A new wave of imperialist propaganda for military intervention in Syria is under way. Reminiscent of the “weapons of mass destruction” lies used by the Bush administration to justify the war against Iraq a decade ago, on Dec. 3, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement threatening Syria with military intervention if Syria were to use chemical weapons.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, Obama said: "The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."
Echoing the words of Obama, after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Belgium on Dec. 5, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons,” and added, “This would cross a red line and those responsible would be held to account.”
French President Francois Hollande also asserted that a chemical weapons attack “would be a legitimate reason for direct intervention” by NATO powers. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also was quoted saying that if there were real movement on chemical weapons, it would require a response, while declining to specify what that might be.
These recent statements by imperialist politicians along with a slew of corporate media reports on the so-called chemical weapons threat are based on dubious intelligence reports by U.S. defense officials who all speak on condition of anonymity. According to these intelligence reports, there have been recent movements of chemical weapons components and Syrian engineers have begun mixing the two chemical precursors needed in chemical weapons.
As a response to this recent wave of threats, the Syrian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the Syrian government would not use chemical weapons “if they were available, under any circumstances against its people.” The statement also added that Syria has stated repeatedly that it “will not use these types of weapons.”
In August, Obama issued a similar statement on the use of chemical weapons following the defection of the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares. At that time Fares claimed that the regime might deploy chemical weapons against its own people. Shortly after Fares’ statement, NATO-backed Free Syrian Army mercenaries started a large-scale attack in Aleppo. During the battle of Aleppo, an article appeared in the corporate media, claiming that the Syrian government was on the verge of collapse and likely to use chemical weapons against its own people.
Patriot missiles to be deployed by NATO along the Turkish border
Using the so-called threat of a Syrian attack by surface-to-surface missiles armed with chemical weapons, Turkey has requested that NATO deploy Patriot missiles along its border with Syria. This request was swiftly approved after a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Dec. 5.
Speaking after the meeting, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said the deployment would be purely defensive in nature, adding that “the deployment of Patriot missiles will serve as an effective deterrence and therefore deescalate the situation along the Syrian-Turkish border,”
It is not possible to interpret Rasmussen’s words as anything but imperialist double-speak. After all, as a loyal imperialist client and a NATO member, the Turkish government has consistently been the aggressive party, more than once escalating the tension with Syria, sending a military reconnaissance jet into Syrian airspace in June, and launching an artillery attack against Syria in October. In addition, Turkey has been providing shelter, funding and arms to the terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian government since the start of the conflict.
Contrary to the assertion that the Patriot missiles are purely defensive weapons mainly used against missiles, they can also be used as an attack weapon against aircraft. Syria has no motive to attack Turkey, a NATO member, since such an attack would give NATO the excuse for an all-out war. Thus, it is obvious that the Patriot missiles to be deployed along the Turkish border are not for deterrence as claimed by NATO officials.
Although denied by NATO, the deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish border is the first step toward the creation of a no-fly zone in order to provide cover for the FSA mercenaries operating in northern Syria. U.S. Senator John McCain openly admitted this at the 2012 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 27. When answering a question on what should be done in Syria, he said: “The no-fly zone. Which, by the way, does not mean that we go after Bashar’s air-defenses. It means that we emplace anti-air missiles in place and I guarantee you, [the] first Syrian aircraft we shoot down that would be the last one to fly over a no-fly zone.“
Libyan support for the Syrian opposition beefing up
It is no secret that after the NATO overthrow of the Gaddafi government, a good portion of the Libyan weapons fell into the hands of Al Qaeda's Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which has since then been helping the Syrian opposition by providing arms and fighters to them. There are also reports of secret talks held in Istanbul, Turkey, late November between the Syrian opposition and the new Libyan government.
At the meeting, the Libyan representatives reportedly agreed to provide arms and volunteers for the Syrian opposition. A Libyan authority speaking after the meeting on condition of anonymity was quoted saying: “There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria, there is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”
There were also earlier reports that the opposition fighters in Syria had been provided with gas masks and that they were willing to initiate a chemical weapons attack that would then be blamed on the Syrian government to set the pretext for a NATO-led intervention. A new video shows a Syrian rebel group with chemical containers from TEKKIM, a Turkish Chemicals company, testing on lab rabbits a chemical combination most likely to be used as nerve agents. This raises serious concerns about a chemical weapons attack by the opposition being highly likely.
An earlier report released in March by the Brookings Institution, the most widely acknowledged foreign-policy think-tank in the U.S., called “Saving Syria: Assessing Options For Regime Change,” had in fact put forth a similar scenario, where a fabricated humanitarian crisis would be the pretext for intervention in Syria.
A critical juncture for the anti-war movement in the US
While it is important to remember that NATO has been an active participant in this war since the start of the conflict through its proxy, the FSA, given the recent developments, there is now a clear and imminent danger of a direct NATO intervention. Every imperialist intervention has been preceded by an intensified demonization campaign portraying the leadership of the targeted nation as pure evil, mostly based on outright lies and fabrications. The same message is repeated over and over by the mass media and imperialist politicians until public opinion is swayed towards supporting a “responsibility to protect”-style humanitarian intervention.
The recent campaign against the Syrian government centered on the chemical weapons narrative is no different. In fact, it is eerily similar to the way in which the second Iraq war was started by the Bush administration, based on a pack of lies about the non-existent Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.”
With this in mind, it is now more critical than ever for progressives and revolutionaries in the U.S. to stand firm against this demonization campaign and do everything in their power to expose it to the U.S. public as nothing more than another shameless war tactic against Syria. It is also critical that we unite under the straightforward slogan of “No to NATO war on Syria” to rally the U.S. public against an all-out NATO war before it is too late.
Let us not forget that the imperialists and their media mouthpieces too have slogans around which they unite, and at present it is “Down with Syria.”
U.S.-NATO hands off Syria!