John R. Bradley

Is the West arming the Syrian People’s Front or the People’s Front of Syria?

Is the West arming the Syrian People's Front or the People's Front of Syria?
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The United States has abandoned training rebel forces on the ground in Syria but not equipping them, or at least some of them, and over the weekend its military cargo planes dropped 50 tons of ammunition to rebel groups in the north of the country. All apparently reached their intended target: yet another hastily formed alliance intent on fighting both the Islamic State and the Assad regime.

Alas, despite being created just days ago, in keeping with Syrian rebels' almost constantly shifting alliances, it confusingly already has two names: the Democratic Forces of Syria and the Syrian Arab Coalition.

The former includes both Arab groups and the Kurdish YPG militia. However, because the Arab rebels are partly funded by Turkey, which in turn is waging war on the Kurds (and Isis), they have decided to call themselves the Syrian Arab Coalition – presumably partly so as not to offend their paymasters and also because the Arabs and Kurds cannot stand one another.

One is reminded of the Monty Python sketch from the Life of Brian about the many fractious and bickering independence movements claiming to be the People's Front of Judea:

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?

Reg: Fuck off! 'Judean People's Front'. We're the People's Front of Judea! 'Judean People's Front'.

Francis: Wankers.

If that were not bad enough, as Washington was dropping its supplies, assuring us that they had fallen into 'safe hands', Amnesty International published a new report detailing extensive war crimes by... the Kurdish YPG militia. Meanwhile, the last great hope of the West, the ever-elusive and allegedly secular Free Syrian Army, announced a new alliance with... Al-Nusra Front, the country's Al-Qaeda affiliate.

It is difficult to imagine that, after four years of this nonsense, Washington is not privately relieved to be washing its hands of the whole mess. At least with the Russians they know who their enemy is.

John R. Bradley has been covering the Arab world for almost two decades, and also writes for the Daily Mail and the Jewish Chronicle. His books include Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a RevolutionBehind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East and After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts.