The so called ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria who have received arms and training from the US, have condemned the US led airstrikes on ISIS extremists, underscoring the fact that their fight is against the Syrian government, not the terrorists the Obama administration claims it is funding them to fight.
The US-backed Harakat Hazm rebel group in Syria, which consists of an estimated 7000 fighters who have been given US weapons, slammed the US led airstrikes Tuesday, according to reports.
“The sole beneficiary of this foreign interference in Syria is the [President Bashar] Assad regime, especially in the absence of any real strategy to topple him,” a statement posted by the group on Twitter reads. The rebels described the airstrikes as “an attack on national sovereignty that undermines the Syrian revolution.”
— Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321) September 24, 2014
A further statement released on the group’s Facebook page, claims that the “continuation of singular decision making in an effort to win international public opinion, will not succeed in uprooting extremism but encourages its growth.”
The statement argues that the best course of action for the US would be to arm “the Free Syrian Army without condition [otherwise] the result will be failure and destruction that reach the whole region.”
The Free Syrian Army, which was warned in advance by the Obama administration of the imminent airstrikes, has vowed to topple the Assad regime at any cost. Many observers have noted that their goal is not to fight against Islamic extremists. The US already has underway a new covert program, controlled by the CIA, arming the FSA with fresh weapons, Syrian opposition figures revealed this week.
The Harakat Hazm group issued its statement as the US and its regional allies – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – are preparing further attacks.
The ‘moderate’ group is thought to have already received 20 TOW anti-tank missiles this year from a “Western source,” according to rebel officials. In addition, the group was cited just last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry as possible recipients for American arms and combat instructors slated under the $500 million program approved by Obama.
Further reports indicate that the head of another rebel group known as the Fifth Legion of the Free Syrian Army tacitly welcomed the US airstrikes but made it clear that they must also be targeted at “the source of terrorism: the Assad regime.”
Although it claims the targets were a shadowy extremist group called Khorasan, the airstrikes coordinated by the Pentagon were initially aimed at fighters affiliated with the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria which has been battling the Assad regime. There is a general fear on the ground in Syria that targeting the Nusra Front could increase opposition to US action – essentially breeding further extremism.
“Striking the Nusra Front will turn it into a real enemy of all the other forces” such as the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, said Mohammad al-Salloum, an activist from Idlib previously held hostage by Islamic State and currently based across the border in neighboring Turkey.
“It’s more dangerous than Islamic State because it’s present in every area controlled by the opposition,” he said, explaining that the Nusra Front and its allied factions are the dominant force in non-Islamic State territories in Syria, and have more power and influence than the moderate groups backed by the US.
“It is worrying that the declared target is ISIS but that the actual execution targets some FSA brigades,” Free Syrian Army commander Ahmad Rahhal also said, referring to some groups fighting alongside the FSA.
In a statement provided to Reuters, another moderate rebel commander linked with the FSA said many rebels are worried that the US led campaign against ISIS could backfire.
“There is a fear that the regime will exploit a military vacuum in areas of [ISIS] control to realize military advances,” the commander in western Syria said. “This will make the alliance appear to the people as the savior of the Assad regime.”
This notion was reiterated by Faisal al-Kasim, a Syrian-born broadcaster with the Al Jazeera network, who tweeted “What more can Bashar al-Assad ask for? The U.S. planes targeted first and foremost the strong factions that are fighting him.”
Meanwhile, the President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Hadi al-Bahra, himself a FSA commander, claimed at a UN press conference Monday that “Assad is the root cause of ISIS”. He alleged that Assad has become a tactical battle-field ally of ISIS, going after FSA positions while they are under attack from the extremist group.
Al-Bahra said, “while FSA were in battles with ISIS, Assad’s planes were dropping bombs on our positions and left ISIS formations alone,” thus helping ISIS defeat the FSA in those battles.
It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine the US claiming that Assad and ISIS may be sharing battlefield-intelligence, thus providing a pretext to target Syrian government forces as well as ISIS extremists.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.