Apr 14, 2014
This article is from the April 4th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
In the civil war in Syria, it seems as if the dictator Bashar al-Assad is gaining the upper hand against the numerous rival military groups rebelling against him. The major Western powers had temporarily supported these rebel groups in an effort to get rid of a regime not docile enough for their tastes. Now, however, they have finally allowed Assad’s army to come out on top.
During the height of the movements against the dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab countries in spring 2011, popular demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad’s regime broke out in several of Syria’s major cities, and in the capital, Damascus. However, due to the ferocity of the government’s repression and to the absence of clear perspectives among the movement, this popular uprising was suffocated. It transformed into a civil war in which armed gangs made up of ex-soldiers of the Syrian Army and of fundamentalist militias carried out a war to overthrow the regime in power.
Each clan has its supporters. The militias, both secular and fundamentalist, have received aid from Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. For his part, Bashar al-Assad has been able to count on Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah. The big powers have played opposing hands, supporting the Syrian opposition without ever really tipping the balance of force completely in its favor.
That Assad’s regime has emerged with a military advantage suits the leaders of the United States quite well in the end. They would not have been happy to see a new fundamentalist regime established in a region that they have already had trouble controlling.
Assad’s regime is therefore in the process of retaking lost territory. This is a slow and bloody reconquest. The regime uses a scorched earth policy – bombing, assassinating, and raping. Even if this war ends quickly, its effects will be devastating. Humanitarian organizations estimate that there have been at least 140,000 deaths since the start of the conflict. Today, 2.5 million Syrians, or more than 10% of the population, have fled the country.
Even if the direct clashes come to an end, these fundamentalist militias will not disappear, even if they are defeated. If they are forced to flee from Syria, they will channel their forces into other conflicts where they can find backers. They are a product of this war and of the maneuvers of the imperialist countries to intervene in it. The regime itself feels strengthened enough for Assad to prepare for his reelection this coming June.
The millions of Syrians who had seen a hope for change in the initial demonstrations of the population against the dictatorship suffer today from the barbarity of the armed gangs of both camps.