Summary: Both the recent moves over Syria and the Iran agreement are part of a broader realignment of global and regional powers that above all want to restore “order” in the Middle East — Editors
At a time when the US colossus has exhausted itself in endless wars in the Middle East, a resurgent Russian imperialism under Vladimir Putin has escalated its presence in Syria with bombing raids on the Syrian opposition and the dispatch of “volunteer” ground forces. This has shored up the weakened Assad regime, at least in the near term, allowing it to continue its massacres of civilians, with the toll now standing at well over 200,000.
What is actually at stake here? At one level, Russia claims that it is there to fight ISIS, but this is easily given the lie by the fact that most of Russia’s firepower has been directed at the non-ISIS opposition to Assad.
Let us then go below the level of mere appearance, that of Putin’s propaganda, to another level of analysis that aims to uncover the essence of what is going on: If Russia’s real purpose is to shore up Assad, are we then witnessing an escalating conflict over Syria among the various imperialist and subimperialist powers – US, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey — that claim a stake in the outcome? But this is called into question by the fact that the response to Russia’s intervention by its supposed rivals, above all the US, has been tepid.
At a third and more conceptual level, Russia and the US appear to be not so much in competition over Syria – although that surely exists as an epiphenomenon — as in broad agreement. Both powers, and many others, want the Syrian civil war ended because it has become a source of global instability, whether in the form of the refugee influx into Europe or the persistence of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. This imperialist realignment also manifested itself in the Iran nuclear agreement this summer, which had a similar line-up of forces behind it.
Both the recent moves over Syria and the Iran agreement are part of a broader realignment of global and regional powers that above all want to restore “order” in the Middle East. The U.S. was surely not so naive as to fail to anticipate that any Russian intervention would be directed not against ISIS but the non-ISIS opposition. It is more likely that Obama, like Putin, sees the top priority as preventing a complete collapse of the Syrian regime. In the process, some allies of the US — like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Israel — may end up losing something in the bargain.
But the biggest losers are likely to be the revolutionary and emancipatory movements in the region, above all the embattled progressive elements in the Syrian opposition and also their potential allies, the leftwing Syrian Kurds. And beyond the region, Ukraine is now more vulnerable.
We call upon all friends of Marxist-Humanism — and on the global left more generally — to support the forces of emancipation in the region and to become cognizant of the real and multifaceted nature of imperialism, and of its basis in the drive for capital accumulation at any cost.