October 12, 2014

Vicious Cycle of US Military Intervention

THE United States’ military intervention in Iraq and Syria is inexorably leading to a wider conflict in the region. President Obama announced bombing strikes in Iraq in August against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, now Islamic State). The air strikes were said to be a humanitarian intervention to save the Yazidis who were threatened by the IS. Obama, however, declared that there was no time limit in the fight against the IS and it could go on for years. Obama also ordered more US army advisors into Iraq. The United States also announced that 5,000 “moderate” Syrian opposition fighters would be trained in Saudi Arabia. The US Congress has approved 500 million dollars for this purpose. This was followed by President Obama ordering aerial attacks on the IS in Syria which began on September 23. This was a clear violation of the national sovereignty of Syria as the consent of the Syrian government was not sought, nor was there any approval of the UN Security Council for this action. Obama announced that five countries – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan – had joined the aerial strikes against the IS. The British government has also joined the air strikes but this will only be confined to Iraq as approved by the British Parliament. The US military strikes against the IS are a glaring illustration of the contradictions which have now overwhelmed US policy in West Asia. Obama has now launched strikes in Syria after being thwarted from doing so last year. Obama is sending back troops into Iraq after declaring that all troops have been withdrawn. The IS, which now occupies large swaths of territory in Northern Iraq and in parts of Syria, is a creation of the US and its allies in the region like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey. The origins of the IS can be traced to the US occupation of Iraq. The Al Qaeda took root in the resistance against the US occupation and later transformed into the IS. The armed rebellion against the Bashar Al-Assad government in Syria was financed, organised and equipped by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. In the three year long conflict in Syria, the US and Western powers like Britain and France have funded, armed and trained the Syrian rebels, all Islamist groups from which the IS has benefited. The US talks of supporting the Free Syrian Army and the “moderate” sections, but the reality is that there is no such force. The Syrian rebels consist of the Jabhat al-Nusra, the ISIS and the Islamic Front. The ISIS has been gaining ground at the expense of the Jabhat al-Nusra which has been mainly financed and supported by their patrons in the Gulf States. It is the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime which created the monstrous force, which is now the IS. It is the America’s NATO ally, Turkey, which has been providing the safe houses and transit facilities to the Islamist extremists coming from West Asia and other parts of the world to join the Syrian rebels. The United States is claiming that its military strikes are directed to weaken the IS and prevent its advance and Obama pledged that there will be no US combat troops on the ground. However, these declarations are suspect. The growing US military intervention is designed to maintain American control over Iraq and to effect a regime change in Syria by toppling the Assad government. The military strikes in Iraq were motivated more by the US wanting to protect its oil interests in Iraqi Kurdistan and to ensure that there is a government in Baghdad which would be able to protect the US interests. In Syria, the only force which is fighting the IS is the armed forces of the Syrian government. It is being supported by the Hezbollah militia from Lebanon. The third force is the Kurdish militia, YPG which is aligned to the Turkish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). The US had declared all these three forces to be terrorists. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Gulf States have made it clear that they are joining the US military intervention not only to contain the IS but also to target the Assad regime. The Turkish Parliament has authorised the Turkish government to militarily intervene in Syria if it is found necessary. But the Turkish President Erdogan has declared that the Turkish military would intervene only on the condition that the Assad government would also be removed. On the border of Turkey, the IS is on the verge of capturing Kobani town which is being held by the Kurdish fighters belonging to the YPG. But the Turkish army has refused to intervene to stop the IS or to allow any supplies and help to the Kurdish fighters. It is reported that the Turkish government demanded that the Kurdish forces join the fight against the Syrian government as a condition for their assistance. Turkey also does not want to help the PKK ally in any manner. Both the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, and the Turkish President Erdogan have demanded a “no fly zone” over Syria. This is meaningless as the IS has no air power. Such a demand is directed only against the Syrian government and its air force. Any military effort against the Assad government from the side of Turkey and its backers will bring in Iran and Russia to support the Assad government and the stage will be set for a wider conflagration. The United States has left behind a trail of sectarian conflict, chaos and divisions in Iraq and Libya. Libya is today wracked by the conflicts between Islamist militias. Syria has already undergone three years of vicious civil war and the US and its reactionary Arab allies have given rise to the most extremist and barbaric force like the IS. The only possible way out is for the US to sit with Iran and Russia and all the major countries of the region to end the civil war and find a political solution. The IS and the other sectarian forces cannot be isolated and defeated without a wider agreement among the various contending forces in the region. (October 8, 2014)