Chemical weapons in Syria: winding up the war rhetoric

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The verbals around the question of the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad regime and its possible consequences have been wound up by the western wing of the 'international community', i.e., Britain, America, France, followed by some of the Gulf States, Israel and the wings of the Syrian opposition. Last week, US Secretary for Defence, Chuck Hagel, said that Sarin had been used in some attacks in Syria by the regime. Without at all underestimating the brutality of this regime, why would they use chemical weapons when their positions are consolidating and they are on the offensive? Maybe that's why the west is raising the stakes. Dr. Sally Leivesley, a chemical and biological analyst who has worked for western governments said, in The Independent, 27.4.13: "There are things here which do not add up. A chemical attack using Sarin as a battlefield weapon would leave mass fatalities and very few people alive". But, as our leaders insist 'with caution', some elements of some chemical and biological agents have been found. In the southern town of Daraya on April 25, two rockets released a gas that affected about a hundred people, according to the opposition, and there were reported attacks in other areas. There was a report from Alex Thomson on Channel 4 from the Al-Bab district close to Aleppo, where the al-Nusra Front is in control, that Syrian soldiers were among the 26 killed from a chemical attack. There are a number of secret services and special forces here with all their various agendas, including the Qataris who were particularly ruthless in Libya. It's possible that some elements of the regime have used chemical weapons, as have the rebels.

Overall, this current farce echoes the tragedy of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction and the blatant lies of the British government and US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN just over 10 years ago about the 'evidence' thereof in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Great parts of Syria are now being destroyed in an imperialist war. Bombs are falling on factories, rockets fired at utilities and all sorts of toxic combinations are brewed up by the explosives, which people have no choice but to breathe in. Building material dust can be toxic in the atmosphere and there's plenty of that about. And this is quite apart from the destructive power of the explosives themselves - the chemical fall-out is a sort of imperialist bonus.

There's no doubt that the Syrian regime has one of the largest, if not the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the Middle East. The town of al-Safira, close to Aleppo, holds one of Syria's main facilities for the production of chemical weapons, including the nerve gas Sarin. Commentators in the west say that there is a concern that these will fall into the wrong hands, that is into the hands of rebels who are being directly or indirectly supported by the west and the Gulf States.  Weapons falling into the 'wrong hands' has been one of the consequences of the actions of western imperialism from Afghanistan in the 1980's to the spread of decomposition in Mali this year. Prime Minister Cameron, despite his 'caution', has already decided that Assad has committed a 'war crime' (Telegraph, 26.4.13). The Obama administration has been more circumspect but says it "retains the ability to act unilaterally" and talks about 'red lines' and 'game changers'. The Israeli government has said that Assad has used chemical weapons and a 'red line' has been crossed. Israel has an interest in US imperialism adhering to 'red lines' in relation to the war it's building up for against Iran. The US and Britain are demanding, through their spokesmen in the UN, that the Assad regime grant "unconditional and unfettered access" to test for WMD in Syria. Such an inspection would be nothing less than an American and British spying mission, which is exactly what it was in Iraq with its cover of lies and misinformation.

 And there's the hypocrisy of it all: Israel with its use of phosphorous against the tightly-packed civilians of Gaza. Witness the use of the same chemical weapons by the US in Fallujah, Iraq, where birth defects are still on the rise. Another example is Desert Storm in 1991, where napalm, fuel-air explosives, cluster bombs and uranium-tipped shells were used by the British and Americans. And before that, when Britain and the US were supporting Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran in the 1980s (and he was a "good friend" of France), they looked the other way when he used chemical weapons (most of them provided by the west) against the Kurds, killing at least five thousand in Hallabjah alone. But Britain had already found that dropping chemical weapons from warplanes on the Kurds was very useful in the 1920s.

The western bourgeoisies are banging the war drums and feel that they have a free hand to up the ante around the question of chemical weapons. What their precise reaction will be can take a number of escalating forms through the already existing military/intelligence set ups that they have in place both within Syria and in the wider region. We can be certain though whatever course is taken it will further exacerbate the immediate and potential instability, just as the misery imposed on the working class and the masses is increasing. The destruction of Syria, as an expression of militarism in decomposition, apart from the immediate death and devastation, is a further attack on the whole working class.

Baboon. 29.4.13 (this article was contributed by a sympathiser of the ICC)

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