The Conflict in Syria

Guest writer Steven Katsineris, a regular contributor to TPQ, with an older piece from April 2012 which he wrote on the situation in Syria. Steven Katsineris is an Australian free-lance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.


The only constant thing in life is change and struggle. We are witnessing profound change sweeping through the Middle East at present, including Syria. It is something I think progressive and activist people everywhere would greatly welcome and encourage. The veneer presented by the Syrian regime of being progressive is a blatant deception. It only looks good to some people because several of the other Arab regimes are even more vile and reactionary. That many of the Syrian people are in rebellion against the brutal, corrupt, crony capitalist regime is to me a very good thing. While the terrible loss of so many people’s lives is utterly appalling and immoral, the Syrian people have shown they have had enough of this repressive regime and will sacrifice their lives to overthrow it in pursuit of freedom. 

Yet these wonderful expressions of people’s revolts seem to strike fear into some progressives and leftists. They highlight and worry about the opening this gives outside forces to intrude on the struggle and consequently support the maintenance of the present regime to block this. Well, of course it’s only expected that the Western powers, Islamic extremists and others will interfere in these struggles. These forces may be exposed and defeated by the people in their struggle, but they may also seize power when the Assad regime falls, which it will. The outcome is not assured either way, but the people would have been empowered by this struggle and learnt valuable lessons in overthrowing oppressive regimes. Any new government that tries to stifle and subjugate the people will be on borrowed time, because the people are conscious of their power and will rise up again to defend their liberty and other hard won rights. 

I believe it is wrong to focus on the scheming of outside powers and neglect the poor, suffering, but brave people of Syria who are being imprisoned, injured, tortured and killed in a bitter struggle against a cruel regime. Rebellion is the option the people have chosen in the face of a vicious response of the Syrian government. Any chance of reforms to the system died amid hails of bullets and a barrage of tank bombardment and the deaths of thousands. With their lives they are struggling towards a better nation and they deserve the unconditional support of all those who value real justice and freedom. Those of us who seek to change the world cannot seek to prop up a reactionary regime because of the risk of another pro-western or other bad regime maybe (for a time) replacing it. Life is a risk and revolution is a risk. 

But to live under a cruel regime is also a constant danger and a trauma. A new world is possible if people have the courage to struggle for it. The timing is unknown, but this worthy struggle will lead to a radical change in Syria eventually. And this defiant uprising will also inspire other peoples elsewhere to struggle against their oppressive regimes. 

But it seems to me that some of the Left has lost its way politically when the main focus is on the interference of outside forces when the Syrian regime is engaged in the slaughter of its people. Surely, the real issue is the mass killing and human rights abuses carried out by the Syrian government, and we should direct our outrage there, not at the question of the interference of the West or others, as that’s a minor diversion at the moment. At this time the reality is that it’s not US or European Imperialism that is bombarding the cities, towns and villages of Syria and killing thousands of Syrians, but the Syrian government. 

I say this as someone who has been actively involved in the struggle against US and European Imperialism and Colonialism since the mid-1960s in Vietnam, Palestine, Cyprus, elsewhere in the Middle East and the rest of Asia, Europe, Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, in many anti-war, anti-imperialist and solidarity movements. I have not gone soft on Western imperialist and colonialist foreign policies, but I also oppose reactionary regimes that try to maintain power by indiscriminate war and brutality against their own people, something in my view we are witnessing in Syria now. And I raise my voice in condemnation and protest against this gross injustice.


  1. Surprised to see this article carried on Christmas Eve given that it's plainly out of date and the true dynamic behind the Syrian crisis has since been exposed for all the world to see. What's the purpose in carrying that when it's over 18 months old other than to disguise what many now know to be the reality of Washington's 'Salvador Option' for Syria. Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, Syria - it shouldn't take a genius to join the dots. In all instances the CIA used death squads for its political ends in order to destabilise a society to bring about regime change, a regime more to the liking of Washington or to uphold a regime that had already been installed. That's what happened and is happening in Syria - regardless of the bona fides of the Assad regime. We have British and French Special Forces training the Al Qaeda Brigades in Turkey and Jordan, financed by KSA and Qatar, coordinated by CIA, MI5 and the Mossad and given safe haven in the Israeli-occupied Golan. And this has been going on from the start and has effectively now been admitted to. Let's get real here, if the situation in Syria really amounts to the spontaneous response to repression the foolish would have us believe was and is the case then why has Western Intelligence been targeting the country and manipulating its proxies inside its borders for over a decade, even when there was no instability in the country? This story is bang out of date and fails to account for the massive amount of information that has come into the public domain even within the last 4 months. If we want to do anything for Syria or help support its suffering people we should support its government's efforts to end the imperialist attack it has been subjected to rather than persisting with efforts to undermine it. Maybe then we'll see the type of changes we all envisage for Syria. For anyone who doubts any of this just open your eyes and take a look down the road to Libya. It may have dropped out of our newsfeeds but the situation there is one of total chaos - but a chaos that allows imperialism to take what it wants. The same thing in the Sudan. That is all they care about in Syria and have been setting this up for a considerable period of time. People may not like Bashar al-Assad but they should not divert peoples attentions from what is really taking place inside Syria. Indeed to do so actively helps the very imperialist powers they claim to oppose and does nothing for the people of that country - even those ordinary people who do not agree with the regime and hope to see its demise

  2. Sean Bres,

    you are always surprised when articles appear on TPQ that you don't like!

    It is not the first dated piece to appear. We have a forgotten about folder which I rummage in every now and then. Not too long back I put up one from about two years ago.

    I hope to carry as much of Steven's writings as possible regardless of when they appeared. Same with Franklin Lamb whose piece appears later today - or anybody else for that matter if they come through. And of course we will carry your response regardless of who it might surprise or annoy. We will also feature any article you think should be featured even if you are not the author.

    Dealing with the argument (which you have endeavoured to do) is a better option than complaining about the argument appearing.

    Christmas best to you and the clann from us in windswept Drogheda.

  3. My response was as much to the article as to your decision to carry it at this time Anthony. If this were really a response to the regime by ordinary people inside Syria then why have tens of thousands of foreign jihadists met their doom in this war? Are you or Stephen suggesting they went there to fight for and uphold democracy when children are being hanged in front of their parents? I think it's time we said enough is enough and start fully backing the Syrian regime, these type of out-of-date and no longer relevant articles are not helpful in my view and should rightly be challenged by those who seek peace and transformation for Syria. Of course though it's your right to carry whatever you like, it's your blog! Happy Christmas yeah you too, hope it's an enjoyable and peaceful time for you all

  4. Sean,

    we know regime repression is what kicked off the conflict even though the resistance morphed as time went on. I am not sure to any great extent what Steven thinks other than he has a nuanced view of many issues. You know my view on the despot that runs Syria even though I totally oppose any attempt to usurp Syrian sovreignty. Not that I do much to oppose it other than waffle!!

    Anyway, Christmas Eve so I am off to the pictures with the children.

  5. In Syria we're dealing with a systematic campaign of terror directed by outside forces - very much in the manner of the Contra 'rebel' camps run out of Honduras and Costa Rica by the Reagan White House through the the Central Intelligence Agency. And just like the Iran-Contra scandal was a way of disguising the guiding hand of the US so too is the role now of the Gulf Dynasties providing the same. The purpose behind it all, then and now, being the elimination by subversion of a regime that stands in the way of the Empire and its goals. That's what this is about, yes even in terms of the opening salvos in Da'raa you refer to. It's been a manipulation from start to finish Mackers, pre-planned with nothing left to chance. Any serious attempt at finding the truth requires digging deeper, much deeper and how we view Syria simply can't be divorced from that context. Enjoy the cinema anyway a chara and happy Christmas once again to you and yours

  6. Sean,

    I never got to the cinema. They wouldn't go! I used to take them to Belfast every Christmas Eve so that Santa's helper could prepare with them offside. I then changed to the cinema in Balbriggan which kept them away long enough. Now, with only one of them on the Santa trail it is harder to get them to take the bait. But tonight shall be a poteen and cider one!

  7. You're brave lad, I couldn't hack a hangover on Christmas Day... Mass done and dusted, get the youngest to bed for Santa, chase the other pair round half 9 or so then do what needs doing! Ah fuck it I might just take a wee Irish coffee after that - you've talked me into it. Here's to world peace in 2013 and an end to barbarism, some of these years our wishes will come true... We just have to keep believing. Nollaig shona duit a chara, this year be our year!

  8. Mackers,
    don't knock it, it all passes so quickly.
    Very soon it will be the children on the poteen and cider.
    Hope you and the family have a great Christmas and Sean and his family also.

  9. And the same for you and yours Nuala

  10. Nuala,

    so true. I think they are on it already the grief they give me. Merry Christmas to you, Albert and Kevin.