The lurch in Anglo-American policy over Syria and Iran, with last summer’s crescendo of US war threats against Syria now reduced to a sullen grumble and the earlier stubborn denial of Iran’s right to enrich uranium quietly dropped, has sown divisions amongst all those local forces of reaction upon which imperialism has until now relied to prosecute its proxy war against the Syrian nation.
Saudi Arabia and Israel, left in the lurch by their mighty paymaster, have cemented their unholy alliance, taking upon themselves the task of unseating the legitimate authority in Syria through the promotion of terror, and acting as a de facto rallying point for the disparate reactionary ragbag of local forces that are now missing a firm lead from Washington.
Thieves fall out
Yet their efforts are set to naught, not alone by the steadfastness of the Syrian army and the support of Syria’s allies in the axis of resistance, but also by the sharpening hostilities erupting within the counter-revolutionary camp itself.
As the Syrian army and patriotic forces step by step and blow by blow re-establish governmental control of the national territory, those shrinking pockets of ‘rebellion’ that continue to hold out are themselves becoming the site of murderous feuds between rival terror gangs – feuds which both alienate the people and mutually exhaust the forces of reaction.
No sooner is an area temporarily ‘liberated’ by rebels, no sooner is the civilian population taken hostage by the latest invasion of Saudi or Chechen fighters, than all hell breaks loose as rival militias pursue contending claims to the spoils of war.
A cartoon going the rounds depicts a Syrian soldier radioing back to headquarters, telling them not to bother sending more ammunition, just to send over some snacks so his platoon can relax and watch the Free Syrian Army (FSA) slugging it out with ISIS (al-Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Whilst the situation for the thousands of Aleppo’s inhabitants terrorised by this daily slaughter is the very reverse of humorous, the sight of reactionaries turning their guns upon each other is welcome indeed.
Fighting between the FSA, ISIS and other militia has been widespread in the countryside around Aleppo and Idlib, with a key issue being who gets to control the supply lines from Turkey.
When ISIS forces raided the FSA HQ in Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border and expelled their chief of staff, militias of the Islamic Front (yet another fundamentalist outfit) counter-attacked, in turn expelling ISIS. Yet in a further twist, FSA officers complained that their Ahrar al-Sham (a major component of the Islamic Front) ‘saviours’ had taken the opportunity to plunder FSA weapons, clothes and personal belongings – thereby demonstrating again the truth of the adage that there is no honour amongst thieves.
In some rage at this suicidal infighting among its dogs of war, US imperialism has been moved to halt its supplies of ‘non-lethal’ aid to the terrorists (the ‘lethal’ aid of course having always been provided by people such as its Saudi and Qatari surrogates rather than by US imperialism directly itself).
Hassan Abboud, chief of Ahrar al-Sham, bemoaned the self-defeating internecine strife in an interview for al-Jazeera, warning ISIS that: “The infighting serves no-one; oppressing fellow rebels serves no-one save the regime. Thus we call on the groups on the ground to keep their unity and not to get bogged down in internal infighting, especially before Geneva II.”
Bizarrely, al-Nusra, another al-Qaeda affiliate with its own bloody history of internecine bloodletting, was held up by Abboud as a shining example of non-sectarian behaviour: “Nusra doesn’t differ in ideology and authority from ISIS, but they have been able to work hand in glove with the other militias because they have followed the rule that no objective has a higher priority then pushing back the enemy. So we call on ISIS to follow Nusra’s lead. In this way, we will save the blood of our fighters and bullets of our guns for the front lines.”
Happily, there is zero prospect of such harmony breaking out in the camp of the head-bangers, whose real chances of shaping the future of Syria are narrowing in inverse proportion to the dizzying multiplication of warring splinter groups. (There are now known to be a thousand separate militia organisations fighting in Syria.)
‘Aid’ serves as a smokescreen for reaction
What cannot be achieved by proxy war, however, and what Obama dare not attempt by direct intervention, some still dream of securing via the ‘humanitarian’ back door – prolonging the agony of the Syrian people under the guise of charitable good works.
The UN official charged with dealing with Syria’s massive humanitarian crisis, Labour peer Valerie Amos, says she is worried about people cut off by months of fighting by government and rebel forces in Syria, and has talked to the government in Damascus about getting humanitarian aid through front lines.
Having previously served in Tony Blair’s war cabinet as International Development Secretary from 2003 to 2007, the baroness has ample experience of exactly how imperialism goes about its ‘humanitarian’ business – in Iraq and elsewhere. Now it falls to her lot to pass on her accumulated wisdom to the Syrian government, and she is busying herself by shuttling about the Middle East and weeping crocodile tears over the fate of those civilians unlucky enough to find themselves in places under occupation by insurgents at a moment when Syria’s patriotic forces are hemming them in.
Despite the best efforts of Syria’s army, the reluctance of the rebels to give trapped civilians safe passage out of such areas sometimes unfortunately but necessarily condemns the captive population to the same privations as those suffered, and, of course, instigated by the terrorists themselves.
Of course, if the UN were serious about mitigating the sufferings of the Syrian people, it could take the novel step of upholding international law, demanding the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria and supporting the elected government in its efforts to defend Syria’s sovereignty from external aggression. Having signally failed to do any such thing, the UN now contemplates the resultant plight of thousands of starving and freezing Syrians – and points the finger of blame ‘even-handedly’ at the Syrian government and the opposition.
Yet it is the proxy war that is jeopardising the welfare of millions – and the support afforded to that war by imperialism, the Gulf States, Israel and Turkey which is needlessly prolonging that war. It is the insistence of the West-backed Syrian National Council to put every obstacle in the path of a political solution to the crisis, doing all it can to sabotage the Geneva II stage of the peace process – for example triggering the exclusion of Iran – which needlessly prolongs the people’s suffering.
Let the UN exert whatever influence it has to pressurise governments to stop arming and bankrolling terrorism before it starts to give penny lectures to Damascus on how to handle the dire social consequences of that same terror.
For the record, it is imperialism that has pioneered the supply or suspension of food aid in order to reward its friends and punish its enemies, not those who resist imperialism. A recent article by Tony Cartalucci reminded readers that, in the summer of 2011, nobody turned a hair when the Telegraph was unabashedly in favour of starving the bombed and besieged Libyan city of Sirte to death on the spurious ‘humanitarian’ grounds that this would “avoid mass bloodshed”. (‘UN’s Syria “aid” appeal is bid to relieve trapped terrorists’, GlobalResearch.ca, 16 December 2013)
At the time, an anti-Gaddafi spokesman explained that: “We want to save our fighters and not lose a single one in battles with Gaddafi’s forces.” And, of course, the UN at that time was more concerned with aiding the parts of Libya that had been ‘liberated’ by Nato and its lackeys than worrying about the conditions for those who were still in Nato’s firing line.
Yet now that it is the imperialist stooges who are so palpably losing the war, suddenly the crocodile tears come flooding out, with endless stories about women and children being deliberately starved to death by a heartless government.
The real situation is as Cartalucci describes: “In some areas, the terrorists have been completely surrounded, cut off from reinforcements and supplies. Just as in Libya, the Syrian Arab Army is waiting for the terrorists to be starved out rather than attempt a bloody assault – the difference being that civilians – women and children – most certainly are allowed (at least by the Syrian government) to leave the besieged areas, leaving the terrorists alone.”
The surest way for well-wishers to help bring Syria’s anguish to a swift conclusion is not to put a penny in the collection tin, admirable though such generous impulses are in themselves, but to withdraw all cooperation with the war effort. Sadly, so skewed is the moral compass in imperialist society that at times it becomes impossible to tease out where charity ends and where the war effort begins.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group for the 14 largest charities, announcing that more than £20m had been raised in the Syria Crisis Appeal, acknowledged that the final destination of the cash could not be verified. The Charity Commission reinforced the point when its chairman William Shawcross told the Telegraph: “A lot of money is raised that goes to Syria, some of it undoubtedly goes to extremist groups.”
Charity Commission board member Peter Clarke, former chief of the Met’s anti-terrorism unit (whoever said irony was dead?), remarked that: “It is one of these ‘fog of war’ issues where stuff can be diverted. You can think of a host of different ways in which people giving money with the best possible intentions could find that it has been misappropriated.”
Any who were previously involved in the courageous Gaza convoys and are now tempted to think that banging the drum for ‘aid for Syria’ is now equally ‘right on’ should ask themselves why the BBC starved the Palestinians under siege in Gaza of publicity but now cannot get enough of the suffering Palestinians in Syria.
It will be remembered that when the DEC mobilised fundraising for Gaza in 2009 after the Operation Cast Lead massacre, the BBC refused to screen a campaign appeal on the grounds that (a) there were doubts about delivering aid in such a volatile situation, and (b) it would contravene BBC ‘impartiality’! No such qualms disturb the BBC when it comes to publicising the Syria Crisis Appeal.
And any still tempted to believe that the true friends of Palestine are those currently engaged in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government should take a look at the struggle now reaching a crescendo in Yarmouk camp.
Yarmouk, until 2012 the home of a quarter of a million Palestinians and a thriving centre of resistance culture, has for the last two years been occupied and terrorised by western-backed takfiri terrorists hoping to profit from its strategic location on the approach to Damascus. So many former inhabitants have been obliged to flee the violence that the population has shrunk to 18,000, and those remaining are in a bad way.
However, whilst western press attention has concentrated on the handful of misguided Palestinians who threw in their lot with the takfiris, many more have flocked to the banners of the Syrian Arab Army, and are now assisting the patriotic forces in the struggle to wrest the city from the terrorists.
As the siege tightens and the takfiris face certain defeat, Palestinian labour minister Ahmad Majdalani noted at a press conference recently that “western NGOs try to blame the Syrian government for the suffering of civilians”, yet the reality is that PLO supply trucks loaded with medicine and food have been prevented from entering the camp by ‘rebels’ firing shells at them from inside.
“Our aid convoys have been fired on by Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Suqur al-Golan. All these groups are known for their terrorist links and methodology. Palestinians everywhere know that those who have taken Yarmouk hostage are these groups, not the Syrian authorities.”
Real friends of both the Palestinian and the Syrian people can best help bring a swift end to that country’s sufferings by helping to tear down the lies of the warmongers and their craven allies within social democracy and giving the warmest support to the government and people of Syria in their struggle for independence and dignity.
Victory to Assad; victory to Syria!