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Hands off Syria, Victory to the revolution

Bradley Hughes

December 29, 2011

NATO powers are using repression in Syria as a pretext for long-sought intervention. As in Libya, Western military intervention in the Syrian Revolution would hijack another part of the Arab Spring and undermine its potential.

In recent weeks, hundreds of soldiers have defected from the army. On December 11, a general strike shut down most of Daraa province, including the city of Homs. Strike action and civil disobedience are on the rise, all over Syria.

For decades Western imperialism has wanted “regime change” in Syria, one of the few regimes of the region not armed and controlled by the West. After 9/11, Syria was targeted by the US, along with Iraq and Iran. Like Iran, the Syrian regime presents itself as anti-imperialist, and has provided support for resistance movements in the region like Hizbullah in Lebanon. But both regimes brutally repress their own opposition movements and have increasingly embraced neoliberalism. The effects of the global economic crisis have only exacerbated the genuine grievances of the people.

Syrian Revolution

Syria is a country of 17 million people, half of them under 19. Unemployment stands between 25 and 30 per cent. GDP is falling and the oil is running out. At the same time as poverty is growing, a small corrupt layer around the president is getting richer and richer. After 11 years of rule by the dictator Bashar al-Assad, and 29 years before that by his father, the people of Syria began an uprising last March as part of the Arab Spring.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups, including the Syrian National Committee (SNC), which is largely based abroad, and local coordinating committees, which are entirely based in neighbourhoods across the country, and which organize demonstrations and the defence of local opposition forces.

Some sections of the SNC are openly calling for foreign military intervention in Syria, the way NATO did in Libya. These forces are aligned with Western imperialism and represent a threat to the Syrian Revolution, since their interests are limited to gaining power for themselves—even at the expense of resistance movements in the region. The local coordinating committees appear to be a more genuine expression of the revolution, having publicly opposed any foreign interference whatsoever in Syria—from the US and Israel to Saudi Arabia and former members of the Assad regime. The most advanced sections of the committees have warned that imperialism is no friend of the revolution.

Opposition has also emerged in the Syrian Army, from which hundreds of soldiers have defected over recent weeks and months, leading to the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA has been attacking Syrian army units that have been deployed to disrupt protests. In some cases, they have attacked the officers and recruited their soldiers.

In early December, widespread protests led to a one-day general strike that was observed throughout Daraa province, which has been the centre of the revolt. The escalation of the protests to strike action is crucial; it was strike action combined with mass protests that toppled the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

The threat of counter-revolution

The regime has sent soldiers to attack and imprison protesters, even hijacking ambulances and kidnapping injured protesters from hospitals. The UN estimates that over 5,000 people have been killed by the regime, with hundreds imprisoned and many tortured—despite the presence of Arab League monitors.

Now the West is using Assad’s attacks, and the impotence of the Arab League, as pretext for intervention. Canada and the US have imposed economic sanctions against Syria, which could spill over into military intervention. “Canada will continue to put the squeeze on the Assad regime,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the CBC. “We will not sit idly by—not while Assad and his thugs continue to violate the rights of the Syrian people.”

But Canada and the US’s record of not “sitting idly by” includes their complicity in the “extraordinary rendition” of Maher Arar. In September 2002, the US kidnapped Canadian citizen Maher Arar during a layover at an American airport. US officials sent him to be tortured in Syria. The Canadian government knew he was imprisoned and did nothing.

In addition, Canada has its own economic interests in Syria, like the corporation Suncor that opened a $1.2- billion natural gas plant last year.

A genuine revolution in Syria threatens not only Assad and Syrian elites, but also Western imperialism in the region.

This is why NATO countries are intervening with the support of some sections of the SNC and FSA. But like the intervention in Libya, this would reduce the revolution to a military exercise—purging its political and economic demands.

Only the people of Syria can win their revolution, with solidarity from other struggles around the world. Solidarity movements must stand with and defend the Syrian Revolution, and at the same time, organize to stop all foreign intervention and interference.

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