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End Imperialist Intervention in Syria!
[Photo: Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, he is the head representative of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is, according to foreign imperialist powers the legitimate government of Syria. He is also, according to the mainstream French media, Agence France-Presse, he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, according to numerous sources, he is an executive of Shell Oil.]
End Imperialist Intervention in Syria!
No Support for Imperialist Backed Rebels! No Support to the Capitalist Government of Bashar al-Assad!
Piss on Both Houses! Build the Revolutionary Trotskyist Alternative!
By Steven Argue
In the middle of a civil war and without any meaningful consultation with the people of Syria, a coalition of imperialist countries and U.S. backed Middle Eastern dictatorships have decided on a new government for Syria. That coalition of imperialist powers is lead by France, the United States, Britain, and Italy. For the new future leader of Syria, they have chosen Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, a fanatical Sunni chauvinist of the Muslim Brotherhood who expresses deep hatred towards religious Alewite and Jewish minorities. He is also a representative of Shell Oil. Foreign weapons are being provided to al-Khatib’s forces on the ground, economic sanctions against Syria are imposed, and there is much talk of direct military intervention by imperialist powers to further the cause of his rebel forces.
The United States and several other foreign powers are openly arming the uprising taking place in Syria and have helped put together a new reactionary rebel government called the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Several countries are promoting this rebel government as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Ironically, Hillary Clinton has called these countries the ''friends of democratic Syria'' and asks them to unite and ''support the Syrian people's right to have a better future''. She adds that ''Assad must go.''
Yet who are these countries in Hilary Clinton’s alliance for a “democratic” Syria? Countries supporting the armed uprising both politically and/or with weapons include France, the United States, Britain, Italy, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
Despite Hilary Clinton’s declarations of this being a coalition for democracy in Syria, it is actually a coalition filled with U.S. backed dictatorships and imperialist powers that have no real history of actually fighting for democracy.
For instance, U.S. backed Saudi Arabia is backing some of the worst Islamists in Syria. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is, in fact, actually the most repressive country in the world with a religious government that denies all rights to women, denies all rights to religious minorities, and denies all rights to labor. Yet, instead of the economic blockade and proxy war as carried against Syria, the Saudi Arabian government gets major arms deals from the United States, including selling $33.4 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in 2011. This is because the theocratic ruling class of Saudi Arabia conspires with imperial capitalists to rob the Saudi Arabian people of their oil wealth and labor. Saudi Arabia is part of this coalition supposedly fighting for democracy in Syria.
Neighboring Bahrain has been, with US and Saudi Arabian military support, carrying out mass murder and jailings of people standing up for democracy and human rights in that country. Bahrainian repression goes on with U.S. backing and U.S. weapons. Meanwhile, these facts are mentioned very little in the corporate press while similar repression makes constant headlines regarding Syria. Yes, of course, despite having no democracy, Bahrain is part of the coalition supposedly fighting for democracy in Syria.
Turkey, with US weapons, brutally represses its Kurdish minority. Of course, Turkey is part of the coalition of “friends of Syria” supposedly fighting for democracy in Syria.
Qatar, a major supplier of weapons and a supplier of troops for the so-called “uprising” in Libya, has also been supplying weapons to the armed uprising in Syria. They are also part of Hilary Clinton’s “democratic coalition”, despite having no semblance of democracy or workers right in their homeland.
Yet, we are fed the lie that the U.S. is intervening in Syria to help bring democracy. In reality, the US intervenes to isolate Hezbollah and Iran. More on that below.
Atrocities on All Sides
Imperialist picked rebel leader, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib refers to Shiite Muslims as "rejectionist heretics". This suggests that when and if the rebels take power, Syria’s semi-secular rule will be defeated for something far more deadly. The Sheik’s like minded Islamic extremists in the streets have been chanting, “Al-Alawi ala taboot, wa al-Mashila ala Beirut!” which in English means, “Alawites in the coffin, and the Christians to Beirut!” Alewites are a Syrian offshoot from the Shiite Muslims, both hated by the Sunni religious extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood along with Christians. All indications are that victory for rebel forces would be a death sentence for Alewites and other religious minorities. And, in fact, rebel control of territories has been a death sentence for ethnic minorities.
The hatred of Sunni fundamentalist rebels towards ethnic minorities have been downplayed and hidden in the U.S. corporate media. This includes major massacres. While both sides in the conflict are guilty of atrocities, those attributed to the government of Bashar al-Assad get almost all of the coverage, and sometimes rebel atrocities are even pinned on the government.
One example of rebel atrocities happened in Khalidiya where Christians and Alewites were rounded-up by rebels, put in a building, and then blown-up with dynamite.
For its part, the Syrian government’s shelling of neighborhoods is also a war crime. Part of the irony, however, is seeing western reporters on TV sitting in these neighborhoods and reporting the horror of being shelled, when at the same time, these same “news” outlets never covered the same story as the U.S. military carried out similar atrocities against neighborhoods in Iraq, or as the Israeli military carries out similar attacks against neighborhoods in Gaza
Still, following in the footsteps of earlier French colonial rule, the Syrian military of the Assad dynasty has a history of extreme atrocities against the Sunni majority. These have occurred as retaliation and warfare between the primarily secular government of the Assads and the religious extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood. The worst of these atrocities was the February 1982 massacre by the Syrian government in Hama. This occurred after a series of escalations that included Muslim Brotherhood massacres of Alewites in 1979 and numerous attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate Hafez-al Assad. In 1982, in an unforgivable act of horror, the Assad government leveled the primarily Sunni town of Hama, leaving between 10,000 and 20,000 people dead.
One of the most outrageous massacres in the current civil war was the Houla Massacre of 108 civilians carried out in May in the city of Taldou. People were systematically massacred; Shiites and Alewite families were murdered in their houses while Sunnis were left alive in their homes next door. Forty-nine of the victims were children. This was quickly reported in the imperialist and corporate owned media as a massacre carried out by the Syrian regular army and the pro-Assad Shabiha Militia, which are Alewite. These reports were based on questionable “anonymous’ eyewitness accounts of people living under the terror of the Free Syria Army (FSA) as well as from the dubious accounts of the FSA itself.
Contradicting the reports of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and world imperialist press, was Rainer Hermann of the mainstream German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which reported that it was actually the Sunni fundamentalists of the FSA who carried out the Houla Massacre. According to his articles, his research found that among those targeted included two Sunni relatives of parliamentary member Abdalmuti Mashlab who would have been regarded as a government collaborator by the rebels. Other people murdered were Shiite and Alewite families who would have been natural targets of the Sunni religious fanatics of the Free Syria Army. One of these families had been Sunni, but their entire family had converted to the Shiite faith. They were living in a neighborhood that was almost entirely Sunni. The massacre was systematic, Sunni neighbors were not touched, but this family was annihilated, men, women, and children. Hermann quotes the 11-year-old sole survivor of the Al Sayyid family saying, “Those responsible had shaved heads and long beards”. This is a description of fanatical Sunnis within the Free Syria Army, not of the Shabiha Militia and the Syrian Army who were blamed for the massacre in the imperialist corporate media.
Various governments used the fact that the Houla massacre was blamed on the Syrian government to take action against Syria. The UN and 12 countries expelled their Syrian ambassadors. Calls for escalated imperialist warfare against Syria were issued and open military aid to the rebels was sent by several countries. The idea of “humanitarian” warfare on behalf of those in the Free Syria Army and Muslim Brotherhood; even though the evidence suggests they were the actual perpetrators of the massacre, became more popular. Propaganda , spin, and lies had served their purpose, just as they did in Iraq with lies of “weapons of mass destruction”.
The Nature of a Muslim Brotherhood Government
So besides religious cleansing, what might a Muslim Brotherhood government look like in Syria? As the US and other imperialist powers intervene in an attempt to impose a Muslim Brotherhood government on Syria, in the name of democracy no less, we have the example of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt to consider.
In Egypt, since taking power, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi has not made any inroads against capitalism to better the conditions of the poor working class of Egypt. No surprise there. And despite lip-service for the plight of the Palestinian people, Morsi has refused to open the border with Gaza to break Israel’s inhuman economic blockade of the Palestinian people. As a result, Morsi continues to get massive military aid from the United States and good relations with the World Bank, just as deposed US backed dictator Hosni Mubarak enjoyed before him. Now, to consolidate its capitalist Islamic rule, this imperialist backed Muslim Brotherhood government is also taking steps to defeat and destroy basic democratic rights as part of eliminating the rebellious movement that brought down the dictatorship Hosni Mubarak. Those steps include the drafting of a constitution that gives Mohamed Morsi nearly unrestricted powers and eliminates freedom of the press. It will take the militant action of the working class of Egypt to stop these repressive measures.
There is no reason to think that a government of religious extremists of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood under Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib won’t do the same things in Syria as the Muslim Brotherhood is doing in Egypt. And there was every reason to expect the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood government that is currently ruling Egypt. Yet, in Egypt, members of the Revolutionary Socialists (part of the IS or International Socialists) backed Morsi, supposedly as the anti-imperialist and anti-dictatorship alternative in the election. This author denounced that position at the time, saying:
“These supporters of the reformist program of Tony Cliff claim to be Trotskyists. Actual Trotskyists wouldn't put their support behind a reactionary religious capitalist party like the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, the revolutionary movement in Egypt is pissed off at the Muslim Brotherhood for participating in these sham elections in the first place. But then we have the thoroughly reformist IS with their heads so far up their asses they are incapable of standing firm and advocating the revolutionary alternative. No say they, the working class must vote for one or the other party of capitalist reaction.”
True to form, today, these Cliffite Philistines of the International Socialists are demanding that people must support the “opposition” in Syria without regard to that opposition’s program and imperialist backing. This is on par with the bourgeois charlatanism of another fake Trotskyist, Ernest Mandel, who demanded the rehabilitation of the murderously anti-Semitic and Nazi-backed Forrest Brothers of Estonia who fought against the USSR. It is the habit of these types of opportunists to lay prostrate in front of every “movement of the people”, no matter how murderous, reactionary, and in some cases genocidal. Instead, actual Trotskyists are careful about not letting ourselves be the dupes of imperialist and other reactionary interests as we attempt to lead by putting forward a revolutionary anti-imperialist working class program.
The corporate media pretend that the current conflict in Syria is one between tyranny and democracy, and give little indication of the sectarian nature of the conflict. Likewise, Stalinist portrayals in favor of the capitalist regime of Bashar al-Assad miss the mark. These portrayals have nothing to do with reality. There is no democratic or socialist side to this conflict. It is simply a tragedy of blood letting with the continuation of mass blood letting guaranteed if either major side wins.
Colonial Roots of the Current Sectarian Conflict
French promotion of one side in the current civil war and attempts to select a new Muslim Brotherhood government for Syria are very similar to their former role as colonial ruler of Syria. They’ve just switched from promoting one religious group to another. Likewise, the roots of much of the current religious conflict in Syria can also be found in France’s divide in rule tactics at the time when they ruled Syria directly.
After the First World War, the spoils of the conquered Ottoman Empire were divided between imperialist powers. The largely nationally and culturally united region of the lands of Damascus, or “Greater Syria”, were divided up between Britain and France, with Britain occupying Palestine and Jordan, and France getting Lebanon and Syria.
In its allotted portion of the Lands of Damascus, Britain set-up the illegitimate and extremely repressive Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In Palestine, without consulting the Palestinian people, Britain backed the Zionist aspirations of the Balfour Declaration to turn Palestine into a Jewish homeland. This set the stage for the Israeli colonial settler state that has been driving the Palestinian people from their homes and treating them as non-humans for many decades since.
France divided its portion of the region into Lebanon and Syria as part of their divide and rule
tactics. In Lebanon, the French preferred Christians, who held a narrow majority of the percentage of the population over other religious groups. So the French granted the Christians the presidency. The Sunnis came in second, so the French masters gave them the position of prime minister. The Shiites came in last and were only given the speakership of the parliament. What about equal rights? What about atheists? What about western ideals of separation of church and state? Nonsense, the western ideal was to fuse religion and government so as to divide and conquer, making colonial rule more difficult to challenge by its subjects. US colonial behavior in Iraq, oppressing secular parties, promoting religious parties, injecting religion into government, and fanning secular hatreds including backing Shiite death squads, has shown no deviation from this tried and true method of colonial rule used by the French in Lebanon and Syria.
In Syria, the French used the Alewite minority against the Sunni majority. Alewites, a religious offshoot of the Shiite Muslim faith which comprises only 12% of the population, were elevated from the lowly subordinate position in society they suffered under the Ottoman Empire to the oppressors, for France, of the Sunni majority. France recruited other religious and national minorities to this task as well, but the Alewite minority were given major privileges by the French colonial rulers. Alewites composed 65% of the noncommissioned officers in 1955. The Arab Sunnis, a majority then and currently comprising 60% of the population, were just too large of a group to be trusted by their French colonial masters. The Alewites were recruited into the French Troupes Speciales du Lavant, which ruthlessly suppressed the Sunni majority.
The Rise of the Current Regime
The Ba’thist Party first took power in 1963. Its program was one of secularism, pan-Arabism, and independence from foreign imperialist rule. It also came to power partly on a promise of limited land reform that was popular among the rural poor. Its secular politics were popular with Syria’s religious minorities which make-up 31.5% of the population and have proven to be an important political base of the Ba’athists against religious fanatics of the Sunni faith. Religious minorities in Syria include Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Ismalis. Ethnic minorities include Kurds, Armenians, Circassions, and Turcomans. The large percentage of religious and ethnic minorities living in Syria has formed an important part of the political base of succeeding Ba’athist regimes.
Fear of violence from the religious fanatics of the Sunni majority, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, has consolidated support for succeeding Ba’athist regimes from religious minorities. Yet, the Ba’athists have always been primarily Sunni as well, looking down on other religions themselves. They have not accepted other nationalities either, like Kurds (9% of the population), unless they accept Arabization.
Rising-up from within the ranks of the ruling Ba’athist Party, the Assad dynasty first took power in a coup in 1970. This coup was carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez-al Assad. It was not a step forward. The coup undermined the revolutionary reforms carried out when the Ba’athists first took power in 1963. Hafez-al Assad overturned the nationalizations and limited agrarian reforms of the 1963 Ba’thist revolution. Hafez-al Assad also undermined the secular nature of the Ba’athist revolution, quoting versus from the Koran at the opening of his speeches and issuing a new constitution that only allowed Muslims to be president.
The Imperialists Intervene to Isolate Hezbollah and Iran
Imperialist intervention in Syria is to topple the capitalist dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. This hostility of U.S. imperialism towards the government of Syria is intended to weaken both Iran's and Hezbollah's ability to resist the United States and Israel. Assad's Syria has been friendly to both Hezbollah and Iran. Syrian support played a major role in Hezbollah's ability to defeat the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, a major victory for the Lebanese people. A similar invasion by Israel was not defeated so resolutely in 1982 and that Israeli occupation not only devastated the country, but Israel was also able to carry out major massacres of unarmed Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila, murdering 3,000 unarmed people in cold blood. Through the installation of a U.S. puppet government in Syria, the imperialists hope to isolate Iran and cut off aid to Hezbollah, thus weakening the national defenses of Lebanon which currently spring mostly from Hezbollah.
Obama, speaking of the new rebel coalition under the leadership of Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib said, “I’m encouraged to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group that may have more cohesion than they’ve had in the past. We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” adding that a major concern was keeping any flow of arms from reaching "extremist" elements who would "do Israelis harm, or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security.” Of course Hezbollah is at the top of this list to cut-off arms supplies in an attempt to aid Israeli aggression. They are the "extremists" who defended Lebanese national sovereignty against a US backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the hand-picked leader of the rebel government, the imperialists just may have their man. Besides being likely to have loyalties to his employers at Shell Oil as well as loyalties to the imperialists who install him, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, has clearly shown his hatred for Shiite Muslims by referring to them as "rejectionist heretics". This position strongly suggests that if he comes to power there will be an end to Syrian assistance to Iranian efforts that bring aid to the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah forces of Lebanon.
Likewise, as the U.S. attempts to starve and isolate Iran for trying to develop nuclear power (and potentially nuclear weapons), Bashar al-Assad’s regime has maintained friendly relations with Tehran. This is the right of Syria! US economic isolation of Iran only serves to hurt the Iranian people. A year ago, the average wages of an Iranian worker in a big city was $700 a month; that has now dropped to an average of $440. The average in rural areas dropped from $310 to $200 a month. This is largely a result of the economic sanctions being carried out by the United States and the European Union. Basic supplies are also facing shortages, included needed drugs. For example, on November 14th, the Guardian reported that Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi, a 15-year-old boy, died due to a lack of medicine for hemophilia, with the shortage blamed on the EU and US economic blockade. While those economic sanctions don’t directly forbid the importation of drugs, they greatly impede Iran’s ability to purchase them.
The Syrian people, like the Iranians, have also been the victim of similar imperialist economic sanctions. Ironically, this is in part supposedly to stop Syrian support for al-Qaeda. In reality, US aid to rebels in Syria is helping the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist rebel unit linked to al Qaeda in Syria which has become famous for it massacres of unarmed people.
EU and US economic sanctions are intended to punish Iran for developing a program for nuclear power that they say will be used to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranian government counters these claims saying that the purpose of this program is to develop nuclear power, not weapons. Either way, revolutionary Trotskyists don’t care. We support the right of Iran to develop any weapons they need to defend themselves from the US and Israel. We held the same position in regards to Iraq. The US invasion of Iraq left over a million people dead and devastated the country. If the U.S. invasion of Iraq has shown the world anything, it is the fact that if a country is to stand-up to US imperialism, it just might need “weapons of mass destruction”.
Presently, the Syrian government takes some relatively small stands against U.S. imperialism, but besides that there really isn’t much that stands out as inspiring about Syria’s murderous capitalist government. Quite the contrary. In fact, in an attempt to gain the favor of the imperialists, Bashar al-Assad even participated in the so-called “U.S. war on terror”. Under the so-called "war on terror" immigrants in the west have been labeled “enemy combatants” without cause and can disappear into America’s torture chambers or be outsourced for torture and murder by being shipped back to their native lands. Some have never been heard from again, with international human rights organizations denied documentation; while others reemerge after prolonged mistreatment such as Maher Arar, a leader of a mainstream Arab American advocacy group who was shipped to Syria by the U.S. government for torture. A clear message was sent to Arab-Americans: watch your tongue or you’ll be the next Maher Arar. This was done with the assistance of the government of Bashar al-Assad.
Trotskyists don’t give any political support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iranian Islamic government, or the capitalist dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. We support the right of these nations to self-determination, including opposing murderous economic sanctions and supporting their right to armed in self-defense against the attacks of Israel, the United States, and other countries. At the same time we see the need for building revolutionary workers parties across the Middle East that organize to sweep away all capitalist governments in a proletarian revolution that nationalizes natural resources, including oil, to be used to meet the needs of the majority, to sweep away all religious government to free people from religious persecution and liberate women, and to set-up a federation of socialist republics where language rights of national minorities are guaranteed. Any such revolution will, of course, have U.S. imperialism and every other capitalist nation in the world as a deadly enemy. We also seek to end U.S. imperialism through socialist revolution in the United States.
The author of the this article is a member of the Revolutionary Tendency, join us.
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Also by this author, see:
Afghanistan: Misogynistic Hell Hole Made in the U.S.A.
Why The Russian Revolution is Still Important
Why We Should Oppose the Imperialist War on Libya
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