US president Donald J Trump is more than ever behaving like a loose cannon on the imperialist deck. His December announcement of plans to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria triggered a very public split within US imperialism, with top brass and administration figures horrified at the humiliating retreat plan.
Then the cannon appeared to lurch in the opposite direction as Trump performed a partial U-turn, announcing the retention of 400 troops in the field.
And now, having previously insisted that the sole reason for America’s military presence in Syria was to fight Daesh (aka Islamic State, Isis etc), the US president has, with much song and dance, proclaimed that Daesh has been completely defeated in Syria – thereby, it would be logical to conclude, rendering the further presence of any US troops at all pointless.
The pretext for all Trump’s triumphalism is the apparent success currently being enjoyed by America’s Kurdish rent-an-army, the so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF), in its efforts to mop up enclaves of Daesh resistance along the Euphrates river, assisted by US air power. The fall of Baghuz, on the eastern border with Iraq, is being reported as the final nail in the coffin of the ‘caliphate’, the last significant territory to be controlled by Daesh.
The reported fall of Baghuz on 23 March brought to fever pitch a week of mounting triumphalist propaganda, with Trump telling the world: “When I took it over, it was a mess,” with areas under Daesh control marked in red all over the map. Today, bragged the president, “there is no red. In fact there’s actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight.” (Trump says Isis to be defeated ‘by tonight’, RT, 20 March 2019)
So eager was Trump to associate himself with the supposed final demise of Daesh that he steamrollered ahead with announcing victory in Baghuz a day in advance of the SDF itself, whilst battles were still raging.
Such was Trump’s haste to cover himself in reflected military glory that he had not even the respect for his Kurdish ‘allies’ (tools) to permit them to claim their own victory in their own time. Needless to add that the real victors in the nationwide fight against Daesh, the Syrian army and its Russian and Iranian allies, were not even mentioned in dispatches!
To put matters into some perspective, we should note the following:
a. Daesh are only one of a myriad jihadi groups. Insofar as their star is falling, there are other groups no less thuggish and benighted, and eager, given half a chance, to take over in a turf war. It is only the steadfastness of the Syrian army and its allies that prevents this happening.
b. Daesh losing its grip on territory does not equate with its eradication as a terror network. By driving muslim outrage at imperialist assaults on muslim countries down a blind alley of obscurantist nihilism, fuelled by lies against the secular and progressive leadership of Syria, the west has helped to create a Frankenstein’s monster which no Prevent strategy can take apart again.
c. The population of Idlib, and Idlib’s neighbours, continue to be brutalised by cut-throat jihadi rule. The fact that the dominant group there is not Daesh but ‘only’ the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra is no consolation.
d. It is in any case far from certain that Daesh, or some other kindred shape-shifting entity slipping between aliases, is not still holed up in some corner of Syria. In the Rukban refugee camp, for example, which festers in the shadow of the US military base near Al-Tanf on the Jordanian border.
As with all these unresolved issues, the only solution comes with complete liberation of the Syrian homeland by the Syrian people.
By claiming a decisive Kurdish victory in Baghuz, Trump perhaps hopes to sugar the bitter pill of imperialist defeat in Syria, thereby placating his disaffected generals and policy wonks. Yet all that this bragging really succeeds in doing is to draw renewed attention to just how rudderless the US war policy is becoming.
Meanwhile, the real national-liberation forces continue to restore more and more areas of the country to government control, enabling more and more displaced citizens to return home and start to rebuild.
If Daesh is truly defeated on the ground in Syria, it is to the eternal credit of the Syrian army and people, not US imperialism and its hirelings.