29 May 2012. A World to Win News Service. The photos of dozens of dead little children – their bodies lying side by side in a row, each upturned face tearing at the heart of anyone who has ever loved a child and bringing to mind other children all over the world – convey only a part of the horrifying situation that the Syrian people face.
It may be that the Bashar al-Assad regime and/or its allies carried out the massacre in Houla, not as an act of madness or simple revenge but a calculated attempt to divert the anti-regime revolt into an inter-religious civil war. At the same time, the UN Security Council resolution condemning this crime is an obscene act of hypocrisy and worse. The US and Russia are trying to use this tragedy as an occasion to step up their contention and negotiations over who will dominate Syria. The interests of the Syrian people and the just demands of the movement against the regime, and the lives of the people, including children, count as nothing in this reactionary manoeuvring.
The Security Council resolution reflected not a concern with human life but the contest between the US and its allies on one hand and Russia on the other as to how foreign domination of Syria is to be divided up in the near future. Bizarrely, the resolution mentions Syrian government tank and artillery fire, and not the apparent close-quarter executions of many of the victims. This has allowed the Syrian government room to claim that the killings were carried out by “terrorists”, presumably meaning Islamic fundamentalists, an explanation for which no evidence has been presented. Western diplomats assert that the resolution’s wording was designed to gain Russian acceptance for what turned out to be a unanimous Security Council vote. But this unanimity had criminal purposes on both sides.
The UN pretends to be working for a peaceful solution to the crisis through a ceasefire, a kind of freeze-in-place. This is the least likely alternative, one that none of the imperialist powers involved really believe possible, and one that the US and its allies are working to make impossible. The US is determined that Syria, often described as a Russian “client regime”, will become an American client regime at any cost.
The US and Russia seem to be in agreement in seeking to preserve the essential structure of the Assad regime, especially the military and security forces, without Assad. How this could happen is currently being negotiated between the US and Russia. The US has a powerful argument: either Russia can accept some continuing influence in an American-dominated Syria, or it risks having no influence at all.
This situation was laid bare in an article in The New York Times (26 May 2012) that was in its own way as shocking and cynical as the Houla massacre, in terms of the future of the Syrian people. At the recent G-8 summit in Camp David, Maryland, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev told US President Barack Obama that Russia was not willing to see the UN Security Council authorize a regime change in Syria on the Libya model, where an American-led military intervention under the guise of protecting civilians allowed the US to topple a regime it deemed problematic. Russia apparently has come to consider Assad a “liability”, meaning that it no longer believes he can remain in power, but Moscow is not willing to be entirely forced out of a country where its interests predominate militarily (Russia has a small naval station, its only outpost in the Mediterranean), economically (Russia has extensive investments in Syrian gas and oil, and Syria is a leading buyer of Russian arms) and politically, although the US has also had relations and influence. Continue reading