“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.” With these words, “recognising” what is in fact his own Frankenstein’s monster, President Obama took the world one step deeper into a war whose consequences cannot but prove disastrous for imperialism itself.
Beating the war drum
From early in December the war drums have been getting louder, with tall tales about the Syrian government planning to “ use chemical weapons against its own people” striving to whip up the same hysteria about WMD that greased the wheels for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. At a nod from imperialism, NBC claimed that the Syrian army had loaded the nerve agent Sarin into bombs, ready to be dropped from Migs. This entirely manufactured ‘news’, taken into mass production by every news agency in the West, then gave Hillary Clinton the occasion to declare that the use of chemical weapons would cross “a red line”. These US lies were then dutifully repeated by British and European governments.
Despite categorical Syrian government denials and the absence of a shred of proof, and despite the grudging admission even from the UN’s Ban Ki-moon that there were no confirmed reports that Damascus was preparing to use chemical weapons, the atmosphere of paranoia was judged sufficient for imperialism to ramp the aggression up to the next level. The EU agreed to decrease from one year to three months the renewal period for sanctions, so that any puppet regime forcibly imposed upon the Syrians could be exempted from the economic warfare inflicted on the legitimate government and the people it represents. Britain went a step further, seeking to change the EU arms embargo in such a way as to permit the supply of “non-lethal equipment” to the rebels. Of course Britain, along with the rest of imperialism, has long been instrumental in getting very lethal equipment into terrorist hands, but it is significant that imperialism is now openly broaching these questions, profiting from the rush of blood to the head prompted by the phony WMD scare.
Meanwhile NATO gave Turkey the green light to deploy Patriot missiles along the Syria-Turkey border, on the transparent pretence that these US-made missiles were for defensive purposes only, and not with any intention of creating a no-fly zone (= free fire zone) or an offensive incursion into the country. This assertion could fool only the wilfully credulous, given the fact that a few days earlier the US Senate had already voted to assess military options to cripple Syria’s air force and advance “the goals of President Obama of stopping the killing of civilians in Syria and creating conditions for a transition to a democratic, pluralistic, political system in Syria.” Options for discussion include, as well as the Patriot deployment, the creation of a no-fly zone and airstrikes on Syrian air bases.
In a build up around Syria’s coast, the US was earlier reported to have deployed 10,000 combat troops, 70 fighter-bombers, 17 or more warships, heavy armaments, offensive Patriot missiles, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System readiness, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence Capability. (In mid-December, however, the USS Eisenhower and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group were pulled back.)
Meanwhile France has sent its aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle into the Mediterranean with combat marines on board. Back in November British and French forces were already practising landing-and-capture exercises against fortified locations on the coast and mountains of Albania in readiness operations against similar terrain in Syria.
Changing horses in midstream
Imperialism remains wary of getting its own boots on the ground however, with recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan reinforcing this caution. It still hopes to rely on the chocolate soldiers of the misnamed Free Syrian Army (FSA) for its proxy ground offensive, supplemented by the head-banging jihadist militias which will have been much encouraged by the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated SOC. Whilst the state terrorists in Washington, London and Paris dream of annihilating Syria’s military airbases from the sky, the little-league terrorists of the FSA and its outriders declare Damascus International Airport, a major civil aviation hub, to be a “military” target, warning airlines and civilians to avoid the area. Unable to take and hold the airport, the rebels have resorted to sporadic terrorist attacks, with as a result a number of flights being cancelled.
Washington was careful to nudge Britain, France and various pliant Gulf sheikhdoms into recognising the SOC first, hoping thereby to preserve the fiction of the US as a disinterested party by withholding formal recognition until the last minute. Yet the unceremonious manner in which imperialism first pulled the rug out from under the joke Syrian National Council and then replaced it with this new coalition of bandits spoke less of a master puppeteer pulling all the strings than of a panic-stricken change of horses in midstream.
Contrary to prayers that the new jihadist lash-up might be held in less universal contempt than the previous sorry crew of expats and chancers, the new coalition, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and stripped of some more secular opposition forces like some turncoat former leaders of the Syrian army, finds itself no less bereft of popular support amongst the Syrian masses than its predecessor, and relies ever more heavily upon sectarian jihadist forces – propped up by the increasingly open military backing of the West.
Washington wants to have its cake and eat it too, relying on these sectarian fanatics to terrorise and divide the people, yet trying to rein in jihadist forces whose sectarianism does not preclude dangerous levels of anti-US rhetoric. To this end, an example has been made of the al-Nusra brigade, now branded as ‘terrorist’ on the pretext of an al-Qaeda affiliation. Yet AFP reported that its fighters had taken the leading role in attacks upon a key army garrison in the north of Syria, and thereby had “undercut the military influence of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).”(‘125 victims in Syria Alawite district violence: NGO’, 11 December 2012), and an FSA spokesman was quoted declaiming bitterly at the blacklisting. “While some Syrian rebels fear the group’s growing power, others work closely with it and admire it – or, at least, its military achievements – and are loath to end their cooperation. Leaders of the Free Syrian Army… expressed exasperation that the United States… is now opposing a group they see as a vital ally.” (New York Times, ‘Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War,’ 8 December 2012)
If the mouth of the rebellion is stuffed with yankee dollars, its backbone (such as it is) is stiffened by the most backward sectarian hatreds, vented not alone against the Alawites but also against Christian, Druze, Kurdish and Palestinian communities. The predominantly Christian and Druze community of Jaramana saw over 34 lives lost in multiple bombings in the last four months alone, and rebel fighters recently torched and looted the Kurdish village of Ras al-Ain.
As Finian Cunningham asks (Press TV, ‘Western smoke-and-mirrors terrorism’, 12 December 2012), “Are we expected to believe that the litany of atrocities perpetrated against the Syrian people are all down to ‘rogue Jihadists’… Are we to believe its operatives can whisk around the entire country of Syria carrying out suicide bombings,” planting car bombs in such far flung locations as Damascus, Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa and Homs? Far from being a “terrorist” exception, al-Nusra does no more than is done routinely by all the West’s degenerate hirelings – the same sniping, bombing, kidnapping, torturing and massacres as their fellow “ combatants”, and all carried out to serve the interests of the “greatest democracy on earth”, the United States.
Syria and Palestine: two nations united in struggle
Whilst happy enough to doze off when it comes to the persecution of Alawite and other minorities by the “Syrian revolution”, left social democracy suddenly wakes up when it scents an opportunity to make mischief between Palestine and Syria, eagerly seizing on any suggestion that Palestinians within Syria are suffering persecution by the nation which hosts them. It is necessary to address such lies briefly.
There are over half a million Palestinian refugees living in Syria. Unlike in many Arab countries where the welcome awaiting refugees is at the least muted, in Syria Palestinians enjoy the same civil rights as the rest of the population, including free healthcare and education. Furthermore, whilst historically no Arab government can boast a flawless record in offering support for the Palestinian nation, the present leadership in Syria has distinguished itself by its readiness to confront Israeli bullying, and Syria’s steadfast adherence to the axis of resistance is a major thorn in the West’s side, serving to weaken the world front of imperialism. This is to the benefit of the Palestinian people, as it is to the benefit of all the oppressed.
Given the size of the Palestinian population in Syria and the growing scale of the war imposed by imperialism, Palestinians can no more hope to hold aloof from the conflict than can the Alawite, Druze, Christian or Kurdish minorities. This has become apparent in the vast al-Yarmouk refugee camp in the area south of Damascus, which has been infested with hundreds of FSA and al-Nusra fighters seeking to use the camp as a base from which to target Damascus, persecuting those who dare protest at this abuse of the camp. The population has halved (according to UNWRA) as the camp has effectively been transformed into a battle-zone, a direct consequence of the terrorists’ actions. It is reported by al-Watan that Palestinian defence groups have arisen in defence of the legitimate governmewnt.
Contrary to the lies of the enemies of Syria and of Palestine, the blood of innocents stains the hands, not of those who defend the sovereignty of the Syrian nation, but of the rebels and their imperialist backers. It serves nobody but imperialism itself to try and sow enmity between Syria and Palestine, two nations united in a common struggle against imperialism. Left social democrats who would weaken the axis of resistance by their support of the West-backed rebellion in Syria are false friends of Palestine indeed, and should least of all be relied upon to champion the interests of Palestinians, within Syria or anywhere else.
A trail of blood leads to the door of imperialism
However much imperialism insists that the pogroms unleashed by its hirelings are just the work of a rogue element trying to “ hijack the democratic revolution” (a well-worn refrain common to both imperialism and its Trotskyite fellow-travellers), the US can no more deny its own bastard offspring abroad than it can disconnect the endless succession of school massacres at home from the social degeneracy essential to imperialist society in its senescence.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich left no doubt to whose door the terror trail leads, notwithstanding the diplomatic language in which he expressed himself. “Not only the perpetrators and their organizations are responsible for the barbarian crime in Aqrab, the murder of schoolchildren in the Al-Wafideen camp and other numerous terrorist attacks in Syria, including threats by militants to shoot down civilian planes and their declaration of the Damascus Airport as a combat zone. We think that this responsibility is shared to a degree by those who directly or indirectly support the focus on military solutions and overthrowing the Syrian government, render financial and logistic aid to militants, supply them with armaments and help recruit and bring foreign mercenaries to the country.” (Interfax, ‘Supporters of military solution share responsibility for terror attacks in Syria – Moscow’, 12 December 2012)
In the attack on school children to which Lukashevich refers, rebel shells killed eight children along with their teacher. As for the crimes committed in Aqrab in December, not far from the scene of the earlier pogrom against Alawites back in May 2012, it was in vain that imperialism tied itself in knots trying to pin yet another pogrom of the Alawite minority onto the Syrian army and pro-government forces – just as had been attempted with equal cynicism over Houla.
In December’s pogrom in Aqrab a minority Alawite neighbourhood came under sustained terrorist assault, suffering mass kidnap and bomb and gun attacks resulting in at least 125 deaths and many more injuries. Faced with the task of bending these unsavoury facts into a narrative favourable to the rebels, the black propaganda machine stuttered badly, with the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights providing a choice of three equally mendacious narratives and Reuters quoting a rebel source as follows: “A rebel who said he fought in Aqrab told Reuters that fighters had surrounded a house with more than 200 people because shabbiha were there. The militiamen had used women and children as human shields and the house had been shelled by Assad’s forces, he said, without explaining why they would attack their own side [!!!].”(Reuters, ‘Syrian Alawite village attacked, rebels fight around capital’, Erika Solomon and Mariam Karouny, 11 December)
The imperialist propaganda line collapsed completely when Channel 4 journalist Alex Thompson broke ranks and presented first-hand eyewitness accounts of what really happened, blogging on 14 December as follows.
“We interviewed three key eye-witnesses in three separate locations. They could not have known either of our sudden arrival, nor did they know the identities of the other two eye-witnesses. What is striking is that their accounts entirely corroborate each other, to the last detail. And their accounts are further backed up by at least a dozen conversations with other Alawites who had fled from Aqrab… They all insist, as did everybody else we met, that the rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) corralled around 500 Alawite civilians in a large red-coloured two-storey house belonging to a prominent businessman called Abu Ismail. They then say they were held – around 500 men, women and children – in this building until the early hours of Tuesday 11 December. Nine days. In that time they say almost no food was delivered…
“ [T] he rebels told everybody: ‘We are your brothers from al-Houla and al-Rastan, your Islamic brothers. We won’t hurt you.’ Both these towns are rebel strongholds. Al-Houla, just five miles away, is the scene of a notorious massacre in May of 108 civilians, mostly women and children. They say the rebels wanted to take the women and children to al-Houla to use them as human shields against bombardment from government forces, and they believed they would kill the remaining men. They all agree matters came to a head when a delegation of villagers was sent on Monday at 4pm to break the deadlock. In that delegation were a retired senior army officer, Hamid Azzudin, the town’s Sunni imam, Sheikh Sayid Hawash, and also Hashab, the town mayor. When they arrived, the prisoners would not let them leave. As Ali puts it: ‘Once they came into the house, we just said, “We all go together, men women and children – or we all die together.”’ It appears negotiations ran between these elders and the rebels for around four hours, ending in deadlock at around eight o’clock on Monday night.
“At that point, shooting broke out, the rebels firing through the windows and shouting that they had booby-trapped the building. The eye-witnesses say that the shooting died down at about midnight, after which a deal was done. In screaming night-time chaos and intermittent shooting, three vehicles took around 70 of the prisoners to safety in the nearest village a mile away. However, it seems a fourth vehicle took a number of prisoners to al-Houla, where two – an unidentified woman and a boy – were treated for injuries in a rebel field hospital. The woman and boy blamed pro-government militia for taking the prisoners, according to rebel websites, and that is the version of events which has gone around the world.”
That is how imperialism and its hirelings operate. First you round up your target minority, then you subject them to a state of siege, then you initiate a massacre. In a final vicious twist which beggars imagination, you kidnap a traumatised child survivor, shove a camera in his face and make him accuse his own protectors of using him as a human shield – the very intention of the pogromists.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was withering about the Aqrab pogrom. “We strongly condemn this cruel massacre of innocent people. We present our profound condolences to the victims’ families and brothers in faith and to all Syrians. Moscow has noted many times that the Syrian armed opposition increasingly uses terrorist methods in its confrontation with the government and pointed to the danger and impermissibility of that situation. Alas, some of our partners prefer to ignore these warnings.” (12 December, Interfax, ‘Supporters of military solution share responsibility for terror attacks in Syria – Moscow’)
Faced with the impossible task of sanitising the terrorists’ actions, much media coverage simply tied the Aqrab events back to the Houla events. Despite the comprehensive discrediting of the imperialist version of what happened in Houla at the time (not least by the mainstream bourgeois German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), the venal media were not ashamed to repeat today as gospel what only yesterday was exposed as fraud. Yet in Houla in May, so too in Aqrab in December, the victims were Syrian citizens of the Alawite community, targeted in blind sectarian hatred by their terrorist executioners.
It is by their acts that the world will judge imperialism and its proxies, not by the polished rhetoric which has Obama canting that the US will hold the SOC responsible to “make sure that they organize themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women’s rights and minority rights.” However great a show Washington makes of purging the al-Nusra terrorists from the “democratic” Syrian Opposition Coalition, it is clear that in the struggle to overturn Syria’s legitimate leadership and replace it with “freedom”, the only foot soldiers imperialism can rely upon to do such dirty work are the most backward sectarian elements that can be imported from across the region. And whilst this can inflict untold misery upon the Syrian people, it can no more secure the stranglehold on markets and resources, or the geo-political dominance, that crisis-stricken imperialism so badly needs, as a glance at Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya will amply confirm.
Syria fights on
In particular what happened in Libya is clearly on the mind of Russia, which now makes it clear it has no intention of repeating its own stance in allowing through the UN the no-fly resolution subsequently used as a pretext for the criminal overthrow of Libya’s Green Revolution. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared that “We’ll not allow the Libyan experience to be reproduced in Syria. Unfortunately our Western partners have departed from the Geneva accords and are seeking the departure of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad.”
Every bilateral diplomatic encounter between Washington and Moscow is followed by the former claiming that Moscow is moving towards a regime-change position whilst Lavrov wearily explains for the umpteenth time “We are not holding any talks on the fate of Assad. All attempts to present the situation differently are rather shady, even for the diplomacy of those countries that are known for striving to distort facts in their own favour.”
Russia has throughout emphasised the need for political dialogue between the opposition and the government, a position repeatedly endorsed by President Assad himself, and the officially stated position enshrined in the Geneva agreement to which the US is itself a signatory. Accordingly, when the US went ahead and gave its seal of approval to the SOC, Lavrov declared himself “surprised” by the move, noting that Washington is apparently betting on a military victory for the Syrian rebels, a stance which goes against the Geneva agreement.
Meanwhile, Syria continues to defend herself. On 15 December it was reported that Yusef al-Jader, leader of the Liwa al-Tawhid terrorist band, had been killed by government forces in the course of the battle to take control of Muslimiyeh military academy just north of Aleppo, along with a number of his men. And as we go to press al-Watan is reporting that large numbers of government soldiers have amassed in preparation for a military operation to liberate the Yarmouk refugee camp from the rebel forces which have occupied it (see earlier).
We wish the Syrian leadership, army and people every success in the struggle ahead, and express our solidarity with the axis of resistance.
We urge workers in Britain, hard-pressed by a systematic and sharpening onslaught on their conditions of existence at the hands of the crisis-stricken capitalist exploiters, to reflect on the common enemy they share with the nations of Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and give the warmest support to all the forces of anti-imperialism.
Victory to President Assad, the Syrian army and the Syrian people!
Refuse to cooperate with this criminal subversion of a sovereign nation!
Support the axis of resistance!
Death to imperialism and its hirelings!