The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Sounder » Sun Sep 23, 2018 9:29 am

There's nothing new there for anyone who pays even minimal attention to how the EU works.

True dat. I can't follow the accents so only made through a few minutes. However the point to be made is a simple one; that is that some here decry imperialism in all it's forms yet support the EU.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby DrEvil » Sun Sep 23, 2018 9:35 am

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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby American Dream » Sun Sep 23, 2018 10:09 am

The Syrian War is a clusterfuck of inter-imperialist struggle and I have always centered my concerns on ordinary people- the people who supported the original uprisings against tyrannical government during the Arab Spring times and the working class folks who are living under the shadow of massive, massive violence in Idlib today.

I could never champion the brutal torture state of Assad nor those of its allies in Russia or Iran- these are not good guys and that is not a credible liberation praxis. The dynamics of War and of Power preclude empowerment in the best sense of that word- it's more about who is filthy rich (and/or connected) enough to have the resources to bring in all the instruments of death and domination, which are inseparable from the global matrix of political and financial power which generates them.

This is the dynamic of War which I hate. If you don't have the military muscle, you can't compete. Ordinary people are just collateral damage at best or targets for mass ethnic cleansing and other forms of repression. This is the "Peace" proffered as benevolent and liberating (or maybe just pragmatic) all too often. It's the non-combatants who suffer some of the worst and most undeserved violence.

A massive bloodbath coming soon seems very likely, quite possibly with millions pushed into permanent exile- or worse. That can not be what I would call a good thing and the role of the "Sputnik Left" as part of an alliance with some of the most reactionary nationalists of the far Right should never be forgotten- it does not represent a positive trend for conspiracy researchers/activists. It is not a bandwagon which I would ever choose to jump aboard on and it does not bode well for the future.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Elvis » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:29 pm

Sounder » Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:27 pm wrote:And yet, here is a 'state' you are happy to support. [UKIP video] ...

JackRiddler wrote:Video is very low-grade response as a post here, distraction, off-topic.

DrEvil wrote::wallhead:

Elvis the moderater speaking here...

Sounder, and everyone, let's all try to stay on topic — it's easy and tempting to get into sidebar comparisons attempting to frame another's views (e.g. who's "championing" whom), but a UKIP promo definitely doesn't serve the questions at hand in this thread.

:arrow: I only bring it up because we've received complaints about it, and anyway I see that you may now agree, not having watched the whole video before posting.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby JackRiddler » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:41 pm

AD in every one of your posts on this, including those responding to mine, you affect a courageous pose against the "Sputnik Left" (a strawman, in my case) but never the pro-NATO humanitarian interventionists and their Gulf state allies who have prolonged the war, supported the worst of the factions, and bombed relentlessly, and are thus responsible for millions fleeing the country. In all those paragraphs supposedly responding to me, you had absolutely nothing to say about your preferred reporter, Haddad, supporting an absurd conspiracy theory fronted by the NATO commander, Breedlove. There, I bolded it to see if your response will have any integrity. You do not as you claim equally condemn "all imperialists." You will be incapable of answering this without once again insinuating at length about "Putin supporters" and "Sputnik left" and you will not address your own skew, which is obvious to everyone else here.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby American Dream » Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:28 pm

To me it's kind of a no-brainer that NATO, Uncle Sam, the Gulf State monarchies et al. are bad news. As I think is true for most everyone here on this board. It would also be wrong to suggest or assume that I support violent islamist fanatics because I never go on about "headchoppers".

I'm noticing that you did brush up against my claim of problems inherent in coalitions ala the "Red Brown Alliance" by mentioning the "Sputnik Left" (which often unites its cause with reactionary nationalists) but I'm not sure if you have specifically addressed those concerns, which I think are incredibly important in this context.

JackRiddler » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:41 pm wrote:AD in every one of your posts on this, including those responding to mine, you affect a courageous pose against the "Sputnik Left" (a strawman, in my case) but never the pro-NATO humanitarian interventionists and their Gulf state allies who have prolonged the war, supported the worst of the factions, and bombed relentlessly, and are thus responsible for millions fleeing the country. In all those paragraphs supposedly responding to me, you had absolutely nothing to say about your preferred reporter, Haddad, supporting an absurd conspiracy theory fronted by the NATO commander, Breedlove. There, I bolded it to see if your response will have any integrity. You do not as you claim equally condemn "all imperialists." You will be incapable of answering this without once again insinuating at length about "Putin supporters" and "Sputnik left" and you will not address your own skew, which is obvious to everyone else here.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby MacCruiskeen » Sun Sep 23, 2018 4:34 pm

American Dream » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:28 pm wrote:To me it's kind of a no-brainer that NATO, Uncle Sam, the Gulf State monarchies et al. are bad news. As I think is true for most everyone here on this board. It would also be wrong to suggest or assume that I support violent islamist fanatics because I never go on about "headchoppers".

I'm noticing that you did brush up against my claim of problems inherent in coalitions ala the "Red Brown Alliance" by mentioning the "Sputnik Left" (which often unites its cause with reactionary nationalists) but I'm not sure if you have specifically addressed those concerns, which I think are incredibly important in this context.

JackRiddler » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:41 pm wrote:AD in every one of your posts on this, including those responding to mine, you affect a courageous pose against the "Sputnik Left" (a strawman, in my case) but never the pro-NATO humanitarian interventionists and their Gulf state allies who have prolonged the war, supported the worst of the factions, and bombed relentlessly, and are thus responsible for millions fleeing the country. In all those paragraphs supposedly responding to me, you had absolutely nothing to say about your preferred reporter, Haddad, supporting an absurd conspiracy theory fronted by the NATO commander, Breedlove. There, I bolded it to see if your response will have any integrity. You do not as you claim equally condemn "all imperialists." You will be incapable of answering this without once again insinuating at length about "Putin supporters" and "Sputnik left" and you will not address your own skew, which is obvious to everyone else here.

Incredible. He just completely ignored Jack's point again, even though Jack went out of his way to bold it this time.

JackR wrote:you will not address your own skew, which is obvious to everyone else here.

That's not a skew, that's a full-time job. (AD's own word for what he does here.) He pulls exactly the same stunt every time he can't answer a question honestly, for example when Jack posted Aaron Mate's brilliant takedown of James Risen. * The American Dream Job just ignores the point and vanishes from the "discussion" instantly, before emerging discreetly an hour or two later to bump four or five of his dozen-or-more Vanity Threads / Personal Data Dumps. His current favourites are those containing the words "Kremlin" and "fascist", or "Moscow" and "far-right", because demonizing Ivan makes it that much easier to abolish him, by any means necessary, including " nukes", whenever the time is deemed ripe.

You gotta catapult the propaganda.

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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby MacCruiskeen » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:12 pm

Reminder of context: On a boiling planet, the USA and Russia are closer to war than at any time since 1962.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Elvis » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:32 pm

American Dream wrote: It would also be wrong to suggest or assume that I support violent islamist fanatics because I never go on about "headchoppers".

Yet you're very quick to assume or suggest that anyone who condemns U.S. aggression is an "Assadist."

I marvel at your failure to see the hypocrisy of that double standard.

You do leave many here with the impression that you support the U.S.-sponsored Islamic fanatics over the existing Syrian government. That may be an arguable position to adopt but defending it is harder.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby conniption » Sun Sep 23, 2018 7:19 pm

Syrian MP on NATO Aggression & False Flag Attacks + Grenfell play, The Burning Tower (E657)
Published time: 22 Sep, 2018 11:33

Published on Sep 22, 2018
In this episode, we speak to Aleppo’s Independent Member of the Syrian Parliament, Fares Shehabi to speak about Israeli and NATO aggression in Syria. Plus we speak to the writer, Helena Thompson and assistant director, Naomi Israel about a new play on the Grenfell disaster called The Burning Tower. The play is run by Social Political Independent Direct (SPID) and will be on until October 6 at Kensal House, Community Rooms.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby American Dream » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:36 pm

The Crisis of the Left

Many of these same figures belonging to these red-brown networks regularly appear on Russian and Iranian state media, as well as on obscure and not-so-obscure websites which present themselves as “alternative” and “independent” media but are effectively purveyors and vehicles of crypto-fascist political confusion aiming to appeal to both the far-right and the far-left, especially through a form “anti-imperialism” which appeals to both Third Positionists and campist Stalinists, with the result being that one can find certain campist groups echoing fascists. In some other cases, these crypto-fascists infiltrate unprincipled left-wing media, such as with CounterPunch in a case where it decided to self-investigate for once, after allowing fascists such as Israel Shamir to use its platform for years. As leftists, we are rightfully skeptical and critical of corporate and state media such as CNN and the BBC, and we need to apply this critical approach and skepticism towards other platforms such as these so-called “independent” and “alternative” media outlets which promote fascism and conspiracism as well.

This situation was rightly described by revolutionary Marxist and member of Solidarność, Zbigniew Kowalewski: “On the international left, almost nobody knows Russian, and even less Ukrainian; so when the left wants to know what is happening in Ukraine, it finds itself in a catastrophic situation. So as not to depend on the Western media, it is condemned to have recourse to the English-language propaganda of the Putin regime and to that of the so-called “anti-imperialist networks” which are pro-Russian (often “red-brown” or downright brown)“.

Alexander Reid Ross also writes on the Southern Poverty Law Center that “…the conduits of “geopolitical” ideology from Russian media to pro-Russian sites and the U.S. mainstream can serve as a Trojan horse for fascist tendencies and sympathies. Pro-Putin networks like RT and Sputnik, which have played host to far-right commentators like Dugin, Richard Spencer and German neo-Eurasianist Manuel Ochsenreiter serve as vehicles for far-right ideologies laundered into US news and commentary sites under the auspices of geopolitical commentary. Unfortunately, the Left has not launched a serious effort to disconnect from collaborations with far-right groups in the context of networks that support and are often supported by Putin’s Russia. This situation has caused influential bodies like the ACEWA to facilitate the growth of transnational, far-right politics and, more specifically, the fascist neo-Eurasianist movement.”

And, rightly so, French anti-fascists warn that political confusion is dangerous as it serves as recruitment for fascism, which is obvious in how certain hacks such as Caitlin Johnstone call for an “anti-establishment” alliance between the Left and fascists and are embraced with open arms by the unholy alliance of Cynthia McKinney and Robert Steele, in how the dangerous American neo-fascist movement which collaborates with the American state is explicitly aiming to attract leftists by using anti-capitalist rhetoric (a strategy which the European far-right is unfortunately exploiting successfully even as fascism is experiencing a worrying and murderous resurgence in Italy), and how sections of the so-called “anti-imperialist Left” repeat the same positions as fascists, for example concerning Syria, Libya and Ukraine, while remaining in denial about this fact and labeling all criticism of their reactionary positions as “McCarthyism”. This is something which Martin A. Lee was already warning of in a report for the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2000, where he writes of the possibility of a resurgence of fascism under hidden forms, especially in the context where fascist critiques overlap with genuine left-wing radical critiques of globalization.

What we are seeing here is not a principled anti-imperialism on an internationalist basis which opposes all imperialist states and all oppressive regimes. This is instead an embrace of fascism and conspiracism by certain sections of the Left for the sake of a crude, kneejerk and vulgar geopolitical alignment inherited from Cold War campism, and which goes beyond rightfully opposing American imperialism to instead supports oppressive states which commit war crimes or are themselves imperialist if they stand on the other side of the US on a geopolitical issue.

As radical leftist anti-fascists, anti-racists, anti-colonialists, and anti-capitalists struggling for liberation, we can fight against imperialism, against racism, and against fascism at the same time, and we can oppose the American war machine and oppose colonialism without siding with reactionary and oppressive entities. We can support liberation in Palestine, Bahrain, India, Venezuela and everywhere else where people are struggling against oppression without allying to fascists or allowing them to try co-opting our movements. We need to act on legitimately internationalist principles and oppose fascism, state power, capital and liberalism, based on the principles of Karl Liebknecht when he wrote “This enemy at home must be fought… in a political struggle, cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists” and “Everything for the International Proletariat,… and Downtrodden Humanity“. Unfortunately sections of the radical movement have failed or have been purposely misled by crypto-fascists. Having started writing this post on the centenary of the Russian Revolution and initially published it exactly 99 years since the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht by counter-revolutionary forces within the so-called “Left”, even as protests are rocking Tunisia on the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the Arab Spring, I have only one thing to say: we badly need to do better, comrades.

An Investigation Into Red-Brown Alliances: Third Positionism, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, And The Western Left
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby American Dream » Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:22 am

Wretched of the Earth: solidarity letters between Syria and Gaza

Original Arabic with English translations below. (left:) From Gaza’s border on the Friday of Breaking the Siege, greetings to the rebellious throats in Idlib who went out and shouted, “No constitution, no reconstruction, until Bashar falls and freedom to the detainees”… Friday of #freedom_to_the_detainees Friday of #break_the_siege Friday of #no_constitution_no_reconstruction_until_Bashar_falls. Freedom to the detainees. 21 September Friday (right:) 21-9-2018 From demonstrations in the town of Al-Bab in Eastern Aleppo countryside.. to our people in the March of Return to Gaza’s border— We are with you. 21-9-2018

Given its relevance, I am re-posting Mohammed Suleiman’s Wretched of the Earth: Thoughts on Syria, Palestine and Discourse. Originally published October 18th, 2016.

What happens in Syria is of a great concern to all of us, albeit for different reasons. My concern for Syria is the loss of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and, no less important, the way my identity as a Palestinian is constantly dragged into it to justify this bloodbath and undermine the struggle of Syrians.

The conversation on Syria can go in many a direction. I’m interested in where I, as a Palestinian, should be standing. And I choose the side of the Syrian people.

This is a quite problematic start.

‘Which Syrian people do you mean?’ the skeptic will ask.

I am simply referring to the people of Syria who either actively chose to protest against the Assad dictatorship and found themselves being bombarded and massacred by him and his allies since 2011. I’m referring to the Syrian refugees escaping Assad regime and Russian bombardment. I’m referring to the Syrian children, men and women whom I hear, time and again, in the aftermath of every strike, cursing him and the soul of his father.

I’m trying to make it clear that it is the life of the Syrian people that I am interested in when I talk about Syria. However, I have to admit what is now happening in Syria is more than just the struggle of the Syrian people. Besides Syrian civilians and Syrian rebels, there is a miscellany of foreign fighters in Syria which include sectarian jihadis fighting against Assad and everyone who is not them as well as the no-less sectarian militias fighting for the Assad regime. In Syria, there are regional and global interests which involve diverse powers fighting for Assad and others trying to bring him down. And we all know their names.

This, for me, is where the conversation starts to take a different direction. That there is more happening in Syria than just the Syrian people does not make the Syria question less about Syrians. This is decidedly where you either remain a supporter of the Syrian people or simply abandon them. It is a choice between renewing one’s commitment to the Syrian people or betraying them by deciding that this no longer is about them.

Therefore, I will bring my conversation back to the Syrian people.

The question I’d like to pose: does the presence of all these militias, external influence and regional power negate the presence of the Syrian people?

Simple as it is, this question can be (mis)construed in many ways, and hence my emphasis on the existence of the Syrian people. The answer is no. The Syrian people exist and this is all about them. There are Syrian people on the ground, for sure.

But the different question some would insist on, again, is ‘which Syrian people?’

I made it clear it is concern for the loss of life of the Syrian people that drives me to write this. So it is the more than 400,000 Syrian lives. This can be a quite murky thing to say, since Assadists can come up with their own numbers and dispute every other statistic or image as fabricated or an American-sponsored falsehood. Therefore, let us simply say it is the lives of those Syrian people who were killed by the Assad regime and its allies that I am referring to. They number hundreds of thousands and unless you’re an actual bozo— as Robert De Niro would say— of the kind that denies that Assad has killed the majority of the victims of Syria, you’ll have to accept that this man is a war criminal, a mass murderer and, as I like to say, a butcher.

Many accept that Assad is indeed a butcher and is killing his people but that this turned into a ‘proxy war’ and one has to be careful which side they stand on. If you’re one of those, let’s move on. If you think Assad is not massacring his people and letting the Russians and others do it for him and that he is but an absolute anti-imperialist icon, then (honestly, mate) fuck off.

However, while I maintained a distinction between the two, rarely do I come across the first type of people (those who say Assad is killing people, but it is not as simple as this) and who do not somehow end up calling this a complete conspiracy and that Assad is not really the main perpetrator of violence in Syria. Again, statistics, video footage, and hard evidence aside.

As a Palestinian, Assad means nothing to me. I was raised in Gaza. I lived there most of my life, and there is nowhere else on earth that I can call home but Gaza. I was born during the first intifada, grew up through the second, lived one Israeli onslaught after another, did high school exams while Hamas and Fatah were shooting at one another outside my exam hall. I’m trying to make two points here.

First, Assad means nothing to me and us as Palestinians. The whole saga of him being a champion of Palestinian rights is one only ideological bozos believe, not Palestinians. For us, he is only one thing: a butcher of his own people. Clearly, I’m not in the business in proving to anyone that he is not a champion of Palestinian rights by citing the last time he shot a bullet towards Israel. There is so much written on this, go read it. Here, I am stating with native authority that he is not, so come on, do practice some of your cultural imperialism and force this fake image of his on me. Tell Palestinians that you know about them more than they know about themselves. Isn’t this what the anti-imperialist leftist bozos criticize pro-interventionists of anyway: of speaking for Syrians?

Second, I know what violence is. So, and here I’m addressing white leftist Assadists in particular, if you think you know shit about life, I suggest you think hard again. Reading a few books about Marxism and philosophy to find meaning in your own life, and then engaging in some armchair discussions about world politics and visiting a few ‘conflict zones’ may teach you something, and there is nothing wrong with doing this. Nonetheless, it does not make you more knowledgeable about life than a high-school teenager with a direct experience of war, loss and injustice, so do know what your limits are. Anti-imperialism is precisely this: checking your privileges, your whiteness, understanding the operations of power, the insidious forms of imperialism, i.e. cultural imperialism, which do not come in the form of American wars and interventions in the Middle East and Latin American, or European and IMF neo-colonialism. There is more you may want to learn.

However, I digress. Back to the Syrian people. Assad is the main perpetrator of violence on Syria. Where do we go from here? Simple. Get rid of him to stop the violence. But is it really simple, given the presence of foreign influence, regional powers’ greed and— how can one ignore the elephant in the room? — extremists. That is a dilemma. To get rid of Assad or not? Let us for now talk to Assad, to Russia, to everyone: ‘Please have mercy on the Syrian people until we figure out what to do with this.’ Fast forward five years, and the world is still convincing Assad to stop the butchery.

As a Palestinian, there is a phrase I picked up from TV news bulletins when I was a little child: haqqu taqrir al-masir (the right to self-determination). Sure, let Syrians decide. For why you non-Syrians decide for Syrians how to deal with their crisis? This must prove to be good for all consenting parities. Hold on, this is nonsense. Setting aside all the procedural issues required to be in place for Syrians to be able to decide in a democratic fashion whether to get rid of Assad or not, which Syrians are you talking about here, again? The point made by skeptics is that there are Syrians who do want Bashar Al-Assad as well. Therefore, not all Syrians want him removed from power. Let us look into this pseudo-problem.

I have made it clear I am concerned about Syrians who are victims of this butcher, so the presence of Assadist Syrians does not really undermine the right of the rest of Syrians to get rid of him. This is similar to saying that there are Palestinians who support the Palestinian Authority (which is complicit with the Israeli occupation but has not killed hundreds of thousands of its own people); therefore, Palestinians should not get rid of the PA. I believe they should remove the PA, regardless of what PA loyalists think. And there is almost consensus amongst Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists— not that the latter matters—that Palestinians are going nowhere near liberation as far as the PA is in place.

A lot of us support BDS, one-state solution and full Palestinian rights. However, if you haven’t been to Palestine, you’re absolutely mistaken to think this in any way represents the Palestinian people in their entirety. But wait, which Palestinian people? Does this include the Palestinian refugees in Syrian and Lebanon, or the third-generation diaspora refugees in the US and Europe as well? Like Syria, it is no less complicated, no?

Only that it is not. We still know which Palestinian people. We do not care what Abbas and PA buffoons have to say. We do not give much attention to what Hamas thinks is the best way to deal with the occupation, or even what the ordinary people in Gaza and the West Bank think is the best way to solve the conflict. We agree Palestinians have decided they want BDS through the endorsement of the largest civil society organisations of BDS. That said, in no way does BDS speak for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, who have been living directly under Israeli occupation and who experience its violence first-hand. In no way does it represents Hamas or Fatah, or Palestinian NGOs in Gaza and the West Bank, for, after all, they’re products of Oslo. Take my native word for it: most Palestinians in Gaza haven’t heard of BDS (probably known only to those who speak English) and if they have, they think it is nonsense.

However, this is not a case against BDS at all. BDS is the right thing to do and we should all continue to endorse it. I am not interested in contesting the BDS as a discourse representative of Palestinian demands. Its goals are just. Even if not all Palestinians agree with it, we shall continue to hegemonize it, stabilize it, and take it to be representative of Palestinians, all Palestinians. Only when it becomes hegemonic— and it has, at least outside of Palestine— we are in a position to say that BDS represents Palestinian demands, and we take this to mean all of them (including those who haven’t heard or consented to it). Therefore, other Palestinian discourses such as the PA and Hamas do not really undermine the case for BDS, as some Zionists suggest. That a lot of Palestinians do not know of it, it remains representative of Palestinian demands, for we, Palestinians and those concerned with Palestinian justice in general, gave it its status as such.

How is this relevant to Syria? Simple. I do not deny the presence of pro-Assad Syrians. For me, as I have repeatedly mentioned, it is not them that I see as deserving of my concern, but the freedom-loving Syrians and those who are victims of the regime and its allies. If you are concerned with justice, with rights, you should side with this discourse against Assad and pro-Assad Syrians. If you recognise Assad as the main butcher—if not, what the fuck are you still doing here? — instead of contesting it and destabilizing its power as representative of Syrians, you should bring about the closure of the discourse on Syria as one sutured around one centre, i.e. anti-Assad opposition.

Where does this leave us from foreign influence, which is a concern for all of us? First, our concern about what will happen should not be reason to prevent us from doing the right thing, and, in all honesty, I can’t conceive how what will happen is going to be worse from what has happened, especially if we share that Syrian life is our driving concern here. Most importantly, I cannot see any reason for not trusting Syrians with their future unless you’re a right-wing Islamophobe who can’t dissociate between a post-Assad free Syria and Islamist extremists. If you can see only bearded (not really angry) head-chopping guys and no Syrian civilians, you should also see only rocket-launching Hamas militants and no civilians. Also if you see both, I’m sure we agree (unless you’re a right-winger again) that Hamas violence did not occur in a vacuum and is a consequence of the larger context in which the main issue is Israel’s occupation and structural injustices. Similarly, you cannot talk about Islamist extremists by simply resorting to categories such as Wahhabism, and, in orientalist fashion, textual reading, while ignoring the material conditions which led to the emergence of extremism. Again, acknowledging their heavy presence does not make Syria less about Syrians. There are still civilians, and there are Syrian rebels. It is neither the foreign mercenaries nor those who are fighting not for rights but for domination and on sectarian grounds that I am interested in. It is the Syrians who fight for their life, freedom and dignity. Only for an armchair leftist are these empty words; for the rest of us, they do mean something worth fighting for. Syrians— and we’re not going to discuss which ones this time— do have the right to self-determination, and we should support their right to usher in their own future.

Before I bring this outburst to an end, we do have a say in what is happening. Call me a pro-interventionist if you like. I worked for several years in Gaza with a local human rights organization, and every press statement we issued, we, almost habitually, concluded with a ‘call on the international community to intervene’. That is precisely what the Syrians are doing. What form this should take is not what I’m up to here, but intervening to protect Syrians because they call for intervention is just and is the right thing to do. Now, if you have reservations about the motives of those intervening, so do I. For Hamas after enforcing the blockade on Gaza 2006/07, the regional agendas and motives of Iran were not reason to reject their military and financial aid, or the motives of the United State government are no reason for the population to reject their support through USAID or for NGOs to not accept funds from the EU. The fact that Israel will polish its image by treating the very children it bombs and mutilates is no reason for Palestinians to refuse to be treated at Israeli hospitals, although we certainly knew this was what Israel would do. Syrian rebels have a right to defend themselves against the fascist regime of Assad and only tipsy, white (and white-masked), leftist ideological bozos sitting in the comfort of New York, London and Sydney will slander the Syrians for being armed by the US, Turkey or Saudi. But only us, Palestinians with direct experience of occupation and oppression, those of us who lived under war and blockade, know this. Syrians deserve our support. And they have it. ... -and-gaza/

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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Elvis » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:51 pm

Reexamining some of the motives behind the fight over Syria, in March of this year Global Research republished the 2014 piece below by F. William Engdahl. Another piece follows, from May, 2017 by Paul Cochrane, who dismisses the "pipeline hypothesis"; reader comments question some of Cochrane's analysis and add missing aspects of the question.

The many actors in the conflict will each have their own motives, and certainly gas and oil distribution routes play a role; Cochrane seems a little too quick to dismiss that factor, omitting certain facts that undermine his analysis. ... ia/5410130

Relevant article selected from the GR archive, first published by GR in October 2014 sheds light on the unfolding war in Syria, the crisis in the Gulf states and the confrontation between Russia and the US.

The Secret Stupid Saudi-US Deal on Syria. Oil Gas Pipeline War
The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal
By F. William Engdahl
Global Research, March 02, 2018
Boiling Frogs Post 24 October 2014

The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called ISIS. It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil. Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.

One of the weirdest anomalies of the recent NATO bombing campaign, allegedly against the ISIS or IS or ISIL or Daash, depending on your preference, is the fact that with major war raging in the world’s richest oil region, the price of crude oil has been dropping, dramatically so. Since June when ISIS suddenly captured the oil-rich region of Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, the benchmark Brent price of crude oil dropped some 20% from $112 to about $88. World daily demand for oil has not dropped by 20% however. China oil demand has not fallen 20% nor has US domestic shale oil stock risen by 21%.

What has happened is that the long-time US ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. [1] That Saudi financial discounting operation in turn is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading. The result is a market panic that is gaining momentum daily. China is quite happy to buy the cheap oil, but her close allies, Russia and Iran, are being hit severely.

The deal

According to Rashid Abanmy, President of the Riyadh-based Saudi Arabia Oil Policies and Strategic Expectations Center, the dramatic price collapse is being deliberately caused by the Saudis, OPEC’s largest producer. The public reason claimed is to gain new markets in a global market of weakening oil demand. The real reason, according to Abanmy, is to put pressure on Iran on her nuclear program, and on Russia to end her support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.[2]

When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas.

The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least, because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.

The Kerry-Abdullah secret deal

On September 11, US Secretary of State Kerry met Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. The King invited former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar to attend. There a deal was hammered out which saw Saudi support for the Syrian airstrikes against ISIS on condition Washington backed the Saudis in toppling Assad, a firm ally of Russia and de facto of Iran and an obstacle to Saudi and UAE plans to control the emerging EU natural gas market and destroy Russia’s lucrative EU trade. A report in the Wall Street Journal noted there had been “months of behind-the-scenes work by the US and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh US commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority.” [3]

For the Saudis the war is between two competing age-old vectors of Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, claims de facto supremacy in the Islamic world of Sunni Islam. The Saudi Sunni form is ultra-conservative Wahhabism, named for an 18th Century Bedouin Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahha. The Taliban derive from Wahhabism with the aid of Saudi-financed religious instruction. The Gulf Emirates and Kuwait also adhere to the Sunni Wahhabism of the Saudis, as does the Emir of Qatar. Iran on the other hand historically is the heart of the smaller branch of Islam, the Shi’ite. Iraq’s population is some 61% majority Shi’ite. Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad is a member of a satellite of the Shi’ite branch known as Alawite. Some 23% of Turkey is also Alawite Muslim. To complicate the picture more, across a bridge from Saudi Arabia sits the tiny island country, Bahrain where as many as 75% of the population is Shi’ite but the ruling Al-Khalifa family is Sunni and firmly tied to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the richest Saudi oil region is dominated by Shi’ite Muslims who work the oil installations of Ras Tanura.

An oil and gas pipeline war


These historic fault lines inside Islam which lay dormant, were brought into a state of open warfare with the launching of the US State Department and CIA’s Islamic Holy War, otherwise known as the Arab Spring. Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood. As I detail in my most recent book, Amerikas’ Heiliger Krieg, the CIA had cultivated ties to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood death cult since the early 1950’s.

Now if we map the resources of known natural gas reserves in the entire Persian Gulf region, the motives of the Saudi-led Qatar and UAE in financing with billions of dollars the opposition to Assad, including the Sunni ISIS, becomes clearer. Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar.

The world’s largest known natural gas reservoir sits in the middle of the Persian Gulf straddling part in the territorial waters of Qatar and part in Iran. The Iranian part is called North Pars. In 2006 China’s state-owned CNOOC signed an agreement with Iran to develop North Pars and build LNG infrastructure to bring the gas to China.[4]

The Qatar side of the Persian Gulf, called North Field, contains the world’s third largest known natural gas reserves behind Russia and Iran.

In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.[5] As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”[6]

Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria. [7] Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.[8]

Qatar, today the world’s largest exporter of LNG, largely to Asia, wants the same EU market that Iran and Syria eye. For that, they would build pipelines to the Mediterranean. Here is where getting rid of the pro-Iran Assad is essential. In 2009 Qatar approached Bashar al-Assad to propose construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s north Field through Syria on to Turkey and to the EU. Assad refused, citing Syria’s long friendly relations with Russia and Gazprom. That refusal combined with the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline agreement in 2011 ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power, financing al Qaeda terrorists, recruits of Jihadist fanatics willing to kill Alawite and Shi’ite “infidels” for $100 a month and a Kalishnikov. The Washington neo-conservative warhawks in and around the Obama White House, along with their allies in the right-wing Netanyahu government, were cheering from the bleachers as Syria went up in flames after spring 2011.

Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal. The true aim of the US and Israel backed ISIS is to give the pretext for bombing Assad’s vital grain silos and oil refineries to cripple the economy in preparation for a “Ghaddafi-”style elimination of Russia and China and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad.

In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.

Religious wars have historically been the most savage of all wars and this one is no exception, especially when trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues are at stake. Why is the secret Kerry-Abdullah deal on Syria reached on September 11 stupid? Because the brilliant tacticians in Washington and Riyadh and Doha and to an extent in Ankara are unable to look at the interconnectedness of all the dis-order and destruction they foment, to look beyond their visions of control of the oil and gas flows as the basis of their illegitimate power. They are planting the seeds of their own destruction in the end.


William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order. He is a contributing author at BFP and may be contacted through his website at where this article was originally published.


[1] M. Rochan, Crude Oil Drops Amid Global Demand Concerns, IB Times, October 11, 2014 ... ns-1469524

[2] Nihan Cabbaroglu, Saudi Arabia to pressure Russia Iran with price of oil, 10 October 2014, Turkish Anadolu Agency,–saudi-arabia-to-pressure-russia-iran-with-price-of-oil
Erdoğan’s Turkey, King Salman’s Saudi Arabia and the Coming “Sunni” War for Oil

[3] Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Deal With Saudis Paved Way for Syrian Airstrikes: Talks With Saudi Arabia Were Linchpin in U.S. Efforts to Get Arab States Into Fight Against Islamic State, Wall Street Journal, September. 24, 2014, ... TopStories

[4] POGC, North Pars Gas Field, Pars Oil and Gas Company website, ... fault.aspx

[5] Imad Fawzi Shueibi , War Over Gas–Struggle over the Middle East: Gas Ranks First, 17 April, 2012.

[6] Pepe Escobar, Why Qatar Wants to Invade Syria, Asia Times, September 27, 2012, http://www.informationclearinghouse.inf ... e32576.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8] F. William Engdahl, Syria Turkey Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War, Global Research, October 11, 2012, ... ar/5307902

The original source of this article is Boiling Frogs Post
Copyright © F. William Engdahl, Boiling Frogs Post, 2018

Now the Cochrane piece from 2017 in Middle East Eye—it's a long piece with many graphics, so will post only the introductory bit; some insightful reader comments follow: ... -144022537
The 'Pipelineistan' conspiracy: The war in Syria has never been about gas
Paul Cochrane
Wednesday 10 May 2017 10:57 UTC
Last update:
Monday 16 April 2018 9:51 UTC

The pipeline hypotheses do not stand up to the realities of how energy is transported through the Middle East in the 21st century

Six years into a conflict that has killed at least 400,000 people, there is a widely held belief that the bloodshed in Syria is simply another war over Middle Eastern energy resources.

The bloodshed, so the theory goes, is a proxy battle about two proposed pipelines which would run across the country and on to Turkey and Europe.

While neither pipeline has left the drawing board, or indeed was ever realistic, this has not dampened the theory's popularity as a core reason for the Syria conflict.

The first pipeline is allegedly backed by the US and runs from Qatar through Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Syria. The second is a supposedly Russia-backed pipeline that goes from Iran, via Iraq, to Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it is claimed, rejected the Qatari pipeline in 2009, at the request of Moscow, to ensure that European reliance on Russian gas would not be undermined.

As a result, some commentators claim, the US and its European and Gulf allies, including Qatar, decided to orchestrate a rebellion against Assad to ensure that their pipe dreams became a reality rather than the Iranian option. Russia, in turn, backed Syria to ensure its own energy interests prevailed. Iran is also an ally of the current regime in Damascus.

These claims have been promoted in several quarters: the Qatari-based Al Jazeera first floated the concept of a "Pipelineistan war" in 2012.

Even US establishment journal Foreign Affairs and the Guardian newspaper picked up on the theory, which gained further traction in 2016 in an article by Robert Kennedy Jr, and was flagged by, among others, Jill Stein of the Green Party, a former US presidential candidate.

The idea was floated again after the US bombing of Syria in April. This, it was claimed, was further "proof" of Washington's desire to oust Assad and enable Europe to diversify its gas dependency away from Russia.

While the US has been covertly working with Gulf allies against the Assad regime, controlling Syria's energy resources and pipeline networks was not a primary concern. If so, it would be a very low priority for regime change.

Why? Firstly, the timeline is wrong. Covert action against Syria started under the George W Bush administration, in 2005, well before the alleged Qatari offer to Damascus in 2009.

"We can see US action against the Syrian regime well before the notion of this pipeline came into existence," says Justin Dargin, an energy scholar at Oxford University.

Secondly, the pipeline hypotheses do not stand up to the realities of how energy is transported through the Middle East and the obstacles faced by pipeline proposals, many of which fail to come to fruition. Even the Arab Gas Pipeline, whose second phase came online in 2005, has been mired in problems.

Robin Yassin-Kassab, author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, says the Pipelineistan theory also ignores how the conflict started and the early months of the revolution.

"Like all conspiracy theories, it thrives on the absence of content and in-depth knowledge of the country," he says.

With that last sentence in mind (do read the entire piece), here are some further considerations and corrections from readers:

Ryumin-Korovaev • 4 months ago

This is either ignorant/incompetent or a bunch of deliberate lies. 1) Iran has 2nd largest gas deposits in the world. It gets gas from Azerbaijan under the swap agreement - to deliver the same quantity of the Iranian gas to the Azeri Nakhichevan region, separated by the conflict zone from Azerbaijan proper. Additionally, oil and gas swaps allow Iran to sell its own petroleum to the Azeri and Central Asian clients as if it were Central Asian petroleum, thus doing business in spite of the U.S. sanctions. 2) The article does not even mention the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), which will be the main artery for the Caspian gas to reach Europe. This is where the Qatari (or the Iranian) gas would feed in, if those pipelines were to be built. 3) Russian TurkStream is back on, and negotiations to connect it to Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) - same where TANAP will connect, are going on. Talking about flat demand in Europe. 4) The US efforts to undermine Assad precede 2009, but please don't tell me they had nothing to do with oil and gas, and Syria's position as a hub for the whole region. Certainly, Israel's interests in getting rid of Assad have to be mentioned, too, as well as the fact that Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean happens to be in Syria. 5) The whole point of this war is to demonstrate the world who is the boss in the region, while destroying Russia's allies one by one. Iraq, Libya, now Syria. If Syria falls, then Iran. If Iran falls, then Russia. Were Russia not to help Syria (as it did not do in the case of Libya or Iraq), the whole world would see Russia's inability to protect its friends and business partners. Contracts would go away from Russia and into the Halliburton/ExxonMobil hands. Russia would be squeezed out of Europe, diminished, and then dismantled into pieces, to be individually exploited by the US corporations. That was the plan form the very beginning. Control over the world's oil and gas (fields, pipelines, LNG production, sea routes, global petroleum trade as such) is the main requirement for the US world domination, and the US will stop at nothing to protect its power base here. The whole Middle East will burn, if deemed necessary for the US strategy. The only solution to this is obvious: the US aggression has to be stopped by collective efforts.

skandinavikfur • 5 months ago

Russian gas reserves 48 trillion cubic meters
Iranian gas reserves 34 trillion cubic meters
Qatari gas reserves 27 trillion cubic meters
Now explain to me "The whole point is that while Syria was actively talking about gas from Iran, Tehran was importing gas from Azerbaijan during the winter months'

- Jim Deacons, energy consultant"
Figures show that both pipelines were financially and strategically viable.
War in Syria is maintained beacause of conflicting interests between Europe/USA and Russia

Ross skandinavikfur • 5 months ago

Yeah I picked up on that too, and the gas coming in from Azerbaijan is an energy swap so has nothing to do with Iran being low on gas. I know Iran although having huge reserves hasn't actually accessed all of them or even nearly by 2010 but since then has spent billions getting to it so by now will have more access and more to come.

The biggest issues Iran has still hold though, you have massive extra costs getting it through Iraq because it's badly destabilised not to mention an Iranian pipeline through Iraq would be a slap in the face to many of the Sunni who were in Sadam's party and still exist as terrorists. Also the Iran card doesn't play well with Russia seeing as they are effectively competing. So if anything Russia would be against the Iran pipeline. Given the Quatar pipeline makes no economic sense and has massive Saudi opposition it makes no sense for Russia to side with Syria because Syria signed up for the Iran pipeline. That's a pipeline that would compete with Russia.

If Russia struck a deal to back Assad under the condition he never allows that pipeline through then that's the only thing that makes sense to me. Assad holds a historic and some might say justified resentment toward western powers so he'd probably make that deal especially if the alternative was losing his power.


Amin Abz skandinavikfur • 5 months ago

Iran has contract with Azerbaijan called Energy Swap. Simply, Iran import Gas from the north (Azerbaijan) and provide the same amount in south (Persian Gulf). It has benefits for both countries.

I call BS • 10 months ago

So tell me again how the most recent U.S. sanctions this summer, in one bill sanctioning Russia and Syria, "Russian sourced natural gas", and the TransNord Natural Gas pipelines, have nothing to do with ... Natural Gas???

Syria has it's own natgas, no one needs Qatar's (on that side of the fence, apparently Saudi Arabia might have, though, in an effort to steal back the EU as a client, they would have loved to stop the Iranian/Russian/Syrian gas economics and stepped in to supply the EU with Qatar's gas). Syria shares the largest ocean of natural gas in the world with neighbors Turkey and Iran (and Iraq, I presume).

The Syrian invasion is, and has always been, about Natural Gas. In fact, this very website/news source reported it thus in 2015: ... -103505758

This terrible CIA rewrite has only been in swing since 2016, when US elections made people actually start to pay attention... but some of us were paying attention from the start, watching Obama frame Syria with false flags over and over again. ... s-comments

The link in that last commment is an article by the always astute Nafeez Ahmed, worth a look:

The US-Russia gas pipeline war in Syria could destabilise Putin
Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 30 October 2015 ... -103505758
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:38 pm


For a change, let's talk about Syria.

What does the map look like right now?

Date: 7 September 2018


From ... 29467.html

Syrian government forces = SAA with support of Russian military, Iranian irregulars, presumably Hezbollah.

Kurdish forces = SDF (current umbrella for various, mainly YPG/KYP, plus a few non-Kurdish elements.) This is where the Americans are, with a reported 2,000 U.S. troops and air support in at least 10 bases spread across the territory. Most of this territory was held by ISIS at its height in 2014.

Afrin = Direct Turkish military occupation of territory previously held by Kurdish forces (without American support), mostly commanding pro-Turkish SFA infantry.

Idlib = Nominally SFA as umbrella, the armed forces holding territory here are dominated by Al-Qaeda spin-offs of various kinds, armed and funded mainly by the Gulf States and by Turkey, and vainly trying to present a face to the world as "real rebel" SFA. That isn't to say the majority of people in this large space are not Syrian civilians, either prior residents or refugees, of whom in turn the majority are surely anti-Assad but not pro-jihadi.

The ceasefire was agreed by Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran. It cuts out the Gulf States and calls for joint Russian-Turkish patrol of Idlib to disarm all militias designated as extremist. This likely will give rise to complications as e.g. Nusra fighters might put on Turkish FSA uniforms, etc.

A final end to major hostilities would require negotiation, war, or effective non-intervention between the two largest territories currently, those held by SAA and YPG, meaning also involvement of the Americans, assuming they can get past their domestic push for reigniting full-scale regime change war.

If the war ends, there will be huge incentive for foreign investment to rebuild, the initial returns will be enormous, although of course it will all be at neoliberal conditions. But a true settlement is going to take generations if it happens. The remaining Syrian population will be overwhelmingly pro-Damascus, but how do the millions abroad -- of whom the vast majority were never fighters on any side -- get to return safely, not meet with persecution or worse, and find a living and a place in the postwar order?

But one thing at a time.

Current Idlib situation:


The newest elements in this are the Turkish observation points.

How Al-Jazeera describes all this:

Who are the key players:

Syrian government
The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal.

Free Syrian Army (FSA)
The Free Syrian Army is a loose conglomeration of armed brigades formed in 2011 by defectors from the Syrian army and civilians aiming to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Since the battle of Aleppo, the FSA has retained control of limited areas in northwestern Syria.

The main area it controls is: Idlib province

Kurdish control
The main cities under Kurdish control are: Raqqa, Qamishli, Hasakah

ISIL control
After the battle for Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) remains in control of an area near Albu Kamal, surrounded by government forces westward and Kurdish forces in the east.

Other groups
Other groups fighting in Syria include Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby American Dream » Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:47 am

Internationalist Communist Tendency's blog

US Power and the New Course Towards War

We live, and have been living, in an epoch of capitalist decadence. Notwithstanding longer life expectancy, technological advance, and the claims of its defenders, the capitalist system is incapable of addressing existential questions such as the destruction of the environment via man-made climate change. After all, to do so would get in the way of making profits. Short-term expediency portends long term disaster.

Capitalism though threatens the very existence of humanity in more direct ways. Currently there are 60 conflicts taking place around the world. Many have been going on unchecked for decades. Millions have died, whilst millions of others try to flee to the very advanced countries who provide the arms for these wars. Even if they survive the journey their existence is increasingly precarious, as racist movements agitate to “defend” a way of life that has become increasingly difficult even for the working class in the advanced capitalist world. US and UK real wages have been stagnant or declined since 1979. And the last decade of austerity has only added to the pain. What we are actually living through is the long slow decay of a social system in crisis. “Chaos” and even “decomposition” may be words that leap to the mind to describe current events. But they remain descriptions. What is required is a materialist analysis of the specific circumstances of current reality in order to lay bare, and understand, the forces behind it. Once we do that we can have a better understanding of where history is taking us.

In the current situation trying to make sense of all the contradictions and confusions would seem to be something of a mugs’ game. After all, the current convulsions in the political arena of the most powerful state on earth make any discussion of its direction from day to day almost impossible. In this article we try to focus on both the short term immediate issues facing the new line in US policy but also to set this in the context of a longer perspective which sees that, whatever the accidents of history, the ultimate final solution for capitalism is a major imperialist war.

Imperialist Rivalry in the Syrian War – Israel Gets a Blank Cheque from the US
Consistency, or even informed deliberation, has hardly been characteristic of Donald Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements since he became President of the United States, to put it mildly. In April, he announced the US would pull its troops out of Syria but exactly a week later he ordered missile attacks on Syrian air bases. This U-turn was provoked by the Assad regime’s alleged dropping of chemical weapons on civilians in the besieged town of Douma. British and French air forces also joined the attack for which they were praised by the US President. British participation in these attacks prompted the Daily Telegraph to headline its report “Could Britain be drawn into World War Three”. The Telegraph was not alone in raising that spectre. Russia warned of “consequences” after the attacks, with President Putin labelling the strikes an “act of aggression” that could “have a destructive effect on the entire system of international relations.”1

At first sight this alarm appears premature. The strikes of 14 April 2018 were, after all, only a repeat of a similar attack by US forces exactly one year earlier. They seem typical of the one-off actions of a US President who likes grand gestures (like the dropping of the largest conventional bomb in history on an Afghan mountain, supposedly to attack the Taliban last year). Furthermore, in the April attacks both Russian and Iranian military facilities were avoided and the Russians may even have been secretly warned of what was coming (and, according to one Al Jazeera report, they then tipped off the Syrians who also evacuated the threatened bases). This was thus more of a warning than a devastating military blow.2

And then there is the, by now, usual confusion in the Trump White House. On the night of the attacks, Trump said the US was “prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” But soon after, James Mattis, the Secretary for Defense contradicted him. “Right now, this is a one-time shot, designed to set back the Syrian war machine’s ability to produce chemical weapons.”

There was further incoherence the day after the attack on Syria. At that time Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador, announced in the UN that further economic sanctions would be taken against Russia for its support for the Syrian chemical weapons programme. She then found out that Trump had changed his mind, presumably in order not to antagonise Putin (who he was due to meet in Helsinki in July – a meeting which subsequently revealed yet more confusion about the real direction of US imperialist policy).

Despite all the confusion, and sudden shifts of policy, the Syrian conflict, far from winding down, does seem to be moving into an infinitely wider and more dangerous context engulfing the wider Middle East and beyond. Today Turkey, Iran, Russia, the USA, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, are all involved to various degrees, with Israel watching and intervening when, and where, it feels a need to counter the Iranian and Hezbollah build-up. The Saudis and Qataris still support jihadist groups but the remaining, more significant, powers in Syria either have boots on the ground there, and/or are supplying air cover for their chosen surrogate. The one consistent and dangerous thread in US policy here is its absolute opposition to growing Iranian influence in the region.

The consequences of this are already clear. The US’ unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or Iran nuclear deal), and the formal transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem means that any US pretence of “restraining” Israel has been abandoned. The USA’s subsequent defence of Israel’s shooting of thousands of demonstrators (and the killing of over 130 of them) on the Gaza border in the UN Security Council only underlines this new policy departure.3

And the danger signs for the Middle East continue to grow. On April 9, a few days before the US missile attack on Syria, Israel struck at air force base T4 near Tiyas. This is used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. 7 Iranians were killed including the commander of the Iranian drone operations from Syria. It was from here that a drone had entered Israel the previous February. A senior Israeli official confirmed to the New York Times that Israel had struck the base and underlined its significance by adding “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets – both facilities and people.”4

Matters have not ended there. There have been two more drone incursions from Syria into Israel since (shot down by Patriot missiles) and Israel has carried out a series of attacks on Hezbollah, Syrian Army and Iranian positions inside Syria. This also included a further attack on the T4 airbase, which is also used by the Russians, on July 8. The same Israeli minister quoted above made the situation clear. He told the New York Times that “A new phase has begun and the next war will be between Israel and Iran”. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that “we must do what we must, in order to prevent Iranian consolidation in Syria”. On 2 May 2018 the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a law allowing war to be declared by the Prime Minister (Netanyahu) and the Defence Minister in “extreme circumstances” without having to consult anyone else. This is part of preparation for war with Iran, but not just Iran. As Il Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia Comunista), our sister group in Italy, commented:

"This is also a warning for Russia, since Tel Aviv will not allow Moscow to hinder its plans to counteract the Iranian presence in Syria in any way. Moreover, the Minister himself has openly accused the Tehran government of financing the “terrorists” of Hamas and Hezbollah, which without their help in money and arms, would not be able to present such a serious threat to “peace” in the Middle East. On several occasions, before and after the raids in Syria, Israeli authorities have declared that they want to prevent the presence of Iranian soldiers on “its” northern borders (The Golan Heights). Yaakov Amidor former head of the Security Council in Tel Aviv has cynically announced that “We can not allow such a thing. And if there is no withdrawal, this will lead to war “. We did not have to wait long for the expected response of Iranian Prime Minister Bahram Qassemi, who in the name of President Rohani threateningly declared: “Israel will pay sooner or later”. In other words if the raids on Iranian troops in Syria were to continue, the “right” response would be made and the state of Tel Aviv would not remain unpunished. He concluded that these attacks “have their roots in Israel’s hostile policies towards the Muslim peoples of the region.

Skirmishes and ethnic-religious issues aside, Israel strongly fears the Shia encirclement, which from Tehran can now reach Hezbollah in Lebanon, passing through Damascus and Baghdad, under the political control of the ayatollahs. This puts the strategic position and rich sources of the Golan Heights at risk. On the other hand, Iran raises the banner of the Shiite Islamic struggle against Israel as part of its attempt to pose as champion of the defence of all Islam to the detriment of its enemy, Saudi Arabia."

Saudi Arabia – From Global Supporter of Salafism to Regional Powerbroker
If Israel is now clearly one pillar of US imperialism in the Middle East, the other is Saudi Arabia. The US relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a key, if sometimes dubious, component of their Middle Eastern strategy since 1945.6 In his almost obsessive determination to bring down Iran, Trump has now opted to support both Saudi Arabia and Israel more openly against their regional rival. Once again though, his ignorance of wider US security interests have at times embarrassed his own officials, and worked against the very goals he claims to be aiming for. An example was his visit to Riyadh last year when (after concluding a deal to supply more weapons for Saudi Arabia) he gave his enthusiastic support for Saudi Arabia’s attempt to destroy Qatar’s political independence. He supported the sanctions Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed on Qatar as a “supporter of terrorism”. He did not seem to know that Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command, and hosts around 10,000 American soldiers at Al Udeid.

In fact Trump had been dragged into the schemes of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. The Crown Prince has abandoned the cautious and stealthy policy of his predecessors who surreptitiously financed the Taliban, the Chechens, the Bosnians and all kinds of Muslim resistance groups. He now seeks to assert Saudi dominance as a regional power in the Middle East, particularly against Iran. This is one reason why the Saudis are waging a bloody and destructive war in Yemen. It is also why they have supported militant fundamentalists in Syria; have tried to force the Prime Minister of Lebanon to resign; and financed and supported the Egyptian officer corps’ coup, to bring down Morsi’s elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. All of these moves were opposed by Qatar. The composition of the Saudi alliance is no surprise. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are monarchies whilst Al Sisi’s authoritarian regime in Egypt is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia. They oppose Qatar’s support, not just for jihadist groups since Saudi Arabia does the same with Salafists (conservative Sunni Islamists) around the world, but also for popular movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

It took the combined efforts of Mattis, and the then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (who as an ex-oil mogul has ties to the Qatari regime) to not only mend fences with Qatar but persuade Trump of his blunder. Nearly a year later, on April 10 2018 Trump, in a public exchange with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani, unblushingly reversed tack and even highlighted Saudi and UAE complicity in supporting jihadism

"…Tamim and I have been working for a number of years now — actually, even before the fact — on terrorism. And we’re making sure that terrorism funding is stopped in the countries that we are really related to — because I feel related. But those countries are stopping the funding of terrorism, and that includes UAE; it includes Saudi Arabia; it includes Qatar and others."7

The Saudi coalition’s attempt to isolate Qatar has backfired and not just for the Saudis. Qatar has turned to Turkey (which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood and some groups in Syria) for military assistance against any invasion by Saudi Arabia and Ankara has obliged by stationing troops there. More significantly for US imperialism the attempted isolation of Qatar has broken up the Gulf Cooperation Council (formed in 1981 as an alliance against the 1979 Iranian revolution). Oman has continued to have normal relations with Qatar, but when the latter was shut out of Gulf air space by Bahrain (acting under Saudi orders), it had to use Iran’s air traffic control facilities. Qatar Air now reroutes its flights over Iranian air space and trading relations between Qatar and Iran have increased.

Iran – Nation v Class
The “unintended consequences” of Trump’s support for Saudi hegemony in the Gulf is not unlike his decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran abandoned attempts to develop nuclear weapons in return for an end to some sanctions. It is ironic that, just as Obama’s Iran policy was showing signs of working, Trump decided to pull the plug on it. Not only were the fissures in the Iranian ruling class becoming more distinct but, as we demonstrated in our article, “Iranian Workers Mock “Anti-imperialist Slogans” [] workers in Iran were not just striking and demonstrating against the Islamic Republic, but even mocking the regime’s own adventures in Iraq and Syria. They contrasted the resources wasted on this with the failure of Iranian capitalists to pay their wages. This mockery of the state was significant – an authoritarian regime satirised by its own workers is on dangerous ground. The lack of fear of the consequences, born of desperation, is often the beginning of a real class movement. The mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards of course attacked them both physically (around 2 dozen were killed), and ideologically, claiming that they were “traitors” (which all workers in struggle are to the capitalist class). This, though, carried little conviction at the time. The stage was set for yet more class confrontations. Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear accord has however already re-united the ruling class, and now striking workers will face a more determined attack. Like everywhere else in the world the nationalist card will be played over and over again against any workers who continue to protest. The only factor which remains the same is the appalling state of the Iranian economy which could yet determine the next stage in the course of the class war there.8

Much of the Iranian economic crisis is down to the corruption and mismanagement of the ruling class (like the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards) but previous sanctions by Europe and the US were adding to their woes. The supposedly progressive faction, around President Rohani, was running out of excuses for worsening economic conditions. Trump’s calculation is that ending the nuclear accord and imposing new sanctions (which are also against any European firm that plans to do deals with Iran), will finish the regime off. Given the parlous condition of the Iranian economy he must feel this will work. However, since he announced pulling out of the nuclear deal the ruling class in Iran has become more united against the perennial external foe and “Death to America” is once again a rallying cry for the regime and its supporters.

Furthermore, trouble at home for the Iranian regime is just as likely to be a catalyst for more adventurism abroad (not to mention restarting the nuclear programme). Obviously Iran is no match militarily for the USA. However the regime is threatening to block the 21 mile Straits of Hormuz if they find they cannot sell their own oil. This is potentially a flashpoint since a third of the world’s oil (including Saudi exports) and all Qatar’s liquid natural gas must pass through that busy stretch of water. As the US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain the US is in position to translate Trump’s angry Twitter comments into practical action. Of course inside Iran this confrontation will allow the regime to play on nationalist sentiment against the class demands of the workers.

For those, like the UN negotiators in Geneva, who still optimistically think there is a possible negotiated way out of the impasse in Syria the big hope seems to be that Putin will persuade Assad to abandon Iran and get its forces to leave Syria. There is indeed serious concern about this in Tehran. The optimists can also point to recent deals between Russia and Saudi Arabia to limit oil production or the supposed good relations which exist between Putin and Netanyahu (who have met several times since 2015 when Russia entered the Syrian War to save Assad). They claim that the continuing skirmishes between Syria and Israel are just warning shots or are designed to give some leverage to each other’s negotiating position. They have certainly tested out each other’s defence capabilities on at least 25 occasions in the last three years (with the Israelis doing most of the winning).

However, such optimism misses the fact that Moscow is in Syria as part of a wider imperialist strategy to reverse the tidal wave of losses it has suffered since the USSR collapsed. Russian actions in Georgia, Ukraine and Crimea are all part of the same push back as the war in Syria. Russia is in Syria to maintain its last toehold in the Middle East with the bases it has in Latakia and Tartus. In the course of the war in Syria the Assad regime has become completely dependent on Russia and cannot make a move without Russian consent. Russia may, one day, negotiate the Iranian withdrawal from Syria if it suited its overall strategic interests, but currently there Is no reason to do so at a juncture when that policy is being successful. The Iranian (and Hezbollah) military presence in Syria is now at the heart of the fight there, and enables Russia to be the arbiter of what happens next. In its negotiations with Iran and Turkey in Sochi and Astana, the issue is not about peace in Syria, but about how the various interests of these powers will be satisfied. With Assad gradually taking back much of Syria thanks to Russia, and IS now dispersed, the USA is left supporting a Syrian Kurdish enclave in Rojava and some points west of it. The YPG/PYD, and the other Arab forces linked to it, were the one solid fighting force on the ground that the US could support with air cover as they retook much of IS territory in Northern Syria and Iraq. The problem with this is that it has driven a supposed NATO ally towards the cagey embrace of Russia.

Turkey and Russia
Indeed despite the early hostility between them (when Erdogan earlier called for the overthrow of Assad and the Turks shot down a Russian jet over Syria) Russia and Turkey now have some shared interests. Erdogan has accepted that Assad cannot be overthrown and is not only concerned to keep Syria from falling apart, he also does not want a YPG Kurdish enclave on Turkey’s borders as it is a surrogate of the separatist PKK in Turkey. Turkey is more than irked that the YPG have been backed by US air power in their role as the backbone of the US campaign on the ground against IS in NE Syria. This in itself is a threat to the “integrity” of the Turkish state. Meanwhile, the continued refusal of the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for organising the 2016 coup, remains a bitter bone of contention between the two “NATO allies”.

In an attempt to placate the Turks the US did not give air cover for the YPG/PYD in Afrin so it was forced to withdraw (thus allowing the ethnic cleansing of the area by pro-Turkish militia) but at the same time Putin has been working to, at least, neutralise Turkey as a NATO member. Here he has some cards to play. Another gripe of the Turks was that NATO stationed Patriot missiles on Turkish soil at Turkey’s request, but these remained under the control of the US or other NATO powers. Turkey often complained that they were too slow to react to threats. Along came Putin to sell dozens of S-400 missiles which the Turks have command and control over. At the same time the two have signed an oil pact (over the Turkish Stream pipeline) and Russia is now building a nuclear power station in Anatolia.9 It is a far cry from the Cold War days when US nuclear missiles were based in a strongly pro-NATO Turkey pointing directly at the heart of the old USSR.

During the Cold War the world got used to largely proxy wars between clients of the then two super-powers or between one superpower and a proxy of the other but what is happening more recently in the Middle East demonstrates a more direct confrontation of the great powers, especially Russia and the United States. US air strikes have already killed Russian personnel (acting as military advisors to the Syrian Army). Though this was accidental it is a direct confrontation that did not happen in the Cold War. And in the Middle East, despite all the confused kaleidoscope of interests which have swirled around the Syrian conflict, the battle lines are now more clearly drawn. The Trump administration has picked up the baton of George W Bush in seeking to impose US military power on a recalcitrant Middle Eastern state. This time it is aimed at Iran, which is why the US is giving both Saudi Arabia and Israel substantial backing for their atrocities in Gaza and Yemen. The pattern for the near future has been set. Their alliance against Iran brings with it an enhanced risk of a wider conflagration. Even those European states who wish to continue the Iran nuclear accord, like France and Britain, are piling into Saudi Arabia with arms sales.10 And, of course, in the last 7 years the main sufferers are those millions of dead, maimed and displaced, living on the margins of existence across the Middle East and beyond.

An Age of Uncertainty
Dangerous though the new reality in a Middle East which has already seen the loss of millions of lives is, we need to put the whole question of imperialist rivalry into a wider context.

In 1945 the USA emerged as the greatest imperialist power in the history of the world, with a much less powerful USSR as its only rival. This rivalry was based less on ideology than on the fact that the USSR could exclude US trade and the almighty dollar from Eastern Europe. When China, North Korea etc fell into the USSR orbit this only intensified the rivalry, and the two began an arms race which culminated in the near disaster of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The fact that World War Three did not break out during the Cold War has often been put down to the MAD theory. It may have played a part in it but this should not be exaggerated. More fundamentally, neither the USSR nor the USA had a vested interest in all-out war. After all they were both “winners” in 1945. What they feared most was any further extension of the other’s empire and the major wars of this period (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan) were all about that. At the same time the massive devaluation and destruction of capital in the Second World War launched a new cycle of accumulation which produced a post-war boom unprecedented in the history of capitalism. This too removed some of the economic imperatives that accompany any drive to war.

The US, in particular, could be satisfied. Unlike Europe and the USSR it had not suffered the devastation of war on its territory and it had emerged as by far the richest and most powerful economy on the planet. It had the financial and military resources to defend its half of Europe (especially in France, Italy and Greece via the Marshall Plan) from further encroachment by the USSR. It also dominated all the international institutions set up to provide the rules for the new international order. International bodies like the UN (based in New York), and its agencies, like the IMF, the World Bank and GATT (today the WTO) ensured that this new world order was essentially (outside the Soviet empire and its allies) an American order.

Perhaps most significantly of all, the US compelled the “free world” at Bretton Woods in 1944 to make the dollar the new gold standard in world commerce. One of the material bases of the continued rivalry with the USSR was that its empire, by not having currencies convertible into the dollar, was outside US control. Indeed, had the so-called “communist” countries used convertible currencies, American economic power would soon have prevailed.

Throughout the post-war boom US imperialist policy can be characterised as either schizophrenic or hypocritical since it championed democracy, the rule of law and the “human rights” only found in the “free world”. At the same time the populations of places like Guatemala (1954), Vietnam (1962-75), Chile (1973) often found that these values were not for them when the US either invaded, or supported the overthrow of democratically elected leaders regarded as harmful to US interests. The US also supported a series of “anti-communist” dictators in Latin America, Africa and Asia on the grounds that each one “may be a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch”.11 Once the Cold war was over there was a retreat from support for dictators (especially as a lot of them were now to be found in the old Soviet Empire) since the US now wanted to ideologically ram home the virtues of its system based on “the rule of law” which had triumphed over “communist dictatorship”. This ideological superiority complex did not stop its agents from using all kinds of undercover operations to ensure that the regime changes that did take effect did so in ways beneficial to US interests. But it did provide a kind of perverted justification for its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite the triumphalism over the “collapse of communism” (sic) however, the West itself had also been plagued with a gnawing and developing economic crisis. The end of the post war boom (which came in the late 60s or early 70s, depending on which country you were in) created a new problem for US imperialism. It had agreed at Bretton Woods to fix the dollar at $35 to an ounce of gold. However, as we wrote in our last issue,

"A gold-backed dollar worked very well for the US during the long post war boom years. But when the laws of capital accumulation inexorably reasserted themselves in the form of the decline of the rate of profit, the cycle of accumulation entered its phase of decline. The clearest sign of this was that the US was forced to take the dollar off the gold standard in 1971 leaving only US Treasury debt as the basis for global reserves. The balance of payments deficit stemming from the US’ declining competitiveness and lower profit rates – by the 1970’s the US was a net importer of goods – pumped dollars abroad and was exacerbated by foreign military spending. Some of these never returned to the US but became petrodollars or Eurodollars whilst others ended up in the hands of central banks that recycled them to the US by buying Treasury securities, which in turn financed the US domestic budget deficit. This gives the US economy a unique financial free ride, enabling it to finance its deficits seemingly ad-infinitum without creating an inflationary crisis that would have been the case for any other state. The balance of payments deficit has thus financed the US domestic budget deficit for decades. The post-gold international finance system, boosted by such things as the petrodollar, obliges foreign countries (the Chinese government alone holds around $3.5 trillion) to finance US military spending whether they like it or not. And the US uses its “free” military and naval apparatus to police oil routes and ensure that oil producing countries continue to trade in dollars." (“China – Long-held US Views Becoming Reality” in Revolutionary Perspectives 11 or on our site)

As so often in capitalist history, economic crisis remains the midwife of dramatic changes. Until the 1980s it was assumed that in the imperialist epoch, economic interests and national security were indelibly linked together. The dominant capitalist states not only promoted the global interests of their bourgeoisie as a whole, but would also, through a variety of means, from outright nationalisation and subsidies, to the awarding of government contracts, guarantee the existence of what were called “the commanding heights” of the economy. This included strategic industries such as energy, shipbuilding and steel etc. However, in a crisis of profitability heavy manufacturing industry was an increasing drain on state finances which covered their losses. If we add that these sectors were also the most “troublesome” where massive concentrations of workers could successfully strike to try to maintain their standards of living in the face of inflation, the significance for the class war cannot be underestimated. These factors eventually brought about a massive restructuring with a lot of capital being simply written off. Mass unemployment, which also had the advantage of undermining class resistance, now hit the West as capital began to shift to low wage economies during the 1980s.

The collapse of the USSR, and its satellites, further undermined the notion that every state had to ensure that it controlled all the economic levers of production to maintain “national security”. The main aim now was to try to create conditions to maximise inward investment whilst at the same time seek more profitable financial returns in the new financialised economy. Speculating on the Chicago stock exchange in futures was now much more rewarding than actually investing in any company that might want to produce anything. That kind of investment now went to the capitalist periphery where wages were low as in China, S.E. Asia and Latin America. The mostly authoritarian regimes in these places set up “special economic zones” or maquiladoras to facilitate this.

“Globalisation” was thus not some natural organic development from the glorious liberal free market economy as the neoliberal ideologists thought. It was a state policy actively pursued by the leading capitalist states. In this regard,

the US government ensured preferential market access to the giant US market for the north-east Asian economies, as part of the US strategy to build a capitalist regional economy to counter communist (sic) expansion. And export promotion went hand in hand with strategic import protection to build a diversified industrial economy."12

In short globalisation was used by both US and Chinese capital for their own ends. US finance poured into Asia (and elsewhere) as “offshore” production, using the cheaper labour of places like China, became the place to invest. It was (and is) in both US and Chinese interests in other ways too. Cheap Chinese imports have helped disguise the stagnation, if not decline, in wages in the traditional capitalist centres since 1979.

At the same time, from the late 1980s and into the 1990s financialisation really took off. The various regulations that had been brought in after the Wall St Crash, like the Glass-Steagall Act (1933-99) to prevent speculation and avoid crashes, were either annulled or modified. Such financial deregulation gave the appearance that the system had weathered the storm of the 1970s crisis without it creating a pre-war situation as in the 1930s. However continuing financial deregulation only encouraged new forms of speculation, as financial bodies found even more creative ways (such as credit derivatives and collateralised debt obligations) of creating revenue without, in fact, creating anything. This gave the illusion of wealth without its substance. We predicted for years that the creation of such fictitious capital would one day lead to financial collapse – our only surprise was that it took so long. Even so the 2007-8 collapse was more significant than may appear at the moment, because the solution of baling out the banks to save the entire capitalist system is only a palliative. It does not solve the basic problem of the global capitalist economy which is the low rate of profitability. Capital can only redress this by starting a new cycle of accumulation, and this can only be done if a mass of existing capital is devalued.

This happened twice in the twentieth century when both the First and Second World Wars led to the massive destruction and devaluation of capital which allowed the system to once again accumulate from a new value base. With no other economic solution in sight this is where the world is drifting, albeit slowly, today. The reason it is slow is because capitalists know what the consequences of global war are. There are strong forces operating to prevent another descent into the barbarism of global conflict. However whilst a general devaluation by war might be bad for business the devaluation of a rival’s capital might allow a capitalist state to emerge as the new focus of a newly centralised capital as the US did in 1945. All-out war is thus not something that capitalist states enter into lightly, but in an age of imperialism where competition is cutthroat, they are impelled down that road by the need to defend their economic and strategic interests against all rivals. However, before the shooting war comes the trade war. The world saw this in the 1930s when tariffs were raised and trading blocs formed everywhere, bringing an end to free trade and further increasing the tensions between powers.

Today there is no question that “economic nationalism” is back on the agenda. In announcing tariffs on steel and aluminium (against China, South Korea and European producers in particular) the US government cited “national security” as the reason. Trump scraped into power on a revulsion against the decades of stagnation experienced by the victims of globalisation. In places where workers in the old industries were once paid higher wages, little has been done to help the communities which have been so devastated. Trump’s “America First” slogan might have been borrowed from Warren T Harding back in the 1920s, but it had fresh meaning in these states.

And with the announcement of a trade war against the world at the G7 meeting in Canada in June, we at least now know what “America First” means. It means everyone else last, no matter whether they are supposed allies, or sworn enemies. Some think the trade war is a bluff, that globalisation has created such complicated supply chains that it cannot work. Others think Trump is just behaving like the real estate bully boy he is. He is raising the stakes in order to negotiate from strength and get a better deal further down the road. There is no doubt that he is glorying in using all the cards that American power in both the economy and military have given him. Some argue that there is nothing new here. It is just part of the usual tussle in US imperialist policy between those (mostly on the Republican Right) who want the US to use its economic and, where necessary, military preponderance, to assert its interests no matter what, and those who (like the previous President) looked to lead a cooperative world in the values America nominally espouses and which have served the US so well since 1945.

Continues: ... r-25092018
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