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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 80/No. 9      March 7, 2016



2000-16 Militant Index
Now Available Online
(lead article)

Washington, Moscow talk ‘truce’
as Syria slaughter grows

For the second time this month, Washington and Moscow announced agreement Feb. 22 on a “cessation of hostilities” to go into effect soon in Syria. At the same time Russian warplanes, along with ground forces from Hezbollah, Iranian special forces and troops of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, continued to pummel areas held by Assad’s opponents. Building on their nuclear accord with Tehran, the Barack Obama administration has charted a course toward a longer-term bloc with Moscow and Tehran in an effort to achieve some stability to uphold U.S. imperialism’s interests in the region, at whatever cost.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Moscow was playing a “constructive” role. To facilitate the deal, Washington cut support for Syrian opposition forces it was backing, saying they were not successful in pressuring Assad.

The previous cease-fire deal was scheduled to go into effect Feb. 19. However, Moscow, Assad and their allies stepped up murderous assaults against opposition forces in Aleppo and Homs in the north, in Daraa in the south and in Kansabba in Assad’s home Latakia province. Russian military spokesmen said they bombed 1,593 “terrorist” targets that week.

Russian jets hit hospitals in Idlib province operated by Doctors Without Borders, killing more than two dozen patients and medical personnel. Representatives of the group and opposition spokespeople say hospitals, schools and bakeries have all become targets, with the goal of terrorizing the population.

Speaking for the Assad regime, Bashar al-Jaafari said Doctors Without Borders was a branch of French intelligence and was responsible for the bombing because “they did not consult with the Syrian government.”

Washington will let all this pass if the result is a stronger government with control over more of the country.

The latest “cessation,” announced by Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is set to go into effect Feb. 27. Assad said he would go along, but continue to attack “terrorists.” The opposition forces’ High Negotiations Council said Feb. 22 it accepted the deal.

Washington pivoted its Mideast policy to a bloc with Moscow and Tehran — turning away from traditional allies in Ankara, Riyadh and Tel Aviv — as the old “world order” in the region, put together by the imperialist victors in World Wars I and II, came apart.

Looking for ways to reassert their interests, the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Turkey have pushed for opening ground operations in Syria against the Assad regime. But they recognize they have little power without Washington’s assent. Riyadh began military exercises this week with Arab Gulf state allies, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Malaysia.

The price paid by the Syrian people for decades of brutality by the Assad regime and the recent maneuvers of imperialism and Moscow are enormous. Nearly half a million Syrians have been killed. More than half the population has been uprooted from their homes.

Kurds fight for a homeland

Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have taken advantage of Russian airstrikes to seize territory from al-Qaeda and other Islamist forces in northern Syria, advancing the Kurdish people’s fight for a homeland. They have been shelled by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who aims to prevent establishment of a Kurdish state on Turkey’s border. This increases tensions between Ankara, a member of the U.S.-led NATO alliance, and Washington, which backs the YPG with airstrikes in its battles against Islamic State.

The Turkish government warned Moscow after a Feb. 17 deadly suicide bombing that killed 28 people in Ankara, and accused the YPG of carrying it out. The YPG denies this slander.

The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, a split-off from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The imperialist powers who carved up the Mideast after World War I, creating new countries under their domination, consciously denied a homeland to the oppressed Kurdish people, who number some 30 million in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The Erdogan government has been waging an assault on the Kurds, in the name of fighting “PKK terrorism.” The PKK launched an armed struggle against the government in 1984. Its Stalinist-trained leadership carried out bombings and other acts targeting civilians, causing unnecessary casualties, weakening support for the group and giving a series of Turkish regimes the pretext to attack the broader Kurdish population. Tens of thousands were killed over three decades.

A 2013 PKK-initiated cease-fire ended in July. Ankara has since launched a “synchronized war on terror” in the country’s Kurdish southeast. Turkish forces have put cities under siege, killed hundreds, including many civilians, and displaced several hundred thousand.

Islamic State

As “Arab Spring” popular mobilizations brought down Middle East regimes from Egypt to Tunisia in 2011 and opened the civil war in Syria, there was no revolutionary working-class leadership to chart a course to power. The exhaustion of any capacity for leadership from bourgeois nationalist forces — from Baathist parties in Syria and Iraq to the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas — and the crippling effects of decades of class-collaborationist misleadership by Stalinist currents such as the Syrian Communist Party, have left a vacuum of leadership. In this context, Islamic State, a reactionary current that aims to establish a caliphate ruled by Sharia law, has had room to seize large areas in Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish forces have succeeded in pushing IS back, including retaking Kobani, Syria, in a bloody battle last year.

Islamic State has been unable to wipe out all resistance in territory they control. Opponents of Assad whose territory has been occupied by Islamic State founded “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” in IS’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

They document the horrors of IS victims burned to death or beheaded, the enslavement of women and other forms of barbaric oppression. And they report on resistance in IS-controlled territory.

“Western powers have held a lot of meetings, made speeches and done nothing,” Abdalaziz Alhamza, a 24-year-old leader of the group, told the New York Times Feb. 20. “We do not believe the West will help.”

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