Hassan Hassan, an Abu Dhabi-based journalist and analyst, wrote yesterday in The New York Times that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is no ally of the West in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to Hassan, Assad had been able to combat ISIS earlier, but instead “allowed ISIS to grow and fester,” even “buying oil from it and other extremist groups after it lost control of most of the country’s oilfields and gas plants.” Syria, Hassan argued, had enabled ISIS’s growth, and would make a poor partner in the fight against it; instead, Hassan pointed to the opposition forces who had been successfully fighting ISIS since its formation.
A more prudent approach is to look at the rise of ISIS as a long-term menace that can only be addressed through a ground-up pushback. The opposition forces are not only possible partners, they’re essential in the fight against ISIS. After all, they’re the ones who have been fighting ISIS since last summer, and drove it out of Idlib, Deir Ezzor and most of Aleppo and around Damascus. It cost them dearly: more than 7,000 people were killed. Fighting ISIS should be part of a broader political and military process that includes both the regime and the opposition, but not Assad.
Last week, when pushed as to whether the United States and Syria had a common interest in defeating ISIS, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel instead identified Syria as a “central part of the problem” in the Middle East.
[Photo: Beshr O / Flickr ]