Bashar Assad’s regime bombed civilian targets in the ISIS’s stronghold of Raqqa yesterday. The city has often been the target of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, although we target military locations mostly on its outskirts. Nevertheless, the recent strike is likely to fuel Sunni Arab concerns that the Syrian government is de facto a coalition partner. The Wall Street Journal reports:
At least eight regime airstrikes hit areas described by residents as largely residential or commercial starting Tuesday afternoon. Accounts of the death toll from residents and activists varied from at least 50 to nearly 90. They said bodies were still being counted, but many were dismembered, complicating the task. […]Coalition warplanes usually strike buildings on the city’s outskirts that are widely known to be Islamic State positions, residents said, another factor that had lowered fears of civilian casualties from air raids. However, the regime attacks on Tuesday hit central areas including a market mosque and residential neighborhoods.
A no-fly zone has traditionally been America’s reaction to such brutality, but NATO commanders reiterated that they have no intention of establishing one. Furthermore, thoughts of a de facto American-Assad alignment are more than just the fever dreams of a conspiracy-theory prone region: President Obama explicitly confirmed in his letter to Ayatollah Khamenei that the U.S. has no intention of going after Iran’s partner, Assad.As long as the U.S. continues to be seen as Assad’s air force—and lets his actual warplanes commit acts like these—building a Sunni coalition against ISIS will be beyond difficult.