Should Anti-Imperialists Support the Syrian Revolution?

By William Van Wagenen

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” – Kaiser Sose

Western propaganda regarding the role of US imperialism in the Middle East has become increasingly sophisticated and successful; so much so that in recent years large sections of the Western left have been convinced that US imperialism essentially no longer exists. As a result, since the start of the insurgency in Syria in 2011, many on the left have taken the same side as their traditional enemies, the US and Israel, in wishing to see the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, overthrown.

The success of US imperialism in obscuring its role in the Syria conflict is evident in opinion pieces published in recent years by prominent Western socialist publications. Writing in the Socialist Worker, the publication of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Ashley Smith authored an article entitled “Anti-Imperialism and Syria.” In it, she contends that the left can either support “Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon,” who are responsible for the “massacre of some 400,000 Syrians,” on the one hand, or we can support the “popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy” on the other.

In contrast to those on the left who point to US efforts to overthrow the Syrian government, Smith argues, “In reality, the U.S. retreated in general from outright regime change as its strategy in the Middle East after the failure of its invasion and occupation of Iraq. The main priority behind the alternative direction for U.S. imperialism pursued by Barack Obama is that the U.S. should avoid destabilizing regimes for fear of the chaos that ensues in the aftermath. Thus, the voices of the campist left are stuck in the past, trying to find the evidence to expose a strategy of regime change that the U.S. has abandoned.”

Similarly, self-styled anarchist Leila al-Shami, whose book, “Burning Country,” is widely cited in leftist circles, and which Smith endorses, suggests that the US has not intervened in Syria against the Assad government, but rather in favor of it. She stated that “In fact America’s key intervention has been to veto other countries from sending anti-aircraft weapons into Syria,” which “communities needed to defend themselves from the scorched earth policies and massive onslaught of the state.”

Because US planners in fact want to “avoid de-stabilizing” the Syrian government, the true “anti-imperialist” position is to support the Syrian “revolution,” according to writers like Smith and al-Shami.

View of the PFLP

Responding to leftist writers such as Smith, the Marxist-inspired Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) published an interview with Palestinian academic Dr. Yousef Abdulhaq in which he argues, “Many democratic and leftist writers, when approaching the question of Syria, partially or totally ignore fundamentals of historical and dialectical materialist analysis.” According to Abdulhaq, the experience of the unrest in Libya, which preceded the unrest in Syria by several weeks, is instructive to those who are concerned with questions of anti-imperialism in Syria:

In reality, if we look at Libya today, we do not find a hopeful tale of Western intervention nor do we find Libyans living in a democratic paradise; indeed, we continue to find the hell of torture, militias, and the loss of Libya’s oil wealth to support national investments. Looking at the reality of Libya today, it is extraordinarily difficult to imagine leftist and democratic writers upholding Libya as a shining example of the beneficial effects of NATO bombing.

In regards to Syria specifically, Abdulhaq asks:

I read arguments that the West never provided arms or ammunition to the insurgent fighters in Syria, who only used weapons from defectors or seized from the Syrian Army. What role do such writers imagine that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, general manager of military intelligence and head of the [Saudi] national security council, is playing in his mission as coordinator of relations with the Syrian insurgents? Even the BBC reported over one year ago massive arms shipments from Saudi Arabia to the Syrian insurgents, as well as large-scale Qatari financing. Can it really be imagined that the weapons and money provided by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the closest allies of US imperialism and Zionism in the region, are given without [US] approval, or in order to confront [US] interests?

Abdulhaq concludes that the purpose of the “indirect and direct attack” on Syria facilitated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar is to “serve Israeli interests in damaging Iran, through damaging Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, bringing the entire region under the domination of the American-Zionist Imperialist Alliance.”

Iran is the Real Target of US Imperialism in Syria

Abudulhaq’s conclusion that Iran is the real target of US action in Syria is obvious. Destroying the Syrian state would be a clear blow to Iran, and provide a clear benefit to US planners and their Israeli counterparts.

Flynt Leverett, former Middle East specialist for the State Department, CIA and National Security Council during the Bush Administration described how, “The unrest in Syria started in March 2011. . . . and by April of 2011, just one month into this the Obama administration was backgrounding David Sanger from the New York Times and other sympathetic reporters that they were looking at the situation in Syria as a way of pushing back and undermining Iran. That if you could bring about regime change in [Syria] the argument was that this would really weaken Iran’s regional position and reignite the Green Movement and produce regime change in Iran. . . This has been very much the real strategic driver for American policy toward the situation [emphasis mine].” Further, Leverett authored a book advocating sanctions and possible covert action against the Syrian government in 2005.

US efforts to weaken and possibly overthrow the Iranian government are not surprising, given that Israel, America’s closest partner in the region, has considered Iran its primary enemy for years, as Iran does not accept the Israeli occupation of Palestine and has supported Palestinian resistance movements such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran is also a major supporter of Hezbollah (Party of God), which was founded to resist the bloody Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah was able to expel the Israeli Army from Lebanese territory in 2000 and fought Israel to a standstill in the 2006 July War.

A State Department memo found in Hillary Clinton’s emails (leaked by Wikileaks) explains why toppling Assad’s regime is crucial for Israel: “It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security … through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.”

Any increase in Iranian influence and power in the Middle East, in particular any acquisition of nuclear weapons, is a disaster for US and Israeli planners, not because Iran becomes a true military threat to Israel or the US, both heavily armed with nuclear weapons of their own sufficient to deter an Iranian nuclear attack, but because Iran could itself deter future US and Israeli military intervention in the region, something the US and Israel currently have a relatively free hand to engage in. Currently, there is little to prevent the US and its allies from invading and bombing other Middle Eastern nations at their discretion, as seen in Iraq in 1998 and 2003 (US), Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, and Gaza in 2009 and 2014 (Israel), and Yemen in 2016 (Saudi Arabia).

This concern was outlined in a leaked State Department memo to the White House which likely dates from the spring of 2012:

Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today [emphasis mine].

The memo also cites former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as arguing that, “the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran…. It’s the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world…and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.”

To diminish Iranian power then, and to undermine support for Palestinian struggle against Israel’s ongoing colonization and occupation of Palestine, the US and its allies have sought to overthrow the Syrian government.

Smith ignores the long history of US/Israeli animosity toward Iran, and the repeated calls for regime change that leaders of both countries have directed towards the Iranian government. The deal between the US and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program does not also mean that the US and Israel would not like to see the regime change in Iran. The deal was a tactical agreement benefitting both sides and does not alleviate longstanding hostility between the two, not to mention between Iran and Israel.

US Imperialism in Syria

Abulhaq was also right to highlight the role of Saudi Arabia (in particular Prince Bandar bin Sultan) and Qatar in working to advance the goals of US imperialism in Syria and Libya. Prince Bandar’s role in directing the Syrian insurgency, for example, has been well documented.

On April 22, 2011, just five weeks after the start of anti-government protests in Syria and as Obama administration officials were conspiring to overthrow the Syrian government as discussed by Leverett above, former deputy national security advisor for the Middle East under George W. Bush John Hannah wrote in Foreign Policy that, “Working in tandem with the United States, Bandar’s over-sized talents could prove a huge asset in efforts to shape the Middle East Revolts of 2011 in a direction that serves U.S. interests. . . .Drawing on Saudi resources and prestige, Bandar’s ingenuity and bent for bold action could be put to excellent use across the region in ways that reinforce U.S. policy and interests: through economic and political measures that weaken the Iranian mullahs; undermine the Assad regime,” despite the “danger that, with its back against the wall, the Kingdom might not once again fire up the old Sunni Jihadist network and point it in the general direction of Shiite Iran — leaving the rest of the world to deal with the nasty, unintended consequences of well-financed takfirists run amok.”

Hannah signals both that Bandar would take on a role in de-stabilizing the Syrian government, at the request of the US, and that he would leverage “takfirists,” in other words armed extremist groups sharing the ideology of al-Qaeda, to do so.

In October 2012, the New York Times reported that “Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.” Presumably the NYT is here referring to groups which espouse Salafi-Jihadism (the ideology of al-Qaeda) and have an explicitly anti-democratic agenda, in particular Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, which have received strong support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, respectively.

For example, Zahran Alloush, the founder of Jaish al-Islam, is famous for threatening to “cleanse” Syria of the “filth” of its Shia and Alawi minorities, while “destroying their skulls,” and making them “taste the worst torture at judgement day,” while Ahrar al-Sham leaders advocate for a Salafi, Taliban-style Islamic state and cooperate closely on the battlefield with the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front. Further, it was soon understood that the Nusra Front actually “harvests” many of the weapons sent by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the rebel groups they directly support, as these groups regularly sell weapons to the Nusra Front on the black market, defect to fight for the Nusra Front (bringing their weapons with them) or simply have the weapons captured by Nusra.

Claims that US officials at least hoped to support more secular groups of course ring hollow, as US approval of Saudi and Qatari efforts to arm Syrian rebels continued for years after it became clear who was receiving their weapons. Then CIA chief David Petraeus personally helped Saudi Arabia and Qatar ship weapons from Croatia and Bulgaria to Syrian rebels via Turkey. The New York Times reported in early 2013 that American officials described how, “[f]rom offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive,” and that a “former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it,” noting also that the arms airlift to Syrian rebels that started in January 2012 “has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes.” The NYT cited a former American official who noted that, “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge.”

In 2013, when the CIA began arming Syrian rebels directly, rather than solely through their Gulf allies, the CIA also relied on Bandar. The New York Times reported that “When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the CIA has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts,” alluding to Bandar’s efforts in the 1980’s to arm and fund the mujahedeen fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan and the Contra’s fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

Further confirmation comes from the Wall Street Journal which reported in August 2013 on the importance of Prince Bandar in providing “what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms” to Syrian rebels, while US officials continued to celebrate the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in 2014, when it appeared the Syrian rebels appeared close to achieving the US goal of deposing the Syrian government. US Senator John McCain exclaimed at that time, “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends.”

Completely absent from Smith’s analysis of Syria however, is the role that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played in arming Syrian rebels, in an effort to achieve US goals. Smith seems to think that US imperialism can only play a role in Syria if hundreds of thousands of US soldiers directly invade the country to effect regime change, as they did in Iraq. When US planners instead leverage their Gulf allies to indirectly enact regime change, however, somehow US imperialism is playing no role, Smith seems to argue.

Al-Shami’s complaint that US planners vetoed the delivery of anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian rebel is also odd. Blocking the shipment of such missiles does not negate all other US/Saudi/Qatari efforts to support the insurgency. Political scientist Alan J. Kuperman describes how in Afghanistan during the 1980’s, US planners refused to provide Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the muhajedeen for the first six years of the conflict. Initially, US planners did not anticipate that expelling the Soviets and overthrowing the pro-Soviet Afghan government was realistic, and therefore merely wished to “bleed” the Soviet army and force them to take heavy casualties, and therefore placed limits on the weapons they provided. The CIA also wished to maintain “deniability” about US efforts to arm the mujahedeen, which was only possible by providing non-US made weapons, thus excluding the Stingers. Kuperman also describes how US planners feared providing Stingers might constitute an escalation that might provoke a Soviet invasion of neighboring Pakistan, the country through which the CIA was supplying weapons to the Afghan mujahedeen via Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI), while Pakistani president Zia al-Haq himself objected to providing the Stingers because he felt the best policy in Afghanistan was simply to keep the “pot boiling” by harassing Soviet forces. Other concerns included the prospect of mujahedeen groups receiving the missiles and simply selling them on the black market, as they at times sold other US supplied weapons. Once weapons were delivered to the ISI, to be delivered to the mujahedeen, the CIA could no longer ensure which groups did and did not receive them. Later, the calculations of US planners changed and the CIA finally did supply the Stingers, though it is debated what affect these missiles really had in forcing the Soviet army to withdraw from Afghanistan and in the toppling of the Afghan government. New Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev had decided to seek a way out of the war one year before the Stingers were introduced into the conflict, as Gorbachev wished to pursue a policy of engagement with the West (perestroika). Later, the agency had difficulty in recovering the missiles once the conflict ended, and US planners feared that US forces would be targeted by these same missiles (many fallen into Taliban hands) during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

In short, there are many reasons why US planners may not have wished to supply anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian rebels, just as they did not initially provide them to the Afghan mujahedeen, yet this does not negate all other US efforts to support the rebels in Syria. For al-Shami to suggest the US wants to keep Assad in power just because it has not supplied Syrian rebels with such missiles (or even blocked delivery of them) is not credible. It may be possible that US planners did not want Syrian rebels to actually win the war, preferring simply to “keep the pot boiling” and “bleed” Syrian forces and their Iranian allies, and therefore blocked the delivery of anti-aircraft weapons. However, there is no reason to believe that blocking the delivery of such weapons meant that US planners actually supported the Syrian government. It just means US planners at various times may have felt their maximalist objectives of toppling the Syrian government were simply not obtainable, and were happy to simply see as many Syrian soldiers die as possible.

Who is Killing Whom in Syria?

Smith for her part seems to ignore the existence of the rebels all together, as if the Syrian conflict is simply between Syrian civilians struggling peacefully for freedom on the one hand, and the Syrian government intent on murdering civilians on the other. Since the rebels simply don’t exist for Smith, she can claim that the Syrian government is responsible for killing (massacring, in her words) all 400,000 Syrians estimated to have died at the time of her writing, even though many of the dead are in fact Syrian soldiers and civilians killed by the rebels themselves.

That one side in any civil war or insurgency could be responsible for all of the deaths of course is not supported by common sense, and a casual effort to research Syrian casualty counts make clear this could not be the case. For example, Foreign Policy reports that as of December 2015 (roughly eight months before Smith’s writing) the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) had estimated 260,000 killed in the conflict, including 53,718 dead among Syria’s armed forces and another 36,784 dead among pro-government militias and popular defense forces. That means roughly 34% of the dead were actually fighting for the Syrian government. SOHR estimates that 42,690 opposition fighters had been killed as well, which means 63% of Syrians who had died during that time were armed groups on opposite sides of the conflict, not civilians.

SOHR estimates as well that 76,845 civilians had died in the conflict by that time. Were all of these Syrian civilians “massacred” by Assad’s forces? Could the armed Syrian opposition have possibly killed roughly 90,000 pro-Syrian government fighters, without also killing any civilians in the process? Of course this is totally improbable, as civilians die on both sides of any conflict. Civilians are of course killed by government shelling, airstrikes, and while in government detention, but civilians are also killed by rebel mortars, roadside bombs, and car and suicide bombings, and after criminal kidnappings. Some are accidentally killed in the crossfire during clashes between rebels and the government, or during clashes between rebel groups themselves. Civilians who are family members of Syrian government workers and security forces have been killed by rebels merely for their affiliation with the government. For example, SOHR reports that opposition rebels killed 60 civilians, including 11 women, who worked at a government-owned factory (making boots and sewing uniforms for Syrian soldiers) after attacking the bus carrying them home at the end of the day. How many of these 76,845 dead civilians were, like these factory workers, in fact supporters of the government? How many supported neither the rebels nor the Syrian government?

While ascertaining the circumstances of civilian deaths in war is difficult, determining why refugees are fleeing a war zone can provide hints as to who is doing the killing. Writing in Foreign Affairs, academics Max Abrahms, Denis Sullivan, and Charles Simpson ask, “[D]oes Assad really bear all the blame for the refugee crisis? Not according to Syrian refugees. Most refugees we spoke to said they felt endangered by all parties fighting in the war, not just the government. In our sample of Syrian refugees, only 16 percent lay the blame exclusively with the Assad regime, compared to 77 percent who said they were fleeing from both the regime and the armed opposition. This pattern was observed in every country along the Balkan route.”

If refugees are fleeing both the government and armed opposition, it is safe to say civilians are being killed by both parties, a fact that Smith seeks to obscure. To suggest the Syrian opposition is not killing civilians is simply dishonest (to suggest the Syrian government is also not killing any civilians is equally dishonest).

US Imperialism in Libya

Abdulhaq’s assessment that US imperialism played a significant role in creating an insurgency to topple the Libyan government, both directly and with assistance from Qatar, is also correct.

The New York Times reported on March 30th, 2011 that, according to US officials, the CIA had “inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels” and that “small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military.” As anti-government protests began in mid-February 2011, this means the CIA was active in Libya trying to create an insurgency to “bleed” the Libyan military perhaps just two or three weeks after unrest in the country began. Efforts to create an insurgency were of course supplemented by a large-scale bombing campaign that caused significant destruction and loss of civilian life, in particular in Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte, which was almost entirely destroyed by NATO bombs.

The Libyan insurgency was largely managed on the ground by Qatar, which supplied weapons and commanders to the rebels. After the war ended, the Guardian quoted the Qatari chief-of-staff, Major-General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, as saying: “We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region. Training and communications had been in Qatari hands. Qatar … supervised the rebels’ plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience. We acted as the link between the rebels and Nato forces.”

Qatar of course was supporting Libyan rebels at the request of US planners. The New York Times notes that US planners relied on Qatar to supply Libyan rebels because, “Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations,” and that “Within weeks . . . the White House began receiving reports that [weapons] were going to Islamic militant groups. They were ‘more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam’ than the main rebel alliance in Libya.” In the same article, the NYT quoted a private American arms dealer, who was blocked by US officials from providing weapons to Libyan rebel groups, as complaining that the Qataris “imposed no controls on who got the weapons. ‘They just handed them out like candy.’”

US planners were apparently not alarmed by reports that Qatar was supplying weapons to extremists, given that the CIA continued to rely on Qatar to arm rebels in Syria for years after the end of the NATO intervention in Libya, despite feigning other wise to the NYT.

Despite clear evidence that US imperialism played a crucial role in the insurgency against the Libyan government, Smith tries to make similar claims about Libya as those she makes about Syria. She argues that, “Everyone on the left supported the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions of early 2011 because these countries were considered U.S. allies. But the campists opposed pro-democracy uprisings in Libya and Syria, even though these revolts were driven by the same economic and political grievances–and clearly inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt,” ignoring the fact that US planners sought to militarize both the uprising in Libya and Syria, fundamentally altering the character of both.

For What is Assad to Blame?

The reality that US planners wished to topple the Syrian government of course does not mean that Assad (and the security and intelligence services which have kept him in power) never committed any crimes, or killed any innocents, or tortured any political dissidents. Abdulhaq acknowledges this by noting:

The realities of Syria today do not mean that the Syrian government and its local allies, Iran and Hezbollah, are angels. Indeed, they committed major mistakes – not only in killing civilians in the first half-year of struggle when the situation was much more peaceful, but also because they did not invest in that period in making changes to support the human aspirations of the Syrian people, with the cooperation of progressive democratic elements in Syria. For instance, putting on trial security officials who tortured and killed innocent civilians, especially in Dira’a, and forming a new government led by a progressive democratic person known for his credibility, integrity and independence from the Ba’ath party, in order to prepare a new constitution and to hold swift democratic elections. However, even had those things been done, would they have stopped the American-Zionist Imperialist Alliance indirect and direct attack on Syria? I do not believe so, because their primary goal is not achieving the human aspirations of the Syrian people.

Conclusion

All of the claims made by Dr. Yousef Abdulhaq about US imperialism orchestrating regime change in Syria and Libya are easily verifiable in the mainstream Western press. And yet, many leftists in the West continue to insist that that the long-standing US effort to destroy secular Arab nationalist governments opposed to its policies in the region is mere fantasy, or, worse, conspiracy theory. US efforts to topple governments in critical energy producing areas of the world which are not part of the US sphere of influence are predictable, given Lenin’s observations about imperialism, cited in the Socialist Worker itself, that “Capitalism’s transition to the stage of monopoly capitalism, to finance capital, is connected with the intensification of the struggle for the partitioning of the world,” by the great powers and that after this partition was complete by the turn of the 19th century, “only re-division is possible” in the future.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many expected a “peace dividend” to result, as the United States became the world’s sole superpower. Instead, we have seen conflict after conflict, as US imperialism intensified its efforts to re-divide the world and bring states formerly in the Soviet sphere under its own umbrella. These efforts have at times been peaceful, as in much of Eastern Europe, but at times also extremely violent, as in the case of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the NATO bombing of Libya, the covert support for insurgents in Syria, and the recent coup in the Ukraine.

Despite the constant public statements that the US is trying to promote stability in the Middle East, and reach a peaceful resolution to various conflicts there, US actions suggest otherwise. It must be acknowledged that US planners often deliberately de-stabilize other countries, and see a benefit in doing so. US efforts to arm Syrian rebels (either directly or through proxies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar) have led to a civil war that has destroyed much of the country. This does not mean President Assad and his ruling clique do not also share considerable blame, but the role of the US and its close allies is paramount.

This is illustrated by comments made by US Special Envoy to Syria Michael Ratner in what he certainly thought was a closed door session with members of the Syrian opposition. Ratner made a shocking admission, namely that US and Gulf support for the rebels in Aleppo, and Syria more broadly, was likely the prime driver of the conflict, and therefore of the suffering of Syria’s population.

Ratner explained that, “when you pump more weapons into a situation like Syria, it doesn’t end well for Syrians, because there is always someone else who is going to pump more weapons in for the other side [Russia]. The armed groups in Syria get a lot of support, not just from the United States but from other partners. . . . But pumping weapons in causes someone else to pump weapons in and you end up with Aleppo.” Perhaps US planners did not understand in advance the terrible consequences that pumping weapons into Syria would have for ordinary Syrians. More likely, they did not care.

That so many leftists can observe these events and yet attempt to claim that US imperialism plays no role in the effort to destroy the Syrian state is a testament to how effective US propaganda surrounding the war in Syria has been. Sadly, many leftists now think that the “devil does not exist.” Unfortunately for Syrians, they could not be more wrong.

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