Syria and the Downing of the Turkish Plane - the threat of war

by Memet Uludag - Irish Anti War Movement

29th June 2012

A few years ago, in Iran, a university student told me that "Each time the US and the West threatens Iran with military attacks, the regime tightens its grip on various social/political elements of life. They use the "being under attack" argument and call for national unity and support for the regime. There are various political elements challenging the government in Iran and the government uses every excuse to disable these, including the sentiment of unity of the nation under attack"

A few days after this conversation there were two news items in one of the Iranian TV channels. The first one was about Hilary Clinton’s statement on how US will "obliterate" Iran. The following item was a warning from the government. It issued a warning to the people about their relaxed dress code, and said that "non compliance" with the regimes dress code will not be tolerated". The news channel went on about the great state of Iran and the bad foreign influences on some people...

I think this little episode is very relevant to the current situation in Syria.

The details of the downing of a Turkish Military plane by Syria are still very vague. Despite the huge local and worldwide media coverage, a high profile NATO meeting and statements from various countries we, the people, don’t know the exact facts and details. Both sides are making conflicting claims about how, why and where the plane was shot down and it seems we may never know what really happened. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and, given the situation in Syria, an escalation of this "diplomatic" crisis to a full military operation or an all out war is a potential risk that will have appalling consequences for the people of Syria, Turkey and the wider region.

Despite the angry  statements and warnings from the Turkish government that Turkey will retaliate with military action to any provocative moves on the Syrian side, there has been no real push for an immediate military response to Syria. The NATO conference did not decide on a military operation and that offers a temporary relief for millions of people in the region. However, the rhetoric of war on both sides and the actions on the ground by both governments may yet prove that this relief is indeed very short lived.

The Turkish Army now has a significant and visible military build-up along the Syrian border. There are thousands of Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey just inside the border. Any provocative move could trigger an uncontrollable escalation of the situation. Although NATO seems to be reluctant to initiate a military operation, things could change very rapidly. There are some big nationalist media groups in Turkey that are continuing with the imagery and language of war.

As we follow the developments in this crisis, there are further, more serious and immediate consequences of this plane incident within Syria for the fighting rebels.

Within days of the incident the Assad regime has significantly changed the tone of their propaganda. Assad, as the Irish Times reported, declared the country to be "in a real state of war from all angles" He continued to say that "all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war." Since the beginning of the revolt Assad has used the language of anti-imperialism and national unity against the "terrorist" enemy within. As the rebel forces continue fighting against the dictatorship, with a strong chance of defeating Assad, and despite the killing of countless people by the army, Assad is "cleverly" trying to use this regional crisis to his advantage. While his army continues to kill people, he is now trying to rally his supporters against the "international" enemies and local "traitors" in the name of the homeland and the Syrian nation.

Assad has achieved his "war" against the West without actually having a war. The longer the "war drums" beat the more he will use this for his own benefit and escalate his brutal attacks on Syrian rebels and anti-regime civilians. He knows very well that as the fight with rebels continues he will be cornered more and more and his days may well be numbered. That is not to say that the anti-government people of Syria are not suffering heavy losses and thousands of people being murdered, but the rebellion has a strong chance to overcome the dictatorship and get rid of the Assad regime. At this point, any military attack on Syria would ultimately change the situation in Syria to an all out war and as a result drown the Syrian revolution.

The alternative to the Syrian regime is not a western military intervention. The Syrian people can achieve their self liberation. They can assert their own democratic rights and determine their own system of government without the kind of external interference which has proved so disastrous in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe the technical details of the plane incident are insignificant but this event could yet have far reaching consequences. Turkey should eliminate the war language from the diplomatic process and remove all military build-up from the Syrian border to prevent this incident from escalating further. Assad must not be given any chance to use this situation against the revolutionary forces in Syria. People in Turkey do not want a war with Syria.

When Hillary Clinton wanted to "obliterate" Iran, students in Tehran University suffered more. Afghani women are no better off now than they were before the invasion of their country by foreign forces. NATO is not a humanitarian aid group that brings peace and freedom to "others". It has no political, moral or historical mandate for a role in Syria.

The mainstream media will hardly ever report the struggle in Syria in terms of its class character. Dictators, their killings and war etc. are appetizing to the media bosses but the analysis of why things are happening and how they are happening are too "dangerous" for many to report. A foreign intervention in Syria will kill this struggle and revolt. None of the big players in the west would like to see working class, poor and oppressed people rising up and toppling dictators. The humanitarian banners of the US, EU and NATO, are a cover for their real aims: imperialist control of the country and the hijacking of the Syrian Revolution .

Our job is to support the people of Syria in their fight against dictatorship and stand against any foreign military intervention in Syria.

"No to dictatorship and no to military intervention" must be our slogan...