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Days after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Maldives, the Hadi government in Yemen and the Libyan House of Representatives government cut off all relations with Qatar, the US resumed missile strikes on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed ISIS capital on occupied Syrian territory.
The missiles have been launched from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group which yesterday left port in Dubai in the UAE and sailed to the Eastern Mediterranean.
This comes as the US backed Kurdish led SDF forces make a strong push on Raqqa by land.
In many ways the timing of these events is more unusual than the events themselves.
Many had long suspected that it was only a matter of time before the Kurdish/US siege of Raqqa transformed into an attempt to take the city from ISIS.
What’s more though is that it seems that either by design or by mistake, Raqqa will not be the military ‘prize’ it once was. Recently, SDF forces allowed ISIS fighters and commanders to slip out of Raqqa and head towards Deir ez-Zor. This was the proximate cause of Russia launching missiles at ISIS targets outside of Palmyra on the 31st of May this year in order to help clear the road towards Deir ez-Zor for the Syrian Arab Army who are engaged in a fierce battle with ISIS for control of the city which has become one of the last ISIS hotbeds in Syria.
The timing of this is all too suspicious to be ignored. This is especially true after Donald Trump Tweeted his approval of the Saudi led isolation of Qatar, a country which remains on the same side of the battle field in Syria, arming and funding jihadists, although if things continue as they are now, Qatar’s resources may find themselves suddenly stretched.
The entire ‘siege of Raqqa’ is after all, one part reality and one part fantasy. One the one hand, it has been the long time self-proclaimed capital of the so-called Islamic State and the SDF has been fighting to seal it off from neighbouring regions. Likewise, if the US and/or US backed Kurdish forces ultimately take the city, it could be a bargaining chip for both US imperial and Kurdish separatist desires in a post-war settlement.
The fantastical plan is related to the reality in many ways. America is not needed to liberate Raqqa from ISIS, not least if the America style of liberation is as gruesome and blood-soaked as it has been in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul.
If America simply ceased funding jihadist groups under the guise of ‘moderate rebellion’ and likewise urged its Gulfi and Turkish allies to do the same, the Syrian led anti-terrorist coalition would be ore than capable of liberating Raqqa without the illegal assistance of countries like the US who have no legal mandate of any sort to be operating in Syria.
But this does not suit the narrative of an easy symbolic victory for the US. If Qatar’s isolation does in fact make some of their Salafist proxies ‘go on strike’ until further payment, combined with many of ISIS’ most ferocious villains having all ready left Raqqa, the United States can at long last say that it has done something meaningful against terrorism. It could achieve the symbolic victory that many in the US, including Donald Trump hunger for.
There is an element of Shakespearean comedy to the whole thing, that is to say, there would be if the entire situation wasn’t an imperialist war-crime on top of an ISIS war crime of bestial occupation.
There is little doubt that the timing of the US strikes of Raqqa and the isolating of Qatar are related. If one were to ask Hillary Clinton, she might confess that in her mind they are more related than the United States election on the 8th of November last year and the fact that she isn’t the one ordering the strikes.