Socialist Worker

Tories look to escalate a war on Syria that's already killing civilians

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2483

Michael Fallon in Cyprus where British planes are launching to bomb Syria

Michael Fallon in Cyprus where British planes are launching to bomb Syria (Pic: Crown Copyright)

Tory defence secretary Michael Fallon has warned that the war in Syria was “not going to be short or simple”.

Before the vote for war the talk had been about a swift and urgent military intervention to break Isis.

The warmongers argued this would make British streets safe and open a space for a peace process in Syria. Now Fallon admits this may take years.

He referred to the current bombing campaign in Iraq saying, “The American estimate of the campaign in Iraq, which began last year, was that it would last at least three years and we’re not halfway through that yet.”

The Tories still publicly rule out using ground troops. But some argue that the logic of the war will make them necessary.

Tory William Hague said intervention shouldn’t rule out the use of “small specialist ground forces in the future”.

Barack Obama ruled out ground troops in a special statement on Sunday.

He said, “Air strikes, special forces and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country—that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.”

Yet the US has already sent increasing numbers of what they describe as a “specialised expeditionary targeting force” into Iraq and Syria.

The ruling class has a history of winning people to war by arguing that intervention will be minimal. But there is always a drive to escalate.

The other danger of escalation lies in expanding the bombing over yet more countries.

The US has already renewed reconnaissance flights and bombers over Libya. France has joined them.

Isis is building a base in Sirte and other towns in Libya, a country still devastated and violently divided after the last Western intervention.

The real aims of the West’s war, to impose its interests on the region, are exposed by the plans for peace talks.

The West and allies including Saudi Arabia will be choosing which opposition groups they will approve to sit at the table over coming weeks.

Dictator Bashar al-Assad is to be invited to take part in future talks.

Yet his regime had been the target of previous British plans to bomb Syria in 2013.

Former soldiers who fought in the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya threw their medals down at Downing Street in protest at the airstrikes on Syria on Tuesday of this week

Former soldiers who fought in the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya threw their medals down at Downing Street in protest at the airstrikes on Syria on Tuesday of this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Not enough killing for some

The votes against the bombing of Syria are not all votes against war.

Some MPs voted against the bombing because it wasn’t enough. They wanted a bigger war that included the use of ground troops.

For example John Mann, an arch opponent of Jeremy Corbyn, declared, “A few extra planes attacking defined targets in Syria are neither a solution, nor are they much assistance.

“This approach is more of a gesture. Syria needs more than gestures.”

These are votes that could go in favour of extending military action in any future debate.

Civilians already dying under the West’s bombs

David Cameron claimed that the West needed Britain to join in bombing Syria because its bombs were the most accurate.

British participation would mean civilian casualties could be avoided.

He even claimed no civilians had died in Iraq after the last 15 months of bombing.

But now defence secretary Michael Fallon admits that “war is a messy business” and that British airstrikes could kill civilians.

The airstrikes are portrayed as simply targeting infrastructure and known militants—as if these are easily identifiable in open spaces.

But the West is dropping bombs on a city that was Syria’s sixth largest. Raqqa had a population of more than 250,000 before the 2011 uprising.

Those civilians still remaining are trapped by Isis and are bombarded by Assad’s forces and the West.

Bombs fall among the hospitals, schools, shops and markets as people struggle to survive.

One estimate puts the number of civilians killed by US bombing in Syria so far at almost 500, including 100 children.

British drones have been supporting this bombing already by offering “intelligence”.

Isis doesn’t run on oil

The Tories are boasting that British war planes are choking off Isis’s oil supplies.

RAF jets bombed well heads in Omar oil field last weekend, allegedly.

Isis controls the majority of Syria’s oil fields. But most are ageing. Isis doesn’t have the resources to maintain the technology although it does have the ability to hire skilled workers.

It sells this oil to diverse clients—mostly within its territory.

That includes Syrian rebel forces that are fighting both Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship and Isis.

There aren’t actual pipelines. “Independent traders” queue for weeks in trucks to fill up with oil.

When supplies are disrupted, ordinary Syrians will struggle to heat their homes.

But it’s only part of Isis’s money. It made £240 million through taxation and extortion alone in 2014.

The Western media used the destruction of the ancient temples at Palmyra to show how “backward” Isis was.

But Isis made sure to asset strip Palmyra first. Many artefacts have already been sold in London.

Oil isn’t fuelling Isis—imperialist destruction and the sectarianism it sows is.

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