Wed Jul 17, 2024
July 17, 2024

The Syrian revolution goes on

After grabbing the bulk of the world’s attention between 2012 and 2013, the Syrian civil war has been pushed into the “background”. 

The continued conflict, with increasing political complexity after 41 months and practically “entrenched” in the military field, certainly contributes to a campaign of vilification and isolation of the Syrian revolution, driven by the right and the “left.”   

Not to mention the emergence of other conflicts that occupy the international debate, as the Ukrainian, the advance of the Islamic State (IS) and the proclamation of a “Caliphate” in northwestern Iraq and the recent Zionist military aggression on the Palestinian people.

Nevertheless, the political importance of the civil war in Syria continues unabated. The struggle between revolution and counter-revolution in the Arab country upsets all other surrounding conflicts and remains crucial to the dynamics of the whole revolutionary process unfolding in the Middle East.

Specifically in the military field, fighting continues with intensity. The devastation of the country, too. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, six million Syrians are internally displaced and three million became refugees who survive scattered in other countries.

The same source puts the death toll at 190,000 people, a third of them being civilians (of which 9,000 are children). The UN, meanwhile, stood at 520,000 the victims killed and injured during the war up to May. As the war escalates, the genocidal policy of the Syrian dictatorship is more evident. The use of chemical agents [1] such as mustard gas, chlorine bombs and barrels packed with explosives against civilians, are just a few signs that Assad is willing to do anything to stay in power.

Regarding military casualties, they are divided into about 65,000 troops from al-Assad’s Army and 46,000 Syrian rebels. Hezbollah, which fights alongside the dictatorship, has lost at least 500 men since it began its foray into Syria [2]. Experts estimate that the cost of the war could reach US$ 170 billion.

 Dictatorship’s offensive

In the last year, the Assad regime launched an offensive on the areas that had previously been released by rebel militias, which basically are composed of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Islamic Front – the main rebel force on the ground with about 45,000 soldiers – and an extensive network of local committees which , in some cases, administrate cities that were taken from the dictatorship.

In this offensive, as is known, the tyrant has direct collaboration of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

Thus, in recent months, the regime took up the entire western corridor from Kasab (Syrian town in the north to the Turkish border) to the south of the border with Lebanon, after a string of partial victories that began in June 2013 with the capture of Quseir, which followed Yabrud, Ma’lula and Zabadani. These conquests guaranteed for the despot the control of the land route from Damascus to Aleppo Mediterranean coast, and a safe passage to Lebanon, ensuring the supply of arms to Hezbollah guerrillas.

Undoubtedly, the main victory of the regime so far occurred in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, formerly considered the “capital of the revolution.” On May 7, after a terrible siege that lasted nearly two years and after a heroic resistance, about two thousand rebel soldiers withdrew from this symbolic city, after reaching an agreement with the regime[3]. The siege and shelling of Homs by the government began in March 2011, and ground attacks also had the support of Hezbollah soldiers.

The agreement by which the rebels could leave Homs allowed that each combatant could take their personal appurtenances and a gun. In each bus, in addition, they could get a grenade launcher and a machine gun. The release of 70 prisoners in the hands of the rebels, held in the city of Aleppo, was also agreed.

Bluntly, the reconquest of Homs was an important military victory of the regime, especially for the moral impact of having defeated a symbolic rebel stronghold. However, it is necessary to give this fact its true dimension. For example, the rebels who surrendered were commuted to other areas controlled by the rebels themselves, 20 kilometers north of Homs. Other media say the rebels took up positions 10 km from the city[4].This indicates that insurgents, though leaving an important place, were not “crushed” by the dictatorship. They still control large spaces around this strategic city, which is a road junction between Damascus and Aleppo in the north, and between Damascus and Latakia on the  Mediterranean. [5]

“We moved 300 meters in two years”

The military successes of al-Assad’s offensive mean that the revolution has been defeated, as claimed by al-Assad, the international press and even the very “left”? We do not think so.

It’s a fact that the revolution is going through one of its most difficult times. The rebel forces, poorly armed and without a revolutionary leadership were fighting on two fronts in the last year and a half: against the al-Assad/Hezbollah/Iran/Russia coalition and against the hordes of the Islamic State and the Front Al Nusra (branch Al Qaeda in Syria).

To worsen this situation, there is a huge lack of coordination on the ground, as the product of a “democratic” rather fragmented, bourgeois leadership that has lost authority among the insurgents because of their hesitant positions and especially because their program doesn’t, on the assumption of Assad’s overthrow, meet the economic and even democratic demands of the Syrian people. On the other hand, the openly pro-imperialist position of these leadership, which a year ago were clamoring for U.S. to bomb Syria – threat that did not materialize due to last-minute scandalous Obama’s setback, due to the little political support he acquired – certainly contributed to the discrediting of  this “opposition from abroad.”

In this context, the so-called National Coalition for the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and the leadership of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have proven unable to centralize militias to face a united struggle against the tyranny: “We, over a year ago, have no contact with the brigades from north. We focus on our area and [we interact] with other brigades here“[6], this is the situation as explained by Abu Hussein, a rebel leader of the west front.

Yet despite its overwhelming military superiority, the regime has not managed to crush the revolution. The reality is that, at the cost of increasing sacrifices and endless hardships, the anti-dictatorship forces still control important areas such as parts of Aleppo and Idlib, plus “pockets” on the outskirts of Damascus and near Homs.

The combined forces of al-Assad and Hezbollah, having no conditions to take rebel positions by means of infantry attacks, adopted the tactic of laying siege to insurgents in major cities, cutting their lines of communication and supplies. Is the bet on “wear.”

Currently, after controlling the entire area bordering Lebanon, al-Assad is focused on strengthening its control over the metropolis and the main arteries connecting with Damascus, trying to expel the rebels from the outskirts of large cities. The counterrevolution is concentrating its efforts to seize Aleppo and attack, preferably by air raids, the pockets of insurgents on the outskirts of the capital and other cities, including Hama and Homs.

When the Syrian regular troops venture deep into the liberated areas they face urban guerrilla tactics, which the rebels have become remarkably skilled. They created a complex system of tunnels for surprise attacks or to keep supplied. It is a way to “cheat” the aerial dominance of the regime. Moreover, in cities like Aleppo, there are “gray areas” in military maps, which are not controlled by anyone, because of the swarm of snipers on both sides, which, entrenched in the skeletons of buildings, bring their contribution to the “stagnation” of the war in the big cities.

The system of tunnels built by the rebels has shown good results. For example, on May 8, a day after the withdrawal from Homs, a brigade of the Islamic Front in Aleppo, which despite its Islamic program is fighting the dictatorship alongside the rebels, blew up the hotel Citadel Carlton and other nearby buildings used by the Syrian government as “military bases”, killing at least 40 troops[7][8]. The insurgents detonated a device placed in a tunnel 75 meters long[9],excavated in the foundation of the building, forming one of the most spectacular feats of the war so far[10].

A week later, in Idlib, the Islamic Front detonated 60 tons of explosives, blowing a whole Syrian army camp. Again, the medium was a tunnel. As reported by a commander of the Islamic Front, his brigade “dug a tunnel about 850 feet underneath the base of Wadi al-Deif, which is surrounded by rebels [11]“.

Another pro-rebel action came on 18 May in the city of Mleiha, on the outskirts of Damascus, where rebels killed in combat the brigade chief of air defense forces in Syria, Gen. Hussein Ishaq [12].

Considering these facts and the like, to say that the revolution ended and the dictatorship triumphed is a mistake. The reality is that, despite the precarious conditions the rebels fight, we are facing a long-term conflict without the prospect of immediate solutions as, in the genesis of the revolution – which took the form of a civil war – there are contradictions accumulated for decades, which remain unresolved.

Recently, the Syrian general Abu Ahmed, who commands the dictatorial troops in Aleppo, acknowledged that in the two last years he have advanced 300 meters. “The war will not end until there is a political solution between international and regional powers. Until then we can continue for years like that.“[13]

Abu Hasan, a Syrian general who leads the feared Republican Guard, an elite force of the Army, also states not having the necessary military capacity to displace the rebels. “Classical war strategy does not work. Much damage and loss of civilian life occur. We’ll maintain positions until a political solution is reached.”[14]

The role of the Islamic State

Since the end of 2012 we have emphasized the crucial role of Hezbollah in the counter-revolutionary military field. The Lebanese militia entered the scene at the most critical time for the dictatorship, when the regular Army was bleeding in desertions and the rebel knocked on the gates of Damascus. Promptly, Hezbollah proved essential to achieve the last war advances of the regime.

Since the second half of 2013, there was another counterrevolutionary actor with equal or greater weight: the so-called Islamic State.

As explained above, the IS is a bourgeois organization with a theocratic dictatorial ultra-reactionary program. It is a counterrevolutionary “party-army”, which now controls major oil field territories in Syria and Iraq, where they established an Islamic “Caliphate.”

Since when they were part of Al Qaeda, which in Syria is now represented by the Al Nusra Front, the IS “black militants” act as the “fifth column” of the regime, dedicated to fight the rebels and the FSA to engulf the territories the revolution have conquered from the Syrian dictatorship.

Such was the case, to cite known examples, of Deir al Zor, Raqqa or Menbij. After Al Nusra Front usurped these cities from anti-dictatorial rebels, a ferocious dispute for these oil-rich territories began among the “jihadists” forces, leading to fierce fighting between the IS and the Al Nusra, costing the lives of more than four thousand soldiers from both sides, according to partial accounts.

Finally, after the double parasitism, the IS established a theocratic dictatorship in these areas, as embodied in the Islamic “Caliphate”. In the territories they occupy, they persecute and murder the FSA and Islamic Front fighters and members of local committees chosen by the people to administer the liberated areas, as was the case of the city of Menbij.

Thus, they advanced to the point of imposing the sheer terror on local populations (beheadings, crucifixions, stoning, burying people alive, ablation for women), based on an extreme and fundamentalist interpretation of the Sharia (Islamic law). At the same time, the self-proclaimed “Ibrahim Khalifa” is dedicated to doing business with the Syrian dictatorship itself, selling the much needed oil and fuel to al-Assad to massacre the revolution.

Not to mention the invaluable favor the atrocities committed by IS provide for the political strengthening of al-Assad, who leans on them to “justify” his “importance as a partner” in what he calls the “crusade against terrorism” in Syria, offering his support to the imperialist powers.

So, the cruelties and heinous crimes of the IS against ethnic and religious minorities, both in Syria and Iraq, are used to provide a “humanitarian” justification for the imperialism to air raid the Iraqi soil. The same happened with its lackeys, as the recently deposed Prime Minister al-Maliki in Iraq, and even al-Assad, who, “asked” or were in favor of “coordinated” air raids by U.S. on their own countries.

As far as we know, the U.S. conducted several “limited and specific” bombing against positions of the IS in Iraq and, from the murder of American journalist James Foley, authorized “reconnaissance flights” of drones on Syria, as a possible first step for future bombings. For now, Obama was more cautious in relation to extend air strikes in Syria and even admitted that “we do not have a strategy”. [15]

In fact, al-Assad, a supposedly “anti-imperialist” according to the Castro-Chavez followers, is already working with the United States. The American “reconnaissance flights” of IS positions have begun and, according to the SOHR, “The cooperation has already begun and the United States provides information to Damascus through Baghdad and Moscow.” [16]

The emergence of IS forced the rebels opposing the dictatorship, secular or not, to open a second front, further weakening their resources. The price of fighting against both the regime and IS is very high. Some rebel groups fighting the IS estimate that half of their forces have been diverted to fight the second enemy. [17]

Thus, different rebel brigades declared IS as the “military targets of the revolution“, stating that “The Syrian Revolution is based on values ​​that aim at achieving freedom, justice and security throughout Syrian society and its diverse multi-ethnic, multi-religious and social tissue.”[18]

In this context, a general strike against the IS rule took place in Menbij (Aleppo) in last May, which had 80% attendance, according to the Local Coordination Committee of Menbij.[19]

Since January, despite all the difficulties, according to The Economist, the IS suffered some military setbacks at the hands of opposing dictatorship rebels in Idlib and Aleppo, which forced them to retreat further east to that city and back to its stronghold in Raqqa. [20]

Syrians rebels also managed to expel the IS from almost all of the outskirts of Damascus, specifically from the neighborhoods of Maydaa and Mesraba, located in the Eastern Ghuta, and Yalda and Beit Sahem, according to the SOHR. [21]

However, it is difficult to expel the IS from Syria, as it has strengthened financially and militarily from the territories it occupies in Iraq. On Sunday 24th August, for example, it took control of the airbase of Tabqa, 45 kilometers from the city of Raqqa, acquiring fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery, expanding and consolidating the territories of their intended “Caliphate”.

Aleppo, a crucial battle

Aleppo is right now the epicenter of the civil war. Syrian rebels, together with Kurdish militias, control the northeast and southeast of the city. The Republican Guard, especially through its elite detachment, called “Tigers” and the militia Hezbollah, control the west of the old economic heart of Syria. “The Hezbollah’s friends keep some positions once we seize them” confirms Nesser, a commander of the “Tigers”. [22]

The most intense combats occur in the northern and east suburbs. The Syrian artillery incessantly bombards rebel positions, launching explosive barrels from helicopters, crude weapons but highly lethal. These “barrels of death”, which detonate in crowded areas (in addition to bakeries and hospitals), killed about twelve thousand civilians so far. [23]

Thus, entire neighborhoods were wiped out. In the midst of this Dantesque scene, about two million civilians, caught in the terrible siege without water and intermittent electricity, try to continue their lives as they can.

Currently, the rebel militias resist the advance of the dictatorship in Aleppo as well as of the IS forces, much better armed after its offensive in Iraq and moving towards the center of the city from the northeast. [24] They are 25 kilometers away, having seized the towns of Ajtarin and Mare from the Islamic Front, a fact that further complicates the situation of the insurgents. But the rebels are prepared to receive them: “The different leaders of the rebel brigades have come together to create a coalition able to make common cause. Thousands are heading up here to stop their advance,” says the oppositionist Ramzi Abu from the periphery of Aleppo. [25]

The Syrian resistance in Damascus

While an “ebb” of the rebel forces have occurred, if compared to the period 2011-2012, when the insurgency was around Damascus, there is still a network of rebel militias that hold their positions in the capital’s outskirts.

Besides sustaining heavy fighting against elite troops and the IS, the rebels harass the everyday life of the political center of the country launching mortars and, eventually, bombs, many of them made ​​viable through the tunnels.

Defending the capital has become the priority of the regime. As in Aleppo, the tactic is to tight the siege against the rebels and air raids their sites.

Recently, the command of the Syrian army announced it had taken control of the town of Mleha, just two kilometers southeast of Damascus after 18 months of fighting. From this fact, the rebels have retreated east of the capital.

Nevertheless, the situation is far from a “clean of terrorists,” as al-Assad promised after taking office for his new mandate after a phony election. Even an official of the Syrian Army “nuances” the conquest: “In war, when an area is taken it doesn’t mean it is completely clean. In 10 days everything can change.” [26] The military front on the outskirts of Damascus has shown a volatility similar to Aleppo, with flows and ebbs of a few meters. So everything that is snatched from the enemy may be lost in the next retaliation.

Nevertheless, the insurgency continues to control, based on a heroic resistance, the entire Ghuta Oriental (eastern Damascus suburbs).

Strengthen solidarity with the Syrian Revolution!

The Syrian revolution has not been defeated! The civil war is not lost but ongoing and has no sign of rapid resolution. The resistance of the rebels is heroic; their struggle, a symbol of dedication to all democratic and revolutionary fighters in the world. With ups and downs, they combat on two fronts: against al-Assad’s dictatorship and now against its “fifth column”, the IS.

Therefore, it is a complete mistake “to rely on defeat” without being sure of it. From the moment it is false, playing such “propaganda” in the midst of an ongoing war can only encourage the dictatorial projects of al-Assad and the IS.

The attitude of revolutionaries must be completely contrary to defeatism. Their policy too. The difficult military situation must be a reason to intensify the campaign of unconditional solidarity, full support for the military victory of the Syrian people, which is expressed in the FSA, rebel militias, the Islamic Front, local committees, local councils, and a wide range of sectors, secular or not, which took up arms to overthrow the genocidal dictatorship of the Assad’s clan and confront the barbaric proposed Islamic “caliphate” of IS.

It is urgent to break the isolation of the Syrian revolution, imposed not only by the smear campaign of the international media but also by the explicit support of al-Assad’s dictatorship and the lying propaganda against the rebel fighters orchestrated by a wide range of Stalinist and Castro-Chavista organizations.

Therefore, to think seriously about a rebel counteroffensive that could pave the way for a military victory, demanding all governments to sending weapons to the Syrian fighters remains fundamental. Defending the right that the revolution has to defend and advance is embodied in this position.

Thus, to get a sense of the precariousness with which the rebels face the dictatorship and the IS “jihadists”, Salim Idris, former commander of the ELS, report: “Most are Syrian fighters, civilians or military deserters who left their jobs to join the revolution. In the FSA we now have around 100,000 fighters. 50 per cent are armed and the other half not. They need to share weapons (…) I talked to all the commanders and the countries that support us to unify all groups on the ground and give them a salary, US$ 100 a month to each fighter. I asked ammunition and a more consistent basis for allocating assistance to the battalions. But we have received very little, almost nothing. Nor wages or financial support; there is a great lack of medical and humanitarian aid, and that remains today one of the biggest problems (…) So far we have not received any weapons or ammunition of quality. They have sent some anti-tank missiles, but we need MANPADS(launchers ground to air) because the regime fighters are shelling cities, towns, schools, hospitals every day.[27]

At the same time, to turn the tide of war is urgent to progress in the centralization of all rebel militias into a single command, joined by a program that is based on the need to overthrow the dictatorship but also to respond to pressing social problems, aggravated by the full destruction caused by war. It is essential to unify the democratic struggle, which means centralizing all efforts of all organizations and social sectors willing to continue the fight against the Syrian dictatorship and IS.

As part of the wider unity of action the anti-dictatorial revolutionaries propose the implementation of the program of socialist revolution as a strategic way out. This means that, being part of the democratic struggle in the trenches and contrary to the Syrian dictatorship, is necessary to have clear that our strategy is for a victorious October Revolution; a program that starts to respond to the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and culminates in the seizure of power by the working class. The “starting point” of the revolutionary program should be categorical: Winning the war to overthrow Bashar al-Assad!

In this sense, the program “to win the war and make the socialist revolution” can only be defended consequently by a revolutionary internationalist leadership, whose absence is more dramatic to the extent that the regime and the IS carry on their offensive against the Syrian revolutionary process.

Such as enunciated in the resolution on the dangers and the tasks of the Syrian revolution in the last IWL-FI Congress: “There are profound limitations threatening the military victory and progress of the revolution: the lack of military and political centralization around a revolutionary program (starting with the task of destroying the dictatorship), the absence of intervention of the organized working class in the revolutionary process and the main limitations of all, the lack of a revolutionary Marxist leadership in the process.” [28] There is no more important strategic task in Syria and across the Middle East than building that leadership. 


[1 ]Even though Al Assad denied having “chemical warfare” only in the last year were destroyed 581 tons of “precursor chemicals” to produce sarin and 19.8 tons of chemicals to manufacture mustard gas.









[10]Watch video:


















[28]Resolución Syria’s XI Congress of the IWL.

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