The agreement between the US and Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons does not mean that the war is over. While Kerry hugged Lavrov in Geneva the fighting continued.
The agreement represents a sharp reversal for US imperialism. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry tried for weeks to persuade both US allies and public opinion in the US that a military attack on Syria was absolutey necessary.
Now, such an attack is put on hold, after an intervention that strengthened Russia’s authoritarian President Vladimir Putin’s prestige. Putin acted for his own prestige, to show both domestically and internationally that Russia is a global power. Syria provides Russia with an ally in an important region, a market for arms, and a naval base.
Last weekend’s agreement stipulates that all facilities for chemical weapons will be inspected by November and that production by then will have ceased. The weapons will be destroyed during the first half of 2014. It is estimated there are around 1,000 tons of chemical agents in 45 different plants. The scale, in itself, in the context of a country in civil war, shows the utopian character of fullfilling the deal.
But, for time being, it strengthens the very same regime Obama wanted to bomb. The ruling elite in Damascus described the deal as a ”victory”. Assad’s regime has consolidated its position militarily over the past six months and now believe they have fended off the threat from the United States.
Obama also hailed the deal and said it is the basis for a of peace settlement in Syria. He also claimed it would not have been possible without the US threatening Assad with military action. All the war hawks in France and the UK also support the agreement.
Spokespeople for the official opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, based in Turkey, were far less positive. They had hoped for a US attack. Now they despair that Assad remains in power.
”The United States does not care about the Syrian people’s welfare," said the SNC ’s military leader, General Idriss.
Confrontation with jihadists
The SNC recently chose a new prime minister who immediately called for the escalating of their confrontation with jihadists, who have become an increasingly dominant force among the rebels.
IHS Jane’s , a British intelligence company specialising in the military, estimated in a recent report that there are 100,000 troops on the rebel side in Syria, spread over 1,000 different groups. They estimate that 10,000 belong to the two al-Qaeda groups, al- Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Around 30,000 to 35,000 fighters are said to have similar sentiments but with no formaly connection to al –Qaeda, and another 30,000 are said to be more moderate Islamists.
The report confirms reports that jihadists are the most active on the rebel side, making ongoing attacks against Kurds and Alewites, in particular.
The fighting between the army and rebel groups continued over the weekend. Over 150,000 have been killed during the two and half year old civil war and over five million have been displaced within the country or to neighboring countries. Last weekend, alone, 500 Syrian refugees arrived in a boat to the coast of Italy .
Obama and US Secretary of State Kerry are perhaps relieved that the attack has been postponed in view of public opinion in the US, the potential enormous costs, and, of course, after the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack was planned without having a real target. On one hand, Obama came out as weakened, while, on the other hand, not attacking will get public support.
The danger of an attack by US imperialism, however, is not over. The agreement may not hold and Obama may decide to attack.
The war and the suffering continues. The powers that support both sides in the war - Iran and Russia behind Assad, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United States behind the various rebel groups - will not interrupt their war efforts. The civil war in Syria is about power, prestige, influence and oil in the entire Middle East and also the US’s continuing confrontation with Iran.
Offensiv opposes a US attack, while, at the same time, we are opposed to both Assad’s brutal regime and the armed groups who are jihadists and/or have US support. We call for a popular, democratic resistance struggle, across ethnic and religious lines. The only way out is in a struggle against dictatorship, capitalism and imperialism, and for a struggle towards a socialist confederation of the Middle East.