The bluster and grandstanding of Western leaders over horrific deaths in Syria gets ever more hypocritical, ghoulish—and dangerous.
A chemical attack last week—likely carried out by Syrian regime forces—on the rebel-held town of Douma killed dozens of people
As Socialist Worker went to press US president Donald Trump was threatening direct—possibly major—military confrontation with Russia and Iran in Syria.
French president Emmanuel Macron promised a “strong response” if it turned out the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons against civilians last week. Theresa May also talked vaguely of taking “action”.
None of them had much to say about what that action might look like. The US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase last year following a similar chemical attack.
This time Russia—the Syrian regime’s main backer—has threatened “grave repercussions” against any military action.
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is perfectly capable of launching horrific attacks against people in Syria. It’s typical of the brutality with which he crushed the rebellion that began as a popular uprising in 2011.
Early on Assad’s forces assaulted the towns and cities that had seen major demonstrations and mobilisations. The idea was to wipe out the centres of the revolution.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed by the counter-revolution, many under the regime’s barrel bombs.
The most dreadful recent example is eastern Ghouta, one of the final rebel enclaves, where the chemical attack is said to have taken place.
Yet the West is also capable of lying and fabricating reasons to go to war. The lies told to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 are evidence enough of that.
Who seriously believes that Trump, May or Macron care about the deaths of ordinary people in the Middle East?
Decades of Western-backed wars—particularly the 2003 Iraq invasion—are responsible for bringing chaos to the region. The US, Britain and France have stood on the side of counter-revolution and tyrants in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.
Last week Theresa May congratulated Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—who came to power on the back of a military coup and the murder of protesters—for winning a blatantly fixed election.
The Tory government has refused to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which is waging its own bloody war against civilians in Yemen.
Labour MP John Woodcock has demanded action “to protect these defenceless civilians” in Syria. He and other right wing Labour MPs blocked a Labour motion to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Yemen.
There’s a lot of grandstanding. Tough words from the Tories and the Labour right help to attack Corbyn and distract from the government’s own problems. Whether any of them are actually keen to go to war with Russia and Iran seems less likely.
Even Trump suggested last week that he wanted to pull US forces out of Syria “very soon”.
But the dangerous logic of the very real competition to carve up Syria could soon overtake the tough words.
As Assad’s assault tore Syria apart, rival powers piled in. They turned the civil war into a free for all for control and influence in the Middle East. Russia saved Assad in order to tie the future regime closer to itself.
Iranian forces fighting on the side of Assad have also helped to extend Iran’s influence across the region.
The West backed various Syrian rebel groups—as well as the Kurds in northern Syria—for the same reason. Now, as the rebels face defeat, Syria is all but split between two rival blocs rubbing up against each other.
It’s a dangerous situation that could spill over into an even bigger war. Western ally Israel, fresh from murdering Palestinians, has consistently bombarded Syrian and Iranian bases. An attack on Monday killed seven Iranians.
Calls on Britain to “do something” about Syria can only mean a step closer towards a devastating war that would bring even more chaos, death and misery to ordinary people across the Middle East.