An Imperialist Springtime? Libya, Syria, and Beyond


Samir Amin: You see, the US establishment — and behind the US establishment its allies, the Europeans and others, Turkey as a member of NATO — derived their lesson from their having been surprised in Tunisia and Egypt: prevent similar movements elsewhere in the Arab countries, preempt them by taking the initiative of, initiating, the movements.  They have tested their experience in Libya, and they have tested it in Libya with success, in the sense that, in Libya, at the start we had no [broad popular] movement . . . against Gaddafi.  We had small armed groups, and one has to question immediately . . . where those arms were coming from.  They were — we know it — from the beginning, from the Gulf, with the support of Western powers, and the US.  And attacking the army, police, and so on.  And the same day, not even the next day, those very people who qualified themselves as “liberation forces,” “democratic liberation forces,” called upon NATO — the French and then NATO — to come to the rescue, and that allowed for the intervention.  That intervention has succeeded in the sense that it destroyed the regime of Gaddafi.  But what is the result of the success?  Is it democratic Libya?  Well, one should laugh at that when one knows that the president of the new regime is nobody else than the very judge who condemned to death the Bulgarian nurses.  What a curious democracy it is!  But it has also led to the dislocation of the country on a Somalian pattern: that is, local powers — all of them in the name of so-called “Islam,” but local warlords — with the destruction of the country.  One can raise the question: was this the target of the intervention — that is, the destruction of the country?

I’ll come back to this main question, because they tried to implement the same strategy immediately afterward on Syria — that is, introducing armed groups from the very beginning.  From the north through Turkey, Hatay particularly.  The so-called “refugee camps” in Hatay are not refugee camps — there are very few refugees — they are camps for training mercenaries to intervene in Syria.  This is well documented by our Turkish friends.  And Turkey as a NATO power is part of the conspiracy in that case.  And similarly with Jordan, introducing from the south, with the support — not only neutrality but, I think, active support — of Israel, through Daraa, southern armed groups.

Facing that in Syria we have objectively a situation similar to the one of Egypt: that is, a regime which a long, long time ago had legitimacy, for the same reasons, when it was a national-popular regime but lost it in the time of Hafez Assad already — it moved to align itself with neoliberalism, privatization, etc., leading to the same social disaster.  So, there is an objective ground for a wide, popular, social-oriented uprising.  But by preempting this movement, through the military intervention of armed groups, the Western imperialist powers have created a situation where the popular democratic movement is . . . hesitating.  They don’t want to join the so-called “resistance” against Bashar Assad; but they don’t want to support the regime of Bashar Assad either.  That has allowed Bashar Assad to successfully put an end, or limits, to external intervention, in Homs and on the boundary of Turkey in the north.  But opposing state terror to the real terrorism of armed groups supported by foreign powers is not the answer to the question.  The answer to the question is really changing the system to the benefit of, through negotiations with, the real popular democratic movement.  This is the challenge.  And this is the question which is raised.  We don’t know, I don’t know, I think nobody knows how things will move on: whether the regime, or people within the regime, will understand that and move towards real reform by opening, more than negotiations, a re-distribution of the power system with the popular democratic movement, or will stick to the way of meeting explosions just brutally as they have done until today.  If they continue in that direction, finally they will be defeated, but they will be defeated to the benefit of imperialist powers.

Now, what is the real target of imperialism, in Syria and in the region?  It is not at all bringing democracy.  It is destroying societies just as they have destroyed the society of Libya.  If you take the example of Iraq, what have they done?  They have replaced the real dictatorship of Saddam Hussein by three uglier dictatorships: two in the name of religion, Shia and Sunni, one in the name of so-called “ethnicity,” Kurds, which are uglier even than Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.  They have destroyed the country by systematic assassination — I have no other word for that.  In addition to hundreds of thousands of people who were bombed in humanitarian bombings and so on, the systematic assassination of the cadres of the regime: scientists, doctors, engineers, professors of universities, even poets, and so on — all the real elite of the nation.  That is destroying the country.  This is the target of imperialism in Syria.  What does the so-called “Liberation Army of Syria” claim to have as its program?  That we should eradicate the Alawis, the Druzes, the Christians, the Shia.  When you add those four “minorities,” you come to 45% of the population of Syria.  What does it mean?  It means democracy?  It means the ugliest possible dictatorship and the destruction of the country.

Now, who has interest in that?  This is the common interest of three intimate allies: the US, Israel, and the Gulf countries.  The US.  Why?  Because the destruction of the societies of the region is the best way to prepare the next stage, which is the destruction of Iran, with a view of the containment and possibly rolling back of major “emerging” countries, the dangerous ones, China and Russia (and potentially, if India is naughty, India — but India is not naughty, for the time being).  That is the target.  It implies the destruction of the societies of the Middle East, including that of Iran, as a major target.  This project of destruction of societies, accompanied with the continuation of lumpen-development, is also the target of Israel.  Because, if Syria is split into four or five insignificant, confessional, small states, it allows for further easy expansion of the process of Israel’s colonization.  It is also the target of the Gulf.  Well, it is almost a farce to see today the Emir of Qatar and the King of Saudi Arabia, standing with the Westerners Obama, Sarkozy, and Cameron, as the leaders of the struggle for democracy.  One can only laugh.  But their hegemony in the region in the name of Islam — in the “name,” because there are different possible understandings of Islam of course — implies the destruction of countries like Egypt basically, because, if Egypt is standing on her feet, then the hegemony of the Gulf is, you know, what was the Gulf in the time of Nasser, in the days of Nasser?  So they have this in common.

And they are supported, within the societies, by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Therefore, I would conclude by that.  We should look at the Muslim Brotherhood not as an “Islamic” party.  The criterion for qualifying and judging organizations, parties, is not whether they are “Islamic” or whether they are “secular,” but whether they are reactionary or progressive.  And when we look at the Muslim Brotherhood, on all real issues, they are against the strikes of the working class, they are against the resistance of poor peasants, they are for privatization, they are in favor of the dismantling of public service, which means that they are fully aligned with the most reactionary forces.  This is a reactionary party using Islam as a front.  This is the real criterion.

This is the global picture of what are the strategic targets of imperialists and their internal allies, reactionary forces, within the societies of the Middle East.

Samir Amin is an Egyptian Marxist economist.  Aijaz Ahmad is an Indian Marxist critic.  This video, Part 2 of a two-part interview, was released by NewsClick on 24 April 2012.  Click here to see Part 1.  The text below the video is an edited partial transcript of the interview.

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