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Vol. 80/No. 39      October 17, 2016

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US imperialism faces quandary as bombing in Syria escalates

As Moscow and Damascus step up indiscriminate bombing of Aleppo, U.S. officials Oct. 3 formally suspended negotiations with the Russian government on relaunching a truce in the civil war in Syria. Reaching a deal with Moscow has been the central focus of Washington’s policy for months. The break, like the policy itself, reflects the weakness of U.S. imperialism’s position in the region, and has sharpened debate within the U.S. ruling class over how to proceed.

Meanwhile, the horrific toll on Syrian workers and farmers continues to mount, as fighting escalates and all of the capitalist powers intervening in Syria — from Washington and Moscow to the governments of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — cold-bloodedly maneuver to advance their own interests.

A recording of a Sept. 22 meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and civilian opponents of the Bashar al-Assad regime points to the contradictions facing Washington.

The New York Times released excerpts in which Kerry complains that he’s one of “three people, four people in the administration who have all argued for use of force” in Syria. “I lost the argument.”

Kerry points out the political limits to Washington using its massive military force in Syria. “We’ve been fighting in the region for 14 years,” he says. “A lot of Americans don’t believe that we should be fighting and sending young Americans over to die in another country. That’s the problem.”

The breakdown in talks “has revived an internal discussion over giving U.S.-vetted Syrian rebels new weapons systems,” the Wall Street Journal said Oct. 4. Or, “Washington could give a green light to partners in the region, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to provide the rebels with more weapons,” it added.

At the same time, Kerry said in Brussels Oct. 4 that the administration “held out the possibility of once again working with Moscow.” He said Washington was pursuing talks through the International Syria Support Group, which includes Moscow.

The Assad regime and allied forces — including Moscow’s warplanes, Iranian troops, Lebanese Hezbollah forces and Iraqi Shiite militias — have intensified their murderous offensive against government opponents in the eastern half of the city of Aleppo.

Targets of their bombing include hospitals, markets and residential areas. The M10 hospital in eastern Aleppo was completely destroyed Oct. 3 when it was bombed for the third time in six days.

The day before, another hospital that was built inside a cave was forced to close after being struck by “bunker-buster” bombs in an opposition-held part of the Hama region, south of Aleppo.

Part of the cease-fire deal that collapsed last month was that Washington and Moscow would coordinate attacks on Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, until recently known as the Nusra Front and affiliated with al-Qaeda. But many of the opposition groups that Washington backs in Syria fight alongside Fatah al-Sham, and are increasingly driven to do so as they face the government offensive in Aleppo.

Washington’s policy is built on its inability to use its imperialist army in Syria. They instead press Moscow for a deal. Their unending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have rendered U.S. imperialism weaker.

Ankara seeks greater role in war

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing ahead with plans to take control of a 1,930-square-mile “security zone” in northern Syria. Turkish troops and militias from the Free Syrian Army, backed by U.S. airstrikes, launched an offensive Oct. 2 on the town of Dabiq, held by Islamic State.

From the outset, the Turkish government has made clear its “Operation Euphrates” is aimed not only against Islamic State, but above all at preventing the Syrian Kurds from connecting the autonomous cantons that they’ve gained control of in northern Syria.

Erdogan has also sought to improve relations with Moscow, a move that would give Ankara more leverage with Washington. He is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Oct. 10 in Istanbul.

Washington has sought to balance its relations with Ankara, a NATO member, and with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it counts on in combating Islamic State in Syria.

The Turkish parliament approved a one-year renewal of the government’s mandate to deploy troops in Iraq and Syria Oct. 1. This comes as Washington, Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq prepare to launch a long-discussed offensive to drive Islamic State out of Mosul.

The Iraqi parliament voted Oct. 4 to reject extending permission for Turkey’s 2,000 troops to remain in northern Iraq, some just nine miles northeast of Mosul. While Ankara’s main goal there is to target forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Erdogan has also raised participating in the assault on Mosul alongside Sunni militias his troops have trained. “We will play a role in the Mosul liberation operation and no one can prevent us from participating,” he said Oct. 1.

“I fear the Turkish adventure could turn into a regional war,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Iraqi state TV Oct. 5.  
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