscures

the real threat of far-right terror

Some people will be rightly angry about this, but be happy to peddle the same prejudice when it comes to Syrian Muslims.
Syrian troops on an operation in city streets

Why the left must support Syria's revolution

This is better from Yusef Khalil.
"As Lebanese author Fawwaz Traboulsi explained brilliantly:
The Syrian revolutionaries don't owe anybody an apology. Nor should they waste any time explaining their neglect of other forms of struggle. This great people still demonstrates at every opportunity to affirm its presence and willingness to pursue peaceful means. The only thing that requires an explanation is their position regarding financing and foreign aid.
Whoever has lived under the same conditions as Syrian citizens, and witnessed all this repression and murder, and was forced to pick up a weapon, knows they will look for weapons from anywhere. The regime, which has pushed Syrians to pick up guns, has also pushed them to accept financing for their armed struggle. It is no secret that armed revolutions have financial needs beyond the direct means of the people involved.
The vital question facing the Syrian opposition is how to get aid from sources that can provide what the revolution needs, including weapons, while maintaining independent Syrian decision-making."
Refugees from the fighting in Syria prepare a meal outside their tent in a camp on the Syrian-Turkish border

Understanding Syria's revolution today

This is the most reasonable formulation I've seen of the American guns are dangerous position, but it still lets them off the hook if they don't deliver. When he writes, 'I see a more fundamental problem with appealing to governments to arm the revolutionaries. It seems to me to be unrealistic because state-sponsored arms are never given to democratically controlled organizations,' that sounds like Yusef Khalil is hoping for someone to blame rather than asking what help should be demanded. It might be Chris Harman who once said that nobody thanks you for pointing out that it's raining unless you've brought an umbrella.
'But the question of arms procurement by the revolutionaries will remain very significant at this heavily militarized stage. An appeal for Western weapons is an understandable (but I think, dangerous) attempt to level that playing field. I understand that people need to defend themselves against the military machine of the regime, or be slaughtered. Faced with those conditions, you will accept any help you can get. The blame here isn't on those seeking to defend themselves, but on the overwhelmingly massive "military solution" that Assad has unleashed on Syrians and shows no signs of halting.
But winning the struggle by purely military means is highly improbable. And the fragmentation and sectarianism brought on by the reactionary Sunni groups is helping the regime destroy the social fabric in Syria.
Faced with these circumstances, the revolutionary left in Syria is aiming to bring the mass, civil, "unarmed" movement out of the shadows in order to unite it under popular control with the armed resistance.'

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Yassin-Kassab versus Landis

I have a small part.
Dick Gregory: “Do you think the US should pump in the weapons until Sunni rebel militias have conquered Damascus and the coast?” – I think not calling the FSA a Sunni rebel militia would be a start. I assume the point is that to create a mini-Alawite state would require the ethnic cleansing or cowing of the majority, and so is an even more impractical alternative to a revolution for all Syrians.
The suggestion that Obama could get the F̶S̶A̶ Sunni militias to fight one war against Assad and another against radical Islamists simultaneously is also highly questionable, and that they are likely to massacre non-Sunnis en masse in the event of victory re-writes the history of the conflict. Not a well written article

Top Men

The government is getting a"top accounting firm" in to sort out G4S.
Owen Jones is doing the BBC paper review tonight, with former Murdoch minion Neil Wallis.
Jon Snow was fairly patronising about British jihadis in Syria on Channel 4 News. They may be unwanted idiots, but making your central question whether it's their idea, or they are being groomed by older men, would raise eyebrows in another context.

War in Syria: what would Thomas Aquinas do?

 'The 13th-century theologian set out the rules for a just war – and an intervention in Syria would fall short of them, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
 "It is notable that the means of involvement in this war is by sending arms, not troops. If the war were wholly just and the intention rightful then it ought to follow that a just ruler would want to be directly involved in securing peace. Yet desire to do so by proxy indicates either an uncertainty of purpose, or a lower value being placed on Syrian lives." '
 I would argue the opposite, that it is by receiving arms rather than foreign intervention that Syrians have the best prospect of keeping their future in their own hands.
 I did study Aquinas for a week once.

Assad’s narrative is making headway

"Assad did everything to bring about precisely this violent outcome; and had his Hezbollah allies not intervened militarily in the Syrian conflict, it is unlikely that we would have seen car bombs in Lebanon. But as we assess the balance of forces, the Syrian regime and its backers have gained the upper hand, while the Syrian opposition is now viewed with uneasiness because of its association with the jihadists.
Observers warned of this two years ago, when the Americans and Europeans were fiddling over what to do in Syria. They still are and the vacuum they helped perpetuate only facilitated the emergence of jihadist groups that Western governments had feared bolstering."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


Syria's communal tensions are fuelled by politics not theology

Robin Yassin-Kassab

"A few months ago, for example, Islamist black flags dominated demonstrations in Raqqa, in the east of the country; now, Raqqa's demonstrations are as likely to be against Jabhat Al Nusra, the extremist militia which nominally controls the city, as against the regime. This is not an Islamist rebellion but a popular revolution. As in Egypt, if Islamists oppress the people or fail to deliver, they too will be rebelled against."

"If you’d prefer to read my tense choices, before the subediting process, read this version here."
A Syrian woman looks through a bus window in the northern city of Aleppo on February 14, 2013. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and opposition National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib will make separate visits to Moscow for talks in the coming weeks, a top Russian diplomat said. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Against All Odds, Female Reporters Lead in Syria

“Most important are the women who still live out a normal life under the shelling.”

Syrians say they have given

up on U.S. weapons promises

I might get around later to talking about the comparison between Sarajevo and Homs (in part a feeling of hope, that Homs cannot be taken fast enough for the massacre that would entail not to be preventable), and generally the comparison between Bosnia and Syria, and how everyone has their own version of history.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


 Newsnight is currently doing Syria. In Mark Urban's introduction, he said that since 2012, the government has used aircraft, "sometimes inaccurately", assuming that they weren't trying to kill lots of civilians.
 Robin Yassin-Kassab's on.
 Hope may not always come from the barrel of a gun, but despair is when someone is pointing one at you and you don't have one.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Internally displaced Syrian youths

Millions of Syrians in need of food

aid as war devastates food production

"Food production has been hampered by high costs and reduced availability of inputs, damage to agricultural machinery and storage facilities, the threat of violence and the flight from the land by farmers. Some crops may not be harvested."
I'll find the source for a claim that the régime has been burning crops. Not a crisis that is going away if ignored.
"Before the crisis, Syria was a significant exporter of agricultural produce, including cotton, fruit and vegetables, sheep and cattle. But exports have dried up leading to losses of about $500,000 a year."

Syria – We’re Still Alive, Love

"Although it may not have a direct impact on Assad’s fall, it is an ideological threat that adds weight to the culture of Syrian resistance. Prisoners lined up against the wall of a dingy Damascene police headquarters in Light After Dark by Hamid Sulaiman, emphasise this risk and its consequences."
The ‪#‎withoutwords‬ exhibition at the P21 Gallery in Euston continues until 1 September 2013.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

By their friends shall you know them

"No one can seriously deny the popular nature of the original protests movement against the Assad dictatorship. Only a fool or Assad apologist would beg to differ. But even then things changed and Sunni Islamists took the lead turning the democratic struggle in Syria into a sectarian civil war*. All sorts of overseas Jihadists flocked into Syria, much to the concern of the US and Britain. Not that that has stopped the Obama administration committing itself to openly arming the Free Syrian Army** (not a coherent force; rather a loose umbrella organisation). However, surely the ‘By their friends shall you know them’ motto applied long ago***. The fact of the matter**** is that the US has being fighting a proxy war in Syria - its main target is Assad’s main regional ally, Iran.
Thankfully*****, there are signs that the SWP may be shifting its position - even if you have to strain hard to detect it. A recent issue of Socialist Worker made a passing reference to the “sectarian battles” that have broken out in Lebanon after Hezbollah threw its weight behind the Assad regime - the latter trying to “hold onto power against what began as a popular revolution” (my emphasis, June 25). Therefore, presumably, there is no longer a “popular revolution” or “Syrian revolution”. We await further clarification."

* Only a fool or Assad apologist...
**Not a coherent argument
***Only an Assad apologist...
****Facts are difficult things.

Their friend has nuclear weapons

Socialist Worker

 "The bombing of Iraq last weekend was soaked in hypocrisy. Shia Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north rose up against Saddam Hussein at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. They wanted to overthrow the 'evil tyrant' the US and Britain told us that war was all about. But in another sick display of their hypocrisy, the US and Britain sat back and watched while Saddam Hussein brutally crushed both risings. Whatever they say today, they preferred Saddam Hussein in office to the prospect of a popular rising."

 If the Americans had armed the Shia in the South of Iraq or the Kurds in the North when they rose against Saddam Hussein AFTER the Gulf War in 1991, would those condemning the prospect of American help for Syrian rebels have condemned the Americans then? Of course they would, and had no problem calling the Americans hypocrites. I'm sure they'd say that the ongoing sanctions and occasional bombing would render such risings just part of an American proxy war, and so support for them is contingent for the geo-politicists on the risings not getting enough support to avoid being crushed.

 Those in the SWP and the ISO who have been lukewarm about the rebels getting guns in Syria might do well to reflect, because they should know better.

British Syrians & Friends in Solidarity

It is rare to see "terrorist" used appropriately.
'Bashar Assad and his gang have Iran and Russia to support them. Iran supports the regime with money and terrorists, and Russia supports them with weapons and ammunition.
If Iran and Russia leave Bashar Assad alone, he will fall automatically.'

Assad forces in onslaught on Homs

To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a desert and call it peace.

Activist Who Documented Syrian

War’s Toll Became Its Victim

"On Friday, Mr. Baali, a citizen journalist and an antigovernment activist known to many Syrians by the nom de guerre Mohammed Moaz, died of shrapnel wounds sustained weeks earlier as government forces shelled his neighborhood, Qaboun, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Mr. Baali had remained in the working-class jumble of concrete houses during months of heavy bombardment, rushing with his video camera to the scene of attacks."

In Syria’s Villages, Regime

Shells Aim for Civilians

"People do not hate the war, the revolutionaries, or their Islamist mujahedin allies. They hate the regime. They hate Iran. They hate Hezbollah. They hate the Shia. And they hate America for standing by and allowing this to happen. Innocents who might have been, for want of better terms, moderate have become polarized. And Mahmood sees them daily as he races toward the bombing sites, watching the regime’s brutality hardening face after face."

Dr. Hassan Masri

Helping the cause in their Syrian homeland

'During two weeks in Syria treating the sick and wounded — and seeing men succumb to heart attacks for want of medicine, women and girls laboring to conceal their having been raped, children who had frozen to death — the Baltimore physician developed a new level of commitment to the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

"I'm just in awe of these people when I think about what they're facing and the fact that they're still protesting," she says. "Their conviction is unbelievable." '