SYRIA: Imperialism nerving itself up for war?

Maddened by the crisis of its own system, imperialism now appears to be nerving itself up for open military intervention in support of the armed rebellion against the legitimate government of Syria. For weeks the armed rebellion paid lip service to the ceasefire brokered by Kofi Annan, only to trample all over it in practice. Now, doubtless with the encouragement of Hillary Clinton, William Hague and the rest of the pack, the terrorists have openly declared their contempt for the ceasefire, intensifying their attacks upon the security forces and cranking up this manufactured “civil war” to such a point that at time of writing the UN monitors have now retreated to their headquarters in Syria.

With even ranker hypocrisy than in the 1930s when the western “democracies” turned a blind eye to the support the Franco rebellion in Spain was receiving from Berlin and Rome, preferring to take Moscow to task for daring to come to the assistance of the beleaguered republic, the US, Britain and France are actively conspiring with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the supply of arms, equipment and safe havens to the rebellion – whilst simultaneously complaining that Russia is sinning against non-intervention because she declines to abrogate her contractual trading obligations with Syria.

How did we get here?

The rebellion, initially portrayed by the West as another instalment of the “Arab Spring”, has long since emerged in its true colours as a West-backed armed sectarian insurrection against the progressive and secular coalition government under President Assad, threatening to undermine the unity, independence and anti-imperialist traditions of the Syrian people. For long the West has preferred to do its dirty work with the aid of proxies, struggling to maintain the fiction that whatever Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey might do in the way of running guns and giving succour to the rebels was entirely off their own bat. Evidence of more direct US, British and French involvement surfaced momentarily, only to be driven off the front pages and banished to the blogosphere.

But the plan to demonise Assad, cheer on the rebels from the sidelines, stifle the country with sanctions and wait for the nation to crumble did not work out. The refusal of both Russia and China to sign up to sanctions at the UN Security Council has proved insurmountable, and the terror campaign, whilst producing ever-grislier results from large-scale bombs in major population centres in Damascus and elsewhere, has failed to cow Syria into submission. If anything the Syrian people, including many of those urging political reform, became more united and obstinate in their refusal to accept the annihilation of their national leadership at the behest of Hillary Clinton. A referendum in February on constitutional reform drew a massive vote of confidence, to be followed on 7 May by elections which resoundingly endorsed the direction the leadership was taking. The decision of the opposition to boycott this democratic process served only to underline their failure to command the support of the vast masses of the Syrian people, no less than three million of whom are members of the socialist Ba’ath party.

The Annan Plan: Uncle Sam loses the diplomatic initiative

Still worse for imperialism, with its efforts to railroad sanctions and military threats through the UN Security Council running into a brick wall, Russia stepped forward with its own suggestions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, beginning with a ceasefire and negotiations, an approach which was endorsed by China. This powerful diplomatic initiative, a slap in the face for US hegemonic ambitions, lay behind what became known officially as the “Annan Plan”, and was most unwelcome to the White House and its lackeys. The prospect of civil peace breaking out, Syria retaining her sovereign independence and America losing its much-treasured pretext for demolishing this obstacle to unfettered US power in the Middle East was like holy water to the devil. Whilst paying grudging lip service to the UN peace effort, no effort was spared to talk it down and sabotage it. Even before the ceasefire, Turkey was describing the Annan Plan as “void” and never a day has passed since without some senior imperialist leader announcing the Plan’s untimely demise, giving the wink to the insurgency to snap their fingers at the ceasefire.

China’s People’s Daily did not mince its words, commenting that “International society, instead of losing confidence and patience, should support Annan’s peace plan and not propagate ‘Annan’s plan is dead’ around the world out of ulterior motives.” Annan himself, whilst “even-handedly” assigning the lion’s share of blame to Syria’s legitimate security forces, nevertheless felt compelled also to criticize the rebels for declaring that they saw “no reason to observe a cease-fire”, on those specious grounds intensifying their attacks.

The fact is that, were it not for the steadfastness of the Syrian people, the obstacles placed in America’s path by China and Russia, the miring of US power in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the abyss opening under the US economy, the UN would long since have abandoned its “even-handed” approach and rolled over to accommodate the much simpler US plan: starve the country with sanctions and devastate it with war.

Frustrated at the difficulties the warmongers are having in selling war with Syria to the world, some dream of cutting the Gordian knot with some clever form of words at the UN. A UK think-tank called the Henry Jackson Society has devised a wheeze to circumvent the Russian and Chinese veto on the Security Council based on what happened in 1950. At that time Washington needed to get the UN on side in support of its aggression against Korea, but was initially thwarted in this because the Soviet Union was boycotting the UN in protest at its refusal to admit newly liberated socialist China. This obstacle was circumvented by the passage of the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution, clearing the way for the genocidal war against the Korean people to wrap itself in the banner of UN “peacekeeping”. So why not do it all again now over Syria, ask the think-tankers.

But a lot can happen in sixty years, and floating a rebranded “Uniting for Peace” resolution or suchlike is not going to put China back out in the cold, restore the USA to its earlier eminence or turn a catastrophic overproduction crisis into a post-war economic boom. The contrast is stark. Back in 1950, China was barred entry to the UN. In June 2012, China’s UN representative Li Baodong was speaking as that month’s President of the Security Council when he alerted delegates against those who sought to undermine peace efforts and urged the international community to give Annan “unswerving support”. As the US delegation squirmed, he rubbed the point home, saying “We do not want to see lip service, half-measure actions.”

The UN may yet get bounced into countersigning a military adventure, thanks to orchestrated provocations like the one around the May massacre in Houla being unleashed prior to each key decision. And it will not be setting a precedent for Washington to act through NATO or some other more willing coalition of scoundrels. Whilst German’s foreign minister stresses that “the central point is that all action that is taken can only be taken within the framework of the United Nations”, France’s new “socialist” (i.e. social democratic) president is eager to prove his imperialist loyalty by calling for military intervention against Syria. If the need for war imposes itself upon imperialism with sufficient urgency, then matters will proceed with or without the UN.

But the difficulties the US is encountering in getting the “international community” to agree on a common war policy is an uncomfortable reminder for Washington of the objective conditions under which it must now operate: a rising tide of anti-imperialist resistance, the sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions and the relentless advance of the world capitalist crisis.

The Houla provocation

The hullaballoo raised around the bloodshed in Houla suggests that imperialism is now nerving itself up for direct military intervention, lying through its teeth in the effort to bounce public opinion into a warmongering frame of mind.

President Assad condemned the Houla massacre as the work of terrorists, remarking that “even monsters don’t carry out such acts” and at once authorised an investigation into this crime. Needless to say, the capitalist media almost to a man pinned the blame upon the government in Damascus, presenting the killings as the work of the Syrian army and “pro-government militias”. Now that the two biggest Arab satellite channels, Arabsat and Nilesat, have folded under Arab League pressure and now refuse to relay Syrian TV, it is hard even for Syria’s near neighbours to hear what is really going on.

Yet when it came to swallowing the official line on Houla, even some of the Western media blinked. The German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, reported that in Houla, 90% of whose population are Sunni, the victims “were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities… Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator.” The German paper goes in to report allegations that those responsible for the slaughter filmed their victims and posted the footage on the internet – identified as victims of the government! The trigger for the massacre was a rebel assault on army checkpoints which resulted in many losses on both sides, and eye-witnesses told the paper that it was during the prolonged fire fight that the murderous attack on the minority Shia began. This account tallies with the account given by the government’s own investigation which speaks of a six or eight hundred strong rebel attack on an army checkpoint.

More detail on the events in Houla was provided by Marat Musin, an independent Russian journalist whose interviews with local eye-witnesses conflicted fundamentally with the West’s preferred story. Through a series of painstaking interviews Musin was able to give a graphic account of the horrors that unfolded on May 9th. ” When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the centre of town and located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the families loyal to the authorities in neighbouring houses, including the elderly, women and children… The people were killed with knives and shot at point blank range. Then they presented the murdered to the UN and the international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army, something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies.”

Thomson: “Dead journos are bad for Damascus

If this seems far-fetched, consider the near-death experience of the chief correspondent for Channel Four News, Alex Thomson, who went to Syria to conduct interviews with both patriots and terrorists. Unusually for a western journalist, Thomson had not sneaked over a border or arrived embedded with rebel forces. Instead he had taken the less cloak and dagger approach of applying for and securing a permit from the relevant authority, a course of action which perhaps singled him out for special attention by the West-backed terrorists. He told his story on the Channel Four website. “Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind. We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man’s land.” Seeing how things were panning out, Thomson and his colleagues beat a hasty retreat getting back to their starting point just in time to see the disappointed terrorists flee. His conclusion was unequivocal: ” I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.

Thomson is exceptional only in the sense that he lived to tell the tale, and was able to tell it to a mass audience on a major news website. Many hundreds of Syrians have already perished in a conflict into which imperialism has lured them, just as surely as Thomson was lured into a killing zone by pro-West provocateurs. Workers do not have the luxury of waiting until investigative journalism has nailed every establishment lie before deciding to link arms with those whom imperialist aggression has thrust into the front line, as is the case with the people and government of Syria right now.

Time to take the side of anti-imperialism

It is hard to overestimate the consequences should imperialism try to inflict upon the Syrians the horrors it visited upon the Libyans. The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that a military intervention in Syria could quickly escalate and lead to the employment of nuclear weapons. Russia and China both well understand that the dagger which today points at Damascus will next point to Teheran and eventually if left unchallenged will point directly at them. President Putin has repeatedly warned that Washington’s plans to build new missile defences in Europe amount to the beginning of a new arms race to which Russia cannot but respond, and Obama’s high profile commitment to increase the US presence in the South Pacific has not passed unnoticed in Beijing. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping recently noted that both China and Russia oppose “neo-interventionism” in Syria and elsewhere, pointing out that “You can’t say that because you dislike a country’s system, you can then think of ways to overturn its government”. The People’s Daily was succinct: “The Syrian question should be resolved by the Syrian people. Outside powers do not have the right to stick their hands in.” The reality of the West’s “non-intervention” became clear when a Russian ship was halted off the coast of Scotland. Its terrifying cargo? Sixteen old helicopters belonging to the Syrian army sent back to the makers for repair.

Meanwhile the Financial Times kindly draws us a picture of the West’s “non-interventionism”. “Many analysts say the rebel movement appears to be receiving more and heavier weapons, after Qatar and Saudi Arabia earlier said they would arm it. ” In particular they cite one Aram Nerguizian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a US think-tank, who notes that “They seem to be having far better access to weapons and ammunition than in the past.” (FT 6/6/12, Houla massacre fuels Syrian resistance, Michael Peel, Abigail Fielding-Smith, Roula Khalaf) The same report also helps us grasp the noble uses to which such firepower is being turned. ” Regime opponents acknowledge that some armed groups have been killing, kidnapping or harassing members of the Alawite minority religious sect, to which the president and many other senior regime members belong.” Thus it is that imperialism does all possible to plunge the country into a sectarian bloodbath, hoping thereby to destroy the unity and independence of the Syrian people established under the progressive and secular leadership of President Assad and the governing coalition. .

It is a certainty that by the time we go to press US imperialism and its lackeys will have perpetrated, triggered or manufactured further civil war horrors, each timed to exert maximum pressure on the international community to tuck in behind military action against Syria. As with the scare stories about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, it is no great concern of the warmongers if the truth dribbles out a week or two later, just so long as enough mud sticks at the time to steer public opinion towards war. Before the fall of Gaddafi, the left-Labourites, Trots and Amnesty bleeding hearts had no qualms about repeating the endless racist lies about black African “mercenaries” being recruited to defend a “bloodthirsty tyrant” against his own people. Amnesty subsequently bewailed the lynching of black workers by rebel forces – an outcome which its own previous slander against Gaddafi had helped to bring about! Now that it is Syria fighting for her life, Amnesty heads another hate campaign, calling for solidarity with the rebellion and providing a liberal supply of “moral” grease for intervention.

The time to stand with Syria is not six months’ or a year’s time, when the fog of war has dispersed, but today, when fog production is on overdrive and the outcome hangs in the balance. Support the Syrian people and their leadership against the barbarous meddling of imperialism. By so doing, British workers will take a giant step in the direction of their own social emancipation.

Victory to the Syrian people and their anti-imperialist leadership!

Death to imperialism!