Air strikes against ISIS in Syria: what should the left say?

July 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm (fascism, iraq, islamism, kurdistan, left, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)

Two Tornado GR4 jets took off from a British military base in Cyprus to commence the UK's campaign against Isis in Iraq. An RAF Tornado GR4 jet at a British military base in Cyprus during the UK’s present campaign against ISIS in Iraq

How should the left respond to the possibility of air strikes against ISIS/Daesh (who cares what they’re called?) in Syria? – asks Comrade Coatesy. And, in particular, he asks, where does the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) stand?

An interesting reply comes from one John R, in a BTL comment:

“Where does the StWC stand?”

I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question, Andrew as the stance of the StWC will be opposition to any Western attack on Isis – no matter the cost to the Kurds and others.

In your article, you put two points of view which, to my mind, are contradictory.

“Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik.”

… (and) …

“There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.”

If “we” must use all our resources to help the Kurds, surely we should not rule out the possibility of air strikes?

Here is a report from the Independent (Feb 2015) –

“An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG…

Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.

“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD [the political arm of YPG] has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.”

I think the crux of the matter should be what do those [who are fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground], especially the Kurds, say they want and need to fight Isis? If they believe that British air strikes can help to beat back Isis, then good.

Who knows, though? Maybe John Rees and the StWC will come up with the kind of imaginative idea they had last year when they were calling on Hamas, the ANC and Venezuela to “arm the Kurds.” Except this time, perhaps Mr Rees will have a press conference with CAGE and Moazzam Begg to call on Al-Qaeda to help them.


  1. Andrew Coates said,

    Mr Rees is of course the weakest link.

    Some of the StWC, one suspects, would rather see the Kurds slaughtered after accepting US help.

  2. Juan P. Lewis said,

    “Where does the StWC stand?”

    Who cares? They’re a bunch of unreconstructed Stalinists with little following. They destroyed any chance to build a leftwing alternative to Labour (or within Labour) with their alliances with theocratic fascists, their sectarianism and their petty obsessions.

    I wouldn’t spend another second on them.

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      The stop the war mob only want to stop wars they disagree with so they need to change their name. Any ideas!

  3. Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style said,

    The left should stand with the socialist-led Syrian Kurdish YPG and their Free Syrian Army allies and support the strikes, demand more strikes, and demand more/better airstrike coordination with both forces against both the fascists of ISIS and the fascist regime of Bashar al-Assad. See the last four paragraphs here.

    Any other position is incompatible with internationalism.

    The YPG is picking the ISIS targets that the Pentagon is wiping out. This means that the U.S. is acting as YPG’s air force in the YPG’s war on ISIS, so standing against airstrikes on ISIS means standing against the YPG, literally.

    Leftists who agree with the above should forget about Stop the Coalition and check out Syria Solidarity Network. Although they’re in favor the imposition of a no-fly zone on the Assad regime to stop its murderous barrel bombing campaigns, they’re also having a vigorous and comradely debate on the airstrike issue unlike most of the rest of the so-called left which is putting its head into the sand in the face of ISIS and falling back on slogans from 2003 in 2015. There are also Kurdish solidarity organizations (possibly linked to the PYD and YPG) in the U.K. but I am less familiar with who they are although they’ve organized marches in London in favor of airstrikes on ISIS (as have exiled Yazidis and Assyrians in the U.S.).

  4. Lamia said,

    “I think the crux of the matter should be what do those [who are fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground], especially the Kurds, say they want and need to fight Isis? If they believe that British air strikes can help to beat back Isis, then good.”

    I agree with this. There should not be airstrikes for their own sake, but IF the Kurds want them, then the British government should at least consider that. Otherwise, there should be efforts made to supply the Kurds and provide them with intel. The UK government should also not rule out operations to target British jihadis in Syria and Iraq. It is not only just but also reasonable to try to eliminate as many as possible before they can return to cause mayhem in Britain. ISIS is inciting murder round the world. It is the legitimate business of many countries to intervene, should they choose, in order to diminish that.

    The main practical arguments against more obvious direct British involvement are (1) that none of us want to see British pilots paraded and butchered. Well, most of us don’t, and (2) that it may stir up the hornets nest more. On the other hand, the hornets are stinging Britain quite horribly with very little involvement. But those are the main cases for caution.

    Still, there are other things that can be done to assist those directly fighting ISIS. And there is no credibility in the emotive characterisation of British involvement against ISIS as willy-nilly ‘bombing of Syria/Iraq’. The war against ISIS has been carried out with great care to avoid civilian casualties – which is twisted into a form of sneering against the US and UK when they DON’T drop their bomb loads.

    There are respectable arguments to be had about how best to defeat ISIS, but to pretend that it can be done by folding arms or ‘dialogue’ is simply rubbish. It will have to be military, whoever does it, and ISIS will not just go away as a problem on its own. My own view is that it will mainly have to be achieved by Iraqis and Syrians, and predominantly by Sunni Muslims. That is part of why the Kurds are a fair cause to support (there are other good reasons).

    I don’t think the STWC are remotely interested in a progressive outcome in Syria/Iraq, or they would be loudly supporting the Kurds. I think they would rather see more bloodshed just so they can keep blaming ‘The West’ for it. Some of them even seem to have a sneaking sympathy for ISIS, which won’t be the first time that some on the far left have ended up supporting blood-crazed fascists against democratic liberal/conservative/socialist parties.

  5. Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style said,

    Was my previous comment here unapproved (censored) or did it end up in the spam filter? Clarification either way appreciated.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Sorry: your previous comment was inadvertently caught in our spam filter: I have now released it and it appears above. I think it was the large number of links in the post that caused this.

      • Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style said,

        Thank you for clarifying! I didn’t figure this blog for censorship so I figured I’d ask. Would be good to delete this and my query above so as not to clutter the thread with process points. Next time I’ll try not to embed links.

  6. SteveH said,

    ISIS is a popular response to imperialist mass slaughter and carpet bombing along with village to village rape, pillage and murder. All of these crimes, associated with humanitarian liberation, are, of course, wholeheartedly supported and cheered on by the hideous creatures at Shiraz ‘Socialist’ and the disgusting specimens that are their fellow travellers.

    What are we to make of ‘leftists’ who link progression to the bombing capabilities of the primary imperialist powers? What are we to make of ‘leftists’ who see the solution being the thing that caused the problem in the first place?

    Now that is a question!

    Your relentless pro imperialism in every and any situation remains as potent as ever!

    Use this for your site banner:

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Who says satire is dead! SteveH do you write the Dave Spart column in Private Eye? I think we should be told!
      If this is not satire, in a nutshell he is saying; its our fault and ISIS are splendid fellows.
      But would he let his daughter marry one?

    • John R said,

      Here, SteveH, is the flag you want to take over to Syria and show your “popular movement” how much you luv’em.

      • kb72 said,

        Good riposte.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        Hahahahahahhaha, SteveH hates political fascism but loves the clerical kind. If only he was smart enough to see that fascism wears many cloaks, not just an anti-Semitic one.

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      Maybe Jimmy Savile was a victim of capitalism and imperialism .

  7. Boleyn Ali said,

  8. Lamia said,

    What are we to make of a ‘leftist’ who pretends that the village to village murder and rape is being carried out by the west rather than the same ISIS he is an apologist for?

    Who’s attempting genocide of Yazidis and Assyrians, Steve H? Who’s taking women into slavery? who’s executing children for watching a football match, or beheading women for ‘sorcery’? How are those acts any kind of ‘popular response’ to injustice (real or invented) by ‘The West’?

    Steve H is one sick creature.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Yep, no different to the 60’s leftists with their childish chant of “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the vietcong are going to win”.
      You have to remember in their sick minds the West i.e America, are to blame for everything. Ergo ISIS troops are heroes…though I would not recommend a meeting of the minds between ISIS and SteveH. As only one party would walk out of that alive and it would not be SteveH

      • Jim Denham said,

        “Yep, no different to the 60’s leftists with their childish chant of “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the vietcong are going to win”. I’d say considerably worse than that, Steven. A case could be made for the Vietcong, if only on grounds of national self-determination. There is not the slightest scintilla of a case to be made for the islamo-fascists of ISIS, and anyone who tries to make such a case is, indeed, a sick fuck.

        The suggestion that Mr H goes to negotiate with ISIS – and maybe puts his criticisms of their tactics to them in a fraternal spirit – is indeed an excellent one.

  9. Steven Johnston said,

    Got a copy of the Morning Star today, oh the shame! Saw an ad for the book Confessions of a Terrorist by one Richard Jackson. Looked quite interesting until I visited his blog. Oh dear…

    Yep, you’ve guessed it “Isis are just a reflection of the Wests’ brutality in the region” nonsense. Oh well, what do you expect from a writer/blogger whose novel the Star is floggin?

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