Are we witnessing the last stand of the Syrian Revolution?
by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 09.10.2018, www.thecommunists.net
The implementation of the Sochi Surrender Deal – agreed between Russia and Turkey – is moving forward. As we have elaborated in a number of articles in the past weeks, this deal – which characteristically has been praised by the ruling classes of all Great Powers as well as regional powers – represents a mortal danger for the liberation struggle of the Syrian people. (1)
Russia and Turkey are putting enormous pressure on the rebels in the Greater Idlib region to withdraw all their heavy weapons from the so-called Demilitarization Zone. This zone, about 20 km deep from the frontlines, covers nearly half of the whole remaining liberated territory in the north. Furthermore, the Russian-Turkish deal stipulates that those forces which, until now, have been the most consistent, hard-line factions in struggling against the tyranny must be expelled from this zone.
If the Sochi Surrender Deal is fully implemented, it would represent a tragic defeat for the glorious Syrian Revolution. Idlib would be transformed into a Turkish colony and, sooner or later, it would be attacked and conquered by Russia and Assad.
Just a few days ago, Assad blatantly stated that the Sochi Deal is only a "temporary measure": "The agreement is a temporary measure through which the state has realised many achievements on the ground starting with stemming the bloodshed. (...) This province and other Syrian territory still under terrorist control will return to the Syrian state." (2) The same intention to attack and conquer free Idlib has been already announced by the Russian government as well as other officials of the regime in Damascus. (3)
Furthermore, despite pretending to defend the Syrian people against the Assad tyranny, the Turkish government has already outlined a scenario under which it would be prepared to hand over Idlib to the regime. A few days ago, President Erdoğan said that Turkish troops will stay in Syria only until the Syrian people hold elections: "Whenever the Syrian people hold an election, we will leave Syria to its owners after they hold their elections." (4)
As it is well known, the Assad regime is quite capable of organizing “elections” (of course, with a guaranteed result in its favor). When Moscow, Ankara and Damascus will have agreed on a deal, Assad will hold such “elections” and Erdoğan will call them “fair” and withdraw his troops from Syria. There should be no doubt that they will leave a Syria ruled by the iron fist of a military dictatorship – irrespective if it is headed by Assad or another tyrant.
Hence, the evil Sochi Deal only weakens and disarms the liberation forces so that they will be less capable to resist the inevitable invasion of the Russia/Assadist aggressors.
Pro-Turkish Rebel Factions Implement Sochi Deal
Unfortunately, the leaders of the pro-Turkish rebel factions – nearly all of them are united in Jabhat al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir (National Front for Liberation) – have mostly agreed with the Sochi Surrender Dear and praised Ankara’s role (from where they also receive their salaries). They tell the Syrian people in Idlib to accept withdrawal and disarmament since they should trust the Turkish army to defend them against Russia and the Assad tyranny.
This is a criminal deceit given the fact that Turkey has not lifted a finger when Russia and Assad broke other deals and stormed the liberated enclaves in Ghouta, northern Homs, or Deraa. It is evident that the Erdoğan regime is primarily interested in profitable relations with imperialist Russia and other powers and does not give a damn about the fate of the Syrian workers and oppressed.
According to Naji Mostafa, spokesperson of JWT/NFL, the pro-Turkish rebels have already withdrawn all their heavy weapons from the Demilitarization Zone in the last days. This has been confirmed by a number of reports. (5)
As we have shown in past articles Turkey is mobilizing all means – persuasion, bribes, threats and assassinations – in order to make the rebels comply. We have always warned that Ankara is prepared to military attack the liberation forces defending the Syrian Revolution.
The main targets of these threats are various petty-bourgeois Islamist movements like Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham, Tanzim Hurras al Din, Ansar ad-Din and the Turkistan Islamic Party. While we are aware that they adhere to a reactionary ideology, we also recognize that these forces currently represent the most determined sectors of the liberation struggle which are unwilling to capitulate to the reactionary plans of the Great Powers and regional powers to liquidate the Syrian Revolution. (6) This is why all counterrevolutionary forces – from Assad, Putin, Rouhani to Trump and Erdoğan – want to smash them.
These factions are currently the main obstacle in implementing the Sochi Surrender Deal as they refuse to support it – in contrast to the pro-Turkish rebels. Some of these rejectionist factions have already formally denounced the Sochi Deal. The HTS leadership has not made an official statement until now. It is unclear if they are forced, under the combined pressure of Russia, Turkey and the JWT/NFL, to retreat or not. There are several reports about ongoing clashes between HTS and allied forces and the Assadist army, mostly in North-Eastern Latakia and Northern Hama, in which about 10 Assadist soldiers and a number of militants were killed. (7) There are also reports that these rejectionist factions are concealing their heavy weapons in trenches built for this purpose in the northern mountains of Latakia. (8)
As we did already report, it seems that a faction struggle is going on inside HTS if the movement should officially oppose the Sochi Deal. An opportunist wing seems to be prepared to accommodate to the Russian-Turkish pressure while the hard-line wing strongly opposes this. However, a number of leading figures have made clear that they reject the sell-out. Abu Malik al-Shami, the Number 2 in HTS, has denounced those who remove heavy weapons from the Demilitarization Zone. (9) Abu al-Fateh al-Farghali, a member of the HTS Shari'ah Committee and Shura member, has published a statement "Me or the Wolf?" in which he calls to oppose both an invasion by the Russian/Assadist forces as well as the Sochi Deal. (10) Other leading figures like Abu al-Yaqdhan and Abu-Shu’ayb have made similar declarations. (11)
It seems that Turkey, which carries the main responsibility to defeat the hard-line factions according to the Sochi Deal, has started now to launch military attacks against the rejectionist factions. There are several reports – both from pro-Assadist as well as from pro-HTS sources – that the Turkish army as well as the Turkish Air Force attacked HTS militants in Western Aleppo as well as in Idlib in the past days. (12) Furthermore, various pro-Turkish factions seem to mobilize their forces in order to launch an all-out attack, with the support of the Turkish army and Air Force, against HTS and their allies. The recent clashes between HTS and Nour al-Din Al-Zinki in the town of Kafr Halab in West Aleppo might be an indication for this. (13) Meanwhile the wave of assassinations, mostly against HTS commanders and militants, is continuing. (Since late April 2018, more than 330 liberation fighters have been assassinated in Idlib.)
These developments confirm once more our warnings about the reactionary role of Turkey and its local agents in the Syrian Revolution. (14) One must have no illusions: we might witness the last stand of the Syrian revolution. If Turkey and its factions – with the tacit agreement of Russia, Iran and Assad – attack HTS and other rejectionist forces, it would represent a catastrophic stab in the back of the Syrian Revolution. In such a conflict, all supporters of the liberation struggle against the Assad tyranny and Russian imperialism must side with the opponents of the Sochi Surrender Deal and against the treacherous servants of Ankara.
The RCIT repeats that it is urgent that all supporters of the Syrian Revolution – in Idlib as well as internationally – must oppose the Sochi Surrender Deal. We call for a broad rejectionist united front of all forces which agree to continue the struggle against the tyranny!
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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 the RCIT’s analysis of the most recent developments in Idlib and the grave dangers for the Syrian Revolution caused by the treacherous Sochi Deal we refer to several articles of Michael Pröbsting published in the past weeks: Syria/Idlib: For a Broad Rejectionist United Front against the Sochi Surrender Deal! 04.10.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-for-a-broad-rejectionist-united-front-against-the-sochi-surrender-deal/; Syria/Idlib: Down with the Sochi Surrender Deal! Brothers and Sisters in Idlib: Reject the Deal between Putin and Erdoğan! Do not Hand over Weapons! Turkey’s Army is not your Ally! Continue the Struggle against the Regime and Russia! 18.09.2018 (6.30 UTC Time), https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/sochi-deal-on-idlib-is-surrender/; Syria/Idlib: News Confirm that the Sochi Deal Means Surrender! An additional Analysis: What are the Assadist and Russian Plans behind the Sochi Deal? What has been the Reaction until now of the Rebel Leaders to the Sochi Deal? 18.09.2018 (19.30 UTC Time), https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-idlib-news-confirm-that-the-sochi-deal-means-surrender/; Syria: Mass Rallies in Idlib against the Regime and Russia. Support the Undaunted Revolutionary People resisting against the Final Onslaught of Assad and imperialist Russia against the last Citadel of the Syrian Revolution! 15.09.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/mass-rallies-in-idlib-against-the-regime-and-russia/; Erdoğan Offers “My Dear Friend” Putin to Disarm the Syrian Revolution, 08.09.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/erdogan-offers-putin-to-disarm-the-syrian-revolution/; Syria: Towards the Final Battle in Idlib. Assad, Russia, Iran and Turkey prepare for the final onslaught on the last Citadel of the Syrian Revolution, 04.08.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/syria-towards-the-final-battle-in-idlib/.
(2) Manar al-Frieh/Manal: President al-Assad during al-Baath Party’s Central Committee meeting: Idleb agreement is a temporary measure, 7 October، 2018 https://www.sana.sy/en/?p=148378; Middle East Eye: Syria's Assad says Russia-Turkey Idlib deal 'temporary measure', 7 October 2018 https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrias-assad-says-russia-turkey-idlib-deal-temporary-measure-1851857902
(3) Bogdanov: Agreement on Idleb is temporary measure, all Syrian territory must be liberated from terrorism, 28 September، 2018 https://www.sana.sy/en/?p=147799; Reuters: Russia: Moves for demilitarization of Syria’s Idlib underway, 28 September 2018 https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/09/28/Russia-Preparations-for-demilitarization-of-Syria-s-Idlib-are-underway-.html; Russia, Turkey agree borders of demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria – Lavrov, 21 Sep, 2018 https://www.rt.com/newsline/439029-russia-turkey-lavrov-idlib/; EPA-EFE / Sergei Ilnitsky: Lavrov says Russia-Turkey deal on Idlib aimed at eradicating terrorism, 9/21/2018, https://breakingthenews.net/lavrov-says-russia-turkey-deal-on-idlib-aimed-at-eradicating-terrorism/news/details/44949631; Russia-Turkey agreement on Idlib coordinated with Damascus - deputy PM, September 29, 2018, http://tass.com/world/1023653; Syria minister vows Idlib will be recovered: newspaper, September 25, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idlib/syria-minister-vows-idlib-will-be-recovered-newspaper-idUSKCN1M51A9
(4) Turkey 'will not leave' Syria until elections held, Erdogan says, 5 October, 2018 https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2018/10/5/turkey-will-not-leave-syria-until-elections-held-erdogan; Reuters: Turkey will not leave Syria until Syrian people have an election, Erdogan says, 2018-10-04 https://in.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkey-will-not-leave-syria-until-syrian-people-have-an-election-erdogan-says-idINKCN1ME284
(5) Syrian rebels complete withdrawal of heavy weapons from Idlib frontline: Anadolu, October 8, 2018 / https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/syrian-rebels-complete-withdrawal-of-heavy-weapons-from-idlib-frontline-anadolu-idUSKCN1MI0PN; Syrian rebels withdraw heavy weaponry from Idlib frontline, 8 October 2018 https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-rebels-withdraw-heavy-weaponry-idlib-frontlines-614174007; Orient Net : Opposition heavy weapons removed from Idlib’s DMZ, 2018-10-08 https://www.orient-news.net/en/news_show/154736/Opposition-heavy-weapons-removed-from-Idlibs-DMZ
(6) For our characterization of HTS see 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/; 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/; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings, February 2018, Chapter V, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/worldperspectives-2018/chapter-v/.
(7) Special Monitoring Mission to Syria: Idlib Weekly Situation Report, 2018-10-08 https://smmsyria.wordpress.com/2018/10/08/idlib-weekly-situation-report/
(8) Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Southeast of Idlib, the northern and northwestern countryside of Hama are free of visible heavy weapons, Latakia factions continue burying their heavy weapons in its mountains, 08/10/2018 http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=104196
(9) “The devil called them to pull their heavy weapons and they responded to him, and they started pulling tanks, vehicles, mortars, and cannons, so, will they also respond to him by handing over arms and leaving the Ribat points in application of the Sochi Conference and the conference of shame, so the Jihad in the land of Sham ends? What a shame they do...” (Quoted in Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The northern countryside of Hama is free of any overt presence of weapon and eastern and southeastern countryside of Idlib follow the same steps and the “Jihadis” pull their weapons away from the spotlight and media, 08/10/2018 http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=104189) See also: 8. Okt. 2018 https://twitter.com/milietw/status/1049238278791188480
(10) Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem), https://twitter.com/AbuJamajem/status/1048247837669187584?s=17, https://twitter.com/AbuJamajem/status/1048247841037193216?s=17
(11) 8. Okt. 2018 https://twitter.com/Minalami/status/1049354901032239105
(12) Special Monitoring Mission to Syria: Turkey Engages HTS As Erdogan Abides By The Deal On Idlib, 2018-10-08 https://smmsyria.wordpress.com/2018/10/08/turkey-engages-hts-as-erdogan-abides-by-the-deal-on-idlib/
(13) Syria rebels, jihadists clash near planned Idlib buffer: monitor, 2018-10-05, http://www.arabnews.com/node/1383176/middle-east
(14) 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/world-perspectives-2018/chapter-v/