Rafik Hariri Center Resident Fellow Faysal Itani writes for TIME on why the US-led air campaign against ISIS in Syria is undermining its long-term objectives:
The US-led air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has scored some points in Syria, weakening ISIS’s oil infrastructure and revenues and keeping the group out of Kobane. However, despite these tactical gains, the campaign has had serious local side effects that have undermined the broader, long-term objective of degrading and destroying ISIS in Syria and preventing the Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, from replacing or thriving alongside ISIS. Unfortunately, the coalition campaign’s priorities are not aligned with those of the only parties capable of beating Sunni jihadism in Syria – Syrian nationalist groups enjoying broad Sunni support.
Ironically, the coalition campaign has contributed to the near-collapse of nationalist forces in northern Syria who, despite their imperfections, were ISIS’s most effective rivals and competed with Jabhat al Nusra for leadership of the insurgency. Rather than work with the nationalists as partners against ISIS in the north (where jihadists are strongest), the United States has excluded them from the coalition military effort. At the same time, US airstrikes on jihadists have spared the regime’s forces and inadvertently killed Syrian civilians. The United States also insists nationalist forces fight the jihadists—not the regime—making them appear as US agents in the eyes of the Syrian people.