5 Points to make on Syria and its future prospects:
1) In any imperialist-imposed “political solution” Nusra will of course be targeted in as similiar an intensity as ISIS (of course it has already been significantly targeted but all restrictions will be off once the US can achieve its “political solution” and ignore complaints by the Syrian opposition), however having alienated quite a lot of Syria’s rebels it is questionable whether all will run to its support. Of course they should rally to defend it against any US/Russian attack, as for all its faults (and these would have to be challenged by Syrians in their own time) it came to support the Syrian people at a time when no one else did – and has more importantly committed far less crimes than either the US coalition, Russia, Assad or his sectarian loyalist militias (who will be spared from the “terror” list, including Hezbollah) – however I suspect Nusra will be a prickly subject.
It is Ahrar al-Sham however which will be the connecting and crucial junction. It is almost certain that Ahrar al-Sham will be put on the US-Russian “terror” list. While unfortunately I think the majority of the FSA (Southern Front in particular) are likely to accept the “political solution” (that brings about the promise of Assad’s eventual resignation and keeps in tact the regime), the FSA MUST stand in solidarity with Ahrar al-Sham if it gets attacked. This cannot be stressed enough.
2) Jaish al-Fatah were repeatedly bombed by the US long before Russia’s intervention for precisely the reason that it did not respect the operational red lines that the US had imposed on other rebel coalitions, notably the Southern Front (with regards to the extent of military campaigns undertaken, such as taking over the entirety of Idlib and proceeding onto Latakia). They were not attacked because they were “extremist”, as we could see in the bombing of even its non-ideological (FSA) components. The same fate could be expected of factions that do not accept the regime-relegitimising “political solution”.
(It is also important to note that any distinctions between attacking the FSA or other rebel groups by the US should be made essentially obsolete, as the vast majority of the 150 or so rebels killed by the US coalition were likely to have been “FSA” at one point in time, and departed it due to a combination of poor funding & lack of operational independenc, and the US fully knows this)
3) The US has not “been defeated” by Russia in Syria, and not even remotely. Rusian strikes in Syria came *right off the back* of an intensification of US bombing against Jaish al-Fatah. [This again betrays a lack of understanding of Russia’s rise being indicative of a return to a “Cold War”, when it is in reality much more reminiscent of a return to a 19th century – not 20th century – world order, in which imperialist relations are based primarily on *geopolitical expansion* not on ideological competition (though the USSR was of course still an imperialist power); this was a form of relationship which routinely entailed ‘competitor alliances’ between ostensibly adversarial powers when dictated by the common interest (in this case, an anti-Islam “War on Terror”)]. For the follower of the Syrian context it is not a stretch to say that the US may have directly (& covertly) requested Russian strikes on the Syrian rebels (incidentally even before this began it was directly wondered whether this would occur), after seeing that its strikes were insufficient to stop Jaish al-Fatah’s advances (requiring a much larger operation, which is what has happened – with Russia’s blitzes hitting everything liberated, military targets or civilian installations and infrastructures – Jaish al-Fatah’s advances have grinded to a halt). Even if the US had not “directly” requested Russian intervention, they had already sent a clear signal to Russia that bombing mainstream Syrian rebels was fair game.
The fact that the US continues to block Arab provided anti-aircraft missiles from the revolutionary forces 3 months into Russia’s massacres should pay put to any idea of the US trying to draw Russia into an “Afghanistan”. That the Russian airstrikes have come with US approval, tacit or requested is beyond dispute.
[Note: there is a reason I focus on US policy in my analyses rather than Russia, because it – not the Russians – is the real powerbroker of the Syrian war (on a level playing field the rebellion would’ve succeeded without a shadow of the doubt, possessing both a greater manpower and popular base than the regime – the fact that there is not a level playing field is due less to Russian and Iranian support for the Syrian government as it is to the US limitations on the provision of anything approaching an equal level from Qatar, Saudi and Turkey)]
4) US policy in Syria has never been to support a *revolutionary movement*, but to support an *opposition movement*. This cannot be stressed enough. The US has never called for the collapse or “downfall of the regime” (indeed it has called for precisely the opposite), it has called for Assad’s negotiated resignation. Whilst I believe that Assad will probably step down, I also sincerely believe that even if he didn’t the US would much more likely accept his remaining (and the so-called political embarrassment that comes with that) than his forcing out by a seriously enroaching rebellion. US policy has been to reach a *settled rebellion* (or to settle the rebellion), not a *successful rebellion*.
[Incidentally I do not think it is a coincidence that the SNC (though not regime collaborators a la the PA in Palestine for example are nonetheless essentially the indigenous US front for Syrian policy, regardless of any potentially well-meaning intentions) possess as relatively a tame name as the National Coalition for OPPOSITION and Revolutionary forces, its tone perhaps sets out a political compromise from the very beginning (a much less radical name incidentally than a revolutionary council/higher command), though I may be reading too much into this. Its structure though of course was as essentially a negotiating opposition coalition rather than a revolutionary leadership structure/government-in-waiting (indeed the SNC’s Interim Syrian Government is not recognised by the US)]
Although this was clear to Syrian revolutionaries at least from a couple of years ago, John Kerry’s statements that he does not see the Syrian Army or the regime as his enemy, reducing all the problems, all the massacres, all the genocidal carpet bombings to the figure of Assad himself, are of course completely ludicrous and indicative.
5) In any political solution I believe the choice of the flag adopted will hold much more than symbolic value. I do not believe the revolutionary flag will be adopted and find it much more likely that the regime flag remains in place (of course there is a compromise flag which was used by Syria during the 60s as well as Iraq later on which essentially combines the two – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Syria… – but I think the regime’s flag is likely to stay)