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Vol. 80/No. 38      October 10, 2016

(front page)

Moscow, Assad bomb Aleppo as Washington seeks
new deal

Working people in Aleppo, Syria, have been pummeled since Sept. 22 in bombings by the government of Bashar al-Assad and by Moscow, which backs the regime, after a brief truce put together by Washington and Moscow came apart.

Syrian army troops, joined by Iranian forces, Hezbollah troops from Lebanon and Shiite militias from Iraq, began a ground assault Sept. 27, attacking a number of entrances to the neighborhoods of Aleppo controlled by opponents of Assad’s regime.

The imperialist rulers of the United States, France and the United Kingdom shrilly denounced the Syrian government and Moscow in a Sept. 25 meeting of the United Nations Security Council they demanded. They insisted the Russian government agree to some sort of new deal along the lines of the cease-fire that just collapsed.

“There are no prospects for political solutions,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told a Lebanese newspaper. “The final word is for the battlefield.”

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the bombings over the last several days. The airstrikes have included incendiary weapons and “bunker-buster” bombs designed to pulverize concrete. Ammar al-Salmo, head of the Aleppo branch of the volunteer Syria Civil Defense, said three of the rescue group’s centers were bombed and emergency vehicles destroyed.

On Sept. 23 the attacks damaged the pumping station that provides water to some 250,000 residents left in eastern Aleppo where rebels have control. In retaliation, government opponents shut off a pumping station that supplies 1.5 million people in the rest of the city. The population now has to rely on well water, which is most likely contaminated, according to UNICEF.

Aleppo, which was Syria’s largest city and the main commercial and industrial center, has been fiercely contested since the civil war began in 2011, after the Assad regime crushed mass protests for democratic rights. The strongest forces among government opponents there are jihadist militias loosely allied with the Army of Conquest, led by Syria’s former al-Qaeda branch. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) controls the city’s northern Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district.

As the assault on Aleppo continues, Turkish troops and some Syrian militias allied with them continue to push into the area north of the city, seeking to prevent the PYD from unifying Syria’s Kurdish areas to the east and west.

Conflicting national interests among Washington, Moscow, Tehran, Ankara and other Mideast capitalist regimes keep scuttling all efforts to reach a deal. Washington — whose power and influence has been weakened by its unending wars from Iraq to Afghanistan — sees a bloc with Moscow as the only road to achieve some variant of stability to preserve its imperialist interests there.

At the U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Moscow was engaged in “barbarism” in Syria. The French and British ambassadors joined Power in walking out when the Syrian ambassador addressed the council.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin argued that Damascus has shown “enviable restraint.” He pointed out that groups Washington has backed in Syria, including in Aleppo, fight alongside al-Qaeda-linked forces, which the U.S. government agrees are “terrorists.”

The truce came apart after U.S. bombers hit government troops in eastern Syria Sept. 17, a move Washington said was a “mistake,” and after Moscow denied considerable evidence it was responsible for an attack that destroyed a U.N.-organized convoy of humanitarian aid headed for besieged rebel areas near Aleppo.

At a Sept. 22 congressional hearing, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reiterated that Secretary of State John Kerry is “trying to get the Russians to move … toward putting an end to the civil war.”

More U.S. troops headed to Iraq

Testifying with him, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford stressed that the U.S. priority in Syria is to destroy Islamic State, saying, “I do not have a military objective to remove Assad.”

Washington is moving to increase its ground troops in Iraq by 500 — to 6,400 — in an effort to hasten an assault against Islamic State in Mosul in concert with Iraqi army units.

The U.S. rulers also plan to launch a major offensive against Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa, Syria. But these efforts have been complicated by the sharp conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish forces that would need to be centrally involved.

The battle for Mosul has the potential to ratchet up sectarian divisions among the Sunni Arab tribes, who are the majority of the population in that area; the Shiite-led Iraqi government; and the Kurdish autonomous region in northeast Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani has reportedly suggested the partition of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish sections, and that Kurds be allowed to vote on whether to join Iraqi Kurdistan.

An estimated 2 million people remain in Mosul. Kurdish regional officials say they’ve begun building refugee camps to house 500,000 civilians who might flee the fighting, but don’t have the resources to finish them. The KRG interior ministry says it’s already “overstretched” as 1.8 million people displaced by the fighting in Iraq and Syria have already taken refuge in the Kurdish region.
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