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Vol. 80/No. 45      November 28, 2016

(front page)

Moscow, Assad unleash new assault against people
of Syria

Moscow and the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus began a new wave of murderous airstrikes and a ground offensive in Syria Nov. 15. Assad and his allies seek to crush insurgents who arose after his regime put down in blood popular protests for political rights in 2011.

Syrian jets pounded anti-Assad rebels in the eastern neighborhoods of the city of Aleppo, while Russian jets hit the nearby provinces of Idlib and Homs. The assault included planes from Russia’s single aircraft carrier, which arrived earlier this month, part of an eight-ship Russian naval force in the Mediterranean Sea off Syria’s coast.

Moscow and Damascus had announced a pause in airstrikes on eastern Aleppo Oct. 18, following a monthlong intense bombardment that killed hundreds and caused massive destruction. The regime warned residents in eastern Aleppo by text message Nov. 13 to flee “within 24 hours” before the “planned strategic offensive” was launched. Unable to sustain an army capable of dislodging the insurgents, Assad’s forces are backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias and Russian troops and air power.

Conflicting national interests among Washington, Moscow, Tehran, Ankara and other Mideast capitalist regimes keep scuttling any effort to bring about a cease-fire in Syria.

No aid has reached the 275,000 people in eastern Aleppo since the pro-Assad forces surrounded it in July. United Nations officials said the besieged district was on the brink of starvation. Medical supplies are scarce and hospitals have been hit by airstrikes.

Across Syria, food production has dropped to an all-time low, and many civilians, including 7 million who are internally displaced, lack adequate food and clothing as they enter their sixth winter in a war zone. The World Food Program is already distributing rations to more than 4 million people in Syria each month.

Moscow says its attacks are aimed at Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as al-Nusra Front. The Washington Post reported Nov. 10 that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to begin bombing JFS, which Washington labels a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. On the ground, the JFS often fights alongside groups backed by Washington battling the Assad regime.

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 in Syria to preserve its imperialist interests. For months the Obama administration unsuccessfully sought to cut a deal with Moscow, offering a joint U.S.-Russian air campaign targeting JFS in exchange for Moscow reining in Syrian airstrikes. Russian President Vladimir Putin refused. Moscow’s air-defense systems and warplanes have not interfered with Washington’s operations against JFS.

The White House says this course is consistent with its drone strikes against those it labels al-Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Washington portrays these strikes as having precision accuracy, but civilians and others are also killed and maimed. The Pentagon admitted Nov. 10 that a September drone strike aimed at al-Shabab in Somalia had killed 10 soldiers of a local militia allied with Washington.

Ankara targets Kurds in Syria

The Turkish government resumed airstrikes in northern Syria Nov. 13, hitting Islamic State forces near the town of al Bab, just 20 miles north of Aleppo. Ankara had halted the strikes Oct. 22 after the Assad government threatened to shoot down any Turkish warplanes entering Syrian territory.

A Turkish-led Syrian rebel force backed by Ankara’s tanks, artillery and airstrikes is advancing on al Bab. Ankara’s real target is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan aims to prevent any YPG advance that would link Kurdish territory in the east and west, fearing this would advance the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region along Syria’s border with Turkey.

Ankara’s offensive brings Turkish troops close to Syrian and Iranian forces on the outskirts of Aleppo. These groups warned they will act “decisively and with force” if Turkish troops approach their positions.

The YPG announced Nov. 16 that its units had withdrawn from Manbij, northeast of al Bab, and handed control of the city to local forces. Both Washington and Ankara had demanded the YPG leave that city, and the Turkish government had threatened military attacks to drive YPG units back. YPG-led forces liberated Manbij from Islamic State in August.

The YPG, together with Arab and Turkmen militias in the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the main force in a U.S.-organized offensive to drive Islamic State from Raqqa, the reactionary outfit’s headquarters in Syria. A major attack by Ankara on Kurds would jeopardize that plan. Turkish artillery continues to fire across the border, hitting Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria.
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