Hilary Benn Speech on Syria

Hilary Benn has come in for justifiable criticism for his shameful, pompous and historically illiterate attempt to use the International Brigade’s fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War to justify bombing Syria during his intervention in the Commons debate on Wednesday. Let’s be clear. By doing this he was supporting an imperialist agenda designed to topple the legitimate Government of a sovereign nation. Readers may recall that Harold Wilson commented acidly of his father, Tony Benn, that he “immatured with age”, as he moved steadily to the left through his political life. If only the same could be said of Hilary!

Chris Guiton

Responses to Paris

In the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, 30 November to 11 December, the BBC is today heavily spinning some survey findings it has commissioned from the Research Group Globe Scan indicating that only  just under half of all those surveyed across 20 countries viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem, compared with 63% in 2009. Despite this spin, the report concedes that a majority in the UK still consider it “very serious”.

One must question why a supposedly cash strapped BBC has commissioned this survey and why it has given it such a negative spin. Could it be that it is seeking to curry favour with its paymaster, the one-time “greenest government ever” when it is about to sell out in Paris?

Opinion surveys are, of course, very dependent on the questions asked. Other recent research has drawn very different conclusions. For example, that published last month by the Pew Research Center, identified climate change as the biggest concern of peoples across the globe, far more serious than global economic instability or the threat of ISIS. While in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in Paris this may not currently be the majority view in the UK, it must surely be the rational one after considered reflection. ISIS could murder thousands of people in the UK over the next few years. Unchecked global warming has the potential to extinguish all human life in a few generations.

The responses of our government to terrorism and to global warming are indeed very different. The response to terrorism is “something must be done” while taking the opportunity provided to effect largely unrelated but advantageous “regime change”. 9/11 was a horrific crime but declaring a “war on terror” and going on to invade Afghanistan and Iraq was such a response. Had President Bush simply called in the FBI to identify and arrest the culprits, we would not now be confronting ISIS and mass migrations of people from the Middle East. The wish to bomb Syria is also motivated by the “something must be done” principle and a scarcely concealed wish to topple President Assad of Syria. Both are consistent with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing something over and over again and each time expecting a different result. The response to global warming, on the other hand, is to try to spin the problem away. This is criminally inadequate but so would be “something must be done”. Real action to curb CO2 emissions has to be negotiated in Paris and then implemented or humanity is in deep, deep trouble. Furthermore, unlike meddling in the Middle East, there really is a regime change that would help: ending capitalism!

 

Kurdish national question.

by John Eden.

The collapsing Assad regime in Syria is highlighting, the problems facing the whole region, and the course of future conflict there, of which the Kurdish national question is going to play a major central role. All the countries in the region who have a Kurdish population have one thing in common, although they may have major contradictions among themselves the Turks, the Iranians, the Iraqis and Syrian Arabs, one thing their politicians have in common, there will be no independent Kurdistan, below is an article from the Guardian, of the struggle the Kurds face in Syria, but it is a problem they face throughout the region.

Syria’s Kurds face uncertain future if Assad falls

The regime’s exit from Kurdish areas has sparked mistrust between the rebels and Syria’s second biggest ethnic group

Kurdish members of the FSA are seen on a tank stolen from the Syrian army in Fafeen village, north of Aleppo province. Photograph: Manu Brabo/AP

The quarrel began when a young Arab called Mohammad drove up to a Kurdish checkpoint. The Kurdish fighters manning it beat him up. Bruised, angry and humiliated, Mohammad gathered up a group of armed friends. There was a shootout; Mohammad, his brother and three others were killed. Three Kurds also died. Both sides agreed a truce. As part of the deal the Kurds abandoned the mountaintop checkpoint in the village of Qastal, seven miles from the town of Azaz in northern Syria, and retreated down the road.

The violent clashes last month are indicative of the tensions that have surfaced in the wake of Syria’s uprising. The Kurds are the second biggest group in Syria’s delicate ethnic mosaic: 3 million in a country of 23 million. Long discriminated against by successive Arab regimes in Damascus, and often denied citizenship, they are now staking a claim to self-determination. It’s unclear, however, whether their lot will be any better in a post-revolutionary Syria with President Bashar al-Assad gone.

The Kurds live predominantly in the mountains of the north, next to the Turkish border. Their informal “capital” is the north-east frontier town of Qamishli. In July the Democratic Union party (PYD) – the biggest Kurdish political group – seized control of many Kurdish towns and enclaves. The PYD set up checkpoints and hoisted the party’s once forbidden flag. It now flutters above rugged Kurdish hamlets set among Byzantine ruins, and in tidy villages of tractors, concrete houses and chickens.

Over the summer the Syrian military effectively withdrew from Kurdish areas. Assad seems to have made a strategic calculation. The PYD is closely allied to the outlawed Turkish militant group the PKK, which has been battling Ankara for decades.

Turkey is now Assad’s biggest regional foe.

Whatever Assad’s motives, the withdrawal has sparked mistrust between the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main rebel armed movement, and the Kurdish leadership. FSA commanders bitterly accuse the Kurds of being stooges of the regime. “Why didn’t they join the revolution?” Sheikh Omar, a commander in the rebel-held town of El Bab asked. Omar said he was opposed to Kurdish demands for federalism in the new Syria. “What they really mean is independence,” he asserted.

Jihadist groups, meanwhile, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, view the Kurds, who have traditionally taken a laid-back approach to Islam, as infidels. Two weeks ago an alliance of FSA units, including fighters from Omar’s al-Tawhid brigade, and jihadists, fought with Kurdish militias in the town of Ras el Ain. They pushed the Kurds from the border crossing with Turkey.

In other parts of Syria, however, Kurds and Arabs co-exist in harmony. Qabbasin, north of Aleppo, is a model of inter-ethnic co-operation. The town has a permanent population of 18,000, split equally between Arabs and Kurds. The flag of Kurdistan – red, white, green with an orange sun in the middle – hangs in the town square next to the Syrian rebel tricolour. The walls of the local council office were repainted last week with friendly slogans in Kurdish and Arabic: “Kurd-Arab one heart.”

“We are brothers,” the Kurdish mayor Bashar Muslim said, pointing out that his deputy is an Arab. “There are no differences between us.” But what about the violent clashes in Ifrin, Ras el Ain and Aleppo? These disputes began after Jabhat al-Nusra fighters erected checkpoints in Aleppo’s al-Ashrafiya district; the Kurds, fearing that the regime would start shelling them, drove the jihadists out, with several killed. “It’s nothing. We can sort it out,” the mayor said.

Sitting over a cup of strong, black, sugary tea, a group of Kurds discussed Syria’s future – and the Kurds’ place in it.

Abu Khalil, a 52-year-old farm worker, said he supported the PYD, but his son did not. His son was disappointed by the PYD’s seemingly unenthusiastic attitude to Syria’s revolution, he said. What would happen to the Kurds once Assad was overthrown? “Maybe things will be worse for us,” Khalil answered.

The PYD’s leader, Salih Muslim, rejects the charge his party is a collaborationist fifth column. Muslim points out that it was the Kurds who first revolted against Assad – with a bloody uprising in 2004 in Qamishli – and that before the revolution the regime jailed many of his supporters. Kurdish volunteers, meanwhile, have fought alongside the FSA and died in the battle for Aleppo; ordinary Kurds have held anti-Assad protests. Thousands of displaced Arabs have moved to the comparative safety of Kurdish areas.

But there are many obstacles in the way of Kurdish autonomy. The Kurds are not only at odds with the current regime – and its likely replacement – but also with each other. There is a rival political alliance of 12 Kurdish political parties, the Kurdish National Council (KNC). It enjoys the support of Masoud Barzani, the influential president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish north.

Turkey backs the KNC and pro-Barzani factions, perceiving them as posing less of a threat than the PYD.

In July, Barzani convened a peace conference in the Iraqi town of Irbil; all Kurdish political groups took part. They agreed to set aside their differences and to participate in a new supreme Kurdish body. But this deal to share power and hold joint patrols appears to be working badly on the ground. The PYD still controls most checkpoints, and has a network of armed fighters; critics complain its structures are less than democratic.

All Kurdish factions agree on what they want: self-determination within a united, sovereign Syria. But this vision appears too much for the Syrian Arab opposition leaders as they inch closer to power.

This week the US recognised the Islamist-dominated opposition council as the country’s legitimate authority. Earlier this year the KNC stormed out of a meeting with the council’s predecessor after it refused to include wordings about the rights of Kurds. In particular, the Kurds want to drop the word “Arab” from Syria’s official Ba’athist name – the Syrian Arab Republic.

One FSA fighter who fought in last month’s clashes in Qastal, near Ifrin, a Kurdish stronghold, said he was deeply suspicious of Kurdish intentions. “The new Syria has to be a single entity,” Abu Ahmed insisted, recounting how several of his comrades had perished in the shootout. He added: “It’s impossible to make a Kurdistan in Syria like in Iraq. We want one Syria. We don’t want parts of Syria.”

Perhaps the hopeful slogans on Qabbasin’s walls will prevail. Kurds and Arabs have lived side by side for centuries, together with Armenians, Turkmens, Circassians and other ethnic groups. Optimists hope they can patch up their differences and agree a post-Assad political solution. But pessimists predict that once once Assad is gone, the rival forces inside Syria will embark on a new war – with Arabs, nationalists, jihadists, loyalists and Kurds all scrapping with each other.

Back in the coffee shop, Khalil shrugged. “We will have a new conflict, and then we will see who emerges as champion,” he predicted.

• This article was amended on 15 December 2012. The original described Kurds

Syria end coming for the Assad regime.

By John Eden.

It looks now that the UN or Nato is going to intervene, the tide is turning against the regime, especially since the Huala massacre, but this event is more likely to be the result of the fact that the tide had already turn against Assad. Just as the intervention of NATO in Bosnia only came after three years of bloody war, and only after the Bosnian and Croat armies had routed the Bosnian Serbian and Serbian armies in the late spring and early summer of 1995 did the West intervene, they were quite content to hide behind Russian objections.

But why would the West intervene to support the opposition in Syria, who have been mainly made up from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood? who are no friends of the West and opponents of the Israeli State,the reason is they are not supporting them.

What as happened since the resent massacre’s is the beginnings of split between the Assad regime and the Sunni bourgeoise, an alliance cemented in the Baathist military coup against the civilian Baathist regime of General Saleh Jadid in late 1970.

It as been reported that Sunni bourgeoise since the massacre’s have been shutting down their shops and businesses early in protest against these massacre’s clearly blaming forces loyal to the regime. It is these Sunni bourgeoise elements that comprise the main ruling elements in Syria, as they have always done, that the West is relying on to provide the basis of a post Assad regime, this was clearly stated some months ago in one broad sheet newspaper, these people will be propped up by the West’s intervention at the expense of the present internal armed opposition which is overwhelming from the poor and mainly Sunni population.

More on the end game for Assad.

James Brooke

June 29, 2012

MOSCOW — On the eve of Saturday’s international meeting in Geneva on the future of Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed Syria with her Russian counterpart in a meeting Friday in St. Petersburg.

Before the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov distanced himself from a draft United Nations resolution that signaled peace will only come to Syria if President Bashar al-Assad steps down.

He says a Syrian solution can only be made by Syrians.

That said, Russia will participate in the Syria conference Saturday – a meeting that will have no Syrian participants.

Analysts here say the Kremlin is starting to think that Mr. Assad may not survive as president much longer. They say Russia is working on “Plan B.” This would be a negotiated political solution that would include members of the Assad government, but not President Assad.

“The Russians now realize that it would be very difficult, if possible at all, to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, even if he is ready to make serious concessions to the opposition,” Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation, a non-profit group in Moscow.

Kortunov and other analysts say Russian demands would include safety for the Syrian president and his family, participation of existing government figures in a coalition government, and protection for Syrian minorities such as Christians, Armenians and Circassians – descendants of a group deported from Czarist Russia in the 1860s.

Russia is often seen as President Assad’s closest big-power ally. Moscow’s state-controlled television and newspapers routinely relay the official line of Damascus, saying that the 16-month-old uprising is the work of foreign powers and “terrorists.”

For 40 years, the Kremlin has maintained close ties with the Assad family. Today, Russia is Syria’s biggest military supplier and maintains a naval station on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Russia is completing contracts to modernize 20 attack helicopters and 100 Soviet era tanks.

Ruslan Aliyev, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow research organization close to Russia’s defense industry, says the ties with Damascus are often more emotional than rational.

He says Syria is not a major market for Russian arms sales “Syria is not a principle customer for Russia. It’s not the most be weapons’ market in the world, or in the region for that matter,” Aliyev said in an interview.In regards to the Naval base, strictly speaking, it’s not really a base at all. It’s a small point on the global map where Russian ships can occasionally stop off to get food and water supplies, and where ships can have minor repairs.”

He and other analysts here say Russia main interest is to keep Syria from disintegrating into a failed state where Islamic radicalism would thrive.

Mark Galeotti, chairman of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, agrees.

“It’s important to stress that it’s not that Russia has some particular enthusiasm for the Assad regime,” said Galeotti, a Russia expert. “They are desperate to avoid chaos in the area. And their experience is that, on the whole, Western experiments and regime
change have always led to, not just chaos, but the rise of Islamist governments that frankly would be very bad news for Moscow.”

Moscow has been battling Islamic radicalism for more than three decades – since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. A central thrust of Kremlin policy has been to avoid – or at least contain – this radicalism.

Galeotti and others say Russia’s goal in Syria is to move from the current state of civil war to a moderate, tolerant Sunni regime.

“They would much rather see some stable regime,” he said Friday. “I think in this respect, the Russians would be very happy to broker some kind of deal, which would see maybe the Assad family depart from Syria. ”

The Kremlin’s challenge will be to get from here to there – without being seen as following Washington’s lead.

Croydon and beyond

by John Eden

I don’t have my own computer, so my blogs are going to be rather intermittent. my first blog was to draw the the compassion between events that might seem unconnected to some, that the connection between the cuts being imposed in Croydon and the events in the middle-east,and that they have a common cause the economic crises of the capitalist system, and this is the underlying reason of the riots in Croydon and the Arab spring. There are many who don’t share this view of course, they may agree that the riots in Croydon are caused by the economic crises, but not the latter or vice-versa, or they don’t agree at all with the proposition. I have for the last four weeks been reading and re-reading two books, one about the ” History of the Arabs” by Peter Mansfield said to  be a very good introduction to the subject, and another by Nickolaos Van Dam, the “The struggle for power in Syria” and I have also researched on the web

There are those who think that the crises in the middle-east is the creation of imperialist intervention particularly by the United States,Britain and France, paraphrasing the Syrian regime,Russia and China,and that it as nothing to do with the impact of the economic crisis on the internal contradictions of Syrian society. Russia’s defence of the regime as more to do with the retention of their only military base outside the former Soviet Union, and the desire to be a great nation in world affairs, and to sell arms, here is an example of the importance that arms can play in the internal politics of Syria. In the struggle for the power in Syria in 1970,  between the cilvilian Bathist Party led by Salah Jadid and the Military Bathist Party led by Hafiz al-Assad, the Soviet Ambassador sided with the former, the USSR was the main supplier of arms to the regime, the chief of staff of the military was sent to China, and waving the “Little Red Book”,proposed to by arms from there, the USSR backed down. Salah Jadid fell shortly afterwards, this may have been only one factor in his demise, but it was a factor in Syrian-USSR relations. More to follow later, comments welcome!