DSA Statement on the Islamic State and the Crisis in Iraq and Syria

Once again the United States government is ignoring history and trying to solve an intricate political crisis, the rise of the so-called Islamic State (I.S.), by aerial bombardment. The bombing by the U.S. and its “allies” must stop, as must the threat of further military escalation. Bombing is a blunt, indiscriminate tactic that kills innocent civilians and often drives innocent bystanders to support the very foes we bomb.

The Islamic State will best be opposed by a broad international coalition led by those most directly threatened by the I.S. – the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Iran. Unfortunately these states often have conflicting regional aims. But the past failures of US unilateral intervention demonstrates that the U.S. can only act effectively against I.S. through multilateral action led by the peoples of the Islamic world.

We recognize that the I.S. is not the only brutal force in the world today, but no one on the Left should have any illusions about the I.S. They have carried out barbarous mass killings of Shiites, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, feminists and secularists. They have brutally executed independent journalists and humanitarian workers, and they oppress the people they rule over. DSA supports the democratic aspirations of the Kurdish people, as well as the democratic forces fighting against the brutal Assad regime. We condemn Turkey’s refusal to open up a corridor to the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani so that weapons and additional Kurdish fighters can reach their fellow Kurds who are being besieged by the I.S.

In order for the global community to unite effectively against the I.S., we must first understand the causes of its growth.

The origins of the I.S. lay, in part, in previous misguided U.S. policies. I.S. has garnered widespread support in the Sunni regions of Iraq because of the sectarian nature of the U.S.-backed, Shiite government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This government, and its alleged more “moderate” successor, have excluded Sunnis from real political voice and from any leadership role in the armed forces. I.S.’s arms have largely been seized from an ineffective Iraqi army, one excessively armed by the United States. These military advantages have allowed the I.S. to become an effective force fighting the Assad regime in Syria. The U.S.’s fundamentalist allies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fund I.S. as their preferred anti-Assad agent, thus weakening the democratic forces opposing Assad. What could the U.S. constructively do to weaken the I.S.?

1. The U.S. should work with Iran to pressure the Iraqi government to be more inclusive of the Sunni and Kurdish populations. The Iranian Shiite government is the regime with the greatest influence over the current Iraqi government. The international negotiations with Iran over their nuclear capacity have gone fairly well as of late; the U.S. should build on this momentum to work more closely with the Iranians to achieve a stable government in Iraq.

2. The U.S. should work with the international community to cut off funds to the I.S. by cracking down on Turkish, Iraqi and other oil dealers who purchase I.S. oil on the black market. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States largely own the banks in Northern Iraq through which the I.S. washes its funds. The United States coddles the repressive Gulf States because of our desire to have access to their oil. In order to cut off funds to the political Islamists, however, the United States government must definitively break with these regimes. These states fund both the political Islamist forces and the Wahabist religious schools that provide the ideological underpinning for reactionary political Islamists.

3. The United States must press its NATO ally Turkey to grant greater autonomy and freedom to its Kurdish population and to open a corridor from Turkey for arms and Kurdish reinforcements to reach the besieged Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani. The United States should provide incentives for Turkey to take these steps by increasing humanitarian aid to the displaced people from both Syria and Iraq flooding into Turkish refugee camps.

4. The United States should support and strengthen the UN efforts, previously led by special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, to convene the regional states (Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and the UAE) as well as Russia and Iran to deal with the regional crisis. The regional states should unite in an effort to restrict the flow of arms, militias and finance across the borders to the I.S. The U.S. should also work with the international community to prevent genocide, as was done with some success in the case of the Yazidis in the Kurdish region.

5. The U.S. should also work to restore UN-sponsored negotiations to end the civil war in Syria, negotiations that must include full representation of the democratic forces of Syrian civil society. This will not be an easy task, as what started as a mass democratic uprising against the Assad regime must not end with either the continuing rule of the Assad dictatorship or the triumph of anti-democratic Islamic fundamentalists.

As the civil war in Syria indicates, there are limits to what United States diplomatic and economic efforts can accomplish.  The historical record makes clear, however, that the use of unilateral United States force cannot “solve” complex regional problems. Over a decade of U.S. combat in Afghanistan has witnessed a resurgence in the Taliban and the world-wide spread of Al Qaeda. The unjust U.S. war in Iraq engendered the very rise of the I.S. forces that the United States government misguidedly thinks it can defeat by unilateral imperial military power. 

DSA does not claim to have a foolproof democratic left solution to all the world’s problems. But as citizens of the United States, DSA members must oppose United States military and foreign policies that kill innocent civilians and indirectly or directly aid undemocratic regimes. We support multilateral international efforts that deny military and economic resources to authoritarian forces of all ideological stripes and oppose the United States government’s support for repressive regimes that indirectly back the I.S. and who repress the democratic aspirations of the Kurdish people. We stand in solidarity with the democratic forces opposing the brutal Assad dictatorship in Syria and with the democratic forces in civil society that must play the central role in defeating authoritarian movements and repressive governments.

Passed by the National Political Committee October 14, 2014.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.


Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.


Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.


DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.