Fighting between rival rebel groups in Syria over the past few days may be giving the United States that rarest of treasures: a second chance. The al-Qaeda-allied ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which just a week ago controlled a wide swathe of territory in northern and eastern Syria, is reeling from an offensive by less extreme rebels.Loveday Morris reported for the Washington Post that by Tuesday,
[ISIS] appeared increasingly desperate, with its fighters pushed out of some towns and turning to suicide bombings in a bid to hold on to pockets of Raqqah, the large north-central city that was its stronghold….For now, at least, a coalition of more-moderate Syrian rebels seems to hold the upper hand—a development that would come as a relief to Western governments that had become increasingly concerned about the gains made by the extremists.
Among the rebels fighting against ISIS (thought to have about 6,000 fighters) are brigades formerly associated with the Free Syrian Army, which was backed by the West but has been losing ground and influence to more extreme rebels.The devil is always in the details with these sorts of things, but the view from 30,000 feet makes it seem like there might be a useful opening for the United States. Though by all appearances the Obama Administration seems determined to not get involved with the Assad resistance any more than absolutely necessary, it might be a good time for it to re-evaluate its stance. Though the Free Syrian Army is fighting alongside other unsavories against the likes of ISIS, the fact that Sunnis are turning on al-Qaeda in the midst of a war against Shiites really shows just how profoundly unappealing its extremism is in practice. Making a concerted effort to find and help the good guys could allow the United States to regain a credible footing in the region, especially with the Saudis getting increasingly anxious about who exactly they’re supporting in Syria.