U.S. pins hopes on Syrian rebels with loyalties all over the map

The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.

Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.

“There’s a lot of skepticism about this piece of the president’s strategy,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “The so-called moderate rebels have often been very immoderate and ineffective.”