This article was written back in January by Nicaragua based Tortilla Con Sal editor Toni Solo. It is perhaps one of the most comprehensive analyses in the English language that covers the historical context of the current imperialist aggression’s against Syria and Iran, the steps (including manufacture of public consent) that lead up to the west’s wars, the lessons to be learnt from the war on Libya, the failure of the international "left" in mobilising solidarity for the victims of these wars and the implications of recent events for the entire "developing" world, with particular focus on progressive Latin America.– Lizzie Phelan
After Libya, the wealthy oligarchies of Europe and North America continue their centuries-old war on humanity, now attacking Syria and Iran. They and their regional allies will never concede an equitable share of the world’s economic resources to the impoverished global majority. The inevitable consequence of that strategic global reality is endless aggression by NATO countries and their allies against any foreign government or political movement that resists their will.
The experience of Libya demonstrates that whenever conditions permit, the anti-democratic Western oligarchies will always destroy independent countries whose governments try to compromise or negotiate. Like Libya, Iran and Syria have long historical experience of imperialist perfidy by the major Western imperial powers, the United States, Britain and France. So these countries are unlikely to give way to NATO country demands.
The Iranians took back control of their country after their Islamic revolution in 1979. In Syria, that fierce nationalism took a secular form under a socialist government. Iran and Syria have both sought to promote strong economic development while managing complex religious, cultural and ethnic diversity.
Syria – historical context
Syria, now with a population of over 23 million, became independent from France in 1946. The first two decades of independence for the new republic were marked by a succession of unstable governments. An experimental political union with Egypt in the late 1950s proved unsuccessful. In the end, the socialist Ba’ath party took power in 1963. Later, in 1970, Hafez al Assad became President, after an internal power struggle within the government.
Under the government of Hafez al Assad, Syria consolidated its transformation through strong economic growth based mainly on agriculture and oil. After 2000, when his son Bashar al Assad, became President, Syria continued to sustain strong economic performance. But recent attempts to implement liberal reforms in response to both internal opposition criticism and foreign pressure have had limited success. The United States and its allies have sought to exploit aggressively the very opportunities created by the Syrian government’s attempts at reform.
Syria has constantly been menaced by Zionist military aggression since Israel was founded in 1948 and has suffered air strikes from Israel at various times over the last decade. Israel’s invasion and occupation of neighbouring Lebanon in 1982, seriously threatened Syria’s interests. The Syrian government countered with a military intervention of its own. Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon only ended in 2000, after decades of bitter resistance largely organized by the Islamic political-military movement Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a key ally both of Syria and of Iran.
Parallel with the threat posed by Israel’s occupation of Lebanon, Syria has also constantly been threatened by Israel’s continued occupation of the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory captured by Israel in 1967 and held illegally ever since. That occupation was condemned in UN Resolution 497, one of numerous UN Resolutions contemptuously violated by Israel’s Zionist government under the protection of its main military allies, the United States, France and Britain. For all practical purposes, Israel has long been a de facto member of NATO. It was in this historical context that Syria maintained a significant military presence in Lebanon until 2005.
In February of that year a massive car bomb was used to murder leading Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, a noted critic of Syria. The Western powers on the UN Security Council pushed for a Special Tribunal to investigate the murder. Hariri’s assassination was exploited by the NATO countries’ political allies in Lebanon and in the region to force Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Ever since then, the NATO countries and their regional allies, including Saudi Arabia and its fellow feudal monarchies in the Gulf States, have used the UN Special Tribunal to intimidate and threaten Syria and its regional allies, principally Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The UN Special Tribunal, after initially levelling suspicion against Syria, has recently shifted its aim to target Hezbollah. It has never considered very serious evidence that plausibly suggests Israeli involvement in Hariri’s murder. This behaviour by the UN Special Tribunal on Lebanon parallels very closely what happened with the dishonest politically motivated manipulation of the Lockerbie terrorist bombing investigation in the case of Libya.
Unlike Libya, but like Iran, Syria has found quite strong diplomatic support from Russia and China, as well as from Latin American countries including, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. While the NATO countries and their allies apply sanctions, Russia has recently signed arms deals with Syria in a clear practical sign that it rejects NATO country policy towards its regional allies, Syria and Iran. Russian diplomats have publicly condemned as counterproductive the sanctions applied to Syria.
China’s position is less clear-cut, given its heavy dependence on reliable oil supplies. Persistent US and allied country provocations may lead Iran to retaliate against sanctions by closing the strategically important Hormuz Strait. In this way, the NATO powers create uncertainty about the security of China’s oil supply and the stability of the oil price in international markets. What happens in Syria is directly relevant in terms of how it may affect Iran’s policy.
The recent visit of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Saudi Arabia, Qatar y the Arab Emirates was directly related to that dilemma. Clearly, it is the NATO powers and these local NATO allies who are provoking serious instability in the international oil markets. That instability may well hurt the US and Europe as much as their Asian rivals should Iran itself retaliate economically.
Syria’s Muslim neighbour, Turkey, has played a more complex double game over the years than the region’s feudal Arab tyrannies antagonistic to socialist Syria. It has tried to balance its regional interests as a major Central Asian Muslim power against its long standing aspirations to join the European Union and its status as a member of NATO. For some years, prior to the war against Libya, Turkey seemed to be interested in developing a strategic relationship with both Syria and Iran.
The Israeli 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara vessel carrying peace activists to Palestine seemed to exacerbate Turkey’s differences with its NATO partners. But during the current crisis in Syria, Turkey has decisively supported NATO’s aggression against its neighbour. The government of Prime Minister Erdogan has permitted the establishment of terrorist groups attacking Syria from Turkish territory.
The Turkish government has also advocated and implemented damaging sanctions against Syria and its people as part of the increasingly sinister campaign to bring down the Syrian Ba’ath party government led by Bashar al Assad. But Turkey also has a strong interest in a stable relationship with Iran. Its complicated regional interests may ultimately force Prime Minister Erdogan to moderate Turkey’s current policy on Syria.
The Syrian crisis now
Disturbances began in Syria in January 2011 as part of a region-wide attempt by the NATO powers and their local allies to exploit popular pressure for political change. In March of that same year, events in the city of Deraa provoked dubious allegations of government forces shooting on unarmed protestors, just as happened in Libya. Terrorists encouraged, trained and supplied by Saudi Arabia and allies like Qatar and protected by Turkey, have attacked government security forces in Baniyas, Homs, and Hama, among other cities.
But popular support for the Syrian government and for President Assad remains over 50% despite a massive international disinformation campaign led by NATO country corporate media and human rights organization. The NATO powers and their regional allies have long sought to destabilize Syria’s independent socialist government. The pattern of their intervention is similar to that used to destroy Libya. They have encouraged, trained and supplied subversive terrorist groups, using a comprehensive psy-warfare campaign to both conceal and justify the extent of their aggressive intervention.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has again demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is an abject servant of the United States and its allies. He has dragged his office and the UN itself deep into disrepute as a blatant tool of colonial intervention around the world in the service of Western corporate elites. Under Ban Ki Moon, the UN organization is currently violating its own Charter, as it did in Libya, by working in complicity with NATO and the Arab League, dominated by Saudi Arabia, to guarantee the conditions necessary for military aggression against Syria, perhaps led by Turkey.
The crisis in Syria results mainly not from popular calls for reform but from foreign pressure and intervention. The techniques used against Syria by the Western powers and their regional allies are far from new. They have been used over the last fifty years to brutalize and dehumanize the Palestinians, to demonize Cuba and North Korea and to justify an interminable programme of aggression around the world.
Now the NATO powers, with their long and shameful history of colonial conquest, have updated and refined that tool kit of imperial repression. Prior to Syria, they have used it against Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Haiti, Honduras, Ivory Coast and, most recently, Libya. The campaign always begins with extensive psychological warfare by the Western machinery of corporate media and non-governmental organizations to justify aggressive government measures against the target country.
The propaganda war always consists of exaggerated and distorted accusations of human rights violations, corruption and lack of democracy. These accusations usually escalate to include claims that the target country’s government provokes regional destabilization. When the conditions prepared by this psychological warfare permit, the aggression moves into the economic sphere with calls for sanctions, either legal or illegal.
After that phase of economic warfare, the next stage is one of armed subversion through local proxies. The loss of life provoked by that terrorist subversion can then be used to activate measures through the international legal system, if possible via the International Criminal Court, self-evidently a tool of Western imperialism. This whole process prepares the way for outright military intervention, proposed preferably to the UN Security Council by a regional body dominated by Western allies.
The Arab League served that purpose against Libya and is being used now in the NATO countries’ efforts to destroy Syria. It will almost certainly be used to complete preparations for the developing aggression against Iran. But Iran is a far more complex target than Syria because it is one of the biggest countries in the world both in territorial extension and with a population of over 70 million.
Iran’s history in the last century, common to most of the region, was one of colonial oppression and foreign exploitation. After the anti-democratic coup in 1953, the country endured over 25 years of neocolonial dependency, abetted by the dictatorship of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Pahlavi was an unconditional NATO country ally in the mould of dictators like Anastasio Somoza, Sese Mobutu or Ferdinand Marcos. Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega often refers to the twin revolutions of 1979 to recall that both the Iranian and the Nicaraguan peoples liberated their countries from cruel dictatorship that same year.
Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the NATO powers supported Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s long war against Iran which lasted from 1980 to 1988. It is commonly forgotten that Syria was one of the only Arab countries to support Iran during that war. NATO’s regional allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf tyrannies, all fear Iran because it has a powerful government committed to regional change based on the ideals of its own Islamic revolution.
Despite Iran’s moderation of its revolutionary regional policy after the war with Iraq, it defends its sovereignty uncompromisingly. The cynical foreign policy of the NATO countries towards Iran has gone through various phases of uneasy accommodation, opportunism and hostility culminating in the current phase of outright aggression just short of armed conflict. The United States in particular has exploited Iran’s development of nuclear power as a cause for war.
Iran has sought to develop nuclear power since the 1950s. But the United States and Israel first began to exploit Iran’s nuclear power programme as pretext for aggressive sanctions in 2003, the same year as the NATO powers and their allies invaded Iraq on the false pretext that they feared Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The United States and its allies have consistently exploited the UN’s International Atomic Energy Authority politically against Iran, using its procedures to create pretexts for economic and military aggression.
The current IAEA Director General is Yukiya Amano, regarded as even more susceptible to pressure from the NATO country governments than his predecessor Mohamed al Baradei. Possible ways of attacking Iran’s nuclear program are openly discussed in the corporate Western media as part of the constant psychological warfare against Iran. Armed attacks have included terrorist assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists as well as other terrorist attacks facilitated by NATO’s de facto member Israel.
The notorious extreme hypocrisy of NATO country governments is has reached unprecedented extremes in the case of Iran. The NATO powers protect Israel’s illegal nuclear weapons program but attack Iran for developing peaceful nuclear power. They and their allies wage blatant terrorist war against Iran using terrorist organizations they themselves condemn such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq, just as they have used Al Qaeda in Lebanon, Libya and now Syria.
Similarly, the US and Israel have used their highly developed cyber-warfare capacity to sabotage Iran’s industrial and research capacity, using the Stuxnet worm malware to damage Iranian computer systems. This pattern of psychological warfare, bogus pretexts for aggression, economic sanctions and outright terrorism is used against every government targeted by the NATO country corporate elites and their allies. In the 1930s, similar behaviour by Germany and Italy was called by its true name – fascism.
However, Iran enjoys many advantages over Syria in terms of its ability to defend itself. The most obvious of those advantages is its size, both in terms of its territory and its population. It’s role as a major international provider of oil and gas to China and many other countries, complicates NATO country plans for a military attack. Over 30% of international oil supplies pass through the Hormuz Strait, controlled by Iran. Iran’s geography also works in its favour because, again, the narrow Hormuz Strait is a potentially dangerous trap for any attacking NATO naval forces.
Iran’s missile technology and capability is formidable. Its mastery of electronic warfare was evident in the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. There, Iran’s ally Hezbollah effectively neutralized Israeli electronic warfare and constantly monitored Israeli military communications. For all these reasons, any attack on Iran will certainly be far more complex in its planning and execution and far more costly in financial terms and in terms of casualties for the aggressors than the wars against Afghanistan,Iraq or Libya.
Also, several powerful countries strongly reject NATO’s clear preparations for military aggression. Of those countries, Russia and China are the most forthright, but Brazil and India too have expressed their rejection of armed aggression. All these countries, in particular Russia and China understand very well that the aggression against Syria and Iran is how the Western powers of North America and Europe hope to arrest their relative decline in global power and influence, especially in relation to Asia.
For its part, India has a very strong trading relationship with Iran which supplies around 14% of India’s current total oil needs. India is also partnering Iran in a major gas pipeline project carrying Iranian gas as far as Pakistan. Although it has recently complied with US pressure to vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Authority over the matter of Iran’s nuclear programme, India supports Iran’s right to develop nuclear power.
India would be unlikely to take sides in any potential armed conflict between Iran and the NATO countries and their local allies. Likewise, Brazil has strongly supported Iran’s right to develop nuclear power and Dilma Rousseff is likely to maintain that position. In an interesting recent twist to regional complications, Turkey has refused to support new NATO country sanctions against Iran unauthorized by the UN.
This is emphatic confirmation that Iran is far from the caricature isolated pariah presented in the Western corporate media. It is easy to forget that Iran is a likely candidate to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Iran is engaged in major railway construction projects with SCO members Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
The SCO is made up of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, countries comprising almost a quarter of the world’s total population. Any attack on Iran, a large, influential regional power, will have extremely volatile and unpredictable effects on the world economy and devastating repercussions in the region. This reality may well lead more sober minds in the NATO countries to resist pressure from local allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia to unleash a military assault on Iran
Lessons from Libya
For their part, Iran and Syria may well be regretting the support they gave to NATO’s counter-revolutionary putsch and colonial war of aggression in Libya. NATO’s puppet NTC regime in Libya repaid Iran and Syria by closing the Syrian government embassy in Tripoli and recognising Syria’s own opposition SNC as Syria’s legitimate government. CEPRID’s Alberto Cruz has noted that British special forces even boast on their web site that they have armed and trained Libyan Al Qaeda fighters on Turkish territory to attack the Syrian people.
Libya’s recent experience has reinforced the long standing lesson that the North American and European oligarchs will always destroy independent countries who resist their will. The Libyan war also demonstrated that, paradoxically, Iran shares the NATO powers’ abandonment of the UN’s basic principles of non-aggression and self-determination of peoples. That abandonment permitted the disingenuous application of the ill-conceived principle of the Responsibility to Protect.
It led directly to the destruction of Libya, the current aggression against Syria and the developing military assault on Iran. Like Russia and China, Iran is now in part suffering the fallout from its support for the destruction of Libya. It is fair to argue that if Russia, China and Iran had defended the principle of non-aggression in the case of Libya, the NATO powers would never have been able to destabilize Syria so readily.
Iran’s failure to defend the UN’s founding principles was matched by the complete collapse of what is commonly referred to as the international Left. With very few exceptions, radical, progressive, anarchist and socialist opinion either openly supported NATO’s colonial war on Libya or washed their hands of it. Figures as diverse as Noam Chomsky, Ignacio Ramonet, Gilbert Achcar, Ramsy Baroud and Al Giordano, among many others, supported the pretext for the war against the Libyan government even though it clearly enjoyed majority support in the country.
The failure of the international Left was twofold, both moral and intellectual. The intellectual failure was one of Garbage In-Garbage Out. In their different ways, Chomsky, Ramonet, Giordano and the rest have in large part made their reputations by criticising the mechanisms that create mainstream opinion. On Libya, they uncritically accepted information produced in total consonance with the style and content of the major international corporate psy-warfare outlets.
That deep intellectual inauthenticity was matched by the international Left’s utter moral collapse in failing to defend Libya and its people against vicious colonial military aggression. In general, the international Left adopted a range of neocolonial positions. Those positions all shared the neocolonial assumption that their own culture and their own societies offered better models for people in Libya than the system most Libyans supported and which they had worked out for themselves.
No serious effort was made to support peaceful negotiations as proposed by the African Union and the ALBA countries. In North America, the Black Left’s support for the Libyan government was ignored. In Europe, prestigious left-wing media outlets like Rebelión censored opinion arguing against the Libyan CNT counter-revolutionary putsch.
The demonization of Muammar Ghaddafi and censorship by omission on the Left was indistinguishable from that in the corporate media. Anyone declaring solidarity with the Libyan government and its people was smeared as supporting dictatorship. Libya demonstrated that the systemic function of the intellectual-managerial class of the international Left is to camouflage their accommodation, complicity and ultimate legitimation of the very system they ostensibly reject.
They accepted false information totally in line with imperialist propaganda. They collaborated in the abandonment of the founding principles of the UN. They effectively accepted the aggressive introduction of the imperialist principle of Responsibility to Protect. Arguments about NATO’s conquest of Libya demonstrated that in North America and Europe. the international Left is essentially an agglomeration of fictions of varying effectiveness and relevance.
The utility of the fictions purveyed by the networks around individuals like Ramonet, Chomsky and the rest is that they serve as intermediaries with liberal progressive networks loyal to corporate capitalism and with the centres of imperial power itself. Measured by their ability to achieve significant political power, the North American and European varieties of Left fictions have lived with failure for decades. Their moral and intellectual collapse on Libya should have come as no surprise.
What has been and remains so striking is the extent of the international Left’s identification with the false rhetoric of the very structures they purport to criticize. For people in Nicaragua, that goes a long way in explaining the grudging recognition of the marked progress on behalf of the impoverished majority achieved under President Daniel Ortega’s government. Like Libya, Nicaragua too has been the victim of the class/cultural prejudices of the internacional neocolonial Left.
Implications for Latin America
Those prejudices have made it impossible for most of what passes for the Left in North America and Europe to remake themselves convincingly enough to win majority support despite the chronic economic crisis in their countries. The West’s systemic crisis threatens the future ability of the United States and its allies to project their power globally and put a brake on their relative decline against Asian countries like China and India. That is why NATO and its allies have destroyed Libya and now menace Syria and Iran .
Such a volatile international context presents enormous challenges to the peoples of Latin America and to their leaders. It demonstrates the strategic wisdom and tactical acumen of the political leadership of the ALBA countries in rapidly developing solidarity-based trade and development cooperation and in strengthening longer term regional integration. Clearly, Central America and the Caribbean are vulnerable targets of future aggression from the United States.
The United States and their allies supported the successful coups in Haiti and Honduras and were active in the attempted coups in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. They may well fail to overthrow the government in Syria and decide the odds are against them in the case of a military attack on Iran. Whether or not they attack Iran, the United States and its European allies are very likely to sharpen their aggressive stance against independent governments in Latin America.
albared.org, 29 January, 2012.
Original article (29.01.2012):