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Aug. 28, 2013

In June 2013 the Campaign for Peace and Democracy's co-directors issued a personal statement on the Syrian revolution. At that time, we invited contributions to an on-line symposium, hoping to stimulate a vigorous debate over the issues raised by our statement. What follows are several pieces that in various ways oppose, support or supplement our position on Syria.

The symposium contributions were written before a large-scale poison gas attack with many casualties in the rebel-controlled Ghouta suburbs of Damascus on August 21, 2013. Likewise, they were all written before Washington's deployment of military forces to the region and its virtual announcement that military action is forthcoming. Whether or not it is definitively proven that the chemical weapons attack was carried out by the Syrian government (which in our view is very likely the case), we – along with all of the symposium participants – strongly oppose military intervention by the United States and its allies, for reasons explained in our symposium response. It's clear that whatever military measures the Obama administration may now adopt in Syria stem from a concern to rescue U.S. "credibility" as a global hegemonic power, not a genuine concern to defend the victims of Assad's brutality, a concern of which it has given little previous indication in the case of Syria or anywhere else. On the contrary, Washington continues to support and supply weapons to repressive governments in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world.

The first contribution, from Molly Nolan, characterizes the Syrian conflict as a civil war rather than a revolution, and argues against any of the forces, including secular democratic forces in the field, receiving arms. Instead, Nolan maintains that the only solution is negotiations between the Assad regime and its opponents, with no pressure for regime change from the Obama administration, and urges progressives not to take sides in the conflict.

Michael Karadjis, on the other hand, maintains that the Syrian conflict remains, fundamentally, a democratic revolt against dictatorship. While acknowledging the reactionary Islamist threat, he points to strong democratic resistance at the grassroots and argues that the Islamists are not yet in control. However, while defending the right of Syrian revolutionaries to obtain arms, he believes that the ongoing militarization of the conflict favors both Assad and the Islamists; therefore he thinks a ceasefire would be in the best interest of the revolution, allowing a revival of the mass movement that initiated the revolt against the regime.

David McReynolds highlights the ruinous history of U.S. "humanitarian intervention," citing the devastating wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Nolan, McReynolds regards the fighting in Syria as a civil war, with Assad retaining significant popular support – though he rejects the idea that Assad and his regime are "socialists under assault." McReynolds is against all military aid to the rebels and calls for the U.S. to work with Russia to bring the warring parties to a peace conference.

Assaf Kfoury supports the Syrian revolution, but he thinks that any weapons from outside are more than likely to come with U.S. influence and interference attached, and that they will induce Russia, Iran and possibly China to increase the supply of weaponry to Assad. Kfoury, like Karadjis, looks to an internationally-supervised ceasefire and the coming Geneva-2 conference to bring at least a temporary respite to the violence.

Michael Eisenscher sends us the statement of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), along with additional commentary, calling on Congress and the Administration to send humanitarian aid rather than arms to Syria and to promote a political solution. Eisenscher also includes a link to a petition that USLAW signed along with other peace groups that opposes military intervention and opposes arming the rebels or creating a no-fly zone. It calls on the U.S. to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance through the UN and building active multilateral diplomacy with all involved parties for an immediate ceasefire without preconditions, a full arms embargo, and negotiations to end Syria's civil war.

Salameh Kaileh favors the revolutionaries receiving weapons where they can, and argues that all the outside powers, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have refused to arm the revolution in a way that would actually enable it to win. Instead, he says, they favor what they call a "political solution" that would consign Syria to Russia's sphere of influence.

Finally, we publish an interview "Imperialism, Sectarianism and Syria's Revolution" with Joseph Daher, a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current. Daher supports the Syrian revolution while arguing that reactionary forces like Jabhat al Nusra are being well-funded by some Gulf countries in order to transform the revolution into a sectarian war. Unlike many Western leftists, Daher insists that the Syrian conflict is not a proxy war and that Assad and the countries supporting him are not anti-imperialist. Instead he calls for solidarity with the revolutionary and democratic popular committees and organizations.

The symposium concludes with a response from the CPD co-directors, "No to U.S. War on Syria! No to Assad! Yes to a Democratic Syrian Revolution!"

Questions about the Harrison-Landy Statement on Syria, by Molly Nolan

Syria: The Question of Arming the Rebels, by Michael Karadjis

Syria: What Is To Be Done?, by David McReynolds

Comments on "On Syria: A Personal Statement," by Assaf Kfoury

US Labor Against the War (USLAW) Statement on the Syrian Crisis, with a comment by Michael Eisenscher

The Armed Struggle and Arming the Syrian Opposition, by Salameh Kaileh

Interview with Joseph Daher, "Imperialism, Sectarianism and Syria's Revolution"

Response from Thomas Harrison and Joanne Landy: "No to U.S. War on Syria! No to Assad! Yes to a Democratic Syrian Revolution!"