CP Brief: Syria

Want to read about the background to the Syrian civil war? Read the November 2014 briefing from CP International Department

CP Brief: Ukraine

Analysis and briefing on UKRAINE from CP International Dept.

Ben Chacko, Morning Star editor,  calls on anti war activists to step up the level of thinking and action, to support the beleaguered peoples of the Middle East.

All Europe has reeled in shock this weekend, as the appalling scale of the terrorist murders in Paris becomes clear. One hundred and twenty-nine people killed, nearly 400 injured, in seven separate but co-ordinated massacres.
Isis has been waging its war of unparalleled brutality in Iraq and Syria for years. Murdering civilians is nothing new to an organisation that executes 10-year-olds, stones women to death and flings gay people from the roofs of buildings, that deems entire villages, towns and peoples unfit to live if they belong to supposedly undesirable religious or ethnic groups.
Nor has its violence been confined to the vast territory it now controls. The 224 people on the doomed Russian airliner departing from Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31 most likely fell victim to its vengeance for the Russian air force’s attacks on Isis.
Thursday evening saw 41 killed in Beirut, probably because Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is helping the Syrian government fight Isis.
On the same evening as the Paris atrocities another 19 died in Baghdad, Shi’ites slaughtered by a suicide bomber for their religion.
Isis is the most recent and the most dangerous of the terrorist movements based on Saudi Arabia’s extremist Wahhabi version of Islam, but there are of course others, most famously al-Qaida, from which Isis originated as a split and whose affiliate the Nusra Front also fights in Syria for the overthrow of the government.
More than the other groups, though, Isis is frightening because it has succeeded in attracting people from our own countries to join it.
The first identified attacker from the Paris attacks was a French citizen, Omar Ismail Mostefai, born in 1985 in the Paris suburb of Courcouronnes.
Last week we had news that a US drone had killed Mohammed Emwazi, who slit the throats of prisoners for propaganda videos and was better known as “Jihadi John,” raised in London. And we know that large numbers of British, French and other European citizens have travelled to Syria to join the terrorists.
Pitiless, apocalyptic and irrational, there is no point in seeking to come to terms with murderers like Isis. The organisation must be defeated. But how?
Any attempt to pin the blame on Islam or Muslims for atrocities like these must be rejected immediately. Muslims across the world have expressed their horror at last Friday’s sickening events.
And, as President Francois Hollande has previously remarked, most victims of terror worldwide are Muslims. Certainly Isis spends most of its time murdering Muslims.
Sectarian hatred has to be faced down by unity and solidarity between people of all faiths and none. Those on the British right such as Ukip who rail at multiculturalism should note that France’s more prescriptive approach to national identity and “French values” has not spared it.
All too often, as with the ban on wearing veils, it has been perceived by disadvantaged communities as racism, however much socialists may respect the tradition of state secularism that goes back to the French Revolution.
Racism and discrimination can only increase the terrorist threat. But neither can we ignore the fact that Isis is currently a very powerful organisation, controlling a territory the size of a country — a first for an organisation of its type — fighting a bitter war to overthrow the Syrian government.
A united front against Isis in Syria is essential. Hilary Benn’s decision to support the peace talks among all anti-Isis forces in Syria, announced to the Independent on Sunday, is a massively positive step.
No-fly zones and military intervention against the Bashar al-Assad regime can only assist Isis, which with no air force would benefit enormously if the Syrians were prevented from bombing its positions. All such talk must now cease.
As for “moderate” rebels, where are they? US General Lloyd Austin testified to the Senate armed services committee back in September that only “four or five” such rebels were still in the field.
Russia’s intervention led to a rethink as Western governments rapidly claimed the Kremlin was targeting the “moderate opposition” rather than Isis, but this was political spin.
Defeating a threat of this nature requires a dose of cold realism and an understanding of why the threat exists. Isis in Syria has benefited enormously from the West’s sponsorship of the revolt against President Assad.
Isis itself has thanked the United States for weapons drops intended for other rebel groups, but which Isis hoovered up. Opposition fighters armed and trained by the US have, on entering Syria, joined Isis; others have handed their weapons over to it.
Turkey, a Nato member and close ally of the US, Britain and France, has allowed armed fighters to pour over its border into Syria. It continues to bomb and attack Kurdish forces fighting against Isis, even when those same troops are co-ordinating with Washington.
The collapse of the Gadaffi regime in Libya following Nato’s intervention on the side of Islamist rebel groups has not only created permanent civil war there, but flooded north Africa with arms, boosting terror organisations across the region.
And the longer story is of course that extremist terror has flourished in Iraq — home, of course, of Isis’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — since the US-British invasion of 2003. After years of total denial, even Tony Blair recently acknowledged that there were “elements of truth” in the assessment that Isis was a child of the Iraq war.
Sadly not everyone is willing to learn the lesson. Hence the revolting spectacle of self-righteous Blairites competing to denounce the Stop the War Coalition over the weekend.
Pointing out the causal links between foreign policy decisions and terrorist attacks is a requirement if any serious effort is to be made to prevent such attacks and tackle the situations which give rise to them.
But for posting an article noting that US support for Sunni extremists had helped lead to the Paris atrocities, Stop the War came in for a barrage of Blairite ire.
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock called the group “disgusting apologists” for terrorism. Ilford South’s Mike Gapes says it is “beneath contempt.” Shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Doughty denounced a “shameful” tweet about the article — which has since been removed — and said it “shows [Stop the War] for who [they] are.”
Even if Stop the War had done nothing else, for organising the largest peaceful protest march in our history in 2003 — when it brought two million onto the streets against the invasion of Iraq — it would deserve an honourable place in the history of British political protest.
Certainly on that occasion it was proved right. And since then Stop the War has continued to campaign for peace despite the mockery and hostility of an Establishment with blood on its hands.
Blairites might hate Stop the War on principle, but it is easy to see why it is being targeted now: because of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s long association with the organisation, of which he is a former chairman.
The petty sniping of Woodcock, Gapes and Doughty — all supporters of Liz Kendall in the party leadership contest — stems from the same dishonourable source as the right-wing frenzy over Jeremy’s bow on Remembrance Sunday. They want to paint Labour’s leader as unpatriotic, as a friend of this country’s enemies.
But the warmongers have run this show for decades now. They cannot blame the peace movement for the terrible crimes committed against civilians by Isis.
Those who truly want to end the terrorist nightmare will face up to the role of Western governments in creating it, stop aiding and abetting the rebellion in Syria and start co-ordinating with Damascus and others on the front line in the battle to destroy this menace.