November 10 US State Department clarified al-Qaeda in Syria is a terror group despite its rebranding from ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ into ‘Jabhat Fath al-Sham’.
On the same day Obama ordered the Pentagon to track down and kill its leaders.
November 18 US drone strike killed an al-Qaeda leader in Syria’s Idlib province on Turkish border.
Like it or not al-Nusra is a central and elite part of the Syrian Islamist rebellion. By waging war against it US is — exactly like Russia — waging war against a component of the anti-Assad rebellion, and a crucial one at that.
This incidentally means that US (unlike Russia) is now intervening on the behalf, as well as against, virtually every side in Syria’s four-sided conflict.
Since June 2014 when Iraq lost Mosul US has been bombing ISIS in Iraq, and since the Battle of Kobani in September 2014 it has been bombing ISIS in Syria, specifically in support of Syrian Kurds.
Since at least the second half of 2015 it has provided the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces with training and supplies, and currently supports them with some 300 Special Forces troops in their battles vs ISIS.
Until recently it has also been bombing ISIS in support of Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria, as well as accompanying them with some 40 Special Forces troops.
In other words one of America’s war in Syria is:
- against ISIS
- for the Kurdish-dominated SDF
- for the Syrian rebels (until recently)
Since the very beginning of the armed rebellion in Syria the US provided moral and diplomatic support for it, which quickly morphed into material, organizational and training support.
The US has for years now been organizing and training rebel groups in Turkey and Jordan and sending them over to Syria to fight pro-government forces, as well as feeding vast quantities of arms into the rebellion.
For a long time the US did not even care this support for the rebellion was also benefiting ISIS which until a split in January 2014 had been a mainstream part of the Syrian insurgency.
Obama dismissed ISIS, which had been crucial for many of the rebels’ victory, as a “junior varsity team” whose strength would never matter for the big picture.
As late as May 2015 (well into the American war against ISIS) US military stood by idly as ISIS expanded its reach by taking Palmyra from the Syrian army.
Thus in America’s oldest war in Syria the US is intervening:
- against the Syrian government
- for the Syrian rebels (whom until January 2014 included ISIS)
In December 2015 the legendary reporter Seymour Hersh broke a sensational story. Beginning in autumn of 2013 top US generals alarmed at the rise of ISIS and al-Nusra passed on intelligence to the Syrian government via the Russians without informing the White House.
Also since September 2014 the US has at times struck Jabhat al-Nusra, but always being sure to obfuscate who was actually being targeted by employing made-up terms like “legacy al-Qaeda” and “the Khorasan group”.
This seems to have changed earlier this month as Obama declared the intention to go after al-Qaeda openly.
Thus in its latest war in Syria the US is fighting:
- against an integral part of the Syrian rebellion
- on the behalf of the Assad regime (de facto)
Taken all together the US is now pursuing three separate wars in Syria against three of the four sides involved (ISIS, government and rebels), as well as on the behalf of three of the four sides (rebels, Kurds and government).
- From the Kurds’ point of view the US is providing them with support against ISIS but is also providing their Islamist rebel enemies with huge quantities of arms and training.
- From the rebels’ point of view the US is arming them and backing them diplomatically but also periodically bombing the leaders of its most effective fighting group, Jabhat al-Nusra.
- From the government’s point of view the US is arming the Islamist rebellion against it but has also shared useful intelligence with it and has killed off some of its enemies in ISIS and al-Qaeda.
- From the point of view of ISIS the US is bombing them and boosting their enemies but has also in the past helped arm them by equipping FSA groups which shared trenches and supplies with ISIS.
In other words five years into the Syrian Civil War, the US is a former or present friend and enemy of every single side in that complex war. A better argument for the immediate and permanent US cessation of its sadistic enterprise in Syria could hardly be imagined.