The U.S. in Syria: Imperialism -- Not Humanitarianism
by Larry Everest
The Syrian uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad is entering its second year, with signs that the U.S. and its allies are moving toward more direct and aggressive intervention.
The Syrian people's revolt against Assad's brutal, oppressive, pro-imperialist rule began a year ago last March, inspired by the popular uprisings sweeping the region. Since then it has gone through various twists and turns and involved a wide range of political forces, including both the Syrian masses as well as reactionary Islamists, pro-U.S. exiles, and former members of the regime. Assad has responded with extreme violence--firing directly on protesters, arresting and torturing suspected opponents, and indiscriminately shelling neighborhoods. An estimated 8,000 have been killed and many thousands more wounded or driven from their homes.
Assad's assault--which has been extensively covered by the U.S. and European imperialist media--has rightly shocked the consciences of many around the world. After initially taking a low-key approach to the uprising, the U.S. rulers have seized on the situation and people's righteous outrage at the carnage to assert their "duty" and "responsibility" to intervene to befriend and protect the Syrian people and force Assad to step down.
On February 3, President Obama condemned Assad for his "disdain for human life and dignity," and proclaimed, "the suffering citizens of Syria must know: we are with you, and the Assad regime must come to an end." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Assad as a "war criminal." There have also been calls by prominent forces in the U.S. for military intervention, ostensibly to stop the slaughter and allow the Syrian people to determine their own destiny.
The U.S. Agenda: Imperialist Dominance --NOT Humanitarianism
However, look at what U.S. officials and strategists actually say about their motives for intervening in Syria and removing Assad, and it's evident that moves by the rulers of the U.S. in relation to Syria have nothing whatsoever to do with stopping violence in the region or emancipating the Syrian people from tyranny and oppression.
Rather, the imperialists' own words make clear that their maneuvers and machinations are aimed at seizing on the Syrian uprising to get rid of a troublesome regime, and strengthen Israel and overall U.S. imperialist control of the Middle East--and that any "humanitarian relief" they may (or may not) provide is window dressing to facilitate that goal. The U.S. moves in Syria need to be seen in the context of this battle for dominance in this region, which is most acutely focused now in the intensifying confrontation between the U.S. and Israel against Iran, and the growing possibility of a military attack by the U.S. and Israel on Iran. (It's not possible in this article to get more into the U.S. and Israeli war moves against Iran. See coverage and analysis online at revcom.us, including "Threats, Aggression, War Preparations...and Lies--U.S. and Israel Accelerate Campaign Against Iran," Revolution #262, March 11, 2012.)
Syria is the only Middle East regime allied with Iran (although Iran's influence in Iraq is rising). Located between Iraq to the east and Lebanon and the Mediterranean to the west, Syria is a conduit for Iranian influence in Lebanon and Palestine, and imperialist strategists talk of the possibility of Iranian influence stretching through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
"Iran sees the Syrian government as the front line of defense against the United States and Israel," Foreign Affairs reports. "So Tehran is sparing no expense to help its ally fend off popular protests." ("How Iran Keeps Assad in Power in Syria" snapshot, Geneive Abdo, August 25, 2011)
For these same reasons, the U.S. and its allies see overthrowing Assad as both removing a troublesome ruler and a crucial means of isolating and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran--either as part of collapsing the regime short of war or preparing for war. (And taking down the Assad regime would change the military balance in the region and limit Iran's ability to retaliate against a U.S. and/or Israeli attack.)
The conflict with Iran is increasingly driving and shaping all U.S. policy in the region. This is one reason why, after refraining from demanding that Assad step down for the first five months of the uprising, the U.S. shifted its position and calls for more forceful intervention in Syria to weaken and surround Iran continue to grow.
Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, spelled out some of the imperialists' logic: "Syria is the soft underbelly of Iran, Tehran's most important ally, conduit for arms and cash to terrorists.... A unique confluence of American moral purpose and America's strategic interest argue for intervention in Syria.... It's time to start arming the Free Syrian Army." ("Obama must do something tangible for Syria," February 8, 2012)
Islamist forces like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon--those Pletka labels "terrorists"--and most especially the Islamic Republic of Iran represent oppressive political forces who do not pose a fundamental challenge to global capitalism-imperialism. However, their aims and ambitions clash sharply with those of the U.S. and Israel in the region. These Islamist forces have grown in strength over the last several decades because of the 1979 Iranian revolution and subsequent Iranian support, but more fundamentally because of how the criminal U.S. and Israeli assaults on the region's people have fueled anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism.
A former director of Israel's intelligence service Mossad wrote in the New York Times that bringing down the Assad regime would result in a "strategic debacle for the Iranian government," by cutting off its "access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies." ("Iran's Achilles' Heel," Efraim Halevy, February 7, 2012)