The U.S. rulers see a deal with Moscow as the only possible way to secure some stability for their imperialist interests and to deepen attacks against Islamic State.
But conflicts of interest between Washington, Moscow, Tehran and other capitalist powers in the region, along with the relative weakening of U.S. imperialism, keep plaguing their efforts.
Within a week after the deal was announced, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and Russian warplanes had resumed bombing areas under control of government opponents in the city of Aleppo and elsewhere. On Sept. 17, U.S.-led airstrikes in eastern Syria killed more than 60 Syrian government troops, the first time U.S. forces have attacked Syria’s army. When Russian military officials informed U.S. officers what they were doing, Washington halted the bombing and apologized, saying the intended target was Islamic State.
And on Sept. 19 U.S. and U.N. authorities blamed Russia or Syria for airstrikes that destroyed an aid convoy outside Aleppo, incinerating 18 trucks carrying food and medical supplies and killing some 20 people.
At the same time, U.S. special forces began conducting ground operations with Turkish troops who are deepening their offensive in northern Syria — ostensibly fighting Islamic State, but with the primary goal of pushing back Kurdish militias from territory they have gained.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the media Sept. 19 that in future talks “we can’t limit the dialogue to two countries,” angling for a greater role for Paris, Syria’s former colonial ruler. The French government conducts airstrikes in Syria and Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.
The catastrophe for working people in Syria continues to mount, from the death toll and refugee crisis to the scarcity of food. In the rebel-held section of Aleppo the price of rice has shot up fivefold in recent months, sugar tenfold and flour is not available.
A key aspect of the collapsing truce negotiated between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was that if the cease-fire held, Washington and Moscow would begin to share targeting and intelligence information in order to carry out coordinated attacks on Islamic State and the former Nusra Front.
This provoked debate between the State Department and the Pentagon, with several high-ranking officers publicly questioning the idea of sharing information with Moscow. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said Sept. 13.
The next day Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, said he supported the initiative but “there is a trust deficit with the Russians.” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter downplayed the division, pledging Pentagon loyalty to the administration’s course. “We in the Defense Department will play whatever role we have,” he told reporters Sept. 14.
There is growing bipartisan agreement in Washington that U.S. imperialist power has weakened over years of failed military interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. A deal with Moscow, they believe, holds the only hope for continuing U.S. influence and exploitation in the region.
U.S. troops join Turkish interventionU.S. officials said Sept. 16 that about 40 special operations troops are joining the Turkish military in northern Syria, operating as “combat advisers.”
The same day, one of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition militias said they drove out a handful of U.S. soldiers who entered Syria near al-Rai on the Turkish border. “We won’t accept any Americans joining us,” said a person videoing their trucks leaving. “The Americans haven’t saved any Syrian lives from Assad or ISIS,” another fighter told the Financial Times.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sept. 19 that Ankara and its Syrian allies were pushing south toward the town of al-Bab, and “may extend this area to 5,000 square kilometers [3,100 square miles] as part of a safe zone.” This would imply a long-term Turkish military presence, and would prevent the Kurds from connecting the two regions they control in Syria.
Washington has demanded the Kurds pull back from the area west of the Euphrates River that Ankara intends to control.
Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, headed by Masoud Barzani, hosted a meeting Sept. 19 with representatives of Washington and the Iraqi army to discuss military cooperation to retake Mosul from Islamic State. Over the last month the Kurdish peshmerga militias have taken control of villages near Mosul that had been held by IS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned them not to push further, worried the territory will become a bargaining chip to negotiate greater autonomy for the KRG.
The Kurdish people — the largest nationality in the world without its own state — are divided among Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
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