Hassan Hassan writes: Since Islamic State (Isis) were formed in their current incarnation in April last year, they have had a dilemma: how to gain legitimacy from the local population while continuing to be ruthless and genocidal against fellow Sunnis. The decision by the American-led coalition to strike against Isis while overlooking the Assad regime seems to have resolved this dilemma for the jihadist organisation. What Isis will lose in terms of strength and numbers as a result of the air strikes they might gain in terms of legitimacy.
Air strikes against Isis were inevitable, as the group’s advances towards Baghdad, Erbil and northern Syria seemed irreversible by local forces. But the way the US-led coalition, which the UK has now joined, has conducted itself so far threatens to worsen the situation in favour of Isis.
Most importantly, by overlooking the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which caused the death of nearly 200,000 Syrians, the air strikes create the perception that the international coalition is providing a lifeline to the regime. Despite repeated reassurance by Washington, such a perception is likely to become entrenched if the Assad regime begins to fill the vacuum left by the offensive against Isis, especially that there has been no evidence yet that the opposition forces are part of the military strategy against Isis. [Continue reading…]