by Steven Chovanec
The United States is manipulating humanitarian concern in an effort to protect its proxy militias and its imperial regime-change project in Syria. The media and intellectual classes are dutifully falling in line, promoting a narrative of military aggression under the cover of “protecting civilians.” These same “responsibility to protect” arguments led to the invasions of Iraq and Libya, exponentially increasing the massacres, chaos, and proliferation of violent extremism within those countries. They are hypocritical, designed to further interests of conquest and domination, and will lead to more death and destruction in Syria as well.
The United States has no stake in the wellbeing of Syrian civilians, despite their condemnations of Russia’s offensive in Aleppo. This is clearly shown in the fact that the people they are supporting are guilty of the same crimes they accuse Russia and Syria of: indiscriminate attacks, targeting of civilians, destruction of schools, hospitals, etc. Furthermore, the offensive in Aleppo is really no different from what the US did in Manbij, where they are said to have incorporated a “scorched earth policy” while they liberated the city from ISIS, whereby the civilian population was treated “as if they were terrorists or ISIS supporters.” Arguably their conduct was even worse, as they there earned the distinction of launching the deadliest single airstrike on civilians out of the entire 5-year conflict, massacring at least 73 where no ISIS fighters were present. The Manbij operation elicited no moral outcry from the media and punditry, understandably since these were “unworthy victims” given that they were our victims and not those of our enemies. The same can be said about the US operations in Kobani and Fallujah, whereby the entire towns were essentially reduced to rubble without any uproar.
Saudi Arabia as well has no concern for Syrian civilians, as they have been ruthlessly besieging and bombing Yemen, with the support and help of the United States, for two years without any concern for civilian lives. Their assault has led to a humanitarian situation even more dire than in Syria, leaving at least 19 million in need of humanitarian assistance; in Syria it is estimated that a total of 18 million are in need of aid.
Turkey as well is not concerned, as is evidenced by their conduct towards their Kurdish population, yet the recent quiet by Erdogan over the fate of Aleppo is indicative of an understanding reached between him with President Putin, whereby Turkey establishes a presence in northern Syria and blocks the advance of the Kurds, and in return limits its support to the rebels and the insurgents in Aleppo.
The real reason the US is decrying the Russian operation is the fact that they are staring aghast at the near-term possibility that their proxy insurgency in Aleppo will be defeated. Not only will this mark the decisive turning point in the war, the rebels all-but being fully overcome with the Syrian government in control of all the populated city centers except Idlib, but others have argued that it could as well mark the end of US hegemony over the entire Middle Eastern region in general. In other words, the US is trying to turn global public opinion against the Russian effort in an attempt to halt the advance and protect their rebel proxies trapped in Aleppo.
So, who are these rebels?
In short, they are an array of US-supported groups in alliance with and dominated by al-Qaeda. During the past ceasefire agreement these rebels refused to break ties with al-Qaeda and instead reasserted their commitment to their alliances with the group. The UN’s special envoy for Syria recently explained that over half of the fighters in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra (al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate), while according to the US Department of Defense, it is “primarily Nusra who holds Aleppo.”
Expert analysis concurs, as Fabrice Balanche of the Washington Institute details how these rebel alliances indicate “that the al-Nusra Front dominates more different rebel factions, including those considered ‘moderate.’” He explains that al-Qaeda’s “grip on East Aleppo has only increased since the spring of 2016.”
It is these fighters, al-Qaeda and their affiliates, that the US is trying to protect from the Russians, and as well other US intelligence operatives that are likely embedded with them. The narrative that Russia is committing a humanitarian catastrophe is intended to hide this fact, as well as to shift the blame for the suffering in Aleppo off of the US’ shoulders. Yet it was the US support to the rebels that is primarily responsible for the suffering.
To illustrate this, the people of eastern Aleppo never supported the rebels nor welcomed them. The rebels nonetheless “brought the revolution to them” and conquered the people against their will all the same. Of the few reporters who actually went to the city, they describe how Aleppo has been overrun by violent militants through a wave of repression, and that the people only “saw glimmers of hope” as the Syrian army was driving them from the area. The people decried this “malicious revolution” and characterized the rebel’s rule as a “scourge of terrorism.” This, of course, was of no concern to the US at the time, who now proclaims to be the “protectors” of the civilians in Aleppo.
Around 200-600,000 of the original population fled and relocated in the government-held western part of the city. Of the civilians who remain, they are primarily the families of the fighters, who themselves are paid to stay and fight. The official numbers for those remaining are 200,000, yet the actual number is likely much lower, around 40-50,000.
Nonetheless, the remaining civilians who were trapped within this warzone were prevented from leaving.
During the first ceasefire, humanitarian corridors were opened and the civilians were encouraged by the Syrian army to leave, yet the rebels stopped them, with reports saying they went as far as to shoot at those who tried. The attempt to evacuate the civilians was condemned by the US, who argued that the innocent people “should be able to stay in their homes.” The radical groups were using the civilian population as human shields in order to protect themselves, and the US was supporting it. Further corroborating this is the special UN envoy Steffan de Mistura, who quotes reports indicating that the rebels have been utilizing “intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, aside and inside civilian quarters.” This is because it has always been the policy of the Syrian government to separate civilians from insurgents, as it is simply much more militarily effective to fight against an enemy that is not ensconced within a civilian population. Likewise, it has always been US and rebel policy to prevent this separation.
According to a knowledgeable individual with contacts with high level Syrian officials, the US and EU always rejected the Syrian governments proposals to separate civilians from the fighters, as they explained, “because doing so will be helping you win.” This makes sense, given that if all of the civilians from eastern Aleppo were evacuated there would then be nothing stopping the Syrian army from crushing the remaining fighters, and there as well would be no international outcry over them doing so. The source explains that “Syria’s war is an urban war theater. [The] only way for insurgents to compete is to use residential areas to hide and operate out of. This is in direct contrast to [the] Syrian army who would like to fight a theater totally void of civilians.”
Those claiming to be the protecting Aleppo’s civilians from the Russian and Syrian onslaught are in actuality using them as a means to protect their success on the battlefield.
Given this, the strategy of the Syrian government has been to bomb sporadically in order to scare the civilians and force them to flee from areas controlled by the militants. This is also why the Syrian army just recently halted their advance in order to allow civilians to evacuate; they wanted the civilians out of the picture so they could militarily defeat the rebels more quickly and easily.
If one actually were concerned about saving the civilians in eastern Aleppo it is pretty straight forward that one would try to evacuate the civilians from the area, and that the backers of the rebel groups would put pressure on them to allow this to happen. From there it would follow that all sides abide by the UN Security Council resolutions of which they agreed to, which call for the suppression of financing, fighters, and support to al-Qaeda, for the suppression of al-Qaeda “and all other entities associated” with them, and “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria,” of which Aleppo is one of the largest.
Unfortunately, it is only Syria and Russia who are following through on these commitments, while the US and its allies are consciously blocking them. The media and intellectual opinion are as well falling in line, obscuring from the narrative all of these inconvenient truths that do not support the interests of the policy planners in Washington. In this way, the media are shown to be completely subservient to state power, drumming up support for another aggressive war based on falsities and half-truths in the exact same way that led to the continuing catastrophes in Libya and Iraq. When the US was driving ISIS from Manbij, just as Syria is now driving al-Qaeda from Aleppo, killing hundreds of civilians at a time, there was not so much as a debate about it, much less an international outcry.
Yet now there are countless calling to “save” Syrians by bombing them and flooding the warzone with more weapons and fighters, ironically using “humanitarian” concern to call for policies that will lead to even more death and misery. The rebels are dominated by jihadi extremists, and any further support to them will further strengthen the radicals engaged in a project of ethnic cleansing, conquest, and reactionary theocratic governance. Bombing would only help to further descend Syria into chaos and death, just as it did in Iraq and Libya.
This is an international proxy war and humanitarian concerns are being manipulated unscrupulously in support of interests having nothing to do with concern for innocent lives. Don’t fall for this faux humanitarianism from which more war, imperialism, and thus more death and destruction will result.