[News] In wake of Syria peace plan, US steps up bid for regime-change

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 29 16:07:44 EDT 2012

In wake of Syria peace plan, US steps up bid for regime-change
By Bill Van Auken
29 March 2012


In the wake of the acceptance of a United Nations 
peace plan by the government of President Bashar 
al-Assad, the US, Western Europe and Turkey are 
preparing a meeting in Istanbul to escalate the 
armed campaign for regime-change in Syria.

The so-called Friends of Syria, a group led by 
the US and its NATO allies, particularly France 
and Britain, as well as Turkey and the 
reactionary Gulf states of Qatar and Saudi 
Arabia, is set to bring foreign ministers and 
representatives of some 70 countries to Istanbul on Sunday, April 1.

A French foreign ministry spokesman declared on 
Wednesday that the “Friends” conference will pass 
“judgment” on the Assad regime’s enactment of the 
six-point plan brokered by the United Nations 
envoy and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. 
There is little doubt that the imperialist powers 
and their allies among the Gulf monarchs will 
find Damascus guilty of violating the accord so 
as to justify stepped up support to armed groups 
seeking Syria’s destabilization and the downfall of Assad.

The six-point plan put forward by Annan won the 
support of both Russia and China, which had 
vetoed two previous UN Security Council 
resolutions demanding Assad’s ouster. Both 
countries pointed to last year’s Security Council 
resolution sanctioning a no-fly zone in Libya, 
which was exploited by Washington and NATO to 
provide pseudo-legal justification for an 
eight-month-long war to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

Annan’s plan, however, makes no call for Assad to 
step down, the key element that made it 
acceptable to Damascus as well as to Moscow and Beijing.

The plan calls for Syrians to “commit to stop the 
fighting and achieve urgently an effective United 
Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in 
all its forms by all parties to protect civilians 
and stabilize the country.” It also stipulates 
freedom of association and the right to 
demonstrate and calls for the government to 
provide a “list of all places” where it is 
detaining oppositionists and allow UN access to these places.

The plan proposes to initiate a “legitimate 
political process that leads to a democratic 
transition,” but demands of the Assad regime in 
this regard only that it “appoint an empowered 
interlocutor when invited to do so by the envoy [Annan].”

Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Monday, Annan 
allowed that Assad may be forced to relinquish 
the presidency, adding, “but it’s not up to me, it’s up to the Syrians.”

The plan calls for a “United Nations supervised 
cessation of violence in all its forms,” and 
states that the government should halt troop 
movements into major population centers, end the 
use of heavy weapons in these centers, and begin 
pulling back military forces from them.

As a transitional step, it calls for a “daily 
two-hour humanitarian pause” in the fighting to 
allow for the provision of humanitarian aid to 
cities ravaged by fighting, while working toward a full ceasefire.

Washington lost no time in declaring the Assad 
regime in violation of the accord. “Assad has not 
taken the necessary steps to implement” Annan’s 
plan, State Department spokeswoman Victoria 
Nuland told reporters in Washington Wednesday. 
Much of the Western media cited reports of 
continued clashes in Syria to make the same point.

For his part, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip 
Erdogan told reporters on a flight from Seoul to 
Tehran that he does not believe Assad will 
implement the plan, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Wednesday.

During a meeting with President Barack Obama in 
the South Korean capital, the two reportedly 
reached agreement on providing “non-lethal” aid 
to elements calling themselves the Free Syrian 
Army who have been waging an armed campaign, 
including terrorist bombings, to topple the Syrian government.

What kind of “non-lethal” aid can be provided to 
an organization that carries out car bombings and 
assassinations was not made clear by either 
Istanbul or Washington. The web site of the 
Turkish daily Radikal, however, provided this 
answer: “Senior Turkish officials are saying 
this: the unification of all the disparate and 
independently acting groups in Syria, each of 
which calls itself the Free Syria Army, under a 
single ‘command and control mechanism’ and to do 
whatever is needed, including the provision of 
the necessary tools and means, to achieve this.”

Radikal goes on to note that the so-called Free 
Syrian Army already has a center in Hatay in 
southwestern Turkey near the Syrian border, where 
it has been reported that foreign special 
operations troops are training and arming Syrian 
“rebels.” The aim of the “non-lethal” aid plan 
adopted by Obama and Erdogan is to establish 
“communications and coordination between this 
centre and all the groups bearing the same name.”

The US and the other NATO powers are determined 
not to allow a negotiated UN agreement to derail 
their drive to effect regime-change in Syria 
through armed intervention. The stakes are too 
high and they have already invested too much.

A key preparation for the “Friends of Syria” 
conference was carried out on Tuesday. A meeting 
of some 300 Syrian opponents of the Assad regime 
was organized by the Turkish government in 
conjunction with the Qatari regime in an Istanbul suburb.

The aim was to corral the disparate forces 
opposed to Assad into accepting the Syrian 
National Council (SNC) as an umbrella 
organization that can be declared by the major 
imperialist powers to be the “sole legitimate 
representative of the Syrian people,” much in the 
same way that the Libyan Transitional National 
Council was anointed in the run-up to NATO’s ouster of the Gaddafi regime.

The conference, however, underscored the absence 
of any cohesive Syrian opposition and the 
dangerous fault lines opened up by the drive to bring down the Assad regime.

Among the first to walk out of the 
Turkish-Qatari-sponsored gathering was the 
Kurdish National Council, which refused to accept 
the Syrian National Council’s leadership after 
the body blocked any introduction of the Kurdish 
question into an amorphous statement of 
principles that supposedly embodies the shared 
vision of the various groups represented.

A statement affirming the national rights of the 
Kurdish people, who constitute up to 20 percent 
of the Syrian population, was unacceptable to the 
leadership of the SNC, not to mention its Turkish 
sponsors. The Turkish government is waging its 
own bloody war against the Kurds inside Turkey, 
which has claimed some 40,000 lives since 1984.

The Erdogan government cannot accept an 
affirmation of constitutional rights of Syrian 
Kurds—a population that fled Turkish oppression 
between the 1920s and 1940s—for fear that it 
would strengthen the struggle of Kurds inside Turkey.

Washington has no intention of interceding on 
behalf of the Kurds. Erdogan boasted after his 
meeting with Obama in Seoul that it was “pleasing 
to see the United States at our side in the fight 
against the [Kurdish] separatist terrorist 
organization.” He said that Obama had promised to 
provide Turkey with Predator drones to aid in suppressing Kurdish opposition.

Others left the SNC unity conference protesting 
that the organization was entirely undemocratic 
and was dominated by the Turkish-backed Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the end, the conference approved an innocuous 
document vowing to support a “civil, democratic, 
pluralistic, independent and sovereign state” in 
Syria, while providing no concrete program for how it would be realized.

An unnamed Turkish government official told the 
Turkish daily Hurriyet that this was sufficient. 
“If they agree on a document that puts forth a 
constitutional vision that is endorsed by 
everybody ahead of the meeting of the Friends of 
Syria that will take place in Istanbul on 1 
April, then the SNC [could be recognized] as the 
sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

The official also called on the Free Syrian Army 
to stop operating as “gang-like” groups and subordinate themselves to the SNC.

A chilling indication of the character of these 
“gangs” was provided by the German news magazine 
Spiegel’s web site, which profiled the activities 
of a group of Islamist fighters who had held the 
Baba Amr neighborhood in the city of Homs before 
it was retaken by Syrian security forces.

The magazine interviewed several of these 
fighters in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. One of 
them, Hussein, said that he had been a member of 
a “rebel” death squad assigned to the execution 
of captured government soldiers and other 
perceived supporters of the Assad regime or those 
believed to be spies or traitors. He was quoted 
in the report as saying that he himself had 
decapitated four Syrian army soldiers with a knife.

He also reported that other “rebels” were 
assigned to an “interrogation squad” that 
tortured their captives until they confessed to crimes.

A second Free Syrian Army fighter, Abu Rami, said 
that the group had executed 150 men as of last 
summer, roughly 20 percent of its prisoners. 
“Moreover, when we realize that a Sunni is spying 
on us, we hold a brief trial for him,” he added, 
saying that another 200 to 250 people had been executed on this basis.

Both Russia and China have announced that they 
will not attend the “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul.

“Its participants aren’t looking for dialogue 
that could put an end to the conflict,” Russian 
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich 
told reporters in Moscow Wednesday. Russia 
boycotted the group’s February 24 meeting in 
Tunis on the same grounds. “On the contrary, it 
may pave the way for external interference,” he said.

Both Moscow and Beijing know that behind the 
“human rights” rhetoric about Syria, Washington 
and its allies are seeking to topple Assad and 
impose a regime dominated by Sunni Islamists in 
order to isolate and undermine Iran in 
preparation for war. The aim is not only to 
eliminate this key regional rival, but also to 
deprive both Russia and China of easy access to 
the region’s energy resources. Thus, contained in 
the imperialist intervention in Syria is the threat of far wider wars.

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