The relief of Qusayr by Syrian national forces, following on from the restoration of full sovereignty in the Damascus suburbs, Aleppo and other parts of the country where the security of the citizens could not previously be guaranteed, has caused a rude awakening amongst those in the West who only yesterday were bragging openly about their plans to get guns directly into rebel hands and dictate Syria’s future.
Every day brings fresh successes in the long and painstaking campaign to mop up the remaining bands of terrorists. Reporting on the progress being made in clearing fundamentalist takfiri militants out of outlying districts of Damascus, Iran’s Press TV noted in mid-July that the army was steadily advancing in the suburbs of al-Qabun and Jobar, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy and confiscating their weapons. The weapons haul included chlorine and other chemical agents labelled “Made in Saudi Arabia”.
Elsewhere in Syria, the pattern is the same: steady advance by the army and disintegration of rebel forces.
And as we go to press, the news has come in that hundreds of the Syrian ‘rebels’ are now drifting back to the government side:
“Disillusioned by the islamist twist that the ‘revolution’ in Syria has taken, exhausted after more than two years of conflict and feeling that they are losing, growing numbers of rebels are signing up to a negotiated amnesty offered by the Assad regime.
“At the same time, the families of retreating fighters have begun quietly moving back to government-controlled territory, seeing it as a safer place to live as the regime continues its intense military push against rebel-held areas.
“The move is a sign of the growing confidence of the regime, which has established a so-called ‘ministry of reconciliation’ with the task of easing the way for former opponents to return to the government side.” (‘Syria: disillusioned rebels drift back to take Assad amnesty’ by Ruth Sherlock, Daily Telegraph, 24 July 2013)
David Cameron, taking advice from those in the British military best qualified to judge the solid performance of their opposite numbers in the Syrian army and the breadth of popular support commanded by the patriotic forces, has climbed down from the government’s earlier bluster.
Acknowledging that sending a few more arms and missiles is not going to crack it for the beleaguered rebels, Cameron is now pouring cold water on the whole idea. As for talk of imposing a ‘no-fly’ zone, the word from British army chiefs is that this would be vigorously countered by Syria’s air defences (now beefed up by advanced missiles purchased from Russia) and by her forces on the ground.
However, it seems that someone forgot to brief Britain’s pipsqueak foreign secretary over this prime-ministerial change of heart, with Hague blithely informing a committee of MPs that Britain has not ruled out running guns to the rebels – thus confirming for anyone still in doubt the panic and confusion prevailing within ruling circles.
The White House too appears to be retreating from its earlier announcement that it planned to send arms direct to the rebels. According to the New York Times: “the administration’s plans are far more limited than it has indicated … the administration’s plans to use the CIA to covertly train and arm the rebels could take months to have any impact on a chaotic battlefield …
“The plans call for the CIA to supply only small arms, and to only a limited segment of the opposition … much of the training, which is to take place over months in Jordan and Turkey, has not yet started, partly because of congressional objections …
“The cautious approach reflects the continued ambivalence and internal divisions of an administration that still has little appetite for intervention in Syria.”
Contrary opinions emanating from the state department again underline the stresses and strains making themselves felt in the highest ruling circles. A Democrat senator on the Armed Services Committee expressed the unpalatable reality in a nutshell, observing between clenched teeth that “One of the biggest impediments has been the cohesion and the organisation of the opposition relative to the Assad forces.”
In other words, the armed opposition has splintered into a thousand pieces, whilst the Syrian army, despite unprecedented efforts to bribe soldiers to desert and to undermine unity and discipline by stoking up sectarian differences, has emerged from two years of hell with better ‘cohesion and organisation’ than ever. (‘No quick impact in US arms plan for Syria rebels’ by Mark Mazzetti, 14 July 2013)
National steadfastness faces down a demoralised rebellion
And this cohesion within the armed ranks is mirrored too in the spirit of national defiance which predominates in the population at large – a phenomenon to which President Assad drew attention in a recent interview.
“Day-to-day life continues, albeit with greater challenges. The economy is still functioning, despite severe difficulties that nobody expected us to withstand. Personal safety is a big issue, but workers, employees and business people still go to work.
“The Syrian people have proven that they have enormous energy and resilience. After explosions, once the casualties have been evacuated and the debris cleared, daily life continues. We haven’t seen this in Syria before and we didn’t know this about ourselves.
“People go to work despite the risks of terrorist attacks, suicide bombings or mortar shelling. They go to work and about their daily business with a strong belief in fate and therefore never fall into a state of despair.”(‘Bashar al-Assad interview’, globalresearch.ca, 6 July 2013)
On the other hand, despair and mutual recrimination are becoming universal in the rebel ranks, starved as they are of popular support and facing imminent defeat. Some rival gangs based in Turkey have even started kidnapping each other’s members in order to raise money to buy more guns.
In June, dozens of militants were killed and wounded as violent infighting broke out between several takfiri groups in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib. Then, to put the icing on the cake, a spokesman for the joke ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) revealed on 11 July that a splinter takfiri group had killed FSA senior commander Kamal Hamami, following a meeting with him to discuss battle plans in the Syrian port city of Latakia.
This new opposition strategy of mutual annihilation is much to be welcomed.
As for the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC), its members’ failure to unite even temporarily around a single leadership and its refusal to commit to the proposed peace conference in Geneva have reduced this band of quislings to a universal laughing stock and an embarrassment to their imperialist patrons.
The Arab League, having earlier handed Syria’s seat at Doha to the opposition, hurriedly sucked the offer back in May, with League chief Nabil el-’Arabi stating that Syria’s seat was still empty and the opposition had no right to attend League meetings.
And, in a further indication that Washington’s efforts to control the diplomatic process and ban Iran from participating in the proposed peace conference are meeting opposition, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan took the opportunity of a visit to Russia to declare: “I hope that the Geneva conference will be convened as soon as possible. Iran must be one of the decision makers.” (‘Iran must participate in Geneva-2 conference on Syria: Annan’, presstv.ir, 15 July 2013)
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t
Given all these considerations, it is tempting to conclude that the West must now renounce its regime-change aspirations in Syria and take a step back from war. Yet, however convincingly it is argued that imperialism will be damned if it presses on with war, no less convincing arguments continue to pile up to prove just how damned imperialism will be if it holds back from war.
In short, it’s a case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’. As the overproduction crisis rages on, it becomes ever more urgent for US monopoly capitalism to reinforce and extend its stranglehold on all markets at the expense of the rest of the world – by any means necessary.
It is in this light that one should evaluate the role of Israel in the Syrian proxy war. The zionists have been no less energetic than their Arab counterparts in Qatar and Saudi Arabia in working behind the scenes to help the rebellion. For example, religious differences melted away in Algeria when it was a question of Mossad supervising the activities of salafi groups tasked with recruiting young men to join death squads in Syria.
Some of Israel’s activities have been a lot more public and visible, however, including a series of air attacks in 2013. In January, an air strike hit a convoy of Russian-made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles. In May, there were two strikes against a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles from Iran. Then, on 5 July, Israel used a Turkish military base to launch an airstrike against a weapons depot in Latakia, near the port of Tartus, possibly targeting components of Russia’s SA-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
This latest zionist aggression in the Middle East – goose-stepping forward at a moment when the rest of imperialism appears to be faltering – may seem to be proof that it is the zionist tail that wags the Yankee dog. Yet, however much nervousness Tel Aviv causes amongst its more cautious patrons, the fact remains that everything it does is fundamentally driven by the need to further the interests of US domination.
If sparks from zionist aggression should chance to ignite the powder keg around which the ‘international community’ is so cautiously circling, this will not prove that the ‘tail wags the dog’. Rather, it will simply prove that you cannot teach the rabid old imperialist dog new tricks.
It is the contradictions within imperialism itself, and not merely its mad zionist variant, that necessitate war. So long as monopoly capitalism drags out its parasitic existence, there can be no peace in the world, with or without Israel.
“The fall of political Islam”
Those in ruling circles who urge caution over Syria are also acutely aware of the way in which every new warmongering adventure threatens to further destabilise the whole region, undermining the very imperialist supremacy that war was intended to shore up.
In his recent interview, President Assad noted that “What is happening in Egypt is essentially the fall of political Islam; the type of governing system which the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to advocate regionally.” This astute observation directs attention to the manner in which the proxy war against Syria is increasingly destabilising those governments upon which the West relies to keep the Middle East under imperialist control.
Neither the masses of Egypt nor the masses of Turkey are willing to see their respective countries bamboozled into supporting the terrorist subversion of Syria, on an agenda subjectively clothed in obscurantist religion but objectively serving the interests of imperialism. Morsi has already learned this the hard way; Erdogan may not lag so far behind.