The following is an extended version of an article originally published on workers.org
The Syrian “Civil War” has entered its seventh year. While the Syrian Arab Army and their allies have successfully liberated Aleppo and Palmyra, U.S./NATO/GCC proxy forces continue their bloody offensive against the Syrian government.
“Rebel” groups continue to rebrand and regroup into various coalitions. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front, i.e. al-Qaeda in Syria) has combined with several other sectarian Wahhabist groups as Tahrir al-Sham. Tahrir al-Sham, along with Wahhabist groups Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamic State (or Daesh), lead the charge against the Syrian government. Names may change, but their mission remains the same: the implementation of an Islamic state in the Levant, or in effect the destruction of Syria on behalf of the U.S., NATO, and their allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Israel.
The Syrian Army, with the support of Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, and Russia leads the charge against these imperialist proxy forces. Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and their fighting arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have carved out an autonomous region in northeast Syria. The YPG’s primary fight is against Daesh, especially in Raqqa; they have coordinated with both the Syrian Army and U.S. forces in this effort.
U.S. war crimes uncovered
Meanwhile, U.S. war crimes in Syria have recently surfaced. The U.S. government has admitted to using depleted uranium (DU) weapons in Syria in November 2015, despite promising in March 2015 that they would not use DU in Iraq or Syria. As Foreign Policy magazine reported: “U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 350 vehicles in the country’s eastern desert.”
The U.S. used large amounts of DU weapons in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999 and again in Iraq in 2003, mainly against tanks, as DU shells penetrate armor. Iraqi scientists found an increased incidence of cancer, birth defects and other health problems in regions where there had been heavy use of DU weapons.
Desperate, U.S. escalates conflict
As the Syrian Army continues its offensive against Wahhabist proxy forces, the U.S. grows desperate in its campaign against the Syrian government. On March 9th, an estimated 400 Marines were deployed to Manbij, Syria. A U.S. Air Force official stated that the purpose of the deployment is to aid the SDF in the fight to liberate Daesh-held Raqqa. The next day, 2,500 U.S. paratroopers were to be deployed to Kuwait to prepare for missions in Daesh-held Mosul, Iraq in addition to Raqqa.
While the stated reason for increased military presence is to fight Daesh, the U.S.’s track record of focusing its efforts against the Syrian government indicates that this is unlikely. In reality, the U.S. has already begun to build military bases in Kurdish-held northeast Syria. Washington’s temporary support for Syrian Kurds gives the U.S. an opportunity to gain a foothold in northern Syria. If the U.S. can wrest Raqqa from Daesh before the Syrian government can, they can carve out an outpost for the purpose of continuing anti-Syrian government operations.
However, this strategy may prove dangerous. Ethnic Kurds, who primarily inhabit Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, are an oppressed nationality in Turkey. Turkey’s Erdogan administration, a NATO member and an ally of the U.S., has denounced the YPG as a terrorist organization, especially due to its connections with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey. Thus, U.S. support for Kurdish forces in Syria may undermine their relationship with the Erdogan administration.
This would not be the first time that the United States has cynically supported Kurdish liberation movements for the purpose of destabilizing a country. In the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga militia was supported in their fight for autonomy from the Ba’athist Saddam government. Ironically, a famous photograph of Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld, envoy for then-president Ronald Reagan, was taken in 1983. The picture was taken as the U.S. sold gas that would be used by the Saddam government against the Iraqi Kurds, demonstrating that any U.S. support for Kurds is anything but selfless or benevolent. The U.S. continues to operate in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan as a foothold in the region.
The U.S. has expressed plans to prevent the SDF and Turkish forces from fighting each other, instead focusing on the common enemy of Daesh. Given that the U.S. and Turkish governments has covertly supported Daesh , this may prove difficult. The U.S. government, desperate to regain control of the situation in Syria, is caught in a jam. Both the U.S. and Turkey would like to liquidate progressive elements from the Kurdish forces, but it remains unclear the extent to which the U.S. will temporarily support the SDF in order to colonize Syria.
Hands off Syria!
As history has proven time and time again, U.S. boots on the ground bring nothing but death and destruction. Only the Syrian Army and their allies are capable of driving out Daesh and other reactionary forces. Daesh, with close ties to U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, is a creation of U.S. imperialism. It has its roots in al-Qaeda, which in turn originated from the Mujahideen, the sectarian forces the U.S. funded in the 1980s in order to destabilize the socialist government of Afghanistan.
The Trump administration, rather than being “isolationist”, has pushed the war on Syria even further. This is unavoidable, because imperialism is foremost an economic system; it is not simply a matter of policy. The concentration of capital into fewer hands and chronic overproduction necessitate constant expansion into new markets; this is why Wall Street and the Pentagon push for war. This imperialist war has created the refugee crisis, and the Trump administration responds with a travel ban! U.S. troops are allowed to invade Syria, but Syrian refugees are not allowed to come to the U.S.?
Ultimately, the only path to peace for countries like Syria is to drive out the imperialist powers and their proxy forces. As Mao Tse-tung once said, “U.S. imperialism is the most ferocious enemy of the people of the entire world.” It is the job for revolutionary socialists in the United States to oppose our own ruling class at home and say, Hands off Syria!
For more information on DU, see the video by Sue Harris, “Poison DUst”.