People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 08, 2012


Imperialism Spies Syria


R Arun Kumar


Syria is the political theatre where imperialism is at work now. Syria had shot a Turkish fighter jet plane recently stating that it had violated its air space, flying over its territory. President Assad expressed his regret, insisting that the flight indeed flew over Syria. On the other hand, Turkey has accused Syria of 'aggression', claiming that its jet was flying within its territories. As can only be expected, Syria was instantly condemned by all the ‘super-powers' for this ‘grave act of transgression'. They immediately started projecting this incident as yet another reason for acting against Syria. The UN observers, who are in the country as part of the UN sponsored 'Kofi Annan peace plan' are confined to their hotels, terming the situation in Syria as ‘not conducive' to venture out on to the streets and enforce ceasefire.


Syria, since March 2011 is on the boil. According to unsubstantiated and contested estimates, as many as 14,000 people had lost their lives in this period due to the continuous strife in the country. Even if one does not agree with this number, it is true that hundreds of people were killed and thousands more injured or displaced. Property worth of millions of dollars was damaged and this includes houses and other civic infrastructure. Syrian economy is pushed to tatters, affecting the livelihood of millions of people.


What began in March 2011 as protests against the economic hardships of the people and for more democratic rights, had completely gone out of track. When the people of Syria came out to protest last year, everybody saw them as part of the regional phenomenon taking place in almost all the countries in that part of the world.




The ruling classes in this region, actively encouraged by the entire imperialist group, pursued a two-pronged strategy. One, they had immediately acceded to some of the demands of the protesters without ceding their hegemony and ensure that the protests lose steam. Two, they had unleashed severe repression to curb the protests. Apart from these two 'internal' measures, there is another important step – armed military intervention. In countries like Bahrain (military ‘invasion' of Bahrain by Saudi Arabia) and Yemen, they had used armed intervention to suppress those protests. In the countries which questioned its hegemonic role and were irritants to the imperialist domination, armed intervention is used for 'regime change'. After Libya, they have now shifted their attention to Syria, with Iran remaining the ‘final frontier' to assume complete control of this resource-rich, strategically located region.


The protests in Syria erupted when a protest movement raising local demands was launched by the people in Daraa province. They demanded the withdrawal of emergency provisions that were in place since 1963, i.e., nearly for the last 50 years. They also protested against the falling living conditions as a result of the economic policies pursued by the government, which is pushing the country towards a free market economy; the cut in the aid to the poor in the country; cut in subsidies, particularly for agriculture (Agriculture is an important economic activity of this country and is nearly 22 per cent of its GDP employing 17 per cent workforce); the removal of State control on exports, which adversely affected the Syrian industry. Besides, they also demanded the government to act fast to curb the rising rates of unemployment, especially among the youth. The problems for Syrian economy got accentuated from the 2000’s as it is roughly during this time that the government decided to liberalise and open up its entire economy including the financial sector. The rising inequalities and global economic crisis thus naturally had a tremendous influence on the protests.


The Syrian government initially dealt with the protests as a 'law and order' problem. The police reacted very harshly and tried to suppress these protests using brute force. The government action boomeranged and brought increasing numbers of people onto the streets. Wiser from the experiences of other countries of the region, the government tried to rectify the situation by accepting some of the demands. It had issued orders nullifying the emergency laws and legalising peaceful demonstrations. Syrian President Bashar Assad was forced to end the emergency rule and acknowledge that Syrians have legitimate grievances. The announcement of President Assad failed to deter people from taking part in the protest demonstrations, held across the country. Syria's cabinet too resigned.


However, protests spread to other cities feeding on the high-handed manner in which the authorities dealt with the protesters. Imperialism, served ably by the media, latched upon this situation and incited the people by exaggerations, partial presentation of facts and distortions. The massacre in Houlah, where hundreds of people were brutally killed including many children, is one recent example. While the opposition groups are accusing the government forces for this massacre, the government is claiming it to be a handiwork of the opposition troops. Truth will be out only through an impartial enquiry. Nevertheless, it is a fact that hundreds of people, and this includes security personnel, are being killed by the opposition forces.


Opposition groups were armed both financially and militarily by the US and its lackeys, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Files released to the Washington Post by Wikileaks suggested that Syrian opposition groups and exiled opponents of the government have been in receipt of funding from the US since 2005. This process gained momentum in the last one year.


The Free Syrian Army, the name taken by the rebel forces, runs many of its training bases in Turkey. Turkey has also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is co-ordinating weapon supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping financial aid and weapons to the rebel forces. The border between Syria and Turkey is used to smuggle weapons to arm the rebel forces. The influx of weapons has reinvigorated the insurrection in northern Syria, which less than six weeks ago, was on the verge of being crushed. The Guardian (June 23) reports that Saudi Arabia had even decided to pay salaries to the rebel army in either US dollars or Euros. The move is seen as a chance to provide a strong incentive for soldiers and officers to defect as the value of the Syrian pound, the currency in which the salaries of the Syrian army are paid, has fallen sharply since the anti-regime revolt started 16 months ago. This seems to be yielding results as one of the generals of Syrian army had defected to the opposite campy on the 25th June. This entire plan is actively supported and assisted by the US. The Guardian quotes Whitney Phillips, spokesperson of US Senator Joe Lieberman: “Senator Lieberman has called for the US to provide robust and comprehensive support to the armed Syrian opposition, in co-ordination with our partners in the Middle East and Europe. He has specifically called for the US to work with our partners to provide the armed Syrian opposition with weapons, training, tactical intelligence, secure communications and other forms of support to change the military balance of power inside Syria”.


The US government did not disappoint its Senator. The New York Times (June 21) in its report states: “A small number of CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers”. Quoting some rebel activists it continues: “Last month, these activists said, Turkish Army vehicles delivered anti-tank weaponry to the border, where it was then smuggled into Syria...The United States, these activists said, was consulted about these weapons transfers”. The report further states: “American officials and retired CIA officials said the administration was also weighing additional assistance to rebels, like providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements. The administration is also considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service”.




All these reports prove conclusively the active intervention of the US and its lackeys in extending both military and financial aid to the opposition forces and rebels in Syria to overthrow the regime. This is in fact, the same method they had adopted in Libya to overthrow Gadaffi. Another Libyan experience they had put to effective use in Syria is strangulating the country by imposing economic sanctions and crippling its economy. In fact, this is the first step that the US and the European Union had taken against Syria. Since last May, the EU has enforced sanctions on Syria several times, creating a huge impact on the daily lives of Syrians. Medical facilities, power production, agriculture, exports and industries were affected by these sanctions.


The sanctions had a deep impact, because according to EU economic statistics (2010) EU was Syria's biggest trading partner, accounting for 22.5 percent of Syrian trade. Saudi Arabia is its third biggest trading partner (9 percent) and Turkey was in fifth place with 6.6 percent. All these countries had imposed sanctions on Syria. Not satisfied with this, the European Union, together with the US is repeatedly pressing for an UN resolution imposing sanctions on Syria. While they had succeeded with a similar game-plan in Libya, it is only because of the resistance offered by both Russia and China and some of the developing countries that they had failed in Syria till date.


Even before these recent sanctions imposed by the EU, the US, terming the Syrian regime as a part of its ‘axis of evil’ grouping, had long imposed sanctions upon it. The US antipathy to the Syrian regime is due to the fact that Syria has been playing a fundamental role in opposing and resisting American plans in West Asia. Syria is also one of the few countries that still continue to actively support the Palestinian cause, shelter them and oppose the hegemonic designs of Israel. Syria had suffered due to the Israeli acts of aggression and still a part of its territory is occupied by Israel (Golan Heights). These acts angered the US, as it desires the entire region to be subservient to it.


Turkey, which is long waiting to become a member of the European Union, wants to use this ‘opportunity’ to prove that it can be a ‘valuable’ member through its acts to topple the Syrian government. Moreover, it dreams of the ‘glorious’ period in its history – of the Ottoman Empire – when it exerted control over many countries. All these countries are trying to overwrite their sectarian and narrow agenda of ‘controlling’ Syria on the peoples’ aspirations for genuine economic and political rights.


The Syrian government’s failure to heed to saner advice from the political circles in its own country and reluctance to completely accept the demands of people, further complicated the issue and gave the external enemies a foothold for interference. For instance, the Syrian Communist Party asked the government to: “examine the reasons leading to those events (popular protests and police high-handedness); hold the persons responsible for them accountable, specially the mistakes committed while the security forces dealt with the events; immediately release all those who have been detained after these events;  annul the emergency laws, the adoption of the political parties law; a new law for information; strengthen the power of the judiciary to prohibit detention outside the law; adopt new mechanisms to combat corruption; reconsider the performance of the government; revise the law related to border regions, etc. Further we would like to add that it is necessary to revisit the economic procedures adopted during the last years, especially those which have to do with free market economy which had badly affected the country, the poor and medium strata of the population”. They demanded for an all party meet to discuss these issues and they be taken into confidence to deal with the situation. They made this request in March 2011. The government delayed and acted only after the situation deteriorated, losing both peoples’ confidence and valuable time. This delay was used by some conspirators to use the popular protest movement and ignite ethnic strives to destroy the national unity of the Syrian people. In the process, fundamentalist organisations like Muslim Brotherhood got strengthened.


But it should be noted that still majority of the people in Syria are opposed to the external interference in their country and are behind their government on this aspect. The government, though belatedly, is trying to win more people to its side by announcing both political and economic reforms and is acting upon those announcements. The organisation of elections to the parliament in the month of May is one such example. According to an interesting law, a certain percent of the parliamentary seats are reserved for the workers and agriculturists. Unfortunately, these are not getting reported in the media. Hidden from the world in this blockade is the fact that the communists in Syria performed well in these elections. The whole attention of the world is confined to the military conflict, which now is actively encouraged by the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.


Imperialist countries are just playing lip service to restoration of peace and shedding crocodile tears on the loss of human lives. They are rejecting all the diplomatic efforts and accordingly are not serious about the Kofi Annan peace plan that calls for ceasefire from both the sides. Ceasefire is violated more often by the rebel forces, provoking the government to react and use this reaction to further vilify the government and demand UN sponsored sanctions and action on Syria. According to indications, after the recent incident of shooting of Turkish jet, they want the UN to pass a resolution imposing a no-fly zone – once again a similar tactic adopted in Libya.


Learning from the Libyan experience, all the anti-imperialist forces in the world, especially the world peace movement should play a more pro-active role in exposing the evil intentions of the imperialist forces in Syria and resist imperialist aggression. Syrian government too should immediately act upon the genuine demands of the people. Pressure should be mounted on governments of countries like India demanding them to take a principled and firm position against using UN (or unilaterally through NATO) to attack Syria. Surveys show that in spite of the media blitzkrieg against Syria, people in the West are not ready for another war. This popular sentiment and yearning for peace should be used to expose imperialism and defeat its hegemonic designs.