Middle East | Deir ez-Zor bombings: What is actual US goal in Syria?

Deir ez-Zor bombings: What is actual US goal in Syria?

Christina Lin September 20, 2016 6:35 AM (UTC+8)
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Mother Agnes Mariam, a nominee for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize from Homs diocese, has some harsh words for the US war against Syria: “Shame on a coalition who pretends fighting ISIS while in reality is helping ISIS killing innocent soldiers whose mission is to protect civilians.”

This is in response to the September 17 US airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor that massacred 62 Syrian soldiers and injured 100 more who have been fighting ISIS.[1] According to a June 2015 Time magazine article, Deir ez-Zor with a population of 228,000 has been under siege by ISIS the past years, relying on the nightly arrival of a large Syrian air-force-operated cargo plane which has a payload of more than 46 tons and transports munitions, food and medical supplies.

Starving babies in Deir Ez-Zor
Starving babies in Deir ez-Zor

This much needed aid is flown out from the military air base southeast of the city, the target of ISIS the past years and now bombed by US jet fighters. During the bombing, ISIS launched a simultaneous attack and threatened to overrun the air base as well as slaughter the over 200,000 civilians. Deir ez-Zor is also home to a large Christian population protected by the Syrian government, similar to most other Christian inhabited cities that are in government-controlled areas along the coast.

Map of Christian population in Syria
Map of Christian population in Syria

However, the Syrian army was able to repel the ISIS offensive and recover lost territory after the US “mistaken” attacks, but the incident has again left many wondering whether US goal is really to counter terrorism or to conduct regime change in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Syrian people continue to face prolonged agony and suffering as regional and great powers use them as pawns for their geopolitical ambitions.

Edward Dark, an activist in Aleppo, noted back in 2013 that Syrians watched how their peaceful revolution was hijacked by Turkey/Saudi and other Arab Gulf states, pouring in Salafists from over 100 countries that morphed into ISIS, Al Nusra, and others that care nothing for the norms of human rights, democracy, or justice for the Syrian nation. He admitted, “People here don’t like the regime, but they hate the rebels even more.”

Now Dark sees Syria’s only salvation is through reconciliation and a renunciation of violence, but lamented “that is not a view shared by the warmongers and power brokers who still think that more Syrian blood should be spilled to appease the insatiable appetites of their sordid aspirations.”

A girl helping her dad with his shoe
A girl helping her dad with his shoe

Just as King Solomon determined the true mother of the baby is the one who refused to split her son in half, the champion of the Syrian people and human rights is the power that would place the Syrians’ welfare above its own selfish ambitions.

Nonetheless, Dark lamented that “Whatever is left of Syria at the end will be carved out between the wolves and vultures that fought over its bleeding and dying corpse, leaving us, the Syrian people to pick up the shattered pieces of our nation and our futures.”

Indeed, it seems US and its Salafist allies are bent on splitting the Syrian baby and cleansing it of ethnic and religious minorities with a Taliban-like regime and Shaira Law, and Deir ez-Zor is likely condemned to suffer the similar fate of Homs.

In Homs, the pre-conflict population was more than 1 million people of mostly Sunni Muslims with substantial Christian and Alawite communities. Peter Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent at Politico, in August 2015 tweeted an extract from a 2008 Lonely Planet travel guide of Homs.

“These days, its Christian neighborhood is one of Syria’s most welcoming and relaxed, and Homs’ citizens are some of the country’s friendliest … That, combined with the city’s myriad leafy parks and gardens, sprawling al fresco coffee shop, outdoor corn-on-the-cob stands and restored souk where artisans still work, make Homs a wonderful place to kick back for a couple of days.”

In eight years, Homs has changed from a “wonderful place” to a ruinous heap. With the ceasefire likely to break down as Salafist rebels rearm and regroup, US and Saudi/Qatar/Turkey are well on the march toward turning Syria into another Afghanistan in the Mediterranean.

[1] Nancy A. Youssef, “Did the U.S. Just Slaughter Syrian Troops? The Daily Beast, September 18, 2016.

Dr. Christina Lin is a Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University where she specializes in China-Middle East/Mediterranean relations, and a research consultant for Jane’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Intelligence Centre at IHS Jane’s.

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Christina Lin
Dr. Christina Lin is a Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University where she specializes in China-Middle East/Mediterranean relations, and a research consultant for Jane’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Intelligence Centre at IHS Jane’s.
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