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In Syria, Rebel Movement Continues To Fracture

Has the moderate, Western-backed rebel force collapsed in Syria? And what if it’s an Islamist rebellion now?

Hezbollah fighters, left, mourn as they carry the coffin of their commander Ali Bazzi, who was killed in Syria during a battle against the Syrian rebels, during his funeral procession, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Hezbollah announced that two of its members, including a local commander, were killed while "performing their jihadi duties." Syrian troops captured a western town near the country's main north-south highway on Monday as the government forged ahead with a punishing offensive in a mountainous region near the border with Lebanon, state media said. (AP)

Hezbollah fighters, left, mourn as they carry the coffin of their commander Ali Bazzi, who was killed in Syria during a battle against the Syrian rebels, during his funeral procession, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Hezbollah announced that two of its members, including a local commander, were killed while “performing their jihadi duties.” Syrian troops captured a western town near the country’s main north-south highway on Monday as the government forged ahead with a punishing offensive in a mountainous region near the border with Lebanon, state media said. (AP)

From the early days of the conflict – now civil war – in Syria, American assertions have been loud and wrong.  The dictator Bashar al-Assad would go, said the US.  Years later, he’s there.  Chemical weapons use would cross a red line and bring American punishment, said Washington.  But it didn’t.  Last week, the US just got robbed blind on the Syrian border.  Western-stocked warehouses meant to support moderate Syrian rebels, picked clean by Islamist fighters.  It looked like a last straw.  This hour On Point:  Western-backed, moderate Syrian opposition in, many now say, collapse.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Noah Bonsey, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. Lead author of the recent report, “Anything But Politics: The State of Syria’s Political Opposition.” (@NoahBonsey)

Leila Hilal, director the Middle East Task Force at the New American Foundation. (@LeilaHilal)

Sunjeev Bery, Middle East & North Africa Advocacy Director for Amnesty International. (@SunjeevBery)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Telegraph: The good guys have lost in Syria – only the bad guys are left fighting — “This week, the US and Britain suspended non-lethal aid – such as communications equipment and trucks – to rebels in northern Syria, after bases belonging to the largely moderate, Western-backed Free Syrian Army were ransacked and their equipment seized by the Islamic Front. This rebel-on-rebel fratricidal orgy sums up so much that has gone wrong with Syria’s revolution.”

The Washington Post: U.S. may be open to Islamists joining Syrian rebel coalition — “The SMC, whose Free Syrian Army is the only opposition armed force the United States backs in Syria, has lost both strength and influence to anti-Assad Islamic groups. Among them is the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the al-Nusra Front, both of which have been labeled terrorist groups by Washington. But the increasingly powerful Islamic Front, while it includes many Salafists seeking an Islamic state in Syria, is not affiliated with al-Qaeda. Talks between U.S. envoy Robert Ford and Islamic Front figures held in Turkey last month were inconclusive, said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the developing policy.”

Buzzfeed: The End of the Free Syrian Army? – “FSA officials have suggested that the struggle with the Islamic Front might be resolved through negotiations, and that U.S. shipments might eventually resume. But speculation is already swirling that the FSA and its leadership under Gen. Salim Idriss — officially called the Supreme Military Command, or SMC, the political opposition’s military wing — might be at its end. One source close to the SMC called the Islamic Front’s recent aggression in Atimeh ‘an attack and overthrow, basically.’”

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