Assad, Russia, Iran and Turkey prepare for the final onslaught on the last Citadel of the Syrian Revolution
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 04.08.2018, www.thecommunists.net
The forces of counter-revolution are negotiating on the details. But they have already reached agreement on the fundamental features of their devil plan. They are determined to smash the remaining forces which are determined to continue the heroic liberation struggle of the Syrian people which started in March 2011. Their goal is to pacify Idlib, the last remaining liberated area where 2.5-3 million Syrians, half of them refugees, are living.
This is the result of the negotiations which took place at the lastest meeting of the head of states of Russia, Iran and Turkey – the “guarantee powers” of the so-called Astana process – in Sochi on 30-31 July 2018. Another important meeting took place prior to the Sochi conference when Russia's Presidential Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentyev — accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and Defense Ministry officials — visited Ankara and met with Turkish diplomats and military and intelligence authorities to discuss available options for Idlib. (1)
Putin Rouhani and Erdoğan agree in Sochi to Smash the last Citadel of the Syrian Revolution
The very first sentence of the Sochi statement reads: “The Parties reaffirmed their determination to fight against terrorism in Syria in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al‑Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL as designated by the UN Security Council.” (2)
This is the Assadist-imperialist language to justify an onslaught on Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and their allies. These petty-bourgeois Islamist movements control most of the north-western part of Syria. In opposite to a number of pro-Turkish FSA factions, HTS has never participated in the treacherous Astana talks and has always denounced those rebel factions which supported this process. Likewise, HTS issued a public statement condemning the Sochi conference and its results. They warned against the government offensive in Idlib and stressed the combat readiness of their fighters: "Idlib gathered the lions of the East, cougars of the North and pumas of the South, the very best of Mujahideen and Ansar." (3)
Irrespective of our political rejection of the petty-bourgeois Islamist ideology of HTS and similar organizations, we take into account that they represent the most significant and determined forces of the ongoing popular struggle against the capitalist dictatorship of Assad. This is why HTS and their allies have become the main enemies of the tyrannical Assad regime, of Russian and U.S. imperialism as well as of the whole bunch of the pro-Assad pseudo-left around the globe. This is why we side with the anti-Astana forces in their efforts to continue the liberation struggle against the butchers Assad, Rouhani and Putin without lending any political support to their leadership. (4)
Astana Process – A Treacherous Conspiracy from the Beginning
As the RCIT has always pointed out, the so-called Astana talks – organized by Russia, Iran and Turkey and supported by the Assad regime and treacherous parts of the rebel’s leadership – have aimed since the beginning in January 2017 for the liquidation of the Syrian Revolution. (5)
It is this Astana conspiracy which is responsible for the sell-out of the liberation struggle which we saw in the last few months. As it is well know, Russia, Iran and Turkey formally agreed in Astana in September 2017 to create four so-called “de-escalation zones” – in Ghouta, northern Homs, Deraa, and Idlib.
In fact, these were agreements to pacify the liberation struggle and to allow the Assad regime to prepare its aggression. When Assad had finished his preparations, his army – with the military support of the Russian and Iranian forces and with the tacit agreement of Erdoğan – attacked and smashed one liberated enclave after the other. Ghouta was defeated in April this year. The Rastan pocket in Homs collapsed in May. And in June came the turn of Deraa.
Western and Israeli Support for the Assad Regime
Turkey didn’t raise a finger at any of these betrayals. Neither did the West despite the fact that the U.S. was formally a guarantee power of the Deraa “de-escalation zone”. (6) In fact, all capitalist powers – despite their rivalry between each other – are happy to see an end of the revolutionary process in Syria and to accept the bloody Assad regime. (7) As we have pointed out repeatedly, this is also true for U.S. imperialism as well as Israel. Contrary to the foolish leftists who claimed that the Syrian rebels were “agents of the U.S.” this was never the case for the huge majority of the fighters. In the first years of the uprising, Washington gave tacit, mainly diplomatic, support for the pro-Western sectors of the rebels in order to create problems in Moscow’s empire. However, when it turned out that Washington could not bring the country into its sphere of influence via a coup against Assad from within the Baathist state apparatus, they reconciled themselves with the prospect of Assad staying in power. (8)
As a consequence U.S. imperialism has always hunted down the most determined sectors of the anti-Assad rebels. Recently, it classified HTS once more as a “terrorist organization”. (9)
Likewise does Israel prefer a continuation of the Assad regime instead of a “revolutionary chaos”. True, they are not happy that Assad is a close ally of Iran – one of Israel’s arch-enemies. However, faced with the alternative of a revolutionary people coming to power, they unwavering prefer the Assad regime. In the end, Israel had a peaceful co-existence with Assad father and son for more than four decades.
Israel’s extreme right-wing Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the Zionist state’s positive assessment of the Assad regime very clear in statement on 2 August: “In Syria, as far as we are concerned, the situation is returning to the previous one before the civil war, meaning there is a clear address, there is responsibility and there is a central government,” Lieberman told journalists while visiting Israeli air defences.” (10)
A List of Assad’s Torture Victims
We remark as a side-note the ironic-tragic fact that right now, at the same time as all Great Powers agree in accepting the Assad tyranny as legitimate government of Syria, more and more details become public about the barbaric nature of this regime. Recently, the website Zaman al-Wasl published a list of 7,953 people who died in Syrian regime prisons over the past seven years. This list is based on official death notices of the regime served to the families of detainees. These victims have been most likely tortured to death by the Assadist security services. (11)
The list of these 8,000 martyrs is certainly only the tip of the iceberg as there have been at least 104,000 people have been arrested or forcibly-disappeared by the regime since 2011, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Other sources speak about up to 200,000 people imprisoned by the barbaric Assad regime. The fate of many of these is unknown and one has to fear that the regime has already killed many of them. (12)
The Plan to Smash Liberated Idlib
Naturally, the Assad regime would like to simply attack and conquer Idlib. In a recent interview with Russian media, Assad said: ““Now we have liberated Ghouta, we will finish the liberation of the south-western part of Syria. (...) Now Idlib is our goal, but not just Idlib." (13)
However, the regime can’t do so without Moscow’s approval. Without the decisive support of the Russian Air Force, the Assadist army would have no chance to defeat the rebel forces.
The Putin regime, however, wants to keep its alliance with Erdoğan as Turkey is an important regional power. This would not only advance Russia’s goal to expand its influence in the Middle East. (14) Drawing Ankara into Moscow’s orbit would be also a major blow to the Western imperialist powers. (15)
In the past, the Erdoğan government gave some tacit support to sectors of Syria’s rebels. However, this has changed since the fall of Aleppo in December 2016 and since then Ankara is interested in bringing the Syrian Revolution to an end as well as to keep the Kurdish forces away from the borders.
Ankara strongly opposes a full-blown attack of Assad’s army against Idlib. Such an attack would likely propel many of the Syrian civilians currently residing in Idlib to seek refuge in Turkey. The United Nations has already warned of a humanitarian catastrophe. (16)
This would create a massive dilemma for the Erdoğan regime as a commentator of The New York Review of Books explains: “Whether Turkey will continue to keep its border closed to newcomers if thousands of Syrians are being slaughtered on the other side remains to be seen. But if Turkey were to experience a large new influx of asylum-seekers, few of whom would be eager to return to life under the Assad government, Ankara could face pressure from inside the country, where anti-refugee sentiment is growing, to suspend the deal it made with the European Union to curtail the flow of asylum-seekers across the Aegean Sea to Greece. Preventing a massacre in Idlib to begin with is a far better option.” (17)
Moreover a regime takeover of Idlib would endanger Turkey’s control over Afrin, Jarablus and al-Bab further in the north of Syria.
For all these reasons Moscow, Teheran, Ankara and Damascus seem to have agreed to the following procedure.
First, Assad’s army, with Russian and Syrian support, will attack and try to conquer sectors of the rebel-controlled areas in north Latakia, northern Hama and Jisr al-Shughour. (18) This is particular important for Moscow as this area is close to Russia’s Air Base in Hmeimim and it faced already several attacks by drones launched by rebel forces. Such an attack is also crucial for the Assadist forces as the area around Jisr al-Shugour and the al-Ghaab Plain is controlled by the Turkestan Islamic Party, a highly disciplined Islamist force which is largely based on exiled Uyghurs (an important Muslim minority people which faces severe oppression in imperialist China). (19)
In addition, the regime is determined to bring the strategically important M5 highway under its control as it connects the country’s most important cities – Damascus and Aleppo. (20)
Pro-Astana Factions under Turkish Command
At the same time, Turkey will organize a massive clampdown – and if necessary a bloody civil war – in Idlib in order to force into capitulation or smash HTS, TIP and other liberation forces which oppose the Astana betrayal. For this purpose they are currently uniting and arming various pro-Astana factions which have traded the struggle against the Assad tyranny for (paid) services for the Erdoğan regime. This latest “unification” project of the pro-Astana factions is called Jabhat al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir (JWT, National Front for Liberation). (21) It unites those treacherous factions which have already served Turkey in the past like Ankara’s Euphrates Shield operation in 2016/17, the conquest of Afrin in January/February 2018 and finally the bloody (but failed) assault of the JTS forces against HTS in February-April 2018. (22)
True, the JWT leadership claims that its goal is to "block all attempts by the regime to advance" towards rebel areas. (23) But given the history of the Astana factions and the current agreement between Russia, Iran and Turkey – that the later purges the anti-Astana force itself –, it is much more likely the purpose of the recent unification of the pro-Astana faction is to prepare for a large-scale counter-revolutionary Night of the Long Knives. We have already seen in the past months a never-ending series of insidious assassinations against HTS militants, including a number of commanders. (24) These assassinations seem to have been organized by Daesh/ISIS, agents of Assad as well as agents of Turkey’s secret service MIT. (25)
The Middle East Eye, a well informed source, reports about Turkey’s determination to finish off the anti-Astana liberation forces:
“Turkey is working to clear al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated groups from Idlib, staving off a major offensive by Damascus against the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria. According to a Turkish diplomatic source who has been working on Syria for six years, Ankara is working with other opposition groups in Idlib to eliminate the militants. Most of Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria. Delegates from Turkey, Iran and Russia gathered in Sochi on Monday for two days of talks aiming to resolve the situation in northern Syria. A Syrian opposition commander, who spoke to the Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity, said that Russia and Iran were also prioritising removing the militants from Idlib, rather than planning an all-out assault, despite threats by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to retake the territory. The commander added that the US was happy with Russia and Turkey’s Idlib plan, since it meant the Turkish-backed opposition would be in control of the city instead of Iran and Syrian government-backed forces.” (26)
Putin Wants to Eliminate Also the Northern Caucasus Militants
Furthermore, such a civil war in Idlib against the anti-Astana forces would allow the Assadist-Russian aggressors to liquidate the Northern Caucasus militants who were forced to flee Russia with their families because of the severe repression of the national minorities by the Putin regime and its local lackeys like Kadyrov. Today many of these fighters continue their struggle against Russian imperialism in Syria and support the liberation struggle of their brothers and sisters in Idlib. (27)
Naturally, socialists support the right of national self-determination of the oppressed national minorities in North Caucasus and struggle their liberation struggles. (28) Hence, we side with the Northern Caucasus militants against the Assadist and Russian butchers.
Putin and Erdoğan have an Agreement
In short, Putin, Rouhani, Erdoğan and Assad, with the support of the pro-Astana rebel leaders, have reached an agreement to pacify Idlib as the last citadel of the Syrian Revolution. While Assad’s army will take some sectors, Turkey and its pro-Astana “rebels” will assault the remaining liberation forces from within. The goal is to liquidate any meaningful opposition against the Astana process so that the Syrian Revolution can be liquidated. Turkey and its lackeys would administer Idlib in a way that it would no longer serve as a launching platform for attacks against the Assad regime. If the province will be handed over to Assad later or not, will be subject of future negotiations and dirty deals.
This agreement is the background for recent statements of leading representatives of imperialist Russia. Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Alexander Lavrentyev saying on 31 July: "I’d rather refrain from speaking about the city’s [Lavrentyev is referring to Idlib City, the capita of the province, Ed.] storming or a pending operation. There are too many rumors and they are unfounded. Any large-scale operation [pay attention to the wording: this does not exclude a “small-scale” operation by the Assadist-Russian forces, Ed.] in Idlib is out of the question. (...) We still hope that both the moderate opposition and our Turkish partners who assumed commitments on stabilizing this area will eventually manage this.” (29)
The usually well-informed Al-Monitor website quoted a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry: “A certain level of understanding has been reached with Turkey that there should be no offensive on Idlib in the immediate term. We took into account the concerns our Turkish partners have regarding a possible outburst of refugees. Based on earlier discussions and talks in Sochi, we’ll be cooperating in fighting terrorists there and will see what happens.” (30)
Can They Succeed?
Now, this is the counter-revolutionary plan of Russia, Iran, Turkey and Iran with the pro-Astana rebels collaborating. However, it is a plan which will definitely face massive challenges. Most importantly, the pro-Astana traitors first have to succeed in smashing the HTS forces. It would be naive to exclude such an outcome. As a matter of fact, the liberation forces, fighting since more than seven years, are exhausted. They have suffered a number of defeats. They have been betrayed by Turkey. All Great Powers and all regional powers are determined to finish off the Syrian Revolution.
Furthermore, HTS and its allies have faced a series of backstabbing assaults and assassination campaigns by the Astana lackeys in recent months. While they still number several tens of thousands of militants they are certainly weakened.
In addition, we take it for granted that Ankara will try to bribe off sectors of the HTS leadership. In protest against this, there have been already several splits of more hard-line groupings which led to the formation of the pro-Al-Qaida groupings like Tanẓīm Ḥurrās ad-Dīn. They criticise any compromise with Turkey. It would be naive to exclude the possibility of a capitulation of a sector of the HTS leadership.
However, it is also possible that anti-Astana factions succeed again in repulsing such an attack – as they did a few months ago against the JTS traitors. What will happen then? It is possible that Turkey might directly intervene and send its army to smash HTS. Or they could also agree to open the roads for Assad’s army and the Russian Air Force so that there will be a bloody final showdown. Or we see some kind of combination of these two scenarios.
Kurdish YPG/SDF: Mercenaries of many Masters
Another possibility is that the Assad regime makes used of the battle-hardened Kurdish YPG/SDF militias – which is the Syrian branch of the petty-bourgeois nationalist PKK in Turkey led by Abdullah Öcalan. As has been widely reported, the YPG/SDF leadership is currently negotiating with Damascus in order to get a deal. (31) This is hardly surprising as the YPG leadership has never supported the uprising of the Syrian people since its beginning in 2011.
As part of these negotiations, it has offered Assad to join its assault on Idlib and help out in smashing the last citadel of the Revolution. Salih Muslim, a key leader of the YPG/SDF, announced the Kurdish forces readiness to support the counterrevolution: Kurdistan 24, a broadcast news station controlled by the YPG, reported about an interview with this leader: “On military operations against Turkish-backed militants in Idlib and Afrin, Muslim stressed that “wherever there are terrorists, we ready to fight them, as we fought them in Serikani, Raqqa, and many other parts of Syria.” He said militant groups in Idlib are not different from those in Afrin. “Fighting in Idlib or Afrin is our duty and responsibility, and when we fight in Idlib, it will be our decision as we are not tools in the hands of others,” he said.” (32)
Amberin Zaman, a journalist who served as The Economist's Turkey correspondent for many years, reports that the US, which the YPG has served in recent years, is not opposed to their latest turn to the Assad regime:
“Contrary to the conventional view that Washington is unhappy with the YPG’s recent overtures to the regime, it is actually encouraging them, with the initial objective being to persuade the regime to help restore services in areas held by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces and where US special forces are currently based. It's seen as a vital piece of stabilization efforts in the swath of northeastern Syria that was liberated from the Islamic State and crucial to ensuring that it remains so.” (33)
It is worth reminding that the petty-bourgeois nationalists of the YPG have been praised for years by many pseudo-leftist forces in the West as well as in Russia. In fact, the YPG leadership has acted as servant of U.S. imperialism in order to conquer the North and East of Syria. Now, when the Trump Administration seems to be willing to give up Syria, the so-called “socialist” and “anti-imperialist” leadership of the YPG is looking for a new master. As Assad seems to win the civil war, the YPG is offering its service to the butcher of the Syrian people. They even volunteer to help him killing the tens of thousands of liberation fighters which are trapped in Idlib! What a shame! Contrary to the idiotic myth spread by the Stalinist, Anarchist and pseudo-Trotskyist left, the YPG are not socialists but rather pro-imperialist mercenaries and political prostitutes! Yes, the master might change – but the corrupted and reactionary nature of the YPG leadership remains the same!
Let us finally repeat, that faced with the final onslaught on Idlib, the last citadel of the Syrian Revolution, no honest revolutionary, no socialist, no democrat can remain neutral. Too many leftists who initially supported the Syrian Revolution have cowardly deserted it in the last years (e.g. Peter Taffees CWI, Alan Woods IMT, the PTS/FT, the L5I and various others). Those who have remained loyal to the liberation struggle must now stand with the fighters who refuse to capitulate!
All those who support the Syrian Revolution must reject the reactionary Astana conspiracy, must support the continuation of the liberation struggle and, hence, must side with those forces who are ready to fight against the sell-out. We re-emphasize the RCIT’s call for a united front of all anti-capitulationist liberation forces. The basis for such a united front is very simple as it is centered on the immediate tasks of the hour:
* Defend Idlib against an attack by the Assadist forces and its Russian and Iranian masters!
* Defend Idlib also against an insidious assault by the Turkish-led pro-Astana “rebel” forces!
* No to the counter-revolutionary Astana deal!
* Continue the struggle against the Assad tyranny and its Russian and Iranian masters!
* All foreign powers – Russia, US, Iran, Turkey – out of Syria!
Naturally, such a platform is very limited. It is certainly no replacement for a positive revolutionary program. (34) But such a platform could represent a starting point to push back the reactionary offensive aimed at the liquidation of the Syrian Revolution.
* * * * *
The RCIT has published a number of booklets, statements and articles on the Syrian Revolution which can be read on a special sub-section on this website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/
(1) See e.g. Maxim A. Suchkov: Russia, Turkey seek peaceful solutions to 'imminent' Idlib battle, August 1, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/08/russia-turkey-syria-idlib-solutions.html
(2) Final statement by Iran, Russia and Turkey on the International Meeting on Syria, Sochi, July 30-31, 2018, https://southfront.org/final-statement-by-iran-russia-and-turkey-after-negotiations-on-syrian-conflict-in-sochi/
(3) 31. Juli 2018 https://twitter.com/smmsyria/status/1024196673227120640
(4) See on this e.g. RCIT: Denounce the US terror listing of Syria’s Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham! The Trump Administration delivers another blow to the Syrian Revolution. Continue the Solidarity with the liberation struggle of the Syrian people! 03.06.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/denounce-the-us-terror-listing-of-syria-s-hts/
(5) See on this various statements which are collected in a special section of our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/. In particular we refer to 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/ and chapter V of Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings, February 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/worldperspectives-2018/chapter-v/.
(6) The following, rather glumly, comments on the West’s betrayal of its allies in Deraa from the viewpoint of a pro-imperialist British journalist, are worth quoting in length:
“In theory, Deraa should have been an immense challenge [for Assad’s army, Ed.]. The rebels had resisted far more successfully than their northern brethren infiltration by the jihadists and coalesced into a unified structure, the Southern Front, under U.S. guidance, a model of what the United States could have done to bolster its allies and defeat the radicals in Syria had it so chosen. Israel also supported some of these rebel factions and their civilian supporters.
Yet Deraa buckled quickly. After an merciless aerial campaign in the eastern countryside, Deraa city itself fell two weeks ago to the pro-Assad coalition, and Israel evacuated many of the Syrian Civil Defence “White Helmets”, the medical first-responders. Several scattered rebel outposts remain along the Israeli and Jordanian borders, plus an ISIS-held enclave.
The rebels in southern Syria had long been restrained by their purported backers in Jordan and the United States from fighting Assad and Washington cut off supplies last year. Demoralised, starved of resources, and infiltrated by government spies , there was no way the Southern Front could hold out for long on its own.
It might have been expected that the United States would step in, however. The United States had been a guarantor of the “de-escalation zone” since June 2017 and as the regime coalition was preparing the offensive, Washington said on three separate occasions that it would protect the ceasefire in the area. The United States then changed its mind and said the rebels were on their own.
Israel’s decision to stand aside is even more perplexing. Russia promised that Iranian troops would not enter the area, but Russia’s weak position and the nature of the Assad regime, shattered and entangled with Iran’s Shia militias, meant this was not a credible promise. Even had Iran’s appendages been kept out of the offensive itself Iran would have occupied the space afterwards. In the event, Iran did not even wait that long.” (Kyle Orton: Russia to pick apart NATO allies to reconquer all of Syria, Jul 31 2018, https://ahvalnews.com/idlib/russia-pick-apart-nato-allies-reconquer-all-syria)
(7) See on this e.g. our pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: Syria and Great Power Rivalry: The Failure of the „Left“. The bleeding Syrian Revolution and the recent Escalation of Inter-Imperialist Rivalry between the US and Russia – A Marxist Critique of Social Democracy, Stalinism and Centrism, 21 April 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/syria-great-power-rivalry-and-the-failure-of-the-left/; see also Warmongering in the Middle East: Down with all Imperialist Great Powers and Capitalist Dictatorships! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), Alkebulan School of Black Studies (Kenya), Pacesetters Movement (Nigeria), Pan-Afrikan Consciousness Renaissance (Nigeria), Marxist Group ‘Class Politics’ (Russia), and Sınıf Savaşı (Turkey), 13 May 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/joint-statement-warmongering-in-the-middle-east/; Global Trade War: No to Great Power Jingoism in West and East! Neither Imperialist Globalization nor Imperialist Protectionism! For International Solidarity and Joint Struggle of the Working Class and Oppressed People! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), Marxist Group ‘Class Politics’ (Russia), Alkebulan School of Black Studies (Kenya), Pan-Afrikan Consciousness Renaissance (Nigeria), Courant des Jeunes Penseurs Congolais (Democratic Republic of Congo), and Sınıf Savaşı (Turkey), 4 July 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/joint-statement-on-the-looming-global-trade-war/
(8) See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Syria: Assad’s Massacre in East Ghouta and the Western Hypercritics, 23.02.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/assad-s-massacre-in-east-ghouta-and-the-western-hypercritics/; Michael Pröbsting: Is the Syrian Revolution at its End? Is Third Camp Abstentionism Justified?
(9) U.S. Department of State: Amendments to the Terrorist Designations of al-Nusrah Front, Media Note, Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC, May 31, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/05/282880.htm#.WxB2lEv4KuA.twitter; see on this our statement RCIT: Denounce the US terror listing of Syria’s Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham!
(10) AFP : Israel Sees Advantages in Assad Victory in Syria, 08/03/2018 https://www.juancole.com/2018/08/israel-advantages-victory.html
(11) Zaman al-Wasl: Check names of 8000 detainees tortured to death: lists, 2018-07-29, https://en.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/36478/
(12) See e.g. Names released of 8,000 Syrians 'tortured to death' in regime jails, 30 July, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/7/30/names-released-of-8-000-syrians-tortured-to-death; Reuters: Flurry Of Syrian Death Notices Shows Fate Of Government Detainees, 31.7.2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-detainees/flurry-of-syrian-death-notices-shows-fate-of-government-detainees-idUSKBN1KL2PA
(13) Next priority is retaking Idlib, Assad tells Russian media, 28 July 2018, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1346796/middle-east
(14) On the RCIT’s analysis of Russia as an imperialist power see the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/. In particular we refer to Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/
(15) See e.g. Semih Idiz: Is a storm brewing for Turkey in Idlib? July 31, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/07/turkey-syria-russia-can-putin-afford-disregard-ankara.html; Tom Perry: For buoyant Assad, Syrian war enters tricky phase, July 30, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-assad-analysis/for-buoyant-assad-syrian-war-enters-tricky-phase-idUSKBN1KK1XC
(16) Patrick Wintour: UN warns Idlib could be next Syrian disaster zone in 'marathon of pain', 25 April 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/top-un-officials-voice-fears-of-new-aleppo-in-syrias-idlib-province
(17) Kenneth Roth: Russia’s Responsibility in the Syrian Reconquest of Idlib, July 24, 2018, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/07/24/russias-responsibility-in-the-syrian-reconquest-of-idlib/
(18) Amberin Zaman: Ankara’s eyes on Idlib as Astana group gathers in Sochi, July 31, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/07/turkey-russia-iran-meet-sochi.html
(19) Ece Goksedef: Turkey to clear Idlib of militants to prevent Syrian government assault, 1 August 2018 http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-happy-russia-and-turkey-s-idlib-plans-2118571356
(20) Mona Alami: The coming battle for Idlib, August 2, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/08/syria-idlib-battle-regime-rebels-russia.html
(21) See on this e.g. Syria rebels announce new coalition in Idlib, 2 August, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/8/2/syria-rebels-announce-new-coalition-in-idlib; Nedaa Syria: Revolutionary factions of northern Syria preparing to repel the Russian attack with central operations room & 1000s of fighters, 29 Jul, 2018 http://nedaa-sy.com/en/reports/153; Charles Lister, a US expert on the Middle East, commented on Twitter: “BREAKING - #JTS (Ahrar al-Sham & #Zinki) have merged into the #FSA-run National Liberation Front (NLF), alongside Suqor al-Sham, Jaish al-Ahrar & Tajamu Dimashq. #Turkey cements its influence in #Idlib yet further - as non-#HTS armed opposition groups seek to deter regime.” (https://twitter.com/Charles_Lister/status/1024706551066624001)
(22) Our assessment of the Turkish invasion in Afrin is summarized in RCIT: Syria: No to Turkey’s Attack on Afrin! Defend the Syrian Revolution against Annihilation! The Syrian Revolution must reject sectarianism and strive to create multinational unity among Arabs, Turks and Kurds! Rally all forces against the Assadist-Iranian-Russian Aggression in Idlib! 22.01.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/no-to-turkey-s-attack-on-afrin/; Michael Pröbsting: Syria/Idlib: The Attack of the Astana Conspirators could be repelled thus far. Turkey’s allies Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Ahrar al-Sham continue their aggression against Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham. This represents a mortal danger for the Syrian Revolution! 05.03.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-idlib-the-attack-of-the-astana-conspirators-could-be-repelled-thus-far/; Michael Pröbsting: Syria: Turkey's hidden war against HTS in Idlib. On the character of the military offensive of Nour al-Din al-Zenki and Ahrar al-Sham against Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham, 25.02.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/turkey-s-hidden-war-against-hts-in-idlib/
(23) Syria rebels announce new coalition in Idlib, 2 August, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/8/2/syria-rebels-announce-new-coalition-in-idlib
(24) Even pro-Assad sources have to admit that HTS suffers the brunt of these assassinations. (See e.g. Leith Aboufadel: Jihadists suffer heavy losses in ranks after more assassinations take place in Idlib, 2018-05-25, https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/jihadists-suffer-heavy-losses-in-ranks-after-more-assassinations-take-place-in-idlib/ )
(25) Shamefully, the leadership of the Ahrar al Sham continues to defend its participation in and support for the Astana sell-out. See e.g. the statement of Omran Muhammad, spokesman of Ahrar al Sham in a recently published interview: “It is not true to consider Astana meeting as a failure. You have to look as it as a step or a trial to risk you what is remaining of the liberated areas. Once the Astana meetings started, you know that the three countries Iran, Turkey and Russia wanted to stop the fighting and declare a ceasefire, because each of these countries have goals and benefits of ending the fight. This was the main reason of Astana. The main reason of collapsing of those areas like Ghouta and northern Homs is that they were already under siege and away from friends of those areas like rebels and Turkey. So it was not hard to fall down.” (Special Interview: Media Relation responsible of Ahrar al Sham Omran Muhammad, Suriye Gündemi, 30 July 2018 http://en.suriyegundemi.com/special-interview-media-relation-responsible-ahrar-al-sham-omran-muhammed/ )
An even worse example of treachery is the case of several ex-rebel units in the Southwest of Syria. The leaderships of these pro-Western, FSA-type factions are ready to reconcile with the bloody Assad regime and to become its servants! Several articles report about their integration into Assad’s army. See e.g. Alsouria Net: A Recruitment Race Starts in Southern Syria. The regime and its allied militias are racing to conscripts rebel fighters, that agreed to reconciliation deals, to their ranks, July 26th, 2018, http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/34545/A_Recruitment_Race_Starts_Southern_Syria/; Haid Haid: Joining the Enemy: How the Syrian Regime Reintegrates Former Rebel Fighters, July 2018, https://syria.chathamhouse.org/research/joining-the-enemy-how-the-syrian-regime-reintegrates-former-rebel-fighters
(26) Ece Goksedef: Turkey to clear Idlib of militants to prevent Syrian government assault, 1 August 2018 http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-happy-russia-and-turkey-s-idlib-plans-2118571356
(27) “Another important factor is that all the anti-Russia Northern Caucasus fighters have assembled in Idlib. Russia was hoping from the outset to settle its accounts with these homegrown enemies away from home territory.” (Fehim Tastekin: Syria's Idlib emerges as Achilles heel in Russia-Turkey partnership, July 30, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/07/turkey-russia-syria-astana-on-verge-of-collapse-due-to-idlib.html)
(28) On the RCIT’s analysis of and position on the oppression of national minorities in imperialist Russia see e.g. RCIT: Solidarity with the Liberation Struggle of the Chechen People! February 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/solidarity-with-the-liberation-struggle-of-the-chechen-people/; Freedom for the Chechen People! Down with Putin and Kadyrov! Report (with Pictures and Videos) from the RKO BEFREIUNG (Austrian Section of the RCIT), 26 February 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/chechnya-solidarity-feb-2017/; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. (Chapter III)
(29) TASS: Large-scale operation in Syria’s Idlib out of question, says Russia’s chief negotiator, 31 July 2018, http://tass.com/politics/1015572; No major assault planned on Syria's Idlib: Moscow, 1 August, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/8/1/no-major-assault-planned-on-syrias-idlib-moscow
(30) Maxim A. Suchkov: Russia, Turkey seek peaceful solutions to 'imminent' Idlib battle, August 1, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/08/russia-turkey-syria-idlib-solutions.html
(31) See also Wladimir van Wilgenburg: Syrian official says Damascus will retake Idlib, accuses Turkey of occupying Afrin, 31.7.2018, http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/b43c33ca-ffcd-4139-993c-02a89d08cf9d; Reuters: Syrian Kurds say they will 'chart roadmap to decentralized Syria' with Damascus, July 28, 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-kurds/syrian-kurds-say-they-will-chart-roadmap-to-decentralized-syria-with-damascus-idUSKBN1KI05I; Syrian Kurds say plotting path to decentralisation with Assad government, MEE and agencies 28 July 2018, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-kurdish-group-says-it-and-government-form-committees-end-violence-1801170266; Tom Perry: Syrian Kurdish-backed council holds talks in Damascus, July 27, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-talks/syrian-kurdish-backed-council-holds-talks-in-damascus-idUSKBN1KH0Q9; Mohammad Bassiki: Why Syria's Kurds are inclined to negotiate with Damascus, July 26, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/07/syria-regime-kurds-north-east-negotiations.html; Ellen Francis: Wary of U.S. ally, Syrian Kurds look to Damascus for talks, July 25, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-kurds/wary-of-u-s-ally-syrian-kurds-look-to-damascus-for-talks-idUSKBN1KF2NN; Fehim Tastekin: As conditions shift in Syria, Kurds open to talks with Damascus, June 21, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/turkey-syria-what-pushes-kurds-deal-with-regime.html
(32) Helbast Shekhani: Kurdish leader reveals details of first meeting with Syrian government, July 30-2018, http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/54d92d6a-2f82-457f-a8da-5b5b579ef70c
(33) Amberin Zaman: Ankara’s eyes on Idlib as Astana group gathers in Sochi, July 31, 2018 https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/07/turkey-russia-iran-meet-sochi.html
(34) The RCIT’ analysis of the Syrian Revolution and our political strategy can be read in numerous documents and articles which are collected in a special section of our website https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/. Our latest comprehensive analysis can be read in the recently published book by Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018, Chapter V. Middle East and North Africa: Reactionary Offensive, Wars and Popular Uprisings; see also Michael Pröbsting: Is the Syrian Revolution at its End? Is Third Camp Abstentionism Justified?