Imperialist powers fuel war in Syria

Printer-friendly version

The inbuilt tendency of capitalism is towards war – ever more destructive generalised warfare. Looking at Syria today massacre follows massacre with up to 20,000 killed; whole districts are destroyed; millions of people are displaced, with many living in overcrowded, insalubrious refugee camps in Turkey or in tents in the Jordanian desert in the  middle of constant sandstorms. Instead of the masses unifying across lines of division, they are now retreating behind them. Alawite, Christian, Druze, Kurd, Sunni and Shia divisions are reinforced on the basis of fear of the next massacre from whatever side. Some are supporting the “Free Syrian Army”, while others fall in behind the regime, fearful of the consequences. Capitalist terror has been unleashed and  is stalking the population throughout Syria and over its borders. What started out, seventeen months ago, as a real, popular uprising across divisions of religion, sex and age, against unemployment and repression, has been subsumed, drowned  for the foreseeable future, under the wave of imperialist war which now threatens to spread throughout the region. To call this development, as some leftists do, a “revolution” is obscene. It is an inter-imperialist free-for-all. On one side stands the one-time ally of the west, the ruthless killer regime of Bashir al-Assad, backed by Russia, China and Iran; on the other side stand the local powers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, looming over them, the United States, Britain and France. While this expression of capitalist carnage might look like the old proxy wars of the Cold War, with the US using Turkey as its local agent for example, it's much more unpredictable and dangerous than that, particularly given the stakes for the wider region, the military build up against Iran – which is currently being squeezed in a western vice - and the wild card of Israel.

Britain, America and France push their anti-Iranian front through the war in Syria

There are factors relating to oil here but these are completely secondary. The USA and Britain  are interested  in the strategic value of Syria  in relation to its geographical and political proximity to the real target of this war – Iran. In fact the possibilities for implanting American and British interests in this respect, ie, the basis for the present war, were laid down in Washington under the Bush administration in 2005 in conjunction with Whitehall (see below on the Syrian opposition). That the real target of this war is Iran has been increasingly recognised by a number of international newspaper correspondents, and none of them clearer than Robert Fisk in the Independent,  July 29, who writes with some irony on the position of the British ruling class: “... that all the while we forget the ‘big’ truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for the Syrians or our hatred for our former friend Bashir al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrad's across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights, or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!” And Jonathan Steele in the Guardian, August 5: “What began as a peaceful uprising and then became local self-defence has been hijacked, under Saudi. Qatari and US leadership, and with British, French and Israeli approval, it has turned into an anti-Iranian proxy war”.

While the regime is responsible for most of the killing in Syria, the main responsibility for the generalisation of war lies with America,  Britain and the French cockerel, the “socialist” Hollande, strutting his stuff in continuity with his predecessor Sarkozy: France is now outbidding its “allies” and calling for the rag-bag and fractious Syrian opposition to form a government in exile which it will recognise. As for the western-backed  “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), already, as early as November 17 last year, the BBC's Newsnight was reporting on atrocities committed by it. On January 18 this year, The Guardian reported a recent article from ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi that: “...Turkey, a Nato member, has become Washington's proxy and that unmarked Nato planes have been arriving at Iskenderum, near the Syrian border, delivering Libyan volunteers and weapons seized from Gaddafi's arsenal. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground... assisting the Syrian rebels, while the CIA and US Spec Ops are providing communication equipment and intelligence.”(there were also reports that British  and French special forces were on the Lebanese/Syrian border)  The Libyan connection is confirmed in a report by RTE News, August 14, that senior members of the western-trained Libyan rebel unit that took Gaddafi's compound were active in Syria, leading a team of Syrians including specialists in communications, logistics and heavy weapons[1]. On July 26, Newsnight  reported that the Turkish military was making nightly deliveries by the lorryload of arms and ammunition to the FSA accompanied by the CIA in order to make sure the weapons “didn't fall into the wrong hands”. The Daily Mirror reported on August 18 that these weapons included ground-to-air Stinger missiles – which is somewhat credible given that a MIG- 23 jet fighter has already been shot down over the town of Mohassen in the east while bombing rebel positions, one helicopter gunship has been shot down and latest reports say that another jet-fighter has been shot down over Idlib[2]. Talk by William Hague and the US of “non-lethal assistance” to the FSA is a nonsense, given their arms deliveries and their closeness to Saudi and Qatari weapons provision.

The “axes of resistance”

The diplomatic war also rages across the United Nations' den of thieves. The Annan “peace plan”, largely promoted by the Russians and supported by China, was sabotaged by the US, Britain and France, who threw a spanner in the works with a rival resolution that Annan referred to as “finger-pointing and name-calling”.  There was no real interest from the west in any plan that entertained talks while the regime – which they've been saying for twelve months is “on the verge  of collapse” - remained in place. They were only interested in pursuing the war. For its part Iran has  hosted a “non-aligned” conference in Tehran (week beginning August 27), with over a hundred countries sending delegates, in order to garner support. Notably the new Egyptian president, Morsi, has made a visit, which along with friendly words towards Iran, has caused some concern in the west[3]. Saheed Jalili, Iran's security boss, previously said on Syrian TV: “Iran will not allow the axes of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be a vital part, to be broken in any way” (BBC, August 7). But relations between  Tehran and Hamas in Gaza have already soured over Syria and fighting has spilled over the Syrian/Lebanese border affecting Hezbollah. This “axes of resistance” has been somewhat weakened in this respect but this will by no means attenuate the imperialist drive of Iran which itself has forces fighting alongside the Syrian army. Syria is indeed Iran's main ally in the region and in this spread of war and instability the former has not hesitated to use its ally, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which in turn supports the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has control of several towns along the Turkish border in northern Syria (AFP, August 2). Troop deployment in these areas are currently being massively reinforced by the Turkish military, adding another dimension to the unfolding chaos.

The Syrian opposition?

Who are these people of the Syrian opposition who appear on western TV and call for “action”. Who are these “democratic spokespeople” in exile urging military intervention and no talks with the Assad regime? Charlie Skelton in The Guardian of July 12 lifts the lid on this nest of vipers who are enmeshed in some of the highest levels of the American and British states and who have been funded by both for the last 6 or 7 years[4] . The Syrian National Council is recognised by both America and Britain as the “main opposition coalition” (BBC) and “a legitimate representative of the Syrian people” (William Hague, British Foreign Secretary). The most senior of these SNC spokespeople is Bassma Kodmani who was promoted from her work for the Ford Foundation in 2005 – after US/Syrian relations collapsed – to become executive director to the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI). This is linked to the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFI), which is linked to the “US Middle East Project” composing senior diplomats, intelligence officers and business people. This in turn is linked to the British Centre for European Reform (CER) headed by Lord Kerr, former head of the British diplomatic service. As Skelton notes, this is not some naive pro-democracy activist but someone who has links with the highest levels of the two states as well as with the French intelligence service DGSE. It's similar for her colleagues in the SNC. In 2005, the year that US foreign policy tilted against Syria, opposition leaders met in a Washington government building for a meeting sponsored by the US Democracy Council and the British Movement for Justice and Development and chaired by Joshua Muravchik, author of the 2006 op-ed “Bomb Iran”. Skelton lays the links and the funding bare[5]

  The Muslim Brotherhood, which Britain has shown interest in, has now split from the Free Syrian Army to set up its own armed faction, “The Armed Men of the Muslim Brotherhood” which is said by its leader to be “trying to raise awareness for Islam and jihad” (Daily Telegraph August 3). There are also Saudi and Qatari backed fundamentalists, jihadists from abroad with many coming back from Iraq, some of whom work under the loose al-Qaida franchise and the Libyan mercenaries. A real recipe for disaster for the Syrian population.

What are the perspectives?

In a word dire. It's already dire for the masses in Syria and while the thrust against Iran by the west is an open secret here the course events will take are unpredictable and dangerous for the region and beyond. Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze sect, a politically shrewd veteran fighter in the region, said in The Guardian August 16: “This is the unravelling of the Sykes-Picot agreement”. Here he's referring to the secret Anglo-French agreement of 1919 to carve up their spheres of influence in the Levant after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire – this itself has been a basis for the instability and the running sores of conflict that have ravaged the Middle East for nearly a century. Jumblatt goes on: “We are seeing the end of what was created 90 years ago. The consequences will be very, very grave unless they are managed properly”. Referring to the British/French construction of Middle Eastern borders after World War I, and the “divide and rule” tactics used, one western diplomat talked of “unfinished business at many levels”. Within the framework of the overall weakening of the US to police the world, the go-it-alone tendency of Israel and the centrifugal tendencies at work tearing Syria apart, it's very unlikely  that this will be managed properly. The “management” of the major powers has rather been to push this war and the threat of wider war further forward.

Baboon. 30/8/12


[1]Just over a year after the end of the western-backed war, Libya is in a complete mess with the highest-ever unemployment and armed gangs of all persuasions terrorising the increasingly impoverished population. The wider north African region is hit by further war and terrorism as a direct consequence.

[2]The Daily Telegraph, August 2, reports that the Taliban have opened an office in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan and that communications intercepted from there suggest that Iranian Quds forces planned to send surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran has been supplying the Taliban with fairly basic weapons to use against the Americans in Afghanistan but this, if true, would be a real escalation.

[3]This is all part of the inter-imperialist game. Egypt has recently also made overtures towards China. Prior to the Libyan war, Egyptian access granted to Iranian warships through the Suez Canal caused alarm in the US and Britain. But at the “non-aligned” conference Egyptian President Morsi outraged the Syrian delegation and upset the Iranians by referring to the Syrian “rebels” as similar to the Palestinians.

[5]For references to this and a good analysis of the overall situation in Syria, see Syria, Imperialism and the Left, parts (1), (2) and (3) on libcom, written by rooieravotr.


Recent and ongoing: