Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
It’s safe to say that Donald Trump was one of the worst US Presidents in living history. Now he is gone the world can go back to normal and begin to heal. A seemingly sane, if not slightly senile, Democrat is in the Oval Office. So everyone can relax, right?
This may be true if you happen to live in America. Or Europe.
But one region where the Biden presidency does not mean you feel safer or more secure is in the Middle East. This area has not felt peace for decades; and one of the culprits – The United States of America. Biden may be a democrat, but this did not prevent him from authorising airstrikes in Syria. This comes not even two months after his inauguration.
Syria has been in a devastating civil war since the Arab Uprisings of 2011. Since then an estimated 560,000 people have been killed, and a further 5.6 million made refugees. The presence of foreign powers in the crisis has made the civil war even more protracted and bloody. Russia has committed troops, funding and training to the Assad regime since 2014; during in this same year, the US began airstrikes. These strikes – in name – are solely to target the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but like with any military intervention, there has been huge number of civilian casualties. In 2017, the number of civilians killed was estimated at around 2,500, but since then the number has been rising exponentially.
So if the US is hindering Syria, rather than helping, why are they still engaged in the conflict?
US intervention in Syria may be framed as a just war, or an intervention done in the interests of the Syrian people, but realistically it is an extension of US neo-imperialist intentions in the Middle East. This is why Biden continued Trump’s policies, and why Trump continued Obama’s policies. The relationship that the US has with the Middle East is so much deeper than one civil war.
George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 was surrounded by the rhetoric of freedom and democracy. The US believed itself to be the champions of liberty by helping to topple dictator Saddam Hussein. This isn’t even close to the first time that the US intervened in the region for a regime change. Way back in 1953, the CIA worked with MI6 to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian PM – Mohammed Mossadegh, after he nationalised Iranian oil. During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the US supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran by providing financial and military support for Iraqi troops. Even more recently, during the Arab uprising, the US bombed over 100 Libyan targets in just 24 hours, and eventually killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi may have been a violent despot, but his death led to a power vacuum – with no singular party powerful enough to gain control. Libya now is effectively a failed state ruled by regional militias.
It’s a well-known fact that Obama ordered nearly 2000 drone strikes during his eight-year presidency. During Trump’s one-term presidency he ordered 2,243 and revoked the rule dictating that the number of civilians killed should be released. Given America’s past in the Middle East, and Biden’s recent actions, seemingly this deadly policy is doomed to be continued.
America needs the region’s oil. America cannot be seen to be backing down against Russia in the Syrian civil war. America is always going to continue its policy of neo-imperialism in the region, as it has done since the 1950s. So Biden might be a breath of fresh air for some, but for others he’s the same devil – just with a different face.