The terrorist bomb that murdered four of Syria’s key security leaders in Damascus on 18 July sums up the fascist essence of the war being waged against this sovereign country in the name of democracy. Whilst the blast was claimed both by the sickly misnamed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and by a jihadi outfit, the trail of blood leads straight back to imperialism, for whom the export of terror is the necessary corollary of Washington’s ‘diplomatic’ bullying.
The bomb was timed to put pressure on the UN Security Council at the moment when it was deciding about extending the duration of the UN monitoring exercise. Whilst resolving on such an extension is not genuinely contentious – President Assad has welcomed the ongoing presence of monitors – Washington had done its best to pack the would-be resolution with new ultimatums aimed at regime change performed at the point of a gun.
The Chinese Xinhua news agency commented that the draft resolution lacked balance and western diplomats had “displayed arrogance and inflexibility” over the issue, adding that “western diplomats rushed to point fingers at Russia and China after the resolution was defeated, but they have only themselves to blame for trying to force such an ill-considered draft through the Council. ” Both China and Russia stopped the passage of this provocative resolution by use of their veto, instead assisting in the passage of an uncontroversial resolution authorising the monitors for a further 30 days.
Meanwhile, the tame imperialist media maintained a barrage of misinformation, highlighting the temporary seizure of checkpoints on the Iraqi and Turkish sides of the border by the FSA, in a carefully imperialist-managed stunt, trying to throw enough dust in people’s eyes to make them believe that the country’s leadership was already ‘crumbling’. This soon proved to be an illusion, as the rebels were cleared out of the Midan area of Damascus and the borders were rapidly secured.
What these terrorist attacks on Syrian security personnel did succeed in demonstrating, however, was the fascistic character of Washington’s armed stooges. When the FSA grabbed control of a checkpoint in the mountains, wrote the AFP French news agency, the deputy interior minister of Iraq’s government reported that the FSA kidnapped a Syrian lieutenant colonel, cut off his arms and legs and then “executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers”.
Hillary Clinton goosesteps down the road to war
“I am no longer willing to stand idly by and watch while this madman in Prague thinks that he can simply mistreat three-and-a-half million people. And I left no doubt that German patience is now finally exhausted. I left no doubt that while it is a characteristic of our German mentality to be tolerant and patient in the face of repeated provocation, there comes a moment when enough is enough! And now finally England and France have made the only possible demand of Czechoslovakia: release the German territory and cede it to the Reich.” (Adolf Hitler, 1938)
So said an earlier imperialist leader, justifying the occupation of another country on the basis of ‘protecting innocent civilians’ – and thanking British and French imperialism for its assistance in this matter.
US permanent representative Susan Rice had already echoed these noble sentiments back in April when she told the UN that her country’s “patience is exhausted” by the supposed failure of Damascus to comply with the Annan Plan. And now, as Washington sees all its efforts to sabotage the Annan Plan and wrest the diplomatic initiative from Russia and China come to nothing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being driven to express herself in terms which grow daily more Hitlerian in tenor, clamouring that Russia and China must be made to “pay a price” for their insistence upon abiding by international law.
In so doing, the stakes are raised not only over Syria and Iran, but also over Washington’s relations with Moscow and Beijing. Clinton’s increasingly incendiary words will not soon be forgotten in either of these capitals, or around the world, and cannot be unsaid. Whatever happens now in Syria, the outline of future, more global conflicts has suddenly sharpened. As Washington continues to nerve itself up to escalate aggression against the sovereign nation of Syria into full-scale military intervention, it is ever-more incautiously revealing its aggressive intentions on a global scale: the reassertion of US hegemonic power, implemented via a hostile encirclement of, and ultimately war against, Russia and China, a conflagration that would endanger all humanity.
Infuriated by the failure to secure a majority in favour of sanctions and military threats during June’s conference in Geneva, Clinton slipped into crude invective against those who persist in allegiance to the internationally endorsed Annan Plan.
Having failed, at the UN Security Council before and then again at the Geneva conference, to shift this consensus, Clinton scuttled off to Paris to a meeting of the so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ to vent her spleen. There she hectored nervous delegates, ordering them to “demand” that Russia and China “get off the sidelines” and “support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people”, going on to rant: “I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. The only way that will change this is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price, because they are holding up progress” – progress towards the criminal overthrow of the legitimate government of Syria, be it understood.
Russia and China both responded to this incontinent outburst with unruffled dignity, rooting themselves on the international consensus around the Annan Plan rather than being distracted by the clownish antics of the ‘Friends of Syria’ – a private circus invented by Sarkozy, and with Clinton as ringmaster, whose sole purpose is to act as a pseudo-diplomatic smokescreen for the Syrian counter-revolution.
Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov had this to say about Clinton’s wild words: “What worries us more than anything is that such remarks go against the final document of the Geneva talks, the adoption of which was approved with the participation of the US secretary of state.”
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, dismissed Clinton’s outburst as “totally unacceptable”, pointing out that “On the Syria problem, China’s fair and constructive stance, and its contributions toward diplomatic efforts, have attained the wide understanding and support of relevant parties in the international community.” He went on to warn that “Any words and deeds that slander China and sow discord between China and other countries will be in vain.”
Participants in the Geneva conference had arrived with very different agendas.
Whilst for Russia and China everything hinged on the successful application of the internationally-agreed Annan Plan, the aggressor countries of the US, Britain and France, ably seconded by their flunkeys in Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar, sought nothing short of the overthrow of Syria’s head of state. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, chief banker and armourer of the rebellion on behalf of its US masters, let Kuwait and Qatar keep its seat warm in Geneva whilst it concentrated on trying to intimidate Syria by piling its forces up against her southern border.
Despite much hectoring from Hillary Clinton and co, the Geneva session failed to deliver the outcome desired by the warmongers, restricting itself to recommending that Syria seek by “mutual consent” to establish a “transitional government”. As a first step, all are urged to recommit to the ceasefire.
What exactly this recommendation intends in practice for the legitimate governing authority is not obvious. After all, Damascus has struggled throughout to maintain the ceasefire, whilst the rebellion has trampled all over it with increasing abandon. And as regards the possibility of a ‘transitional government’, that is indeed a matter exclusively for the ‘mutual consent’ of the Syrian people.
Some might consider that such consent was best expressed by the Syrian people themselves, unprompted by even the most august international gathering. That was rather the point of the February referendum on the constitution and the May parliamentary elections, after all. In any case, given that the gangsters of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ refuse point-blank to countenance any transition plan that does not include “buffer-zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters” – and of course the toppling of President Assad – the likelihood is that the world will never have the chance to find out what such a suggested political solution might have entailed.
The truth is that imperialism does not want peace, but is instead encouraging its armed flunkeys to keep stoking up civil war. It is clear that the Nato aggressors value the UN only when it can offer an appearance of legitimacy to the imperialist policy of Anschluss (annexation) and blitzkrieg.
Whatever we are to understand about the provenance of a ‘transitional government’, however, the real significance of the Geneva outcome is that yet another US effort to grab the diplomatic initiative from Russia and China has come to naught, further undermining Washington’s claims to be acting on behalf of the ‘international community’, weakening US prestige in the Arab world and making it harder to lash together a new ‘coalition of the willing’ from amongst its own imperialist rivals.
Whilst this does not mean the war will not happen, it does create the least auspicious conditions for imperialism to wage it successfully. Only days after Clinton’s intemperate intervention, Kofi Annan reported that he had held “very candid and constructive” talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, during which they had “agreed an approach” to end the violence, which he would now share this with rebel groups.
The BBC reported on 9 July that Annan “said criticism of the international community’s failure to negotiate a political solution had too often focused on Russia, which has opposed foreign intervention, noting that ‘Russia has influence, but I don’t think that events will be determined by Russia alone.’ ” It is Moscow’s weapons trade with Damascus, in breach of no UN sanction, which has drawn the exclusive ire of Washington, whilst Saudi Arabia and Qatar openly call for the arming and financing of the Free Syrian Army, Turkey offers a rear base for rebel troops on Syria’s border, and the US is on record as providing so-called ‘non-lethal’ aid like communications (to say nothing of all the clandestine support to rebels throughout).
Whilst carefully preserving the ‘even-handed’ distribution of blame between aggressors and victims, Annan’s conclusion that “All these countries say they want a peaceful solution, but they undertake individual and collective actions that undermine the very meaning of Security Council resolutions” is more than anything a humiliating slap in the face for Clinton, rubbing salt in America’s wounded pride.
Searching for a pretext
But with the crisis putting fire under Yankee feet, Washington cannot but persist in its search for a pretext to turn the covert war against Syria into an open military conflagration. The sick propaganda exercise mounted around the Houla massacre misfired badly when the imperialist explanation pinning blame on the government was rapidly exposed as a fraud, not only by independent investigators but also by such mainstream sources as Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
When this stunt failed to stampede the UN into compliance with US warmongering, Washington looked to its proxies to come up with a casus belli. Turkey stepped into the breach on 22 June, sending a spy plane into Syrian airspace to test her coastal defences and then squawking blue murder when those defences promptly shot it down. At first blush this looked like another golden opportunity to bounce the international community into open war.
The only problem is that Turkey’s own imaginative record of events – a Turkish plane callously shot down whilst passing peacefully through international airspace – was at once debunked by no less than the eminently respectable Wall Street Journal! Their journalists reported that “US intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based anti-aircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria’s account and at odds with Turkey. ”
Squarely contradicting the Turkish version, a senior US defence official is quoted as saying “We see no indication that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.” (‘Doubts cast on Turkey’s story of jet’ by Julian Barnes, Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson, 30 June 2012)
Despite Ankara’s repeated violation of Syrian borders, President Assad has continued to bend over backwards to defuse the tension, telling the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet that everything possible would be done to prevent the situation “turning into an armed conflict that would harm both countries”. He noted that it was Ankara’s decision to sever all military and diplomatic communications that had left Syria uncertain as to the origin or intentions of the straying plane, adding that “The plane used the corridor used by the Israeli planes three times in the past – we learned it was Turkish after we shot it down.”
Turkey ‘responded’ to its own stunt by deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns along its border with Syria, having doubtless been given the green light to do so by Washington. However embarrassing the failure to get their propaganda line straight, neither Washington nor Ankara will readily give up on a good excuse for the war they need. The same Wall Street Journal article cited US defence officials as saying they weren’t alarmed by the concentration of Turkish forces on the border, claiming this to be a “very measured” approach.
General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, smirked that “I’ve asked them, and they are not seeking to be provocative”! Behind this faux naïf posture it is clear that Washington knows exactly what Ankara is up to, since it is Washington that is really calling the shots, however much Ankara may try to kid itself that it can advance its own Ottoman aspirations by tucking in behind US war plans.
Nato predictably condemned Syria’s sensible act of self-defence – and threatened unspecified dire consequences should such actions recur. Meanwhile, Turkey’s prime minister blithely announced Ankara’s open willingness to attack targets within Syrian borders, declaring that “Every military element approaching Turkey from the Syrian border and representing a security risk and danger will be assessed as a military threat and will be treated as a military target.”
With FSA mercenaries regularly crossing the border to launch terrorist attacks, this is like a mugger telling his victim to keep his hands behind his back whilst punching him in the face.
Meanwhile, through all the tragic social consequences inflicted by imperialist meddling, the Syrian people continue to press on with the reforms initiated a year ago. Back in February, a national referendum on the proposed new constitution, endorsed by 90 percent of voters, established the ground rules for the ensuing parliamentary elections in May. In line with the reform process, the new constitution dropped an earlier reference to the socialist Ba’ath party as the “leader of the state and society” and opened the door to the formation of new parties, so long as these parties were not run from outside the country or based on a divisive religious or tribal basis.
This democratic challenge to the opposition, opening up a path of political reconciliation and reform to all who hold their homeland dear, was met with boycott and terror from the imperialist-backed rebels, who declined to test out their support among the 23 million Syrians, instead targeting parliamentary candidates for assassination whilst the imperialist media helped out by slandering both the referendum and the subsequent elections.
The election results demonstrated that support for the governing National Progressive Front (NPF) coalition, led by the three million-strong Ba’ath party and including within it two of Syria’s communist parties and eight other parties, remains solid, making it clear that the leadership status of the Ba’ath party in fact depends not upon a phrase in the constitution, but upon widespread popular support for a secular leadership that strives to overcome sectarian divisions and promote the unity and independence of the country.
Such an outcome is most unwelcome to the West, whose strategy depends upon its ability to plunge Syria into sectarian strife, setting one faith group against another to undermine national unity and clear the way for balkanisation.
The new parliament consists of 250 representatives from 16 different regions, and, making nonsense of claims that the elections were simply an exercise in rubber-stamping, only 41 delegates from the previous parliament actually got re-elected. Of the other 209 freshly-elected representatives, over 80 stood as independents. Furthermore, there is a guaranteed built-in majority of seats for workers and peasants (‘category A’) – a requirement that would go down like a lead balloon on either side of the British House of Commons.
Significant in particular were the gains made by the Communist Party of Syria led by Ammar Bakdash. The CPS(B) stood 30 candidates in 15 constituencies and got eight of them elected, three more than last time.
President Assad noted that through the elections the Syrian people were delivering “a serious message to everyone, both inside the country and abroad. The Syrian people were not scared by threats from terrorists who tried to thwart the election or to force us to call the election off. The results have shown that the Syrian people still support the course for reforms that we announced about a year ago, and that the majority support this system of statehood.”
It is the steadfastness of the Syrian masses and their leaders, coupled with the refusal of Russia and China to abet the West’s criminal intentions, and the growing reluctance of many of Washington’s own trade rivals to squander their own national blood and treasure in the service of Uncle Sam, that has so far prevented imperialism from inflicting upon the Syrians what it inflicted upon the Libyans.
It has never been more urgent for British workers to come out in solidarity with the beleaguered Syrian nation. We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves to denounce the torrent of lies which pours out of the mouths of bourgeois politicians and journalists day after day, and to call shame on those who call themselves anti-war activists yet join in with the hate campaign against President Assad and the country he leads.
Instead, we must stand with our brothers overseas and give all possible support to the Syrian people in their hour of peril. The destruction of independent Syria would be a cruel blow not only to the Syrian people, not only to the Arab nation, but to the whole of progressive humanity, and it must therefore be resisted with every means at our disposal.
Marx long ago proved that the interests of workers and capitalists are diametrically opposed to one another. If British imperialism gains strength and power from dominating territories, subduing populations and controlling raw materials and markets across the globe, it stands to reason that British workers’ ability to resist oppression by the same imperialists at home is weakened every time an opponent of imperialism is destroyed.
Communists and anti-imperialists must take this message clearly into the anti-war movement: wars waged by British capital are not in our interests, and imperialist crimes committed abroad are aimed at us too. It is long past time for British trade unions to adopt a position of collective non-cooperation with Britain’s criminal wars for profit. It is long past time for British workers to refuse to play any part in moving materials, making munitions, pointing guns, or broadcasting imperialism’s warmongering propaganda lies.
That is why we say:
No cooperation with war crimes!
Victory to Syria; victory to Assad!
Death to imperialism!