Since the ignition of the Sudanese Revolution in December 2018, there has been a new wave of uprisings across the MENA region, inspired by and learning from the revolutions of 2011 in advancing not only a rejection of the regions dictatorships but a socioeconomic vision in rejection of austerity and privatization and a rejection of regional polarization. Sudan’s revolution has advanced an agenda in rejection of neoliberalism and Islamism under the Sudanese Professionals Association, an independent labor coalition. Lebanon’s has explicitly targeted not only the entire political class but also the governor of the central bank Riyad Salameh as the architect of the country’s inflation and massive public debts. The revolutions that continue to advance and press their demands in Lebanon and Iraq are exceptional in that they are taking place in nominal democracies which hold elections. However as long as the country’s sovereignty and economics remain outside the people’s hands, they realize that such a system is merely a facade. Lebanese and Iraqis have slowly worked to chip away the regimes of sectarian dichotomies and cronyist patronage systems designed to keep people fragmented for control and exploitation which were formalized in 1989 and 2003 respectively. In Lebanon this came after a civil war and Israeli invasion of the country and in Iraq after vicious US sanctions on the regime it once supported to remove a Communist-led government and against Iran in a war that left over 1 million dead, culminating in the invasion which has killed over 600,000.
Protests in Iraq started in October 2019 against unemployment and US and Iran’s interventions, with protests organizing under the banner “We Want a Nation.” This has led to mass repression, with than 500 protesters killed and over 20 thousand injured by the government and allied militias. Soleimani held the responsibility for much of the response by the government and its allies in Iraq. Additionally, he has overseen the Popular Mobilization Units in its on-the-ground collaboration with the United States in its fight against ISIS in north Iraq and northeast Syria, with the US alone killing 8-13 thousand civilians and the Iraqi militias committing egregious war crimes and violations. In Syria, Soleimani has worked hand-in-glove with the Assad regime in its siege-or-surrender strategy in such areas as the Palestinian Yarmouk Camp in Damascus in which 1200 civilians were killed, and the four-year siege and war in Aleppo, which killed over 20 thousand.
The Syrian revolution which was one of the strongest models of horizontal organizing through the Local Coordination Committees and had some of the most resilient organizing and civic movement in the region has been decimated by almost a decade primarily through state, Iranian, and Russian repression on one hand and regional Arab, Turkish, and Western subversion and cooptation on the other. It is hard to assess how much Soleimani has been responsible for, but he has been essential in organizing the coalition overseeing its bloody salvation.
This, however, does not mean that is assassination is a victory for the revolutions of the region. This violation of international law and extension of the continued US aggression on Iraq and the region threatens to undo much of the advances being made by the revolutionaries, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, in undermining patrimonial loyalties and regional polarization. However, they have been wise to this. Protesters across Iraq emerged in the thousands on Friday in rejection of their violation of sovereignty by the US as well as Iranian intervention demanding them to “Keep your conflicts away from Iraq.”
What can we do to support the revolutions and people of the region? As people in the United States it is paramount for us to continue to oppose the and dismantle US imperialism. This includes demanding and working for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and stopping the support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Saudi war on Yemen. We must work against interventions including aggression upon sovereign states and the devastating War on Terror which has killed over 1 million people and fuels not only US imperialism but also the violence of US European border and surveillance regimes, of Russian intervention, and of regional dictatorships. As internationalists we must learn from and relay the independent voices trying to turn their countries away from the influence of Western and regional military and economic influence. Specifically, this means supporting the recent wave of revolutions in Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan but also the struggles of countries whose revolutions have been beaten back through state violence and intervention: Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen through whichever resources are available to us. It means supporting the Palestinian cause by learning about the violence and occupation practiced upon them by Israel, supporting the Palestinian right to return, and supporting the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. We must through whichever organizations we may belong to – community groups, unions, student groups, parties, and so on – support the uprisings as well as refugees and local communities. This may include hosting know your rights workshops as Trump extends his racist campaign on Latino and Muslim communities or joining refugee centers and using our social and cultural capital to enable them to access services and build community. We must in conclusion tear down all borders in our work – welcoming immigrants into our communities and the revolutionaries and their causes into our movements.