The Washington Times reported on Friday that the Obama administration is seriously considering expanding its bombing campaign to include ISIS targets in Syria. If it does so, it would constitute bitter irony. The White House had considered and rejected intervention in the civil war that is still wracking that country by supporting elements of the rebels fighting against the Assad regime. Now, as Pajamas Media slyly suggests, the United States would, in effect, intervene in support of the Assad regime by attacking its main opposition. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Obama administration attitudes toward Syria has undergone a number of twists and turns. At one time officials such as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarded Syria’s dictator Bashir Assad as a “reformer.” Then, when the Syrian people rose in revolt in the wake of the Arab Spring and the Assad regime dropped chemical weapons on them, Assad became part of a new axis of evil. Now Assad is all that stands in the way of the ISIS caliphate, which the administration has judged to be worse than the Syrian dictator ever could be.
The rise of ISIS in Syria and now Iraq has been attributed to the failure of the Obama administration to fully support moderate factions among the Syrian rebels such as the Free Syrian Army. The FSA is now torn between fighting against ISIS and joining it, with some factions splitting in either direction. While other rebel groups remain divided, ISIS has emerged as the most effective, most unified anti-Assad opposition.
Certainly a sustained bombing campaign against ISIS command and control and supply targets within Syria would have a degrading effect against the terrorist army whose atrocities have shocked the world. But wars are fought and won on the ground. In Iraq the ground based opposition consists of the Kurdish Peshmerga and some elements of the Iraqi Army. What will constitute the ground based opposition to ISIS in Syria? Assad’s army or the other rebels or both?