Sunday 8 November 2015
The US will send a squadron of F-15C fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik air base, the US Defense Department (DOD) announced on Friday. The nature of the US war planes, which are specifically designed for dogfighting with other highly advanced fighter jets, indicates that the deployment carries a significance far beyond what its small scale would suggest.
The F-15 line of combat jets was developed in response to the unveiling in 1967 of the Soviet Union’s MiG-25 “Foxbat” interceptor.
Because they are designed for air-to-air combat against other major powers, the US has, until now, seen no need to deploy the F-15C model to its Middle Eastern and Central Asian war theaters, where the opposing forces have no warplanes.
The sudden deployment, coming less than two months after Russia began sending its own SU-30 fighters to its new airbase in Latakia, Syria, makes clear that the jets have been deployed in response to Moscow’s air campaign.
“The only reason F-15s are going to Syria is to shoot down Russian jets,” the Washington Times titled its report Friday.
“US and Russia Sending Weapons to Syria Best-Suited for Shooting at Each Other,” a Time magazine headline declared on Friday.
The US warplanes are being deployed to the same area where unauthorized crossings into Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes allegedly occurred last month, events which were seized upon as the basis for the latest round of anti-Russian war rhetoric by US and NATO officials.
“The deployment of the air-to-air combat planes comes after two Russian warplanes, active in Syria, strayed into Turkish airspace last month, triggering strong condemnations from Turkey and its NATO allies. The deployment sends a message of NATO’s resolve to protect its members following the Russian planes’ intrusion,” US News and World Report noted Friday.
The additional jets were sent after the Turkish government asked for greater US military aid in securing its border area. Even prior to Friday’s announcement, the Turkish-Syrian border was already emerging as one of the most dangerous geopolitical fault lines worldwide. In October, the Turkish military shot down an unmarked military drone along the same border area, but the source of the drone has not been confirmed.
The stationing of the high-tech jets in this area marks another stride toward the establishment of a no-fly zone over northern Syria. The Obama administration has repeatedly resisted Turkish demands for an immediate no-fly zone, but last week top US defense officials told Congress that the option was “not off the table.”
Analysts agree that a no-fly zone would necessarily also entail the creation of militarized areas on the ground directly below. The US took a major step in this direction this week, announcing the formation of a new proxy army this week, dubbed the Syrian Democratic Force. The SDF is composed of the Kurdish and Arab militia groups that have received parachute drops of US military assistance during recent weeks.
The force is largely a renamed faction of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias, according to reports stemming from members of militant groups under the SDF umbrella. “The Syrian Democratic Force is basically just the YPG. It’s a mask to avoid Turkish strikes and get more coalition support,” former YPG spokesman Alaa al-Sheikh told the Financial Times.
The US is seeking to rebrand the YPG, which has been implicated in systematic war crimes against the ethnic Arab population of northern Syria by a recent Amnesty International report, by grafting on small contingents of Arab fighters, including militants affiliated with Thuwar Raqqa, Jaish al-Thuwar and other factions with ties to Al Qaeda.
Under a thin a “multi-ethnic” and “democratic” veneer, Washington is assembling yet another loosely federated proxy force, drawing largely from militant groups known to have razed dozens of villages to the ground during the past year alone.
It appears very likely that the SDF’s first mission will be to lead a ground offensive against the Syrian city of Raqqa, which now serves as a de facto capital for militants aligned with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The planned attack on Raqqa faces skepticism by SDF’s Arab factions, however, who worry that YPG elements will take advantage of the offensive to further their own ambitions for a Kurdish state, creating conditions for ethnic conflict within the SDF coalition.
The heavy bombardment of Syrian targets by Russian air forces this week has underscored the grave risks accompanying the latest US escalation. The logic of imperialist military escalation finds highly concentrated expression on the battlefields of Syria. The bombardment of US-backed forces by Russian planes, intended by Moscow to bolster its client government in Damascus and create the conditions for a political settlement, has succeeded above all in provoking Washington to double-down on its own military operations.
With US-backed militias already engaged in bitter fighting against a Russian-led coalition along one front, in strategic areas of the western enclaves that remain largely under government control, Washington is preparing to launch an entirely new front.
Even as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the possibility of engaging the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime in political negotiations on Friday, dozens of freshly arrived US Special Forces were preparing yet another US proxy force for offensives against areas where Russian air units are already involved in heavy fighting.
The US ground deployment, announced by President Barack Obama last week in defiance of his repeated vows that he would not send US troops into ground combat, is only the beginning of a general intensification of US operations in both Syria and Iraq. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated clearly last week that US forces are now planning their own “direct actions on the ground” in Syria and Iraq.
Washington and Moscow are being drawn ever closer to the front lines, on opposite sides of a raging civil war, under conditions where the US-backed coup in Ukraine and the massive US-NATO military buildup in Eastern Europe that followed have already dragged humanity to the brink of war between the two largest nuclear-armed powers.
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday called for members of the US-led alliance to prepare military deployments aimed at countering Russian military strength in the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.
Speaking to the media during a visit to Portugal, where NATO is holding its massive “Trident Juncture 2015” war games, exercises that are transparently intended to prepare the alliance for a general, European-wide war against Russia, Stoltenberg warned of “a military build-up which provides Russians with what many experts call Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities.”
The NATO alliance must respond with a military buildup stretching across the Eurasian landmass, Stoltenberg said. “The question on our agenda now is how to overcome, how to deal with the increased A2/AD capabilities of Russia in the Baltic, the Black Sea, and now in the Mediterranean,” he said. By Thomas Gaist
The Pentagon is preparing a new escalation of US military operations in Iraq and Syria, including “direct action on the ground,” according to testimony Tuesday by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL [an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS], or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We expect to intensify our air campaign, including with additional US and coalition aircraft, to target ISIL with a higher and heavier rate of strikes,” Carter added.
Referring to a raid conducted last week by US Special Forces troops and Kurdish militia to rescue hostages held by ISIS, Carter declared, “While our mission in Iraq is to train, advise, and assist our Iraqi partners, in situations such as that operation—where we have actionable intelligence and a capable partner force—we want to support our partners.”
The “actionable intelligence” in that case proved faulty, as none of the Kurdish hostages being sought were present at the site, and many of those “rescued” turned out to be ISIS members being held by the Islamist militia as suspected spies.
Carter implied that the US will not immediately seek to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, as demanded by many within the military/intelligence and political establishment, but confirmed that such a move was under consideration and, if implemented, would require some type of military occupation on the ground.
“We do not have a concept of operations for a no-fly zone that we’re prepared to recommend,” Carter told the committee. But he later said he would discuss possible no fly zone scenarios behind closed doors with interested senators, and that a no fly zone was “not off the table.”
The Obama administration may authorize the new ground operations in both Iraq and Syria as early as this week, according to the Washington Post. The plans were developed by US military commanders over a period of months following a highly publicized visit by Obama to the Pentagon in July, according to the Post .
Among the operations proposed by the Pentagon are plans to embed US Special Forces teams with Syrian and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria in preparation for US-backed ground offensives in both areas. “The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria,” the Post noted.
Carter’s statements and the Post revelations constitute an unambiguous repudiation of the promises of the Obama administration that US troops would not participate in ground combat as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the renewed US military intervention in Iraq authorized by the White House in June 2014.
In his remarks Tuesday, Secretary Carter made clear that the moves are being taken largely in response to the growing Russian intervention in the region. Carter denounced the Russian government for “doubling down on their longstanding relationship with [Syrian President] Assad,” and warned senators about the strengthening of Russian and Iranian influence over the US-installed Baghdad regime.
“I’d have to be candid,” Carter said, “[Iraqi Prime Minister] Abadi does not have complete sway over what happens in Iraq.”
For their part, the Armed Services Committee members from both parties expressed support for aggressive measures to build up Sunni and Kurdish forces as US proxies and bulwarks against an Iranian-Russian dominated Iraq.
In remarks that have been echoed across the US political establishment in recent weeks, Republican Senator Joni Ernst said the Kurdish Peshmerga militias “have been great allies to us” and represented the “only force on the ground that has any momentum.”
The praise lavished on Kurdish militias in the Senate chamber only underscored the immense crisis and deep contradictions plaguing the US intervention in the region. The Senate hearing was held on the same day that the government of Turkey, Washington’s NATO ally, acknowledged that it had launched strikes against US-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
The Kurdish groups struck by Turkey, including People Protection Units (YPG) forces, were “some of the most important allies within Syria of the American-led coalition,” according to the New York Times.
The Turkish strikes, which included attacks against two strategic towns along the Syrian-Turkish border, were intended to shape the military situation in preparation for the establishment of “safe zones” in northern Syria under the auspices of Turkish ground and air forces, according to comments by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday.
“If the YPG moves to the west of the river Euphrates, we will hit it,” the Turkish prime minister said in a televised appearance.
Tuesday’s strikes reflected “a new determination by Turkey to expand military operations against the American-allied group,” the Times wrote.
In off-the-record conversations cited by the Wall Street Journal, unnamed Obama administration officials acknowledged that some portion of the at least 50 tons of military assistance airdropped by the US over northern Syria ended up in the hands of the YPG and other Kurdish groups that are effectively at war with the Turkish state.
“The deepening US cooperation with the YPG in Syria sets the stage for a military response from Turkey, which is worried that emboldened Kurdish leaders will step up their demands for an independent state in Kurdish dominated areas straddling parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran,” the Journal noted Tuesday.
Even amid reports Tuesday that Iran will attend US-Russian sponsored political talks over Syria, the staunchly anti-Iranian Gulf States are signaling their readiness to launch their own military incursions against the Syrian government.
The Qatari foreign minister told CNN last week that Qatar could launch a military intervention in Syria, potentially in league with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, if this became necessary to “protect the Syrian people from the brutality of the regime.”
The fundamental factor driving the Middle East into ever deeper chaos and bloodletting is the continuing, ever more volcanic eruption of US militarism. Faced with the failure of its Middle East policy, Washington is responding with yet another military escalation. President Obama, sold to the American public as the candidate who would end the hated Iraq war, is now committing US troops to combat operations on an open-ended timeline, not just in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq and Syria.By Thomas Gaist
The US military-intelligence complex is engaged in systematic preparations for World War III. As far as the Pentagon is concerned, a military conflict with China and/or Russia is inevitable, and this prospect has become the driving force of its tactical and strategic planning.
Three congressional hearings Tuesday demonstrated this reality. In the morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a lengthy hearing on cyberwarfare. In the afternoon, a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee discussed the present size and deployment of the US fleet of aircraft carriers, while another subcommittee of the same panel discussed the modernization of US nuclear weapons.
The World Socialist Web Site will provide a more detailed account of these hearings, which were attended by a WSWS reporter. But certain preliminary observations can be made.
None of the hearings discussed the broader implications of the US preparations for war, or what a major war between nuclear-armed powers would mean for the survival of the human race, and even of life on our planet. On the contrary, the hearings were examples of what might be called the routinization of World War III. A US war with China and/or Russia was taken as given, and the testimony of witnesses and questions from senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, concerned the best methods for prevailing in such a conflict.
The hearings were component parts of an ongoing process. The witnesses referred to their past writings and statements. The senators and representatives referred to previous testimony by other witnesses. In other words, the preparations for world war, using cyber weapons, aircraft carriers, bombers, missiles and the rest of a vast array of weaponry, have been under way for a protracted period of time. They are not a response to recent events, whether in the South China Sea, Ukraine, Syria or anywhere else.
Each of the hearings presumed a major US conflict with another great power (sometimes unnamed, sometimes explicitly designated as China or Russia) within a relatively short time frame, years rather than decades. The danger of terrorism, hyped incessantly for the purposes of stampeding public opinion, was downplayed and to some extent discounted. At one point in the Senate hearing on cyberwarfare, in response to a direct question from Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, the panel witnesses all declared that their greatest concern was nation-states, not terrorists.
One of the witnesses at that hearing was Dr. Peter W. Singer, listed as a “Strategist and Senior Fellow” for New America, a Washington think tank. He titled his presentation, “The Lessons of World War 3.” He began his prepared statement with the following description of that imagined conflict:
“US and Chinese warships battle at sea, firing everything from cannons to cruise missiles to lasers. Stealthy Russian and American fighter jets dogfight in the air, with robotic drones flying as their wingmen. Hackers in Shanghai and Silicon Valley duel in digital playgrounds. And fights in outer space decide who wins below on Earth. Are these scenes from a novel or what could actually take place in the real world the day after tomorrow? The answer is both.”
None of the hearings saw any debate about either the likelihood of a major war or the necessity of winning that war. No one challenged the assumption that “victory” in a world war between nuclear-armed powers is a meaningful concept. The discussion was entirely devoted to what technologies, assets and human resources were required for the US military to prevail.
This was just as true for the Democratic senators and representatives as for their Republican counterparts. By custom, the two parties are seated on opposite sides of the committee or subcommittee chairmen. Without that arrangement, there would be no way of detecting, from their questions and expressions of opinion, which party they belonged to.
Contrary to the media portrayal of Washington as deeply divided between parties with intransigently opposed political outlooks, there was bipartisan agreement on this most fundamental of issues, the preparation of a new imperialist world war.
The unanimity of the political representatives of big business by no means suggests that there are no obstacles in the path of this drive to war. Each of the hearings grappled, in different ways, with the profound crisis confronting American imperialism. This crisis has two major components: the declining economic power of the United States compared to its major rivals, and the internal contradictions of American society, with the deepening alienation of the working class and particularly the youth.
At the House subcommittee hearing on aircraft carriers, the chairman noted that one of the witnesses, a top Navy admiral, had expressed concern over having “an 11-carrier navy in a 15-carrier world.” There were so many challenges confronting Washington, he continued, that what was really needed was a navy of 21 aircraft carriers—double the present size, and one that would bankrupt even a country with far more resources than the United States.
The Senate hearing on cybersecurity touched briefly on the internal challenge to American militarism. The lead witness, retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency and former head of the Pentagon’s CyberCommand, bemoaned the effect of leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden and Army private Chelsea Manning, declaring that “insider attacks” were one of the most serious threats facing the US military.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked him directly, referring to Snowden, “Should we treat him as a traitor?” Alexander responded, “He should be treated as a traitor and tried as such.” Manchin nodded heartily, in evident agreement.
While the witnesses and senators chose to use the names of Snowden and Manning to personify the “enemy within,” they were clearly conscious that the domestic opposition to war is far broader than a few individual whistleblowers.
This is not a matter simply of the deep-seated revulsion among working people in response to 14 years of bloody imperialist interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and across North Africa, important as that is.
A war between the United States and a major power like China or Russia, even if it were possible to prevent its escalation into an all-out nuclear exchange, would involve a colossal mobilization of the resources of American society, both economic and human. It would mean further dramatic reductions in the living standards of the American people, combined with a huge blood toll that would inevitably fall mainly on the children of the working class.
Ever since the Vietnam War, the US military has operated as an all-volunteer force, avoiding conscription, which provoked widespread opposition and direct defiance in the 1960s and early 1970s. A non-nuclear war with China or Russia would mean the restoration of the draft and bring the human cost of war home to every family in America.
Under those conditions, no matter how great the buildup of police powers and the resort to repressive measures against antiwar sentiments, the stability of American society would be put to the test. The US ruling elite is deeply afraid of the political consequences. And it should be. By Patrick Martin