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Issue 208 May 2017

Trumpís Syria airstrikes

Working people in the US and around the world were understandably horrified by the images of children dying from sarin gas in Idlib, Syria. It is the latest barbaric act in a civil war that has seen 400,000 die and millions driven from their homes. US president Donald Trump seized this moment to order a military strike on a Syrian airbase, proclaiming that "it is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons".

There is no doubt that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is a vicious dictatorship responsible for countless atrocities against ordinary people in Syria, although questions have been raised about its responsibility for the sarin gas in the Idlib attack. But Trumpís response reeks of hypocrisy when his administration is also ramping up a bombing campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, leading to increasing civilian casualties including hundreds in one airstrike in Mosul.

US imperialism has been supporting Saudi Arabia in its brutal campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels which is causing massive casualties, a collapsing economy and potential mass starvation. Trumpís attack on Syria takes place at the same time as he has acted to prevent any of the refugees fleeing the war-torn country from coming to the US.

Socialist Alternative opposes the endless US military interventions in the Middle East. They are the main source of the massive crisis facing the people of Iraq, Syria and the region Ė from the Persian Gulf war of 1990/91 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and long before. We supported the Arab spring and mass uprising against the Assad regime in 2011 but explained that the subsequent intervention of foreign powers in Syria helped turn the situation into a communal civil war.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US have backed various anti-Assad forces while Iran and Russia have supported the regime. Trumpís action could be a one-off, but it could also be the beginning of deeper US involvement in the Syrian conflict which will in no way help the suffering people. It may also lead to an extremely dangerous and unpredictable standoff with Vladimir Putinís Russia, Assadís main backer which has a major military presence in Syria.

Trumpís military attack was backed up by key leaders in the Republican and Democratic parties. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called it the "right thing to do". Hillary Clinton declared that she favoured completely destroying Syriaís airbases. This shows that the ruling class and political establishment will rally behind an imperial presidency and the assertion of US power even when the individual holding the office is the dangerous and unstable Donald Trump. They could not care less about the Syrian people. They are very happy, however, to see a shift away from the ĎAmerica firstí isolationism which Trump proclaimed during his election campaign, including his (then) explicit opposition to deeper involvement in the Middle East conflicts beyond fighting Isis.

While Trump claims that he was moved by the horrible images from Idlib, it is clear that the main purpose of this attack was to distract from his plummeting poll numbers and domestic troubles. Key parts of his agenda are in danger because of mass opposition, and deep divisions in the Republican Party.

Trump may also be using this as an opportunity to demonstrate that he will take on Russia, given the congressional investigations into Russiaís alleged interference in last yearís presidential election on Trumpís behalf and the ties between Trump associates and the Putin regime. Trumpís shift is also illustrated by the removal of Steve Bannon from the National Security Council and by giving the generals a freer rein to carry out attacks in the Middle East.

Capitalism and imperialism have created the all-sided disaster facing the people of Syria. The working class and youth of the Middle East, the US, and all over the world, need to build a mass anti-war movement and develop powerful working-class parties, with bold socialist policies, to counter the war, terror and poverty of this brutal system.

Tom Creen

Socialist Alternative (USA)


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