The United States is doing its utmost to turn the horrors perpetrated by ISIS to its own best advantage, weakening the unity of Iraq and seizing the opportunity to lay waste Syria’s infrastructure, all in the hope of pushing on with its warmongering agenda against Syria and Iran and beyond. So much is clear. Yet it takes only a glance at the panic and splits enfeebling US ruling circles to realise that Uncle Sam, so far from calmly implementing the latest stage of his military grand plan, is constantly being forced to improvise, make the best of a bad job and repeatedly bark his shins on the indomitable axis of resistance, a genuine anti-imperialist alliance which exposes the phony anti-imperialism of the IS mobsters as the sectarian sham that it is.
Splits inside US ruling circles
The sacking of defence secretary Chuck Hagel at the end of November marked the continuing deterioration of relations between Obama and the Pentagon, with multiplying disagreements over what should be done about Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia. The previous month a memo that Hagel had sent to Susan Rice, the national security adviser, was leaked to the press. The memo slated Obama’s Syria policy for its lack of overall coherence. Hagel was Obama’s third defence secretary, and as we go to press his replacement has yet to be announced, with likely successors reportedly nervous of taking on such a thankless job for the remaining two years of a lame-duck presidency.
The vote by the Senate foreign relations committee on 9 December, authorising military force against IS for three years, might have seemed to be a ringing endorsement of military intervention. Yet the resolution, which struggled through on a 10 to 8 vote, also prohibited the use of US troops in combat. It was only by inserting this caveat that Obama was able to prevail upon his fellow Democrats to vote for the resolution at all. For their part the Republicans mostly voted against, precisely because the resolution drew the line at authorising US boots on the ground. In short, the resolution was a hopeless compromise which only served to reflect the unresolved conflicts within ruling circles over how best to serve imperialism.
Throwing good money after bad
Meanwhile, the proxy war against Syria continues to disintegrate into rival factions of marauders consumed by internecine strife, whilst the Syrian Arab Army, assisted by Hizbollah, continues to stand sentinel over the nation’s independence.
Plans to spend another $500 million trying to find 5,000 “moderate” rebels, send them off to Saudi Arabia for training, then bring them back to fight against the Syrian army, met with frank disbelief in Congress, with one Texan Republican asking ” How long is it gonna take before we get all of these people getting trained in Saudi Arabia back in Syria to fight? People are dying in Syria and the cavalry [is not] showing up till 2016 the way I understand it.” (ibid)
In reality the US-sponsored ‘moderates’, insofar as they can be said to exist at all, are becoming ever more marginalised, simply acting in practice as a conduit for arms to the jihadist gangs who really run things. As the CIA runs guns to some groups whilst suspending arms supply to those which lose favour, the process of indirectly arming the most efficient killers accelerates. One report suggests that many of the fighters in the provinces of Idlib and Hama have had their funding cut after Nusra gangsters plundered US-supplied weapons from ‘moderates’. Needless to say, getting made redundant from the CIA payroll wins few hearts and minds. ” ‘In November we received all kinds of support including salaries. This month support stopped completely,’ said Col. Fares Bayyoush, leader of the Fursan al Haqq Brigade in Kafr Nabel, a town about 20 miles south of the city of Idlib. ‘It’s a big mistake to cut off the aid,’ said Razan Shalab Alsham, the field director for the Syria Emergency Task Force, which coordinates relations between the Free Syrian Army umbrella group and US officials. ‘You are telling them to join the extremists. ‘”(Barry Grossman, “CIA cuts off salaries to 8,000 Syrian mercenaries”, PressTV, 11 December) This stop-go policy, symptomatic of overall imperialist dither, is guaranteed both to sharpen the competition between rival gangs and to drive all the gangs further from dependable Western control.
What’s more, Washington is now confirming what Syria has been clear about from the outset. The magazine Foreign Policy recently reported that ” a senior State Department official said that the country’s armed opposition will not be able to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now or in the foreseeable future, despite the existence of a Pentagon programme to train and equip 5,000 rebels per year. ‘We do not see a situation in which the rebels are able to remove him from power,’ Brett McGurk, one of the State Department’s point men in managing the ad hoc international coalition battling the Islamic State, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. ‘It will have to be a diplomatic process.’ ” (John Hudson, ‘State Dept: Rebels are never going to defeat Assad militarily’, Foreign Policy, 10 December 2014)
Islamic State: Assad sets the record straight
In an interview with Assad published in Paris Match on 4 December, the President spoke of the country’s long struggle against terrorism. Scotching the myth that terrorism only emerged as a response to the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations, Assad agreed “that there were demonstrations” but noted that “they were not large in number“, and that “even in the first days of this crisis we have been facing terrorism“, with “martyrs from the army and police“. He pointed out that ” the largest number of victims in Syria is among the supporters of the state, and a large number of those were killed in terrorist attacks.” The President correctly identified the proxy nature of the war Syria has been obliged to wage, noting that ” we are fighting states, not only gangs. Billions of dollars are spent on those gangs. They receive arms from different countries, including Turkey. So, it is not an easy war from a military perspective. ” But, he stressed, “we have to look at this war militarily, socially and politically“. For the terrorists, ” the major war for them in the beginning was how to win the hearts of the Syrians, and they have lost this war. The communities which embraced terrorists have become very small, and that is the reason why the army is winning “.
Taxed by the interviewer with the ludicrous charge that Damascus was somehow responsible for the scourge of Islamic State, Assad pointed out that ” ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006. It was the United States which occupied Iraq, not Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in American prisons, not Syrian prisons. So who created ISIS, Syria or the United States? ”
For those who might find the left-liberal wing of the UK press easier to believe than the leader of a progressive Arab country under siege, the same point was made repeatedly in the course of a Guardian piece based on a lengthy interview with a wavering IS member who spent time along with al-Baghdadi and numerous other fighters in the US-run Camp Bucca in occupied Iraq. He told the interviewer that the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. ” We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else. It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership .” Al-Baghdadi had a privileged place in the camp. ” He was respected very much by the US army. If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.” In December 2004 the US turned him loose, on the grounds that he posed no further risk. (Martin Chulov, ‘Isis: the Inside Story’, Guardian, 11 December 2014)
When it comes to fighting IS and its myriad of no less noxious variants, the US is coming late to the game and is not playing with a full deck. In hisParis Match interview Assad pointed out that “the number of daily Syrian air strikes against terrorists is larger than that launched by the alliance“, and in any case ” the alliance’s airstrikes are merely cosmetic” – i.e. they pretend to strike blows at IS whilst in reality are directing their attacks against Syria’s own infrastructure, striving to weaken Syria. Yet this barbaric assault on the Syrian nation serves only to steel and unify the Syrian people.
Moscow and Damascus back the road of diplomacy
The latest diplomatic effort to surface has been UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura’s proposal for localised ceasefires in distinct conflict zones, with the initial focus on Aleppo, Syria’s second most important city which has long been plagued by terrorist gangs holed up in some of its eastern neighbourhoods. Recent decisive battles have put the gangs, which had seen Aleppo as a stepping stone to Damascus, right back onto the defensive, a situation which doubtless encouraged the West to switch in public at least to the language of diplomacy. President Assad at once pronounced the plan ” worthy of study“, and by the end of November Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Muallem was able to announce that Damascus and Moscow had agreed to support the UN proposal for the suspension of fighting in Aleppo. The response of the ‘opposition’ has so far wavered between lukewarm and outright dismissive. Nevertheless, the prospect has been raised of Moscow as the venue for talks between the Syrian government and the ‘opposition’.
The EU grudgingly endorsed the plan on 15 December. Pressed by reporters to confirm that support for the UN plan implied an acceptance that President Assad had a role to play, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini spat out that the EU did not talk to the President but conceded that “he is part of the reality“! Quite so. For all of Mogherini’s bile about the EU working to bring about ” a Syria without Assad and without Islamic State“, the right of Syrians to choose their own leader is “part of the reality” with which both the EU and the US will have to learn to live.
Victory to the Syrian Army and people!
Victory to Assad!