Category Archives: Israel

Hezbollah Is Launching An Offensive That Will Profoundly Change The Syrian War

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The following article below was originally published by Business Insider:

By Michael Kelley
June 3, 2013

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants hold flags as they walk towards the cemetery where their fellow fighters were buried during a ceremony conducted one day after Hezbollah’s Martyr’s Day, in the Beirut’s suburbs, November 12, 2010. (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)

Thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah militants are amassing around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in preparation for an assault on the city, Loveday Morris of The Washington Post reports.

The deployment demonstrates the group’s complete commitment to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and may profoundly affect the 26-month conflict.

“The Aleppo battle has started on a very small scale; we’ve only just entered the game,” a senior Hezbollah commander told The Post. “We are going to go after strongholds where they think they are safe. They are going to fall like dominoes.”

The commander had been overseeing five units in Qusair, a town near the Syria-Lebanon on border where Hezbollah has been spearheading a regime offensive to retake the town for the last three weeks.

The increased presence of the militant group, in addition to the arrival of sophisticated military technology such as Iranian surveillance drones and Russian anti-mortar systems, has helped solidify recent gains made by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah’s preparations to attack Aleppo, which is nowhere near the Lebanon-Syria border, significantly raises the stakes in the war.

“A deployment so deep into Syria and in such a crucial place would be a clear indication that Hezbollah’s role in Syria was never limited to defensive aims but is geared toward helping Assad score major victories,” Emile Hokayem, a Middle East-based analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Post.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and served as the country’s commercial hub before the war.

David Barrett of The Telegraph reports that the metropolitan population, about three million before the war, has grown to about 3.5 million since the opposition seized half the city last July.

Rebels, primarily al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, have been administering city services in areas under their control while a stalemate persists.

Syrian rebels walk through rubble and damaged buildings near the Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque on February 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Aref Heretani)

The guerrilla fighters of Hezbollah are training and advising the growing irregular militias being deployed by Assad.

At least 50,000 militiamen — known as Jaysh al-Sha‘bia i.e. “People’s Army” — are now fighting for Assad, and Iran aims to increase the force to 100,000 by sending fighters to a secret base in Iran for guerrilla combat training.

Last week Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, wrote that “Hezbollah’s all-in commitment is perhaps the single most important development of the war thus far and will profoundly affect its course.”

Israel, which has bombed Syria three times this year amid suspicions of weapons transfers to Hezbollah, is surely watching the developments closely.

One unintended consequence of the Shia group’s assertiveness inside Syria is an unprecedented galvanization of the fractured opposition.


Another immediate implication is increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is one of two major political parties.

“The presence of Hezbollah units around Aleppo will only deepen the divide in Lebanon and confirm, in the eyes of its rivals, Hezbollah’s complete alignment with Assad,” Hokayem told the Post, adding that it’s now plausible that Hezbollah is and will be utilized anywhere in the country.

Right on cue, on Sunday night a security source told al-Arabiya that one person was killed and 21 wounded in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli when pro- and anti-Assad Alawite and Sunni residents clashed.

Should the US bomb Syria?

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By Stephen Gowans

There is no compelling evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebel forces which seek its overthrow. But even if chemical weapons have been used, a military intervention by the United States, its NATO allies, or its regional proxies, would fail the test of humanitarian intervention. First, it would exacerbate, not reduce, the suffering of Syrians. Second, it would be undertaken for concealed reasons of economic and geostrategic gain, not to protect Syrians from chemical weapons, not for the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, and not to encourage tolerance of dissent, as the promoters of intervention would have us believe.

Moreover, a successful US-led intervention would eliminate a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist state committed to secularism, non-sectarianism, and public ownership of the commanding heights of its economy, and would, install, in its place, a US-client regime that would adopt a pro-US foreign policy, abandon the Palestinians, capitulate to Israel, and cater to Western investors and corporations. “Syria,” remarked president Bashar al-Assad, not without substance, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.” [1] This orientation would be completely reversed if a US intervention succeeded.

Three reasons the chemical weapons case against the Syrian government is weak at best

1. Britain and Israel claim to have evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents against armed rebels. The British evidence is based on tissue samples taken from armed rebels who claim to have been gassed by loyalist forces. To concretely make the case that the Syrian army used chemical weapons:

• The tissue samples would have to test positive for chemical agents.
• There could be no possibility the samples were tampered with.
• A direct link between the contaminated tissue and an attack by Syrian forces would need to be established.

Concerning the first point, we have nothing to rely on but the word of British authorities. Should we believe them? Britain has been implicated in attempts to concoct pretexts for military intervention with phony evidence before (see the bogus WMD claims used to justify the war on Iraq and the genocide fear-mongering pressed into service to justify NATO’s 1999 air war on Yugoslavia.)

What’s more, Britain is hardly a neutral party to the conflict in Syria, and therefore has an interest in manufacturing justifications for more open and direct meddling. That’s not to say that the tissue sample didn’t test positive, only that it would be foolhardy to suppose that a country that “sexed up” evidence to justify a war on Iraq can be trusted.

Secondly, “the samples collected by Britain may have been tainted by rebels who want to draw the West into the conflict on their side” [2], a point made by US officials.

Third, “the detection of chemical agents doesn’t necessarily mean they were used in an attack by the Syrian” army. [3] Rebels, for example, may have been accidentally exposed to chemical agents they, themselves, had in their possession.

The key point is that evidence of tissue contamination (if indeed such evidence exists) is not evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents, since there are multiple possible ways in which the tissue could have become contaminated.

2. Once US president Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was a red line that would trigger a more muscular US intervention, the Syrian calculus turned decidedly against their use. Using chemical agents against rebels would play directly into Washington’s hands, giving the bellicose superpower a pretext to intervene militarily in an open and direct fashion. This would be a disadvantage that would grossly outweigh any advantage that accrued from the weapons’ use. On the other hand, once Obama announced his red line, it made a ton of sense for the rebels to falsely claim they were gassed.

3. While an investigation by the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has found evidence that the rebels used sarin gas, no evidence has been found that the Syrian government has done the same. Commission member Carla Del Ponte reported that, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.” (Emphasis added.) [4]

An intervention would create harm

To reduce suffering, a military intervention would need to reduce harm to a greater degree than the military intervention itself would produce. Judging by previous US-led interventions undertaken for professedly humanitarian reasons, a military intervention in Syria would likely involve air strikes on Syrian military, government and even civilian facilities, with attendant civilian casualties, disruption of essential services, and massive displacement of non-combatants. According to The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bummiler, senior Pentagon officials have warned that “military intervention would be a daunting and protracted operation, requiring at least weeks of exclusively American airstrikes, with the potential for killing vast numbers of civilians.” (Emphasis added.) [5]

To be sure, an open and direct military intervention would be ardently welcomed by Syrian rebels, and their co-sectarian arms suppliers, the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. But it would kill many and make life even more miserable and uncertain for Syrians, especially those living in areas under loyalist control.

Far better to reach a political solution. But one of the reasons the Syrian civil war carries on is because the United States refuses to back a political resolution that would fall short of achieving its chief Syria foreign policy goal, namely, the ouster of Assad and his replacement by a pliant, pro-US government. A genuinely humanitarian intervention would set as its goal an end to hostilities, not the absorption of Syria into the US-Israeli camp.

Intervention would not be based on humanitarian concern

There is no reason to believe that the United States has any genuine interest in protecting Syrians from chemical weapons attacks. Washington dismissed out of hand evidence presented by the United Nations that the rebels used sarin gas, which is hardly what a government would do were it genuinely keen on protecting all Syrians from chemical attack, no matter which side of the conflict they’re on.

Significantly, US regime change policy in Syria antedates Syria’s civil war. The outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in Syria, and Damascus’s response to it, didn’t start the ball rolling on US efforts to force Assad from power. US regime change policy, linked to Damascus’s refusal to become a “peace-partner” with Israel, its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, and its refusal to fully open its economy to US capital, existed long before the Syrian government cracked down on opposition forces. In fact, one element of US foreign policy was to encourage opposition to the Assad government, [6] that is, to foment the kind of civil unrest that eventually morphed into a full blown civil war.

Multi-party representative democracy, a tolerant attitude to dissent, and eschewal of chemical weapons, have not been relevant components of US foreign policy decision making. Indeed, Washington has shown itself willing to overlook the absence of multi-party representative democracy, to ignore an intolerant attitude to dissent, and to turn a blind eye to the deployment of chemical weapons, where US corporate interests are promoted, either directly, or indirectly through the strengthening of United States’ geostrategic position. For example, Washington and its NATO allies have adopted a tolerant attitude to the violent suppression (aided by Saudi tanks) of a Shiite rebellion in Bahrain against an absolutist Sunni monarchy, while at the same time casually dismissing the UN’s concrete suspicions that the Syrian rebels used sarin gas. Significantly, Bahrain, a paragon of free-markets and free-enterprise, is home to the US Fifth Fleet; Saudi Arabia is a source of generous profits for US oil majors and New York investment banks; and the Syrian rebels are instruments through which US foreign policy goals of regime change in Damascus are to be achieved. If US foreign policy was indeed driven by democracy-promotion, human rights objectives, and non-proliferation goals, its attitude toward Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan and the possibility of sarin gas use by Syrian rebels, would be very different.

Conclusion

There are sound strategic reasons for the Syrian army to leave chemical weapons in storage. Deploying them would play into Washington’s hands by providing the United States with a pretext to escalate its intervention in the Syrian civil war. On the other hand, any force that would benefit from a more muscular US intervention on the rebels’ behalf has an interest in manufacturing evidence of the use of chemical agents by Syrian forces. This would include the rebels themselves and those of the United States’ allies that would like Washington to refashion Syria in their political or sectarian interests.

Much as intervention by the United States is sold as a humanitarian exercise, it fails the humanitarian test on two levels. First, it would create substantial harm. US military officials have warned that direct military intervention—which would take the form of US air strikes—would create massive civilian casualties. Second, US foreign policy is based on commercial, financial, and geostrategic goals, not the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, tolerance of dissent, and anti-proliferation. This is clear from a simple examination of the countries Washington supports: those with a congenial attitude to US free enterprise and a willingness to submit to US domination, regardless of their practices in connection with multiparty representative democracy, civil liberties and weapons of mass destruction.

For all these reasons the United States should not bomb Syria, and nor should it provide military, diplomatic, or any other kind of assistance to the Syrian rebels. Of course, what it should do and what it will do are very different matters, but all the same we should be clear that the chemical weapons case against Syria is a fraud, as is the idea that direct US military intervention in the Syrian conflict would have either a humanitarian basis or humanitarian outcome.

1. Bashar al-Assad May 19, 2013 interview with Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency.

2. Adam Entous, Joshua Mitnick and Stephen Fidler, “Syria used chemical arms, Israel says”, The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2013.

3. Ibid.

4. Alex Lantier, “UN says US-backed opposition, not Syrian regime, used poison gas”, World Socialist Web Site, May 7, 2013

5. Elisabeth Bummiler, “Military points to risks of Syrian intervention”, The New York Times, March 11, 2012.

6. Craig Whitlock, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by Wikileaks show”, The Washington Post, April 17, 2011.

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Commander says Iran is ready to train Syrian army in light of Israeli attacks

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May 5, 2013

Iran has denounced a reported Israeli attack on Syria and offered to assist ‘train’ the Syrian army if Damascus asks for help, commander of country’s ground forces stated. Iran has been urging for neighboring nations to stand against the assault.

“As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training, but won’t have any active involvement in the operations,” IRNA news agency quoted the commander of the Islamic republic’s army ground forces, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan as saying.

“The Syrian army has accumulated experience during years of conflict [with Israel], is able to defend itself and doesn’t need foreign assistance,” he added.

Israel reportedly carried out its second airstrike in three days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source confirmed to Reuters, targeting Iranian-supplied missiles to Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. The attack hit the Jamraya military research center, Syria’s state TV reported; while a senior Israeli official told AFP that the Israeli airstrike was carried out near Damascus Airport.

Iran has spoken out against the alleged airstrike, arguing that it was meant to create instability and insecurity in the region and urging the countries in the region to remain united against Israel, the Fars news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

Events in Syria show the intent to weaken the existing government and give more room to the terrorists, RT Arabic quoted the opening statement of the Iranian parliament’s session. According to the statement, the reasons behind the Israeli attack are the success of Syrian national army is battling against the armed groups.

Iran also urged other countries in the region to stand united against Israel’s’ actions and demand a stop to unwarranted attacks, RT Arabic reports.

So far Israel has remained silent on the issue. Earlier Israel stated that they would not tolerate Hezbollah being supplied with arms, as Tel Aviv considers Lebanon’s Hezbollah a terror organization.

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Palestinians protest against Israel’s role in the attack against Syria

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March 17, 2013

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM,(SANA) – The Palestinian Popular Committee for Defending Syria in occupied Palestine has organized an event in protest against the role of the Israeli entity in the attack against Syria and in supporting the terrorism which targets its resistant Arab people backed by the US and financed by the Gulf states.

The participants in the event, which took place at Kalandia Crossing to the south of Ramallah city in the West Bank, expressed solidarity with the Syrian people and army in the face of the Zionist-Imperialistic conspiracies.

They asserted that Syria will get out of the crisis stronger thanks to the unity of its people, the bravery of its army and the wisdom of its leadership.

They raised the Syrian and Palestinian flags, and they chanted slogans expressing the unity of the Arab struggle in the face of the Israeli occupation.

The Israeli soldiers tried to quell the participants as they fired tear gas and stun grenades at them injuring seven.

Palestinian Watan News Website quoted Coordinator of the Committee Sabrin Dyab as saying that what is taking place in Syria is an organized attack which aims at undermining the axis of resistance.

She affirmed that the terrorist groups backed by foreign parties are the ones who commit the crimes in Syria.

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Israeli warplanes bomb research center near Damascus

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January 30, 2013

Israeli warplanes attacking Syrian soil.

Israeli fighter jets targeted a military research center near Damascus early on Wednesday morning, the Syrian army said. The statement follows earlier reports of an Israeli airstrike on a convoy with Syrian weapons heading to Lebanon.

The Syrian army’s general command has issued a statement, saying an airstrike was launched by the IAF targeting a military research center in Jamraya, rural Damascus.

“Israeli fighter jets violated our air space at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the army statement said as cited by SANA.

The strike caused material damage to the center and a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others, the statement added. The Israeli warplanes were flying low under the radars and “snuck in from the north of Al-Sheikh Mountain” according to the report. It called the strike a “blatant act of aggression” against Syria and accused Israel of supporting terrorist activity in the country.

Earlier there were reports in the media of an attack by Israeli jets on Wednesday morning striking a target on the Syrian-Lebanese border amid repeated violations of Lebanese airspace. A US government official has confirmed reports that Israeli warplanes targeted a convoy headed from Syria to Lebanon, the Associated Press says.

The Syrian military however has denied this, saying there was no Israeli strike on a convoy of trucks on its border.

However, it was “possible” that the convoy was near the large military site when it came under attack, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Although it has not yet been confirmed whether an airstrike indeed targeted a military site near Damascus, experts believe that after months of constant rebel attacks on Syrian air defense systems an airstrike would make sense.

“It finally makes sense because the rebels or as they like to call themselves the revolutionaries, they have been attacking air defense bases near Damascus for the past seven months,” Dr Ali Mohamad, editor in chief of the Syria Tribune news website told RT. “They’ve managed to attack the S-200 base and over four SM-2 and SM-3 bases. Now this followed by an airstrike from Israel. So it all adds up, it makes sense. It only shows that Israel has a great interest in the instability in Syria and that it is being helped by groups of armed rebels in Syria.”

Chemical weapons false flag?

Israel had reportedly been planning for several days the airstrike to hit a shipment of sophisticated weaponry – allegedly including chemical weapons and Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles – bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“This episode boils down to a warning by Israel to Syria and Hezbollah not to engage in the transfer of sensitive weapons,” a regional security source told Reuters.

So far none of the officials in Israel or other concerned parties have pinpointed the exact location and target of the airstrike. The anonymous diplomatic sources however have told Reuters that chemical weapons were believed to be stored at the Jamraya research center, although the vehicles in convoy were unlikely to be carrying them.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly they fear Assad losing his grip on his chemical weapons stockpile. But Dr. Ali Mohamad believes the chemical weapons danger was just a pretext to destroy Syria’s military research centers to ensure that Damascus can’t produce arms for its military or to ship to its allies in the region.

“Military research centers are responsible for developing weapons in particular land-to-land long range missiles,” he explained. “And what Israel wants is to stop this research and stop this process. And of course Israel will claim that this is connected to a chemical weapons arsenal, but this is of course not true because nobody stores chemical weapons in a research center.”

Everybody who lives in Syria knows “that this is not at all about chemical weapons,” Mohamad said.

“Let’s remember that the Syrian official who was responsible for all military research projects has been assassinated in Damascus by the rebels,” he explained. “Let’s also remember that the person who orchestrated the Syrian long-range missile project colonel Dawoud Rajiha was also assassinated in Damascus. This is about stopping the Syrian scientific military research projects and is about breaking the link that will help [Israel] overcome the Lebanese resistance and the Palestinian resistance.”

Editor of the Pan-African news wire, Abayomi Azikiwe, told RT that the air raid on Syria could have been intended to distract international attention from the atrocities carried out by some of the rebel groups on the ground.

“The rebels have been involved in tremendous human right violations inside the country,” he said. “We saw what happened just yesterday with the finding of some 80 people who’ve been massacred, with handcuffs behind their backs shot in the head. And of course these actions carried out by the US-backed rebels inside of Syria are tremendously damaging to their image internationally. So in order to deflect attention away from these developments Israel has launched an air raid, alleging that Syria is transporting weapons to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.”

Another reason for “opening another front” in Syria was to put further pressure on the government of Bashar al-Assad.

“Part of that strategy of course has been the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey,” he said. “And with the airstrikes that took place today this is designed to create a sense of encirclement with regard to the Syrian government.”

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China backs Ayatollah Khamenei’s decree against nuclear weapons

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January 17, 2013

China voices support for Iran’s reaffirmation of the fatwa (religious decree) issued by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and its registration as an international document.

China attaches special significance to the issue that Iran intends to register the Leader’s fatwa as an international document, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Wednesday.

“China welcomes Iran’s position. Iran is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We hope relevant sides can strengthen dialogue and cooperation to increase trust and make progress as soon as possible towards a long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear energy issue,” he added.

On February 22, 2012, Ayatollah Khamenei said the Islamic Republic considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa is binding for Iran, adding, “There is nothing more important in defining the framework for our nuclear activities than the Leader’s fatwa.”

The Chinese official’s remarks came as Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrapped up the first day of their talks over Iran’s nuclear energy program in Tehran.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran argues that as a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the IAEA, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

As a member of the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – China says it recognizes that constant IAEA inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities has detected no diversion of nuclear material. Chinese experts say that makes it impossible for Iran to build a bomb.

Iran and the six major world powers have held several rounds of talks with the main focus being on Iran’s nuclear energy program. The last round of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 was held in Moscow in June, 2012.

China and Russia, as two veto-wielding powers at the UN Security Council, have persistently expressed their support for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

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China-Bashing, Syria & The “Degenerate Left”

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog:

By Vince Sherman
December 12, 2012

The Syrian Armed Forces defending national sovereignty from foreign-backed terrorists.

The US State Department’s formal recognition of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) is no small occurrence in the imperialist world’s campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. To pretend, as many on the US left do, that the US and France have not actively struggled against Assad by materially supporting the rebels is no longer possible, even from a standpoint of technicalities. Arms and ammunition continue to flow to the rebels in Syria, and whether this lethal aid is delivered by the Central Intelligence Agency or puppet regimes in the Persian Gulf makes no difference to the fundamental imperialist mission afoot in Syria.

The US may not launch a military strike in Syria – no small thanks would go to China and Russia for providing material solidarity in the form of military deterrence – but the cruise-missile leftists at The North Star cannot continue to claim that “that, from the standpoint of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, there are no good options or outcomes as a result of the Syrian revolution.” (1)

In response to the chemical weapons allegations that emerged last week from Washington, Pham Binh – the author of “Lybia and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong” – penned another screed denouncing the anti-imperialist left in favor of the rebellion. Binh claims that the threat of military intervention against Syria is empty, but he goes further in his denunciation of anti-imperialism by asserting that the US and Western Europe have a vested interest in seeing Assad remain in power.

Identifying, examining and combating the basic premises of what Takis Fotopoulos calls the “degenerate left” is important in light of the left’s disunity on the question of Syria. Most leftists do not take positions as horrifying as The North Star has, but the rejection of Marxism-Leninism as a means of understanding imperialism has put many on the US left in the camp of the imperialists themselves.

One of the principle reasons for the abandonment of anti-imperialism is the US left’s willingness to engage in China-bashing and not acknowledge China’s important role in world politics. As the second largest economic power in the world, China’s rise has effectively changed the way US imperialism operates and today functions as a counter-weight for aggression in Syria. Though their role is rife with contradictions, identifying China as an enemy, rather than a very important friend, of the global anti-imperialist movement is a dangerous starting point that leads to equally dangerous – and degenerate – conclusions.

China-Bashing & the “Degenerate Left”

There is an incredibly small section of the left in the United States and Western Europe that upholds China as a socialist country (Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Party for Socialism & Liberation are the three Marxist groups of note). There is a slightly larger section of the left that has a positive to ambivalent view of China and Chinese influence, including but not limited to the revisionist Communist Party USA and the left-refoundationist Committee for Correspondence on Democracy and Socialism.

However, the majority of the left in the US holds a partially to wholly negative view of China. Groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the International Marxist Tendency share the same view of China with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the Economist; the view that it is a state capitalist country.

The ISO takes this position even further in labeling China an imperialist power on par with the United States. Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could find common ground with this stance, given her comment at a summit in Tanzania last year that China pursues a policy of “new colonialism” in Africa. Clinton made these comments without a hint of irony, just as there is no irony to be found in “China’s Record of Imperialism,” an article that appeared in Socialist Worker in 2009.

This is unsurprisingly a view shared by The North Star, which calls China “an essential support – perhaps the essential support – for capitalist domination internationally.” (2) This is important starting point for understanding the theoretical basis for the “degenerate left,” of which The North Star is a part.

Tellingly, Binh’s latest piece is devoid of any mention of the military or political deterrence provided by China and Russia in Syria. In the original piece defending NATO intervention in Libya and Syria, Binh makes mention of China and Russia’s opposition to a Libya-style intervention, saying:

Paradoxically, NATO’s successful campaign in Libya made a future U.S./NATO campaign in Syria less likely. Russia and China are now determined to block any attempt to apply the Libyan model to Syria at the United Nations Security Council and the Obama administration is not willing to defy either of them by taking Bush-style unilateral military action for the time being.

Five months later, the role of China and Russia are worth nary a mention, even as Binh ridicules the anti-imperialist left for responding to new signs of aggression. Instead, the explanation for Washington’s reluctance to directly intervene on behalf of the rebels is reduced to three major points: (1) Washington does not have the troops necessary to invade and occupy Syria, (2) the US Senate is restricting Obama’s ability to launch a no-fly zone, and (3) the US fundamentally does not want to see Assad toppled because the rebellion is pro-Palestinian and Palestinians support the rebellion.

China and Russia’s Role as Counter-Weights to Imperialism

China and Russia veto the UN’s no-fly zone resolution.

Let’s begin with the second argument about the lack of domestic political support in the US Senate for a no-fly zone. Binh’s argument is laughable given the US, France, and the other imperialist powers already pushed for a no-fly zone through the UN – just as they did a year ago to launch the Libya assault – in June. Had they faced the same abstentions from China and Russia as they did with the Libyan no-fly zone, there is no reason to believe that military intervention would not have occurred already.

However, China and Russia did, in fact, veto the UN Security Council no-fly zone, greatly reducing any perceived international consensus around foreign military operations in Syria. In August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “warned the West not to take unilateral action on Syria, saying that Russia and China agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible.” (3) Both China and Russia continue to trade with Syria and break the West’s sanctions on Assad’s government, with Russia going further to actually aid the Syrian government in the conflict. Both China and Russia continue to call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and explicitly disavow the Free Syrian Army strategy of seizing power through continued warfare. And both China and Russia have opposed US escalation, including the recent placement of Patriot missiles on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Would China and Russia respond militarily if the West unilaterally intervened in Syria? It’s hard to say, although Russia is far more poised to launch a counter-attack to defend Assad’s government. The most salient point is that China and Russia have exerted their influence as a counter-balance to Western imperialism in Syria. The Western imperialist powers may still militarily intervene in Syria, but rest assured that one of the largest obstacles that has kept them at bay to this date is China and Russia.

What should we make of China and Russia’s abstention during the Libyan no-fly zone debate at the UN in 2011, which facilitated NATO’s barbaric assault on the Libyan people and the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi? I would propose that both China and Russia sum it up as a failure; a passive ‘buyer’s remorse’. Martin Beckford of the Telegraph reported this in the early weeks of NATO’s attack:

China, which frequently faces criticism over its own suppression of democracy movements, said it “regretted” the military action and respected Libya’s sovereignty.

A foreign ministry statement said: “China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya.

“We hope Libya can restore stability as soon as possible and avoid further civilian casualties due to an escalation of armed conflict,” it added. (4)

Russia’s reaction was similar. China has rarely used its veto power on the Security Council, and post-1991 Russia has followed that path as well, despite both quietly supporting independent nations like Syria. However, the scale and ferocity of the assault on Libya came to change the position of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who summed up their inaction as a failure which they “regret.”

Dumb & Dumber: China-Bashing and Misplaced Cynicism of the Degenerate Left

Binh and those at The North Star will be quick to point to China and Russia’s commercial interests in Syria, along with their close economic relationship with Iran. Yusef Khalil of the ISO described China and Russia’s veto of a no-fly zone over Syria as “[moving] in to protect their own imperialist interests in the region.” (5)

The question of Russia is an equally important topic but one we will have to reserve for another time.

Admittedly, China is Syria’s top trading partner and largest foreign stake-holder in Syrian oil. (6) After the crippling embargoes set by the West, China has continued purchasing Syrian oil and severely undermines the success of ‘sanction warfare’. (6)

However, this inevitable counter-argument is as faulty and ridiculous as the entire premise that China is an imperialist country. Adel al-Toraifi, the Editor-in-Chief of al-Majalla news, unravels the arguments of anyone claiming that China’s stance on Syria is based on economic considerations:

…China has had strong trade relations with Syria, and strong economic cooperation with the Bashar al-Assad regime since 2001, after both parties signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation; this means that China is Syria’s third most important trading partner. However the volume of trade between the two countries, which amounted to $2.2 billion in 2010, is nothing in comparison to the commercial exchange between China and the Gulf States, which exceeds more than $90 billion per year. Therefore China is not too concerned about the loss of Syria as an economic partner, however the issue is not one of profit or loss or business considerations, particularly as many Chinese interests are served by opposing the US and European movement to bring about regime change in the Middle East. (7)

Claiming that China, a country that by and large has not exercised its veto power on the Security Council, would suddenly go out on a whim and stand by a minor trading partner like Syria defies logic. Just a crude analysis of the basic numbers reveals that China had more than $20 billion in investments with Libya under Qaddafi’s government, almost ten times the amount of investments in Syria. (8)

Is oil a determinant factor for China’s different line on Syria versus Libya? Not even close. Syria is already a very minor oil producing country by Middle Eastern standards, but less than 1% of Syrian oil exports go to China (less than 4,000 barrels per day). (9) China imported more than 150,00 barrels of Libyan oil per day under Qaddafi, or about 37.5 times the amount imported from Syria. (10)

We could continue unraveling the argument of China’s economic self-interest through economic comparisons. For the sake of the reader, though, let’s cut to the chase: China has considerably less of a stake in defending Syria from Western aggression than it did with Libya, and yet the two questions elicited different responses.

The degenerate left and the right-wing in the US both share a common cynicism for Chinese actions in world affairs. However, the right-wing cynically uses China-bashing as a naked propaganda tactic designed to stir up nativism in the US. The degenerate left, on the other hand, actually seems to believe this farce and repeat the same lies to the detriment of the world anti-imperialist movement.

China-bashing puts the degenerate left just a hop, skip, and a jump from neo-conservatism

China’s foreign policy is a far cry from the critical support given by the Soviet Union to national liberation struggles around the world. In fact, it’s important for anti-imperialists to note and be critical of the foreign policy errors committed by Beijing during the Sino-Soviet Split, which far too many US groups in the New Communist Movement embraced uncritically.

However, the degenerate left lumps China in with the US as a competing imperialist interest in the world with a total neglect of the actual dynamics at play. Because most Western leftists have only witnessed global trade as an affair directed by trans-national corporations, they view China’s role in the world market as part of the same imperialist machine they protest in their own countries. An element of political opportunism plays into this analysis as well when looking at the patently anti-China flames fanned by many trade unions in the US.

The degenerate left’s cynical attitude towards China, even when it does something incredibly laudable like vetoing the no-fly zone resolution, comes primarily from its embrace of anti-China propaganda. The North Star, along with other blogs like Politics in the Zeroes, continue bashing China for the Tiananmen Square “massacre” that even the US admits did not happen. (11) Of course China is always falsely implicated as an imperialist power for their relationship with Tibet, despite the thoroughly feudal and imperialist interests fueling the Free Tibet movement. (12)

For all of its contradictions, China remains a socialist country. The commanding heights of the economy are still controlled by the state, which itself is controlled by the Communist Party and oriented towards working people and peasants. A capitalist sector has developed in China since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms that mirrored Lenin’s own New Economic Policy, but this sector is wholly dependent on the socialist state. And although China is no longer a vocal advocate for world revolution – many would call this revisionism – their line on the Syrian question demonstrates the CCP’s continued commitment to anti-imperialism and independent development.

By rejecting China and the entire socialist experience in the 20th century, the degenerate left already accepts the basic premises of the right-wing and bourgeois elite in the US. Of course it does not stop with just China. If one rejects China as a state capitalist, or even an imperialist state, then one must go further by rejecting bourgeois nationalist states like Assad’s government in Syria or Qaddafi’s government in Libya. Any attempt to support these governments from Western aggression by China, or even Russia, is seen as an inter-imperialist struggle, according to the degenerate left.

With that, the so-called Marxists in the motley crew can dust off Lenin, cite some out-of-context quotes denouncing the Second International, and call it a day. Some, like Binh, skip the Lenin and go straight for Malcolm X, ripping “by any means necessary” so grossly out of context that they use one of the most revolutionary national liberation leaders to justify the very imperialism he fought against. All are smug in their satisfaction that they are opposing tyranny – not even capitalism anymore, but the metaphysical concept of tyranny – on behalf of some imaginary workers movement ‘from below’.

That last point regarding the simplistic and thoroughly anti-dialectical worldview of the degenerate left is very important in understanding its relationship to neo-conservatism. Because Syria is a bourgeois state with a capitalist economy, the degenerate left views Assad’s government and its actions in a political vacuum. There is no dialectical understanding of primary and secondary contradictions, which would reveal that the struggle of oppressed nations against oppressor nations is the principle contradiction facing the Syrian people. Instead, Assad is viewed by the degenerate left the same way Saddam was by the Bush administration: a tyrant who denies his own people freedom and democracy. 

According to this worldview, Assad cannot possibly be progressive in any context because he leads a bourgeois state. Nevermind that he is a nationalist at odds with Western imperialism! Nevermind that the Syrian economy is still largely controlled by the state! Nevermind that he supports national liberation struggles in Palestine and Lebanon! He oppresses his people; a particularly condescending phrase towards whatever people happen to be talked about. And of course there is no discussion or differentiation on the sector of people facing repression by the Syrian state (collaborators, imperialist-sympathizers, terrorists).

China also factors into this tautological worldview. For the degenerate left, international solidarity by a state – any state – is categorically impossible because they consider either most or every state to be capitalist.

Consider the tautology at work here: When China vetoes a no-fly zone resolution, it’s tyrannysupporting tyranny. When China doesn’t veto a no-fly zone resolution in Libya, they are providing “essential support – perhaps the essential support – for capitalist domination internationally.” (2) When Russia positions ships to offset the US’s Patriot missiles in Turkey, it’s an imperialist power looking out for its strategic and commercial interests. If Russia doesn’t oppose Western intervention in Libya, they are silent partners in the imperialist project.

…Or perhaps we have to approach China, and Russia, dialectically by considering their place in relation to imperialism at a given moment in history!

Is it any surprise that several of the Trotskyites from the 20th century, who built their measly political ‘careers’ denouncing every instance of socialism as state capitalism, became neo-conservatives in the Reagan era?* We begin to understand Christopher Hitchens’ disgraceful pro-war line on Iraq when we realize his hatred for all existing socialist countries, which he viewed as capitalist and imperialist powers no better than the US.

Syria, China & the US Left

Military intervention in Syria seems more likely every day. Tragically, the response from the US left seems to grow smaller with every war or military action launched by the Obama administration.

With its significant economic ties to the US and world markets, China could take a more active role in economically pressuring the imperialist powers to not intervene. Ultimately if NATO is dissuaded from a Libya-style intervention over the issue of chemical weapons, Russia’s military presence in the Gulf will probably have more to do with it.

The most salient point is that the degenerate left continues to side with the imperialist powers, whether in word (The North Star) or in deed (the ISO). The US left must discard these bankrupt theories and embrace anti-imperialism if it hopes to build a militant resistance to these criminal attacks; an anti-imperialism that sends a unified message supporting Assad and Syrian self-determination in this period of crisis, as we wrote about this past weekend.

However, the China-bashing of the degenerate left will continue to haunt movements in the US, which find themselves unable to distinguish friend from foe. Russia-bashing, a related topic for another time, also feeds into a simplistic world view alien from the Leninist theory of imperialism. Most assuredly capitalist, Russia is still not an imperialist power and, most importantly, functions as a counterweight to imperialism along with China. Both China and Russia’s involvement in the Syrian crisis have different contradictions, but anti-imperialists would recognize that these two countries have made the subjugation of the Syrian people to Western finance capital more difficult.

Neither China nor Russia are the leaders of the world anti-imperialist movement. That distinction belongs to the masses fighting battling for self-determination and revolution in Colombia, India, Palestine, the Philippines, and all over the world. But the US left must recognize that China is a friend, not an enemy, of the anti-imperialist movement, and it will begin to see questions like Syria much more clearly.

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Return to the Source has defended China’s socialist orientation and its role in global trade before, and those interested in a more thorough examination should refer to China & Market Socialism: A Question of State and Revolution.

* By no means should this statement be taken as an indictment on all groups professing ideological heritage to Leon Trotsky. As flawed as we believe many of these groups’ lines and organizing strategies are, there are groups like the Socialist Equality Party have overwhelmingly upheld an anti-imperialist position on Syria.

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(1) Pham Binh, The North Star, ““Red Line” or Empty Threat? How the Left Gasses Itself on #Syria,” December 6, 2012, http://bit.ly/RFo9ec

(2) Gabriel Levy, The North Star, “The Trouble With Economic Growth,” October 2, 2012, http://bit.ly/U8zzb7

(3) Reuters, “Russia, China warn West against Syria intervention,” August 21, 2012, http://bit.ly/NhpwI2

(4) Martin Beckford, The Telegraph, “Libya attacks criticised by Arab League, China, Russia and India,” March 21, 2011, http://bit.ly/gS9sHO

(5) Yusef Khalil, Socialist Worker, “A Turning Point in Syria,” May 31, 2012, http://bit.ly/LIFJ7w

(6) Joel Wuthnow, The National Interest, “Why China would intervene in Syria,” July 16, 2012, http://bit.ly/Mzuyjb

(7)Adel al-Toraifi, al-Majalla, “Does China truly support Bashar al-Assad?” February 16, 2012, http://bit.ly/wZsVih

(8) Michael Kan, The African Business Journal, “China’s Investments in Libya,” http://bit.ly/TTv0js

(9) Energy Information Administration, “Country Analysis Briefs: Syria,” Updated August 2011, http://www.eia.gov/cabs/Syria/pdf.pdf

(10) Deborah Brautigam, China in Africa: The Real Story, “China’s Oil Imports From Libya,” March 23, 2011, http://bit.ly/eoRojH

(11) Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, “Wikileaks: No Bloodshead Inside Tianamen Square, cables claim,” June 4, 2011, http://bit.ly/mxFf3m

(12) Michael Parenti, “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth,” January 2007, http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html