Syria airstrikes: Stop Imperialist War

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The British government is using the 13 November Paris attacks as a springboard for open inter vention in Syria. As we go to press, it looks certain that the House of Commons will vote to authorise British airstrikes on the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria. Prime Minister Cameron has been leading the campaign for Britain to join France, the US and other allies in their strikes in Syria. He laid out his seven-point plan on 26 November, confident that he will now win a parliamentary majority in favour of intervention, supported by a significant section of Labour Party MPs. Toby Harbertson reports.

Cameron is desperate for Britain to join the air campaign in Syria, in fear of British imperialism being left out of the new configuration of power and alliances being forged in the wake of the 13 November attacks. France, the US and Britain are finally having to confront the contradictions in their own foreign policies. Fomenting civil war in Syria to destroy the independent government of Bashar Assad has been a complete failure. IS has been the main beneficiary and has launched major attacks in Tunisia, Turkey, Leb a non, Iraq and France. The Syrian state still stands after five years of war. France is now moving to co-operate with Russia in the campaign against IS. Russia's strikes have been successful at beginning to damage IS, working as they are with the Syrian government and army.

The US-led coalition has refused to co-ordinate its strikes with Russia or the Syrian army, and has not bombed IS where it is fighting the Syrian army. Its contradictory objectives have meant little progress is possible. How ever, since the Paris attacks, the White House has described the Russian intervention in Syria as ‘appreciated’ – just weeks earlier they were describing it as ‘unhelpful’. Barack Obama met with Vladimir Putin on 15 Nov ember. It is this shifting of alignments which Turkey has tried to undermine by shooting down a Russian bomber in Syria (see page 9). On 1 November, Russia, the US, Britain, France, and China, along with Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, agreed in talks in Vienna to a timetable for a ceasefire between the Syrian government and the non-IS opposition, peace-talks and new elections. However, no Syrian representatives were invited. IS is not interested in talking about peace, and they remain the most significant opposition in Syria. The imperialists still insist on a ‘political transition’ – ie regime change. Iran and Russia have made it clear they will not withdraw support for Assad. Despite this, major imperialists are finally recognising that their Syria strategy for the last five years has failed. New alignments are on the horizon, and Cameron wants Britain to be centre stage.

The move to a vote in Parliament followed the passing of UN resolution 2249 which called for action against IS; this has swayed many MPs. Cameron assured Parliament that there were 70,000 moderate rebels in Syria, aligned to the Free Syrian Army, who could act as ground forces for the coalition, bypassing the need to work with the Syrian army. This came as a surprise to everyone. According to Dr Rumy Hasan of the University of Sussex: ‘The Free Syrian Army is dead ... We have had the supposed moderates join the jihadis, which is why American attempts to fund them were abandoned. They spent $500 million and they gave up because they were giving weapons to the so-called moderates who were just selling them to the jihadis ... I would like to know where [Cameron] got this number from because it’s absolute wishful thinking.’ Wishful thinking, or more lies to justify another intervention in the Middle East?

The position of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is clear. We oppose all imperialist intervention in Syria. The chaos and bloodshed in Syria and the wider region is the direct result of a century of imperialist meddling in the Middle East. IS would not exist without the imperialist powers. Britain played a major role in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the brutal occupation of Iraq in 2003, and the destruction of Libya in 2011. All these countries have become operating bases for jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda and IS. Britain has been involved in attempting to undermine the Syrian government for years, and bears direct responsibility for the creation of the strong jihadist insurgency.

Earlier this year, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed suggested that imperialist-led wars in the Middle East have been responsible for killing up to four million people in the last 25 years – since the destruction of the Soviet Union.* If this figure is correct, it means that British imperialism has been involved in the deaths of 438 people every day – 18 every hour – for a quarter of a century. Imperialism is clearly not a force which can play any progressive role. Ground forces with an understanding of local conditions are required to defeat IS. The Syrian army, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias and Kurdish fighters are best placed to fight them and win.

No to British airstrikes on Syria! Imperialism out of the Middle East!

*‘Unworthy Victims’, Nafeez Ahmed, Middle East Eye (8 April 2015).

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 248 December 2015/January 2016