Revolution #261, February 26, 2012

From A World to Win News Service

Syria: No to Assad, no to foreign intervention!

Note from Revolution: As this article points out: “We can't predict what will happen – how the U.S. and its allies might try to solve their dilemma and make a grab for Syria. But we should know by now, after all that we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so many other places, that what the imperialists are capable of is sometimes worse than we can imagine – and the results of their intervention are always disastrous for the people.”

In this light, we feel our readers will find this article of interest.

February 13, 2012. A World to Win News Service. The U.S. military has "begun to review potential military options" in Syria, according to the New York Times. (February 11, 2012) An unnamed American military official told this authoritative newspaper, "We're looking at a whole range of options, but as far as going to one course of action, I haven't seen anything." The report says the "possible options" that would be considered include "everything, including humanitarian assistance, army rebels, covert actions, airstrikes, deploying ground troops or doing nothing.”

This admission comes as the U.S. is already backing various forms of intervention in Syria, including Turkey's efforts to use Syrian military opposition elements to form an army under its control, and the money and arms allegedly pouring into the country from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are almost undoubtedly backing fellow Sunni Islamic fundamentalists, as they have everywhere else.

The U.S. followed an often ambiguous policy toward Syria for many years, working to isolate and weaken the regime while also recognizing its importance in preserving the status quo in the region at times when that has been a prime American goal. Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez, crushed the revolutionary Palestinian movement then centered in Lebanon in the 1970s, enforced peace with Israel despite the Zionist occupation of Syria's Golan Heights since 1967, and supported the U.S. during the 1991 invasion of Iraq. 

When the Syrian revolt broke out last March, inspired by similar spontaneous revolts that toppled Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali, the U.S. did not support its main demand, the fall of the regime. Instead, Washington called on Assad to implement economic and political reforms meant to appease the movement while making it easier to pull Syria into the U.S. orbit.

That revolt, Salameh Kaileh, a prominent Arab Marxist from Palestine living in Syria, told AWTWNS in an interview last August, was unleashed by the middle strata in the countryside. In smaller provincial cities, it now involves all social classes, including the merchants and local capitalists, Kaileh said.

It was not until August 18 that Washington called for Assad to go. This was not because the Obama government had suddenly found out how bloodthirsty the Syrian regime is. There had already been five months of massacres of unarmed civilian demonstrators, and for years the U.S. had turned over prisoners to Syria precisely in order that they be tortured. But the U.S. saw both necessity and opportunity in the current situation.

As Kaileh said, the U.S. was now seeking regime change, but a controlled regime change, hoping to avoid unleashing uncontrollable forces, including the masses of Syrian people themselves, that might lead to an outcome that would destabilize the whole U.S.-dominated structure of the region, including the regimes in neighboring Turkey and Jordan.  

"Following the Tunisian and Egyptian model, this change (sought by the U.S. in Syria) would not be a radical one but a change within the regime itself," Kaileh said. One possible form would be a split within the power structure, particularly the armed forces, and a coup, spurred on by or even possibly brought about by foreign military intervention.

The necessity was to step in to resolve a situation – a popular uprising – that imperiled American interests. The opportunity was that it had become possible to envisage taking out a formerly stable regime that formed a bloc with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Palestinian Hamas, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, posing serious problems for the U.S. and threatening its reactionary regional allies. It is no coincidence that the U.S.'s eagerness to bring down Assad comes amid heightened U.S. threats to attack Iran and/or back Israel in attacking it.

Even as the popular revolt in the Middle East and North Africa continues to acutely challenge some of the existing regimes and forms of imperialist domination, and the genie of the people’s awakening has been released from the bottle, instead of giving in to the popular will and or even retreating slightly, the U.S. has worked to advance its interests amid these turbulent waters.

To the so-called Tunisian and Egyptian models has now been added the "Libyan model" in which the U.S. and the European powers (acting both in concert with the U.S. and also out of rivalry with the U.S. and each other) basically invaded (if mainly from the skies) and brought down the Gaddafi regime. This show of force was meant not only to assert control of Libya but also to proclaim and maintain regional dominance in the face of both the peoples and other rivals, including Russia and China.

The foreign interference and stoking of civil war by the U.S. and its allies in Syria is exactly the kind of thing the UN supposedly exists to prevent. A few years ago, the U.S. blustered threats against the Assad regime for interfering in Lebanon and demanded that the UN step in. For the U.S., UK and France, the question is not what is morally right or legal according to international law but what serves their imperialist interests.

Now these powers have taken the opposite position regarding Syria: outside interference can be justified because Assad is "killing his own people." Further, if it is true that forces linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq is now fighting in Syria, this is not unrelated to the Gulf States' backing of other Islamic fundamentalist forces there. The point, for the West, is that their interference (or moves backed by them) is good, while anyone else's is an excuse for... NATO intervention. 

As Robert Fisk pointed out in the UK Independent, one particularly sharp illustration of the hypocrisy of the U.S. and Europe is that the absolute monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now portrayed as the region's best champions of "democracy" in Syria. The fact that the Saudi regime sent in troops to put down a rebellion by the Shia majority in Bahrain and is shooting Shia demonstrators in eastern Saudi Arabia has been politely overlooked.

The increasing importance of the alliance between the U.S. and the reactionary Gulf States – driven by the dread that the "Arab Spring" inspires in them all – is exemplified by the fact that they were able to change the position of the Arab League overnight, from one of at least apparent neutrality toward the Assad regime to putting forward a stunningly arrogant and detailed plan for what should happen next in Syria, beginning with a transfer of power from Assad to others within his regime, with or without a military coup.

The Arab League has called for a "joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission" in Syria, but this isn't about peace. It called for providing "all forms of moral and material support" to opposition forces, but this isn't about helping the advance of what has been the main thrust of the people's revolt so far, an end to oppression.

What it resembles more closely is the 19th century "gunboat diplomacy" when Western powers used their warships to force those local governments not already under colonial control to comply point-by-point with an imposed agenda. The fact that these demands come from Arab mouths does not change the fact that the U.S. wrote the script, or at least gave it the green light. How could the Gulf monarchies threaten Syria without the spectre of Western gunboats (and aircraft and armies) looming just behind them?

With the pretext that Saddam Hussein was "killing his own people," two invasions separated by a decade of murderous sanctions not only led to the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people but also plunged the Iraqi people into as dark a night as they have ever faced before, a situation very unfavorable for revolt. Then, on the same pretext, came the "Libyan" model, in which a regime that had become highly compliant with Western (and especially British and Italian) interests was brought down amidst the unleashing of all sorts of reactionary interests and forces, making life in Libya today as great a hell as ever before.

Right now the U.S. is in no position to mount another large-scale invasion, thanks not to any sudden change of heart but the way the American projects in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out. On the other hand, the kind of "cheap" war in Libya (cheap to the U.S. and other NATO members, not to the Libyan people who are still paying a horrendous price) may not be possible in Syria, where the last five months of revolt have shown that the reactionary regime does have a stronger social base as well as a real army.

American strategists (see, for example, Foreign bemoan the fact that an "air exclusion zone" would have little affect in Syria, where the regime hasn't been using war planes, and that air power cannot be applied to aid anti-regime forces because to the extent that combat is going on now, it is in densely populated cities. "What is presented as an alternative to military intervention [on the ground] is more likely to pave the way to such intervention once it fails," Marc Lynch warns in that publication.

We can't predict what will happen – how the U.S. and its allies might try to solve their dilemma and make a grab for Syria. But we should know by now, after all that we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so many other places, that what the imperialists are capable of is sometimes worse than we can imagine – and the results of their intervention are always disastrous for the people.

(For more about the Syrian revolt, see the interview with Hassan Khaled Chatila in AWTWNS 5-16-11.)

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

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