[Marxism] How Russian and American bombing consolidates support for ISIS

mkaradjis . mkaradjis at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 06:16:11 MST 2015

How Russian and American bombing consolidates support for ISIS

November 9, 2015

As is well-known, the ongoing Russian airstrikes, despite Putin’s
claim to be carrying out an “anti-ISIS” campaign, have overwhelmingly
struck the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other anti-Assad, anti-ISIS
fighters, in regions where no ISIS even exists (western Homs, Hama,
Idlib, southern Aleppo, and even Damascus and Daraa).

The terrible civilian toll is also hardly in dispute, from bombing
nine hospitals (http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2015/10/23/nine-russian-airstrikes-hit-hospitals),
schools, factories, even bombing the revolutionary town of Kafranbel,
the high point of ongoing civil opposition to the regime
 driving tens of thousands more refugees fleeing north from Aleppo

Indeed, the extent to which this has actually facilitated ISIS
advances in the north Aleppo region is a whole story in itself
The ongoing attack on the FSA and other rebels in southern Aleppo
province by an Assad-Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah coalition directly
facilitated ISIS seizing territory from the rebels in northern Aleppo.
The Assad-ISIS relationship, which ranges from minor conflict in
certain places through détente in others, is best considered to be
strategic alliance in the Aleppo region. The farce of all this was
further highlighted when ISIS even returned some territory it had
seized from the rebels back to the regime!

However, if partly to head off the criticism that its “anti-ISIS” war
was targeting anyone but ISIS. Russia did eventually begin to strike
some ISIS-controlled territory, overwhelmingly in the form of civilian
slaughter. Perhaps some 10 percent of Russian strikes have by now been
on such ISIS—controlled regions. In contrast, the year-long US
airstrikes have overwhelmingly struck ISIS, though there again, some
10 percent or less have struck other anti-Assad, anti-ISIS fighters,
mostly Nusra, but also Islamic Front and even the FSA.

This may be described as one of the tactical differences that exist
between the Russian and American approaches to the war in which they
have much in common. The other tactical difference is the question of
how long Assad himself should be allowed to remain in a “transitional”
regime, with the aim of saving the regime as a whole, finding a
“political solution” and launching a joint US-Russian-regime-former
opposition war against ISIS and everyone else the US and Russia
consider to be “terrorists.” The US says a few months, because his
divisive presence undermines the task of saving the regime as a whole
and widening its base, while Russia says it is not enamoured to Assad,
but we need to keep him a little longer to batter down more
“terrorists” before ditching him. The final declaration from the
recent meeting in Vienna, involving countless imperialist and
sub-imperialist powers but no Syrians, made this fundamental agreement
rather clear (http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2015/151030_06.htm).

The article below examines one of the things the US and Russian
bombing of ISIS-controlled regions (when the Russian do take a break
from bombing ISIS’s enemies) have in common: the callous disregard for
civilian lives and/or civilian infrastructure by both, which is
actually boosting support for ISIS.

The article focuses on some terrible Russian bombings of civilians in
ISIS-controlled Deir Ezzor province in the far east of Syria, and
notes that this is on top of the fact that the Assad regime bombings
in this region already kill far more civilians than are killed by the
ISIS rulers themselves.

But it is not only in Deir Ezzor. According to the anti-ISIS
underground activist network, ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’,
last week 25 Russian airstrikes on the ISIS capital, Raqqa, hit
hospitals, schools, infrastructure, bridges and civilian
neighbourhoods https://twitter.com/Raqqa_SL/status/661507443516665856.
According to one activist, Hamid Imam, 35 people were killed by
Russian bombs and “The city’s infrastructure is almost completely
destroyed. Two historical main bridges are gone, and people are
currently getting by through small fishing boats. The main public
hospital has been bombed. There is no water. ISIS fighters have
disappeared and are hiding among civilians. In summary, the target was
the life and history of the city
Likewise, the Palmyra Revolution site reported on the slaughter of an
entire family by Russian warplanes bombing ISIS-controlled Palmyra

Anyway, the excellent article:

Anti ISIL air strikes are in need of greater guidance

Hassan Hassan


November 8, 2015 Updated: November 8, 2015 04:53 PM

Last Thursday, Russian fighter jets carried out devastating raids in
the ISIL-held Syrian city of Albukamal, near the Iraqi border. At
least 30 civilians were killed in the twin attacks in the city centre.
Many more were seriously injured. According to activists who document
atrocities, not a single ISIL member was killed in the raids.

Leaflets dropped by the regime also warned this was only the start:
“The intensity of the attacks is increasing. The worst is coming.
Crushing attacks will be directed to this area.”

The leaflets suggest the raids were not intended to attack ISIL
specifically but were part of a systematic campaign against the local
population. Also, even before the current intensity of the air strikes
increases in Deir Ezzor, the government still kills more than three
times the number of those killed by ISIL. According to DeirEzzor24, an
organisation whose members inside the province risk their lives to
document ISIL’s daily atrocities, 77 people were killed by the regime
last month, compared with 25 civilians killed by the terrorist group.

The level of devastation committed by the regime in ISIL-held areas
often goes unnoticed. No condemnation was issued from the US-led
coalition of the massacre of civilians, which reinforces the feeling
often expressed by locals that the regime, Russia and the
international coalition seem to be taking turns in attacking
residential areas, especially as ISIL has adjusted to the air attacks
and evacuated its bases.

If the international coalition believes that ISIL does not command the
support of the local population living under it, as officials often
claim, then silence over such atrocities cannot be justified. Locals
living under ISIL are the international coalition’s safety net against
the group and its attempts to ensconce itself in areas under its
control, especially in border areas where locals still view it with

Silence over such atrocities and failure to distance the anti-ISIL
coalition from them only bolsters the group’s claims that there is a
global war on those communities. The attacks in those areas, in
particular, have no apparent tactical purpose other than to punish the
local population.

The Russian planes would have served a military purpose if they had
attacked ISIL’s advanced troops that surround and besiege the regime’s
strongholds near the city of Deir Ezzor.

For people living under ISIL, the absence of condemnation inevitably
makes the devastation caused by Russian or Syrian planes seem part of
the overall international offensive, rather than as a continuation of
the regime’s military campaign. The international coalition does not
have the luxury of remaining quiet about such atrocities while hoping
that locals would make a distinction based on the sounds of the
different jets above their heads.

As I have written in these pages before, the US-led coalition has
already caused suffering for the local population through the
targeting of their livelihoods – either by destroying bridges or
resources – without disrupting ISIL’s ability to profit. On the
contrary, many poor families have allowed their children to join the
group to generate income. Since then, similar reports emerged out of
ISIL-controlled Iraqi and Syrian areas, such as Mosul and Palmyra,
that the poor are drawn closer to ISIL because they were deprived of
income as a result of the air strikes.

The arrival of the Russian planes, with their ability to cause more
damage, has added to the profound daily suffering of civilians. The
intensity of the attacks by different players creates the perfect
environment for ISIL to neutralise the population and link communities
on the two sides of the border as the victims of one uninterrupted
campaign in Iraq and Syria. There is little doubt that locals suffer
from the two foreign-led coalitions much more than they suffer under
ISIL. How does the anti-ISIL coalition expect that locals will view it
as a liberator when its action or inaction is contributing to their
daily suffering?

Outsiders normally find it hard to have moral outrage towards
atrocities committed in ISIL-controlled territory either because they
cannot imagine a worse reality than that of living under the terrorist
group or because they suspect civilians are complacent by staying
there. But this attitude is dangerous, especially if the cause of that
suffering is countries that want to draw a wedge between ISIL and
locals as the way to uproot the organisation.

There is also a tendency to think that as locals suffer more as a
result of ISIL’s control of their areas, they will somehow reject it.
That might be true in some cases, but not when no legitimate and
viable alternatives exist and when supposed liberators are
conspicuously complicit in the suffering. The current campaign against
ISIL lacks many essential ingredients for success – a moral compass
should not be one of them.

Hassan Hassan is associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and
South Africa Programme, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute
for Middle East Policy and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of

On Twitter: @hxhassan

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