Syrian Media Hail America as Damascus Ally, Support UN Ban on Foreign Fighters

by Juan Cole

Aljazeera Arabic reports on the reaction in Syria to US air strikes against ISIL, which included attacks on Wednesday on their oil installations, an important revenue stream for the terrorist organization. It turns out that the Damascus press is giving President Obama an uncomfortable embrace.

This kind of talk is deadly to the political mission Obama is embarked on, and there is already talk of anger at him among the Syrian rebels for not striking at key government buildings.

The newspaper “al-Watan” (The Nation), which is close to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, quoted Syrian diplomatic sources as saying that “The US military leadership is now fighting in the same trenches with the Syrian generals, in a war on terrorism inside Syria and on its eastern and southeastern borders.” This is true, the Syrian diplomats said, even though Washington and Damascus cannot acknowledge the cooperation for internal political reasons.

They added that “the Syrian Army will certainly benefit from the American air strikes, especially since it is the strongest force on the ground, possessing both power and flexibility in the way it moves around in the field. It is the one that will benefit from the air strikes.”

The Syrian ambassador to the UN was also delighted that the UN Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning the trafficking to Syria of a wide range of would-be guerrillas.

Obviously there are forces in Damascus who feel that the American intervention is a positive for President Assad.

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ABC News: “US, Allies Hit Islamic State, Al-Qaida Affiliate in Syria”

15 Responses

  1. But is it good for the U.S.? Based on the long history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, I have reservations.

  2. The Syrian Press really needs to put the corks back in those champagne bottles. (Does the Alawite sect share the same aversion to alcohol as the larger Muslim world?)

    Obama did not build this Sunni Arab coalition around a strategy of re-enforcing Assad’s domination. Making judgments about the trajectory of a five year project during the first week is pretty silly.

    Dr. Cole and many other experts have mocked the potential of the Free Syrian Army. I believe this perspective could not be more wrong. There is no ceiling on how effective the FSA can become with proper resourcing. As ISIS proved in Syria, nothing succeeds like success.

    The problem with the FSA is not that they will remain forever weak and disorganized, but that they could become too powerful too quickly. A slaughter in Damascus is hardly a desirable outcome. Dr. Joshua Landis expressed such a view in a PBS discussion this week. In the past, the U.S. has largely been engaged in preventing the FSA, such as it is currently constituted, from winning. I believe Landis is spot on.
    Landis blog: link to joshualandis.com
    Discussion with Landis: link to pbs.org

    Turkey is calling for a no fly buffer zone along Syria’s northern border. The obvious advantage for Turkey is a safe area to stem the flow of refugees into Turkey. But the NFZ would also create a solid toe-hold for the FSA. I expect that in time Turkey will be drawn into the coalition in support of that NFZ.

    Assad is not going to be left in power. But neither are the Alawite and Christian populations that he protects going to be overrun. The FSA will be strengthened to the point where a balance of power can lead to a negotiated resolution amenable to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, the U.S. and most importantly the various ethnic groups of Syria. This doesn’t sound impossible to me, in fact it looks inevitable. This is Lebanon all over again.

  3. Harold Pinter, Ionesco and Samuel Beckett walk into a bar… and this is the result after they down a few and start writing the future!
    Am I the only one in the audience laughing at what’s going on in the world? I mean, in reality it’s not hilarious, but hey, it’s either laugh or … that other thing.

  4. Stephen Hatt

    One can understand that it now seems paradoxical that U.S? actions appear or at least server the purposes of Assad. That was inevitable as now, finally likely to seriously arm and train the Free Syrians will serve our purposes. All of which takes us back to Obama’s speech yesterday where he said what has always been known, namely that sometimes working with dictators and human rights violators is in the interest of the U.S. What has clearly never served our interest since WWII has been the half-assed wars and attempts at nation building. These may boost some smucks career, but does nothing to the advantage of ordinary Americans. Let the Syrians worry about Assad just as we let the Libyans deal with Gaddafi, Egyptians with Hosan Mubarach, etc. There was a time when our FP was to stay in touch with opposition groups, not employ and compromise them.

    • You r right. The US supports opposition groups or encourages others to do it at the expense of the opposition groups themselves. It arms, uses and discards opposition groups as a key part of foreign policy.

    • “Let the Syrians worry about Assad” sounds very appealing. Unfortunately, it is Russia, Iran and Hezzbollah that keep the brutal police state in power.

      The war there has generated 10 million refuges internally and externally. This mess is not the product of western intervention. The theory that the world can stand aside and hope for the best has been tested for three years. Some balance of power must be achieved that favors a stable, negotiated resolution. The outcomes are not limited to the horror of Assad or ISIS take all.

    • The trouble is that in Syria, Assad’s clan heads the army and the regime that started from his father’s time is heavily learned in the arts of control, propaganda, manipulation, and terror. Syrians try to peacefully improve their political, social, and economic rights; nor can they get rid of the Assad family, since the sources of power (the army, the internet security forces, Mukhabarat, Shabiha militias) are all very much tied to the regime.

      The point is that the Syrians need help, and Assad will exploit any tool, any individual, or any event to maintain absolute control. As long as he’s in control, as long as his army rampages with impunity, Syria loses.

  5. Well – I think it is time we admitted to ourselves and everybody else that with the Syrian Army we have our ‘boots on the ground’ we have been looking for. I think we would be much better served by dealing with Assad, and thus having some leverage over his behavior, than continuing on the path on which we are now. Oh, and let’s throw in Iran as a country with which we need to be engaging.

    • It is Assad that brought us ISIS. The notion that an Alawite leader is going to brutally rule the Sunni majority into the future is impossible. That genie is out of the bottle.

      The Sunni world is not going to cede the fight to Iran. You have proposed a recipe for endless terrorism and conflict.

      • “It is Assad that brought us ISIS [a.k.a. ISIL].”

        What on earth made you arrive at that conclusion?

        • Assad allowed ISIS to flourish, he has trained his barrel bombs on the FSA. Assad has positioned the Islamist extremists as the only alternative to his rule. Some have swallowed this propaganda, especially those most opposed to any western intervention.

          Assad was buying oil and electricity from ISIS, they had tactical alliance.
          Too long of a story to go into.

    • If and when ISIS vanishes from the face of the earth, it will be the boot owners who will decide how to fill the void. I don’t recall Obama making any mention of what comes after.

      To our way of thinking, craters, rubble, and a fair dose of human collateral damage make for a good start to build an egalitarian democratic nation.

    • The man who caused this disaster? The man who turned Syria into a disaster zone? Do NOT think you can control this mass murderer, he is in Russia and Iran’s back pocket. His army is exhausted and weary, so he relies heavily on Hezbollah and (until recently) recruits from Iraq.

  6. “Obviously there are forces in Damascus who feel that the American intervention is a positive for Assad.”

    When Damascus plays up Obama as an ally in the war against terrorists, Assad kills two birds with one stone–ISIS and Netanyahu.

    And Iran gets happy.

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