Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done some research on the situation with the Syrian Civil War.
One interesting thing I found is this interactive map of who controls which territory and the various battles taking place posted on Wikipedia. It also has a table with details of the war as they relate to some of the larger cities and areas, like when it fell, who took it over, and who controls it now. I did some checking on it, and at least for the spot checks I did, the information displayed appears to be up to date.
At first glance it may seem sort of novel. But it’s big help in studying the dynamics of how the overall situation has evolved. For instance, I learned that a large part of the territory ISIS controls, it did not take it from the government. It took the territory from the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
I also now understand why the Obama Administration believes that not launching airstrikes against Assad when it was under consideration in 2012 and 2013 helped make ISIS. During that time, the FSA, started by military defectors who refused to attack civilians to put down the protests that started the war, was the largest revolutionary force in the country. But its situation, shortages of money, weapons and ammo, and nearly everything else was growing dire; and it begin to lose ground back to the government. Morale was very low, and many of its members started looking elsewhere for victories. Thousands of them left to join other movements, with ISIS being the largest “winner,” gaining already trained and equipped men along with chunks of the territory controlled by the FSA, subsequently weakening the FSA and just taking over the rest without much resistance.
One other interesting thing I noticed on this map is what I don’t see. Given all of the strategy hype from the Administration in getting the rebels armed and trained, and supporting them with airstrikes to defeat ISIS, I expected to see more skirmishes between rebels and ISIS. Out of the some 17 or 18 skirmishes on this map, only one, northeast of Damascus, is between rebels and ISIS. And of course, that area wasn’t on the list of recent coalition airstrikes. Besides the Syrian government forces, the only group fighting ISIS is the YPG (Kurds) way up in the north which, the area they are fighting in, incidentally, isn’t on the list of airstrikes either.
The other research tool I used is the wealth of video footage of various battles of the war available on YouTube. I found two channels dedicated to just footage from 2015, and there are likely more. The footage was interesting, which I’ll get to in more detail later.
But an additionally interesting component of the video footage was the comments section where the overwhelming sentiment from western commenters was something like, so this is how Muslims serve God, by violence, by killing in the name of Allah – and violence is no way to solve problems.
I found it rather strange to see comments like that on footage from the FSA who are not radical, militant Muslims as many of us imagine them to be. At least they are not militant because of their religion. From what I understand they are fighting for their idea of freedom, sort of an Arabic version of the US enlightenment who are, at the very least, fighting to rid themselves of an evil dictator.
It just seems like people over here take for granted the right to free speech, the right to petition the government for redress, and the right to vote as a means of peacefully solving conflicts between the populace and the government. Syrians do not have that. And when they tried to gain those rights through peaceful means, they were beaten, shot, gassed and killed en mass. When you don’t have ballots, you eventually get bullets when ordinary people get fed up with being slaves and treated like toys instead of human beings with unalienable natural rights. In the footage, I noticed that most of the areas under contest that are depicted are bombed out and uninhabitable. They look much worse than war zones. There is nothing material left to gain by winning, but one thing.
The misunderstanding on this side of the world is really quite sad. These people are in dire need of our help. But the Obama Administration insists that taking out Assad, which is the goal of the rebels, is off the table. Some of the rebels believe that if they could defeat the government, ISIS would melt away by itself because its strength has little to do with ideology, but rather resources. I am not sure I agree with that. I actually think that ISIS will have to be defeated, and they will have to do it. But they say they won’t do anything else until Assad is gone.
And so there it is. Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS appears be failing because it failed before it even started. I don’t have the nerve to be shocked.