For the second day in a row, the U.S. military has conducted airstrikes against targets in Syria. CENTCOM, the Pentagon’s Middle East command, proudly released video footage of the illegal attack today, bragging that “We have a total spectrum of capability to mitigate threats across the region.” The United States has no right to carry out airstrikes in a country against the will of its sovereign government, and these latest attacks show the complete disregard the U.S. government has for the Syrian people’s right to determine their own affairs.
There is no good reason U.S. troops should be in Syria — they should be withdrawn immediately. The stated purpose for their presence is to fight ISIS, but that organization lost control of its once considerable territory nearly five years ago and is now a shadow of its former self. And this was accomplished mainly by Iraqi and Syrian soldiers along with their Iranian and Russian allies.
The true purpose that the Pentagon is determined to keep its troops in Syria is that they view this presence as an asset in their broader campaign to bring about the overthrow of the Syrian government, along with the defeat of allied governments and movements in the region that are independent of Washington. U.S. troops are concentrated in areas of Syria that are rich in oil, a lucrative business in parts of the country controlled by their allies in the SDF armed group.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that it had carried out attacks on facilities it claims are associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, part of Iran’s military. The IRGC and its associated militias are crucial allies of the Syrian government, and helped it largely defeat a fundamentalist insurgency that began in 2011. In retaliation, fighters in Syria fired rockets at two U.S. bases in the country. This prompted the second wave of airstrikes overnight.
U.S. officials justified their initial airstrikes as retaliation for rockets launched at the base the Pentagon maintains in al-Tanf in southern Syria on August 15. The government of Syria totally rejects the presence of U.S. troops and has consistently demanded their withdrawal. Whenever a country conducts an illegal occupation of another nation, such acts of retaliation are inevitable. Only the withdrawal of the occupying U.S. troops can bring an end to the cycle of escalation.
U.S. imperial policy towards Syria has led to one disaster after another. The United States played a central role in the outbreak and escalation of fighting in 2011 as a wide range of armed groups seized control of much of the country — the bulk of which were seeking to impose a form of right-wing theocratic rule. Out of this chaos, al-Qaeda moved from Iraq into Syria and formed ISIS, breaking out in 2014 in an offensive that seized large parts of both countries. Now, the United States has refocused on partitioning Syria and keeping the areas held by the SDF permanently outside the control of the central government.
The politicians and generals who make these catastrophic decisions are completely insulated from their consequences. Their homes are not the ones being bombed and destroyed. They are not on the front lines dying and being injured — for that they send the children of working people whose lives the rich and powerful have always considered to be expendable. And while taxpayers foot the bill for these military operations, it is their friends — and potential future employers — at the weapons manufacturing corporations that cash the checks. It’s long past time for all U.S. troops to leave Syria.