Dirty war in Syria continues as media attention focuses elsewhere
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Israel secretly coordinates with the U.S, on many of the airstrikes it carries out in eastern Syria near the al-Tanf military base, a U.S. outpost near the Syria-Jordan border.
Since 2017, the Israeli Air Force has cleared all planned flights with the U.S. Central Command, which conducts an assessment. The command also reports details of planned flights to the U.S. Defense Secretary and others, who can also choose to conduct assessments.
The Israeli strikes are illegal under international law and, according to the Russian ambassador to Syria, Alexander Yefimov, “leave human casualties, cause tangible material damage, violate Syria’s sovereignty, pose a threat to international civil aviation, and in general increase tension in the already escalating military-political situation.”
Officially, the purpose of the strikes is to interrupt Tehran’s flow of weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah—which established a “Golan liberation brigade” in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad”—and to diminish Iran’s military forces and proxies in Syria.
The U.S. claims that it wants to ensure that Israeli bombing raids do not interfere with the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State militants.
However, the Islamic State is the main opposition force to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom both Washington and Israel have long tried to overthrow.
The location of the strikes underscores an ulterior agenda, furthermore, which is to help sustain the U.S. military outpost at al-Tanf which has been targeted in drone attacks.
Al-Tanf houses prisoners of war and has been used as a base to train jihadists and other fighters seeking the overthrow of Assad. It is also located strategically near oil fields; U.S. troops have generally been positioned in Syria to “keep Syria’s oil,” as Donald Trump acknowledged when he was president.
In August 2020, Trump granted a sanctions waiver to a Delaware-based oil company, Delta Crescent Energy LLC with close ties to his administration, allowing it to develop oil fields that had been captured from the Islamic State by the Syrian Democratic Forces, Washington’s proxy troops consisting mainly of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
Though the Biden administration rescinded the sanctions waiver, it has sustained at least 900 troops in Syria and bombed targets in Syria near the Iraqi border allegedly targeting pro-Iranian militias.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the official SANA news agency that the air raids—which killed a child on the Iraqi side of the border—demonstrated “the recklessness of U.S. policies and the need for Washington to withdraw its aggressor forces” from the region.
Washington’s Long War on Syria
As the World Socialist website put it, U.S. imperialism has been at war in Syria since launching a regime-change operation in 2011, using CIA-backed Islamist militias as its proxies in a bid to topple Assad’s government and impose a U.S. puppet government in Damascus.
The Obama administration launched a direct military intervention in Syria as well as Iraq on the pretext of combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an offshoot of the very Islamist militias that it had previously armed and funded. The toll of these interventions is exemplified by the hundreds of thousands of dead and the millions of displaced.
Now the U.S. remains in Syria for the purpose of controlling and exploiting the country’s oil, as part of a broader military campaign to “impose a neo-colonial U.S. hegemony in the Middle East at the expense of Iran, and the countries the Pentagon defines as ‘great power’ rivals, China and Russia”—which is allied with Assad.
Working Together to Hemorrhage Syria to Death
For the Israelis, the overthrow of the Assad government would represent the final death of the Arab nationalist threat that has overhung the Jewish state since the early 1950s.
Such an outcome would also facilitate much greater freedom of action for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region, with Syrian ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and air defenses all having for decades been directed primarily at restraining Israel’s military power.
Israel furthermore wants to strike a blow at Hezbollah and Iran, which is allied with Assad, a Shia Allawite. Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Defense Minister from 2013-2016, stated that, “in Syria, if it is a choice between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State … Our greatest enemy is the Iranian regime that has declared war on us.”
Former Israeli Consul General in New York Alon Pinkas told The New York Times in 2013 that, for Jerusalem, “this is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win [Syrian government forces]—we’ll settle for a tie. Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”
These latter comments help to explain the purpose of the recent airstrikes better than anything and why the U.S. would assist with them.
By bleeding and hemorrhaging Syria to death—including also through the imposition of devastating sanctions—the U.S. could ensure that Assad remains isolated and Syria weak. Then it will remain unable to project its influence and revive the Pan-Arab project that several generations ago had begun to challenge U.S. primacy in the Middle East.
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.