Why every side in Syria has a hidden agenda
October 9, 2015 Georgy Bovt, special to RBTH
Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria against so-called ISIS targets has been met with widespread criticism by the other international parties with an interest in the region, but a closer glance reveals that each of the stakeholders is in pursuit of their own aims.
(...) A week has passed since the beginning of the Russian Air Force's air strikes on the positions of Islamic terrorists in Syria, and the resonance of a few dozen attacks has proved louder than that of a few thousand carried out by the U.S.-led coalition over several months. Furthermore, the response of the West to Russia’s attacks has been far less consolidated than it was on Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
(...) The U.S. is also criticizing Russia for hitting the "wrong targets,” implying the moderate rebel groups opposed to Assad. However, Washington is avoiding naming these "moderate" groups. Representatives of the Pentagon and the White House do not like to answer questions about whether the U.S.-led coalition is carrying out strikes against such formations as that very same Jabhat al-Nusra (which, in turn sometimes clashes with ISIS) or Ahrar Al-Sham – also nothing short of a terrorist group, which is part of the Islamic Front coalition, or the Army of Islam, which gained notoriety, in particular, for an ISIS-like massacre in the industrial town of Adra, near Damascus – because the U.S.-led coalition does not carry out such strikes.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Front, just like the Army of Islam, is hatching plans for building an Islamic state in Syria under Sharia law and enjoys the support of the Saudis. They can only be considered "moderate" at a stretch. The Syria Revolutionaries Front, another Islamist organization that recently claimed to be seen as "moderate," is close to the Islamic Front. However, before being recognized as "moderate," it made an alliance with ISIS.
Most often when the West talks of "moderate" groups it is referring to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), created at the beginning of the war with the aim of opposing Assad by officers who had deserted from the government army. However, the FSA, which has always featured a variety of small groups, Islamist ones among them, was from the very start strongly influenced by the ideology of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoyed the covert support of the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since the spring of this year, the FSA has effectively disintegrated as a combat structure. However, many small and independent combat local groups operate under its "umbrella," including those entering into tactical alliances with the Islamists, even from ISIS. Those who are arming these groups should take into account the tendency of militants to cross from one structure to another and understand that these weapons may end up in hands of ISIS (...).