The West can't stop pursuing regime change

For some time now the United States has been aiming to transform the so-called campaign against Islamic State into a campaign to gain a new foothold in the Syrian civil war. After Russia, Iran and Hezbollah sided with Assad—perhaps not so much with the actual head of state, as with the state itself—the West led by the US was wrongfooted in Syria and had to resort to treacherous operations presented as mistakes. 

This of course first of all concerned the sustained air attack against Deir Ezzor south-east of Raqqa on the Euphrates in mid-September. It will be remembered that this ended the cease-fire agreement negotiated by the US and Russia. Deir Ezzor fell to ISIS in what was obviously a Pentagon-supported agreement with the terrorist organisation, because the hardliners in Washington objected to Kerry's agreement with Lavrov. Whilst the Russians tried to call off the hour-long air attack, nobody answered the phone, 'because they were not expecting to be called'. This is of course a complete fake, it was a deliberate tactic to get rebels to establish a stronghold so that the assault on Raqqa could follow.

The aim of conquering Raqqa in the east of Syria is to have a city (300,000 inhabitants in normal times) in which an anti-Assad government can be based as a US proxy. That the dividing lines between the jihadists and the so-called moderate opposition are non-existent, is well known. Weapons provided to the moderates are mostly sold on to the jihadists, and the 'moderates' actually disseminated a gruesome video in which they behead a child with a knife to show that they are of the same stock.

Ashton Carter, the hard-line US secretary of defence, on 13 January already explained that Mosul and Raqqa were the two targets of US intervention. Clearly he lost no time to sabotage the Kerry-Lavrov agreement on a cease-fire by having US fighter jets bomb Deir Ezzor. Henceforth the struggle over Aleppo had to be prolonged as long as possible so that the Syrian government army, which is fighting there, but with its 100,000 men is too weak to operate in several theatres at a time, will not be able to influence the situation in the east, 500 kilometres from where it is struggling to recapture the second city of Syria from the jihadists.

The assault on Raqqa is much more important for the US than Mosul, because in Mosul the issue is Turkish claims and Ankara's unwillingness to allow a Kurdish role now that Erdogan is launching a full-scale civil war against the Kurds (with the arrest of HDP parliamentarians).

In Raqqa on the other hand, the opponent is Assad's Syria and the US has long maintained 'he has to go'—undaunted by the disastrous effects of regime change in Iraq or Libya.

In fact the 'moderates' deployed against Raqqa are also mainly Kurds of the Syrian YPG. They are much closer to the PKK, the arch-enemy of the current government in Ankara, than the Kurds of Iraq who are engaged around Mosul. They are being advised by several hundred of US Special Forces. Turkey however has indicated it will not allow a force dominated by YPG to take Raqqa. However, without the Kurds the 'moderates' are almost non-existent, so a stalemate among NATO 'allies' seems inevitable.

As indicated in the earlier piece on Deir Ezzor, the US manoeuvre to destroy the ceasefire was aimed at keeping the war going until Hillary can take over and project her long-cherished no-fly zone over at least the east of Syria (given that Russia's S-300 and 400 anti-air missiles have been deployed in government-controlled areas with the order to fire at unidentified jets penetrating Syrian air space).

Now a veritable capital for the 'moderates' fighting America's war is within reach, but what if for Turkey this would be the last straw that makes the Atlantic alliance counterproductive?

Kees van der Pijl

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