The New York Times Editorial Board writesthat the fact US airstrikes may bolster the regime of Bashar Assad is the “most dangerous and morally troubling consequence of President Obama’s decision to cross the Syrian border to fight the Islamic State.”
The Assad regime signaled that it was pleased with the results of the Syria bombing campaign so far, and it makes sense why.
“From the night Mr. Obama spoke about the possibility of attacking the Islamic State in Syria, it has not been clear how the administration could prevent such action from bolstering the Assad regime, which counts ISIS as its enemy,” The Times writes.
Syrian rebels and civilians argue, meanwhile, that Assad is the underlying cause of the rise extremist militants in the country and should be pressured as well.
It’s pretty simple: maj of Syrians are sceptical of attacks on ISIS & others until there is an answer to #1 magnet of terrorists: Assad.
— The 47th (@THE_47th) September 25, 2014
“If there is a comprehensive solution which targets the regime and the jihadi groups together, then all the Syrian people will stand by us, and they will be with the bombing,” Col. Hassan Hamadi, a defected Syrian army officer whose US-backed Legion 5 force has about 6,400 fighters, told McClatchy.
However, there are indications that the Obama administration is willing to work with Assad through certain channels, as indicated by Iraqi National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayyad’s recent visits to Damascus and Syria’s air defence going “passive” when coalition warplanes have entered Syria.
That is increasingly problematic given that the Syrian president has tortured and bombed civilians and revolutionaries on an industrial scale unseen since World War II. And at the same time, US-backed rebels in Syria are fighting for survival against both ISIS and Assad in the country’s largest city.
And The Times notes that “direct coordination is a moot point if the attacks solidify Mr. Assad’s grip on power, providing his forces time to focus resources and energies on attacking Western-backed rebel groups in contested areas.”
Before the strikes, geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer told Business Insider that strikes on ISIS would help the dictator.
“Assad is the far stronger player in Syria; hitting ISIS necessarily helps him consolidate power,” Bremmer said. “That’s a cause and effect that the U.S. is trying to avoid, but it’s the reality.”
The Obama administration’s plan to counter this reality involves the hope “that by sometime next year, a well-vetted force of at least 5,000 Syrians, trained in Saudi Arabia and other countries, will be ready.”
In his speech to the UN, Obama said that he wanted to build a rebel force “to be a counterweight to the terrorists of [ISIS] and the brutality of the Assad regime.” It’s unclear how 5,000 fighters will be able to take on both
ISIS (which has an estimated 20,000 to 32,000 fighters) in addition to regime soldiers, Iranian-back Shia militias, elite Iranian soldiers, and the Lebanese Iranian proxy force Hezbollah.
Consequently, The Times considers Obama’s solution to be “inadequate” because “building up a rebel force that can take on the Sunni extremists as well as Mr. Assad’s forces could take years, assuming the strategy works.”
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