The hope that a Sunni uprising will overthrow ISIS in their areas of control is daily given a boost by each new report of the organization's repression of the traditional "folk Islam" practiced by the common people of northern Iraq and Syria. Reuters on Sept. 13 reports the claim of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that ISIS militants have destroyed several Sufi shrines and tombs in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor—the latest in a string of such desecrations across their territory. In March, ISIS bombed the mosque of Ammar bin Yassir and Oweis al-Qarni in Raqqa, once a destination for Shi'ite pilgrims from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq. Destroying even sites revered by Sunnis is precisely the kind of overreach that even al-Qaeda warned its regional franchises against when they were in control of northern Mali last year. But the affiliate organizations didn't listen, and the local populace did indeed turn against them. Can we hope for a replay?
Of course, too many on the "left" in the West completely denied that the people of northern Mali played any role in driving out the jihadists, and saw only an imperialist intervention. Some, sickeningly, even rallied around the jihadists as "anti-imperialists." Alas, we are almost certainly in for a replay of such myopia. A piece on Huffington Post yesterday gloated "ISIS Strikes Deal With Moderate Syrian Rebels: Reports"—a distorted claim now being rapidly circulated by Facebook partisans who seem to think an appropriate "progressive" response to the war in northern Iraq and Syria is to throw up our hands and dismiss the forces actually fighting on the ground as all the same. However, follow the links back to the original sources, and they tell a very different story. The headline on the AFP story calls the supposed deal a "non-aggression pact." In other words, they aren't cooperating, they are just agreeing not to fight each other, for the moment. And it isn't the mainline Free Syrian Army that has entered into this pact, but unnamed "moderate" Islamist factions. Although the factions go unnamed, their statement is quoted, saying that under the deal, "the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime." Nussayri is a pejorative for the Alawite sect to which dictator Bashar Assad belongs. So obviously, these unnamed factions are sectarians themselves, who oppose Assad for the wrong reasons. Using this claim to delegitimize the FSA and secular resistance forces is utterly disingenuous.
Furthermore, AFP attributes the claim to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but we cannot find it on their website. However, the Observatory's website today does feature yet more ghastly reports about the Assad regime's use of "barrel bombs" on civilian populations, this time in Hama. Isn't it cute how the "anti-war" (sic) crowd will glom onto a Syrian Observatory report that seems to vindicate their cynical theories, but ignore the Observatory's daily, voluminous documentation of the Assad regime's ongoing brutality?
The other source linked to by the HuffPo story is a report in Turkey's World Bulletin in which Free Syrian Army commander Col. Riad al-Asaad said opposition forces would want assurances about the overthrow of Bashar Assad before joining a US-led coalition against ISIS. He stated: "If they want to see the Free Syrian Army on their side, they should give assurances on toppling the Assad regime and on a plan including revolutionary principles."
Again, using this as propaganda ammo against the Syrian rebels is patently absurd. The foremost point is that the FSA isn't saying it won't fight ISIS—only that it won't join a US-led coalition to fight ISIS, unless the US offers guarantees that it won't sell them down the river by tilting back to the dictator at some point. This is an entirely correct position.
Furthermore, the FSA, far from finking out to ISIS, is already fighting ISIS! The independent Kurdish news agency Rojava reports on its Facebook page that the FSA and the PKK-aligned Kurdish People's Defense Units (YPG) have formed a joint operations force to fight ISIS in the Euphrates Valley region of northern Syria. The PKK, as we have noted, in increasingly anarchist-leaning, and its forces in northern Iraq and Syria have been on the frontline of resisting ISIS.
So here we have progressive, secular, indigenous forces—including some with explicitly anti-imperialist politics—actually fighting ISIS on the ground, without waiting for a permission slip from Washington. And are they getting any encouragement from "progressives" in the West? Damn precious little.
The extremely problematic "progressive" (sic) website Popular Resistance runs a series of "anti-war" (sic) statements under the utterly embarrassing headline "Why We Oppose The War On ISIS." Note that it doesn't even say "Obama's war on ISIS" or the "US war on ISIS." Just "the war on ISIS"—the headline itself a shameful betrayal of the indigenous resistance in the Euphrates Valley. Once again, the progressive forces on the ground are simply invisible to "progressives" (sic) in the West, with their imperial narcissism. Note that in her statement, the increasingly problematic Phyllis Bennis states that "Military actions will not set the stage for political solutions." First, it is very hard to take such talk seriously when people are being massacred. Second, note that this echoes perfectly Obama's call in his Sept. 10 speech for a "political solution" in Syria—which, as we stated, implicitly means a deal with the genocidal dictator who has abetted the rise of ISIS.
And the inclusion of the openly dictator-shilling ANSWER Coalition in the survey renders the whole thing illegitimate.
When, when, when is the Western "left" going to get over its Oedipus Complex with Big Daddy US Imperialism and get serious about solidarity?