US hands off Syria

Thursday, 03 November 2005
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The UN, under US pressure, has passed a resolution on Syria. The implications are that Syrian officials were involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Premier, Rafiq Hariri. But Syria has gained nothing from his assassination. And there are clear indications that much of the so-called evidence may have been fabricated, in order to pressurise the Syrian regime.

US imperialism is clearly fabricating new evidence for another so-called “regime change”, this time in Syria. On October 20, a UN report on Syria was drafted after the chief investigator Detlev Mehlis accused senior Syrian officials of being behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The former Premier of Lebanon, together with 22 other people, died in a car bomb attack in Beirut on February 14. This led to a series of events. First we had the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Then we had the US threats of sanctions and even war against Syria.

The UN report did not directly implicate President Bashar al-Assad, but it did say that Syrian security officials had been involved in the assassination. The same report claimed that the foreign minister, Farouk Charaa, had lied in a letter to investigators. It also quoted one witness, Mohammed Zouhari Sidiq, who says that Assad's powerful brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat was also involved.

According to the BBC, one of the most serious of Mehlis’ accusations is that the Lebanese President Emile Lahood, a key ally of Syria inside Lebanon, had received a phone call from one of the key figures involved in the plot, warning him that the assassination was about to take place. Lahood has denied this. He claims that the report is aimed at discrediting him.

On its part, the Syrian government has stated that it cooperated fully with the international investigating committee. It wants the truth behind the killing of Rafik Hariri to be uncovered. It also emphasized the fact that the chain of events that led to the assassination of Hariri was against the interest of Syria as it is the one that has emerged damaged by this crime. The Syrian government has added that it met all of Mehlis’ demands.

The Syrian statement added that the choice of the place to hear the investigator’s witness was left to the committee head and he preferred that the place of the hearings should be close to the Syrian-Lebanese border and in an area which is fully under UN control. It further added that the entire criminal file of a known embezzler, the same Mohammed Zouhari Sidiq had been given to Mr. Mehlis. (Source: www.syrialive.net/Media/news/news.htm 23 October)

Thus it seems that the main witness against Syrian officials is an embezzler, who was recently reported as phoning his brother, saying: “I’ve become a millionaire”! When it comes to fabricating evidence, it seems Bush and his friends have no qualms in using known criminals. But then they must obviously feel at home with such elements.

Bashar al-Assad is not Sadam Hussein whose bloody rule could be used as an excuse by Bush and Blair to justify the toppling of the regime. He never used “weapons of mass destruction” provided by the US against any of his neighbouring countries. He cannot be accused of “gassing his own people” or of launching a series of wars against his neighbours. What the US holds against him is that the his push for further privatisation of the Syrian economy - that would allow the US companies to take over the economy - is too slow because of the strong opposition coming from within the old state administration.

It is with this in mind that we can understand why on Monday the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution demanding that Syria cooperate with the UN investigation into the assassination of Hariri. The resolution demands of Syria that it arrests anyone the UN investigators consider a suspect and leaves it to the investigators to determine the location and conditions under which the individual would be questioned.

This demand ignores the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has fully cooperated with the investigation already and that he also issued on Saturday a legislative decree, number 96-2005, demanding a special judicial committee to investigate the killing of the former Lebanese premier, Hariri.

According to the SANA news agency, the decree “calls the committee to cooperate with the independent International Investigating Committee and with the Lebanese judicial authorities in all what is linked to procedures of the investigation clarified by the decree.”

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had the cheek to say that, “with our decision today we show that Syria has isolated itself from the international community through its false statements, its support for terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbours and its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.” She added that “Now the Syrian government needs to make a strategic decision to fundamentally change its behaviour.”

Israel has added its weight to this. But no one was surprised when the Israeli government asked for pressure on Syria to be continued, claiming that it supports Palestinian terrorism. Since the vague UN report claims that high-ranking individuals in the Syrian government were involved in the murder of the former Lebanese premier, this demand amounts to Syria giving up its sovereignty. Where is the UN’s political and moral authority that gives it the right to demand such a thing?

Rice is right when she identifies the UN resolution with a US decision. On paper, it is supposed to be the body representing all the nations of the world, opposing wars and abuse of power. If this is true, then why does the UN not organize an investigation commission into the crimes of colonialism and demand that the US, Britain and Israel hand over Bush, Blair and Sharon and also that the investigators be allowed to determine the location and conditions under which these three individuals would be questioned? What about the charges against Blair and Bush of waging a war based on lies? What about a full independent investigation of US actions in Fallujah? What about demanding full investigations of allegations of war crimes against the three suspects?

We can see the cynical smiles! Yes indeed, the history of the UN in Iraq has proven that instead of opposing an imperialist war of aggression against the people of Iraq according to its mandate, it is either a servant of the US or an impotent irrelevance.

Let us recall that three years ago, on Friday, November 8, 2002, the same Security Council voted in favour of a resolution demanding unlimited access for UN inspectors to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq fully cooperated. Such weapons were not found. As result the UN did not endorse a war against Iraq.

In spite of this the US-UK went ahead with their invasion plans in March 2203. In order to rebuff international criticism, Bush and Blair then sought the assistance of the UN and they received it in the form of Security Council Resolution 1483.

Two months after the war was supposed to be over and won, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed a Special Representative to Iraq and the UN assumed some responsibilities in the country. Thus the UN is clearly identified with the illegal war and occupation of Iraq. But in August 2003, a bomb killed  fifteen UN staff including the Special Representative. The UN then left Iraq and kept its distance for a short time.

In February 2004, under heavy US pressure, the UN agreed to return and help construct a new puppet interim government. Since than it has also endorsed the elections for the new puppet government and has praised every move of the imperialist occupiers.

Thus we can see how the imperialists can easily fabricate evidence, they can invent any excuse to justify going into a sovereign country, overthrowing its government and imposing either directly military occupation or bring their own puppets to “power”.

For now the Security Council has dropped its threats of sanctions against Syria after Russia and China objected strongly to the proposals of the United States, Britain and France, but the threat remains as the resolution states that if Syria doesn't cooperate “the council, if necessary, could consider further action.” But Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaf has denounced the UN resolution saying that Syria is accused of a crime it did not commit.

Anyone who has been following the news coming from the Middle East is aware of the fact that the US, and of course Israel, want to change the regime in Syria. They claim that Syria is supporting terrorism against Israel and against the US in Iraq. Thus, what is evident is that they had decided to get rid of Assad long before the assassination of Raaific Harairi.

One can read a document that can be found on the internet under the name of “A clean break: A new strategy for securing the realm”, written by neo-conservatives including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser on behalf of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back in 1996. The same writers are all former or current members of the US administration.

The document called for the assassination of Yasser Arafat and the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, together with the toppling of the regimes in both Baghdad and Damascus, as a precondition for an American style “democratisation” of the Arab world. It also calls for Israeli supremacy in the region. It is worth quoting at length.

On Syria it actually says under the title “Securing the Northern Border”:

“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:

“- striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.

“- paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.

“- striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.

“Israel also can take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its word. It violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the United States by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in 1989. Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and forced Lebanon to sign a "Brotherhood Agreement" in 1991, that terminated Lebanese sovereignty. And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own citizens at a time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama (…)

“Negotiations with repressive regimes like Syria’s require cautious realism. One cannot sensibly assume the other side’s good faith. It is dangerous for Israel to deal naively with a regime murderous of its own people, openly aggressive toward its neighbors, criminally involved with international drug traffickers and counterfeiters, and supportive of the most deadly terrorist organizations.

“Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan "comprehensive peace" and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting "land for peace" deals on the Golan Heights. (…)

“We must distinguish soberly and clearly friend from foe. We must make sure that our friends across the Middle East never doubt the solidity or value of our friendship.

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq (…)

“Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.”

Now, it is undoubtedly true that many Lebanese were tired of Syria’s role in Lebanon. But we have to remember that in the past Syria had at least been asked by the Lebanese government to help end a civil war. This was done with the tacit support of Israel that needed Syria to protect its then Christian allies in Lebanon. This cannot be said of the US in Iraq today!

As we have already mentioned, for now, due to Russian pressure against sanctions these have not been mentioned in the present resolution. However, this can always be changed in the future.

Meanwhile on Monday, Jordan, the imperialists’ little poodle in the region, called on Syria to cooperate with the investigation. Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan Marwan Muasher said the country “believes in the importance of the cooperation of all countries... until the truth [over Hariri's killing] is revealed.” This little fox expressed the hope that “the international community will be able to resolve all outstanding issues with brotherly Syria through dialogue.”

The US and Israel are of course experts in state terrorism. After all the rulers of these two states are the major perpetrators of state terrorism in the world. They have accused Syria of hiding terrorists. President Bush has said over and over again that anyone who shelters terrorists or gives aid to terrorists is a terrorist. His hypocrisy has no limits.

Bush conveniently ignores the fact that the US is in actual fact hiding Cuban exile terrorists, most prominently Luis Posada Carriles. The latter is accused of being one of the masterminds of the bombing of a Cuban airliner back in 1976 with the loss of 73 innocent lives. He was in a Venezuelan prison awaiting trial on that charge when he escaped back in 1985. Venezuela long ago asked for his extradition and has now done so again.

It is not as if this is not known. It is easily available even in the US media… if one looks for it. According to Wayne S. Smith of the Sun Sentinel in South Florida (October 27, 2005),

“He [Luis Posada Carriles ]also bragged to The New York Times in a 1998 interview that he had ordered the bombing of a number of tourist hotels in Havana, acts which led to the death of an Italian tourist and the wounding of several other people.

“And then in 2000, he was arrested in Panama, and later convicted of ‘endangering public safety’ because of his involvement in a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro by blowing up a public auditorium where Castro was to speak before an audience of some 1,500. One can imagine the carnage and suffering that would have resulted from that.

“Posada managed to get to Miami and was there from March until May of this year, untouched by U.S. authorities. Only in mid-May, when he brazenly organized a press conference, did the Department of Homeland Security feel compelled to take him into custody. And then, although the Venezuelan government had several days earlier formally requested that the U.S. detain him for extradition, he was instead charged only with illegal entry and sent off to El Paso for an administrative immigration hearing, a hearing that turned out to be a total farce.

“Posada's lawyer called only one witness, one Joaquin Chaffardet, who, without presenting a shred of evidence, said the accused would be tortured if he were deported to Venezuela. The Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Agency of the DHS called no witnesses and made no effort to cross-examine Chaffardet. Had it done so, the immigration judge would have learned that Chaffardet was by no means an objective witness. Over the past 40 years, he had been one of Posada's closest associates, was his ex-boss in the Venezuelan Secret Intelligence Agency and is now his lawyer in Venezuela. And yet, relying on nothing more than that biased testimony, the immigration judge ruled that Posada would be tortured if removed to Venezuela. Never mind that the Venezuelan government had given assurances that he would be held under conditions of the greatest transparency and that no credible evidence that he would be tortured was even offered.

“Meanwhile, on June 15, Venezuela again formally asked the U.S. government to extradite him to Venezuela. But it seems clear that the U.S. had - and has - no intention of extraditing him. The most likely thing is that he will remain in custody for a time under the illegal entry charge and will then be freed.

“In other words, the Bush administration will then have given shelter to another terrorist, to join others such as Orlando Bosch, who has lived freely and unrepentant in Miami since 1989.”

So from all this we can see that the Bush administration and its little servile friends in the UN are incapable of feeling embarrassment at what is blatantly a case of double standards. They can do what they like because they are the big boys on the patch. It is the little guys who get in their way who have to obey the law, a law which is conveniently written by themselves.

For now the US is bogged down in Iraq. They have recently lost their 2000th soldier. Opposition at home and around the world is growing. Iraq is a mess. But it is clear that US imperialism is determined to dictate to anyone around the world who doesn’t fall into line one hundred per cent with their plans. This is the case with Syria now. It is not about finding out the truth about who really killed the former Premier of Lebanon. It is all about dictating to Syria how it governs itself, who governs it, and most importantly what economic policies are applied.

The Syrian regime is no saint. It oppresses its own people. It is in fact continuing with its programme of privatisations and so on, albeit not at the pace the US would want. But it is not US imperialism that has any right to dictate to the Syrian government what it should do. Hands off Syria! Let the Syrian workers decide their own fate without the interference of imperialism.