Aug. 11 — International attention is focusing on the coming struggle in the U.S. Congress to pass the Iran nuclear deal at the same time that the U.S. and Turkey have stepped up intervention in Syria. Under those conditions, we need to consider: Will militarist forces attempt to sabotage the agreement with Iran by provoking a wider war against Syria, which has an alliance with Iran?
Powerful forces with multimillion-dollar funding have lined up to place ads in newspapers like the New York Times and lobby Congress to stop the deal. Will these reactionary forces limit their actions to ads and lobbying? Or do they plan other actions?
This is a high-stakes moment. Powerful reactionary forces have been unleashed in Southwest Asia. They have been cultivated, financed and trained directly by the Pentagon in some situations, with a wink and a nod from secret agencies, or by Saudi funding or at Turkish and Jordanian bases.
These forces have a very concrete material interest in war, not in normalizing relations. It is estimated that there are 1,000 different mercenary bands and 100,000 well-funded fighters from 60 countries now operating in Syria. These are the very terrorists the U.S. and its regional allies are attempting to use as a pretext to further escalate the Syrian conflict.
Is a war provocation likely from U.S. economic interests that have an enormous stake in militarism? Might it come from countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia that are mobilizing against the Iran nuclear deal?
These are the concrete steps that raise the chances for a new and bigger war:
- The Turkish government has given the Pentagon permission to use two major air bases in Southeast Turkey, Incirlik and Diyarbakir, to carrying out bombing raids in Syria and Iraq. Six U.S. F-16s and 300 military personnel previously stationed in Aviano Air Base in Italy arrived on Aug. 9 in Incirlik.
- Washington and NATO are supporting the Turkish army’s new offensive and setting up a so-called “safe zone” in Syria on the Turkish border. Ostensibly directed at the Islamic State, these moves are really directed at Kurdish organizations fighting the I.S. as well as at the Syrian government. Turkey carried out one bombing raid against the I.S. and 185 sorties against the Workers Party of Kurdistan in Iraq.
- The Pentagon has trained a small number of mercenary Syrian fighters that Washington calls the “New Syria Force” and describes as “moderate” jihadists who are U.S. allies. The goal of the New Syria Force is to overthrow the Damascus government.
- While the ostensible target of the U.S. bombs is the Islamic State, on Aug. 3 the White House announced it has authorized attacks on anyone that shoots at the New Syria Force, including the Syrian Air Force.
- The Syrian government responded that it would oppose any military moves inside its territory that were not coordinated with Damascus.
An expanded war?
All the pieces are in place for an expanded war. All that it needs is the provocation. While the exact timing of U.S. military actions cannot be predicted, it is nevertheless important for the anti-war movement here to not be taken by surprise.
The U.S. corporate media can always be depended on to provide non-stop inflammatory coverage to justify U.S. war. They have already softened opinion opposing intervention in Syria by presenting the intervention as being against the Islamic State.
The cost of resistance to imperialist domination has been high for Syrians. More than one-third of Syria’s 23 million people have been displaced, and more than 250,000 killed in the war.
To the great frustration of U.S. imperialism and NATO, however, and despite many predictions of its collapse, the Bashar al-Assad government has survived more than four years since the attacks on it began.
There are opposing views and tactics among U.S. strategists on how to change this. But all options aim to increase U.S. domination of the entire region. All include destroying Syria as a sovereign state with an independent agenda. The policy of destroying Syria remains, whether by overturning the government or partitioning the nation.
The so-called ‘safe zone’
The 70-mile “safe zone” on the Turkish/Syrian border is a rehash of what in the past were proposed as humanitarian corridors, buffer zones, safe havens or no-fly zones. Claiming it is committed to defend such an area in past wars against Iraq, Libya and Yugoslavia has allowed Washington to carry out non-stop bombing and destroy the existing government. The promise in past wars was that protection through bombing would be a limited engagement. It has never been that.
TASS issued a statement from the Russian Commander of Airborne Troops Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov on Aug. 4: “The Russian Airborne Troops are ready to assist Syria in countering terrorists, if such a task is set by Russia’s leaders.” Later, Russian news articles reported that Syria has not asked for Russian troops or any other forces. But the general’s statement seems to be a warning.
IAC anti-war meeting
A meeting has been organized at the International Action Center on Aug. 11 to put these dangerous developments regarding Syria in perspective and to distribute them through social media to a wider audience. Speakers include IAC founder Ramsey Clark; Syrian American Forum spokesperson Dr. Ghias Moussa; Lawrence Hamm, of Peoples Organization for Progress; Margaret Kimberly, of Black Agenda Report; Joe Lombardo, of United National Antiwar Coalition. Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congressperson and anti-war and anti-racist activist, will speak via video.
The Forum is titled “Syria After the Iran-U.S. Sanctions Agreement; What’s Ahead: Diplomacy or Military Escalation?
Organizers hope that such anti-war alert meetings and mobilizations will be held to other cities.
The author is a co-director of the International Action Center and has been a leading spokesperson for the IAC for over two decades. Twice in the last four years Flounders has traveled to Damascus in solidarity delegations with Syria’s resistance to imperialist aggression.