BY JEFF MACKLER
No serious observer of Middle Eastern politics believes that the Zionist, colonial, settler, and racist state of Israel makes a single move before consulting with its U.S. benefactors. Indeed, the Israeli army and state depend on the billions annually allocated by U.S. imperialism to maintain Israel as its chief imperial representative in the region. Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. military aid.
The May 2-3 and May 4-5 nighttime bombings of Syria’s International Airport and military installations reportedly killed hundreds. Israeli officials declared that the strikes were aimed at preventing Syrian aid to the Lebanese Hezbollah forces, which defeated the Israeli intervention in Lebanon several years ago.
Following the first attack, President Obama readily sided with Israel, affirming in a press interview that he fully supported Israel’s right to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. But major media, including The New York Times (May 4), raised questions as to whether the objectives of the attack were to intervene into the conflict in Syria itself.
Indirect support to the Syrian bombing was signaled days earlier by statements from President Obama and U.S. Secretary of “Defense” Chuck Hagel, who threatened overt war against Syria if the U.S. could verify the Israeli charge that Syria had used deadly sarin gas against the rebel opposition. Obama sanctioned direct and lethal military aid when he stated last week that the use of poison gas by the Syrian government would be crossing the “red line” that provided sufficient justification for an overt U.S. intervention.
To date there has been no verification of the use of sarin gas. Traces of chlorine have been found in soil samples near a Syrian chlorine plant bombed by the rebel forces. But despite repeated accusations and innuendos, neither U.S. nor international agencies have been able to point to concrete evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Syria.
Even a May 5 Reuters report from Geneva implying that rebel forces have used sarin was not without qualification. The report stated: “UN human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.
“The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte. ‘Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,’ Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.
“‘This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,’ she added, speaking in Italian.”
What is incontrovertible is that U.S. allies in the region—Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia—have supplied hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lethal military aid to destabilize the Syrian regime. The U.S. also claims to have supplied some $400 million in “non-lethal aid.” The United States, which funds Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile program, missiles used in the early May bombings, is the chief military force in the region.
In the case of Qatar, a nation without an army, the U.S.-established and privatized Blackwater military installation is used daily as an operational base for the U.S. war in Afghanistan. It was central to the imperial conquest of Libya, with Blackwater-trained troops playing a key role in the “liberation” of Tripoli.
While there is little doubt that the U.S. seeks the removal of the Assad regime, there appear to be divisions among the U.S. ruling elite as to how this should be accomplished. The central issue in dispute is the nature of the government to be established, presumably after the Syrian regime is either compelled to negotiate a “settlement” that establishes a new government with Assad or after Assad’s complete defeat.
This internal dispute among top U.S. decision makers is fueled by the fact that none of the rebel forces are seen as reliable U.S. allies, and almost all of them oppose the establishment of another colonial regime beholden to the U.S. or any other colonial power.
U.S. envoys to the region, from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the present Secretary, John Kerry, have met repeatedly with the Syrian National Council in efforts to forge unity between these disparate, warring, and mainly expatriate Syrian bourgeois elements, all with virtually no influence on the ground.
The inability of the United States to establish a credible government and therefore achieve “regime change” with yet another puppet government has led it to funnel aid to the rebels from all quarters, including from Islamic fundamentalists that the U.S. publicly opposes. Meanwhile, Washington stands silent as this component of the Syrian opposition receives lethal aid from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
The U.S. Machiavellian strategy is first and foremost to weaken the Assad regime to maximize its opportunity to establish a new government amenable to U.S. economic, military, and regional “interests,” the latter including deepening the isolation of Iran.
At the same time, as in the U.S. war against Libya, the U.S. seeks to isolate and weaken, if not destroy, the oppositional forces that began the two-year war with peaceful protests against the Assad dictatorship. Those forces were brutally repressed by the regime, thus fueling a broad and popular mass movement, organized by independent Local Coordinating Committees and rank-and-file Syrian soldiers who refused orders to attack civilian protesters.
Today, while it is far from clear what the relationship of forces is among the rebel opponents, who include Islamic fundamentalists and Syrian workers and peasants, it remains a fact that none are considered reliable allies of U.S. imperialism.
The U.S. government is also restrained by the strong antiwar sentiment that has been expressed in repeated polls in the United States over the past two years. The most recent Pew Research poll indicates that 62 percent are opposed to any U.S. intervention in Syria. We must add to this the fact that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the constant drone bombings of Pakistan, have earned it the deep hatred of the peoples of the Middle East and worldwide.
The “weapons of mass destruction” justification for the still ongoing war in Iraq, which has taken the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which has caused the U.S. puppet Karzai regime to be discredited around the world, has convinced social justice activists everywhere that the U.S. imperial rulers fight for oil and military advantage and not for peace and justice.
More than ever, the U.S. and worldwide antiwar and social justice movement must demand: U.S. Hands Off Syria! Bring All U.S. Troops Home Now! Self-determination for the Syrian people! No to U.S. Sanctions! No U.S. Aid to Israel! U.S. Out of the Middle East Now!
Photo: Obama with Israeli Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu