Corbyn and British airstrikes on Syria

On 2 December, the British parliament voted to support airstrikes on Syria by 397 votes to 223. The decision followed the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November and the unanimous agreement of the UN Security Council calling on UN member states to ‘redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts’ committed by Islamic State. Under the guise of fighting Islamic State (ISIS), British imperialism is undertaking its 50th military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa since 1945. The British ruling class has no interest in the fate of the Syrian people: its abominable treatment of Syrian refugees is testimony to its complete inhumanity. It is more than willing to ally itself with fascist Turkey, which is waging war on the Kurdish people, and brushes aside the crimes of the savage monarchy of Saudi Arabia, a leading sponsor of ISIS, in the interests of lucrative defence contracts. The destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in those countries show that imperialism can only offer barbarism as its solution to a deepening world crisis.

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Russian intervention wrong-foots NATO campaign against Syria

Russia bombs Syria

On 30 September Russian planes began airstrikes on the Islamic State group (IS) and other armed groups in north and east Syria. A NATO-led coalition of twelve international powers, including the US, Britain, and the Gulf Coordination Council (GCC), are already bombing Syria, with IS also the stated target. Unlike the NATO-GCC coalition, Russia began airstrikes at the request of the Syrian government. The reaction from the British and US leaders and press has been one of hysteria and hypocrisy. The US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, claimed that Russia's strategy was 'doomed to failure'. Unlike the NATO-GCC coalition however, Russia does have a clear strategy – to support and defend the Syrian government to win back territory from an array of hostile groups. This is in direct opposition to the NATO-GCC coalition’s real objective – to destroy the government of President Bashar Assad. In launching military intervention in Syria, Russia has sent a defiant signal to the NATO imperialists that they can no longer get away with their international reign of terror without resistance. Russia sees Syria as in its sphere of influence and has significant interests in the Assad government remaining in power. Russia,  a weak nuclear-armed imperialist power, is demonstrating that it will defend its own strategic interests with the significant military power it has available. The threat of even larger wars looms on the horizon.

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Syria, Iraq and Iran – which way for US imperialism?

March 2015 marked four years of war in Syria. Despite their best efforts, NATO powers and their regional allies have failed to replace the government of President Assad with one more pliant to their objectives. They have succeeded only in wreaking massive destruction and suffering, and mobilising and strengthening brutal sectarian forces across the region – particularly the Islamic State (IS). Iran – formerly NATO’s main enemy in the region – has managed to gain influence. This was not NATO’s plan, and some in the ruling classes are now pushing for shifts in strategy. Splits in the US ruling class have come into the open, with a powerful section pushing for the US to develop its influence over Iran. From this perspective, destroying the Syrian government can wait.

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Kurds lead heroic resistance in Kobane

Islamic State (IS) forces attacked Kobane canton in Rojava, west Kurdistan, Syria on 15 September 2014. Better armed than the Kurdish resistance, by early October IS had reached the centre of Kobane city. With his troops across the border from Syria, gazing on the battle before them, Turkish President Erdogan said, ‘Kobane may fall very soon.’ Eight weeks later and IS has been driven into retreat; the YPG (People’s Protection Units), the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), peshmerga from south Kurdistan and some members of the Free Syrian Army have fought heroically. Their fight is for all the oppressed people of the Middle East. Trevor Rayne reports.

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Syria: Huge blow to NATO powers

The policy of the US, British and French imperialists towards Syria is getting increasingly desperate. On 8 May the Syrian army retook Homs, once known as the ‘capital of the revolution’, through a deal with opposition fighters. A few days later, Iranian officials declared victory for the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah – the ‘resistance axis’ – in an interview with the Guardian (11 May). President Bashar Assad will stand for re-election on 3 June. Three years since the beginning of the war, the Syrian state remains intact, and the imperialist-backed rebels are losing ground, or fighting amongst themselves. Strategically, this is a huge blow to the NATO powers and an important success for the ‘resistance axis’. A frantic increase of support for opposition groups has been the imperialist response. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Syria: Imperialists on the back foot

In the imperialist countries media attention has shifted from Syria to the confrontation between US-European imperialism and Russia in Ukraine. Until recently, Syria was the primary arena for these same economic and strategic rivalries. The fall of the village of Yabroud marked a major advance for the Syrian army in winning back the country from the chaos and reaction of warring jihadist groups and other imperialist-backed bandits. The confused strategy of the imperialists and their clients in Syria has proved unable to deal a fatal blow to the Syrian government. Now, the major belligerents are shifting their strategy. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Syria: Going backwards in time

According to the UN Development Programme, Syria has lost 35 years of human development in just two years. Natalie Roberts, from Médecins Sans Frontières, explains that Syria’s health care system is ‘going backwards in time, at a rate of a decade a month’. The increasing influence of jihadist groups in the war in Syria, has led to continued fighting between opposition groups and sustained fighting has spread to Lebanon and Iraq. This was the context for the Geneva II conference at the end of January 2013. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Rojava: Kurdish revolution in Syria

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Rojava is the Western (Syrian) part of Kurdistan with a population of three million. Despite its relatively small size in terms of area and population, Rojava is today under attack by the reactionary and colonial forces in the Middle East. Embargoes are imposed and neighbouring countries try to isolate Rojava by closing borders. Puppet gangs are carrying out massacres.

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The plight of Syria's refugees - racism, poverty, and imprisonment

Three years of war in Syria have created a major refugee crisis. At least 2.3 million people have been forced over Syria's borders. Britain, France and other European governments are happy to fuel the war with money and weapons, but less generous when it comes to accommodating these refugees. The entire European Union has offered refuge, under a UN plan, to only 12,000 people – 0.5% of the total displaced. The vast majority are living in Syria's neighbouring countries. Those seeking to escape from these overcrowded and deprived situations face the militarised borders of the EU, immigration prisons, hostility and racism.

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Syria: Peace talks and proxy war

The Syrian government has complied with the Russian-US chemical weapons plan, destroying all its production facilities by the November deadline. The war has dropped from the top of the news agenda. The international struggle over Syria’s future has shifted focus to the arrangements for the Geneva II peace conference. Relative negotiating positions will be determined by the balance of forces on the ground which is shifting in favour of the Syrian Army. In the northeast, Kurdish forces have taken the upper hand. The strategy of the imperialists and their regional clients is in tatters and they are struggling to reverse this. In the midst of this brutal war, the humanitarian crisis deepens. Epidemics of once controlled diseases threaten millions, and the refugee crisis intensifies. An effective ceasefire and peace settlement would be welcomed. However, peace is not the primary objective as far as the imperialists of Britain, the US, and France are concerned. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Kurdish self-determination in northern Syria (Guest Post)

Down with colonialism and imperialist aggression!

While the contradictions amongst the imperialists and former colonial powers continue over their bloody war against the hegemony of Syria and the Middle East, in Rojava (western Kurdistan) in northern Syria the Kurdish people have taken into their own hands the struggle for self-determination. Through an uprising begun in July 2012, a democratic alternative, based on the people’s commitment to brotherhood and freedom, has been born. The Kurdish people have taken control of all important spheres of life, and started building councils, in which all regional ethnic, religious and social groups are represented. The Kurdish people of Rojava (West Kurdistan) are taking steps towards building an alternative way, a way that is completely separate from that of the imperialists and regional reactionaries. Inevitably, it is being attacked from all sides. All progressive and re­volutionary forces must therefore take the side of this revolution in Rojava.

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Syria: Changing context

The 29 August House of Commons vote against committing British forces to an overt attack on Syria was greeted by claims that it signalled the end of imperialism; ‘Once the West set out to conquer the world. Those days have gone for ever’, Andreas Whittam Smith announced in The Independent on 10 September 2013. He argued that public opinion had stopped governments from launching another war. The Stop the War coalition platform speakers in Trafalgar Square on 31 August proclaimed the end of the special relationship with the US and beginning of an independent British foreign policy. The idea that imperialism has ended with a vote in Parliament and in accordance with the majority of public opinion is ridiculous. The British state is imperialist and imperialism sustains the existence of the British ruling class. Britain’s covert war against Syria will continue and, for as long as the US and British ruling classes consider their special relationship to be to their benefit, so it too will continue. However, Trevor Rayne argues, the disputes among the US and European ruling classes do signal that a change has taken place in the decade since the war on Iraq in 2003.

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War in Syria Imperialists enforce their own chemical weapons monopoly

The war in Syria has exposed significant splits in the imperialist ruling classes, with divisions emerging about how best to achieve their objectives in the Middle East. Following a rabid push for open war by David Cameron, Barack Obama, and François Hollande, first Cameron, and then Obama, were blocked from carrying out air-strikes and missile attacks by resistance within their own political establishments. Neither could present a coherent strategy for open military intervention, or explain how this war would not go the chaotic way of Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. In proposing a diplomatic solution, Russia gained political standing and offered a way out for Obama who was isolated. Now, the imperialists will try to tip the balance of forces against the Syrian government in other ways. Britain has played a central role in the campaign to destroy Syria for more than two years through support for opposition groups, sanctions, and special forces involvement. Along with the US, France, Israel and others, they will continue their campaign to destroy the Syrian government. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Syria - British government forced back from open war by ruling class splits

In his anxiety to speed up the military attack on Syria, Prime Minister Cameron shot himself and British imperialism in the foot. The House of Commons vote on 29 August was lost 285 to 272, with the British Parliament rejecting increased and overt military intervention in Syria. Many of Cameron's own party voted against the government's motion. Britain will now be unable openly to take part in military action without a further vote – something the humiliated Coalition government is unlikely to rush into again. The British state will continue to wage covert war.

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Syria: International proxy war

UN peace talks aimed at ending the war in Syria continue to be pushed back indefinitely. The major imperialist powers have instead focused on war. June’s ‘Operation Eager Lion 13’ demonstrated their intentions when the armies of Britain, the US, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and 12 others gathered for huge military exercises in Jordan, close to Syria’s border. Soon afterwards, Israel launched its fourth attack on Syria this year, targeting Russian missiles. The Syrian government’s recent major military gains, supported by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have forced the imperialists into further action in their campaign against the ‘resistance axis’ of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. These forces oppose the complete hegemony of imperialism over this region and its resources. In a time of desperate capitalist crisis, this resistance will not be accepted. The war in Syria has gigantic international stakes, and is accordingly being waged by numerous international powers. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Syria: Israel attacks

On 5 May Israeli fighter planes launched massive air strikes on targets near Syria’s capital Damascus. Accounts of the number of targets vary, but it was reported that at least 43 Syrian soldiers were killed at Jamraya Scientific Studies and Research Centre. This followed Israeli air strikes two days before, and came at the end of a week in which Israeli jets violated Lebanese airspace daily. Coming at a pivotal moment in the war for Syria, as government forces began to overturn gains of the ‘rebel’ militias, and in the midst of the orchestrated chemical weapons scare, the imperialists wanted decisive action. Competition for oil and gas and markets underline this recent escalation. The aim of the imperialist and Zionist agenda to destroy the ‘resistance-axis’ of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah has been openly revealed.

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Syria: the British ruling class steps up its offensive

The British state intends to reaffirm its influence in the central Middle East, as it did in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. This agreement was secretly negotiated between British and French diplomats who drew a line across the region, roughly along Syria’s south-eastern border. North of the line was to be the French sphere of influence, and south was Britain’s. Today, with the same contemptuous disregard for human life, these two imperialist powers are at the forefront of the struggle to dismember Syria, motivated by the same fight for resources and strategic dominance. Working to get around the EU arms embargo through legal and illegal means, arming opposition forces, which it has nurtured, the British state is stepping up its offensive against Syria.

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A dilemma for imperialism in Syria

US and European imperialism remain intent on removing the Ba’athist state in Syria. The military build-up on Syria’s borders increases with the deployment of US, German, and Dutch Patriot missiles. However, the imperialists face a problem: they have not been able to construct, and they cannot foresee, a reliable replacement for the Syrian government. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), which the imperialists and their Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) allies have funded, has turned into packs of looting gangs and the main fighting force for the opposition has become the fundamentalist militia, the Jahbat Al Nusra (JN), which is both unreliable and unpopular with the population in the areas it has occupied. Atrocities committed by the opposition forces are turning the people against them.

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Syria: British imperialism takes the centre stage

As the war in Syria continues, British Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear the central role British imperialism intends to play in managing the overthrow of the Syrian government, and in grooming the replacement. The stage has been set, with hundreds of British and US troops stationed on Syria’s borders, and a huge military build-up on the northern border with Turkey. Just hours after the election of the US president a marked escalation in the imperialist aggression towards Syria was evident. Following months of stalemate, with imperialist intervention limited to covert support, an opposition government was needed to be the public face of imperialist regime-change. Cue the Doha conference, a NATO-backed summit to forge artificial unity between opposition factions at all costs. Could the new National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition (NCRFSO) be the final vehicle for London, Washington and Paris to ride into Syria?

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Syria: covert intervention and the failure of the British left

Conflict in Syria has raged for 18 months. International and regional powers, whilst talking of ‘diplomatic solutions’ and ‘ceasefire’, continue to stoke an unpredictable fire which could engulf the entire Middle East. Competing warships manoeuvre in the eastern Mediterranean, signalling the scale of the interests involved. Different imperialist powers are sponsoring different interventions, while Russia and China continue to resist these attacks on Syrian sovereignty and their own strategic and economic interests. The scale of the human suffering increases and the capitalist media trumpet their fickle concern about massacres and refugees. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) claims that 234,368 people have fled Syria, fuelling calls for a ‘no-fly zone’. In this context, where does the British left stand? Where is the anti-war movement? Syria has seen the British left hopelessly divided. There is a need for an understanding of imperialism: the international threat it poses and how we are to challenge it. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Houla Massacre in Syria: The Lies of the Ruling Class Media – July 2012

This photo, used by the BBC in connection with the Houla massacre, was revealed by the photographer Marco Di Lauro, to actually depict the skeletons of Kurds killed in Al Musayyib, Iraq, in 2003. The BBC credited the picture as from 'activists'.

On 25 May the massacre of 108 people in Houla near Homs shot to the top of the news agenda around the world, closely followed by 55-78 reported deaths in Qubair on 8 June. Following the Houla massacre, The Independent's headline – 'Syria: The world looks the other way. Will you?' - demonstrates the conclusions which the capitalist media happily jumped to, calling for international action.

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Syria: UN peace plan set up to fail

On 10 May two huge car bombs exploded in Damascus outside a military intelligence building, killing 55 people and injuring 400 more. It was the deadliest attack in a string of bombings throughout Syria. Despite claims by the imperialist-backed opposition that these attacks are orchestrated by the government to discredit the resistance – repeated in the western media – it is becoming clear that Islamic forces are gaining influence. Heavily armed militias of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) now control territory, and have escalated attacks with improvised explosive devices. Despite a UN ceasefire and multi-party elections, the NATO-GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) alliance is stepping up pressure on Syria, arming the opposition, threatening intervention and tightening sanctions. Toby Habertson reports.

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Syria: a bloody stalemate

Escalating violence in western Syria has dominated the news, with daily reports of intense urban fighting. It is now a year since the insurgency began. The UN estimates that over 8,000 people have been killed, and 30,000 displaced. Intense diplomatic manoeuvring demonstrates the strategic importance of Syria for imperialism. Regional domination is the real prize for Britain, the US and France; they view Syria as key to subduing Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and even the Palestinian resistance. Toby Harbertson reports.

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Syria: imperialism orchestrates ‘civil war’

Syria: imperialism orchestrates ‘civil war’On 10 January 2012 Syrian President Bashar Al Assad gave his third televised speech since the beginning of ten months of violence. He focused on the ‘unprecedented media attack’ in which ‘over 60 TV channels in the world are devoted to work against Syria’ and the mounting conflict around the borders, funded, armed and organised by foreign forces. Capitalist media condemned Assad as ‘paranoid’, attempting to shift the blame, but on this occasion he is closer to the facts than their reporting. Despite the Syrian Ba’athist government’s history of repression, of betraying the Palestinians and collaborating with the US rendition programme, imperialism views it as insufficiently compliant and has mobilised to destabilise and remove it.

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Syria: imperialists manoeuvre for influence

As the political crisis in Syria deepens the response of imperialist countries has been to repeat the political, economic and media campaign which presaged military intervention in Libya. Whilst in Syria the stakes of intervention are much higher, and the situation within the country is different, it is clear that the Syrian people’s struggles are being used by competing imperialist powers.

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Imperialists step up interference in Syria

The continuing protests against the Assad regime have now been going for six months despite the brutal response of the state. Human rights groups calculate that over 2,500 people have been killed in the ongoing protests; the state claims that armed terrorists have been involved and that around 500 police and security officers have been killed in the same period. There are clearly different strands to the opposition to Assad and Ba’ath Party rule. One is represented by the large protests that have taken place in many cities calling for political reforms, which have been mostly peaceful, but have been suppressed, at times brutally, by the army and security forces. Another strand is armed and associated with the Muslim Brotherhood; their actions in attacking police and security forces are the basis of Assad’s claims that armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign interests are attempting to break up the Syrian state.

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Syria: brutal repression

On Friday 15 July over one million Syrians took to the streets across the country in continuing protests against the government of President Bashar Al Assad, the biggest protests being in the cities of Hama and Deir Ezzor. The government’s brutal response to these demonstrations left at least 19 people dead as the security forces used live rounds to disperse demonstrators. Human rights groups estimate that over 1,400 people have been killed since the protests began in mid-March. Although 25% of the population of Syria live in poverty, the main demands of the protests remain calls for democratic reform and an end to Ba’ath Party rule. The call for the removal of Bashar Al Assad, now more prevalent on demonstrations, is still not a unanimous opposition demand.

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