No fewer than 11 air forces were bombing Syrians at press time — the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, and United Arab Emirates. On the ground are thousands of foreign troops and jihadists (including ISIS) and special-force mercenaries from reportedly 90 countries. They provide countless weapons and militias, tyrannize towns and neighborhoods, and kill at will.
Syria is being destroyed. Nearly half a million have been killed and more than half the population of 22 million has been uprooted from their homes. This civil war against a bloody tyrant has become a grisly symbol for global imperialists in a murderous frenzy to block revolutionary changes, especially in the Middle East.
The news media explains very little about who is attacking who and why. And it says nothing about the revolutionary character of those who started the uprising in the first place.
Why is Syria pivotal? Syria is not rich with oil resources. But it is located between oil producing giants and in the middle of imperialist powers, eager to expand their territorial and economic dominance as far as they can. It is a clash of the titans (U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia) and their sub-imperialist allies and wannabes. None of them care about Syrian working people.
The U.S. empire wants to control the Middle East. Russia wants to block U.S. control and to sharpen its military prowess. “It’s hard to imagine a better exercise [for Russian troops], said President Putin. “We can train [in Syria] for a long time without any serious harm to our budget.” Turkey opposes Assad and would like to recover its version of the Ottoman Empire defeated by World War I. England and France, once major colonizers in the region, still have massive economic interests to protect there.
Iran is struggling to hold onto its unpopular Muslim theocracy and become a primary power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, the major oil state, is competing against Iran for the same thing. Israel, bordering Syria, has long depended on Assad’s lack of resistance to Israel’s occupation of Golan Heights. Qatar and other Gulf countries and their individual billionaires have funded the various jihadist militias flowing into Syria from other countries. War is always profitable to the financiers.
All of these predators now support a “political solution” that would keep the Assad regime intact — the same regime that dropped thousands of barrel bombs during the first six months of 2015, and whose forces are responsible for killing nearly 90 percent of the civilians who died over the same period.
Aleppo’s wreckage. “The bombs are falling so fast in Aleppo now that often rescuers don’t have time to reach victims between blasts,” said a rescue worker in January 2016. Russian and Assad government planes have been bombing Aleppo since September 2015. Once a city of three million, Aleppo was the most commercially advanced and ethnically diverse city in Syria. “Free Aleppo,” the anti-Assad/ISIS sector in the east of the city, is being reduced to rubble.
Pro-Assad ground troops include the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and allied Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, and Shia jihadists from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Contradictorily, the anti-Assad Turkish army is attacking Kurdish forces who are also against Assad, because Turkey’s higher priority is to weaken the Kurds’ long struggle for independence from Turkish repression.
Aleppo now faces Assad’s cruel siege-and-starvation strategy against residents opposed to the regime. The bombs are targeting civilians trapped in countless hospitals, schools, bakeries, market places, mosques, neighborhoods, and surrounding towns and villages. A great city, whose workers and students have played a leading role in Syria’s insurrection has been mortally wounded by counterrevolutionary forces.
Kurdish sovereignty. The Kurds, a diverse ethnic group of more than 30 million people, live across Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. They were unwillingly assigned to these countries by Europe’s World War I victors. They have been abused, scorned and massacred for decades by Middle East tyrants. Like the Palestinians, they have steadfastly resisted and today want independence more than anything else. They are deemed “terrorists” by imperialists.
The Kurds in Syria, its largest ethnic minority, were among the first to demonstrate against Assad when Syria joined the Arab Spring in 2011, and are among the best fighters against both Assad and ISIS forces ever since. Though not politically of one mind, a good many Kurds are leftists, especially those in Syria and Turkey. Their militias include thousands of armed women warriors.
Global left crisis. Syria’s civil war has not only exposed global capitalism in crisis. It has revealed a shocking lack of solidarity among socialists and other progressives. Stalinist politics has a lot to do with it — the ideology, that is, of those who once supported Soviet policy under Stalin and defend imperialist Russia today. They actually defend Assad as an anti-imperialist.
In Europe especially, Stalinists have allied with fascist groups like Italy’s Forza Nuova and Casa Pound. These and many other far-right nationalist groups in several countries stand firmly with Assad. This “Red-Brown” alliance, writes Italian activist and journalist Germano Monti, “is a crucial factor in the lack of solidarity with the Syrian people, particularly in left-wing circles.”
Middle East Marxists also sharply point out that most of the Western Left is uninformed and unengaged in Syria’s five-year combat and has done very little reporting or analysis on this beleaguered revolutionary struggle. Those who support the Syrian revolutionary struggle are largely Trotskyist groups (although not all) and some independent Marxists and anarchists.
The revolution continues. In early March a temporary ceasefire started, brokered by the United States and Russia. Syria Freedom Forever reported that “carnivals of protests” immediately broke out across the country, demanding Assad’s overthrow. Clearly, they do not endorse the ceasefire goals and are not giving up. The courageous fighters demanding an inclusive socialist, secular democracy deserve unconditional defense from the worldwide Left.