Middle East

Yesterday, Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. In a speech filled with lies, distortions and crude hypocrisy he announced that his administration will reimpose the “highest level of economic sanctions” on Iran.

After a brief ebb over the course of the Iranian new year holidays, a steadily rising stream of local protests, which began in the aftermath of the nationwide protests in January, has surged yet again. Farmers of the Isfahan province protested for 50 days until Saturday 14 April. Starting from the small town of Varzane, the movement has taken its protests to the city of Isfahan and dragged in people from all over the east of the province.

The US and its ‘allies’, the UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites. Explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs, the Pentagon said. "The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality," President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House at about 21:00 local time (02:00 BST).

While the attention of the international media is drawn to the threatened US airstrike on Syria, the Palestinian mobilisations for the right of return of refugees and the ruthless killing of demonstrators by the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) in the Gaza Strip continues.

Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, discusses the Western response to gas attacks in Syria. Trump, Macron, and May have all been banging the war drums over the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad. But the atrocities in Syria mask the Western imperialists' own role in propping up reactionary regimes in the region and perpetuating a never-ending humanitarian disaster in the Middle East. At the same time, their bellicose rhetoric acts as a useful distraction for these imperialist leaders, who are all facing criticism and opposition back home.

We publish Alan Woods’ guest introduction to a special edition of Farsi-language art magazine, Contemporary Scene, called Capitalism and Art. The edition contains a series of articles about Marxism and culture, many of which were previously published on Marxist.com.

Hamid Alizadeh speaks at a recent meeting of the LSE Marxist society about the political situation in the Middle East, from the Arab Spring of 2011 to the present day. Hamid provides a overview of the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary developments in the region over the past seven years. Today, the focus is on the civil war in Syria and the heroic struggle of the Kurds. But crisis is also brewing in Saudi Arabia, home to the main bastion of reaction in the region. Hamid discusses the processes unfolding in all of these countries, as well as the increasing contradictions facing American imperialism, which is no longer able to play its hegemonic role of the past.

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Presidential elections were held in Egypt last week, in accordance with a formal concession to the Egyptian Revolution in the 2014 Constitution. This was the first electoral test of President Sisi’s authority since he was officially inaugurated back in 2014. Despite the risible contempt for democracy demonstrated by Sisi and his regime at every stage of the electoral process, early estimates of the results indicate this is a test he has comprehensively failed.

Alan Woods, editor of www.marxist.com, discusses the hypocrisy of the imperialists regarding events in the Middle East, particularly the Turkish army's recent, brutal invasion of Afrin and the misery it is exacting on the Kurdish population.

On Sunday, the Turkish war machine, supported by so-called Syrian rebel troops took control of the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin in northeastern Syria. Of course, while the western media were busy condemning the Assad regime’s offensive against Islamist forces in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, they paid no attention whatsoever to the brutal onslaught against the Kurds, who have never attacked Turkey.

Although the youth movement that shook Iran in late December and late January has died down, nothing has been solved. It is evident that the movement merely anticipated a far deeper mood of anger and resentment, which has been building up for decades.

Después de todo el alboroto, la ruidosa propaganda y las maniobras en Naciones Unidas, el llamado alto al fuego sirio se ha derrumbado de manera repentina, vergonzosa e irrevocable. En realidad, era un aborto que estaba muerto incluso antes de que naciera.

After all the fuss, noisy propaganda and manoeuvres at the United Nations, the so-called Syrian ceasefire has broken down suddenly, shamefully and irrevocably. In reality it was an abortion that was dead even before it was born.

Over the past week, tensions within the Saudi led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen have reached a critical point. Between Sunday and Wednesday, troops loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC) took hold of all but a few remaining areas of the port city of Aden and surrounded the presidential palace in which the cabinet was essentially besieged.

Las últimos semanas han visto el comienzo de un nuevo movimiento de la juventud tunecina, casi siete años después del derrocamiento del odiado régimen de Ben Alí, en 2011. Esta vez, el detonante de las protestas en todo el país se produjo con el anuncio de los presupuestos elaborados con las propuestas del FMI. Decenas de activistas han sido arrestados y un manifestante ha sido asesinado. El movimiento "Fech Nastannou?" (“¿A qué estamos esperando?”) es una clara demostración de que haber derrocado al dictador no resolvió automáticamente los problemas de pobreza, desempleo y falta de futuro, que desencadenaron el levantamiento de 2011.

The following talk was delivered in January 2018 by Hamid Alizadeh at UCL in London, UK. He discusses the protests that rocked Iran between December 2017 and January 2018, explains why they came about, and provides background information on the history of the class struggle in the country. Hamid points out that these protests reveal deep fissures in Iranian society: whose working class is the second largest in the region, has an impressive legacy of militant class struggle, and is being spurred to action under the pressure of events.

It appears that Turkey has started or will imminently start attacking the Kurdish-ruled enclave of Afrin in Northwestern Syria. The preparations for this operation have been ongoing for months. Turkish forces have surrounded the area from the south and, via their proxies - the socalled Free Syrian Army - from the east and have been fortifying as well as bombing the area for the past few weeks.

En las últimas dos semanas, olas de protestas heroicas se han extendido rápidamente por los pueblos y ciudades de todo Irán. Esta fue una erupción espontánea de rabia por parte de la juventud de clase media-baja y de la clase obrera contra la pobreza, el aumento de los precios y la indigencia, así como contra la riqueza y la corrupción de la élite iraní, en particular del clero. Se estima que 21 personas han muerto en las protestas hasta ahora y más de 1.700 han sido detenidas. Inmediatamente, los líderes occidentales desde Washington a Londres levantaron un coro defendiendo los derechos humanos del pueblo iraní.

Recent allegations of corruption against Benjamin Netanyahu have sparked a backlash and his position looks more vulnerable than ever. Netanyahu is one of Israel’s longest-serving prime ministers has been in power for two non-consecutive periods totalling over 11 years. Throughout this time his career and reputation have been repeatedly tarnished by controversy and corruption. In fact, his first premiership ended with an electoral defeat (1999) which was marred by a host of corruption allegations. Israeli Police recommended that he be indicted on two separate occasions, first in 1997 then again in 1999, however he avoided sentence due to lack of evidence.

The last few days have seen the beginning of a new movement of the Tunisian youth, almost seven years to the day after they overthrew the hated regime of Ben Alí in 2011. This time, a proposed budget, imposed by the IMF, has sparked protests around the country. Dozens of activists have been arrested and one protester killed. The “Fech Nastannou?” (what are we waiting for?) movement is a stark demonstration that having overthrown the dictator did not automatically solve the problems of poverty, unemployment and lack of a future that provoked the uprising in 2011.

Waves of heroic protests have spread rapidly to towns and cities throughout Iran over the past two weeks. This was a spontaneous eruption of rage by the lower-middle-class and working-class youth against poverty, rising prices and destitution, as well as against the wealth and corruption of the Iranian elite – particularly the clerical establishment. It is estimated that 21 people have been killed in the protests so far and over 1,700 arrested. Immediately, Western leaders from Washington to London raised a chorus defending the human rights of the Iranian people.

Ayer continuaron por quinto día consecutivo las protestas en todo Irán. Mientras tanto, las fuerzas de seguridad han adoptado una postura más dura. El quinto día las protestas parecieron haber disminuido ligeramente en tamaño, en parte debido a la creciente represión y en parte debido a la falta de un punto focal tangible para el movimiento. El régimen también ha reducido en gran medida el acceso a Internet y las comunicaciones, y también está claro que no se está informando de muchas protestas, en particular de ciudades y suburbios más pequeños.

Yesterday protests carried on for the fifth straight day throughout Iran. Meanwhile, security forces have adopted a harder stance. On the fifth day the protests seemed to have decreased slightly in size, partially due to the increasing crackdown and partially due to the lack of a tangible focal point for the movement. The regime has also heavily reduced access to internet and communication, and it is also clear that many protests are not being reported, in particular from smaller towns and suburbs.

For the past four days Iran has seen the most widespread protests since the 1979 Revolution. While it is still smaller in size than the 2009 Green movement, it has spread far beyond the mainly urban areas of the big cities to which that movement was mainly confined. This is a sea-change and it has shaken the regime to its foundations.

Two statements were made on the same day, 21 November. Both declared the end of the war on Islamic State in Syria. The first was made by Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, the second was released by Qassem Suleimani: the Iranian general at the head of the Quds Force (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards). Both, almost simultaneously, stated that “terrorism was defeated” in the country.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump declared that he would officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This reveals the real nature of the so-called peace talks. In a speech delivered at the White House, Trump said, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

On 24 November, around 30 Islamic State militants from the Sinai Province arrived in large, all-terrain vehicles outside the el-Rawda mosque in Bir el-Abed, Northern Sinai, during Friday prayers. They detonated two bombs inside and then sprayed the fleeing crowds with machine-gun fire. The attack left over 300 people dead and 130 wounded: the largest death toll recorded for such an event in Egypt’s modern history.

On 12 November, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake occurred on the Iran-Iraq border, affecting an area stretching from the Kermanshah Province in northwestern Iran, to Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. The whole of the political establishment made statements in support of the victims and the Kurdish areas, with dozens of national papers publishing their front pages in Kurdish. This is supposedly to show their solidarity with the Kurdish masses. Yet the events on the ground paint a clearer picture of the real attitude of the Iranian ruling class.

“The lot of young Arabs is worsening: it has become harder to find a job and easier to end up in a cell. Their options are typically poverty, emigration or, for a minority, jihad. Astonishingly, in Egypt’s broken system university graduates are more likely to be jobless than the country’s near-illiterate.” (The Economist, August 2016)

These words are now a year old and the situation for young Arabs in general – and young Egyptians in particular – has only gotten worse. In its lead article of an issue entitled ‘The Ruining of Egypt’, The Economistshowed a graph placing Egypt’s youth employment rate consistently between 40% and 46% over the previous six years. The

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Millions of Iraqi Kurds last Monday voted in a referendum on secession from Iraq and to set up an independent state. According to the official organisers, 92.73 percent of voters supported Kurdish independence while the participation rate stood at 72.16 percent. A huge majority of the Iraqi Kurdish people have made it clear that they feel no attachment to the quasi-sectarian Iraqi central government.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ratified a deal to sell off the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The two islands – particularly Tiran Island – had historically played a pivotal role in conflicts between Egypt and Israel. Tiran was occupied by Israel between 1967 and 1982, at which point it was returned to Egypt and has since hosted military bases of the Egyptian army and the Multinational Forces and Observers tasked with monitoring the adjacent sea passage.

There were violent scenes on Al-Warraq Island in the suburbs of Cairo last Sunday as police attempts to evict residents inevitably resulted in brutal clashes. At least one local man was killed and fifty-six injured. The move to force the island's inhabitants onto the streets comes after President Sisi said in a June speech, “There are islands in the Nile... according to the law no one should be present on these islands.” This statement bears no regard for the thirty years that this community had inhabited the island or for the failure of any government during that period to provide them with an alternative.

For the last month the Gulf state of Qatar has been blockaded by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who along with Egypt have severed all diplomatic ties with the country. These events have opened up a crisis situation in the Gulf region, which is being viewed with trepidation by the major powers on the world stage.

Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights. June 1967

On 5th June 1967 the Israeli Air Force launched a surprise attack on Egyptian air bases in the Sinai province, beginning what came to be known as the Six-Day War and ending with Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza, the whole Sinai Peninsula and shortly afterwards also the Golan Heights. To this day the Palestinians have had to live with the consequences.

The defeat of Isis is imminent – their last pocket in Mosul is about to be wiped out, Raqqa is being encircled and even Deir ez-Zor is under pressure. The end of Isis in Iraq and Syria has begun a struggle for the aftermath.

Iranians are going to the polls today in presidential elections. President Hassan Rouhani has been leading the polls followed by the main principlist unity candidate, Ebrahim Raisi. Yet the result is not the most important aspect here—the elections have brought forward the enormous contradictions in Iranian society.

Türkiye deki referandumda Recep Tayip Erdoğan resmi olarak EVET oyunu kazandı. Ama bu zaferin karakteri neydi ve ne anlama geliyor?

Resmi sonuçlara göre, 48 milyon seçmenin %51.3’ü yeni anayasayı kabul etme yönünde oy verdi. Bunun anlamı ise Cumhurbaşkanına geniş yetkiler ve kontrolsuz güç sağlamaktı. Katılım oranı, Resmi olarak %84’ün üstüne çıktı ve ülkedeki atmosfer kutuplaşmıştı.

Recep Tayyib Erdogan officially won the YES vote in Turkey’s referendum. But what was the character of his victory and what does it mean?

On Sunday, Turkey's electorate will vote in a referendum on a new draft constitution which, if implemented, would concentrate enormous powers in the hands of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Egypt was rocked yesterday by suicide bombings in major cities which resulted in at least 45 dead and over 100 injured. In the second city Alexandria an attack was carried out at the entrance to St Mark’s Cathedral resulting in the death of 16 people. Two hours earlier in Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta, a bomb attack at a church killed 29. There are unconfirmed reports of further attacks on churches around the country.

Den 9 april skakades flera storstäder i Egypten av självmordsattentat. Attackerna skördade minst 45 människoliv, och över 100 skadades. I den näst största staden Alexandria utfördes en attack vid ingången till St Mark's katedral där 16 dog. Två timmar tidigare hade 29 människor mist livet i ett liknande bombdåd vid en kyrka i staden Tanta, belägen vid Nildeltat. Dessutom finns obekräftade rapporter om ett flertal andra attacker mot kyrkor runt om i landet.

Yesterday the US navy launched a series of missile attacks on the Al Shayrat airbase in the central governorate of Homs in Syria. Seven people are claimed to have been killed and several fighter jets are said to have been damaged.

Yet another crisis has been haunting Egypt’s 3 July military regime in the past three days. Hundreds of Egyptians in different cities have come out to protest cuts to subsidised good - mainly bread - in a militant and angry reaction to the Al-Sisi’s onslaught against the workers and the poor.

At the congress of the Pakistani section of the IMT on December 3rd, Fred Weston delivered the introductory speech analysing the world situation in the light of the recent victory of Trump in the US presidential elections, the role of Russia in Syria, the crisis of the EU and the general deepening crisis of world capitalism. We provide here two videos of the introductory speech and the summing up of the discussion.

The recapture of Aleppo by loyalist forces in December, represents a decisive milestone in the Syrian civil war as well as for the crisis in the whole region. But it also has wide ranging consequences for world relations in the coming period.

There has been much confusion on the left about the events that have unfolded in Syria in the past five years, with some supporting Assad as a supposed "anti-imperialist", while others have supported the so-called "Syrian revolution", de facto ending up in the same camp as the western imperialists who support the so-called "moderate rebels". In order to cut though this fog of confusion it is necessary to analyse the nature of the Assad regime, what it was and what it became, and also the process which cut across the initial revolutionary movement of the Syrian youth in 2011, transforming revolution very quickly into counter-revolution. Here we provide a list of the key articles we have

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Hamid Alizadeh discusses the impending fall of Aleppo to Syrian loyalist forces, and highlights the hypocrisy of the Western imperialists and media, who draw attention to the tragic events in Aleppo whilst failing to mention the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen at the hands of the Saudis and their US & British allies.

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