Syrian conflict escalates, Communist Party calls for ceasefire & negotiations

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The situation in Syria is threatening to set the whole of the Middle East ablaze. The Communist Party of the USA reiterates, with eleventh hour urgency, its call for an end to the fighting, and a peaceful negotiated solution, in which all decisions about the future of Syria are placed solely in the hands of the Syrian people.

Since our last statement, issued on March 2 of 2012, the situation in Syria and between Syria and its neighbors has degenerated sharply. At least 70,000 lives have been lost and the number of refugees and displaced persons within and outside of Syria is now estimated at about four million, overwhelming the resources of neighboring countries and international organizations. Important infrastructure and cultural treasures have been destroyed in the fighting.

Within Syria, sectarian tensions have been exacerbated as Sunnis, Shias, Alawites, Christians and others have lined up either with the government or the rebels. Massacres have been carried out by both sides, and more are threatened. There is a real danger, also, that the Syria situation could re-start the internal war in Iraq as well as destabilizing the neighboring countries of Jordan and Lebanon.

Within the rebel forces, there is a fear that extremist Islamist groups are playing an increasingly important role. The al Nusra Front, believed to be connected with Al Qaeda in Iraq, is seen as an especially strong force. Other rebel factions have a more secular orientation, but it is not clear how strong they are.

The main source of direct aid to the rebels has been the group of reactionary wealthy states of the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Qatar etc. Major support is coming from Turkey also. The United States has said it is not ready to provide direct military help to the rebels, but there is plenty of evidence of other important US support. Major political groupings in the United States are pressuring the Obama administration to intervene directly by arming the rebels and establishing a no-fly zone. The argument is that if the United States does not arm the rebels, the radical Islamist forces in their ranks will gain greater power. But there is also an argument that arms the United States sends to the rebels will end up in the hands of the extremists of Al Nusra. Calls for the establishment of a no fly zone should also be resisted; the example of Libya shows that such a move would greatly ratchet up US involvement and intensify the conflict.

The latest developments include conflicting claims that either the rebels or the Assad government or both are resorting to the use of chemical weapons. And perhaps the most ominous development is that in the space of 48 hours, the Israeli military has carried out air strikes against Syria. The first strike hit vehicles which Israel claimed were transporting rockets to be delivered to the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, which is supporting Assad. The second strike, on Sunday May 5, was directed against a military research center in Damascus, and produced a huge fireball and scores of deaths. The reason Israel gave for the attacks was to prevent Syria from providing advanced arms, its own or Iranian, to Hezbollah, which both Syria and Iran deny.

It is easy to see how the current bloody stalemate could be transformed into a regional conflagration involving not only Syria but also Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and even Iran. It is hard to see how anything positive could come out of that; certainly it is not in the interests of the people of Syria. Aid to the rebels will only prolong the conflict and make any kind of a peaceful settlement even more difficult.

The push for US intervention ultimately comes from the drive by international monopoly capital and especially the great oil and gas extraction transnationals to control the resources of the Middle East and West-Central Asia. Leaders of the U.S. government and of both the Republican and Democratic parties are abetting this, against the interests of the people of the region and also of the U.S. working class.

The Communist Party USA calls for an 11th hour international effort to stop the fighting and to move the conflict toward a peaceful resolution. This means:

  • An end to outside interference including US help to the rebels, Israeli bombings etc.
  • Joint international action, coordinated through the United Nations, toward a cease fire.
  • Support for peaceful negotiations among the Syrian factions, toward a settlement that will be for the Syrian people alone to determine.

We call for the Obama administration to work cooperatively with the UN, Russia, China and others to this end.

PHOTO CREDIT: public domain, Wikimedia Commons