The news that the Obama administration has finally agreed to a partial truce over Syria with Russia did not bring true relief to those concerned about the Syrian people or about the danger of a wider war. The confrontation between nuclear powers was at least postponed, and it may get worse yet. The anti-war and anti-imperialist movement in the United States better stay on the alert.
The Turkish army has been shelling Kurdish areas across the border and threatening invasion. The U.S. neocons are complaining that Bashar al-Assad is still president of Syria. The Saudi Arabian regime is reported to be seeking nuclear weapons. Peace hasn’t come yet.
In the corporate media’s current coverage of the war on Syria, there is an ongoing attempt to blame the Damascus government for everything that happens to the Syrian people. Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times correspondent who currently is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, called this coverage “one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the [U.S.] American press.” (Boston Globe, Feb. 18)
Since the corporate media’s coverage of Syria constantly distorts what is happening there, a review of recent history is necessary. In 2011, after a short period of unarmed protest, a conflict began between the regime on one side and armed reactionary groups of the al-Qaida type on the other. These groups were armed and financed by Saudi Arabia as well as Turkey and other NATO powers, and all were cheered on by the imperialists, including Washington.
The result has been nearly five years of a reactionary international war against Syria’s legitimate, sovereign government. Reactionary, sectarian fighters provided the “boots on the ground” against the Damascus government. The warfare has killed more than 250,000 Syrians, about two-thirds of them Syrian soldiers and pro-government civilians, and has driven millions of Syrians into exile, including into Europe, but mostly into the region.
U.S. imperialism and its allies, including the Turkish regime and the Gulf monarchies, are responsible for this horror. It was only in mid-2014, when the Islamic State group (I.S.) declared a “caliphate” and began to menace imperialist interests in Syria and Iraq, that Washington began to alter its uncritical support for the Syrian opposition.
But even when the U.S. claimed to be attacking the I.S., those in the U.S. establishment who never wanted to relinquish the goal of “regime change” in Syria balked. Despite the propaganda campaign against I.S., little was done to degrade these reactionaries’ position in Syria.
It was only last fall, when Russia intervened at Syria’s invitation, that the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah-Syrian offensive began to erode the military position of the Islamic State and al-Qaida-like groups. The neocons and all the imperialist strategists are frustrated by their inability to control events, no matter how much they destroy, as their experience in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Syria shows. They are all the more frustrated now that the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah for their Syrian ally has improved the chances for a victory over the reactionaries.
In that Boston Globe article, Kinzer argues that only by supporting the Syrian government forces can the Islamic State group be defeated.
Despite Kinzer’s rational argument, there is no reason to expect those in power in the U.S. would follow his advice. It would not be the first time in history that militarists overestimated their own ability to control events by using force. Let’s not forget that every European imperialist power before World War I believed it could quickly defeat its enemies.
On Jan. 23, while Secretary of State John Kerry was promoting peace talks about Syria, Vice President Joe Biden was in Ankara promising support to the Turkish regime, which had asked the U.S. to be more aggressive in Syria against Russia. Whether this two-sided approach is a negotiating tactic or a sign of a difference in the administration, it leaves the danger of a wider war in place.
Those inside the U.S. who want to fight against war can only take a short breath with the danger of a major war still in view. They had better be ready for whatever happens next, ready to stand up against any U.S., NATO, Turkish or Saudi escalation in their war against Syria and its allies.