Pressure for a direct military intervention in Syria by the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Israel and the reactionary Gulf Arab monarchies is reaching a critical point. At any moment, we could hear about drone strikes or attempts to set up a no-fly zone and other acts of war. The American people, in public opinion surveys, have already indicated that they don't want the U.S. to go to war in Syria. Now is the time to speak up loudly, before it is too late.
The current drumbeat for intervention has been stimulated by news stories about a chemical weapons attack on Damascus suburbs, which is said to have killed hundreds of people and sickened many more. Assertions are being made, before the facts can be analyzed scientifically and objectively, that the attack came from the forces of Syrian President Bashir Assad. The Assad government rejects these accusations and claims that the rebels were responsible.
British Foreign Minister William Hague has stated that the NATO powers and allies can circumvent the United Nations Security Council and go straight into armed intervention. The Turkish and French governments are making similarly belligerent declarations. Within the Obama administration, civilian advisors are urging the president to plunge in, while apparently the military is being more cautious.
We do not defend Assad and his government. We remember how, during the Iraq war, that government was only too eager to cooperate with the Bush administration in one of its most barbaric acts, the "extraordinary renditions" and torture of people who had been convicted of no crime. And the Assad regime's political repression has evidently spurred wide domestic opposition.
However, the Syrian armed rebels, as widely reported, include people whose actions have been just as brutal and, more importantly, who threaten to set up a state which they say will repress entire social and religious groups in Syria, including members of the Alawite branch of Islam (to which Assad and some members of his government belong), Christians, Shia Muslims and others. Furthermore, the Al Nusra Front, one of the most powerful sections of the rebel force, has connections with Al Qaeda and is likely to sweep more moderate rebel forces aside very quickly if the government falls. The human rights situation is likely to worsen sharply if such people take state power. These are not friends of the American people.
An escalated war can well set the whole Middle East afire. It is already lapping over Syria's borders into Iraq and Lebanon, and threatening to involve Jordan and other states as well, including possibly Iran.
We question the motives of this sudden push for a massively escalated war. Although Syria is not a big oil producer, its central geographical location in the region makes it a crucial piece of real estate for those who want to control Middle Eastern oil resources. We find it repugnant when concern about human rights is used to promote the oil agenda of international monopoly capital. It is also hypocritical that an alliance which includes feudal despotisms such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States should claim the mantle of defending democracy, freedom and human rights. The authoritarian government of Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey is also a "strange bedfellow" for defenders of human rights.
It is noteworthy that at the point that the new accusations have arisen, the rebel coalition has been in real trouble. There has been actual fighting between its Islamist and secular branches, and between Arab Islamists and Kurdish elements close to the Turkish border. And most analysts have seen the Syrian government forces as winning at this point. Many commentators point out that it would be illogical and self-destructive for the Syrian government to create a pretext for U.S. and NATO intervention at this juncture.
But what if the chemical attacks do turn out to have come from the government side? Even in such an eventuality, we strongly oppose an escalation of the war via U.S. and NATO intervention. No matter who is to blame for the chemical attacks, an escalated war with U.S. and NATO involvement would be disastrous.
The only acceptable option is for the U.S. and NATO, working cooperatively with Russia, Iran and the UN, to apply their considerable diplomatic and economic power to negotiate a peaceful solution.
It is very late, but perhaps not too late to apply the brakes before we go over the cliff.
We urge all people of goodwill to contact the White House, the State Department and their congressional representatives to demand that the United States pull back from the brink.
Photo: Black columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood, east of Damascus, Syria, Aug. 25, 2013. (AP/Hassan Ammar)