Rojava’s Revolution Should Take Centre Stage as Putin’s Pro-Assad Bombs Rain Down

October 1, 2015

It seems clear that the Russian air force is not simply being used in Syria as an anti-terrorism tool to wipe out the scourge of ISIS. In fact, the early signs are that Russian bombs have been raining down on areas held by anti-ISIS, anti-Assad forces from the Free Syrian Army.

The Independent reports tentatively that videos had emerged from activists in Homs and Hama provinces. Apparently, “dozens of fatalities were reported, including civilians, and footage showed injured children being treated in Talbiseh, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) stronghold.”

The Syria Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll in Talbiseh at 27, including 5 women and 6 children, with “many still buried under the rubble.”

According to the Homs Media Centre and the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council, Russian jets had targeted an FSA position in Hama using SU-24 planes.

Satellite images have been released (the Independent doesn’t say by whom), showing “28 jets, including Su-30 multirole fighters, Su-25 ground attack jets, Su-24 bombers and possibly Ka-52 helicopter gunships” at a base in Latakia.

Latamneh and Tal Wasit in Hama province, and Zaafrana in Homs have been hit by air strikes today. “All are held by the Free Syrian Army, secular rebels, or non-Isis Islamists including Jaysh al-Fath (the Army of Conquest).”

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov states that Russian air power will only be used “in order to support the Syrian government forces in their fight against the Islamic State.”

If the video footage and testimony from activists is true, and Russian pilots were in control of the planes that struck today, this appears to have been a brazen lie. In reality, Russia is intervening to crush the resistance to the Baathist dictatorship, not to wipe out terrorism.

In the north of Syria, near the border with Turkey, we can see why Syrians need to throw off the Baathist yoke. In Rojava, Kurds and others continue to work their way towards a democratic, almost horizontalist form of government, a development that offers hope to rebels across the region.

British diplomat Carne Ross has been in Rojava for the New York Times, and has been startled by what he has found. Attending village meetings, he noted the absence of any hierarchy, and the flowering of debate, while “The confident assertiveness of young people was striking.”

Rojava is defended by the YPG – an under-resourced but extremely courageous army with little backing from outside of the enclave. There has been aerial support from US airstrikes but, as Ross states, “Apart from these sporadic airstrikes, the Kurds have no international support. On the contrary, their efforts are actively undermined by their neighbors, both allies of the West, to the north and south.”

The YPG’s weapons are out of date and low-powered, while the border with Turkey remains closed off, with American connivance. Rojava cannot even look to Iraqi Kurds for assistance, as the Kurdistan government treats them as a potential rival.

Ross comes to an acid, and damning conclusion. “Democracy was supposed to be the point of Western intervention in the Middle East”, he says, “But in Rojava, where it is cherished and has prospered despite the most vicious of opponents, this brave experiment is being quietly starved while the supposed champions of democracy stand by.”

There is little or no talk about the USA, Britain, France or anyone else pressuring Turkey to open the border and loosen the blockade of Rojava, and Kurdish unity across the different conflict regions is not being mooted.

In the Syrian conflict, as always, there are “good” and “bad” rebels, along with real and fake democrats. It’s only a matter of time before Putin bombs Rojava and the USA stands by as if nothing shameful has happened. But first, the secular opponents of Assad will have to be eliminated. ISIS – a weak third on the list of Putin’s priorities.

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