Thursday, September 11, 2014

Syrian Rebels Against ISIS

Hassan Hassan has a great article today about Syria's rebels in the context of the struggle against ISIS.  Here is what he says about the strictly military situation:
Significant rebel coalitions have already been formed to help in the fight against ISIS, and preparations for the zero hour seem to be in full swing. On September 10, seven groups affiliated with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Free Syrian Army, and the Islamic Front, among them Kurdish and Arab fighters, announced a small yet symbolically significant coalition to fight ISIS in eastern Syria. On Monday, five sizable fighting groups in Idlib announced a merger, named al-Faylaq al-Khamis (The Fifth Legion), saying they would adhere to strict military discipline and use the Syrian revolutionary flag, which indicates a rejection of Islamist ideology. The Syrian Revolutionary Front, which was key to the expulsion of ISIS from much of the north earlier this year, also announced that it would send “convoys after convoys” to areas under ISIS control to defeat the jihadi group...
Rebel forces from the north can help fight ISIS from the ground, under air cover and intelligence and with logistical assistance, but local forces will be vital in retaking areas currently under ISIS control. Many of the fighters from Deir ez-Zor, for example, left the province to fight near Damascus after ISIS entered their areas in June. Local forces who have surrendered to ISIS have little appetite to rise up against the group unless they know that it will be too weakened to return to their areas and retaliate against them, as it did to several villages and towns in recent weeks...
Rebel forces from the north can help fight ISIS from the ground, under air cover and intelligence and with logistical assistance, but local forces will be vital in retaking areas currently under ISIS control. Many of the fighters from Deir ez-Zor, for example, left the province to fight near Damascus after ISIS entered their areas in June...
In addition, the sponsors’ effort to provide funding only to loyal groups has already produced remarkable results, primarily the weakening of the Islamic Front, which turned to little more than a brand that has no operational reality. Ahrar al-Sham, for example, had been steadily weakening even before nearly all its top leaders were killed on September 9 in an attack at one of the group’s bases in Idlib’s countryside.
Such efforts to tighten the noose around extremist groups—at least for countries like Saudi Arabia—will be part of a long-term effort to build an organic army that would be part of a future Syria. According to sources1 in the Gulf region, the need for establishing a “Sunni peshmerga” is key to the regional countries’ current strategy. There are already reports that thousands of rebel fighters will be trained in Jordan and the Gulf; Saudi Arabia has reportedly agreed to host training for the rebels inside the kingdom. This force, despite its name, is not meant to have a sectarian agenda, but it would be designed as an army that can police and protect Sunni-dominated territories in Syria and Iraq. The plan to establish “Sunni peshmerga” will exclude Islamist groups, even if they project a moderate tone. 
Is it just me, or are some of the groups whose power has dwindled(penultimate paragraph) the same ones lining up to be on our side (first paragraph)?  Either way, the U.S. is going to get used by groups hoping to be our allies against ISIS and be left in charge of territory and weapons afterwards.

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