Children stand among smoke from burning oil fields in Qayara, south of Mosul. Felipe Dana

Syria's proxy war 'The Irish government must call in the US and Russian ambassadors'

The Syrian conflict can be solved but it will be by peacemaking, not more war, writes Jim Roche.

THE WAR IN Syria has become the most terrible humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. The number of deaths is estimated to be in excess of 470,000; the number of internally displaced persons at somewhere between 7 and 11 million out of a population of 22 million, and the number of externally displaced refugees is now well over 4 million.

The latter exodus is the main contributor to the appalling refugee crisis which has been met with such an inhumane response by the EU and the Irish Government, with only around 400 or so refugees admitted to this country so far.

Back to the start

This conflict began with a peaceful popular uprising against the Assad dictatorship in early 2011, as a continuation of the people’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. But this revolt was immediately met with violent armed repression by this brutal regime.

As a result of this repression the situation in Syria spiralled into civil war which gave the US and other western powers, along with the regional powers of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the opportunity to meddle in the situation in the service of their own economic and strategic interests. Russia and Iran meddle for the same reason, but on the side of the Assad regime.

This whole nightmare, including the horrific Da’esh (Isis) regime, is the culmination of more than a century of imperialist intervention, occupation and war stretching from the notorious Sykes-Picot carve up of the region in 1917 through to the disastrous Iraq War of 2003. It includes the persistent unconditional support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the pervasive sale of arms to despotic dictatorships in the region.

A proxy war

Mideast Iraq Mosul A group of civilians flee from Mosul due to Islamic State heavy shelling. Manu Brabo Manu Brabo

The war in Syria has long since become a proxy war involving the US, Britain, France, Russia and several regional powers such as Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Turkey, with the Syrian people caught in the middle, being sacrificed to the interests of all these powers, and the needs of an odious military industrial complex.

The Syrian proxy war is thus fuelled by the US, Russia and other foreign global and regional powers. A similar catastrophe is occuring in Yemen which we hear little about. Saudi Arabia, armed with American and British weaponry, is bombing the groups supported by Iran, with horrific consequenecs for civilians and creating humanitarian catastrophe.

Who are the Syrian rebels?

Who knows? The truth is so difficult to find in this brutal war. Commentators say there are over 100 groups fighting in the Syrian conflict, some fighting with each other as well as against the Assad regime, some with dubious reactionary affiliations and many of them foreign. They include for example Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, formerly al-Qaeda, who carried 9/11 and other atrocities.

Such groups, who are well embedded in east Aleppo, have committed terrible atrocities such as preventing people from leaving, shooting civilians and beheading teenagers. They are directly supported by the despotic petro Princedoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are directly armed by the US, Britain and other western powers.

While ostensibly fighting Salifist jihadism in the form of Da’esh, western governments are de facto supporting it in other forms, while obliterating from the narrative of the war those brave Syrian citizens who protested against the brutal Syrian dictatorship in 2011.

Bombing is big business

One group of people celebrates the violence in Syria and Yemen: the masters of war who control the military industrial complex. Arms sales supported by western, Russian and other world governments have flooded the entire middle east region with the most lethal weaponry, making it now the most militarised region on the planet.

Clay Dillow writing in the US magazine Fortune claims that in the period May 2015 to March 2016 (9 months) the US sold $33 billion worth of arms to gulf countries.

According to the UK’s Campaign Against Arm Trade, Britain alone has sold almost €4 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last eighteen months. The vast majority of these have been planes, bombs and missiles. Two thirds of the UK’s arms trade go to the middle east. More than a quarter of all world arms shipments go to the middle east. Russia of course is arming the Assad regime.

What to do?

2016-12-19-PHOTO-00000002 (1) The IAWM on their recent Peace March between the Russian and American Embassies in Dublin.

There is no military solution to the conflict in Syria, there is only a political and diplomatic one. All parties to the war including the Syrian government, the rebel groups, Russia, the US and their regional proxy powers, must agree to an immediate and permanent ceasefire and for all inclusive meaningful peace talks to ensue. We need a halt to the bombing, the opening of safe channels for humanitarian aid and an end to all foreign intervention in Syria.

The Irish Government must end it silence on this issue. It could start by calling in the ambassadors of Russia and the US and telling them to end this proxy war now, as the IAWM called for on our recent Peace March between the Russian and American Embassies in Dublin. And of course it should massively improve its help to refugees way beyond its pathetic efforts so far.

Jim Roche teaches at the School of Architecture, DIT and is PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement -

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