US Syria policy in tatters after favoured ‘moderate’ rebels disband

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(Al-Nusra Front showing off aid with U.S. logo, US-made BGM-71 TOW missiles and ordinance.)

US policy towards Syria has suffered a new blow with the dissolution of the Hazm movement, its favoured and best-known rebel group – raising tough questions about Washington’s strategy and limiting its future options.

Hazm (“Determination”) announced its demise at the weekend after fierce battles with Jabhat al Nusra (JAN), the al-Qaida-linked group and jihadi rival of the Islamic State (Isis) that is fighting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Hazm is one of several dozen Syrian rebel groups that have received US anti-tank Tow missiles and training in the past and has been described as the “poster boy” for the moderate opposition at a time when attention is focused sharply on Isis. But other elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), such as Fursan al-Haq, still receive discreet American support.

Hazm is one of several dozen Syrian rebel groups that have received US anti-tank Tow missiles and training in the past and has been described as the “poster boy” for the moderate opposition at a time when attention is focused sharply on Isis. But other elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), such as Fursan al-Haq, still receive discreet American support.

President Barack Obama’s critics look likely to seize on the fate of Hazm to urge an abandonment of support for rebels in the north, now dominated by JAN and by Ahrar al-Sham, which is also beyond the pale as far as the US is concerned. “It makes US options for the north more limited than ever,” said Abdeh.

“People in DC will use this to argue that the train-and-equip programme won’t work and that US weapons will fall into the hands of JAN and that they should just focus on the south where the FSA is stronger – or give up supporting the rebels altogether and back the UN work on local ceasefires to de-escalate the conflict. This will strengthen those arguments.”

(The Guardian)