Two stories this morning, both from Reuters, provide more evidence of the costs of President Obama’s Syria non-policy.First, it appears that a sizable exodus of fighters from more moderate organizations to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups like the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is underway in Syria’s north:
“This is a sign the radical groups are still growing in power. This region could fall to the jihadists,” said an activist in the eastern town of Raqqa, who asked not to be identified. “We may see this become a trend.” […]At least two entire rebel brigades are said to have joined the Nusra Front in the opposition-held province of Raqqa, which borders Turkey. One of the groups, the Raqqa Revolutionaries, has about 750 fighters in total, according to a source close to Islamist forces who spoke on condition of anonymity.Another group, the God’s Victory Brigade, said in a statement on Facebook that all of its leaders and fighters had pledged loyalty to Nusra Front.
Disillusionment with the West must be playing a role. Western-backed rebels are downright despondent, talking about a “slap in the face”:
The agreement, from which the United States hopes a wider political settlement can emerge, has reduced the likelihood of a U.S. strike on Assad’s forces that the opposition had hoped would weaken him militarily and force him to attend a planned new peace conference.The opposition is therefore furious that Washington suddenly and without its knowledge changed course a week after informing leaders of the main Syrian National Coalition that a strike was imminent, according to coalition members.In the opposition’s view, the deal with Russia contains a de facto admission of the legitimacy of the Assad government, undermining the goal of Syrian uprising and the likelihood that any peace talks will result in Assad’s removal.
As we wrote yesterday, the West cannot ultimately allow al-Qaeda a secure base in the heart of the Middle East. So no new war in the Middle East may yet force a costly confrontation down the line.