Down with the Dictatorships in Egypt and Syria!

By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 7.7.2015, http://www.the-isleague.com and www.thecommunists.net

 

On July 1, 2015, Islamist militants launched a wide-scale coordinated assault on five military checkpoints in Egypt’s northern Sinai region. It is still not clear exactly what the breakdown – insurgents vs. Egyptian military personnel – of the fatalities is. Egyptian security sources are continually changing the figures they release. However, it is clear that this attack was a real blow to the regime.

The Islamic State group’s Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the Sinai attacks in a Twitter statement. The Israeli government, using scare tactics, closed the Nitzana and Kerem Shalom border crossings.

Today, July 2, the Egyptian army announced that it has attacked and killed 23 militants: “Sissi says the pro-Islamic State group Sinai Province, and other militant factions, pose an existential threat to Egypt, other Arab states and the West” (1)

The capitalist mass media terms the attack on the Egyptian army as terror. This, however, was no terrorist action aimed at indiscriminately killing civilians, but a guerrilla tactic directed against the oppressive army. The Egyptian army, backed by the US and Israel, is the bitter enemy of the working class and is more dangerous than the Islamists to the interests of the working class. The Egyptian working class must therefore be for the defeat of the Egyptian army, while at the same time not giving any political support to the Islamists.

Mohamad Bazz (Al Jazeera) writes: “When it deposed Morsi in 2013, the military insisted it was acting on the will of the Egyptian people, who had grown disenchanted with his clumsy rule and disastrous economic policies. But the army didn’t stop there. It arrested Morsi along with thousands of other Brotherhood leaders and activists, shut down media outlets sympathetic to the Islamists and banned the Brotherhood from Egyptian political life. Then in August 2013, the army and security forces opened fire on thousands of Morsi’s supporters who were engaged in a peaceful sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, killing at least 1,000 people. Human Rights Watch called the massacre “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.” (2)

The Egyptian military has even jailed leaders of the liberal April 6th Movement which supported the military coup of July 3, 2013. During the coup, the Communist Party of Egypt, in line with its doctrine of petty-bourgeois reformism, unsurprisingly supported the generals. At the time, the General Secretary of the Egyptian Communist Party, Salah Adli, said about the coup:

We believe that what happened on 30th June is a second wave of the Egyptian revolution that is stronger and deeper than the first wave in 2011. It has taken place to correct the path of the revolution and seize it back from the forces of the extreme religious right that had conspired to steal the revolution and ride its wave to serve their fascist and reactionary objectives and the schemes of world imperialism.” (3)

The above statement is as true and accurate as Stalin’s stupid prediction: After Hitler, the communists will win.

The Revolutionary Socialists (sister organization of the British SWP in Egypt) refused to oppose the coup and took a neutral stance. According to Hossam el-Hamalawy, politburo member of Revolutionary Socialists who voted for Morsi in the presidential elections, during the military coup formulated the following slogan:

“Against the M[uslim]B[rother]s; against the folool [remnants of the Mubarak regime]; against SCAF [the army]” (4)

By refusing to support the Muslim Brothers and equating them with the folool and the army, the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists provided tacit support for the coup. Contrast this behavior to a similar situation, in August 1917, when the Bolsheviks first defended the Kerensky government, which was no better than that of Morsi, and only after the defeat of the military coup attempt led by General Kornilov, overthrew Kerensky’s traitorous government.

 

Civil Wars in Iraq and Syria

 

While the clashes in Sinai continue the civil wars in Syria and in Iraq continue as well. In Iraq the army of the government is fighting together with US and Iran against ISIS:

The Obama administration is no longer hiding the fact that the US is serving as the air force for Iran-backed Shia militias fighting ISIS in Iraq .Helen Cooper of The New York Times reports that the US and Iran "have found a template for fighting the Sunni militancy in other parts of Iraq: American airstrikes and Iranian-backed ground assaults" with the Iraqi military serving as a go-between. The US recently provided crucial air support in the Iran-led offensive to drive ISIS (aka Islamic State, Daesh) from Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and bragged about it.” (5)

So much for those who claim that in Syria the Islamists are an arm of the US, and that Iran is supporting an anti-imperialist regime.

The civil war in Syria began when Assad tried to crush the revolutionary protests which broke out against his regime. At this point the US supported Assad:

Security forces have opened fire on protestors on several occasions, and human rights groups put the death toll in Deraa alone at more than 60. Clashes in Latakia at the weekend left more people dead, with reports of fatalities ranging from six to 21....Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday drew a contrast between Syrian President Bashir Assad and his late father and predecessor, and said U.S. lawmakers who recently have visited Damascus regarded him as a “reformer.” (6)

Since the start of the civil war in Syria Assad’s forces have killed most of the civilians:

The Sunni jihadi group, also known as ISIS, who have turned into a global synonym for brutality aren't remotely as deadly, when it comes to the number of people killed, than the country's own government. In a civil war that has left more than 200,000 people dead, President Bashar Assad’s regime remains the most dangerous threat to Syrian civilians” (7)

The Communist Party of Israel at that time wrote:

We support that the brave Syrian people will receive all of its rights, and we oppose the corruption, the State Security courts, the arbitrary arrests, the emergency laws, and the attacks on the freedom of expression, and other freedoms” (8)

Yet there are leftist parties and groups which continue to support Assad with a false argument that Assad regime is an anti imperialist regime.

For example Hadash, the Democratic Front of the Communist Party of Israel stated, in its latest publication on Syria: “Cooperation between Israel and the Nusra Front is indicative of the partnership between them and American imperialism in their plan to break up Syria and divide the Syrian people,” said the statement issued by spokesman Raja Zaatry. The answer to the massacres and sectarianism is “to stand with the Syrian people against imperialism, Zionism, and the Arab [response]. (...) This statement was agreed to by all of the Hadash MKs, a party source told The Jerusalem Post, clarifying that this position only represents the party and not the Joint List as a whole.” (9)

This statement came in response to the news item last week that the Druze of the occupied Golan killed and injured a Syrian carried in an Israeli military ambulance.

 

Israel and Syrian Rebels

 

According to the blogger Richard Silverstein, the Syrian killed in the attack by Druze in the Golan was an Islamist Fighter, and not a civilian as Israel had claimed:

Israel regularly evacuates Islamist fighters wounded in the fighting against the regime in the region. Angry local Druze intercepted an IDF ambulance carrying two wounded Syrians, whom the IDF claimed were civilians. They beat the army medics, who were forced to flee. They then beat one of the wounded Syrians to death and severely wounded the other, before the authorities intervened and rescued him”.{…} Syrian Islamists calling themselves the Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and the Golan, published a Facebook memorial to the victim who was killed in the attack. The page says in Arabic:

Munther Khalil – the wounded man who was killed by Druze people from Majdal Shams in Israel, May Allah have mercy on you, and accept you as one of the Shahids

His picture features him brandishing a gun in full rebel garb. He is clearly not a civilian.” (10)

Is it really possible that Israel is aiding the Islamist rebels? The answer is yes.

Here are some interesting reports:

Reports by UN observers in the Golan Heights over the past 18 months reveal the type and extent of cooperation between Israel and Syrian opposition figures. The reports, submitted to the 15 members of the UN Security Council and available on the UN’s website, detail regular contacts held on the border between IDF officers and soldiers and Syrian rebels. (11)

In December 2014, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which maintains peace in the Golan Heights, released an intriguing report on contacts between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Syrian rebels. The report disclosed, if only in part, that the two parties have held dozens of meetings and that Israel transferred certain unidentified objects to anonymous individuals across the border fence. Furthermore, rebels on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights know that if they are injured in battle, they can receive medical care in Israel. According to official IDF sources, some 1,500 wounded individuals arrived at the border fence over the past two years and then received treatment in Israel. These included innocent women and children, but there were also many men who were injured in battle, or in other words, fighters. Not one of these was a soldier in the Syrian army. And their arrival is coordinated in advance, meaning that someone is informing the Israelis that they are on the way.” (12)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday that Israel has been providing aid to Syrian rebels, thus keeping the !Druze in Syria out of immediate danger. Israeli officials have previously balked at confirming on the record that the country has been helping forces that are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. “We’ve assisted them under two conditions,” Ya’alon said of the Israeli medical aid to the Syrian rebels, some of whom are presumably fighting with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. “That they don’t get too close to the border, and that they don’t touch the Druze.” (13)

 

Israel sees Iran as the main enemy

 

Why then is Israel aiding the rebels? Because Israel sees Iran as the main enemy and the Islamists rebels as the lesser evil.

““Bad guys” backed by Iran are worse for Israel than “bad guys” who are not supported by the Islamic Republic, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the US Michael Oren told The Jerusalem Post in a parting interview.[…} We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said, adding that this designation did not apply to everyone in the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”” (14)

In other words, this is age old dictum of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In addition to this, however, Israel wants to see a continuation of the Muslims killing one other.

Does this mean that Israel and the US control the rebels? If this was the case, the US ostensibly would not have bombed the rebels as it did in Syria like in Iraq:

Last week, warplanes from the United States and its partners began strikes against Islamic State positions in Syria. President Obama justified the attacks by saying that the United States would not tolerate safe havens for terrorists.” (15)

Does Israel then control the rebels? No. Asa Winstanley, an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, and an investigative journalist who lives in London, explains:

Popular conspiracy theories have it that al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State" (also known as ISIS or ISIL) are Israeli- and/or US-intelligence creations. While there's no evidence for that, it's certainly true that the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its consciously sectarian occupation regime of the country thereafter, created the conditions in which al-Qaeda in Iraq (later known as ISIS) was formed and thrived. Veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn demonstrates this most convincingly in his essential new book The Rise of Islamic State….And now it seems that Israel is in a direct alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria. This is a tactical alliance, meant purely to bleed the country and prolong the civil war.” (16)

Does this mean that if Israel is aiding the Islamists rebels, providing them with weapons and giving them medical treatment that Assad’s regime is an anti-imperialist? Nonsense! Assad the father supported the US in the first Gulf War against Iraq. Assad the father entered Lebanon in the civil war of 1975 to aid the right wing allies of the US and Israel with the agreement of Israel. Furthermore, Russian and Chinese imperialism both support the Assad regime and Russia is providing him with weapons:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that Russia has been supplying weapons to Damascus under contracts signed since the conflict in the country began in 2011, as well as under earlier deals. Assad's comments, made in an interview published by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Monday, appeared to contradict Moscow's claim that any arms supplies to the Syrian government were agreed before the conflict began.” (17)

In recent weeks Russia has stepped up supplies of military gear to Syria, including armored vehicles, drones and guided bombs, boosting President Bashar al-Assad just as rebel infighting has weakened the insurgency against him, sources with knowledge of the deliveries say.” (18)

Assad has also offered the US an alliance to fight together against the rebels:

Syria's foreign minister has offered to help the US fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which has seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria…. Mr Muallem warned that the US must co-ordinate with the Syrian government before launching any air strikes on its territory. “Anything outside this is considered aggression,” he said.“ (19)

 

Trotsky, liberations struggles and imperialist interference

 

There are those on the left who argue that because Israel, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia provide weapons to the Islamist rebels, the left should support Assad. Trotsky answered this kind of an argument in his essay Learn to Think:

Let us assume that rebellion breaks out tomorrow in the French colony of Algeria under the banner of national independence and that the Italian government, motivated by its own imperialist interests, prepares to send weapons to the rebels. What should the attitude of the Italian workers be in this case? I have purposely taken an example of rebellion against a democratic imperialism with intervention on the side of the rebels from a fascist imperialism. Should the Italian workers prevent the shipping of arms to the Algerians? Let any ultra-leftists dare answer this question in the affirmative. Every revolutionist, together with the Italian workers and the rebellious Algerians, would spurn such an answer with indignation. Even if a general maritime strike broke out in fascist Italy at the same time, even in this case the strikers should make an exception in favor of those ships carrying aid to the colonial slaves in revolt; otherwise they would be no more than wretched trade unionists – not proletarian revolutionists. At the same time, the French maritime workers, even though not faced with any strike whatsoever, would be compelled to exert every effort to block the shipment of ammunition intended for use against the rebels. Only such a policy on the part of the Italian and French workers constitutes the policy of revolutionary internationalism.” (20)

The imperialists, whether the US, Europe, Israel, Russia, or China, are involved in the Syrian civil war because of their respective imperialist interests. To take the side of Assad because the Russian or the Chinese and not the American and the European imperialists support this regime is to be on the side of one imperialist camp.

Yes, the Islamists leadership is reactionary and it may in the future stand with American or another imperialist. But today they are fighting Assad, and the fact that they receive aid from Israel today does not make them Zionist agents.

In 1921 the Muslim Riffian people in Morocco led by Abd-el-Krim formed an Islamic republic based on puritan Salafi Sharia. In 1938, Trotsky wrote:

When Abd-el-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a "savage tyrant" against the "democracy." The party of Léon Blum supported this point of view. But we, Marxists and Bolsheviks, considered the struggle of the Ruffians against imperialist domination as a progressive war. Lenin wrote hundreds of pages demonstrating the primary necessity of distinguishing between imperialist nations and the colonial and semi colonial nations which comprise the great majority of humanity. To speak of "revolutionary defeatism" in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.” (21)

We of the RCIT oppose any imperialist military attacks on Syria, and stand with the Syrian people in this civil war against Assad the butcher, without giving any political support to the reactionaries Islamists who want to establish a bourgeois religious state.

The only solution is a workers’ and peasant socialist revolution to complete the unfinished democratic revolution that began in the Arab countries in December 2010. But today the actual war is between Islamic rebels and the imperialists and their servants. In such a war we have a side. Those who cannot defend Islamist rebels against imperialism are as close to socialism as the American Tea Party is to internationalism.

 

Footnotes:

 

(1) Reuters, 2.7.2015, http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKCN0PC17820150702

(2) Mohamad Bazzi: Egypt should not make a martyr of Mohamed Morsi, Al Jazeera, May 31, 2015 http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/5/cracking-down-on-muslim-brotherhood-will-cause-more-violence.html

(3) Egypt crisis: analysis from the Egyptian Communist Party, Interview with Salah Adli, general secretary of the Egyptian Communist Party by “Nameh Mardom”, the Central Organ of the Central Committee of the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran, 6 July 2013, https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/egypt-crisis-analysis-from-the-egyptian-communist-party/

(4) Hossam el-Hamalawy, Egypt Revolutionary Socialist position on Egypt's recent coup, 20 July 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2013/0720/Egypt-Revolutionary-Socialist-position-on-Egypt-s-recent-coup

(5) Michael B Kelley: The US and Iran are closer in Iraq than people realize — and things are getting ugly Apr. 4, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/us-and-iran-working-together-in-iraq-2015-4

(6) Patrick Goodenough: Syrian President Assad Regarded As a ‘Reformer,’ Clinton Says, March 28, 2011 http://cnsnews.com/news/article/syrian-president-assad-regarded-reformer-clinton-says

(7) Alessandria Masi: In Syria's Civilian Death Toll, The Islamic State Group, Or ISIS, Is A Far Smaller Threat Than Bashar Assad, January 07 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/syrias-civilian-death-toll-islamic-state-group-or-isis-far-smaller-threat-bashar-1775238

(8) سوريا .. "إذا صاحت الدجاجة كالديك فالوضع لا يبشر بالخير", 12.5.2011, http://www.aljabha.org/index.asp?i=59576

(9) Ariel Ben Solomon: Jewish-Arab Hadash Party: Israel in ‘blood covenant’ with ISIS and US to divide Syria, Jerusalem Post, 14.6.2015, http://www.jpost.com/landedpages/printarticle.aspx?id=406019

(10) Richard Silverstein: Syrian Killed in Attack by Golani Druze Was Islamist Fighter, Not Civilian as IDF Claimed, June 26, 2015, http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/06/26/syrian-killed-in-attack-by-golani-druze-was-islamist-fighter-not-civilian-as-idf-claimed/

(11) Barak Ravid: UN reveals Israeli links with Syrian rebels, Haaretz, Dec. 7, 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.630359

(12) Jacky Hugi: Why did Israel decide to support Syrian rebels? Al-Monitor, February 26, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/israel-syria-rebels-jihad-sunni-shiite-golan-heights.html

(13) Raphael Ahren: Israel acknowledges it is helping Syrian rebel fighters, The Times of Israel, June 29, 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/yaalon-syrian-rebels-keeping-druze-safe-in-exchange-for-israeli-aid/

(14) Herb Keinon: Israel wanted Assad gone since start of Syria civil war, 17.9.2013, http://www.jpost.com/Syria-Crisis/Oren-Jerusalem-has-wanted-Assad-ousted-since-the-outbreak-of-the-Syrian-civil-war-326328

(15) Mohammed Alaa Ghanem: In Syria, the United States is bombing friend and foe alike, The Washington Post, October 2, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-syria-the-united-states-is-bombing-friend-and-foe-alike/2014/10/02/28bac60a-499f-11e4-b72e-d60a9229cc10_story.html

(16) Asa Winstanley: Israeli army admits aiding al-Qaeda in Syria Wednesday, 18 March 2015, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/17582-israeli-army-admits-aiding-al-qaeda-in-syria

(17) Al Jazeera: Assad: Russia signed arms deals during Syria conflict, 30 Mar 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/03/assad-russia-signed-arms-deals-syria-conflict-150330125839558.html

(18) Jonathan Saul: Russia steps up military lifeline to Syria's Assad – sources, Jan 17, 2014, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/17/us-syria-russia-arms-idUSBREA0G0MN20140117

(19) Walid Muallem: Syria will help US fight terrorism, BBC, 25 August 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28927246

(20) Leon Trotsky: Learn To Think. A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists, May 1938; in: Trotsky Writings 1937-38, p. 331

(21) Leon Trotsky: On the Sino-Japanese War, September 1937, http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/10/sino.htm

 

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