People's Democracy

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


No. 36

September 08, 2013



“Hands off Syria”

Prakash Karat


THE United States is poised to launch a military attack on Syria.  President Obama has announced that he will proceed to conduct military strikes after getting the approval of the US Congress.


When this attack takes place, it will be the third aggression by the US-NATO forces against an Arab country in recent years.  In 2003, George Bush invaded Iraq on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; Obama launched air and missile strikes against Libya in 2011 on the plea that it was necessary to avoid a bloodbath in Benghazi. Now Syria is the target of the United States.  The excuse this time is that the Syrian army has used a chemical weapon – a nerve gas called `sarin’ against the rebel forces.


The US and its NATO allies like Britain and France concluded that the Syrian government had used sarin gas even before the UN inspectors could go to the site to conduct investigations.  According to Obama, the Syrian government had crossed the “red line” he had set last year regarding the use of chemical weapons which would invite military action.


The moral hypocrisy of the United States is truly astounding.  In the war in Vietnam, the US armed forces used Agent Orange, a chemical which led to devastation of the environment and birth defects in tens of thousands of babies. In Iraq, more recently, the American forces used depleted uranium and white phosphorous shells which caused horrific injuries to people.  Now the same imperialist power makes the use of chemical weapons in Syria the basis for its illegal aggression.


Obama is following the traditional tactic of imperialism to cite a provocation which is imaginary, or, a half truth to launch an aggression. For two and a half years, Syria has seen a raging conflict.  A motley group of rebels have been waging war against the Bashar al-Assad government. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey had been funding, arming and supporting the rebels.  The opposition ranges from Islamic extremist groups such as the Jabhat al-Nusra and other shades of Salafists and pro-western groups.  The CIA has been funneling arms and training some of the fighters.  Islamist fighters from Afghanistan, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Chechnya have joined the struggle.   Just as in Afghanistan, three decades ago, the United States is supporting the Islamic fundamentalist forces in Syria whose aim is to destabilise the sole secular State in the Arab world. 


The United States was hoping that the armed rebellion would quickly achieve its goal of overthrowing the regime, but that has not happened. The conflict has led to nearly a hundred thousand Syrians dead and two million refugees taking shelter in neighbouring countries.  The Syrian government and its armed forces have fought the rebel forces to a standstill and taken back some of the  towns and territory from them in the recent months.  It is at such a juncture that the chemical weapons issue has surfaced.   In June this year, President Obama announced that the US will supply arms to the opposition citing the use of sarin gas by the Syrian army.  At that time, the US claim was effectively refuted.  The Russian envoy to the UN produced proof that the sarin gas had been used by the rebels during an attack near Aleppo. 


The latest incident of the use of  sarin gas at Ghouta near Damascus was reported to have occurred  on August 21.  This was the day the UN inspectors reached Damascus after the Syrian government allowed a UN team to enquire  into the  allegations of gas use.  As many observers have pointed out, including President Putin of Russia, it is unbelievable that the Syrian government  would use chemical weapons on the very day the UN inspection team arrives to investigate such a crime.  The Syrian government has denied the charge and alleged that  stocks of sarin gas have been  kept in tunnels by the opposition.


It is significant that the US, France and Britain – all announced categorically that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.  The US further stated that permission for the UN inspection team to visit the affected site was too late.  To pre-empt the UN investigation, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry  condemned the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons and announced that the US would retaliate.  Five US Destroyers armed with Cruise missiles were moved to the Eastern Mediterranean. The military strikes were imminent and were to be conducted soon after the UN inspectors left Syria and was expected to take place latest by Tuesday (September 3). Both the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French President Francois Hollande declared their readiness to join the military strikes.


It was at this juncture that a difficulty arose.  The British prime minister had announced that parliament would be convened  to approve the military action against Syria.  Parliament met on August 29 and, in a stunning defeat for the British prime minister, the government resolution was rejected by a majority.  This reflected the strong public opinion against the war, especially after the experience of Tony Blair’s devious decision to join the aggression and occupation of Iraq. 


President Obama was, thus, compelled to change his plan for an immediate military strike.  He announced that he would proceed with the military action only after getting the approval of the US Congress, which is to reconvene on September 9. Obama as president, represents the ruling class interests of US imperialism. He is banking on the support of Republicans who are  generally more aggressive and rightwing.  France is still committed to join the military action against Syria which is its former colony.


The US, its western allies and Israel want to destabilise Syria.  Their aim is to isolate Iran by doing so. Unlike in the case of Libya, they cannot get UN sanction for military intervention because Russia and China  are opposed to it.  They are, therefore, going to fall back on the pretext of military intervention on humanitarian grounds, their responsibility to protect innocent civilians from chemical attacks. This, however, cannot camouflage  the  imperialist aim to control and dominate West Asia with its oil and gas reserves. 


In Iraq and Libya, the US and the West are now controlling its oil resources. Both countries saw the rise of sectarian clashes and violence in the aftermath of the US-NATO interventions.  In Syria too, imperialism is stoking the Sunni-Shia conflict. In its willful pursuit of hegemony and control, the US and the Western powers are trampling upon national sovereignty and providing sustenance to the reactionary forces of Islamic fundamentalism. 


The UPA government must come out strongly against the US intervention. It is not enough to say that only UN mandated action should be taken, as stated by the External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid.  When it is clear that the US is going to bypass the United Nations, India should oppose military intervention in categorical terms.


The Left parties have decided to hold protests against the threat of military intervention in Syria.  There has to be a worldwide movement with the demand that the US keep its “Hands off Syria”.