Bombing Syria – What is Trump’s real agenda?

With the bomb attack against Syria on April 14, US imperialism and its allies France and Britain significantly raised tensions in the Middle East and globally

By Per-Åke Westerlund   Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden)

Socialists oppose these military attacks, while we also clearly oppose the brutal actions of the Assad regime in Syria and its military allies Russia and Iran. This is a struggle between rival capitalist and imperialist blocs for power and influence in the wider Middle East. None of these powers act out of consideration for the terrible plight of the people of Syria.

The attack ordered by Trump was a demonstration of military power, but it had neither the capacity nor the aim of preventing continued warfare or improving the lives of the population.

This was not the big attack that Trump had warned of in his very aggressive tweets. Russia was alerted to the attack so that its airplanes and bases would not be hit. To these bases, the Assad Government was also able to move its most valuable military planes.

Both France’s President Macron and the British Prime Minister, May, were careful to stress they did not seek regime change in Syria.

The effects were therefore not greater than when Trump ordered a similar strike a year ago, sending 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airfield, adding a dramatic touch to his first meeting with Xi Jinping.

The US, France and Britain have not been able to present any evidence about the chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma, on April 7, alleged to be the motivation for their attack. The investigators from the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) were due to investigate the site on April 18. Without a doubt their report, whatever it says, will be interpreted as justifying the US-led missile attack.

The hypocritical Western powers say they have drawn a line on chemical weapons. This from the US which heavily bombed Vietnam with chemical weapons less than 50 years ago. The conventional bombs that have caused most death and destruction in Syria do not meet the same reactions, and in the equally devastating war in Yemen, Trump fully supports Saudi Arabia’s deadly bombing.

Nor is it that the White House has bombed Syria every time chemical weapons were suspected to have been used. These military attacks instead take place based on the president’s need to show strength and power.

Increased antagonisms between imperialist powers

The most serious result of the April 18 missile strikes is the increased antagonisms between imperialist powers: the US, which has lost influence and been weakened by its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russia, which has moved its positions forward in recent years. The US still has the largest military budget (ten times larger than Russia).

Trump has often expressed admiration for Putin and even congratulated him on his rigged election victory a month ago. But in recent weeks, Trump has nonetheless had to implement a series of sanctions against Russia. First, after allegations of Russian support for Trump’s election campaign, and then again when the US and other governments expelled a total of 150 Russian diplomats in the wake of the assassination attempt on former spy Skripal and his daughter in Britain. Sanctions were imposed on some of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs who are close to Putin. Russia’s largest aluminium producer is said to have been particularly hit and its stock market value halved in one day.

However, just two days after the strike on Syria, Trump appeared to backtrack on introducing the new sanctions against Russia announced by his UN ambassador, Nikki R. Haley. According to her, these would be directed against all “Russian companies that supported Syria’s chemical weapons programs”. She also raised the possibility of further missile attacks.

“America First”

In the election campaign and with the slogan “America First”, Trump has signalled that under him the US would not be drawn into new wars. He has also announced that the current 2,000 US soldiers in Syria should be withdrawn. For the US ruling class, this amounts to licking its wounds after unsuccessful wars, while also satisfying public opinion which is anti-war.

But this line from the US, especially clear under Obama, has given space to other powers, in the Middle East especially to Iran and Russia. Putin has also made deals with Erdoğan in Turkey, who exchanged some sharp words with Trump’s administration.

The fact that Trump now seems to be changing his mind on troop withdrawal, as well as continuing sanctions against Russia, is therefore not just a reflection of his own unpredictable egocentric personality, but an expression of the contradictions within the US itself. This is also about the role of US imperialism in the world. Trump and the ruling class are concerned about their loss of influence in the Middle East.

Banging war drums – whether military or trade war – is a classical method to seek support among the population by raising fears of external enemies. Several commentators have compared the latest phase of the Syrian crisis between Washington and Moscow to the Cuban crisis in 1962, when the world stood on the verge of a nuclear war. Such a scenario is not the most likely right now, but such threats remain in a world governed by Trump, Putin, capitalism and imperialism.

We say:

  • Stop Trump’s attacks on Syria! Withdraw all foreign soldiers from Syria now!
  • Build an international mass anti-war movement!
  • For independent trade unions and a mass workers’ party with a program of land to the peasants and workers to take over the factories!
  • Overthrow the dictatorships – against capitalism and imperialism, for working class unity and socialism!