Translated by Manuel Seguez Ocantos
Syria has become a disputed scenario for the local and international burgeoisie. The military confrontation between global powers may lead into a clash that can exceed the region. This works as an example of the barbarism resultant from the development of capitalism.
By Nadia Bustos (International Analysis Group-CEICS)
After Afghanistan and Irak, Syria. The refugees issue was key to make evident the state of devastation in wich this region and country actually are. It’s been 4 years since the conflict started and it has left a balance of 320 thousand fatalities. According to the United Nations, there are more than 2 million displaced people. Over the years, many opposing groups appeared trying to take some advantage of the situation. Syiria has become a disputed scenario for the local and international burgeoisie. This is a sample of the barbarism resultant from the development of capitalism.
It’s usually stated that the crisis began in march of 2011, albeit, protests against syrian government started much before than this. The preeminent demands were the liberation of political prisoners and the end of any kind of persecution to the members of opposing groups, this taking in account that The Assad family came to power (1963) banning political parties. NGOs like Amnesty International in 2007 and Human Rights Watch in 2011 reported the cases of torture and persecution to those who were against the government. The violent regime spare no expenses to supress the demonstrations using the security forces situation that extended throughout the territory reaching insurrectional levels in march. Protesters demanded the exit of Assad setting on fire governmental and regime linked company buildings in the process. Trying to contain all the claims, an executive decree was signed with the objective of raising public and temporary employees salaries, nevertheless the marches continued. 20 more deaths were registered in april due to the police repression.
Many alliances were formed during the conflict. Since the beggining of the revolts it’s possible to notice the presence of the Local Coordination Comitees, wich were more than 70 organizations distributed through the Syrian governorates leading efforts to prepare pamphlets, slogans and manifestations. These Comitees also counted with a media center to rebroadcast the news of the different regions of the country.
In june of 2011 the opposition made an attempt of unification with the “Conference for Change in Syria” held in Antalya, Turkey, where about 300 representatives of different groups met. Among them was Abdulhalim Haddam from the National Salvation Front, former vice-president of Assad during the 1984-2005 period, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Front’s ultimate goal was to establish civil freedom on Syrian territory. Initially backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia it never had much influence on the region. The “Damascus Declaration”, a representation of a number of opposing organizations, advocating for a more democratic and liberal change with a nod to the kurd autonomy also took part in the meeting1. The conference represented the first crack on the syrian burgeoisie support to the Assad regime, looking for a peace process through the capitulation of the government and a call to elections.
New measures to appease the demands were taken in july. An executive decree that permits the formation of political parties other than the Baath was approved. Furthermore Der az-Zor province governator was fired after a massive protest against him. However, this wasn’t enough to stop the actions taken against Assad government.
In mid-August of 2011 the National Syrian Council was created. The organization rapidly gained recognition, in part due to the support received by seven members of the UN. The SNC proppose a transition government in wich all the representatives of the opposition and the Assad people would have a place.
By the end of 2012 they were incorporated into the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, obtaining 22 representatives of a total of 60. The National Coalition was created in november of 2012 with the objective of giving support to the military forces struggling to end the Assad regime and to help with the transition to a “democratic and pluralist” State. There is a total of 60 members, including those from the SNC and delegates from the main Syrian cities. It also grants “humanitarian help” to the syrian population while coordinates the military efforts of the Free Syrian Army. The organization obtained financial endorsement from Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and Turkish banks and was recognized as the only legitimate representative of the syrian people by France. On the other hand, territorial intervention is planned with the FSA, another group composed of desertors from Assad’s army wich also received financial and material help by western and arabian
States. Many combatants were trained by the United States in the base placed on Jordan. In early 2014
it was estimated that the FSA represented about 31% of the syrian opposition being the leading force confronting the regime. However the numbers went down over time, partially because of the continuity of the conflict and the entrance of the radical islamic forces demarcating the limits of the imperialist strategy wich tried to create an addict coalition. European Union sanctions directed to the Assad rule came swiftly. In september of 2011, buying syrian oil was sanctioned. In addition, Syriatel (the most important syrian mobile communications operator) and Addounia ( tv company) along with other three companies linked to syrian army members. By december of the same year another round of sanctions were delivered including those directed to Sytrol and General Petroleum Corporation, both state enterprises. A prohibition to export supplies needed for the explotation of gas and oil was also ruled. In february of 2012, gold and other precious metals commerce and cargo flights were banned too. United States forbid any kind of transaction from local bussines with the Assad establishment and the importation of oil. The Arab League took cards too, for example, in 2011 decided to froze all the bank accounts and transactions from the Central Bank of Syria and implemented a trade embargo on “non-essential” syrian products. This means that the imperialism made a blockade to the Assad government with the ultimate purpose of taking the reins of a state deeply tied to Iran, thus approaching an exit to the Middle East political crisis and establishing its hegemony on a historically unfavorable region.
By 2012, the Al-Nusra front was the most important islamic organization in the area and an ally of Al-Qaeda. With ISIS gaining prominence, the struggle for the control of territory and resources rose. The Islami State quickly took over some oil fields and refineries. It is estimated that the Al-Assad regime bouth oil since 2013 and gas since 2014. In 2014 ISIS had control of over 60% of syrian oil production. Currently they control eight power plants, three hydroelectric facilities and the biggest gas plant. They also control cotton fields for about three quarters of the total production ¿What is their goal? To rebuild the State through the military way. The problem here is they lack of an own structure to organize the country.
Since the beggining of the conflict Obama demanded Assad to step-down. WikiLeaks sources indicate that United States, Great Britain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt had an interest in taking down the regime since some time ago2. Besides training the Fsa, United States, conducts the “Eager Lion” excersise, consisting in the training of soldiers from 19 countries in jordan territory near the syrian border3. The objective was to create an exclusion zone between these two countries boundries. The growth of ISIS was the starting point for international intervention in 2014. The US lead a coalition wich bombarded Islamic States positions in Irak and Syria. The first strikes were perpetrated by France on the twenty-seventh of september 2015. Holland asserted that the attacks were due to the worryings about the refugee crisis.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia financed the delivery of weapons to rebel groups in Syria and let them settle training camps on their territory as part of the general strategy of Obama to fight against ISIS.
¿What is Assad’s support? Russia, the historical ally of the regime. In october of 2011, along with China , Russia vowed to veto a UN Security Council resolution wich condemned Syria for the reppression towards the opposition protestors. Syria is the fifth importer of russian weaponry. In addition, there are investments made in the oil and gas fields. In 2012, the sending of a boat with russian arms caused something of a stir in the media. Something similar happened recently with the modernization of the base in Tartus (Syria), the only base Russian has in a foreign country. This base is of the uttermost importance because it allows a strategic positioning in the region and besides gives an exit to the Mediterranean Sea. By 2013, Syria and Russia signed an agreement that allowed russians to exploit a natural gas field in the Oriental Meditarranean. This was the first exploitation permit given by the syrian government. This benefit was extended to the Soyuzneftegaz company, with investments made in the syrian oil production. However, the agreement got frozen in september this year, taking in mind the instability of the country. In september, Russia began launching air strikes against ISIS. Nonetheless, there are sources that indicate that the bombardments reached some FSA positions.
Iran is also taking a part in the conflic. They provided military counselors and arms, credit and oil transfers. Troops of the Lebanese Hezbollah branch and ground forces from the Revolutionary Guard were also sent by the iranians.
Assad has no capability to hegemonize the region. ISIS appears as a counterweight for the regime and the powers with interests involved. The syrian war opened a dispute between the different parties who want to control te resources from this territory.
Behind the Scenes
The Syrian Civil War broke out by the time that the treatment for the Iran-Irak-Syria gasoduct is signed, with the intention of building it between 2014 and 2016 on the South Par field. The project also counted with the posibility of an extension to Lebanon so it could finally reach Europe, the exportation market of destiny. The gasoduct was en effort to diversify the european electric supplies besides the ones from Russia. The pipeline affected Qatar plans for making a similar development but going over Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, then Turkey and finally reaching Europe. This clearly states the interests of the two capitalist blocks in conflict: Iran and Syria on one hand and Qatar and arab countries on the other.
The syrian conflict caused the exit of various firms. Shell abandoned pol exploitation by 2011. China Petrochemical, with a part on Gbeibe and Al-Furat fields, left in 2013. Total, a french company, with investments on the oil and gas areas, left with Shell. ISIS control of the Hayan gas fields caused the retirement of the Hayan Petroleum Company. It was in this region that the Ebla project of natural gas production was being developed, now under the Islamic State control. Petrofac (british), PetroCanada (canadian) and Suncor Energy (canadian) were all taking parts in this project. Syria posses the 0,1% of world natural gas reserves. 35% of syrian gas is used to take better advantage of the pretroleum recovering. In fact, since 2008, the country imports from Egypt through the arab gasoduct.
For the syrian government, petroleum represented 20% of the income directed to the budget and Europe the target market. Syria owns only two refineries, one located in Banias and the other in Homs. The Homs refinery only worked during 2013 because of the nearby combats and the dificulties to guarantee the oil suminister from abroad. The Banias refinery is placed on a safer zone and is still working. Both facilities belong to the state company General Corporation for Refining and Dsitribution of Petroleum Products. Their refining capacities is not enough to cover the intern demand so in 2008 an agreement with the CNPC was signed to build a new refinery in Deir-al-Zor. Presently that project is cancelled, but the oriental power bets on the reestablishment of the Baath regime. In the meantime, the US and the EU aspire to take control over the syrian State as a mean to gain regional stability and as a destination for their own investments.
The knackered future
None of the parts involved ever thought that the conflic will extend so much in time. The decay of the syrian state and the apparition of ISIS is causing trouble to neighboring and western countries. The Islamic State now controls the resources of interest for the foreign capital. The creation of an international coalition opens the possibility to erode the positions of the different parties involved. The European Union, the United States and the arab countries agree on the exhaustion of the Assad regime. They weaken it with the opposing organizations and betting on a negotiation mediated by Iran. Russia’s intervention responds to their interests in the country, if they fight ISIS is to protect Assad. Russian intervention has proven to weak the Islamic State, but this only aggravates the conflict, because pro-western positions were also bombarded. The Syrian state decomposition lead to a general debacle of society where none of the involved forces can be imposed over the other. United States like France started to deploy troops before the failure of the creation of a “liberation army” strategy, this is, the backing of a local burgeois organization. With a decomposed national burgeoisie, the reconstruction of the capitalist State can only come from abroad. If a confrontation, wich is not impossible, between american and russian troops happens on syrian ground, it may lead to an out of control global conflict. This is what happens in a world of capitalist states that put profit before people’s life.