The US is finally arming some of the moderate Syrian rebels. Unfortunately, it might be too late to make a difference, as The Washington Post reports:
Spurred by concerns that the al-Qaeda-inspired radicals will continue their relentless march across Iraq and Syria, the United States and its allies have begun accelerating the supply of arms and ammunition to a small number of vetted rebel groups in northern Syria, according to diplomats and rebels who have been receiving the deliveries.
Yet even as the fresh support arrives, challenges are mounting for the embattled moderates, who have been pushed out of eastern Syria by extremists, are being encircled in Aleppo by the government and are seeing their ranks eroded by defeats, desertions and infighting.
Moderates have taken a beating lately, as both ISIS and the Assad regime forces hit them on different fronts. Their new weapons will probably be neither powerful enough nor timely enough to turn the tide.
That’s particularly unfortunate as ISIS is on the offensive right now in Syria:
More than 2,000 Syrians — almost half of them pro-government forces — have been killed in just over two weeks of fighting in Syria, marking one of the worst death tolls in the country’s three-year civil war, opposition activists said Monday.
The reports reflect a recent surge in deadly attacks by the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group targeting President Bashar Assad’s forces, signaling shifting priorities as Sunni militants seek to consolidate their hold on territory and resources in northern Syria…
“Now that they’ve mopped up rebel resistance to them in the east, the Islamic State (group) can turn to the regime,” said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on militant factions in Syria and Iraq. “It may have been a benefit (to the Islamic State) to deal with rebels first, but the assault against the regime was inevitable.”…
Since then, fighters from the Islamic State group have launched attacks against army positions in three different provinces in northern and central Syria. In the past week alone, the militants captured a government-controlled gas field and two major army bases in three different provinces.
These ISIS successes were accompanied by the by-now routine beheadings of survivors and crucifixions of the dead.
The barbarism of both the Assad regime and ISIS illustrates exactly why the U.S. needed to empower friendly forces in this fight—and contra popular opinion, there were allies to be found. Now, as ISIS and Assad move toward a showdown in Aleppo, the moderates may simply be too marginalized to have any impact, new arms or no.