Syria: The Long War that Never Ends

The following article was written before the Russian foreign ministry’s admission that several of tis citizens had been killed by US artillery fire and aerial bombardment; a fact which only goes to confirm the central message of the article that the conflict in Syria has moved into a more dangerous phase of direct conflict between the great powers. CWO

Don’t be taken in by appearances. Agreements, alliances, ceasefire projects, negotiated “solutions” to crises and wars: they are worth nothing if they clash with the imperialist interests of the powers who signed agreements and alliances sealed with a handshake between plenipotentiaries. Even diplomacy, talking of peace and negotiations, is an instrument of war and intimidation. Nothing, except lies, can come out of the logic of confrontation, of war to the bitter end, until imperialist goals are reached.

We wrote in Prometheus (No. 19, June 2017) that all the agreements on the re(dis)composition of Syria after the defeat of IS had little hope of success due to the pressing imperialist interests which triggered the birth of the Syrian crisis itself. We also wrote that the end of the Islamic State would not be the end of jihadism and that, regardless of these factors, clashes between the major actors of the Syrian tragedy would continue so long as the complex agreements did not work out to everyone's complete satisfaction. In fact, we wrote

Even so, it could be said that such a framework [of dividing Syria into zones - ed], in so far as it has any chance of becoming a reality after the recent US sanctions against Russia, would only be on paper whilst simultaneously opening the door to the intensification of armed conflict that would prolong the Syrian and Iraqi massacres for years, with a real risk of igniting the rest of the region. Unfortunately, the limitations of imperialism’s ‘negotiated solutions’ _almost always leads to the use of force, which destroys everything in order to rebuild it all in its own image and for its own interests._.

See Syria - the Final Chapter? at

No sooner said than done. The Sochi accords between Russia and the US have been ignored. The talks in Astana between Russia, Iran and Turkey continue, but by all three parties giving different slants on what is going on. In fact nothing is happening.

Just as the fight against the Islamic State was a fraud, not because they did not aim to remove it, but because it was an excuse in both Syria and Iraq, to pursue economic and strategic objectives which had to be achieved at all cost, whether the Islamic State existed or not. The few pockets of resistance of what remained of the ambitious dream of the "Black Caliphate" still serve to keep alive a war whose ferocity is equal only to the greed of the imperialist actors of the area. The United States was the first to muddy these waters.

On 8 February 2018, the US Air Force bombed Assad's positions in Syria under the pretext of helping the SDF (Alliance of Syrian Democratic Forces) troops which have always been allied with the US and who were surrounded by Assad's troops. The Pentagon had already announced its intention to create an army of 30,000 men in support of the rebels against the Assad government, with the active presence of a few dozen US military specialists and 2000 marines. As usual, the bombings have also hit hospitals, (not for the first time), civilian homes and indiscriminately killed a good part of the unarmed population. Washington's goal is to strengthen its ties with the PYD (Syrian Democratic Forces) who remain the only Kurdish formation in tune with the Pentagon's strategies. It also aims to strengthen its presence in the east of the country in order to thwart Iran’s objective of creating a corridor linking Tehran to Hezbollah in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria. At the same time this would weaken the Assad regime, create problems for Russia and prevent Iran from reaching the Mediterranean. In other words, the war is going on but without the alibi of the Islamic State. All the imperialist powers involved continue to fight for or against the Kurdish nationalists, who have been the key players in this war. They are the ones who have put troops on the ground but with little to show for it in terms of political recognition, despite having the military and political support of the American government. It is precisely for this reason that the Ankara government has made its move.

After threatening fire and fury for months against the Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian Kurds, as guilty of collusion, if not actually being collaborators, with the "terrorists" of the PKK, the Turkish government finally took action. Despite the American attitude, which in the final years of war openly sided with the Kurdish militias stationed on the borders of southern Turkey, and dissatisfied with the Astana agreements with Russia and Iran (which allowed Turkey control of only one small Kurdish area in Syrian territory), Erdogan has started a real war against the Assad regime and against the Kurds of north-eastern Syria. The attack is aimed at the Kurdish militias of the YPG (“People’s Protection Units”, the armed wing of the PYG - the Democratic Union Party).

The assault has the double aim of weakening the old enemy, Assad, and of dealing a mortal blow to the autonomous aspirations of the Syrian Kurds. The attack on the Syrian area of ​​Afrin, euphemistically labelled Operation "Olive Branch", aims to prevent the consolidation of Kurdish control of the southern border of Turkey in Syria’s north east. The operation also claims to be creating a "security buffer" of about thirty kilometres on the basis of the alleged or real alliance between the YPG and the Ocalan’s Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). It is no secret that Turkey’s involvement in the American-led Coalition was not in order to combat the "infamous" Islamic State, but to fight the Kurds of the PKK within its own territory as well as the Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish formations.

All this was without prior agreement with Russia. So it is no coincidence that, just days before the launch of the military attack in the Afrin area, the leading Turkish intelligence officer [Hakan Fidan] and the chief of staff [Hulusi Akar] went to Moscow for important talks about what strategies to adopt in Syria. Since Russian aircraft control the sky above the town of Afrin it is clear that Turkish fighters would not have ventured into such an operation without the more or less tacit assent of Moscow. Meanwhile, Moscow used the chance to denounce the United States as the architect of the reopening of hostilities and so put everything that had been agreed between them in doubt.

Then, as always, Moscow denounced Israel and its latest provocative military attack against Syria and Iran. Leaving aside the respective statements of the three governments, each of which gives its own version of the flight of drones and the downing of the Israeli fighter that violated Syrian airspace, the new fact is that the government of Tel Aviv is entering the war with the political support of Washington. This encroachment, linked to the downing of the Israeli jet, opens a "new" front. The action really began some time ago. Towards the end of 2017 military exercises were held in the Negev desert at the Israeli air base of Uvda with a simulated air battle with Russian MIGs and Iranian fighter jets. Dozens of aircraft from the United States, Italy, France, Germany have been training for weeks until November 16, with the participation of Poland and India in what has been called “Operation Blue Flag 2017". In total, 40 foreign aircraft and 30 Israeli jets trained on opposing sides ("blue" for foreigners, "red" for the Israelis) in an air war simulation under the strict technical control and with a precise framework provided by the Americans.

Israel’s war, in obvious and close collaboration with the American ally, aims to intimidate their Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah, and prevent its territorial engagement with Iran through the Lebanon-Syria-Iraq corridor. This tactic also supports American strategy against Russia and Iran, with the hope of gaining control, (at the end of the war?) of the piece of southern Syria that borders on Lebanon and thus bolster Israel’s controversial but strategic defence of the Golan Heights.

Nothing new, therefore, on the eastern front? A war of all against all? Quite the contrary. Tensions have intensified, the imperialist actors are facing up to each other with no holds barred and new supporting acts are joining the old ones. The old prey remains, but the vultures multiply in a spiral of barbaric insanity which is perfectly in tune with a capitalism that is willing to destroy everything and everyone in order survive its own contradictions. This means erasing entire cities from the face of the earth, forcing millions of people to flee. It means creating the conditions for the recurrence of diseases that seemed to have been eradicated forever and it means making death and devastation the setting for the umpteenth tragedy of humanity.


12 February 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018