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Chemical Weapons Charade in Syria



By Sharmine Narwani - Sat, 2013-04-27

Let us be clear. The United States can verify absolutely nothing about the use of chemical weapons (CWs) in Syria. Any suggestion to the contrary is entirely false.
Don’t take it from me – here is what US officials have to say about the subject:
A mere 24 hours after Washington heavyweights from the White House, Pentagon, and State Department brushed aside Israeli allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the White House changed their minds. They now believe “with varying degrees of confidence” that CWs have been used “on a small scale” inside Syria.
For the uninitiated, “varying degrees of confidence” can mean anything from “no confidence whatsoever” to “the Israelis told us” – which, translated, also means “no confidence whatsoever.”
Too cavalier? I don’t think so. The White House introduced another important caveat in its detailed briefing on Thursday:
“This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example the chain of custody is not clear so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.”
“The chain of custody is not clear.” That is the single most important phrase in this whole exercise. It is the only phrase that journalists need consider – everything else is conjecture of WMDs-in-Iraq proportions.
I asked a State Department spokesperson the following: “Does it mean you don't know who has had access to the sample before it reached you? Or that the sample has not been contaminated along the way?”
He responded: “It could mean both.”
Chuck Hagel expands on that jaw-dropping admission: “We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons.” Although he goes on to conclude anyway: “but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.”
Four-year-olds shouldn’t have confidence in the US intelligence community at this point. Yet we are supposed to believe that the Syrian government must be behind a chemical weapons attack because Hagel says so.
Let’s consider the facts. The Syrian government has clearly stated it would not use chemical weapons during the crisis “regardless of the developments” unless “Syria faces external aggression.”
The US and other western states have warned for more than a year now that as the government of Bashar al-Assad begins to "topple," the likelihood of using CWs as a desperate last measure will increase.
The White House reiterated this point yesterday: “Given our concern that as the situation deteriorated and the regime became more desperate, they may use some of their significant stockpiles of chemical weapons.”
Assad’s government is clearly not on its last leg. If anything, the Syrianarmy has made tremendous gains in the past few weeks by thwarting rebel plans to storm Damascus, pushing them out of key surrounding suburbs, and cutting off their supply lines in different parts of the country.
This recent reversal of fortunes tends to validate the observations of those who have met with Assad and say the president remains confidentthat he can repel rebel forces whenever and wherever he chooses to do so.
Which frankly removes a major “motive” from any calculation by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against civilians.
The constant reference to CWs in this conflict is suspect – there is no conceivable military advantage to be gained from the use of these munitions. Writing for Foreign Policy in December, Charles Blair says using CWs against rebels makes no tactical or strategic sense:
“The regime would risk losing Russian and Chinese support, legitimizing foreign military intervention, and, ultimately, hastening its own end. As one Syrian official said, ‘We would not commit suicide.’”
In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the government has calibrated its military responses throughout this conflict to avoid scenarios that would create a pretext for foreign military intervention on “humanitarian grounds.”
Just as there is evidence aplenty that rebel forces will go to great lengthsto create a pretext for foreign intervention that would help them oust Assad.
On March 19, a suspected chemical weapons attack near Aleppo prompted the Syrian government to ask the United Nations to launch an investigation. Witnesses reported the “smell of chlorine in the air,” which led to speculation that this could have been a rebel-led attack given that opposition militias had seized Syria’s only chlorine gas bottling plant, east of Aleppo, that August.
The use of chlorine gas-based explosives by insurgents was seen not so long ago in Iraq, where attacks against both authorities and civilians are traceable to 2006. US military spokespeople, at the time, claimed thatinsurgent tactics had become deadlier, seeking to draw maximum attention and impose widespread suffering.
The Iraq connection and insurgent tactics there are important to the Syrian conflict because of the influx of jihadist rebels flooding over the Iraqi border, bringing with them experience and know-how from fighting the US occupation. That border also allegedly hosts training camps for groups in both countries allied with al-Qaeda – a development that has come to light since a recent announcement linking al-Nusra Front to al-Qaeda’s central group.
The White House’s allegations on Thursday specified a sarin gas connection to at least one other suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. Even if this were true, a clear-cut connection linking the use of a CW explosive to the Syrian government is not at all inevitable. In 2004, an IED roadside bomb – a common insurgent tactic – containing the nerve agent was detonated in Iraq. There are no guarantees whatsoever that chemical munitions have not found their way into the hands of rogue elements – or in fact that they are not producing them in small quantities themselves.
At this point, almost everything being discussed in relation to chemical weapons inside Syria is conjecture – and to be honest – highly suspect.
The Times of London (which is behind a paywall so I cannot link to it) just published a detailed and timely “investigation” of an alleged CW attack in Aleppo, claiming: “the Syrian regime prefers to gas its opponents in this small-scale way, testing the elasticity of President Obama’s ‘red line.’”
The article then goes on to describe the harrowing account of what appears to be a sarin gas attack from a victim, witnesses, and medical staff. But experts are now questioning these accounts, saying that the evidence is “far from conclusive.”
In reference to the video of the alleged CW attack referenced by The Times, Jean Pascal Zanders, a senior researcher at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, tells McClatchy News that there are red flags in the footage.
“Why only one person?” he said, referring to the video showing one patient it said was a victim. “Why do I find the hospital setting, again, unlike what I would expect in a case of chemical exposure? Why is the guy ‘foaming’ in the hospital, considering the rapid action of sarin.” Zanders explained that without an antidote, death is possible within one minute after exposure to sarin.”
The Times article then gets even stranger. To quote:
“In the chaos of Syria’s civil war, no hospital in the rebel-held areas has the facilities to test which gas was used. Yet medical sources in northern Syria have told The Timesthat in the immediate aftermath of the attack a team from“an American medical agency” arrived at the hospital in Afrin. They took hair samples from the casualties for testing at ‘an American laboratory.’
It is likely that these samples formed part of the evidence cited by the US Defence Secretary yesterday.”
Really? A CW attack takes place in the middle of the night in Aleppo, and in its “immediate aftermath” an “American medical agency” arrives to collect samples for testing?
There's more...
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss says that Israel is knowledgeable about the Syrian government’s use of CWs, because the Mossad has agents in the country: “Israel has this information because there are many, many members of security services who are now very active in Syria.”
Idriss is, of course, referencing the statements by Israel this week that kicked off all the recent speculation on Syrian CWs:
Israeli army intelligence analyst Brig. Gen. Itai Brun has been quoted far and wide on this issue, mainly referencing the April Aleppo incident highlighted by The Times and debunked by experts.
It is likely that all the speculation in the past few days revolves around an incident that is looking more and more like the “false flag” operations anti-rebel Syrians have been warning about this past year. Given where the “evidence” is coming from, and the alleged presence of a western of American “medical agency” present on the ground, it is quite remarkable that Washington went full-press on this.
It is almost as bad as the account in 2011 of a middle-aged, Iranian-American, ex-car dealer who, by virtue of some familial relationship with a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, decided to collude with a Mexican drug cartel to plot the assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington at a popular DC eatery.
Having just passed the ten year anniversary of an Iraqi invasion and occupation based entirely on false and falsified data on Weapons of Mass Destruction, western media needs not to be asking about “red lines” as much as for iron-clad evidence.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter@snarwani.

Syria very hard a nut to crack for USA

Sergei Vasilenkov | Pravda.Ru | 26.04.2013

For two years, the West has been trying to convince the international community that terrorists in Syria are not terrorists but fighters for freedom and democracy. Governments of the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been helping the rebels to conduct military operations against the Assad regime with no results. This made the West fight with Assad through economic methods.

For two years, the West has been trying to convince the world that that black is white, and terrorists in Syria are not terrorists but instead are fighters for freedom and democracy. For the past couple of years, the governments of the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been helping the rebels to conduct military operations against the Assad regime. Apart from many thousands of victims, this war yielded no results. The West decided to fight with Assad through economic methods.

The West considered its options and realized that if the country cannot be won, its economy can be destroyed. The legitimate government of Syria called the EU's decision to weaken the embargo on the purchase of Syrian oil, which would allow purchasing oil from the opposition, aggression. Syria demanded that the UN Security Council takes the necessary measures that would impose a veto on the implementation of such illegal decisions of the EU which, incidentally, contradicts the UN Charter and international law.

The Syrian authorities urged UN member states not to support terrorists. In Luxembourg, the EU Council decided to soften sanctions on oil imports from regions of Syria controlled by the rebels. European companies are now able to purchase oil from Syrian rebels, sell oil extraction equipment and invest in areas controlled by the opposition. This decision, according to the EU, should help the country's opposition.

The EU has already realized that a quick resolution of the Syrian conflict should not be expected, and decided to weaken the Assad regime through economic means. "Syria reserves the right to use all measures necessary to protect its sovereignty, in particular, the natural resources from pirate plundering," stated Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Syria.

It should be noted that the EU has imposed an embargo on oil from Syria in September of 2011, when Assad refused to stop military operations against the rebels. The conflict in Syria between the government and the opposition began in March of 2011. During this time, according to the UN, over 70,000 people in the country have been killed. The Syrian authorities confront well-armed and well-trained local militia and foreign mercenaries.

Many international experts have racked their brains over the reason behinds the West's desire of military action in Syria. It seemed illogical to throw millions of euros for the support of terrorists of Al-Qaeda, as well as the Syrian Free Army, given the ongoing financial crisis, problems with countries such as Greece and Cyprus. But the answer is simple. The West is interested in overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and seizing all reserves of Syrian oil and gas.

According to the published data, their reserves would allow Syria to become a leader in the supply of "black gold." According to Lebanese television, a Norwegian company conducted geological surveys of territorial waters a few years ago in Syria and discovered 14 oil pools. Four of them are the largest deposits located near the Syrian city of Banias.

The reserves of these fields are comparable with oil reserves in Kuwait. Four other deposit reserves are equal to Lebanese, Israeli and Cypriot ones combined. Damascus could produce 6.7 million barrels a day, which is 50% of the volume produced by Saudi Arabia. Syria with its oil is a tasty morsel for the West. This is precisely why it was dragged into the abyss of "Arab revolutions". The U.S. thought it could quickly remove the Assad regime with the rebels, but the Libyan scenario did not work out. It was therefore decided to impose economic sanctions. Many analysts do not rule out a direct military intervention.

In recent years, many experts have been talking about a possible foreign military intervention in Syria. For example, the U.S. announced possible reasons for an invasion. President Obama stated that the U.S. would use force in the event of a relocation of chemical weapons or its use. Another reason, according to the American politicians, is the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. At the same time, Washington does not mind the absence of UN Security Council sanctions.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated that the U.S. wanted to stop the bloodshed in Syria. According to U.S. analysts, the Pentagon has already figured out a way to take Syrian chemical weapons away. Secret objects in the country should be captured by the U.S. special forces. Washington does not intend to go to Syria alone. Turkey and the United States established a "group of operational planning" that discusses possible ways of overthrowing the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Now a military intervention looks like the only sure way to overthrow the Assad regime. The West realized that the fighters it financed would not be able to win the civil war. The Syrian army took the initiative and cleared Damascus and Aleppo of rebels. But foreign investors cannot allow the defeat of the Syrian revolution. With this outcome the United States, Europe and the Gulf States would lose face, and Turkey may forget about its plans to become a regional leader.

The most important thing is that the Syrian oil will remain in Syria, and this is a great deal of money. Despite all these reasons, the chances of a full-scale military operation in Syria are quite small. This is provided that Damascus does not do anything crazy. In the absence of unruly actions (use of chemical weapons, etc.) the United States is unlikely to start an intervention. At the very least, Obama will not do this. He is trying to position himself as a peacemaker who withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He is unlikely to send troops into yet another Islamic country, spending a lot of money of American taxpayers.

Without participation of the U.S. Europe is not ready to fight in Syria. The Libyan campaign has shown that European armed forces are incapable of independently conducting a full-scale military campaign. Almost immediately after the bombing of Jamahiriya it turned out that Britain has enough cruise missiles, and other countries have run out of money. As a result, the entire burden of the war was placed on the shoulders of France and Britain.

It is unlikely that Europe intends to repeat its Libyan mistakes in Syria. Turkey could help Europe, taking on the role of the main force in Syria. This country has a fairly strong army and its own interests in the country. But even after the incident with a Turkish spy plane shot down by Syrian air defense, the Turks showed restraint, limiting themselves to rhetoric. In Turkey, there is no unity between the military and the government. The generals are openly saying that they should not be sending troops into Syria. Given that the relationship between Prime Minister Erdogan and the generals are quite complicated, it is unlikely that the prime minister will ignore the army.

The biggest proponents of intervention to date have been the monarchies of the Gulf. Syria for them, above all, is a chance to strike at Iran. Also, they want to deprive Iran of the window to the Middle East (Iran conducts a significant part of its foreign operations through Syria) or to provoke a war between Syria and Iran coalition forces. However, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have no powerful army to conduct military operations in Syria, let alone a conflict with Iran. So far no one is ready to start an open war in Syria. The West has to fight in Syria through other means (by supplying the rebels with weapons, money and bringing new mercenaries). But this is not enough to topple the Assad regime and economic levers must be used. Will this help? Syria turned out to be very strong.

Sergei Vasilenkov

Pravda.Ru



Washington fabricates chemical weapons pretext for war against Syria


By Bill Van Auken | 27 April 2013 | wsws.org

In an attempt to pave the way for a direct military intervention aimed at toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Washington, its NATO allies, Israel and Qatar have all in recent days broadcast trumped-up charges that Syria has used chemical weapons.

In a letter to members of Congress Thursday, the White House declared, “The US intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.”

In the midst of a Middle East tour dedicated to arranging a $10 billion deal to provide Israel and the right-wing Arab monarchies with advanced weaponry directed against Iran, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel denounced the chemical weapons use, saying it “violates every convention of warfare.” He went on to acknowledge, “We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons, but [they] ...very likely have originated with the Assad regime.”

Similarly, British Prime Minister David Cameron charged Syria with a “war crime,” stating: “It’s limited evidence, but there’s growing evidence that we have seen too of the use of chemical weapons, probably by the regime.”

All of these convoluted statements—“with some degree of varying confidence,” “cannot confirm the origin of these weapons,” “limited evidence” and “probably by the regime”—underscore the fraudulent character of these accusations.

There is no proof whatsoever that the Assad regime used chemical weapons. The Syrian government has itself charged the US-backed rebels—dominated by Al Qaeda-linked elements who have boasted that they have obtained such arms and are prepared to use them—of carrying out a gas attack in the village of Khan al-Assal near Aleppo last March. According to the Syrian military, the weapon was a rocket carrying chlorine gas that was fired from a rebel-controlled area at a military checkpoint in an area controlled by the government. A number of soldiers were among its victims.

The Assad regime requested that the United Nations send an inspection team to investigate the incident, but the US, Britain and France demanded that any team be given unfettered access to the entire country and all Syrian facilities. This would have created the same kind of inspection regime used to prepare the US invasion of Iraq.

Knowing that they have no proof and what evidence there is points to the Al Qaeda-affiliated elements they have supported, the US and its allies are nonetheless determined to use the accusations over chemical weapons to sell another war to the public.

Powerful sections of the ruling strata in the United States are determined to provoke a direct US military intervention and are flogging the poison gas pretext for all it is worth. Much of the corporate media is demanding that the Obama administration make good on its threat to treat the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line” and a “game changer.”

But what gives the US the moral authority to proclaim “red lines” on this issue? In its nearly nine-year war in Iraq, the US military used chemical weapons to devastating effect. In its barbaric siege of Fallujah, it employed white phosphorus shells and an advanced form of napalm, both banned by international conventions, to burn men, women and children alive.

The legacy of these weapons continues to plague the Iraqi people—with huge increases in child leukemia and cancer, and an epidemic of nightmarish birth defects in Fallujah, Basra and other cities subjected to US military siege.

It should also be recalled that it was the British who introduced chemical warfare to the Middle East, dropping mustard gas bombs on Iraqi tribes that resisted British colonial rule. Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for war and air, declared at the time: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes…[to] spread a lively terror.”

Washington continues to defend its own massive stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction,” while reserving to itself the right to respond to any chemical attack with nuclear weapons.

Behind the sudden turn to promoting the chemical weapons pretext for direct military intervention is the growing frustration of the US and its European allies over the failure of their proxy forces in Syria to make any headway in overthrowing the Assad regime.

This is in large measure because the Syrian government retains a popular base and, even among those who detest the regime, many hate and fear even more the Islamist elements, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda, which are seeking to replace it.

The US and its allies are themselves increasingly wary about the potential “blowback” from the sectarian civil war that they have promoted. The governments in Britain and Germany as well as the European Union have all made statements in the last week warning of the dangers posed by hundreds of Islamists from their own countries going to Syria to join with Al Qaeda elements.

Behind the pretense that the cutthroats that rule the US and Europe are concerned about human rights and Syrian lives, the reality is that they are preparing bombings, the use of cruise missiles and Predator drones, as well as a potential ground invasion that will dramatically increase Syria’s death toll.

The motives underlying such a war have nothing to do with qualms about chemical weapons, but rather concern definite geostrategic interests.

“Syria and the changing Middle East energy map,” an article by Ruba Husari, a Middle East energy expert and editor of IraqOilForum.com, published earlier this year by the Carnegie Middle East Center, provides a glimpse into the real reasons for the mounting pressure for direct US-NATO intervention.

“Syria might not be a major oil or gas producer in the Middle East, but—depending on the outcome of the Syrian uprising—it may determine the shape of the future regional energy map,” she writes. “The country’s geographic location offers Mediterranean access to landlocked entities in search of markets for their hydrocarbons and to countries seeking access to Europe without having to go through Turkey. The opportunities presented to many in the region by the current Syrian regime could be lost in a post-crisis Syria. To others, new opportunities will emerge under a new Syrian regime.”

The principal losers in a successful war for regime change would be Iran, which recently signed a major pipeline deal—bitterly opposed by Washington—with Syria and Iraq that is ultimately aimed at bringing Iranian gas to the Mediterranean Sea, and Russia, which has sought to expand its own influence in energy development in the region.

The principal winners would be the US and its allies, together with the major US and Western European-based energy conglomerates.

Ultimately, the goal of US imperialism and its NATO allies in Syria is to isolate and prepare for a far larger war against Iran, with the aim of imposing neocolonial control over the vast energy-producing region stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Basin.

The real issue in this conflict is not the nature of the Syrian regime, but the nature of the regimes that rule the US, Britain, France and Germany, which are embarking on another predatory carve-up of the world like those that produced the First and Second World Wars.

President Assad: WEST WILL PAY A HIGH PRICE


. .

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the West will pay a high price for what he described as its support for al-Qaeda in his country's conflict.

In a TV interview with Al-Ikhbariya , Mr Assad compared the situation to US support for Islamists in Afghanistan leading to the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Syria's rebel al-Nusra Front recently pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is on a US terror blacklist.

The group has emerged as an effective anti-government force.

It first appeared in January 2012 and is the best known of the militant Islamist groups involved in the fighting.

It has claimed to be behind most of the suicide bombings during the conflict.

The interview - aired on the state al-Ikhbariya TV channel - comes on Syria's independence day, marking the end of French rule in 1946.

Mr Assad alluded to the aid provided by the US to the Afghan mujahideen in 1980s during their war against the Soviet occupation, seen as one of the roots of jihadism.

"The West has paid heavily for funding al-Qaeda in its early stages. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States," Mr Assad said.

He said that his own defeat would be catastrophic.

"There is no option but victory, otherwise it will be the end of Syria and I don't think that the Syrian people will accept such an option," he said.

"The truth is there is a war and I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission."

Only the Syrian people could decide whether he should stay or go, he added.

In the interview, Mr Assad also accused Jordan of allowing rebels free movement across its borders and said the conflict could spread.

"I cannot believe that hundreds [of Mujahidin ] are entering Syria with their weapons while Jordan is capable of arresting any single person with a light weapon for going to resist in Occupied Palestine," he said.

"The fire will not stop at our border and everybody knows that Jordan is exposed as Syria is."

Assad also launched his strongest criticism yet of neighboring Jordan for allowing thousands of fighters to cross the border to join a conflict he insisted his forces would win and save Syria from destruction.

He said Syria had sent a security envoy to Amman in recent weeks to inquire about the fighters and reports of rebel training camps but he was met with "complete denial" of any Jordanian role in either issue.

"We have no choice but victory. If we don't win, Syria will be finished and I don't think this is a choice for any citizen in Syria," President ended the Interview with those words.

'Boston bombing despicable but US has much to answer'


Bill Hoffman | 17 Apr 2013

THE Boston bombing was despicable by any measure, but whether it was the act of external terrorism or internal malcontent it should have surprised nobody.
The language particularly of the right of US politics has become so loose and unrestrained that its capacity to incite some to extreme actions should never be underestimated.
Equally a nation that has waged continuous war and constantly been an occupier of foreign countries for the past decade can hardly expect to be immune to bite-back.
If 1% of the coverage afforded yesterday's blast had been given inside the United States to the impact on individual civilians of its own military activity there may be a greater appreciation of the potential consequences.
The United States considers itself the world's greatest democracy. By some measures that may be true.
But the reality of its economic system renders many of its citizens powerless.
Trapped in poverty, the poor gamble with their lives as foot soldiers for military adventurism promoted by the arms industry and energy companies, simply for the right to decent healthcare and education.
The US spends $711 billion or 4.7% of its GDP on its military, more than $90 billion of which funds its presence in Afghanistan and other conflicts.
That represents 41% of military spending globally.
Yet 15% of the American population or 46.2 million people live in poverty, including 21.9% of those less than 18 years of age.
Limited access to quality education coupled with exposure to media and politicians who show no restraint, in a nation where there is a constitutional right to own weapons with the capacity to wipe out 26 schoolchildren in the blink of an eye, creates a potent mix.
Nobody should be unconcerned about North Korea's nuclear capacity or religious jihadists. But we should be no less troubled by Iran's ambitions than by the hypocrisy that ignores the truth about Israel's arsenal.
Despite his recent attempts to rewrite history on the 10th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, we should never forget that John Howard and his government - many of whom appear destined for office later this year - led Australia into war and the invasion of another country on the basis of a lie.
Mr Howard's claims last week he had "no regrets" about the decision were enough to incite me to anger.
What their capacity may be to incite far more from those who lost loved ones in that clumsy, destructive search for "weapons of mass destruction" is beyond measure.
* Bill Hoffman is editor at large at the Sunshine Coast Daily and one of APN"s most experienced opinion writers. He has long questioned Australia's involvement in US military operations.

UK and France are 'directly or indirectly' backing al-Qaida


Syrian minister says UK and France are 'directly or indirectly' backing al-Qaida

Faisal al-Miqdad attacks new colonialists providing support to opposition fighters in Syria


Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal al-Miqdad. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

Britain and France are "directly or indirectly" supporting al-Qaida in an escalating war against Syria, according to a senior minister in Damascus, who also warned neighbouring Jordan it was playing "a dangerous game" by allowing arms supplies to go to rebel groups from its territory.

Faisal al-Miqdad, Syria's vice-foreign minister, used a rare interview to attack the UK and France as new colonialists for providing political and military support to opposition fighters seeking to overthrow the president, Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus insists these fighters are terrorists with a jihadi agenda. Miqdad also lashed out at Turkey and stupid Arabs – singling out Saudi Arabia and Qatar – for acting in western interests and accused Israel of meddling in the conflict. He claimed Mossad agents had been killed in Deraa near the Jordanian border, where the rebels have made advances in recent weeks.

"There is a big conspiracy against Syria to force it to change its policies towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, to change its stance on Arab issues, and to have a government that will serve the interests of the US, UK and France," he told the Guardian in Damascus.

Miqdad said the Syrian government had "no doubt" that rebels had used chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal near Aleppo, but it would only agree to a "real" UN investigation and not to a repeat of what had happened in Iraq. "The game is clear," he said. "They want to cover up what happened in Aleppo and create fictitious issues."

William Hague said on Monday that the claims must be urgently investigated and the perpetrators held to account.

"Britain and France were complacent about supporting al-Qaida directly or indirectly," Miqdad said. "Now that Syria is flooded by Europeans fighting with al-Qaida, they are afraid. They wanted these people to come and be killed here, but when some of them started to go home, they changed their minds. They can tolerate killing in Syria and exaggerate what our government is doing, but they cannot defend this endlessly."

Britain and France have also said they are trying to alter the terms of the EU arms embargo on Syria to help the rebels. Miqdad said he was heartened by "very strong opposition" to this from Germany and other member states. He scorned Britain's insistence that it was sending only communications kit and other "non-lethal" equipment to the armed opposition.

"If I am travelling from here to my home in Deraa and some of their agents tell them that using these communications systems, I will be killed on the way," he said. "Even if they are not weapons they are tools for war."

Miqdad said he hoped that Jordan, now allowing Saudi-funded weapons transfers to the rebels, would not deepen its involvement any further. "The same forces that are killing innocent people in Syria are in Jordan too," he warned. "We have stupid Arabs who are facilitating what the others are planning for the region. But the conspiracy begins in the west."

Claims of recent rebel gains in the Deraa area were "psychological warfare", he insisted; talk of an imminent battle for Damascus was "propaganda". The capital itself was not threatened but was being defended.

The Arab League had ended its own role by handing Syria's league seat to the opposition at the Doha summit last month, he said. If any government handed Syrian embassies abroad to the opposition, he warned, Syria would turn over their embassy in Damascus to refugees.

On the Syrian side, however, there was no change: the country's problems would be solved by necessary reforms when violence ended. But Assad would not step down, Miqdad insisted. "There will be no Syria if president Assad steps down … If he leaves now before we agree on a political plan among all Syrians, Syria will no longer be on the map."


Ian Black in Damascus | guardian.co.uk, Monday 15 April 2013 

France’s Media Admits that the Syrian “Opposition” is Al Qaida

BY GLOBAL RESEARCH - France’s Media Admits that the Syrian “Opposition” is Al Qaida. Then Justifies French Government Support to the Terrorists | by Gearóid Ó Colmáin | April 15, 2013

In a report published on the 11th of April French daily Le Monde admits that rebels fighting the government of the Syrian Arab Republic are dominated by Jabhat Al Nusra, a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda.

The admission comes after two years of non-stop disinformation trumpeted from all French mainstream media outlets from the official right to the official left, disinformation that has attempted to convince the French public that democratic revolutionaries are fighting a war for human rights and freedom against a brutal, tyrannical dictator, who is ‘’ killing his own people’’.

This puerile and deeply dishonest narrative has now been utterly discredited, as the facts about the terrorist nature of the Syrian rebels have become too obvious to ignore. In an article entitled ‘The New Visage of French Jihadism’ it is reported that French jihadists are leaving France in their hundreds to join the ‘holy war’ against the Syrian Arab Republic, with many more joining jihadist groups in Mali.

On the same page in an article entitled ‘Al Qaida extends its territory and unites its forces in Iraq and Syria’, Le Monde’s Christophe Ayad reports:

‘The head of Iraq’s Islamic state, the Iraqi branch of Al Qaida, announced in a recorded message on April 9th, that his group would be fused with the Jabhhat AL Nusra( Support Front), the principal armed jihadist organization in Syria. The new group will be called Al-Qaida in Iraq and the Levant. This announcement comes two days after the call of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the successor of Osama Bin Laden in the leadership of Al-Qaeda ‘headquarters,’ for the establishment of an Islamic state after the fall of the regime of Bashar-Al-Assad, afflicted since two years by an insurrection by the Sunni majority.’[1]

So, here we now have the French establishment press, who has been working overtime since two years to convince us that those fighting Assad are democrats, admitting that they are in fact Al Qaida. According to an October 2010 Fox News report, the above-mentioned Al Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri dined at the Pentagon just months after 911. Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge claimed she had documents to prove this. Of course, Fox News being a corporate propaganda agency did not pursue this story any further, nor did any other international mainstream media outlets. In the war on terror ignorance is strength and questioning is stupid.[2] The Fox News reporter earns 900,000 dollars per annum.[3]

In order to soften the blow and reassure French readers that the Quai d’Orsay’s support for the ‘rebels’ does not contradict France’s commitment to ‘human rights’, Le Monde’s Christophe Ayad tells us that:
‘Contrary to the Islamic State in Iraq the Al Nusra Front have made an effort not to systematically target civilians. It has not insisted, for the moment, on imposing an Islamic order that is too strict in the zones under its control, and has even concluded honorable agreements with the Kurdish rebellion, as in at Ras Al-Ain and more recently at Aleppo’[4]

These rebels Le Monde attempts to whitewash have been systematically targeting civilians from the start of this conflict. They have put bombs in cars in busy market squares, they have bombed universities murdering and maiming hundreds of innocent civilians. They have been torturing and beheading civilians and soldiers alike [5], even forcing children to participate in the decapitation some of their victims. Children have also been used as soldiers.[6 ]

They have forced women to wear the chador in the ‘liberated’ parts of once beautiful Aleppo.[7] They have desecrated and ruined the country’s religious and cultural heritage. They have blown up pipelines and wrecked infrastructure. They have destroyed thousands of schools, libraries and public service buildings. They have used chemical weapons. They have slit the throats of little children in order to blame the Syrian government. They terrorists are now even taking photos of themselves with the decapitated heads of their victims.[8] None of this is a secret. They have continuously posted videos boasting about their crimes.

Yet Le Monde wants us to believe that Jabhat Al Nusra is a good, more civilized version of Al Qaida, one perhaps worthy of Western military support! Of course, Le Monde will reply that they do not support Japhat Al Nosra, that they support the secular rebels. But where are the secular rebels?Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states very clearly that ‘any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law’. [9 ] The attempt by Western journalists to portray terrorist groups as freedom fighters and the use of information sources emanating exclusively from these groups to justify foreign aggression against a sovereign state recognized by the United Nations constitutes a war crime.

The French ‘special envoy’ seems to lament the fact that the announcement of this new fusion of terrorist groups will discredit the French government’s attempts to convince its European Union partners to officially arm the ‘rebellion’. While the French press admits that the Syrian armed opposition is predominantly Al-Qaida, it continues to insinuate and suggest that the bulk of the armed opposition is in fact secular and liberal. However, no evidence to support such insinuations has ever been forthcoming, while evidence to the contrary is overwhelming and impossible to dismiss.

In another article published on March 5th entitled ‘The Syrian Rebels take control of the Village of Raqqa in the North of the Country’, reporter Khalid Sid Mohand tells us just who these ‘rebels’ are. They are, he admits a few lines into his report:

‘A coalition of armed groups, some of whom are affiliated to the jihadists of Japhat-al-Nosra, who are behind the fall of Rakka.’[10]
How lovely! Al Qaida have captured a Syrian town and the French liberal media seems to be very excited about the prospect of armed barbarians taking over the Levantine state. From the title of the article, one is led to believe that the Syrian rebels have taken the town, the Syrian rebels being the French media’s designated ‘Arab Spring’ good guys. So, even though the news is bad, the headline suggests that it is good. Reality is turned upside down.

This technique of editorializing terrorists as rebels, while at the same time admitting that they are terrorists has the effect of confusing the public and preventing the uncritical reader from understanding the real forces at play in the Syrian conflict. The technique was repeatedly used during the Russian-Chechnian war when Islamist terrorists were repeatedly described as ‘rebels’. The double-standard, double-speak and double-think are techniques which are now part and parcel of ‘professional journalism’.

While such villainous and schizophrenic behavior may appear to some as a diabolical conspiracy, the reality is far more complex. This schizoid way of thinking and speaking is simply the psychological reflection of a global economic system that is collapsing upon its own internal contradictions. The extraction of surplus value from labour and the globalization of this capitalist mode of production have made a tiny section of the global population extremely rich and powerful.

The rich and powerful not only own the means of production, they also own the means of communication and as rule by a financial oligarchy is objectively contrary to democratic principles, a double-language and double-think is necessary in order to make people believe that 2 plus 2 equals 5. As a result, armed groups that serve the interests of the financial oligarchy will be mediatized as ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘human rights’ activists. However, as reporters cannot always control or ignore the complex realities they report on, the truth also emerges between the lines, in the margins and interstices of their own discourse. However, the job of rational analysis and interpretation of information is only being carried nowadays out by alternative media outlets whose goal is to serve the public good and tell the truth.

Thus, articles reporting the ‘good news’ that the Syrian rebels have taking another town will also have to admit that these same rebels are actually Al Qaeda. But because hypocrisy is so deeply embedded in Western culture, the contradictions of these reports are rarely noticed or analyzed The task of molding the public mind to support the ‘cruel but necessary’ geopolitical strategies of the global financial elite falls to the mass media , who orient and distort information to suit imperial designs and the corporate interests of the media’s owners.

In a Guardian article of 2002, the Western establishment’s policy of total hypocrisy was eloquently expressed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief strategist Robert Cooper who wrote:

‘The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle’[11]

Since unknown snipers opened fire on protesters and police in the town of Daraa on March 15th2011, the Syrian nation has been assaulted by death squads armed and trained by the Gulf emirates and Nato intelligence. The result has been the death of thousands and the destruction of a nation. This is a repeat of the Arc of Crisis created in Afghanistan in 1979 when US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Bzrezinski organized the arming and training of Mujahedeen terrorists in order to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The result was the creation of Al Qaida, a data-base of military-intelligence assets, who have since the very beginning, always served Nato geopolitical interests. The same technique is now being used against Syria.

It is quite possible the French government’s admission that Al Qaeda have taken over large parts of Syria could serve as an excuse in the weeks, months or years ahead for direct military intervention to ‘free’ Syria from Al-Qaida, just as French intelligence’s fomentation of jihadism in Libya and their transfer to Mali served the cause of military intervention there. Meanwhile,the media demonization of Bashar-Al Assad will continue. However, the existence of Al Qaeda in Syria could eventually become the final justification for intervention if the terrorists succeed in sufficiently weakening the Syrian state and Russia can be persuaded to acquiesce in the loss of its Eastern Mediterranean client state.

The dupes of Nato’s media empire can continue to comfort themselves that their governments are fighting terrorists in some countries, while helping ‘democratic rebels’ to fight ‘brutal regimes’ in others, but as savage austerity cuts and the militarization of urban space afflicts European cities, the reality that it is the degenerate Euro-Atlantic elites who are fomenting jihadist terrorism, the nightmarish reality that this is in fact  the opaque, loose ‘terrorist network’ which wants to take away our freedoms and destroy civilization, this reality will become impossible to ignore. For in truth the war on terrorism is ultimately a war on humanity.

Notes

SOURCE | GLOBAL RESEARCH

The manufacture of Tariq Ali’s consent regarding Syria


Tariq Ali has made a number of incorrect and unjustifiable statements in his recent interview on Russia Today regarding Syria. Ali is a much-celebrated icon of the British left; he is a talented orator and writer, and often says quite good things. Therefore his comments are particularly dangerous, as they are considered trustworthy by many progressive/radical people.

Ali claims that “the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people want the Assad family out”. This is not a claim that anyone with an understanding of Syrian politics would make, at least not in good conscience. The government is popular, and continues to become *more* popular as it works to stop civil war. This fact is even occasionally recognised in the mainstream press - see for example Jonathan Steele’s recent Guardian article

Ali joins the rest of the western fake left in calling for bomb-free regime change, saying that Bashar “has to be pushed out”. Of course, it would be political suicide for Ali to support western military intervention; therefore he calls on Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah to use their leverage to persuade Bashar to step down: “Non-violent pressure has to be kept up externally to tell Bashar he has to go… Countries that are not seen as hostile to Syria, including Russia and China, should step up pressure for Bashar to leave.” In other words, Ali completely supports the regime change operation, but he wants it to be brought about by “non-violent pressure”.

He does not address such difficult issues as why the west is so desperate for Bashar to go, or what political current is in a position to fill the power vacuum that would arise if the Ba’ath government were to fall. He comes close to admitting that the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the political scene if the Ba’athists were defeated, and he even concedes that this could result in deep sectarian divisions, but he thinks this is preferable to the continuation of the secular nationalism of the Ba’ath: “It’s possible that the Brotherhood in Syria will target minorities, but if this is what the majority of the people want then unfortunately it will happen sooner or later.” So, according to Tariq Ali’s logic, ethnic cleansing can’t be stopped if it is the will of the majority!

Curiously, Ali sees fit to label the Syrian government as a “sectarian clique”. This is consistent with the mainstream narrative, which accuses the Syrian rulers of being Alawite sectarians. However, this accusation is nothing but war propaganda; it has no basis in fact. There are plenty of things you could justifiably criticise the Syrian state for, but religious sectarianism isn’t one of them. In fact anti-sectarian secular nationalism is one of the Syrian state’s defining characteristics - its record is impressive for a region that has historically been torn apart by British/French/Turkish/US-provoked sectarian fanatacism. The Assads have always sought to build a power base that crossed the religious divide. Meanwhile, the groups being funded by NATO-GCC really ARE sectarian. And the Middle Eastern regimes most favoured by the US (Saudi, Israel and Bahrain, for example) really ARE sectarian. Incidentally, how interesting that the least sectarian, most secular governments in the modern history of the Middle East (Nasser’s Egypt, Qaddafi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria) have been the most hated by western imperialism.

Ignoring the Syrian National Council’s statements that it would end Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; and ignoring the SNC’s open support for Iran’s Green Movement, Tariq Ali says he doesn’t “think the fall of Assad will affect Iran, because it will be in the interests of the Syrian government - if it is a democratic and representative government - to maintain good relations”. Once again, Tariq Ali refuses to acknowledge the *actual* composition of the opposition, which is dominated by the pro-west liberal stooges of the SNC on the one hand and militant Sunni supremacists on the other - both of which groups are irreconcilably hostile to Iran and Hezbollah. Ali has swallowed so much media misinformation he thinks that the opposition is primarily composed of nice, left-leaning, democratic, secular peaceful protestors. This is very clearly not the case. Those who genuinely want reforms in Syria are unambiguously siding with the government against conspiracy and intervention. As Alistair Crooke writes: “There is this mass demand for reform. But paradoxically — and contrary to the ‘awakening’ narrative — most Syrians also believe that President Bashar al-Assad shares their conviction for reform.”

Tariq Ali ends the interview by saying that “if the Assad clan refuse to relinquish their stranglehold on the country, sooner or later something disastrous will happen, possibly involving intervention. Do they want to end up like Gaddafi or Saddam, lynched by mobs backed by western troops?” That is: Assad should stand down and abandon the Syrian people, otherwise the west will get him. I, for one, prefer the sentiment of Emiliano Zapata: “It’s better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees”.

It is not good enough to call for bomb-free regime change, brought about by NATO-GCC-funded opposition groups rather than NATO-GCC warplanes. We must close ranks against the greater enemy: imperialism and zionism. Mao writes in On Contradiction:

“When imperialism launches a war of aggression against such a country, all its various classes, except for some traitors, can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. At such a time, the contradiction between imperialism and the country concerned becomes the principal contradiction, while all the contradictions among the various classes within the country (including what was the principal contradiction, between the feudal system and the great masses of the people) are temporarily relegated to a secondary and subordinate position. So it was in China in the Opium War of 1840, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Yi Ho Tuan War of 1900, and so it is now in the present Sino-Japanese War.”

So it is today with Syria.

Posted on February 15, 2012

‘Left’ Delusions Regarding Libya & Syria


One of the many pro-government protests in Syria

May 8, 2011

“Some people never learn.” That’s the conclusion one reaches from reading the shameful coverage of the unrest in Syria by the plethora of ostensibly ‘left’ groups in the United States. In the same way that groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) revealed their heinous liberalism in regards to Libya, this chorus of ‘left’ groups have joined again in defense of the Syrian opposition movement, who began protesting President Bashar al-Assad’s government in late March.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of articles like “Repression and defiance in Assad’s Syria”–written for Socialist Worker by ISO member Yusef Khalil on April 25, 2011–is that it echoes the ISO’s bogus position on Libya, which granted de facto support to NATO’s imperialist invasion. Although we’ve come to expect this from a ‘left’ group that called the collapse of the Soviet Union an event that “should have every genuine socialist rejoicing,” their continued embrace of the West’s line on the Middle East demonstrates that the ISO is not a legitimate anti-imperialist organization. (1)
A close examination of Syria yields three important conclusions: (1) Marxist-Leninists and anti-imperialists should unequivocally support President Assad’s government against the US-funded opposition, (2) President Assad’s government is the most progressive state in the Middle East, and (3) the ISO’s position rejects Leninism and offers de facto support for imperialist aggression towards Syria.
Western ‘leftists’ embarrassed themselves on Libya.
NATO bombing Libya
The NATO invasion of Libya greatly embarrassed ’left’ groups throughout the West. Predominantly white and petty-bourgeois in class character, this loose association of liberals masquerading as socialists and academics supported the Libyan opposition movement against the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from the moment it broke out. Indeed, President Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicholas Sarkozy have the ISO to thank for pioneering the slogan they trumpeted in their April 14th pro-war op-ed: “Gaddafi Must Go!” (2) (3)
Despite tremendous evidence to the contrary, these ‘left’ groups extolled the revolutionary character of the rebellion and foolishly downplayed the possibility of Western imperialist intervention. Immanuel Wallerstein, a favorite academic for many ‘left’ groups in America, wrote an article that would be particularly hilarious to read in retrospect if it wasn’t so tragically wrong. Entitled “Libya and the World Left,” Wallerstein writes:
The second point missed by Hugo Chavez’s analysis is that there is not going to be any significant military involvement of the western world in Libya. The public statements are all huff and puff, designed to impress local opinion at home. There will be no Security Council resolution because Russia and China won’t go along. There will be no NATO resolution because Germany and some others won’t go along. Even Sarkozy’s militant anti-Qaddafi stance is meeting resistance within France. (4)
Among his many errors, Wallerstein confuses his primary and secondary contradictions. He writes that “The issue therefore is not Western military intervention or not. The issue is the consequence of Qaddafi’s attempt to suppress all opposition in the most brutal fashion for the second Arab revolt.” (4) Thus, Wallerstein concludes, “despite the call of the hawks for U.S. involvement, President Obama will resist.” (4)
Wallerstein’s article is an embarrassment. In fact, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was correct in warning Gaddafi of imperialist intervention. Obama did not “resist” the imperialist desire to invade Libya. Russia and China did “go along with it,” at least insofar as they refused to veto the UN’s no-fly zone resolution; the same resolution that Wallerstein said would never happen.
If only Wallerstein was an anomaly! Socialist Worker, the ISO’s newspaper, published a slew of anti-Gaddafi articles in the days leading up to the NATO invasion. Bending over backwards to justify the Libyan rebels’ cause, Socialist Workerre-published an article with the absurd title, “The West’s fear of Qaddafi’s fall,” on the front page of its website. (5) Like Wallerstein, the article tries to argue that NATO’s threats are only political posturing because Qaddafi’s government serves the interests of imperialism. Also like Wallerstein, NATO’s invasion completely discredited the article’s content.
Additionally, a nearly incoherent March 9th Socialist Worker editorial entitled “The US is no friend to Libya’s uprising,” argues that NATO would only invade Libya because it felt threatened by the popular uprising. It reads:
Libya is one link in a chain of popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world. The region-wide rebellion has left the U.S. scrambling to respond to the toppling of its longtime allies in Egypt and Tunisia–and the possibility that other U.S.-backed dictatorships, like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, could also succumb to revolt. Intervention in Libya would provide the U.S. government with a golden opportunity after the setbacks it has suffered. (6)
The ISO took an erroneous “third way” position in Libya, claiming to denounce the imperialist invasion while simultaneously arguing that the current Libyan government “must go.” (3) Unable to acknowledge that the Libyan rebels were actively working in the interests of Western capital, they write in the same editorial, “That’s why we stand with those in the Libyan rebellion who call for the U.S. and other Western powers to keep out.” (6)
Regardless of whether any such rebels actually exist, the facts are in:
  • The Libyan rebels systematically target black African migrants by maiming, torturing, and lynching them. (7)
  • The Libyan rebels met with Western leaders, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and were formally embraced by imperialist countries like France and the US. (8) (9)
  • The Libyan rebels are tied to al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups that, incidentally, have historically committed acts of terrorism against the Libyan people and were militarily opposed by Gaddafi. (10)
  • The Libyan rebels have the blessing and tactical support of Western finance capital, demonstrated through the willingness of international banks to freeze Gaddafi’s assets and loan money to the rebels. (11)
  • The CIA has and continues to work closely in Libya alongside the so-called ‘rebels’. (12)
Time and time again, these so-called ‘leftists’ get into bed with reactionary tools of imperialism. Nearly any group that opposes the laundry list of governments that the ISO opposes can count on the organization’s support, provided they can turn out at least a couple hundred people to a protest. President Chavez was right about Libya because he understands imperialism. Western ‘leftists’ embarrassed themselves because they don’t.
Social Advances in the Syrian Arab Republic
From its founding in 1973 by the Syrian Arab Socialist Baath Party, the Syrian Arab Republic immediately began supporting the Palestinian national liberation struggle and combating Israeli geopolitical hegemony. A steady influx of Palestinian refugees escape Israeli apartheid and emigrate to Syria, where they enjoy living conditions “better than in any surrounding countries because, unlike in Lebanon and Jordan, healthcare, education and housing are accessible to Palestinians in Syria.” (13)
Palestinians are not the only recipient of Syrian assistance. The Assad government has consistently used its border to assist the Lebanese national liberation struggle by providing resources and tactical support to Hezbollah during the 2006 war with Israel. Following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Syria welcomed the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees dislocated by imperialist war and extended the country’s social programs to them. (13)
While Syria is not a socialist country, the nationalist Assad government has exercised the nation’s right to self-determination by nationalizing Western firms and factories, using the nation’s wealth for radical social programs, including ”guaranteed health care, living standards and education.” (13)
Additionally, Syrian communists play an important role in the government and are allowed to organize separate from the Baath Party. Unlike the experience of communists in Iraq–who faced repression from the Baath state, led by President Saddam Hussein–Syria’s two communist parties are leading members of the ruling National Progressive Front, and have representation in the People’s Council of Syria.
Unrest in Syria is the product of Western imperialism & intervention
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad kicking ass & taking names
Although some small protests began in January, it took until late March for the unrest in Syria to seriously attract the world media’s attention. Recent cables released by Wikileaks, however, confirm that the West has played a leading role in the Syrian opposition for years. The US State Department “secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.” (14) This US-funded channel, Barada TV, has had a central role in dispersing anti-Assad propaganda and “is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles.” (14)
The Wikileaks cables confirm that “money was set aside at least through September 2010,” which proves that regime change in Syria is the official policy of the Obama Administration. (14) That Barada TV emboldens and functions as the organizing arm of the Syrian opposition is a testament to the centrality of imperialism in this so-called ‘uprising’. Whether some of the individuals in the Syrian opposition have legitimate grievances with President Assad’s government or not, this movement functionally advances the aims of imperialism: to remove a popular anti-imperialist government in the Middle East.
Given the Assad government’s support for the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles, the West understandably views Syria as a threat to hegemony in the Middle East. However, Syria has never fit into the crude Islamic fundamentalist threat that the US uses to fuel the war on terror. Unlike neighbors like Iran, Syria is a secular state that explicitly protects the rights of Muslims and Christians alike. Nevertheless, the West viciously opposes Assad’s government and fears its acquisition of nuclear power, indicated by Israel’s 2008 bombing of a Syrian nuclear facility.
Had Syrian unrest reached a boiling point two weeks earlier than Libya, NATO might have directed its attention at toppling Assad’s government rather than Gaddafi’s government in Libya.
The ISO is wrong on Libya and Syria.
The racist Libyan 'rebels' that the ISO continues to support
As soon as the Syria protests grew to the point of attracting media attention, the ISO began cranking out articles denouncing Assad’s government and supporting the so-called ‘popular resistance’. Ignoring the facts–that the Syrian opposition is funded and orchestrated by the US–Yusef Khalil of the ISO wrote in an April 21 article forSocialist Worker:
The demonstrators are demanding freedom, democracy, justice, equality and the creation of a civilian government. They are also demanding the lifting of the Emergency Law, legalization of multiple political parties, an investigation of all those involved in killing peaceful demonstrators and an end to government corruption. There is very little trust in the government or its official news agency anymore, even among its own supporters. (15)
The last sentence is particularly telling since the implication of “little trust in the government or its official news agency” is that some other news organ has garnered the trust of the Syrian opposition, namely Barada TV. Indeed, the vicious smear campaign from this US-funded TV channel would undermine some people’s trust in the government because its objective is to topple the Assad government. Why does this article from Socialist Worker, published four days after Wikileaks revealed that the US was funding the Syrian opposition, mention nothing about this blatant violation of national sovereignty?
Khalil’s article reads like something he wrote while he was researching Syria for the first time. Periodically, he slips into reporting facts that are clearly inconvenient to the bogus narrative he tries to paint, which he timidly tries to refute. He admits that Assad’s government has “given support to Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements against Israel,” and has “positioned Syria in alliance with Iran as an obstacle to U.S. and Israeli interests in the region.” (15) His response is to call these actions “contradictory and self-serving.”
However, Khalil’s article takes a bizarre (and opportunistic!) turn when he tries to explain why Syria’s support for Palestine and Hezbollah is “contradictory”:
Syria only supports resistance against Israel from abroad. It does not allow any arms smuggling or attacks against Israel across its own borders. Even when it does support anti-Israel forces, the Syrian government demands a monopoly on the resistance. (15)
Perplexedly, Khalil contradicts decades of ISO polemics against nearly every armed insurgency in the Third World. (16) Moreover, an interview with frequent Socialist Worker contributor Gilbert Achcar by ISO member Paul D’Amato, the managing editor of the ISO’s International Socialist Review accuses Syria of the opposite: “Syria is still very much involved in Lebanon, of course. This is also one of the problems with Hezbollah’s strategy: its links with Syria. Most of the forces in the opposition are pro-Syrian forces—all of them actually.” (17)
D’Amato seemed to like what Achcar was saying. His next question about Hezbollah is more of a leading statement: “And they [Hezbollah] want to make Lebanon a protectorate of Syria…” Achcar responds:
Yes, of course. They use this kind of rhetoric. And unfortunately it is credible because of the fact that major chunks of the opposition are made up of completely rotten pro-Syrian forces. That’s a huge problem, quite far from the way some people on the left worldwide have romanticized Hezbollah during the war. (17)
What an opportunistic criticism for Khalil to make! The ISO does not support Hezbollah or the other national liberation groups supported by Syria, yet they denounce Assad for not supporting these groups enough. Khalil understands that the facts don’t support his conclusions, so he opportunistically pivots away from the ISO’s position to levy a critique of Assad’s government.
In another article four days later, Khalil writes:
There is a shift in consciousness underway in Syria towards revolutionary conclusions. It has yet to reach the tipping point achieved by Tunisians and Egyptians, but the trajectory is unmistakable. In city after city, in town after town, the protesters are calling for the downfall of the regime. (18)
Once again, the article mentions nothing about Wikileaks revelation of overwhelming US support for the opposition movement. Additionally, Khalil mentions nothing about the wave of pro-government rallies that took place simultaneously with and dwarfed the size of the opposition’s protests. (19) The omission of these facts reveal that the ISO is more concerned with maintaining theoretical consistency with its bankrupt Trotskyite-Cliffite views of countries like Syria than it is with a thorough analysis of the material conditions.
Assad’s government has substantial popular support
Pro-Assad Syrian Demonstrator
The material reality is that Assad’s government is incredibly popular among the Syrian masses. In a recent interview with Russia Today, Anhar Kochneva, the director of a Moscow-based tourist firm in Syria, said of the Syrian opposition:
Not even once did I come across anyone who would in any way support these riots; and mind you, in the line of my job, I deal with all sorts of people. There are many vehicles with the president’s portraits driving the streets throughout the country – ranging from old, barely moving crankers to brand new Porsches and Hummers. You can’t force people into hanging up portraits. It means that people, irrespective of their status and income, support the president rather than the rebellion. (20)
Kochneva goes on to describe the pervasive level of media manipulation related to the Syrian unrest:
On March 29, I saw a rally in Hama to support the president – indeed, many thousands of men and women, with their children, and entire families went out. The streets were flooded with people. It was quite a shock to see Al-Jazeera presenting rallies in support of the president as if they were protests against him. (20)
The Western media and its corporate allies in al-Jazeera function in tandem with imperialist governments to shape public opinion, both in the Middle East and the West. Kochneva notes that Secretary of State Clinton “stated that if Syria cuts its relations with Iran and withdraws its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, the demonstrations would stop the next day. They don’t even bother to keep secret the hand instilling riots in Syria.” (20)
The Revolutionary Left versus the ISO
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Immediately Venezuela, Cuba, and the bulk of the Latin American revolutionary left have denounced the unrest in Syria and explicitly stated its opposition to foreign intervention. (21) Furthermore, the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) released an unequivocal statement of support for Assad’s government, denouncing the unrest as “reactionary forces,” whose aim is:
to exploit the deplorable incidents and to fuel unrest in various parts of the country, using an insidious method to attract the masses, mixing demands and slogans for democratic freedoms with the demands and slogans that are clearly retrograde, obscurantist, and provocatively sectarian in character, directed against the idea of secularism and the spirit of tolerance which have historically been distinctive features of the Syrian society. (22)
When President Assad lifted the country’s Emergency Law–a measure of internal defense against Israeli aggression–the Syrian Communist Party “expressed its support for the decisions and directions of the national leadership of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, among the most important of which in the political sphere are the lifting of the state of emergency, the drafting of a law for political parties, and the reform of the media law.” (22)
In the United States, the WWP and the PSL have both released statements condemning imperialist intervention in Syria. Why hasn’t the ISO?
For all their Trotskyite roots, the ISO does a poor job reading Trotsky. In an interview with Mateo Fossa from September 1938 called “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation,” Trotsky explains anti-imperialism surprisingly (and ironically!) well:
In Brazil there now reigns a semifascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. (23)
When the ISO claims that the Syrian opposition is “demanding freedom, democracy, justice, equality and the creation of a civilian government,” they fall into the ‘empty-headed’ pitfall of “reducing world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between [Assad's government] and democracy.”
Trotskyism is alien to Marxism-Leninism, but it’s nowhere near as alien as the ISO’s bankrupt Cliffite ideology. Time and time again, their lines play into the hands of imperialism and betray the organization’s liberal political orientation.Socialist Worker continues to act as a preview of Obama’s talking points a week later.
Revolutionary leftists must support Assad’s government against Western intervention, including the funding of the Syrian opposition.
(1) Socialist Worker, September 1991; Quoted by Workers Vanguard, No. 866, March 17, 2006, “Parliamentary Cretinism ISO Goes All the Way with Capitalist Greens,” http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/866/isogreen.html
(2) Obama, Cameron, Sakozy, The New York Times, April 14, “Libya’s Pathway to Peace,”http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/opinion/15iht-edlibya15.html?_r=1
(3) Socialist Worker, February 28, 2011, “Rallying for the Libyan People,” http://socialistworker.org/2011/02/28/rallying-for-the-libyan-people
(4) Immanuel Wallerstein, March 15, 2011, “Libya and the World Left,” http://www.iwallerstein.com/libya-world-left/
(5) Richard Seymour, February 24, 2011, “The West’s fear of Qaddafi’s fall,”http://wwww.socialistworker.org/2011/02/24/western-fear-of-qaddafis-fall
(6) Socialist Worker, editorial, March 9, 2011, “The US is no friend to the Libyan uprising,”http://socialistworker.org/2011/03/09/no-friend-to-libyan-uprising
(7) Al-Jazeera, February 28, 2011, “African migrants targeted in Libya,”http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/02/201122865814378541.html
(8) BBC News, May 6, 2011, “Clinton meets Libyan opposition figure Mahmoud Jibril,” http://bit.ly/mTBmcD
(9) Turkish Press, March 21, 2011, “France formally recognizes Libyan opposition group,”http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=364929
(10) Praveen Swami, Nick Squires, Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph, March 25, 2011, “Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links,” http://bit.ly/eyYolD
(11) Alexander Cockburn, April 15 – 17, “What’s Really Going on in Libya?”http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04152011.html
(12) CNN Wire Staff, March 30, 2011, “Source: CIA operating in Libya, in consultation with opposition,” http://bit.ly/lZjl2R
(13) Sara Flounders, Workers World, May 5, 2011, “Events in Syria – Which Side Are You On?”http://www.workers.org/2011/world/syria_0512/
(14) Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, April 17, 2011, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show,” http://wapo.st/fzASak
(15) Yusef Khalil, Socialist Worker, April 21, 2011, “The Syrian Revolution spreads,”http://socialistworker.org/2011/04/21/the-syrian-revolution-spreads
(16) Freedom Road Socialist Organization, “Revolution in Colombia: ISO Stands on the Wrong Side,” 2008,http://www.frso.org/about/statements/2008/isocolombia.htm
(17) Paul D’Amato, International Socialist Review, Issue 52, March – April 2007, “Interview with Gilbert Achcar Lebanon and the Middle East crisis” http://www.isreview.org/issues/52/achcar.shtml
(18) Yusef Khalil, Socialist Worker, April 25, 2011, “Repression and defiance in Assad’s Syria,” http://bit.ly/f8m43b
(19) Reuters, March 29, 2011, “Syria mobilizes thousands for pro-Assad marches,” http://reut.rs/f1J87K
(20) Russia Today, April 29, 2011, “Western media lie about Syria – eyewitness reports,” http://bit.ly/m4YZZZ
(21) Rodolfo Reyes, Cuban Ambassador, Published in Monthly Review, April 29, 2011, “Cuba Opposes Any Foreign Interference in Syria,” http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/reyes040511.html
(22) Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash), Published in Monthly Review, March 25, 2011, “Regarding Syria,”http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/syria180411.html
(23) Leon Trotsky, September 1938, “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation,http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/09/liberation.htm
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ABOUT BJ MURPHY

I'm a young Marxist-Leninist seeking out for social justice and workers freedom to the proletarian masses worldwide, and liberation of the working class and peasantry from the feudalist/capitalist superpowers of the world.