The United States and its allies are at the point of launching a new military attack in the Middle East. The excuse is to “punish” Bashar al Assad’s dictatorial Syrian regime, which Obama’s administration accused, without any conclusive evidence, of having bombed with chemical weapons a Damascus suburb under the control of opposition factions, in which hundreds of civilians died. With the dreadful pictures of this war crime, about which there are multiple speculations but no certainty, the United States is trying to legitimize this imperialist intervention.
Obama had established as a “red line” for military action in Syria, that the regime would use chemical weapons against the civilian population. If it held that Assad crossed this “red line,” it would have to intervene, so as not to lose its credibility and its power of dissuasion, especially to restrain North Korea or Iran, that could interpret a lack of response as weakness. However, the situation is not so simple. Great Britain prefers waiting for the UN to finish investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria before launching an attack, to give it even a veneer of legitimacy, which is delaying the intervention.
The war machinery is ready: four US ships, loaded with missiles, are now ready in the Mediterranean and aiming at Syrian territory, to which are being added French and British vessels. The operation was planned in a meeting in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in which, the military chiefs of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan participated. This “Coalition of the Willing” will act without the support of the UN, since Russia and China are opposing military intervention.
Although the scope of the operation has not yet been defined, apparently it would be a “limited attack,” directed at military installations of the Syrian government, with the aim of weakening Assad’s regime, although without overthrowing it, as groups of the rebels and Saudi Arabia, that sees it as part of its regional dispute with Iran, are hoping. To this is added the fact that Syria has the support of Russia, which has begun to make military movements in the area.
Imperialism’s “moral” justification is so hypocritical that it seems to be unbelievable, even for the capitalist and liberal media themselves, that, without beating around the bush, recall how the United States used chemical weapons in Vietnam and Iraq, or that it agreed to Saddam Hussein’s use of this type of weapons during the Iraq-Iran war, when he was still useful for US interests, not to mention financial aid to the Egyptian army, despite its having carried out a coup d’état and having massacred around 1000 sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A complex setting
Since the civil war in Syria broke out, Obama’s policy has been to limit the US to providing military and financial support to the most moderate wings of the “rebel” forces, through regional agents, like the government of Turkey, to which the Free Syrian Army answers. The aim was to let both sides wear themselves out and then attempt a negotiated solution between Assad’s regime and the opposition, with support from Russia.
This policy was a result of the combination of different factors. On the domestic level, most of the US population rejects a new military adventure, after the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (according to a survey by the Washington Post daily paper, only 25% would support the attack, if the use of chemical weapons was proven).
In addition, as happened with NATO’s intervention in Libya, the United States is confronting in Syria the problem of the lack of reliable allies with mass influence among the “rebels”; Assad’s possible downfall could end up strengthening groups of radicalized Islamist militias, like the Al Nusra Front, that keeps ties with Al Qaeda, no less than on the borders of the State of Israel.
Everything would indicate that the United States will attempt a limited “punitive” action, to reverse the relationship of forces on the ground and force Russia and Iran to collaborate in implementing a negotiated way out. But this seems very difficult. As several analysts point out, without clear political objectives, the situation could end up dragging the United States into a new regional conflict, with thousands of civilian victims. In that case, the allies of Assad’s regime, mainly Iran and Hezbollah, could retaliate for the military attacks against Syria.
It cannot even be ruled out that, as a result of the confrontation between different ethnic and religious minorities, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds, etc., the tendency to Balkanization of these states, whose boundaries were arbitrarily drawn up by the imperialist powers, between the First and Second World Wars, will intensify, as is now seen in Iraq and Libya.
Imperialism, get out! Only the workers and the popular masses have a right to overthrow Assad’s dictatorship
The struggle against Assad’s dictatorial regime began as a legitimate popular uprising, with driving forces similar to the rest of the processes of the “Arab Spring.” Against what groups of the populist left are saying, like chavismo in Latin America, Assad’s regime is neither progressive nor anti-imperialist: it is a despotic dictatorship that has, for decades, been implementing neoliberal policies, with which the Alawite minority, that the Assad family and their close circle belong to, benefits. Before the 2011 uprising, the unemployment rate exceeded 20% (55% for young people) and poverty reached 33%. The Syrian people rose up against these conditions.
However, militarization stifled the popular uprising and gave rise to a civil war, in which imperialist countries and regional powers, like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf States, that support the Sunni militias, in order to further their reactionary interests, are intervening, through the different factions in struggle.
Direct imperialist intervention is a jump. Some tendencies that claim to be leftist, like the LIT-CI (the main party of which is the Brazilian PSTU), in the name of the struggle against the dictatorship, end up uncritically backing the “rebel” faction, among whom there are not only reactionary Islamist leaders, but also leaders that are demanding the military intervention of imperialism, in order to remain as their agents, in the face of “regime change”; this very policy led them to capitulate before NATO’s intervention in Libya.
In its positions on Syria, the LIT does not even mention the danger of imperialist military intervention. In an August 25 note, when the military operation of the United States was already being prepared, the PSTU limited itself to condemning the fact that the UN is covering up Assad’s massacre. The height of this policy of “democratic revolution” is the shameful position of this tendency on Egypt, where, tailing the bourgeois liberal or secular opposition, it calls on the coup-plotting military to ban the Muslim Brotherhood.
Against these capitulations, the task of revolutionary Marxists is to expose the counter-revolutionary character of imperialism before the masses, especially when it is concealed behind the “democratic” or humanitarian cover. For that reason, against imperialism and its domestic agents, we are for the revolutionary downfall of Assad’s regime, as part of the struggle to achieve a workers’ and popular government.
First published in Spanish on August 29, 2013 on ft-ci.org.
Translated by Yosef M.