Coalition risks loss of support in Syria unless it clarifies its aims

Hassan Hassan writes: As the US-led offensive against ISIL inside Syria enters its 10th day today, there already appears to be a growing public backlash in Syria against the campaign. The scepticism about the air strikes emanates from the lack of clarity over the real aims and objectives of the offensive. Five reasons can be identified for this cynicism, which should be addressed if the air strikes are to lead to a positive outcome.

The first one is that the air strikes do not offer any clear endgame. This lack of clarity over what to expect from the air strikes has led Syrians to interpret the signals they have received so far. Bashar Al Assad, for example, is not only spared the air strikes, but he also has more time to bomb civilian areas, given that the pressure against his forces in Hama and eastern Aleppo has been reduced significantly. This is creating an impression that the Assad regime is a de facto partner in the US coalition, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary.

Another reason is the economic consequences of the air strikes. On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that most of the oil refineries controlled by ISIL in Syria have been destroyed. These refineries will prevent ISIL from generating further revenues in Syria, which will also affect ISIL in Iraq, as much of the refined oil is transferred to the other side of the border.

However, these refineries, even before ISIL’s arrival in eastern Syria, have served as a lifeline for local communities.

Oil refineries have helped the population in Deir Ezzor to survive starvation after they were isolated between the Iraqi authorities across theborder, on one hand, and the regime on the other. These refineries were the latchkeys of a full-fledged war economy that helped to operate water-pumping engines to irrigate lands far from the Euphrates river. Without them, the situation in Deir Ezzor would have been much worse. Destroying these refineries will not affect ISIL, which had stopped operating them days before the air strikes began, as much as it will affect families living there. [Continue reading…]

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