From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
In a recent interview posted on Iranian Progressives in Translation, Syrian revolutionary Yassin al-Haj Saleh summarized the role that the Iranian government, under both “hard-liners” and “reformers,” has taken in supporting the fascist Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime. He spoke of the responsibility of revolutionaries to criticize their own government’s imperialism. Here are some excerpts:
“Recent reports said that Tehran has spent around $35 billion in support of the regime. Iran is not only paying the money, it is controlling everything.
“In Syria it is widely thought that the country is under Iranian occupation. And it seems that Tehran is not running the regime’s war against its population for only strategic reasons and for gathering more regional cards. The rulers of Iran are also putting their hands on Syrian land and state-owned property. Loans are provided with state-owned land and government property as collateral.
“This is colonialism in the precise meaning of the word. I think the Assad regime could not have stayed in power without submitting the country to a foreign colonial power, not known for its human sentiments towards Syrians or its own subjects. It was Tehran’s initiative to build the National Defense Army, which is composed of the Shabiha, loyal sectarian thugs who volunteered to help the regime in crushing the popular protests. Many of them were trained in Iran. This dirty sectarian game will prove shortsighted and self-injuring someday.
“Iranians cannot resist oppression in their country while ignoring the urgent necessity to resist the imperial policies of their country. They have a special responsibility to be eloquent in condemning their government’s policies in Syria. Their right to criticize the Syrian opposition, and I am a harsh critic of it, is conditioned by having a clear and principled position against the Iranian involvement and the Assad regime. The more powerful Iran becomes in Syria, the more powerful the present Iranian government will be vis-à-vis the people in Iran.”