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Syria: Threat of regional war grows

By Tom Burke |
May 23, 2013
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The threat of a regional war grew as Syria and Israel exchanged fire over the Golan Heights on May 21. Syria appears to have hit an Israeli military jeep after it crossed over the ceasefire line. Israel responded with missiles. Israel first captured the Golan Heights in 1967, and then annexed it from Syria in 1981. Now Israeli politicians and generals are training ground troops on the Golan Heights, preparing some Israeli Druze for fighting in Syria and publicly discussing a “surprise war.”

This comes on the heels of U.S.-backed fighters suffering a big defeat at the hands of the Syrian military. The Syrian Army is now in control of most of Qusayr, a town south of the city of Homs, and cutting off escaping rebels. There are claims that Hezbollah forces from Lebanon accompanied the Syrian Army as it took back Qusayr and prepares to liberate other areas.

Events are building upon each other, as the U.S. and Israel stumble over each other denouncing and denying the victories of the independent and progressive government of Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad. In the past month, Israel attacked Syria with depleted uranium weapons and UN personal say U.S. backed rebels used chemical weapons on May 6.

On January 31, Israeli planes bombed a Syrian scientific research center north of Damascus, the Syrian capital. The Israeli attack was an escalation, and bolstered U.S.-supported forces in the region in their campaign to bring down the Syrian government.

This recent violation of Syrian national sovereignty echoes the 2007 Israeli airstrike in the Deir ez-Zor region. At that time the Israeli Air Force bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor. After investigating this Israeli airstrike, called Operation Orchard, the New York Times quotes two senior U.S. intelligence officers who found “no sign that Syria had built an operation to convert the spent fuel from the plant into weapons-grade plutonium.” Like the former President Bush’s claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Israelis launch military strikes based on false claims.

Russia, China and Iran, which oppose U.S. and NATO intervention in Syria, all condemned the Israeli airstrike. All three countries support a political solution outlined by President Bashar al-Assad in a Jan. 6 speech, which calls for an end to foreign interference in Syria's national affairs and a constitutional referendum to determine a new system for elections.

Despite these calls for a political solution, the U.S., France and the other European powers continue to fund, arm and support Syrian terrorists and reactionaries. The U.S. Congress is considering arming the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ and France wants to put Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Europe’s terrorist list. These powers claim to support democracy in Syria, but the rebels that they support refuse to run against President Assad in elections. On behalf of their masters in the U.S. and other Western counties, the rebels are committed to toppling Assad's nationalist government, privatizing the remaining public industry, and selling Syria's labor and resources to multinational corporations. Syria is potentially important for running foreign oil corporations’ pipelines in the region. The Free Syrian Army is funded by the West and reactionary Gulf monarchies, takes aid and direction from U.S. intelligence services, and advances genocidal slogans like “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the wall.” At this time, the only hope for the majority and minority ethnic and religious groups in Syria is President Assad and his inclusive government.

The Syrian government plays a heavy role in the country's economy and redistributes the wealth from the nation's resources through popular social programs. Oil production, for instance, made up 23% of government revenues in 2009, before the unrest. Syrian Petroleum Company dominates at least 50% of the country's oil production and places heavy restrictions on foreign energy contractors. The profits are re-invested into developing the country's infrastructure and financing public services like education. Additionally, the General Federation of Trade Unions in Syria plays a major role in drafting labor laws. These laws also restrict the super-exploitative business practices of foreign corporations.

The U.S., France and other Western powers oppose all of Syria’s nationalist and protectionist policies, even though these policies are good for the Syrian people. In recent times, Assad’s government undertook economic liberalization, particularly in Syria's banking sector, but the economy remains dominated by the public sector. The Assad government opposes mass privatization and opposes foreign energy corporation control of Syrian oil. His nationalist economic policies and his support for national liberation struggles in Palestine and Lebanon make him a target for regime change by the U.S. and western Europe.

With Turkey allowing U.S. and NATO forces to call the shots along its border with Syria, and Israel launching air and missile attacks while making preparations for an invasion, the Hezbollah movement is preparing to defend Lebanon. The likelihood of a U.S.-instigated regional war is growing.

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