The New York Times reports: Wearing a blue hood to shield his identity, a former Syrian police photographer briefed a congressional committee over the summer on the photos he had smuggled out of the country to document the deaths of thousands of prisoners killed in President Bashar al-Assad’s jails. At a White House meeting, President Obama’s senior aides welcomed him as a man of uncommon courage who had revealed unspeakable atrocities.
But now the Syrian government’s most celebrated defector, who uses the pseudonym Caesar, is no longer optimistic that the United States has the will to stop the abuses that have shocked the conscience of the world.
His photographs have generated outrage but no fresh action against the Assad government. And instead of intervening militarily to support opponents of Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama is mounting airstrikes to defend Kurds, Yazidis and Turkmen in Syria and Iraq from the Islamic State.
“I completely understand how he came to the defense of two American victims killed by the extremist ISIS terror group,” Caesar said in a message earlier this month from an undisclosed location in Europe that was conveyed by the Coalition for Democratic Syria, a Syrian-American organization that sponsored his trip to Washington. “But I and millions of Syrians feel depressed when we see that the killer of thousands of prisoners is left unchecked,” he added. “I believe my cause demands action and a clear position by the president of the United States.”
Caesar’s complaint reflects a broader discontent within the moderate Syrian opposition that is posing a new challenge for the Obama administration’s strategy to counter the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. While ruling out United States military intervention against Mr. Assad, the administration has committed to training thousands of opposition fighters in Saudi Arabia and Turkey so they can eventually defend territory in Syria that is wrested from the Islamic State’s control. But those fighters must come from the same constituency that has been increasingly troubled by the American reluctance to act more forcefully against Mr. Assad.
“There is a sense that there is discrimination against them, that the atrocities they are suffering at the hands of Assad are somehow less deserving than what is befalling other communities,” said Emile Hokayem, an expert on Middle East affairs at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “For most of these rebels, Assad is the greatest evil, not ISIL. For the U.S., it is the opposite,” he said. [Continue reading…]