On Sept. 22, U.S. warplanes, drones and aircraft carriers launched a barrage of bombs and cruise missiles against 14 Islamic State targets in four provinces of Syria, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Central Command. The salvo was almost as many bombs as were dropped in more than 190 strikes in Iraq since Aug. 8, reported the New York Times.
In addition to targeting Islamic State, eight U.S. strikes were carried out west of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, against an al-Qaeda-affiliated rival of Islamic State. The operation killed at least seven combatants and eight civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Eighteen strikes reportedly hit Raqqa, the head of Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, Abo Jilan, told the press. The city, populated by some 220,000, is Islamic State’s de facto capital. It was once a center of the popular rebellion against the tyranny of President Bashar al-Assad. But the mass struggle and the political space it opened up there has since been quashed by Islamic State.
As part of the operation’s political window dressing, the U.S. statement emphasized that “partner nations” — which includes the monarchies of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — had either “participated in or supported” the bombardment.
In a brief statement, President Barack Obama said, “The strength of this coalition makes clear to the world that this is not just America’s fight alone.”
But behind the official posture is a tepid alliance. British government officials told the New York Times that Prime Minister David Cameron was still considering whether to seek approval for London to join the bombing campaign in Iraq, and would only do so on Baghdad’s invitation. The French military took part in a bombing raid in mid-September, but Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded to U.S. strikes in Syria by saying Paris had no legal basis to engage in operations there.
The White House is itself determined to limit U.S. engagement to bombings and use of secret special operations forces, which many military commentators have said can’t deal a decisive blow to Islamic State. “After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government’s forces have scarcely budged the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country,” wrote the New York Times Sept. 22. Support for sending ground troops is growing among sections of the U.S. ruling class, as is the attractiveness of military collaboration with the Assad regime.
Through the course of the three-year civil war Washington had shunned military intervention in Syria, instead opting to watch opposition forces get cut down, as tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered and millions displaced. While the U.S. rulers opposed the Assad government and paid lip service to support for the opposition, they also feared the rebellion against his rule would draw workers and farmers into struggle against their capitalist and landlord exploiters. Now, given the shared interest in eradicating Islamic State, Washington told the Syrian government about its plans to strike.
In northern Syria, Islamic State forces have advanced towards the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani, threatening gains made by the oppressed Kurdish people there during the civil war against the Assad regime.
Kurds defend Rojava
In 2012 Kurdish forces wrested control over their lands in Syria, known to Kurds as Rojava (Western Kurdistan) and have held off offensives by various Islamist forces. Rojava comprises areas in northeastern Syria on the Iraqi border and in the north along the Turkish border, which includes Kobani.
Backed by tanks and heavy armor, Islamic State combatants launched an offensive Sept. 16, seizing more than 60 villages near Kobani and forcing the evacuation of dozens more. As a result, more than 130,000 Kurds fled into Turkey Sept. 19-21, according to Turkish officials.
While Washington and its imperialist allies have long sought to undermine the Kurdish people’s fight for a homeland, they want to see the defeat of the Islamic State. The increasingly sovereign character of Iraqi Kurdistan is a fact that capitalist rulers from Turkey to Iran to the U.S. have grudgingly come to accept and Washington has slowly been providing weapons and training to Kurdish Peshmerga.
More than 300 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey have joined with Syrian fighters from the Committee for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) in defending Kobani. Hundreds of others on the Turkish side of the border are determined to do the same, but Ankara has prevented them from crossing.
“We all want to cross the border. We tried yesterday but they attacked us, and we will try again today,” PKK fighter Shirwan, 28, told Reuters Sept. 22.
Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of Kurds gathered on the Turkish side of the border Sept. 21, protesting Ankara’s attempts to prevent PKK fighters from entering Syria and obstacles put in the way of Kurds from Syria seeking refuge in Turkey.
“We have been here for four days without water and food,” Fidan Mohammed told Rudaw TV at the Turkish border Sept. 21. “Our children are dying of hunger … we are humiliated and we are all starving here.” Some 850,000 Syrian refugees were living in camps in Turkey before the latest influx.
In a Sept. 19 statement, officials of the Peshmerga said that while they’re involved in daily battles with Islamic State forces in Iraq, they’re prepared to assist the Kurds in Kobani. Despite denials by Kurdish Regional Government officials, “peshmerga forces had entered Syria,” the Financial Times reported Sept. 22.
YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters Sept. 22 that advances by Islamic State forces to the east of Kobani had been halted, but the city is still besieged on three other fronts.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home