Throughout March and April, the Syrian government, assisted by its Russian and Iranian allies, has been slowly retaking eastern Ghouta, a large area on the outskirts of Damascus comprising several towns, as well as farmland, that was captured by jihadis five years ago and was being used as a base for lobbing missiles (from a massive stockpile supplied by the US and Saudi Arabia) into central Damascus, causing much loss of life, huge material damage, and many injuries to innocent civilians.
It had been hoped that the missiles would run out and it would be possible to drive the jihadis out by besieging the area peacefully, but after five years there appeared to be no end in sight, and in the meantime the 400,000 innocent civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta, prevented by the jihadis from leaving, were suffering every kind of deprivation, lacking food, drinking water, medicine, education and more.
To bring this dire situation to an end, the Syrian government, assisted by its Russian and Iranian allies, mounted an assault on the area, targeting jihadi strongholds with bombs. After the Syrian forces had made important advances, arrangements were made to guarantee safe evacuation of the remaining jihadi strongholds, and, more or less reluctantly, some 14,000 fighters were persuaded rather than face annihilation to leave peacefully, having deactivated their booby traps and landmines, as well as handed over most of their weapons, and were taken by bus to Idlib province, which is still under jihadi occupation.
Finally, on 12 April 2018, the Syrian government was able to announce that Douma, the jihadis’ last stronghold in eastern Ghouta, had been fully liberated, an announcement that led to delighted dancing in the streets and the joyful waving of Syrian two-star flags by the area’s remaining residents.
Nato assault on Damascus foiled
The inevitability of the Syrian government’s victory, following the liberation of Aleppo and numerous other areas since then, has not been at all pleasant for imperialism to contemplate. It has, while notionally committed to fighting Islamic State (aka Isis, which had briefly broken ranks and started attacking other jihadis in preference to their ‘proper’ target: ie, the democratically elected Syrian government), been arming and financing the jihadis at great expense with a view to toppling the Syrian government, which, along with Iran, has been standing in the way of the expansion of US imperialist domination of the middle east.
Moreover, now that eastern Ghouta has finally been cleared of terrorists, it turns out that Nato troops, including British troops, had surreptitiously been stationed in the area in preparation for an assault on Damascus. This assault was, in the event, frustrated when the Syrian government succeeded in liberating the area within only a few weeks from starting its offensive.
“According to a report by Al-Mayadeen news channel cited by Fars news, a number of British troops have been captured during the Syrian Arab Army’s operations in eastern Ghouta.
“They are believed to be a part of international military forces deployed in the region to launch a ground assault in Damascus in cooperation with the US. According to the report, the US and other Nato countries, Jordan and Israel planned to launch attacks from several fronts, but the plot failed as Syrian armed forces made a series of rapid advances in eastern Ghouta in March.
“The plot allegedly involved massive airstrikes by US and Israeli planes that were supposed to pave the way for ground forces …
“Since the plot failed due to rapid advances by the Syrian army, the US cancelled all operations planned for these foreign forces and ordered an immediate withdrawal from eastern Ghouta through the eastern suburbs of Damascus, including Douma.
“The US and Turkey sought to rescue foreign ‘militants and agents operating for Israel, Jordan and Nato’, now trapped in Ghouta, and move them to Idlib, the source says.
“The Turkish initiative to help with the evacuation of al-Nusra Front terrorists from Ghouta has reportedly been a cover-up for ‘special foreign forces that were among the ranks of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated’ Nusra Front terror organisation.
“‘Therefore, the US has ordered Jaysh al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and other terrorist groups to allow the evacuation of civilians from eastern Ghouta to army-held regions in a bid to provide the ground for these foreign agents to also leave Ghouta in disguise, and enable the Turkish intelligence service to send them to specified regions in At-Tanf and northern Syria which are under the control of US troops,’ the source said.” (Syrian army captures British militants in eastern Ghouta – reports, Sputnik, 12 April 2018)
It would seem, however, that somebody forgot to tell the British troops, who remained in eastern Ghouta to be captured and thus give the whole game away.
False flags and war propaganda
It was therefore in the context of the impending frustration of their carefully laid and prepared plans that the imperialists, along with their Israeli sidekicks, sought to rescue the situation by resorting as soon as possible to a massive bombing campaign along the lines Hillary Clinton had envisaged initiating had she become president.
To gain public support, or at least apathy, in the face of such an intended egregious act of aggression against a sovereign state and its Russian ally that was genuinely fighting jihadi terrorism (to which imperialism always claimed to be opposed), resort was yet again made to the fabrication of supposed Syrian and Russian attacks on civilians with poison gas.
This time, President Assad’s supposed chemical weapons were supplemented by Russia’s supposed ‘novichoks’, unleashed on unsuspecting civilians in sleepy Salisbury – giving rise to a wave of unparalleled media hysteria, even though, as it turned out, only three people were affected by this supposedly super highly toxic nerve agent – none of whom has died. The policeman supposedly affected has dropped out of the news altogether, for reasons unexplained.
In any event, the lies told by the bourgeois political representatives and media were so glaring, so unsupported by evidence and so self-contradictory, that their main effect may well be to increase growing public cynicism towards any propaganda emanating from these quarters.
In the meantime, the White Helmets have helpfully been supplying pictures of children supposedly gassed in Douma being doused with water, presumably to counter the effects of the ‘poisoning’ – but curiously those who are doing the dousing are wearing no protective clothing or masks, and the children in question are looking no more distressed than would be expected when buckets of cold water are poured over them against their will.
Russian experts were rushed to the scene to ascertain whether there had in fact been a gas attack and, if there had been, who had been responsible, but were unable to find any trace of one: “The general staff of the Russian armed forces revealed the results of analysis of Syrian Douma soil taken immediately after the alleged chemical attack.
“‘I want to emphasise that on 9 April, a day after the alleged chemical attack in the Douma, Russian military specialists in the field of radiation, chemical and biological defense, as well as military doctors, arrived directly to the site of the alleged incident,’ first deputy head of the main operations directorate of the general staff, Lt Gen Viktor Poznihir said.
“He noted that the experts ‘took soil samples, collected fragments from the so-called place of the alleged chemical weapons attack’, stressing that their expertise ‘showed the absence of nerve agents and chlorine-containing poisonous substances’.
“‘As a result of the examination of the territory, the visit to the medical facility shown on the set of the White Helmets, and the interview of medical staff and patients, neither facts of the use of poisonous substances nor injured among the inhabitants of this city were detected,’ he stressed …
“However, he recalled the Russian military reports on the possible chemical attack by militants in the area, speaking about a militant workshop for the production of explosive items with poisonous substances that has been found in the Syrian town of Hazram at the beginning of March, according to armed forces of the Russian Federation general staff.
“‘One such example … was the discovery on 3 March of one of the underground tunnels in the town of Hazram, which turned out to be a militant workshop for the backyard production of explosives with poisonous substances,’ he said.” (Soil analysis in Douma didn’t reveal any poisonous substances – Russian MoD, Sputnik, 11 April 2018)
The Red Crescent confirmed that there was no such attack, announcing that it had not received any reports of such an incident, and Ammar al-Assad, a member of the Syrian parliament, pointed out that all chemical arms factories which had recently been exposed in Syria belonged to terrorists, while the Syrian government destroyed all its chemical weapons stockpiles several years ago under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Nevertheless, despite the fullblown priming of the propaganda machine, the threatened imperialist military strike has not happened.
Israel did launch one of its missile strikes against Syria early in the morning of 9 April, but Syrian air defence units managed to destroy five out of eight missiles fired by the Israeli fighter jets. Three missiles reached the western part of the airfield, resulting in the death of 14 people, including 7 Iranian soldiers.
Despite the damage, Syria was able to demonstrate in the most telling way that any military attack by imperialist forces and their allies would not be carried out with impunity – quite unlike the attacks on Libya in 2011, which was defenceless as a result of the ‘no-fly zone’ imposed on it at the time.
Nor will the saner heads in Washington have forgotten President Putin’s words in his State of the Nation address on 1 March: “President Vladimir V Putin of Russia threatened the west with a new generation of nuclear weapons … including what he described as an ‘invincible’ intercontinental cruise missile and a nuclear torpedo that could outsmart all American defences.
“The presentation by Mr Putin, which included animation videos depicting multiple warheads aimed at Florida, where President Trump often stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort, sharply escalated the military invective in the tense relationship between the United States and Russia, which has led to predictions of a costly new nuclear arms race.
“While Mr Putin may have been bluffing about these weapons, as some experts suggested, he cleverly focused on a vulnerability of American-designed defences: they are based on the assumption that enemy nuclear missiles fly high and can be destroyed well before they reach their targets.
“The new class of Russian weapons, he said, travel low, stealthily, far and fast — too fast for defenders to react.” (Putin’s ‘invincible’ missile is aimed at US vulnerabilities by Neil Macfarquhar and David E Sanger, New York Times, 1 March 2018)
Only this can explain the fact that, despite White House tweets on 11 April threatening “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!, so far – as at 13 April – nothing has transpired, even though a deadline announced by Trump has come and gone.
“When asked if military action was a possibility, Trump said: ‘Nothing is off the table … If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out, and we’ll know the answers quite soon. So we’re looking at that very, very strongly.’
“Trump, who has consulted his British and French allies, announced: ‘We will be making some major decisions in the next 24 to 48 hours.’” (Trump to decide on US response to Syria gas attack ‘within 48 hours’ by Patrick Wintour, Pippa Crerar and Julian Borger, The Guardian, 9 April 2018)
As the deadline passed, the relief felt even in bourgeois circles was palpable. And once again Trump did a 180-degree turn: “The White House said late Thursday afternoon that a ‘final decision’ had not been made on Syria.
“Donald Trump said earlier in the day that Americans won’t have to wait long for a response to Saturday’s horrifying chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that left at least 40 dead and others gasping for air.
“But at least two of his top advisers couldn’t agree on whether there’s sufficient proof to blame the atrocity on dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government, leaving the possibility of a retaliatory attack an open-ended question.” (White House says there is NO decision on revenge strikes on Syria after Trump holds talks with top advisers – despite his tweet that missiles ‘will be coming’ by David Martosko and Julian Robinson, Mail Online, 12 April 2018)
There have also been exculpatory assertions that the bombing had to be delayed because Trump had forewarned the Syrian government with his ill-considered tweets.
Anyway, one way or another the military onslaught and confrontation between US imperialism and Russia, effectively risking the start of World War 3, has not – to date – happened, although there are various entities at work trying to establish that there was a chlorine gas attack after all, although the Russians had found no trace of it, and we cannot therefore assume that the world is yet out of the woods.
Mobilise to oppose the warmongers
The working class, in the imperialist countries especially, is duty bound to expose imperialist warmongering and oppose its dangerous war provocations.
Imperialist governments feel emboldened to act in this reckless way only because the working-class movement is weak and has left its anti-war activities to pro-imperialist outfits such as the Stop The War Coalition (StW). (See, for example, Why hasn’t Stop the War stopped a war yet?, CPGB-ML leaflet, February 2018)
Here is an example of the service that this supposedly anti-war organisation renders to imperialism, echoing its propaganda while apparently opposing direct imperialist intervention: “Stop the War condemns the bombing attacks on the people of Douma in Syria [why? Is a country to be denied the right to fight terrorism in whatever manner happens to be the most effective so as to restore the peace and security of its citizens?], including alleged chemical attacks [the ‘alleged’ chemical attacks are nevertheless condemned, and the Syrian government is stated to be responsible for them].
“Yet again, the main victims of this war are the ordinary people of Syria, who have now suffered seven years of war which has left many dead, and many more refugees [Stop the War, crying crocodile tears, pretends to care far more about the lives of Syrian civilians than do the popular and patriotic (‘regime’) forces that are fighting to rescue them from imperialist-backed invaders].
“The attack must not be used to justify more military intervention. We condemn all outside military intervention including that of Russia and Iran [intervention that was made at the request and in support of the democratically elected government is here being put on a par with the aggression of imperialism]. But equally we condemn that of our own government and its allies [the illegitimate aggressors are condemned after the legitimate defenders!] Already Donald Trump has promised retaliation and there has been a missile attack on a Syrian airfield, most likely by Israel. France and Britain are likely to support further such action.”
Such thinly-veiled support for imperialist propaganda is not anti-war work. It is not even the position of a principled organisation of pacifists. Instead, and true to form, Stop the War’s statement makes it clear that it is not the aims (regime change) of British imperialism that it objects to, but merely the tactics (open military invasion).
The fact is that in Britain it is the CPGB-ML alone that represents a real anti-imperialist and anti-war stance, and which therefore truly represents the interests of the working class.
There will be no peace in the world until imperialism is overthrown. An anti-war movement must thus be linked with the struggle of the working class against imperialism. This, and this alone, is the message that must permeate the working class and guide the activities of those seeking to represent it.
If imperialism were to wage a war against Russia or China, it would be the duty of the proletariat to side with the victims of such a war and work for the defeat of their own imperialist masters, using the war to prepare for proletarian revolution that will rid us of this warmongering, parasitic ruling class for good.
In the meantime, the slogans of a real anti-war movement must be:
No cooperation with imperialist war; victory to the resistance!