On June 18, U.S. forces shot down a Syrian Su-22 Air Force jet carrying out attacks on Islamic State positions in Rasafa. This is another blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law. Moreover, it marks the first time in the 21st century that the United States has shot down the plane of another country.
This atrocious attack shows to the world that the United States and its junior partners are still committed to a regime change policy even if it ends up strengthening the position of IS and other reactionary Islamist groups aiming to topple the secular nationalist government of Syria.
The next day, Russia responded by saying that it would establish a radar lock with its air defense systems on U.S. planes west of the Euphrates River. The potential for a “hot war” between nation states is rising.
After six years of protracted proxy warfare, the stakes have been raised to new heights. Last week, the U.S. military continued its aggression in shooting down an Iranian-made drone operating under Syrian control in the southeast of the country. Facing further sanctions and combative rhetoric from Washington, Iran has stepped up its alliance with Syria and Russia.
The wanton aggression and blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty, coupled with the fractious relationship between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, is providing groundwork for a greater conflagration in the near future. In addition, U.S. support for reactionary state sponsors of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups and similar forces has not waned.
The question of Russian retaliation was taken more seriously by the U.S.-led coalition member Australia, which announced that it would be grounding its planes flying over Syria. While Australia’s participation resumed a few days later, even a brief suspension indicates that tensions have reached new heights.
Since the beginning of the conflict the United States and its subordinate regimes in the region have provided material aid through the CIA and U.S. imperialism’s regional allies to reactionary Islamists fighting to destroy the independent Syrian government. Most recently U.S. forces attacked and killed Syrians with airstrikes near Al-Tanf. A few days ago the US struck down an Iranian made drone operating under the control of the Syrian army. In addition, the US has used the internationally banned chemical weapon, white phosphorous, in Raqqa just this month.
The downing of the Syrian fighter jet has to be framed in the context of the overall U.S. role in the region and internationally. With the Syrian war going on for six years now, and the Syrian government making serious inroads on terrorist occupied territories, U.S. imperialism is growing increasingly frustrated and alarmed. Their assets in the region are losing, the armor of imperialism is cracking and the oppressed nations and anti-imperialist forces see that the United States is not invincible.
The mask is off, and has been for quite some time, but this latest assault on Syria spells it out clearly: the United States is not in the Middle East, specifically Syria, to “combat terrorism” but they are the terrorists themselves. To the so-called “democratic” United States, Al-Qaeda and like-minded militias are tolerable evils in relation to the Syrian government.
Humanitarian Imperialism: Mask On, Mask Off
The challenge of the U.S. left and progressives during times of war is to cut through the waves of disinformation, lies and demonization campaigns of the ruling class media. During times of war, the United States, the world’s foremost imperialist power and a prison house of nations, uses many masks to hide their true intentions. One mask used to be the “White man’s burden” and another the “struggle against global communism”
We were told that the U.S. government is motivated by a desire to support some kind of “popular rebellion” against a “brutal dictatorship.” It was “the people vs the dictator” narrative we hear endlessly repeated by the mainstream corporate media. The tragic destruction of Libya by a U.S.-NATO regime change operation and the death of over one million people during the Iraq War (which led directly to the conditions that created ISIS) were also preceded by this type of demonization campaign.
Israel’s not so clandestine role in the Syrian war is telling of the character of the opposition to the Syrian government. As even the Wall Street Journal reports, from the start of this conflict Israel supplied Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies. “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” said Moatasem al-Golani, spokesman for the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan, or Knights of the Golan. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”
Progressive and anti-imperialist forces in the heartland of global imperialism must be emphatically clear on the question of Syria and resistance to endless U.S. war. The United States has no progressive role to play in Syria or anywhere for that matter. They have no right to Syrian airspace and their unprovoked attack makes Trump and his reactionary clique all war criminals.