Category Archives: Syria

Assad and Erdogan’s new alliance?

It looks as though there are some startling shifts in alliances in the Syrian civil war. Although for quite some time it has been less a Syrian civil war and more a proxy war between super-powers and tyrannical regimes in the region.

What is the relationship now between Turkey and the US?

Erdogan continues to strut arrogantly around – bolstered by his overcoming of the coup against him. Russia and the Syrian dictator, Assad, rub their hands with glee as Erdogan approaches them independently of the US for mutual favours. The US desperately seems to be playing catch-up, as the militias and the forces they finance and logistically support are turned by Turkey on each other.

The US were long reported to have been angry about Erdogan’s failure to act against ISIS. After all a successful war against ISIS, necessary for the US’s public credibility, is costing them a lot of money with no seeming end in sight.

Many of the leading figures in the recent attempted military coup in Turkey were known to be pressuring Erdogan to act and send troops against ISIS. Whether was this for anti-Islamist reasons or those of Turkish military pride – or both – is not clear to me.

After the failed coup, Erdogan accused the US of helping the attempted military coup against him. He then made approaches to Russia and for the first time argued that Assad need not go as a precondition for peace.

It is clear that more significant negotiations are also going on between Russian/ Assad/ Erdogan about common interests: a key one of these, at least to Assad and Erdogan, would be their common opposition to any Kurdish autonomy.

US Vice President Joe Biden following the coup rushed to Turkey in order to be seen to be repairing relationships with Erdogan. He stood alongside Erdogan demanding that the SDF/YPG leave the area west of the Euphrates, around Manbij, which the US only a few weeks before had helped the YPG take after a fierce siege.

Finally, Turkey sends troops into Syria with clear agreement from Assad. It is difficult to believe that this wasn’t done without NATO and US knowledge. Nevertheless, the US acts as if it has been publicly offended by this act.

After all, the Turkish action ended up with two of the US’s allies fighting against each other, the comparatively new Jaysh al Tahrir (acting with Turkey) and the US’s longer term ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Whatever else these events prove, one thing is clear. Turkey is not just a US pawn, an argument unfortunately too common on some sections of the left about Turkey and other Middle Eastern sub-imperialist countries. It simply isn’t true, Turkey is currently calling the shots here.

Intrique and double-dealing

It is difficult to predict what is going on between the US and Turkey. The cynical double-dealing of all the main players, Russia, US, Assad, is probably at its height at the moment. Some even think that the CIA both helped set up the military coup and leaked it to Erdogan and that they wanted a failed coup in order to help him.

I find that hard to believe. But not because of the implied gross duplicity of the US secret services – that I can believe. I just cannot believe the US would want Erdogan’s increased popularity amongst his Turkish supporters. A popularity that now gives him greater independence from them and able to pursue new relationship with Putin or Assad.

Is partition on the cards?

Some argue that what we are seeing is a move towards a partition of Syria between a Kurdish-dominated area, a Turkey-dominated area and a reduced territory under Assad. If that were to happen, how long could such a partition last or would it be just a short breathing space before another conflict?

About turns are not easy or predictable

The Syrian rebellion is probably close to defeat – symbolised by the fall of Daraya and the imminent collapse in Aleppo. The military coup in Turkey was put down. Each of these events have given their victors, Assad and Erdogan, the confidence to forge a new alliance with Russia’s help. Together with Putin, they see an opportunity to form a new alliance.

But abrupt reversals, especially in the exceptionally cynical alliances that exist within Syria, can cause huge problems. Subordinate elements do not do as they are told!

In defiance of the US’s instructions the YPG have stated that they will not move across to the east of the Euphrates river. If they did so, they would be sacrificing the bridgehead to the Kurdish canton of Afrin and to other potentially besieged Kurdish communities in Aleppo.
Erdogan will not leave a Kurdish dominated area alone even if the US told him to.

  1. They have long had imperialist ambitions of occupying sections of oil-rich northern Syria including the areas west of the Euphrates.
  2. They are conducting a vicious war on their own Kurdish community to destroy any hopes of autonomy, why would they tolerate an autonomous are Kurdish area in Syria?
  3. And even though they eventually dropped their opposition to a Kurdish autonomous area in Iraq, Rojava is not the KRG and the PYD is not the KPD.

Assad bombs YPG held Haska

Assad bombs YPG held Haska

What is now the relation between Assad and the YPG? The YPG have long denied that they have had any formal alliance with Assad. They have claimed they were exploiting his weakness whilst concentrating on fighting ISIS. Their opponents amongst the Syrian rebels frequently define them as being in ‘collaboration’ with Assad. Whatever the relationship may have been in the past, now it is certainly no longer either of those in the wake of the the assault and bombings of Hasaka by Assad’s forces.

Assad’s forces have been in Hasaka but he still feels comparatively confident – at least in comparison with where he has been in the past. The bloody bombardment of his people elsewhere in Syria has to some degree worked – they have been starved and mass-murdered into submission. Some undoubtedly will not surrender but continue to fight on.
So as part of the deal there may be further migration of both the militias and populations that opposed him into areas not under his control – perhaps into the Turkish dominated area of a partitioned Syria.

Where does ISIS stand?

ISIS are clearly in retreat in both Iraq and Syria. Primarily in Syria through the actions of the SDF/ YPG.

Now that ISIS are weak and after the Turkish government allowed them freedom of movement across the border for years, it now uses them as their public justification for military action in Syria.

But the primary intention of Erdogan remains to drive the anti-Islamist Syrian Democratic Forces back as far as he can.

Where have the all the Saudis gone?

The Saudi regime appears to have been sidelined considerably as a big player in Syria. Even more so has the mini-state of Qatar – an earlier major financier of jihadists in Syria.

It was only 9 months ago that Saudi Arabia was given the prestigious role by the UN of diplomatically unifying the anti-Assad opposition during the Geneva peace talks. However, you hear nothing now of the so-called ‘Riyadh opposition’.

A proper analysis of their marginalization in Syria requires more analysis and facts than I currently have access to. But it appears that despite the huge supply of Saudi-financed arms and the influx into Syria of many thousands of volunteer Saudi Wahhabi fighters – they have, as in Afghanistan, proved to have been more of a liability to the Syrian opposition than a benefit.

Suicidal activists and Islamist fanaticism did, and in places may still do, provide a fearsome edge for those fighting back against Assad. But the Islamists’ political objectives inevitably are anathema to many of those who believe they are still fighting against Assad for freedom.

Whenever the Islamists started to become dominant and started to shape society, the repellent undemocratic nature of their ideology was seen.

A brutal quasi-state like the Islamic State can be built in a closed territory where there is absolute and brutal control and where dissent is ruthlessly repressed as has existed in Saudi Arabia for decades.

But an authoritarian Islamist regime can’t be built in one suburb or small town where there may be competing ideologies and leaders, capable of undermining them, a short distance away.
There are other major Islamist outfits in Syria, Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al-Islam or Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly Al Nusra). They however were restrained not only by their financial and logistic dependence by their overseas Wahhabist sponsors, they have never had that degree of total control over a territory.

On occasion Nusra has attempted to enforce its will but it has led to civil and military conflict between them and more popular forces – as in Idlib province last March when there were both street demonstrations in support of the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division when Nusra moved against them.

Is long-term Turkish domination of part of Syria possible?

After cynically supporting chaos in Syria Erdogan now wants to exercise more direct domination through occupation and greater control over Turkey’s 800 miles border with Syria.

His target with both is likely to be not only ISIS but all militias he doesn’t control: those under the influence of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism but above all and, of course, the Kurds.

Turkey wants even greater control of who gets arms and fighters and thereby gains political control and they are now doing so through direct occupation and where they feel unable to occupy a greater control of the border.

A 40 mile wall has been built from Öncüpınar to Çobanbey and that has reduced the flow of fighters to ISIS and other militias Turkey disapproves of. Allegedly 2,000 fighters came through this border before the wall – this has been reduced by up to 90%! And the wall is being extended to reduce this more. See Hurriyet Daily news

A strengthening of Erdogan and Assad’s control will not bring peace

Both the US and Russia may think a stalemate and a partition may be worth working together towards.

Hopes for a temporary peace through partition may also be welcomed by others, particularly after the mass slaughter that has been seen, primarily by Assad of his own people.

If the YPG are also allowed to finish their job against ISIS in eastern Syria, Obama may be able to go into retirement claiming a job done, at least in part. However, the US have little control over Erdogan who may continue his attacks there on the YPG.

There are still huge obstacles to a Turkish/ Syrian enforced partition. Their common enemy, the YPG/SDF, will not be easily removed from western Syria even with US acquiescence. Why should the YPG/ SDF ally with the US in the east if they are stabbed in the back in the west?

The Syrian anti-Assad opposition have not yet been defeated in Aleppo despite a phenomenal assault.

But the gulf between the Kurdish secular militias and the Syrian rebels remains as high as ever. The Arab allies of the YPG in the SDF are not that extensive and may be more a military one than having a shared vision of any multi-ethnic, secular Syria.

The hope for long-term peace and democracy in Syria needs a coming together of those that reject both religious and ethnic sectarianism. The PYD, at least in theory, with their calls for a secular and democratic confederation provided some possibilities of progress to that.

But civil wars are not easy places for political debate.

When barrel bombs and heavy artillery are slaughtering everyone around you, people fight back together regardless of ideology – there is a basic defensive communalism and an understandable astonishment that the world or neighbouring communities do not lift a hand to defend you.

When ISIS are selling women into sex slavery and beheading whoever they like, it is difficult for secular fighters (Kurdish or Arab) to trust those who want Sharia Law, no matter how different from ISIS’s variant.

There has undoubtedly been examples of democratic self-administration in areas freed of Assad’s terror and still inspired by the secular 2011 aims of Syria’s Arab Spring. Some people have argued those community organisations in Free Syria have effectively countered the sectarian agenda of some of the militias operating there. On occasion there have been civil and military conflict with them – as in Maarat-Al-Numanin Idlib province last March when there were both street demonstrations in support of the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division.

But the anarchy, in both good and bad senses of the word, will not be allowed by either Assad or Erdogan. They will control and will attack democratic formations in any territory they dominate.

Those opposing the tyranny of them both and supporting democracy, both Kurds and Syrian, will need to find a way of uniting against them.

Stop Turkey’s war on the Kurds

National Demonstration 6th March

National Demonstration 6th March

Across Kurdish areas in South Eastern Turkey, areas that are overwhelmingly ethnically Kurdish, a virtual civil war is going on. What the right wing Turkish AKP government describes as “security operations” were first launched in the Sur district of Diyarbakır and the Cizre and Silopi districts of Şırnak in mid-December.

The alleged target of this offensive is the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), an organisation which had an on-off ceasefire with the Turkish government over the last few years whilst Kurds increasingly turned to legal political campaigning with their party the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party). That ceasefire was eventually called off in November after numerous assassinations and killings of Kurdish politicians and civilians.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 08.01.10According to the HDP, at least 200 Kurdish civilians, including 70 children, had been killed since last July -the Turkish government claims to have killed 500 ‘militants’. Only last Saturday, 6th February, 60 were killed in Cizre alone. Cizre has been under curfew for nearly 2 months since armed Kurdish militants mostly affiliated with the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) – often referred to as the “youth wing” of the PKK – declared autonomy and began erecting roadblocks and digging trenches.

On Monday 8th February the regime announced that the repression would be extended into the İdil district of Şırnak, Nusaybin district of Mardin and Yüksekova district of Hakkari. Continue reading

Assad’s allies – what are they after?

This is the second part of an article on the possible outcomes of the peace negotiations on Syria planned to start in January. The first part can be found at this link and argues that none of the forces that will be involved in the peace talks will press for democracy and an end to the religious sectarianism on both sides. This part looks at the forces behind Assad and how they will continue in a Syria that is either divided through partition or remains at war. 

The final part on the nature of the oppositional force to Assad will be posted within the next couple of days

After the weekends events (Jan 1st-3rd) in Saudi Arabia, the peace talks look increasingly unlikely to take place never mind yield any results. But Syria is already effectively partitioned – so much of the speculation in this posting is equally relevant if the peace talks break down. 


What will happen to the remains of the Syrian government dominated areas?

Assad’s forces

Civil War civilian casualties - 2015

Civil War civilian casualties – 2015

Assad’s military resources – the Syrian Arab Army was reported to have been between 220-280,000 strong at the outbreak of the civil war. The Syrian Army, along with the other military forces with whom they have been allied, have been responsible for the vast majority of the over 250,000 civilian deaths.

On their side they are thought to have lost over 50,000 troops. However huge numbers have also defected or deserted. Something like 40-50,000 have defected to the Free Syrian Army, primarily Sunni Muslims refusing to take part in attacks on civilian Sunni communities.

The current strength of the army was estimated to have halved by April 2015 to about 110,000. By July of that year Assad was acknowledging for the first time that his forces could no longer retake all of Syria. This admission led to increased military support from both Iran and Russia.

In an attempt to stiffen the armies resolve, Iranian and Hezbollah forces have increasingly carried out operations alongside them and are often put in charge of them. But even now with Russia air support, the regimes overall military successes have been minimal.

Continue reading

Syrian peace negotiations – what might they achieve?

It should be recognised first of all that few of the warring Syrian factions would have agreed to peace talks without considerable external pressure, particularly from those who have provided them with arms, armies and military subsidies.

The terrorist atrocities of Daesh on the Russian passenger plane over the Sinai desert had the effect of aligning Assad’s primary big power backer (Russia) alongside his primary big power opponents (US, France and the UK) – both needed to be seen to be taking action against Daesh (ISIS).

But Daesh is just one of many concerns for Syrian people and not the primary one. The majority will have fled or suffer under the Assad’s government heavy artillery and aerial bombardments. Others will have fled from violently hostile Islamist militias dominating their areas. There will be inevitable hopes that these problems will be addressed by any peace conference. But such hopes are likely to be disappointed.

Assad may be weaker than he was a year ago. His Syrian Arab Army continues to collapse, he has become increasingly dependent on Iranian ground forces and Russian air power. But he knows that the opposition are fractured and unable to unite effectively against him.

So neither of these 2 sides can pretend to be in a position to either force or need to make concessions in these talks.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 13.43.47 Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 13.44.12

Zahran Alloush speaking to an Army of Islam rally and display of tanks and troops

Zahran Alloush speaking to an Army of Islam rally and display of tanks and troops earlier this year

Indeed in the last week of 2015, the very time that the delegations to the peace conference were being selected, the government forces had a prominent militia leader assassinated – hardly the action of a government not wanting to put the peace process at risk.

The assassinated Zahran Alloush was head of the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), a Damascus-based Islamist militia renowned for its ritualised killings of Daesh soldiers as well as its caging and public display of Allawites/ Shi’ite civilians  in areas at risk of bombing.

The peace negotiations are therefore overwhelmingly driven by the external interests and not by any internal force in Syria. There are, of course, many competing imperialist interests in the peace negotiations – with even the UK now also wanting a stake. These powers may have a joint limited interest in beating back and demolishing Daesh’s “Islamic State” but they have nothing like a joint coherent vision of what they want to replace it.

The idea is laughable that fair elections could be held in Syria whilst so much of the country is controlled by the regime or undemocratic Islamist militias. As in any country so devastated by sectarian violence over such a long time, fear is easily manipulated by communalist politicians like Assad as well as many of his opponents, particularly the Islamist ones.

Their armed forces, their instruments of indoctrination, intimidation and oppression remain in existence. Fair elections presume the rights of free speech and political action. But anyone speaking out against whoever runs the territories they live in would be seriously worried about being killed. Assad’s military forces as well as the sectarian militias would first need to be demobilised, the perpetrators of war crimes arrested, civil society rebuilt and democratic discussion protected. An election without such action would do nothing other than exaggerate the communalist breakdown of the country rather than counter it.

However none of the primary sponsors of the Syrian conflict who have forced Assad and the ‘opposition’ into this conference – that is US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, or Russia – have the slightest interest in promoting a genuine democracy in Syria.

Each of these powers want to deal with Daesh and little more. Even their reasons to have Daesh eliminated is different for each of the regional and international super-powers.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia looks on Daesh as a troublesome competitor for the allegiance of Sunni Wahhabists and Islamists throughout the world. Indeed Daesh – in actually building a quasi-state power with many similarities with Saudi Arabia – has created huge embarrassment for the Saudi tyrants and their allies. Western governments and most of their media have maintained a meticulous silence on Saudi human rights abuses for decades. Over the last year that has been impossible to maintain.

Turkey

In Turkey Erdogan – who is modelling his state on a different model of authoritarian Islamism – has had a useful modus vivendi with Daesh. It is probably the least interested in eliminating Daesh. It allowed and encouraged Daesh’s war on the Rojavan Kurds. In return Daesh did little that might destabilise Erdogan’s rule but became a more audacious ally with his terror campaign against the Kurds.

Erdogan started his political life in the Islamist Welfare Party. The AKP made attempts to become the international centre for the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) after its loss of power in Egypt.

The relationship between the Ikhwan, Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda and Daesh is complicated. But anti-Shia sectarianism is more the hallmark of the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and its Jihadist offspring rather than the Ikhwan.

Erdogan with his ally, the then President Morsi of Egypt

Erdogan with his ally, the then President Morsi of Egypt

Erdogan was a close ally of the former Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi of Egypt. Both Morsi’s removal from power and his arrest by the military dictators in Egypt were strongly supported by Saudi Arabia. Erdogan often used Islamist solidarity with the former President Morsi, now threatened with execution, as a key election issue at his rallies. However he has never criticised Saudi’s support for that proposed execution.

Al Qaeda and Daesh built their organisation using anti-Shia atrocities, particularly in Iraq. They have also carried out such sectarian atrocities elsewhere in Sunni-majority areas such as Saudi Arabia in an attempt to destabilise it. But Daesh have not targeted Turkey’s 25% Shia community – the Alevites.

Al Qaeda supporter of Ikhwan - from video where they kill children protestors by throwing from roof in Cairo

Al Qaeda supporter of Ikhwan – from video where they kill children protestors by throwing from roof in Cairo

Undoubtedly there will be not only strong business links between Daesh and Erdogan’s AKP but also political sympathies with Al Qaeda and Daesh around the AKP, just as they were in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Any agreed audacious international action against Daesh would create considerable problems for Erdogan. Like the Saudis, but for different reasons, he will want to allow Daesh supporters to not be eliminated but reorganised under the leadership of the safer Wahhabism of the Saudi regime.

Russia was not been targeted by Al Qaeda or Daesh in recent years unlike the West – the attack on one of their passenger planes above Sinai changed that. Also the predictions that 30% of their population being Muslim is known to concern Putin. He has concerns that his generalised repression could trigger repetitions of wars like that in Chechnya especially if Jihadists within greater Russia see a successful Islamic State only a few hundred miles away.

But support for Assad has been significant for Russia – they will never support any measure that may remove him or the regime that they and Iran have worked so hard to keep in power.

The US are unwilling to repeat an Iraq-style occupation in Syria. They have instead invested considerably in trying to get militias that will be loyal to them off the ground in Syria. Such actions have been spectacular failures with the militias they have financed being gobbled up by Islamist militias. At present they and the rest of the western governments involved have contracted out that task to the Saudi regime – allowing the Saudis to become not only the paymasters for most of the militias but also to shape them politically. This could become a major cause of embarrassment to them.

On top of all these political concerns, there are economic ones.

Syria is not only a source for hydrocarbon fuels, it is also a potential route for gas and oil pipelines. Some have argued that Qatar’s involvement in Syria was a result of Assad’s blocking of a pipeline being built from Qatar through Syria to Turkey. Turkey is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas. Assad, Russia’s ally felt bound to oppose that.

Middle-East-map

Middle-East-map

The potential territorial contiguity of currently Shia-dominated regimes of Syria-Iraq-Iran gets in the way of Sunni co-operation between the Gulf states and Turkey. Now with Iran coming out of the cold of US sanctions, Iran itself may want to position itself as Turkey’s, and beyond them Europe’s main supplier.

So these external powers may want peace in Syria – or at least stability for business – but only after their vested interests are assured.

But there again war is useful for profits in the arms industry. The US arms industry currently sell Saudi and their close ally UAE $8 billion per year in equipment alone. Britain and France arms suppliers are not far behind. In the past much of Saudi’s military expenditure, which is currently the fourth highest in the world, were vanity projects. Now Saudi Arabia has wars like that in Yemen to invest in as well as a serious loss of oil revenues. If it feels its arms can’t be used they may reduce their purchases. There will be strong business pressures to allow Saudi Arabia to continue to invest, probably more openly, in arming forces in Syria. Possibly through a role in occupation.

Could the murderous forces mobilised on both sides be curbed?

The arms supplied by Saudi, Qatar, UAE and Turkey has been immense. In 2014 $92.7 million of arms were bought and supplied to Syrian militias by Saudi Arabia – and that is just from Bulgaria! Without such arm supplies and subsidies from them to the militias and armies in Syria they could not continue their war. Further up the supply chain are of course the US, France and the UK.

On the other side Assad’s Syrian Arab Army has nearly collapsed. Without the elite Iranian Quds force – now being backed up by the more regular Iranian Revolutionary Guards – without Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah, without Russian military assistance, Assad’s war on his people would collapse – even with his use of mass murdering barrel bombs.

So yes, if there was a will from foreign powers, they could pressurise internal Syrian forces to negotiate peace.

But is there the will for peace from the big powers? And more importantly what sort of ‘peace’ do they want?

None of the parties who are likely to gather round the negotiating table in New York on January 25th have much concern either for social justice or for a genuine pluralistic, non-sectarian multi-ethnic Syria where democratic rights are protected. All the them have disgraceful records in working with religiously sectarian forces and supporting brutal authoritarian governments in the area.

If a peace deal is likely out of these negotiations – it is likely to be one that leaves the Assad regime in existence even though personally Bashar Al-Assad may be shunted off to some Russian dacha. It will not be one that will put genuine democrats in charge of Syria. Saudi Arabia’s lead role in the coordination of the Syrian ‘moderate opposition’ is one guarantor of that. Iran and Russia are also guarantors – on the other side.

If any ‘peace deal’ is negotiated, it will probably be through a partition of Syria – initially by freezing many of the present military front-lines between the competing forces.

Such a partition won’t be easy to negotiate – it certainly won’t be in the interests of the Syrian people.


I will look in my next posting on what partition might mean for Syria and what internationally democrats and socialists should do to prevent it and the continuation of the wars in Syria

The Syrian ‘opposition’ – how long can the Saudi deception continue?

The premise on which the British Parliament agreed to join bombings in Syria was that there would be little risk of a military escalation. Clearly bombings can drive the army and the administration of the ‘Islamic State’ into bunkers or into temporary physical dispersion. But a physical territory can only be captured if taken over by military forces on the ground. Cameron and others supporting the war made out that such a force was in existence.

Salman At Riyadh Conference

Saudi’s King and Foreign Minister welcome delegates

Rarely has it been possible to get a snapshot of the Syrian military forces supported by US, UK and France. Cameron played with illusions and words in the British parliament but illusions are insufficient for the US. They need to strengthen their bargaining power in the continuation of the earlier Vienna talks on Syria that may resume in New York next week.

For that reason they authorised Saudi Arabia to co-ordinate the Syrian “opposition” at a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday and Wednesday (8th and 9th Dec) of this week. The very fact that they passed on such an important task to the regime at the centre of world Wahabbism and Sunni Islamist sectarianism revealed a lot about both the likely outcome of the West’s bombing campaign in Syria but it also revealed much about the majority of the Syrian militias. Continue reading

Where do we go and how do we conduct ourselves

saudi.siWhere do we go and how do we conduct ourselves after last night’s decision to bomb Syria? I expect some will be offended by what I say below
The decision of the UK parliament to authorise bombings is undoubtedly a blow.

I imagine we all fear seeing videos in future like those that Chelsea Manning released to the world and for which she paid such a terrible price – a video of an exercise in smart warfare where a minibus of innocent men and children are machine gunned down and murdered.

And things happen like that when ‘intelligence’ is not delivered by people on the ground and in Raqqa and elsewhere there is little reliable intelligence on the ground.

It is unlikely that there will be military successes in defeating Daesh and liberating areas for ‘democracy’ – because there will be few democrats on the ground other than YPG who, as many MPs drew attention to last night, are being bombed by Turkey and denied heavy weaponry by the Western powers. But the YPG do not have the capabilities alone of liberating Syria for democracy.

Most foreign interventions start with large popular enthusiasm. As wars progress, support drops away if there is no success. In the absence of military successes, Cameron either has to accept de facto defeat or go for further involvement to justify his earlier decision to enter the war. We know from #pigsgate and #terroristSympathisers that Cameron never admits to being wrong. Continue reading

But still Daesh has to be defeated!

YPJ liberate SinjarFrom the response to the Paris atrocity, it appears that sections of the left still fail to understand the Jihadist Islamist organisations of Al Qaeda and Daesh/ ISIS. Undoubtedly many do so wanting to be able to take a position that allows them an easy argument against a repetition of the disastrous war on Iraq. But their way of doing that is to put a ‘context’ on the tragedy that partially absolves Daesh for the responsibility for it.

Trivialising either the actions or the responsibilities of Daesh for their own crimes does not help. As with all forms of fascism, Al Qaeda and Daesh have ideologies as well as organisations. A diminishing but still sizeable proportion of the left continues to lie to itself, as much as it does to others, about the history of both. Its self-deception is indeed its only excuse. Continue reading