Yesterday, workers throughout Bahrain were being urged to stop work for 10 minutes at 10am, in protest against the war on Iraq. The Gulf Daily News (a Bahrain newspaper) reported that the action was being planned across the Arab world in what is hoped will be a massive show of solidarity. It was called by the "Central Committee for Arab Workers" (an organisation that coordinates several trade unions in the Arab world) at its emergency meeting over the war held in Damascus last Thursday.
In Bahrain, it is being spearheaded by the General Union of Bahrain Workers (GUBW). "We attended that meeting and we feel that this gesture symbolises the feelings of the workers in the Arab world and their opposition to this war," said GUBW chairman Abdulghaffar Abdulhussain.
This decision, even if it is mainly of a symbolic character, reflects the growing militant mood throughout the Arab world, that we have already reported on over the last week.
The US generals had believed that the population of Iraq would have risen up against Saddam Hussein and greeted the Allied troops as "liberators". What is happening is just the opposite. Five thousand Iraqi immigrants have returned home from Jordan as volunteers to fight the imperialists since the beginning of the war. This is out of a total of 300,000 Iraqis that are living in the country. Even former exiled Iraqis from the Baath regime have come back!
The Italian left-wing daily "il Manifesto" reported today that the Iraqi embassy in Algeria is "under siege". That is because thousands of Algerians are applying for a visa to go to Iraq to fight the Anglo-American forces!
Under this enormous mass pressure the Arab rulers are trembling in their shoes. The Egyptian president Mubarak has said that the US aggression "will produce a hundred Osama Bin Ladens" in the Middle East. The King of Jordan has now been forced to distance himself from the imperialists and now claim that his country does not support the war, even though Jordan has thousands of US soldiers in his soil!
The only government that since the beginning of the Iraq crisis has taken a clear antiwar stance has been Syria. This is hardly surprising. The ruling elite of Syria plays no progressive role in the region and they have launched a vicious attack on the workers' living standards over the last ten years together with a vast programme of privatisations. But the regime has to be sensitive to the fact that in the country there is a huge anti-American movement, and Damascus has witnessed several mass demonstrations against the US aggression.
At the same time, anyone who takes a look at the map of Syria and its borders can easily understand the reason that lead the Syrian rulers to have these fears. In fact, the establishment of a pro-American regime in Iraq would heavily shift the balance of forces in the Arab-Israeli conflict against Syria. It will be caught between Israel, the new Iraq and Turkey.
The threats against Syria have already started. In an open warning, Israeli Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz said, "President Bashar Al-Assad is perfectly aware of Israel's power and capacities on all levels, including the military one." The US Defence Secretary, Rumsfeld issued another warning, complaining about Syria "hostile acts", the alleged shipment through Syria of military equipment to Iraq.
Whatever the outcome of the war, things in this area will never be the same. A new wave of mass struggles will sweep across the whole Middle East.