Policy dispute emerges as U.S. faces setback in Syria

By David Sole
August 14, 2016

Aug. 7 — With the aid of its Russian allies, Syrian government forces are making important military gains against the Islamic State group (IS) and U.S.-backed fighters in the area including Aleppo. The impending liberation of Syria’s largest city has prompted a faction in the Barack Obama administration to vigorously press for major U.S. air attacks against Syria.

The faction made this clear in a blunt op-ed piece in the Aug. 3 New York Times titled “The Case for (Finally) Bombing Assad.” Bashar al-Assad is Syria’s president. One co-author of the piece is Dennis B. Ross who worked in the State Department under presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama.

Alleged U.S. government plans to try to coordinate with Russia to jointly target the IS and the Nusra Front inside Syria are “opposed by many within the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon,” according to Ross and his colleague at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Andrew. J. Tabler.

The two op-ed authors are speaking for those who want to “punish the Syrian government … using drones and cruise missiles to hit the Syrian military’s airfields, bases and artillery position.” Their statement is only the most recent revelation of an internal debate in U.S. ruling circles going back years.

Washington has taken desperate steps to reverse what the Aug. 6 Times headlined as “Military success in Syria gives Putin upper hand in U.S. proxy war.”

Russian air support began only in September 2015. This followed four years of U.S.-C.I.A. training and arming of groups aiming to overthrow the government of Syria. These groups, often described as “rebels,” are really pro-imperialist reactionaries.

Even the New York Times admits that Russia stepped in only “after a monthslong offensive by C.I.A.-backed rebel groups … sometimes [fighting] alongside soldiers of the Nusra Front … affiliated with Al-Qaeda” and noted that “for several years the C.I.A. has joined with the spy services of several Arab nations to arm and train the rebels at bases in Jordan and Qatar, with the Saudis bankrolling much of the operation.” (Aug. 6)

Major gains in Syrian offensive to control Aleppo

But the Syrian Army has reversed many earlier gains by the reactionaries with the help of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Russian air support. A major offensive to control Aleppo has seen major gains, including control of areas along the Turkish border, used previously to supply the reactionaries.

In the same article the Times notes that “the most pressing danger is that supply routes from Turkey which are essential to the C.I.A.-backed rebels could be severed.”

In the battle for Aleppo, the Syrian Army has encircled eastern sections of the city held by reactionary forces. Intensive fighting is reported in desperate attempts by the besieged U.S.-backed forces to reopen their supply lines. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of Aug. 6, more than 500 fighters have been killed around Aleppo in one week.

The debate within the Obama administration is over tactics, not goals. Both factions seek the overthrow of the government of Syria and its replacement with a colonial puppet regime. U.S. imperialism will try various ways to achieve its world domination — sometimes the bare fist, sometimes the velvet glove.

The military option is always ready to be rolled out. On July 20 the Guardian newspaper reported that U.S. fighter bombers attacked the town of Manjib in Syria killing “at least 73 civilians” and possibly as many as 117. Many bodies were shredded and unidentifiable, but most of the casualties were women and children.

U.S. ally Turkey has also allowed U.S. planes to resume bombing flights against Syria from the Incirlik air base in Turkey, which had been shut down immediately following the failed coup of July 15.

Israel, another U.S. ally, also continues intervening against the Syrian government. The Times of Israel reported on Aug. 4 that the Israeli Air Force attacked a column of Hezbollah trucks in Syria heading for Damascus.