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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 80/No. 5      February 8, 2016



2001-15 Militant Index
Now Available Online
(lead article)

Washington joins Tehran, Moscow to seek Syria truce

The nuclear deal with Tehran implemented Jan. 16 represents a major advance in moves by the Barack Obama administration to put together a new political bloc in the Middle East to replace the shattered imperialist-imposed “world order” put in place after World War II. Washington aims to build on deepening collaboration with Tehran, as well as Moscow, to forge and police a cease-fire to end the five-year Syrian civil war and impose a semblance of stability. The U.S. government and its imperialist allies in Europe and elsewhere have no interest in continuing war in the region.

At the same time, they are using Islamic State-inspired terror attacks to scapegoat Muslims and cut away at political rights critical for working people. French President Francois Hollande announced Jan. 22 that he will extend the state of emergency and restrictions on protests and other rights he imposed after terrorists killed 130 people in Paris Nov. 13. Government officials said the extension would last “as long as necessary.”

Since the Iran deal was consummated, Tehran has sought to rebuild its economy. Iran is one of the largest countries in the Mideast, with a population of 82 million, a modern capitalist economy and high level of culture and education.

With the phasing out of imperialist sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been touring Europe. Italian officials announced the two governments will sign business agreements totaling more than $16 billion.

Washington and Moscow are pushing for United Nations-sponsored peace negotiations in an “indirect format” in Geneva Jan. 29. But obstacles to holding the gathering point to broader difficulties in the way of Washington’s plan.

While officials from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime plan to attend, opposition groups called the High Negotiations Committee, cobbled together in Saudi Arabia, say they won’t come unless Assad’s troops halt all attacks and sieges against civilian areas.

Khaled Khoja, president of the Syrian National Coalition, said that Washington, Tehran and Moscow have decided on imposing “a ‘national government’ and allowing Bashar al-Assad to stay in power and stand for re-election.”

Moscow demands the U.N. invite the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which through its military wing — the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — with aid from U.S. bombing has driven rightist Islamic State forces out of Kurdish areas. “Without this participant the talks cannot achieve the results that we want, a definitive political solution in Turkey,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

If the PYD is invited “of course we will boycott,” responded Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Ankara, which is conducting a murderous military operation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey, views the PYD as “terrorist.”

Mass popular mobilizations against the Assad regime in 2011 were met with brutal retaliation, crushing them. This led to the civil war, killing more than 250,000 people and displacing millions.

Decades of betrayal by the Stalinist Syrian Communist Party left no revolutionary working-class leadership in the country capable of charting a course to defeat the regime and take power. In the vacuum this created, exacerbated by the brutal slaughter unleashed by Assad, Islamic State was able to seize territory and set up a reactionary caliphate.

More than 400,000 people live in areas besieged by Assad, cut off from access to food and supplies. An estimated 2.5 million Syrians have fled to Turkey; a million to Lebanon and about 630,000 to Jordan, according to the U.N.

Hundreds of thousands have fled to Europe. Their arrival coincides with a sharp capitalist economic downturn. Governments there have moved to increase border patrols, erecting barbed wire fences and other obstacles.

The Kurdish people have long been denied a homeland. In the 1916 Sykes-Picot pact, London and Paris, victors over Berlin and the Ottoman Empire, carved up the oil-rich region and imposed national borders. Kurds were divided into parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The secret deal was exposed after the 1917 Russian Revolution, when the Bolsheviks released the pact made by the imperialist powers to divide the spoils they found in the files of the overthrown czarist regime.

Independent Kurdistan ‘now closer’

World leaders “have come to this conclusion that the era of Sykes-Picot is over,” said Masoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Barzani said Iraq and Syria would never be reconstructed with their former borders. He urged a new accord, saying an independent Kurdistan is “now closer than at any other time.”

The ongoing assault against the Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has received little coverage in the U.S. press. Dozens of civilians have been killed, villages destroyed and more than 100,000 people driven from their homes. “Turkish authorities are bombing infrastructures and residential neighborhoods across Sirnak and Diyarbakir,” two major cities in the area, Kurdish human rights lawyer Hoshin Ebdullah told ARA News Jan. 24.

Since the Islamic State-inspired terror attack in Paris, 31 U.S. governors have said they will try to keep Syrian refugees out of their states.

Severe restrictions and bureaucratic obstacles have made it extremely difficult for Syrian refugees to get into the U.S. Since 2012, authorities have admitted just 2,174 Syrian refugees — a grand total of 0.0007 percent of the U.S. population.

In New Jersey, with an estimated 200,000 Muslims, Gov. Chris Christie, who sought out relations with Muslim communities and groups when he ran for governor in 2010, has changed his tune. Now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he calls for stopping Syrian refugees, including “orphans under age 5,” from entering the United States.

In France, Hollande is calling for amending the constitution to allow the government to deny those with dual citizenship entry into the country and to revoke their French citizenship if they are deemed a “terrorist risk.”

A demonstration called by the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) and many human rights and labor organizations is being organized in Paris for Jan. 30 to protest the state of emergency and the constitutional “reform.”

The state of emergency causes “fear that this and future governments will use it against workers and militants,” said a CGT statement Dec. 29.

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