It’s not a change so much as a refocusing. Remember, the US drive for regime change in Syria slowed in 2014 because ISIS — which US imperialism created and used, and which was growing powerful because of the war on Syria — threatened US oil interests in Kurdistan. US officials are open about this fact. ISIS is good for American interests but only up to a point. In 2014, American officials, which had scarcely even mentioned ISIS, made the group its primary rhetorical and military target, and for the ensuing years containing it was a priority. And now it’s contained. Team Trump is free to turn its guns on the Syrian government, which, imperialist propaganda to the contrary, remains a non-compliant government. It’s also, of course, an important ally, along with Hezbollah, of Iran, and we can assume that in the mind of American officials, a need to check Iranian influence required a refocusing of the war on Syria.
I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again: the US war on ISIS is of a piece with the US war on the Syrian government. In fact, the former war, it now appears, has enabled to the US to carry out the latter war with a renewed vigor. That is, it’s the same war. Every American bomb that has fallen and will fall on Syria, regardless of the targets, is part of a perpetual effort to secure and expand US power for the purpose of further enriching American corporations and the ruling class more broadly. If we understand that this is the overriding goal of US foreign policy, then US foreign policy makes sense — and we can mount a coherent, uncompromised, and uncompromising opposition. But if we impute admirable motives to US foreign policy, if we buy the lie that the purpose of US foreign policy is to protect human rights or spread democracy or fight terrorism, then we’re fumbling around in the dark.