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  • Published in Analysis

Western imperial powers have ironically chosen the tenth anniversary of their calamitous invasion of Iraq to intensify the diplomatic and military pressure on the Assad regime in Syria

Syrian Rebels and Hague

A grimly familiar combination of fake humanitarian concern, scaremongering about chemical weapons and military escalation has characterised recent rhetoric emanating from Washington and European capitals on the Syrian situation. The appointment of John Kerry as Obama's Secretary of State last month has been the catalyst for an ominous acceleration of measures by the West and its regional allies designed to legitimate possible full intervention in the future and to emasculate the revolutionary process within the war-torn country itself.

On a visit to Doha earlier this month, Kerry abused the English language with his announcement that the US would start providing the Syrian Free Army with $60 million of 'direct non-lethal military assistance' such as rations and medical supplies.

Although he was explicit that this support would not presently include arms and ammunition, he left the door open to 'to consider other options ' in the future. The other component of Kerry's initiative was increased confidence on his part that the assistance would go to an element of the Syrian opposition that was biddable to American control and which would not metamorphose into a Taliban-style blowback scenario:

'We did discuss the question of the ability to try to guarantee that it is going to the right people and the moderate Syrian Opposition Coalition and I think it's really in the last months that that has developed as a capacity that we have greater confidence in.'

'Moderate groups' in this context, of course, can be interpreted as pro-Western and accommodating to the potential project of a neoliberal and anti-Iranian realignment in the region.

Kerry's comments reflect the precarious balancing act the decision-makers of US foreign policy are engaged in regarding the Syrian imbroglio. On the one hand ,they are slowly but significantly expanding their options for the military decapitation of an obstacle to the Washington consensus in the region. At the same time, they are equally if not more concerned to ensure the revolutionary impulse that energised the region in 2011 is not unleashed again to threaten its client states such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Kerry’s precipitous action has been condemned by the Guardian's Jonathan Steele:

‘As a man who saw the folly of the Vietnam war in his youth, Kerry should have the wisdom to choose a better course. Where his predecessor was a hawk on the issue, he needs to confront the SNC and the Washington rightwingers who back them.’

The British government-America's junior partner in imperial adventurism-dutifully followed Washington’s lead by recently escalating its own commitment to the removal of Assad. Foreign Secretary William Hague made a similar commitment to provide £13 million of 'non-lethal assistance' to the Free Syrian Army. Britain will supplying the rebel forces with non-combat four-wheel drive vehicles, body armour and enhanced communications equipment. Like Kerry, Hague took pains to explain to the House of Commons that he was confident the supplies would be routed to suitable accommodating elements of the anti-Assad forces:

'All our assistance will be carefully calibrated and monitored as well as legal, and will be aimed at saving life, alleviating this human catastrophe and supporting moderate groups.'

The ratcheting up of Anglo-American intervention came in the same week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced the one millionth refuge of the Syrian crisis had arrived in neighbouring Lebanon.

Predictably, Hague used this event as a further pretext for Western escalation. The volatility of the situation was also apparent in the detention for three days of 21 Filipino peacekeepers by anti-Assad forces at the same time. This period also witnessed the ambushing and killing of about fifty Syrian government troops in northern Iraq, apparently by the Jabhat al-Nusra militia, an Al Qaeda offshoot. This is the quagmire Kerry and Hague are itching to dive into.

Hague's boss has likewise jumped on the accelerating bandwagon of intervention. David Cameron used his recent appearance at the Liaison Select Committee to talk up the prospect of further intervention in Syria. He even went as far as to seriously speculate on British involvement without the backing of the rest of the EU:

'But if we can't, then it's not out of the question we might have to do things in our own way. It's possible.'

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq,it is incredible that a British Prime Minister would once again consider the possibility of UK involvement in a military adventure without an international consensus.

Cameron probably will not have to worry too much about lack of European support for his warmongering,however. Apparently excited by the exploits of his paratroopers in Mali, French President Francois Hollande is eager to get another piece of neo-colonial action in Syria.

The two leaders are actively working to overturn an EU embargo on arms supplies to the country. Hollande says:

'We want the Europeans to lift the embargo, Britain and France are agreed on this option … France has to first persuade its European partners. But France also has to accept its responsibilities. We can't allow a people to be massacred by a regime which has shown that it doesn't want a political discussion.'

The Anglo-French collusion on this issue is another indicator that the Syrian revolution is now at the tipping-point of becoming a tool of Western imperial interests. The liberating momentum of early 2011 that made Syria part of a progressive wave including Tunisia and Egypt, has been gradually manipulated-via the Anglo-French intervention in Libya-into an opportunity for geopolitical gain for the West. The political centre of gravity of the uprising is inexorably shifting from revolution to reaction.

The cumulative effect of these developments is to mark another notch upwards on the possibility of direct Western intervention in the Syrian situation. The acceptance of Anglo-American procurement by the Syrian National Coalition also represents a significant shift towards the cooptation of the anti-Assad opposition by the leaderships of Western imperialism. Pro-Western forces in the Free Syrian Army will see this escalation as an encouraging sign that Washington and London might be tempted to repeat its Libyan intervention at some point in the future.

Salim Idriss of the FSA has said:

'Of course we have asked our friends in Europe, and our friend in the US to send us guns and munitions. Those are light weapons and some light munitions but this alone are not enough.‘

The revolutionary potential of the Syrian uprising is consequently diminished as it risks sharing the fate of the Libyan revolution and delivering the country into the geopolitical orbit of the West. The ominous prospect of another revolutionary situation being hijacked by imperial interests has clearly moved significantly closer. The primary responsibility of socialists in the UK and elsewhere in this context is to campaign vigorously against a calamitous Western intervention - just like ten years ago.

Tagged under: Middle East
Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History and Politics at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary. Sean has also written for Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, Historical MaterialismPolitical Studies Review and Reviews in History 

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