The war in Syria is an example of the decomposition and growing irrationality of capitalism as expressed through its capitalist war machines. We can trace this descent if we go back a couple of decades to the ‘Cold War’ period from 1945 to 1989. The two-bloc system, while threatening incidental nuclear annihilation, was, in a perverse way, the height of geo-military organisation and cooperation of capitalism. All the national states involved were subservient, willingly or unwillingly, to the aforementioned bloc leaders and to the interests of the bloc. This was the apogee of imperialist 'stability' even with the brutal carnage that it involved and the risks that it carried.
When the USSR collapsed in 1989, this two-sided bloc “coherence” collapsed with it and the vacuum was filled with centrifugal tendencies, each man for himself and growing tendencies towards the break-up of established nations, a process which goes on to this day. This was evidenced in some of the ex-satellites of the Russian Republic in Europe, Asia and the Caucasus; also in Yugoslavia where, in 1992, the dissolution of this country into opposing fiefdoms, tripped by Germany and manipulated by Britain, Russia, France and the USA, brought the first war in Europe for nearly fifty years. We see tendencies in the same direction today in Libya, Iraq and Syria - all countries war-torn by capitalism. In Africa, Ethiopia is fractious, Sudan split in two, Somalia on the edge and the Congo a death camp of imperialism. The war in Libya has fuelled separatist tendencies in Mali and Niger, with Nigeria affected. Rather than the constitution of viable states we see them splitting into fragments, and further developments of decomposition are expressed in the spread of gangsterism, warlordism, religious fanaticism and that abortion of internationalism - global jihad. All these features have been aroused, fed and inflamed by the wars of the major imperialisms in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria.
Syria: “Every scenario a nightmare...”
According to The Observer, 16.6.13, quoting a western official in Beirut (“western official” in this context is either a senior British diplomat or intelligence agent): “Every scenario is a nightmare now”. This came after the US said it would provide arms to the rebels now that it was proved that chemical weapons had been used by the Assad regime. This is another Iraq/ WMD farcical lie. The New York Times has exposed the case of the chemical weapons 'red line' supposedly crossed by the regime which, incidentally, the UN has refused to endorse, in that it rests on the exposure of two individuals to sarin which, as even the White House said: “... does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed, or who was responsible for that dissemination”. There’s also some doubt amongst experts that it is sarin poisoning, with some suggesting exposure to chlorine gas, which has very similar symptoms.
The subsequent convoluted statement from the White House about directing arms to some of the rebels can be taken with a pinch of salt. The US 'chemical weapons red line' is code for getting more fully involved, the consequences of which can only contribute to further bloodshed and chaos. The US administration, through its agencies, along with Britain and France, have been providing arms and training (as well as stashes of money) to rebel groups via Turkey and Jordan, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, since November 2012 (Los Angeles Times, June 20). The US presence in Jordan has been beefed up after military exercises with British forces in June, leaving in place CIA operatives, special forces, a dozen F-16 fighter jets, Patriot missile batteries and one thousand troops on the ground. After this deployment, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said that military assistance, in the form of 'training teams', could be sent to Iraq and Lebanon. The New York Times gave some detail about the amount of arms that the rebels have received since the beginning of 2012: possibly as much as 3,500 tonnes of weapons. In Afghanistan, when the west was arming the fundamentalist Mujahideen they were getting one cargo a month - the Syrian opposition has been receiving one every other day. The Financial Times in May reported that Qatar alone had supplied $3 billion worth of weapons, showing something of the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in this war, while their rival, Saudi Arabia, has provided shoulder-held anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to its Islamist groups in Aleppo. Weapons have been collected from all over Libya and sent by the Benghazi regime, with their stamp of approval, to the rebels - apparently paid for by Qatar under cover of humanitarian aid. Since the EU arms embargo was lifted in May, there’s been a free-for-all in arms provision with Israel also getting in on the act. And, on the other side of the war, there’s the massive weaponry and support provided by Russia and Iran to the Assad regime.
The rebels are a growing part of the imperialist chaos
The western-backed Free Syrian Army described as a “corrupt failure” by the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra and, more accurately, as “a rhetorical construct” by Reuters, 19.6.13, is an opposition manufactured from outside Syria by the west. Many of its fighters have been killed and their units disbanded by al-Nusra and many have deserted to its side. Chechen-dominated Sunni rebel jihadi groups in the north have aired a video showing that they have shoulder-launched SA-16 missiles, capable of posing a threat to most war planes and helicopters. These are precisely the weapons that the CIA has tried to keep out of their hands, blocking them from the Jordanian and Turkish border but the jihadists have clearly got them from somewhere. The Chechen fighters command a large group solely composed of foreigners who see the war as global jihad. Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, says: “There is increasing evidence that foreign fighters are gathering under a more unified umbrella in Syria and that the umbrella organisation may have a strong Chechen leadership” (The Observer, 16.6.13).
Oliver Holmes and Alexanda Dziadosz wrote up some good research for Reuters on June 18 from on the ground in Aleppo. They talk about there being 2000 fighters there, originally around the leading group of Ghurabaa al-Sham. This moderate Islamist opposition group was defeated and disbanded overnight by the hard-line Islamists of al-Nusra at the end of last April. The jihadists confiscated all their weapons, ammunition and transport. This pattern has been repeated throughout Syria where groups wanting a supreme religious leadership are overwhelmingly the moderates, they being no match for the hard-line jihadi units. The Reuters reporters go on to say that: “on the ground there is little evidence to suggest that the FSA actually exists as a body at all”. Ghurabaa al-Sham - the so-called democratic resistance - was, in the very words of its leader in Aleppo, made up of “outlaws and reprobates”. They had no support from the majority of the population previously involved in protests against the regime - far from it, as they were thieves and looters who were shipping their booty back to Turkey. Similar stories of looting and theft at the beginning of the war are emerging now and increasingly we are hearing that the jihadis have brought 'order', if only their particular kind of capitalist order. And weapons trading and in-fighting goes on between all these groups and particularly the four Islamist brigades running Aleppo including the al-Qaida linked al-Nusra and the Saudi and Qatari backed factions. The non-jihadi factions, such as the US and the Istanbul-based, Syrian National Council-backed “Falcons of Salqin”, are themselves involved in looting and theft as well as the trading of weapons. The US and the 11 nation “Friends of Syria”, meeting under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Tunisia, have now set up the grand sounding “Supreme Military Council” under which to organise, arm, train and direct its rebel forces. The British and the Americans have put their weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, but these 'friends of Syria' all have their own tensions with each other and their own agendas for the region, particularly the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. At the moment they look extremely unlikely to forge an effective anti-Assad force.
The 'search for peace' charade while the war spreads
On July 2, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, after meeting his Russian counterpart, said that a “Geneva II” meeting would be convened as soon as possible in the search for peace and “to stop the bloodshed” in Syria. The meeting had been scheduled for June but is now put off until after August because of the holidays! The chemical weapons red line - a line pushed by Britain and France - was called a step too far by the US administration and the “clarifying moment” vaunted after talks with Putin showed that there was no agreement. But the real clarification was made by Hezbollah (“the army of God”) in taking the strategic town of Qusair from the rebels and opening up battle lines from Iran all the way to the Israeli border. This is what is drawing in the Americans. Many Hezbollah fighters have been battle-hardened in fighting against Israel but thousands are regularly sent to Iran for training. It’s this force, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have repulsed the rebel push and gone onto the offensive. And, just as they all talk of peaceful solutions, the war spreads ever wider: Lebanon is now involved with the highly populated areas of Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon affected by RPG and machine-gun fire. Sixteen Lebanese soldiers were killed by Sunni Islamists on June 23 in Sidon, which The Times of Israel called a “war zone”. The Lebanese government is weak, the state is faction-ridden and hardly recovered from its own 15-year-old civil war with its hundred thousand dead.
The war is also deepening in the US and British-made disaster of Iraq. Paramilitaries and militias rule the streets of this country where, despite its oil wealth, there’s no constant water or electricity and poverty, terror and insecurity reigns. The busiest places in Iraq are the emigration offices where many, mostly unsuccessful, are trying to get out of the country. Prime Minister Malaki has been accused of working with the Iranians (which he does) and of opening up a land corridor with Iran in order to channel fighters and weapons into Syria (which he probably has). Hundreds of Iraqi civilians are being killed and mutilated by car bombs weekly in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Tigrit, mostly set by Sunni Islamists and related to the war in Syria. Both pro- and anti-Assad forces are moving backwards and forwards from Iraq and into Syria and have been for some time now.
The human cost in Syria grows ever greater. US news agencies report one hundred thousand dead - a third of them civilians; 40% loss of GDP; 1 in 5 schools and 1 in 3 hospitals closed; lack of power and water; 2.5 million unemployed; millions unable to buy enough food and refugees, internal and external, running into millions. Billions of dollars are spent on the means of destruction but the Geneva I meeting promised $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid, most of which will not appear and a large slice of which will go directly to the military factions. There’s half-a-million refugees in Lebanon alone. Some refugees have been forcibly turned back from the Jordanian border straight into Syrian gunfire. At the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan many have returned to Syria because they would rather live in a war-zone than these filthy, crime-ridden camps bearing the logo UNHCR which are run by mafias, smugglers and people traffickers.
Capitalism’s New World Chaos
This is the new world order of decomposition and imperialism, where a militarily resuscitated Russia aligns with China in order to protect Iran and all their interests, economic and strategic, in the Middle East. Unlike the conflicts of the cold war, limited, confined, understood by the two blocs, this is a war of decomposing capitalism, with more variable components and thus more dangerous. As well as the major players, there are the diverging interests of Iran, Turkey, Israel, along with Qatar, Saudi and Egypt. As well as irrationality the war also shows the weakening of US power - as great as it still is and, on an imperialist level, this will only contribute to the chaos. As much as they say that they don’t want it, there is the danger here of the US, Britain and France getting drawn in behind the jihadists - if this hasn’t already happened. This is not a war of Sunni against Shia, but a war of capitalism taking over these religious strains and playing up sectarianism, feeding, prolonging and spreading the conflict. Iran for example has used the Shia brand for its own purposes and it’s Iranian imperialism, not Iranian religion, that is in play here. The defence of national capitalist interests in an increasingly contested world arena is the essence of imperialism and it applies to Iran, to the rest of the local states, and their big power backers.
Against the imperialist carnage in Syria, contrast the protests in Turkey and Egypt which, though part of an international phenomenon, are important local expressions that carry the seeds of a movement away from and against imperialist war. These movements are not immune from attempts to open up another path to imperialist chicanery and butchery, but at the moment such mass protests - which have economic considerations at their basis - are not welcome by any side. These mass movements, at the moment lacking a clear class consciousness and organisation, begin to pose an alternative to imperialist war in Syria, a war that is tending to get more dangerous and out of control.
Baboon 5/7/13 (this article was contributed by a sympathiser of the ICC)
. Though opposing sides like the Saudi’s and the UAE on one hand, and the Assad regime on the other, have expressed their pleasure at the overthrow of the Morsi clique, they have done so for different imperialist reasons. For the former this is a blow to their rival Qatari Muslim Brotherhood enemies, and for the latter, particularly just after Morsi had declared for the largely MB dominated anti-Assad opposition, this represents a setback for their rival. But no powers involved here, the local powers, the USA, Britain, France, nor Iran, nor its most important backer, Russia, nor China from a distance, want to see millions of protesters on the streets, expressing their deep indignation.