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Proletarian issue 69 (December 2015)
Syria: Imperialism on the back foot
Russia’s fraternal aid to Syria continues to expose the false narrative of western politicians and media regarding the fight against fundamentalist terrorism.
War has now been raging in Syria for nearly five years. It is, as a matter of fact, a war of intervention fought by imperialism through its proxies, which include a handful of local Syrian crazed fundamentalists alongside nearly 100,000 foreign – including European – jihadis.

These fighters have been unleashed by imperialism with the aim of overthrowing the legitimate, sovereign and independent government of the Syrian Arab Republic. So far, more than a quarter of a million Syrians, including nearly 100,000 soldiers, have died in this conflict.

Product of imperialism

The conflict in Syria is not, as some bourgeois liberals and social democrats will have us believe, the result of ‘mistaken’ policies by the western governments. It is a product of imperialism’s relentless drive for world domination – a product of monopoly capitalism’s insatiable thirst for the maximum of profit through monopolising raw materials, markets and avenues for profitable investment.

Any government that pursues an economic or foreign policy that stands in the way of imperialism’s drive for domination makes itself a candidate for overthrow in the eyes of the free-market fundamentalists in Washington, London, Paris and elsewhere.

Syria has been a thorn in the side of imperialism for decades, and the latter has long sought an opportunity to oust its government. US imperialism has invested huge resources and efforts into creating the conditions that might enable it to achieve this end. According to a report published by the US Congressional Research Service, that country has sent in excess of $7.7bn worth of ‘military aid’ to the jihadis in Syria since 2011. (See The nations that sent the most arms to Syria have accepted the fewest refugees by C Robert Gibson, US Uncut, 4 September 2015)

The US got the opportunity it had been seeking to initiate the process for overthrowing the Syrian government in the first half of 2011, when several countries in the Middle East, principally Tunisia and Egypt, witnessed mass anti-government protests, which led to the ousting of the heads of state in these two countries.

Syria, too, experienced some protests, which were manipulated by various gangs with links to external powers and used to launch armed attacks on Syrian soldiers and civilians. According to reliable reports, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all joined the US in providing generous funding and training to the jihadi forces in Syria. Israel is also providing logistical support.

US nurtures jihadis

Former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), retired Lieutenant General Michael T Flynn, is on record saying that the US government took a “wilful decision” to create and nurture terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS).

A classified report of the DIA, which he had submitted on 12 August 2012, clearly states: “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are major forces driving the insurgency in Syria, supported by the West, Gulf countries and Turkey”. (Rise of Islamic State was ‘a wilful decision’: Former DIA chief Michael Flynn by Brad Hoff, Foreign Policy Journal, 7 August 2015)

The road to Tehran runs through Damascus

Ruling circles in the US had been preparing the ground for the destruction of the Syrian state well in advance of 2011. Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, had emphasised the need to “deconstruct” Syria to serve US interests, for only through such ‘deconstruction’ could the US gain the ultimate prize in the region – namely, regime change in Tehran.

In 2009, O’Hanlon co-authored a report that laid down in detail the steps the US should take to attain this goal. Before attacking Iran, he said, both Hizbollah and Syria would need to be eliminated from the equation. (See Which Path to Persia? Options For a New American Strategy Towards Iran)

This report cannot be dismissed as merely an academic exercise by an independent think-tank, for the Brookings Institute is financed by, and has close connections with, giant monopolies in the fields of finance, armaments, oil, telecommunications and the media. Among its sponsors are: giant financial institutions JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs; armament companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Electric; oil conglomerates like Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips; telecoms behemoths like Comcast, Google, Facebook, Verizon and AT&T; and the world-renowned drinks manufacturers Pepsi and Coca Cola.

It is these monopoly corporations that have a stranglehold on the imperialist administrations and legislatures, which are the driving force behind the conflict in Syria (not to speak of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere) and the entire region stretching from the Middle East through Central Asia to the borders of the Russian Federation – with the sole aim of grabbing mineral resources, markets and opportunities for the profitable export of capital.

In the pursuit of domination, there is no crime that imperialism will not commit; no cruelty it will not stoop to; no mean method to which it will not resort. Confining ourselves to Syria, imperialism, through its jihadi proxies, who are supplied with funds, logistical support and huge quantities of armaments by the medieval autocracies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey, has been responsible for the loss of at least a quarter of a million lives and the displacement of 11 million Syrians, five million of whom have been compelled to flee the country.

Several hundred thousand of these unfortunate victims of imperialism are now turning up in Europe as refugees, there to be met with suspicion and hostility. In their desperate attempts to reach the safety of Europe, upwards of 3,000 people have lost their lives through drowning in the Mediterranean while undertaking the perilous journey in unsafe rickety boats carrying passengers far in excess of their capacity.

Russia’s intervention and the Paris bombing

Two events have had a dramatic and transformational effect on the war in Syria. The first has been the Russian intervention on the side of the Syrian government. At the latter’s invitation, the Russian air force started bombing jihadi targets on 30 September – with devastating effects on the terrorists’ infrastructure, bases and hideouts, ammunition dumps and training facilities.

Closely coordinating with the Russian aerial bombardment, the Syrian army has advanced successfully into many areas that had been occupied by jihadi outfits such as IS and Jabhat al-Nusra. This coordinated effort has in two months inflicted more defeats on the jihadis than did the imperialist coalition in over a year.

The reason for the Russian/Syrian successes and the imperialist coalition’s failure is simple: while the Russian/Syrian side is genuinely engaged in the fight to destroy the jihadis, the imperialist coalition, while pretending to fight against the terrorists, has actually been pursuing its decades-old policy of regime change in Syria.

These two aims are contradictory and mutually exclusive, for only the terrorist groups (albeit with the support of imperialism and its stooge Gulf regimes) are potentially capable of overthrowing the Syrian government. The destruction of the jihadi organisations would therefore undermine completely the policy of regime change.

On the other hand, the only forces on the ground capable of defeating the terrorists are those of the Syrian army under the command of the sovereign and legitimate government of Syria, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. And this is precisely what the Syrian army is doing, in close cooperation with Russian aerial operations. These Russian sorties have rattled imperialism and exposed its ‘anti-terrorist’ operations for what they really are – namely, a public-relations exercise and a cover for a policy of regime change through the enlistment of the jihadis and the bombing of Syrian civilian infrastructure.

After a year of the US’s bombing missions in Syria, which were supposed to be targeting terrorists, the jihadis had, in fact, grown stronger – for the simple reason that, being imperialism’s tools for regime change, imperialism was by no means desirous of knocking them out.

The second of these events was the coordinated jihadi onslaught in Paris on 13 November, which killed 129 innocent men and women and wounded another 350. This caused such an outrage in France and many other countries that imperialist powers were, willy nilly, dragged into effecting (no matter how insincerely) a change of front. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, was no longer the outcast that he had been portrayed as; suddenly the leaders of the US, Germany, Britain and France were queuing to meet him and seek his advice.

Further, Russian intervention and the Paris carnage have caused a deep split in the imperialist camp between those who still give primacy to regime change in Syria and those who consider terrorism to be the greater danger. The latter camp, through the force of events and the public pressure demanding a serious fight against terrorism, is gaining ascendancy.

Last September, during his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Russian president proposed an international coalition to fight against jihadi terrorism, but his proposal was dismissed with contempt by the political and ideological representatives of the principal imperialist countries. Now, however, they are tripping each other up in the rush to endorse it.

“There must be a union of all those who truly want to fight this terrorist army as part of the big coalition,” said French President Hollande, adding: “It is with this goal in mind that I will meet in the coming days President Obama and President Putin to join forces and achieve a result that has been postponed [who by?] for too long.” (Putin orders Russian forces to work with French ‘allies’ in Syria, Financial Times, 17 November 2015)

Similarly, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We have differences with the Russians. But the conversation I want to have with Vladimir Putin is to say ‘Look, there’s one thing we agree about, which is we’d be safer in Russia, we’d be safer in Britain, if we destroy Isil.’ That’s what we should be focusing on.” (UK’s Cameron to urge Putin to focus fight in Syria on Islamic State by Kylie Maclellan, Reuters, 15 November 2015)

Yet only the other day these two gentlemen were declaring in shrill tones that the removal of President Assad was a necessary prelude to a successful fight against jihadi terror. What a difference a mere two months can make!

Even the Washington Post was obliged to report, apropos the Russian intervention, in the following rueful terms under the heading ‘Amid Russian air strikes, a Putin craze takes hold in the Middle East’: “Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region.

“The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria who see Russian air strikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the US-led coalition to dislodge Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries.” The article was later removed from the paper’s website. (Why US fears Putin success in Syria by Finian Cunningham, RT, 16 October 2015)

Consequent upon the Russian intervention and the Paris massacre, imperialism is on the back foot, while the Russian government and parliament (duma) are setting the agenda. On 17 November, the duma approved a resolution calling for solidarity with all nations that have suffered attacks, and for the creation of an international anti-terror coalition, modelled on the anti-Nazi coalition created during the second world war.

This resolution, drafted by the state duma committee for international relations, listed IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other such organisations as terrorist groups and called for the elimination of sources of financial support for them, including funding through stolen and smuggled oil and antiquities.

The duma’s legislators reminded “their foreign colleagues that Russia had repeatedly warned the international community about the dangers that came with destabilising the Middle East by nations that seek global dominance, first of all the United States”. (Duma calls for foreign parliaments to launch worldwide anti-terror coalition, RT, 17 November 2015)

Thus it is clear that, far from being isolated, Russia is setting the agenda and forcing imperialist powers and their stooges to join the real international community in the war against terrorism, destabilisation and regime change. It would appear that the events of the last two months have put paid to the imperialist agenda for regime change in Syria. In the process, they are also accelerating the decline of US hegemony.

The events in Paris have shone a spotlight on the imperialist powers’ collusion with murderous jihadi gangs. Nearly all the jihadis involved in the Paris massacre were home-grown fundamentalists from France and Belgium, and were known to the security services of these two countries. For all that, they had no problem travelling backward and forward between Europe and Syria.

This is because they have been acting as mercenary stooges of imperialism in the fight to overthrow the Syrian government. In other words, they were, until yesterday, imperialism’s ‘good’ jihadis. They were radicalised through Saudi Arabia’s mediaeval, fundamentalist brand of Islam (wahhabism) in mosques built with Saudi money and facilitated by the governments of imperialist countries. It is therefore entirely hypocritical for the representatives of imperialism now to feign shock and horror over the actions and ‘values’ of the very terrorists they themselves brought into existence and nurtured with such tender, loving care.

The truth is that jihadi terrorism is a product of imperialism. In its quest for domination and maximum profit, imperialism is more than willing to use any and every dirty method, and all the dregs of society, jihadis included.

Whatever the outcome of the current Russian efforts to assemble an international coalition against terrorism, in the final analysis all war, including wars of the type waged by imperialism using fundamentalist and other reactionary proxies, can only be eliminated through the successful overthrow of imperialism – this bloody system that has for so long subjected humanity to the torments of war, hunger, exploitation and destitution.

The fight against war and for peace is inextricably linked to the struggle for the overthrow of imperialism. There is no other way out of imperialist wars that make way for the imperialist bandits’ ‘peace’, and which in turn merely prepares the ground for yet more imperialist wars.

Victory to the Syrian people; death to imperialism!
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