Response to Tariq Ali’s incorrect statements about Syria


By Carlos Martinez
February 15, 2012

Tariq Ali speaking on RT

Tariq Ali has made a number of incorrect and unjustifiable statements in his recent interview on Russia Today regarding Syria. Ali is a much-celebrated icon of the British left; he is a talented orator and writer, and often says quite good things. Therefore his comments are particularly dangerous, as they are considered trustworthy by many progressive/radical people.

Ali claims that “the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people want the Assad family out”. This is not a claim that anyone with an understanding of Syrian politics would make, at least not in good conscience. The government is popular, and continues to become *more* popular as it works to stop civil war. This fact is even occasionally recognised in the mainstream press – see for example Jonathan Steele’s recent Guardian article.

Ali joins the rest of the western fake left in calling for bomb-free regime change, saying that Bashar “has to be pushed out”. Of course, it would be political suicide for Ali to support western military intervention; therefore he calls on Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah to use their leverage to persuade Bashar to step down: “Non-violent pressure has to be kept up externally to tell Bashar he has to go… Countries that are not seen as hostile to Syria, including Russia and China, should step up pressure for Bashar to leave.” In other words, Ali completely supports the regime change operation, but he wants it to be brought about by “non-violent pressure”.

He does not address such difficult issues as why the west is so desperate for Bashar to go, or what political current is in a position to fill the power vacuum that would arise if the Ba’ath government were to fall. He comes close to admitting that the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the political scene if the Ba’athists were defeated, and he even concedes that this could result in deep sectarian divisions, but he thinks this is preferable to the continuation of the secular nationalism of the Ba’ath: “It’s possible that the Brotherhood in Syria will target minorities, but if this is what the majority of the people want then unfortunately it will happen sooner or later.” So, according to Tariq Ali’s logic, ethnic cleansing can’t be stopped if it is the will of the majority!

Curiously, Ali sees fit to label the Syrian government as a “sectarian clique”. This is consistent with the mainstream narrative, which accuses the Syrian rulers of being Alawite sectarians. However, this accusation is nothing but war propaganda; it has no basis in fact. There are plenty of things you could justifiably criticise the Syrian state for, but religious sectarianism isn’t one of them. In fact anti-sectarian secular nationalism is one of the Syrian state’s defining characteristics – it’s record is impressive for a region that has historically been torn apart by British/French/Turkish/US-provoked sectarian fanatacism. The Assads have always sought to build a power base that crossed the religious divide. Meanwhile, the groups being funded by NATO-GCC really ARE sectarian. And the Middle Eastern regimes most favoured by the US (Saudi, Israel and Bahrain, for example) really ARE sectarian. Incidentally, how interesting that the least sectarian, most secular governments in the modern history of the Middle East (Nasser’s Egypt, Qaddafi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria) have been the most hated by western imperialism.

Ignoring the Syrian National Council’s statements that it would end Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; and ignoring the SNC’s open support for Iran’s Green Movement, Tariq Ali says he doesn’t “think the fall of Assad will affect Iran, because it will be in the interests of the Syrian government – if it is a democratic and representative government – to maintain good relations”. Once again, Tariq Ali refuses to acknowledge the *actual* composition of the opposition, which is dominated by the pro-west liberal stooges of the SNC on the one hand and militant Sunni supremacists on the other – both of which groups are irreconcilably hostile to Iran and Hezbollah. Ali has swallowed so much media misinformation he thinks that the opposition is primarily composed of nice, left-leaning, democratic, secular peaceful protestors. This is very clearly not the case. Those who genuinely want reforms in Syria are unambiguously siding with the government against conspiracy and intervention. As Alistair Crooke writes: “There is this mass demand for reform. But paradoxically — and contrary to the ‘awakening’ narrative — most Syrians also believe that President Bashar al-Assad shares their conviction for reform.”

Tariq Ali ends the interview by saying that “if the Assad clan refuse to relinquish their stranglehold on the country, sooner or later something disastrous will happen, possibly involving intervention. Do they want to end up like Gaddafi or Saddam, lynched by mobs backed by western troops?” That is: Assad should stand down and abandon the Syrian people, otherwise the west will get him. I, for one, prefer the sentiment of Emiliano Zapata: “It’s better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees”.

It is not good enough to call for bomb-free regime change, brought about by NATO-GCC-funded opposition groups rather than NATO-GCC warplanes. We must close ranks against the greater enemy: imperialism and zionism. Mao writes in On Contradiction:

“When imperialism launches a war of aggression against such a country, all its various classes, except for some traitors, can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. At such a time, the contradiction between imperialism and the country concerned becomes the principal contradiction, while all the contradictions among the various classes within the country (including what was the principal contradiction, between the feudal system and the great masses of the people) are temporarily relegated to a secondary and subordinate position. So it was in China in the Opium War of 1840, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Yi Ho Tuan War of 1900, and so it is now in the present Sino-Japanese War.”

So it is today with Syria.



About B.J. Murphy

I'm a young socialist and Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region, who writes for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), India Future Society, and Serious Wonder. I'm also the Social Media Manager for Serious Wonder, an Advisory Board Member for the Lifeboat Foundation, and a Co-Editor for Fight Back! News.

6 responses »

  1. Thank you for this article. It is unfortunate that so many on the so called “left’
    are unable to see the primary contradiction here is between the people of Syria and the imperialist
    aggressors. Who will benefit from the fall of Syria? What is their endgame?

  2. It’s good enough that the distinguished Tariq Ali gave his breezy overview of the Syrian situation- fine. Let’s compare this Syrian grass roots revolution to the bloodless coup here in the USA, where a tenth of one percent overthrew democracy with the ratification of the NDAA and Patriot Acts. This coup came into reality with the quiet stroke of a pen. Contrast it to the noisy riot of a sizable portion of the Syrian people engaged in widespread killing, insurrection and spilling of blood. The usual actors step forward during these types of crises. The western Occident and eastern block nations will supply arms where ever required to bolster their cause, letting the cards fall where they may. In the final analysis, regardless of the outcome in this civil war, the world’s military powers must be kept in balance. These days the Russian Dumas are feeling encircled and therefor the preservation and expansion of Russia’s Naval base at Tarsus must permitted by the Syrians. Not as some forsaken outpost, as it currently is, but allowed to grow into a full complement of cruisers, subs, aircraft, frigates and Intel communications.Tarsus will, at least in part, become a city state and somehow the winning side of this conflict must agree. And why? because of Israel and US attempts at greater hegemony in the middle east. If this isn’t somehow worked out beforehand, possibly in diplomatic assurances from all warring sides, then the conflict may go on for a lot longer. Hegemonic powers are obliged to agitate in any area, political or military that is not convincingly set in stone.

  3. Tariq Ali is a good example of the imperialist nature of the Anglo-American “Left.” This phony Western left is utterly and completely bankrupt.

    In case anyone is still trying to cover for them, Anglo-American Leftists/Progressives are nothing more than the left wing of the Anglo-American Empire. As seen by their criminal support of similar USA-UK “humanitarian” wars of aggression (see Libya and Serbia for but two examples), these Anglo-American leftists will usually support their own imperial nation and its ambitions for global hegemony such as their current war against Syria.

    What is happening in Syria is not some “grass roots revolution “contrary to what the Anglophone propaganda press is peddling, It is an American-driven destabilization campaign disguised as a pro-democracy movement.

    We’ve see the American Empire plays this Machiavellian game time and again with Libya, Serbia, Sudan, and elsewhere.

    This is America’s Salvador Option (i.e. American imperial terrorism).

    The Pentagon’s “Salvador Option”: The Deployment of Death Squads in Iraq and Syria

    Even the pro-USA Arab League had to admit in its “Observer Mission to Syria” report that there “was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters” and that much of the violence in Syria is being committed by armed gangs.

    You can guess who is funding and arming these insurgents: America, Britain, France, and their local stooges of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi America.

    Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria

    But the Anglo-American Left desperately tries to deny all of this behind their nations’ favored lies of democracy and freedom.

    SYRIA: NATO’s Next “Humanitarian” War?

    • If the various denominations of Islam within Syria, can ward off deliberate agitation(s) by both Iran and the western Occident, then the next task will surely be to invite in a mix of economic and military help from much stronger nations. This of course includes China and the Russians. Without a nuclear weapons stockpile, the Syrians have no other mechanism to dissuade regional hegemonic powers (Israel) from bombing them, in some unforeseen aggression to come. The American economy will soon collapse and when it does, you’ll be looking around, but an American soldier will be hard to find. U.S. Bases, such as those in Saudi Arabia and as far as Camp Bondsteel will suddenly become ghost towns. This scenario is not in the distant future but could happen literally over night. I dare say that as things stand with the enactment of the NDAA and Patriot Acts, the Syrians have more power to direct their own future than the average citizen in America does.

  4. Pingback: To bomb or not to bomb: the Syrian uprising and yet another sterile debate in the western left. « OISC

  5. Rather late.

    Can anyone be this dumb?

    As has been said. because of the ECONOMIC aspect anyone supporting this within the country must be the dumbest revolutionaries in Arab history.

    A quick check reveals this has been going on for over 20 years and has consisted of American proconsuls trying to pressure the Syrians, amongst other things to have the greatest privatisation in history and sell of the public sector and nationalised industries to American Corporations at knock-down rates.

    This heated up in the 10 years before April 2011.

    Colin Powell turned up in August 2011 with threats and a list of demands including the privatisation of the Syrian public sector and adoption of the Free Market.

    John Kerry did so several times between 2005 – 2010.
    After his 2009 visit he openly said this “engagement” might not work and there was a Two track policy.

    Then in 2011 when they switch to Track Two and a Color Revolution breaks out we are asked to believe this is spontaneous and the American regime is in no way involved, despite the fact the slogans, insignia and gestures of Color Revolutions are being used – it’s a global franchise – A FORTUNE HAS BEEN SPENT ON IT AND THE TRAING OF THE “ACTIVISTS” FOR YEARS AND SATELLITE PHONES AND SPECIALLY DEVELOPPED COMPUTER EQUIPMENT COMPATINLE WITH THEM DISTRIBUTED.

    So we need to have the whip round for Tariq Ali’s American cheerleader outfit and he can learn the moves and dances to cheerlead before the American Imperial war chariot.

    I invite anyone who doubts this to check.

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