The Syrian Conflict Must Be Resolved by the Syrian People Themselves!

Statement of the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, August, 2012

The crisis in Syria continues to deepen with every passing day. Thousands have been killed or injured, including countless civilians caught in the crossfire between armed opposition groups and government forces. Thousands more have been displaced from their towns and villages and forced into internal or foreign exile by the fighting. In this very real sense, the situation has become a human and social tragedy of the first order.

But what is actually taking place in Syria? Who is really provoking the violence and prolonging the agony of the Syrian people?

The Western corporate‑controlled media would have us believe that the root cause of the conflict is the “tyrannical” government of President Bashar El‑Assad which clings to power at any price, willing to sacrifice the health and security of its own people. This “big lie” is central to the intensifying propaganda campaign to vilify El‑Assad in order to conceal the role of reactionary and clerical forces bent on destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing the current government and seizing power for themselves. And if necessary, this demonization campaign will be used as a pretext for imperialist military intervention and occupation to directly impose “regime change”, as was done in Iraq and most recently in Libya. Continue reading

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World Federation of Trade Unions, International Campaign for Palestine

World Federation of Trade Unions

palestineDear Colleagues,

Today in Israeli prisons there are 4,600 Palestinians imprisoned militants. Of these:

 560 have been convicted to life imprisonment by Israeli courts. 220 are children. 24 are Members of the Parliament. 204 prisoners have died in Israeli prisons.

 Among the prisoners there are great Palestinians and Arab militants who have dedicated their lives to the struggle of the Palestinian People to get their own independent homeland. Continue reading

Syria: Heralding a Change in the International Strategic Situation?

Granma International English Edition
by Ernesto Gomez Abascal

Evidently the Cold War ended in the final decade of the 20th century with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries, but the U.S. plan of domination enshrined in the Project for the New American Century, drawn up by a group of neoconservative and Zionist strategists, remains in the minds of Washington politicians.

However, Democrat and Republican priorities on the imperial agenda remain. These are: control of the Near East given its energy resources and strategic position, the elimination of governments who stand up to or interfere with its interests, and to exclude the emergence of new rival powers.

While it is a fact that things have not been going well for the U.S. government in Afghanistan and Iraq, this has not resulted in a change of plans, but merely adjustments to the new conditions. Imperialism has many years of experience in methods of regime change, as we in Latin America know very well.

In Libya, included for years on the list of seven countries whose governments had to be changed, the United States was initially successful, having taken advantage of some inconsistencies on the part of Muammar Gaddafi, and certain lack of popularity for the leader. Then came an intensive media campaign, Arab League cover and backing, which facilitated a UN Security Council resolution, and subsequently, a large part of the country’s infrastructure was bombed by NATO aircraft, thousands of Libyans were killed, and a government subordinated to its interests was installed in Tripoli. Libya’s large oil reserves are now more accessible to U.S. and European corporations, although the chaos created in the country has created an uncertain future.

While this was taking place in Libya, the CIA and its allies in the NATO special services were working on the next country listed, Syria. It has been acknowledged that hundreds of Syrians were trained and armed in Turkey and other countries ill disposed toward the Damascus government, especially those of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and in areas of the Lebanon under the control the March 14 alliance (directed by the Hariri clan, pro‑Saudi and linked to the French government). These Syrians are predominantly Sunnis and members of the illegal and extremist Muslim Brotherhood, but include mercenaries from other Arab countries, and commandos trained for special operations. These have received a large supply of modern armaments, sophisticated communications equipment and information via NATO satellite networks.

The predominantly Alawite Damascus government, a strong ally of Iran and a supporter of the Lebanese patriotic forces headed by Hezbollah, which controls power in Beirut, had genuine problems – as do all countries in the region and a large part of the world, including the most developed countries. These include repression, lack of democracy, and corruption, and this has provoked malaise within the population, leading to demonstrations initially encouraged by those in other countries of the region, and which were repressed particularly where they originated, in the southern city of Daraa, right on the border with Jordan.

The media war machine was immediately activated against Syria, as was the case with Libya. In Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin America countries we have become experts on how this operates, having suffered it for many years, and we also know how to combat it, despite disadvantageous material conditions given the enormous propaganda resources possessed by the enemy. Even with the abovementioned defects, the Syrian government was practising a non-sectarian policy in the religious context and one of relative social justice, anti‑imperialist and anti‑Zionist. It has been an ally of progressive causes in the South and an obstacle to U.S. and Israeli plans in the region. Allegations intended to discredit it, to the effect that its policy of peace serves Israeli interests, have no serious foundation.

Installing a pro‑Western government in Damascus would propitiate a change of government in Lebanon and possibly another war there to eliminate the power of Hezbollah, an ally of Iran together with Syria, and viewed as enemies by the Sunni Gulf monarchies, who submit to Western policy in return for protection from an alleged Iranian threat, even though no war has been initiated by that country for centuries.

If the plan concerning Syria is consummated, the Western powers would move against Tehran and, along the way, crush the resistance of Palestine, obliging it to accept crumbs of territory and the minimum rights which Israeli Zionists would be disposed to concede to the people. The U.S. “Grand Middle East” would be completed with its extension to Central Asia, and the siege of Russia and China would be laid.

However, Syria is not Libya. Although its leaders have made undeniable errors and have acted slowly in response to the conspiracy and plans of its powerful enemies, thus losing a lot of time and ground, it would seem to have sufficient internal support and resources to stand up to its enemies and defeat them, albeit at a heavy price in terms of death and destruction.

Apparently, a clear perception of this reality prompted Russian and Chinese representatives to use their veto in the February 4 Security Council vote on a resolution which – regardless of its text, as was the case with Libya – would open the gates to foreign intervention in order to destroy the country and impose a regime change. The highest authorities in both countries have clearly declared a red line and they are not prepared to allow a military intervention in Syria.

The firm stand of Moscow and Beijing and the cooperation they are giving the Syrian government, appears to be starting to change the situation on the ground. The Lebanese army has been mobilized to the border in an attempt to prevent the entry of mercenaries and military supplies into the neighbouring area of Homs, center of the anti‑government uprising and whose capital city was intended to become the Benghazi of Syria. Syrian government forces have recently moved onto the offensive there.

The Baghdad government, now closer to Iran’s influence than to that of the United States, is also trying to prevent Sunni Islamic extremists – possibly linked to Al Qaeda and receiving funds from Saudi Arabia and Qatar – from continuing to infiltrate into Syrian territory. Recent terrorist attacks on the Shiite population in various parts of Iraq would seem to be a message of protest from Saudi Arabia and the United States given the change in position in favour of Syria adopted by the Iraqi government.

Turkey and Jordan, two other countries to have adopted belligerent positions against the Damascus government, are beginning to make more moderate statements. There are even signs of concern in Western capitals at the possibility of extremist Islamic forces linked to Al Qaeda coming to power in Syria in the case of the current executive being defeated.

The situation is highly fluid and extremely complex, but if Syria succeeds in resisting this imperialist, and Zionist counterrevolutionary aggression, and if Russia and China remain firm, there could be a defeat of strategic magnitude. Iran would emerge strengthened and new alliances could be established to oppose imperialist plans of domination. The countries of the BRICS group, the newly independent countries of Latin America, especially the strong core members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), are in agreement with the principals of a foreign policy opposed to aggression, and would favour the negotiated solution to conflicts. They also defend justice, sovereignty and non‑intervention, all of which could initiate the beginnings of a newmultipolar balance in the world.

The grave economic crisis affecting the major capitalist powers and the debilitation this implies, in conjunction with the indignados movement, could significantly contribute to this potential panorama.

(Ernesto Abascal was the Cuban ambassador to Iraq.)

*note: Granma is the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. You can visit their International English website here. The original article is here.

Debating Every Last Word of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Wipe Israel Off the Map’

by Uri Friedman


Photo credit: Reuters
 
The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler has a fascinating article today on the six-year dispute surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration that Israel must be “wiped off the map”–a line that has become shorthand for Iran’s belligerent (some would say genocidal) posture toward Israel. The quote first stirred controversy in 2005, when Nazila Fathi of The New York Times cited a report by the Iranian Students’ News Agency on Ahmadinejad’s remarks at a “World Without Zionism” conference (the Tehran-based Fathi later issued a full-text translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech, and official Iranian sources like IRIB ran with the same translation). Since then, however, some have argued that Ahmadinejad was mistranslated, and that getting the translation right is critical to decoding the meaning behind the Iranian leader’s incendiary words.

Here is the passage in question from Ahmadinejad’s 2005 speech in Persian, rough transliteration, and Times translation (we’ve taken what appears to be the full line in Persian from an archived transcript of Ahmadinejad’s address):

امام عزيز ما فرمودند كه اين رژيم اشغالگر قدس بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود

Imam ghoft een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Qods bayad az safheh-i ruzgar mahv shaved

Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map

Let’s isolate the key phrases in the line:

  • Imam ghoft: People generally agree that these words mean “our (dear) Imam said,” and indicate that, instead of making a brazen, unprecedented proclamation, Ahmadinejad was quoting comments made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, in the 1980s.
  • een rezhim-i eshghalgar-i Qods: Again, the literal translation here isn’t really in question. These words are translated as some variation on “the regime occupying Jerusalem.” But the meaning of the words is a matter of dispute. The liberal Middle East expert Juan Cole and the The Guardian‘s Jonathan Steele have argued that the phrasing suggests Ahmadinejad is calling for a change in the Israeli government rather than military action against Israel, especially since he was comparing regime change in Israel to regime change in Iran in 1979. But, as The Times puts it, others argue that the line “indicates the depth of the Iranian president’s rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East because he refuses even to utter the name Israel.”
  • mahv shaved: Cole, Steele, and the Mossadegh Project’s Arash Norouzi have all disputed theTimes‘ “wiped off” translation above, arguing that these words instead mean “vanish from.” But an Iranian translator and consultant supportedThe Times‘ “wiped off” or “wiped away” rendering in 2006, asserting that the Persian verb is active and transitive (Cole says the verb construction is intransitive). At the time of Ahmadinejad’s speech, the Middle East Media Research Institute(MEMRI) translated the verb as “eliminated.”
  • safheh-i ruzgar: This is where things really get interesting. Ahmadinejad actually misquoted Khomeini, who used the phrase “sahneh-i ruzgar.” As the Times noted several years ago, “sahneh” literally means “scene” or “stage” and “ruzgar” means “time,” but translators in the 1980s interpreted Khomeini’s words as a metaphorical reference to a “map”–an interpretation that stuck when Ahmadinejad substituted “sahneh” for “safheh,” or “page.” But the Cole-Steele-Norouzi trio recommends the literal translation of “page of time” (MEMRI, for its part, went with “pages of history”). Steele claims that the “page of time” phrase, along with the rest of his translation, suggests that the Iranian president was expressing a desire for an end to Israeli occupation at some point in the future. “He was not threatening an Iranian-initiated war to remove Israeli control over Jerusalem,” Steele writes.

So there you have it. Depending on who you ask, Ahmadinejad was either endorsing Khomeini’s battle cry for Israel to be wiped off the map or invoking Khomeini’s wish that, someday, somehow, the Israeli government will collapse under its own weight. The varying translations, of course, may be inextricably linked to people’s political views on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And some argue that the distinction is academic at this point. In a study for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Joshua Teitelbaum states that Ahmadinejad’s public statements, taken as a whole, indicate that the Iranian leader is bent on the “actual physical destruction of the State of Israel,” however one may translate his 2005 speech. Other Iranian leaders, he adds, have made even more militant comments.

And what of Ahmadinejad himself? He hasn’t exactly brought closure to the debate. In a 2006 interview with The Washington Post‘s Lally Weymouth, he evaded her question about whether he wanted to “wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” in Weymouth’s words. “Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted,” he told Weymouth. “The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.”

More recently, Ahmadinejad has declared that a NATO missile defense system in Turkey “will not stop the fall of the Zionist regime” and that Iran’s response to any provocation by the “bankrupt, uncivilized and criminal Zionist regime” would be “crushing and regrettable.” Well, at least he said those things according to the Fars News Agency’s English translation.

*note: originally published on October 5, 2011 on The Atlantic Wire. Original here.