Tens of thousands of people again rallied in the army-beseiged Syrian city of Hama on Friday July 8, calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad. Activists said security forces shot dead 13 people elsewhere in Syria during Friday protests, including six in the town of Dumair near Damascus. Amid the continued repression, a Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with defecting soldiers found that troops have been ordered to disperse unarmed protesters with a “shoot to kill” policy. HRW said it “interviewed eight soldiers and four members of the security agencies who had defected since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011… The soldiers…reported participating in and witnessing the shooting and injury of dozens of protesters, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds.”
The Assad regime called talks with the opposition on July 10, but protest leaders boycotted, saying they would not negotiate until the repression is halted and thousands of political prisoners are released. The Jerusalem Post quoted Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies: “It’s the regime talking to itself, essentially. They reached out to certain veteran opposition figures to see if they can get them to show up—but only in a ‘personal capacity’ without acknowledging the opposition per se.”
This criticism seems seems accurate, but it is disturbing that it is coming from the neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracies, whose “featured expert” is the extremoid wonk and Shah-nostalgist Reuel Marc Gerecht.
In a related problem, US ambassador Robert Ford and French ambassador Eric Chevallier actually visited Hama amid the protests on Friday. Reuters called it “a symbolic show of solidarity,” but we argue that nothing shows less solidarity with the protesters, since it plays into Assad’s propaganda strategy of portraying them as pawns of Western imperialism. The Interior Ministry predictably said that Ford met with “saboteurs and incited them to violence, protest and rejection of dialogue.” Demonization of the Syrian protesters as imperialist pawns has been unfortunately echoed by sectors of the idiot left in the US, such as the vile International Action Center.
As we have warned before, the Syrian protesters should beware of US intentions. They should recall that just a few short years ago, Washington was using Damascus to outsource the torture of “terrorism” suspects, as the case of Maher Arar demonstrates. Washington’s new-found concern with human rights and democracy in Syria has similarly political ends. It comes with other efforts to control the political trajectory of the Arab Spring—apparently grooming the Muslim Brotherhood for a Thermidor in the Egyptian revolution, and imposing a technocratic and authoritarian leadership on the Libyan revolution as the price of military support. It is in the interests of the Syrian protesters to maintain their militant independence from Western imperialism and the Assad regime alike. The more “solidarity” they receive from the US government—as opposed to workers and the legitimate left in the US—the worse it will be for them. And for prospects for meaningful revolution throughout the region.