The following article below was originally published by Lalkar, journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist):
Under imminent threat of an external air war being unleashed against Syrian territory, the progressive government of Syria is pressing on with its campaign to deal with the Western-fomented internal rebellion, on the one hand engaging in a systematic mopping up operation against rebel forces in Aleppo and Damascus, and on the other launching a pre-emptive airstrike against insurgents holding to ransom the Northern Syrian town of Azaz.
With the Annan Plan now comprehensively scuttled by Washington and its partners in crime, the truly bestial face of imperialist aggression is exposed for all to see. Let any communists, socialists, anti-war activists or democrats who hitherto doubted the real intentions of the armed “opposition” and its Western backers now open their eyes and rally in support of the brave and beleaguered people of Syria and their anti-imperialist leadership.
The Annan Plan
Enraged at the continuing failure to secure regime change in Damascus, the warmongers achieved the pyrrhic victory of regime change back in New York, where former UN chief Kofi Annan finally buckled under intolerable pressure and opted to quit his post as mediator over the Syria crisis.
The fact that he was charged with this responsibility in the first place can only be explained by the circumstances attending the launch of the Annan Plan. As a lifetime career diplomat at the UN, Annan has on occasion fallen foul of Washington. In 2003 he recognised the illegality of the US and British invasion of Iraq, and last year he criticised NATO’s actions in Libya as going beyond what was mandated by the Security Council. These reproofs, though pathetically mild in their expression, were enough to ensure that Annan would not be Uncle Sam’s first choice to put in charge of any serious piece of international diplomacy, let alone one that potentially interfered with the supposed God-given right of the USA to choose the government of any country on earth. There are flunkeys and flunkeys, and we can assume that Washington would have preferred one less prone to drifting off-message.
The fact is that Annan’s six-point plan for political reconciliation occupied a diplomatic space carved out by just two forces: the patriotic resistance of the Syrian masses themselves and the steadfast refusal of both Russia and China to aid and abet intervention against Syria. Without the interposition of the Chinese and Russian veto, Washington had every hope of keeping the diplomatic initiative and using the UN as a springboard for aggression, just as happened over Libya. The United States, Britain, France and the other imperialist powers had no interest whatever in a diplomatic solution which was not predicated on the ouster of the country’s incumbent president and the violation of its sovereignty, and were aghast to see the diplomatic initiative wrested from the West.
Right from the outset Washington and its allies did everything possible to undermine the Annan Plan, geeing up their proxy fighters to trample over the ceasefire arrangements and running their own ‘Friends of Syria’ circus sooner than accept the lead given by Russia and China in the Security Council and at Geneva. Whilst servile in his efforts to be “even-handed” (between aggressor and victim, be it noted), Annan could not hide his growing irritation with America’s combination of faint praise for “his” Plan and active assistance to the rebellion on the ground. He blurted that “criticism of the international community’s failure to negotiate a political solution has too often focused on Russia” and further ruffled yankee feathers by maintaining that “all these countries say they want a peaceful solution, but they undertake individual and collective actions that undermine the very meaning of Security Council resolutions”.
In his resignation speech he said he had embraced a “sacred duty” but “did not receive all the support that the cause deserved,” complaining that “continuous finger-pointing and name-calling” at the UN Security Council had undermined his efforts. As if in confirmation of his gloomy assessment, Western diplomats queued up to tell Ban Ki-moon why he should not bother finding a replacement for Annan. Whilst Russia, China, South Africa and Pakistan all see the urgent necessity for a replacement to keep open the diplomatic track, according to Reuters on 8 August, “the Americans, council diplomats say, see little point in replacing Annan. They had grown increasingly frustrated with the veteran diplomat’s refusal to step aside… ‘The Americans gave up on the Security Council route back in October after Russia’s first veto and have unenthusiastically supported the European push in New York since then,’ one council envoy said on condition of anonymity. ‘They also feel Annan took too long to concede failure.’” The belated decision to shuffle former Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi into the post is merely intended to give the Annan Plan a quiet burial.
Washington wades deeper into blood
With the West now virtually micromanaging the rebellion themselves and burying diplomacy as fast as possible, the aggression is naked and the democratic mask cast aside. At a recent council of war convened by Hillary Clinton with the Turkish foreign minister, Clinton spoke openly about imposing “no fly zones” over Syrian territory, the same form of words which was used when NATO unleashed eight months of aerial bombardment upon Libya. Clinton announced that “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments.” To this end she announced the establishment of a working group in Turkey to increase the involvement of the intelligence services and armed forces of both countries, making Ankara’s pretensions to an independent foreign policy look even shakier. To give a “humanitarian” sounding gloss to US support for rebel base camps on Turkish territory, Clinton also announced an extra $5.5 million assistance for Syrians displaced to Turkey. (America’s true sentiments regarding genuine refugee relief may be judged by the treatment reserved for Mexicans who dare cross into the USA in search of work, escaping from the wreckage of a home economy trashed by NAFTA.)
Nor has Obama been content to let Clinton bag all the warmongering ‘glory’, warning of“enormous consequences” should Syria choose to defend herself with the full range of her military options. Obama’s has threatened military action should Damascus exercise her right to deploy her defences as she sees fit – “a red line for us is if we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized”. Lest anyone should doubt the scale of the “enormous consequences” Obama dreams of, a bevy of administration officials is on hand to colour in a scenario for Channel 4 News in which, in addition to massive aerial bombardment, “tens of thousands of ground troops” would “go into Syria to secure chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.”(21 August, ‘Obama warning to Syria on chemical weapons’)
So it is that, maddened by its own economic crisis, US imperialism appears hell bent on persisting in its fascistic designs against the Syrian nation, even if that risks (a) suffering a humiliating rebuff from the patriotic forces of Syria and from her allies, and (b) testing to destruction the willingness of its fellow imperialists to remain in lockstep with a military adventure so uncertain in outcome and so utterly devoid of any legitimacy under international law. The issue is already producing ructions in France, with Sarkozy going head to head with his social democratic successor in the Elysee. The timing of the US denunciation of the British Standard Chartered Bank for allegedly circumventing US sanctions against Iran, a denunciation which wiped millions off its share values, suggests interesting limits to the vaunted “special relationship”. It is significant that that relationship, founded to a degree on a community of interests (guns and oil), should start showing fracture lines in the context of US war plans in the Middle East.
Patriotic resistance versus sectarian provocations
Throughout all this, the resistance of the Syrian nation persists. The Syrian armed forces, described by writer and US war veteran Colonel Doug Macgregor as the most competent and disciplined in the Arab world, have been making life very uncomfortable for the rebels in Aleppo and elsewhere.
Unable to prevail on the battlefield, rebel forces are taking revenge upon helpless civilians. In Jandar village near Homs it is reported that rebel fighters attacked a housing compound inhabited by workers at a power company, killing 16 Syrian civilians, mostly Alawite and Christian by faith. Japanese and Iranian workers in the same compound were reportedly untouched. Another Alawite, a film director called Bassam Mohieddin, was recently murdered near his home in the suburbs of Damascus. Such sectarian outrages are consistent with sightings of many foreign fighters seen in Aleppo, including Al Qaeda affiliates.
Another target of sectarian hatred has been Shia pilgrims from Iran, 48 of whom were kidnapped by ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) terrorists as their coach was on the way back to the airport. So outlandish are rebel claims that the ‘pilgrims’ represented some kind of military threat that in embarrassment an opposition source hastily briefed Al Jazeera, to the effect that the gunmen were in reality “an extremist Islamist group whose religious discourse is based on inciting hatred against Shias and Alawites,” and supposedly “has no links with themainstream FSA” (emphasis added).. The source claimed that the terrorist’ video “was just a cover-up for the fact that this operation was carried out in order to target Iranian Shias.” In trying to salvage the reputation of the sectarian butchers of the FSA, Al Jazeera only succeeds in confirming the foul reactionary essence of the rebellion. Coming on top of the abduction of eleven Lebanese pilgrims back in May, this outrage against Syria’s close neighbours can only strengthen the resolve of their friends to stand by Syria in her hour of need.
The Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi pointed out that Iran has no armed forces in Syria, none having been requested by the Syrian government. After all, reasoned Vahidi,“Syria has a powerful military and also enjoys popular support. The Syrians can handle the adventures that foreigners have created in their country.” But the continuing refusal of China and Russia to aid and abet the violation of Syrian sovereignty, coupled with the neighbourly solidarity coming from Iran and the Lebanon, should serve to stiffen the resolve of the Syrian nation – and give pause to the warmongers in Washington, London, Tel Aviv and Paris. It can only fill these circles with gloom to hear Saeed Jalili tell President Assad that Iran and Syria form one single “axis of resistance” that Teheran will not allow to be broken.
Meanwhile, whilst the warmongers routinely berate Damascus for its supposed suppression of democracy, their friends in the opposition death squads are busy demonstrating their respect for the freedom of the press. On 10 August gunmen kidnapped three Syrian TV journalists and their driver who were covering violence on the outskirts of Damascus: their whereabouts are still unknown. A day later someone heading up a department of the Syrian news agency SANA was assassinated in Damascus. Not only are all such journalist deaths the inevitable consequence of the civil war conditions imposed by Western meddling, but on closer examination it turns out too that losses amongst Western journalists are sometimes the direct responsibility of rebels as well. The chief correspondent of Channel Four News, Alex Thomson, reported how he and his crew were intentionally directed by rebels into a zone where their presence would be misconstrued and invite a lethal response from security forces. Having narrowly escaped with his life, Thomson was terse about the near-fatal propaganda trap into which he had fallen. “My point is,” he blogged, “dead journalists are bad for Damascus.” Then came the demise of French journalist Gilles Jacquier. Whilst all the headlines were screaming that the Syrian army was to blame, fellow journalist Georges Malbrunot pointed to insurrectionist fire, a judgement backed up by France’s own intelligence services who concluded that Jacquier had actually been killed by an 80mm mortar fired from rebel lines.
Despite all the unsubstantiated and slanderous opposition twitter “reports” and dodgy mobile phone rushes, endlessly churned around and amplified by the imperialist media in lieu of news, the steadfast resistance of President Assad, the secular coalition government over which he presides and the vast mass of patriotic Syrians which stands behind them cannot be hidden and presents a challenge to all those who identify themselves as anti-imperialists. Support Syria in her hour of need, or forever hang your heads in shame.
Stand with the Syrian nation!
We congratulate the Syrian army for the strenuous measures it has been undertaking in Aleppo and elsewhere against the armed rebellion and its foreign auxiliaries. We applaud the steadfast refusal of both Moscow and Beijing to aid and abet the West’s criminal adventure in Syria, and congratulate them on having decisively wrested the diplomatic initiative from the warmongers, now leaving imperialism with no scrap of a fig leaf to camouflage its warlike intentions.
Now that Iran’s envoy Saeed Jalili has declared that Iran stands with her neighbour in an “axis of resistance” which cannot be broken, let us do the same. Let British workers now stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in their own unbreakable “axis of resistance”. Let us refuse to cooperate with the criminal aggression against Syria, whether by fighting directly, making or transporting arms, or assisting in the broadcast of slander and lies demonising the Syrian leadership. Be assured that victory for Syria will in turn weaken imperialism’s own axis of oppression, a welcome setback not least for our own British imperialist ruling class.
Victory to Syria!
Victory to President Assad!
Death to imperialism!