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Western policy in Syria is bankrupt. But that doesn’t stop the aerial attacks

Obama AssadThe US has been bombing Syria for over a year. Russia began this September, as did France. Turkey has strafed targeted ISIS positions in the country and Israel has also conducted air strikes on Syrian military installations. Canada has been bombing Syria since April and Australia since September. Jordan began a year ago as did Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. That’s eleven countries in total.

Britain’s Parliament voted two years ago not to bomb Syria, but a recent Freedom of Information request by Reprieve revealed that UK forces had in fact been bombing the country for some time, as well as carrying out Drone-based assassinations there. Parliament is likely to be given another opportunity to debate aerial bombardment sometime in the autumn, although given the way the last vote was subverted, a No vote is unlikely to constrain the Government entirely.

Why do so many countries feel the need to bomb Syria? Western interventionists claim this is all part of the war on the unspeakable ISIS, yet this is evidently not the full story given the US’s stated commitment to regime change in the country.

Aerial bombardment is a form of warfare that enshrines global inequalities. The lives of western armed forces are too valuable to risk on the ground. Casualties could generate popular opposition at home, forcing withdrawal. Bombing from the air, by contrast, entails less risk for the aggressors but significantly increases the danger to local civilians – ’collateral damage,’ in military jargon.

The recent US bombardment of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, causing 22 deaths, underlines this. Despite the fact that the organisation had notified the US, NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates – before and again during the attack – to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital, it suffered a sustained bombardment. In a contemptible attempt to obfuscate the circumstances leading to this war crime, the US changed its explanation four times.

US double standards are all too apparent in the Middle East. While highlighting the crimes of the Assad regime in Syria in dropping barrel bombs on its own civilians, it turns a blind eye to the thousands of civilian casualties its ally Saudi Arabia has inflicted through its bombing of Yemen. In one atrocity in September 2015, 130 people attending a wedding were massacred. Over 500 children have been killed since the air strikes began. The Saudis are also using US-supplied cluster bombs which are banned in most countries.

US attacks on ISIS have also killed many innocent civilians – twenty in one incident alone in September in Raqqa, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The idea that the US bombing campaign will act as a deterrent to ISIS recruitment is risible. In the first month of US bombing last year, ISIS recruited 6,000 new fighters. Over 4,000 coalition air strikes later, ISIS continues to advance in Syria.

On October 9, the US finally killed off its $500 million programme to train Syrian rebels. Last year, the Pentagon asked Congress to fund a programme that would train 2,300 rebels to fight the Assad Government. In the end, it managed to train only sixty. It’s hard to see where US strategy goes next. But one constant is continued bombing. And Britain may soon be officially joining in.

Syrians have endured four years of civil war, resulting in four million refugees. To live in peace – is that too much to ask? Three years ago, according to a recent Guardian report, Russia proposed a peace settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents that would have included President Assad stepping down. But, according to the former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, who was involved in the discussions at the time, the US was so confident that Assad would soon be violently overthrown that it rejected the proposal.

Progressive journalist Asa Winstanley observed recently: “Western powers seem to have a deliberate policy of not decisively backing one side or the other. The longer the Syrian civil war goes on, the less of a threat that Syria, Hezbollah and Iran are to the Israeli occupation. Embarking on a new or renewed bombing campaign in Syria will not help the situation, and will almost certainly make things worse. It will definitely create more refugees.”

The Stop the War Coalition is calling on people to lobby their MP to oppose the bombing of Syria. It takes two minutes – and might save countless lives. See:

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  1. Bazza says:

    Read an interesting piece in the latest New Statesman – apparently Russia”s aim is to help set up an Alawite type of Israel in the rich North of Syria (and remember Assad’s elite own a third of the economy) a Kurdish enclave, and to leave the poorer deserts areas to IS.
    The UK Defence Secretary recently lectured Russia that their intervention would cause reprisals so how would our bombing differ?
    We need a peace confrence with all the countries who are directly or indirectly involved plus you defeat IS politically by stopping them buying arms, selling the oil etc. they have stolen plus by winning the tribes against them.

  2. gerry says:

    This article is silly Stop the War propaganda, always blaming the US for everything wrong in the world…the US has blood on its hands re Syria but so does Saudi, Iran Qatar, Turkey, Russia, Assad, ISIS, Al Nusra, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, FSA,….there are so many sectarian sides in this civil war that virtually no one is acting from a morally clean standpoint…perhaps the Kurds, Christians and Yazidi are, but all three are catching hell from everyone.

    Readers, ignore this Putinite trash from Stop the War!

  3. Jim Denham says:

    The west has indeed been indecisive and treacherous towards Syrian democrats – and Labour’s betrayal of them under Miliband has proved disastrous. Buit we should not be taken in by the (ill-named) ‘Stop The War”s propaganda (echoed in the pro-Putin ‘Morning Star’): Putin is backing Isis just as much as Assad; as explained here:

    1. Mike Phipps says:

      I don’t speak for Stop the War but I believe they have made it clear that they do not support Russian bombing -
      It’s also stated in recent media reports that ISIS have made gains under cover of Russia bombing of their opponents in Aleppo province –

  4. David Ellis says:

    The revolting coalition of Putinites and Pacifists that makes up StWC once again calls for peace on Assad and Putin’s terms. They have marched in London side by side with Assad’s thugs and have blackguarded the Syrian Revolution from day one. They are complicit in Assad’s mass slaughter and like the hypocritical West that imposed sanctions on Syria for years to induce a revolution only to turn its back on it when it broke out preferring instead to pursue rapprochement with Iran are also complicit in the rise of ISIS. The left should have given unconditional support to the Syrian Revolution regardless of the machinations of imperialism and let us not forget that it is Russian imperialism that has blocked any kind of international action and which is currently bombing the hell out of Assad’s opponents which, incidentally is helping only ISIS.

    That said we must oppose any motion bought before the Commons by the Tories. It would seem that the motion will propose three things:

    A no fly zone; bombing ISIS; and the inclusion of Assad in a `peace’ deal.

    The bombing of ISIS will either strengthen ISIS out of fear of Assad or allow the genocidal maniac Assad to move into the hole it leaves behind creating a massive new refugee crisis not to mention many civilian deaths from the bombing itself as is happening in Iraq. Talks with Assad against the revolution are absolutely out of the question. He has murdered hundreds of thousands and created millions of refugees. The Syrian people want him gone. And the No Fly Zone will be agree with Putin as part of de-confliction and far from creating safe havens and protecting civilians will be aimed at the dismemberment of Syria at the hands of Iran and Turkey on behalf of themselves and their Russian and Nato sponsors.

    1. James Martin says:

      Which ‘revolution’ are you talking about David, as I don’t see one? Unless it is the ‘revolution’ in opposition areas that saw the expulsion of minorities like Christians (who are protected by the Syrian army)? Perhaps you mean the ‘revolution’ in Yamouk, the largest Palestinian settlement outside of Palestine, where the ‘Free Syrian Army’ battled the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PLO forces in 2012, long before ISIS was anywhere near? And guess who aided the Palestinian fighters in Yamouk? Well you would never guess of course, but it was the Syrian army. But hey ho, let’s not support secular and leftist forces, let’s turn a blind eye to the pogroms against minorities and Palestinians by these so-called ‘revolutionaries’ of yours so you can stoke your laughable Russophobia and turn a blind eye to the forces of reaction actually in your own country given yet again (and this is becoming so so predictable David) you don’t even mention NATO. But of course for you the main enemy is always abroad eh!

  5. steve mckenzie says:

    The Syrian army is still numbered in six figures. They have been boosted by the Russian bombing, had backbone injected into their ground forces by reinforcements from Iran’s revolutionary guard and still have the backing of Hezbollah.
    The creators on the Isis monster, US imperialism and it’s bag handlers do not have and cannot have boots on the ground.
    So the creators of Al Quiada and Isis become the sustainers, at least in terms of being a recruitment sargents thanks to the high altitude bombing, if not with direct military and financial aid, allegedly. They leave that to their friends in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Not to mention Turkey.
    As a few more RAF planes being flown by British pilots rather than flying USAF planes won’t make a lot of difference in the overall scheme of things, the question has to be asked, what is the British government playing at?
    Two years ago Cameron was thwarted from becoming part of the Isis air force by proxy surely this can’t be about post empire stress disorder> Surely it can’t just be about manipulating public opinion at home and political points scoring.
    But when you step back and look at the reality of the whole picture in Syria that is clearly what it is about

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