Picture: Mosul after US air Strikes (Washington Post)
One of main themes in ISIS propaganda was its claim to be a sovereign state and to control vast territory joining the desert lands of Syria and Iraq and more importantly linking strategically and economically important cities such as Raqqah and Mosul. ISIS is under heavy attack in both cities and faces defeat
Western intervention is not the answer
But the military defeat of ISIS is not going to bring about a solution to the evermore complicated and terrible situation in Syria and Iraq.
The picture in post-ISIS Syria is bleak. At the moment there are different anti-ISIS coalitions formed by forces that have conflicting ambitions and plans for the future of the various regions in both countries. The US has formed tactical alliances with opposed forces. The danger of new sectarian divisions emerging within the current conditions in Iraq and Syria is very high.
What US imperialism did in Iraq in 2003 can easily repeat itself in Syria. A permanent US military presence in Syria may be one of the outcomes of the battles fought today. Furthermore, a military defeat of ISIS and its organisational structures will not eliminate the conditions and destruction within which such forces emerge. The defeat of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan didn’t stop the emergence of ISIS in Iraq in 2004.
Destruction and civilian suffering
There are hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the densely populated cities Mosul and Raqqah. They are caught in intense fighting between the forces on the ground and the air strikes by the US.
US air strikes are killing hundreds of civilians. According to United Nations war crimes investigators, intensified air strikes supporting an assault by US-backed forces on Raqqah are causing a “staggering loss of civilian life”.
The US Army has admitted that it killed up to 500 civilians in Mosul but this number comes with an attitude of “we don’t do body counts”. Independent observers estimate the death toll to be much higher, reaching into the thousands.
On 17 March of this year, in a single air strike the US had killed 101 civilians including many children. There is no precision bombing in these cities but the continuous killing of civilians adds hugely to the numbers killed by ISIS. Reportedly, the US-led forces are dropping white phosphorous on both Raqqah and Mosul.
Many of the economic and civilian infrastructures in Mosul and Raqqah are destroyed beyond repair. Many families have lost their homes in the bombing. They are facing a future of extreme poverty and political chaos. The campaigns against ISIS in Mosul and Raqqah come at a very heavy human cost.
There are tens of thousands refugees from Raqqah who have fled to camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Recently, about 10,000 civilians have fled to a camp just north of Raqqah, with hundreds more arriving each day. More than 750,000 have been forced to flee since military operations began in Mosul. Internally there are more than 5 million displaced people in Syria and Iraq, adding to those already displaced by the post 2003 conditions in Iraq.
Refugees are facing extremely harsh conditions. Tens of thousands of children can’t go to school. Many people are sick. Illnesses are spreading. Even if they are able to return to their cities people are facing harsh poverty and homelessness. Various agencies are appealing for urgent support to meet the critical needs of vulnerable children, women and men displaced.
Imperialist interventions and wars don’t provide freedom and safety but death, devastation and chaos, giving people no chance to organise, mobilise and re-build their lives. Haven’t we seen it all many times before ?