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Expand the war to Syria and Iran

Published Oct 30, 2005 10:25 PM

“When faced with an unsolvable problem—expand the problem.” This cynical political advice supposedly hangs on the wall of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office.

Today it is clear to the entire world that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is an unsolvable problem. It is a howling blunder, an arrogant miscalculation by the political servants of U.S. monopoly capital.

Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, has labeled it “the greatest strategic disaster in United States history.”

The war is a crisis for the increasingly isolated and beleaguered Bush administration, whose approval ratings have plunged to an all-time low of 38 percent.

The generals are complaining that recruiting figures are in a death spiral. The U.S. military machine is stretched beyond its ability to fill the next troop rotation.

Now the official number of U.S. dead in Iraq has passed the 2,000 mark.

In evaluating the orchestrated confrontations with Iran and Syria, which are increasing, it is essential to look at U.S. history. The latest threats of military action and regime change may seem to be political madness. But expanding the problem—or widening the war in the Middle East—is a dangerous Pentagon option that is now under active consideration.

From Vietnam to Cambodia

Thirty-five years ago the U.S. war in Vietnam became an unsolvable crisis for U.S. imperialism.

President Richard Nixon had promised to establish a stable puppet government and train a Vietnamese army to take over the fighting from U.S. troops. But the war was unwinnable because the Vietnamese resistance could not be broken. By 1970 the U.S. population had turned decisively against the war.

The Pentagon suddenly opted to “expand the problem” by invading Cam bodia, widening the war to engulf all of Southeast Asia.

Today, the corporate media dutifully report on endless charges that the resistance in Iraq is fueled by “foreign” insurgents and that both Iran and Syria are aiding the resistance. On Oct. 15 a New York Times headline read, “GIs and Syrians in Tense Clashes on Iraqi Border.”

Top officials discussed cross-border military operations and other “special oper ations” at an Oct. 1 White House meet ing. Two days later, Iranian President Ahmadinajad accused Britain of involvement in bomb attacks in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz.

On the diplomatic front the United States and Britain pressured the Interna tional Atomic Energy Agency board to overrule its own inspectors in order to push a discussion of Iran’s nuclear program into the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the UN, warned that if the Security Council doesn’t deal with Iran, its relevance will be damaged.

This is a clearly implied threat that the United States will act on its own—as it did in Iraq.

UN report charges Syria

On Oct. 22 a 54-page report delivered to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, a political appointee, blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Annan had appointed an international committee to investigate the assassination.

The Mehlis report is full of unsubstantiated charges based on secret witnesses and statements from exile groups in the pay of the CIA. Similar charges by the White House about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” turned out to be a total fraud.

Much of the U.S. and European corporate media are giving the same uncritical coverage to Mehlis’s UN report as they did to reports, leaks and interviews with right-wing exile groups leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The very day Mehlis delivered his preliminary report, U.S., British and French officials jumped on it to demand that the UN Security Council meet and take drastic action, including imposing sanctions against Syria. France, it should be remembered, was once the colonial power in Syria and Lebanon.

The role of the UN Security Council in all this confirms that Washington still has enormous leverage there—through economic, political, diplomatic and military pressure on smaller and weaker countries—to fabricate a crisis and push through its resolutions.

The choice of whom to accuse in the Mehlis report is highly political. It names top Syrian military officials and Pales tinian leaders, while linking Pales tinian and Lebanese charities to terrorist activities.

In order for Syrian President Assad to comply with the continuing investigation, he would have to turn over top officials in his own government, expel leaders of Palestinian organizations in Syria, and assist in the disarming of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The steps demanded of Syria amount to an all-out effort to topple the government and impose “regime change.” At the same time they further demonize the Palestin ian resistance and all Islamic aid organizations.

People’s response

The ruling groups in the United States and Israel clearly had far more to gain from the assassination of the Lebanese president and the resulting destabilization of the area than Syria did. While an all-out campaign has forced the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, it is important to remember that the same Western imperialist countries now denouncing Syrian interference in Lebanon continue to say and do nothing about Israel’s 38-year occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights.

The day after the Mehlis report was released, hundreds of thousands of Syri ans poured into the streets of Damascus and Aleppo to protest, rejecting the charges and the outrageous demands made on their government.

This is the real force U.S. imperialism is up against in the entire region. Every effort to pressure, weaken or overturn governments and destroy national sovereignty in the Middle East is an effort to push back the popular movements on which these governments were originally based.

As the struggle in Iraq has shown, it may be possible to sanction, starve and invade a country, overthrow its government and put the president in the dock. But it is a far more difficult task to subdue a whole people determined to resist recolonization.