In response to Stop the War statement regarding Parliamentary meeting event on the 4th November 2015.
Lie No.1: Regarding “Andrew Murray’s support for the Syrian regime”
During the meeting Andrew Murray called for the support of the Syrian Army and the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIS. This will be on record of the footage that Stop the War Coalition have yet to release of the meeting (unless they choose to edit it).
It should be noted that it is not the person of Assad himself which has caused the destruction in Syria, it is an entire military-security-intelligence apparatus of a fascist (self-defined nationalist-socialist) state. It is not Assad himself who has been dropping bombs every single day for the past 4 years, raped thousands of women and men, or tortured to death thousands of detainees, it an entire state set of apparatuses. Indeed, the long touted “political solution” supported by the International powers since 2012, whereby despite perceptions of “difference” between the US and Russia there has been a consistent unanimity on the necessary retention of the structures of the Syrian state and only disagreement on the fate of the person of Assad, has been rejected repeatedly by the revolutionary Syrian people. They can keep Assad if they think that they’ll maintain his regime. We only need see what happened in Egypt when a figurehead and some of his cronies were removed, only to be replaced by a worse one propelled by a vindictive ancien régime.
Andrew Murray’s support of the Syrian state is beyond dispute, as is wide swathes of the Stop the War coalition. They seek to play on “technicalities” of not directly stating “we support Assad”. Indeed President Sisi of Egypt says exactly the same thing when asked about his support for Assad in Syria, claiming “we must support the Syrian state, its not about the person”. The reader familiar with Stop the War coalition’s writings over the duration of the Syrian conflict, and their mocking writings about the Syrian resistance and existence of non-Assad Muslim “moderates”, will recognise this fact – never mind the absence of a (naive) outright “declaration” (which immediately opens up the movement to criticism as well as historical infamy), which is reserved for the Communist Party of Great Britain and the BNP, Stop the War’s leadership and outlets have (with rare exceptions) repeated close-to verbatim the narratives of the Syrian and Iranian governments.
Their rhetoric of a “sovereign Syria in which Syrians decide their fate”, for example, is taken right off the Russian manuscript. The irony of those proclaiming this maxim being entirely reliant on non-Syrian forces (Iraqi militias, Iranian revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and now Russia’s airforce), whereby an independent regular “Syrian army” is practically no longer existent, entirely reliant on Iranian-sponsored militias, seems to be lost on those proponents.
Finally, it should be noted Andrew Murray’s (the Chair of Stop the War coalition) declaration of the necessity of supporting the “US-backed” (in fact US-created) Iraqi Army; this is another ironic contradiction for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War coalition to support “Western-backed” forces in the Middle East, and is one from the few that will be seen in this article.
Lie 2: Regarding “allowing Syrians to speak”
This is indeed an audacious claim by Stop the War coalition, and reflects the general strategy in this statement of “the best way of defence is offence”. One Syrian was allowed to speak (which is what was already claimed), Muzna – she was interrupted and following that point not a single Syrian, of whom there were many and who were holding their hands up for the full remainder of that meeting’s duration, were given the chance to speak – whilst (with a few exceptions) practically every non-Syrian present were given that opportunity (including known Stop the War organisers, despite them being the organisers), including one man who proceeded on a historical lecture of the “fake” background of the Arab Spring. Ms Abbot’s statement on Daily Politics that “she didn’t know who the Syrians were” warrants no response.
Lie 3: Regarding “police being called”
This is perhaps the most blatant and astonishing falsehood by Stop the War coalition. Police present on the premises of parliament were called – in quite an extraordinary example of attempting to play “fast and loose” with the truth Stop the War attempt to distinguish this here by stating that the constabulary wasn’t called. The “constabulary” was not called, police already present in the vicinity of parliament were. Indeed many of the police on parliament premises were armed with machine guns – more than could be said of “the constabulary”; though those who were summoned to the meeting were not armed. Police arrived in numbers and were visible to all at the doors of the meeting by its end, something which any attendee at that meeting can attest to. One of the Arab attendees denied the opportunity to speak by the panel was also talked to by police after the meeting. Prior to that the Syrian and Arab audience members were repeatedly told “you are going to get arrested [if you continue]”. We are actually surprised that Stop the War have gone to the lengths of denying this instead of letting it “die down”. We urge Stop the War coalition to release unedited footage of the meeting which can serve to be the judge as to who is telling the truth and who is not.
It should be noted Stop the War coalition had a pro-Iraq war MP on platform, Crispin Blunt. The fact that they did this as an issue, regardless of our differences on Syria, shows how shallow their actual emotional connection is to the real life realities of “imperialism”. An SSM supporter present mentioned this to the panel, and (expectedly) received no response.
Other statements made at the meeting by prominent leaders of Stop the War coalition should also be noted, such as by Lindsey German: “some people here [the Syrians] might not see ISIS as a big problem, but it is”, an implication more reminiscent of traditional right-wing and Zionist arguments used in debate with Muslims, as well as snide remarks by another prominent Stop the War figure stating: “this is the democracy they want” in the direction of emotional Syrians “interrupting” the panel. Again we note the convergence of wide swathes of the “far-left” with the far-right in their support for Assad (the latter alliance is natural, seeing that Assad’s regime is an archetypal fascist-structured regime), whereby shared opposition to the “mainstream” establishment and a closet admiration of how far a departure such “fortress states” are from their own disliked systems informs their overlap on Syria.
The repeated smear used by Stop the War that Syria Solidarity “supported the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan” is a blatant falsehood – there is not a single SSM member that supports the aggression and invasion of Iraq – which is more than could be said for the panel that “Stop the War” hosted last Wednesday – nor the decade of sanctions that killed a million Iraqis (according to the UN) before that, and our members continue to argue that the invasion should not be forgotten simply because it is in the past. It is ironically Stop the War who find themselves actively support the axis which gained power out of the invasion of Iraq, that of Russia-Iran–Sisi-Maliki-Assad. It is the anti-Maliki, anti-Sisi, anti-Assad axis that we support, three rulers Iran either supported or is in the process of normalising relations with (Iran sent an envoy to Sisi’s inauguration and is currently in talks). It is the Syrian people who hosted the refugees of Iraq and it is the Iraqi people in those areas who suffered the most from the invasion, in Fallujah, Ramadi, Tirkrit and Anbar, who stand in solidarity with the Syrian people against their tyrant. They need no lectures from people who live thousands of miles away and enjoy the benefits of the “imperialist” state.
Our issue with Stop the War coalition is not that it is “against intervention”, as they would prefer to pretend. It is about them consistently no-platforming Syrian voices for the past 4 years, consistently peddling the Syrian regime’s narratives, consistently making sarcastic “snide” references about the hundreds of thousands of the Syrian people who remain engaged in the revolution (both its military and civil aspects) being extremist, or the millions more of their supporters being extremist sympathisers (something Assad himself once declared, when he stated ‘millions of Syrians are providing sanctuary for “terrorism”’, inadvertently acknowledging the scale of popular opposition to him), consistently peddling neoconservative-like War on Terror narratives (used by every repressive post-colonial regime in the region), and now blatantly coming out in support of the Syrian military and state. We should note our great surprise and disappointment of Ms Caroline Lucas doing the same in that meeting with regards to the latter.
Since 2011 and the very short-lived retrenchment of “War on Terror” language post-Iraq groups such as “Stop the War” have accounted for some of the biggest parts of the resurrection of this narrative, all to support Iran’s counter-revolutions. Let us also make clear, that we like most Syrians once defended Iran and its allied parties, Iran threw away the goodwill of the non-sectarian Muslim peoples by embarking on a path of counter-revolutionary “stability”, which they now use to tout as the “only island of stability in the Middle East” (substitute for “only democracy in the Middle East”) and which has achieved them global recognition.
Stop the War’s (main) leadership’s understandings of the conflict are to such an extent far off from what is happening on the ground, that in a perverse twist of “fate” Stop the War’s leadership has spun a web of simplistic (click-baiting) contradictions so wide that it now often finds itself ignoring instances of Western intervention (yet alone Russian ones), its supposed raison d’être:
- Refusing to cover the US bombing of Syrian revolutionary forceswhich killed up to 150 rebels, before the onslaught of Russia’s intervention. This was due to the inconveniences that such a contradiction posed to the narrative they have been promoting for the past 4 years.
- Supporting the US-backed Iraqi Army whilst engaging in a quasi- reporting blackout of its historical collapse in 2014, which was almost unanimously the reason for the rise of ISIS. However, the links of the US-backed Iraqi Army with the “resistant” Iranian regime posed an uncomfortable narrative – blaming Syrian revolutionary forces, who were amongst the firstto fight ISIS, long before the “secular” (Western-rhetoric, clean-shaven) regime, who viewed them as “apostates worse than infidels”. Instead, despite the indisputable fact that US “support” (which in fact has been restricted Arab support provided through US-aligned Turkey and Jordan) for the Syrian revolutionaries cannot be compared to that given over a decade to the US-constructed modern Iraqi Army. The monumental collapse of a decade long US-trained Iraqi Army which provided the main justification for the US occupation of Iraq until 2011 should have been one of the most effective criticising points against the US policy in Iraq – instead, this was largely brushed under the carpet due to Iran’s allegiance with the Iraqi Army.
- Supporting the “imperialist-aligned” Kurdish PYD and hosting them on their platforms. In August an invitation by a local Stop the War coalition branch (Birmingham) to a Syrian member of a Syria Solidarity was rescinded at the request of the National Office due to “Syria solidarity’s support of military intervention”. Incidentally there were a range of views within Syria solidarity on the question of intervention, as there is amongst revolutionary Syrian circles, and some members have written against arguing for it – however Syria solidarity’s policy reflects that of refugees, internally displaced Syriansand Syrian civil society groups, not its members’ individual opinions – because we believe in actual agency of “other” peoples, not their use as pawns in anti-establishment posturing when convenient, which represents simply another form of Western narcissism and orientalism. The same meeting hosted a PYD member.
- Opposing the “Western-backed” Sisi regime – a firm allyof “Western-attacked” Bashar al-Assad.
- Not mentioning historical relations between the UK and the Assad regime, most importantly that the Sarin gas used in Syria had been imported from the UK.This would undermine the “Assad is hostile to West” narrative and entail “rectification”, and so exposing “imperialist complicity” is temporarily put on hold.
A significant example of Stop the War’s detachment from the post-2011 Middle East was provided in August, when STWC provided a platform to “revolutionary, Arab Spring” pro-Houthi speakers (the Houthis are allied with Saleh’s counter-revolution in Yemen) in a public meeting in London. After the meeting one of the panel speakers was quoted as stating “Ali Abdullah Saleh is a man and a hundred men”, in response to heckling by an attendee who challenged the Houthi alliance with Saleh and disparaged their claimed “revolutionism”. The fact that this basic knowledge of the Houthis being in alliance with the tyrant Saleh’s forces in Yemen was not known by the organisers is indicative. This in a sense was a real life manifestation of a Press TV article, citing the “revolutionary” Houthi movement in the same breath as “Saleh declares support for Houthis”.
To be clear, this is not to state that we are for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, but to present a microcosm of Stop the War coalition’s Arab Spring “understanding”. We do not propagandise for the Syrian revolution’s allies, whether Saudi, Qatar or Turkey. The same however cannot be said of Stop the War coalition, who consistently carry out exactly that role for the Iranian state, even during a historic rehabilitative rapprochement with the West (including most recently the opening of the Iranian embassy for the first time in four decades in London).
Likewise, Stop the War’s ostensible ignorance of the “Western-supported” Sisi’s support for the “Western-attacked” Assad, and the scale of support for Assad in Egyptian media since Sisi’s “election” as president is similiarly indicative. Sisi has not only been diplomatically supporting Assad, as is seen with Putin’s latest plea to include Egypt in Vienna’s “peace” talks, but has also been sending him arms (for more see here, here, here and here). Stop the War’s oblivion to all this indicates that whilst such reports may be of common awareness for those in the region, there is a massive gap in ‘transmission’ to those in the West. This is precisely why we have tried to make the case of the necessity of providing opportunities for regional voices. This does not necessitate that they are correct simply by virtue of their backgrounds, but that if what they say is intellectually deemed to make sense then this means that they may very well know a lot more.
In expressing support for the counter-revolutionary Saleh-Houthi alliance in Yemen, the Iraqi Army and the Syrian regime, Stop the War coalition proved itself not as a supporter of the Arab Spring, but an English-language propagandist of Iran’s counter-revolutions in the region (which has incidentally established it for the first time in 40 years as a recognised global player and “partner” for stability) – a Press TV translated into a social movement, if you will. Stop the War still continues to issue illusory pamphlets of “Syria is about a covert Western attempt to attack Iran” – even whilst a landmark Iranian relief sanctions deal was achieved with thousands of its troops stationed in Syria (which incidentally would entail tighter sanctions if that was supposedly the case, not their lifting) and even whilst the US is a de-facto ally of Iran in Iraq.
That these faux pas occur should not be surprising – it is the natural consequence of an elitist, statist, theory-based approach, which in essence is not substantively about foreign politics and foreign events, but (domestic) anti-establishment politics.
Let us finally note, that Stop the War Coalition’s narrative of a Western plot against the “resistance” state of Assad (a former Henry Kissinger and later War on Terror ally) is the same one cited and repeated by every single Arab ruler who faced the uprisings of the Arab awakening, dynastic-republican and monarchical: from Mubarak (who claimed that “he knew” the US wanted to overthrow him ever since they asked him to have elections in 2005), to Al-Sisi (whose regime and media claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a US proxy organisation), to Ali Abdullah Saleh (a former firm US ally who, when abandoned, cited a “Zionist-American” Spring), to Ahmad Chalabi (the Iraqi politician who was the falsifying architect of the US invasion of Iraq, claimed a “Western conspiracy” in defence of his ally Assad), to Maliki (appointed by the US in its post-invasion transitional government, even before he was elected as Prime Minister) – these all had a few things in common: they were all tyrants, they all supported one another, they were all former “imperialist” allies, they all received support and played off both global powers (US and Russia), and they all claimed the same “foreign plot” when their populations rose up and when their embarrassed sponsors eventually had to abandon them.
For Stop the War coalition to regurgitate propaganda of the Middle East’s felool elites is a tragedy, for it is these same elites that justified US-aligned foreign policy by their leaders, only for them to hurtfully declare a plot when their US trustees abandoned their leader. Is this what constitutes radical politics?
Until then, perhaps STWC should change its role and title, and declare its new role as an “Adopt grievanced discarded puppets” lobbying group/charity.