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What Is the US Trying to Do in Syria?

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A video surfaced purportedly showing US commandoes beating a humiliating retreat from US backed rebels in Syria. Heckled by anti-American chants the video shows a convoy of pick-up trucks taking US commandoes away from the town of Al-Rai near the Turkish border which had just been captured by Turkish and American backed rebel militias reportedly fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

Christians and Americans have no place among us” one man screamed “They want to wage a crusader war to occupy Syria.”

Another yelled “The collaborators of America are dogs and pigs. They wage a crusader war against Syria and Islam.”

The confrontation was sparked when members of the FSA accused the Americans of supporting the Kurdish YPG militias, which America has been backing in their fight against ISIS, according to Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.

Turkey, which also backs Sunni rebels, wants to stymie Kurdish militias and frustrate their efforts to gain greater power and autonomy.

Meanwhile on Sunday a US led coalition airstrike killed at least 62 Syrian regime soldiers near Deir Ezzor airport, in a strike it says was aimed at ISIS positions  but accidentally hit the Syrian regime soldiers.

Russia and the Syrian regime slammed America for the strike saying it shows the US is backing ISIS.

Russia called an emergency UN meeting in response to the strike, incurring the ire of US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power who excoriated Russia for their support of the Syrian regime.

The strike came as factions attempt to keep a fragile US-Russia brokered ceasefire which began on Monday. The ceasefire does not include the Islamic State or Jabhet Fateh el-Sham, formerly Al-Qaeda’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Syrian regime is expected to halt flying combat missions against opposition held areas. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many rebel groups coordinate with Jabhet Fateh el-Shams, most recently in the breaking of the siege of Aleppo, which was achieved by coordination across different rebel groups.

The ceasefire included a request from Russia for the US to differentiate between rebels involved with Jabhet Fateh el-Shams, which the US accepts is an enemy, and those who are not. Such differentiation may be difficult. Jaish al-Islam (backed by Saudi Arabia) and Ahrar al-Sham (backed by Turkey and Qatar), the largest and second largest Syrian umbrella rebel groups respectively are both committed not only to the overthrow of Assad but also to the establishment of an Islamic State governed by Sharia law.

In this environment finding moderate rebels is going to be difficult and the ceasefire may just give Russia and Assad a chance to regroup, re-fortify and go after Jabhet Fateh el-Shams before turning to crush the rest of the opposition once that group is dealt with.

All of this leads to the question, what exactly is it that the US is trying to accomplish in Syria? What, if anything, is the plan?

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org