The demise of a group backing Syria's "moderates" is a bad sign for Obama's ISIS strategy

On August 19, the Syrian Support Group, which had previously arranged a few shipments of nonlethal aid to the Free Syrian Army, sent a letter to donors explaining why the group was shutting its doors. “Over the last year, the political winds have changed,” the letter read. “The rise of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra [an Al Qaeda-affiliated opposition force in Syria] and the internal divisions among rebel forces on the ground have complicated our efforts to provide direct support.” The letter noted that “more significant support” was heading to the FSA from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and other governments. But rivalries and rifts within the opposition had impeded the overall effort. “It was difficult to keep things going with the changes in the FSA and its Supreme Military Council and the advent of ISIS,” says Majd Abbar, who was a member of the Syrian Support Group’s board of directors. “It made our operations extremely difficult.”

Abbar notes that the breakdown in leadership of the FSA—and the takeover of its bases and a key supply warehouse in December by the Islamic Front, an anti-Assad alliance with ties to Al Qaeda—made it impossible for the Syrian Support Group to continue operations to help the moderate opposition. “The arrival of ISIS and the [Islamic Front] takeover in the north led us to suspend operations,” he says. The moderate rebels the Syrian Support Group was attempting to aid, Abbar points out, were confronted by “major forces: the regime, ISIS, and Hezbollah.”