Supporting Resistance, Not Regime

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A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on 4 July 2012 shows Syrian rebels allegedly taking over an outpost belonging to government forces in Idlib on July 3. (Photo: AFP - SHAAM NEWS NETWORK)

By: Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

Published Thursday, July 5, 2012

Though far outnumbered by supporters of the Syrian uprising on the one hand, and Third Wayers who reject both the opposition and the regime on the other, a significant minority of Arab leftists, nationalists and even Islamists have sided with the Assad regime’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-GCC onslaught being waged against Syria.

I will articulate the position of this “resistance camp,” which is closely identified with Hezbollah’s position on Syria, and explain the rationale behind its controversial and unpopular position. It is important to clarify here that this position is not synonymous with those who support the Assad regime per se or with those who support it for reasons unrelated to anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist considerations; as its name suggests, it is a position which is defined primarily by the prioritization accorded to the liberation of Palestine and, more generally, the liberation of the region from imperialism, and Assad’s value to both of these objectives.

This position is underpinned by a resistance logic or rationality – a way of thinking which, to borrow Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah’s words “views events in the region through the [lens of] the Israeli issue…how it evaluates threats and dangers, how it acts and what it considers opportunities.” In the case of Syria, this resistance rationality “takes a step back from the details and looks at the bigger picture,” to quote Nasrallah again. And the bigger picture is one that prominently features the US and Israel as they relate to the struggle for Syria’s political identity and foreign allegiances.

Assad’s ouster serves US-Israeli interests

While some have argued that Israel and the US would prefer that Assad remains in power, as it is easier to deal with the “devil you know than the devil you don’t,” their active political and military support for elements in the Syrian opposition – support which predates the establishment of the SNC and FSA by several years as revealed by leaked US embassy cables published by Wikileaks – in addition to their official rhetoric, has proven the reverse.

Indeed, the ideal case scenario for both imperialists and Zionists is one involving an eviscerated, submissive and hence, manageable Assad. But given that the regime has refused to capitulate to US-Israeli longstanding demands to relinquish its support for resistance movements and divorce itself from Iran, its overthrow is viewed as the next best scenario.

Former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset, Tzachi Hanegbi, acknowledges that the Syrian crisis represents a great opportunity for furthering Israel’s interests: “Events in Syria will have a more decisive impact than those in any other Arab country,” in that “the ouster of the Syrian president would significantly improve Israel’s strategic situation.” The collapse of the Assad regime would strike “a major blow to the radical axis” said Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. In so doing, it would drastically alter “the entire balance of forces in the region” as elaborated by former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevi.

Halevi continues: “Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran... Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime…” In a similar vein, Washington envisages Assad’s downfall as “the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years” and the most efficient means for cutting off Iran’s lifeline to Hezbollah, according to General James Mattis, commander of US forces in the Middle East.

Such strategic benefits for the US and Israel outweigh any risks and uncertainties surrounding Syria’s future, and specifically, the role of Islamists in shaping it. Echoing Nasrallah’s assertion that “There is a consensus in Israel that any alternative in Syria is better than Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” Halevi declares “the way things are at present, any replacement of Assad is better.”

This assessment is also shared by a number of Israeli officials including Israeli president, Shimon Peres who described Assad on Israeli Channel 2, as “the worst there can be” of all alternatives, as well as by Barak in his CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour.

As contended by Hanegbi, fears of Sunni Islamists wreaking havoc on Israel’s doorstep were completely unfounded as it was “more likely that Assad’s successors will first seek to sideline the devoted supporters of the hated duo, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad.” Like Hanegbi, Halevy also envisages a post-Assad Syria that is dominated by a “moderate” and Empire-friendly Sunni Islamist force who “won’t come to power in order to launch an effort against Israel.”

Such predictions do not appear far-fetched when one considers former head of the SNC Burhan Ghalioun’s assurances to his foreign sponsors that one of the first orders of business for a post-Assad government would be “breaking the exceptional relationship” between Syria and Iran and Hezbollah. Israeli and US assessments are further substantiated by the very public and well-documented “semi-official” contacts between various members of the SNC and Israel.

Even if the Syrian opposition figures collaborating with Israel belong almost exclusively to the foreign-funded, externally-based opposition, the fact remains that the uprising as a whole enjoys the support of the same array of forces who backed Israel and urged it to finish off Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in winter 2008/2009. It is for this reason that the US- Israeli-NATO-GCC- backed Syrian insurrection is viewed by the resistance camp as an extension of both of these wars against resistance movements, and an attempt to “reintroduce” the “New Middle East” project “through other gates” such as Syria, to cite Nasrallah.

In effect, to support Assad’s overthrow is to align oneself, whether by accident or design, on the same side of the trench as oppressive and reactionary powers. Given that justice is almost always situated in diametric opposition to wherever imperialism and Zionism stand on a given issue – considering that both forces are the clearest embodiments of injustice – such an alignment can never be dismissed as an undesirable coincidence or as strategically benign.

While an infrequent occurrence, one can conceivably share a political interest with the US or Israel without allowing either power to benefit from the convergence itself. One such example is the overthrow of Iran’s longtime enemy, Saddam Hussein, by the US, which clearly benefited the Islamic Republic. But despite the shared interest in his removal, the strategic objectives of the US in Iraq did not require Iran’s shared interest in Saddam’s ouster for their fulfillment. In fact, many in Washington lamented the extent to which Iran was empowered by Saddam’s overthrow, even before control of Iraq fell into Iran’s hands after the US withdrew the bulk of its troops.

By contrast, if resistance forces were to share the Empire’s interest in toppling Assad, they would directly play into its hands as his overthrow is conceived as a means for divorcing Syria from the resistance axis and for weakening Iran and resistance movements. In this connection, the resistance camp’s abandonment of the lynch-pin of the resistance front would only expedite US-Israeli strategic designs on the region and undercut the resistance project in Lebanon, Palestine and beyond.

Moreover, considering that the US-Israeli scheme requires a weakened Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Palestine axis for the fulfillment of its strategic objectives, the resistance camp’s forsaking of the Assad regime would be tantamount to political suicide on its part and hence, a de facto handover of the Levant to the Empire on a silver platter.

The Uprising is Not a Revolution

From the resistance camp’s perspective, it is precisely this US-NATO-Israel-GCC line-up supporting the uprising which renders it far less a popular revolution than an insurrection that is bankrolled by petrodollars and piloted by the Empire.

Although there is an acknowledgement that part of the opposition is a legitimate, homegrown movement which views its revolution as having been “hijacked” by these foreign powers and their Syrian proxies, the logic of resistance dictates that any cause hijacked by Zionism, US imperialism and Arab “moderation” effectively stops being a just cause and becomes somebody else’s reactionary and imperialist agenda.

Furthermore, having the leader of the world order on one’s side surely means that the “revolution” will be only used to perpetuate that world order – in other words, it will only serve as a counter-revolution to thwart any genuine attempts to redress the vast political and economic imbalances which characterize the prevailing global status-quo.

As such, leftists who support the Syrian opposition cannot, by any Marxist definition, consider themselves part of a Gramscian counter-hegemonic “war of position” when they are aligned with the same position as the hegemonic powers.

This would remain the case even if we were to assume hypothetically that the opposition enjoys as much popular support as the regime does and was led by the working class. As underlined by David Fennell in his illuminating essay on counter-revolution in Libya, “Marxism understands that a thing is determined by the totality of the forces acting in it.” Fennell goes on to quote Lenin’s definition of totality as one which takes account “of all the forces, groups, parties, classes and masses operating in a given country’.”

In other words, when formulating a political position, an analysis of the working class’ situation alone does not suffice, but must involve all social contradictions, with special emphasis on social contradictions which occur on the world system’s level.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.


I look in vain for Amal to confront the Syrian regime, or any part of it, even a tiny corner of it. I look in vain for Amal to even lightly acknowledging death and repression against its people. I look in vain, because it seems Leninist 'good pupil' points are worth more than actual human suffering. Amal is blind to human suffering, because it seems she flies far above events, where no blood splashes can be seen, where only Resistance is important, not the basic humanity of individual struggle against oppression. No matter how you look at it, Amal is in bed with the Syrian government. And finding it not the least bit uncomfortable. That is very sad, and sadder still that she cannot see herself (Resistance!) in the person of an opposition to the Baath regime. She wants more Baath, more resistance, more Leninist dialectic. In other words, she seems to enjoy the chessboard of international resistance to Empire much more than she enjoys examining crimes and inhuman policies of repression.

I find this pseudo-intellectualism to be amusing and regrettable at the same time. It is the same logic (or lack of) that have failed miserably in gaining traction among the public in much of the world. Reality is not as complex as some people would like us to believe. A brutal dictatorship, like the one in Syria, cannot empower its people to innovate or liberate. It is by its very nature weak and backward because it does not harness the power of its people. It simply crushes them. Rephrasing the words of the (leftist) intellectual Ahmad Eqbal, “the Arabs have only two choices now, as its young people see it. It's either to become active, fight, die, and recover its lost dignity lost sovereignties, lost lands or become slaves.” The Arab people spoke and Liberation starts at home.

It's as simple as "halalun lana, haramun 'ala ghayrina", or "do as I say not as I do", and you can make up all sort of excuses to justify Iran and it's proxies collaboration with the West and Amal(pun intended) and Hezbollah's deafening silence towards this and the double standard in which they use their takhween. Saddam's ouster was also in US-Israel interest and Iran was totally privy to it's agents like Chalabi when they were cavorting with the Zionist Neocons to attack Iraq and Iran and Hezbollah's allies wouldn't be in power today were it not for the Americans and at the time, there was no talk from the Iran axis about being on the side of the Zionist Neocons and the US.

"Saddam's ouster was also in US-Israel interest"

Really? Its sure hard to find an American or Israeli official that would agree with that statement today.

"there was no talk from the Iran axis about being on the side of the Zionist Neocons and the US"

Even MEMRI showed videos of "Iran axis" leaders encouraging resistance against occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Its fine to have a different point of view, but don't make up lies to fit in with your Sunni-Arab-Supremacist worldview.

"Really? Its sure hard to find an American or Israeli official that would agree with that statement today."

I don't care about today, but the long years when the Iraqi opposition were benefitting from the Americans and Israelis who were gung-ho for attacking Iraq. Now that they have achieved their objective, Nouri al-Maliki can "celebrate" the leaving of American troops from Iraq, the one who rode their tanks to power!

"Even MEMRI showed videos of "Iran axis" leaders encouraging resistance against occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Its fine to have a different point of view, but don't make up lies to fit in with your Sunni-Arab-Supremacist worldview"

Are you that stupid and did you read what I said? I was talking about when Chalabi, Hamid al-Bayati, the Iraqi National Congress were cavorting and inciting the Zionist Neocons and the West in the years leading up to the war on Iraq, and there was deafening silence and no takhween directed towards them from the Shi'ite supremacists of Iran, Amal and Hezbollah which proves that they approved of this. Then a hypocrite like Nouri al-Maliki has the gall to accuse the Arab Spring of being exploited by the Zionists, so your the one who is brazenly lying and Iran played both sides to achieve it goal of hegemony. At least thousands of "Sunni-Arab supremacists" opposed and confronted the treachery of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi while the Shi'ite supremacists of Iran, Amal and Hezbollah were totally silent on their allies who rode to power on American tanks.

Ms. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is not a regime supporter, in Syria. In fact she loathes the regime so much that she will spare no cost to preserve it. Go figure.

Was that an attempt at sarcasm? It's just as bad as your attempts to refute ASG's past articles with logical reasoning.
In fact you loathe the regime so much and you loathe the resistance so much and you're dying to be a servant to the zionists in Lebanon so much that you spare no cost in doing that no matter how foolish it makes you look or sound.
This was to show you how easy it is to counter your logic or lack thereof.

And outside of taking their word for it, how does one ascertain the authenticity of the "leaked" files that Assange peddles?

This appears to be another conduit for "inside information" of the type that Judith Miller et al are so famous for sharing. Is it possible that it is a crafted narrative and not simply selective exposure? How would one even know?

A brief study of the "leaks" regarding Pakistan, Argentina and Venezuela finds that while US figures are embarrassed, US adversaries are truly harmed. This is the Assange routine, always produced in a timely manner to further US aims.

oh yes, Assad the fighter for occupied Golan, and what about the people? no, it's all about the GCC/Freemasons/CIA and then some. So willl Hezbollah help the Syrian people get their revolution back from this diabolic Imperialist cabal? even 'working class' come into play here, well done, is this Lizzie Phelan in disguise? what world the author lives in if her definition of leftist is synonimous with Marxist blah? what about Stalin? or the charming Kim? or is this just some subconscious shortcut for Stockholm syndrome? when you get off your fence, take me to your leader!

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