Syria moderates to fight ISIL and Assad
Syrian activists say the arms to be provided to Syrian moderates by the U.S. will be used both against ISIL and the Assad regime.

The U.S. Congress this week granted approval for Obama to train and arm the Syrian moderate opposition to fight Islamic State militants in Syria, however, Syrian opposition groups say that the arms provided will be used both against ISIL and the Assad regime.

Radwan Ziadeh, co-founder and executive director of Washington based Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Anadolu Agency that unless the regime of Bashar al-Assad is dismantled, it would be impossible to destroy ISIL.

Although Capitol Hill welcomed President Barack Obama's strategy to destroy the terror group, one of the biggest concerns among the lawmakers is about how the arms provided to the Syrian opposition will be used in Syria.

"The arms to be provided by the U.S. will be used both against the ISIS and against the Assad regime," Ziadeh said. "Otherwise if you just focus on the ISIS, the Free Syrian Army will show no interest in joining this fight."

However, the U.S. administration officials who have briefed the Senate and House on Obama’s strategy of degrading and destroying the ISIL have strictly rejected this idea.

One of the constant critics of the Obama administration, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said the Syrian opposition might fight the Assad regime, rather than ISIL.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey insisted that the U.S. would directly and only focus on fighting ISIL, and dealing with Assad regime would be deferred at this point.

"We train them [Syrian moderates] and develop a military chain of command linked to a political structure, that we can establish objectives that defer that challenge [dealing with Assad regime] into the future. We do not have to deal with it now," General Dempsey said.

Indeed, administration officials reiterate that the main cause for the upsurge of ISIL is Assad regime.

However, they are also aware that fighting Assad is more complicated and would be triggering several international power dynamics that have left Assad untouched so far although he killed more than 190 thousand people and used chemicals on civilians.

Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, during a hearing at House Thursday said " ISIL is who we are focused on, and that is our primary mission and objective here is to destroyISIL."

However, he noted the reality is that Syrian moderate opposition has to deal with both the Assad and ISIL forces.

Mohamed Ghanem, senior political advisor at the Syrian American Council, reiterated this reality and noted that the trained groups will fight Assad forces as well.

"Syrian opposition is fighting in two fronts of a war. So assistance to be given will be used in these two fronts: against Assad regime and against ISIS," he told Anadolu Agency.

Noting that ISIL came out as a result of the state failure in Syria, Ghanem said that if the Assad regime is not uprooted it would be impossible to uproot extremist groups and ISIL in Syria.

Another concern that was asked of the administration officials was what would the U.S. do if the Assad target Syrian opposition armed and trained by the U.S. while fighting against ISIL.

General Dempsey refrained from responding this question saying that the U.S. is not at that point yet.

On the other hand, the Syrian activists say that the U.S. should take action in case of such a move by Assad.

"The United States have to target and dismantle all the Assad air force," Radwan Ziadeh said.

-Arms may fall into wrong hands

There also is a bipartisan concern that the arms to be provided to Syrian opposition may possibly fall into "wrong” hands and in the end be pointed at the U.S.

Syrian activist, Ghanem said that he completely disagree with the argument of the wrong hands, as this argument in the end let ISIL to rise.

"In the time when we asked for basic assistance it was only the Free Syrian Army, it was the main stream opposition but their demand for military assistance was declined because of the concerns that it may fall into the wrong hands," he said "What happened? The wrong hands are now taking over Iraq and Syria."

Stating that this argument has been tried and proved to be disastrous, Ghanem added it would be more disastrous "to continue to use the same bankrupt argument of two years ago."

The U.S. will train 5000 Syrian opposition forces and arm the moderate opposition groups in Syria. The training is expected to take place in Saudi Arabia and overseen by the Pentagon and its contractors.

Last Modified: 2014-09-19 09:25:42
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