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From: The Socialist issue 870, 16 September 2015: A new era for the 99%

Search site for keywords: Refugees - Refugee - Military - Imperialism - Syria - Middle East - Iraq - Arms - War - US - Saudi Arabia - Libya - Asylum

Refugee crisis: Imperialist countries bear major responsibility

Robert Bechert, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

It is the ruling classes of the imperialist countries who bear the major responsibility for the current situation.

Historically, British and French imperialism largely drew the boundaries and initially created most modern states in the Middle East. Then, along with US imperialism, they worked to maintain their local allies and agents in control. Oil and weapon companies have especially profited from this region.

In 2014 Saudi Arabia was the world's biggest arms importer, spending $6.4 billion on weapons, 10% of the total $64.4 billion world arms trade. UAE imported a further $2.2 billion's worth.

But it is not just 'ordinary' capitalist trading that the big companies profit from. A year ago the EU's ambassador in Iraq, Jana Hybášková, told the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs that some unnamed European countries were buying cheap oil from, and effectively helping fund, Isis.

Significantly she refused to name who was involved. As usual for capitalism, profit comes before human or democratic rights.


However, when imperialism's interests are threatened they intervene, usually suddenly highlighting democratic issues as a smokescreen. But local despots could, and still do, rule unchallenged if they do not act against the interests of imperialism.

Thus Saddam Hussain was unopposed by western governments, in fact supported by them in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, until he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

It is US and British imperialism which, above all, have the immediate responsibility for what is happening now in the Middle East. It was their 2003 invasion of Iraq that set off a chain of events which, in the absence of a successful movement by the Iraqi working people themselves, has resulted in sectarian division, violence and civil war.

While fighting to defend the right to asylum, the demand for emergency programmes, funded by the rich and those which have profited from exploiting the Middle East, is essential.

Now we have elements among the imperialist nations trying to exploit the growing refugee crisis as an excuse to justify renewed military intervention in the region.

Under the banner of trying to help solve the crisis, France has announced that it will begin air strikes in Syria, while the British government has begun drone attacks and is considering asking for parliamentary agreement for wider air strikes. But this will not help stop the flow of Syrian refugees.

The addition of a few French and British planes to the US planes already bombing Syria, while adding to death toll, will not make much strategic difference to a situation that has spiralled out of western imperialism's direct control. The aim of Paris and London is to try to prepare the way for possible wider intervention and for the British and French governments to have more of a 'say' in what happens.


Socialists are clear that it is only the united action of the working people and poor in the Middle East that can end the civil war, defeat the sectarian forces, overthrow the tyrants, win democratic rights, and break the chains of imperialism and capitalism.

The revolutions that began in 2011 in North Africa and the Middle East gave a glimpse of how action by working people can bring change. Tragically many of 2011's opportunities were lost because the mass movement did not have a clear programme on how to achieve its goals.

To prevent that happening again the building of independent movements, with socialist policies and tactics, of working people is necessary. Such movements can put an end to the sectarian divisions, wars, repression, poverty and fight for a world free from capitalist exploitation where the use of the globe's resources is democratically planned in the interests of the mass of humanity and not the ruling classes.

Full article available on

A Socialist Party article 'Solidarity with refugees - Defend the right to asylum' can be read by clicking here.

Stop Tory military 'mission creep'

Prime Minister David Cameron is using the plight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to demand UK parliamentary assent for use of "hard military force" against Isis in these countries.

Cameron says the refugee crisis can only be resolved by ending the wars and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, etc, but then hypocritically supports the UAE and Saudi Arabia regimes' bloody military intervention in Yemen - creating a new refugee crisis.

The PM is still smarting from the government's 2013 defeat in the Commons to extend UK military air strikes in Iraq into Syria. But even before obtaining 'permission' he has ordered targeted assassinations of Isis fighters in Syria by pilotless drone aircraft.

Cameron's new political argument - that the refugee crisis can only be stopped by, effectively, fuelling sectarian conflict in the Middle East - is, however, perverse. 'Mission creep' by the Tory government will not make Iraq and Syria safe for persecuted religious and ethnic communities, but it will further the regional ambitions of the UK government and other western powers. Western controlled "safe areas" would be used as bases for further intervention.


But many western strategists, mindful of Libya's disintegration after Cameron's previous military campaign, are wary of getting too involved in Syria. Socialists are clear that only united action by the Syrian people themselves can crush both the tyrants and sectarian fanatics.

Scandalously, according to a BBC Newsnight survey, many Labour MPs appear set to defy the new Labour Party leader, Jeremey Corbyn, and vote with the Tory government for further imperialist military intervention.

Merchants of death

In March 2015, the UK government supplied Ł5.2 billion worth of arms export licenses to countries listed as being of "human rights concern" by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Russia.

And while wars and violent civil conflicts rage in the Middle East and elsewhere, creating a massive refugee crisis, arms manufacturers and sellers are raking in sales and profits. These 'merchants of death' will be displaying their wares at the ExCeL arena in London between 15-18 September.

British arms companies secured export deals for weaponry worth Ł8.5 billion and security equipment worth Ł3.4 billion in 2014, the second largest arms exporter behind the USA.

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