The Syrians, yes, even those who are now in danger of being harmed as a result of U.S. strikes, would have been much more forgiving, had the strikes come earlier and had Assad being in the visor as well, and not only ISIS and Al-Nusra. But seeing that the strikes came so late in the game and only in response to a potential threat to U.S. security, and that there do not seem to be any plans for targeting Assad and his loyalist militias as well, Syrians in target regions have little reason to be sympathetic to America’s plans. Even the Kurds, and after their initial euphoria, seem skeptical now, because ISIS’ positions around Kobani remain untouched, and its assault on the Kurdish town is still unfolding.
It’s still early in the day of course for final judgments, but early signs are not encouraging. Unless a suitable policy is enunciated with regard to the Assad regime, few rebel groups will be willing to join the coalition against ISIS. Indeed, Hamzah Al-Shimali, the leader of the Hazm Movement, one of the moderate groups expected to carry out the struggle against ISIS, has just come out against the strikes saying that the only conceivable beneficiary from them is the Assad regime. He is right in this assessment. The Assad regime cannot be spared, and as long as it is, the current strikes will only serve to further traumatize and radicalize Syrians, especially the Sunni Arab population which has so far bore the brunt of Assad’s genocidal plans and ISIS’ extremist tactics.
A further complication is the targeting of Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official representative in Syria, at this early stage, despite the fact that Al-Nusra is fully invested in the fight against at this stage. In fact, early reports indicate that an important Al-Nusra leader has already been killed, that, so, here we are, a move that was supposedly designed to target ISIS has begun by removing one of the leaders of her chief rivals in the country. Meanwhile, Assad’s loyalist militias, the parties most responsible for the bloodletting that has been taking place over the last three years, are not only being spared, they are being helped.
With all these complications, one has to wonder: who is the collateral damage in this conflict? Are they the few civilians who have died in Raqqah and elsewhere as a result of the U.S.-led strikes? Or is it the entire population of Syria that came out in support of the Revolution thinking that they can count on the international community, led by the United States, to come to their succor?
Or is it America’s own credibility? Or is it the global order itself, which, as a concept, now looms, more than ever before, like a cruel joke.