Agreements and Diplomacy Don’t End U.S. Threats Against Syria

Larry Everest | September 30, 2013

“...both direct military attacks and U.S. imperialist diplomacy serve to enforce U.S. global domination.”

Many people hope—and some have vociferously claimed—that the U.S.-Russian agreement to strip Syria of its chemical weapons and to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council marked a victory for peace and the antiwar movement.

They argue that these diplomatic developments represented a fundamentally different approach than military threats, marking a turn away from war.

They are wrong.

The initial agreement between the U.S. and Russia (whatever that ends up being and however the various parties interpret it), Syria’s acquiescence, and UN involvement has not ended the danger of a U.S. war on Syria. Nor has it dialed down tensions between Russia—which has its own imperialist interests in the region—and the U.S. Instead, the U.S. and its allies Britain and France are using these as vehicles for continuing their aggression, threats, and bullying against Syria—all as part of efforts to maintain America’s imperial grip on the Middle East. (And even before the U.S. threatened direct military intervention it was carrying out great crimes in Syria and fueling the slaughter there.)

For starters, it’s illusory and harmful to discuss diplomacy—and laud its merits—in the abstract without analyzing the economic, political, and class interests and agenda it serves. Ongoing analysis at and in Revolution has continued to sharply identify that “bowing out” of the Middle East, allowing the region to spin out of (their) control, and allowing rivals of all stripes to replace them in dominating the oil-rich and geostrategic region is not an option for the rulers of a country whose stability and functioning depend on remaining the world’s sole superpower. And in that light, both direct military attacks and U.S. imperialist diplomacy serve to enforce U.S. global domination. (For an in-depth exploration of some of the contradictions facing the U.S. in the Middle East, and how to radically alter the current equation in the world, see Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian at

And U.S. diplomacy rests on blackmail and thuggery. Let us not forget that U.S. imperialist diplomacy, and sanctions, kill people in their own right. Some 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s as a result of U.S. imperialist diplomacy that imposed and enforced cruel sanctions.

U.S. Maneuvers on Many Fronts

The U.S. is maneuvering and intervening in Syria on a number of fronts:

  • On Monday, September 16, the United Nations released a report claiming it had confirmed that the chemical weapon Sarin had been used in Syria on August 21, but the report did not assign blame for the attack (whether the Syrian regime, forces aligned with it, some faction of the Syrian opposition, or another party). Nonetheless, the U.S., its imperial allies, and the media loudly trumpeted that the report pointed to the Syrian regime as the guilty party, as if it were a proven fact (when no such proof has emerged), and used these charges to further denounce, vilify, and isolate the Assad regime. Human rights groups have consistently accused all sides in the armed conflict in Syria of terrible war crimes.
  • For all the talk of a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian crisis and the horrendous suffering of the Syrian people, the U.S. is escalating its campaign to arm factions of the anti-Assad opposition in Syria, who are reporting that they are, in fact, receiving U.S. arms. On September 17, it was reported that President Obama waived a provision of federal law aimed at preventing the arming of groups designated as terrorist so that he could aid Syria’s opposition.
  • When the U.S. and Russia signed their agreement, there were mutterings that the U.S. was going to go along with Russia’s insistence that any UN resolution on Syria wouldn’t have language threatening force if Syria didn’t comply with the disarmament resolution. But from the start, the U.S. made clear that, UN resolution or no UN resolution, it claims the right to attack and that and all options are still on the table: “President Obama has made it clear that to accomplish that, the threat of force remains. The threat of force is real, and the Assad regime and all those taking part need to understand that President Obama and the United States are committed to achieve this goal,” John Kerry said. (Democracy Now!, September 16, 2013)

    Then, when the matter was taken up in the Security Council, the U.S., France, and Britain began clamoring for a resolution which did authorize an attack, which blamed the Assad regime for the August 21 chemical attack, and which raised the possibility of it being referred to the International Criminal Court for war crimes prosecution. (New York Times, September 17, 2013) Britain’s Independent reported September 18 that the U.S., Britain, and France are backing off their insistence that the UN resolution on removing Syria’s chemical weapons include the threat of force, but U.S. naval attack forces remain in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Even as there are stirrings on the diplomatic front between the U.S. and Iran, the Obama administration has repeated threats against Iran in the wake of the U.S.-Russian agreement. In a September 15 ABC News interview, President Obama stated that Iran “shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck [Syria] to think we won’t strike Iran.” And while in Israel, John Kerry stressed that the agreement should not be seen as compromising U.S. hostility toward Iran and its insistence that Iran halt its nuclear program. (New York Times, September 16, 2013)
  • The U.S.-Russian framework agreement puts demands on Syria that may be impossible to meet, including disclosing all its chemical weapons within a week. (The treaty banning chemical weapons allows 60 days for countries to account for their weapons.) Syria is called on to destroy its chemical weapons in nine months, yet the U.S. itself has taken the last 18 years to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpile and probably won’t be done for another 10 years. In addition, the Assad regime in Syria doesn’t have full freedom of movement and U.S.-sponsored forces could possibly act to impede Assad’s disarmament efforts. This could give the U.S. any number of excuses to claim the Assad regime is “refusing” to disarm or not “complying” with the agreement to disarm, and therefore military strikes or other forms of escalating aggression are called for. This is a method the U.S. and Britain perfected in Iraq, even as it was disarming and overwhelmingly complying with UN demands. (See “ A Lesson from History: Operation Desert Fox, Iraq, 1998.”)

Why Is the U.S. Doing All This?

Why is the U.S. doing all this? This is not fundamentally about whether Obama “wants” or “doesn’t want” peace. Nor is it fundamentally about the power of the Israeli lobby on U.S. policy, the corruption of the “democratic process” by the arms industry, or other phenomena that may be part of the picture, but do not define the basic motives for the U.S. The underlying economic and political forces at work are that that U.S. capitalism-imperialism’s global power and empire hinges in significant part on dominating the energy heart of the world—the Middle East—and as being seen as able to enforce its will and dominance when its core interests are at stake, and not allowing any other powers to be its equal or even perceived as being its equal, even as various agreements are signed and discussions held.

Any who doubt this, or feel the U.S. is going to passively let its Middle East stranglehold fade away, or its core allies—Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states—slide into jeopardy should just look at Egypt. The U.S.-backed military is now back at the helm after staging a coup that deposed an elected regime and then massacred more than 1,000 protestors and rounded up many more. All of this was done with U.S. backing and support, even as it was mumbling platitudes about “democracy” and “supporting the people’s aspirations.”

Some anti-war commentators have argued that direct or indirect U.S. support, to whatever extent, for Islamic Jihadists in Syria goes against the “rational self-interest” of the U.S. But these efforts, including U.S. intervention in Syria (which includes supporting Islamic forces) are not “irrational” from the perspective of the needs of the U.S. empire—even as pursuing them holds incredible and unpredictable risks. These are choices forced upon the rulers by the core dynamics and historical development of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, including its need to remain the world’s dominant superpower.

This is why the only solution to the ongoing horrors of U.S. wars, military assaults, and interventions is getting rid of the system that spawns them through revolution—nothing less, and why pleas to this most vicious global predator about its “rational” self-interest are delusional, disarming, and profoundly harmful. And why determined political opposition to a U.S. attack on Syria is so important.

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