Syria: the inexorable escalation of imperialism’s criminal war

Each escalation spreads devastation, but will not bring imperialist victory in war to subjugate a sovereign people.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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As imperialism and its regional henchmen step up their support for the armed gangs seeking to topple the Syrian government, Syria continues to combine the most vigorous military defence of her sovereignty with unflagging adherence to the Geneva Agreement reached back in June last year, doing everything consistent with her own national independence to cleave to the path of diplomacy.

President Assad’s new year speech reinforced this principled stance, emphasising both the coalition government’s commitment to a political solution and its determination not to buckle under pressure from the West-backed terrorists – or, as the president pithily expressed it, “Everyone who comes to Syria knows Syria accepts advice, but doesn’t take dictation.”

Assad’s peace plan

Predictably, the president’s speech was greeted with howls of rage from the West. The headline chosen by Dow Jones Business News (‘Assad rejects peace efforts’) is typical of the tone taken right across the imperialist media.

Yet, just a few lines into the text, its own article concedes that, contrary to ‘rejecting peace efforts’, “The plan Mr Assad outlined on Sunday sounds, in principle, similar to the peace plan Mr Brahimi was pursuing to form a coalition government and move toward free parliamentary elections. The Geneva Agreement, named after a meeting of world powers last summer, makes no reference to what would happen to the president …” (7 January 2013)

It is plain to see that it is Washington, not Damascus, which heaps up obstacles to a national dialogue and political solution, both by escalating its proxy aggression against Syria and by attempting to impose the removal of the legitimate head of state as a precondition for dialogue. It is the West that takes every opportunity to subvert the peace process, cynically going through the motions of diplomacy whilst doing all within its power to drive the Syrian state into sectarian chaos.

Unfazed by threats or blandishments, the president used the occasion of his new year speech to set out his peace plan, consisting of a two-phase political process. The first phase would see the West and its regional stooges cutting off funds and weapons to the rebels, whilst the second phase would evolve a new government and a national conference bringing in those elements of the opposition that renounce the path of terror.

In making these proposals, entirely in line with the Geneva Agreement (championed by Moscow and sabotaged by Washington), the president left no doubt as to what a ‘transitional’ government could be – and what it must not be. Syrians had to decide for themselves what kind of ‘transition’ they truly wanted, without pressure from imperialism posing as “external help in political dialogue”.

“Transition from where to where, or from what to what?” he asked. “Are we going to go from a free, independent country, to one under occupation? One with a state to one in chaos?”

The president spelt out the reality of the struggle for self-determination faced by Syria. “We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word … What is sure is that most of those we are battling are jihadis holding the ideology of al-Qaeda … The battle, ladies and gentlemen, is between the nation and its enemies, between the citizen and his bread, between the security we all wish for, and fear.”

The wreckers were at work across Syria, cutting off power lines, communication, fuel pipes and bread supplies, he said. “They killed the intellectuals in order to inflict ignorance on us, they deprived children from school in order to bring the country backward.” And yet it was with these gangs that the government was being urged to hold talks! “Who should we negotiate with – terrorists? We will negotiate with their masters.”

And how did ‘their masters’ react to Assad’s courageous speech? Like scalded cats.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland ranted that the speech was “yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition”, and that Assad “has lost all legitimacy and must step aside to enable a political solution and a democratic transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people”. In such terms does imperialism express its impotent rage at its failure to crush the spirit of national resistance.

Meanwhile, Moscow is sticking doggedly to the letter and spirit of the Geneva Agreement, against the grain of all the West’s black propaganda. Boris Dolgov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, told the Voice of Russia that Mr Assad was correct to assert in his speech that the first step toward a resolution of the civil war must be the cessation of aid for armed rebel groups, adding that the current situation was “complex, but not a dead end”.

Dolgov pointed out that the speech reflected a new push by Russia and others to resolve the crisis. Crucially, Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed that, “As before, we firmly uphold the thesis that questions about Syria’s future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without interference from outside or the imposition of prepared recipes for development.”

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian diplomat who took over from Kofi Annan as ‘peace envoy’, is now buckling under the growing pressure from imperialism to waver from his professed adherence to the internationally-mandated Geneva Agreement, instead rowing in with the demand that the president must go before any political solution is possible.

In an interview with the BBC, Brahimi described the president’s speech as “sectarian”, later trying to suck it back and dismiss his unguarded comment as “a slip of the tongue”. Yet his reputation for neutrality was hardly improved when he followed this embarrassed apology with the bald assertion that Assad “surely … would not be a member” of a transitional government.

Further, the president’s disinclination to debate with terrorists at the point of a gun drew from Brahimi the remark that Assad had thereby “narrowed his initiative by excluding some parties”!

Not for nothing did Syria’s foreign ministry express surprise at the envoy’s remarks, noting that they showed him to be “flagrantly biased for those who are conspiring against Syria and its people”.

Syria endures

The president was not exaggerating when he described the scale of the suffering being inflicted on Syrians by the terrorist rebellion. Every day piles horror upon horror: one day a young boy is filmed by rebels as he helps to decapitate a middle-aged member of the Alawite community; another day, 87 people are bombed to death in the University of Aleppo.

These unspeakable crimes are not one-off atrocities inflicted by ‘rogue’ elements. On the contrary, they unfold against a permanent day-by-day existence of grinding misery imposed upon society by imperialism itself. Acute fuel shortages have delayed food deliveries and the price of a loaf of bread in Aleppo is now six times what it was before the war, with bakeries struggling to get fuel into their ovens.

The price of basic drugs has rocketed too, resulting in the death of people suffering from chronic illnesses that can easily be treated by medication. The World Health Organisation reports that insulin pens hitherto provided to 40,000 diabetic children have run out. Yet before the war Syria’s own pharmaceutical industry provided 90 percent of the drugs the country needed. Production has slumped by nearly two thirds, faced with the twin threats of imperialist sanctions on import of raw materials and armed gangs targeting factories for attack and looting.

On 27 December, the Guardian reported that rebels had taken over the warehouse of a big drugs company then sold the stock back to the owners, shipping all the drugs back into government-held territory. When challenged on this by a medic (himself working in a rebel field hospital and anxious to get hold of penicillin), the rebels threatened to break his legs. (‘Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war’, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad)

To such noble ‘revolutionaries’ as these is entrusted the task of spreading western democracy and the rule of law.

Thieves fall out

The article noted that “a new phase has been reached in the war. Looting has become a way of life,” as “‘spoils’ have now become the main drive for many units as battalion commanders seek to increase their power”.

In illustration of this ‘new phase’ in the war, the report told of the singularly unedifying end of one rat commander. “It wasn’t the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war. But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders.

Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days. Abu Jameel survived one assassination attempt when his car was fired on. A few days later his enemies attacked again, and this time they were successful. His bullet-riddled body was found, handcuffed, in an alley in the town of al-Bab.

Captain Hussam, of the Aleppo military council, said: ‘If he had died fighting I would say it was fine, he was a rebel and a mujahid and this is what he had set out to do. But to be killed because of a feud over loot is a disaster for the revolution.’

Meanwhile, as the warring bands of ‘revolutionaries’ fall upon each others’ throats in a premature scramble for war booty, none of the predictions about the imminent collapse of the Syrian army through sectarian division and defections has yet to materialise.

In an article posted on 17 December, Patrick Cockburn reported that “The western powers have long hoped for a split in the Syrian elite, but so far there is little sign of this happening. ‘If you take defections as a measure of political cohesion, then there haven’t been any serious ones,’ said a diplomat in Damascus …

The best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive. They say that the rebel territorial advances, which fuelled speculation abroad that the Syrian government might implode, are partly explained by a new Syrian army strategy to pull back from indefensible outposts and bases and concentrate troops in cities and towns.

At times, Damascus resounds with the boom of artillery fire and the occasional car bomb, but it is not besieged.” (‘What is really happening in Syria: descent into holy war’, Counterpunch)

Imperialism waits on tenterhooks for its proxy forces to make a decisive breakthrough in the struggle to overthrow the country’s president and its constitution, but waits in vain.

Neither the punitive expeditions against cities like Aleppo which have refused to join the rebellion, nor the attempt to commandeer Yarmouk refugee camp as a base from which to strike at Damascus, nor the deranged efforts to demoralise the Syrian population with car bombs in city centres, nor sporadic incursions into this or that military facility – none of these bloodthirsty exploits get anywhere close to substantiating the hollow claim routinely parroted by western media that the rebels “hold vast swathes of the north and east of the country”.

On the contrary, both the rebels and their masters know that the only hope for the progress of their phony ‘revolution’ lies in the escalating supply by imperialism and its regional allies of weapons, intelligence, base areas (‘refugee camps’), free-fire (‘no-fly’) zones, Patriot missiles, drones – and boots on the ground.

That last requirement is the most worrying for Washington and London. After Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the West is understandably cautious about sending imperialist troops into yet another demoralising and unwinnable war, which is why the job was contracted out to the joke ‘Free Syrian Army’ and its jihadist outriders.

A salutary glimpse into the shambolic reality of the rebellion was offered in Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s Guardian piece cited earlier, where he revealed that:

Fighting units often exist only because of their sponsors. If a sponsor loses interest a battalion is dissolved and the men join another, better-funded battalion. Battalions are often named after historical Arab or Ottoman figures in order to help lure money from the Gulf kingdoms or from Turkey … many had switched battalions since their last meeting in the endless game of musical chairs of the Syrian revolution.

Abdul-Ahad noted that the so-called ‘military council of Aleppo’ was intended to be “the overarching command structure for the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. Instead, it soon became one more faction among many competing for influence.

The chair of the council told his fellow rats that “The battle has stagnated here, there has been no real progress on the fronts and that has affected our sponsors, who haven’t been sending us ammunition. Even the people are fed up with us. We were liberators, but now they denounce us and demonstrate against us.”

Another rebel chipped in with the observation that the “problem is not with the people. The problem is us!

“We have battalions sitting in liberated areas who man checkpoints and detain people. They say this person is a shabiha [a government militiaman] and take his car, or that man was a Ba’athist, take his house. They have become worse than the regime. Tell me why those men are in the city, in liberated areas, why are they not fighting at the front line?”

The headache for imperialism is aggravated by the fact that the squabbling between the rival bands of looters and sectarians is faithfully mirrored in the vicious infighting going on at the political puppet level, where the ‘new, improved’ Syrian Opposition Coalition is showing itself to be as divided within itself as it is from the fighters on the ground, making a mockery of Obama’s claim that the new body is “reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime”.

Deeper into the swamp

Yet for all the difficulties and dangers confronting imperialism if it presses on with the war, Washington’s belligerence shows no sign of being muted, such is the sharpness of the overproduction crisis that is driving on US hegemonic ambitions. November’s ‘chemical weapons’ damp squib has been succeeded by January’s ‘missing uranium’ scare, which will doubtless have been succeeded by some other manufactured pretext for war by the time this journal lands on your doormat.

Meanwhile, it is the axis of resistance to imperialism formed by such countries as Syria, Iran and the DPRK, bolstered by the stubborn fidelity to international law of Russia and China, that alone stand against the drive to a world war of incalculable dimensions.

For all who would stand for peace, the message is clear: join the axis of resistance, stand against the war propaganda of our imperialist rulers, and stand with Syria in her hour of peril.

Refuse to cooperate with the mugging of a sovereign nation in broad daylight!

Victory to President Assad, the Syrian army and the Syrian people!

Join the axis of resistance!

:: Imperialists threaten all-out war against Syria , Proletarian issue 51 (December2012)

:: Defend Syria and Iran … Join the axis of resistance , Leaflet (November 2012)

:: SYRIA: Imperialism sinks deeper into the swamp , Lalkar January 2013

:: Defend Syria , You Tube October 2012