Another 59 civilians have been killed by US coalition air strikes in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa. Twenty-one of the dead are children. The air strikes are said to be targeting Daesh (ISIS) fighters, but to date have killed more than 300 civilians in the city.
The US government claims their air strikes and military intervention in the country have humanitarian aims – to rid the country of the terrorists of Daesh. Yet The Nation magazine reports that “[H]uman rights groups and local reporters say that, across Syria in recent months, the US-led coalition and US Marines have bombed or shelled at least 12 schools, including primary schools and a girls’ high school; a health clinic and an obstetrics hospital; Raqqa’s Science College; residential neighborhoods; bakeries; post offices; a car wash; at least 15 mosques; a cultural center; a gas station; cars carrying civilians to the hospital; a funeral; water tanks; at least 15 bridges; a makeshift refugee camp; the ancient Rafiqah Wall that dates back to the 8th century; and an Internet cafe in Raqqa, where a Syrian media activist was killed as he was trying to smuggle news out of the besieged city.” The Syrian Network for Human Rights also reports that in May and June, the US was responsible for more civilian deaths than Syrian government forces, Russian forces, and Daesh combined. Amnesty International has also confirmed US forces have used white phosphorus munitions in Raqqa. White phosphorus is a deadly toxin which burns skin to the bone and will kill and maim indiscriminately. The Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits its use in areas populated by civilians, although the US is not a signatory to that convention. Just how is this a ‘humanitarian’ intervention if the US military is killing and injuring the very people it claims to be protecting?
Syria Then and Now
The families killed in these most recent air strikes are just the latest victims in a war which has killed over 400,000 people and devastated a once-thriving country. Just a few short years ago, Syria was known as a country which blended ancient and modern, featuring ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites alongside modern markets, malls, and universities. Today, large sections of the country remain under the control of Daesh or other terrorist groups. The Syrian government has been steadily gaining ground in the battle against these terrorists, but the war has taken a devastating toll on the country. A quarter of the country’s schools are closed and nearly half of Syrian children cannot attend classes, according to UNICEF. Syria’s once-prized public health system has been decimated, with 57% of hospitals damaged and 37% no longer functioning, according to Physicians for Human Rights. The NGO Save the Children estimates that 200,000 Syrians have died from chronic diseases due to a lack of drugs and treatment.
Every aspect of daily life has been disrupted. Fuel shortages are common, and electricity is available only a few hours a day, if at all. The war has resulted in a 90% inflation rate, making even basic necessities out of reach of many families. Certain foods, including meat and some vegetables, are only available for steep prices on the black market.
Nearly five million Syrians have been forced to flee the country. The majority have spent months or years in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, particularly Lebanon. While safe from the immediate danger of war, these families face overcrowded conditions and a lack of basic necessities such as food and medicine. Ordinary life has been put on hold for those living in the camps, often with no work available for the adults and no school for the children.
In the areas still under siege by Daesh or other terrorist groups, people live every day in fear for their lives. Tim Ramadan, a journalist living in Raqqa, described life under Daesh in a recent article for The Guardian: “We lead double lives as a condition of our survival. Everyone has at least two personalities. The first personality despises ISIS, but if this personality emerges outside the home it could lead to execution. Therefore a second personality is necessary... That second personality must express an affinity for the militants, and emerges as soon as you see an ISIS member or you are stopped at one of their checkpoints.”
Fighting Terrorism or Fuelling Terrorism?
The United States and their allies claim to be fighting terrorism, but in reality they have directly contributed to the rise of Daesh and other radical terrorist groups. From the war in Iraq to the CIA’s support for al-Qaeda linked groups in Libya and elsewhere, the US has created the conditions in the region for these groups to flourish. In Syria specifically, the US and their allies trained, armed and funded so-called ‘moderate rebels’ to fight against the Syrian government. In reality, however, many of these ‘moderate’ groups hold ties to al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups, particularly Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). Professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told the LA Times in 2015 that “[t]he problem is this kaleidoscopic number of opposition groups that are constantly making deals with each other... everybody has been associated with al-Qaeda at some point”.
But wait – didn’t this ‘war on terror’ begin with the US fighting al-Qaeda? Are these not the very extremists who the US claims were responsible for the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center? Why, then, is the US government supporting groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in Syria?
US Strategy: to Remain in Syria Long-Term
The US government talks of bringing human rights to Syria; yet it is they who are bombing schools, hospitals, and mosques. They talk of ending terrorism; yet it is they who are funding, arming, and training the terrorists they claim to fight.
The only objective the US has managed to achieve in Syria is creating chaos and division in the country. They attack Daesh, yet they refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government or army – the organization best equipped to fight this deadly and dangerous group. In fact, the US government is funding ‘rebels’ to attack the Syrian people and the Syrian government, who could be their best ally in the fight against Daesh.
Even the ‘rebels’ they are funding are fighting each other. In January 2016, the LA times reported that “CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while manoeuvring through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo”.
In short, US intervention and meddling has done everything but establish human rights and stop terrorism. It has, however, divided the country and provided an opportunity and justification for US military intervention.
It seems they have found exactly that opportunity in Syria’s Kurdish area in the north. Reuters reported in August that Talal Silo, a spokesperson for the American-backed and Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said that the SDF believes that Washington has strategic interests in the country. “They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic, and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas [of Syria] and the US administration.”
The US has already established military bases in the area and has forces deployed in several locations in northern Syria along the border with Turkey. Silo also stated that, “[The US recently] referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings – they are not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free.”
The White House has denied claims that they are pursuing a long-term occupation in Syria. However, we only need to look to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan for a blueprint of a likely scenario in Syria. In both those countries, the US has established a decade-plus occupation and built massive military infrastructure as well as large embassies.
US strategy in Syria and the region as a whole is not focussed on bringing peace, democracy, or human rights to the region. The US and their allies are pursuing this strategy in order to establish military, political, and economic control in the region and gain an upper hand over rising global economic competitors such as China and Russia, and to ward off the threat that independent countries, particularly Iran, pose to their economic interests in the region.
US Out of Syria Now!
The ‘civil war’ in Syria today is a product of dangerous policies which place the economic interests of the US capitalist class above the lives of Syrians and people around the world. The US and their allies cannot and will not put an end to the war or resolve Syria’s internal conflicts. In fact, most of the fighting and division which is tearing the country apart today was created by the US government itself.
The future of Syria must be left to Syrians to decide. Military intervention by the US and their allies has failed to bring any sort of peace, democracy, or human rights to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, or anywhere else they have intervened. It is well beyond time for the US to end any and all intervention in the country and let the Syrian government and people put an end to terrorism and war in their country.
Follow Nita Palmer on Twitter: @NGP1z0
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