|Prof Kamal Majid addresses the meeting|
A STOP the War Coalition public meeting: “Syria – Stop Western Military Intervention”, heard that a large majority of the British people are opposed to western intervention, and warnings of the war in Syria spreading into a major regional conflict.
The meeting was addressed by Professor Kamal Majid, an Iraqi journalist and member of the STWC executive, and Dr Issa Chaer of the Syrian Social Club, a group representing the Syrian community in Britain.
Kamal Majid warned: “A huge regional war is now a real danger, and I’m sorry to say that troops will be involved in that war, just like in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and British troops will die in that war. But he said: “A big majority of people in Britain are against western intervention, and an even bigger majority are against regime change in Syria.
“The most important thing for us as an anti-war movement is to oppose any intervention by Britain or the United States. It is not our duty to take a position on conflicts within these countries. The Stop the War Coalition should mobilise the people of Britain to make sure that Britain does not get involved in this war.”
Majid delivered a withering attack on western, and particularly US, policies on Syria, pointing out: “American special forces were active inside Syria before a single protest was held in early 2011 – the whole thing was started by the Americans. According to the Financial Times their foreign backers have already spent $3 billion arming them.
“Now Obama and Hague are accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, but remember that it was the US who used weapons of mass destruction in Japan, who used chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea. The Americans have had weapons of mass destruction all along,” he said.
He recalled: “At the beginning of 2012 Assad asked the opposition to stop fighting and negotiate, but they were advised by Hilary Clinton not to lay down their arms and to carry on with the war.”
Majid listed five reasons for the West’s intervention in Syria: “First to overthrow Assad and install a pro-western government which recognises Israel. Second, Syria’s oil and gas reserves after the discovery of new on and offshore fields. Third, to kick the Russians out of the Tartus naval base in Syria. This would exclude the Russian Navy from the region after the earlier loss of bases in Iraq and Libya. Fourth, to neutralise Hezbollah as a threat to Israel. And finally, to prepare for war with Iran. Although the US has spent $400 billion building bases near the Iraq-Iran border, they would still like to use Syria as a military base as well.”
He said: “The opposition forces in Syria have disintegrated, and Syrian and Hezbollah forces are advancing on strategic towns. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front haa now split, due to the links with Al Qaeda in Iraq, but some opposition forces are receiving tank warfare training in Israel.”
Majid pointed to recent statements by the head of Israel's armed forces that war with Syria could break out at any moment, after recent clashes in the Golan Heights. “When Israel bombed Syria several times recently, Clinton and Hague spoke of ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’,” he said.
“The main aim for all the West’s wars in the Middle East, in Iraq, Libya and in Syria is Israel, to weaken all the countries in the region except Israel.”
He said “Iran has a military pact with Syria to support each other against US or Israeli aggression, while Russia also has a Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with Syria”. However, last year the Russian foreign ministry said that Russia was not obliged to offer military support to Syria in case of external aggression.
He added that Israel has also asked Turkey if it can set up a base in south eastern Turkey to launch attacks on Syria.
Majid said the cost of repairing the damage to Syria’s infrastructure was now $200 billion, compared to Syria’s GDP of $14 billion a year. “But while increasing sanctions on the Syrian government, including medical supplies, the US and EU have lifted the embargo on oil exports from opposition-held areas, and sales of oil produced in Syria have been used to finance the Al-Nusra Front.”
Dr Issa Chaer of the Syrian Social Club told the meeting: “The Syrian people have always lived in harmony and been relatively peaceful among each other, but now Sunnis, Alawites and Christians are divided, and a civil war, an evil episode has begun, and we can’t get rid of it.
“We have foreign fighters coming to Syria, not to fight for freedom and democracy, but with an agenda of Jihad and terrorism. I agree that we should have freedom and democracy in the Middle East, but not at the expense of the civil liberties of others,” he said.
Chaer added: “Any international conference on Syria should involve all civil representatives. Arming any side in the conflict is a wrong strategy. We need to bring back peace and harmony in Syria through dialogue and peaceful political pressure, and to bring the international community together to resolve the situation in Syria”.
He said 2,700 scholars and academics had been murdered in Syria during the conflict. “Engineers have been leaned on not to work on roads and other facilities, under threat of being kidnapped, mutilated and killed. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,” he said, “never mentions these killings and mutilations.”
Chaer said: “Since 2011 William Hague has ignored repeated requests for meetings with members of the Syrian community in Britain who do not support the opposition.”
He added that when he tried to send medicines to his family in Syria, they had been returned by DHL with a label saying “it is not permitted to export these goods to Syria under EU sanctions”.
In a message to the meeting, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said he has asked Hague for a commitment that Iran will be invited to any international conference on Syria.