On October 16, a joint coalition of Iraqi, Kurdish, and foreign forces launched an operation to take the northern Iraqi city of Mosul back from Islamic State (Daesh) control. Although the majority of the troops are Iraqi (about 60,000) and Iraqi Kurd (about 40,000), the US also deployed an additional 600 troops to Iraq before the mission began, bringing the total US troop numbers in Iraq to more than 5,000.
The operation has retaken significant territory from ISIS, but it has come at a heavy price. At least hundreds – the exact numbers are unknown – of civilians have lost their lives in the battle. According to the UN, about 60,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes – 26,000 of them children. Many have been forced to flee to refugee camps even as winter approaches. While much media attention has been paid to the atrocities of Daesh and their use of civilians as human shields, little has been said about those killed by coalition forces – particularly in air strikes. British monitoring group Airwars estimates that more than 80 civilians have been killed in US air strikes since the battle began.
The fighting in Mosul has only exacerbated an already desperate humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Humanitarian organizations operating in the country issued a joint statement expressing their ‘profound concern’ about the plight of Iraqi civilians, particularly in light of the operation to retake Mosul. Ten million Iraqis are already in need of aid, and the latest operation against Daesh will only increase that number. Tens of thousands of families in the area (as well as many in other parts of Iraq) have no access to clean water or adequate food and health care.
Millions of Iraqis – women in particular – have suffered under the brutal rule of Daesh since they took control of part of northern Iraq in 2014. The defeat of Daesh is urgent and necessary. But the hypocrisy of the US in ‘helping’ to get rid of Daesh is sickening. Over the past two and a half decades, the US has destabilized and divided Iraq through two wars and a brutal sanctions regime. In Syria, they trained, armed, and funded so-called ‘moderate’ rebels – many of whom went on to join Daesh. In short, the US created the conditions for Daesh to come to rise in the first place – and in fact knew this was going to happen. Declassified intelligence reports reveal that the US government knew of the likelihood of the rise of a “Salafist principality” – essentially, the formation of a Daesh-like group – in eastern Syria. Now, they cry crocodile tears over the brutality Iraqis and Syrians face from Daesh – and use the fight against Daesh to advance US interests in the region.
The US Plan to Seize Syria
The goal of the US in capturing Mosul is not solely – or even perhaps primarily – the defeat of Daesh. Establishing a military presence in Mosul will allow US forces to move on to their real target: Syria. US-backed Syrian ‘rebel’ forces have already launched “Operation Euphrates Wrath” to move towards the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is held by Daesh.
The primary goal of the US in Syria is to remove the current Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad from power. This has been their goal since 2011 – long before Daesh took hold. In 2011, they began training, arming, and equipping rebel groups to fight against the Syrian government, which has been a thorn in the side of the US due to its position as an independent anti-imperialist power in the region and an ally of Iran and Hezbullah in Libanon. However, their attempts to intervene in the country through these rebel groups have up to this point have been thwarted by the Syrian government and their allies. The battle against Daesh in Mosul will give them both the strategic position and justification to send more US troops into Syria for more aggressive and direct intervention.
In fact, the US already has 300 troops operating in Syria. They are supposedly there only to ‘train, advise, and assist’ the Syrian ‘rebel’ groups and Kurdish forces in fighting against Daesh – but US soldiers are on the front lines. This was shown concretely on November 24, when a US soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device near Raqqa.
Canada’s Quiet War in Iraq
It may come as a shock to many Canadians to learn that Canadian Forces are very actively involved in the mission against Daesh in Iraq. Although Prime Minister Trudeau ended bombing missions in the country, his government has nearly tripled the number of Canadian Forces personnel in Iraq. There are currently 830 Canadian troops stationed in Iraq, and while Canadian Forces have not been directly conducting air strikes, they have been supporting the bombing missions through logistical support such as reconnaissance and refuelling operations. To date, the Canadian government has spent more than $300 million taxpayer dollars on the current mission in Iraq.
Canada’s ‘boots on the ground’ in Iraq are allegedly there only to ‘train, advise and assist’ Kurdish forces. However, the reality of war means that these soldiers are in fact on the front lines of battle. In a recent mission update, Brigadier-General Peter Dawe, deputy commanding officer of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, stated: “The mission has changed since the spring. It’s gone from a more defensive posture to a more offensive one.” He also acknowledged that Canadian Forces have been in firefights with Daesh in “several instances”.
In short, the Liberal government’s election promise of ending the bombing missions in Iraq was nothing more than smoke and mirrors which allowed them to quietly increase Canada’s intervention in the country. It is clear now that the Liberal government has allied itself with US interests in the Middle East just as much as did the previous Conservative government.
No Foreign Intervention in Syria and Iraq!
It is imperative that the brutal reign of Daesh in the Middle East be put to an end. However, this campaign must be led by the Syrian and Iraqi governments themselves, without meddling and interference by the US, Canada, or other imperialist countries. Any outside support for the fight against Daesh must be at the request of both the Syrian and Iraqi governments.
Make no mistake – the US and their allies have not begun the battle for Mosul out of a humanitarian interest in stopping Daesh. If they successfully take Mosul and then Raqqa, would they simply hand the territory back to the rightful control of the Syrian government? Of course not! If this was their intention, they would be working alongside the Syrian government – the military force in the country which is most capable of defeating Daesh - rather than with a hodge-podge of fighters with little training, who oppose the Syrian government as much – perhaps more – than they oppose Daesh. In fact, the US has already made it clear that it is their aim is to take control of Raqqa: after a US-Turkish meeting, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford stated that, “The coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding, and governing Raqqa” (emphasis added).
We need only to look to the mess that the US has created in Libya by overthrowing the government and supporting al-Qaeda linked ‘rebels’ there to see what the outcome of such a strategy in Syria would be. Just a few short years ago, Libya had the one of the highest standards of living in Africa, rivalling even more developed countries for quality of life. Today, the country is lawless, mired in chaos, and controlled by warring factions which rape and murder at will. Is this the ‘democratic transition’ that the US wants for Syria?
Working people and fighters for justice and peace around the world must oppose this latest attempt by the US to intervene in Syria by way of Iraq. We must not delude ourselves that the US or their allies – including the government of Canada - are ‘doing the right thing’ by attacking Daesh. This is simply another justification for intervention which will serve the interests of the US ruling class while destroying the lives of ordinary people in Iraq, Syria, and in fact around the world.
U.S. And All Imperialists Out of Syria Now!
Bring the Troops Home Now!
Follow Nita Palmer on Twitter:@NGP1z0
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