Article published in November 2011
For the first time on Friday October 28, demonstrations in Syria called for a “no fly zone”. Some members of the Syrian national Council (SNC) have called for foreign military intervention. The Muslim Brotherhood and liberals linked to the US such as Radwan Ziadeh, head of the SNC’s foreign affairs bureau, have both been the most vocal on this issue and said that military intervention is a possibility. This is despite declarations of Burhan Ghalioun, President of the SNC, opposing any foreign military intervention.
This marks an important shift in the public stance of the SNC away from opposition to foreign intervention. It represents a serious weakening of the revolution. In addition to this, last weekend, the Arab league has suspended temporarily Syria membership and has threatened to implement economic and political sanctions against the Syrian government. The Arab League on Saturday gave Syria a three-day deadline to end its crackdown or face sanctions. If Syria failed to comply, the regional bloc said the suspension would take effect on November 16. It was the decision of the Arab League to suspend Libya’s membership that facilitated the vote of the UN Security Council for a NATO military campaign over the country.
These last events necessitate an analysis from different levels of the SNC, the imperialists and the possibility of a foreign intervention.
It is clear that some members of the SNC, and not the whole council, particularly the liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood have established links, with imperialist’s countries such as the USA and France. These forces have also strengthened their relationships with reactionary Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia. They are also strengthening links with Turkey which hopes to reinforce its position in the region. Both the Gulf countries and Turkey support the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberals in Syria, and elsewhere in the region, to push forward neo liberal economic policies and to normalize relationship with Israel.
These groups and personalities should be condemned for their links with imperialists and are far from representing the Syrian popular movement. These forces inside the SNC have been the most willing to call for sanctions against Syria and for foreign military intervention.
Yet even now they are not a majority inside Syria and are very far from being one. Calls for a foreign military intervention are not followed by most of the popular movement. This can be seen by the declaration of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) on “The Vision of the Local Coordination Committees on International Protection”. The LCC is a real force on the ground struggling against the regime without any links with foreign imperialists. They have published in their statement the following quotes:
– “We affirm the right of the Syrian people to freely determine, without external interference, the form of its political governance, and to pursue economic, social and cultural development of the Syrian society”
– “As we insist, in the present very special circumstances, on the direct right of the Syrian people to affirm its right of self-determination before the international community, we assure that all calls based on the ground of “droit d’ingérance,” “devoir d’ingérance,” “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect” should not hinder the aspiration of the Syrian people to cause peaceful change by its own forces; or lead to dealing with the Syrian people as yet another sphere of influence in the game of nations. Every day, the demonstrators in Syrian towns and villages chant the motto “The People Wants…” The People Wants emancipation from authoritarian rule. It wants to take and hold the initiative in decision making in public affairs, in an independent and peaceful way, in order to determine all aspects of its public life freely and deliberatively. It also wants to maintain friendly relations among nations. The Syrian People does not want to substitute authoritarian rule by submission to foreign influence. The Syrian People extracted its independence and founded its modern State. It aspires to liberate all its lands and chiefly the Golan. It aspires to continue supporting the struggle of peoples for self-determination, and chiefly that of the Palestinian People. As the Syrian People is revolting against its oppressive rulers, it will not hesitate to revolt against all forms of foreign domination.”
– “We consider that the objectives of international protection must be limited to ensuring the safety of peaceful assembly and demonstration, so as to enable the Syrian people to freely exercise self-determination, by its own peaceful forces, towards transition to a pluralistic, secular and democratic system of governance, based on public freedoms, as well as legal and political equality among all Syrians.”
In addition to this more than clear refusal of any foreign influences in Syria and on the future of the country, several opposition members such as Michel Kilo and Haytham Manna have denounced any call in support of any foreign military intervention.
The imperialists and the Gulf countries have actually failed to intervene or to influence importantly the popular movement in a direct manner inside Syria these past few months, because they understand that their Syrian clients, the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberals, are too weak inside the popular movement and in the Syrian street. They would therefore not be able to secure foreign imperialists interests in Syria and in the region if the regime were overthrown. The imperialists have, for the moment, chosen the status quos in Syria despite appearances favoring the popular movement in Syria.
This is why none of the imperialists’ countries have withdrawn its ambassadors and the NATO have repeatedly declared it’s unwillingness to intervene in Syria, explaining the situation is different from Libya. The imperialists and the Gulf countries have also supported the plan of the Arab league, and which the Syrian regime has accepted without reservation despite continuing the repression on protesters.
The text states that the Syrian regime has agreed to several measures, including the removal of a military presence from cities and residential areas, the release of all political prisoners and allows the Arab League and foreign media to monitor and report on the situation.
Nevertheless the imperialists have enforced sanctions on the Syrian regime these past few months. But this may be in order to weaken only so much as to be able to push forward their own interests without breaking the regime entirely.
So why is it that NATO has not already intervened military in the country.
One reason is that the Libyan operation, though eventually a victory for NATO, turned out to be longer, more risky, and with a more unstable outcome than the imperialists predicted. Risks in Syria would be greater still because the Assad regime is at least a stable regime that they know. Intervention might produce an unstable enemy that they do not know.
The Syrian regime, which has been a quite docile element in the region for imperialists on various levels. The imperialists fear that regime change in Syria would modify the current status quo between Syria and Israel. Syria has avoided direct confrontation with Israel for nearly four decades, despite its calculated support to Palestinians and Lebanese resistance groups. With the exception of some air battles in 1982, Israel and Syria have not been in military conflict since 1973.
Syria has not responded to direct attacks on its soil widely attributed to Israel, including a 2007 air strike on a suspected nuclear reactor or the assassination of a top Lebanese resistant Imad Moghniye in 2008. During the Lebanese war in 2006, not one bullet was shot from the Syrian territory. On
Syria has engaged in multiple rounds of peace talks. Although these talks have not yielded an agreement, their repeated failure has led to nothing worse than continued chill. Israeli experts say that instability or regime change in Syria could change this long-standing arrangement. Syrians officials have repeatedly declared their readiness to sign a peace agreement with Israel as soon as the occupation of the Golan ends, while nothing was said on the broader Palestinian issues. Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Bashar Al Assad, declared in June that if there is no stability in Syria, there will be no stability in Israel, adding that no one can guarantee what will happen if something happens to the Syrian regime.
We should not forget that it was the regime of Hafez al Assad that crushed the Palestinians and the progressive movements in Lebanon in 1976, putting an end to their revolution, and participated in the imperialist war against Iraq in 1991 with the US-led coalition. The Syrian regime has arrested anyone in the country trying to develop resistance for the liberation of the Golan and Palestine for the past 30 years.
It is the Syrian people who have pressured the Syrian regime to support resistance in the past. It is the Syrian population who welcomed Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis refugees when they were attacked and occupied by imperialist powers. A victory for the Syrian Revolution will open a new resistance front against the imperialist powers, while its defeat will strengthen them.
This situation however may change rapidly if the imperial powers think that the balance of risk in overthrowing the Syrian regime is changing in their favour. The problem with the opposition calling for NATO assistance is that this is precisely the kind of change that will make the NATO powers think they can gamble successfully on overthrowing the regime.
But for those who still believe in the possibility and the positive effects a foreign military intervention would have in Syria, we should invite them to watch at the Iraqi or Afghan scenarios, which are both without democracy, social justice and stability after ten years. The human catastrophe in both countries is indescribable and still ongoing as we speak.
The Libyan experience has also shown how destructive a foreign military intervention can be. The death toll in Libya when NATO intervened was perhaps around 1,000-2,000 (according to UN estimates), eight months later it is probably more than ten times that figure. Estimates of the numbers of dead over the last eight months – as NATO leaders vetoed ceasefires and negotiations – range from 10,000 up to 50,000. The National Transitional Council puts the losses at 30,000 dead and 50,000 wounded.
It is important to understand that a possible NATO intervention in Syria will not protect civilians, as we have witnessed in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but on the opposite will multiply the number of their deaths and only bring chaos.
In addition to this, a foreign military intervention would put the country under occupation for years. We can see again the Iraqi and Afghanistan examples where US forces are still on the ground, while the new authorities in Libya have asked for NATO forces to stay in the country.
The Syrian people don’t want to replace an authoritarian regime by a foreign occupation.
What’s the solution? Popular permanent mobilization!
The Syrian people have increasingly understood that the victory of the revolution should not be searched outside or with imperialist’s powers, unless they comply with them, which the popular movement is not ready to. The permanent mobilization of the masses is the only way to protect the revolution and to achieve victory against this violent authoritarian regime. This needs that all sections of society participate in the popular movement and the struggle, enhancing every day the political education and conscience of each Syrian citizen, therefore enhancing the establishment of a future Democratic, Social and Anti imperialist Syria.. This is the way Syrians will overthrow the regime and secure the destiny of the country.
Rosa Luxemburg resumed well the dilemma for the proletariat in their struggle against capitalism, which can be compared in some aspects to the struggle of the Syrian people: `In order to be able to overthrow [capitalism], the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class consciousness and organization. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution.’
This means multiplying strikes and civil disobedience against the illegitimate authorities, while creating alternative centers of powers. The Syrians have to continue and repeat even more often the movements of strikes, as we witnessed it in the past seven months and actually increase their sphere of influence to everywhere and reach the cities of Damascus and Aleppo on a much larger scale.
The history of Syria is made of massive strikes which paralyzed the country. In 1936, Syrians launched a general strike, which lasted successfully for two months and coincided with a wave of protests against the French occupiers. The general strike included most of the administrative, educational and commercial facilities. We can refer to traders strike for three days in Damascus in 1965 and again in March 1980. Mass mobilization is not a foreign element or concept in the history of the struggle of the Syrian masses. This can and should be repeated today in order to overthrow the regime.
Permanent mobilization of the masses is the way to spread the revolution throughout Syria, just as Trotsky explained it: “The revolution awakens – and in this lies its force – the most backward, downtrodden, the most oppressed toiling masses. The strike is the form of their awakening. By means of the strike, various strata and groups of the proletariat manifest themselves, signal to each other, verify their own strength and the strength of their foe. One layer infects and awakens the other.”
In conclusion, the Syrian revolution is an integral part of the revolutionary process and dynamics happening in the current Arab world, and should not be separated from it, struggling just like the Egyptians, Tunisians and the others a Democratic, Social and anti imperialist region. This is why it is so important to protect it from imperialist powers which will not intervene to fulfill the will of the Syrian people.