Jamie Dettmer reports: Washington and Damascus are not coordinating their battle plans against the so-called Islamic State at any official level, but a de facto deal between them is increasingly obvious. The Assad regime is conducting follow-up bombing raids in the wake of sorties by the U.S.-led coalition, and it has launched a land offensive in eastern Syria that is helping the coalition and the Kurds shut down the jihadist supply lines to Mosul in northern Iraq. This evident, if indirect coordination, is feeding Sunni Muslim suspicions in the region that Syrian President Bashar Assad and U.S. President Barack Obama have decided to work together.
The Syrian civil war, now entering its fifth year, has witnessed a dizzying sequence of shifting alliances. Enemies suddenly become friends and allies are deemed foes in a real-life Game of Thrones. So it’s not surprising that Western-backed rebels are uneasy about recent developments.
Their suspicions are being stoked by the toned-down anti-Assad rhetoric of Obama officials. In his State of the Union last month, Obama focused his Syria remarks on the so-called train-and-equip plan to build a proxy force that will target Islamic State militants. And also by Assad himself. [Continue reading…]