SPORADIC murderous attacks in European cities carried out by people seduced by Islamic State (Isis) extremism are partly a response to the death cult’s military defeats in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Having liberated Mosul from Isis subjugation, the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite paramilitaries, is poised to take back the city of Tel Afar, west of Mosul.
Lebanese armed forces are making rapid progress to free the Ras Baalbek area from Isis occupation after Hezbollah fighters spearheaded defeats for Isis in the Qalamoun mountains area bordering Syria.
Largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by US aerial power, are gradually asserting themselves in the de-facto Isis capital of Raqqa.
At the same time, the Syrian Arab Army, supported by its Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan and Iranian allies as well as by Russian warplanes, is driving Isis out of its strongholds in southern Raqqa, eastern Homs and eastern Hama provinces and cornering the jihadist foe in Deir Ezzor.
The sands of time are running out for Isis as a conquering army carving out its “caliphate” in the region, capitalising on confusion and dislocation caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent jihadist-dominated attempted overthrow of the Syrian government guided, funded and supplied by the Wahhabist feudal dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Few serious commentators dispute any longer the role of imperialist military intervention in nourishing jihadism, but the guilty powers still proclaim their right to influence the region’s future.
Bashar al-Assad’s reference to “foiling the Western project” is apposite since all Nato powers, in common with their reactionary Arab and Turkish allies, were adamant that there could be no future role for the Syrian president. His declaration that these countries must stop backing terrorist groups before reopening their embassies in Damascus or having their offers of security co-operation taken seriously is quite understandable.
The same applies to his statement that “everything related to the destiny and future of Syria is a 100 per cent Syrian issue and the unity of Syrian territory is self-evident and not up for debate or discussion.”
This does not negate the need for Damascus to recognise the national aspirations of the Kurds and the achievements of their armies — but there is no role for foreign powers to improve conditions on such an accommodation.
Turkey’s occupation of northern Syria and threats against the US-backed Kurdish forces are no more acceptable than the desire of some within the US military establishment to hold on to bases there even after Isis is defeated.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied that plan last week, asserting: “Syria must be governed by its own people and not by the United States or other forces.”
That’s good, but far better if all Western military machines operating in Syria, supposedly against Isis, had previously acknowledged Syrian sovereignty by seeking government approval for their activity there, as Russia did.
It’s not too late to do so, agreeing to work with Damascus or withdrawing their forces, but it’s also important to realise that, while the jihadist grip is being loosened on Syria, other states, mainly in Africa, are targeted by jihadi terror.
This is not just a security issue. Economic instability, poverty and alienation feed both mass emigration and support for jihadism.
Western powers would be better deployed assisting poor countries’ economic development by promoting investment in infrastructure and public healthcare rather than pushing arms exports or trade deals that benefit only a tiny comprador elite.