CALL FOR PROTEST: NO TO THE BLITZKRIEG OF RAQQA, NO TO THE BLITZKRIEG OF FALLUJAH

A call for worldwide protests against the assaults on Raqqa and Fallujah in front of the US, Iraqi and Iranian embassies

The US and its allies in the YPG-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” are about to launch a military campaign to take Raqqa, the capital city of the self-proclaimed “ISIS”. In recent days the US-led “International Coalition” have dropped leaflets on the residents of the town warning them to leave, whilst some reports have stated that ISIS has allowed the evacuation of residents and accordingly called on the city’s evacuation; though others have claimed that ISIS has not allowed such evacuation. This implies that a very serious bombing campaign will take place in conjunction with the SDF’s ground assault.

We are therefore calling for an urgent protest against any “blitzkrieg” of Raqqa by the US-led “International Coalition”

Taking Raqqa through intensive aerial bombardment will likely result in high civilian casualties. It should be noted that the city of Raqqa has already been subject over the past 5 years to the intensive bombardments of the US, Syrian government and Russian airforces. Since 2014 an estimated minimum of 1,206 civilians have been killed by the US-led “International Coalition”, including 7 members of the same family last week.

What is more such extreme measures are completely unnecessary as ISIS has been removed from other areas in Syria where local rebel forces have been able to mobilise support from communities under ISIS control, such as in Idlib and Aleppo. It should be remembered that Raqqa was a major centre of protest against the Assad regime in 2011, and also witnessed protests against ISIS. Indeed, Raqqa was briefly taken back by rebel forces from ISIS in 2014 before ISIS returned to recapture it armed with heavy US weaponry, following its capture of Iraqi Army stockpiles in Mosul in Iraq. Instead of supporting such rebel forces however the US has from the very start of the uprising in 2011 been procrastinating and buying time with various excuses, whilst simultaneously blockading the provision of determinative qualitative weaponry from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syrian revolutionary forces. Indeed, the main Syrian revolutionary force around Raqqa, the Raqqa Revolutionaries Front, was last year placed under lengthy siege by the US-supported YPG and stated that the US refused to support them in their fight against ISIS. This in concurrent with US policy elsewhere in the country where it has blockaded rebel reinforcements against ISIS in Aleppo, ostensibly refusing to support any non-YPG affiliated faction which do not agree to refrain from fighting the Assad regime.

After ignoring for years warnings about the rise of ISIS by Syrian activists and revolutionaries – who repeatedly warned that the Western policy of appeasement towards Assad’s fascism and the imposed isolation of the revolutionary forces compared to the unconditional Russian, Iranian and Iraqi support for the genocidal Syrian regime will push more people to extreme reactionism – the US is seemingly about to embark on a campaign of collateral damage and punishment in Raqqa instead of supporting Syria’s revolutionary forces. The YPG, the main component of the US-inspired (and attempted rebel replacement) SDF which has already been accused of collective punishment of Arabs in other areas (as well as collaboration with Assad) will not be welcome in Raqqa and will be seen as an occupier – yet the US is attempting to enforce this occupation nonetheless and at a costly civilian cost. Present within the SDF is also a pro-Assad tribal militia, “Jaish al-Sanadeed”, another force which will be resented in the area.

Finally it should be noted that the USA has turned a blind eye to the entry of tens of thousands of foreign fighters who are now Assad’s main force, including many directly armed by the US from Iraq; it has never targeted pro-Assad militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran though it has repeatedly targeted Syrian rebel factions; and has also over the past three years shared intelligence and coordinated airstrikes with the Syrian regime, whose domestic use of an airforce to crush an internal rebellion for now five years (2012-2016) has been unprecedented in civil war history.

Join us to say NO to the destruction of Raqqa and American duplicity in Syria, one of the primary causes of the prolonging of the conflict and the Assad regime’s survival.

Fallujah

 The Iraqi army, armed by sectarian militias

Various sectarian militias have been accused of carrying out ethnic cleansing ( against Iraq’s Sunni community – all under the internationally-provided cover of “fighting ISIS”. The extent of shelling and bombardment by many of these Iranian-backed militias is unforgiving ( ( – the militias seem intent on leveling Sunni areas to the ground. Prominent militia leaders have also expressed sentiments which have given rise to fears of ethnic cleansing –
The plight of Iraq’s Sunni community since the US invasion of 2003 has been a recurring and unceasing tragedy. Fallujah has been a central story of this tragedy, having been twice destroyed, shelled by chemical weapons ( , its population imprisoned en masse and left to despair in the intentional  for the years after . Since the coming to power of the Iranian and US-backed Dawa Party the capital city of Baghdad has also been effectively ethnically cleansed of both its Sunni and Christian population.
It is in these extreme conditions that the precursor of ISIS, Abu Mus’ab al Zarqawi’s “Jama’at al-Tawhid w al-Jihad”, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and finally Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) came into existence. Nonetheless, with its abuses becoming increasingly intolerable amongst Iraqi Sunnis, and following promises of integration and a cessation of the post-invasion authorities’ punitive policies towards the country’s Sunnis, Iraq’s Sunnis rebelled ( against ISIS and successfully drove it underground within a space of 6 months. It is precisely these Sunnis that would ultimately be driven back into accepting ISIS, considering it a lesser evil compared to the Iraqi government following the betrayal of the aforementioned promises of integration and fair treatment by both the US and Iraqi government. Sunni cities remained desolated as a matter of policy from state support, welfare and provision ( and punitive and arbitrary treatment towards its members continued (.
The last straw was the cancellation of a 2010 democratic election, often called the “forgotten election” whereby a Shia candidate running on a cross-sectarian platform was able to garner the support of wide swathes of the Sunni community and gain the most seats. However, the victorious, cross-sectarian party was prevented from forming a government by Maliki who refused to surrender power – an event which was directly abetted and supported by the US occupation authorities which, according to Wikileaks cables, described the theft of the election as “necessary” because after all the destruction, lies about 9/11 and Weapons of Mass Destruction, even the concept of ballot-box democracy was a sham. The cables stated: “Iraqis are not ready for democracy, and need a strongman like Maliki”.
However even at this point, Iraq’s Sunni community did not return to ISIS. As part of the Arab Spring Iraq’s Sunni areas broke out in protest ( against the sectarian central government. The protests were cracked down on by the Iranian-backed Maliki regime, who resorted to inflammatory, sectarian language calling the protesters “the followers of Yazid, whilst we are the followers of Hussayn” (. Even high-level Sunni politicians were not immune from Maliki’s crackdown, with their immunity stripped and categorised as “terrorists”. It is within this context that an armed rebellion broke out again against the central government, of which ISIS was initially only a part but one which as time went on and with the escalating extremities and horrors of the situation, took up an increasingly prominent role.

However, it should be understood that the (heavily foreign-based) ISIS’s acceptance within Sunni Iraqi communities is only contingent on their lack of alternatives. Other Sunni armed groups have increasingly declared that they will take up arms against ISIS ( if they were be assured that the alternative is not the sectarian, Iranian-backed and US-aircovered ( punitive militias. Iraqi Sunnis have driven ISIS underground before, at significant cost, and can do so again. The war in Iraq was at its depth a political conflict – not as many Western commentators insist an inherently sectarian one.Encouraging signs of cross-sectarian recognition of grievances were also seen with protests that have recently broken out ( against the central government in Shia-majority areas in Iraq’s south, with Sunnis and Shias joining arms and Shia protesters even unprecedentedly calling for Iran’s evacuation from the country ( (it should unfortunately however be noted that the US has reaffirmed support for the central government in the face of these protests ( ). Nonetheless if such divides are ever to heal such hopeful events must be built upon and a just solution for Iraq’s Sunnis, not a punitive one, be delivered. Even if Iraq’s sectarian militias do succeed in militarily defeating ISIS with American help, bitterness and punishment will likely be the legacy which will undoubtedly lead to a further cycle of violence in later years.

The Iraqi government must withdraw its militias from Sunni areas and allow Iraqi Sunnis to deal with ISIS themselves. Iranian occupation troops in Iraq, as in Syria, must also depart the country. The United States must end its under-the-table green light that it is giving for Iran’s expansionist, counter-rebellious policies in the region; nobody is fooled by either state’s statements anymore, nobody is unaware of the correlation between Western rapproachement with Iran and its support for regional anti-Arab Spring crackdowns (from Assad to Maliki to the Saleh-backed Houthis and even to a lesser extent to the recognition of Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi’s military coup) – nobody is unaware that whilst the much-heralded Arab Spring became an Arab Winter somehow the Iranian winter became the Iranian Spring. Indeed it is increasingly argued that rather than the previously widely-held notion that “the US empowered Iran in Iraq by mistake”, that this was likely an intentional, divide-and-conquer policy (.

 

[Retrospective draft post]

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