US President Joe Biden ordered military airstrikes against facilities belonging to anti-terror resistance groups on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The military action, the first of its kind under US President Joe Biden, has been met with negative reactions, with many observers likening Biden's approach to that of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The military action was said to be in retaliation for recent attacks against American bases and missions in Iraq, which Washington has blamed on so-called "Iran-backed" Iraqi resistance groups. Australian mass-media has uncritically repeated these pretexts. Iran has, however, repeatedly rejected any role in the attacks targeting American bases in Iraq. Iraqi resistance forces have been fighting remnants of the Takfiri Daesh terror group across border regions of Iraq and Syria in coordination with the governments in both Arab countries. Damascus has censured the US air raid describing it as "cowardly" and a "bad sign" from the new US administration.
In the introduction, Mohammed Ali, in Damascus, Syria, gives that state's response to the attacks.
Discussing the issues with compere, Bardia Honardar, are Sara Flounders, National Co-Director, , an activist group founded in 1992 by former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. It supports anti-imperialist movements around the world, and opposes U.S. military intervention in all circumstances; and Daniel Kovalic, lawyer and adjunct Professor of labour law, University of Pittsburg, campaigner in International Human Rights, particularly in Columbia, where he has exposed murder and destabilisation programs by the United States and corporations.
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Transcript of debate
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Daniel Kovalic, what does this attack say about US President Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy?
KOVALIC: Well it says what many of us fear and that is that he is going to be a very aggressive president when it comes to military action. You mentioned at the outset of the broadcast when you compared him to his hawkish predecessor, Trump. I'm not sure that Trump was any more hawkish than Obama and I'm not sure Biden will be less hawkish than Trump. My guess is he will actually be more so, and this is a signal of that. This is an unlawful attack he engaged in. It's illegal. Under international law, there was no security authorisation for it and it wasn't done as an act of self-defense and it was a war-crime. So, I think he's signalling - you know, he keeps saying, "America's back!" and what he means by that is the 82nd Airborne is back to start bombing people. And that's a shame.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Sara Flounders, what do you think is behind the decision to carry out this attack?
FLOUNDERS: Well, I think - as was just said - President Biden is really sending a message not to expect anything different than previous US presidents in terms of criminal, illegal activity. It's an absolute war-crime. I mean, the US has no business being in Syria, has no business being in the region, at all. They use the flimsiest excuses even imaginable, that an Iraqi resistance group backed by Iran - all of this supposed - and for that reason they're bombing Syria? I mean, even here in the US, how on earth is that understandable, to anyone? But it's saying that the US needs no excuse to continue its intervention. The US has been bombing Syria since 2014, and from the very beginning, was part of this effort to bring down Syria, to destroy Syria, to pull it apart. From the very - from 2011, a 'regime-change operation' is what they called it. And this is Biden signalling that there is no real change in policy. It shows enormous hostility. Also, it's openly said, 'This is to be a message to Iran'; it's to be 'a message to Iraq'. A message also to the people here, in the US, who had expectations about Biden; that maybe he would speak for Amazon workers, who are desperately trying to organise a union that a million low-wage workers at stake want warehouse organising. Biden won't say a word. Won't say a word! They're still waiting for a stimulus bill here - millions and millions of people who are desperate - but they could carry out, at enormous expense, a bombing run in Syria. And that is criminal toward the people of Syria, but it's also criminal toward the people here in the US, who needed and expected that there would be some change. And, of course, there's not.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Daniel, Damascus has censured the US air raid, describing it as, "a bad sign from the Administration of the US president." What do you think would be the fall-out from this attack?
KOVALIC: Well, I think that any chance of the nuclear deal with Iran being put back in place between the US and Iran, I think that's - there was slim hope of that anyway, given Biden's position on that, but I think now, that's probably finished. And I think that he, by this bombing, wanted to send the message that there's no rapprochement with Iran coming from him. He sent that message loud and clear, and I'm sure Iran got the message that they're - you know - it's going to be business as usual between the US and Iran, which means sanctions are going to stay in place, which means ordinary Iranians are going to continue to suffer. So, that's going to be one fall-out. I think a lot of the world, even in Europe, is going to be more wary of the Biden administration. I think there were some amongst world leaders who hoped he would be more diplomatic than Trump, that he would use peaceful means to try to deal with conflicts with other countries. And, in fact, Biden - you know - said so. That he would use peaceful means first to deal with other countries and, what he's shown by his actions is he has no intention of doing that. He is going to shoot first and ask questions later.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Sara Flounders. Hours after the US attack, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, with his Syrian counterpart, they both emphasised the need for western countries to abide by UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria. The question is the law. It hasn't really been a concern for Washington, especially when it comes to Syria, has it?
FLOUNDERS: This is so absolutely lawless. There's no concern for even a fig leaf of cover on this. Not at all. And we should all keep in mind that the US, with no justification, has absolutely made every effort to stop Syria from rebuilding, after these ten years of hugely destructive war. Syria, at a heroic effort, defeated US attempts to overthrow the government, but the sanctions, [without] which would enable absolutely normal trade and rebuilding, are attempting to strangle Syria, as they are attempting to strangle Iran, and the whole region, because it shuts down any relations between each of the countries of the region and that's what it's also meant to do: to push back development, to push back solidarity - and I don't think it's going to have that impact. I think it will, if anything, toughen resolve in Syria, and in Iran and Iraq too. So, the US has shown that their aims - they can be pushed back by people's mobilisation - they have been pushed back. US was literally pushed out of Iraq, in a very - by millions of people, by real effort, pushed out of Syria - but, they keep trying. They really - it's relentless and it's criminal, and, as I say, it has to be the countries of Europe and here in the US which demand a stop in this criminal activity. It shouldn't be only the people of Syria and Iran speaking on this. Really, the people of the whole world need to denounce this.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Danny Kovalic, the Russian foreign minister said that the US military is present on Syrian soil illegally in violation of all norms of international law. China has warned against any action that would further complicate the situation in Syria, and analysts that we spoke to, here on Press TV, said that Washington might be intending to relaunch the war on Damascus, the one that Biden's old partner, Obama, started. Do you agree with that?
KOVALIC: Well, I think that's a great danger! And again, the Democrats and, frankly, the more 'liberal' media, for lack of a better word, have signaled that that's what they want for years! I mean, you know, the Democrats and outlets like New York Times, and NPR, were constantly attacking Trump for every position he took - which is fine - and I mean, I have no problem with that - but the one thing they would applaud him for is when he bombed Syria! They were clear that that's what they want: More bombing. They made it clear they didn't want Trump to get out of Afghanistan, like he was actually seeming to try to do. So, yeah, I think this is the plan, I think that the goal is to destroy Syria. The US government has on a few occasions acknowledged they cannot overthrow Assad, and so, clearly, the goal is simply to destroy the country. And now, the last figure I saw, is it had 12 million Syrians who are starving through the sanctions, the Caesar sanctions. So, I think they are going to continue to sow chaos and destruction in the Middle East, and I say that very sadly, but that's what I see happen.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Sara Flounders, the foreign minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, he recently said that Moscow had received unconfirmed information that the United States is planning to stay in Syria indefinitely. How inconsistent has the US been in its policy in Syria? Many would believe it's impossible to predict whether the US will stay or leave.
FLOUNDERS: Well, the US policy has been consistent in terms of war on the world and, in that, they are signalling that they plan to continue that relentless war. And it is also a war that is absolutely destroying the US. We have the highest - the highest by every count - of deaths from Covid, because there is no health infrastructure. There's a huge military infrastructure. They know what's on every one of 800 military bases around the world. They know they can - with their satellites - monitor everything, yet they can't get out vaccines in the US. They can't give emergency supplies in the midst of a horrendous cold-snap that's hit Texas and parts of the US south, and people are freezing without electricity, without heat. They can't provide those things. They can't provide the most basic things here for the population. And they can't provide vaccines for the global south, for the people of the world - or for the US. But they can provide bombs. They can provide destruction, because that is profitable. And that's how they calculate it. They don't calculate it at all with people need peace and they need health care and they need good food. Those are absolute human needs and, instead, this policy is set by those who profit from war. And it's enormously profitable. Billionaires. So, I - it's destructive and really, those links need to be made more and more, so that people here in the US understand who's responsible, when they don't have heat or jobs or a vaccine. Who's responsible? This government that cares more about war.
Q.BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE):targets, which have often had little impact, they've escalated over the past year, especially since the Iraqi parliament passed a law that mandated a full withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country but many are saying that the rise in such activities are apparently creating a sense of insecurity in Iraq and providing a pretext for the US to keep its troops and forces in the country. Do you see it in that light as well?
KOVALIC: Well, yes, although it's a strange argument - right? It's a circular argument. To be in a country illegally, like the US is, and then to say, when national forces that attack them, 'cause they want them out - as we would in the US, if someone invaded us, and stayed for years - and then to say, 'Well, we have to stay, because our presence is causing this reaction, but we have to stay to counter that reaction' - it makes no sense! But that is US military policy. We create the crisis, then we stay to stomp out the crisis - or to claim to. It's just completely irrational to any honest thinking person.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Sara Flounders, I see you nodding there. Would you like to add anything to that?
FLOUNDERS: Well, it's true. Any thinking person would say this is a criminally insane policy. And we're paying with lives in Syria, with lives around the world, and with lives here. And all that is not being done, in order to continue a war on the world. I just can't say how even disheartening - not that I had any expectation about Biden, or the Democratic Party - but there was a certain expectation that there would be maybe even some breathing room, or that there would be some attention to the needs here, but it's really clear that they intend to keep military presence every single place they can and to expand it, to threaten other countries. So, when Biden sends a message like this, we've got to take it seriously, and up the demands here, because that is the only way, the only way I can see, and to absolutely state how com - there's no excuse! We have to make this completely unacceptable. And to demand they end the sanctions and the bases and the bombings and the war on the world.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): I'm going to stay with you, Miss Flounders. Over the years there have been numerous reports about the infiltration of Daesh elements from Syria into Iraq, under the protection and logistical assistance of US troops. The popular mobilisation forces and its affiliates, which have been integrated into Iraq's regular forces, [are] deployed on the Syrian border and they're helping the army to stem the movement of the terrorists between the two countries. Do you think maybe that's why they're being targeted by the US?
FLOUNDERS: Well, certainly the US wants to continue to use Daesh forces. They want to use everywhere they can the most reactionary forces, who only seek to destroy. And, in the same way that their alliances are with completely criminal monarchies, who don't represent the population, such as Saudi Arabia. So it's not surprising that they would use Daesh-ISIS forces in Iraq, in Syria, and use as a threatening force in other countries of the world. And then it gives them an excuse to say they're going in to fight these forces. Well, maybe folks bought that back in 2014 and 2015, but I don't think anybody accepts that any longer. They know who pays and who transports these forces, who protects them in supposed prisons, and then moves them out in order to carry out destruction again.
BARDIA HONARDAR (COMPERE): Sure. One last question for Daniel Kovalic in Pittsburg. Syria's new permanent representative to the UN, Bassam Sabbagh, he stressed that the politicisation of the Syrian refugee crisis has increased the suffering of people in the war-ravaged country and western sanctions in his country have prevented Syrians from acquiring basic commodities. Why are Syrians being collectively punished by western countries, namely the US?
KOVALIC: Well, this is standard operating procedure. Many countries are being punished. Many populations are being punished by the west and in particular by the US, because they are standing firm against US aggression, against US intervention, against US imperialism. And, when you do that, you're punished. That is how it goes. That's how the US has operated since its inception. That is the nature of the beast, unfortunately.
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