The Obama administration’s policy to completely ignore the Assad regime’s ongoing terrorization of his people has been negligently counterproductive, particularly while American jets fly in his airspace. The Administration’s catastrophic failure to coordinate with the moderate opposition on anti-ISIS strikes, and its failure to provide them sufficient weapons and supplies, has alienated them in the battle for local public support against extremist groups. In the first week of the airstrikes, and again on Wednesday, the US hit Al Nusra targets. When this happens, the Syrian people and fighters draw conclusions based the facts that they see and feel.
First, the U.S. strikes have given Syrians no relief from daily barrel bombs and other Assad attacks. Second, the U.S. strikes hit Al Nusra, a group that does work to give that relief. Third, moderate opposition groups receive weapons and modest support from the United States. Fourth, the President of the United States keeps saying that the fight against Assad and solving Syria’s problems is not a priority. With these fact inputs, Al Nusra is able to convince the people that the moderate opposition is part of an American conspiracy to keep Assad in power and terrorize the local population. Last weekend, Al Nusra capitalized on this narrative by successfully attacking the moderate battalions of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Hazzm Movement. The US clumsily responded by hitting Al Nusra on Wednesday, with local reports of civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Assad’s bombs continue to fall on children.
Take note that ISIS does not play a role. The people of Syria hate ISIS because of their brutality and because ending Assad’s reign has never been its priority. ISIS was driven out of the northwest in the course of several days by moderate opposition forces in January of 2014. They have slowly made progress back into the region, boosted by their victories and American weapons secured in Iraq.