In the days since the article below was written, and as we were going to press [29 August], the preparations for a direct imperialist military onslaught against Syria appeared to gather an unstoppable momentum and it is extremely likely that the country will be facing such a barbarous attack within the next few days.
Parliament has been recalled and leading US imperialist politicians such as Secretary of State John Kerry have made it clear that an armed assault is imminent.
Syria remains heroic and defiant in the face of this heightened threat, declaring it will use “all means available” to resist and counter any US-led strike. In an interview with a Russian newspaper, President Assad has stated that, since Vietnam, no war has ended in victory for the imperial superpower. For its part, Russia has declared that any attack on Syria would be a serious breach of international law and Iran, too, has warned of grave consequences.
Even by the threadbare standards of imperialism, the manufactured and completely specious pretext for the impending assault on Syria would be farcical were it not so serious and murderous.
From the very start of the externally instigated counter-revolutionary turmoil in Syria, this newspaper and our comrades in the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) have been clear and consistent in calling for Hands off Syria and Victory to President Assad!
Let our opponents in the working class movement and the so-called anti-war movement, who have employed one cowardly and dishonest pretext after another to avoid joining us in this stance, reflect that the blood of the Syrian people is on their hands, just as it is on the hands of the imperialist masters they objectively serve.
Victory to Syria! Death to imperialism!
Faced with successive and decisive military defeats inflicted by the patriotic Syrian armed forces, the feuding bands of counter-revolutionary, feudalist and fundamentalist terrorists, who, for nearly three years, have waged a vicious war against the people of this anti-imperialist Arab nation, are resorting to ever more desperate schemes to try to provoke an outright imperialist war of intervention, which they now see, more clearly than ever, as the only thing standing between themselves and complete obliteration.
On 21 August, just three days after a 20-member United Nations mission had arrived in Syria, at the invitation of the government, to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and similar organisations, linked to or controlled by western intelligence agencies, began a hysterical campaign alleging that Damascus had launched such an attack in the suburbs of its own capital.
Whilst predictably, and as if on cue, the USA, UK and France immediately convened a meeting of the UN Security Council to consider action, even the Financial Times, certainly no friend of the Syrian government, felt constrained to note:
“Their [the UN investigators – Ed.] presence in the country raised questions about why the regime would use chemical agents at this time .”
The paper further noted: ” As well as differing death tolls there were also inconsistencies within activists’ accounts about where exactly gas was allegedly used.”
But clearly feeling the strain of its conflicting missions of echoing imperialist war propaganda, whilst providing its core bourgeois readership with at least a modicum of accurate information, the same article claimed:
” Analysts said the sheer quantity of amateur videos posted online – allegedly showing victims of the attack as they struggled to breathe and in some cases lying lifeless on the ground, with few obvious signs of injury – suggested that some kind of incident took place on Wednesday morning .” (‘Syria opposition claims hundreds die in chemical attack’, 21 August 2013)
Clearly, the desk editor for that edition had forgotten, or more likely hoped that his readership had forgotten, a key maxim of the Nazis’ propaganda chief, namely that the key factor in getting a lie to be believed is to ensure that it is repeated often enough.
In reality, these unsubstantiated and illogical allegations have all the hallmarks of a staged provocation calculated to trigger imperialist intervention.
The UN chemical weapons inspection team had arrived in Syria just 72 hours previously and had just begun its work. Moreover, the alleged attack occurred just a few miles from where the team is headquartered!
Contradictory accounts of the supposed attack put the number of victims at as few as 20 and as many as 1,300 – naturally it is the latter figure that features in the utterances of most imperialist politicians and their media outlets.
What nobody cares to explain is why on earth President Assad’s government or armed forces should choose to mount such large scale chemical attacks, both when they are scoring major military victories (most recently in the city of Homs and in the province of Latakia), and have been so doing for many months now, as well as under the very noses of the UN inspectors.
Plumbing new depths of banality, yet also speaking to the imperialist sense of despair that it is clearly losing the Syrian conflict whilst still banging the drum of war, a writer for the US financial news service, Bloomberg, claimed:
” The second question is, why would the Assad regime launch its biggest chemical attack on rebels and civilians precisely at the moment when a UN inspection team was parked in Damascus? The answer to that question is easy: Because Assad believes that no one – not the UN, not President Obama, not other Western powers, not the Arab League – will do a damn thing to stop him .” (‘Does anybody care if Assad uses chemical weapons again’ by Jeffrey Goldberg, 21 August 2013)
In a statement, the Syrian Foreign Ministry noted that the cooperation between Damascus and the UN inspection team ” didn’t please the terrorists and the countries supporting them, which is why they came up with new false allegations that the Armed Forces used toxic gas in the Damascus countryside .”
The Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad told Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency that the allegations were false and equivalent to the charges regarding ” weapons of mass destruction” levelled against Iraq, which were used as the pretext for the direct and all-out US-led war of intervention against that country.
The ambassador stated: ” Our armed forces have never used chemical weapons and all fabricated concoctions in this respect aim to disorient international observers and defocus their efforts in achieving the set goals .
” It is no secret for anyone that all these falsifications that appear from time to time about the use of chemical weapons are nothing but an attempt to repeat the scenario that was used in the past with regard to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq .”
He recalled that chemical weapons ” were used by armed terrorist groups in Khan al-Asal on 19 March 2013 and Syria urgently asked the United Nations to send international commissions to investigate this incident, but countries that support terrorism in Syria have politicised this issue .”
He further noted that the terrorists were making desperate efforts to cover up their activities. ” We all remember that armed terrorist groups organised a horrible massacre in the same town again on 26 July, killing more than 50 innocent people. This happened after Syria had agreed to receive an international commission to investigate the use of chemical weapons. The purpose of that massacre was to destroy all witnesses to the use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal on 19 March ,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also promptly branded the charges that Damascus had used chemical weapons a “premeditated provocation“.
Citing sources in Syria, spokesman Aleksander Lukashevich charged that the chemical weapons attack east of Damascus was the work of the US-backed terrorists themselves.
According to Lukashevich: ” Early in the morning of 21August, a home-made rocket carrying an unknown chemical warfare agent was launched on the eastern suburbs of Damascus from a position taken by insurgents. The missile resembled the rocket, which was used by the rebels on 19 March in Khan al-Asal .
” Moscow believes it is important to carry out an objective and professional investigation of what happened. It looks like an attempt to create a pretext for the UN Security Council to side with the opponents of Assad’s regime and thus undermine Geneva-2 talks, which are now scheduled for 28 August .
” Once again we urge all those who have the opportunity to influence the armed extremists to make every effort to put an end to provocations with the use of chemical agents .
” The fact that agenda-driven regional mass media have begun an aggressive attack at once, as if on command, laying all responsibility on the government, draws attention. It is apparently no coincidence that information like this regarding the authorities using chemical weapons has been thrown in before, including in the past days, citing some opposition sources, however it was not confirmed l ater.
” All this can only lead us to think that we are dealing again with a provocation planned in advance. The fact that the criminal action near Damascus was carried out just when the mission of UN experts to investigate the statements on possible chemical weapons use there has successfully begun its work in Syria points to this .” (‘Chemical missile launched from rebel-controlled eastern suburbs’, Voice of Russia, 21 August 2013)
The terrorist forces in Syria have repeatedly and publicly boasted that they have access to chemical weapons and are prepared to use them. For example, at the end of May, the Turkish media reported that members of the Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda-affiliated group that has increasingly dominated the armed opposition, had been arrested with a quantity of sarin in their possession.
The last furore over alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons came last June, following the defeat of the Western-backed forces in the strategic city of Qusayr near the Lebanese border, cutting a key supply line for the terrorists. It was in direct response to these reversals that the Obama administration issued its baseless finding that the Assad government had used chemical weapons. Having previously declared the use of such weapons a “red line” that would lead to a change in US policy on Syria, the Obama administration announced that its intention was to begin directly arming the terrorists.
However, despite the massive flow of external funds, weapons and fighters, in addition to successive defeats on the battlefield, the counter-revolutionaries now seem beset with problems on all sides.
The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has forced the Syrian National Council to flee that country for Turkey, as the new Egyptian authorities have withdrawn their support. Its support for the imperialist-backed war in Syria was an important factor in Mohammed Morsi’s government being rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people.
Meanwhile, the Al Nusra fundamentalists, who had been strengthening their position in northern Syria, found themselves checked and countered by Kurdish armed fighters, largely drawn from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), seeking to defend their autonomy and determined not to allow the imposition of fundamentalist obscurantism, which runs counter to the Kurdish people’s ethos and traditions, in their villages and communities.
The growing strength of the PYD, which is closely allied to Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has also rung alarm bells in Ankara, with Prime Minister Erdogan warning against any “wrong and dangerous steps” toward Kurdish autonomy in Syria.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement was also astute in linking the latest allegations to attempts to derail the proposed Geneva peace talks. Whilst imperialist politicians like William Hague repeatedly make the disingenuous claim that support for the terrorists is aimed at forcing Damascus to the negotiating table, it is, and always has been, the terrorists who are running scared of peace talks.
In a 31 July interview with the New York Times, Ahmad al-Jarba, head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition, specifically ruled out negotiations with the Assad government. The newspaper reported: ” Momentum in the war has shifted in favour of Mr Assad in recent weeks as his forces have retaken territory, and many rebel groups have become bogged down in local turf battles and infighting .
“Mr Jarba acknowledged the military challenges, saying that peace talks could proceed only when the rebels were stronger.
“‘Circumstances impose on us not to go unless the situation on the ground is in favour of the [counter] revolution,’ he said…
“The coalition had agreed, Mr Nashar [another member of the coalition] said, that conditions for any talks included removing Mr Assad from power, the withdrawal from Syria of all fighters who have joined Mr Assad’s side from Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and prosecutions for those accused of war crimes .
” Mr Nashar also said that talks could begin only if the rebels were winning. ‘Many are refusing to go with the current conditions,’ he said. ‘The opposition won’t go unless there are military achievements on the ground .'” (‘Head of Syrian opposition rejects talks with Assad’)
This last quoted point is the salient one. The conditions he outlines are those for surrender talks not peace negotiations. Yet, as things stand, the only people likely to be doing any surrendering are not the Syrian government, their friends and allies, or the popular masses that support them, but the motley array of terrorists, fundamentalists and fanatics, along with their feudal and imperialist backers, arraigned against them.
Such a reality was acknowledged by the New York Times just a couple of weeks before its interviews with Jarba and Nashar. On 17 July, the paper wrote: ” In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate. At the same time, the United States and other Western powers that have called for Mr Assad to step down have shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons. ”
Speaking of President Assad, the paper wrote, ” even some of his staunchest enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months… the clear command structure of the army and Mr Assad’s status as a unifying figurehead have kept his forces together .” (‘Momentum shifts in Syria, bolstering Assad’s position’)
That is why, despite the siren calls for war in certain quarters, the Pentagon itself seems more reluctant to make a decisive commitment. On 21 August, the Associated Press reported a letter sent by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey to a pro-war Democrat congressman. Implicitly admitting that this would be a war that imperialism would be unlikely to win, Dempsey wrote to Congressman Eliot Engel of New York: ” We can destroy the Syrian air force. The loss of Assad’s air force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict. Stated another way, it would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict .”
Victory to the Syrian people led by President Bashar al-Assad!