In a recent interview in Paris-Match, Bashar al-Assad was asked whether coalition airstrikes were helping him, to which he replied that …
“there haven’t been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition. It isn’t true that the strikes are helpful. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient.”
Assad’s call on the US to bomb his country more seriously and efficiently comes from someone who knows how that’s done. The following account of the US-Assadist bomb-Raqqa two-step dance over the last week or so shows who really knows how to kill all those Sunni wretched of the Earth “efficiently”:
– On Sunday 23 November, US warplanes carried out two strikes against an ISIS-occupied building in the city of Raqqa in north-eastern Syria. No civilian casualties were reported.
– On Tuesday 25 November, Assad’s air force carried out ten air attacks on Raqqa, reportedly killing as many as 209 people, most if not all civilians. Targets were reported to include a busy marketplace, a bus depot, and a mosque where dozens of people were gathered for prayers.
– On Thursday 27 November, Assad’s air force carried out between seven and ten further attacks, including one at the city’s National Hospital, reportedly killing at least seven more people.
– On Friday 28 November, Assad’s air force carried out three attacks in Raqqa, killing at least five people including three children.
– On Saturday 29 November, Assad’s air force again attacked Raqqa’s National Hospital. LCC Syria named five people killed.
– In the evening of Saturday 29 November, US-led coalition aircraft were reported to have carried out at least 15 airstrikes. Later reports said the total had exceeded 30 airstrikes. The activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reported that all the targets of the US-led coalition were ISIS bases, hitting a high number of ISIS fighters.
The following are press reports of casualties from Tuesday’s attacks in Raqqa. Numbers given for people killed rose over time. No press reports gave precise numbers for people maimed and injured.
- Activists: Syrian strikes kill 60 in IS-held city, Associated Press, 25 November. Cites initial counts of number killed – SOHR: over 60, LCC: at least 70, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently: over 80 killed.
- Syria conflict: Raqqa air strikes death toll rises, BBC News, updated 26 November. Cites LCC as documenting 87 deaths and warning of more injured likely to die due to lack of medical facilities. Cites SOHR saying at least 95 killed, of whom at least 52 have been confirmed as civilians.
- ‘Scores dead’ in air strikes on Syria’s Raqaa, Al Jazeera, updated 26 November. Updated to cite activists as saying 135 people were killed.
- By Friday 28 November, the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently said they had documented 209 people killed in Tuesday’s air attacks.
Following Assad’s grisly massacre of 209 people on November 25 (this high figure has been confirmed), the official US State Department twitter site tweeted: Government in #Syria has launched airstrikes designed to hit #ISIS in #Raqqa; civilians caught in the crossfire: https://twitter.com/StateCSO/status/537384003624787968
Analysis: Why are they bombing together?
Incidentally, I don’t agree with the article’s analysis of why the US and Assad are jointly bombing Raqqa at the same time with such ferocity. It reads:
“One reason is the fear, voiced to him by “a senior administration official” that any direct attack on Assad by the US would be met with retaliation by Iran’s militia proxies against US forces in Iraq.”
While I doubt that this is the main reason at all, even if this was the reason for not launching a “direct attack on Assad,” that is just a red herring. The question here is not why the US does not attack Assad, but why it actively collaborates, as for example in this bombing two-step over the dead bodies of hundreds of Raqqa civilians. It continues:
“The other reason is Obama’s desire to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran. According to leaked accounts, a recent letter from President Obama to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the nuclear negotiations included an assurance that the US didn’t intend to strike Assad’s forces in Syria.”
There is no doubt that this agreement was made and the “secret” letter is a fact. But while this may be an added incentive, it is in no way the essential reason.
The fundamental reason is that the US never had any intention or interest in trying to bring down the Assad regime, still less of intervening to do so; the US has intervened to help shore up capitalist class rule in Syria, which means the state and the regime (even if the US believes that Assad himself and his closest cronies should “step down” to help save the regime).
There is simply nothing remarkable about the fact that the US and Assad bomb the same targets; indeed, Assad didn’t bomb Raqqa or ISIS for a whole year (preferring to collaborate with ISIS against the revolutionary forces) and only began bombing ISIS when the US did, in order to demonstrate its usefulness to the US so-called “war on terror.” Meanwhile, the US bombs not only the barbaric ISIS, but also Jabhat al-Nusra and even the Islamic Front, more genuine opponents of the Assad regime than ISIS ever was.
The US and Assad, in a word, bomb Raqqa together not due to some mind-boggling coincidence or some conjunctural factor but because they are fundamentally on the same side.
In particular, Assad’s grisly massacre of the Raqqa civilian population demonstrates that the regime considers the impoverished, dispossessed Syrian Sunni population to be untermenschen; after treating their Iraqi cousins in the same way during its occupation of Iraq, the US is in familiar territory.
Confusion about the reasons for this is also expressed in other articles. For example, Edward Dark (http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sharing-skies-assad-america-s-predicament-syria-1105355734) notes with some bewilderment:
“With American and Syrian warplanes both bombing Raqqa, residents of the Syrian city are wondering if the two are working together.”
Yeh? No shit, Sherlock. He continues:
“Last week I spoke to Manaf, a resident of the Syrian city of Raqqa currently controlled by the Islamic State. He made his frustration clear: “the politics don’t matter to the people here, all we see is one type of death – it comes from the sky, whether the Americans are dropping the bombs or Assad, it makes no difference. They are both murdering us.”
“He added: “What do you expect any sane person to think here? One day American airplanes and the next Bashar’s, how do they not crash or shoot each other? It is simple, they call each other and say today is my turn to kill the people of Raqqa, please don’t bother me, it will be yours tomorrow”.
“Manaf” seems to be smarter than the vast majority of western journalists and analysts on this question.
Dark also notes:
“The US, despite wading into the Syria conflict, appears to have given up on its former rebel allies, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who have themselves been sidelined by the powerful Jabhet al-Nusra, al-Qaeda Syria branch.”
Calling the FSA America’s “allies”, even former, is of course just the usual use of Orwellian language to describe the US refusal for years to give anything other than radios, night goggles, tents and ready-meals to select groups of rebels, while stationing people in Turkey with the express aim of blocking any supply of manpads (shoulder-fired anti-aircraft guns), the only thing the FSA can use against Assad’s aerial genocide. After the FSA and its rebel allies launched a highly successful war on ISIS in January 2014, the US did begin providing some weapons to some select groups of rebels, but precisely for the purpose of fighting ISIS, not the regime, and encouraging them to attack Nusra as well. “Given up” on “former allies” should read “thrown under a bus those it previously pretended to half-support in order to co-opt.” The co-option failed. But anyway, he then explains:
“This has left America in a tight-spot; since it is unwilling or unable (due to public perception and internal politics) to work openly with the one strong military force fighting Nusra and Islamic State – the Syrian regime.”
Says Dark. No Edward, listen to Manaf, he is the one who knows what he is talking about.
“America’s alternative – training and equipping a new, carefully vetted, rebel army – will take at least a year.” Even the “vetting” has not begun for a mere 5000 alleged troops; the “training” (as if battle-hardened rebels who have been calling for manpads and quality arms for years need “training”) will begin, supposedly, sometime in 2015 and take 18 months, so maybe by late 2016 or early 2017 we might see these imaginary figures. Why any analyst would take that seriously when discussing a conflict that has reached such a decisive point right now is beyond me.
Dark goes on:
“So the US is stuck; each militant it kills strengthens Assad and lessens the power of the rebels fighting him.”
Stuck? Why do so many analysts continue to argue that everything the US has done with Syria over the last 4 years has simply been due to incoherence and getting it wrong? Perhaps that is the best result for the US?
“A conflict “freeze” seems to be what the U.S is seeking now, in an effort to halt ongoing advances by the regime into rebel-held territory around Aleppo. The regime is unlikely to agree to a ceasefire unless it can gain assurances of its own survival, in other words a reversal of the US’s “regime change” policy. This does not necessarily mean the continuation of Assad’s presidency, but the structural integrity of the regime he heads, the perseverance of its interests and networks of power. Such a deal, while difficult to negotiate, is not entirely out of the question.”
Which US “regime change” policy is this? It has never existed. Curiously, the policy Dark just described, of regime survival, of its structural integrity (while not necessarily including Assad’s individual presidency) has been US policy since late 2011; there is no need for the US to “reverse” any policy. For some reason, Dark imagines that he, not Obama, invented it.
“Some in Raqqa already believe a covert alliance between the US-led coalition and the Syrian regime – who have taken turns bombing their city – is in place. Denials by the US will not convince them otherwise.”
No, but apparently it can convince the bulk of western journalists and analysts, curiously enough.
How then do they explain that, right now, the US is also bombing ISIS as it advances on the regime-controlled airport of Deir-Ezzor, also in the north-east, in other words directly intervening to protect the regime? As admitted by the US embassy (https://twitter.com/hxhassan/status/541138358106193920). The significance of an airport to the regime is great. Deir Ezzor airport is distant from the bulk of regime-controlled territory in the south-west; and ISIS controls the rest of Deir-Ezzor (since conquering it from the FSA and rebel allies in July, with the *direct* collaboration, at that time, of the regime!).
However, while ISIS has no planes, the regime has hundreds and massacres Syrian children in enormous numbers with them. If ISIS seizes the airport, it would gain no warplanes, and the territorial gain, since it already controls the region, would be minimal. On the other hand, the regime would lose an airport which it uses for its daily aerial genocide. That is what the US is directly bombing to protect in Deir-Ezzor.
And it is simply no miracle, blunder or conspiracy; the US is opposed to the overthrow of a regime which is the concentrated expression of the Syrian mega-capitalist plutocracy, whether by jihadists like ISIS or, even more, by democratic revolution