The Free Syrian Army and Harakat Hazm were formed with the intention of fighting the Assad regime. President Obama hoped to convert them into forces that could help degrade ISIS. But over the weekend, both groups found themselves in combat against neither Assad nor ISIS. Instead, they fought Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
It did not go well. Both groups were routed. Many fighters surrendered. Many more scattered.
Michael Totten concludes that “it’s over” for the “moderate” forces in Syria. I suspect he’s right with respect to the northern part of the country.
In the south, the Free Syrian Army might remain a viable fighting force. However, ISIS is not a significant presence in that region. Thus, except in Kurdish areas of Syria, the U.S. seemingly has no proxy force with which to combat ISIS.
Does Obama care? Probably not. If he cared about Syria, he would have aided the non-jihadist, non-America-hating factions years ago when doing so might have made a difference. If he cared about defeating ISIS, he would not have waited so long to combat it; nor would have engaged it so unconvincingly.
Why did Obama engage ISIS at all? Partly, I believe, in order to provide a fig leaf for Democrats in a tough year. After tomorrow, the election will no longer be a concern.
Elections aside, Obama would rather not see ISIS, which he famously described as “the jayvee,” continue its successful march through Iraq. He does not want to be remembered as the president who lost that country in which the U.S. lost so many lives.
But Syria was never ours to lose, and I suspect that Obama could hardly care less about its fate.