Syrian Vertigo

Last weekend militants of The Islamic State group have reportedly clinched ceasefire deal with Syrian hard – lined and moderate opposition groups thus focusing on common fight against Assad’s forces. The groups committed to a non-aggression pact, reportedly under mediation of Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, The Al-Nusra Front. One of the ceasefire signatories Syrian Revolutionary Front was previously fighting ISIS inside the northern parts of Syria. Group was considered as a part of moderate Syrian rebels and one of the Western’s main allies in combating radical Islamism in Syria.

Now various militant groups sought mutual respect of a truce and promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the „Nussayri regime”. The term Nussayri refers to the Alawite ethnic group that Syrian president Assad belongs to. Thus, Syria’s armed opposition initially welcomed jihadist help, including that from the Islamic State ranks in fighting against Assad regime. Recently clinched truce deal may also inspire other groups, which are currently expecting foreign military aid to follow their example and join extremist in fighting Assad- what could seriously undermine recent international strategy for combating ISIS within Syrian intercommunal civil war.

Since the last year U.S has directly supported Syrian Revolutionary Front as a part of Free Syrian Army in fighting against Assad’s forces providing them medical and intelligence aid. President Obama asked Congress to approve $500 million for their training and equipment last summer and repeated the plea during his last Wednesday’s address about fighting ISIS. Recent militant’s truce scenario had rise the question whether Washington would be able to vet the recipients of its military aid to ensure that those arms and training would not be eventually used against its interests and further destabilization of The Middle East region.

But despite clear evidences on the ground, yesterday the House of Representatives voted to give President Barack Obama authority to arm and train Syrian rebels in the war-torn country. The plan passed 273-156 despite concerns by House Democrats about a new U.S Middle East military commitment and Republican concerns that the president’s proposal is far too limited and very skeptical.

Therefore U.S. will start train of approx. 5.000. Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia. Since the 2013, America has already been included in rebels training and vetting program on Jordanian soil, which actually hasn’t provided positive indications so far, as the rebels nevertheless continued their Sunni extremist and sectarian war tactics – what seriously continued undermining of Syrian inclusive and democratic future perspective.

It seems that few decision-makers and arm-suppliers cares about Syrian complex and unique social picture, which include various ethnic groups inside of this state. Surely Syrian Christians, Druze, Alewites and other minority groups are not involved in a new US-backed program, and furthermore their fate is being largely overlooked in the Western perspective of future Syrian democracy.

Given that, it’s clear that U.S’ only real objective in Syrian situation is a short term one – to topple Assad from power, regardless of means. U.S. decided to fight ISIS and Assad helping and training mostly Sunni ethnic groups thus overlooking seriousness of growing regional Anti-Shiite sectarian sentiments. And now as the worst case scenario – in the wake of pending American assistance aimed for their combating against ISIS – comes the decision by vast majority Sunni militant rebels to accept ISIS help in their crushing Assad campaign. Even worse seems the fact about hasty 500$ million US Syrian program approval prior these events.

The American assistance deal largely recalls one previously failed US strategy –implemented in Afghanistan back in the 80’s, where Americans armed Afghan mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviets. Once Soviet forces withdrew mujahedeen started fighting amongst their ranks and they were soon crushed by the Taliban regime.

Syria is even the tougher than Afghanistan as this lackluster strategy could lead to a real Middle East havoc. Now it’s apparent that Hezbollah, Iran and Russia will increase their support for Assad – what is only extending the war’s durability and increasing its spillover prospects. And the plan to topple the Syrian regime by the “vetted” extremist opposition could have large regional repercussions – namely for Syrian minority groups; the Israel’s security and newly established Egyptian political apparatus. Furthermore, the plan is also adding fuel to the fire for the inexorable Saudi-Iranian geopolitical contest. Just a few months ago it seemed that some positive signs for rival’s cooperation could emerge, now that perspective is fairly to say equal nil.

And don’t forget the story about Syrian political settlement. Just a week ago, a newly appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Syrian crisis visited Damascus with aim to kick- off a new round of negotiations between Syrian opposed parties. Now it seems obvious that saber-rattling solution replaced every other aimed for peaceful Syria and region in whole.

About the Author
As a student of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo, Emir Karahodza is currently doing research for an MA thesis titled "Role of The International Organizations in ongoing Syrian War," which will be the first academic publication related on this topic in Bosnia and Herzegovina.