The fact that the U.S. is only pushing limited and incoherent air strikes in Syria, plus vague promises about training rebel forces that we want to fight Assad to the negotiating table, is already starting to discourage our new Arab allies and rebels and civilians within Syria, Hassan Hassan explains in the UAE’s National.
He offers five reasons: Civilians are getting killed, upsetting the local population. Air strikes have destroyed oil facilities that, though they were being used by the Islamic State, were still a crucial economic resource that has kept these communities alive. Syrians don’t see these strikes leading to an endgame where Assad goes and even see them benefiting him or making him a de facto coalition partner. America’s new Sunni Islamist rebel allies are worried we’re not offering clear-enough distinctions about whom we’ll help and who’s too extreme for us. And many Syrians are even upset we’re hitting Jabhat al-Nusra, the local al-Qaeda franchise, which many of them consider the most effective force against Assad, since doing that without having helped the rebels makes it, again, look like we don’t care whether Assad goes. (There were rumblings that al-Nusra was starting to warm up to the Islamic State in the face of air strikes, but that doesn’t appear to have developed.)
Of course, there are good reasons we can’t address all of these things — this isn’t about answering the Syrian people’s every need. But it’s a reminder of the fact that a comprehensive and realistic strategy isn’t just a nice idea.
Setting out your goals and a realistic way to achieve them is crucial to retaining the support of the people you need (and can get) on your side, among other things.