US Airstrike in Syria kills 53 Civilians, 6 Children

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

As Mariam Karouny reports for Reuters, the US air strike on Friday that inadvertently hit a village of non-combatants, killing members of six families, raises new questions about the Obama administration’s approach to fighting Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) in Syria. Despite months of bombing raids, Daesh has lost no territory in Syria.

The strike, according to the Syria Observatory, landed on a village on the east bank of the Euphrates River rather hitting its fundamentalist target.

US air strikes in Syria are estimated to have killed 2000 Daesh fighters, out of an estimated 25,000 in Syria and Iraq. However, thousands more volunteers are said to have gone to join up once they hear that the US was targeting Daesh. Some of “radicalism” in the Middle East is just anti-imperialism, something that Washington interventionists are congenitally unable to understand.

The major accomplishment of the bombing that began last September was to keep Daesh from taking the Kurdish enclave of Kobane in the north of Raqqa Province. But the Kobane area, which had some 300,000 Kurds, is still a ghost town.

In contrast, in Iraq the bombing has been done as close air support for Kurdish Peshmerga fighters or for Iraqi and Iran-backed forces. With those fighters on the ground the US helped allies take Mt. Sinjar and Tikrit from Daesh, reducing the territory it holds in Iraq by 25% compared to last summer.

But in Syria, the US has no moderate fighters to support, since almost all rebels have joined Daesh, al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra or the Support Front), or other Salafi Jihadi groups that reject democracy and want to reduce religious minorities like Christians to barely tolerated non-citizens who have to pay a poll tax to avoid being attacked.

In Syria, moreover, there is a danger that if Daesh were weakened, the Syrian Arab Army of Bashar al-Assad would be able to take advantage of that development. The US wants to see Bashar, by now a notorious war criminal, overthrown.

What comes along with not having a ground force to support is lack of good intelligence on the ground in Syria. Hence the bombing of innocent non-combatants, including children.

The US says it wants to train 15,000 moderate fighters in conjunction with Turkey. But it would take years for such a force to be deployed and become effective. Moreover, there were more than that number of moderate fighters two and a half years ago, and they’ve all by now scattered or joined al-Qaeda affiliates. What is to stop the same thing from happening to the new crew? And wouldn’t they deliver their training and weaponry to Daesh (as already has often happened)?

This revolving door of US-trained fighters has been a key problem in Afghanistan, but no one ever brings it up.

The bombing of the civilians actually helps Daesh propaganda enormously. This policy in Syria needs reconsideration.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV News: “Activists: 52 killed in U.S.-led airstrike in Syria”

18 Responses

  1. More horrific stories have come out of Syria.

    Deadly chemical attacks on civilian population:

    link to

    ISIS conducting executions by crucifixion.

    Analysts believe that the Assad regime is going to collapse and it being only a matter of time; further U.S. “allies” Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would relish seeing this happen as a blow to the “Shia Crescent” – even if al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria and ISIS would take over:

    link to

    It was the U.S. State Department during the Bush Administration that began implementing an agenda of regime change in Syria due to alleged Syrian involvement in the assassination of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri.

    The State Department, Pentagon and CIA proceeded to provide assistance to anti-Assad exile groups around the globe – with civil war breaking out in 2011 when Syrian army units began rebelling against the Baathists. By 2013, the Assad regime was close to collapse under pressure of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army when a series of foreign policy blunders by the Obama administration resulted in a fragmenting of those rebel forces and the introduction of ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated armed groups as the most powerful anti-Assad organizations operating within Syria.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has been one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. State Department policy toward Syria during the Obama administration.

    • What ‘policy blunders’ are u referring to in 2013. I think the policy blunders began in late summer, 2011. The exile groups were demanding intervention. The Local Coordinating Commities in Syria were opposed to arming the civilian demonstrators and foreign intervention because it would ‘change the nature of the war’. Indeed it did. Obama kept the US out of Syria, but turned a blind eye towards ‘allies’ in the region arming their favorite factions. At the same time, the State Deparment mantra of “Assad must go” mainly kept Russia from helping to formulate a UN resolution against violence and calling for that ever-promised ‘negotiated solutions’. Clinton argued as principle that a UN resolutions should call for Assad to go, when the only objective at the time should have been stopping the violence or some type of truce. The FSA was splintered and untrained. As I understand it, the Local Coordinating Committees were grassroots networks that carried information from one point of the protests to others. Some day some enterprising journalist may research in depth the divisions between the exile Syrians and the locals and the dynamics of pushing the resistance forward towards a slaughter. In August, 2011, the world was decrying the deaths of 2200 Syria civilians. Look at the number today. I think the State Deparment erred in how it dealt with Russia and partnered with them for a mimimalist UN resolution that could have put Russia on the spot to oppose Assad’s destruction. Do you have any more information about this time? Or 2013 in relation to this prior time?

      • “What ‘policy blunders’ are u (sic) referring to in 2013(?)”

        Firstly, the U.S. did not provide sufficient funding to the FSA to pay salaries or provide badly-needed arms during 2013 resulting in defections to Islamic extremists, including the al-Nusra Front, and general organizational deficiencies; despite this the FSA was still seizing government-held arms warehouses and performing admirably against the Syrian army forces. However when an FSA arms depot was raided in early-December of 2013 by Islamic Front militants, the State Department suspended all aid to the FSA; this suspension encouraged and resulted in more defections from FSA to Islamic jihadist brigades – many of whom who were receiving ample aid from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

        Secondly, the Obama administration failed to take more serious action when 1,400 were killed by poison gas at Ghouta by the Syrian army. The September of 2013 agreement for Syria to divest itself of proscribed chemical weapons was scoffed at by many experts and ridiculed by Assad himself as warranting a Nobel Peace Prize being awarded him. The Baathist government proceeded to violate the timetable for complying with the agreement and, worse, initiated deployment of chlorine and mustard gas on civilians in several instances in 2014 – the last deadly attack being only a few days ago.

        The most damaging blunder of all, however, was the U.S. position on the Geneva II conference. John Kerry pressured the Syrian National Coalition to attend which resulted in several negative consequences. One consequence was that the Syrian National Council, headed by George Sabra, which held 22 seats in the Syrian National Coalition, withdrew in protest. Further in the fall of 2013, a number of FSA brigades broke away to form the Islamic Front – largely due to the FSA’s allegiance to the Syrian National Coalition; the Islamic Front refused to participate at all in the Geneva II conference and, also, indicated that they considered anyone who did participate a traitor and would be executed once Assad was overthrown.

        The Geneva II conference was an utter failure as almost nothing was accomplished and the Syrian government’s delegate to the conference did little other than to castigate the opposition representatives as traitors.

        “….the divisions between the exile Syrians and the locals…..”

        Following the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus in 2012, the key American presence in Syria was via the Washington D.C-based Syrian Support Group (SSG), who acted as a liaison between the State Department and the Free Syrian Army, delivering millions of dollars in non-lethal aid to the FSA. The FSA ‘s board of directors consisted of Syrian exiles and Syrian-Americans and staffed by Americans with national security backgrounds. It’s chairman had been a Chicago attorney linked to Obama’s 2008 campaign and a former student of Dr. Cole.

        The SSG, pursuant to a State Department license. raised millions of dollars in the U.S. for the FSA. In 2014, the SSG however, closed its doors, citing the bad publicity that anti-Assad rebels were receiving.

        Former U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has pointed out that Assad is so unpopular that Alawites in his own hometown have demonstrated against his government. It would be safe to say that the primary support the Baathists have among Syrians is the fear – especially among Christians and Alawites – that ISIS will impose a worse government than the Baathists.

        • Thanks for your reply. I’d still like to know how you judge the situation in 2011. I still think US should have dropped “Assad must go” and at least tested Russia’s ‘committment’ to a negotiated solution.

        • @rbtl:

          “the situation in 2011……a negotiated solution.”

          Democracy Council, a Los Angeles non profit, was funding the Syrian opposition on behalf of the U.S. government to the tune of millions of dollars:

          link to

          “Witness to the Uprising” by Stephen Starr is an excellent book on the events within Syria during this time period.

          The Obama administration had continued efforts on fomenting dissent within Syria by financing broadcasts aired by Syrian exile leaders which fueled protests within Syria. At the same time the State Department was seeking rapprochement with the Baathists in Damascus.

          In retrospect, perhaps a diplomatic “carrot-and-stick” approach with Russian encouragement could have advanced U.S. interests to some degree and avoided catastrophic civil war and the eventual introduction of ISIS and the al-Nusra Front into Syria.

          250,000 killed, millions displaced, and no end in sight.

  2. So let me see, one U.S. missile takes money away from an American entitlement (the government’s word, not mine), and this single missile also ensures another Middle Eastern youth will grow up hating America. That is some kind of twofer! This kind of methodology will only make the missile manufacturers rich. I guess if the missile maker pays a capital gains tax that could help support the entitlement, but then I am sure the bomb was either subsidized, or possibly paid no taxes at all. I swear the U.S. is trying to work against the American citizens interest. Seriously, why vote, why live with regret, why even try to understand.

  3. when will america murder inc pay for its terror torture and war crimes on the populations of the world along with mossad cia saudi terror psychotic inc ? not anytime soon im sure when it comes to the dummied down public believing anything that is shoveled its way hook line and stupid, keep it up morons thats what these sick pathetic gutless war mongers want, enabling walking zombies that you truely are

  4. Don’t hold your breath waiting for O-bomb-er to apologize for murdering these brown skin people like he did last week when he killed white skinned people

  5. The Reuters article does not say this was a U.S. airstrike. It says “airstrike by U.S. led-forces.” That seems to imply it was not a U.S. strike but some forces that are U.S. led. Who knows what that means? CCTV shows a video apparently taken from a plane dropping a missile. It does not say it represents this particular strike, or where the video comes from. I’m assuming this is stock footage?

  6. As Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett said five years ago the U.S. the world should negotiate with Assad on the power sharing deal he was willing to make. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians might be alive today. Millions would not be refugees. But no the U.S. (Israel) had to do it their way. The neocons way. Syria was on the PNAC hit list years ago.

    Israel never wants to give back to Syria the land they stole…. the Golan Heights

  7. Assad is an angel compared to the Saudi-backed jihadists who wish to take his place.

    This is all about pushing the Wahabist agenda, just like the Saudi efforts to prop up their pet Sunni president in Yemen, a land that, like the neighboring areas just next door in the southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula, was majority Shia until the Saudis started their ethnic cleansing campaign a few decades ago.

    There’s a reason the Saudis spend more per capita on arms than any other nation.

    • Are you sure about that? I thought the reason was to keep the unemployment rate low here in Americaaa.

    The Pentagon says that all persons killed were intentionally targeted, and were enemy fighters.
    “… U.S. Central Command spokesman Maj. Curtis Kellogg said there was no indication that any civilians were killed in the airstrikes …’
    link to

  9. Two words “Regime Change”. Assad has not ever made war on the west. The quickest way to end this mess is to support Assad and then start negotiations. Why is the west so desperate for democracy in Syria but does nothing about Saudi Arabia which is a far worse country? All we get are lies, lies and hypocrisy from our Western governments

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