Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The downing of the Russian Su-24 fighter jet and the political implications

Gerry Downing 24-11-2015


Whatever the truth about violating Turkish airspace (Russia strongly denies any violation whatsoever) it is clear from the Turkish map showing the flight path of the two fighters that the finger of land they have alleged to cross is barely two kilometres wide. That crossing would have taken a matter of seconds; that could not possibly pose any military threat to Turkey. Moreover Turkey itself thinks nothing of violating Iraqi and Syrian airspace; they have done it several hundred times in the past months with the tacit approval of the US.

The real reason for the shooting down of the jet must be found in the overall geostrategic and political conflicts in the area. In the first place let us assert that the overall strategic orientation of US imperialism has not changed despite the obligation of the US and EU country to take cognisance of public opinion in its foreign wars adventures after Vietnam 1975 and their failure to achieve decisive results in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. Despite regime change and bombing the infrastructure of these lands back to the Middle Ages they have not managed to secure stable pro-imperialist puppet regimes. Regime change in Iraq has very frustratingly strengthened Iran, another of their targets for regime change. And they haven’t even yet managed to secure regime change in Syria.

And that remains a vital part of the strategic goal of USA foreign policy. The two major backers of ISIS and the other jihadist reactionaries like the Al Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusrah Front have been miffed with all the talk from Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Prime Minister David Cameron about agreement with Russia. This was supposed to allow Assad to remain for a temporary transitional period (which obviously could be extended indefinitely) while ISIS was defeated in a joint bombing campaign and agreement was reached with the ‘moderates’ (who include the ‘moderate’ Sharia-law jihadists and the almost invisible Free Syrian Army of the Southern Front).  The talk was designed to mollify domestic public opinion and allow doubting pro-imperialist politicians (remember Claire Short?) to vote for air strikes, whip up a ‘Falklands Factor’ or national chauvinism after the Paris Massacre and deal a major blow to Jeremy Corbyn at the same time.

But the contradictions were too great for the plan to work, despite the eagerness of Putin to go along with it; Russia even cited the much-loved Stalinist nostalgic epoch of gross class collaboration in the name of anti-fascism that was the WWII alliance between Joe Stalin, Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt. Bombing alone could not defeat ISIS, it needed ground troops. But sending in US troops in any numbers was far too politically risky; that left two forces that could conceivable do the job, the Syrian Kurds and Assad’s army.#

The Syrian Kurds of the YPG and their PKK allies would not venture too far outside their own territory even as far as Raqqa. And they were politically unreliable allies, they co-operated with Assad when it suited them and they were very upset with the US for sanctioning the Turkish air strikes against them and preventing them from moving west of the Euphrates to link up with the Kurdish enclave around Afrin in the west. US bombing campaign NEVER bomb ISIS when it is fighting the Syrian army, lest it assist he survival. And only recently under pressure from public opinion generated by Russian bombing have the US begun to bomb the oil trucks taking ISIS crude to Turkey. They have justified avoided hitting theses very obvious targets which would almost cut the economic lifeline for ISIS by ridiculously citing their concern for ‘civilian casualties’. Please…

Speaking in Manila on 19 November at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit Obama made it clear that he would not end his support for the Syrian ‘rebels’ while Assad was still in power. He recognised Islamic State as a “serious threat” but Russia’s efforts in Syria were aimed at propping up Assad so that was a great problem. "Bottom line is, I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power," he said. [1]

Taken together with his support for Turkish bombing of the Kurds to keep open the ISIS crossing point at Jarabulus for their international jihadist fighters including Chechens it is clear that Obama via the CIA and Special Forces on the ground still tacitly supports ISIS, although he cannot say so publicly. And therefore all the talk of the big rifts between the US and Turkey and Saudi Arabia are just temporary problems. The downing of the war plane has gone a long way to sorting out these problems.