Do Moderate Syrian Rebels Need Obamacare?

by Patrick Brennan

Perhaps some income support, too, to read the incredible lede of this Washington Post story. Instead, they remain envious of Osamacare:

REYHANLI, TURKEY — In a medical clinic packed with injured Syrian rebels, 23-year-old Mohammed Hadhoud lies waiting for an operation to remove a machine-gun bullet lodged in his spine. His family cannot afford the bill, and the moderate Islamist brigade he fights with has refused to fully cover the cost.

Down the corridor, two fighters for al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rest, their treatment paid for. One reaches under his pillow to show the $100 he has been given in spending money.

“In case we need anything extra,” he says.

The starkly contrasting scenes highlight the predicament for the moderate Syrian rebel factions that the West has vowed to support. Struggling for funding, rebel leaders complain that they are unable to stem a constant loss of fighters to hard-line Islamist groups that enjoy free-flowing streams of money from donors in oil-rich Persian Gulf states.

The story goes on to explain that it looks like moderate Syrian Islamists are defecting to more extreme, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that have seen a lot more funding. While the governments of U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are funding the Syrian rebels and might be assumed to be more sympathetic to the Islamist ones than the U.S. is, the really bad guys are getting their gusher of funding from private sources in those nations — which those governments could try harder to stop, but are reluctant for domestic political reasons. The story also notes that the moderate rebels hoped they’d see an increase in funding, as the West promised, after the August chemical-weapons attacks, but they haven’t. Meanwhile, soldiers are rapidly defecting to extremist battalions — and almost all of the “moderate Islamist” groups have decided to abandon the U.S.’s political partner in the country, the Syrian National Coalition, in part because they’re now trying to unite in fighting the extremist, al-Qaeda-linked groups, too.

Secretary Kerry addressed the situation in Syria at a press conference in London today, and boasted that the U.S. has spent $2 billion on aid to the country so far, with most going to humanitarian ends (which means the U.S. is probably actively seeking to keep it away from being used to strengthen any one military faction; such issues tend not to constrain Gulf “charities”). There, he again expressed hope that the U.S. and Russia will be able to get the Syrian government and the opposition to agree to a second edition of the Geneva talks (the first happened last year), as soon as next month.