Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan: A new step in imperialist tensions

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The western media are telling us about the wave of democratic change that is sweeping the world, from Iraq to Lebanon and the countries of the former USSR. According to them, there is a real push towards a freer world. Elections have taken place or are about to take place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, central Asia; and we have seen democratic ‘revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine and now Kyrgyzstan. In Lebanon there have been massive demonstrations against the presence of Syrian troops, as well as a new impetus for the ‘peace process’ in Israel-Palestine. All this, we are told, expresses the will of the people to enter the paradise of democracy. The main promoters of this idyllic world are the great western powers, above all the USA which has proclaimed that the “thaw has begun” in the countries of the Middle East and that “the hope of liberty is gaining ground across the planet”. This unlimited optimism is in fact a huge deception, aimed at hiding reality from the world proletariat. In fact the world situation has never been as grave as it is today. Behind all this rigmarole is a very sharp aggravation of imperialist tensions. And it is precisely the countries being praised for their contribution to the ‘struggle for democracy’ that are the focus of the growing rivalries between the great powers and in particular of the imperialist offensive that the USA has been carrying out since the re-election of Bush.

The anniversary of the second year of the occupation of Iraq by the American forces needs little comment: more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths, the majority of them innocent civilians. 1520 American soldiers killed and 11,300 wounded. Dozens of towns and villages have been destroyed, and with them the infrastructure of water and electricity, and even to some extent oil. Over $200bn has already been spent on this barbarism. And it is precisely because the Bush administration is aware that Iraq is a quagmire that is seriously weakening its position as the world’s leading power that it is now marked upon this counter-offensive.

Lebanon: the reactivation of a focus of imperialist conflict in the Middle East

Whoever was responsible for the attack which left 19 dead including Hariri, the leader of the Lebanese opposition, we have to pose the question: who profits from the crime? Certainly not Syria. Not only has Syria been accused of the crime by all the developed countries, but also countries of the Arab League including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also pointed the finger at it. Furthermore, international pressure has forced it to abandon military positions in the Lebanon which it fought hard for in the 1980s, and to loosen its grip on Lebanese political life, clearing the way for the interference of the French and the Americans.

This assassination thus has the appearance of an ‘opportunity’ for Bush and Chirac, the two countries which were behind the September 2004 UN vote for resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. The real aim of the loud support that France and the US have given to the gigantic demonstrations by the Lebanese opposition, calling for the replacement of the pro-Syrian government and the holding of elections as soon as possible, has been to insert themselves into Lebanese political life and defend their own prerogatives.

France is trying to regain the influence it used to have in Lebanon during the cold war, when it was acting in the interests of the western bloc. This influence was progressively reduced and virtually disappeared with the ejection of the Christian general Michel Aoun, Paris’ man on the spot. With the new situation, Chirac envisages Aoun’s return to the Lebanon. However, this is not guaranteed for France, which still hasn’t got many points of support in the country. In fact it was to evaluate the new situation that Chirac rushed to Beirut immediately after the death of this ‘friend of France’ Hariri. France now faces the difficult situation of having to keep a foot in all camps. Thus, contrary to the US, it has carefully avoided condemning Hezbollah as a terrorist group, in order to avoid turning its back not only on Syria (which has links to Hezbollah), but also Iran. At the same time it is trying to keep in with the different elements of the Lebanese opposition, such as the Christian militia. And on top of this it is obliged to limit its criticisms of the White House, with whom it shares a certain convergence of interest over Lebanon. As for the Bush administration, it will no doubt turn against French diplomacy when it comes to limiting France’s ambitions in the region.

It is above all the US and its Israeli ally which will benefit most from the death of Hariri. The assassination has opened up a situation which will give the Bush administration a decisive advantage over the ‘axis of evil’ in the Middle East, i.e. Syria, Hezbollah and Iran. Since last spring, Syria has been openly threatened by Uncle Sam under the pretext that it is harbouring al-Qaida terrorists and Saddam loyalists. At the same time the Israeli authorities have launched a campaign demonising Hezbollah and the support it gets from Syria and Iran. Washington has demanded that Syria leaves Lebanon. But the ultimate aim is to destabilise the regime in Damascus and impose a Sunni government in order to isolate the Shiite Hezbollah and Iran. Thus, behind Syria, the target for the US is Iran, which has more and more asserted itself as a regional power, in particular by going ahead with its nuclear weapons programme in defiance of the US.

Thus, the pressure by the Bush administration on Syria is part of the same plan as the tough stance on Iran. If the US offensive against Iran is currently passing through Syria, this is because of the huge difficulties posed by any military intervention in Iran, which would be far greater even than the problems caused by the invasion of Iraq. Despite the leaking of Israeli plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations if Tehran does not give up its nuclear ambitions, because of the mess in Iraq it is very unlikely that the American military is planning to open up a new military front for the time being. But this is no guarantee of peace in the region. In Lebanon, it is likely that we will see murderous conflicts between the different communities, which are being stirred up by the various local cliques acting on behalf of regional or global powers. The declarations of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, for whom the retreat by Damascus will lead to civil war, are no bluff, as can be seen by the terrorist attacks that have already begun in Lebanon. What’s more, US pressure on Syria will only force the latter to strengthen its links to Iran and to give further support to the anti-US resistance in Iraq. What’s clear is that we are entering a new stage in the spread of chaos and bloodshed to new areas.

The USA continues its military offensive in the Caucasus and Central Asia

US diplomacy is also at work in the former USSR, in the republics of the Caucasus and in Central Asia. In the name of democracy and freedom, the White House is financing and encouraging movements opposing governments linked to Russia. After the ‘Rose Revolution’ in Georgia in 2003, and the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, the recent ‘Tulip Revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan is a new US blow against Russian imperialism’s defensive wall.

Washington is openly boasting about this. The American ambassador in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, told CNN just after former president Akayev fled the country: “What’s happening is the concern of the Kyrgyz people and its decisions, and the USA is proud to play a supporting role in this”. You couldn’t be much clearer.

The USA is financing all these opposition movements through various government organisations and other associations specialised in promoting democracy around the world, for example George Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute (www.soros.org) or the National Endowment for Democracy (www.ned.org). We should underline that as well as their active participation in the anti-Russian ‘revolutions’, the USA has a real influence in Moldavia and that the US Senate has just adopted a resolution saying that democracy is the target in Belarus.

We are thus witnessing the encirclement of Russia from the west, the east and the south, all this following the military invasion of Afghanistan.

As we have already shown in our press, since the collapse of the eastern bloc, Russia has more and more lost influence in eastern and central Europe. This is expressed by the fact that all the countries which were once part of the Warsaw Pact have now joined NATO and the European Union. And on top of that, all the countries which were part of the ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’ set up by Russia in 1991 are in turmoil and have moved further and further away from Russia.

If the Russian bear has seen its empire vanishing bit by bit, this is because the US has been trying to weaken it, especially since Russia refused to go along with the US in its invasion of Iraq. The fact that Russia adopted such a position greatly increased the determination of France and Germany to face up to the US. Now Russia is getting its pay-back for failing to follow the USA.

But the main motivation of the US in trying to subject the countries of the former USSR to its influence is to prevent them from falling into the orbit of the European powers, especially Germany, whose traditional direction for imperialist expansion is the east. In fact the essential goal of the US offensive is to complete the encirclement of Europe itself. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2003 was the first step in this strategy.

The stakes are so high that the tensions between these powers can only get worse. What’s more, the game is made more complicated, and the situation all the more unstable, by the fact that regional powers like Turkey and Iran also have ambitions towards certain of the territories of the former USSR. Claiming this or that territory gives them an added card to play around their own frontiers.

For Russia, it is out of the question to stand by passively while it is reduced to a second rate regional power. It should also be added that losing certain of its former satellites means a considerable weakening of its nuclear potential. The example of Ukraine, which has important Russian bases on its soil, is significant in this respect.

Thus, far from stabilising the region, the wave of ‘democratisation’ sweeping the former republics of the USSR can only push Russia into new military adventures. The assassination by the Russian security forces of the Chechen leader Maskhadov – the only person with enough legitimacy to oversee a political resolution of the Chechnya conflict, is a clear expression of this. By eliminating Maskhadov, Russia is preventing the US from using him as part of another process of ‘democratisation’ in Chechnya.

The growing pressure of the US, both against Russia and certain European powers, can only lead the latter to more openly oppose US plans. Thus, far from submitting, France, Germany and Russia, now joined by Zapatero’s Spain adopted a harder tone at their recent summit, in particular by issuing a call for withdrawal from Iraq. And such developments will in turn push the USA towards new military responses.

Fifteen years ago, following the collapse of the eastern bloc, the western bourgeoisie promised us an era of peace in a new world order. From Iraq to ex-Yugoslavia, passing through Rwanda, Somalia, the Middle East, western and central Asia, the planet has seen an awful harvest of atrocity and violence. The bourgeoisie’s ‘wind of democracy’ will not bring any fresh air, but the fetid stench of a system in decay. Donald 25/3/05