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Workers Vanguard No. 1164

1 November 2019

U.S. Out of the Near East!

Syria: No to YPG Alliance with U.S. Imperialism, Enemy of Kurdish National Liberation!

OCTOBER 28—The most recent developments in the Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria have made clear, yet again, the truth: U.S. imperialism is the greatest enemy of the dismembered, stateless Kurdish nation. For five years, the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm, the People’s Protection Committees (YPG), have acted as foot soldiers for the U.S. war against the ISIS reactionaries, thus subordinating the national aspirations of the Kurds in Syria to the interests of American imperialism. After Donald Trump announced that U.S. troops would be pulled out of Syria, allowing the Turkish army and its Arab Islamist mercenaries to slaughter Kurds south of the Turkish border, it appeared that the U.S.-Kurdish alliance might be unraveling, as we noted in WV No. 1163 (18 October). But the YPG has since continued its alliance with the imperialists, and it is the Kurdish masses who will, as always, suffer the consequences.

As part of the cease-fire agreement brokered by the White House between Turkey and the vastly outgunned YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), SDF fighters were forced out of a “safe zone” that extends 18 miles into Syrian Kurdistan. After Vladimir Putin’s Russia cut a deal with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to jointly patrol the Syria-Turkey border area, further screwing the Kurds, Trump declared that hundreds of U.S. troops would remain to “protect” oil facilities in eastern Syria, with the SDF again acting as U.S. auxiliaries. Washington’s control of the oil fields, which Russia has aptly called “banditry,” is meant to starve the Syrian bourgeois regime of Bashar al-Assad of revenue. Meanwhile, Assad’s forces have moved into some of the area formerly held by the Kurds.

The YPG’s continuing role as U.S. tools was highlighted yesterday when Trump announced that Special Ops commandos had succeeded in killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria. As he reveled in the gory details, Trump gave a shout-out to the YPG, who, according to U.S. officials, “continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone” (New York Times, 27 October).

Notwithstanding howls from various Democratic Party presidential hopefuls over Trump’s “betrayal” of the Kurds, U.S. intervention in Syria was never about defending them against ISIS. The Obama administration helped fund and arm a raft of Islamist insurgents and other forces that had risen up against Assad in 2011. Just recently, the Trump administration pledged $4.5 million to the reactionary White Helmets who are fighting alongside Turkey and are linked to extremist Islamists. The U.S. rulers’ aim has always been to further strengthen their grip on the oil-rich Near East and, in particular, to go after Assad’s backers, Russia and Iran. Trump’s current policy for maintaining U.S. domination of the region includes shifting some forces from Syria into Iraq; it also includes adding 1,800 more troops and more military hardware to its presence in Saudi Arabia, with the aim of supporting that ISIS-like theocracy as it wages relentless war against the Houthis in Yemen.

As we emphasized at the outset of the Syrian civil war, the working class internationally had no side in that multi-sided inter-communal conflict, which has mainly pitted the Sunni majority against the politically dominant Alawite minority, as well as Arabs against Kurds. But workers did have a side in opposition to U.S. imperialism and its proxies, including the YPG/SDF. Today we repeat that it is in the class interests of U.S. workers to demand: All American troops and bases out of Syria, Iraq and the rest of the Near East. U.S. imperialism: Hands off the world! We also call for the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish, Russian and Iranian forces from Syria.

Opposition to the U.S. imperialists is essential to the struggle for self-determination of the Kurdish people, who are divided among and oppressed by four capitalist states—Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. As Marxist internationalists, we call for a united, independent Kurdistan and would also support Kurdish secession from any one of the oppressor states. This position is crucial to our program for proletarian revolutions in the region, which would lay the basis for a socialist federation of the Near East that would include a Socialist Republic of United Kurdistan.

ISIS: Washington’s Frankenstein’s Monster

By enlisting in the U.S. war against ISIS, the YPG/SDF, along with the Kurdish bourgeois nationalists in Iraq, sold themselves to the same imperialists who gave birth to the Islamist killing machine that went on to butcher Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and many others. Following the destruction of the Soviet Union almost 30 years ago, America’s rulers have justified their campaigns of imperialist terror in the Near East and Central Asia, as well as Africa, by waving the bloody shirt of Islamist terrorism. In fact, the Islamist terrorists were largely made in the U.S.A. Beginning with the anti-Soviet Cold War at the end of World War II, Washington embraced religious reactionaries as potential tools against “godless Communism” (and left-leaning bourgeois-nationalist regimes).

In the 1980s, the U.S. armed and financed the mujahedin cutthroats in Afghanistan to kill Soviet soldiers and drown in blood a modernizing regime that sought to implement minimal reforms, especially for women. Among the CIA’s beneficiaries were Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (For more on this history, see “The 1998 Embassy Bombings, Osama bin Laden and the CIA: The Afghan Connection,” WV No. 761, 6 July 2001.) Zarqawi went on to head the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda. The 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which devastated the country, sparked communal warfare between the now-dominant Shia majority and an aggrieved Sunni minority that had been on top previously. It was that ruinous conflict that fed Al Qaeda, and out of which ISIS emerged.

In Syria in 2012, the CIA launched a $1 billion effort to finance, arm and organize a ragtag coalition of “moderate rebels” under the rubric of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose alumni today include Turkey’s murderous Islamist proxies, notorious for beheading Kurds in the “safe zone.” As journalist Max Blumenthal has reported, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency knew that these “moderates” were linked to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and were intent on establishing a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria,” i.e., an “Islamic State” (, 21 October). These were the “hard men with the guns” whom Hillary Clinton praised as those who could bring about a “political transition” in Damascus (, 16 October).

It was only when these outfits (including one called the Bin Laden Front) proved useless in overthrowing Assad that the U.S. turned to the YPG as a proxy force to wield against its Frankenstein’s monster, ISIS. In their pact with the imperialist devil, the PYD/YPG misleaders, who are allied with the petty-bourgeois nationalist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, turned their fighters into “boots on the ground” for the Pentagon. We insisted that “by selling their souls to the U.S. imperialists, the Kurdish nationalists have committed a crime for which the long-dispossessed Kurdish masses will pay the price” (WV No. 1084, 26 February 2016).

For a United, Independent Kurdistan

It did not take a crystal ball to foresee this betrayal, which is but the latest in a long history of maneuvers by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois Kurdish nationalists to ingratiate themselves with the imperialists and/or oppressive regional capitalist regimes. This treachery dates back to even before the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, when the Kurdish nation was carved up by the British and French imperialists.

In Iraq in the 1960s, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) tied its fortunes to the CIA, the Israeli Mossad and the Shah of Iran after the Arab nationalist Ba’ath regime launched an attack on Iraqi Kurds. In return, the KDP hunted down Iranian Kurds, turning them over to the blood-drenched regime of the Shah. In 1975, the Shah made a deal with Ba’athist leader Saddam Hussein and cut off support to the KDP, with the CIA following suit. This led to an Iraqi onslaught against the Kurds.

In 1991, the KDP and its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), sided with the U.S. in its war against Iraq. Vainly expecting that Washington would back them, the Kurds then rose up against Saddam Hussein. The U.S. stood aside while the Iraqi regime brutally suppressed them. The KDP and PUK went on to serve as military auxiliaries to the U.S. occupation force following the 2003 invasion. With the U.S. manipulating and reinforcing sectarian divisions, the Kurdish pesh merga joined with Shia militias in crushing Sunni insurgents in Falluja in 2004 as American troops leveled the city.

Additionally in Syria (officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic), the Kurds have suffered oppression under the country’s Arab rulers. In the 1960s, some 20 percent of Kurds were stripped of Syrian citizenship, and many of their land. In the late 1970s, the Ba’athist regime of Hafez al-Assad (father of the current Syrian president) carried out further seizures of Kurdish land and gave it to Arab settlers—part of an “Arabization” drive that also banned Kurdish books and even names. At the same time, as tensions arose between Turkey and Syria, the Assad regime allowed the PKK, which has always been brutally repressed in Turkey, to move into Syrian Kurdistan. Then in 1998, Assad, under pressure from Turkey, banned the PKK, imprisoned a number of its leaders and expelled its founder, Abdullah Öcalan. The following year, Turkey captured Öcalan with CIA assistance.

The true allies of the Kurdish toilers are not the imperialists or the regional bourgeois oppressors but those who are exploited and oppressed by the same class enemy. The proletariat of Turkey includes a sizable Kurdish component. Turkey’s capitalist rulers thrive on fomenting chauvinist hatred of the Kurds in order to divide the workers. To unite their forces and enhance their ability to struggle in their class interests, it is vital for Turkish workers to champion the cause of Kurdish self-determination, including defending the PKK against state repression. We call for military defense of the PKK without giving political support to its petty-bourgeois program.

In the course of class and social struggles and through the intervention of a Leninist vanguard party, the workers of the Near East can be broken from the chauvinism and other backward prejudices that currently bind them to their exploiters. It is necessary to cohere Leninist-Trotskyist nuclei that will fight to build revolutionary workers parties, national sections of a reforged Fourth International. Such parties must be based on the understanding that the fight against national, ethnic and religious oppression and to liberate women—the “slaves of slaves”—is essential to the struggle for proletarian revolution to sweep away capitalist rule and break the chains of imperialist subjugation. Centrally important to this perspective is the presence of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish and Turkish workers in Germany, where they have the potential to form a bridge between class struggles in the Near East and in the imperialist powerhouse of Europe.

For Class Struggle at Home Against U.S. Imperialism

For the multiracial working class in the U.S., opposition to the imperialist depredations of America’s rulers is key to advancing its interests. When Trump announced the (partial) troop withdrawal from Syria, self-described “socialist” Bernie Sanders fumed that “you don’t turn your back on allies,” while fellow “progressive” Elizabeth Warren railed that “Trump recklessly betrayed our Kurdish partners.” With their long track records of supporting American intervention abroad, Sanders and Warren are no less committed to furthering U.S. imperialist domination than are the Republicans and more openly pro-war Democrats such as Hillary Clinton. Sanders, for example, has long championed “regime change” in Syria, a declaration that the U.S. should impose regimes of its choosing on any country it can overpower.

For the Democrats, Trump’s real crime in pulling back U.S. troops was to hand Syria over to Russia (as well as to Iran). Sanders, Warren & Co. want to concentrate on those they’ve declared to be the main enemies, capitalist Russia and the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state. Warren made this clear in a Foreign Affairs (January/February 2019) article published shortly after she declared her presidential candidacy, writing that U.S. entanglement in the Near East has “distracted Washington from growing dangers in other parts of the world: a long-term struggle for power in Asia, a revanchist Russia that threatens Europe, and looming unrest in the Western Hemisphere, including a collapsing state in Venezuela that threatens to disrupt its neighbors.”

When “labor friendly” capitalist pols like Warren and Sanders appear at union rallies and picket lines, it is to strengthen the political ties that bind the working class to the capitalist-imperialist system of exploitation, oppression and war. Those ties must be broken as part of the struggle to build a workers party, the necessary instrument to lead the fight to sweep away the U.S. imperialist beast through socialist revolution. This is the task to which the Spartacist League in the U.S., section of the International Communist League, is dedicated.


Workers Vanguard No. 1164

WV 1164

1 November 2019


Labor Needs a Class-Struggle Leadership

UAW Holds Off GM Bosses, But Strikers Sold Short


Free All Imprisoned Catalan Independentistes Now!

Independence for Catalonia! For a Workers Republic!


Down With Democrats’ War on Public Education!

Chicago Teachers: Fight to Win!

For a Workers Party!


U.S. Out of the Near East!

Syria: No to YPG Alliance with U.S. Imperialism, Enemy of Kurdish National Liberation!


Hong Kong Is Part of China



Letters Policy


Break the Chains of Capitalist Exploitation!

(Quote of the Week)


70th Anniversary of Chinese Revolution

Defend China! Down With Reactionary Hong Kong Protests!

For Workers Political Revolution!

Part Two