The Likely Winners in the Race to Rebuild Syria

This article was first published on Syria Deeply

Author Joseph Daher examines the Syrian government’s reconstruction strategy and warns that Assad will use rebuilding to reward foreign allies and consolidate power around a small core of Syrian elite.

BEIRUT – The Syrian government’s plans for rebuilding the country’s wrecked cities and governorates are starting to take shape, but there are warning signs the process may not necessarily be geared towards recovery and renewal, according to Swiss-Syrian academic and author Joseph Daher.

Daher argues that two ulterior motives underlie the Syrian government’s approach to reconstruction: Consolidating political and economic power within a narrow circle of Syrian elites connected to the ruling Assad family and quelling dissent in former opposition areas.

Syria Deeply spoke with Daher about the current approach to reconstruction in Syria, the informal business networks shaping government plans, and what this all could mean for the country’s future. Continue reading

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Marxism, the Arab Spring, and Islamic fundamentalism

This article was first published in the International Socialist Review, Issue 106

The revolutionary process in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has suffered through a period of defeats and setbacks since the heady days of 2011.1 Progressive and democratic forces have been or are being squeezed by two counterrevolutionary forces—the existing regimes and various strains of Islamic fundamentalism—and their imperial and regional supporters. The regimes were and are the main threat to the revolts. At the same time, Islamic fundamentalist movements have to be understood as a fundamentally reactionary political force throughout the region.

This counterrevolutionary role necessitates a reevaluation of much of the Left’s analytical understanding of, and strategic approach to, Islamic fundamentalism. The Left must stake out a position independent of both the existing regimes and Islamic fundamentalists, based on a program of democracy, social justice, equality, and liberation and emancipation of the oppressed. Continue reading

Militias and Crony Capitalism to Hamper Syria Reconstruction

This article was first published on the websites of SyriaUntold and openDemocracy’s NAWA

For the first time since 2011, the Damascus International Trade Fair was organized and held for ten days in mid-August 2017 in a bid to bring back foreign investors and promote an image of normalcy in the country. Many companies from Russia, Iran, China, Iraq, India, South Africa, and Lebanon participated among representatives of more than 40 countries. Despite the small economic impact of the Fair and a mortar attack which resulted in several deaths and confirmed the fragility of the security situation, the regime’s message through the organization of Trade Fair to local, regional and international actors was clear: Asad is here to stay and this is the beginning of the Syria’s reconstruction period.

This is the culmination of the focus of the major international and regional state actors on the “war on terror”, and consensus around Bashar Al-Asad remaining in power, both of which have strengthened the confidence of the dictator and the ruling class in Damascus.

However, there remain several challenges for the regime in reaching political and economic stability and securing funds for reconstruction. Some of these challenges are rooted in the internal contradictions and the nature of the regime as a patrimonial state and its need to satisfy divergent interests of actors who played an important role in supporting it, especially militias and crony capitalists. Continue reading

Referendum on Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq: Between hope and contradictions

Kurdistanflag24 (3)A referendum on the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of northern Iraq since 1991 and composed of three provinces, will take place on September 25, 2017.

The vote will not be binding, but will trigger the independence process if the yes votes win. The Iraqi central government, dominated by the Shi’a Islamic fundamentalist movement, Da’wa, and many states in the region, including Turkey and Iran, are opposed to this referendum. At the international level, Russia, the United States and the European Union are suspicious of this poll. Continue reading

Référendum au Kurdistan irakien, entre espoirs et contradictions…

Kurdistanflag24 (3)Un référendum sur l’indépendance du Kurdistan irakien, région autonome du nord de l’Irak depuis 1991 et composée de trois provinces, aura lieu le 25 septembre prochain.

Le vote ne sera pas contraignant mais déclenchera le processus d’indépendance en cas de oui. Le gouvernement central irakien, dominé par le mouvement islamique fondamentaliste shiite, Da’wa, et de nombreux états de la région, dont la Turquie et l’Iran, sont opposés à ce scrutin. Au niveau international, la Russie, les Etats-Unis et l’Union européenne voient avec méfiance ce scrutin. Continue reading

Après les attentats de Barcelone, la même mot d’ordre: « l’Islam est-il responsable des attentats terroristes »?

Après chaque attentat, qui sont des actes à condamner avec des conséquences tragiques, les médias et politiques concentrent les discussions sur la religion islamique pour tenter d’expliquer les crimes et violences par les assassins de l’Etat Islamique (EI), cette fois à Barcelone. Le débat se fait dès lors sur quelle interprétation ou tradition, réformiste ou réactionnaire, du Coran avons nous pour tenter d’expliquer les violences commises au nom de la religion. La Télévision Suisse Romande a par exemple invité le lundi 21 aout Noureddine Ferjani, imam de la Mosquée de Genève, pour commenter les attentats de Barcelone, savoir si il dispose de moyen de combattre l’extrémisme, comment les auteurs des attentats justifient cela en terme de religion, etc…

Le problème de toutes ces discussions, c’est qu’elles axent l’explication et les sources de toutes violences commises au nom de l’Islam (y compris par l’EI) dans la religion islamique et plus précisément le Coran.

Continue reading

Interview with Joseph Daher: “We need a large movement from below!”

Interview with Joseph Daher on his new book on the political economy of the Hezbollah

 Noel van den Heuvel: You have just written a book about Hezbollah. Why, in your opinion, was it necessary to reengage in this topic?

Joseph Daher: When I started in 2010, I thought it would be necessary to study Hezbollah and other Islamic fundamentalist movements because there many questions were still unanswered. You had different point of views regarding movements such as Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether they were termed fascist, as conservative study centres would suggest, or as an Islamic brand of liberation theology as we witnessed in South America. I opposed both understandings. Another point of view I departed from: analysing it as a political party according to its political program, policies, and the social origin of its leadership and cadres. You cannot consider it progressive, but instead as a reactionary and sectarian political party, supporting a capitalist economy. It is a gradualist[i] Islamic fundamentalist movement with an ideal of establishing an Islamic State. Although this is not possible under the current conditions in Lebanon. Continue reading