No to imperialist war on Syria! RCG statement on US airstrike on Syrian airbase

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On Thursday 6 April, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from US aircraft carriers and struck a Syrian airbase at Al Shayrat, near Homs, killing at least six people, and destroying six aircraft. This was the first openly acknowledged US military strike against the Syrian government in the course of the long war in Syria. Although the US and other imperialist powers, including Britain and France, have been funding and organising the insurgency against the Syrian government for years, this attack marks a dangerous escalation at a point when the Syrian government was beginning to win the war. This could drive further imperialist slaughter and barbarity in the Middle East and beyond. All progressives must oppose US airstrikes on Syria, and fight to build a real movement against imperialist war.

The decision to launch an open attack on the Syrian state was taken by the US government of President Trump following widespread reports of a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikun on Tuesday 4 April, which killed around 80 people. The Syrian government of President Bashar Assad was widely blamed by politicians and the press in the imperialist countries, although denied unequivocally by the Syrian and Russian governments. The area which the chemical attack – blamed on Sarin gas – hit, is largely controlled by the group previously known as Jabhat Al Nusra – formerly the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Before any facts about the attack could be confirmed and verified, President Trump transformed from a supposed ‘isolationist’ President, railing against foreign wars, to a keen imperialist, launching a military attack on a sovereign nation, in breach of international law. It is not the job of anti-imperialists to decide who launched this chemical attack, but to oppose its use as the pretext for a new imperialist war in the Middle East.

Support for the attack soon poured in from the imperialist nations and their allies. Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made clear that the British government ‘fully supports’ the US airstrikes, which he described as ‘wholly appropriate’. Jihadist rebel groups in Syria also welcomed the attack, with Ahrar Al Sham explaining that it, ‘welcomes any US intervention through surgical strikes’, and Jaish Al Islam stating that one air strike was not enough. Both these groups are funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, the brutal and reactionary state behind the current (US and British-backed) slaughter in Yemen.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn offered a weak statement of opposition to the action, but other top figures within the party couldn’t hold back their admiration for Donald Trump’s war. Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said the strikes ‘appear to be a direct and proportionate response’ and chemical attacks on civilians ‘must have consequences’. Former Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, known for his enthusiastic support for British airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria, and his attempts to unseat Corbyn, also backed the strikes. No significant opposition to a new war in the Middle East can be expected from a party which has a long history of supporting imperialist wars.

Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, which has been fighting IS and other jihadist groups in Syria alongside the Syrian army, has condemned the attack, calling it an ‘aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law’. Russian military personnel were at the Al Shayrat base when the airstrikes hit, although the US claims it had warned Russia in advance. Shortly after the attack the Russian government declared that this attack would ‘inflict serious damage on US-Russia ties’, and Russian military figures promised support to strengthen Syria’s air defences. With this airstrike, the US has seriously exacerbated the threat of war with Russia.

NATO imperialist intervention in Syria has been consistent and increasing since the war in Syria began six years ago. The war itself began in a large part due to NATO plans for regime change in Syria, and ‘rebel’ organisations were funded and trained by the US, Britain, and regional allies Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States, in order to launch an insurgency against the Syrian government. This failed strategy has led to years of devastation, and the rise of Jihadist groups such as IS and Jabhat Al Nusra. US and British airstrikes on IS targets in Syria began in September 2014 and December 2015 respectively, despite complete opposition from the Syrian government. A US airstrike hit Syrian troops in September 2016, killing 90 soldiers who were fighting against IS near Deir Ez Zor. Israel has conducted a string of regular airstrikes on Syrian targets, including recently in March 2017. US military troops have begun to amass in north-east Syria, with more than 1,000 troops stationed near the IS capital Raqqa.

The RCG condemns the airstrikes against Syria, and British support for these attacks. All imperialist plans for war are motivated by the need for strategic domination, control of resources, and the unfettered accumulation of capital. Real opposition to these attacks, and to all further steps towards a new imperialist war, must be built.

Hands off Syria!

Imperialism out of the Middle East!