War on the Rocks: “A Deadly Delusion: Were Syria’s Rebels Ever Going to Defeat the Jihadists?”

New from me for War on the Rocks:

“A Deadly Delusion: Were Syria’s Rebels Ever Going to Defeat the Jihadists?”

Whatever else Syria’s rebels were, and whatever the reasons for backing them – they were never going to be a “counter-terrorism force.”

As combating al-Qaeda and the Islamic State gradually subsumed America and the rest of the world’s policy priorities in Syria, opposition boosters increasingly argued for backing Syria’s rebels in “counter-terrorism” terms. But this argument was never real. There were only sao many times rebels could work alongside (or under) jihadists, or stand aside while jihadists liquidated rival factions, before it became clear they would never be a useful counter-terrorism partner.

Yet because of outside policymakers and analysts’ simplistic sectarian logic and unhelpful repetition of opposition tropes, the policy debate on Syria got more and more disengaged from this reality. And in the end, there was no necessary reckoning over the opposition’s entanglements with jihadists until it was too late.

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