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“Moderate” Rebels Protest U.S. Strikes in Syria

Many groups belonging to the “moderate” Syrian opposition have denounced [1] U.S. strikes in Syria, especially those that have targeted members of Jabhat al-Nusra, the organization affiliated with Al Qaeda that is on the State Department’s official terrorist list:

On Tuesday, nearly a dozen of the FSA’s most powerful groups signed a declaration denouncing the strikes, demanding they target the Syrian regime, too [bold mine-DL]. In a heated meeting with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul Thursday, U.S. officials demanded an explanation for the statement condemning the American-led coalition, an opposition official said.

“They said ‘friends don’t speak against friends,’ ” said an opposition official with knowledge of the meeting. “We told them, ‘true friendship means coordination.'” The meeting was confirmed by a second opposition official.

It’s not surprising that opposition groups are unhappy with the way that the U.S. is fighting this war so far. After all, their primary adversary is the Syrian government, and so far the U.S. isn’t attacking regime forces. They see the U.S. intervening directly in the civil war after years of not doing so, and they are predictably displeased that the U.S. is targeting other anti-regime groups along with ISIS.

The opposition complaints are revealing. The “moderate” opposition that the U.S. is foolishly arming and training doesn’t have the same priorities as the U.S. in this conflict (and there was never any reason to think that it would). Many groups in the FSA are opposed to and offended by military action against a jihadist group that the U.S. correctly views as a terrorist organization. That ought to be the latest in a series of flashing warning signs that the U.S. has absolutely nothing to gain in backing such “moderates.” Friends might not “speak against” friends, but it’s long past time that we realized that the U.S. doesn’t have friends–or even useful proxies–in the Syrian conflict. It is yet another reason to doubt the wisdom of expanding the ISIS war into Syria, and by extension it is another reason to doubt the wisdom of the intervention in its entirety.

Supporters of expanding the war against ISIS into Syria seem to assume that “moderate” rebels will pursue Washington’s goals, but that isn’t going to happen. Like any proxy group, the “moderate” opposition was always going to pursue its own agenda, and there was never going to be much that the U.S. could do about this, especially when it was so intent on trying to “shape” events. These opposition protests confirm what opponents of arming Syrian rebels have taken for granted from the start: providing arms to rebels isn’t going to gain the U.S. the influence or control that Syria hawks want, and the belief that the U.S. can build up a “moderate” alternative to both the regime and jihadists has always been a fantasy. As these protests remind us, many “moderate” rebels don’t consider Jabhat al-Nusra and similar groups to be their enemy, but they do predictably view the group as their ally against Assad. That underscores just how absurd the preoccupation with identifying “moderate” rebels in a brutal civil war has been from the start. It is a label created to evade the underlying problem with taking the anti-regime side in Syria’s civil war, which is that it puts the U.S. in league with jihadists or the allies of jihadists.

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "“Moderate” Rebels Protest U.S. Strikes in Syria"

#1 Comment By tbraton On September 29, 2014 @ 4:45 am

An apt name for the current “hostilities” in Iraq and Syria against “IS” should be “Operation Enduring Incoherence.” Even Maureen Dowd acknowledges this fact: “THE president was at the United Nations on Wednesday urging young people across the Muslim world to reject benighted values, even as America clambers into bed with a bunch of Middle East potentates who espouse benighted values.” (From Sunday’s NY Times)

#2 Comment By Kieselguhr Kid On September 29, 2014 @ 9:03 am

Well, sure. The logic of the intervention eludes me — if the FSA is everything its American promoters say and more, I still don’t understand why we haven’t just removed its incentive to fight the IS guys. As long as IS is standing, we’re going to arm them, and when and if IS is subdued, they’re going to be back in a fight with a regime that was clobbering them. The FSA could be the most awesome, democracy-loving, moderate, beer-and-football-on-Sundays guys, and they’re still vested in keeping IS strong; it’s really the same situation Assad has been in, where as long as IS is out there he knows the West doesn’t want him to fold. We seem to’ve made it in the interests of all parties within Syria, to keep the Islamists strong.

#3 Comment By Chris Atwood On September 29, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

“the U.S. doesn’t have friends–or even useful proxies–in the Syrian conflict”

Put it in bold and put it at the top of any article on Syria from now till the end of the civil war. This is the central truth.

#4 Comment By James Canning On September 29, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

Sir John Sawers says the West cannot control the outcome of revolutions in the Muslim world.
Very true. (Sir John heads MI6)

#5 Comment By Hassan Dibadj On September 29, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

Moderates who? That area doesn’t have any one more moderate than Assad. They require an iron fist, as the typical modern Arab society is fragmented, unbalanced, fanatical, and immodest. Their only realistic hope is a stable government, all things that help stability including the population control. A moderate reformist would negotiate immediately for a ceasefire and gradual reforms, not asking for more weapons to destroy what is left.

#6 Comment By Brain Drained DC On September 29, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

“providing arms to rebels isn’t going to gain the U.S. the influence or control that Syria hawks want”

I know. I think the more intelligent Syria hawks know it too. The Israel example, with which they should be very familiar, is instructive.

At first there is grudging gratitude, but gratitude turns to expectation, expectation to entitlement, entitlement to contemptuous demands. Then comes the pathological stage, in which instead of improving our security they actually endanger us, all the while expecting more arms, money, and other support.

It’s a mug’s game. And we’re the reigning champ.

#7 Comment By Robert On September 29, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

Bombing campaigns like Germany used against London in World War 2 or the Americans used in Vietnam only serve to piss people off and unite them.

So this one is going to be the best recruiting campaign ISIS could ever have dreamed of. Not only that ISIS was like most of these Jihadhis mostly a foreign import, whom local Sunnis disliked and distrusted.

With a little bit of help from the Americans the locals will take ISIS to into their hearts and make them their own.

Go Americans. You are indeed exceptional.

#8 Comment By HeartRight On September 29, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

James Canning says:
September 29, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Sir John Sawers says the West cannot control the outcome of revolutions in the Muslim world.
Very true. (Sir John heads MI6

And Sir John is absolutely right.
He also notes that such revolutions are not in our advantage.

It should then be obvious that we ought to treat such revolutionaries as enemies.

#9 Comment By Cape Fear On September 29, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

The aspect of this I like least is the repeat triumph of Washington and the elites over the public will.

With Iraq it was accomplished by elite lies about weapons of mass destruction.

In this case the elites used terror.

They magnified local atrocities out of all proportion, terrorizing their own people to compel compliance with their longstanding intention to intervene in the Syrian civil war.

#10 Comment By Tony D. On September 30, 2014 @ 9:41 am

I love this part: “U.S. officials demanded an explanation for the statement condemning the American-led coalition…”

How DARE you object to our bombing of your country, you ingrates!

Oy. God Bless America, I guess…

#11 Comment By johnny On September 30, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

The US is not even playing checkers. What is the next step if Assad is toppled? Who is the leader of the vague rebels that will rule a fragmented Syria?

#12 Comment By Kasoy On September 30, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

Civil war in Syria is betw the Sunnis & Shia, betw the oil rich Sunni nations & Shia Iran. Al Qaeda & ISIS are out to oust Assad to take over Syria. These two terror groups know that both the Sunni rebels & the Shia militia will not stand a chance against them. So their first goal: oust Assad, destroy his Shia military by taking no prisoners of war. They hope that the Sunni population will fall in line once the Shia are driven out of Syria. Syria is a Sunni majority nation.

US cannot oust Assad until ISIS & Al Qaeda are driven out of Syria. For the US to oust Assad first is to play into plan of ISIS & Al Qaeda to take control of Syria. Syrian civil war will most likely end in a Sunni victory with the support of Sunni Saudi, UAE, Qatar. Iran will continue to forment trouble thru terrorism with the small radicalized Shia minority.

Until ISIS are driven out & Assad ousted, we cannot be certain who the moderates are. Al Qaeda is embedded within the so-called ‘moderates’.