Large demonstrations in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, the capital, on March 29, 2011. The president addressed parliament on March 30 and denounced the foreign plot against the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Syrian opposition leader lines up with Washington
By John Catalinotto
Published Dec 18, 2011 9:47 AM
As of Dec. 12, the U.S. and/or NATO forces have not bombed or invaded Syria, as they have done to Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently Libya. The existence of a Russian naval base in Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast and the refusal of Russia and China to allow the U.N. Security Council to permit such a military intervention has at least postponed it.
Washington and the European Union’s intervention in Syria’s internal political crisis has thus concentrated on political, propaganda and economic attacks on the Bashir al-Assad government. In addition, NATO member Turkey has given a safe haven to an armed opposition. The Western imperialist powers have also stepped up their efforts to build up the Syrian opposition leaders most closely aligned with and beholden to them.
Uprisings in North Africa and Western Asia have disrupted the close control the imperialist powers have had over the region. They have deposed client dictators Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and threaten to push out the president of Yemen. Washington has reacted in Egypt and Tunisia by supporting military rule in place of the former dictators, even as it fully supports reactionary regimes in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states like Bahrain.
In Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya, NATO used a ragtag reactionary opposition to depose a regime that was on Washington’s hit list for decades, as Syria’s government has been.
In Marxist class terms, the Gadhafi and al-Assad governments, like the Iranian government and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq before the U.S. occupation, can be described as bourgeois nationalist. That is, they are capitalist states whose business class exploits the workers, but which come into conflict with the dominant imperialist powers in the world.
Clinton meets with Syrian ‘National Council’
On Dec. 6, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with seven leaders of the “Syrian National Council” in Geneva, Switzerland. This occurred just after the State Department announced it was sending the U.S. ambassador, who was withdrawn some months ago, back to Syria. These were signs of the U.S. stepping up its interference.
According to Bloomberg News, Dec. 6, “A State Department official present at the meeting said the U.S. considers the council to be a leading and legitimate representative of Syrians seeking a peaceful, democratic transition.” Speaking off the record, he said that “Clinton expressed hope that al-Assad would see merit in leaving. …” Clinton advised the SNC leaders to unite all the opposition, according to this official.
The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 2 published a long interview with the president of the SNC, Burhan Ghalioun. In it, Ghalioun revealed the SNC’s willingness to make concessions to the imperialist countries and their local agent, the Israeli state, especially regarding the Golan Heights and relations with Iran and Hezbollah.
Ghalioun told the WSJ, “We asked for economic sanctions; we asked for coordination between the Arab League, the E.U., Turkey and the West. … We asked them to send a message to the regime with warnings that there is no way out. We asked to apply pressure on Russia and China.”
He claimed the SNC’s goal is to protect civilians. This was the alleged goal also in Libya, which NATO quickly turned into a go-ahead to bomb whatever Libyan targets it wanted to bomb.
Ghalioun also called the current close relationship between Syria and Iran “abnormal. It is unprecedented in Syria’s foreign policy history. … There will be no special relationship with Iran. … Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic military alliance.”
Ghalioun added, “As our relations with Iran change, so too will our relationship with Hezbollah. Hezbollah after the fall of the Syrian regime will not be the same.”
Ghalioun said regarding Golan that they will focus on negotiations and that “we are banking on our special relationship with the Europeans and Western powers in helping us in reclaiming the Golan as fast as possible.”
About the U.S., he said, “They are participating in creating Western, European, Arab and Turkish public opinion. I believe they are choosing a back seat strategy of cooperation. This is a good strategy.”
In other words, Ghalioun is trying to convince the Western powers that a SNC government would be their ally against Iran and Hezbollah and would be conciliatory toward Israel. He also is advising Washington to support them, but not too openly.
Besides the SNC, a “Syrian Liberation Army” is carrying out armed actions inside Syria. Turkey provides the SLA logistical support. Ghalioun implied that the SNC supported the SLA but did not control its actions.
Left critics of al-Assad government
Other Syrian groups critical of the al-Assad government reject any imperialist intervention. In Damascus on Dec. 3, the secretary of the National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists, Dr. Qadri Jamil, announced at a news conference “the formation of Pioneering Revolutionist Party that would combine communists and leftists in the country.” (News-DP, Dec. 4)
Jamil said that Syria needs the immediate formation of a national unity government that comprises representatives from the ruling party and the opposition “on the basis of consensus to defend the homeland and national unity. Measures are needed to protect national unity, exterminate the armed terrorist group, turn toward a democratic economic and social program and start comprehensive national dialogue.”
Others at the conference included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. It is unclear what influence these groups have within the opposition.
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