Washington has now made it official that its enemy in Syria is just ISIS and al-Qaeda—and explicitly not the Bashar Assad dictatorship. US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told CNN last week that the Coalition has issued a directive to rebel forces operating out if its base in southern Syria (presumably al-Tanf) that they must be exclusively focused on fighting ISIS and not the Damascus regime. “The coalition supports only those forces committed to fighting ISIS,” Dillon said. One rebel faction, Shohada al-Quartyan, has refused to accept this ultimatum, and left the base. An unnamed Coalition representative stated: “We are not in the business of fighting the regime. They [the rebels] can’t have multiple objectives and we need to be singularly focused on fighting ISIS.” (The New Arab, July 27)
The US tilt to Assad has been evident throughout the Syrian war, but now becomes de jure rather than merely de facto. This news comes days after it was announced that the US has officially ended the long-dormant program of CIA aid to the Syrian rebels—which was also aimed at grooming the rebels to fight ISIS and the Nusra Front, and explicitly not Assad… Now, even that is coming to an end, the rebels apparently deemed untrustworthy unless under intimate Pentagon direction.
Michael Karadjis in Marxist Left Review analyzes the termination of the aid program. He sees this in the context of a long-term US strategy “to co-opt the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into a proxy force to fight only the jihadist forces of Jabhat al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or JFS) and the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh), while giving up their fight against the Assad regime.” This was evident from the very beginning; Karadjis recalls that then-secretary of state Hilary Clinton hailed Assad as a “reformer“—just as Assad was gunning down peaceful protesters in the early days of the uprising in March 2011.
We have noted countless other such quotes from DC officialdom over the course of the conflict. Yet the baseless conspiracy theory of a US “regime change” campaign against Bashar Assad persists on the “anti-war” left and paleocon right.
That fiction will get harder to maintain now. Assuming that anyone in thie current climate cares abiut the facts at all.