Who are these "moderate" Syrians that Obama wants to pit against ISIS?

There were not many moderates around two years ago, as I found in Al Bab then, and there are far fewer now. A year ago the town was overrun by ISIS and many of the young rebels joined the group; others who remained loyal to brigades affiliated with the FSA pulled out. The bulk of those, according to locals, hooked up with the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist militias who are the second largest fighting insurgent formation after ISIS. The front has close ties with al-Nusra…

“There are certainly moderates remaining,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a Mideast expert with the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “The problem is that they are few in number and lacking in support. They have been marginalized by U.S., European, Turkish, and Arab policies that have only served to boost the presence and capabilities of the more radical factions. It’s unclear to me how Washington’s new approach can help reverse this trend in an urgent or expeditious manner—which is what is needed.”

Most of the militias that are effective fighting formations and have scored off-and-on successes on the battlefield against ISIS are not moderate by Western standards. Most are Islamist to varying degrees and some, like Ahrar al-Sham, which lost most of its top leaders this week in a bomb attack in Idlib, are dedicated to establishing a Sunni theocracy in Syria. They don’t subscribe to transnational jihadism, but they do have strong ties to al-Nusra, which is part of the al Qaeda international franchise.