This report notes the US is moving ahead with the idea of creating a new Syrian resistance movement from the ground up to fight ISIS. This has been discussed for couple of weeks now, and the decision seems to have been to address the problem of a fragmented, factionalized opposition by creating yet another faction. We're being warned it will take 18 months or more.
Meanwhile, in case no one noticed, just as we were stepping up air strikes in Syria, so was the Asad regime, reportedly striking 210 targets in just 36 hours, suggesting a sortie rate many would have thought the Syrian Air Force incapable of achieving. That probably includes barrel-bombs dropped from helicopters. But of course, many of the targets are Free Syrian Army targets, not ISIS, and it may be that while the world is preoccupied with ISIS, the Asad regime is doing its best to crush the rest of its opponents before the US can arm and train them (though we seem intent on creating a new force).
And the regime continues to portray itself as a de facto ally against ISIS: after those recent reports that ISIS had three operable combat aircraft, and the US said it was unaware of them, the regime announced that it had destroyed two of the ISIS aircraft in a raid. As I had noted last month, the Syrian regime has already been claiming that it is on the side of the anti-ISIS coalition and hinting at coordination.
I don't think the US is cooperating with Asad, though I know serious analysts like Graham Fuller have urged it to do so; I tend to agree with other analysts such as Ambassador Robert Ford and Michael Young, that anything that strengthens Asad will backfire.
The problem is, I'm unclear what exactly the overall strategy is. It's not unusual to see US Middle Eastern strategy driven by myths, misconceptions, and a blindness to historical experience of the countries involved. See Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq again (and now again). Despite Colin Powell's famous "Pottery Barn Rule": 'If you break it, you've bought it' (which Poetry Barn denied is its
policy), we have a large responsibility for breaking Iraq. It was always a fragile construct, but from 1919 or
so until now, a period a little short of a century, it somehow held
together as a country. No more.
Mideast policies have tended to be reactive, knee-jerk responses to unforeseen (though often foreseeable crises. In Syria we are fighting ISIS and claim to be opposed to Asad, but instead of strengthening the FSA we are talking about creating a new faction of our own, which prompted the estimable Rami Khouri to characterize it as "New hare-brained American ideas in the Mideast."
Forgive one of my rare uses of NSFW language in suggesting that the patch at right may prove to be an appropriate characterization of too much recent and current policy in the region. Once again.