Just when you think things in Syria can’t get any darker—they go black.
This, from the indispensible Michael Weiss at NOW Lebanon, is what passes for good news over there.
Since just after Christmas, the nastiest and most backward group in the country, the schismatic al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), has had its black-clad ass handed to it by three disparate but equally fed-up rebel super-formations, none of them more than three months old. The largest and most formidable of these anti-ISIS newcomers is the mainly Salafi Islamic Front, which fields as many as 60,000 fighters and was created, as far as I can tell, to accomplish three things: 1. isolate and marginalize ISIS, though not necessarily through military force; 2. establish the first truly cohesive rebel army with a top-down hierarchy and command-and-control capability; 3. lure the more “moderate” or pragmatic al-Qaeda group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, into the oppositional mainstream. If the last few days have been any guide, then number 1 is proceeding apace, number 2 is relatively successful, at least by Syrian standards, although its objective success is still hard to gauge, and number 3 remains a work-in-progress. Nevertheless, any week in which Syrians rise up to denounce Zarqawism and call for its expulsion from the country is not a week to sniff at, especially as positive developments in this conflict are seldom in evidence.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s good news that ISIS is getting its black-clad ass handed to it, as Weiss says. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham is the Taliban of the Eastern Mediterranean. But it’s a sad day indeed when Jabhat al-Nusra, which is also an Al Qaeda affiliate, is described alongside an army of tens of thousands of Salafists, as “moderate.”
Two years ago (an eternity in Middle East politics) there was a slim but non-zero chance of a half-way decent outcome in a post-Assad Syria, but today we have a near-zero chance of a non-horrible outcome. Things could have gone differently, but nope.
So I’m unofficially declaring Syria the worst place in the world.
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