Wed | Oct 18, 2017

US struggles to blunt rebel anger at strikes

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Syrian President Bashar Assad

The United States (US) is struggling to counter anger among the Syrian opposition, where many believe that the air campaign against extremists in the country is only helping President Bashar Assad and that Washington is coordinating with Damascus, despite American insistence it backs the rebel cause.

Since the US-led campaign of air raids and missile strikes in Syria began last Tuesday, American officials - many of them Arabic-speaking - have been making appearances on Arab TV stations, explaining America's goals.

They have repeatedly denied any cooperation with the Syrian government and say Washington still seeks Assad's removal.

But the messaging seems to be making little headway. The anger among the opposition over the air campaign points to a central difficulty in the US strategy: The main aim of the international coalition it has assembled is to defeat the Islamic State group - which has taken over much of Syria and neighbouring Iraq - but in Syria it is Assad's government that is best placed to benefit from blows to the extremists.

Most Syrian rebel factions sharply oppose the Islamic State extremist group and have lost hundreds of fighters trying to prevent it from taking over territory. The Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of relatively moderate rebel factions, has welcomed the air campaign.

But resentment is high among the opposition that, after ignoring their pleas for greater help against Assad for years, Washington finally took action only to counter radicals it sees as a danger to US interests.

What particularly alarmed the Syrian opposition is that in the opening salvo of the assault, US warplanes also hit positions of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate that is also one of the strongest rebel factions battling Assad's troops.

- AP