So much for the “moderate rebels.” A report from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, a think tank run by the Tony Blair Foundation, finds that ISIS represents the mainstream of the Syrian rebels groups trying to overthrow the Assad government.
According to the think tank linked to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, roughly 60% of the rebel fighters in Syria are sympathetic to ISIS’ political and religious beliefs and practices. While there may be personal disputes between ISIS and the other rebels, most find little problem with ISIS’ ideology and governing style.
These findings stand in considerable contrast to earlier claims made by the Obama Administration, about which groups constituted the Syrian rebels. President Obama had, at one point, pushed to train a so-called moderate rebel force in Syria and spent $500 million to do so. After the failures of the program became evident, Obama switched his position and labeled the belief in the moderate rebels as a viable force to take on ISIS and Assad as a “fantasy.”
The program was ultimately suspended in October of this year when it was discovered that not only were the rebels not fighting jihadists, they gave “at least a quarter of their United States-provided equipment, including six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition, to the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front.”
A deep dive into the US train-and-equip program in Syria published yesterday by McClatchy presents an even more pathetic picture. The McClatchy story is based, in part, on interviews with two Syrian rebel officers and two recruits, who say the program was “chaotic from the beginning, with daily arguments over goals, low morale among the participants and clashes over resources, from food supplies to armed escorts.” The story also claims that the program never had the full support of the rebels themselves or their Turkish partners.
By now it should be obvious to even the most dimwitted of US policymakers that the Syrian rebels have always been and continue to be led and dominated by Sunni jihadists. There is no moderate Western-friendly opposition of any consequence in Syria. That hope is, as President Obama said, a fantasy.