SYRIAN President Bashar al Assad's talks in London have injected a breath of fresh air into the sterile diplomacy of British imperialism. The young Syrian leader is renowned for getting straight to the point and his talks with Tony Blair were no exception.
Al Assad warned Blair of the terrible consequences of an American-led attack on Iraq and he spoke for all the Arabs when he called on Britain and the rest of the European Union to help resolve the Palestine question.
The talks were described as "realistic and constructive" and the government's commitment to continue its dialogue and engagement with Syria was one positive outcome.
The rest remains to be seen. The Syrian leader echoed the Arab fear that sooner or later the United States will attack Iraq whatever the outcome of the UN arms inspection. The hosting of a conference of Iraqi opposition forces in London this week in an attempt to establish a puppet government-in-waiting only helped undermine Arab confidence in the UN process. And the Ministry of Defence's claim that war was neither "imminent nor inevitable" is hard to square with reports that mobilisation has already begun including the hiring of troop-ships and the contacting of reservists.
At Labour Party Conference this year Blair talked big about British initiatives to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What we got after the talks with the Syrians was the feeble offer to stage a Middle East "peace" conference in London in January which excludes Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, has no Israeli participation as it clashes with the Israeli general elections and in any case will focus on "reform" of the Palestinian Authority, which barely operates these days as most of the "autonomous" zones are now under Israeli military occupation.
The fruits of war
In their wildest fantasies some American media warmongers are talking about Iraq being only the first stage in a much grander strategy - to topple all the major Arab governments in the Middle East and impose American control over the entire region. While these people are only armchair warriors trying to stoke up domestic support for the war the real fear is that they are expressing the very real ambitions of the circles that revolve around President George W Bush.
Warnings of impending disaster are dismissed out of hand. The immense might of the American war-machine, they believe, far outweighs the potential of protracted resistance from the Arab masses. The glittering prospect of total control of the global oil industry blinds them to the lessons of the past.
When the first Arab-Israeli war erupted in 1948 some Arab leaders warned that this would be the beginning of a conflict that would last over a hundred years. They were clearly optimistic.
The first war just involved the countries of the region. The continuing conflict soon saw Anglo-French imperialism entering the fray alongside Israel in the failed Suez aggression. This was later followed by the intervention of the greatest imperialist power, the United States, moving through its place-men in Tel Aviv to impose the will of the West and the big oil corporations throughout the Middle East.
Every denial of Palestinian rights by Israel and the imperialists; every escalation and every occupation has provoked resistance. Now the conflict spans the world through the followers of Osama bin Laden's Islamic order who have vowed to wage war against the United States. And as the September 11th attacks showed, within the United States as well.
Saner voices are being heard. In Britain and the United States some prominent politicians are urging caution and restraint on the White House. But only the mobilisation of the masses behind the demand for peace can stop the drive to war.
Public opinion in Britain and the European Union is still solidly opposed to military action against Iraq. Massive peace demonstrations in London and other European cities will be held early in the New Year. There is mounting opposition to the war within the labour movement.
We have the opportunity to stop this war before it starts. This war can and must be stopped.
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