Surveillance Society

This is currently my only means of communication. After concluding that my phone could have been stolen (incomprehensibly while I was sleeping and with no other sign of intrusion) I took a half empty tram to the city and bought a $89 Telstra Slim Plus as the quickest way to keep in touch, try to find it if has mysteriously hidden itself and turned off regular alarm times and as spare phone for emergencies so I won’t have to deal with Telecos while sick even if it does turn up.

Convinced that Telstra would have a nightmarish registration system online I proceeded to the nearby Telstra shop cnr Bourke and Swanston with my phone and driver’s licence to have it activated while I wait and asked for the form. Told there was no problem but also no form and a “consultant” would assist. Some time later while reading the papers, at 13:39 I was told (without asking) “won’t be long now”. At 14:07 a “consultant” quickly and efficiently established that I simply wanted the phone activated without going online and went off with the phone and driver’s licence.

At 14:23 she returned and told me the phone was “activated” presenting me with the used SIM card container showing the mobile number and a message on the screen inviting me to send a text message. I returned to base to attempt catching my previous phone in hiding by tempting it to make a noise anywhere near me when I call or text it from the new phone. But first I entered a couple of phone numbers in the contact book to get back in touch. On calling each of them I got the message “this number cannot be reached at present from this service” or something equally uninformative.

So at 16:47 I gave up and texted “Hi” to my new number and duly received the message at the only number that CAN be reached with my “activated” phone. So I then had to go through exactly the procedure the “consultant” had spent 15″ pretending to do. But first I had to go online by turning on mobile data and clicking the link for “Activation”. That ensures that purchaser’s of new Telstra phones will set “mobile data” on so they can be billed for more than just making calls. Then I entered a 13 digit SIM card number from the cardboard container after carefully analysing the two different 13 digit barcodes and correctly identifying that the one with ON at the end must be the right one since the N is just to maximize confusion and is not a digit.

The purpose of this is presumably in the hope that I would have thrown away the cardboard SIM card number as completely useless since the SIM was already in the phone and registered to Telstra.

So much for Telstra. Now comes the government surveillance. I knew what to expect and had therefore taken my driver’s licence on the tram trip. Naturally everybody is required to continuously notify the three closest teleco antennas of where they are at all times when their phone battery has not been removed from the phone and this needs to be linked with other surveillance IDs such as driving licence. So I entered the name, address and date of birth shown on my driving licence.

This was completely unacceptable. I was further required to choose between “Mr”, “Miss”, “Mrs” or “Ms”, none of which is on my driver’s licence, compelled to retype the address omitting the “c/o” in front and compelled to provide an email address. Then had to choose between “Prepaid Max” and “Long Life”. There is a 47 page booklet “Telstra Pre-paid Welcome Guide” which I may consult later.

I knew I would have to provide a working email address since the online form would send a verification message and would not activate the phone without me answering it. This is a standard convenient way of handling the common problem of people needing to reset passwords etc after forgetting them and is particularly convenienent for correlating online activity with movement and phone calls as well as for Teleco spam. So I gave them my working gmail address and was told I would get a confirmation email in 4 hours. GOTCHA!

So a completely pointless 4 hour delay was imposed in which I could not search for my missing phone or make other calls. It isn’t even like the banks adding days of delay between accepting cash and adding it to an account because they keep the interest on the “float”. Nor does it serve any government surveillance purpose I can think of quickly (though perhaps others have given it more thought). Seems to just be Telecos being as irritating as possible. Perhaps as further punishment for using a pre-paid account instead of getting a “Customer ID” and linking in all financial transactions for surveillance.

Anyway, off I went to the park to finish reading the papers, honestly thinking that I would just be able to click on the email link without further hassles. OF COURSE NOT.

Google told me “Account Action Is Required” and then at 19:56 “Your password was changed 14 hours ago”. Same on both Tablet and Laptop. So either Google changed it or my phone WAS stolen. No problem, Google had kept insisting that I provide them with a phone number for verifying changed passwords, which is convenient both for solving that problem of verification when unable to access email and for ensuring that email addresses and phone numbers are tied together in both directions for surveillance. So I did.

AND NOW I AM REALLY STUCK. Since Google can only reset the password when verified from my old phone and the thief has the phone, Telstra won’t activate the new phone. I assume I will now have to call Telstra at some functioning number hidden towards the end of the 47 page booklet and then sort things out with Google later. First a good nights sleep.

Meanwhile, in case my access to this WordPress blog disappears I could start using another WordPress blog on the same account at:

https://thecapitalistcycle.wordpress.com/ or else:

https://github.com/capitalistcycle/tech/issues which is now owned by Microsoft and also tied to my gmail account.

Naturally this is while dealing with covid-19 situation.

Notes on Trump 43, Nazis and Brexit both sides losing

1   Brexit dramatization is still being scripted despite outcome having been done and dusted during the Ides of March. Current scheduling seems to be a pointless request for a delay till end of June on the basis of hypothetical successful third attempt at getting deal through Parliament that didn’t happen today. That seems to be intended to be postponed by the EU until an emergency meeting around the day before deadline expiry so as to maximize the number of Tory Brexiteers who might humiliate themselves by voting for BRINO in fear of the obvious alternative. That alternative seems to have been scheduled for April Fools day when  the UK gets offered a choice between spending the next two months actually preparing for “no deal” or agreeing to a referendum.

The EU will have been maximally cooperative with the UK Government seeking to get the deal approved. Only the usual suspects will keep claiming failure of Brexit is their fault rather than a British decision. May will have kept her promise to fight till the bitter end and will be able to blame the hard Brexiteers for forcing the long delay followed by no Brexit. Corbyn will have fought against a “Tory Brexit” still valiantly holding open some hypothetical unspecified alternative and only reluctantly accepted the referendum for no Brexit. But there will, as has been obvious for a long time, be no Brexit.

Here is quite a good analysis on the eventual referendum:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/19/brexit-tensions-referendum

Key point is that the parliamentary maneuvering does not include a positive campaign to convince people in favour of European Union.

Opponents have been out-maneuvered but Corbyn would not fight in the first referendum and won’t fight now. It is tactically smart party politicking for him to let things drag out while the Tories discredit themselves without alienating Labour supporters that voted to leave or the large majority of Labour members who want to remain. Likewise Therese May is being denounced as hopelessly incompetent by the people she has been very competently isolating in the Tory party. But both sides are unprincipled. Resentment could still do long term damage even when Remain gets a large majority as a result of their opponents not bothering to vote for BRINO.

2. CNN has acknowledged that Trump’s tactics on the wall have worked out for him:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/19/politics/trump-approval-rating-national-emergency-analysis/index.html

Also they have started paying attention to voters rather than polls counting everyone.

Their polling confirms Trump lost no support and is back to 43% approval among voters (42% including non-voters).

The preference for Democrats among non-voters is actually much more than the 1% they have noticed.

Rasmussen polls voters daily and is still running closer to 50% (today’s 47% approval, 52% disapproval)

3. This is also a good analysis on Democrat tactics against Trump from a right-winger helpfully explaininng Trump voters to CNN:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/19/opinions/what-progressives-should-know-about-trump-voters-hanson/index.html

Fascinating that they are so far gone Trumpists feel no hesitation about telling them how to do better.

They are still rabbiting on about Trump’s imminent doom from the Mueller inquiry but my morbid fascination that led me to read past the headlines of “explosive” new revelations has faded.

4. This book has some useful background on neo-Nazi fringe lunatics in Australia and how they repeatedly promoted and encouraged terrorist acts with exactly the same mealy mouthed denials of doing it and the same liberal defence of their “free speech” right to keep doing it as we are seeing now.

https://nonstateactorblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/everyone-wants-to-be-fuhrer/ (58MB pdf book)

After a series of violent attacks on Vietnam and anti-apartheid protestors, and Communist bookshops – actively encouraged by the Special Branch of the police, and attacks on Jewish businesses permitted for recreation, they were forcibly shutdown in Melbourne in the early 1970s by joint action of the Worker Student Alliance and Jewish ex-servicemen. Their HQ was destroyed and subscription lists captured. Their sponsors were visited personally and advised that “we know where you live”. They left town.

The account in the book above is very garbled, and omits most of the facts about them being shut down. But it accurately quotes the denunciations in favour of “Free Speech” from “The Age” and hostility to the protests from Zionist dominated Jewish Board of Deputies.

Does not mention that the police started committal proceedings for riot. Eventually abandoned when they realized a jury would be unlikely to convict.

The terrorist violence nearly half a century ago did not extend to mass murder. It would have if they had been tolerated and “censured” as similar elements are being tolerated and “censured” today.

Syrian Coalition welcomes Trump’s action against Assad regime’s “airbase of death” – as do all democrats and genuine leftists.

The Syrian Coalition calls upon our people and their active forces to close ranks and unite into one political, military, and popular front to confront the new challenges, combat terrorism in all its forms, and make every effort to topple the criminal regime of tyranny and sectarianism and work on the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic state.

syrian revolution

Press Release
Political Committee
Syrian Coalition
April 7, 2017

The Syrian Coalition welcomes the strikes the United States launched on Shaerat airbase from which airplanes took off to carry out the horrific war crime of gassing our people, including women and children, in the town of Khan Sheikoun. The Coalition sees in these strikes the beginning of change where the words of US messages, for the first time, were translated into action to punishment perpetrator of the crime. It also sees in them a turning point in the American position on Syria as the Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, did not allow the murderous regime to continue its crimes of using internationally banned weapons.

The US strikes have sent strong messages to backers of the Assad regime, especially Iran and Russia, to stop playing tricks with the fate and blood of the Syrian people and attempting to gain the upper hand in Syria. They have sent messages that the United States will not allow any more breaches of international law and the disregard for international resolutions as well as the most heinous, terrorist acts against civilians and children.

The Syrian Coalition expresses its support for the action taken by President Trump and his intention to answer the cries of the Syrian people and children. The Coalition also supports President Trump’s calls for the formation of an international coalition of the civilized world to confront and work on deposing this deadly backward regime; contribute to the efforts to reach a just political solution; and continue the fight against forces of terrorism in all its forms, including the Assad regime and its allied sectarian militias.

The Syrian Coalition stresses that the Assad regime bears full responsibility for exposing our country to various types of domination, occupation, mandate, and destruction. The Coalition expresses hope for the continuation of the new US position to lead to the imposition of a no-fly zone; the neutralization of the military bases the Assad regime uses to target civilians; putting an end to the crimes being committed by the Assad regime and its allies; achieving a just political solution that puts an end to the Syrian tragedy and in which the head of the regime and his clique do not have any position or role to play; and help bringing them before the International Criminal Court.

The Syrian Coalition today calls upon our people and their active forces to close ranks and unite into one political, military, and popular front to confront the new challenges, combat terrorism in all its forms, and make every effort to topple the criminal regime of tyranny and sectarianism and work on the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic state.

The fascists in Russia’s hybrid army

There’s an old saying about the thief who cries thief in order to distract attention from himself. The same applies to the supporters of Russian imperialism and the Putin regime. They have been quick to take on board Putin’s propaganda that paints the Ukraine independence struggle as a fascist one, yet far-right parties received a much smaller vote in the Ukrainian elections than do similar parties, some of which are neo-fascist, in western Europe and the UK. Also, a cursory survey of the websites of such far-right parties reveals sympathy for the “anti-fascist” Putin. Far right and fascist groups both in Russia and throughout Europe are backing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR) in word and deed.

– c21styork

* * *

The following is from Paul Canning and is reprinted for non-commercial reuse under aAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

Type ‘fascist Ukraine’ into Google and the first dozens of results all refer to the Ukrainian government and those forces fighting the Donbas separatists.

You will be hard pressed to find any references to the presence of fascists in Russia’s hybrid army in Ukraine. Ones like those pictured above in an astonishing piece of detective work by Dajey Petros.

Petros is a Dutch blogger who has been doing great work using similar tools to those employed by Eliot Higgins’ Bellingcat. Taking content from social media and using various tools to tell a story from it – like the story of the Russian missile which shot down the Malaysian Boeing.

Far right and fascist groups both in Russia and throughout Europe are backing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR) in word and deed. They are raising money for them, despite the sanctions. They hold mass rallies and other events. They send representatives to the Donbas to endorse the ‘Republics’. And they send Russians – and sometimes other Europeans – to join the fighting. All with the tacit approval of the Kremlin.

Gubarev

That approval was most sharply on display in March when Europe and Russia’s far right groups came together in a conference in St Petersberg. It was organised by the Rodina party whose leader is a Russian Deputy Prime Minister.

The event’s star was Alexei Milchakov, the leader of the ‘Rusich’ group of rebel fighters. Milchakov is infamous for photographs of him with a Nazi flag and a puppy he had allegedly killed. He has also posed in front of the dead bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.

Naming the separatist fascists

Many fascists were involved in setting up the DPR/LPR, such as Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed first ‘People’s Governor of Donetsk’. His press secretary, Aleksander Kriakov, was described by Donetsk city Chief Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski as “the most famous anti-Semite in the region.”

When separatists took over TV broadcasting towers last year they boasted that:

Here, from Sloviansk, we are inflicting a powerful information conceptual blow to the biblical matrix … to Zionist zombie broadcasting.

They then presented a lecture by former Russian Conceptual Party Unity leader Konstantin Petrov, who the European Association for Jewish Culture (EAJC) describe as a “anti-Semitic neo-pagan national-Stalinist sect.”

In March last year Josip Zisels, Chair of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities in Ukraine, noted that pro-Russian organisations’ websites “have published many anti-Semitic materials which were meant to instigate hatred against the Maidan as being allegedly inspired by the Jews.”

Former DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Borodai was a writer for the Russian fascist newspaper Zavtra. He opened the DPR’s first foreign ‘consulate’ on the premises of the Moscow branch of the Eurasian Youth Union (EYU), the youth wing of the Eurasia Party, headed by fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin has openly called for genocide against Ukrainians.

Another prominent Russian fascist in the Donbas is Gennadiy Dubovoy, whose colleagues are shown in the top and left photos participating in some sort of bizarre Nazi ritual. (See lots more whacky photos.)

Yuli Kharlamova

Participating in the ritual are several women and one is Yuli Kharlamova, a presenter on the Russian TV channel ANNA- News and an FSB (Russian security services) agent.

There are many other individual as well as organised Russian fascists who have been documented from social media engaged in leading roles among the separatists. As Petros puts it “in Russia’s [hybrid] army the Nazis structurally and openly belong to the core and they train others.” Not only that but Russian soldiers who have been captured have been found to have Nazi tattoos.

Here are the patches for five fascist militias in that separatist hybrid army (there are others):

And according to the expert on the far-right in Europe Anton Shekhovtsov there is evidence that proves that “Russian fascist organisations have been heavily infiltrating and instigating pro-Russian separatist movements in South-Eastern Ukraine” before the Maidan.

The real politics of the DPR/LPR

The UK has an organisation supported by leading lights in the so-called and unfortunately influential ‘Stop The War Coalition’ which claims that the DPR/LPR are socialists fighting fascists, but when the DPR/LPR organised sham elections last November socialists and communists were excluded.

The DPR constitution has the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as the official religion. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Roman Catholics, and Protestants, are officially regarded as ‘anti-Russian’ and have been actively persecuted.

According to a separatist recruitment video:

This war is a religious war. For Banderist money, agents of the Vatican, splitters, heretics fight against us, all of them traitors to Christ. And that’s why this war is a religious one.

The constitution also says that “any forms of perverted unions between people of the same sex are not acknowledged and will be prosecuted.”

The separatists running DPR/LNR have the documented support of only 18% of locals.

A further sign of the real politics of the separatists is shown by how anti-semitism fuels their infighting.

And in February, at a press conference, the leaders of the DPR/LPR, Zakharchenko and
Plotnitsky, ended their interview with anti-Semitic remarks.

Zakharchenko said: “I can’t remember, that at any time in Ukrainian history, cossacks were ruled by, well, not exactly those people, who ever carried a sword. Jews…”
Plotnitsky, (interrupting, grinning): “There is a video on Youtube ‘When the Jewish Cossacks have risen’, let them watch it”. Zakharchenko: “It’s not Jewish Cossacks, it’s miserable representatives of a great people, but they never ruled over cossacks. Taras Bulba and Taras Shevchenko would be turning in their graves because of such rulers in Ukraine.”

Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that “those watching understood very well that this was an anti-Semitic appeal.”

This climate is being encouraged by Russian television, the only TV available in the ‘People’s Republics’, who during last year’s Ukrainian elections, accused leading candidates of being Jews.

Antisemitic meme against Alexander Khodakovsky, DPR ‘Security Council’ secretary

The lies about fascism in Ukraine

Human rights and Jewish groups both say that Russian claims, including by Putin himself, of rampant antisemitism, even ‘pogroms’, in Ukraineare not correct. Some of the incidents they recorded may actually have been orchestrated by Russian secret services, such as one which took place in July in Lviv.

The reality is that Ukraine has one of the lowest levels of anti-Semitic incidents in all of Europe, according to Josef Zissels, General Council Chairman of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.

An antisemtic poster distributed in Luhansk during the initial unrest. It reads “Jew Shuster [Savik Shuster, Kyiv-based TV presenter] will explain why Ukrainians must defend the interests of Jew [Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk and Jewish oligarchs. Why Slavs must kill each other.”

Researchers of Ukrainian nationalism issued a collective statement last March saying that the Maidan was a liberationist, and not extremist, mass action of civil protest. It condemned reporting which “misrepresents the role, salience and impact of Ukraine’s far right within the protest movement.”

Left forces in Ukraine have also consistently spoken out at the mischaracterisation of the Maidan revolution as a ‘fascist coup’, however their voices have been drowned by the Kremlin propaganda machine and its Western sympathisers – as well as by much of the mainstream reporting.

Dmitry Mrachnik (a member of the Ukrainian Autonomous Workers Union) is here extremely blunt!

The claim that fascists control Ukraine is propaganda by Putin. To those anarchists and left-wingers who believe Putin’s propaganda about a fascist regime in Ukraine and who support Russia I say:

Take a deep breath, gormless half-wits. For many years Russia has already had something like the kind of fascism which Ukraine is accused of. Anyone who supports fascists who save a neighbouring country from fascists must be either pretty stupid or completely devoid of any conscience.

The propaganda about Ukraine being ‘fascist’ directly fuels violence. It is consistently cited as a reason for those joining the DPR/LNR. This does not mean that the growth of nationalism in Ukraine should not be a concern.

Says Halya Coynash of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group:

Ukraine’s leaders have laid themselves open to criticism over the role of the Azov volunteer battalion, with its neo-Nazi leaders and probably members, as well as the more extreme elements in Right Sector and VO Svoboda. A few individuals such as Andriy Biletsky and Ihor Mosiychuk have won seats in Parliament, while others have received questionable appointments on the basis of their bravery in defending Ukraine. There are legitimate concerns about their role beyond the battlefield, as well as doubts about their motives as the recent conflict in Mukacheve has demonstrated.

All this is a gift for Kremlin propaganda, but it still does not justify broad claims about Ukrainian society. Ukraine’s two far-right parties did very badly in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, and no evidence exists that voters support anti-Semitic or xenophobic views. Now in Parliament, Biletsky reportedly claims that stories about his neo-Nazi and white supremacist views is all Russian slander. The denial is unconvincing, but it is telling that he sees the need to make it.

It is unlikely, she says that the Kremlin will “abandon its propaganda arsenal” and she warns about “fakes, manipulation, and total fabrication.”

Petros uncovered one such manipulation last year. A member of the now famous Ukrainian Azov battalion, whose members undoubtedly do include fascists, had posted a photo of his battalion posing with a Swastika flag. Petros proved it was a photoshopped fake, the original had no Nazi flag in it. Nevertheless here it was on Russian primetime TV news …

It is entirely right that Western media should report, as the BBC’s leading news show ‘Newsnight’ did recently, on the far right in Ukraine. What is wrong is that the presence of fascists in powerful positions among the separatists is being totally ignored.

Western journalists often say that they strive for ‘balance’. Well, where is it? On this issue they are doing what the Russians do – only report one part of one story.

Second Anniversary of The Ghoutal Chemical Attack: Assad’s fascist regime must be overthrown

1359839008-nationalist-demonstration-against-globalism-and-imperialism--paris_1766972
Extreme right-wing protestors in Europe with portraits of those they support

The Assad fascist regime is responsible for extreme human rights violations in Syria today. More than 220,000 people have been killed, 10 million people – half the country – have been forced from their homes, hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have been detained and 640,000 are living under brutal sieges without regular access to food, water or medicines. In September last year, the US-led coalition invaded Syrian airspace to bomb Daesh (ISIS) positions; yet a blind eye is turned when Assad’s aircraft bomb civilian populations and the revolutionary democrats from the same airspace, killing many more than Daesh.

* * * *

From Planet Syria: Two years ago on 21st August 2013 the world was focused on Syria after the government of Bashar al-Assad used Sarin on civilians in the worst chemical attack for a quarter of a century. (Since the Halabjah chemical attacks by the Saddam Hussein regime in 1988).

The world feigned outrage. Obama said a red line had been crossed.

But today the chemical attacks continue. Chlorine is routinely used in barrel bomb attacks on civilian neighborhoods. But it’s not the chemicals that are killing most people, it’s the bombs themselves.

Here are 5 things everyone should know about what is happening in Syria today:

1. The Assad regime is killing 7 times more civilians than Isis.

2. More than 11,000 barrel bombs made of scrap metal and high explosive have been rolled out of regime helicopters onto hospitals, homes and schools since the UN banned them. They are the biggest killer of civilians. They drive extremism.

3. These barrel bombs are the leading cause of displacement, forcing refugees to cross the Mediterranean and other borders.

4. Many of the barrel bombs are dropped on areas under siege. More than half a million people in Syria live in areas with no access to food, water or medicine since 2013, including the areas of Ghouta that were targeted by the sarin gas attacks in the same year.

5. The international anti-Isis coalition is flying in the same airspace where many of these barrel bombs are dropped, choosing to look the other way.

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the chemical attack on Ghouta, a suburb of Damascas, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces has issued this statement:

It was a declared crime whose details and elements are well-known to everyone, whether they admitted it or not. They know the only party that does not lack the ability, the authority or the criminal will required to commit such a massacre, which is the Assad regime. They also fully aware that the regime has all the means of production, assembly and delivery of chemical weapons that were the tools of this this crime. They know the perpetrator by name, and also the names of the top regime officials who were involved with him. They know how he committed this crime and how he handed, with the utmost shamelessness, the murder weapon.

Two years have passed since the crime of the century, but the perpetrator is still at large. The families of 1,507 victims killed are still looking around for an international response equivalent to the size of the crime committed against their loved ones. And yet not a single measure has been taken to prevent the repetition of this crime. Death stills looms large over the head of Syrians, armed with every means of killing, ranging from knives and cleavers to barrel bombs, Scud missiles and chemical weapons. The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented 125 regime breaches of UN Security Council resolution 2118 and 56 breaches of UNSC resolution 2209 which criminalizes the military use of chlorine gas.

While we in the Syrian Coalition renew calls on the UN Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities in maintaining security and peace in Syria, and to take immediate action to stop the crimes against humanity and violations and to ensure that criminals are held accountable, we deplore the indifference of the international community which continues to deal with the blood of Syrians as a bargaining chip, a means to settle scores and exhaust opponents.

Having paid heavily for the sake of achieving our goals, we Syrians are now fully aware that we have to fight this battle relying only on the resolve of rebel fighters. Indeed, unity, rejecting discord, commitment to the principles of the revolution are the only guarantee of victory and liberating Syria from the Assad regime and its thuggish repressive security apparatuses and of the establishment of democratic rule which is bases on pluralism, justice and the rule of law.

We ask for Mercy for our fallen heroes, recovery for the wounded, and freedom for detainees.
Long live Syria and its people, free and with honor.

The Anti-War Left 100 Years Ago vs the Anti-War Left Today

Thanks to Ben Norton for permission to reprint his article. It’s spirit is spot on.

He concludes with the question: ” “Dialectics”? What’s that?”

One might also ask of today’s pseudo-left: “Internationalist solidarity”? What’s that?

* * * *

When confronted with the obscene violence of World War I 100 years ago, the strategy of the leaders of the internationalist Left was to oppose both bourgeois sides of the inter-imperialist conflict and instead advance the cause of proletarian internationalism.

Today, the strategy of much of the “internationalist” “Left” is to simply support the side that’s not the West in a kneejerk reaction and dub it “anti-imperialism.”

World War I caused a major split in the global Left. Many of the leading revolutionaries—those of whom are now some of the most celebrated figures in the history of socialism—opposed the war outright. Yet more than a few parties supported the war. This disagreement led to the dissolution of the Second International, and later to the failure of the German Revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Clara Zetkin formed Die Internationale—which later became the Spartacus League (not to be confused with the absurd Sparticist League of today), which in turn later became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD)—explicitly in order to oppose the pro-war Left, particularly the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which supported the war. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were imprisoned for their opposition to the war.

Lenin referred to the war as “the imperialist war” and condemned socialists who chose a side as “social-chauvinists.” US leftists steadfastly opposed the war, and Woodrow Wilson was even re-elected in 1916 with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War”—although he reneged on his promises and plunged into the inter-imperialist violence.

If today’s “leftists” were alive then and endorsed the same logic they do now, they would have likely written off these leading leftist figures as “utopians” and “‘useful idiots’ of Western imperialism” and instead supported the Central Powers. After all, the Central Powers consisted of relatively eastern nations—the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Emirate of Jabal Shammar (in much of modern-day Saudi Arabia)—which were fighting the imperialist West—including the UK, France, the US, and more of the states in modern-day NATO.

Our day’s supposed anti-imperialists insist that we must defend the bourgeois, quasi-fascist regimes of Syria, Russia, and more against supposed “Western encroachment” (mimicking the “lesser evil” argument liberals love to wield to continuously re-elect neoliberal Democrats who were bought and sold on Wall Street on day one). Assad’s counterrevolutionary war of terrorism against his own population must be defended, they insist; Putin’s war in Ukraine must be supported, even though he himself is supported by and supports Europe’s neo-Nazi and other fascist groups.

This strange illogic leads to authoritarian “leftists” fighting in Ukraine literally side-by-side with Nazis, in defense of Russia. In 2015, a group of Spanish “communists” who returned from fighting on behalf of Russia in the war in Ukraine—which has left many thousands dead—were arrested. They had joined the pro-Russian so-called Donbass International Brigades (so named in a slanderous and ludicrous attempt to associate itself with the International Brigades from the Spanish Civil War). They received neither travel expenses nor a salary for their fighting. They proudly boasted that they fought aside both Nazis and “communists.”

“Half of them are communists and the other half are Nazis,” they explained. “We fought together, communists and Nazis alike … We all want the same: social justice and the liberation of Russia from the Ukrainian invasion.”

If today’s “leftists” are incapable of actually distinguishing leftists from fascists, one can only imagine their response to World War II. After all, the far-right, capitalist, racist tyranny of National “Socialism” presented itself as a “worker’s party.” Hitler exploited the popularity of socialism among the working class, in order to advance one of the most horrific campaigns of terror in human history. One can almost hear the same “leftists” today who claim “Actually, it was the rebels who gassed themselves, not Assad” saying, in the 1940s, “Actually, I think it was Jews who used the gas chambers against the Nazis.” “The allegations against the ‘legitimate government’ are just Western propaganda,” they would claim, in both cases.

Today’s “leftists” would have doubtless sided with the Ottoman Empire too in its crushing of the 1916-1918 Arab Revolt, disparaging it as a “Western-backed plot,” in the same manner in which they slander the Syrian Revolution now.

Just as many “leftists” today insist that Russia, Iran, and China are not actually imperialist powers because—although they are bourgeois capitalist nations engaging in imperial domination—their imperialism is not equivalent in magnitude to that of the world’s hegemon, the US, they would likely have supported the “lesser evil” of the Central Powers in WWI. (“Here’s a map of the world’s ubiquitous US military bases and here’s a map of Iran’s (lack of) military bases—see, proof Iran is not imperialist!” constitutes a common “anti-imperialist” argument today.)

Sure, the Central Powers may have been brutally oppressive bourgeois regimes—like those today of Assad, Putin, Ayatollah Khamenei, and more—but they were not the world’s leading imperialist powers, so they should have been defended. Muh “anti-imperialism”!

Today’s Left has absorbed the manichean, black-or-white Stalinist logic of the Cold War into their very beings.

“Dialectics”? What’s that?

Contradictions of the post-Assad Regime in Syria’s protracted anti-fascist war – ‘The revolution is the negation of the regime and Daesh is the negation of the revolution’.

The following analysis of Syria, from a left-wing perspective of support for the anti-fascist democratic revolution there, is republished with permission from the site Democratic Revolution, Syria style. “The revolution is the negation of the regime and Daesh is the negation of the revolution”. It was published there on 1 August 2014.

* * * *

The Leviathan built by Hafez al-Assad, a fascist state stretching from Daraa in the west of Syria to Deir Ezzor in the east, has been shattered irrevocably by thepopular upsurge of the March 15 revolution. Born as a peaceful protest movement for dignity and political reform, the Syrian uprising painfully and organically developed into a revolutionary war to liberate the country from the misrule of Bashar al-Assad’s fascist clique and dismantle his regime’s barbaric institutions.

Syrian democrats

Like all wars, this war in the final analysis is a class war. Suburban and rural (mostly Sunni) farmers, laborers, small merchants, and elements of big business fight to overthrow their enemies, the urban-based Alawite-dominated state apparatus, that apparat‘s junior partners — the Alawite, Sunni, and Christian bourgeoisies — as well as its Iranian, Iraqi, and Hezbollah enablers. Unfortunately, these enemies do not fight alone: educated professional urban Sunnis constitute the backbone of the civil service bureaucracy that keeps the regime running and some 15%-20% of the adult male Alawite population serve in the military-security services. Those who have nothing to lose find themselves in combat fighting those who have nothing to lose but their chains. The have-nots fight for freedom while the have-littles fight for fascism.

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“Who do you feel best represents the interests and aspirations of the Syrian people?”

Monthly
Household
Income                         Regime  Opposition   Extremists
Less than 15,000 SYP       31%          37%          12%
15,000-25,000 SYP           33%          35%          15%
25,001-45,000 SYP           39%          38%          14%
More than 45,000 SYP       36%          37%          13%

Education
Level
Completed        Regime  Opposition Extremists
No Formal           33%          37%         13%
Primary               38%          32%         13%
Intermediate       35%          32%         14%
Secondary          31%          40%         11%
Higher                40%          38%         14%
Source: Orb International.
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The anti-fascist democratic revolution that emerged out of the contradictions of Syria’s sect-class system has spawned a sect-class war that spread far from the city of Daraa where the uprising first gained traction to Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Kurdistan. The peoples of the whole region are now paying the price for:
1. The sins of Assad and his supporters.
2. The revolution’s inability to defeat and remove them from power.
3. The terrorist-creating policies of the U.S.-led so-called ‘Friends of Syria‘ who shamefully allowed themselves to be out-spent, out-gunned, out-maneuvered, and out-committed by Iran at every turn for more than three years because they prefer military stalemate as a means of engineering a negotiated settlement over an outright rebel victory.

These three factors have protracted Syria’s war of liberation and led to what Marx termed “the common ruin of the contending classes” – $144 billion in economic losses in a country whose 2011 GDP was $64 billion, 50% unemployment (90% in rebel-held areas), 50% in dire poverty, rampant inflation, polio outbreaks among children, and 9 million (almost half the population) displaced with 3 million living in camps abroad.

And there is no end in sight to this unfolding disaster.

The increasingly protracted nature of Syria’s anti-fascist war has transformed groundless optimism among the revolution’s supporters into its opposite: cynicism. Conversely, Assad is confident that his regime is no longer in danger of being overthrown. Both trends in both camps stem from the regime’s string of strategic military victories — in summer of 2013 at Qusayr, in fall of 2013 at Safira, in March 2014 at Yabroud, and in April 2014 at Qalamoun. However, military momentum alone cannot reveal who the victor and vanquished will ultimately be. Only by analyzing the strong and weak points that characterize each side and how those points have changed during the course of the war can reveal who can win and how.

Regime Strong Points:
o Firepower.
o Unity and united, effective leadership.
o Allies abroad — few, but fully committed.
o Victory means successfully defending territories (cities, main roads; some 40% of the country) that are its strongholds.
o Resources (financial, economic, infrastructure [electricity]).
o Fights along interior lines.
o Majority of minorities’ support, minority of majority support.

Regime Weak Points:
o Unjust cause.
o Popular support based on opportunism (‘who will win? who will pay me?’), not conviction.
o Manpower.
o Fighters motivated more by fear, circumstance, and money than ideology or conviction.
o Parasitic dependence on foreign allies.
o Oil-producing and agricultural areas, the principal sources of hard currency and economic viability of the pre-2011 regime, no longer under regime control.
o Gulf state investment and tourism that fueled the Bashar-era economic boom gone for the foreseeable future.

Rebel Strong Points:
o Just cause.
o Fighters motivated by conviction and religious fervor (‘God is on my side‘) rather than opportunism.
o Manpower.
o Popular support based on conviction, not opportunism.

Rebel Weak Points:
o Firepower.
o Disunity and divided, ineffective leadership(s).
o Allies abroad — many, but non-committal.
o Victory means launching successful offensives to oust regime from its well-defended strongholds where it retains significant popular support.
o No coherent economic or cultural policies, liberated areas poorly governed.
o No resources despite wresting oil-producing and agricultural areas from regime’s grip.
o Dependent on non-committal allies abroad for aid and support.
o Fights along exterior lines.
o Minority of minorities’ support, majority of majority’s support.

A ‘New’ Regime, Born Fighting the Revolution

The old regime fought to crush the uprising and disintegrated amid defections of its troops and officials throughout 2011 and 2012 thereby creating a ‘new’ regime. Regime 2.0 is a leaner, meaner, defection-free killing machine whose war-fighting is characterized by strategic vision, methodical prioritization, and a disciplined command structure steady enough to guide campaigns over weeks and months to victory. Whereas regime 1.0 fought to obliterate the uprising in all areas at once, regime 2.0 picks and chooses its offensives and seeks to buy ever-more time to gain ever-more advantages over the rebels. Its military strategy is to hold onto the cities, highways, and airbases — even at the cost of leaving the suburbs and the countryside to the rebels — while organizing a series of strategic offensives to clear the core of the country (stretching from Daraa to Aleppo) of rebel fighters, forcing them to the periphery and reducing their status from major threat to manageable nuisance. Its political strategy is to prevent opposition forces from gaining popularity. This is accomplished through two mechanisms: make the price of defying the regime so high that no city or large town will dare join the revolution of its own volition and make governance (let alone good governance) in liberated areas impossible. The emergence of free Syrian territories where the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for, and where law and order prevail without a massive apparatus of torture and terror would threaten the reluctant, grudging support people give the regime as a lesser or necessary evil. This two-fold political strategy is why the regime relentlessly attacks targets of no military value like hospitals, bakeries, and schools while airstrikes on the Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISL, known pejoratively as Daesh) have been rare (see below) up until recently.

isisattacks

The post-revolution Assad regime is significantly weaker than its 2011 precursor despite its seeming immunity to defections and lower threshold for victory. Its chemical weapons arsenal is gone. Less than 50% of the country is under its control. Most importantly, having permanently lost control over the wheat, cotton, and oil-producing rural north and east, the regime is no longer economically viable. Regime 2.0 is a militarily robust failed state in the making. Wheat production has fallen dramatically, centralized state purchase of grain from farmers has given way to localized transactions, inflation is spiraling out of control, industry has ground to a halt, children begging on the streets of the capital Damascus is now commonplace, oil production (one of the few sources of hard currency for the regime) has all but ended, Syria has become a net oil importer even as its oil consumption has fallen, and widespread food shortages afflict rich and poor alike.

inflation-fao2013syriareport

wheatharvest

oil

oilimports

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“Which of the following have you had a shortage of in the last six months?”
Monthly

Household
Income                    Electricity  Food   Water
Less than 15,000 SYP    74%      56%     40%
15,000-25,000 SYP       76%      49%     44%
25,001-45,000 SYP       74%      51%     42%
More than 45,000 SYP  78%      47%     43%
Source: Orb International.
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The post-revolution regime is not only living on borrowed time but borrowed money — mainly Iran’s. However, it is unlikely that Damascus will ever repay even a fraction of the over $10 billion and counting Tehran spent saving Syrian national socialism from reaching a tipping point of no return during the armed rebellion’s peak in late 2012 and early 2013. Iran’s rulers will learn the hard way what France, Britain, and the U.S. discovered in the 20th century: that colonies and protectorates are expensive and prohibitively so from the standpoint of return on investment.
One new feature of the post-revolution regime is that Assad no longer wields absolute power. He answers to not only Iran and Hezbollah but to his generals (who now enjoy some command autonomy unlike before the revolution) as well as to the newly created Iranian/Hezbollah-trained National Defense Forces (NDF). Assad’s diminished authority became evident during Geneva 2 in two respects: first, Russia compelled the regime to attend talks it spent years rejecting in under 24 hours and second, the NDF continued shelling Homs despite the deal Assad made with the United Nations (UN) to evacuate civilians from besieged neighborhoods. During the evacuation conducted under UN supervision, Homs governor Talal al Barazi screamed at NDF members for abusing and interrogating evacuees in plain sight: “What’s wrong with you? This is the United Nations. We have been getting calls from Geneva!” Similarly, when the 2,000 heroes of Homs were evacuated in May 2014, UN personnel were placed on each vehicle filled with rebels to prevent the NDF from shelling their exit and sabotaging the deal which included a prisoner exchange.

So while Assad’s reliance on a few but firm allies is a source of strength against the rebels whose allies are many but mealy-mouthed, it has also become a weakness since his regime has grown parasitically and permanently dependent on their financial, military, and political life support. Russia exercised its growing leverage over the embattled regime by forcing Assad to surrender the bulk of his prized chemical weapons stockpile in order to avoid airstrikes, the threat of which not only halted the regime’s barrel bombing but also triggered a spike in defections. A U.S.-led air campaign would have tipped the battlefield balance towards the rebels for as long as it lasted and both Russia and Iran were determined to avoid the possibility of the regime’s irrevocable disintegration and defeat. The price of the regime’s survival was Assad’s sarin supply and his foreign overlords were happy to pay it.

Thus, Assad has fallen from his 2011 position as Führer to that of a governor of an Iranian semi-protectorate rife with quasi-independent militias that often victimize regime supporters. Just as the Assad family uses their Alawite co-religionists as human shields for their rule, Iran uses Syria for its operations against Israel. In a historic shift from Hafez’s policy of keeping his side of the Golan Heights quiet, Bashar and Hezbollah recently launched token attacks on Israel from the Golan, triggering Israeli retaliation. In this way, Iran opened a second (insignificant) front against Israel during Israel’s 2014 attack on another recipient of Iran’s aid, Hamas, and demonstrated that Syrian independence is increasingly a thing of the past.

A Second Revolution or War of Mutual Exhaustion?

Can the post-revolution Assad regime be overthrown? Could a second revolution break out behind regime lines and finish what Daraa started? Such an uprising is an objective possibility given the simmering, casualty-driven discontent among Alawites but highly unlikely because it would have to take the form of an armed uprising from the outset since a peaceful uprising against a fascist regime at war is impossible. As long as the war — which suppresses dissension among the regime’s remaining supporters — continues with virtually unlimited foreign economic, political, and military support from abroad, the regime can avoid another revolution, that is, “the violent break-up of [an] obsolete political superstructure, the contradiction between which and the new relations of production caused its collapse at a certain moment” (Lenin) that often follows when a political superstructure’s economic basis has ceased to exist.

Without a second revolution to topple the post-2011 regime, Syria’s revolutionary war of liberation has become a protracted struggle of attrition, a contest of mutual exhaustion and mutual annihilation. The strategic equilibrium or stalemate between regime and rebel forces will persist until one side either organizes a series of decisive offensives to gain total victory or collapses out of exhaustion brought about by its own internal contradictions.

The fact that a second revolution or war of quick decision to defeat the regime is not an immediate prospect is not necessarily grounds for despair. The regime enjoys material superiority over the revolution but not moral superiority. The unjust and reactionary nature of the regime and its war aims gives rise to its critical weakness: its manpower shortage. Not enough Syrians are willing to die for fascism; those that are willing tend to either be morally rotten criminals eager to get a salary for raping, looting, and torturing their countrymen or conscriptswho fear imprisonment and torture for draft-dodging. These criminal and cowardly elements have difficulty sustaining close combat with rebels who fight not for personal gain but out of conviction that their cause is just and that God is on their side. So few Syrians are motivated to charge into battle and lay down their lives for tyranny and oppression that some 10,000 Iranian, Hezbollah, and Iraqi sectarian Shia militiamen were imported to serve as the regime’s shock troops. Once sectarian killing spread to Iraq, Iraqi Shia militiamen returned home to kill Sunnis, creating a manpower shortage for Hezbollah whose idea of ‘resisting‘ Israel is slaughtering Syrians and starving Palestinians on Assad’s behalf.

The moral bankruptcy of the regime finds expression in its war-fighting methods: heavy on firepower, light on manpower (save for strategically critical offensives to regain lost ground). Because the regime cannot afford to lose manpower in head-to-head combat with rebel forces, it demolishes neighborhoods, resorts to barrel bomb terrorism, starves women and children, uses Scud missiles and sarin, and signs starvation truces and evacuation deals with rebel neighborhoods instead of invading them and ousting the fighters. Free Aleppo was forcibly de-populated using these methods with the aim of destroying rebel manpower by depriving them of their popular base of support. Without the people standing firmly behind and among them, isolated rebels can be defeated with superior firepower.

Unity: A Do-or-Die Task for the Revolution

To fight — much less win — a war with these characteristics, the key strategic imperative for the rebels is not to seize and hold territory (as in conventional war) but to annihilate enemy manpower (as in guerrilla war). Territory changes hands day to day, month to month with every skirmish and battle, but available manpower ultimately determines who is capable of controlling what.

However, to take advantage of the regime’s key weakness (manpower) and turn the tide of the war once more in their favor, the rebels must overcome their key weakness — lack of unity (and related to this, poor leadership).

Rebel disunity has been the single most powerful weapon in Assad’s arsenal. Time and again, this disunity has allowed the regime to capitalize on its strong points and minimize its weak points while simultaneously neutralizing rebel strong points and magnifying rebel weak points. Consider the rebel response to each regime offensive since June 2013:

o At Qusayr, some reinforcements came from as far as Aleppo to fight the offensive head-on. The regime’s superior firepower and massed manpower overwhelmed the city’s defenders. Shock swept opposition circles even though the battle, as a head-on clash between a stronger and a weaker force, could not have ended in anything other than a regime victory. A counter-offensive elsewhere to relieve pressure from Qusayr or weaken the regime’s attack was never an option because rebels were too divided.

o At Safira, there was no rebel effort to resist or counter the regime’s advance. It fell without a fight, giving the regime a beach head to push rebel forces out of Aleppo. Colonel Abdul-Jabbar al-Aqidi resigned from his position on the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Supreme Military Council to protest the rebels’ failure to lift a finger to defend the city.

o At Yabroud and Qalamoun, rebel forces massed to resist the regime’s offensive. Knowing that head-on, open-ended resistance would end in defeat and the total destruction of their forces, they followed Mao Tse-Tung’s principles for guerrilla operations: “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.” They avoided annihilation in decisive engagements but continually fought as they fell back in orderly fashion from the regime’s months-long advances, preserving themselves for future guerrilla operations in Qalamoun once the regime declared ‘victory’ and re-deployed its forces elsewhere. However, Jabhat al-Nusra refused to follow the rebels’ plan of action, executing rebels who (correctly) retreated and accusing their brigades of taking bribes from foreign powers in exchange for losing the battle on purpose.

Daesh’s ‘liberation‘ of al-Raqqa from its liberators in 2013 was due principally not to collusion with the regime but to this same rebel disunity. Each faction and brigade was confronted and eliminated one by one by Baghdadi’s gangs who then applied this strategic template all over northern Syria in 2013, opportunistically isolating and picking off rival groups, commanders, and towns even as they collaborated with these same groups in anti-regime operations such as the seizure of Menagh airbase. They took advantage of the frictions between the secular-democratic FSA and the Islamist-democratic factions by relentlessly targeting the former while avoiding or collaborating with the latter. This fed Islamists’ illusions that Daesh were merely misguided Muslim brothers and fellow mujahideen rather than bearded Bashars and Kharijites.

The revolution within the revolution in January 2014 to overthrow Daesh in northern Syria was similarly stunted by rebel disunity. Factions that later coalesced as the Syrian Revolutionary Front led by Jamal Marouf and the Army of Mujahideen sprang into battle while the constituent elements of the Islamic Front were incoherent, some fighting, others avoiding combat. Ahrar al-Sham, whose commanders’ mutilations by Daesh provoked denunciation by the first Friday protest of 2014, initially held its fire. Its leader Hassan Abboud, who also heads the Islamic Front’s political office, offered to mediate with Daesh even as popular fury exploded against them in demonstrations and armed attacks. Only after the Daesh launched wave after wave of suicide attacks against Islamic Front’s Liwa al-Tawhid while rejecting mediation offers for weeks did the Islamic Front as a whole begin to fight them. This divided response undermined rebels’ momentum and allowed Daesh to retreat under fire from much of Aleppo province and bloodlessly evacuate Idlib and regroup in al-Raqqa and in eastern Syria/western Iraq. Failing to finish Daesh off gave them time to lick their wounds and prepare for a ferocious wave of victorious offensives in Deir Ezzor, western Iraq, and Kurdish areas of Syria that culminated in the declaration of a Caliphate in summer of 2014.

Overcoming disunity is the most important task facing rebel (and political opposition) forces. Without uniting those who can be united, it is impossible to pursue a common policy, impossible to respond coherently either to the regime or Daesh, impossible to forge effective leadership, and therefore all but impossible to win the war.

Only great unity can lead to great victory.

Rebel cooperation remains largely local and occasionally regional rather than national. After three years, rebels still have not established a unified command or even set up a national operations room. Doing so is essential for rebels to move beyond winning short-term tactical victories like the Kessab offensive in early 2014 to long-term strategic victories, the accumulation of which will destroy the regime. The regime’s national scope and operation along interior lines allow it to neutralize and eventually reverse locally and regionally limited rebel forces operating along exterior lines by quickly redeploying its forces and assets from one front to another. The only way rebel forces can counter this (since they fight along exterior lines) is through greater coordination, so when the regime makes a concerted effort to gain ground in Aleppo, rebels counter-attack in Latakia (for example). Until cross-front and cross-regional coordination develops, rebel tactical victories will continue to be nullified by the regime’s ability to win strategic victories and only by accumulating strategic victories can rebels regain the initiative in the war.

Amalgamating rebel forces — some 150,000 men divided among a handful of big coalitions and countless smaller formations — into a single army with a clearchain of command is probably impossible. Nonetheless, a national operations room to assemble an operationally albeit not ideologically cohesive coalition of coalitions could work if rebel commanders are willing to surrender some autonomy for the sake of greater coherence as a national fighting force. However, the experience of the Islamic Front shows how difficult uniting is in practice even with good faith commitment by constituent groups. As with any politically heterogeneous opposition formation, the moment the front takes a position or an action that is controversial, it leads to fitna which, more often than not, causes counterproductive splits. Army of Islam commander Zahran Alloush’s decision to suspend his army’s participation in the Islamic Front in response to the Islamic Front’s Revolutionary Covenant is but one example of this tendency.

Rebel unity is more urgent than ever given the second great schism among forces fighting the regime: the war Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra launched in July 2014 to smash the FSA and carve out territorially contiguous theocratic emirates in Idlib and Daraa. Jabhat al-Nusra’s aggression was precipitated by ever-greater U.S. involvement on the side of the opposition and Daesh’s newly declared Caliphate, both of which threatened the Al-Qaeda project in Syria from different directions.

The Balance of Forces: Shifts and Underlying Trends

The single most important thing to understand about Syria today is that the pre-2011 political setup is gone forever. No force on Earth can reverse that. The battle now is over what will replace the old arrangements, over what new political superstructures and class relations will prevail. The outcome of this fight is nearly impossible to foresee even in general terms because there are so many warring factions:
o The regime (NDF, Syrian Arab Army).
o Foreign regime allies (Hezbollah, Iraqi and other foreign Shia militias).
o The rebels (FSA, Islamic Front, Syrian Revolutionary Front, independent Islamist and secular brigades).
o Foreign rebel allies (small groups such as Jamaat Ahadun Ahad or the Chechens who defected from Daesh).
o Jabhat al-Nusra.
o Daesh.
o The Kurds (the People’s Protection Units [YPG], a militia dominated by the secular-democratic and socialist Democratic Union Party [PYD]).

Some of the aims and interests of these actors overlap; others contradict each other irreconcilably. The regime, its foreign allies, and Daesh have benefited from the rebels’ failure to reconcile their serious differences with YPG and PYD for the purpose of uniting to smash the three enemies that menace them. Even worse, throughout 2013 Islamist and FSA brigades fought alongside Daesh as Daesh attacked the YPG. This strengthened the rebels’ enemy, alienated and weakened a potential ally, and deepened Syria’s fragmentation.

syria atmap2014-8aug1

As of Aug. 1, 2014

Since the regime and Daesh both focused almost all of their attacks on rebel forces in early/mid 2014 instead of on each other (Daesh-regime clashes constituted only 5% of the total battles fought in Syria in June 2014, for example), many activists and even the Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces claimed that the two were partners or co-conspirators. What appeared to be conspiracy was really the result of strategic calculation born of a particular conjecture. For its part, the regime knew that the demographics of its strongholds made Daesh rule there all but impossible and prioritized fighting the rebels as the only force that could potentially generate enough broad-based support to supplant and displace it. Meanwhile, Daesh opportunistically preyed on the weakest actors on the political landscape — the scattered, divided rebel movement and the beleaguered institutions of bourgeois-democratic governance that arose in rebel-held areas. Riven by the competing priorities of fighting versus governing as well as internal dissension, rebel and opposition forces were no match for the united and better-led Daesh as they eliminated rebel factions first before suppressing civilian activism in al-Raqqa as well as Manbij, the birth place of Syria’s first labor union.
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“Who do you feel best represents the interests and aspirations of the Syrian people?”
Region Regime Opposition Extremists
Total 37% 35% 13%
Damascus 59% 17% 0%
Tartus 92% 2% 0%
Latakia 71% 15% 1%
Idlib 4% 61% 24%
Aleppo 36% 36% 19%
Daraa 25% 43% 12%
Rural Damascus 31% 49% 5%
Homs 36% 32% 1%
Hama 31% 35% 18%
Suweida 37% 8% 0%
al-Hasaka 37% 32% 25%
al-Raqqa 12% 47% 37%
Source: Orb International.
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The defeat of rebel forces has not given way to peace between Daesh and the regime but to an even more barbaric war between them, a war the regime is losing and will lose in northern and eastern Syria. This proves that Daesh was never a puppet nor a partner of the regime (or a creation of Iran, for that matter).

battle2012-2014

Since the battle of Qusayr in June 2013, the regime’s military momentum has masked the loss of its social and economic foundations. The old regime’s power peaked in 2011 and the post-revolution regime’s power — fueled by massive foreign support — peaked in mid 2014, checked by its own internal contradictions and by the growing power of Daesh.

The rebels’ military momentum lasted from 2011 until they entered Aleppo in mid 2012 and liberated al-Raqqa in early 2013, at which point their internal contradictions impeded further progress. Lack of unity, organization, and effective leadership prevented the rebels from securing the socio-economic foundations upon which to erect the kind of sturdy bourgeois-democratic state necessary to govern liberated areas and simultaneously wage a protracted and victorious revolutionary war.

This failure by the rebels led directly to the Daesh’s disastrous success. The revolution is the negation of the regime and Daesh is the negation of the revolution.

By seizing income-producing assets like oil fields, Daesh not only acquired the economic basis for a state even more fascistic than the Assad regime but — more importantly — prevented the rebels from becoming a self-financing force. This put the rebels at the mercy of the foreign agendas of foreign states who are the only social forces with access to the necessary money, arms, and support to sustain the civilian and military opposition. So unlike both the rebels and the regime, Daesh is economically viable and financially self-sustaining. This has profound implications:
1. No outside power has leverage over Daesh.
2. Daesh’s economic underpinnings mean that its inherent war-fighting capabilities are significantly greater than the inherent capabilities of both the regime and the rebels. “Endless money forms the sinews of war.” (Cicero)
3. Daesh’s rule will endure because its economic foundations are secure; the political monstrosity it is building unfortunately does not contradict but corresponds with its economic base.

Assad’s crumbling fascist edifice was torn down in much of northern and eastern Syria only for a more savage and firmer one to be erected in its place.

However, Daesh is not invincible; it has strong and weak points (or in other words, contradictions) just as its enemies do. Daesh’s weak points are less serious than those of rebel and regime forces and it has far more strong points than weak points compared to both of them which is why Daesh can beat them (and its Iraqi enemies) on many fronts simultaneously.

Daesh Strong Points:
o Unity and united, effective leadership.
o Allies abroad — none, save for a tiny proportion of the ummah.
o Fighters highly motivated by religious zealotry.
o Victory means defending its fortified strongholds (35% of the country).
o Fights along interior lines.
o Coherent governance and unified cultural and economic policies.
o Resources (financial, economic) — controls Syria’s agricultural areas and themajority of the oil-producing areas.
o Enough popular and tribal support for a stable regime.
o Continued inability of the regime and rebels to turn their weak points into strong points.

Daesh Weak Points:
o Unjust cause.
o Popular support based on rebel inability to provide security and stabilit yrather than ideological agreement.
o Manpower.
o High proportion (perhaps a majority) of its fighters are non-Syrians.

Daesh’s power has yet to peak and may not do so until U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office. Its leaders are careful not to over-extend their 20,000-man army, wise enough to attack only targets that have significant strategic value in situations where Daesh’s victory is not a gamble, and shrewd enough to mix force with diplomacy to secure the support of tribes in eastern Syria and Western Iraq. If Daesh’s leadership is more united, effective, and competent than that of the rebels, it because they they have been waging war uninterruptedly for almost a decade, long before protests broke out in Syria in 2011. Rebels and oppositionists must close this experience gap if they want a fighting chance at taking their country back from Baghdadi’s gangs.
The fate of the Syrian revolution was once in the hands of doggedly non-violent grassroots activists, but today it is in the hands of men with guns and the foreign powers that back them. Now, war is the main form of struggle and army is the main form of organization. The armies of three sides — the regime, the rebels, and Daesh — are locked in a war of attrition and the side that is exhausted materially and spiritually first, loses.

The contradiction between the regime’s military superiority and social infirmity will not last forever, nor will it end soon; it is a process of unravelling that will take years rather than months. Militarily inferior rebel and opposition forces are, in many respects, in worse shape socially than the regime as small numbers of (unpaid) rebels quit the battlefield for the sake of giving their families some normalcy after three long years of hellish war and as increasingly depopulated neighborhoods buckle and submit rather than starve. At the same time, the only neighborhoods that have become safe for regime forces are those totally emptied of both people and rebels such as Homs; true submission on a mass scale continues to elude the regime despite its barbaric tactics.

As the increasingly exhausted regime fights to exhaust its opponents, the regime’s forces are slowly being ground to dust by a combination of its own unjust nature, aims, and methods, its manpower shortage, the rising power of Daesh, the determination of millions of revolutionary Syrians to persevere in their opposition to Assad despite unimaginable suffering, and the gradual escalation of U.S. support for rebel and opposition forces. If the rebels (and Kurds) can unite, they can take advantage of these factors that work in their favor to break the war’s strategic stalemate which will force the regime to choose between holding one city or military base at the expense of losing another. As retreats and defeats mount, Assad’s rump regime will fragment and conditions will ripen both for palace coups and for a second revolution.