Is the enemy of Assad the friend of the Syrian opposition?
Reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria have left the Syrian opposition in a bit of a PR bind. As FP‘s Blake Hounshell wrote on Saturday: The regime will seek to exploit the raids to tie the rebels to the Zionist entity, after spending two years painting them as an undifferentiated mass of "terrorist gangs."… But the ...
The regime will seek to exploit the raids to tie the rebels to the Zionist entity, after spending two years painting them as an undifferentiated mass of "terrorist gangs."…
But the propaganda can cut both ways. The rebels can point to the Israeli attacks as yet more evidence that Assad’s army is for attacking Syrians, not defending the country.
So how are the Syrian rebels reacting? "Many Syrian rebels welcomed the attack, even if it was from a most unlikely source — an Israeli airstrike against their common enemy, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime," reports NBC News, which caught up with one Syrian rebel in Damascus over Skype. "Even though the raid was from Israel, Syria’s decades-old foe, it lifted the opposition’s spirits," the fighter observed.
But while some individual rebels may be grateful to Israel, the fractured opposition’s official line has been to denounce Israeli intervention.
The leadership of a group calling itself the Islamic Brigade of Aleppo, for instance, released a video angrily condemning Israel’s assistance. And the Free Syrian Army quickly dismissed the claims of a Syrian rebel who, according to the group, praised the attacks on Israel’s Channel 2. "The leadership of the FSA has traditionally considered Israel an enemy and will continue to do so until the complete liberation of the occupied lands," the mainstream rebel force said in a statement released on its Facebook page.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Coalition, the internationally recognized opposition umbrella group, adopted a somewhat conspiratorial tone in its statement on the alleged Israeli attacks, hinting that the assault may have done more harm than good for the opposition:
The Syrian Coalition is suspicious of the timing of this attack. These strikes have given the regime the necessary time to draw attention away from its crimes and massacres on the Syrian coast. It is not unlikely that as a result of these attacks, and world distraction, more crimes will be committed.
For their part, the Israelis have made it clear that any actions they took were not a show of support for the rebels but rather an effort to prevent Iran from arming Hezbollah. But with Israeli officials hinting that this is not the last military action it will carry out in Syria, it looks like there will be more opportunities to make sense of what exactly Israeli involvement will mean for Syria — and who, if anyone, will benefit.