Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad had some rare words of praise for the US president recently. Donald Trump, he told NBC News, is the “best” US president with whom he has had to deal. He hastened to clarify this, explaining that Trump is “the best American president, not because his policies are good, but because he’s the most transparent”. (Trump ‘approves expanded military mission’ to secure Syria’s oil fields by Samuel Osborne, The Independent, 6 November 2019)
This pithy judgement holds good when it’s a question of President Trump’s isolationist instincts prompting him to throw the Kurdish-led ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) under the Turkish bus, tweeting his frustration at the “stupid endless wars” previous residents of the White House have started, and whining about how much it costs to rent a Kurdish army these days.
The sight of a US president looking like he might actually be making good on his promise to call time on foreign wars, leaving it to the Democrats to pick up the warmongering standard and demand continued military aggression against Syria, shone a most instructive light on the chaos and divisions currently tearing leading US imperialist circles apart – all thanks to Trump’s ‘transparency’.
And when Trump’s isolationist bent took a knock-back from his adversaries in both the Democrat and Republican camps, with even his own defence secretary Mark Esper busily undermining his supposed chief, ‘transparency’ was once again the order of the day.
When Trump’s promise to bring a thousand or so US special forces troops back home was abruptly countermanded, the official explanation might have focused on the need to hold the line against Islamic State and prevent IS from getting control of the oil (‘forgetting’ that back in March the US had already declared the defeat of IS!) But all this sophistry was set to naught by Trump, who, in a torrent of tweets and public statements, made it clear that it was now open US policy to steal Syria’s oil in a war of plunder.
As he tactfully put it: “I like oil! We’re keeping the oil!”, adding that “What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly.” (Trump’s baffling plan to pillage Syria’s oil by Robin Wright, The New Yorker, 30 October)
What comes shining through this most ‘transparent’ of all US presidencies is the picture of an imperialist ruling class – the most powerful imperialist ruling class on the planet – completely at sixes and sevens with itself. Should it swallow the bitter pill of defeat in its middle-eastern wars, pull out of Syria and other ‘stupid endless wars’ of its own making, retreat into a corner of economic nationalism and isolationism, and learn to live in a world in which the diplomatic centre of gravity shifts increasingly towards Russia and China? Or should it embroil itself in ever more unwinnable wars of plunder as it struggles to restore its global dominance?
Or should it stumble along as it is currently doing, flip-flopping helplessly between these two mutually contradictory paths, thereby guaranteeing that the inevitable retreat, when it arrives, will pan out in the most humiliating and messy fashion imaginable?
And all of this endless internal wrangling is being played out ‘transparently’, for all the world to marvel at.
Deep state warmongers presently in the ascendency?
For the present, it seems clear that the warmongers are in the ascendency, though for a time it certainly looked like the US was serious about getting the hell out of Syria, torching its own bases and leaving only scorched earth behind.
US troops retreating from Tell Tamer in Syria’s north-east bombed their own military base and landing strip. They likewise blew up a radar station on Mount Abdulaziz and other facilities in the al-Hasakah region. Other bases were reported to have been abandoned in a tearing hurry, leaving all manner of expensive kit behind.
But conflicting news soon came through that two new military bases are being constructed in Deir Ezzor. One of them, near Rumeilan, is next to 1,300 oil wells and occupies about four square kilometres. Deir Ezzor is home to Syria’s biggest oil fields, including Al-Omar, Conoco and Rumeilan.
On the pretext of preventing the oil from getting into the hands of IS, mechanised units are being introduced to accelerate the theft of Syrian oil under the shadow of the US gun. Some 600 US troops are being committed to implement this state-run grand larceny.
In another sign that US aggression is set to continue, a further 200 troops are earmarked to man the southern US garrison at al-Tanf, despite the fact that the Rukban refugee camp for which it was responsible has now been evacuated.
And whilst Trump seeks populist advantage by promising to “bring our boys home”, it turns out that ‘home’ for the moment is to be Iraq. Defence secretary Mark Esper has “not ruled out” the possibility of using Iraq as a base for further cross-border intrusions back into Syria.
For its own part, the government in Baghdad is less than ecstatic at the prospect of hundreds more US troops flooding into an Iraq which is already the increasingly uneasy host to 5,000 of them.
Despite being assured by Esper that “the aim isn’t to stay in Iraq interminably, the aim is to pull our soldiers out and eventually [!] get them back home”, the Iraqi army issued a sharp warning that US forces that crossed into Iraq after pulling out from Syria can only use its territory for “transit” and do not have permission to stay. (Transit only: US troops pulled out of Syria and moved to Iraq are now asked OUT of the country, RT, 22 October 2019)
Violence against the Syrian people continues also in the form of economic sanctions. US imperialism is taking the lead role in this cowardly war against the Syrian people, freezing state assets, blocking oil sales and banning investments in Syria, thereby hampering efforts to rebuild the country.
Not to be left out, gutless EU imperialism continues year after year to uphold European values by following just one step behind the US lead in this attempt to strangle Syria’s economy, imposing asset freezes, travel bans, trade restrictions and an arms embargo of its own.
But this economic warfare has signally failed in its attempt to turn Syrians against their own legitimate leadership.
In a recent interview with RT, President Assad pointed out that, now that it had so signally failed in its regime-change aspirations, imperialism is still persisting with this economic terrorism in a spirit of pure vindictiveness, “to punish Syrians for refusing to bow to the pressure”.
This nihilistic spite will only succeed in hardening the will to resist.
The Sochi memorandum of understanding
Meanwhile, whilst imperialism shrugs off all pretence of ‘humanitarian concern’ and descends into open gangsterism and piracy, Russia is continuing to take the diplomatic lead in the region, notably by securing a memorandum of understanding between itself and Turkey on 22 October.
This agreement at Sochi ended the Turkish attack on the Kurdish SDF, reasserted Syria’s sovereign rights in the north-east and guaranteed protection of Turkey’s own national security, opening the door for the SDF to abandon its misguided land-grab and come to terms with the national government in Damascus.
This groundbreaking accord was only made possible by the trust built up by Russia over many months of painstaking talks with Turkey and Iran in the Astana process, and by the deeds which accompanied these words. This contrasts sharply with the complete absence of trust inspired by the US amongst friends and foes alike.
With the agreement in place, a joint monitoring mission is planned to facilitate the departure of the SDF from the Syrian-Turkish border, to be replaced by Russian military police charged with safeguarding both Turkey’s security interests and Syria’s sovereign rights.
And Russia’s diplomatic achievement in reining in the Turkish incursion, removing the SDF from the equation and stabilising what could have been the spark to a much wider conflict was in turn only made possible by the steadfast resistance of the Syrian people and the Syrian Arab Army, now engaged in routing the jihadi remnants in Idlib.
Syria’s courageous resistance, assisted by her allies, is the rock on which imperialism has broken its back.
Victory to the Syrian president, the Syrian army and the Syrian people!