Note of the Editorial Board: The
following Chapter contains several figures and maps. They can only be viewed in the pdf version of the book here for technical reasons.
69. As we stated above, the RCIT considers the Middle East and North Africa as a powder-keg.  It is one of the two most crucial regions where the global contradictions between the imperialist powers clash and where wars and revolutions are a central characteristic. As we have dealt with many of these issues in numerous separate pamphlets, statements and articles, we will focus at this point only on the most important developments and conclusions for the liberation struggle. The Middle East and North Africa are characterized by three, inter-connected, features:
i. An ongoing reactionary offensive of the imperialist powers and local bourgeois regimes in the whole region against the democratic and social rights of the working class and the popular masses. This includes plans of a new Sykes-Picot Agreement to “solve” the Palestinian issue by a new Nakba. Furthermore, there exists the imminent danger of the final annihilation of the Syrian Revolution by an unholy alliance of the Assad regime, its Russian and Iranian masters, Turkey and the Western powers.
ii. An increasing number of wars and potential wars. Currently there are ongoing just wars of oppressed people (Syria and Yemen) against reactionary dictatorships and regional or great powers standing behind them. In addition, there are several potential wars (Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza; US and/or Israel against Iran; wars involving Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Sudan and other states; Saudi Arabia against Qatar). The Middle East currently strongly resembles the Balkans shortly before 1912/13 with a series of wars looming.
iii. Most importantly, a new wave of popular uprisings against austerity programs, national oppression and reactionary regimes (Palestine, Tunisia, Iran, Morocco, and Sudan).
70. The Middle East and North Africa remains marked by the counterrevolutionary offensive of the ruling class. The imperialist Great Powers – in particular the U.S. and Russia – as well as the local reactionary regimes try to crush the remnants of the Arab Revolution and the new uprisings. They strive to reorder the region in their respective interests. However, these efforts of the U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt inevitable clash with each other.
71. Related to this are the efforts of the imperialist monopolies as well as all local regimes to impose harsh austerity packages on the working class and the poor resulting in dramatic price hikes and social cuts. At a recent conference in Dubai, IMF chief Christine Lagarde called on Arab states to slash public sector wages and subsidies to offset the effects of low oil prices on state budgets. She welcomed the "promising reforms” of some Arab states, but said “more sweeping changes were needed”.  In fact, the Arab capitalist governments did already implement a number of austerity measures. According to the chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund, Abdulrahman al-Hamidy, the value of Arab energy subsidies already dropped from $117 billion in 2015 to $98 billion last year. 
72. Hence, all these efforts provoke domestic and foreign policy crisis including revolutionary upsurges and the danger of new wars. It resembles Marx’s description of the situation where the whip of the counter-revolution provokes the revolution. 
A new Sykes-Picot Agreement?
73. Until a few years, U.S. imperialism was the undisputed hegemonial power in the Middle East. With the global decline of the American hegemony and the emergence of new imperialist powers, Washington’s sole domination of the Middle East and North Africa is a thing of the past. The Trump Administration hopes to counteract this trend as the region is of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism. Or to put it in the words of the conservative Heritage Foundation, a leading American conservative think tank: “Strategically situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Middle East has long been an important focus of United States foreign policy. (...) The U.S. also maintains a long-term interest in the Middle East that is related to the region’s economic importance as the world’s primary source of oil and gas.”  According to a report of the Newsweek Magazine, President Trump has increased the number of U.S. troops and civilians working for the Pentagon in the Middle East to 54,180 from 40,517 in the second half of 2017, representing a 33-percent rise. 
74. Furthermore the Trump Administration tries to create a major Sunni-Israel alliance. It shall serve as a counterbalance to the victorious “Shiite” axis (Iran, Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah-Lebanon) which is part of the camp led by imperialist Russia and China. Hence its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not only a concession to the Evangelic-fundamentalist-Zionist lobby in order to reestablish some domestic support. It was also part of a comprehensive plan which Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and “special advisor”, has negotiated with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and tried to impose on the Palestinian people. While not all aspects of this evil plan – which Kushner seem to have elaborated in consultation with the extreme right-wing Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson (according to Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”) – are known, several details of it have seen public light. One of these is the idea that the Palestinians should accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and take instead the Jerusalem-adjacent village of Abu Dis as an alternative capital in their future state! But this is not the only provocation. Another crucial aspect of this plan is the idea of extensive territorial exchanges. For example, Egypt would cede a piece of the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip. With this, Gaza's territory would extend southward along the seashore, making it three or four times larger than it currently is. In exchange, the Palestinians would give up territories in the West Bank, allowing Israel to annex the settlement blocs along with a generous amount of land around them, thereby maintaining some degree of territorial integrity between the various blocs. At the same time, Israel would give Egypt a narrow strip of territory along the lengthy southern border between the two countries. There is also the possibility that Saudi Arabia and Jordan would also participate in these territorial exchanges, with various ideas proposed.  In short, such a “peace” plan (what an Orwellian language!) would represent a new Sykes-Picot Agreement – similar to the agreement between British and French imperialism in 1916 dividing the Middle East among themselves.
75. It is not difficult to understand that such a plan is a pure provocation not only for the Palestinians, but for all Arabs and Muslims outside the corrupt elite. Any Palestinian leader would find it hardly possible to explain to his people that they should accept Abu Dis (of which the world has not heard before!) instead of Jerusalem as their capital or the loss of parts of the West Bank (in exchange for some square kilometers of sand in Sinai!). It would be also a very difficult challenge for the Egypt regime to justify another give-away after General Sisi already faced massive domestic criticism for selling two islands to Saudi Arabia.
76. The whole plan sounds completely bizarre and adventurist. It is however an unmistaken roadmap to a region-wide mass popular intifada and a great war in the Middle East! Because such a plan will certainly provoke an uprising of the workers and oppressed in Palestine and other countries. Furthermore the only possible condition were one could imagine the realization of such a counterrevolutionary re-ordering of the Middle East would be the aftermath of a catastrophic war resulting in an Israeli victory (with Saudi/Egypt compliance) and a historic defeat of the Palestinian and other resisting people. If, let us say, Israel conquers Gaza and annihilates the resistance forces and does the same in the West Bank, provoking a new Nakba creating more millions of Palestinian refugees, these arch-reactionary forces could succeed in imposing such a new Sykes-Picot Agreement. However, even in such a scenario it is difficult to imagine that such a “solution” could lead to stability in the region. The reason for this is that given the fundamental rivalry between the Great Powers – and, related to this, between various regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel – any victory of Israel (with Saudi support) would provoke Iran or other rivals to increase their support for the Palestinians and other anti-Israeli forces. In short, no stability in the Middle East as a result of a counter-revolutionary “peace” plan is possible. This is also true in a more general sense: as long as an accelerating rivalry exists between the imperialist Great Powers, i.e. as long as we are living in the current historic period, there will be an accelerating rivalry between the regional powers in the Middle East.
Wars with different characters
77. While Russia and China do not push for such a new Sykes-Picot Agreement, they are intervening to radically change the regional order of the Middle East by other means. Russia’s massive military intervention in Syria since 2015 has dramatically increased Moscow’s influence in the region. According to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russia has deployed a total of 48,000 troops in Syria since it began its military operation in September 2015.  Russian imperialism was able to consolidate its alliance with Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah, it succeeded in drawing Turkey closer and it has become accepted as a Great Power by Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Likewise, this bloc made also huge advances by Iran’s expansion of influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – the so-called Shia Crescent. Furthermore, the growing division between the “Sunni” powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt, on one hand, and Turkey and Qatar, on one other hand, has also massive influence for the increasing political instability of the region. While Turkey and Qatar are not in Russian camp, they are clearly open for collaboration with them given the increasing hostility they face from the US/Saudi/Israeli bloc.
78. The global decline of capitalism and the accelerating rivalry between the Great Powers constitute the basis for the acceleration of the contradictions between the regional powers in the Middle East as well as for the intensified efforts of the capitalist class to increase the exploitation and oppression. These tensions undermine the regional order and push states to look for adventures. Hence, we observe a steadily rising bellicosity of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran and its allies (e.g. Hezbollah, Houthis) or potential allies (e.g. Qatar). Likewise, we have seen a massive increase of Iran’s foreign operations – in particular in Syria where is operates about 125,000 fighters and is establishing a number of military bases.  In fact, here we have an intermix of different lines of confrontations which have different characters and which, hence, require different tactics from Marxists:
i. The rivalry between Great Powers (U.S. vs. Russia);
ii. The rivalry between regional non-imperialist powers (Saudi Arabia vs. Iran);
iii. The aggression of imperialist powers (U.S., Israel) against semi-colonial countries (Iran);
iv. Civil wars and national liberation wars against foreign occupation (Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon)
Finally, to take an example, an attack on Iran can also be combined with an aggression against Gaza and/or Hezbollah.
79. Marxists have to make a concrete analysis on which basis they should apply the revolutionary military program.
i. An open war between the Great Powers U.S. and Russia in the Middle East, i.e. a kind of world war focused in one region, would constitute a reactionary war on both sides and Marxists couldn’t support any side. In such a scenario, other conflicts would become subordinated to this inter-imperialist war. However, such an open confrontation between the Great Powers is rather unlikely in the near future.
ii. A war by US or Israeli imperialism against Iran (without the open involvement of imperialist Russia) would constitute a reactionary war of the US resp. Israel and a just war of Iran. Hence, Marxists would support the later.
iii. A war between regional non-imperialist powers (e.g. Saudi Arabia vs. Iran), in which the ruling class on both sides struggle for the expansion of their sphere of influence, would also constitute a reactionary on both sides. However, as we said above, there can be various factors – the role of imperialist powers, liberation struggles of oppressed people, etc. – which could complicate the character of such a war and hence give it a different or combined character, requiring revolutionaries to employ different tactics.
iv. A reactionary war of aggression of a non-imperialist power against an oppressed people like the current war of Saudi Arabia against Yemen or of Iran against the Syrian people. In such a case, Marxists unconditionally defend the oppressed people.
The Middle East as a powder keg of social-economic contradictions
80. As already mentioned, there has been a massive rise of tensions between the regional powers in the Middle East in the last years. The basic reasons for this are a) the domestic political and economic crisis of regimes in the region and b) the increasing rivalry between the imperialist powers. The general stagnation of the capitalist world economy and, in particular, the decline of prices for raw materials like oil and gas as well as the slump in the tourism sector, all these have put enormous pressure on the capitalist class in the region. Likewise, they face massive political pressure since the beginning of the Arab Revolution in 2011. 
81. The region is characterized by an economy distorted by the Great Powers. The imperialists manipulated, first directly as colonial powers and later indirectly, when the countries had become formally “independent”, the development of the whole region. As a result the countries of the Middle East and North Africa were obstructed in having an organic industrial development and developed a strong reliance of raw materials exports. Associated with this the imperialists helped to conserve various reactionary structures (kingdom, etc.) and helped to keep an extraordinary inflated state apparatus with massive repression forces.
82. The decline of raw material prices had dramatic effects particularly for the Middle East as many of these countries are highly dependent on the export of oil and gas. In Figure 18 we can see that the oil price in fact collapsed since the last recession in 2008/09. Between 2010 and 2017, the oil price in fact halved from about 130US$ per barrel to 60US$. This had unavoidable dramatic consequences for the countries of the Middle East as it substantially reduced the state revenue. As we see in Table 6 below, gross oil export revenues in the Arab region nearly halved from $815.7 billion (2013) to $413.4 billion (2016).
Figure 18. Real Oil Prices 1970-2017 
Table 9. Gross oil export revenues in the Arab region, 2013-2018 (billions of US dollars) 
Country/subregion 2013 2014 2015 2016a 2017b 2018b
Bahrain 15.1 14.3 7.7 6.1 8.2 8.7
Kuwait 108.5 97.6 48.9 39.9 49.7 55.4
Oman 32.5 30.5 17.6 14.8 20.0 21.1
Qatar 32.4 28.8 13.2 10.9 13.9 14.8
Saudi Arabia 321.9 284.6 152.9 129.0 167.5 177.5
United Arab Emirates 116.5 99.0 55.0 46.3 54.8 59.0
GCC countries 627.0 554.8 295.4 246.9 314.0 336.3
Egypt 13.1 10.9 6.7 5.7 7.8 8.3
Iraq 89.6 83.8 43.2 47.0 60.9 67.3
Syrian Arab Republic 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mashreq 102.6 94.7 49.9 52.7 68.7 75.6
Algeria 40.1 35.4 19.1 15.5 18.9 21.0
Libya 33.8 11.3 5.9 4.5 9.7 11.8
Morocco 1.1 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.4
Tunisia 2.6 2.2 1.0 0.8 1.0 1.1
Maghreb 77.6 49.7 26.3 21.0 30.1 34.2
Mauritania 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Sudan 1.7 1.4 0.6 0.4 0.5 0.6
Yemen 6.5 4.5 2.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Arab LDCs 8.5 6.1 3.0 0.4 0.6 0.7
Arab region total 815.7 705.3 374.6 321.0 413.4 446.9
83. Against this background, it is not surprising that the Middle East and North Africa is the region where the social contradictions are particularly sharp. A recently published study which compared inequality in the different regions of the world demonstrated that the Middle East and North Africa is the one with the highest inequality. (See Figure 19) It is likewise one of the regions with the highest rates of youth unemployment. In 2016, unemployment among youth in North Africa was 29.3%.  According to official statistics, which certainly underestimate the real situation, 30.4% of all workers in North Africa and 17.8% in the Middle East are working in vulnerable employment.  It is therefore only logical that the region’s ruling class has to rely on open dictatorships and an inflated repression apparatus in order to suppress the explosions of these social contradictions.
Figure 19. Top 10% income shares across the world, 2016 
84. Egypt’s President Sisi is in power since 2013 and rules with iron fist. But his regime hasn’t been able to improve the living standard at all. It is so discredited and lacks any popular support, that it survives only by throwing nearly 80,000 people into prison and disallows any meaningful alternative candidate, like e.g. the former General Sami Anan , at the upcoming presidential election in March this year. Even the “moderate” opposition parties, i.e. those who are allowed by the regime, have now withdrawn their candidates from the election and call for the boycott.  It is hardly surprising that there are constant conflicts between different sectors of the state apparatus and that Sisi can only continue to rule with massive repression. In order to finance his arch-reactionary regime, General Sisi has been forced to massively increase public debt. Today, Egypt’s Total Government Gross Debt is one of the highest in the whole region with 101.2% of GDP.  While the government’s fiscal deficit has slightly declined since 2013, it is still very high with nearly 10% if GDP (2016).  Despite the massive repression, there is a powerful local insurrection taking place in the Sinai which already cost the lives of 1,000 people. As became known recently, the Sisi regime is secretly collaborating with Israel in military crushing this insurrection.  This demonstrates once more the reactionary character of the bourgeois Arab regimes which collaborate with the Zionist Apartheid state. Furthermore the regime has been discredited because it sold two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. While there are no indications for a collapse of the regime in the near future, it is certainly casting the seeds for another popular uprising.
85. The arch-reactionary character of the Sisi regime as an enemy of the Egypt people as well as of all oppressed people was revealed, once more, by the publication of audio tapes by the New York Times. These tapes demonstrate how the Egyptian secret service attempted to shape public opinion in the wake of US President Donald Trumps’ controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. An intelligence officer secretly called a number of influential Egyptian television hosts and informed them of both Cairo’s public and private stance on the controversial decision - which they were to convey to viewers. We will quote from the audio recordings as they speak for themselves:
“Captain Ashraf al-Kholi “I was just calling to tell you what our public stance is, so if you go on TV or speak in an interview, I am telling you what is the stance of Egypt’s national security apparatus and what it stands to benefit from in this matter of announcing Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, O.K.?” the officer told one of the hosts, according to recordings obtained by NYT.
“Give me orders, sir,” the host, Saeed Hassaseen replied. “I am at your command.”
“We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Captain Kholi continued. But “after that, this thing will become a reality. Palestinians can’t resist and we don’t want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know.”
“The point that is dangerous for us is the intifada issue,” Captain Kholi explained. “An intifada would not serve Egypt’s national security interests because an intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas. Hamas would be reborn once more.”” 
This excerpt demonstrates very clearly how much the ruling class of the Arab states fear a new surge of the Intifada of the Palestinian people. Clearly, the struggle for the liberation of Palestine is a struggle which must be waged not only against the Zionist state but also against the reactionary ruling class in the Arab world!
86. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman understands that he has to overcome his country’s total reliance on oil production and export. According to the CIA World Factbook, the petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87% of the country’s budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings.  However, in order to modernize the economy and to overcome the total reliance on oil export, he has to break-up the traditional social contract in the country, to attack social benefits for the ordinary population and to deprive a whole sector of the traditional political and religious establishment of its power. The degree of the growing socio-economic tensions can be seen by the fact that the unemployment rate for Saudi nationals has already increased to more than 12%.  At the same time, Saudi Arabia constantly looses influence in the region as Iran is expanding. This creates enormous domestic tensions and pushed Prince Salman to start various foreign policy adventures of which none has resulted in success until now. (Yemen war, boycott of Qatar, pressure on Lebanon via the temporary arrest of Prime Minister Hariri, collaboration in Trump’s arch-reactionary Middle East “Peace” Plan, etc.)
87. Likewise, Iran’s ruling capitalist class faces enormous economic and social contradictions. Its capitalist regime, colored with religious rhetoric, strongly relies on the revenue from the petroleum sector. Before the introduction of the sanctions by the US and the EU, oil accounted for 80% of the Iranian exports and up to 60% of fiscal revenues. The figures for today are similar.  Oil accounted for 67% of all export revenues in 2014.  Despite its wealth in oil and gas, the mass of the workers and peasants are living in poverty. While official estimates of poverty levels in Iran range from 30% to 40% percent, experts believe that close to two-thirds of the Iranian population lives below the poverty line. According to some reports, between 11 million and 25 million people in Iran live in slums.  While official unemployment has risen to over 12% today, youth unemployment rate hovers around 30%!  Hence, we see the bourgeois-theocratic regime sitting on a social powder keg.
88. Turkey is the industrially most advanced of the regional powers in the Middle East. However, it also can not escape the iron laws of the capitalist world economy. Its economic growth has slowed in the past decade (see Figure 20). Turkey’s current account balance has dramatically worsened since the early 2000s – the time when Erdoğan’s AKP took power. As foreign investment is declining, the government as well as the business sector have to massively increase their debts in order to avoid a slump. (See Figure 21) Consequently, Turkey’s gross external debt, measured as a share of GDP, has substantially grown in the past years – from about 38% in 2007 to about 57% in 2016. (See Figure 22) The capitalists’ debts – measured by the non-financial corporations’ debt as a share of GDP – grew even more dramatic: from about 40% in 2010 to about 74% in 2015, i.e. it nearly doubled in five years! (See Figure 23) At the same time, youth unemployment has reached 25% and the severe material deprivation rate – a statistic similar to the monthly poverty threshold that tracks families’ abilities to afford at least several basic material essentials such as food and heating – was 30.3% in 2015.  Inflation is also on the rise with currently 12%. In such a situation, Erdoğan’s rule has a fragile basis. This is why he is pushing so hard to build a Bonapartist regime and this is why he needs to wipe up Turkish chauvinism and militarism with his anti-Kurdish rhetoric and his invasion in Northern Syria.
Figure 20. Turkey Real GDP Growth 1985-2015 
Figure 21. Turkey Current Account Balance as % of GDP, 1985-2015 
Figure 22. Turkey’s Gross External Debt as % of GDP, 2007-2016 
Figure 23. Turkey’s Private Sector Debt as % of GDP, 2007-2016 
Wars and Rivalry in the Middle East
89. In summary, the Middle East is a region where the interests of several imperialist Great Powers as well as regional powers clash, where social-economic contradictions are accelerating and repeatedly erupt in revolutionary explosions and where the ruling class looks for salvation in foreign policy adventures. All these are the prescript of major wars and diplomatic crisis – events which, in turn, can provoke new revolutionary crisis. Friedrich Engels once observed about the Russia Tsarist regime that because of its fragile domestic social base it was always forced to appear as very strong through foreign policy adventures. When it suffered a defeat, this has disastrous domestic consequences. “To rule absolutely at home the Tsar must be more than unconquerable abroad; he must be uninterruptedly victorious, must be in a position to reward unconditional obedience by the intoxication of Chauvinist triumph, by conquests following upon conquests. And new Tsardom had miserably broken down, and that too in its outwardly most imposing representative; it had laid bare the weakness of Russia to the world, and thus its own weakness to Russia. An immense sobering down followed. The Russian people had been too deeply stirred by the colossal sacrifices of the war, their devotion had been appealed to far too unsparingly by the Tsar, for them to return there and then to the old passive state of unthinking obedience.“  To a certain degree the ruling classes in the Middle East are in a similar situation like Tsarism in the 19th century.
90. Two major wars have been already waged since years: the war in Syria and in Yemen. The war in Syria started as a popular democratic uprising in 2011 which soon was transformed into a civil war because Assad opened the gates of hell against his own people. While the liberation struggle against the dictatorship is continuing until today, the character of the civil war has been complicated by the military intervention of imperialist powers as well as regional powers. Russian imperialism as well as the Iranian regime saved Assad from defeat and today these two powers are the dominant forces. Russia in fact controls the air space and Iran controls militias with about 125,000 troops. In addition, US imperialism also tries to get a foothold in Syria and uses the YPG/SDF as its proxy. Finally, Turkey is increasingly collaborating with Russia and Iran (Astana negotiations, Sochi conference) and also launched its own military intervention in the north of Syria. All these forces share an interest in liquidating the revolution and, in order to achieve this, they have joined forces to smash those resistance forces (denounced as “terrorists” and “extremists”) which reject the Astana betrayal and vow to continue the struggle against Assad and his foreign masters. In addition, these powers strive to grab a share of the country. This is reflected by the energetic efforts of Russia, the U.S., Turkey and Iran to establish military bases in Syria. In Map 1 we can see how many foreign military bases these powers have already created in North Syria.
Map 1. Foreign Military Bases in North Syria, November 2017 
91. The war against the Yemeni people which the Saudi-led coalition waged in March 2015 is still continuing. The Saudi-led forces were able to push the Houthis, a petty-bourgeois Islamist forces at the top of the popular insurrection which drove out the pro-IMF President Hadi in spring 2015, back. However, despite massive military superiority – particularly concerning air force and navy – and a nearly total blockade resulting in hunger and cholera epidemic, the Saudis have failed to defeat the Houthis. Their hope to split the resistance when ex-President Saleh switched sides and betrayed his Houthi allies were in vain when the later succeeded in smashing Saleh’s rebellion in a few days and get him killed. Furthermore, the Saudi-led camp is increasingly divided itself between the Hadi government, backed by Riyadh, and the Southern separatists, backed by Abu Dhabi. This conflict recently resulted in armed clashes in Aden with a number of dead. While Iran supports the Houthis, the character of the war can not be reduced to a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It remains primarily a national liberation war against the Saudi-led invasion which socialists must continue to support. 
92. Add to this the ongoing insurrection of the Afghan people against the more than 16-year long occupation by U.S. imperialism and its allies. In August 2017, the Trump Administration announced to send additional 4,000 troops to aid the occupation forces (nearly 13,500 NATO troops plus 25,000 contractors). This is only the latest attempt to avoid the defeat of the pro-imperialist puppet government of Ashraf Ghani and its foreign backers by the hand of the resistance forces which have constantly gained strength in the past years. Despite the huge costs of the war – the US pays currently $45 billion per year for its military intervention in Afghanistan – the Trump Administration is determined to do whatever possible in order to avoid defeat.  Even bourgeois analysts like Robert Malley, President of the International Crisis Group, are highly skeptical about Trump’s strategy: “This strategy faces serious obstacles. While hitting the Taliban harder might bring tactical gains, it is unlikely to change the war’s course or the incentives of a locally rooted and potent insurgency. The Taliban currently controls or is contesting more territory than at any time since 2001; it is better equipped and, even if pressured through conventional fighting, it would retain the ability to mount spectacular urban attacks that erode confidence in the government. Besides, between 2009 and 2012, the Taliban withstood more than 100,000 U.S. troops.”  As Marxists and anti-imperialists, we have always unambiguously denounced the US occupation as a reactionary war of aggression. Therefore the RCIT has supported the Afghan resistance against the imperialist aggression from the very beginning when the first US bombs were dropped on Kabul on 7 October 2001. While supporting the resistance struggle, socialists in Afghanistan have to build, under the most difficult circumstances, a progressive alternative to the petty-bourgeois Islamist Taliban who is the dominant force among the resistance movement. 
93. As mentioned above, there are a number of additional wars in the pipeline. In January US President Trump set an ultimatum to fix the so-called “disastrous flaws” in the deal on Tehran’s nuclear program. He said he would waive sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the international deal in 2015 for the last time and demanded that the pact should be “strengthened” with a separate agreement within 120 days. However, Iran as well as all other backers of the treaty – the European powers as well as Russia – oppose Trump’s ultimatum. Furthermore, the U.S Administration announced new sanctions against 14 entities and people, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Likewise, Israel as well as Saudi Arabia are eager to launch a major war against Iran as it is a chief rival in the region which has been able to expand, as an ally of Russian imperialism, his influence in the region. There is no doubt that a major war of the US, and/or Israel and/or Saudi Arabia against Iran and its allies is a realistic possibility in the near future. 
94. However, given Iran’s military strength it is difficult to imagine an attack by Saudi Arabia and even by Israel without the military support of the U.S. As we see in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is not even capable to defeat the Houthis in Yemen so they should be no match for the battle-hardened Iranian army. Israel, of course, is militarily much stronger than Saudi Arabia. However, if it launches limited air strikes against Iran, this would hardly deter Teheran and risks a prolonged period of war against a formidable enemy which is backed by Russia and China. If it begins a full war, it could not sustain it for long given the burden of such a war for a small country. For all these reasons, it seems unlikely to us that a war against Iran can be launched without the active participation of US imperialism.
95. The blockade of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain against Qatar – a kind of economic warfare – is also continuing. In the initial phase of the aggression, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi even considered a military invasion which was only stopped when Turkey sent troops and Trump warned them to back off.  While it does not look likely at the moment that this conflict might be transformed into an open war, it is difficult to imagine an end as both sides have to lose a lot of prestige.
96. Israel, a small imperialist power in the Middle, is eager to wage war against the Palestinians in Gaza, against Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Iran. Israel’s geostrategic position has developed in an ambivalent way. On one hand, it has been strengthened by the inauguration of the strongest pro-Israeli Administration in modern U.S. history as well as by the current extremely reactionary regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. On the other hand, domestically the ruling class faces huge internal divisions given the extremely corrupt and discredited character of the Netanyahu government. Furthermore, the Palestinian resistance is unbroken – despite three wars against Gaza. And, finally, Iran and Hezbollah could substantially strengthen their position in Syria close to the border with Israel. Another war against Hezbollah would become much more challenging for the Israeli army than the one in 2006 (and even this war it failed to win). While an Israeli war against the Palestinian people in Gaza or against Hezbollah could contain elements of a proxy war, as the later would be supported by Iran and others, such wars would nevertheless be national liberation wars on the side of the Palestinian or the Lebanese people. Socialists would stand for their military victory and for the defeat of the Zionist enemy. The shot down of an Israeli warplane – the first time such a thing happened since 1982 – during an attack in Syria on 10 February demonstrates how explosive the situation has become.  The International Crisis Group warned in a recent study of the growing danger of a war between Israel and Iran and/or Hezbollah: “A broader war could be only a miscalculation away.” 
97. Against the background of domestically embattled regimes, the region-wide acceleration of tensions and power rivalry, new fronts of conflicts have opened up in addition to those mentioned above. An important conflict is currently building up in the Red Sea region which involves Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Eritrea on one hand and Sudan, Turkey, and Ethiopia on the other hand. It results both from domestic reasons as well as regional power rivalry. Recently a conflict has escalated between Egypt vs. Sudan and Ethiopia. The trigger has been the project of the regime in Addis Ababa to build the so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which should become the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the 7th largest in the world. This dam, to be built close to the border with Sudan, should help Ethiopia not only to satisfy its need for electricity but also to become Africa’s biggest power exporter. While Sudan stands to benefit from the dam and has sided with Ethiopia on most issues, Egypt is strongly opposed as it fears that the upstream dam at the head of the Blue Nile will interfere with its critical water supply from the Nile River. The negotiations between the three countries have stalled as Egypt pulled out of the tripartite negotiations in November 2017.
98. In addition, this conflict has been accelerated by rising tensions about the long-running land dispute between Egypt and Sudan about control of the the Halayeb triangle, an area that encompasses the cities of Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateen. It is situated at the official border between the two countries on 20,000 square kilometers on the Red Sea coast. In addition, Egypt accuses Sudan of harboring supporters of former Egypt President Morsi who was overthrown by a military coup in July 2013. Recently, Sudan withdrew its ambassador from Egypt and reiterated its complaint against Egypt to the United Nations Security Council in early January 2018.
99. This conflict has been accelerated by the growing interference of other regional powers. In order to get support against the powerful Egyptian army, Sudan has intensified its cooperation with Turkey. In December 2017, Khartoum and Ankara agreed last month that Turkey would get temporary control of Suakin Island in the Red Sea. In return, Sudan will enjoy Ankara's military, economic and political support. Turkey plans to rebuild a ruined Ottoman port city, to develop shipyards for both civilian and military ships in the Red Sea and to build a hospital, a university, a free-trade zone in Port Sudan, power stations and a new airport.
100. Furthermore, there are long-standing tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea which already resulted in a major war in 1998 to 2000 with about 80,000 people killed. Since Ethiopia is its historic arch-enemy, the Eritrean regime immediately sided in this conflict with Egypt. Egypt already sent troops to its military basis in Eritrea a few weeks ago. As a result of this escalation between the ruling classes of all these states, they all sent troops to the borders of their enemies in recent weeks. The region is close to military provocations resulting in major a war.
101. These developments have to be understood as part of a massive militarization of the whole Red Sea zone. There are a number of countries seeking to establish a significant military presence around the Red Sea. The UAE currently has a presence in the greatest number of Red Sea neighboring countries. It has military bases in Yemen (Aden, Mokha and Mukalla and the Red Sea island of Perim), in Assab in Eritrea as well as in the autonomous northern Somali region of Somaliland. As a result, the UAE surrounds every side of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait – through which all traffic between the Suez Canal and Asia and Africa must pass – with military bases. 
102. As mentioned above, Turkey is building now a military basis in Sudan. This is in addition to its military basis in Somalia with 3,000 troops. Furthermore, 200 Turkish soldiers have been deployed in Somalia since October 2017, training Somalia’s military. In addition, Turkey has currently based some hundred soldiers in Qatar’s Al-Udeid military base since the beginning of the Saudi blockade on Qatar. This is part of a long-term plan. In January 2018, the Turkey’s National Security Council adopted a plan to deploy 60,000 armed soldiers in four military bases abroad until the year 2022.  This does not mean that Turkey would be an imperialist power. As we have explained somewhere else, it is an advanced semi-colonial country.  However, it is obvious he case that Turkey’s ruling class does attempt to increase its influence in the region and to become a regional power.
103. Add to this, the military bases of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Eritrea as well as the military bases of several imperialist Great Powers (U.S., China, and France) in Djibouti. Given the steps of more and more countries to bolster their military presence around the Red Sea, the threat of a regional conflict that could draw in at least seven countries continues to grow. If a war around the Red Sea would break out, it would have disastrous consequences not just for the actors directly involved, but for the global economy. It would shut down the most important shipping line and provoke a sharp recession.
The Syrian Revolution: In danger of annihilation
104. While the RCIT has always opposed those defeatist centrists who deserted the Syrian Revolution in the past years and called it as finished, we also warned many times about the growing danger of a final defeat. The recent developments unfortunately have brought us closer to such a scenario. The Syrian Army, with the massive and devastating aid of the Iranian militias and the Russian Air Force, was able to conquer important parts of the last significant liberated pocket of resistance in the province Idlib in the north of the country (including the strategically important military airport Abu Duhur). Furthermore, another liberated pocket East Ghouta is close to collapse as the population is systematically bombed and starved by the regime. 
105. Furthermore, all Great Powers and regional powers agree now that Assad should stay in power and that the rebels should lay down their arms. This is the real substance of what they call a “political solution”. At the various conferences in Astana, Sochi, or Geneva the ruling class of Russia, Iran and Turkey, sometimes with UN and U.S. and European participation, negotiate about the details of such a “political solution”. Worse, a sector of the opposition is allied to Turkey’s Erdoğan regime and hence supports the Astana negotiations. As they are under considerable pressure from the popular forces, these opposition factions can not openly accept all dictates from those powers respectively. However, the truth is that a considerable sector of the opposition leadership is prepared to accept a sell-out on the negotiations table. Even worse, they agree to an important clause of the Astana agreement which calls to hunt down and smash those forces which are determined to continue the struggle against Assad and his backers (these forces are denounced in this document as “Al-Qaida”, “terrorists”, etc.) It is part of the Astana plan that Turkey invades Idlib and takes over control so that the liberation forces there are disarmed and can’t continue the resistance against the Assad regime.
106. This does not mean that the imperialist and regional powers have unanimous agreement among each other. Quite the opposite. In fact, the differences among them open a certain space for the resistance struggle and are, in addition to the stubborn resistance struggle of the liberation forces in the remaining pockets, an important reason for the ongoing war in Syria. The Assad regime wants to utilize the advances it made in the recent past in order to military smash the popular uprising. Their problem is that they simply are not capable to achieve a military victory by their own forces. They are completely dependent on the Iranian-led forces – about 125.000 soldiers with a much higher discipline than Assad’s thugs – as well as the Russian air force and mercenaries (the notorious PMC Wagner group, a kind of Russian equivalent to the American Blackwater killers). The Iranian regime largely agree with Assad’s goal as they want to establish a strong presence in Syria so that they can create the so-called Shia Crescent via Iraq, Syria to Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Putin regime, which is the most important power in this alliance, is more open for a “political solution”, i.e. one which integrates sectors of the rebel’s leadership and which brings Turkey and possibly the YPG leadership on board. The reason for this is that Putin wants to bring the war rather sooner than later to an end as he fears the political and economic costs at home of an ongoing and increasing involvement of Russia in a foreign war (the memory of the lost Afghanistan war in 1980-88 is still fresh in Russian people’s mind). This is even truer after the liberation fighters in Idlib recently succeeded to shot down the first Russia warplane and the mysterious killing of 100 pro-Assad fighters by the US military in Syrian Deir-ez-Zor which allegedly included Russian Wagner mercenaries. 
107. In the first years of the Syrian Revolution, Turkey verbally, and also with some material aid, supported the resistance forces and called for the overthrow of the Assad regime. Its air force even shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M in November 2015. But the deterioration of its relations with Washington – in particular after the failed military coup in July 2016 and the ongoing U.S. collaboration with the Kurdish YPG – as well as the military victories of the Assad/Iran/Russia bloc in the civil war have forced Ankara to switch camps. Since one year, the Erdoğan regime is part of the so-called Astana negotiations and aims to liquidate the Syrian Revolution. Erdoğan is under increasing pressure to sell some successes to his domestic audience in order not to undermine the popular support for his increasingly Bonapartist regime. Furthermore, the regime is determined to smash the Kurdish forces as it faces an uprising of the Kurdish minority in the south-east of its own country. This is the background why the Turkish army has invaded Afrin and threatens to attack the YPG also in other sectors of north Syria. The Erdoğan regime sees anti-Kurdish chauvinist militarism as the most promising instrument to gain popular support at home. All this constitutes the background for Ankara’s threats against the US which has been the strongest supporter of the YPG in the past years. As we have stated in our statement, the RCIT opposes the Turkish invasion in Afrin. We sharply denounce those Syrian rebel forces that join the Turkish army as foot soldiers against the Kurds instead of defending Idlib against Assad’s killing machinery. However, we also support the resistance of the Arab population against the occupation of their land by the YPG militias. Currently about one million Arabs are living in YPG-occupied land and they have launched protests against the occupation numerous times. 
108. The U.S. is certainly in a very difficult position. While it has accepted the Assad regime and shares the Russian/Iranian/Assadist desire to smash the radical Islamist forces, it views the northern and eastern part of Syria as a territory it wants to keep occupied with its officially 2,000 soldiers as well as the YPG foot soldiers.  Its goal is to obstruct the Teheran’s efforts to create a Shia Crescent and to utilize this part of Syria as a springboard for an attack against Iran. Furthermore it controls important economic resources of the country. Joshua Landis, one of the leading US analysts on Syria, remarks: “By controlling half of Syria’s energy resources, the Euphrates dam at Tabqa, as well as much of Syria’s best agricultural land, the US will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resourced. Keeping Syria poor and unable to finance reconstruction suits short-term US objectives because it protects Israel and will serve as a drain on Iranian resources, on which Syria must rely as it struggles to reestablish state services and rebuild as the war winds down.”  However, the recent developments have put Washington in a cul-de-sac. If it keeps its alliance with the YPG it will drive Ankara even more in the Russian camp. Furthermore, the relation of forces for the U.S. and the YPG are less and less favorable in Syria. On the other hand, dropping the Kurdish allies – the only reliable force in the past years – and gaining a very unreliable ally in Ankara is also a bad option. Washington can only lose in the current situation. Furthermore, the U.S. occupation is vulnerable to guerilla resistance. STRATFOR warns: “In the absence of U.S.-Russian-Syrian cooperation to end the war in Syria, U.S. troops on the ground will be hostages to guerrilla warfare against them. There is a precedent for successful Syrian covert action against the United States and Israel. It was set in Lebanon after Israel’s 1982 invasion when assassination, suicide bombings and direct attacks drove the United States out in 1984 and forced a total Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon 16 years later.” 
109. In summary, we see that the civil war in Syria contains both the ongoing popular liberation struggle against the Assad regime and its backers as well as a competition between different imperialist and non-imperialist powers to divide the country and to get an as big as possible share of it. The RCIT calls Syrian revolutionaries to combine the struggle against the Assad dictatorship with the struggle to drive all foreign powers – Russia, Iran, Turkey and the U.S. – from Syrian soil. The struggle is both a democratic as well as a national liberation struggle and has to be combined with the strategic goal to create a workers and peasant government. 
110. The fate of the Syrian Revolution will be decided in Idlib – the last big bastion of the Syrian Revolution. While the Astana deal intended to put Idlib under the control of Turkey, the triumphant Assad regime would also like to take over the region. Given the current focus of Turkey on Afrin and the YPG-controlled areas in the north, it is unclear if Ankara will follow the Astana plan. However, a combination of both is also possible: for example there exists the idea that the Assadists take the part of Idlib east of the railway line and Turkey the area to the west of it. (See Map 2) Either scenario would represent the final liquidation of the main part of the remaining liberated areas and, hence, the end of the Syrian Revolution. This does not mean that the struggle would be over. It is quite possible, even likely, that an underground and guerilla campaign would continue. However, in such a scenario the popular liberation struggle would face a severe defeat and revolutionaries have to continue the struggle under different conditions.
Map 2. Plan for the Division of Idlib 
111. Anyway, the Syrian Revolution is not over yet – contrary to the wishes of the centrist doomsayers. While the relation of forces in Syria itself is very disadvantageous, it is important to point out to the international dimension. The RCIT has always emphasized that the ongoing liberation struggle in Syria is part of the revolutionary process in the whole Middle East. This revolutionary wave started in 2011. It suffered numerous setbacks, starting with the reactionary military coup of General Sisi in Egypt in 2013. However, we currently see an important revival of the revolutionary struggle in the Middle East with new popular uprisings in Palestine, Iran, Tunisia as well as Sudan in addition to the ongoing national liberation struggles in Yemen and Afghanistan. A significant victory in one of these struggles can have positive repercussions on the relation of forces in Syria itself and strengthen the liberation struggle in Idlib and the other remaining liberated pockets which is currently in the defensive. For example an ongoing wave of mass protests in Iran could force the regime to substantially reduce its military intervention in Syria and hence weaken the Assadist camp (which indeed has been one of the demands of the protests).
112. Since some time Ankara is working hard to buy and pressurize, with significant success, the leadership of the rebel factions. Most FSA factions, Ahrar al-Sham, etc are now allied with the Turkish regime. They have now formed a so-called “National Army” and a “Syrian Interim Government”. However, these forces have massively lost ground and popular support. Without the aid of Turkey they would have no relevance. It is characteristic for their treacherous character that thousands of their fighters have left the front in Idlib and currently serve in Afrin as Turkey’s foot soldiers against the YPG. It is the more consistent sector of the resistance forces – in particular the “Syrian Salvation Government” and its backers, the petty-bourgeois Islamist Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) led by Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the Turkistan Islamic Party, as well as others – who have become the strongest force in the liberated areas in the north. They have become the hegemonial force because, until now, they have rejected the Astana betrayal and continue the liberation struggle against Assad as well as the imperialist powers. It is no accident that they are so hated by all reactionary powers!
113. However, the massive pressure from the difficult military situation, a series of assassination attempts against HTS leaders (most likely organized by the Turkish secret service MİT and their treacherous FSA lackeys) as well as the political limitations given the petty-bourgeois Islamist nature of HTS have lead to important divisions inside the movement. While HTS is a broader movement of Islamists, its core force is the al-Nusra Front which originated from al-Qaida cadre in January 2012. These Islamist cadre adhered to the strategy of the so-called “popular Jihad”, a concept which opposes the “old“ al-Qaida elitist conception. The later strategy, developed and implemented by Osama bin-Laden, focuses on individual terrorist attacks around the world. The “popular Jihad” concept, on the other hand, focuses on building roots among the population of a given country by orientating towards the struggle there and by combining the military struggle with efforts to build civil and social structures led by a Shura Council. These differences unavoidable led to tensions inside al-Qaida, since the “popular Jihad” concept undermines the international centralist structure and puts the forces on the ground primarily under national, local and popular pressure. In the end, this conflict led to a formal split of al-Nusra with the central al-Qaida leadership of Aiman az-Zawahiri in 2016. While contacts of sectors of al-Nusra with al-Qaida remained, the conflict recently escalated when the al-Julani leadership arrested several pro-al-Qaida cadres in the last months. The looming invasion of the Turkish army in Idlib has also accelerated the tensions inside HTS. The Julani leadership attempts to pragmatically avoid an open clash as their forces are already stretched by the offensive of the Assadists in the south of Idlib. The more radical, pro-al-Qaida, wing rejects compromises and favors open attacks on the Turkish army. Some of them have constituted themselves now as a new faction called Ansar Al-Furqan Fi Bilad Al-Sham. If the Assadist forces and/or the Turkish army will occupy Idlib, the HTS will either be driven underground as a whole and continue a guerilla campaign (as the Taliban have done successfully in Afghanistan since 2001) or it will split and a sector of the leadership will capitulate and join the Turkish camp. 
114. The whole tragic development of the Syrian Revolution demonstrates once more the profound crisis of leadership given the lack of authentic revolutionaries. However, this does not relieve revolutionaries from their duties. Only those who are conscious or unconscious lackeys of the imperialist powers will cynically stand aside or even join the traitors. All honest fighters for freedom will continue to support the ongoing liberation struggle! The RCIT calls all forces to continue supporting the liberation struggle against the Assad regime and its imperialist backers. We call all resistance forces to boycott the charade conferences in Sochi, Astana and Geneva. There can be no solution under the bayonets of the Great Powers. We say: Down with any “solution” imposed by the imperialist Great Powers Russia and US, by Iran and Turkey and the Assad regime! Continue the liberation struggle against the butcher Assad, against Russian and US Imperialism and the local Allies!
115. Most crucially, all Syrian revolutionaries should learn the lessons of the defeats which the liberation struggle experienced in the past years. The way forward is not submission and capitulation to the Great Powers and their regional allies. Instead of hoping for support by this or that foreign power or by focusing on a militarist guerilla strategy, revolutionaries should fight for the organization of the popular masses in independent councils and armed militias. The goal of the liberation struggle must be the creation of a multinational, independent workers’ and peasants republic in Syria as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East! We call for an international workers and popular solidarity movement in support of the Syrian Revolution. Most importantly, the most advanced workers and youth in Syria need to unite into a revolutionary party based on a program for socialist liberation.
A new revolutionary upsurge of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa
116. As mentioned above, we have seen a new upsurge of class struggles on a global scale in the last few months. The most important region of this wave has been the Middle East and North Africa which has seen several popular uprisings, some of them caming close to pre-revolutionary situations. There has been a surge of the Palestinian liberation struggle against the Zionist state (first, the Al-Aqsa protests in summer 2017 and, more recently, the regular mass demonstration for Jerusalem since Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem). There have been important popular uprisings in Tunisia as well as in Iran (where people also protested against the regime’s support for Assad). In addition, in the past weeks there have been militant mass demonstrations against price hikes on food in Sudan as well as against unemployment and poverty in Morocco. Add to this the ongoing democratic and national liberation wars in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. This new wave of revolutionary mass struggles, if it continues, could turn around the counter-revolutionary trend which has swept the region since the strategic defeat of the Egyptian masses in 2013.
117. The strategic task of revolutionaries in the Middle East and North Africa is to unite these struggles into a single Intifada in the whole region and to fight for a socialist program of permanent revolution and working class power directed against all imperialist Great Powers (U.S., EU, Russia, China, Japan) as well as the local bourgeois regimes! Revolutionaries have to explain to the activists in each country that they must view their struggles not in national isolation but as part of an international struggle. The RCIT emphasizes that this demonstrates the actuality of the international, permanent revolution – not only a correct theoretical conception but a very practical concrete strategy for the struggles today!
118. The surge of the mass struggle in Palestine is of particular importance not only for the people itself but, given the significance of Palestine for the whole Arab and Muslim world, also globally. The massive character of the protests has forced the official leaderships – even the treacherous Palestinian Administration of Abbas – to halt negotiations on a “peace process” and to call for mass protests. Hamas already talks about a “Third Intifada”. While both Fatah as well as Hamas are calling for protests, the movement has a significant spontaneous character as the main burden of the fighting is done by youth who are not aligned with any faction. More than two dozen demonstrators have already been killed and nearly 1,000 people arrested.
119. It is urgent to avoid the mistakes of the past. The mass struggle must not become focused on individual terrorist acts as this would be a self-defeating strategy inviting massive repression by the Zionist state without mobilizing the masses and international solidarity. It is crucial to build popular committees and self-defense committees composed of Palestinian workers, poor peasants, and youth in places of work, towns, and villages. The masses must force the Palestinian Authority to immediately stop to all forms of collaboration of the Palestinian Authority with the Israeli state! Furthermore it is of utmost importance to build a massive international solidarity movement in order to pressurize Israel and the U.S. The RCIT calls for an international popular boycott campaign against the Israeli state and its economy. Such a campaign must also strive to force the governments around the world to stop their open and hidden economic, political and military aid for the Zionist state! Such a popular mass campaign must also pressurize the Arab states to break all forms of collaboration with Israel and to reject any negotiations about a “peace plan” with the Zionist state. Furthermore they must demand from them – in particular Egypt – to break the disgraceful blockade against Gaza which is starving the Palestinian people since 2007. 
120. The popular uprising in Iran has provoked the most serious crisis the capitalist-theocratic regime since the “Green Revolution” in 2009. In fact, the recent protests have been much more important than those nine years ago because they are much more widespread (reaching 80-100 cities and towns across the country). Furthermore they are much more proletarian in its composition. Finally, they are also more radical. While they started as protests against the high cost of living, poverty, unemployment and graft, they soon added political demands which were directed against all factions of the regime and its foreign policy. They raised slogans like: “Death to Rouhani”, “Death to the dictator” (i.e. Khamenei), “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my soul is the redemption of Iran“, “Leave Syria and think about us”, “You have used religion and humiliated the people”, “The government is lying and its promises are not implemented” and “Unity Unity, No Fear, No fear of the police”. The demonstrators burned pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei, overturned police cars and set police motorcycles ablaze. According to official reports, at least 22 protesters and two security force members had been killed. Additionally, 3,700 demonstrators were arrested. While the regime was able to suppress the protests in early January, it is quite possible that the movement will experience a new upsurge in the next months. In any case, it has sent a warning to all faction of the ruling class that it sits on a powder keg and must be cautious in implementing of its austerity policy as well as its reactionary foreign policy adventures like in Syria. There is no organized political force of any significance which has played a role in this movement.
121. As we have stated in the RCIT statement on the popular uprising in Iran, socialists should call for the formation of action committees in the workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and universities in order to organize the workers and oppressed. Such committees should organize the struggle and decide about the main demands, the forms of protests, the perspectives etc. They should also organize self-defense units in order to defend the demonstrations against the regime’s repression apparatus. Furthermore, socialists must explain that the solution is not national isolation but extending the struggle for liberation internationally which includes support for the Syrian Revolution as well as the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist enemy. Finally, socialists should explain that the liberation struggle must be directed against all factions of the ruling class and against all imperialist powers. They should combine such demands with the perspective of a workers and poor peasants government based on popular councils and militias. 
122. The uprising in Tunisia, starting on 7 January, has been another spontaneous mass protest. Like in other countries it started as a response to the government’s new budget, which raised the prices of numerous goods. Beginning spontaneously after activists tagged the phrase #Fech_Nestannew (“What are we waiting for?”) on walls and on social media, demonstrations spread to more than 20 cities and towns. In Tunis, a crowd stormed a Carrefour market. In Nefza, demonstrators stormed a police station. The brutal repression of the state resulted in the killing of a 55-year old man in Tebourba and the arrest of nearly 1,000 people. About 50 police were wounded in clashes. While the protests have subsided in past weeks, the mood for a new upsurge still exists. The movement was supported by Ej-Jabha (Popular Front, short for “The Popular Front for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution”), a left-wing petty-bourgeois opposition alliance representing a coalition of parties mostly coming from a Stalinist/Hoxhaist as well as Nasserist/Baathist tradition. Some protests were also supported by the trade union federation UGTT.
123. In Tunisia too, it is a crucial task of socialists to call these parties and unions to fully support the movement, to create a united front and to transform the protests into a general strike. Furthermore the masses should form action committees in the workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and universities in order to organize the struggle democratically. Furthermore, the movement needs to create self-defense units so that it can defend itself against the attacks of the repression apparatus. In addition, such committees should organize self-defense units to fight against state repression. For now, the central demands should be the withdrawal of all austerity measures. In order to fight unemployment and poverty, activists should call to establish a public employment program under the control of the UGTT and other mass organizations, financed by the expropriation of Tunisia’s super-rich, many of whom are close to the Ben Ali clan. Revolutionaries should combine such demands with the perspective of fighting for an authentic workers and popular government. Such a government would exclusively serve the interests of the popular masses and would remove power and wealth from the hands of the small corrupt elite of super-rich politicians and army generals. It would also expropriate the foreign imperialist corporations which are exploiting semi-colonial Tunisia. 
124. Sudan has also experienced a wave of mass protests after the government's devaluation of the local currency which resulted in rising bread prices. This move by the government has been one of the requests of the International Monetary Fund. A number of protesters have been arrested, including opposition politicians like Siddig Youssef, a leader of the Sudanese Communist Party. The protests are supported by the Communist Party, the National Umma Party, as well as forces like the “No violence against women” organization. Here too, revolutionaries should call for the creation of popular action committees as well as an emergency action program to solve the social economic crisis. They combine such a perspective with the struggle for a workers and popular government.
125. In Morocco we see upsurge of mass protests too. They were first directed against high electricity bills. However, after the deaths of two miners (and later a third) in December last year in Jerada the protests have transformed into regular demonstrations of miners and their families. In this region, people are risking their lives scraping coal from abandoned mines.  These protests could and should link with the movement of the Amazighs (“Berber”) living in the Rif in the north of the country where regular protests have taken place since 2016. Revolutionaries should support the demands for an end of the austerity measures and the restoration of the public subsidies. They should combine this with the demand for a public employment program under the control of the workers and popular mass organizations, financed by the super-rich. Likewise, revolutionaries should combine such demands with democratic demands for the release of all political prisoners, in particular those who have been arrested in the past year when the Amazighs in the Rif rose up. Such a perspective should be combined with the slogan of national self-determination of the Amazighs as well as for a workers and popular government. 
126. All these uprisings have in common that they have a strongly spontaneous character. This is, on one hand, their strength as it reflects that they are truly popular mass movements. On the other hand, we know from experience, both in history as well as actually from the Arab Revolution since 2011, that such protests can not last for long on a spontaneous basis. Sooner or later they will either be smashed or they will be led by organized forces. The question is only, which force will take over a leadership role. This is why the RCIT has always stressed the importance of revolutionaries to unite and to fight together for the formation of a revolutionary party based on an action program for the current situation. Such a party must help the working class and the oppressed to organize and fight independently of all imperialist powers and local bourgeoisie. They must explain that all imperialist Great Powers (U.S., EU, Russia, China, and Japan) as well as the local bourgeois regimes are the enemies of the working class. Hence it must not align itself with any of them but organize in an independent way. Such a party must combine the ongoing mass struggles with the perspective of a socialist revolution and its internationalization towards the creation of a socialist federation of the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
 For reasons of space, we will partly use the category “Middle East” when we refer to the whole region of Middle East and North Africa. Since there are different definitions in use, we want to make it clear that we include in the category “Middle East” not only the Arab countries but also Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.
 IMF chief calls on Arab leaders to cut spending, 11 February, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/2/11/imf-chief-calls-on-arab-leaders-to-cut-spending
 The Independent: IMF chief urges Arab states to slash spending, February 10, 2018 https://www.independent.co.ug/imf-chief-urges-arab-states-slash-spending/
 “With the exception of only a few chapters, every important part of the revolutionary annals from 1848 to 1849 bear the heading: Defeat of the revolution! What succumbed in these defeats was not the revolution. It was the pre-revolutionary traditional appendages, results of social relationships which had not yet come to the point of sharp class antagonisms — persons, illusions, conceptions, projects from which the revolutionary party before the February Revolution was not free, from which it could be freed not by the victory of February, but only by a series of defeats. In a word: The revolution made progress, forged ahead, not by its immediate tragicomic achievements but, on the contrary, by the creation of a powerful, united counterrevolution, by the creation of an opponent in combat with whom the party of overthrow ripened into a really revolutionary party.“ (Karl Marx: The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850 (1850), in: MECW Vol. 10, p. 47, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/index.htm)
 The Heritage Foundation: 2018 Index of U.S. Military Strength, Washington 2018, p. 141
 John Haltiwanger: Trump’s Secret War? U.S. Military’s Presence In Middle East Has Grown 33 Percent In Past Four Months, Newsweek Magazine, 21.11.2017, http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-secret-war-us-militarys-presence-middle-east-has-grown-33-percent-past-718089
 See on this e.g. Mustafa Abu Sneineh: Abu Dis: The Palestinian 'capital' Saudi Arabia wants to force on Abbas, Middle East Eye, 19 December 2017 http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/abu-dis-talked-of-as-capital-palestinian-state-east-jerusalem-israel-58487833; Ben Caspit: Trump’s peace deal: A Gaza-centered Palestine, Al-Monitor, January 8, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/01/israel-palestinians-us-egypt-saudi-arabia-mahmoud-abbas.html, Anne Barnard, David M. Halbfinger and Peter Bakerdec: Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East, New York Times,. 03.12.2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/03/world/middleeast/palestinian-saudi-peace-plan.html?mtrref=www.google.at&gwh=0905E672E177BADF58AA507823E1CAAF&gwt=pay
 48,000 Russian Troops Took Part In Syrian Campaign – Defense Minister, 2017-12-22, https://southfront.org/48000-russian-troops-took-part-in-syrian-campaign-defense-minister/
 Andrew Malcolm: Trump’s national security plan: Iran threat is the sleeper issue for 2018, McClatchy, December 19, 2017, http://www.macon.com/opinion/article190452699.html
 See on this e.g. RCIT: Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World: An Acid Test for Revolutionaries, 31 May 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-arab-revolution/; Michael Pröbsting: Die halbe Revolution. Lehren und Perspektiven des arabischen Aufstandes, May 2011, https://www.thecommunists.net/publications/werk-8/
 World Bank: Global Economic Prospects, January 2018, p. 51
 UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia: Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region 2016-2017, Beirut 2017, p. 23 (The figures for 2017 and 2018 are estimations.)
 ILO: Youth and Employment in North Africa: A Regional Overview, September 2017, p. 16
 ILO: World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018, p. 65
 Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, The Elephant Curve of Global Inequality and Growth, January 2018 AEA Meetings, p. 6
 Jillian Kestler-D'Amours: How Egypt presidential election is rendered irrelevant, Al Jazeera, 2018-01-24, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/egypt-presidential-election-rendered-irrelevant-180122125426620.html
 Egypt opposition figures call for boycott of Sisi presidential election, 28 January, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/1/28/egypt-opposition-call-for-boycott-of-sisi-presidential-election; Several high-profile Egyptians call for presidential election boycott, January 28, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-politics/several-high-profile-egyptians-call-for-presidential-election-boycott-idUSKBN1FH0WR
 IMF: Regional Economic Outlook. Middle East and Central Asia, October 2017, p. 106
 Simon Constable: Egypt set to continue economic 'reforms', 26 January 2018 http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/analysis-egypt-set-stick-economic-reforms-487159884
 David D. Kirkpatrick: Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K., New York Times, 3 February 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/03/world/middleeast/israel-airstrikes-sinai-egypt.html
 Egypt intelligence official directs television hosts to accept Jerusalem decision, 6 January, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/1/6/exposed-egypt-moved-to-change-public-opinion-on-jerusalem
 CIA: The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sa.html, accessed 26.01.2018
 Shanta Devarajan, Lili Mottaghi: Meeting the Development Challenge for Refugees in Middle East and North Africa; Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor (October 2017), World Bank, p. 81
 Christian Dreger and Teymur Rahmani: The Impact of Oil Revenues on the Iranian Economy and the Gulf States, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, 2014, p.4; Iran Economy Profile 2018, https://www.indexmundi.com/iran/economy_profile.html
 Islamic Republic of Iran, IMF Country Report No. 17/62, February 2017, p. 31; Iran's Economy, By the Numbers, May 2015, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2015/may/11/irans-economy-numbers
 Majid Mohammadi: Iran’s Freefall Into Poverty, Radio Farda, August 06, 2017 https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-population-sliding-into-more-poverty/28661812.html; Amir Taheri: Iran: Anatomy of a National Revolt, 14 January, 2018 https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1143256/amir-taheri/iran-anatomy-national-revolt
 John Feffer: Trump & Neocons Are Exploiting an Iran Protest Movement They Know Nothing About, Foreign Policy in Focus, Jan. 8, 2018, http://fpif.org/trump-neocons-exploiting-iran-protest-movement-know-nothing/
 Nesrin Nas: Poverty is being institutionalised in Turkey, Nov 21 2017, https://ahvalnews.com/economy/poverty-being-institutionalised-turkey; Erik Halberg: Causes of Poverty in Turkey, 05 Aug 2017 https://borgenproject.org/causes-of-poverty-in-turkey/
 OECD Economic Surveys, Turkey, July 2016 (Overview), p. 6
 OECD Economic Surveys, Turkey, July 2016 (Overview), p. 6
 OECD Economic Surveys, Turkey, July 2016 (Overview), p. 20
 OECD Economic Surveys, Turkey, July 2016 (Overview), p. 21
 Friedrich Engels: The Foreign Policy of Russian Tsardom (1890), in: MECW 27, S. 37
 Suriye Gündemi: SDF spokesman tells about the USA-PKK relations in Syria, 02.12.2017, http://www.suriyegundemi.com/2017/12/02/sdf-spokesman-tells-about-the-usa-pkk-relations-in-syria/
 See on the RCIT statements: After the Death of Saleh: Continue the Defense of Yemen against the Al-Saud Gang of Aggressors! 12.10.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/yemen-after-the-death-of-saleh/; at the end of this statement you find a list with links to other RCIT articles and statements on Yemen.
 Associated Press: Afghan war costing US $45 billion per year: Pentagon, 2018-02-07, https://www.dailysabah.com/americas/2018/02/07/afghan-war-costing-us-45-billion-per-year-pentagon
 Robert Malley: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018, International Crisis Group, January 2, 2018, http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/02/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2018/
 See on this our statements: Afghanistan: Drive the US Occupants Out! US President Trump escalates the imperialist crusade against the Afghan people! Support the resistance against the occupiers and their stooges! 23.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/us-occupants-out-of-afghanistan/; Defend Afghanistan! Defeat Imperialism! October 2001, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/afghan-war-lrci-ft-ks/; Questions & Answers on the Afghan War, 30.09.2001, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/q-a-afghan-war-2001/; Stop the Invasion of Afghanistan! 30.09.2001, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/afghanistan-invasion-2001/
 See on this e.g. the RCIT’s analysis in our article: Yossi Schwartz and Max Bonham: On the new Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran, 26.12.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/new-cold-war-between-saudi-arabia-and-iran/
 See e.g. Jennifer Jacobs: Trump Warned Saudis Off Military Move on Qatar, Bloomberg, 19. September 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-19/trump-is-said-to-have-warned-saudis-off-military-move-on-qatar; Lally Weymouth: Qatar to Saudi Arabia: Quit trying to overthrow our government, The Washington Post, February 2 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/qatar-to-saudi-arabia-quit-trying-to-overthrow-our-government/2018/02/02/05a1a848-0759-11e8-8777-2a059f168dd2_story.html?utm_term=.d835c0c156e5
 See on this the RCIT statement: Israeli Warplane Shot Down over Syria. Stop the Israeli aggression! In any conflict between imperialist Israel and Syria, Iran or Hezbollah: Defeat Israel! Continue to support the Syrian Revolution! Victory for the Palestinian Liberation Struggle! 11.02.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/israeli-warplane-shot-down-over-syria/
 International Crisis Group: Israel, Hizbollah and Iran: Preventing Another War in Syria, Middle East Report N°182 | 8 February 2018, p. ii and p. 20
 Pesha Magid: Turkey plays catch-up with militarization in Red Sea, January 23, 2018, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/01/increasingly-dangerous-militarization-red-sea-egypt-turkey.html
 Middle East Monitor: Turkey to deploy 60,000 soldiers in bases abroad, including in Qatar, Jan. 19, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180118-turkey-to-deploy-60000-soldiers-in-bases-abroad-including-in-qatar/
 Se on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, pp. 222-229
 The RCIT has published numerous pamphlets, statements and articles on the Syrian Revolution. The links to them are collected at a special sub-section of our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Syrian Liberation Fighters Shot Down Russian Warplane – A Small Victory, 4 February 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syrian-liberation-fighters-shot-down-russian-warplane-a-small-victory/; On the rumors of Russian Wagner mercenaries among the dead in the incident in Deir-ez-Zor see e.g. Maria Tsvetkova: Russians killed in clash with U.S.-led forces in Syria, say associates, Reuters, February 12, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia/russians-killed-in-clash-with-u-s-led-forces-in-syria-say-associates-idUSKBN1FW2DC
 RCIT: Syria: No to Turkey’s Attack on Afrin! Defend the Syrian Revolution against Annihilation! 22.01.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/no-to-turkey-s-attack-on-afrin/
 We are fully aware that the PDY/YPG includes many honest activists in its ranks and that one, therefore, has to differentiate between the treacherous pro-imperialist leadership and the rank and file. However, until now, there has been no public protest against the leadership’s subordination to the U.S. command.
 Joshua Landis: US Policy Toward the Levant, Kurds and Turkey, January 15, 2018, http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/us-policy-toward-the-levant-kurds-and-turkey-by-joshua-landis/
 STRATFOR: Another Long War Unfolds in Syria, 22nd January 2018, https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/another-long-war-unfolds-syria
 See also the discussion of the Syrian Revolution and its contradictions in our pamphlet Michael Pröbsting: Is the Syrian Revolution at its End? Is Third Camp Abstentionism Justified? An essay on the organs of popular power in the liberated area of Syria, on the character of the different sectors of the Syrian rebels, and on the failure of those leftists who deserted the Syrian Revolution, 5 April 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/syrian-revolution-not-dead/
 We remark, as a side note, that nearly all liberals, reformists and centrists are incapable to understand the nature of such petty-bourgeois Salafist-Islamist forces like HTS. They usually reduce it to a CIA (or Turkish) conspiracy or simply an “evil” fascist force. This is the political equivalent of the biblical myth of the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hence they are incapable of a dialectical understanding of the contradictory relationship between these forces and their popular support base. On the nature of Islamist movements see also Michael Pröbsting and Simon Hardy: Theses on Islamism, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-islamism/; Yossi Schwartz: The Marxist View of Religion in General and Islam in Particular, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/marxism-and-islam/; ISL: Islam, Islamism and the Struggle for Revolution, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/islam-and-revolution/.
 For the RCIT’s analysis of the new uprising of the Palestinian people see e.g. Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine! Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital “Will Open the Floodgates of Hell to the West”! Mobilize for a Popular Intifada – in Palestine, in the Arab and Muslim World, Globally! Joint Statement of the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the Internationalist Socialist League (Israel / Occupied Palestine), 06.12.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/jerusalem-is-the-capital-of-palestine/; Yossi Schwartz: Palestine: A New Intifada is a Real Possibility! Long Live the Palestinian Heroic Struggle! 7.12.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/long-live-the-palestinian-heroic-struggle/; many more statements and articles on the Palestinian liberation struggle can be read at the Africa and Middle East section of our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/ as well at http://the-isleague.com/. Furthermore we refer readers to the following theoretical and programmatic documents on Palestine: Yossi Schwartz: Israel's War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1948-1; Yossi Schwartz: Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967. On the Character of the War, the Marxist Analysis and the Position of the Israeli Left, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 12, July/August 2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1967/; Summary of the Program of the Internationalist Socialist League, February 2014, http://www.the-isleague.com/our-platform/; Michael Pröbsting: On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/permanent-revolution-in-palestine.
 See also RCIT: Long Live the Popular Uprising in Iran! For Committees of Action of the Workers and Poor! For Organized Self-Defense against the Police Repression! Down with the Capitalist-Theocratic Regime! Unite the Struggle of the Iranian Masses with the Arab Revolution! 01.01.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/long-live-the-popular-uprising-in-iran/; For the Iranian Revolution! Down with the capitalist Mullah dictatorship! Down with Imperialism! For a working class revolution in Iran! Action Platform for Iran by the RCIT, February 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/iran-platform/
 RCIT: Tunisia: Solidarity with the Mass Protests! Down with the Price Hikes! For the Creation of Action Committees and Self-Defense Units! For a United Front to Organize a General Strike! Unite the Popular Struggles in Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Yemen! For a single Intifada in the whole Middle East! 10.01.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/solidarity-with-the-mass-protests-in-tunisia/;
 See e.g. Protests over mining deaths heat up in Morocco, 8 February, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/2/8/protests-over-mining-deaths-heat-up-in-morocco; Third coal miner death in Morocco sparks mass protest, 2 February 2018 http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/third-coal-miner-death-morocco-sparks-mass-protest-790083582; Zakia Abdennebi, Ulf Laessing: Miners' protest raises political temperature in Morocco, February 2, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-morocco-protests/miners-protest-raises-political-temperature-in-morocco-idUSKBN1FM0IM
 See also the RCIT Statements on Morocco: Free Nasser Zefzafi and all other political prisoners! Long Live the Popular Protests in Morocco! 13.06.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/morocco-unrest/; RCIT: Following the Murder of Mousine Fikri: Solidarity with the Mass Protests in Morocco! 13.06.2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/morocco-mass-protests/