David Kenner has more on our Syrian allies, who for some reason aren’t all that grateful for the bombs we’re dropping on their country:
Foreign Policy interviewed six FSA commanders from [Deir Ezzor] who are currently exiled by the Islamic State and hiding out in southeastern Turkey. All of them were arrested at some point by the jihadist group; some were tortured. They all agree that the U.S. airstrikes in their home country are a bad idea. FSA fighters and commanders complained to Foreign Policy that they have received no increase in support since the international effort to combat the Islamic State began, despite promises from the Obama administration that the United States would begin supplying arms to the rebels. The FSA fighters also disparaged the airstrikes, saying they would mainly kill civilians and give the Assad regime a chance to gain ground.
Anti-Assad Syrian civilians have echoed this opposition. While Islamists have seized on the attacks to brand U.S. President Barack Obama as an “enemy of God,” even the traditionally secular protesters in the town of Kafr Anbel held a poster blasting the coalition for killing civilians.
Zack Beauchamp calls these civilian deaths “not an inevitable feature of any sort American involvement in Iraq and Syria” but rather “a direct product of the maximalist goals the Obama administration has set for its war on ISIS”:
By choosing only to provide limited help to Iraq in critical situations, the United States had enormous control over targeting. It could focus only on ISIS targets where airpower was likely to be effective, such as disrupting supply convoys between Iraq, that also were unlikely to kill a lot of civilians.
But now, the United States has committed itself to helping both Iraqi and Syrian rebel soldiers take back all of ISIS-held territory. That’s a more ambitious strategy that takes on a lot more risk, including toward civilians. If and when Iraqi military and Syrian rebel forces move on ISIS positions in heavily populated areas, they will expect and may very well depend on American close air support. The US will be forced to rely on sketchy Syrian intelligence and strike dangerously close to civilian population centers. It’s this simple: the more aggressive the American objectives are in the war against ISIS, the more likely American forces are to kill civilians.
[M]oderate rebels on the ground fear Washington’s decision to widen its attacks could not only weaken them, but create a larger pool of fighters who believe the west – and its partners on the ground – are their enemy as much as Mr Assad. Nusra fighters insist they had no interest in foreign attacks before the coalition strikes. But since then the group appears to have shifted its position: Jabhat al-Nusra’s leader, known as Abu Mohammed al-Golani, recently put out a statement warning western civilians to demand an end to strikes to avoid becoming victims of attacks in their own countries. Nusra fighters have been a critical partner to other rebels fighting to end four decades of Assad family rule. Their targeting by the US outraged some opposition forces.
And Joshua Hersh observes that most of the pro-democracy activists who launched the 2011 revolution are no longer there, having been killed, silenced, or driven into exile either by the regime or by ISIS:
Not all revolutionary civil activity has ceased inside Syria. In the town of Kafranbel, in Idlib province, a clever and merry band of activists continue to create humorous banners that comment on recent events, and seek to bring attention to their ongoing plight. (Recent banners have quoted Robin Williams, honored the murdered journalist James Foley, and mocked the world’s obsession with the World Cup.) And in Aleppo, there are revolutionary councils and civilian activists networks, not to mention a noble brigade of volunteer rescuers who risk their lives daily to pull survivors from the rubble of regime airstrikes. But for so many other would-be do-gooders, the rebel-held countryside, not to mention the major cities still under government control, has long proven unwelcome terrain. Going home remains a distant illusion.
“The sense of despair and the sense of loss is so powerful,” one longtime Syrian activist and humanitarian worker told me by Skype last week from his asylum in London. “For the people still inside, even if they are activists, they are under so much pressure—the pressure of the war, the militarization, the abuse.” He added, “At this point, if you want to be an activist, it’s basically to call for the fighting to stop, the bloodshed to stop.”
(Photo: On October 2, 2014, men walk through the rubble of an oil refinery that was reportedly targeted by the US-led coalition on September 28, in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad near the border with Turkey. By AFP/Getty Images)