[Marxism] How Obama is serving Baathist aims

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 26 07:28:58 MDT 2014

(This article lays it all out, even though the headline is absurd. There 
were never any "clashing goals" in Syria. The USA sought to preserve 
Baathist rule but without al-Assad. It was only the idiotic 
"anti-imperialist" left that believed the hype as if American 
imperialism was at all interested in the Sunni underclass wielding power.)

NY Times, Sept. 26 2014
Clashing Goals in Syria Strikes Bedevil Obama

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama said the American-led airstrikes in 
Syria were intended to punish the terror organizations that threatened 
the United States — but would do nothing to aid President Bashar 
al-Assad of Syria, who is at war with the same groups.

But on the third day of strikes, it was increasingly uncertain whether 
the United States could maintain that delicate balance.

A Syrian diplomat crowed to a pro-government newspaper that “the U.S. 
military leadership is now fighting in the same trenches with the Syrian 
generals, in a war on terrorism inside Syria.” And in New York, the new 
Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said in an interview that he had 
delivered a private message to Mr. Assad on behalf of Washington, 
reassuring him that the Syrian government was not the target of 
American-led airstrikes.
The confident statements by Syrian leaders and their allies showed how 
difficult it already is for Mr. Obama to go after terrorists operating 
out of Syria without getting dragged more deeply into that nation’s 
three-and-a-half-year-old civil war. Indeed, the American strikes have 
provided some political cover for Mr. Assad, as pro-government Syrians 
have become increasingly, even publicly, angry at his inability to 
defeat the militants.

On the other side, Mr. Obama’s Persian Gulf allies, whom he has pointed 
to as crucial to the credibility of the air campaign, have expressed 
displeasure with the United States’ reluctance to go after Mr. Assad 
directly. For years, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates 
have pressed Washington to join the fight to oust the Syrian president.

And for years, the United States has demurred.

“We need to create an army to fight the terrorists, but we also have to 
fight the regime,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, emir of Qatar, said 
Thursday in an interview with New York Times editors. “We have to do both.”

Mr. Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that the 
United States would work with its allies to roll back the Islamic State 
through military action and support for moderate rebels. But he added, 
“The only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political: an 
inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate 
aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity, regardless 
of creed.”

Yet as the Syrian conflict transformed from peaceful, popular calls for 
change to a bloody unraveling of the nation, it also became a proxy 
battlefield for regional and global interests. Iran and Russia sided 
with Mr. Assad. Arab Gulf nations sided with the rebels, though not 
always with the same rebels. The United States called for Mr. Assad to 
go, but never fully engaged.

The rise of the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, 
prompted Mr. Obama to jump in, but under the auspices of an 
antiterrorism campaign. The United States was not taking sides in the 
civil war, or at least it did not intend to. But the minute it entered 
the battlefield, it inevitably muddled its standing in Syria and across 
the Middle East, analysts and experts in the region said.

When American attacks, for example, killed militants with the Nusra 
Front, a group linked to Al Qaeda, it angered some of the same Syrian 
insurgents who Mr. Obama has said will help make up a ground force 
against the Islamic State.

Some of the groups that had said they would support the United States’ 
mission have now issued statements condemning the American strikes on 
the Qaeda-linked militants. Those groups have also expressed concern 
that by making the Islamic State its priority, the United States has 
acknowledged that it does not seek to unseat Mr. Assad.

Conversely, supporters of the Syrian government say hitting the Nusra 
Front is proof that the United States has switched sides.

“Of course coordination exists,” said a pro-government Syrian journalist 
speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, who had 
criticized the prospect of the strikes but turned practically jubilant 
once they began. “How else do you explain the strikes on Nusra?”

But the battle lines are not so clear-cut, as both sides try to spin the 
American involvement to their advantage, pressing Washington to shift 
even as Mr. Obama remains determined to stay his course. The Arab allies 
have, to Washington’s delight, made no effort to hide their involvement 
in the bombing raids. They have, in fact, even boasted of their roles.

Saudi Arabia has released “Top Gun”-style photos of its pilots posing 
with their jets, and the United Arab Emirates has bragged that one of 
its pilots is a woman. But the delight has as much to do with the 
countries’ hope that the United States will eventually come around to 
helping oust Mr. Assad as it does with aiding the United States in a 
fight against extremism, analysts said.

“The key gulf states agreed to the American request in a large part to 
try to steer America’s Syria policy after years of frustration,” said 
Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for 
Strategic Studies. “They believed that if they had said no to the 
Americans, the hope for a shift in U.S. policy toward Syria would be nil.”

Other commentators said gulf nations frustrated with Mr. Obama’s 
hesitancy had gladly joined in when his tone changed.

“Once there is a determined America and a determined President Obama, he 
will find a receptive ally in the region to work with him,” said 
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates.

At the same time, these Arab partners see that the United States is once 
again depending on regional strongmen and monarchs with absolute 
authority to pursue its interests in the region.

For a time, it appeared that Washington was moving away from that 
decades-old model toward supporting popular movements that sought to 
bring democracy and greater rights to the region. That infuriated Saudi 
Arabia and the other monarchies, but with the collapse of the Arab 
Spring and the rise of the Islamic State, the old alliances have been 

“We are back to the future,” said Salman Shaikh, the director of the 
Brookings Doha Center, a Qatar-based branch of the Brookings 
Institution. “After the rush of the Arab Spring, there is a realization 
that they are our real friends and allies in the region and in this fight.”

American officials have called the participation of five Arab countries 
— Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — in 
the Syria campaign essential to combating the perception that the United 
States is waging war on Muslims.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse, has wielded its vast oil wealth to 
support the Egyptian military in its fight against the Muslim 
Brotherhood, funded rebels in Syria and deployed troops in 2011 to help 
the Sunni rulers of Bahrain put down a political uprising led by that 
nation’s Shiite majority.

The United Arab Emirates has also contributed to the regional battle 
against Islamists, most recently by teaming up with Egypt to bomb them 
in Libya. At home, it has rounded up Islamist activists and limited free 

Qatar, too, has bankrolled rebels in Syria, and in 2012 it sentenced a 
poet to life in prison for reciting a verse deemed insulting to the 
country’s ruler. Jordan also criminalizes criticism of the king and 
limits press freedoms.

Rights activists fear that these countries’ partnership with the United 
States will make it harder for the West to press them to make reforms.

“These are states with very problematic human rights records,” said 
Nicholas McGeehan, a Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This 
bonding together against a common enemy is understandable, but there 
will be implications for the human rights in these countries.”

The Arab allies worked to bolster their own global standing at the 
United Nations General Assembly this week, exposing the disagreements 
that have often kept them from acting together.

The king of Jordan cast himself as a staunch American ally and said 
Jordan would propose a Security Council resolution to make attacks on 
religious communities a crime against humanity.

Bahrain highlighted the problem of illicit financing for extremist 
groups from the region, in a clear dig at its neighbor Qatar.

But most of these countries stand together in supporting a leadership 
change in Syria, which the United States says is not its goal. And that 
stance from the United States has delighted pro-government Syrians.

“The Syrian Army will certainly benefit from the American airstrikes,” 
the unnamed diplomat told the pro-government Syrian newspaper Al Watan.

Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Saad and Mohammed Ghannam from 
Beirut, and Somini Sengupta and Michael R. Gordon from the United Nations.

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