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Vol. 80/No. 36      September 26, 2016

(front page)

US, Moscow make ‘peace’ deal, Ankara attacks Kurds

Washington and Moscow announced they have brokered a partial cease-fire in Syria beginning Sept. 12 between the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is backed by Moscow and Tehran, and opposition groups backed by the U.S., Turkish and Saudi Arabian governments. If the truce holds, Washington and Moscow say they will begin to coordinate military operations against Islamic State and the former Nusra Front. The Barack Obama administration has been pursuing such a deal for months, in hopes of stabilizing the region in the interests of U.S. imperialism.

At the same time, Washington continues to back a Turkish government offensive inside northern Syria aimed primarily at preventing any expansion of Rojava — the Kurdish-controlled region in northeastern Syria and a smaller area around Afrin in the northwest.

Obama’s course reflects the relative decline in U.S. imperialism’s military, economic and political power in the world. There is growing agreement within the U.S. ruling class that Washington and its allies are incapable of achieving victory in the area.

The U.S. intervention and widening war have spread chaos in the region and a refugee disaster that is roiling nation-states across Europe. CIA Director John Brennan said Sept. 7 that he doubted “Syria and Iraq can be put back together again.”

The only road to any semblance of stability, Washington now believes, is a bloc with Moscow.

Whether the truce holds or not, working people in Syria will continue to face devastating consequences.

A shaky, limited agreement

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the deal in Geneva Sept. 9. Kerry said it calls for “a sustained period of reduced violence” and allows delivery of humanitarian relief to residents of Aleppo and other areas. If the truce holds a week, Washington and Moscow say they will begin coordinated attacks on Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. The latter group, formerly known as the Nusra Front, had been affiliated with al-Qaeda but says it no longer is.

Washington is pressuring other opponents of the Syrian government to “distance themselves in every way possible” from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Kerry said. And Lavrov said Moscow would assure that Assad’s air force doesn’t function in the areas “singled out for Russian-American cooperation.”

The Syrian government, Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which supports Assad, have said they will take part in the cease-fire. So have many of the armed groupings opposing Assad, while voicing pessimism about any lasting break from combat. Citing an “opposition source,” Reuters reported Sept. 12 that “armed groups would continue to operate with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham … because it was impossible to disentangle the forces that fought side by side.”

State Department envoy Michael Ratney told opposition forces they had to separate from former al-Qaeda forces or face “severe consequences.”

The civil war in Syria began in 2011, after the Assad government crushed popular protests calling for greater political rights. Since then the regime has fought a shifting array of opposition groups. It has used barrel bombs, starvation sieges and gas attacks against civilians. Washington, Moscow and the competing capitalist powers in the region have intervened in the conflict, seeking to advance their own interests.

In the vacuum created by the war, the jihadist Islamic State — organized by former officers from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist army in Iraq and elements from al-Qaeda — was able to seize substantial areas in both Iraq and Syria. Islamic State is now weakening, losing territory and recruits.

Ankara deepens attacks on Kurds

The most effective fighters against Islamic State have been the Kurds — the peshmerga militia of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Their advances have given a boost to the struggle for national rights and self-determination throughout the Kurdish-populated areas, including in Turkey and Iran — a development all of the ruling classes in the region as well as Washington oppose.

Ankara is continuing its offensive in northern Syria, sending tanks, troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters across the border to occupy territory between Jarablus — just west of the Euphrates River — and Afrin. In a Sept. 4 meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama told him to “finish the job.”

Turkish officials have renewed talk of creating what it calls a “safe zone” where some of the roughly 3 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey would be relocated. Turkish officials say 20,000 have already been returned to Jarablus.

Washington is demanding the YPG withdraw east of the Euphrates River. At the same time, U.S. officials are trying to work with both the YPG and Turkish government to launch an offensive against Islamic State in Raqqa, the capital of its “caliphate.”

Ankara is also pressing its offensive against the Kurdish population inside Turkey, in the name of fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkish authorities suspended more than 11,000 teachers in the province of Diyarbakir Sept. 8, alleging they had links to the PKK. When hundreds of teachers protested the next day, dozens were detained and their rally dispersed with water cannon. “This is an attack on our unionized struggle,” Suleyman Guler, the provincial head of the teachers union, told Reuters.

Regardless of what happens next in Syria, workers in the region face the prospect of continued war and turmoil.

A Sept. 8 article in the Washington Post, titled, “A Reminder of the Permanent Wars: Dozens of U.S. Airstrikes in Six Countries,” pointed to Washington’s bombings and attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen over the Labor Day weekend.
Related articles:
Montreal: Kurds protest Ankara’s attacks in Syria
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