On 8 December the Syrian Arab Army secured the Kweyris army base in the province of Aleppo, bringing to an end an Islamic State (IS) siege that had gone on for over a year. Two days later Syrian and allied forces took full control of Al-Hader, just 15 miles from the rebel-held city of Aleppo itself and home to the largest concentration of terrorists in the south of Aleppo province, comprising a mixture of Al-Nusra and other islamist gangs. The rout of this motley crew and capture of Al-Hader have brought the Syrian army to within striking distance of the main Aleppo-Damascus highway, key to the liberation of the city itself.
Just a few days later came news of the local truce in the al-Waer district of Homs, effectively completing the long-awaited liberation of that city. Under the truce arrangements, endorsed by the UN, the last dregs of the terror gangs, some 300 fighters in total, were siphoned off to a rebel enclave in the north-west. Whilst the government’s immediate priority is to facilitate humanitarian assistance for a population for so long obliged to act as human shields for the terror gangs, the ceasefire document makes it clear that henceforth security now rests fully in the hands of the Homs General Intelligence Branch and the civil police. In short, by an astute combination of military pressure and local negotiation, the Syrian government has completed the liberation of Homs whilst minimising civilian casualties.
Syrian Arab Army advances shame imperialism
With the combined forces of the Syrian Arab Army and the air force of the Russian Federation now clearly turning the tide against the imperialist-backed terrorists who have for five years devastated Syria, the world can see what a fraud has been the supposed ‘war on terror’ waged for over a year by the US-led coalition. As Syria’s president suggested to a Sunday Times reporter, ” Let’s go back to the reality on the ground. Since that coalition started its operation a year or so, what was the result? ISIS and al-Nusra and other like-minded organisations or groups, were expanding, expanding freely. What was the situation after the Russians participated in fighting terrorism directly? ISIS and al-Nusra started shrinking.” (Interview with President Assad, Sunday Times, 6 December 2015)
The reality is that Washington’s much-vaunted coalition was never seriously concerned with wiping out IS, remaining obsessed with its real goal of displacing Syria’s legitimate government. At most, the intention was always to contain and direct IS, never to destroy it. IS is far too valuable as a proxy (fighting on behalf of imperialism), or a pretext (furnishing an excuse for imperialist aggression) for the West to relinquish its services without a fight, far less to stand idly by whilst Russia pulls it up by the roots.
So it was unsurprising that Russia’s agreement to lend air support to the Syrian Arab Army, a development which should on the face of it have been welcomed by the ‘anti-IS coalition’ with open arms, was instead greeted in the West with, at best, diplomatic grumbling and, much worse, ill-concealed aggression.
When a Russian passenger jet crashed in the Sinai, killing the more than 200 passengers on board, western media gave a collective shrug, in marked contrast with the extensive and emotive coverage later given to another probable IS outrage, the attacks in Paris. Without saying this in so many words, the inescapable subtext was that Russia had brought disaster upon herself by daring to respond to Syria’s plea for assistance.
And when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane over Syria, gloating as its bought-and-paid for Turkmen jihadis shot one ejected airman dead as he dangled helplessly from his parachute, all the media chat was about whether or not the Russian aircraft had brushed through Turkish airspace for 17 seconds or not, rather than questioning why Turkey, a key component of the US-led coalition, had seen fit to sabotage the Russian interrupt effort to bomb the convoys ferrying IS oil across to intermediaries in Turkey. How could any member of the US-led ‘anti-IS’ coalition see this effort as anything other than an exemplary move to staunch the flow of oil revenues sloshing into its war chest? Instead Turkey, the aggressor, submitted a huffy complaint to the UN, whilst Obama spoke piously of the right of nations to defend their borders, a right which for some reason seems not to extend to the sovereign nation of Syria.
The more threadbare its propaganda lies become, the more brazen US imperialism gets. When bombs hit Syrian Arab Army positions, killing three soldiers and wounding many more, under circumstances which in all probability pointed to the US-led coalition as the culprits, the instant reaction was to send out an anonymous military spokesman to brief journalists that the Russians were to blame.
Moscow, showing remarkable restraint in face of the multiplying provocations from the West, has not allowed itself to be distracted from its assistance to the Syrian Arab Army’s campaign against the terror gangs in Syria. The success of that campaign is doing much to divide and disorientate those who wish both Syria and Russia ill. The sharp exposure of imperialist hypocrisy over the supposed ‘fight against IS’, now that the world can see what a real fight against terrorism looks like, is making it increasingly difficult for Washington to make its war propaganda stick. There are even now patronising suggestions to be heard along the lines that Russia ‘might have a contribution to make’!
Erdogan’s oil scandal
Erdogan’s role in particular has come under withering scrutiny. Facing increasing opposition at home for having effectively franchised Turkish foreign policy out to the Muslim Brotherhood, his presidency is increasingly vulnerable.
Now that the Russian Defence Ministry has launched a direct assault on Erdogan’s own corrupt family empire, grown fat by servicing IS, this key US ally looks to be in real trouble. A report presented by the Ministry explains how Erdogan and his family benefit from oil products smuggled by IS from Syria and Iraq. The deputy defence minister, Anatoly Antonov, referring to corroborating maps and satellite imagery, concluded that ” A united team of criminals and Turkish elites, involved in stealing oil from its neighbours, is acting in the region. This oil is being supplied to Turkey on a large industrial scale via improvised pipelines composed of thousands of oil truck tankers.” Erdogan promised to step down if the report is proven to be true, a pledge he may live to regret.
Another casualty of events appears to be French foreign minister Laurent Fabius’ long held position that President Assad must give up office before any settlement can be achieved. The shock of the Paris attacks, taken together with the example set by Moscow’s brisk way with jihadis, seems to have prevailed upon him to change his tune. He recently was quoted as saying that he no longer believes the Syrian President’s departure is essential to any political transition. He has even ‘graciously’ conceded that the Syrian Arab Army might have a role to play in fighting IS, and the French air force is making a point of coordinating with its Russian counterpart. All of this is another sizeable nail in the coffin of the American Century.
Imperialist violence, whether delivered direct by US bombers or indirectly by terrorist proxies, takes on an increasingly spiteful and impotent character in the fag-end of US hegemony. As the inhabitants of newly liberated Homs started picking up the pieces of their lives in the days after the ceasefire, a vicious bomb attack pointlessly killed at least 22 people, injuring many more. The government news agency reported that the bombers filled a vehicle with 150kg of explosives. Other reports suggest that a bomb was detonated near a hospital. As is routine, IS claimed responsibility, but whether the culprit was IS, some other imperialist proxy or imperialism direct, the reality is that such nihilistic actions, with no conceivable military purpose, are expressions of weakness, not strength.
Syria sent a letter to the UN Security Council and to Ban Ki-moon condemning the bombing in Homs and urging the international community not to turn a blind eye to terrorism. In tune with this, Russia drafted a statement condemning the Homs attack. The UNSC rejected Russia’s statement out of hand. In such fashion do the actions of the ‘international community’ (tiny band of wealthy exploiters) speak louder than their words.
Dreams of annexation
Raging impotently at the successes of the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian air force, and at the durability of the Syrian government, imperialism still nurses hopes that it can gain by salami slices what it cannot win outright, looking to Turkey, Israel or the Kurds as possible instruments of annexation.
Turkey’s schemes for a ‘buffer zone’ on its border with Syria are well known. The role of Kurdish factions is more complex. The welcome liberation of Kobane and other areas from IS control by Kurdish fighters has been misinterpreted in some quarters as winning a Kurdish slice of Syrian soil, a misinterpretation much to the taste of US imperialism. Asked by the Sunday Times reporter what role was being played by the Kurds in the war against terror, President Assad simply noted; “The Kurds are fighting the terrorists with the Syrian army, in the same areas”. In response to the assertion that the Kurds were being armed and trained by the Americans, the President corrected him: ” Mainly by the Syrian army, and we have the documents. We sent them armaments, because they are Syrian citizens, and they want to fight terrorism. We do the same with many other groups in Syria, because you cannot send the army to every part of Syria. So, it is not only the Kurds. Many other Syrians are doing the same.”
The President expressed himself in a similar vein in an earlier interview with RT. ” For us, the Kurds are part of the Syrian fabric. They are not foreigners – they live in this region like the Arabs, Circassians, Armenians and many other ethnicities and sects who’ve been living in Syria for many centuries. It’s not known when some of them came to this region. Without these groups, there wouldn’t have been a homogenous Syria. So, are they our allies today? No, they are patriotic people. But on the other hand, you cannot put all the Kurds in one category. Like any other Syrian component, there are different currents among them. They belong to different parties. There are those on the left and those on the right. There are tribes, and there are different groups. So, it is not objective to talk about the Kurds as one mass. There are certain Kurdish demands expressed by some parties, but there are no Kurdish demands for the Kurds. There are Kurds who are integrated fully into society; and I would like to stress that they are not allies at this stage, as some people would like to show. I would like to stress that they are not just allies at this stage, as some suggest. There are many fallen Kurdish soldiers who fought with the army, which means they are an integral part of society. (‘West crying for refugees with one eye, aiming gun with the other’, 16 September 2015)
Stealing Golan oil
Common to all these dreams of balkanising Syria is the repetition in a thousand keys of the same tune: ‘Syria is not a real country any more and the normal rules of sovereignty no longer hold sway’. Some will even attempt to give the tune a ‘no borders’, ‘left’ counterpoint: ‘After all, since Sykes-Picot drew arbitrary lines in the sand, there are no real nations in the Middle East…’
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that, at talks in November, Netanyahu pressed Obama to give his blessing to Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights, stolen from Syria in the 1967 war. After that war Israel destroyed 200 villages and drove out 130,000 Syrians, leaving only the Druze population. (The latter now number 22,000, living alongside a similar number of illegal Jewish settlers.)
Sure enough, the Israeli prime minister argued that Syria was no longer a functioning state, allowing ‘for different thinking’. And as with Ankara’s jealous custodianship of Islamic State’s illicit oil trade, Tel Aviv’s annexationist ambitions mix lofty statecraft with filthy lucre. In October Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of US company Genie Energy, announced the discovery of “the potential of billions of barrels of oil” under the Golan; the government at once authorised the sinking of 10 experimental wells over about a third of the Golan. (Jonathan Cook, ‘Israel stakes claim to Golan after oil find’, Middle East Eye, 13 November). So it is that Zionist terrorism seeks to fund its plans for Greater Israel from stolen oil, just like its counterparts in Islamic State.
It is Israel itself which has ever since its violent birth been a dysfunctional state, raised up on the genocidal expulsion of countless Palestinians in 1948 and ever since serving imperialism as a permanent armed camp in the heart of the Middle East, tasked with holding back Arab and Persian development and keeping the region safe for monopoly capitalist domination. Yet this bastard statelet could not survive for six months without the lavish support it gets from US imperialism. And there is no guarantee that this unconditional support can be relied upon forever, so deep is the overproduction crisis into which the US is itself plunging.
It is in the context of that crisis that we must view the heroic stand being taken by the Syrian nation and its allies against imperialist subversion. Every day that Syria holds on to its sovereignty and independence brings imperialism closer to defeat, and not in Syria alone.
Victory to the Syrian Arab Army and Russian air force!
Death to Islamic State!
Death to imperialism!
As we go to press, news comes through that the UN Security Council on 18 December unanimously endorsed a peace plan to end the Syrian crisis. In a victory for Syrian steadfastness and Russian diplomacy, the US has been forced to renounce, on paper at least, its insolent insistence on the departure of President Assad as a precondition for peace. As Sergei Lavrov noted, the resolution is “a clear response to attempts to impose a solution from the outside on Syrians on any issues, including those regarding its president.” However Kerry and Co. try to spin it, the reality is that it is imperialism that has retreated from obstinately blocking the road to peace. Needless to say, the Istanbul-based National Coalition was not best pleased by this humiliation for US policy, claiming that the resolution “undermines the outcome of the meetings of revolutionary forces in Riyadh.” This further setback for the counter-revolution is welcome indeed.