Category Archives: President Bashar al-Assad

Syria and the S-300s: Re-Centering the People in the Global Struggles for Power

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world [….] No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much less dissent.
— Gore Vidal, A View from the Diner’s Club, 1991

One of the most amusing elements of the current anti-Russian hysteria produced by U.S. state/corporate propagandists is the notion that Russia is this bold, aggressive challenger to “U.S. and Western interests” when the reality has always been the opposite. In the tumultuous period after the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Russian Federation emerged as the dominate power under the leadership of the clownish Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian capitalist oligarchy that developed during that period and expanded under the leadership of Vladimir Putin has always just wanted to be part of the global capitalist game. They had demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to cooperate with the agenda of Western powers.  However, they wanted to be respected with their regional interests recognized.

But as result of greed, hubris and just plain incompetence, U.S. policy-makers, especially the amateurs running foreign policy during the Obama years, pushed the Russians out of their preferred zone of caution in international affairs, with Syria being exhibit A. Forcing the Russians hand in Syria was followed by the Ukraine when the U.S. sparked a coup in that nation as the second front against Russian “intervention” in Syria.

So it was quite comical to see how the announcement that Russia will deliver the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government was met with feigned horror by U.S. and NATO forces. This decision was taken after the U.S. allowed or didn’t stop the Israeli Air Force from playing games that resulted in a Russia cargo plane being shot out of the air by Syrian ground defenses who mistook the Russia plane for an Israeli aircraft.

Without an adequate air defense system capable of covering the entire nation and strategic territories within Syria, the Israeli Air Force has had almost unimpeded access to Syria air space during the Syrian war to attack military forces associated with the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the Iranian state.

Yet in their zeal to push out anti-Russian propaganda, the state/corporate propagandists in the U.S.  exposed once again Russia’s conservatism and acquiensce to the global colonial U.S./EU/NATO agenda. While the headlines screamed traitor at Turkish President Erdogan for concluding a deal for the Russian S-400, the most advanced system the Russians are selling on the open market, very few seemed to have noticed that those wily, evil Russians that were propping up their partner in Syria hadn’t even delivered on the S-300 sale to the Syrian state that had been concluded five years ago!

The Russians said that they failed to deliver the system that the Syrians purchased due to a request from the Israeli government in 2013. This decision took place a year after the debacle of Geneva I, the United Nations sponsored conference to resolve the Syrian War, where the Russians appeared ready to abandon Assad as long as the Syrian state was maintained, and their interests protected.  Getting rid of Assad but maintaining the Syrian state was also U.S. policy at the time.

However, instead of a negotiated settlement in which the Russians would play a role, the Obama administration rejected Geneva I believing that it could topple the government in Syria through its jihadist proxies. The U.S. knew that those elements were never going to be allowed to govern the entire nation but that was the point. The Syrian state was slated to be balkanized with its territory divided and a permanent presence by the U.S. directly on the ground. Those forces in Syria would be bolstered by the thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq that had been reintroduced as a result of the U.S. reinvasion supposedly to fight ISIS – that it helped to create.

Although the Russian position on Assad came out just a year after the Chinese and Russians gave the green light to the U.S. and NATO to launch a vicious war on Libya is old news, it points out how in the global game of power relations the peoples of the former colonial world continue to lose. The Russians, like the Chinese, have demonstrated repeatedly their willingness to collaborate with the U.S. and the “Western colonialist alliance,” even as successive U.S. administrations have singled them out, along with Iran and Venezuela, as geostrategic threats to U.S. global hegemony.

This observation is not meant to be another Russia and China bashing that plays into the hands of the reactionaries driving U.S. policies who see military conflict with those two nations as inevitable. Instead what is being argued here is the absolute necessity for African/Black people and oppressed peoples and nations to be clear about the international correlation and balance of forces and competing interests at play so that “we” the people are not confused regarding our objective interests.

Russian intervention in Syria was not as cynical as the U.S. and Western European powers, which knew from the beginning that “progressive” forces in Syria could not win a military conflict. Nevertheless, they encouraged those forces to engage in military opposition while the U.S. and its allies decided to back various Islamist forces – not for democratic change – but to destroy the Syrian state.

Maintaining an independent, critical perspective on the national and global dispensation of social forces means not having any illusions about the world and the national, class and racial politics in play. We need to be clear that supporting Syria’s attempt to assert full sovereignty over its territory was only a secondary concern for the Russians. The back seat given to the Syrian government in the negotiations between Russia, Iran, and Turkey regarding Idlib confirms that. Protecting Russian interests in Syria and the Mid-East was and is the driving force for Russian military and diplomatic activity, nothing else!

The delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria resembles the Russia cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Turkey on the Turkish Afrin operation, which was basically an invasion of Syria by Turkey in order to establish a “buffer zone”.  These are all decisions based on the objective interests of Russia and secondarily the interests of the Syrian government.

It remains to be seen how the deployment of the S-300’s will alter the situation on the ground in Syria. It would not be surprising if the deployment was limited and only covered the territory around Latakia, the site of the Russian air base and close to its warm-water port. It may not be in Russia’s interests to allow the Syria government the means to block Israeli intrusions into Syrian air space. If the Syrian government had the ability to really ensure the security of its national territory from Israeli intrusions, it could mean that Russia would have less leverage over the Syrian government to force a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. Additionally, the land corridor and security of the “Islamic pipeline” between Iran, Iraq and Syria could be secured that may not be necessarily conducive for maintaining Russia’s share of the energy market in Europe.

The U.S. and Israel overplayed their cards and made a strategic blunder by precipitating the shooting down of the Russian cargo plane. Although National Security Adviser John Bolton claims that the decision to supply Syrian forces with the S-300 is a “significant escalation,” the escalation really took place in 2012 when the Obama administration decided to allow U.S. vassal states to significantly increase military support for radical Islamic forces. Michael Flynn revealed this as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – something the Obama forces never forgot.

Syria has been a difficult object lesson for the left that has had a devastating consequence for the people of that embattled nation. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been displaced primarily because left and progressive forces lacked the organizational, but more importantly, the ideological, political, and moral clarity to mount an opposition to the machinations of their national bourgeoisie in Europe and the U.S.  The very idea that the bourgeois leadership of their respective states might have some benevolent justifications for military intervention in Syria revealed a dangerous nationalist sentimentality that is driving the left version of white supremacist national chauvinism.

Before the dramatic rightist turn of the left in the U.S. and Europe over the last two decades, the left – at least much of the Marxist-Leninist left – opposed Western imperialist intervention out of a theoretical and principled commitment to the national-colonial question in the global South. As citizens in “oppressor nations,” opposing their own bourgeoisie’s interventions into oppressed nations was seen as a responsibility for the left and indeed was a measurement of what was actually an authentic left position.

That stance has virtually disappeared.

The first response by the Western left to plans or actual interventions by their nation’s ruling class is a strange conversation regarding rather or not the intervention is justified or not based on the nature of the government being toppled by the intervention.

For those of us who are members of oppressed peoples and nations, it is quite obvious that without independent organizations and global solidarity structures buttressed by the few progressive states that exist on the planet, we cannot depend on any bourgeois state to really care about our humanity or on the radical or left forces in Northern nations to put a brake on repression and intervention against non-Europe states and peoples.

The bloodletting will continue in Syria. Candidate Trump raised some serious questions about the wisdom of U.S. policies in Syria and indicated that he might be willing to reverse U.S. involvement. But President Trump surrendered to the pressure from the foreign policy establishment and the warmongering corporate press. Instead of extricating the U.S., the administration announced a few weeks ago that the U.S. will essentially engage in an illegal and indefinite occupation in Syria.

There is reasonable doubt that Israel and the U.S. will allow the deployment of the S-300s even if the Russians followed through with the delivery. Which means the possibility of another dangerous escalation in the conflict at any moment. It also means why despite one’s opinion about the nature of any government’s internal situation, it is important to reaffirm and defend the principles of national sovereignty and international law in opposition to the arbitrary and illegal interventions to effect a change in government by any outside forces.

The people’s movements for social justice and human rights around the world must not allow the people to be drawn into the machinations and contradictory struggles and conflicts between essentially capitalist blocs, which include the Russians and the state-capitalism of China. This is not to suggest a moral or political equalization between the emergence of capitalist Russia and China and the systematic degradation unleashed on the world by the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project that emerged in 1492 with the invasion of the “Americas.” That would be a perversion of history and divert us from the primary global contradiction and target: The Western capitalist alliance and the corporate and finance oligarchy at its center.

In the competition between blocs and the real possibility of global conflict, we must be vigilant not to repeat the tragic mistake made before the first world war when workers enthusiastically signed up as cannon fodder in the clash of capitalist empires. Imperialist war really is a class issue!

Totalitarian capitalist domination is not a figment of our imaginations, it is real. Penetrating the ideological mystifications that divert us away from the matrix of power that distorts consciousness and renders the people as collaborators in their own subjection is the task of the moment.

The global order is changing, the only question is what will emerge. Will the new order be a multipolar one dominated by emerging capitalist states or will a new transitional order develop that is oriented toward an association of states and people’s movements moving toward authentic de-colonization, ecological rationality, and socialist construction?

There is still time for the people to choose.

The Left and Wiggle Room

Jeux!

Patrick Cockburn’s recent article is one example of why I read CounterPunch less often than I used to.  Or, at the least, why I have become more critical of their editorial stance.  With this article, I have the impression I’m reading a Bernie Sanders speech, of being Judas-goated into the camp of what I consider a kind of useless caviar Left.  While maybe not as bad as The Guardian (I prefer OffGuardian), there are too many weasel words, phrases, and statements that reek of Establishment consensus.  That if you’re going to refer to the head-chopping proxies, armed and funded by the US and its good buddies, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and other assorted vassals, as “rebels” rather than the paid lieutenants of the criminal gang in DC, London, Riyadh or Paris, you’re basically saying it’s okay to murder at arm’s length, to somehow plausibly deny any real, true, strong connection to the crime or the perpetrators.  Plausible Deniability being spook-speak for basically lying, when timidly asked, about any crime they’ve just committed.

Here’s one example:

Pundits are predictably sceptical about the agreement reached by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on Monday to head off an imminent offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces directed against rebels in Idlib province.

See what I mean?  No qualifications or explanations of who these “rebels” are or why they are there.  If they’re “rebels”, they must be the good guys, right?  We all love a “rebel” when he’s creating mayhem in another country or in some movie theatre.  That statement is also a subliminal reminder that if they’re “rebels”, they must be “rebelling” against something, and that  “something” must be bad, hinting that Assad must be bad, even though words like “brutal dictator” or “thug” weren’t used.  This time.

*****

And speaking of “brutal dictators” or “thugs”, it’s pretty obvious that the US is now, as has been for quite a while, a dictatorship, and a brutal one, at that.  As are most of its allies/vassals in the West and elsewhere to differing degrees.  We’ve even got our own murderous “proxy army” right here in the “Homeland”.  It’s called the Police, who go around murdering with impunity, armed with surplus military gear.  How many homeless, uninsured, hungry, and dubiously incarcerated (modern day slaves, working in private prisons) do we have?  Do you think that minuscule percentage of the people (or their paid hitmen/women in Congress – Oligarch money put them there in the first place) who actually run things give a rat’s ass about any of this?  That’s what they do.  All of them.  They look around the entire planet to find (or create the necessary conditions for creating) the weakest possible “enemies”:  People who just want to be left alone to figure out their own futures, on their own terms, who don’t have imperial aspirations or the military means of carrying them forward even if they wanted to, but, for most part, don’t.  They’d rather spend what means they have on their own populations.  Call that behaviour what you will, but it certainly doesn’t include a blind obedience to the diktats of the Money Men and their military enforcers.

*****

But our “Left” editors at CP have a difficult time of saying that up front.  The term “rebel” also supports the claim/point of view that the conflict in Syria is a “civil” war.  It’s total nonsense, but here it is:

The Syrian civil war long ago ceased to be a struggle fought out by local participants. Syria has become an arena where foreign states confront each other, fight proxy wars and put their strength and influence to the test. 

“Long ago”, Patrick?  It was never a “civil” war.  In fact, no wars are “civil”, but that’s kind of beside the point here.  The conflict in Syria was aided and abetted, if not instigated, by the US and its local (and not so local, but closer to the scene, allies; i.e., France and the UK, the FUK of FUKUS) allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, two theocratic states who hate the idea of having a secular, tolerant, independent state in their neighbourhood, especially one friendly to/allied with other independent states like Russia and Iran.

Why can’t you say that?  Why can’t anyone, except for belittled independent journalists (Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett come to mind) let us know what’s really going on?  What really happened?

It’s a sad day when we we are pretty much denied by the MSM the reports of a couple of female journalists who apparently were really “there”, on the ground, as they say, and all the while tout the female #metoo movement.  There’s no coherency in all this.  But, yes, I’m giving too much credit to the #metoo movement, and all the cat fights that ensue.  Still, it takes up too much space in whatever media space you choose.

On to other stuff.

Then we have the term “arena” used as a descriptor for an invasion.  As if we’re sitting in the stands in the Colosseum watching an entertainment or in one of the corporate-sponsored arenas of the NBA.  War has suddenly morphed into spectacle and sport.  This kind of linguistic sleight of hand is clever and maybe downright deliberate.  But maybe he couldn’t come up with a better way of stating it.  Just goes to show how the whole idea of “otherness” and spectacle have come to invade the consciousness of much of the so-called Left.

There is a striking note of imperial self-confidence about the document in which all sides in the Syrian civil war are instructed to come to heel.

“Imperial self-confidence”?   Do you see what I mean?  It’s a ”document”.  Not an invasion.  There’s absolutely nothing “imperial” about it.  It’s an open declaration of what they see as a solution to a problem.  In other words, “Here’s what we’d like to do, given the circumstances.”  It’s an invitation to dialog, not a pre-emptive invasion.

And then, here we go again:

Moscow helped Assad secure his rule after the popular uprising in 2011 and later ensured his ultimate victory by direct military intervention in 2015.

“Popular uprising”?  Right, just like the vicious coup in Ukraine was a “popular uprising”?  The US supposed, I guess, that the Syrians were just as venal as the Ukrainians.  Or, if they had figured out that Syria would be a harder nut to crack, why not just simply create a reason to send money, arms, and the cooperation of its ideological opponents to do the dirty work?  Not the same situation at all.  But Cockburn would have us accept these fairy tales that anyone who hints that they might want to make an independent decision must be categorised as a dictator, a thug, someone who needs to be punished, not by his own people, but by the US.  By proxy, of course.  Can’t forget that.

And then there’s this “direct military intervention”.  As if Russia simply decided, unilaterally, that enough was enough.  Assad asked, invited, if not begged for Russia to help him out.  They are allies, after all.  Again, not quite the same thing.  Cockburn may believe all his nonsense, or he’s being very careful not to upset too many “humanitarian intervention” Lefties who still believe that Assad is a “thug” or whatever, as probably a good many of his readers, and those of CounterPunch do.

  … but politicians and commentators continue to blithely recommend isolating Russia and pretend that it can be safely ignored.

Again, “safely ignored”?  Then what about all the Russophobia constantly hyped by the MSM?  That’s not what I’d call ignoring something.  The architects for total world dominance by the US and its vassals (or should I say Israeli-US dominance?) are probably shaking in their collective boots at the new geo-political reality staring them in the face.  It’s not what I’d call “blithely recommending”, but it might pass for UK diplomatic-speak saying, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” Or, on the other hand, it could mean, “We have to do something, quickly, anything (does the Skripal case come to mind?), to turn this thing around.  Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s a total fabrication.  We’ll use our tried and true method of simply repeating our version, ‘creating our own reality’ as the Yanks are so fond of doing.”

Plus, Russia doesn’t need to show the world it’s a power player.  It has been since Mr Putin began turning Russia away from, in Matt Taibbi’s words, “the vampire squid”.  Granted, he hasn’t quite succeeded completely, has had his setbacks, but without spending trillions, he has stymied the overthrow of yet another middle eastern nation.  At least for the moment.  Things could get nasty.

If you read the entire article carefully, you’ll find all kinds of these little hidden exits where the author can argue pretty much anything, if you were to put the question to him.  It’s the intent, deliberate or not, that I have a hard time swallowing.  Too much wiggle room.

I’d like to add that Jonathan Cook has just written, in my view, two excellent analyses of the interplay of media and socio-political consciousness.  Must read.  The articles to which I am referring are here and here.

My problem is, when reading an article like this, I have the impression of submitting to a lecture by someone conveniently “left”, and of a certain stature, who can be trotted out when necessary.  Not a pleasant feeling (and yes, I admit that “feelings” are counter-productive, or not necessarily the best lens through which you can examine any particular phenomenon, in some sense, because marketing depends mostly on emotions) in that I sense a lack of empathy, a certain comfortable distance from what is actually happening.  Some may call it “objective reporting”.  But it affects me as a subtle sort of propaganda.  It reinforces the “us against them” paradigm but in this “imperialistic” manner, if I may say.  I refer to my “spectator” reference above.  We’re invited to see this from afar, as if we were pushing around armies on a map.  Cook’s argument, that we need to step back from the screen in order to see the big picture, does, in no way, contradict what I’m trying to say.

In other words, to use Cook’s analogy of being scrunched up against the IMAX screen so we can’t interpret the entire picture, we have to take the word of whoever is sitting at a comfortable distance as to what’s going on.  What may seem contradictory is the fact that some journalists may actually be present at the scene about which they are reporting.  Compare the reporting of Venessa Beeley or Eva Bartlett to Cockburn’s piece.  That is to say, they are, in a sense, close to the screen.  So do they have necessary perspective to provide us with an accurate view of what is going on?  While we, the readers of the reporting, aren’t even in the theatre.

Cockburn works for a mainstream publication, part of the present power structure.  What are we to make of that?

I’ve no personal beef with Mr Cockburn, nor is this really about him.  He does what he does for his own personal reasons.  I can choose to read his stuff or not, agree with him or not.  That’s not my point.  The only reason I’m writing this is that, given the present circumstances, I tend to carefully parse what I do read.  Call me a nitpicker if you like.  This particular article happened to make me grimace, contained an element of dissonance that made me stop and consider its possible effects.  That, plus the fact that I saw this article on a self-proclaimed, left-leaning, “muckraking” web site.  The writer is of less importance than the message conveyed.  Language is important and, outside of personal intimacy, it’s the only means we have of communicating.

I think we do ourselves an intellectual favour by entering into that contradictory world of being up close and distant at the same time.

• Author’s Note:  All bolds are mine.

“Chlorine delivered”: Idlib Militants “readying False Flag Attack” in Syrian Village, Russian MoD

File Photo. © Ammar Safarjalani / Global Look Press

Militants in Syria’s Idlib have transported several canisters containing chlorine to the village of Bsanqul, apparently preparing to stage a false flag chemical attack, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.

The chlorine-filled canisters were delivered by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants of Tahrir al Sham, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, a spokesman of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko, said in a statement Saturday. He added that the latest developments showed that the militants are preparing for a false flag attack that would be used to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.

White Helmets making films of ‘chemical attacks’ with orphans in Idlib – Russian military

The US and its allies have so far dismissed the Russian warnings, but said that the government in Damascus might instead be preparing chemical attacks against civilians. Moscow has suggested that the attack might be prepared with the support of Washington, which wants to justify further air strikes against Syria. Those planned strikes are said to be much larger in scale than those launched against the Syrian military by the US, the UK and France in April.

It comes as Washington has been building up its military presence in the region. In late August, the missile destroyer USS Ross was deployed to the Mediterranean, carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles, while the USS The Sullivans was deployed to the Persian Gulf and a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber was moved to an air base in Qatar.

Most recently, the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. Last week, the attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN-750) arrived in the Mediterranean as well.

With the arrival of the Bulkeley, the US forces in the region reportedly have up to 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles available to strike targets in Syria if ordered to do so, Russian media reports.

Bizarre Israeli Analyses of Syrian Curriculum Circulate in the Middle East

My friend, a senior UN official based in Amman, Jordan, recently received a newsletter from an Israeli institution – “IMPACT-se”. Their report was called, ‘modestly’, “Reformulating School Textbooks During the Civil War”.

It is full of analyses of the Syrian curriculum.

Interesting stuff, without any doubt: Manipulative, negative, but interesting. It made it to many other places in the Middle East; to Lebanon, for instance, where even the word “Israel” is hardly ever pronounced.

Predictably, being compiled in Israel, the report trashes Syria, its ideology, and the determined anti-imperialist stand of President al-Assad.

However, that may backfire. Excerpts that are quoted from the Syrian curriculum would impress both education experts, as well as the general public, if they were to get their hands and eyes on them. And I am trying to facilitate precisely that, in this essay.

Children in Damascus taking summer programme

What the report found outrageous and deplorable, others could find very reasonable and positive. Let’s read.  Here is what the “IMPACT-se” is quoting, while ringing alarm bells:

Saddam Hussein took power, and his period witnessed a number of wars in the Arab Gulf area. The first was with Iran, called the First Gulf War (1980–88), which occurred through incitement by the US, in order to weaken both countries. History, Grade 12, 2017–18, p. 105.

Well put, isn’t it? But it gets much better, philosophically. Imagine, this brilliant intellectual stuff is actually served to all Syrian children in their public schools, while in Europe and North America; kids are fed with neo-colonialist mainstream propaganda. No wonder that Syrian children are much better versed in what is happening in the world. No wonder that millions of Syrian refugees are now ready to return home, after the abuse they received abroad, and after realizing how indoctrinated and brainwashed by Western propaganda, the people all over the world are.

“IMPACT-se” continues quoting the Syrian curriculum, naively thinking that the words engraved there, will terrify the entire world:

This competition and struggle worsened as the capitalist system developed and new occupying forces such as the US, took control over international politics. It exploited its scientific, technological, economic and military supremacy in order to expand its influence and [gain] control over the capabilities of the peoples of the world. This was done in cooperation with its allies, to increase its presence in the international arena as the only undisputed superpower. National Education, Grade 8, 2017–18, p. 81. (The US) strives to maintain its supremacy by monopolizing developing technology, controlling wealth and energy sources in the world, most importantly oil, and forcing its hegemony on the international community. National Education, Grade 8, 2017–18, p. 82.

This could be easily written by the progressive economist Peter Koenig, by the international lawyer Christopher Black, or, why not, by myself.

The people, who worked on the Syrian curriculum, combined two things brilliantly: 1) indisputable facts, 2) elegant simplicity! Actually, this curriculum should be offered not only to the Middle East kids, but all over the world.

A girl child taking extra class in the summer in Damascus

Look how skillfully and honestly it summarizes modern history:

After the disappearance of international balance and unipolar hegemony took control of the world, the US began searching for excuses to justify its intervention in other countries. It occupied Afghanistan in 2002, under the pretext of fighting against “terrorism” in order to realize its political and economic goals. One of the goals was to build an advanced military base close to countries which the US considers to be dangerous (Russia, China, India, Iran and North Korea). In addition, Afghanistan had many assets (such as iron ore and gas). In 2003, the US—helped by a group of countries—declared war on Iraq under the pretext that Iraq was holding weapons of mass destruction and aiding terrorism. The occupation came after an unjust siege and air strikes over Iraqi cities and institutions, without authorization from the UN general assembly and the Security Council. National Education, Grade 8, 2017–18, p. 82

Making the world become one form, one structure and one model, which is the most powerful model now controlling the world, economically and militarily—the American model. The hegemony of the capitalist system . . . turning the world into a consumer market for Western products and ideas, while stripping the nation of its principles, customs and traditions, abolishing its personality and identity, first diluting and then gradually eliminating nations and cultures. National Education, Grade 12, 2017–18, p. 31.

According to “IMPACT-se”, this is supposed to scare random readers, providing proof how evil the ‘regime in Damascus’ is!

The opposite is true.

An international (non-Western) educator, who is presently based in the Middle East, explained to me over a cup of coffee. I think that this statement is actually a good summary of what many others that are studying the Syrian curriculum really feel:

Education reflects the vision of a given society.  The heart of what a society expects from its citizens is in the curriculum.  Having carefully read the analysis of the new Syrian curriculum and textbooks reinforces my strong conviction of how great a society Syria really is.

*****

Let us see the ‘other side’; those who are critical of Syrian education, those who are making a living from such criticism and from antagonizing the system.

ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), based in Beirut, Lebanon, has an initiative defined as ‘the future of Syria for the peace-building phase’. This ‘process’ involves Syrian experts from all walks of life.

But who are these experts? In 2018, during the expert’s meeting on education, the list included these specialists:

– Former professors (education and law) of Aleppo University

– Former professor of Damascus University

– Head of an education NGO in Lebanon

– Academics and researchers now based in Turkey and Germany

– Independent consultants

Clearly, if at this meeting any participants were Syrians, they were ‘former some things’. Meaning exiles, anti-government cadres, and mostly pegged to some Western organization (predominantly the organizations based in France or Germany). Not one person from the legitimate government of Syria was invited! A typical Western approach: “about them, without them”.

And these people who are serving Western interests, are supposed to help to define a component on education which is considered vital to “reconciliation and social cohesion in post-war Syria”.

Predictably, instead of promoting reconciliation, the speeches were full of hate, bitter and aggressive, anti-Syrian and pro-Western. ‘Experts’ used terminology such as: ‘Hegemony of the Syrian regime’, ‘The Ba’ath Party is only concerned about ideology, never giving Syrians an identity’ (they were actually demanding that religions would serve as ‘identity’, replacing the presently secular Syrian state), ‘We need to talk about the truth of what happened in 2011, what led to the war in 2011. Without that nothing makes sense’ (but the ‘truth about 2011’ in their minds has definitely nothing to do with the fact that the West encouraged the anti-government rebellion, injected jihadi cadres and triggered the brutal civil war aimed at overthrowing a social state).

Their main point seems to be: ‘The war has strengthened the culture of hatred’.

Correct, but not because of the Syrian state, but, because of people like those ‘experts’!

What do they really want? Religion instead of secularism, capitalism instead of socialism, and, of course, the Western perception of ‘democracy’, instead of a patriotic and pan-Arab independent vision of the state.

*****

No matter how one turns it, the Syrian education system, including its curriculum, appears to be greatly superior to those in the neighboring countries. Perhaps that is why it is being placed under scrutiny and under attack.

After all, wasn’t the main goal of the West, in 2011 and after, to destroy yet another socialist, internationalist state that was primarily serving its people?

And the state of Israel? What is “IMPACT-se” mainly complaining about? What is irking it most in the Syrian curriculum? Perhaps this, in its own words and analyses:

The Syrian curriculum bases Syrian national identity on the principles of a continued struggle to realize one Arab Nation that includes all Arab states, constituting one country, the “Arab Homeland.” The textbooks present the borders dividing the Arab states as artificial, having been imposed by European colonialism.

For most of us, this is actually not bad, is it?

Or possibly this:

The current borders are political ones, drawn through the policy of the colonial powers that had controlled the region, especially France and Britain. They do not overlap the natural borders that used to separate the Arab Homeland from the neighboring countries. So, important changes took place in these borders to the benefit of those countries and to the detriment of the Arab land. Geography of the Arab Homeland and the World, Grade 12, 2017–2018, p. 13.”

What is incredibly impressive, is how the Syrian curriculum addresses the Soviet period of its close ally – Russia:

We shall become acquainted with the reality of Russia prior to the Communist Revolution, and the causes which led to its political, economic, social and intellectual renaissance, from World War I until the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991. History, Grade 8, 2017–18, p. 98.

The Socialist Revolution in Russia broke out in order to confront the imperial regime. It declared the establishment of the first socialist country in 1917. [The Revolution] was based on the rule of the workers and the peasants, and it had a global impact, as it supported national liberation movements. History of the Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 11, 2017–18, p. 168.

Gorbachev took over the leadership of the state and party in 1988, and aspired to implement a plan of economic, social and ideological reconstruction. However, the imperialistic countries conspired against the destiny of the Soviet Union and took advantage of the administrative corruption and the circumstances of multiple nationalities, leading to its dissolution in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation in its place. History, Grade 8, 2017–18, pp. 99–100.

Actually, if I could, if I were to be allowed to, I’d love my publishing house (Badak Merah) to publish the Syrian curriculum, or at least its part on history and politics, for everyone outside Syria to read.

What the Israeli “IMPACT-se” sees as alarming or negative, most of people all over the world and particularly in the Arab region, would definitely perceive as truthful, optimistic and worth fighting for.

Are the experts from “IMPACT-se” so naïve that they do not realize it? Or is there something else going on? Perhaps we will never find out.

With or without text books children flock to school in newly liberated Aleppo, January 2017

No matter what: thank you for reminding us of the great Syrian curriculum! It clearly shows how great a nation Syria is!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• Photos: Yayoi Segi

US Plans to Use Fake Chemical Weapons Attack to Strike Syria: Russian MoD

FILE PHOTO. © Paul Hanna / Reuters

The US may have plans to use a fake chemical attack in Syria to hit government forces with airstrikes, the Russian Defense Ministry has said. Washington is already building up strike capability in the Middle East, it said.

The warning comes a day after the Russian military said it had information about a looming provocation in Syria’s Idlib governorate, which would involve a staged chemical weapons attack. The US earlier warned it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, which would be stronger than those conducted by the US, the UK and France in April.

‘Foreign specialists’ may stage chemical attack in Syria in 2 days to frame Assad – Russian MoD

In a statement published on Monday, the Russian MoD said it noted the deployment to the Mediterranean last weekend of the missile destroyer USS Ross carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles on board. It came after a similar move of the USS The Sullivans to the Persian Gulf and the rebasing of a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber to an air base in Qatar. The Russian ministry said the “preparations are the latest evidence of the US intention to use the” expected provocation.

The statement reiterated that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham militant group, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, was preparing a staged chlorine attack in a city in Idlib. It alleged that a group of jihadists, trained in the handling of chemical weapons by the British private military contractor Olive Group, has already arrived in Jisr al-Shughur. The group will “stage decontamination of victims of a staged chemical weapons attack posing as members of the notorious White Helmets group,” the ministry claimed.

“The implementation of this provocation, which is being conducted with the assistance of the British intelligence services, is meant to serve as the latest pretext for the US, Britain and France to deliver a missile strike against state and economic facilities in Syria,” said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

In April, a reported chlorine attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta neighborhood served as justification for the US, UK, and France to attack what they claimed to be sites involved in a clandestine Syrian chemical weapons program. The missile attacks came just as a team of international inspectors was set to arrive at the scene to collect evidence of the supposed attack.

Later, residents of the area told journalists that the footage of the treatment of the alleged victims of the attack was filmed by the White Helmets group after they orchestrated a panic at a local hospital. The patients there were not poisoned by chlorine, local medics said. The footage was presented by the mainstream media as proof that an attack took place.

Jeremy Corbyn is Being Destroyed …

The latest “scandal” gripping Britain – or to be more accurate, British elites – is over the use of the term “Zionist” by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the opposition and possibly the country’s next prime minister.

Yet again, Corbyn has found himself ensnared in what a small group of Jewish leadership organisations, which claim improbably to represent Britain’s “Jewish community”, and a small group of corporate journalists, who improbably claim to represent British public opinion, like to call Labour’s “anti-semitism problem”.

I won’t get into the patently ridiculous notion that “Zionist” is a code word for “Jew”, at least not now. There are lots of existing articles explaining why that is nonsense.

I wish to deal with a different aspect of the long-running row over Labour’s so-called “anti-semitism crisis”. It exemplifies, I believe, a much more profound and wider crisis in our societies: over the issue of trust.

We now have two large camps, pitted against each other, who have starkly different conceptions of what their societies are and where they need to head. In a very real sense, these two camps no longer speak the same language. There has been a rupture, and they can find no common ground.

I am not here speaking about the elites who dominate our societies. They have their own agenda. They trade only in the language of money and power. I am speaking of us: the 99 per cent who live in their shadow.

First, let us outline the growing ideological and linguistic chasm opening up between these two camps: a mapping of the divisions that, given space constraints, will necessarily deal in generalisations.

The trusting camp

The first camp invests its trust, with minor reservations, in those who run our societies. The left and the right segments of this camp are divided primarily over the degree to which they believe that those at the bottom of society’s pile need a helping hand to get them further up the social ladder.

Otherwise, the first camp is united in its assumptions.

They admit that among our elected politicians there is the odd bad apple. And, of course, they understand that there are necessary debates about political and social values. But they agree that politicians rise chiefly through ability and talent, that they are accountable to their political constituencies, and that they are people who want what is best for society as a whole.

While this camp concedes that the media is owned by a handful of corporations driven by a concern for profit, it is nonetheless confident that the free market – the need to sell papers and audiences – guarantees that important news and a full spectrum of legitimate opinion are available to readers.

Both politicians and the media serve – if not always entirely successfully – as a constraint on corruption and the abuse of power by other powerful actors, such as the business community.

This camp believes too that western democracies are better, more civilised political systems than those in other parts of the world. Western societies do not want wars, they want peace and security for everyone. For that reason, they have been thrust – rather uncomfortably – into the role of global policeman. Western states have found themselves with little choice of late but to wage “good wars” to curb the genocidal instincts and hunger for power of dictators and madmen.

Russian conspiracies

Once upon a time – when this camp’s worldview was rarely, if ever, challenged – its favoured response to anything difficult to reconcile with its core beliefs, from the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the 2008 financial crash, was: “Cock-up, not conspiracy!”. Now that there are ever more issues threatening to undermine its most cherished verities, the camp’s response is – paradoxically – “Putin did it!” or “Fake news!”.

The current obsession with Russian conspiracies is in large part the result of the extraordinarily rapid rise of a second camp, no doubt fueled by the unprecedented access western publics have gained through social media to information, good and bad alike. At no time in human history have so many people been able to step outside of a state-, clerical- or corporate-sanctioned framework of information dissemination and speak too each other directly and on a global stage.

This new camp too is not easy to characterise in the old language of left-right politics. Its chief characteristic is that it distrusts not only those who dominate our societies, but the social structures they operate within.

This camp regards such structures as neither immutable, divinely ordained ways for ordering and organising society, nor as the rational outcome of the political and moral evolution of western societies. Rather, it views these structures as the product of engineering by a tiny elite to hold on to its power.

These structures are no longer primarily national, but global. They are not immutable but as fabricated, as man-made and replaceable, as the structures that once made incontestable the rule of a landed aristocracy over feudal serfs. The current aristocracy, this camp argues, are globalised corporations that are so unaccountable that even the biggest nation-states can no longer contain or constrain them.

Illusions of pluralism

For this camp, politicians are not the cream of society. They have risen to the surface of a corrupted and corrupting system, and the overwhelming majority did so by enthusiastically adopting its rotten values. These politicians do not chiefly serve voters but the corporations who really dominate our societies.

For the second camp, this fact was well illustrated in 2008 when the political class did not – and could not – punish the banks responsible for the near-collapse of western economies after decades of reckless speculation on which a financial elite had grown fat. Those banks, in the words of the politicians themselves, were “too big to fail” and so were bailed out with money from the very same publics who had been scammed by the banks in the first place. Rather than use the bank failures as an opportunity to drive through reform of the broken banking system, or nationalise parts of it, the politicians let the banking casino system continue, even intensify.

Likewise, the media – supposed watchdogs on power – are seen by this camp as the chief propagandists for the ruling elite. The media do not monitor the abuse of power, they actively create a social consensus for the continuation of the abuse – and if that fails, they seek to deflect attention from, or veil, the abuse.

This is inevitable, the second camp argues, given that the media are embedded within the very same corporate structures that dominate our societies. They are, in fact, the corporations’ public relations arm. They allow only limited dissent at the margins of the media, and only as a way to create the impression of an illusory pluralism.

Manufactured enemies

These domestic structures are subservient to a still-bigger agenda: the accumulation of wealth by a global elite through the asset-stripping of the planet’s resources and the rationalisation of permanent war. That, this camp concludes, requires the manufacturing of “enemies” – such as Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea – to justify the expansion of a military-industrial machine.

These “enemies” are a real foe in the sense that, in their different ways, they refuse to submit to the neoliberalising reach of the western-based corporations. But more significantly, they are needed as an enemy, even should they want to make peace. These manufactured enemies, says the second camp, justify the redirection of public money into the private coffers of the military and homeland security industries. And equally importantly, a ready set of bogeymen can be exploited to distract western publics from troubles at home.

The second camp is accused by the first of being anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israel (or more mischievously anti-semitic) for its opposition to western “humanitarian interventions” abroad. The second camp, it says, acts as apologists for war criminals like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, portraying these leaders as misunderstood good guys and blaming the west for the world’s ills.

The second camp argues that it is none of these things: it is anti-imperialist. It does not excuse the crimes of Putin or Assad, it treats them as secondary and largely reactive to the vastly greater power a western elite with global reach can project. It believes the western media’s obsession with crafting narratives about evil enemies – bad men and madmen – is designed to deflect attention from the structures of far greater violence the west deploys around the world, through a web of US military bases and Nato.

Putin has power, but it is immeasurably less than the combined might of the profit-seeking, war-waging western military industries. Faced with this power equation, according to the second camp, Putin acts defensively or reactively on the global stage, using what limited strength Russia has to uphold its essential strategic interests. One cannot reasonably judge Russia’s crimes without first admitting the west’s greater crimes, our crimes.

While the whole US political class obsess over “Russian interference” in US elections, this camp notes, the American public is encouraged to ignore the much greater US interference not only in Russian elections, but in many other spheres Russia considers to be vital strategic interests. That includes the locating of US military bases and missile sites on Russia’s borders.

Different languages

Two camps, two entirely different languages and narratives.

These camps may be divided, but it would seriously misguided to imagine they are equal.

One has the full power and weight of those corporate structures behind it. The politicians speak its language, as do the media. Its ideas and its voice dominate everywhere that is considered official, objective, balanced, neutral, respectable, legitimate.

The other camp has one small space to make its presence felt – social media. That is a space rapidly shrinking, as the politicians, media and the corporations that own social media (as they do everything else) start to realise they have let the genie out of the bottle. This camp is derided as conspiratorial, dangerous, fake news.

This is the current battlefield. It is a battle the first camp looks like it is winning but actually has already lost.

That is not necessarily because the second camp is winning the argument. It is because physical realities are catching up with the first camp, smashing its illusions, even as it clings to them like a life-raft.

The two most significant disrupters of the first camp’s narrative are climate breakdown and economic meltdown. The planet has finite resources, which means endless growth and wealth accumulation cannot be sustained indefinitely. Much as in a Ponzi scheme, there comes a point when the hollow centre is exposed and the system comes crashing down. We have had intimations enough that we are nearing that point.

It hardly needs repeating, except to climate deniers, that we have had even more indications that the Earth’s climate is already turning against humankind.

Out of the darkness

Our political language is rupturing because we are now completely divided. There is no middle ground, no social compact, no consensus. The second camp understands that the current system is broken and that we need radical change, while the first camp holds desperately to the hope that the system will continue to be workable with modifications and minor reforms.

It is on to this battlefield that Corbyn has stumbled, little prepared for the heavy historic burden he shoulders.

We are arriving at a moment called a paradigm shift. That is when the cracks in a system become so obvious they can no longer be credibly denied. Those vested in the old system scream and shout, they buy themselves a little time with increasingly repressive measures, but the house is moments away from falling. The critical questions are who gets hurt when the structure tumbles, and who decides how it will be rebuilt.

The new paradigm is coming anyway. If we don’t choose it ourselves, the planet will for us. It could be an improvement, it could be a deterioration, it could be extinction, depending on how prepared we are for it and how violently those invested in the old system resist the loss of their power. If enough of us understand the need for discarding the broken system, the greater the hope that we can build something better from the ruins.

We are now at the point where the corporate elite can see the cracks are widening but they remain in denial. They are entering the tantrum phase, screaming and shouting at their enemies, and readying to implement ever-more repressive measures to maintain their power.

They have rightly identified social media as the key concern. This is where we – the 99 per cent – have begun waking each other up. This is where we are sharing and learning, emerging out of the darkness clumsily and shaken. We are making mistakes, but learning. We are heading up blind alleys, but learning. We are making poor choices, but learning. We are making unhelpful alliances, but learning.

No one, least of all the corporate elite, knows precisely where this process might lead, what capacities we have for political, social and spiritual growth.

And what the elite don’t own or control, they fear.

Putting the genie back

The elite have two weapons they can use to try to force the second camp back into the bottle. They can vilify it, driving it back into the margins of public life, where it was until the advent of social media; or they can lock down the new channels of mass communication their insatiable drive to monetise everything briefly opened up.

Both strategies have risks, which is why they are being pursued tentatively for the time being. But the second option is by far the riskier of the two. Shutting down social media too obviously could generate blowback, awakening more of the first camp to the illusions the second camp have been trying to alert them to.

Corbyn’s significance – and danger – is that he brings much of the language and concerns of the second camp into the mainstream. He offers a fast-track for the second camp to reach the first camp, and accelerate the awakening process. That, in turn, would improve the chances of the paradigm shift being organic and transitional rather than disruptive and violent.

That is why he has become a lightning rod for the wider machinations of the ruling elite. They want him destroyed, like blowing up a bridge to stop an advancing army.

It is a sign both of their desperation and their weakness that they have had to resort to the nuclear option, smearing him as an anti-semite. Other, lesser smears were tried first: that he was not presidential enough to lead Britain; that he was anti-establishment; that he was unpatriotic; that he might be a traitor. None worked. If anything, they made him more popular.

And so a much more incendiary charge was primed, however at odds it was with Corbyn’s decades spent as an anti-racism activist.

The corporate elite weaponised anti-semitism not because they care about the safety of Jews, or because they really believe that Corbyn is an anti-semite. They chose it because it is the most destructive weapon – short of sex-crime smears and assassination – they have in their armoury.

The truth is the ruling elite are exploiting British Jews and fueling their fears as part of a much larger power game in which all of us – the 99 per cent – are expendable. They will keep stoking this campaign to stigmatise Corbyn, even if a political backlash actually does lead to an increase in real, rather than phoney, anti-semitism.

The corporate elites have no plan to go quietly. Unless we can build our ranks quickly and make our case confidently, their antics will ensure the paradigm shift is violent rather than healing. An earthquake, not a storm.

‘Foreign specialists’ may stage chemical attack in Syria in 2 days to frame Assad: Russian MoD

FILE PHOTO White Helmets in Syria © Omar Haj Kadour / AFP

“Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.”

Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus & provide pretext for US strikes – Russian MoD

Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”

The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.”

The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago.

On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov earlier warned that the US is not finished looking for pretexts for regime change in Damascus.

In April, the US, UK, and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.

Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus and provide pretext for US strikes: Russian MoD

File Photo: A US Air Force B-1B Lancer / AFP

The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.

The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.

The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.

Bolton calls on Al-Qaeda to stage more chemical attacks in Syria

The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria,

In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, recent statements by US National Security Advisor John Bolton – in which he threatened to bomb Syria – could be interpreted as an implicit confirmation of such airstrikes. On August 22, Bolton stated that “… if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned Washington against new reckless moves in Syria, RIA Novosti reported. “We hear ultimatums from Washington, including those made in public,” the top official said, apparently referring to Bolton’s recent remarks.

According to Ryabkov, the US is aiming to destabilize Syria and create new pretexts for regime change in Damascus. “Again, we are witnessing serious escalation of the situation [in Syria],” he added.

In April, the US, UK and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria. The airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.

Back then, Syrian defenses were scrambled to repel some 103 cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles launched at civilian and military targets by the Western trio. It managed to intercept at least 71 of them, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time.

• First published by RT

Turkish-Syrian Border: Confusion, Destruction and Grief

Border wall between Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus

When we first met in 2017, the Turkish poet, Mustafa Goren, stood proudly and defiantly next to a monstrous concrete wall built on orders from Ankara. The partition has just recently separated two towns with the same culture: Turkish Karkamis and Syrian Jarabulus.

The poet then read some of his verses, and my friend, a translator of my books, originally from the city of Adana, tried to keep pace, interpreting.

The poem began with quite an unusual opening, and it warned Europe and its people:

One day, true leaders of the world will come, and they’ll cut off all the gas and petrol supplies to you, and you’ll find yourself in even deeper shit than the one into which you are throwing this part of the world! You’ll have to burn your designer clothes and shoes, just to stay warm. You forgot, but you will soon be reminded, Europe: we are all human beings!

He was raising his right hand accusingly, shouting towards the sky. Somehow, he looked like the Soviet revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovski.

Turkish poet Mustafa Goren in Karkamis

The poet was obviously indignant. It was 2017 then. Everything at the border was still raw, new, and terribly painful. Everything, good and bad, seemed to be possible: full-scale Turkish – Syria war, even a war between Turkey and Russia, or perhaps a Turkish exit from NATO and much closer alliance with Russia and Iran against the West.

Like so many patriots and thinkers in his country, Mustafa Goren strongly disliked the West. He was expressing his full-hearted support for his friends – the people and the state of Syria.

Stopping the Syrian war was all that mattered to him; it was his mission. He was sustaining himself by selling cigarettes on the street of Carsi Mahallesi; a street that hugs the borderline and now the wall.

He did not care how he was making a living, as long as he had time to create, to write, to recite. He was full of determination, zeal and optimism.

*****

Now, when I met him one year later, things definitely looked different. It was 2018, a different era, and totally different Karkamis.

The wall was still there, as well as the Turkish military operations behind it. The poet was still living and struggling in Karkamis, too, but his face looked defeated and tired. Now he was working in a small café. He was broke. His eyes had lost all their previous shine:

“Turkey is now fighting against the European Union… in ,” he said. But somehow it did not sound convincing.

My comrades and I then drove one kilometer towards the Euphrates River; to the ancient cemetery with a commanding view of the border and the Syrian town of Jarabulus.

Syrian town of Jarabulus photographed from the Turkish cemetery in Karkamis

This has been the best place in the area to take a leak, to film the border and to observe Turkish military operations inside Syria.

This time, shrapnel was flying too close, and the explosions were loud.

Two veiled ladies who were visiting the cemetery, spotted us.

“What are you looking for in this godforsaken,” one of them asked. She gave us a hostile, or perhaps desperate look:

What do you think you will find here? We are tired of this fight. We are bored of this conflict. All we want to do is to leave this place; to go far, very far away…

We heard more shells flying nearby, and more explosions.

The lady couldn’t stop:

Go away! Don’t you understand: we don’t want any foreigners here. Foreigners are the cause of this conflict!

We tried to find our old contacts, including Mr. Bulent Polat, a Kemalist from the opposition Republican People’s Party. But his shop on the main street was gone, hermetically sealed. Nearby, an armored vehicle was parked, unceremoniously.

Like almost everyone we spoke to in Karkamis, Mr. Polat was a strong opponent of the war. And he was especially against the Turkish involvement in it:

I know what we are doing there, across the border! To mobilize people against Assad, the anti-government militants supported by Turkey and the West, have been dressing in official Syrian military uniforms, then shoot at the civilians, killing many. Then they say: ‘Assad did it!’ It has been happening all over Syria.

Now Mr. Polat was gone.

Mustafa Goren, the poet, ordered tea for all of us. Then he sat down at a simple table, holding his head between two palms, before beginning to speak:

Nobody wants to stay here, at the border, anymore. In Karkamis, there is more Syrians than Turks, now. If Syrians leave, the whole place will turn to a ghost town.

Then he begins mixing everything together:

Turkey is not fighting against the PKK and the Kurdish terrorist groups here and in Syria – it is fighting against the European Union. This is our own, internal issue, and if we have to die in this fight, we will!

Such discourse can be heard all over Turkey. It is difficult and for many foreigners, hard to follow, but it is how it is. Turkey is in a complex transition: from where is obvious, but to where, almost no one knows.

“Mustafa,” I asked him softly. Despite all this pain, desperation and confusion, he is my comrade, a fellow poet. “What about Russia?”

His eyes softened up, as well as his entire facial expression:

Russians never stabbed Turks in the back. During WWI, they helped us against the West, at Galipoli. They are honest people. We have to coordinate with the Russians…

He nods towards the explosions.

For a while, we sit quietly, listening. Then we embrace. It is time to go.

*****

Karkamis is getting de-populated. It is alarming but understandable. It is becoming truly dangerous to live here. Plus, there is almost no work left in this area.

The entire frontier region used to rely heavily on trade with Syria. There were strong friendships forged between the individuals and families on both sides of the border. People were visiting each other, and they were intermarrying. Goods and services were flowing between Turkey and Syria almost freely.

Now, there is a full stop. The border can only be crossed by armored vehicles, tanks, and ambulances. They are going back and forth, bringing soldiers, carrying the wounded and even corpses. No civilian can pass.

Entrance to a refugee camp near Elbeyli

Further west, Elbeyli town is a bizarre hive of spies, a fortification. Everything here is monitored. It is because from here, the Turkish military forces are constantly invading Syrian territory. Here, no one dares to speak. To ask questions leads to immediate phone calls, arrests and interrogations.

Now, many villages around Elbeyli are half-empty. It is an eerie sight. The war has ruined entire communities.

What is thriving is the construction business. Not of the infrastructure, but of the military bases, spy antennas and above all, of the walls. An enormous, monstrous wall, which separates two countries – Turkey and Syria, in the past two inseparable sisters – is now scarring this ancient land. It is around 900 kilometers long, they say. How much money, how much concrete is being poured into it, and why?

Then the City of Killis.

New Turkish military base near Killis and Syrian border

We are shown destroyed walls of a house; a place “where rockets fell recently from the Syrian territory”. This is what the Turkish government uses as its justification for the invasion.

The local people have it all very clear. Several of them declare openly, but without revealing their names:

If only the Turkish government and military would coordinate their operations with the legitimate government in Damascus!

Things are tough in Killis. Like elsewhere along the border, businesses are closing down. An owner of a kebab stall couldn’t find any job for more than a year and had to try his luck in far-away Jakarta; in Indonesia which is much poorer than Turkey. He came back, had some luck and has now turned into an ultra-nationalist:

“Now the world can see the power of Turks!” He declared, passionately, voicing his full support for the invasion.

But here, at the border, he is clearly in the minority.

At a barbershop, “Salon Hassan”, several people are gathered, just in order to discuss politics. The most common assessment of the situation is:

The biggest mistake is that the Turkish military is not coordinating its operations with President Assad.

We are told that “some 8,000 of the refugees living in the camps all over the region are now returning back to Syria.”

But Turkey is hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian migrants. The situation is extremely complex, as intercommunal violence between Turks and Syrians tripled in the second half of 2017.

Turkish president Erdogan often declares that it is mainly because of his military forces operating across the border, that so many Syrian refugees now feel safe to return home. “Nonsense”, most Syrian people reply to such claims. “It is because of the Syrian army, President Assad, and his Russian and Iranian allies! Legitimate Syrian government is now winning the war. Only because of that, things are much safer for the Syrian people.”

“We love Russians here,” a local man professed, loudly. Some citizens of Killis also love Erdogan, as well as President Assad of Syria. ‘Too much love?’ Too many contradictory feelings? It is Turkey, after all. Here, nothing is ever simple.

But what is Russia here, to these people? In many parts of Turkey and all over the Middle East, more than a country, Russia became a symbol of defiance, proof that the West and its deadly designs can be confronted and stopped.

*****

Things appear confusing, but in Turkey, they always are.

As we drive through this ancient, beautiful but wounded land, my Turkish friend and translator utters, in desperation:

“The ‘Elderdog’ (increasingly common derogatory nickname for the present leader) is going to lose during the next elections. I bet he is going to…”

“But is the Turkish policy towards NATO and towards Syria going to change, dramatically?” I wonder.

For a while, there is silence in the car.

“I wish hope,” friend, my comrade says, finally.

He doesn’t know. Of course, he doesn’t. In Turkey, anything is possible.

“I hope Turkey comes to its senses. I love this country,” I say honestly. “I am really tired of hating it.”

“So am I,” he nods.

We are literally licking a huge concrete wall. Behind it is Syria, clearly visible, beautiful.

Actually, it is all very simple. People there are fighting against terror and against the Western imperialism.

People here, in Turkey, are still at the wrong side of the barricade. But they are waking up; many of them already understand. They may soon join those who are fighting for the survival of humanity. They may. Hopefully they will.

(Note: as this essay goes to print, Turkish election polls are closing. 56 million voters have been able to cast their ballots, voting simultaneously in parliamentary and presidential elections. According to preliminary results, President Erdogan secured a comfortable lead.)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Assad to Ban Foreign Money from Syria Reconstruction

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks to Russian NTV channel © Reuters

Syria will not allow Western investors to step into the rebuilding of war-damaged country as they only come to “take” from foreign economies, Syria’s Bashar Assad told Russian media, adding he will seek friendly aid instead.

The US and its Western allies have been actively engaged in the seven-year long war in Syria, including the illegal stationing of troops in the country and backing anti-government militants such as Free Syrian Army (FSA) and “moderate” Islamist groups. The war has dealt billions in damage to the country, but President Assad is determined to rebuild without a single penny from the “dishonest” West.

“They [the West] won’t be part of reconstruction in Syria, because very simply we won’t allow them to be part of it… we don’t need the West. The West is not honest at all, they don’t give, they only take,” the Syrian leader told Russian NTV channel on Sunday.

US tells rebels not to count on its help as Syrian army advances into country’s southwest – report

The country was historically built without external help, the Syrian president stressed, adding that any loans would be allowed only from “friends.” On the other hand, European investors, who have been privately contacting the Syrian authorities on the matter, will be banned from Syrian markets. Assad says that Europe has eyes for Syria just to save its own “dire” economies.

“They need this market, they are in a very dire situation economically since 2008, most of the European countries. They need many markets, Syria is one of them, and we are not going to allow them to be part of this market, very simply,” he said.

During the interview, Assad lashed out at Western powers, which he believes are controlled by Washington and only have “the substitute of statesmen” and “fake politics.” He said this approach needed “fake stories,” including the alleged use of chemical weapons, which Assad was repeatedly accused of despite Damascus destroying the stockpile in 2013.

The Syrian leader also said that negotiating with US President Donald Trump would be fruitless as Washington always comes up short on its promises and things only get worse when it’s involved.

“The problem with the American presidents is that they are hostages to their lobbies, to the mainstream media, to the huge corporations, financial, oil, armaments, etc.,” Assad said. He described President Trump as a “very stark example” of the American approach in politics – always saying “what you want to hear,” but doing the opposite, things get “worse and worse.”

“So, talking and discussing with the Americans now for no reason, without achieving anything, is just a waste of time,” the Syrian leader said, adding that Damascus is ready for productive dialogue, but it is unlikely to have it with Washington “in the foreseeable future.”