New revelations about the approach of U.S. imperialism to the Assad regime
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 15.05.2019, www.thecommunists.net
One of the standard denunciations promoted by the obdurate supporters of Assad and Putin against the Syrian rebels has been that they have functioned as “CIA agents”. The Greek KKE, for example, a leading force in the international maze of Stalinism, denied the popular character of the mass uprisings in the Arab world, including Syria, vilifying the revolutionary masses as “proxies of U.S. imperialism”. (1)
Unfortunately, many Western progressive forces (including numerous, self-proclaimed “Trotskyists”) that were initial supporters of the Syrian Revolution also later deserted the struggle by echoing that scurrilous claim that the rebels had become “proxies” of the West.
In contrast, the RCIT and all authentic socialists and democrats, have consistently rejected such slanders. We denounced the image of the Assad regime as “anti-imperialist” as a reactionary myth. (2) While criticizing the petty-bourgeois nationalist and Islamist leadership of the struggle against the Assad tyranny, we have always defended the Syrian Revolution as an authentic popular uprising. (3)
We have patiently explained that U.S. imperialism was not sympathetic to Assad. They viewed him as a Russian proxy. However, Washington had hoped for a coup d'etat from within the Assadist state apparatus that would replace the pro-Russian lackey with a pro-Western lackey. They were temporarily willing to lend some modest material support to small sectors of the Syrian rebels. But this was always both tentative and limited in scope. The U.S. never seriously intended to arm the rebel masses nor dispatch troops to Syria in order to overthrow the regime. In fact, the number of U.S.-trained and armed fighters in the Syrian resistance movement was never more than a few hundred, at maximum, among a mass of 150-200,000 rebels (one U.S. general gave the number of 175). (4)
The real U.S. proxy has been the Kurdish SDF/YPG that has fought for years under the command of American imperialism. Unsurprisingly, this has not stopped the Stalinist sycophant, Assad, from cheering on the YPG! (5)
In contrast to the servile “left-wing” lackeys of Assad and Putin, the RCIT has always insisted that Washington viewed a successful popular revolution in Syria as a much bigger threat than the Assad regime itself. To head off such a popular revolution, U.S. imperialism collaborated with its Russian rival to pacify and disarm the rebels. (6) Washington also put the hard-line wing of the rebels, like HTS, on a terror list and repeatedly targeted their leading activists with assassination. (7)
Our analysis was recently confirmed, yet again, with the publication of the statement made by Andrew Exum at a hearing of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs on 9 May. Exum served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East Policy under the Obama Administration in 2015-17. (8)
Exum observed that by summer 2015 Washington panicked that the Assad regime might fall causing major damage to the interests of U.S. imperialism as well as to the Zionist state: “[W]e worried that the Assad Regime might finally collapse – and do so quickly, in a way that would endanger U.S. interests, to include the security of the state of Israel.”
The U.S. Administration was fully aware that Russia, its imperialist rival, viewed such a scenario with even greater worry: “It’s fair to conclude that if we, sitting as we were in a five-sided concrete box in Washington, were worrying the Assad Regime might suddenly collapse, the Russians and Iranians – sitting much closer to the situation – were likewise worried.”
As a consequence, according to Exum’s testimony, Washington held regular meetings with Moscow to negotiate and coordinate their intervention in Syria: “[F]or much of 2016, the U.S. government engaged in a lengthy series of negotiations with the Russian military and intelligence services over the fate of Syria.”
Naturally, this shared interest in preventing the Assad regime from collapsing did not extinguish the rivalry between the two imperialist Great Powers. As Exum acknowledges, Russia’s intervention in Syria had the secondary purpose of strengthening its global stature in relation to its Western rivals: “It was Russia’s way of saying to us, “You have your coalition, yes, but we have one as well. We are equal to you and deserve to be treated as a peer.””
These new revelations about the real intentions of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East demonstrate, once again, the idiocy of the Assad/Putin apologists who contradicted reality with their unending claims that U.S. imperialism was always on the verge of overthrowing the regime in Damascus.
Also revealed is the fact that precisely at the point when various self-proclaimed “Trotskyists” abandoned the Syrian Revolution, claiming that the rebels had become “proxies” of the West, that exactly in this phase (2015-16) U.S. imperialism was intensifying its collaboration with its Russian counterpart and intervened to safeguard the genocidal Assad regime!
This demonstrates, once more, that the task of revolutionaries remains, eight years after the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, one of supporting the legitimate popular uprising against the Assad tyranny and to coincidentally oppose the intervention of Russian, U.S. and all other imperialist powers. This merely illustrates the compelling truth that revolutionaries must base their intensified collaboration on a proper joint assessment of crucial world events such as the ongoing Arab Revolution.
(1) “It should be noted that the KKE from the very first moment, in 2011, denounced the intervention that has very serious consequences for the people of Syria and also for the people of the wider region. When bourgeois and opportunist parties celebrated the so-called “Arab Spring”, our party exposed the organized efforts to fund and arm the so-called Syrian opposition by the imperialist powers.” (Elisseos Vagenas: The Military-Political Equation in Syria, (Extensive excerpts from the article published in “Kommounistiki Epitheorisi”, the political-theoretical journal of the CC of the KKE, issue 1 of 2016), https://inter.kke.gr/en/articles/THE-MILITARY-POLITICAL-EQUATION-INSYRIA/.)
(2) See on this e.g. Yossi Schwartz: The Myth of Assad’s Syria as an Anti-Imperialist Regime, November 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/myth-of-assad-s-anti-imperialism/; see also Yossi Schwartz: Victory to the Revolution in Syria! The second anniversary of the uprising in Syria, 15.3.2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/victory-to-syrian-revolution/.
(3) 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/. 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/; 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/; 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/
(4) See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: How U.S. Strategists View the Syrian Revolution. Revealing Insights from some Documents of the U.S. Military Intelligence Establishment – Another Confirmation of Our Warnings, 25.09.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/how-u-s-strategists-view-the-syrian-revolution/; High-Ranking U.S. Delegation Meets Assad’s Security Chief. How Big Gangsters and Small Gangsters Negotiate to Get a Deal, 30.08.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/high-ranking-u-s-delegation-meets-assad-s-security-chief/; U.S. Imperialism Wants to “Re-Engage” with the Assad Tyranny. Comment on an Article by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter published in the New York Times, 28.08.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/u-s-imperialism-wants-to-re-engage-with-the-assad-tyranny/;
(5) See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Revelations of a U.S. General on Washington’s Allies in Syria. Another Blow to the Stalinist Myths about the Character of Syrian Liberation Fighters and the Role of the Kurdish SDF/YPG, 27.10.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/revelations-of-u-s-general-on-washington-s-allies-in-syria/
(6) See on this e.g. RCIT: Syria: Down with the Imperialist Geneva Accord! Stop US and Russian imperialist interference in Syria! No imperialist-controlled “peace” negotiations which can only result in a defeat for the Revolution! International Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution against the murderous Assad Dictatorship! 15.9.2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/against-geneva-accord/; RCIT: Great Powers Aim to Liquidate the Syrian Revolution! Mobilize for International Solidarity with the Syrian Liberation Struggle against the Assad Dictatorship! Stop the US, Russian and French Air Strikes! No to Daesh/IS-Terrorism! 18.11.2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/great-powers-syria/;
(7) See e.g. HTS: 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/
(8) Statement of Andrew Exum at the Hearing on May 9, 2019, United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee: Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, “Chinese and Russian Influence in the Middle East”, https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2019/5/chinese-and-russian-influence-in-the-middle-east (All quotes from Exum in this article are taken for this document.)