As US imperialism carries on bombing Iraq and Syria on the pretence of “fighting Islamic State terror”, whilst in reality destroying more of Syria’s infrastructure and furthering its divide-and-rule agenda in Iraq, a deadly serious fight against IS continues to be waged by Syria herself, assisted by all the genuinely progressive forces in the country. In recent days, some of the most painful and significant developments in that fight have unfolded within the Palestinian refugee camps, in particular Yarmouk.
Joint Syrian and Palestinian forces expel IS from Yarmouk
For many years, the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria has been acknowledged as the symbolic capital of the Palestinian diaspora. Before the host country fell victim to imperialism’s proxy war against its leadership and people, the camp was home to as many as 160,000 Palestinians. Tragically, that number has now dwindled to only 18,000, thanks to the efforts of terror groups like Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) to seize the camp and transform it into a base of operations against, not Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but Damascus.
Sad to say, a minority of Palestinian militants have been so far swayed by the influence of the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood as to throw in their lot with groups hostile to Syria, groups which sided with the struggle against the secular and progressive leadership of Assad. Such reactionary elements invited JN snipers into the camp, and flirted with IS, dragging the camp deeper into the ditch of sectarian gang warfare.
The final straw was the wholesale invasion of Yarmouk on 1 April by IS, prompting the UN to speak out against “grave crimes” committed by IS against Palestinians. The invasion, triggered by sectarian differences within the anti-Assad camp itself, demanded a response, both from the Syrian army and from the vast majority of Palestinians for whom the enemy is, not the country which gives them shelter, but Zionism and imperialism.
A week after the mass incursion of IS into the camp, PLO executive committee member Ahmed Majdalani announced a joint Syrian and PLO plan to deal with the common enemy. He noted that Damascus had been dealing with Yarmouk “with a high level of sensitivity” out of respect for its special status as the symbolic capital of the Palestinian diaspora. However, now that IS and JN had trampled on all attempts at a political solution, it was time for all the counter-terrorist forces, Palestinian and Syrian alike, to stand together. PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi noted that
“Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIL out of the camp.”
Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Mikdad confirmed the joint plan, noting that the “Syrian government had used all its efforts to present humanitarian and medical aid to Palestinian refugees and that it had helped them exit Yarmouk safely,” adding that “Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk.”
Imperialist media distortions
Sad to relate, the imperialist media vultures have been able to swoop on some muddled comments from PLO circles in Ramallah which appear to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the agreement with Damascus, resulting in a crop of triumphant headlines from the BBC, Al Jazeera, Newsweek and the rest of the pack proclaiming “PLO says no to Syrian pact”. The Russian news outlet Pravda noted that, within hours of the joint declaration, ” the PLO in Ramallah effectively washed its hands of the matter, saying that it refused to ‘drag our people and their camps into the hellish conflict that is taking place in Syria’. Yet some sectarian Palestinian groups bear great responsibility for the Yarmouk crisis. They were the ones who invited Jabhat al Nusra snipers into Yarmouk, leading to Syrian Army security clamp-downs on the area.” (Tim Anderson, Pravda, ‘Divided PLO unable to manage Yarmouk crisis’, 14 April, 2015).
Happily these dispiriting and vacillating comments did not faze the progressive Palestinian militias who rallied to expel the common enemy.
” Khaled Abdul Majeed, secretary general of the Palestinian militia fighting the extremists, said Palestinian fighters allied to the Syrian Army were ‘not too interested in what the PLO leadership in Ramallah had to say about not entering the fray in Yarmouk’ ” (ibid).
Palestinian reinforcements were sent from Jarmana camp, whilst the PLA and the PFLP-GC made inroads on Palestine Street. The PLA and the Druze militia came together to back Syrian forces as they moved against IS in the south. Whilst fighting continues at the time of writing, and JN terrorists are said still to infest the camp, the united front forged in the heat of battle between Damascus and the progressive Palestinian forces bodes well for the future and represents another strong link in the axis of resistance.
Islamic State’s real parents
The discovery by the PFLP of some “strange ID cards, some written in Hebrew, scrubbed and dirtied, bearing the stamp of Israel on the dead bodies of some ISIS extremists” should serve as a reminder of precisely whose interests IS serves. As News 786 reported, Majdalani hinted at Israel’s involvement when he said that ” implicating the Palestinian refugee camps in current events in Syria is aimed at attempting to liquidate the Palestinian issue and ending the refugees’ right to return home”. The rabid dogs of IS and Nusra serve Mossad and the CIA, not the Palestinian self-determination struggle. (News 786, ‘Evidence of Mossad-Israel hand in Yarmouk incidents comes to light’, 9 April, 2015).
Ever anxious to falsify the birth certificate of Islamic State, ever eager to deny paternity of this obnoxious brat, the US, UK, France and Jordan have blocked Syria’s request to add the Islamic State to the UN’s sanctions list as a separate group rather than as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). What this seeks to obscure is the fact that IS did not evolve as a branch of AQI but was directly funded and supported by the US and its allies. A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the motive behind this sleight of hand is “to disclaim responsibility for the growing scale of Islamic State’s (ISIL) activities and prove that it is not a new entity that has been brought into existence by the implementation of plans to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”, thereby concocting the fiction that “the anti-Assad coalition bears no moral or political responsibility” for the creation of ISIL” (PressTV, 10 April, ‘US, Britain, France, Jordan refuse to name ISIL as separate terror group’).
It is inconvenient to admit to parentage of this monster, for example, when it is busy kidnapping 120 schoolkids in Mosul, the Iraqi city which the US is supposedly helping to ‘liberate’. According to the Times of Israel (and they should surely know), ” children aged between 12 and 15-years-old were forcibly taken away from their classrooms and loaded onto military vehicles by IS members. Local reports suggest that the children will now be made part of the Islamist organisation and trained as fighters, while those belonging to wealthy families will be released after ransom is paid to the militants” (‘Islamic State kidnaps 120 children in Mosul’, Times of Israel, 12 April).
Syria remains steadfast
Meanwhile, whilst imperialism gets on with its dirty tricks, Syria continues to combine a resolute military defence of her sovereignty with the quiet pursuit of a political solution to the crisis. April saw the second round of talks between Damascus and Syrian opposition groups hosted by Moscow. Qadri Jamil, the leader of the opposition Popular Front of Change and Liberation, described the Moscow talks as positive, but stressed that there still remain differences to overcome. “Overall, we can say that the conclusion is positive… We can say that we have completed more than 50 percent of the tasks.” In a subsequent article in a Lebanese paper, Syria’s deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad wrote that the negotiations had created an atmosphere of hope and optimism among all parties which are seeking to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. He also noted that “The Syrians, with the help of Russians, are the only ones who are able to restore security and stability to the Homeland through an inter-Syrian dialogue ” (PressTV, ‘Damascus gives positive assessment of Moscow peace talks’, 11 April, 2015).
US imperialism, both directly and via its stooge network across the region, can continue to spread chaos and terror across Syria, assisted in practice by its own unacknowledged but amply funded Islamic State footsoldiers. What it cannot do is break the national unity of the vast mass of the Syrian people, now more than ever closing ranks against the deadly threat of terrorist subversion in the service of imperialism. It is the Syrians alone, supported by their friends, who have the right to decide the future of Syria, and nobody else.