US-backed crackdown threatens civil war in Ukraine

Johannes Stern

Photo: Pro-Russia protesters declare independent republics in eastern Ukraine: Reuters is reporting Pro-Russia activists occupying a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, on Monday proclaimed the creation of a separatist Donetsk republic.

Having received the green light from Washington and the European Union, the Kiev regime launched a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests in eastern Ukraine, threatening to provoke a full-blown civil war that could escalate into a war between the Western powers and Russia.

On Tuesday, government forces attacked and recaptured the Kramatorsk military airfield, which had been occupied by pro-Russian activists. Ukrainian forces were supported by fighter jets and helicopters flying low over the area, which fired on the protests. Russian media reported that at least four occupiers were killed in the operation.

The attackers were confronted with resistance by the local population, most of whom are deeply hostile to the coup regime in Kiev. RIA Novosti reported that hundreds of residents headed to the airfield in Kramatorsk to blockade Ukrainian troops. According to the agency, most of the people were civilians carrying Russian and local flags.

Pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine demand Crimean-style referendum

Johannes Stern

Pro-Russian protesters hold placards reading “Yanukovych restore
order in the country
” during a rally in eastern Ukrainian city of
Donetsk on March 22, 2014.
(2012: What's the 'real' truth?)

Tensions between the Western-backed interim government in Kiev and the eastern parts of Ukraine with close economic and linguistic ties to Russia are escalating, posing the threat not only of civil war in Ukraine, but of military conflict between the imperialist powers and Russia.

Yesterday, pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine’s industrial city of Donetsk set up a “people’s council” and announced the creation of a “republic of Donetsk.”

Three weeks after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine, the council in Donetsk similarly called for a May 11 referendum on joining Russia and asked Russia to deploy “peacekeepers” to secure it. A statement of the council read: “Without support it will be hard for us to stand against the junta in Kiev… We are addressing Russian President Putin because we can only entrust our security to Russia.”

The announcement followed the occupation of local administration buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and the eastern city of Luhansk by anti-government protesters on Sunday. Pictures and videos of the protests showed demonstrators setting up barricades and piling up tires and barbed wire, just as pro-Western protesters did in Kiev against former president Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted in a Western-orchestrated and fascist-led putsch on February 22. The imperialist powers’ installation of a far-right, anti-Russian government in Kiev, which quickly moved to eliminate Russian as an official language and impose IMF austerity measures on the working class, is producing an ever more volatile and explosive situation.

Obama and the Egyptian massacre

Johannes Stern

Recognize the moral sermons of Obama for what they are: propaganda in the pursuit of imperialism’s geostrategic interests.

Wednesday’s massacre of hundreds of unarmed protesters by the US-backed Egyptian military junta shatters Washington’s hypocritical claims that its Middle East policy is based on democracy and human rights.

Obama faced a dilemma as he spoke on Egypt yesterday, from his vacation spot in the multi-million-dollar mansion of a corporate finance manager on Martha’s Vineyard. Washington would have preferred to arrange a compromise between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of deposed President Mohamed Mursi. However, amid rising mass protests in July, it ultimately gave its blessing to a military coup, removing Mursi in order to preempt renewed revolutionary struggles by the working class.

Washington apparently failed to fully foresee the implications of allowing the military and its supporters in the liberal bourgeoisie to settle accounts with the MB. It now fears that with the latest massacre, the army has overreached itself, irretrievably destabilizing Egypt and undermining US Middle East policy.

Egyptian army coup topples Islamist president Mursi

Johannes Stern & Alex Lantier

The ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, following four days of nationwide mass protests, has placed power in the hands of a military junta which is committed to the defense of the economic interests of the country’s ruling class and to the geo-political aims of American imperialism.

The removal of the hated Mursi regime has evoked jubilation. However sincere and deeply felt this sentiment may be, the fact is that Mursi’s overthrow has placed the army, not the masses, in power. None of the essential demands that motivated the mass protests—for decent jobs, livable wages, adequate social services, and democratic rights—will be met by the military regime.

The military has intervened for one overriding purpose: to pre-empt and suppress the growing political movement of the Egyptian working class. The coalition government that it unveiled last night is in no way a genuine expression of the democratic strivings of the working class. Rather, the new ruling structure is a sinister coalition of reactionary forces, which includes long-time henchmen of Hosni Mubarak, various Islamic politicians, and several liberal politicians with close connections to the US-based International Monetary Fund. None of the individuals and organizations has either a mass social base or advances a popular social program.

European powers fund Al Qaeda looting of Syrian oil

Johannes Stern

A makeshift oil refinery site in al-Mansoura village, al-Raqqa
Photograph: Reuters / The Guardian

According to a report yesterday in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the European Union (EU) is directly funding US-backed Sunni Islamist terrorist groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. These groups are looting oil in parts of eastern Syria that they control and then re-selling it to EU countries at rock-bottom prices.

The Guardian writes:

“The EU decision to lift Syrian oil sanctions to aid the opposition has accelerated a scramble for control over wells and pipelines in rebel-held areas and helped consolidate the grip of jihadist groups over the country’s key resources.”

According to the Guardian, the main beneficiaries of the EU’s lifting of sanctions are the Al Nusra Front and similar Islamist terrorist groups.

“Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with Al Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups, control the majority of the oil wells in Deir Ezzor province, displacing local Sunni tribes, sometimes by force. They have also seized control of other fields from Kurdish groups further to the north-east, in al-Hasakah governorate.”

The EU’s decision to resume trade with oil fields held by Al Nusra explodes the lie that the imperialist powers are waging war in Syria to change the repressive character of the Syrian regime. In fact, they are building up and backing deeply reactionary and oppressive forces.

These events also expose the so-called “war on terror”—the claim that Washington and the EU are fighting Al Qaeda, which served as the justification for US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as a lie. Imperialism is arming and financing Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups that commit terrible crimes against the Syrian population, handing over its wealth to the EU and Washington.

The return of German imperialism

Johannes Stern

Peter Schwarz: German industry, government planning for resource wars

Germany is making intensive preparations to conduct new wars to secure resources. This was the unmistakable message of a lead article in Germany's business newspaper Handelsblatt, “Expedition Resources: Germany's new course.”

The article shows the real face of the German bourgeoisie. As in the first half of the twentieth century, when it twice played a central role in plunging humanity into world war, it is again moving to enforce its imperialist interests through war. “The previous political measures to secure raw materials are reaching their limits,” the Handelsblatt states. Dependence on raw materials is the German economy’s Achilles heel, the paper writes: “Industry is plagued by the fear that the high-tech sector in Germany could be cut off from essential supplies.”

The very same business circles that financed Hitler are again banging the war drums.

The article cites an interview with Dierk Paskert, the manager of the Resource Alliance founded in 2011. Members of the alliance include Volkswagen, ThyssenKrupp, Bayer and BASF—firms that either directly supported Nazi war plans, or whose predecessors did. Now they work closely with the German government to plan how Berlin will secure access to critical raw materials across the globe, by force if necessary.

German industry, government planning for resource wars

Peter Schwarz

Johannes Stern: The return of German imperialism

A year ago, leading German industrial companies launched the Resource Alliance (Rohstoffallianz) for the purpose of securing the supply of selected raw materials for its shareholders and corporate members. To achieve this goal, it is calling for the use of military assets.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, the manager of the Resource Alliance, Dierk Paskert, called for “a strategically oriented foreign economic and security policy” to ensure the supply of raw materials for German business.

Although this policy should be guided by the “objective of free and transparent commodity markets,” Paskert said, “it would be naive to take this for granted in the near future.” Developments had moved in “exactly the opposite direction, unfortunately.” Therefore, Paskert concluded, “we [Germany], together with our partners in the EU and NATO, must take on more responsibility in foreign economic and security matters.”

“Taking responsibility in security matters” is a euphemism for military operations. This is indicated by the reference to NATO, a military alliance. — Paskert is calling for resource wars.

Egypt’s President Mursi claims vast new executive powers

Johannes Stern

On Thursday evening Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, issued a new constitutional declaration claiming vast new executive powers. This comes amid a broader political crisis in Egypt, after Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza and amid the ongoing US proxy war for regime change in Syria.

The main target of the declaration is working class opposition to Mursi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB). In Article VI Mursi claims extraordinary powers, declaring that, “the president is authorized to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve and safeguard the revolution, national unity or national security.”

Mursi also re-asserts the powers he took from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta in a political coup in August, also granting himself further powers over the ongoing formulation of Egypt’s constitution.

Article II of his declaration states that all “previous constitutional declarations, laws, and decrees made by the president since he took office on 30 June 2012, until the constitution is approved and a new People’s Assembly [lower house of parliament] is elected are final and binding and cannot be appealed by any way or to any entity.”

Mursi’s declaration explicitly targets rival sections of the Egyptian state. Those are more secular-oriented bureaucrats tied to the army and the old Mubarak regime. The declaration states that the January 25 Revolution had tasked the president to “root out the remnants of the old regime from Egypt’s state institution.”

Mursi thus cynically evokes the mass uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak, which the MB initially opposed, to replace the Mubarak-era figures with right-wing MB cadres.

Obama threatens to invade Syria

Johannes Stern

Israeli-US script: Divide Syria, divide the rest. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)

The cynicism with which Obama is seeking to justify the next US aggression in the Middle East is staggering.

Yesterday US and NATO officials discussed plans for a US military invasion of Syria to bring down Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, after US President Barack Obama announced that the US was contemplating a direct attack on Syria at a press conference Monday night.

A delegation led by Assistant Secretary for State for near East Affairs Beth Jones discussed US military plans with Turkey. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Defense Department and US intelligence officials met their Turkish counterparts “to share operational pictures, to talk about the effectiveness of what we’re doing now, and about what more we can do.”

Senior US officials said that contingency plans for US intervention in Syria include scenarios requiring tens of thousands of American troops.

Imperialist powers manipulate Syrian peace plan to prepare for war

Johannes Stern

In recent days, the Western powers have stepped up efforts to foment civil war in Syria and prepare for imperialist intervention in this strategically important country. Media reports indicate increased fighting between Western-backed armed groups and the Syrian army, accompanied by terrorist attacks on government forces and civilians.

Heavy fighting has taken place in the Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria. The province has a 200-kilometer border with Turkey, where the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is based. According to the news agency AFP, “rebel” forces attacked military intelligence headquarters in Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, and the FSA launched a dawn assault on the nearby Minakh Air Base.

In another attack at Hreitan, an officer of the Syrian army and two security personnel were killed early Saturday. In Idlib province, one of the FSA’s main strongholds near the Turkish border, Syrian forces shelled an area held by the FSA.

Clashes and terrorist attacks have also taken place in central Syria. In several districts in the city of Hama, fighting was reported between armed groups and the regular Syrian army. The official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that 5 explosive devices planted by terrorist groups were dismantled in Homs. Over 100 people have reportedly been killed over the weekend, and thousands have fled over the Turkish border in recent days.

The US and its main NATO allies—France, Great Britain, Germany and Turkey—are leading the campaign to destabilize Syria. Together with the reactionary Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar, they are funding and arming the so called “rebels.” During the April 1 “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul, the Saudi and Qatari regimes officially announced they would put the Syrian “rebels” on their payroll, thus formalizing their status as a mercenary force of imperialism’s regional proxies.

The current offensive by the “rebels” and the reactions of their Western backers expose the fraudulent character of the six-point peace plan that former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan negotiated with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The imperialist powers never intended to find a political settlement to the conflict, as they claimed, but sought instead to create a pretext for further provocations against Syria, hoping to organize a Libyan-style overthrow of the regime.

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