Category Archives: Iran

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


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.

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


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.


China backs Ayatollah Khamenei’s decree against nuclear weapons


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.


Against Left Opportunism: Syria & Anti-Imperialism


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

By Vince Sherman
December 10, 2012

The time has come for the left in the United States to make a choice.

Either it can continue to play into the hands of Western imperialism through its bizarre, undying support for the Syrian rebellion, or it can break decisively from opportunism and consistently uphold Syria’s right to self-determination by supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

NATO’s ruthless assault on Libya proved that all of the Western polemics in the world could not conjure a workers revolution into existence that opposed both Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and NATO. It proved that the call to support the rebellion while also condemning Western aggression was worse than taking no position at all. Liberals and opportunists in the US spent more time criticizing Qaddafi than they did organizing actual resistance to the horrific actions of their own government in Libya, and ultimately they supported the Obama administration’s so-called “humanitarian intervention,” if not in words than certainly in deeds.

With President Barack Obama winning a second term handily over Mitt Romney, the administration no longer has the disincentive towards war with Syria and Iran that it did a little over a month ago. Xinhua and RT challenge the narrative put forward by the Western media about the progress of the Syrian rebellion, arguing that they are essentially locked in a stalemate on the ground coupled with a worsening international situation. CNN, on the other hand, runs stories titled “Syria endgame in sight: ‘We welcome this fight’” that claim a rebel victory is within reach.

Washington tipped its hand last week in revealing the purpose of the propaganda war: Accusing a supposedly desperate Assad of planning to use chemical weapons. Imminent victory for the rebellion is an important component of the pro-war narrative because it gives Assad, by all accounts a rational world leader, a motive for planning a patently irrational action. While the US is in a less advantageous position internationally to launch an assault on Syria than they were ten years ago with Iraq, the possibility of invasion has never been greater.

This is the larger context of the US left’s positions, and it’s shocking how little hue and cry there is over imminent war with Syria. Takis Fotopoulos, the famed Greek left-libertarian political philosopher behind the “inclusive democracy” concept, perfectly describes the phenomenon of leftist support, explicit or tacit, for the criminal attacks on countries like Libya and Syria. In the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, he wrote of the “degenerate left” in the United States. We will quote him at some length:

The world mass media controlled by the transnational and Zionist elites, crucially assisted this time by the “alternative” world media (from Aljazeera — which has become the unofficial channel of the “revolutionaries” and the transnational elite — to the Iranian Press TV), have played a very important role in creating the illusion of a monolithic “world against the tyrant”, which was not created during all the previous criminal wars of the transnational elite (see Section 4).

This has had very important implications as regards the stand of the Left (statist, libertarian, Green, etc.), who have mostly sided with the “revolutionaries”, if not with the criminal campaign itself! Furthermore, it has not just been the reformist Left who have sided with the new criminal campaign, as they have done in the past. This time, a very significant part of the anti-systemic Left have also indirectly been in favour of this war, through their support for the so-called “revolutionaries” in Libya. This has created (or perhaps revealed) a new kind of degenerate “Left” who, instead of demystifying the systemic propaganda, as used to be their traditional role, have directly or indirectly been supporting it, justifying the conclusion I derived ten years ago about the end of the traditional antisystemic movements. (1)

We are eager to read Fotopoulos’ new book, Redesigning the Middle East: The Arab “Revolutions”, Counter-Revolution in Iran and Regime Change, which promises to explore this concept further.

The point is, by not putting forth a consistent, unified, principled anti-imperialist position on the Libyan or Syrian question, the left aids and abets Western imperialism. One cannot call the US left’s willingness to hitch its wagon onto any protest movement, regardless of its composition or political context, anything but the most degenerate form of opportunism. Just as in Libya, the Syrian rebellion today has generally worked with the West and its puppet states towards the overthrow of a nationalist, anti-imperialist government since the beginning. Thanks to news services like RT, even Western leftists have had access to this information from day-one, and yet they cannot be bothered to sacrifice some vague notion of “principle” and support Assad and Syrian self-determination. As we will see, this opportunism has run the gamut from outright support to more insidious forms.

Like Libya, Syria Reveals Opportunism in the US Left

A cruise-missile leftist blog called The North Star raised the ire of a number of leftist groups in the US when they posted an article entitled “Lybia and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong.” The piece took left-opportunism to a new level by openly calling on leftists to support the demand by the Syrian opposition for Western imperialist intervention. In subsequent pieces, the author, Pham Binh, heavily criticized the Cliffite-Trotskyite International Socialist Organization (ISO) for “quietly [abandoning] its support for the Libyan revolution once the going got tough and NATO’s F-16s got going.” (2) For Binh, the ISO’s clumsy and ham-handed justification for supporting the Libyan rebels but not the NATO intervention of 2011 was “the anti-imperialism of fools,” but not because they supported the invasion. Rather, Binh criticizes the ISO for not actively supporting the NATO airstrikes to bring down Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s government, claiming that leftists should support the ‘Arab spring’ – itself a completely empty term employed by the West to blur the line between popular uprisings, like those in Egypt and Tunisia, and the imperialist-instigated plots against Libya and Syria – “no matter what side the U.S. government eventually decides to back.” (2)

This bizarre episode of explicit opportunist support for imperialism provoked many strong responses from other left groups around the world. Directly responding to both The North Star and the ISO’s own left-opportunist view of the Syrian question, Mazda Majidi of the Party for Socialism & Liberation (PSL) wrote a fantastic piece for Liberation News entitled “When justifying imperialist intervention “goes wrong” Cruise-missile socialists.

At Return to the Source, we see no reason to reinvent the wheel, and we unite with the criticisms of Binh’s piece levied by Majidi and the PSL. We encourage any and all Marxist-Leninists interested in this debate to read the aforementioned article.

Unlike Libya, however, the question of the Syrian ‘rebellion’ is still at the forefront of the struggle against imperialism. anti-imperialists must resolutely struggle against the possibility of a Western military invasion of Syrian and rigorously combat the left-opportunist elements – like the ISO and The North Star – which seek to give cover to an invasion.

In terms of honesty, logic, and consistency, The North Star gets high marks. Polemic-trading between The North Star and the ISO should not blur the fact that both of these groups view the so-called ‘Syrian rebellion’ in the same way: a genuine popular people’s movement against the so-called “Assad dictatorship.” This is crucial to understanding the common tie between the ISO and The North Star, which is left-opportunism and social imperialism. Majidi notes this in the PSL’s response, saying that ”[they] accept all the same premises: that the Libyan government had no significant base of support and that the revolt was a popular “revolution” with an “understandable” desire for foreign help.” (4)

However, The North Star accepts the logical conclusion of its support for the so-called ‘Syrian rebellion’, while the ISO fallaciously tries to have their cake and eat it too. In perhaps the most bizarre piece put forward by the ISO, author Paul D’Amato presents its position “to support the revolutions in Libya and Syria against dictatorial regimes, while at the same time opposing intervention by the U.S. and its imperialist allies.” He follows up these mutually contradictory positions by saying that “some of us who haven’t lost our heads,” (!) presumably the ISO, “still consider imperialism to be the greatest enemy of both the revolutions of the Arab Spring and national self-determination in the Middle East.” (5)

D’Amato’s seems uncomfortable for the duration of the article as he attempts to distinguish the stance of the ISO from The North Star. The reason for D’Amato’s discomfort is that Binh’s piece on The North Star is just a more honest and logical presentation of the ISO’s own horrendous position: tactical support for imperialism.

It becomes evident in D’Amato’s piece, along with two follow-up pieces further articulating the ISO’s left-opportunist position, that the ISO supports an imaginary ‘rebellion’ in Syria. Lee Sustar of the ISO blatantly denies facts now acknowledged by the Western media in his August 16, 2012 screed entitled “What is the future of the Syrian revolution?”  We quote Sustar at some length to give the reader a sense of scale for the ISO’s delusion: has been among publications on the left that have supported the Syrian revolution while criticizing leading elements of the Syrian National Council (SNC) for their attempts to make alliances with imperialism. Key members of the SNC have called for stepped-up intervention by Western powers, such as military action to establish safe havens for refugees on Syrian territory or the imposition of a no-fly zone to neutralize Assad’s air power.

But for Rees and some others on the left, that’s enough to write off not only the SNC and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but also the Local Coordinating Councils (LCCs) that have organized heroic mass resistance for more than a year and half despite the most savage repression–mass arrests, torture, artillery attacks on civilian areas, massacres and, now, aerial bombardment.

Is it really the case that one of the most inspiring, self-organized revolutionary movements in recent decades has degenerated into a pliable tool of the West? Are we looking at a repeat of Libya, where NATO air strikes played the decisive role in turning the tide in the civil war? Are ultra-sectarian Islamist forces–backed by the Saudis and Qataris–becoming a dominant force?

The answer is no. While imperialist forces are angling to install a post-Assad leadership to their liking–a preferably a military strongman, as Reuters reported–the revolutionary movement has continued to develop in response to the struggle in Syria itself.

Moreover, there are well-documented divisions within the SNC and the FSA–and criticisms of both from grassroots Syrian revolutionary forces on the ground in the LCCs. And does it make any sense to equate an SNC leader who calls for a no-fly zone and meets with State Department officials with a farmer who distributes AK-47s smuggled in from Turkey in order to defend a village from Syrian army tanks?

Notice how Sustar actually avoids answering the serious indictments of the so-called ‘Syrian rebellion’ that he himself brings up via rhetorical questions. All he can muster is some flaccid claim that “the revolutionary movement has continued to develop in response to the struggle in Syria itself,” (?) and that “there are well-documented divisions within the SNC and the [Free Syrian Army].” (6)

Of course there are divisions in the ‘rebellion’! There were the same divisions in Libya between the comparador bourgeois elite and the Islamist elements connected to al-Qaeda. This isn’t the point, though. The point is that both of these interests, which have comfortably coalesced in Syria as they did in Libya, are the unquestionable leading forces for the ‘rebellion’. US officials, who are now openly collaborating with al-Qaeda to bring down the Syrian government, now admit that the radical Islamist network “has advanced beyond isolated pockets of activity in Syria and now is building a network of well-organized cells.” (7) With several hundred militants operating in Syria, the Associated Press writes that US officials “fear the terrorists could be on the verge of establishing an Iraq-like foothold that would be hard to defeat if rebels oust President Bashar Assad,” a peculiar concern for the US to hold if the ISO’s ‘local coordinating committees’ were in the driver’s seat separate from al-Qaeda and Islamists. (8) In trying to downplay their numbers, Sustar neglects the stark reality that Islamists “are using their experience in coordinating small units of fighters in Afghanistan to win new followers,” allowing them to take control of many so-called ‘independent’ groups of ‘rebels’ that the ISO claims to support. (9)

Even the US government acknowledges divisions in the rebellion. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in late October that withdrew support for the Syrian National Council (SNC1) reflects Washington’s growing alarm at the presence of al-Qaeda militants on the ground, who have little to no loyalty to the Syrian exile elite. Independent scholar Stephen Gowans explains this phenomenon in a November 2, 2012 article:

Uprisings aimed at overthrowing governments are often divided between militants who do the heavy lifting on the ground and politicians who lead the fight in the political sphere. Outside powers scheme to anoint an acceptable politician as a leader-in-waiting to step into the void if and when the current government is toppled. The leader must be both acceptable to his or her foreign backers and to the militants on the ground. (8)

Gowans goes on to explain that the strong presence of exiled Muslim Brotherhood members – consistent opponents of Assad’s secular Ba’athist government in Syria – prevented the SNC1 from gaining the loyalty of the rebels on the ground. Indeed, the Obama administration and the faux-socialist Hollande government in France have gone back to the drawing board in supporting the rise of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC2), which hopes to garner the loyalty of the various sectarian elements in the Syrian rebellion.

Rest assured, though, Washington’s hesitance to commit to the SNC1 has nothing to do with minimizing a “revolutionary alternative” or the ‘local coordinating committees’ within the Syrian rebellion, as the ISO might claim. Gowans further explains that the impetus to the new SNC2′s formation “is to marginalize the influence of the Jihadists, many though not all of whom have spilled into Syria from other countries, bent on overturning a secular regime led by a president whose Alawi faith they revile as heretical. If the Jihadists can be sidelined, Washington may be able to funnel arms to “acceptable” militant groups, without fear of their being used later against US targets.” (8) Secular, “anti-imperialist” rebel groups are not a substantial factor in Washington’s calculus for intervention, despite what the ISO would have its members believe, because the truly anti-imperialist groups in Syria, like the two communist parties, critically support the Assad government.

Appalling as it may be, The North Star’s position is simply a more honest rendering of the same opportunist position taken by the ISO. It approaches the Syrian question not from a perspective of dialectical materialism, but from a perspective of craven idealism. The opportunists in the US left cannot view the Syrian rebellion in any terms other than a metaphysical struggle against tyranny. They buy wholesale the reports of retaliatory violence by the Syrian security forces in order to characterize Assad as a tyrant, and in doing so, they confound the central contradiction facing the Syrian people: the contradiction between imperialism and national liberation.

Ironically, Leon Trotsky – the ideological godfather of the ISO – may have put it best in a 1938 interview, when he said, “Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!” (9) It’s a testament to the absurdity of the US left’s opportunism that we now say, in this particular moment, D’Amato and Sustar could learn a lot from reading Trotsky!

Perhaps the most confounding question of all for the ISO is this: Where is their coverage of the ‘Libyan revolution’ now? Now that the rebels that were supposedly independent of the West have ascended to power, what happened to the ISO’s enthusiasm and the phrase-mongering about ‘democratic rights’? An ever-defiant ISO published an attempt at summating the lessons of the ‘Libyan revolution’ shortly after the fall of Tripoli. ISO leader Alan Maass, in an article titled, “Who really won in Libya?” writes, “Qaddafi deserved to be overthrown. But the circumstances of his downfall are an advance for imperialism–which means a setback for the struggle to extend democracy and freedom.” (10)

One almost expects to hear a Homer Simpson-esque “Doh!” at the end of the article, as if to say, what a shame that the US compromised the integrity of another revolution! The ISO did nothing but apologize for the crimes of the Libyan rebels – shamefully downplaying and apologizing for the lynching of black African migrants – and ignore the long-standing evidence that the rebellion was instigated and supported by Western imperialist countries from the beginning. And then they act surprised when NATO attacks Libya at the request of those same rebels for whom they pledged support.

If the ISO had published a thoughtful, reflective piece that asked honest, hard questions about the flaws with their line in Libya, they might have earned a little credibility. Instead, they applied their tautological ideology to Syria and doubled-down on their support for the foreign-backed rebellion, whose ties to the West are even more documented than those of the Libyan rebels.

The ISO may be the most peculiar of all the US left sects, but their position was echoed by countless liberal publications and thinkers, including The Nation, ZNet, and the academic Immanuel Wallerstein. Sadly, these groups and individuals have learned nothing from the Libyan experience and continue to support the Syrian rebellion, even in the face of renewed US aggression.

Opportunism in the Western Left

Although opportunism has led many groups in the US left down the path of social imperialism – socialist in word, imperialism in deed – this perverse trend extends far beyond to the US to many of the so-called “left” groups in Western Europe.

SYRIZA, the Greek coalition of ostensibly leftist groups, has enjoyed the support of many on the US left vis-a-vis the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The so-called “Coalition of the Radical Left” exposed its opportunism to the people of Greece in its continued acceptance of the Eurozone, despite its verbal commitment to opposing austerity. However, SYRIZA has quietly worked with the other conservative parties in Greece to support the Syrian rebels and argue for Greek intervention into the conflict. On September 12, 2012, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras “expressed his concerns about the developments in Syria and the need for Greece to “intervene” in order  for the EU to enhance assistance so Greece can host refugees fleeing the violence in the country.” (11) During the duration of NATO’s attack on Libya, SYRIZA leaders made nary a statement whatsoever and made only a vague reference to the criminal assault in a statement to the Coalition Against NATO/G8 rally on May 20, 2012.

We contrast SYRIZA’s opportunism with the plethora of statements by the KKE against Greek involvement in aggression towards Syria and Iran. (12) KKE consistently upholds proletarian internationalism and is strongly critical of any attempts by its own government to intervene in Syria. SYRIZA, instead, has broken their opportunistic silence during the assault on Libya and crossed the threshold into the territory of social imperialism, calling openly for Greek intervention in Syria.

SYRIZA is but one example of the increasingly prevalent role that so-called “left” parties and movements are playing in supporting imperialism. Much ado was made of France electing a ‘socialist’ President, François Hollande, earlier this year. Playing into the historical trend of social democracy towards supporting imperialism – the major schism in the Second International that Lenin fought against – Hollande has doubled-down on the increasingly hawkish policies of former President Nicholas Sarkozy and supported the Syrian rebels at every juncture. To date, France’s so-called ‘socialist’ government has supported the reactionary terrorist rebellion more prolifically than the United States!

France now delivers money and arms to proxies along the Turkish border that are subsequently funneled to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has primarily directed the terrorist activity of the rebellion in Syria. (13) The Guardian reports that Hollande’s support has even ”reached Islamist groups who were desperately short of ammunition and who had increasingly turned for help towards al-Qaida aligned jihadist groups in and around Aleppo.” (13) Going further than the United States, Hollande recognized the SNC1 as the legitimate government of Syria and has called for the Syrian opposition to begin forming a “provisional government.” (14)

Of course, every Marxist-Leninist should expect social-democrats like Hollande and SYRIZA to function as part of the capitalist system. However, the vanguard role that a nominally ‘socialist’ government is playing in spearheading imperialist aggression towards Syria is particularly striking in this period. Hollande and SYRIZA are opportunists, but the similarities in their positions on Syria with elements of the left in the US are incredibly disturbing.

Lenin, Syria, and the Struggle Against Opportunism

As Social-Democratic parties across Europe got behind their own bourgeois governments in lockstep during the First World War, Lenin was one of the harshest critics of what he termed “social chauvanism,” which was the placing of national interests above proletarian internationalism through the use of socialist phrases. Indeed, the distinguishing feature of the Bolsheviks was their consistent opposition to the First World War and the imperialist crimes of their own government.

Reading Lenin’s attacks on social chauvanism in 2012 will draw obvious analogies to SYRIZA, Hollande, and opportunist elements of the US left in the mind of astute readers. We will quote from his 1915 essay, Social Chauvanist Policy Behind a Cover of International Phrases at some length:

To influence the workers, the bourgeois must assume the guise of socialists, Social-Democrats, internationalists, and the like, for otherwise they can exert no influence. The Rabocheye Utro group disguise themselves; they apply plenty of paint and powder, prettify themselves, cast sheep eyes all around, and go the limit! They are ready to sign the Zimmerwald Manifesto a hundred times (a slap in the face for those Zimmerwaldists who signed the Manifesto without combating its timidity or making reservations!) or any other resolution on the imperialist nature of the war, or take any oath of allegiance to “internationalism” and “revolutionism” (“liberation of the country” in the censored press being the equivalent of “revolution” in the underground press), if only—if only they are not prevented from calling upon the workers to participate in the war industries committees, i.e., in practice to participate in the reactionary war of plunder (“a war of defence”).

Only this is action; all the rest is words. Only this is reality; all the rest is phrases. Only this is needed by the police, by the tsarist monarchy, Khvostov and the bourgeoisie. The clever bourgeois in countries that are cleverer are more tolerant of internationalist and socialist phrases if only participation in defence is assured, as is evidenced by comment in the French reactionary press regarding the London Conference of the socialists of the “Triple Entente”. With the socialist gentry, one of these papers said, it’s a kind of tic douloureux, a species of nervous malady which forces people involuntarily to repeat the same gesture, the same muscular movement, the same word. It is for that reason, the paper said, that “our own” socialists cannot speak about anything without repeating the words, “We are internationalists; we stand for social revolution”. This is not dangerous, the bourgeois paper concludes, only a “tic”; what is important to “us” is their stand for the defence of the country.

That is how the clever French and British bourgeois reason. If participation in a war of plunder is defended with phrases about democracy, socialism, etc., is this not to   the advantage of rapacious governments, the imperialist bourgeoisie? Is it not to the master’s advantage to keep a lackey who swears to all and sundry that his master loves them, and has dedicated his life to their welfare? (15)

The particulars have changed, but the general opportunist trend that Lenin observed in Social Democratic parties has re-emerged in 2012. Groups like the ISO and intellectuals like Wallerstein assert that their support for the Libyan or Syrian rebels is a part of some greater move towards ‘democracy’ or ‘revolution’. Central to the ISO’s argument for supporting the Libyan rebels, even after the NATO intervention, was constantly repeating the phrase, “Arab Spring,” and waxing on about how the rebellion in Libya was part of a larger revolutionary movement sweeping away “dictators” in the Arab world.

Reality collided with their idealist phrase-mongering, and the ISO tacitly supported the criminal assault on Libya by ruthlessly demonizing Qaddafi, first and foremost. Today, as opportunist groups on the US left call for the toppling of Assad – whether they take the next logical step and call for outright intervention, like The North Star, or veil it, like the ISO – we are witnessing a similar trend.

Just as Lenin and the Bolsheviks combated social chauvanism through ideological struggle, so too much genuine revolutionaries in the US and Western Europe combat the opportunist elements that functionally support US imperialism. There can be no more mixed messages; no more social democrats playing the role of imperialist cheerleaders. The anti-war left in the US must firmly embrace anti-imperialism and begin building resistance to war with Syria that includes upholding Syria’s right to self-determination.

Victory to Assad and the Syrian people!

Hands Off Syria!

For Return to the Source’s essay on supporting nationalist governments, like that of Assad, please refer back to Marxism & Bourgeois Nationalism.


(1) Takis Fotopoulos, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Winter/Spring 2011, “The pseudo-revolution in Libya and the Degenerate “Left”,”

(2) Pham Binh, The North Star, July 18, 2012 “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools and the Syrian Spring,”

(3) Reuters, Published on The Guardian (UK), August 20, 2012, “Barack Obama warns Syria over use of chemical or biological weapons,”

(4) Mazda Majidi, Liberation News, July 17, 2012, “When justifying imperialism ‘goes wrong’: Cruise Missile Socialism,”

(5) Paul D’Amato, SocialistWorker, July 16, 2012, “Siding with the greatest purveyor of violence,”

(6) Lee Sustar, SocialistWorker, August 16, 2012, “What is the future of the Syrian revolution?”

(7) Associated Press, August 11, 2012, “US officials: Al-Qaeda spreading in Syria,”

(8) Stephen Gowans, what’s left, November 2, 2012, “Will Damascus Survive Washington’s Latest Attempt to Impose a Puppet Government on Syria?”

(9) Leon Trotsky, “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation,” September 1938,

(10) Alan Maass, Socialist Worker, “Who Really Won in Libya?” August 23, 2011,

(11) Al Yunaniya, September 12, 2012, “SYRIZA leader says Greece should host refugees from Syria,”

(12) Communist Party of Greece, May 31, 2012, “NATO and EU are Preparing for Bloodshed,”

(13) Martin Chulov, The Guardian, December 7, 2012, “France funding Syrian rebels in new push to oust Assad,”

(14) Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 27, 2012, “François Hollande calls on Syrian rebels to form provisional government,”

(15) VI Lenin, December 1915, Social Chauvanist Policy Behind a Cover of International Phrases,

U.S. anti-war, religious leaders meet with Iranian President Ahmadinejad


The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

September 26, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

New York, NY – 150 prominent anti-war activists, religious leaders and supporters of Iran attended a special here on Sept. 25 with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is in New York to address the opening meeting of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.

For the past year there have been escalating threats by the U.S. over Iran’s alleged development of nuclear weapons. Many speakers made it clear that Iran has no nuclear weapons and no plan to develop them. In fact, Phil Wilayto, one of the event organizers, said, “Iran has called for a nuclear free Middle East.” Unlike Israel, which has over 150 nuclear weapons, Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allows inspectors of its nuclear facilities.

According to a number of speakers, the U.S. is already intervening. Economic sanctions are an act of war, according to international law; the U.S. has admitted to carrying out cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear processing facilities; and to having special operation troops on the ground. As with Libya and Syria, the U.S. is also looking for opposition groups to back inside Iran.

In addition, this past week the U.S. government removed the Mojahedin el Khalk from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. It is widely believed that they have carried out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Ironically, two of the anti-war activists attending the meeting – Joe Iosbaker, a key organizer of the Chicago anti-NATO protest and Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness and Freedom Road Socialist Organization – have been targets of a grand jury investigation for allegations of “providing material support to terrorist organizations” in Palestine and Colombia.

‘Terrible time in history of America’

Prominent among guests was Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. “This is a terrible time in the history of America. America and Israel are pushing this nation to war with Iran over alleged attempts to build weapons of mass destruction.” He warned, “We have to stand against the war mongers.”

Ramsey Clark, who was U.S. Attorney General when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, said, “The heart of the treaty was for the nuclear powers to eliminate their nuclear weapons.” He concluded, “The nuclear powers failed,” explaining how the U.S. has not lived up to its end of the deal.

Ellie Ommani, of the American Iranian Friendship Committee congratulated Iran “… for successfully hosting the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned movement with 125 nations. This puts to rest the myth of Iran’s isolation.”

Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, called for the U.S. to, “Remove carrier battle groups armed with nuclear weapons from the region.” In a proposal to President Ahmadinejad, Bolger also called for a delegation of vets to visit Iran.

In closing remarks, President Ahmadinejad said, “The U.S. wants to expand its hegemony over the center of energy. Iran will not allow this.” This brought cheers from the crowd.

Dudley Do-Right Gets the Wrong Man


By Stephen Gowans
September 10, 2012

Dudley Do-Right was a well-intentioned, but dull-witted Canadian Mountie, who in the late 1960s battled his arch-nemesis Snidely Whiplash on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The Mounties are said to always get their man, but Canada, home of the crime-stopping icon, has recently come up with the wrong man.

Ottawa has severed diplomatic relations with Iran, a country it decries as “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” and it has done so as part of the Harper government’s re-orienting Canada’s foreign policy to more vigorously back Israel. But it is Israel—which daily clamours for an attack on Iran and threatens to undertake one itself—that is the greatest current threat to world peace and international security.

Canada has withdrawn its diplomats from Tehran and ordered Iran’s out of Canada. Ottawa says it has suspended diplomatic relations because Iran is:

 Providing military assistance to the Syrian government;
 Refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program;
 Routinely threatens the existence of Israel;
 Engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide;
 Is among the world’s worst violators of human rights;
 Shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.

Given rampant speculation in Canada about the real reasons Ottawa has suddenly broken off relations with Iran, it’s clear that Ottawa’s purported reasons have been dismissed as empty rhetoric.

And so they should be.

If Ottawa were genuinely concerned about the world’s worst violators of human rights giving military assistance to tyrannical regimes to put down peaceful uprisings, it would have shut its embassy in Saudi Arabia long ago. Human Rights Watch describes rights violations in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that refuses to tolerate meaningful democratic reforms, as “pervasive.” And when Bahrainis rose up in peaceful protest against their country’s despotic rulers last year, Saudi troops and tanks spilled into the country to help Bahrain’s absolute monarchy violently suppress the uprising. Canadian diplomats remain on station in both countries.

The United States refuses to comply with innumerable UN resolutions to lift its illegal blockade on Cuba, and yet Ottawa continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Washington. UN resolutions in connection with the Palestinians are regularly ignored by Israel, but all the same Canadian diplomats are not withdrawn from Tel Aviv.

Indeed, Israel offers multiple reasons for Ottawa to close its embassy in that country and boot Israeli diplomats out of Canada. Human Rights Watch describes conditions in territories occupied by Israel as a “human rights crisis.” Within Israel proper, Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, subordinate to the favoured children, the Jews.

Israel’s record of furnishing military aid to repressive, retrograde regimes is long and shameful. After the Carter administration suspended military aid to the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet in 1977, Israel stepped in to become the dictator’s major arms supplier. Israel ran guns to Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to fan the flames of war between Iran and Iraq, and before that was a major supporter of the Shah’s dictatorial, human rights charnel house. [1] In the 1970s, it entered into a secret military alliance with South Africa’s racist apartheid regime, offering to sell it nuclear weapons.

As for the Canadian government’s professed opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation, Tel Aviv’s nuclear program should be ringing alarm bells in Ottawa. Israel is estimated to have some 200 nuclear weapons. It refuses to hear any discussion about giving them up, won’t join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and bars international inspectors from entering the country.

By contrast, the Iranians have no nuclear weapons—and as US military and intelligence officials continue to affirm—there is no evidence they’re working to acquire them (see hereherehereherehere, and here.) More than that, there is evidence of absence. “Certain things are not being done,” a former US intelligence official told the Washington Post, that would have to be done were the Iranians working to weaponize their civilian nuclear energy program.

And unlike Israel, Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Its nuclear facilities are regularly scrutinized by international inspectors. And while it is true that Tehran refuses to comply with some UN resolutions related to its civilian nuclear program, it does so because the resolutions would uniquely deny its right to process uranium—a right the non-proliferation treaty guarantees.

And as for supporting terrorists, in the early 1980s Tel Aviv groomed Christian Phalangist right-wing militias to act as Israel’s proconsul in Lebanon. When a bomb killed the Phalanges’ leader Bashir Jumayal, who had been recently elected president, the militias went on a rampage, terrorizing Palestinians and Shiite Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. As the Phalanges rampaged through the camps, killing men, women and children, the Israeli army threw up a cordon around the camps, firing flares into the night sky to provide illumination to help the terrorists do their grisly work. [2]

Far worse is the reality that the Israeli state was founded on terrorism. For one thing, Zionists used terrorism to try to drive the British out of mandate Palestine, bombing the King David hotel, headquarters of the British mandate authority, in 1946. But that was small potatoes compared to what was to come. Exhausted, and no longer willing to administer Palestine, the British transferred responsibility to the UN in 1947. Over the objections of the majority Arab inhabitants, the UN developed a partition plan which would allocate 56 percent of mandate Palestine to a Jewish state. Jews made up only one-third of the population. The Arabs, two-thirds of the population, would receive only 42 percent (Jerusalem, the remaining two percent, would become an international city.) The Jewish state would have a rough demographic balance of 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs (the Arab state 800,000 Arabs and 100,000 Jews.) Recognizing that a democratic Jewish state could not long exist without a preponderance of Jews, Zionists terrorized Arab villages to depopulate them, sending hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians fleeing for safety. They were later barred from returning. Zionists claim the Arabs fled only to get out of the way of advancing armies from neighbouring Arab states. But the terror, formalized as Plan Dalet, was well underway before the Arab armies intervened. In end, the Zionists seized 80 percent of Palestinian territory, and were only prevented from seizing all of it by the intervention of Egypt and Jordan. [3]

What’s more, Canada might consider its own support for terrorists. Some Canadian military officers who had participated in last year’s NATO air war against the government of Libya referred to NATO jets bombing Gadhafi’s troops as “al-Qaeda’s air force,” a recognition that Islamist terrorists made up part of the opposition that NATO, with Canada’s participation, intervened on behalf of.

As for the Canadian government’s claim that Iran “routinely threatens the existence of Israel,” this is pure wind. Tehran is certainly hostile to Zionism—the idea that European Jewish settlers, through a program of ethnic cleansing, have a legitimate right to found a state on someone else’s land. And there can be little doubt that Iran is ready to do all it can to facilitate the demise of the Zionist regime. But the notion that Iran has the intention—even the capability—to bring about the physical destruction of Israel is absurd in the extreme. Iran is severely outclassed militarily by Israel, and its possession of a handful of nuclear weapons—if it were ever to acquire them—would be no match for Israel’s hundreds, or the formidable military might of Israel’s sponsor, the United States. The idea that Iran threatens Israel is a silly fiction cooked up by Israeli warmongers to justify an attack on Iran to prevent the latter from ever acquiring even the potential to develop nuclear weapons in order to preserve Tel Aviv’s monopoly of nuclear terror in the Middle East. Canadian politicians simply ape the line that Israel is threatened, a canard Zionists have used since 1948 to justify their aggressions. On the contrary, it is Israel—a super-power-sponsored nuclear weapons state—which threatens Iran, to say nothing of Syria and Lebanon.

So why has Ottawa really suspended diplomatic relations with Tehran? Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Canada’s government is “neo-conservative”, “extremist”, and “boundlessly defending international Zionism.” These are apt descriptions. Canada has practically outsourced its Middle East foreign policy to Israel, letting it be known that it will unquestioningly prop up Israeli interests. Extremist? Since Ottawa’s outsourcing of Middle East foreign policy to Israel yokes Canada to a bellicose regime with an atrocious human rights record, how could it be otherwise?

But Salehi’s description, no matter how apt, does not explain why Ottawa has severed ties with Iran now.

Former Canadian ambassador to Iran John Mundy raises the possibility that Ottawa is pulling its diplomats out of the country in anticipation of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. Since Canada has offered unqualified support to Israel, Canadian diplomats would be in danger if Israel followed through on its threats. Britain recalled its diplomats when, last November, protesters stormed the British Embassy in Tehran. Canada may be seeking to avoid a similar occurrence. Ottawa may have no specific knowledge of an impending Israeli strike, but may be playing it safe all the same. Or it might be participating in an Israeli-sponsored ruse to ratchet up psychological pressure on Tehran, withdrawing its diplomats to falsely signal an imminent Israeli strike.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that Canada has adopted the extremist position of supporting a rogue regime in Tel Aviv that, to quote Ottawa’s misplaced description of Iran, is “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

Perhaps the Mounties always do get their man, but Canada’s extremist, pro-Zionist government, is more apt to nab the victim.

1. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1988.
2. Seale.
3. Ilan Pappe. The Ethnic Cleasning of Palestine. One World. 2006.


Iran: Safeguarding its Identity


By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
September 3, 2012

A handout picture released by the official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows Khamenei delivering his speech at the opening of Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran on 30 August 2012. (Photo: AFP – HO – Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website)

While Iran’s presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and its hosting of the summit earlier this week may not lead to a radical breakthrough in the nuclear standoff or to an imminent resolution of the Syrian crisis, it will raise Iran’s international and regional profile. More importantly, the fact that over 100 states participated in the summit, in addition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, against the ardent protestations of the US and Israel, represents a slap in the face for Washington. Not only does the heavily attended summit lend “legitimacy” to Iran’s foreign policy behavior, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, noted bitterly, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the abysmal failure of the Obama administration’s policy of “engaging” Iran while revealing its complete miscomprehension of the Islamic Republic’s political rationality.

Obama’s oft repeated call for Iran to meet its “international obligations” (read, submit to US diktat) as a precondition for “rejoining” the “community of nations,” rung hollow as two thirds of the world’s nations – i.e. the actual international community as opposed to the elite club consisting of the US and its UNSC and NATO allies – attended the Tehran summit and in so doing, undermined Washington’s campaign to isolate Iran internationally. The irony was clearly not lost on the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who condemned the way the US and Europe “impose their domineering and illegal demands in the name of the international community,” and use the “obsolete” “dictatorship” otherwise known as the UNSC, to “disguise their bullying” which they pass off as “international law.”

Khamenei further used his inaugural speech to underline another self-evident message conveyed by the summit – that Washington’s coercive diplomacy masked as “engagement” was futile, and only strengthened the resolve of the Islamic Republic whose “successful experience in resistance against the bullying and comprehensive pressures by America and its accomplices has firmly convinced it that the resistance of a unified and firmly determined nation can overcome all enmities and hostilities.”

The rationale behind the Obama administration’s “tough but direct” diplomacy with Iran was to make it clear that its alleged development of nuclear weapons and funding of “terrorist” organizations “like Hamas and Hezbollah,” and threats against Israel were “unacceptable.”

Thus, the engagement pursued by Washington did not aim to defuse tensions or to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise, but rather to persuade and coerce Tehran to relinquish its right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology and to withhold support from resistance movements in the region.

Diplomacy with Iran was essentially war by other means; the offer of dialogue accompanied by threats of a military strike and/or further “crippling” sanctions if the outcome of the “dialogue” was not to Washington’s liking. As spelled out in 2010 by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “the priority for President Obama and his administration has been to initiate a dialogue and engagement while at the same time keeping all options on the table. When I say all options on the table, it certainly includes potential military operations.”

Needless to say, Washington’s contemptuous tone and belligerent intent masquerading as diplomacy was not well received by its counterpart in Tehran: “On the one hand, the Americans talk of negotiations. On the other hand, they continue to threaten and say the negotiations must have our desired results or we will take [punitive] measures. We do not want any negotiations the result of which is predetermined by the US,” Khamenei bemoaned.

Besides cajoling and pressuring Iran into concessions, engagement also makes it easier for the Obama administration to rally western support for other punitive measures with which to isolate and sanction Tehran into submission. Obama’s National Security Strategy of 2010 makes no effort to conceal this intent: “And we will pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people and mobilize international coalitions.” As Flynt and Hilary Leverett observe, “Obama’s professed interest in engagement is being used to build support for more coercive measures against Iran, not to recast fundamentally the US-Iranian relationship.” Former US State Department official and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takyeh, concurs with this view when he acknowledges that “the purpose of such a policy is not to transform adversaries into allies, but to seek adjustments in their behavior and ambitions.”

Despite Obama’s 2009 Nowruz message to the people and leadership of Iran where he called for an “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect,” US diplomacy was not based on a recognition of Iran as an equal, but on a grudging tolerance of a “rogue” state Washington deemed inferior. In that same speech, Obama condescendingly asserted that while Iran should take its “rightful place in the community of nations…that place cannot be reached through terror or arms,” prompting Khamenei to respond: “Our nation cannot be talked to like this. In the same congratulatory message they (the Obama administration) accuse the Iranian nation of supporting terrorism, pursuing nuclear arms, and such things. What has changed?”

The terms of the “dialogue” were therefore set by Washington and the talks used to dictate its wishes rather than to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. As former US diplomat Chester Crocker writes in his op-ed for the New York Times “Terms of Engagement”: “Engagement is not normalization, and its goal is not improved relations. It is not akin to détente…The goal of engagement is to change the other country’s perception of its own interests and realistic options and, hence, to modify its policies and its behavior.”

The imperialistic hubris inherent in this attitude cannot be overstated for not only does such an approach presume to know what Iran’s interests are, but it also infantilizes the Islamic Republic by suggesting that it neither has a firm grasp of its own reality nor does it know where its true interests lie. This approach is a legacy of the American school of Realism which presupposes a universally valid definition of the national interest that is itself informed by the concept of power. According to this view, states can only have one type of self-interested identity and one understanding of interest defined as physical security, and economic and military power. The fact that states, like other social actors, have variable identities and rationalities which shape their perception of reality and their definition of interests doesn’t figure into the calculations of Realists or US foreign policy makers. Moreover, Realists also overlook the fact that over and above physical security, states also pursue ontological security, that is the security of their identities as particular kinds of actors.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Iran, which derives its identity and hence, its popular and constitutional legitimacy from its jealously guarded independence. The US’ hegemonic role in Iran’s political, economic, military and security affairs, during Reza Shah’s rule, remains firmly embedded in the nation’s political consciousness. Not discounting the multiple social, economic, political and cultural factors which lay behind the Islamic Revolution, it was also in part, a reaction to US hegemony over Iranian affairs. The US’ heavy handed political intervention, security and intelligence penetration, and control of Iran’s economy, particularly its oil industry, rendered it tantamount to an occupying or colonial power in the eyes of many Iranians. The revolution was therefore at the same time a revolt against the monarchy and a war of liberation against US “imperialism,” as embodied by its key catchphrase: “Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic.”

The very existence of the Islamic Republic was somewhat reactive and its identity defensive. Iran became a state preoccupied with protecting its new-found independence and dignity. So deeply ingrained in the political culture was the fear of foreign domination that constitutional safeguards were set up to protect the country from foreign control and to preserve its “metadiscourse” of independence, or “hyper-independence” as one scholar terms it.

In effect, ideological principles such as sovereignty, justice, independence, self-sufficiency and dignity are not abstract values but founding principles and strategic necessities which emerged from Iran’s historical experience of foreign domination. This experience taught Iranians that the politics of dependency practiced by pre-revolutionary Iran was a sure recipe for strategic weakness and domestic collapse, as the Shah’s regime illustrated. Moreover, Iran did not see in the US’ Arab allies a success story worthy of emulation. From Tehran’s perspective, the US uses the political and military assistance it offers these regimes as a tool with which to extract political concessions, making them beholden to it. Moreover, in depending on the US to shore up their regimes domestically, Arab states are viewed as having lost their nations’ sovereignty, independence, and regional power in the process, not to mention their popular legitimacy, as the recent Arab uprisings illustrate. By remaining independent of the west, Iran believes it cannot be blackmailed into anything, as the US’ regional allies have been.

Any fundamental changes in Iran’s foreign policy objectives would essentially mean that the Iranian state would have overturned its founding principles and destabilized its sense of ontological security. As Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Shaybani once explained to me: “If we were to become one of America’s moderate allies in the region there would be no meaning for the Islamic Revolution in Iran. If we gave up our principles, the US would support us again, but then there would be no difference between Iran now and what it was before the revolution.” This would be the case not only if Iran were to revert to the foreign policy of the Shah’s era or to transform itself into a “moderate” regime allied with the US, along the lines of Mubarak’s Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, but even if it were to adopt a politically neutral regional profile, as some observers believe Washington is actually demanding. Viewed from the Islamic Republic’s lens, detachment from current regional conflicts would not only be an abandonment of its ideological principles and strategic interests, but would also undermine its own identity.

This explains why Iran has remained steadfast on the nuclear issue in the face of severe economic and political sanctions as well as threats of a military strike. For Iranian political scientist Homeira Moshirzadeh, Iran’s prioritization of its nuclear program, despite the economic and political costs this has entailed, lies in the fact that “Iran’s nuclear policy has become a matter of identity” and as such, is impervious to Realist and Rationalist deconstruction. Specifically, Iran’s nuclear policy is located in the discourses of independence and justice: “The discourse of hyper-independence gives meaning to the Iranian overemphasis on self-sufficiency and Iran’s rejection of proposals that imply dependence on foreign sources in the nuclear field. The discourse of justice allows us to understand Iran’s continuous reference to double standards in the international system and its demand for an international recognition of its right to nuclear technology.”

The power of these discourses is evident in Ali Asghar Soltanieh’s (Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency), affirmation that “Iran will never give up enrichment at any price, even the threat of military attack will not stop us.” It is also evident in Khamenei’s recent declaration at the NAM summit that Iran “will never give up the right of its people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” Such intransigence is not confined to Iran’s political class but extends to the general public as well, including supporters of the opposition Green Movement. According to the findings of a poll conducted by the University of Tehran, 78 percent of Mousavi supporters wanted “Iran not to give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances” despite their recognition of the sanctions’ cost (a World Public Opinion poll revealed that 86 percent of this category believed sanctions would increase).

As a matter of both strategy and ontological security, the attempt to goad Iran with incentives or bully it into a dependence on the West for its political, economic, security, or technological needs is fundamentally futile and counter-productive. The perceived loss of national dignity and sovereignty would call into question Iran’s political identity and would also jeopardize its hard-won status as a regional power, owing to its confrontational stands vis-à-vis the US and Israel. Even partial concessions on the nuclear issue and on Iran’s regional policies are seen detrimental to its strategic interests in so far as they are perceived as a sign of weakness and hence a prelude to further concessions.

In the final analysis, the ongoing regional conflict between the US-NATO-Israeli-GCC axis and the resistance front does not leave much room for neutrality. Both Iran’s abandonment of its leading role in this regional front and its relinquishment of its right to a full nuclear fuel cycle would be equivalent to ontological insecurity, ideological betrayal and strategic suicide. So long as Washington requires that Iran stop being Iran, the latter will only continue to defy it and further entrench itself as a formidable power in the region.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion,” and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.


Iran plans to deploy warships off U.S. coast


September 4, 2012

A test firing of an Iranian Nour missile from the Islamic republic’s first domestically-manufactured destroyer, named Jamaran, off the southern shores of the Gulf. This is the first time a Nour missile is launched for testing from the locally-made warship.(AFP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran says it will counter US presence in its waters by sending ships to the international waters off the US coast, says Iranian Navy chief Admiral Sayyari.

No specifics were mentioned, but during an interview broadcast on state TV, Sayyari said the plans were aimed for“the next few years.”

In the past two years Iran has broadened the range of its navy, sending ships to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Sayyari did not deny that the proposed measure was a response to the increase in the number of US vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil passageway off the coast of Iran, which Tehran previously threatened to shut off.

“We will not allow anyone to trespass our country’s waters. There is no need for anyone else to establish security in our region,” said Sayyari.

The US Fifth Fleet is currently located in Bahrain, on the southern coast of the Strait of Hormuz.

More than a third of all the seaborne oil in the world passes through the narrow waterway.

Due to US and EU-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which the West suspects of covertly developing nuclear weapons, Iran’s export of oil has halved in the past year.

Financial data company Bloomberg reports that the country is missing out on $130 million a day in lost sales as a result.

In response to the sanctions, Tehran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. A majority of Iranian parliamentarians voted in favor of the blockade in July, and although the vote was seen as largely symbolic, the option is still on the table.

The US then upped its presence, and currently has two aircraft carriers in the region, also scheduling extensive war games for later this month.

Iranian high command has previously claimed that it will send its ships towards the US, but the threats have not yet resulted in actions.

Tension between the two countries are at a high, as speculation mounts that Washington’s close ally Israel may carry out a (possibly US-supported) strike on Iran to derail its incipient nuclear program.


The UN General Secretary and the One Percent


By Stephen Gowans
August 24, 2012

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

It’s clear whose side UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is on.

On August 17, Ban denounced Iran’s supreme leader Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei‘s condemnation of Zionism as a political system. Khamenei’s remarks were “offensive and inflammatory,” Ban cautioned, adding that the UN Charter prohibits member states from threatening one another.

Iran’s “threats” against Israel, including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s alleged threat to “wipe Israel off the map” have the appearance, though not the substance, of threats. They’re predictions about the inevitable collapse of a morally indefensible political system. Zionism will eventually fade from the pages of history, the Iranian president augured, not in a hail of nuclear missiles, but because its racial exclusion and ethnic cleansing are the rotten timbers upon which it rests.

Anyone who had prophesied that the days of Apartheid—another morally indefensible political system—were numbered, would hardly have been accused of threatening to bomb South Africa. But Ahmadinejad, as president of an economically nationalist state that exhibits little enthusiasm for hitching its wagon economically and politically to Wall Street and Washington, gets special treatment.

Khamenei’s prediction, and Ahmadinejad’s rendering of it, was soon turned into a canard about Iran threatening to bomb Israel, which demagogues in Tel Aviv and Washington have been using since to sanitize Israel’s threats to wage war on Iran. Use bombs, sanctions, isolation, and a foreign-trained domestic overthrow movement to usher Khamenei and Ahmadinejad off the stage of history, install pliant local rulers, and Iran’s back in the Wall Street camp.

While Iran’s leaders predict Zionism’s downfall under the weight of its own injustices, Israel has been making real threats–and not predictions about the collapse of the Islamic state, but promises to rain death and destruction on Iran from the air. All the same, Ban has been silent. Some UN member states, it seems, are afforded the privilege of threatening other member states, without a dressing down by the Secretary General.

Israel’s “entire existence is premised on the forced removal of Palestinians from their land,” Mazda Majidi points out in a recent Liberation article. Israel’s origins in ethnic cleansing might have led Ban to denounce Zionism as “offensive and inflammatory,” rather than Khamenei’s screed against it. Israel has amassed a robust record of serial aggressions, invading “every single one of its neighbors: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.” And much “of the territory it has occupied it has refused to ever return.”

What’s more, its aggressions have “gone beyond its borders, including its bombing of the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq in 1981 and its military assistance to reactionary states around the globe, including apartheid South Africa.”

So how could Ban miss the pimple on Israel’s face, considering the country was born with it, and that it has once again become red and angry? More to the point, how could he play to Israel’s modus operandi, which goes back to Israel’s founding in 1948, of justifying its aggressions on the wholly laughable grounds of being under an existential threat? Iran, a non-nuclear-arms country without superpower patronage, no more poses an existential threat to the US-backed, nuclear-arms-wielding Israel, than Canada does to the United States.

Ban’s bias is inevitable. Like all UN secretaries general, he’s simply an extension of the countries that make up the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council–the most important of which, of course, is the United States.

Washington and its other extensions, which include Tel Aviv and the Western mass media, have been engaged in a long-running campaign of manipulating public opinion to make Iran loom large in the minds of the public as a major threat to Israel—all in the service of building a pretext for war. There’s a broader campaign of which this is only a part: to eliminate every state that refuses to subordinate itself economically and politically to the profit-making interests of the banks, corporations and major investors of the United States and its major allies—the one (or more precisely, the fraction of the one) percent.

Milosevic’s Yugoslavia was sanctioned and bombed because it was a social democracy that resisted a free-market take-over, not because—as the story goes—ethnic Albanians were ill-treated. Libyan leader Muamar Gadaffi’s sin, according to a leaked US State Department cable, was that he practiced “resource nationalism”, insisting his country’s resources be used to benefit Libyans, not because he was allegedly about to unleash a genocide. The US State Department complains that Syria has “failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy,” which is to say, has failed to turn over its state-owned enterprises to private investors, and that “ideological reasons” continue to prevent the Asad government from liberalizing Syria’s economy, not that the country’s president, Bashar al-Asad, hates democracy and tramples human rights. (Were this the reason Washington opposes Asad’s government, how would we explain US support for the monarchical, misogynist, opposition-jailing, democracy-abominating tyrannies of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain?)

Iran, too, has committed its share of transgressions against free-market, free-enterprise, free-trade theology. The country’s constitution defines the public sector as primary, and “the private sector as the means of furnishing the government’s needs rather than responding to market requirements.” Democratic socialists will be shocked to discover that this is the very same economic model that such New Left socialists as Ralph Miliband defined as emblematic of what a democratic socialism ought to be (which isn’t to say that Iran is a democratic socialist state, only that economically it is very close to what many socialist thinkers have envisaged for Western socialism.)

Needless to say, countries that limit room for foreign investors, and subordinate the private sector to public policy goals, rather than Wall Street’s goals, are an anathema in Washington, and must be eliminated. The UN General Secretary is on board.


How leftist “anti-zionists” are allied with Israel against Syria


By Mimi Al Laham (aka “Syrian Girl”) and Lizzie Phelan
July 19, 2012

The Myth

There has been a ridiculous notion amongst numerous left groups and those opposed to the Syrian government, that the Israeli regime does not want to see Assad fall. As self-professed “anti-zionists”, many in these groups are content to delude themselves into believing that both their enemies are on the same side. In the case of several socialist groups, they believe that this forcing of the Syrian crisis into their blanket “anti-authoritarian” narrative (regardless of the state in which they are applying that narrative to) enables them to maintain a façade of anti-imperialism.

London based socialist newspaper The Socialist Review writes: “Israel, although hostile to Syria, could depend on the Baathist regime to keep the frontier quiet. Thus criticism of Bashar is more muted in Tel Aviv.”

And Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker writes:

The notion that ordinary Syrians struggling to change their country are the pawns of a ‘Western plot’ is absurd…In fact the Arab League is attempting to throw the regime a lifeline.

This view is also pervasive amongst the Islamic opposition to the Syrian government. Rafiq A. Tschannen of the The Muslims Times writes:

Israel believes that it would be safer under Assad regime than the new government whose credentials are unknown or the new Islamic extremist regime that would open a new war front with the Jewish state.

Israeli state media has actively fuelled this manipulation, as it has been beneficial to the Israeli state to both discredit the Syrian government in the eyes of Syrians and Arabs amongst whom cooperation with Israel has historically been a red line. Therefore the goal of these reports has been to create the false perception that Israel is uninvolved in the insurgency against the Syrian government. Similarly to how the NATO powers were keen to portray the Libyan insurgency as a “home-grown revolution”.

In this early 2011 Haaretz article entitled ‘Israel’s favourite dictator’, great lengths are taken to paint the Syrian president as a weak stooge of the Israeli state. The article regurgitates common Syrian criticisms and sources of frustration about the Syrian government’s failure to take back the Golan Heights. It even goes as far as to chastise Assad for not attacking Israel. The irony that an Israeli paper would be critical of a president’s failure to attack Israel is apparently lost on many. All the more incredible that these anti-zionist groups have chosen to believe the spin of Israeli state media.

The Turkish based Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), also jumped on this bandwagon. The now deposed leader of the SNC, Burghan Ghallion told Israeli paper Ynetnews “We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel”.

Debunking the Myth

However the following facts expose all of the above as merely a part of the psychological warfare machinery directed from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the NATO countries, which is an essential part of the overall aggression against Syria, and that such leftists have willingly become a part of:

Israel’s most important ally, the US, has been amongst its other allies repeatedly calling for regime change in Syria

Israel’s strongest ally the United States has been pushing for regime change in Syria since before the first signs of insurrection began. Most famously in 2007, General Wesley Clarke, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander between 1997 and 2000 said he had received a memo from the US Secretary of Defense’s Office which read that the Syrian Government would be one of the seven governments the US would destroy in the subsequent five years.

The Guardian’s recent headline “Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army” is in the typical style of the liberal media based in the NATO countries a malignant manipulation. The text of that article is specifically about plans by the US’ and by extension Israel’s most important regional allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to pay the salaries of insurgents. But buried further down the very same article also reports that such support began months before. A less misleading headline therefore would replace “plans to fund” with “increases support for”, however a truthful headline would suggest external control over Syria’s insurgency has existed since its onset.

Indeed both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a long history of hostility to the Syrian Ba’ath Party and Syrian foreign policy, a fact which is reflected in both of their leading medias (Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya respectively) severely distorted coverage of events in Syria from the outset.

But to highlight this context would give too much weight to the Syrian government’s consistent analysis that the crisis within its borders is externally created. A fact which leftist groups also fall over themselves trying to downplay or dismiss with the result of boosting the opposing narrative which imperialism has made dominant through its media machinery.

Why did that same Guardian article, and western leftists who claim that Assad is good for Israel fail to mention that for example in early April, the US openly pledged to double its assistance to the insurgents to the tune of an additional $12 million, under the cover of “humanitarian aid”? Or the recent US admission that it is actively arming the insurgency using Qatar as a proxy? Or that in February, solid Israeli ally British Foreign Minister William Hague pledged more equipment to the insurgents, insisting there was “no limit on what resources” Britain would provide?

It shouldn’t have to be explained to anti-Zionists that US and Israeli foreign policy is one and the same.

Axis of Resistance

Syria is a member of the Axis of Resistance, which is the only effective military resistance to Israel left. It is made up of Syria, Iran and the resistance inside Lebanon with Hizbullah at the helm. Far from being a ‘safe’ option for Israel, as Al Akhbar writer Amal Saad-Ghorayeb sets out in her three part critique of the third-way position that has seized much of the western left, Syria has consistently put itself on the frontline, risking its own survival, and has been involved in every Arab-Israeli conflict since they took power. Syria has been the strongest supporter of the Lebanese resistance movements against Israeli occupation; Hizbullah has repeatedly unequivocally attributed its ability to effectively win the 2006 war against Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its support from Syria and Iran.

A year since the beginning of the insurrection in Syria, the ridiculous notion that Israel was not pursuing regime change in Syria began to crumble. Israeli Intelligence Minister, Dan Meridor was quoted on Israeli radio, pointing out what was obvious all along: Regime change in Syria would break the Iran-Syria mutual defence pact thereby isolating Iran and cutting the supply of arms to Hezbollah. Finally, Israel’s greatest adversary, Syria, would be crippled.

This was not reported in Israeli mass media, which ensured that the lid was kept on the obvious, clearly in the knowledge that it would make the position of the insurgent’s self-professed anti-zionist cheerleaders in the west and Arab world more untenable. Yet those cheerleaders who maintain that Assad is good for Israel have been unable to reconcile then why Israel relentlessly beats the war drums against one of Syria’s most important allies, Iran.

Aside from wanting to get rid of Assad to secure military hegemony of the region, Israel also has an economic interest in scarpering the Syria, Iran, Iraq oil pipeline which would rival both Israel’s BTC pipeline and the eternally fledgling plans for Europe’s Nabucco pipeline.

Pro-Israel Opposition

With increasing momentum, the already tenuous facade of being pro-Assad in the Israeli media began to crumble and increasingly, voices within the Syrian opposition have been crossing the red line of sounding friendly towards Israel.

MK Yitzhak Herzog, who has previously held ministerial posts in Israeli parliament, said that Syrian opposition leaders have told him they want peace with Israel after Syrian President Bashar al Assad falls.

Indeed, SNC member Bassma Kodmani attended the 2012 Bilderberg conference where regime change in Syria was on the agenda. Kodmani has previously called for friendly relations between Syria and Israel on a French talk show, going as far as to say: ‘We need Israel in the region’.

Another SNC member, Ammar Abdulhamid declared his support for friendly relations between Israel and Syria in an interview with Israeli news paper Ynetnews.

Earlier this year a telephone conversation between the SNC’s Radwan Ziyade and Mouhammad Abdallah emerged where they begged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack for more support.

Outside the SNC the children of former leadership figures now in opposition have joined the pro-Israel rat race. Ribal al-Assad, the son of Bashar Assad’s uncle and exiled former vice-president Rifaat al-Asaad welcomed the possibility of Syria making peace with Israel. And son of former Syrian prime minister Nofal Al-Dawalibi, said in an interview on Israeli radio that the Syrian people want peace with Israel. Dawalibi formed the “Free Syrian Transitional National Government”, another external opposition group rivaling the SNC for power in a situation where the Syrian government falls. This sectarian infighting and disunity, that is a mirror of post-Gaddafi Libya, is now threatening to plague the Syria.

Lower down the opposition hierarchy, pro-Israel voices are still to be found.

Syrian Danny Abdul-Dayem, the almost one-hit-wonder unofficial spokesman for the FSA, appeared on CNN begging Israel to Attack Syria.

And in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi, an exiled Imam from the Syrian city of Homs, said that the Syrian Opposition does not have any enmity towards Israel. Tamimi proceeded to request monetary and military support for Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon.

Anti-Assad Zionists and Israeli Leaders

Socialists chosen to be blind to the fact that prominent Zionists have been backing the Syrian insurgency since its inception.

US Senator John Mccain and Joe Lieberman, both well known to be close friends of the zionist entity, met with the SNC and Syrian insurgents on the Turkish border, then called for the US to arm them. In fact Joe Lieberman has been calling for war against Syria since 2011.

Another well known zionist Bernard Henri-Levy, who spear-headed the destruction of Libya by NATO aerial bombardment, has also called for an attack on Syria.

More recently voices within the Israeli government have been more vocal and demanding in their desire to see the Syrian government’s replacement with a more friendly puppet regime.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, upon receiving the ‘Medal of Freedom’ from US President Barack Obama, said that the world had to get rid of Assad. That he was receiving such a medal requires its own article dedicated to psychoanalyzing such an event, but that he could also claim, while being part of a system that is responsible for some of the gravest abuses to humankind in history, that from a “human” point of view Assad must go, should really get so-called anti-Zionists thinking.

Other members of the Israeli government, such as Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz, urged world powers to mount a Libya style regime change in Syria.

And Israeli defense minister Ehud Barack called for the ‘world to act’ to remove Assad while Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the “world” of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government and then offered Israel “assistance” for Syrian ‘refugees’.

Finally, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the ‘world’ of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government. Then offered Israel offered ‘assistance’ for Syrian ‘refugees’. Thinly euphemism for arming insurgents on the border.


In spite of the overt desire of the US government for regime change in Syria, which they have made clear time and time again, Israel has obvious economic and military interests Israel has for pursuing regime change in Syria, most notably the the break up of the Axis of Resistance and the destruction of plans for rival oil pipelines. Despite numerous public statements by Syrian opposition members that they are pro-israel and the multitude of Israeli government officials calling for the fall of the Syrian government as well as zionist lobbyists and key zionist figures like Bernard Henri-Levy backing the insurgency, so called ‘anti-zionist’ Socialists and Islamic groups persist in their claim that Israel has no stake in regime change in Syria and that the insurgency inside Syria is from the grass roots. Though all information contrary to this delusion is in clear sight, it seems that the socialist and Islamic groups are willingly blind.

This position becomes increasingly untenable however, most recently in light of the murder of Syria’s Deputy Defence Minister Asef Shawkat, which along with the simultaneous murder of Defence Minister Raoud Dajiha and Assistant to the Vice President Hassan Turkomani, which the Syrian government laid the responsibility for squarely at the doors of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as new information has come to light as revealed by Al Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin.

In an article published today, Amin writes of Shawkat, that in spite of the incessant attempts by the US, Israel et al to demonise him, he in fact,

played a major role in resisting Israeli occupation in and around Palestine. Right to the end, he took practical charge of meeting the needs of the resistance forces in Palestine and Lebanon, and of their members and cadres in Syria. He oversaw everything from their accommodation and transportation, to their training camps and provisions, and arranging for cadres from inside Palestine to come to the country secretly for training.

For the resistance in Lebanon, Shawkat was a true partner, providing whatever assistance was needed without needing orders or approval from the leadership. He was a central player in the June 2006 war. He spent the entire time in the central operations room that was set up in line with a directive by Assad to supply the resistance with whatever weapons it wanted, notably missiles, from Syrian army stocks. Shawkat and other officers and men of the Syrian army – including Muhammad Suleiman who was assassinated by the Mossad on the Syrian coast in 2008 – spent weeks coordinating the supply operation which helped the resistance achieve the successes that led to the defeat of Israel.

Despite the accusations levelled against Asef Shawkat regarding security, political or other matters, for Imad Mughniyeh, the assassinated military leader of Hezbollah, he was just another comrade, a modest man who would bow when shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, and liked to hear the news from Palestine last thing at night.

However anti-zionist one proclaims to be, there are few in this world that can claim to have done as much as the above for the Palestinian Resistance to the zionist entity. But having proven to wilfully ignore all of the facts and history of Syria’s long history of resistance to Israel, it is a great tragedy that those who cling on to the argument dealt with in this essay, would only perhaps be able to let go of it should Syria fall and then the reality of Palestine’s total military abandonment would be all to devastatingly clear to see.