The escalation of the confrontation enters a new phase
Russia did not remain on the sidelines
On the 30th of September, the Russian leadership decided to begin airstrikes in Syria against the so-called “Islamic State”. Earlier the same day, the Upper House of the Russian Parliament approved the request of the President, Vladimir Putin, related to the deployment of military forces abroad and specifically to support Bashar Assad in Syria.
This development came a few days after the Russian President’s speech to the UN, where he defended the Russian positions on Syria and Ukraine, and also after his meeting with his US counterpart. Nevertheless, it was not a bolt from the blue, as all the sources in recent weeks referred to the increase of the Russian military presence in Syria and the transport of military equipment there.
Escalation of the intervention
The developments clearly also signal the further sharpening of the inter-imperialist contradictions in the region of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. We should bear in mind that the Russian military intervention in Syria comes after the intervention of the USA, the EU, Turkey, the monarchies of the Gulf etc in the region that has been underway since 2011.
The KKE from the very first moment denounced this intervention which has very serious consequences for the people of Syria and for the people the wider region as well. When bourgeois and opportunist parties celebrated the so-called “Arab Spring”, our party exposed the organized efforts to fund and arm the so-called Syrian opposition by the imperialist powers, which resulted in, amongst other things, the formation and spread of the monstrosity of the “Islamic State”, as well as the creation of an enormous wave of refugees, both inside the country (about 10 million people) and also to foreign countries (chiefly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where about 2 million people live who have been driven from their homes, of these people those that can are trying to reach European countries).
The military aspect of the Syrian conflict
The close economic and political-military ties of Russia with the bourgeois regime of Assad are well-known. This regime is a stable ally of capitalist Russia in the region of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean for the last 20 years. This is a region where a serious geopolitical “game” is underway with powerful “players”, like the USA, the EU, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies.
The intervention of these powers in Syria, which utilized existing social and political problems of the Assad regime led the country into a complex political-military “puzzle”. Consequently, after the “trichotomy” of Iraq caused by the US invasion (into areas controlled by the central government, areas controlled by the Kurds, areas controlled by the IS), a similar dismemberment is being witnessed in Syria.
The political-military forces that remain loyal to Assad maintain control over a significant section of the country, about 40% of the territory, which includes the most populated and most cultivated areas.
Its armed forces, after 5 years of war and wear and tear, have out of necessity been reduced from 325,000 to 150,000. Another 60,000 are in the forces of the well-armed Republican Guard and some tens of thousands are in the armed militia, as well in the forces of Lebanese Hezbollah, which is a stable ally of the regime. Russia and Iran over this period have been supporting the regime with weapons and ammunition and military advisors.
A section of the country’s north is controlled by Kurdish militia numbering around 30,000, comprised of lightly armed troops.
The so-called “Islamic State”, which seems to control a large section of territory, which in reality are uninhabited desert areas, has the control of the areas that border Iraq and controls oil resources, which afford it profits from the selling of fuel to Turkey and Iraq on the black market. There are different assessments regarding the size of its forces, ranging from 20 to 100 thousand. Russian intelligence estimates them at being between 30 and 50 thousand. Amongst them, there are many who come from abroad (Europe, Russia etc.), while their relations with Turkey, the Gulf monarchies and also the USA are well-known, which funded several of them, trained them, armed them and are now using them to advance their plans.
The forces of the armed “opposition” of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” which openly enjoy the patronage of the USA-EU calculate themselves to be between 45 and 60 thousand, numbers openly disputed by the Russian leadership.
Other military forces which are active include the islamist movement “Jabhat al-Nusra” which has up to 10,000 armed men and is supported by the region’s monarchic regimes.
Of course, in practice we can see that all the forces that are fighting against the Assad regime, despite the tensions that exist between them, are “communicating vessels”, i.e they complement each other.
Finally, we should not forget that Israel has been occupying Syrian territory (the Golan Heights) since 1967, and has established permanent military occupation forces inside Syria and provides medical (and other?) support to the forces that are fighting against Assad.
The Russian involvement
In these complex military conditions, the Russian leadership decides to reinforce Assad’s forces, chiefly in two ways” a) through the provision of modern military equipment, with high precision weapons (new armoured personnel carriers, modern telecommunications systems, spy drones, machine guns etc.), b) through aerial bombardments of the “terrorist” forces. The Syrian airforce has older aircraft, with less capabilities of achieving high precision strikes against its opponents.
Through these actions, it is assessed that the losses of the Syrian armed forces can be cancelled out and that they can once again achieve the upper hand and dynamism in relation to their enemies.
Moreover, at the initiative of Russia a “Joint Information Centre” has been established in Baghdad together with Syria, Iran and Iraq, with the aim of coordinating operations against the “Islamic State”.
Russia has already unleashed dozens of airstrikes in the first few days from bases that it has established on Syrian territory, while it has also deployed small numbers of ground forces comprised of marines in Russian bases form where its military airplanes and helicopters conduct operations and also ships from its Navy have been deployed in Syria’s territorial waters.
This as regards the military sector, because there are also important goals in the political sphere. In any case, we must not overlook the connection between the political and military spheres, as war is the continuation of politics by other (violent) means.
Behind the … façade
Inside these developments, we must examine the real motives, the class character and the intentions of the forces which are involved in the military conflict, overcoming the pretexts for the interventions such as “the war against terrorism” or that they are being conducted for “humanitarian reasons” or that the bombing is being carried out with the approval of the local government or the UN, and therefore in accordance with international law. We should bear in mind that the bombing of Libya was approved by the UN. In conclusion, then, we must look behind the… façade which is being created to cover each action.
The interventions of the imperialists in the various regions and countries, which may be carried out in the name of “pure” and “good” intentions and slogans, bear the stamp of capitalist profit, of the profits of the monopolies and the relentless competition developing amongst them over the sharing out of the raw materials, the transport routes, the pipelines and the market shares. In any case the long “chain” of imperialist interventions in recent years bears witness to this.
Syria is no exception.
The aims that lie behind the pretexts
In the last two decades, due to the uneven development of capitalism, dynamic emerging capitalist powers have appeared on the scene (China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa) that are gaining ground at the expense of older powers, like the USA and EU countries. The competition is intensifying. It is very important for the monopoly interests based in these countries to acquire new energy resources, to determine and control the transport routes of the commodities and also to control sections of the economies of other countries. The capitalist crisis has reshuffled the deck of cards.
It has been demonstrated that the so-called “multi-polar world” is a world of tough inter-imperialist confrontations, which are being waged with economic, diplomatic, political and military means in the various regions of the planet. One such region is that of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean which is rich in hydrocarbons. This region is also the “passage” from Europe to Asia and Africa and has many unresolved issues left over from previous decades.
In this phase it is becoming obvious, on the one hand, that the USA and its allies aim to tear down the Syrian regime, which is a strategic ally of Russia and Iran, an ally of China. Such a development, of course, would be a blow against all these powers. The USA and its allies utilizes the issues of “combating terrorism”, “restoring democracy” and solving “humanitarian issues”, such as the protection of Christian populations etc as pretexts.
On the other hand, it is clear that Russia aims to support the Syrian regime with every means at its disposal so that its monopolies and not the Euro-Atlantic ones have the first say, in cooperation with the section of the bourgeoisie represented by the Assad regime, as regards the exploitation of resources and the people. And the “war against terrorism” and the resolution of “humanitarian problems” are also being used as pretexts in this instance. At the same time, the Russian leadership’s effort to maintain its position in Syria is integrated into its attempts to strengthen the penetration of Russian capital into other countries in the region.
Various scenarios related to the imperialist confrontation
The bases for this confrontation are the capitalist relations of production and the question of how the natural resources and wealth produced by the workers will be divided up. So an enormous constellation of powers are bearing down on the Syrian issue. This does not mean that there will automatically be a direct conflict. There are many other scenarios.
For example, we can not exclude the possibility of the USA and its allies choosing the tactic of the long term economic “bleeding” and political-military attrition in relation to Russia, Syria and East Ukraine, also creating other “wounds” in central Asia, the Caucasus etc.
We can also not exclude the possibility of the open military involvement of all the foreign powers in Syria, dividing it up and transforming it into protectorates.
Even the scenario of a temporary compromise between those powers involved, with the replacement of Assad, the utilization of “moderate” forces from the opposition, something which today seems difficult, can not be ruled out.
The SYRIZA-ANEL government bears enormous responsibilities in relation to the Greek people, because it states that it is willing to push our country into the bottomless pit of these inter-bourgeois contradictions, through participation in the plans of the USA, NATO and the EU.
We are talking about the concession of military bases for imperialist interventions, the creation of new ones (Karpathos), as well as about Greece’s contribution with military forces in a possible intervention.
We communists oppose the choices and plans of our country’s bourgeoisie, which are being served by the SYRIZA-ANEL government that states it is ready to push Greece into an imperialist war, under the pretext of “fighting against terrorism”.
We are opposed to imperialist war, we call on the people to organize their struggle against our country’s involvement, against the utilization of the territory, sea and airspace of the country as a “launching pad” for attacks against foreign territories, and also against the participation of Greek armed forces.
We express our solidarity with the communist movement in Syria, which clearly can not be indifferent towards the foreign imperialist intervention, which is taking place now in its country, nor towards the plans to occupy and dismember the country.
The struggle of the Syrian people can have significant results to the extent that it is linked to the struggle for a country freed from capitalists, outside all the imperialist coalitions, a country where the working class will be in power, owning the wealth it produces.
Article published in “Rizospastis” on 4/10/2015