Anyone with a fleeting interest in foreign affairs could be forgiven this week for experiencing déjà vu as the United States, without a trace of evidence, accused the Syrian government of preparing to use chemical weapons on its people. In rhetoric that echoed the false claims of Iraqi WMDs last decade, western leaders intensified their plans for military intervention by claiming Damascus has started “potential chemical weapon preparation”.
Barack Obama, speaking on 4 December, warned that “if you [Assad] make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable”. The US President continued, without a hint of irony, that “we simply cannot allow the 21st century to be darkened by the worst weapons of the 20th century”. (‘Syria crisis: Obama warns Assad over chemical weapons’, BBC News, 4 November 2012). The United States, of course, has used chemical weapons on the civilian population of Iraq and continually turns a blind eye to the Israeli use of white phosphorus in Gaza.
On the same day, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along the Syrian border in Turkey. These are, it is claimed, to shoot down Syrian missiles and/or warplanes which may be carrying chemical weapons.
Yet, whilst the majority of western media outlets have repeated these unsubstantiated claims, as they so faithfully did against Iraq in 2003, a Pentagon official has confirmed that “there is no evidence yet that the Syrian military has actually begun the process of mixing precursor chemicals to produce deadly Sarin nerve gas”. (‘No evidence Syria mixing chemical agents’, Pentagon official says, NBC News, 4 November 2012). Instead, we’re being asked to trust the intelligence agencies of US imperialism, who claim to have detected increased movement around ‘suspected weapons sites’.
It is the duty of communists, and all progressives, to ignore sensationalism and objectively analyse facts, history and class forces at play. The Syrian government has been able to withstand almost 22 months of foreign-backed insurgency – funded directly by US, British and French imperialists and indirectly by their proxies in Israel, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies. Indeed, the Syrian army has captured and identified a number of foreign nationals, originating from Saudi Arabia, Libya and even Britain, fighting in the country.
The government of Bashar al-Assad has survived not because of its possession of chemical weapons, nor out of fear as western commentators, and even socialists, foolishly assert, but because it retains the overwhelming support of the Syrian people: a population that has successfully resisted US imperialism and zionism for generations. If the imperialists attempt to manipulate events so that the FSA release chemical or biological weapons it will merely be a repeat of the strenuous efforts made whilst sending mortars into Turkey to embroil the entire region in a wider conflict, interfere with the internal situation in Syria and find a pretext for open imperialist interference.
The Syrian Arab Republic, contrary to its hysterical depiction, is a secular popular force in the region that has retained the progressive values of Arab nationalism and has, along with Iran and Hizbollah, been central to Palestinian resistance. It is for these reasons that Syria is being targeted by imperialism and its proxies – just as were Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – and not, as we are asked to believe, because the US, British or French imperialists care a jot about civilian lives.