For a genuine anti-imperialism
PRO-ASSAD leftists, your analysis is wrong.
To support Assad and Russian intervention in Syria is to support a completely brutal counterrevolution. The Syrian uprising, along with the whole Arab Spring, was a revolt against decades of neoliberal suffocation as well as against undemocratic tyrants.
Authoritarianism throughout the Middle East and North Africa has an intimate connection with imperialism and global capitalism. Syrians along with people across many other Arab states rose up for democracy. They had no other choice--economic desperation without any legitimate way to challenge the political establishment forced people's hands. The revolts and the people who participated in them were incredibly brave.
We should support and defend the Arab Spring revolutions against all counterrevolutionaries, including the imperialist states that circled them like vultures from day one, trying to influence their outcomes. This means supporting the Syrian revolution.
To call the Syrian revolutionaries "terrorists" and to say that Assad is "fighting terrorism" is to play directly into the dictator's hands. From the moment he first decided to gun down peaceful demonstrations, Assad's strategy has always been to paint the uprising as "jihadist" and claim to be fighting terrorism. This is the reason Assad actually released hundreds of jihadists from his prisons, many of whom went on to take leadership positions in actual terrorist groups.
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It's also worth noting that Assad has non-aggression pacts with these groups, leaving regime, Iranian and Russian firepower focused almost entirely on rebels, rather than on ISIS. These actual terrorist groups are yet another counterrevolutionary force completely opposed to democracy and hell-bent on crushing the Syrian revolution. This is the reason for the slogan "Assad/ISIS are the same--the only difference is the name." Both forces are counterrevolutionaries--terrorists opposed to Syrian self-determination.
Lastly, to claim the Assad regime or its supporters are somehow "anti-imperialist" is just not true. Russian imperialism is a thing. Competition offered by a weaker imperialist state against a stronger one in a third country is not "anti-imperialism."
What Russia is doing in Aleppo--the indiscriminate bombing and destruction--is indistinguishable from what the U.S. has done across the Middle East and North Africa. Russian bombs have the same effect as American bombs, demolishing houses, destroying whole city blocks, killing untold numbers of people. Furthermore, Assad is not only a puppet of Russian imperialism--he has also opportunistically worked with the U.S. in its imperialist goals, jailing and torturing kidnapped Iraqis for the Americans during the invasion, for example.
Finally, the U.S. under Obama never had the goal of "regime change" in Syria. Originally, they wanted an "orderly transition," removing Assad from power while maintaining his authoritarian, neoliberal state apparatus. Since then, they have caved even on this, and have stopped demands for Assad to step down. The new wave of U.S. imperialism under Trump fully backs him.
Assad is not an anti-imperialist; like all Middle Eastern dictators, he exists only because of imperial support. But this aside, to reduce Syria to "geopolitics" alone--an imperialist proxy war between the U.S. and Russia--is to downplay to hopes and wishes of the Syrian people and the incredible courage it took to rise up against a completely brutal anti-democratic regime.
Don't support Assad. Don't support Russia. Don't support Iran. You can't call yourself an anti-imperialist if you do. Long live the Syrian revolution.
Alex Ferriera, New York City