Allegations of chemical weapons use by Syrian government forces don’t stack up

nerve gasAt a time when after two and a half years of an unrelentingly brutal conflict, Syrian government forces are on the front foot, enjoying continuing success against a polyglot opposition increasingly made up of thousands of foreign funded jihadists from outside the country. At a time when UN inspectors are already in Syria – Damascus specifically – to carry out an investigation of previous alleged incidents of chemical weapons use during the conflict. And when western governments in Washington, Paris, and London are itching to up the ante when it comes to supporting the opposition in its attempt to topple the Assad government, it would constitute one of the greatest military and political blunders of all time if the provenance of this most recent incident of chemical weapons use – in Ghouta on the eastern outskirts of Damscus – was the Syrian army.

It would, in fact, be tantamount to Bashar al-Assad signing his own death warrant along with that of his government.

No matter how you look at it, and at this point speculation reigns, the distinct whiff of a set up surrounds the allegations made by the Syrian opposition that the government deployed what looks to have been sarin in and around the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as part of its ongoing military operation to crush the opposition forces holed up there. The images of the victims of the attack in the throes of agony – many of them children – are horrific even by the standards of this brutal conflict. This is why it is vital that a credible and scrupulously independent investigation does take place and as soon as it can be undertaken.

But let’s not pretend: from the outset the US, Britain, and France – along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey in the region – have been open in their political, financial, and military support for the opposition and the toppling of the present Syrian government. It’s instructive that of all the western powers lined up against Assad, France is the one to come out first with a call for direct military intervention in the conflict should it be proved that the government was in fact behind this particular atrocity. France – the former colonial power – whose bloody war to maintain control another of its former colonies, Algeria, from 1954 to 1962, cost the lives of up to 1.5 million people – has clearly already decided that the Syrian government is responsible and views this incident as an opportunity to garner support both at home and abroad for some kind of military intervention.

The West’s hegemonic objectives when it comes to the region as a whole involves removing Syria as one element in the axis of resistance to those objectives. This has been clear from the beginning. With Syria as a pole of resistance both to the West’s geopolitical objectives and Israeli military domination removed, Hezbollah, a second part of this axis of resistance, would be significantly weakened. The major stumbling block to complete western domination of the region and its resources is, of course, Iran, which would be left isolated if both its close allies, Syria and Hezbollah, were defeated and/or destroyed.

Those are the stakes involved in this ongoing conflict; and this is why these allegations must be regarded with a healthy dose of scepticism until a full, credible, independent, and proper investigation can be carried out.

Meanwhile the suffering of the Syrian people continues throughout the country, with reports and graphic images and videos of atrocities committed a near daily occurrence. In Latakia province in the west of the country, for example, reports that hundreds of civilians were slaughtered by the rebels have failed to make headlines in the West. Nor has it resulted in calls for military action against those responsible.

With these and other atrocities taking place on a regular basis, with millions crossing Syria’s borders to escape the violence, and millions more displaced within the country, the need for an end to hostilities and a political solution has never been more stark. Yet in the West the emphasis remains on supporting the opposition in its attempt to topple the government by force. The lessons of the human suffering, carnage and chaos to beset Iraq and Libya have been forgotten – or as is more likely ignored – in service to the more important issue of an outcome favourable to western geopolitical interests.

Twas ever thus.

126 comments on “Allegations of chemical weapons use by Syrian government forces don’t stack up

  1. redhand on said:

    “reports that hundreds of civilians were slaughtered by the rebels ”

    Where in the report you linked to does it state this? The references to deaths appear to relate to military casualties, many of whom are documented in the numerous online videos of the fighting at the Barouda Observatory and Isterba, for example. It is a serious allegation though, and warrants further investigation, so if you could link to your no doubt multiple other sources for this claim, it would be most appreciated.

    Meanwhile, it looks like the desperate attempt of the Russians to blame the rebels has fallen a the first hurdle:

    http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/confused-by-how-youtube-assigns-dates-russians-cite-false-claim-on-syria-videos/?_r=0

    I’m sure they’ll come up with something else, however.

  2. redhand on said:

    “Syrian government forces are on the front foot, enjoying continuing success”

    Other than al-Qusayr, Khaldiyeh district in Homs and the recent recapture of some villages in Assad’s home province, where do you mean? Assad has lost Minnigh, Khan al-Assal and numerous districts of both Deir-ez-Zour and Daraa, in the last few weeks alone. He is also coming under sustained pressure in the capital as well, having singularly failed to remove the revolutionaries from Jobar, Qaboun, and Barzeh:

    http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/opposition-advances-damascus

  3. redhand on said:

    “At a time when UN inspectors are already in Syria – Damascus specifically”

    UN inspectors were just down the road in Homs when the Houla massacre took place. Their conclusion?

    “On the basis of available evidence, the commission has a reasonable basis to believe that the perpetrators of the deliberate killing of civilians, at both the Abdulrazzak and Al-Sayed family locations, were aligned to the Government. It rests this conclusion on its understanding of access to the crime sites, the loyalties of the victims, the security layout in the area including the position of the government’s water authority checkpoint and the consistent testimonies of victims and witnesses with direct knowledge of the events. This conclusion is bolstered by the lack of credible information supporting other possibilities.”

  4. “This is why it is vital that a credible and scrupulously independent investigation does take place and as soon as it can be undertaken.”

    Who could disagree? But – isn’t there a team of UN investigators in Syria already, which the Syrian government has accepted as competent to investigate other alleged chemical attacks? I can’t quite see what the difficulty might be in letting them investigate these latest allegations.

  5. redhand,

    I realise you are trying your best to make the case for the western opposition in Syria, but I’m afraid you’re struggling.

    The strategic gains made by the Syrian National Army over the past six to eight weeks have been significant. It’s not just a case of ticking off the names of villages, as you have, it’s about the strategic value of specific towns and cities, and how they open up roads and transit routes in and out of the control.

    So, for example, the taking of Qusayr at the beginning of June near the Lebanese border blocked the ability of the opposition to bring weapons and personnel into the country from Lebanon, and protects the ability of fighters from Hezbollah to link up with Syrian forces as well.

    It is also vital as it lies on the coast road to the south and into Alawite territory. From here the SNA was able to mount an offensive to retake Homs, and from there an operation to retake Aleppo, which is ongoing.

    There is also the political aspect to take into account. The opposition has grown increasingly fractured, fighting among itself, as it loses these strategic battles. This is why the West is upping the ante, because its proxies are losing on the ground.

  6. Francis King: I can’t quite see what the difficulty might be in letting them investigate these latest allegations.

    It’s a war zone, Francis, and given the nature of the opposition – i.e. it’s made up of many different groups – ensuring the safety of the inspectors I’m guessing isn’t a simple exercise.

    But, yes, let’s hope they do get access and an investigation can be conducted.

    Of course, we can’t forget that UN inspection teams are capable of being partial in these matters. There is a precedent for this, after all, when UN inspections conducted in Iraq in the 90s were compromised by the fact that some of them were spying for the US.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/07/world/us-spied-on-iraq-under-un-cover-officials-now-say.html

  7. redhand on said:

    “From here the SNA was able to mount an offensive to retake Homs”. But they haven’t retaken it yet have they, despite the best efforts of jihadis from Iraq, amongst other places? And they’ve been losing ground in Aleppo as well, as i alluded to earlier, with the occupiers from the Party of God currently holed up in Nubbol and Zahraa having failed miserably to relieve the siege of Minnigh. These facts, along with significant advances by the FSA in southern and eastern cities and the failure of Assad’s counter-offensive in rif Damascus somewhat undermines your claim that Assad’s forces are enjoying “continuing success”.

  8. redhand,

    They control most of it. Retaking a city with a population similar to Glasgow isn’t a straightforward task. As for them losing ground in Aleppo, I wonder if you could cite references to support this. The battle there is still ongoing, with the rebels pushed to the outskirts of the city.

    But the wider context is that the SNA has the initiative on the ground. This doesn’t mean they are close to outright victory. The nature of the conflict, with the participation of thousands of jihadists from outside the country, and the continued funding of the opposition by its allies in the region and the West, means it will be protracted and messy for some time to come. That is unless the West withdraws its political and material support from its proxies.

  9. redhand on said:

    “They control most of it. Retaking a city with a population similar to Glasgow isn’t a straightforward task.”

    Losing it in the first place is even harder – have you ever wondered why they did?

  10. redhand: Losing it in the first place is even harder – have you ever wondered why they did?

    No…in the same way I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering why Iraq was invaded and occupied within 3 weeks by the US its British satrap.

    Nonetheless I marched and demonstrated against them doing so. Did you?

    As we speak the wolves are circling yet again.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-crisis-us-bolsters-navy-presence-as-military-options-discussed-after-damascus-massacre-8782319.html

  11. redhand on said:

    “No…”

    What an astonishing lack of curiosity.

    “in the same way I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering why Iraq was invaded and occupied within 3 weeks by the US its British satrap.

    Nonetheless I marched and demonstrated against them doing so. Did you?”

    Yes. A non sequitur nevertheless.

  12. redhand: What an astonishing lack of curiosity.

    If your arguments are founded on information provided by pro-opposition blogs and multiple youtube videos, there really is nothing to argue with.

    I’m sorry but I can’t take that seriously.

  13. SteveH on said:

    At a time when the Western backed Egyptian military is busy killing its opponents, the West needed some reason to not look like total fucking hypocritical war mongering criminals in relation to Syria, so lo and behold, massive chemical weapons attack to the rescue, right on cue! Who wold believe it! What luck! Except, even if this garbage was true the West would still look like criminal hypocrites because it doesn’t matter if you kill people by shooting them, sending drones or dropping chemical substances, they end up fucking dead! And the West are huge investors in the chemical weapons industry, as they are in every other part of the arms industry.

    The West deal in death and destruction, moreover they rely on it. Anyone encouraging these criminals is part of the conspiracy.

  14. redhand on said:

    “As for them losing ground in Aleppo, I wonder if you could cite references to support this”

    Happily. In addition to the defeats at Minnigh and Khan al-Assal mentioned earlier, Assad’s forces have been overrun on the outskirts of as-Safira military facility (um Amouda, Qobtain et al), have withdrawn from Khanasser (on the vital Hama-Haleb highway) and lost control of a number of districts in the west of the city itself such as Salah-al-din and parts of al-rashidin and al-layramoun districts

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mRUjXeSBAq4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0UpbVNUd8As
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jGfVb5VywQ0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PGeceDmP1yI

    Finally, Aleppo central prison is under sustained and violent siege, as shown in the links below:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wauPA8XKVQk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PGeceDmP1yI

    If, on the contrary, you have any evidence of significant territorial gains made by the Ba’athists in Aleppo (either province or city) since the start of “Operation Northern Storm”, I’d be very interested to see them. Without such evidence, i find it hard to describe the current military situation from Assad’s perspective as anything other than a stalemate at the very best.

  15. SteveH on said:

    The Syrian opposition, no doubt under orders, are inventing yet anoher chemical weapons attack to justify a Western led attack on the country, the opposition have not been able to win the streets so call in the gangsters. The scary thing is it is likely that the Syrian opposition will think nothing of using chemical weapons and then blaming it on the Assad regime, such is their degeneracy.

    The West is getting desperate in it’s attempt to enter yet another war in this so called age of austerity, and a nice little chemical weapons attack they reckon will tip the balance, and allow them to carry out carnage and high criminality while occupying the moral high ground!

    Meanwhile in Egypt they show their true colours!

  16. redhand on said:

    #21 “inventing yet anoher (sic) chemical weapons attack”.

    So am i to assume you disagree with George Galloway who appears to believe that there was just such an attack, but that it was carried out by the Israelis? That you actually believe no attack took place at all?

  17. paul fauvet on said:

    Here’s a Reuters report from Thursday:

    “The longer chemical weapons inspectors wait in a Damascus luxury hotel for permission to drive up the road to the site of what appears to be the worst poison gas attack in a quarter century, the less likely they will be able to get to the bottom of it. The poisoning deaths of many hundreds of people took place only three days after a team of U.N. chemical weapons experts arrived in Syria. But their limited mandate means the inspectors have so far been powerless to go to the scene, a short drive from where they are staying”.

    Now if i were a member of a government that had just suffered an appalling chemical attack in which an utterly callous rebel movement had slaughtered hundreds of civilians, I would move heaven and earth to get those inspectors to the site, so that they could draw up thei report while the evidence is fresh.

    On the other hand, if i were a member of a government that had just committed said atrocity, then I would ensure that the weapons inspectors kept on twiddling their thumbs in their hotel, and I would invent all kinds of excuses about security to keep them away.

    The longer UN inspectors are kept away from the area, the more it looks as if the Assad regime has something to hide.

  18. brianthedog on said:

    An excellent and very interesting post by John Wright.

    I also can’t help think that many things just don’t add up and its all to easy and convenient to blame the Syrian government. And we are now seeing threats of US military intervention.

    Morally and strategically why would they want to do this? Particularly as the tide is beginning to turn.

    Western Imperialism wants to smash and dismember Syria which will greatly help them in continuing to control the geo politics of the region.

    They are being helped by their friends in the royalist and corrupt regimes of Saudi Arabian and Qatar and by the conservative Islamic Turkish government (with Ottoman Imperial ambitions) who are playing on religious sectarianism.

    Both these currents are helping creating a situation for medieval jihadist to also come into and operate in Syria.

    Nearby hundreds died in a military crack down in Egypt last week which saw much hand ringing and crocodile tears from the US. The only US military intervention is to still sending billions of dollars in military aid and hardware to Egypt.

  19. Feodor on said:

    paul fauvet:
    The longer UN inspectors are kept away from the area, the more it looks as if the Assad regime has something to hide.

    Alternately, could it not also be the case that the Syrian government knows there’s been a chemical attack, but having surveyed the debris, feel there is no way to tell who was responsible? I honestly don’t know quite how one would even determine responsibility, unless the shells etc. had Syrian military markings. Thus, if the evidence is ambiguous, is it not as credible to think that perhaps the Syrian government is unwilling to take a chance on being blamed?

    Obama’s ‘red line’ has in effect raised the ante to the extent that the whole situation is very delicately balanced. In such situations it is often far harder to get to the truth, precisely because an international community which should serve as a neutral party working for peace, has pitched its tent in one camp or another. This whole situation is thus a damning indictment of the international community, and in particular all the big powers – US, UK, France, Russia and China. All seem to have placed perceived national interest over international stability.

    For me, this therefore has something of a nightmarish quality. A game of bluff that could rapidly get out of hand. What we need now is cool heads, working for a resolution of the conflict, while trying to maintain neutrality. That seems the only way to produce a permanent, lasting peace – in Syria and anywhere else where there is war.

  20. redhand on said:

    “Nearby hundreds died in a military crack down in Egypt last week which saw much hand ringing and crocodile tears from the US.”

    A crackdown against an organisation ideologically committed to the revolt against Assad and one which the author of this piece was ambivalent towards at best (the MB “should be careful what they wish for”).

  21. Feodor on said:

    PS. When I say I don’t know how one can determine responsibility, I mean beyond a reasonable doubt, and not just based on deduction and speculation. For something as serious as this, a high standard of proof needs to be used.

  22. redhand on said:

    “Both these currents are helping creating a situation for medieval jihadist to also come into and operate in Syria.”

    The call to Jihad by prominent Sunni clerics may have had an impact as well. For example, here’s one previously lauded as a “one of the leading progressive voices in the Muslim world” and “who refuses to view the world through the prism of western ideas” (presumably that now includes crude anti-imperialism?)

    http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/06/13/Sunni-clerics-make-joint-call-for-Jihad-in-Syria.html

    http://socialistunity.com/a-reply-to-george-readings-on-qaradawi/

    http://socialistunity.com/a-further-reply-to-george-readings/

  23. brianthedog on said:

    #26 “Nearby hundreds died in a military crack down in Egypt last week which saw much hand ringing and crocodile tears from the US.”

    Redhand you conveniently forgot to add the follow on sentence which I wrote where I said, “The only US military intervention is to still sending billions of dollars in military aid and hardware to Egypt” Interesting and it begs the question to why?

    You are increasingly coming across on this post as a wingman for western imperialism and its proxies in the middle east.

  24. redhand on said:

    “Redhand you conveniently forgot to add the follow on sentence which I wrote where I said, “The only US military intervention is to still sending billions of dollars in military aid and hardware to Egypt” Interesting and it begs the question to why?”

    The reason was because by “author of this piece”, i was referring to John Wight, not yourself, and the follow-on sentence was of no relevance to the point i was making. To wit, the overthrow of the MB in Egypt was viewed not entirely unfavourably by certain contributors to this site.

    For the record, I hope the US stops sending such military aid as soon as possible, although sadly i doubt it will. Interestingly, it now appears John McCain agrees with you on this point:

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/paul-cut-egypt-aid/2013/08/23/id/521967

  25. jock mctrousers on said:

    Redhand shows his hand. You’re coming from a bad place, Redhand. Get out of there. Try some Kundalini yoga – that’ll give you a laugh, at least.

    This is short and to the point, but there’s a long and reasonably well-informed comments thread:
    Syria: Another False Flag “Chemical Weapon” Attack
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/08/syria-another-false-flag-chemical-weapon-attack.html#comments

    These others touch most of the bases:

    Experts Doubt Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims
    Posted on August 24, 2013 by WashingtonsBlog
    Preliminary Evidence Indicates that the Syrian Government Did NOT Launch a Chemical Weapon Attack Against Its People
    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/08/is-u-s-launching-a-war-in-syria-to-distract-from-spying-and-other-scandals.html

    Chemical attack: ‘rough work’ of Syrian opposition
    http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_08_22/Chemical-attack-rough-work-of-Syrian-opposition-4241/

    FROM RT (text and video): Syrian rebels use toxic chemicals against govt troops near Damascus – state media
    http://rt.com/news/rebel-tunnel-damascus-chemical-940/

  26. redhand: one which the author of this piece was ambivalent towards at best (the MB “should be careful what they wish for”).

    You have either purposely or erroneously misattributed the above quote from a previous article I wrote. “They should be careful what they wish for” was a clear reference to the millions of Egyptians who called for the military to topple Morsi, suggesting that the guns of the generals will likely not stop at suppressing the MB but will next turn on those who support it.

    However I certainly have limited sympathy for the MB over a number of their policies when in office, including their support for the same western proxies in Syria that you are supporting.

    Someone has stated that you are doing a good impression of a wingman for imperialism. I think it’s more accurate to say that you are demonstrating the same Pavlovian response to imperialism’s lies and distortions that a large section of the left here in the West has been guilty of going back decades.

    Thus Nasser was that ‘Hitler on the Nile’, Saddam was an ‘Arab Hitler’, Gaddafi was a ‘mad dictator’, and now we have Bashar al-Assad being demonised as evil incarnate who drowns his own people in nerve gas.

    I feel you need to consider the history of the region and the role of your own ruling class in fomenting chaos and carnage before signing up to its latest crusade in Syria.

    Finally, Robert Fisk has written an excellent piece on this, drawing both on his unparalleled knowledge of the region and a political compass which time and again sets him head and shoulders above many ‘socialists’ and ‘anti imperialists’ I could name.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/bashar-alassad-syria-and-the-truth-about-chemical-weapons-8393539.html

  27. The weakness in this article is that it lumps all anti Assad states – US, Britain, and France along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – together as if they form some kind of alliance. Hence they’re just itching to use these appalling chemical attacks as an excuse to deepen their involvement.

    In fact, the principal imperial power, the US under Obama, has shown reluctance to offer much more than rhetorical diplomatic support for the anti-Assad opposition. A number of commentators have pointed out over the last couple of days that Obama is now hamstrung over his remark that the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘game changer’. Clearly he doesn’t want to embroil the American military in the conflict but he’d have to be seen to do something to maintain creibility as the world superpower. The reasons for US reluctance to go along with the French in respect to military action – invasion – are obvious, so obvious I’m sure I don’t have to spell it out on this forum – the last decade wasn’t exactly a great success for American foreign policy was it?

    In their opposition to imperialism, some people – including John – on the left portray Western Imperialism as omnipotent. It isn’t. Using drones to wipe out villages with impunity in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan and assembling a full scale military force are very different things.

    A couple of other points not so far mentioned:

    The most effective external military force has been a pro Syrian government one: Hezbollah.

    I gather that even the Russians are now calling for the Syrian government to allow UN inspectors to visit the areas where there have been chemical attacks.

  28. Sam64: The weakness in this article is that it lumps all anti Assad states – US, Britain, and France along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – together as if they form some kind of alliance.

    In the objective of toppling Assad they clearly are allies. Have they formed an official alliance for the purpose, no. They don’t need to. Are they working hand in glove to make it happen – yes and no. I refuse to believe that there isn’t regular and close contact between them over what’s unfolding in Syria. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are of course engaged in their own struggle to bankroll and wield most influence over the Islamist current within Syria and beyond. But to suggest that Washington, Paris, and London aren’t working together is wrong.

    Obama it’s clear is reluctant to get the US involved in another drawn out military adventure along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. But he’s not calling the shots in Washington over this. It is hawks such as McCain and Hagel in his own cabinet who’re driving him to do something, which he will unless it can be proved beyond doubt that Syrian government forces were not responsible.

    Sam64: The most effective external military force has been a pro Syrian government one: Hezbollah.

    You seem to be trying to support the opposition without supporting the opposition.

    It’s as if you’re suggesting that Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement, are on a par with the thousands of obscurantist savages who’ve invaded the country and are slaughtering people like cattle. As if they have arrived in Syria as a foreign invader rather than allies of the government in its struggle against imperialism and its various proxies.

    Sam64: I gather that even the Russians are now calling for the Syrian government to allow UN inspectors to visit the areas where there have been chemical attacks.

    And what does this prove? Of course the Russians are calling for inspections. Why wouldn’t they? There needs to be inspections and as soon as possible.

    I’m not sure what point there is in flagging this up.

  29. The point is John is that it is perhaps indicative that the Assad government has something to hide when even Assad’s most steadfast ally is calling on the Syrian authorities to do something it’s flatly refusing to do: allow inspectors free access to the areas where chemical weapons have been used.

    As for the foreign fighters, the objective point stands – and despite some seriously over blown rhetoric on your part you haven’t contradicted. The most effective foreign fighters, i.e. fighters from outside of Syria, are not contra the government but fight in support of the government.

    You can portray the Assad as struggling against imperialism if you like. Presumably that would still be your view if – and I acknowledge it’s still a big if – it does become clear that that same ‘anti imperialist’ government is quite prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people?

    Let me be clear, as a socialist I wish to see an end of the Assad regime. Much, not all, I’m not really even sure one can say most, of the oppposition is clearly pretty horrible. But that doesn’t alter my wish for a replacement to the regime in Damascus.

  30. Sam64: as a socialist I wish to see an end of the Assad regime. Much, not all, I’m not really even sure one can say most, of the oppposition is clearly pretty horrible. But that doesn’t alter my wish for a replacement to the regime in Damascus.

    This I think gets to the heart of the issue. Prefacing your support for the opposition with the statement ‘as a socialist’ does not ascribe any more moral authority to what amounts to the same stance as William Hague and John McCain.

    What is it about being a socialist that means it is okay to line up with your own ruling class in its objectives? I’ve just never understood this anomaly.

    You wish to see the end of the current Syrian government, even though you admit that most of the opposition is ‘horrible’. This can only mean that you are willing to inflict the same horrible opposition on the Syrian people. Can’t you see the problem with this?

    As a socialist I’m against imperialism in all its forms. You don’t have to be for Assad to be against his enemies on the basis that they constitute a far greater threat to not only the Syrian people but the entire region, evidenced in the mountain of bodies they’ve already erected.

    From what I know – and I am in touch with a number of Syrians – some living in Scotland and one I am in regular contact with in Syria – many Syrians who supported the initial demonstrations for reform in Syria are now supporting Assad and the government precisely because the opposition is so ‘horrible’.

    Sam64: Presumably that would still be your view if – and I acknowledge it’s still a big if – it does become clear that that same ‘anti imperialist’ government is quite prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people?

    I have serious doubts they did, both for the reasons I’ve listed in the article and because I have a grasp of the recent and less recent history of the region and western imperialism.

    But this is a brutal and savage conflict; and I am under no illusions that atrocities have been committed on both sides. One thing I do know is that the last moral authority on what took place and what the consequences should be is my own government and the wolves that are now circling looking for an excuse to go in.

    What are you suggesting Sam – that if they come up with proof that it was Syrian govt forces responsible we should support military intervention by the West?

  31. ‘What are you suggesting Sam – that if they come up with proof that it was Syrian govt forces responsible we should support military intervention by the West?’

    This is the key question, not what anyone here thinks of the Assad regime.

    And the idea that it is incumbent on socialists to support the overthrow of a regime they don’t like irrespective of the nature of the alternative is childish and pathetic. It reduces those who promote it to being rebels without a cause. It’s not serious politics.

  32. Vanya, John

    And the idea that it’s somehow principled, informed, responsible and mature – in line with being a considered ‘anti-imperialist’ – to lend your objective support a regime which may well (that’s not definitely, but may well) use chemical weapons for the mass murder of Syrian children is contemptible and repungnant.

    No, it isn’t even that. It isn’t even worthy of contempt. Enough said on my part about the matter.

    Come on Vanya, John see if you can can up the rhetoric further in line with being an, er, anti imperialist of a bank holiday w/e…

  33. Sam64: And the idea that it’s somehow principled, informed, responsible and mature – in line with being a considered ‘anti-imperialist’ – to lend your objective support a regime which may well (that’s not definitely, but may well) use chemical weapons for the mass murder of Syrian children is contemptible and repungnant.

    So based on the assertion of Al-Nusra elements operating in a suburb of Damascus, an Al Qaeda affiliate that has employed some of the most savage methods in this conflict thus far – assertions taken up in Washington, London, and Paris – you’ve already decided that Assad is reponsible – another in a long line of ‘Arab Hitlers’ I previously mentioned.

    Don’t you see the Pavlovian mindset involved here?

    I say it again: you don’t have to be for Assad to be against the forces currently arrayed against him. The entire emphasis of your comments has been how bad Assad is and how ‘as a socialist’ you want to see him toppled.

    This means you are objectively lining up with Al-Nusra and the West, given that these are the only forces arrayed against him at this point that are in a position to topple him. It reduces you to the status of apologist for western imperialism in socialist garb.

    If Assad’s forces are proved beyond doubt to have been responsible for this, I ask you again: will you be supporting military intervention by the West?

    If not then what’s your alternative?

  34. vildechaye on said:

    In other words, if they find for the Syrian government, we’ll accept the report. If they find against the Syrian government, it was all a Western plot.

    What else is new?
    John,

  35. brianthedog on said:

    #43 Totally agree.

    Create the conditions and then set the bar so high that they can’t be met, whilst all the while softening up the British/US/ Euro general public so you can send in an imperial/nato strike force.

    Yugoslavia!
    Iraq!
    Libya!
    Syria?

  36. @ 43-44-45 absolutely spot on, I can’t understand how anybody in this day and age would buy into the amateurish propaganda coming from the western media regarding Syria, never mind supporting the disgusting imperialism of the US/UK, lies,lies,lies George Orwell said it best (The people will believe what the media tells them to believe)

  37. Peter (used to be a trade unionist) on said:

    We are going to war, whatever the UN findings are and this time they won’t even bother with a dossier to justify it! If the feeble excuse that the ‘evidence’ has degraded in 5 days, why were the UN inspectors sent there to investigate incidents that happened months ago? If we are duty bound to intervene, if we find chemical weapons have been used, will that mean joining forces with the government of Syria if the rebels have been using them? Instead of a missile ship being sent, could we not have sent hospital ships to help the sick and injured? Time will will tell that this has nothing to do with Syria, but a back door attack on Russia and Iran

  38. Sam64: the idea that it’s somehow principled, informed, responsible and mature – in line with being a considered ‘anti-imperialist’ – to lend your objective support a regime which may well (that’s not definitely, but may well) use chemical weapons for the mass murder of Syrian children is contemptible and repungnant.

    So all the West + proxies have to do to secure your objective support is to create the impression that the Syrian government may have used chemical weapons. Quite a low bar, even for someone who apparently has little objection to being manipulated.

  39. Sam64: it is perhaps indicative that the Assad government has something to hide when even Assad’s most steadfast ally is calling on the Syrian authorities to do something it’s flatly refusing to do: allow inspectors free access to the areas where chemical weapons have been used.

    Actually, the Russian position has been that the ‘rebels’ were preventing safe access of the UN observers:

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130823/russia-demands-syrian-rebels-allow-access-site-alleged-chemical-att

  40. #39 My problem with those who want to see the Syrian government overthrown is that none have provided a satisfactory reason why. Why do you want to see the government overthrown if the alternative is “pretty horrible”?

    What exactly, from a progressive, let alone a socialist, point of view would make it better for Syria to be ruled by the current opposition?

  41. Calvin Tucker on said:

    Sam64: Let me be clear, as a socialist I wish to see an end of the Assad regime. Much, not all, I’m not really even sure one can say most, of the oppposition is clearly pretty horrible. But that doesn’t alter my wish for a replacement to the regime in Damascus.

    So you either want to see the Assad regime replaced with something “pretty horrible”, or you are a moralistic idealist who imagines that nice regimes come about by you “wishing” for them.

  42. John Grimshaw on said:

    CJB:
    @ 43-44-45 absolutely spot on, I can’t understand how anybody in this day and age would buy into the amateurish propaganda coming from the western media regarding Syria, never mind supporting the disgusting imperialism of the US/UK, lies,lies,lies George Orwell said it best (The people will believe what the media tells them to believe)

    H’mmmm. I sympathise with what you and thus John etc. are saying, but lets not get involved with this “all powerful media argument and the western working class are all dupes”. The truth is that some are but the majority are reasoning human beings and therefore support their government because they think its right. Its our job as socialists to offer an alternative.

  43. John Grimshaw: H’mmmm. I sympathise with what you and thus John etc. are saying, but lets not get involved with this “all powerful media argument and the western working class are all dupes”. The truth is that some are but the majority are reasoning human beings and therefore support their government because they think its right. Its our job as socialists to offer an alternative.

    What lets not discuss the truth?
    My point was that the general public are oblivious to the real workings of government and especially their never ending war on “terror” keeping everybody nice and scared while they erode our civil liberties one piece at a time, and the public’s unquestionable obedience and support for government is down to the brainwashing they receive on a daily basis and that is mostly down to the media presenting the information in a way to sway public opinion, socialism can offer many alternatives to the current system but its never going to see the light of day while we are stuck with this system of lies and slavery…

  44. Feodor on said:

    vanya:
    #39 My problem…

    Throughout the ‘Arab Spring’, there’s been a strongly idealistic element – both in ‘east’ and ‘west’ – which seems to think dictatorships can be toppled and liberal democracies installed without any of the kind of normal gruesomeness that accompanies revolution.

    Brings to mind that truism of Koestler’s: ‘He who opposes a dictatorship must accept civil war as a means. He who recoils from civil war must give up opposition and accept the dictatorship.’ (Darkness At Noon.)

    This is a real moral dilemma, which many r-r-revolutionary types like to pretend doesn’t exist. They certainly don’t seem to realise that any political order that arises out of a civil war will have a large minority alienated from it, which is hardly a sustainable foundation.

    And moreover, the rather blasé attitude to political violence on both pro- and anti-government sides of the western debate, I find quite repugnant.

  45. CJB,

    I agree with this. Take the Guardian’s recent coverage, for example. Article after article demonising the Syrian govt and making the case for intervention. This is perceived as a progressive newspaper.

    It should be renamed The Daily War & Imperialism.

  46. Feodor on said:

    On newspapers, having read Owen Jones’ article in the I today, I think he should have credited John and the comments section here, because he seems to have taken all his information from this blog. Some journalist…

  47. John smith on said:

    UN Weapons inspectors! lol! perhaps while they are local they could check out Isreals nuclear arsenal!
    Lol!

  48. I see that professional apologist Fauvet is at again! But to anyone who is not a little servile apologist shit like Fauvet, 2 things are likely to have happened:

    1. The US backed opposition, knowing that a chemical weapons attack is the line drawn by the mass terrorist USA, have invented this stoty in order to bring in the mass terrorists.

    2. The US backed opposition, knowing that a chemical weapons attack is the line drawn by the mass terrorist USA, have actually carried out a chemical attack and are blaming it on Assad.

    Either way, Obama and Cameron are to be now on the list of war criminals and are the Ace and Queen of spades in a humanitarian most wanted list.

  49. John: What are you suggesting Sam – that if they come up with proof that it was Syrian govt forces responsible we should support military intervention by the West?

    That’s exactly what he’s suggesting.

    Unfortunately, large parts of the British Left got themselves worked up into feverish excitement over the so-called Arab “revolutions”, got catastrophically dis-oriented over Libya, failed to untangle themselves over Syria, and are now following the logic of their own positions into the abyss. What a fiasco!

    Very good article John.

  50. Marko: 1. The US backed opposition, knowing that a chemical weapons attack is the line drawn by the mass terrorist USA, have invented this stoty in order to bring in the mass terrorists.
    2. The US backed opposition, knowing that a chemical weapons attack is the line drawn by the mass terrorist USA, have actually carried out a chemical attack and are blaming it on Assad.

    Or, we cannot rule out the possibility that forces loyal to President Assad, ill advisedly did use chemical weapons, and that the the West have opportunistically used this as a pretext to intervene more overtly in the civil war.

    There is certainly an Orwellian quality that the US, UK and France, with the support of the “decents” are now going to actively aid Al Qaeda in Syria, while Uk and US military forces are actually fighting similar Islamists in Afghanistan.

    For those supporting military intervention, can they explain what the political objectives are? And what material interest Britain has in ovethrowing Assad, and therefore aiding Syria’s collapse into chaos and warlordism, and why the West’s prefered policy seems to be to turn Syria into a safe haven for Islamist terrorists to use as a bse of operations?

    It is as if the “something must be done” propaganda that the governments have used to cloak imperial self interest in the past has been absorbed so that they realy believe it.

  51. Feodor: They certainly don’t seem to realise that any political order that arises out of a civil war will have a large minority alienated from it, which is hardly a sustainable foundation.

    And that any government that arises out of civil war or revolution will need to use violence or the threat of violence to maintain its authority until the habit of obeying it becomes established. That is why constitutional reform and the rule of law are greatly to be preferrred.

  52. Feodor: On newspapers, having read Owen Jones’ article in the I today, I think he should have credited John and the comments section here, because he seems to have taken all his information from this blog. Some journalist…

    I’m not sure how you can claim that.

    Jones swallows and propogates the Cameron/Hague/JohnG/Sam64 etc narrative completely. He begins his article by having a go at Asma Al-Assad for criticizing Israel’s assault on Gaza four years ago, then carries on:

    “…if Israel’s cruelty was “barbaric” and “horrific”, what words are left to describe her husband’s crimes? More than 100,000 dead, millions displaced, and now evidence pointing towards the firing of chemical weapon-laden missiles that suffocated families in their beds.

    We don’t know the emotional response of this glorified gangster’s wife at children fitting and foaming at the mouth…”

    Articles like his are part and parcel of the war preparations, and a million miles from John’s piece here.

  53. Zaid: Jones swallows and propogates the Cameron/Hague/JohnG/Sam64 etc narrative completely

    Owen Jones is less effective when it comes to the nature of imperialism and its crimes. His stock in trade is economism, at which he is admittedly very good. But as Zaid says, he lapses into the same moralism and paternalism which afflicts a too large section of the left throughout the West when it comes to the projection of imperial power.

    It’s as if the world exists on a blank sheet of paper, unblemished or distorted by something known as uneven and combined development.

  54. paul fauvet on said:

    Marko calls me a “professional apologist” – perhaps he’d like to inform the CIA/MI5/Mossad of this, since my cheques haven’t been arriving recently, and I’m a bit short of cash to continue my nefarious work of spreading imperialist propaganda.

    Just to put the record straight, much as Marko may find it hard to believe, I oppose any western military strikes against the Syrian government – even though I think it almost certain that the chemical attack was carried out by the Assad regime, or factions within it.

    Military intervention in this case is likely to make a bad situation worse. Given the fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition, it is wishful thinking to imagine that, even if air strikes sweep away Assad, a government truly representative of the Syrian people could be swiftly put into place. So the least bad option must be to work for a ceasefire.

    Sorry if this undermines Marko’s belief that I am part of a fiendishly elaborate imperialist jigsaw.

  55. Not sure how credible this is, but one of my Arabic contacts sent me this link to a story carried on an Egyptian news website, reporting that General Sisi has ordered the closure of the Suez Canal to British and US ships in the event of an attack on Syria.

    There doesn’t seem to be an English translation available.

    If true this is a major development.

    http://www.alnaharegypt.com/t144828

  56. # 62 ‘Articles like his are part and parcel of the war preparations, and a million miles from John’s piece here.’

    Nonesense. The article is about opposition to military intervention. You may think that’s not good enough and that it’s necessary also to praise the Assad regime as well, but personally I welcome every article that speaks out against a military attack on Syria.

    Just as with his recent spats with Nick Cohen on the issue of Islamophobia his article should be welcomed, albeit criticised where people feel appropriate.

    Your approach reminds me of a local Islamist group who leafleted next to our stw stall telling people it was only appropriate to oppose the attack on Iraq on the basis of Islam and to tell Muslims to stay away from our mobilisations.

    There’s an emergency demo in Manchester at 5.30pm on Friday. If Owen Jones speaks at it I will welcome his presence.

    #59 Has he said that? I personally believe that he is wrong to support the overthrow of Assad without being able to point to a positive reason in terms of a replacement regime, and that to do so when the imperialists are threatening military action is pending is particularly wrong. But it is quite possible to hold every negative view possible about the Syrian government and oppose a military attack on it. Just as Im sure the people marching in London in 2003 didn’t all wish the continuation of Saddam’s regime on the Iraqi people.

    Maybe you think the old RCP were correct when they told people that the only appropriate way to oppose Desert Storm was to shout victory to Iraq as loudly as possible.

    And let me state personally that I’m not in a position to know with certainty that the Syrian regime did not carry out this attack (albeit for all the reasons argued by John and others I doubt it very much) but I oppose intervention irrespective of that, and if it were to be proved subsequently that they did Iwould not regret demonstrating against intervention.

  57. Your approach reminds me of a local Islamist group who leafleted next to our stw stall telling people it was only appropriate to oppose the attack on Iraq on the basis of Islam and to tell Muslims to stay away from our mobilisations.

    I remember that – their sticker said
    “DON’T STOP THE WAR
    except through Islamic politics”

  58. Andy Newman:
    Opinion poll by the Sun shows 50% UK population opposed to military action, 25% support

    Opposition must be incredibly strong then if even the sun’s sample base shows 50% against.
    Anyone else feeling like they are in groundhog day? I’m sure I heard all this crap 10 years ago – we won’t get fooled again (we weren’t then either and they still went to war) this time let’s stop the b*******

  59. brianthedog on said:

    The Guardian has just posted an article stating that Israeli intelligence ‘intercepted Syrian regime talk about chemical attack’ and the information according to a former Israeli intelligence official was passed on to the US.

    What a fool I have been, so it must be true then.

    What next a Saudi Prince says one of his medieval jihadist’s that he has been supplying with weapons and cash told him it was Assad what done it?

  60. Feodor on said:

    @Andy, #61. Absolutely. There is something deeply worrying about many modern liberals willing abandonment of constitutional reform, state building and rule of law in favour of crude power politics. It is a troubling degeneration of liberal thought. Moreover, it’s something I think they should be challenged on, because the reasonable but slightly cynical socialist attitude that this is to be expected of liberals, effectively gives them a free pass.

    @Zaid, #62. That’s just the preamble. After a few paragraphs, as Vanya notes, Jones provided a counter-argument against intervention. I thought his argument seemed to very closely follow John’s in the points it made, and made a wry joke about it. I actually agree with most of what Jones was saying, and given the gravity of the situation, perhaps that means I should have bit my tongue. It’s just I’ve noticed before that his ‘research’ seems to consist of little more than reading the blogs of the day and recycling their points, and think someone who has the opportunity his platform provides, should try a little harder to discover facts not already in the public domain. That is what proper journalists do, right? At least that’s what they used to do…

  61. Feodor: That is what proper journalists do, right? At least that’s what they used to do…

    To be fair, Jones is a columnist rather than a journalist, and if he used blogs like this one as a resource and then uses his greater voice to shift opinion, I have no real problem with that

  62. Feodor on said:

    Fair enough Andy. Just a part of me thinks that if you’re not bringing anything new to the table, then the ones who are should be getting the platform. There’s a lot of very good blog writers, on all sides of the political spectrum, who would make far better ‘columnists’ than many of those we have now. But that’s just a personal opinion, and it’s not as if anything practical could be done to remedy the situation. So, hey-ho!

  63. Feodor on said:

    Johann Hari was one of the worst for being an unoriginal, moralising blabbermouth. Never understood the acclaim he got, and can’t say I didn’t experience a little ‘schadenfreude’ at the time of his downfall!

  64. Zhivkov on said:

    tomj,

    That opinion poll is actually quite a starling number – in a good way.

    Every time regular voices get a chance to speak – Radio 5. local Radio etc, there is a genuine cynicism about the evidence and motives. People are not buying this concoction of shite repeated by the BBC et al, irrespective of there politics.

    The propaganda effort itself has been less professional or effective than recent examples – Iraq and Bosnia saw genuine belief from some in liberal humanitarianism. Now its just the usual suspects with there paid for opinions to a deadline.

    And their has been minimal regional context – Saudi plans, $3bn of military funding from Qatar, ‘rebels’ in Kurdistan ethically cleansing Kurds. And still the spontaneous backlash is everywhere. Shows Iraq has done permanent damage to the propaganda model. Encouraging on that level at least.

  65. stephen marks on said:

    According to the Egyptian newspaper alNahar General Sisi has announced that in keeping with Egypt’s mutual defence agreement with Syria the Suez canal will be closed to American warships on their way to attack Syria. For Arabic original see

    http://www.alnaharegypt.com/t~144828

    for translation see

    http://www.microsofttranslator.com/bv.aspx?from=&to=en&a=http://www.alnaharegypt.com/t~144828

    In addition, reliable independent freelance Pepe Escobar reports similar news from Egyptian television

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10151842038886678&id=775051677&p=60&refid=52

    Russian sources also confirm the story, saying the ban applies to all NATO forces; see

    http://ru-facts.com/news/view/24953.html

    So far there is no reference to these reports on the BBC [too busy censoring Nigel Kennedy?] though it does report falling stock prices on world markets. But the story has been picked up on various news services catering for the financial sector, some of whom have reported inflated rumours of the actual closure of the canal!

    In fact the Egyptian move is probably largely symbolic, though an otherwise eccentric French site claims that US naval supply ships due to pass through the canal into the Med.will be affected. However the symbolic effect is significant. Iraq and Jordan have also said they will not allow US planes to cross their airspace.

  66. Feodor,

    In his defence, Hari was quite prescient with regard to the toll the Condem cuts would take from very early in the coalition’s life. He has been more than a little inconsistent over the years (Iraq, Islam) and there is the not insignificant issue of his plagiarism, but he was a much-needed voice along with Seamus Milne, until Jones came along, against the neo-liberal economic consensus of most of the dailies.

  67. “Marko calls me a “professional apologist” – perhaps he’d like to inform the CIA/MI5/Mossad of this, since my cheques haven’t been arriving recently, and I’m a bit short of cash to continue my nefarious work of spreading imperialist propaganda”

    Ok, you are an amateur apologist, but an apologist nonetheless. Every comment you ever make says as much. Your willingness to accept the blatant lies of the Western propaganda machine shows a level of political consciousness bordering on the torpid. And yet you claim to be a leftist, which assumes a certain level of political consciousness?

    Why do you see fit to be a propagandists for imperial interest, if, as you say, you are against an intervention?

    I will say again, clearly the chemical attack was carried out by Western backed forces, who no doubt had been told that a chemical weapon attack would nudge the balance in their favour. The West somehow believe that their total support of the Egyptian military massacres of the elected party will not be viewed in all its sickening hypocrisy if chemical weapons are the justification. Still, even if Assad did carry out this attack, the criminal imperialists should find no favour with the left. On that point that sniveling little apologist shit Fauvet does not even oppose imperialism, just he thinks it won’t bring about, in this case, the desired result. Which Fauvet describes as a government being truly representative of the Syrian people, whatever that means?
    ,

  68. Vanya: Nonesense. The article is about opposition to military intervention. You may think that’s not good enough and that it’s necessary also to praise the Assad regime as well, but personally I welcome every article that speaks out against a military attack on Syria.
    Just as with his recent spats with Nick Cohen on the issue of Islamophobia his article should be welcomed, albeit criticised where people feel appropriate.
    Your approach reminds me of a local Islamist group who leafleted next to our stw stall telling people it was only appropriate to oppose the attack on Iraq on the basis of Islam and to tell Muslims to stay away from our mobilisations.
    There’s an emergency demo in Manchester at 5.30pm on Friday. If Owen Jones speaks at it I will welcome his presence.

    No Vanya, the nonsense comes not from me but from whatever sources of information inform your views.

    It is completely legitimate for people in the anti-war movement to have different views on the internal conflict in Syria. What is not is not acceptable is to engage in the kind of lurid over-the-top demonization of the Syrian leader and government which we often see from contributors on here. This demonization is not part of any kind of legitimate discussion. It serves no purpose other than that of ideological preparation for military aggression.

    At a time when 50% of Sun readers – and I’d guess a lot more Daily Mail readers – are opposed to a British military attack on Syria, I simply don’t accept that we should “welcome” the publication of every article which presents the imperialist narrative virtually verbatim just because there’s a bit tacked on to the end claiming to be against intervention.

    By the way, can I ask you why you always use phrases such as the “Assad regime” rather than the “Syrian government”, but you never use the phrase the “Cameron regime” or the “Obama regime”?

  69. redhand on said:

    “By the way, can I ask you why you always use phrases such as the “Assad regime” rather than the “Syrian government”, but you never use the phrase the “Cameron regime” or the “Obama regime”?”

    One possible explanation could be down to the fact he got the job from his Dad.

  70. #84 But it wasn’t tagged on at the end was it? The whole purpose of the article was to oppose the military attack. But you don’t care about that because you have no real interest in pursuing the aim of a progressive alliance in this country.

    Your purpose, demonstrated in virtually every comment you’re make on here, is to establish that the majority of people in this country, including the left, are a bunch of reactionary tossers, and that the left are actually worse than the rest.

    And you’re the pure revolutioary.

    Sectarian bollocks.

    I’ve come accross people like you for all the years I’ve been involved in politics, and the song remains the same. Self righteous bollocks.

  71. stephen marks on said:

    According to this report, the telephone conversations to be released by the USA tomorrow, allegedly as proof of Syrian Government responsibility for the gas attack, actually show a defence ministry official asking a local commander what the hell he thought he was doing launching the attack. Which if genuine proves somewhat the opposite of what it is supposed to…

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/syria-britain-helped-rebels-chemicals-125950389.html#GOJd46G

  72. Just as I’d convinced myself that Ed M was completely spineless. Public opinion doubtless had just a little bit to do with it, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

    A setback for the Cameron, Hollande and Obama regimes.

  73. Vanya: A setback for the Cameron, Hollande and Obama regimes.

    It’s a significant setback. I agree with you that public pressure, the recent opinion polls showing lack of public support, had much to do with it. But Ed M should be commended for listening to the public rather than kowtowing to Washington as his predecessors did.

    This at least allows a few more days for public and political pressure to build.

    It also lends Saturday’s demo in London, called by StWC, added significance. There will be a much larger media presence now with this development.

    I hope it’s big enough to make an impact.

  74. Over 1,000 at tonight’s Stop the War emergency protest outside Downing Street, London, over Syria.

    This is very significant at short notice and in the August bank holiday week.

    The mobilisation of opinion in Britain is a factor in this political crisis. MPs need to feel it tomorrow and the demonstration on Saturday – 12 noon, Embankment, London – should be built widely.

    A central issue for people opposed to this adventure is not to do with Syria. It is to answer the question, whether protesting will make a difference.

    1) the very dilemma faced by Cameron and Hague is a product in large part of the anti-war mobilisations of the last decade.

    2) the international political situation is finely balanced. That is why it is extremely unlikely that the US-UK-France axis can win a vote authorising action at the UN Security Council.

    3) consequently the divisions within each of those states over whether and how to proceed will be accentuated

    4) in Britain the smart (rather than right) thing for Labour to do is to put forward its own motion tomorrow invoking a lack of UN authorisation in order to vote against the government and to put pressure on the Lib Dems, whose breakthrough to becoming a party of sufficient size to join the coalition depended on its limited anti-war stance in 2003. (The Lib Dems cited a lack of a second UN vote over Iraq to vote against the Iraq war in March 2003.)

    So pressure on Labour can result in them doing the smart parliamentary thing, no matter what we think would be right, ie a forthright anti-bombing position.

    5) there is disquiet on the Tory backbenches – animated by various positions, many of them far from internationalist. Nevertheless, this is something that can be exacerbated and it would be weighed in a balance determined by a progressive anti-war position, if that can be built and mobilised sufficiently.

    6) there is a general antipathy to the government that goes beyond opinion polls and indeed is reflected in the number of people who are alienated from all the political parties. A political or military cock-up can under these circumstances suddenly become a lightening arrestor for other feelings, especially when the media is widely reporting the absence of positive public support for the war.

    So – the arguments for building the Stop the War protests are not merely moral, though for a considerable number of people that is a powerful motivator in itself. They are grounded in an assessment of what it is possible to achieve.

    In 2003 the two main parties were for the war. If Labour can be kept to opposing the government over bombing Syria – even if partially and temporarily tomorrow – then the squeeze on the austerity government in Britain can be tightened.

    There are a good number of socialist activists in Britain with many interesting things to say about events in Syria and the Middle East.

    But all our intellectual and physical efforts, plus whatever talents we have, should be marshalled around this political priority.

    The other side is very nervous about its narrow base and the uncertain outcomes of military action. We who wish to oppose this government should be equally mindful and act accordingly.

  75. Vanya: #84 But it wasn’t tagged on at the end was it? The whole purpose of the article was to oppose the military attack. But you don’t care about that because you have no real interest in pursuing the aim of a progressive alliance in this country.
    Your purpose, demonstrated in virtually every comment you’re make on here, is to establish that the majority of people in this country, including the left, are a bunch of reactionary tossers, and that the left are actually worse than the rest.
    And you’re the pure revolutioary.
    Sectarian bollocks.
    I’ve come accross people like you for all the years I’ve been involved in politics, and the song remains the same. Self righteous bollocks.

    That’s quite an extraordinary outburst Vanya. I’d be quite interested in getting some kind of insight into what makes you draw those conclusions, but I don’t think I am the one being self-righteous here.

    The main thing which strikes one about Jones’ article is it’s utter incoherence. What are we to make, for example of the following?

    “It is perplexing indeed: these are the sorts of people who generally favour bombs to be dropped on the sorts of Islamist fighters taking on Assad’s forces. But it is a perfectly human response to look at toddlers in bodybags and want to do something. No dictatorship is a legitimate form of government – it is a gang of thugs whose violence begins with depriving the people of the right to choose who rules them.”

    Believe it or not, these are consecutive sentences – although it is not clear at all how any of them follows on from the previous one.

    Anyway, your claim made me look at the article a bit more closely:

    Paragraph 1: begins snide remarks about Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.

    Paragraph 2: continues snide remarks about Asma al-Assad’s expression of solidarity with the Palestinians during Israel’s assault on Gaza four years ago, blames President Assad for the current civil war, and near enough explicitly says Israel’s crimes dwarf into insignificance compared to those of the Syrian government.

    Paragraph 3: hints that Asma al-Assad is unmoved by the sight of children in agony, even though he admits there are reasons to doubt the Syrian government (or “Assad’s thugs”, in his jargon) carried out the recent attack.

    Paragraph 4: reassures us these doubts are groundless and reminds us once again that the Assad family is evil.

    Paragraph 5: neutrally notes there is an increased likelihood of Western military action, then a series of disconnected sentences, culminating in a declaration that governments like that of Syria are not “legitimate”.

    Paragraph 6: asserts that Western intervention would be “disastrous” – very unconvincingly, as after the previous few paragraphs giving justifications for war, he doesn’t particularly say why he’s against it. He asserts (without providing evidence) that “when protesters first took to the streets of Damascus, they were heavily secular and democracy-orientated” (whatever that means), asserts some of them still are (and as evidence quotes the name of an organization without telling us anything about it), but says “rebel forces” are increasingly being taken over by Islamic fundamentalists.

    Paragraph 7: points out that a lot of the “rebel” groups have Arabic names and are religious.

    Paragraph 8: points out that when the “Soviet-backed” Afghan “regime” fell in 1992, there were conflicts between the rebel groups.

    Paragraph 9: points out Iraq’s government (in the days before the Anglo-American attack of 2003 it would no doubt have been a “regime”) is against the idea. Also notes that people are dying in violence in Iraq. Raises the spectre of unspecified retaliation from Iran. Suggest Russia may increase it’s support for the Syrian forces (which he refers to as “Assad’s thugs”).

    Paragraph 10: some actual arguments against intervention.

    Paragraph 11: calls for a UN-brokered peace process, although he is careful to emphasize that those who use chemical weapons must face justice

    Whatever Jones’ conclusion, there are probably around three paragraphs which present approximately a pro-war case, another three presenting roughly an anti-war case, with the rest being neutral or mixed. However, in the pro-war sections he writes in a very emotive way, but in the anti-war bits he writes in a very bland way. Of course, we all draw our own conclusions. In my view the article bangs the drums of war but claims to be against it.

    By the way, what’s a “progressive alliance”?

  76. Feodor on said:

    Omar:
    In his defence…

    Even a broken watch is right twice a day! ;)

    Fair points though.

    @Zaid, #96. You hold Jones to too high a standard. The problem is that he’s a wishy-washy youngster, still unsure of his mind and susceptible to moral panics. That’s why his writing is such a mess, rather than any conscious attempt at subterfuge. (Though of course your breakdown begs the question of why anyone would pay good money for such poorly constructed prose…)

  77. Zaid: By the way, what’s a “progressive alliance”?

    Is it what began to come into existence when Obama and Hollande were elected? Or am I getting mixed up?

  78. ‘Is it what began to come into existence when Obama and Hollande were elected? ’

    No.

    ‘Or am I getting mixed up?’

    Yes.

  79. redhand on said:

    Alex Jones, first a false flag attack, then only 12 people dead, now this:

    http://www.infowars.com/rebels-admit-responsibility-for-chemical-weapons-attack/

    “redhand,

    And Cameron and his Etonian cabinet all got there on merit, riiight…”

    No. They got there primarily as a result of the entrenched socio-economic privilege that blights this country. Such a system, iniquitous as it is, is nevertheless preferable to hereditary dictatorship. Recent events in the House of Commons would appear to support this view.

  80. Vanya: ‘Is it what began to come into existence when Obama and Hollande were elected? ’
    No.
    ‘Or am I getting mixed up?’
    Yes.

    In that case, can you clarify: what exactly is a “progressive alliance” (as mentioned in #86)?

  81. “Allegations of chemical weapons use by Syrian government forces don’t stack up”

    Well now we’ve heard from Rafsanjani on the matter, let’s see what the defectors have to say…

  82. #104 It’s when a variety of people with a progressive agenda get together to pursue said agenda. Clearly not something we can agree about if we don’t have a common view on what constitutes progressive. However I think we can agree that threatening or carrying out imperialist military attacks does not. As I would have thought it was obvious that I didn’t consider that it did, perhaps you can understand my response to your reference to Hollande and Obama.

    Or perhaps my defence of Jones is proof that I really do support imperialist military attacks without realising it myself.

  83. Vanya:
    Or perhaps my defence of Jones is proof that I really do support imperialist military attacks without realising it myself.

    One feels a good bout of self-criticism and a strongly worded public recantation is needed, comrade… ;)

  84. redhand said,

    “Such a system, iniquitous as it is, is nevertheless preferable to hereditary dictatorship.”

    This fetishises politics too much and fails to account for 2 nations at different points on the development curve and at different positions in the world market. It is typical liberalism. We have a system of hereditary dictatorships in the economic sphere, it is called inheritance.

    Now I am not saying struggle cannot improve the conditions of developing nations or those of oppressed nations but the statement ‘this is preferable to that is what I take issue with’.

  85. Marko: This fetishises politics too much and fails to account for 2 nations at different points on the development curve and at different positions in the world market. It is typical liberalism.

    Bingo.

  86. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Off topic, but there were serious Gezi-themed disturbances in Istanbul/Okmeydani and Antakya yesterday. In Antakya, a 22-year-old protester named Ahmet Atakan was mortally wounded by a police gas canister. There is a call for a protest in Taksim this evening.

  87. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Turkey: In both Istanbul Taksim and Antakya, Halk TV is now broadcasting images of protesting crowds and police water cannon vehicles.

  88. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Protests have broken out in Ankara, Izmir and Adana. Gezi 1 never really went away although there was a lull in August. It is possible we are now entering Gezi 2.

  89. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quwp4f7QJMQ

    Youtube images from a Turkish Maoist source of Istiklal Avenue near Taksim last night. To put it in a British context, Istiklal is to Turkey what London’s Oxford Street is to the UK, although political protests and trouble are far more common in Istiklal than in Oxford St.

  90. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Clashes and protests under way in at least five different parts of Istanbul, at least two different places in Ankara, Antakya and perhaps elsewhere, according to Halk TV, IMC TV and some other channels.

  91. Brian S. on said:

    stephen marks,

    Oh Stephen, I’m disappointed in you. This story is pure rumour – incoherently written and uttterly illogical – what has happened to your professional standards? Do you really believe in a female fighter in a jihadi unit? What next, the tooth fairy?

  92. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Note to moderators – Is there any possibility of opening the “leave a reply” form on the long thread started in June about protests in Turkey? It has not been closed as far as I know, but it does not seem possible to post new material there. Protests are continuing – they happened last night again in various parts of Istanbul, Ankara and Hatay province – and could be a lasting feature of the political scene in Turkey. But I would prefer not to post off-topic about them on threads not about Turkey.