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Vol. 81/No. 16      April 24, 2017

(front page)

US uses horror at Assad gas attack to step up Syria war

Washington’s April 6 missile strike against the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship’s Al Shayrat air force base represents a further escalation of the U.S. rulers’ military intervention in Syria’s six-year civil war. It goes along with steadily growing numbers of U.S. ground troops in both Syria and Iraq and further involvement in combat in Yemen and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump claims Washington’s 59 cruise missile attack was carried out in retaliation for a chemical bomb dropped two days earlier by the Assad regime against civilians in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

The Assad regime was being driven back by opposition forces until Moscow moved a fleet of bombers into Syria in September 2015 and joined the civil war. They were backed by troops from Iran, Hezbollah and other Tehran-led militias. Since then the Assad regime and its allies have combined murderous bombing with sieges to starve and batter opposition-held areas.

They then offer what they call “reconciliation” deals and when the fighters agree to surrender their territory, they are permitted to go to Idlib province.

Assad is now using his coalition’s air power — and chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun — to brutalize rebels there. He says he plans to retake the entire country. And workers and farmers there are paying the price.

Reports of surviving eyewitnesses, evidence from bomb craters in the village and the results of autopsies on victims, point to use of a banned nerve agent like sarin and to the responsibility of the Assad regime.

The chemical weapons attack handed Washington a golden opportunity to justify its drive to ratchet up its military intervention in Syria.

Justifying the attack in the name of “national security,” Trump, who the previous week indicated his administration could live with the Assad government, blamed the regime’s repression of opposition forces for creating a refugee crisis that is destabilizing the region.

Decades of seemingly endless U.S. military interventions in the area — Iraq three times, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and more — is the real source of the destabilization. And it is also the root cause of the initial spread of Islamic State, which filled the vacuum left by the inability of U.S. imperialism to end these wars and the failure so far of working people to carve out a revolutionary leadership capable of taking power themselves.

Washington’s missile strike is a “significant blow” to U.S.-Russia relations, said Dmitri Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow claims that Assad’s planes had bombed an opposition-controlled storehouse for chemical weapons, but so far no one has presented any evidence such a storehouse ever existed.

The day after the attack a Russian warship armed with cruise missiles was dispatched to the area of the Mediterranean where the two U.S. Navy destroyers launched the missiles into Syria. Moscow also suspended an agreement with Washington to coordinate air operations over Syria, set up to avoid accidental clashes, and said it would strengthen Assad’s air defense systems.

U.S. “boots on the ground” continue to increase in both Syria and Iraq where U.S. military intervention is being carried out under cover of the fight to destroy the reactionary Islamic State.

The monthslong battle by the Iraqi army to retake the city of Mosul from IS, backed by Washington’s air power and military “advisers” on the ground, drags on. U.S. troop strength has climbed to over 6,000, including an initial levy of 300 troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division that arrived in Kuwait at the end of March.

In northern Syria 900 U.S. troops in alliance with thousands of fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are fighting for position to launch an all-out attack on Raqqa, Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital.

What to do with the Kurds?

Washington’s problems in the region are increasingly compounded by the struggle of the 30 million oppressed Kurdish people for their national sovereignty — the geographical spread of the Kurds crosses the borders of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. And by the efforts of the capitalist rulers in these countries to prevent the Kurds from succeeding.

The YPG, the most effective fighters against Islamic State, control an autonomous enclave of 2 million Kurds in Syria on the Turkish border. Their tactical alliance with Washington doesn’t change the hostility of the U.S. capitalist rulers to their decadeslong struggle for independence.

The Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invaded parts of northern Syria in an effort to keep the YPG from connecting the Kurdish cantons on the border and forming an autonomous region in Syria. Ankara fears this would strengthen the struggle of Turkey’s 15 million Kurds for their national rights.

For this reason, Erdogan also opposes the Washington-YPG alliance in the fight for Raqqa.

For over three decades Ankara has waged a war against its Kurdish citizens and the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan considers the YPG an arm of the “terrorist” PKK.

The regime has called a presidential referendum for April 16 designed to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency giving Erdogan virtually dictatorial powers.

A special target of the regime has been the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which has broad support among the Kurdish population.

Last November Selahattin Demirtas, the popular co-leader of the HDP, was jailed along with 13 other HDP leaders on charges that they are linked to the PKK. Ankara’s troops occupy parts of the Kurdish region and there have been thousands of arrests.

“Despite the fierce repression and the blackout of the ‘no’ campaign in the media, the HDP is campaigning with other social forces for a ‘no’ vote,” Ertugrul Kurkcu, HDP member of parliament and honorary president told the Militant by phone April 10. “At this point 45 percent are for ‘yes’ and 45 percent are for ‘no.’ And 10 percent are not decided. The Kurds can tip the vote against Erdogan.”
Related articles:
Socialist Workers Party: Get US out of Syria, Iraq!
Stop Washington’s bombs! All US troops out now!
Trump garners bipartisan backing for escalation of war in Syria, Iraq
Kurds’ national struggle looms over Mideast wars
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