Syria: more aerial carnage in Raqqa endgame

US-led air-strikes killed 20 civilians at the ISIS-held town of Albu Kamal, in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor governorate, local media activists reported April 17. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 13 civilians, including five children, were killed in the strike, as well as three ISIS militants. Earlier that day, a US-led strike killed seven civilians, including a child, in the nearby village of Husseinyeh, the monitor said. (Middle East Online) US-led air-strikes in northern Syria and Iraq over the past weeks have killed perhaps upwards of 600 civilians.

The strikes come as the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced creation of a "civilian council" to administer Raqqa after the de facto ISIS capital is captured. (Raqqa is the "official" capital of the governorate to the west of Deir Ezzor; see map.) The council was announced during a meeting in Ain Issa, a former ISIS stronghold some 50 kilometers north of Raqqa. Several tribal chiefs and local dignitaries from Raqqa reportedly participated. "The council is made up of people originally from Raqa province. [The SDF] will entrust it with the running of the city once IS has been pushed out," said Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Raqqa campaign. (MEO)

The monitoring group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which has heroically reported on realities under ISIS rule in the city, is not comforted by the formation of the council. They point out that the SDF has also closely coordinated with Russia, the Assad regime sponsor that has carried out far greater aerial carnage in Syria—and on areas held by the Free Syrian Army and other anti-Assad rebels, not just ISIS. The Raqqa monitoring group asks if the SDF is in "the American lap or the Russian one."

The SDF setting up a legitimately representative governance structure for Raqqa—and resisting pressure to turn the city over to the Assad regime—will be critical to rebuilding any semblance of Arab-Kurdish unity. The alternative could be that the liberation of the city will only open a wider war as rival factions scramble for former ISIS-controlled territory. Meanwhile, the US joining with Russia in reckless air-strikes on Arab civilians is making everything worse.