FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Battle of Damascus

by BINOY KAMPMARK

While the Russians are being painted as international law’s bogeymen, indifferent to choosing sides in a conflict when the only side to pick can only ever be that of peace, the Syrian opposition forces are nibbling, if not slaughtering their way, into view with their recent killings in Damascus.  President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle has received a series of lethal blows in the National Security Building – four of them, according to rumour mill of press reports.  On Wednesday, Assad found himself one minister of defence and brother-in-law short.  The latter was the infamous intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, though that itself has been disputed.

There is little doubt that the killings being inflicted by the Assad regime are reprehensible and need to cease, but that is ultimately a matter that Syria will have to contend with.  When civilians die at the hands of government forces, quivers of indignation and rage are felt outside the country by anti-Assad regimes who express a partisan interest in the conflict while simulating disinterestedness.  But the Syrian opposition has also relinquished its credentials as a body of peace makers.  Indeed, there is much to suggest that those credentials were shed some time ago, bloodied by the desire to take up arms against a regime that dishes out good doses of it.  The Free Syrian Army, and its allies, are becoming more cunning with their targeting – and at the same time ‘conventional’ with their Muslim fighters in embracing the suicide bomb.  Nor should assistance from foreign sources in this regard be ruled out.

In the field of civil war, mendacity profits with insidious firestorm like speed.  Techniques of killing, for one, are contradicted with regularity.  Syrian state television condemned the killings as occasioned by a suicide bomb.  A commander in the Free Syrian Army has suggested that the culprit lay in explosive devices exploded in the conventional way – remotely.  There is even a dispute as to whether Shawkat actually died in the blast, or was in fact, poisoned two months ago (Daily Beast, Jul 18).

Again, we are left with unconvincing chalk and equally unconvincing cheese – take your pick.  What is certain here is that the FSA can’t be seen to embrace methods of war that might smack, at least to Western powers, as extremist.  Decorum in the face of violence will be maintained, and Assad’s regime is happy to junk it.

Debates about intervening in Syria and placing Kofi Annan’s peace plan under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter is an act of banal window dressing.  As is the issue of sanctions, which has received another boost with a UK-drafted resolution.  Interventions have been taking place in the 17 month old conflict since its inception, and the only issue now is for those who have picked their horse – in this case, the unpredictable, unknown creature called the Syrian opposition – to bide their time.

The hands of intelligence agencies are many and varied – Jordanians, the Central Intelligence Agency, British, French and Turkish agents.  While we might take the comments of Khalaf al-Meftah, a member of the central committee of the Syrian Ba’ath party, with due suspicion, there is little doubt that elements of it are true.  “The intelligence services of the enemies of Syria have always been active in Damascus in a bid to hit a blow at Syria’s popular government and today’s operations were not possible without (foreign) intelligence support for the terrorists” (FARS News Agency, 19 Jul).

International dispensation for atrocities in this vicious conflict will be provided in time – the question now is whether a Security Council resolution can be brokered that legitimises some form of intervention.  The Russians will hold the floor for as long as they can, hoping to stall the collapse of the Assad regime.  And the suggestion so far is that a turning point is in the air.  Fighting is raging in Damascus itself, something the regime will see as ominous.  One of the rebel commanders has claimed that the battle to ‘liberate’ the city has begun. “The Damascus battle,” claimed Colonel Qassim Saadeddine, “has priority for us” (Guardian, Jul 18).  But the punters will continue to be busy, whether on the sidelines or through not so secret efforts, to pick which horse will storm to the finishing line. That line will be a blood-soaked one.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Stonewall and the Battle for Gay Rights 

Director John Scagliotti has donated copies of his acclaimed films Before Stonewall and After Stonewall for the CounterPunch Online Auction. Bid now to own a copy these ground-breaking documentaries on a radical struggle for equal rights.

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail