The United States and Russia backed brutal assaults on major cities this week. Both are designed to boost their control in a strategically and economically crucial part of the world—regardless of the cost in civilian lives.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops and police, supported by Iraqi Kurdish units and sectarian militia, have begun an assault on Mosul in northern Iraq.
The offensive was prepared by wave after wave of bombing. US, British, French, Jordanian and Australian jets and helicopters are providing air support to the Iraqi regime and its allies.
Mosul was overrun by Isis in 2014 in what was described as a “total collapse” of Iraqi government security troops.
The forces that now claim to be liberating Mosul are the same ones that smashed Iraqi society and killed hundreds of thousands of people after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Many of them are backing or taking part in the bloody Saudi Arabian war in Yemen (see below).
Isis’s rule has been appalling, but civilians are now terrified of the air and artillery assaults and the gun battles in the streets.
There will be precious little “freedom” for many when the sectarian Iraqi militias arrive.
There are some reports that Isis will withdraw from the city and seek to fight a guerrilla war.
But lieutenant-general Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, said the assault could last weeks and “possibly longer”.
British, US, French, Italian, German and Australian “special forces” and “trainers” are on the ground to advise and support local forces in battle and to direct artillery salvos.
Mosul is a major city.
Lise Grande, the United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, warned last weekend that she could see “a worst-case scenario” in which “one million civilians may be forced to flee their homes”.
The UN said families are at “extreme risk” of being caught in crossfire, tens of thousands may end up besieged or held as human shields and thousands could be forcibly expelled.
Every day civilians are murdered by raids from the air and the assaults of the Syrian army. Humanitarian aid agencies have been unable to get into eastern Aleppo since the siege resumed on 4 September.
In three large districts, markets have run out of flour completely.
Pumping stations have been damaged by bombing. Most of the city—including parts of the government-held west—has no running water.
Neither the US nor Russia has anything to offer the suffering people of the Middle East. Only a renewal of the revolutionary wave of 2011 can provide a way out.
Obama has a ‘blueprint for war’ in Somalia
US president Barack Obama’s administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia, east Africa, during the last year according to a report in the New York Times newspaper.
It says the US is using special operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign.
“Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the ‘Black Hawk down’ battle of 1993,” said the report. It called the campaign “a blueprint for warfare that president Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor”.
Its intervention now is about preventing raw materials and strategic territory coming under the influence of China—not about helping ordinary people.
US cruise missiles fired at Yemen
US Navy ships launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets on the coast of Yemen on Thursday of last week. It is a major escalation of the US support for the Saudi Arabian assault on the country.
The US says that the missiles were fired as a defensive measure after attacks on its ships. But both the Houthi rebel movement that controls Yemen’s capital Sanaa and the army that backs them angrily denied firing on US vessels.
The cruise missile attacks came a few days after the US was supposed to be concerned about the murderous scale of civilian casualties that have resulted from Saudi bombing.
One recent airstrike on a packed funeral hall killed over 140 civilians and wounded hundreds more.