By Roger Annis, A Socialist In Canada, May 12, 2018
‘Left-wing’ Russia bashing is more and more creating a blind eye to U.S. imperialism’s war agenda
The Socialist Alliance of Australia has published a new article sounding a by-now worn theme. In his article titled ‘After Afrin, the Ottoman dreaming of Sultan [Turkish President] Erdogan’, writer John Tully condemns Russia for declining to enter into military conflict in the northwest Syria province of Afrin against NATO-member Turkey at the beginning of 2018. The article appears in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on May 9 (and later in Green Left Weekly, on May 30).
The writer makes serious accusations against Russia, writing that “Russia allowed Turkish jets free passage to bomb and strafe the city [Afrin, northwest Syria] and surrounding villages” after Turkey began its military intervention into Afrin province on January 20, 2018. Turkey calls its intervention ‘Operation Olive Branch’.
This is another way of saying that Russia betrayed the Kurdish population of Afrin by declining to engage in military combat with NATO-member Turkey.
He writes further against Russia, without a shred of evidence: “One further suspects that the governments of Australia, Russia, Britain, along with NATO and the European Union, were relieved to see Erdoğan land heavy blows against the radical alternative model that Rojava has provided.”
Why would Russia risk a military move in Afrin? Turkey is a member of the NATO military alliance. NATO creed dictates that any attack against one NATO member obliges other members to rush to its defense. The writer is thus counselling Russia to risk war with NATO members U.S., Britain and France, among others, by engaging against Turkey. That is armchair folly, doubly so considering the context.
The Kurdish leadership in Afrin and elsewhere in Syria is entered into a political and military alliance with U.S. imperialism. Yet our writer focuses all of his attention on an alleged betrayal of the Kurds by Russia. He says nothing of the role of the Kurds’ (and Turkey’s) ally the U.S. which didn’t lift a finger or raise a voice of protest against its ally Turkey’s intervention into Afrin. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced at the time that the U.S. “stands 100 per cent” behind the Turksih intervention. Saying nothing of this–the real betrayal–of Kurds amounts to letting the U.S. off the hook politically. That’s not a great position for a writer who no doubt considers himself opposed to the warmaking agenda of U.S. imperialism.
Similar analyses have been penned in the past several months offering Russia counsel on how to enter into war with NATO (see related readings below). They all decline to report the two large measures which Russia undertook precisely to help forestall a Turkish military intervention into Syria.
For more than one year, Russia has proposed changes to the Syrian constitution that would provide for autonomous political and cultural rights to Syrian Kurds. And prior to the Turkish intervention into Afrin, the Syrian and Russian armed forces proposed to the Kurdish leadership in Afrin that it accept the entry of Russian and Syrian armed forces into the region to join Kurds in defending the territory.
The Kurds declined the offer of joint defense. They preferred a Turkish military occupation into Afrin, complete with a predictable ethnic cleansing of its Kurdish population, over a re-assertion of territorial sovereignty by the Syrian government. No doubt they were cognizant that their U.S. ally would not look well upon the Kurds entering into any kind of understanding with Syria and Russia. Hence the Kurdish decision to sacrifice Afrin.
A further cover-up by the writer is his failure to report that the Syrian and Russian armed forces assisted the speedy withdrawal of Afrin’s Kurdish population once the Kurdish leadership had effectively decided to deliver the territory to Turkey. The civilian population of Afrin was spared the kind of violence and horror which NATO members have rained down upon the urban populations of Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq in the name of their ‘war against ISIS’.
Reckless counselling to Russia that it engage in war with NATO finishes with distortions and hiding of facts. This is all too characteristic these days of left-wing Russia bashing. It is alarming to see where this blind, anti-Russia bashing is leading.
* Response to open letter ‘A call to defend Rojava’ (Kurdish Syria), open letter published on MR Online (Monthly Review) on May 7, 2018
* Syria and chemical weapons: Debating the regime-change war in Syria, by Roger Annis, A Socialist In Canada, April 24, 2018 (with postscripts)