With the NATO imperialists having secured significant military victories in Libya, by means of the most brutal use of overwhelming fire power and superior military technology (although, at time of writing, the courageous resistance of the revolutionary and patriotic forces led by Colonel Gaddafi remains a powerful force in the country and is apparently far from being finally defeated), the progressive, anti-imperialist government of Syria, which has been battling a determined counter-revolutionary assault for some six months, is facing heightened threats and subversion and is more than ever in danger of being the next victim of NATO’s neo-Nazi blitzkrieg machine.
The rising pressure on Syria takes many forms, of which these are among the most significant – most or all of them should be instantly familiar to anyone in the working-class or anti-war movements with even a modicum of integrity after the experiences of Libya, Iraq and elsewhere:
1. The increasingly violent and terrorist nature of the opposition movement inside the country.
2. Increasingly strident calls by this pro-imperialist movement for a military intervention on the ‘Libyan model’.
3. Attempts to impose United Nations sanctions, which can then serve as a legalistic figleaf for outright military intervention.
4. In the absence of UN acquiescence, the steady ramping up of, official and unofficial, unilateral sanctions, principally by the United States and the European Union (EU), aimed at politically isolating the country and especially at choking it financially and economically.
5. Attempting to rewrite international law, by arrogating to the imperialist powers the ‘right’ to bestow or revoke ‘legitimacy’ on other leaders and governments and telling them when to ‘step aside’.
6. Pressing into service their local lickspittles, in this case the medieval kings and princes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil wells, as well as the Turkish reactionaries, to destabilise borders, foment divisions and increase international isolation.
For the last several weeks, a resolution has been before the United Nations Security Council, tabled by the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal. Among other things, this resolution would freeze key assets of the country, restrict international travel by its leaders, ban all military supplies, allow cargo and transport to Syria to be intercepted, searched and impounded (not only would this carry grave risks of sparking wider clashes – it would itself be an act of war), and refer the country’s top leaders to the International Criminal Court.
To date, this dangerous, war-mongering resolution has not been passed, due to the opposition of Russia and China, who can exercise the power of veto. Non-permanent members of the Security Council, India, Brazil and South Africa are also understood to be opposed to the resolution.
Russia has meanwhile tabled its own resolution, which calls on the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad to implement the reforms it has already pledged and on the opposition to enter into talks with the government, something which the government has consistently offered and the opposition has consistently refused. The Russian resolution, as it is devoid of punitive measures, is not acceptable to the imperialist powers.
However, earlier in August, the imperialists did succeed in getting a resolution condemning Syria passed by the Human Rights Council, a specialised UN body based in Geneva. This resolution was jointly sponsored by the imperialist countries and by the Arab reactionaries, led by Saudi Arabia. However, this has proved to be a Pyrrhic victory. A principal reason given by Russia and China for their lamentable failure to take a clear stand against the barbarous assault on Libya at the Security Council was that regional organisations were supposedly calling for such action. The clearly expressed hope was that by having Saudi Arabia and others take a clear lead in Geneva, the Russians and Chinese could once more be herded into line or at least into grudging acquiescence.
But this is not at all what transpired. The resolution passed, with 33 votes in favour, four against and nine abstentions. The four negative votes were those of Russia, China, Cuba and Ecuador. In response, the Financial Times reported that banners had been hung in the streets of Damascus thanking Russia and China for their support and since then the two countries have continued to stand firm at the Security Council.
One can only hope that Moscow and Beijing have quietly drawn an appropriate lesson from the disastrous mistake they made over Libya, if only for reasons of self-preservation, as they are in fact the ultimate targets of imperialism’s successive wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries.
However, just because the imperialists are presently frustrated at the Security Council does not mean that they are inactive. That is very far from the case. And we need to remember that NATO launched its onslaught on Yugoslavia without any UN pretext and that the US and British imperialists abandoned their quest for a second UN resolution prior to launching the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Currently, both the US and EU are intensifying their unilateral sanctions. Those imposed by Washington, in themselves, are frankly little more than symbolic. Such has been the long-standing animosity of US imperialism towards the progressive regime in Syria that there have been precious few commercial dealings between the two countries. On this front, the EU poses a far greater immediate threat.
Syria is a relatively small oil producer and until now nearly 95% of its oil exports have gone to the EU. According to 2010 data, Germany was responsible for 32% of Syria’s oil exports and Italy for 31%. Syria’s two state-owned oil companies, Syria Petroleum Corporation and Sytrol, depend heavily for business on such EU-based monopolies as BP, Total and Royal Dutch Shell. Not only are they major buyers of Syrian crude. Syria, in turn, is dependent on their supply of more refined energy such as gasoline and diesel.
This dangerous dependency now leaves Syria exposed as the EU moves to impose a total oil embargo. At time of writing, only Italy is pleading with its EU partners for a delay until November, when existing contracts are due to expire. Not only has Italy been importing 31% of Syria’s oil, it is the EU country most dependent on oil supplies from Libya, which as yet show no great sign of resuming in any safe or sustainable way.
But even before the EU sanctions are formally imposed, the imperialist world’s major oil traders and oil companies are already starting to refuse to do business with Syria, irrespective of the agreements and contracts they have entered into. These moves gathered pace after the US prohibited any US companies from importing or exporting any crude or oil products to or from Syria. This knee-jerk reaction by largely European companies illustrates the damage that US sanctions can do, even if the US itself has little or no business in a country. As with the sanctions on socialist Korea, it creates a perception that is not permissible to do business in or with the sanctioned country, a perception that is reinforced and enforced by the stranglehold that the US maintains over much of the international economy, by the exposure of nearly all major global firms to US business, joint ventures in third markets, US subsidiaries, listings in New York, the role of the dollar as the international reserve currency, and the routing of most major financial transactions through New York, and so on, combined with the US propensity to enforce its domestic legislation extraterritorially, in flagrant violation of international law.
As with the brazen theft of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund and overseas investments, there is a crucial lesson here for developing countries. Putting their wealth, investments and resources in the care of the imperialist countries is as safe as putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank. As far back as the 1970s, Comrade Kim Il Sung argued that the developing countries should emphasise ‘south south cooperation’ in their international economic relations. The rise of China, as well as other key emerging markets, now makes this option not only increasingly realistic but attractive.
Whilst seeking to tighten an economic noose around Syria, the US and French ambassadors have been travelling, sometimes without informing the Syrian authorities, to towns where violent demonstrations have taken place in order to incite further protests and gather intelligence. The US ambassador claimed that his journeys were “in line with his efforts to inform himself and support the Syrian people”. You can be pretty certain that were a diplomat from Syria or another anti-imperialist nation to undertake similar activity, for example going to express support to a militant upsurge of African Americans or Native Americans, whether in an urban ghetto or on a reservation, they would be promptly held to be engaged in “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status” and booted out of the country. Indeed, UN-based diplomats from a number of countries, such as the DPRK, are routinely restricted in their movements to a few kilometres’ radius of Manhattan.
But there is one law for the imperialists and one for everyone else. The big imperialist war criminals, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have all now declared that President Assad and his government have “lost legitimacy” and should step down. This same arrogant formulation, already used against the government of Colonel Gaddafi, is an extremely dangerous development and one with absolutely no basis in international law.
It must be repudiated and resisted by every country that has experienced colonial exploitation and oppression in the past and which has any semblance of independence and dignity, as well as every progressive person, whatever they may think of this or that government anywhere in the world. To legitimise such a practice would be to tear up the democratic values embodied in the Soviet-led victory over fascism and the subsequent waves of anti-colonial revolution. Indeed, not even the nineteenth century colonialists conducted themselves in such a brazen fashion. It is fascism pure and simple.
President Assad struck exactly the right note in declaring: “These [calls to resign] cannot be said to a president who is not appointed by the United States, or by the West. I am appointed by the Syrian people.”
As noted, one way in which the imperialists seek to give such piracy a cloak of respectability is by enlisting the support of their local satraps. In this, the rulers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, etc., have shown themselves to be loyal servants to their masters. The Turkish Prime Minister, clearly still dreaming of a return to the Ottoman empire, declared that events in Syria were an “internal Turkish matter”. And Turkey is scheming to establish a ‘safe haven for Syrian refugees’ on its borders, in other words, a base camp for subversion and counter-revolution. Naturally, such a ‘safe haven’ would gravely worsen the chance of an armed clash between Syria and Turkey, whereupon Turkey would be expected to invoke the clause in the NATO charter according to which an ‘attack’ on any one NATO member is deemed to be an attack on all, with utterly predictable consequences.
Besides their antics in Geneva, Saudi Arabia, joined by Kuwait, Bahrain and others, has withdrawn its ambassador from Damascus. Saudi King Abdullah has accused the Syrian government of being a “killing machine” and declared that the country should, “enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms. Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss.”
Whoever said irony was dead? King Abdullah presides over an absolute monarchy in which all wealth and power is reposed in himself and a collection of equally bloated relatives. There is no semblance of democracy and no legal political parties. Such is the level of medieval obscurantism that women are not even allowed to drive. The Saudi regime recently invaded and occupied Bahrain to stamp out a popular revolt, at the behest of its monarchic rulers, who proceeded to send troops into hospitals to torture and slaughter doctors, nurses and patients alike, in crude defiance of even a semblance of humanitarianism. In contrast, Syria is a secular state with a multi-party system, and where the government has promised to enact legislation to allow the formation of additional legal parties. What is reflected here is not just the invariable indecent haste of Arab reaction to serve its imperialist masters but also its own long-standing hatred of Syria, which is the mainstay of support for the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, has opposed the occupation of Iraq, maintains a close alliance with Iran, and has at times supported the revolutionary movements against various Arab reactionary regimes.
Whilst battling all this external destabilisation, the counter-revolutionary opposition faced by the Syrian government is becoming increasingly violent. Despite their attempts to obfuscate this with weasel words, this can be discerned from a careful reading of the imperialist press. For example, on 25 August, the Financial Times reported:
“A local protest organiser, who gave his name as Adnan Othman, said other villages had been surrounded by troops and attacked in recent days.
“As well as protests, he said the regime was responding to army defections in the area, as well as the threat of an armed fight-back by local tribes based in the villages.
“‘Almost all the Deir Ezzor region is now occupied by the army,’ Mr Othman said. “There is some armed resistance going on but it is not enough.’… Last month another video claimed to show tribal leaders pledging an armed response to any attempt by the regime to attack their villages.” (‘Syria cracks down on eastern tribal regions’)
On 6 August, the Economist declared: “Some protesters say they should resort to violence. In towns such as Tel Kalakh, Jisr al-Shughour, Idleb and Deir ez-Zor, which are near the border, weapons are being smuggled in.” (‘Syria – Bloodier still’)
Such reports are, of course, but the tip of the iceberg, but they lend credence to the reports of the media in Syria, where nightly the television shows the funerals of soldiers martyred in the defence of their homeland from imperialist-backed terrorists.
Compared to the western accounts, this August 25th report from Voice of Russia is instructive:
“Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition prefers armed confrontation to dialogue. A Voice of Russia special correspondent, Andrei Ontikov, visited Syria and talked to local residents. While Western news agencies are awash with reports about a brutal crackdown on protesters, the residents tell a different story:
“‘We have visited a military hospital in the suburb of Damascus and met servicemen who were wounded in clashes with armed opposition formations in the cities of Hama and Dayr az-Zawr. They said that the demonstrators were not as peaceful as they are being portrayed. They have weapons and they offer fierce resistance to government forces.
“‘There is a great difference between the information portrait of Syria one receives outside of its borders and the things one sees with one’s own eyes, for example in Hama or Damascus. Some Western and Arabic news channels report that tanks have been moved into Hama and that troops are suppressing peaceful demonstrations. Meanwhile, we have been travelling calmly around the city, talking to residents.’” (‘West pushes opposition to topple Assad’)
Obviously modelled on Libya’s quisling NTC, the Syrian opposition has now formed a National Council, based in Istanbul. This body, together with the British-promoted Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is now, in the wake of events in Libya, calling more stridently for NATO military intervention. Just as with the Benghazi contras in their first days, they had initially, and hypocritically, claimed to be opposed to foreign intervention, just long enough to suck in a few gullible people, and allow some of the pieces of the imperialist jigsaw to be fitted together. Now these traitors to their nation and people are loudly calling for the imposition of a ‘no fly zone’, the very mechanism that was cynically abused to launch a genocidal war against the people of Libya.
Clearly the threat to Syria is now grave. However, the Syrian government retains strong and broad support from the popular masses. It also has powerful regional support, for example from Iran, from Hizbullah in Lebanon and from the forces led by Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. As for NATO, any celebrations are premature, as the fire of Libyan resistance will, without doubt, shortly be burning beneath their feet more fiercely than ever.
Regrettably, one place from which neither the Syrian nor the Libyan people can expect any support is from the so-called leaders of Britain’s Stop the War Coalition, whose antics have long since passed from the cowardly to the treacherous. The main page of Stop the War’s website contains not a single reference to Syria. Perhaps, given their role over Libya, it is just as well. A new anti-imperialist and anti-war movement needs to be built in Britain, one that stands foursquare for the defeat of imperialism and for the victory of all those forces fighting against it.
Lalkar and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) pledge every possible effort to build such a movement.
Hands off Syria!
Victory to Assad!