Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Oct 11 05:12:39 MDT 2015


Campaign for Peace and Democracy Statement
October 10, 2015
(to be posted soon at www.cpdweb.org)

Outside powers have had a long and shameful history of cynically 
supporting dictatorships in the Middle East because maintaining friendly 
autocratic states in the region suits their geopolitical objectives. And 
today those criminal policies are flagrantly on display.


Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been the 
world’s leading ally of the Saudi Arabian kingdom, a violent, 
ultra-reactionary fundamentalist dictatorship that this year has 
beheaded more than a hundred people, possibly more than ISIS.[1] Saudi 
Arabia is currently leading a bombing campaign in Yemen that has 
indiscriminately killed many hundreds of civilians. Weapons—including 
cluster bombs—intelligence, military advisers, and diplomatic support 
for that bombing campaign are provided by Washington.

Egypt’s Mubarak dictatorship was backed by the United States for three 
decades. He was ousted in the Arab Spring, but when the Egyptian 
military took power again, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that 
they were “restoring democracy”[2]—and U.S. military aid has been 

As Israel continues its nearly 50-year dictatorial rule over the 
Occupied Palestinian Territories, Washington provides the military aid 
and diplomatic support at the United Nations that make the occupation 

Although Damascus had long been allied with the Soviet Union and then 
with Russia, Washington backed Syria’s bloody suppression of the 
Palestinian movement and the Lebanese left in the 1970s and counted on 
its support in the 1991 invasion of Iraq and the “war on terror.” Assad’s 
torture chambers proved especially useful to the U.S. policy of “torture 
by proxy,” which involved sending prisoners to Syria as part of the Bush 
administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program.[3]

Assad’s usefulness to Washington ended when he drew too close to Iran 
and seemed likely to be overthrown by the 2011 Syrian revolution. At 
that point, U.S. policy shifted towards trying to win influence among 
the rebels, though carefully limiting the kinds of weapons they could 
receive.[4] More recently, Obama, along with Britain, France, and other 
U.S. allies, has turned to a policy of selective bombing, not of Assad, 
but of ISIS, and sometimes other opposition groups, leading most of the 
rebels to condemn the air campaign.[5] Washington has generally favored 
a “Yemen solution,” keeping Syria’s Baathist police state apparatus in 
power, preferably without the Assad family mafia—although lately it has 
moved towards the "political solution" favored by Paris and London, 
which might include Assad.

ISIS might not even exist, or at least not wield the power it now 
possesses, had not been for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was out of the 
extreme chaos and vicious sectarian conflict which engulfed Iraq in the 
wake of the American occupation that ISIS emerged, recruiting thousands 
of brutal jihadi fighters in Iraq and especially in eastern Syria. This 
was not, as many argue, because Saddam’s regime was thoroughly 
dismantled, leaving a “power vacuum,” but because regime change was 
imposed from outside by an American government that showed contempt for 
the Iraqi people and hostility to genuine democracy. If Saddam Hussein’s 
repressive state had been overthrown from within by a coalition of 
Sunni, Shiite, and secular democratic movements against tyranny, the 
subsequent history of Iraq—and Syria—might have been fundamentally 
different. Certainly, this coalition would have been difficult to build 
given Iraq’s long history of sectarianism, but the U.S. invasion stifled 
any possibility of such a development.

We condemn and call for an immediate end to U.S. military 
interventionism and support for dictatorships and authoritarian 
governments in the Middle East and around the world. U.S. bombing of 
Syria and Iraq must stop—likewise bombings of Afghanistan, where the 
horrific slaughter of helpless hospital patients and medical personnel 
in Kunduz has added a particularly gruesome outrage to the United States’s 
long list of war crimes.


Russia has been a major backer of the Assad family dictatorship since 
its inception in 1970. Since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in 
2011, Russian support—along with support from Iran and Hezbollah—has 
been critical to maintaining the survival of the Syrian regime. That 
support has dwarfed the outside aid going to opponents of Assad. Now 
Russia has markedly increased its military efforts on behalf of the 
Syrian despot with bombing, the launching of cruise missiles, and the 
announced possibility of “volunteer” ground troops.[6]

To be sure, ISIS is opposed by many—including by Syrian rebels—but 
Russian military involvement is not confined to attacking ISIS. In fact, 
Russian attacks seem on all accounts to concentrate on non-ISIS forces, 
including against non-jihadi groups. Clearly, this serves to bolster the 
Assad regime. (And, ironically, it may also be helping ISIS by weakening 
those who have been fighting against them.[7]) Moreover, Russian bombing 
has already killed numerous civilians and damaged medical facilities, 
and there are reports of the use of cluster munitions.[8]

In his focus on non-ISIS rebels, Putin is behaving no differently from 
Assad. Assad has always concentrated his fire on rebel groups other than 
ISIS. In 2014, only 6 percent of Assad’s “counter-terrorism” operations 
were aimed at ISIS.[9] (And ISIS returned the favor: only 13 percent of 
their attacks that year targeted Syrian security forces.[10]) The Syrian 
air force, in addition to barrel bombs and chlorine gas, is reported to 
have been using cluster bombs since 2012.[11]

The exact strength of the non-jihadi forces among the Syrian rebels is 
unclear, but what can’t be doubted is that attacking them is a major 
blow in favor of the Assad dictatorship, which is why there have been 
protests against the Russian bombings in Aleppo.[12]

Of course, Assad is thrilled at the new Russian role and Putin hides 
behind Assad’s invitation to justify his intervention. But invitation by 
a dictator provides no more legitimacy in the case of Syria than it did 
when the South Vietnamese government invited in the U.S. armed forces or 
when the Salvadoran junta invited in U.S. military advisers. Supporting 
tyrants is wrong, invitation or not.

We condemn the Russian intervention on the side of the Syrian 
dictatorship and demand that it cease immediately.

* * * * * *

The great powers have long pursued their own narrow interests in the 
Middle East, whether on behalf of oil or strategic advantage, with no 
concern for the well-being and democratic rights of the people of that 
region. There is now a risk of spiraling escalation and superpower 
conflict, with grave consequences.

On the ground, there are people armed and unarmed who are challenging 
dictatorships across the region, aspiring to more democratic futures. It 
is with them that we express our solidarity.

The inspiring popular uprisings of the Arab Spring opened up a new era 
of democratic challenge from below to the police states of the Middle 
East. Despite defeats in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere, and 
despite the drastically reduced strength of secular and non-jihadi 
democratic oppositional forces in Syria, peoples’ revolution remains the 
only progressive solution to the problems of authoritarianism, 
repression, and sectarian strife in the region. The intervention of the 
United States and Russia, as well as regional powers such as Saudi 
Arabia, Iran and Turkey, rather than strengthening democratic forces, 
instead creates a powerful obstacle to their success and indeed a threat 
to their very survival. All of these states fear democracy in the Middle 
East like poison.

We firmly reject the approach taken by the Obama administration and by 
many on the left that choose support for Assad or his regime as the only 
alternative to ISIS. The extraordinary barbarousness and cruelty of ISIS 
have horrified much of the world. But the Syrian regime, a torture state 
that has become one of the most murderous in the world today, is no 
alternative, and its monstrous slaughter of the Syrian people in fact 
serves to promote the spread of ISIS.

The suffering of the Syrian people, and of other peoples in the Middle 
East, has been appalling. Only indigenous democratic forces are capable 
of ending the peoples’ agony. That is why we continue to support the 
authentically democratic elements of the Syrian revolution. Their 
victory is by no means assured, but at the very least we must exert the 
utmost pressure on the United States and Russia to abandon policies that 
allow the dictators to continue torturing and murdering with impunity.

[1] Mint Press, "Saudi Arabia Beheads Nearly Twice As Many People As 
ISIS So Far This Year," Aug. 25, 2015, 
[2] Michael R. Gordon and Kareem Fahim, "Kerry Says Egypt’s Military Was 
‘Restoring Democracy’ in Ousting Morsi," New York Times, Aug. 1, 2013, 
[3] Center for Constitutional Rights, The Story of Maher Arar: RENDITION 
TO TORTURE, 2008, 
[4] C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels 
Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.," New York Times, Mar. 24, 2013, 
[5] Michael Karadjis, "Syrian rebels overwhelmingly condemn US bombing 
as an attack on revolution," Sept. 25, 2014, 
[6] Andrew E. Kramer and Anne Barnard, "Russian Soldiers Join Syria 
Fight," New York Times, Oct. 5, 2015, 
[7] Sam Jones, Noam Raydan, Kathrin Hille, "As Russia steps up Syria 
bombardment, Isis gains ground in Moscow," Financial Times, Oct. 9, 
[8] Reuters, "At least 39 civilians, 14 fighters killed since start of 
Russian air strikes: monitor," Oct. 3, 2015, 
Physicians for Human Rights, "Russian Warplanes Strike Medical 
Facilities in Syria," Oct. 7, 2015, 
Eliot Higgins, "Mounting Evidence of Russian Cluster Bomb Use in Syria," 
Oct. 6, 2015, 
[9] Cassandra Vinograd and Ammar Cheikh Omar, "Syria, ISIS Have Been 
'Ignoring' Each Other on Battlefield, Data Suggests," NBC news, Dec. 14, 
[10] Ibid. (5:1 "other armed groups" versus Syrian security forces).
[11] Richard Norton-Taylor, "Banned cluster bombs 'used in Syria, 
Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan, Libya'," Guardian, Sept. 3, 2015, 
[12] Reuters, "Syrians protest against Russian air strikes," Oct. 4, 

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