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Proletarian issue 51 (December 2012)
Imperialists threaten all-out war against Syria
We denounce imperialism’s outrageous acts of aggression.
In the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election, there has been a major increase in the aggression against Syria and the threat of outright war. This has included:

• The cobbling together of yet another ‘united’ body of the hopelessly divided counter-revolutionary opposition.

• Moves to accord this group ‘international recognition’ and for the imperialist powers themselves to openly supply it with weapons, rather than continuing to act through their proxies Turkey, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

• Israeli attacks on Syrian territory.

• Turkish moves to drag Nato openly into the conflict, with the planned installation of Patriot missiles on the Turkish-Syrian border. These missiles could then be used to establish a de facto no-fly zone over parts of Syria, enabling the terrorists to permanently occupy significant swathes of territory, something they have singularly failed to do to date, and create the pretext for an outright war.

Openly declaring that intervention in Syria was more likely after the presidential election, Prime Minister David Cameron promptly set off on a weapons-selling trip to the traditional British client states in Jordan and the Gulf. Whilst in the region, he declared that Britain will open direct talks with the armed rebel groups themselves, rather than merely their supposed political proxies. Brushing aside any naïve view that the rebel outfits are in any way a creation of the Syrian people themselves, or serve their interests, he declared:

“There is an opportunity for Britain, for America, for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and like-minded allies to come together and try to help shape the opposition, outside Syria and inside Syria, and try to help them achieve their goal, which is our goal of a Syria without Assad.” (‘Cameron pledges to assist Syria’s rebels’, Financial Times, 8 November 2012)

‘Resistance’ made to order

Sure enough, a few days later, the so-called National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was unveiled in a luxury hotel in the Qatari capital, Doha, designed to subsume the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already haughtily declared to be not fit for purpose.

Among the ‘principles’ agreed to by those forming the new coalition is a commitment “not to take part in any dialogue or negotiations with the regime” in Damascus. This represents a direct US repudiation of the UN-brokered agreement reached in Geneva last June, in which Washington committed itself to supporting “peaceful dialogue and negotiation” to bring an end to the civil war in Syria and a transition to a new constitutional order.

As this sordid coalition was being stitched together in Doha, tensions were ratcheted up on Syria’s Turkish and Israeli borders. On successive days, the Israeli military fired guided missiles and tank shells into Syrian territory, claiming to have scored ‘direct hits’ on Syrian forces – the first such exchanges since the Yom Kippur war of 1973.

Turkey plays attack dog

Meanwhile, Turkey sent F-16 fighter planes to fly threatening sorties along the Syrian border, openly backing the rebels. On 7 November, the day after the US election, Turkey publicly raised for the first time the idea of stationing Patriot missiles along its southern border with Syria. The New York Times reported:

The move would effectively create a no-fly zone that could help safeguard refugees and give rebel fighters a portion of Syrian territory without fear of crippling airstrikes by Syrian forces.

In comments reported in the local news media here, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, indicated that Turkey, a member of Nato, planned to request Patriot missiles from the alliance that would provide a defensive shield from incoming munitions from Syria. But the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet reported that Turkey had agreed with the United States on a plan to use the missiles in an offensive capacity to create safe zones in Syria.

In the weeks before the presidential election, a plan for limited no-fly zones in Syria circulated in Washington policy circles and won advocates in the State Department, a person briefed on the matter said. According to this plan, safe zones would be enforced by Patriot missile batteries under Nato authority and positioned in Turkey and Jordan ...

The plan for safe zones would deter Syrian bombers from flying over the areas, which in the north would stretch from the Turkish border town of Kilis into Syria south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. In the south, the missile batteries would be placed in Jordan and cover areas around the Syrian city of Dara’a.

‘This kind of passive no-fly zone, if combined with a political and arming strategy with the opposition, could work,’ said Andrew J Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mr Tabler added that the effort could give the Syrian rebels their ‘Benghazi pocket’, a reference to the area of eastern Libya that was a base for rebel operations in the Libya uprising.” (‘Turkey may deploy Patriot missiles near Syria’, 8 November 2012)

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen lost no time in declaring that, “Turkey can rely on Nato solidarity”, citing “plans in place to defend and protect Turkey”.

British troops at the ready

With US imperialism preoccupied with its ‘pivot to Asia’, designed to contain and confront China, it so far has been prepared, to a considerable extent, to allow its junior partners in London and Paris to take the front place in beating the drums of war against Damascus.

In an 11 November BBC interview, chief of the defence staff General Sir David Richard said that Britain is ready to send troops into Syria this winter under the pretext of a ‘humanitarian’ mission. “There is no military reason why one shouldn’t, and I know that all these options are quite rightly being examined,” he said.

Both Britain and France are now exploring all options to enable them to openly supply weapons to their terrorist groups in Syria, manoeuvring around the arms embargo they themselves inveigled the EU into imposing on Syria in an earlier phase of their campaign to unseat the Assad government.

Also on 11 November, perhaps somewhat ironically known as ‘Armistice Day’, Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond admitted that the UK did not have a legal basis to intervene militarily. But he added that Cameron, “keeps asking us to test the legal position and the practical military position”.

Like the British, the French government has declared that it is searching for a legal fig-leaf to allow it to openly supply arms to the terrorists. As a crucial step towards this, Paris became the first imperialist power to join Turkey and the six stooges grouped in the Gulf Cooperation Council in officially recognising the coalition knocked together in Qatar as the “sole representative of the Syrian people” – and France was followed by the UK within days.

President François Hollande said that with such recognition, as a future “provisional government”, the supply of arms “will be necessarily looked at again”. Clearly, the replacement of the openly right-wing Sarkozy with a ‘socialist’ president has made not the slightest difference to the ruthless determination of French imperialism to defend its regional and global interests at any cost and by any means.

Another phoney ‘WMD’ scare

As with Iraq yesterday, and quite possibly Iran tomorrow, the specious spectre of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is being increasingly used to create a spurious justification for an illegal war of aggression. On 13 November, the Financial Times reported:

Turkey warned on Monday of the risk of Syria using missiles with chemical weapons ... In an interview with the Financial Times on a day that a Syrian fighter jet also attacked an area near the Turkish border, President Abdullah Gul raised the possibility of Damascus using chemical weapons against Turkey – a threat he said could be countered by Nato Patriot missiles.

‘It is known that Syria has chemical weapons and they have old Soviet delivery systems, so if there is in some eventuality, some sort of madness, in this respect and some action is taken, contingency planning has to be put in place and this is something Nato is doing,’ he said.” (‘Turkey warns of Syria chemical arms risk’)

On 16 November, the New York Times reported: “The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops, amid increasing concern that the militant group Hizbollah has set up small training camps close to some of the chemical weapons depots, according to senior American officials ...

Mr Obama has been clear for more than a year that he would resist direct American intervention, but in August he said one circumstance would cause him to revisit that position. ‘A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised,’ he said at a news conference. ‘That would change my calculus.’

Mr Obama brought those concerns up again in a news conference on Wednesday, saying that the United States was in close contact with Turkey and Jordan ‘and obviously Israel, which is having already grave concerns as we do about, for example, movements of chemical weapons that might occur in such a chaotic atmosphere and that could have an impact not just within Syria but on the region as a whole’ ...

American intelligence and security officials, in interviews in recent days, said that the United States had picked up evidence that north Korea had resumed providing Syria with some missile technology, including assistance with Scud missiles.

A shipment of graphite cylinders that could be used in missiles and are suspected to have come from north Korea were found in May aboard a Chinese ship en route to Syria, Reuters reported Wednesday. North Korean technicians and engineers stationed in Syria have recently increased their efforts on a joint programme to improve the Scud D missile’s accuracy and the warhead’s ability to defeat interceptors, IHS Jane’s International Defence Review reported in June.” (‘75,000 US troops may be needed to grab Syria chemical arms’)

Syria defiant

In the face of the gathering war clouds, Syria’s leadership and people remain defiant. In an interview with Russia Today television, a calm and composed President Bashar al-Assad, responding to Cameron’s demand, made across the border in Jordan, that he step down from office and leave Syria, declared:

“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian. I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.”

With these courageous words, President Assad spoke not only for himself but for all the patriotic armed forces and people of Syria, who today stand on the front line of the global anti-imperialist struggle against war and for peace and independence. Working and oppressed people, and all those who hate injustice, need to stand four square behind their heroic resistance, just as the world stood with Spain in the 1930s and with Vietnam in the 1960s.

Hands off Syria!

Victory to Assad!
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