(This was posted to the Marxism list this morning by Michael Karadjis)
In recent weeks, US and Russian warplanes bombing Syria have been targeting trucks allegedly transporting “ISIS oil.” Indeed, Russian leaders have accused Turkey of being a major market for this “ISIS oil”, a claim that indicates spectacular hypocrisy given the very well-known, long-term oil trade between ISIS and Russia’s ally, the Syrian genocide regime.
Of course, as is well known, ISIS sells oil to hundreds of small private traders who then transport it to whoever wants to buy it, which can include Kurdish authorities, Syrian rebels, Turkey or the Assad regime.
While Russia has focused almost entirely on bombing the Free Syrian Army (FSA), indeed in provinces and regions with zero ISIS presence, even to the point of directly facilitating ISIS advances against the rebels (as in northern Aleppo over the last fortnight), it has also taken some potshots against ISIS, above all slaughtering civilians in Raqqa and destroying civilian infrastructure.
One form of “fighting ISIS” has been bombing these impoverished drivers who make their living by transporting oil or other goods from whoever wants to sell them to whoever wants to buy them.
Soon after Russia invaded Syria, the US also began bombing these civilian trucks and killing their drivers. The US had already been bombing civilian oil infrastructure under ISIS control for a year or so.
One of the talking points of the pro-Russian imperialist “anti-imperialists” then became that “the US only began bombing the oil trucks after Our Mother Russia first bombed them goddamned terrorists.”
For some it seems, “anti-imperialism” today, oddly, means supporting whichever superpower can better slaughter civilian truck-drivers doing their job in a poor country far from home. That is quite a sensational development.
An article which, quite correctly and uncontroversially, points out that Assad buys more “ISIS oil” than anyone else, also gives a good description of how small-scale, insecure and desperate these middle people are:
“The trucks don’t have to go far to sell ISIS oil. In fact, it’s cheaper and easier for them to sell oil to locals who run basic refineries in the countryside, not far from the main oil fields in eastern Syria … With few exceptions, these backyard refineries are just stills in which small batches of oil are heated and the resulting vapor is condensed into low-grade fuel. The owners, usually desperate Arab families who don’t belong to ISIS, run several at a time. The work is dirty and dangerous; the scene is apocalyptic. Toxic plumes of black smoke, scorched earth, soot, and explosions make Mad Max look tame. Hundreds if not thousands of these stills are now active across Syria. Combined, they provide tens of thousands of barrels in daily refining capacity. Fuel from these refineries is sold at roadside pumping stations or in bulk to middlemen who deliver it to population centers where demand is greater”.
These are the people that some “anti-imperialists” think are criminals who the superpowers should blow to bits from the sky if they are serious about “fighting ISIS.”
Moreover, just because Russian media showed pictures of trucks allegedly crossing the Turkish border, hardly proves they are all necessarily transporting oil. According to the truck drivers in this video, many of them are transporting food or other goods to supply some of the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, and they constantly get bombed by the Russian air force.
While it may be difficult to vouch for the validity of what these truck-drivers are saying, that is hardly different from a great deal of “information” floating around the region, above all from the Russian and Iranian versions of Fox News which are mere propaganda organs for the Assad regime.
Between a belligerent invading state’s media showing pictures of trucks and calling them “ISIS,” and bombing and killing working people trying desperately to make a living, and truck drivers in a video claiming to be delivering food, I’ll take my bets on the latter.