Syria – Russian airstrikes: imperialist hypocrisy sent reeling
On 30 September Syrian president Bashar al-Assad asked Russia for military assistance in the struggle to free his country from the imperialist-backed terrorist gangs which continue to batten on the population. The upper house of Russia’s parliament gave president Putin authority to launch airstrikes, and the same day Russian warplanes, in concert with the Syrian airforce, struck a number of terrorist positions in Hama and Homs.
The next day Russia destroyed terrorist targets in Idlib, Hama and Raqqa. On 5 October Moscow announced it had carried out strikes on nine terrorist sites in 24 hours. A major offensive began on 7 October, coordinated with a massive push into Hama by the Syrian Arab Army. By 9 October Sputnik was able to report that Russia had already carried out about 40 strikes against command centres, training camps and ammunition depots, with Russian warships in the Caspian having launched 26 cruise missiles on terrorist positions.
On 15 October Moscow reported the successful destruction of a surface-to-air missile launcher in Eastern Douma. An SU-34 fighter plane dropped a precision bunker-busting bomb which destroyed both the launcher and the concrete shelter which housed it. This was just one of 33 combat missions conducted that day, targeting terrorists in Idlib, Hama, Damascus, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor. Terrorist forces were reported to be in full retreat and struggling with supply lines.
At the height of the bombing, Russian aircrews were notching up as many as 88 sorties in one 24-hour period. At times they were launching more strikes in one day than the US-led coalition managed in a month. Over the first two weeks of its campaign Russia alternately intensified and moderated its airstrikes, coordinating its efforts with the requirements of Syrian ground forces as terrorists fled and battle-lines shifted.
Who is the ‘International Community’?
The breath-taking speed and decisiveness of Russia’s military intervention against the terrorist forces in Syria have left what likes to call itself the ‘international community’ badly rattled. This tiny band of super-rich nations and their local stooges in the Middle East, for so long habituated to trading on the assumption that they speak for all ‘right-minded’ world opinion, have suffered a salutary jolt to their overweening sense of global entitlement. Their bluff, going through the motions of countering the terrorists whilst still nursing hopes of ‘regime change’, has now been well and truly called.
The US-led ‘international coalition’ which has been trampling over Syrian sovereignty whilst engaged in a phony war against Islamic State, a war whose real aim is the overthrow of the legitimate government in Damascus, stands revealed as no more than a gang of bloodthirsty exploiters and hangers-on, bent on world domination. Now that Russia has responded to Syria’s call for assistance in clearing out the nest of vipers so long nourished by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, there is now in open view a very different kind of coalition. Russian air attacks, coordinated with Syria, are devastating terrorist communication hubs, weapons stores and infrastructure which had previously enjoyed a charmed life despite over 7,000 US-led coalition airstrikes since September 2014.
Russia assumes leadership in the real war on terror
Russian weaponry, long scorned by the West as being old and clapped-out, has shocked the ‘international community’ by its range and precision. Two bits of kit have particularly impressed experts: the Kaliber guided missile and the Sukhoi Su-24M fighter jet. During the Yeltsin years the Russian navy suffered neglect and had little to match the massive US aircraft carriers from which were launched America’s cruise missiles. But to the West’s dismay, it turns out that the Kaliber missile, a version of the US Tomahawk, has been adapted for launch from much nippier, lightweight craft. This missile has a range in excess of 1,550 miles and is accurate within 10 feet. Another shock for the West has been the performance in action of the Sukhoi Su-34M, a jet which is designed for the supersonic penetration of enemy airspace at treetop level in the most severe weather and battle conditions.
Under the cover afforded by advanced Russian air power, the Syrian Arab Army, allied with ground forces and technical assistance from Hizbollah and Iran, has been making sweeping gains against both Islamic State and the other assorted bands of jihadists which imperialism likes to dignify with the name of ‘the opposition’. Unlike the coalition led by the US, this Russian-led coalition operates in Syria by invitation and upholds international law not just in words but in deeds. In acting in defence of Syria’s sovereignty against imperialism’s terrorist proxies, and thereby clipping the wings of US imperialism, the success of the Russian-led coalition arouses the support of all progressive humanity, which is everywhere struggling to get out from under the Yankee Dollar. The voice of this, the real ‘international community’, will be heard louder and louder as the overproduction crisis rips the ground out from under US imperialism.
Iraq, Kurds: Please send more Russian bombs
Bringing new humiliation to his supposed masters in Washington, the Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi told a French TV station that he would welcome a Russian bombing campaign in his country too (Alexander Smith, ‘Some Iraqis are asking Russia to bomb ISIS in their country’, NBC News, 11 October 2015). After more than a year of the US-led coalition ostensibly bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and after spending over $25 billion training and equipping the Iraqi army, progress against Islamic State has been so slow that the prime minister feels obliged to appeal for help from Russia! Whether or not Russia takes up the offer – Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov remarked drily: “We are polite people. We don’t come if not invited”- the fact alone that Abadi felt emboldened to raise the bare possibility is one more giant nail in the coffin of US prestige.
The Kurds of the PKK-oriented YPG militia in Syria have also expressed their support for the Russian actions. Their general commander, Sipan Hemo, told the Russian agency Sputnik, “We can work together with Russia against IS. We want air support against IS. We want weapons support.” He went on to say that Russia “should fight not only against IS, but also against al-Nusra. There is no difference between Nusra and IS – they are both al-Qaeda” (‘Syrian Kurdish fighters welcome Russian strikes, demand weapons for anti-IS fight’, Middle East Eye, 1 October 2015).
The Egyptian foreign minister, Samih Shukri, has also welcomed Russian airstrikes, reflecting Egypt’s own recent bitter experience of coming under the temporary sway of the Muslim Brotherhood before Morsi’s popular overthrow in a second edition of the so-called Arab Spring. And Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying responded to Russia’s intervention by quietly noting that it was “taken at the request of the Syrian government with the purpose of combating terrorist and extremist forces inside Syria (Ankit Panda, The Diplomat, ‘Here’s what India thinks about Russian air strikes in Syria’, 12 October 2015). The same source quotes a senior Indian external affairs ministry official as explaining simply: “The Indian position is that Russian military involvement in Syria is to halt the advances of the Islamic State.” Such low-key statements of what should be the obvious are a telling indication of Washington’s diminishing ability to bamboozle real ‘world opinion’ into panic endorsement of US war plans.
Needless to say, the welcome within Syria itself for Russia’s assistance has been massive and passionate, with thousands flooding onto the street bearing aloft portraits of presidents Assad and Putin. In Damascus, thousands who had converged on the Russian embassy to express their gratitude were obliged to disperse when two mortar rounds were lobbed into the compound, fortunately without injury to life and limb. Such nihilist crimes by the terrorists aptly express the doomed mentality of an ‘opposition’ which has given up all hope of winning popular support away from Assad and is now reduced to acts of pointless spite en route to the exit.
Washington: sour grapes
For its part the White House has adopted an unconvincing pose of splendid isolation, piously intoning that Russia might be considered for candidate membership of Uncle Sam’s ‘international coalition’ if it would only mend its ways (i.e. accept US diktat and join in with efforts to subvert the ‘regime’ in Damascus). But after having all along explained its own (uninvited) presence in Syria by the overwhelming need to deal with Islamic State, the US is now hard-pressed to explain why Russia’s (invited) presence there with the self-same stated goal should be such a bad idea.
The best Washington has been able to come up with so far is the gripe that Russia has not restricted itself to battling card-carrying Islamic State members but has broadened its scope to include other (no less noxious) jihadist groups engaged in terrorising the population. Yet the US military had recent first-hand experience of the folly of trying to distinguish ‘good’ terrorists from ‘bad’ terrorists when it sent its latest batch of US-trained recruits across the border, only to see the whole lot kidnapped by al-Nusra militants, whom the Pentagon had thought were ‘on side’. The reality is that US military planners have long since given up on the fiction about a ‘moderate’ armed opposition which could serve to counter the ‘extremist’ Islamic State.
Stop the War: bourgeois pacifism on borrowed time
Given the inspirational impact of Russia’s air campaign, it is doubtful how much longer even the Stop the War Coalition can hope to go on confusing workers, fobbing them off with exhortations to ‘oppose Russian bombs as well as NATO bombs’, just as earlier they told us to oppose Saddam and Gaddafi as well as the West. These latter-day rehashings of the old Trot banner, ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow,’ have a long and vile history of substituting bourgeois pacifism for proletarian internationalism. Jeremy Corbyn slots effortlessly into this tradition, teaming up with Hillary Benn to propose the opening up (annexation) of ‘safe havens’ (enclaves policed by imperialism) to protect refugees (act as launchpads for further subversion). But as the working class get a ringside seat to observe just how fast and far opportunism crumbles into social chauvinism (Corbyn has already reneged on his pledge to quit NATO), it will get harder to deter advanced workers from learning the necessary political lessons.
Victory to the Syrian Arab Army, in fraternal co-operation with the airforce of the Russian Federation!
Death to Islamic State and all the other
Death to imperialism!