The Syrian conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since it began about five years ago and has drawn foreign powers Russia and the United States into the war. Presently, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are said to have made significant progress in rebel-held areas and recently took control of vast sections of Aleppo. Russian support is said to have played a major role in this success. The following is an excerpt a report released by The Daily Progress last week highlighting this.
“Syrian government forces and allied militias captured Aleppo’s centrally located al-Shaar neighborhood from rebels on Tuesday, securing nearly three quarters of the besieged enclave less than two weeks after launching a ground offensive, according to the Syrian military. The Syrian government and its ally Russia meanwhile rejected a cease-fire for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive amid rebel retreats and massive displacement.
Rebels withdrew from al-Shaar under heavy bombardment by pro-government forces to the Marjeh and Maadi neighborhoods, local media activist Mahmoud Raslan told The Associated Press. Several gunmen were killed.”
Syria evacuations: Militants torch buses evacuating wounded and elderly - International Business Times UK https://t.co/FkIHK44vRV— Syria Conflict (@SyriaConflict) December 18, 2016
He also stated that morale had hit rock-bottom. That said, one of the main complications of the conflict is that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are backed by Russia, while the opposition forces are supported by the United States. This has caused tensions in the region between the two military powers. However, the CIA and the Pentagon seem to differ on whether they are backing the right groups. According to a report by the Daily Beast, the Pentagon is hesitant to back the rebel forces as they seem to be affiliated to Jabhat al Nusra or the Al Qaeda in the country. The following is an excerpt of the report from the site highlighting this.
“Two Department of Defense officials told The Daily Beast that they are not eager to support the rebels in the city of Aleppo because they’re seen as being affiliated with al Qaeda in Syria, or Jabhat al Nusra. The CIA, which supports those rebel groups, rejects that claim, saying alliances of convenience in the face of a mounting Russian-led offensive have created marriages of battlefield necessity, not ideology…
But even if the rebels were completely separated from Nusra, there would still be something of a strategic conflict with U.S. military goals. The rebels in Aleppo, these Pentagon officials note, are fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime; the American military effort, on the other hand, is primarily about defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State. ‘We have no role in Aleppo. The forces we are supporting… are fighting ISIS.’”
The conflicts of interests on the side of the rebels automatically rule them out as the better side to support. Moreover, the groups are generally factions with no centralized leadership. And even though they may presently share the common goal to oust the president, they may not be able to form a stable leadership, even if they succeed in this endeavor. This leaves President Bashar al-Assad as the better candidate to support.
President Obama has publicly rebuked President Bashar al-Assad for committing war crimes. However, according to a UN commission of inquiry, there is evidence that all parties in the conflict have indulged in war crimes, including, “murder, torture, rape, and enforced disappearances.” This is as reported by the BBC.
With the country still trying to eliminate ISIS, a strong and formidable force that actively seeks recruits in regions it assimilates; it will be hard to trust rebel opposition forces backed by the U.S. to not defect to ISIS as a strategy to topple President Bashar, thereby making the situation even more complicated. Please offer your views on this in the comment section.
[Featured Image by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images]