The Friend Of Our Friend Is Our Enemy

The “moderate” Syrian rebels aren’t happy about us bombing their extremist allies:

Thousands of civilians and rebels across Syria protested allied airstrikes against extremist militants that continued on Saturday, underscoring the challenge the U.S.-led campaign faces in dealing with complex ties among rival rebel factions.

Jacob Siegel remarks that “America is competing with al Qaeda for the support of those rebel groups. And so far the momentum is on Qaeda’s side”:

The alliance between America and rebel forces has been strained by the U.S. refusal to directly attack the Assad regime. In some ways, the U.S. and its chosen proxies are fighting different wars, despite sharing a common enemy in ISIS.

The rebels consider the Assad regime, which has slaughtered tens of thousands of Syrians over years of brutal attacks, their primary enemy, while the U.S. has condemned Assad but focused its attacks only on ISIS and al Qaeda.

That tension led to a symbolic break last week when Harakat Hazm, one of the few vetted rebel groups to receive American weapons and training, called the U.S.-led airstrikes “an attack on national sovereignty” that would only strengthen the Assad regime.

Larison saw this coming:

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.