Washington Post: “Here’s why the U.S. kept on supporting opposition local councils in Syria”
For most of the Syrian war, the United States and Western partners have supported opposition local councils in their efforts to provide a viable alternative to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Yet Syria’s military realities have gradually overshadowed attempts to empower more democratic, inclusive local governance.
In Idlib, a fragile cease-fire is all that protects 3 million civilians from a Russian and Syrian government onslaught. Armed extremist groups rule much of the area, and last month a prominent moderate activist was assassinated there. Meanwhile, in southwest Syria, the Assad regime has brutally consolidated its rule — a marked deterioration from earlier this year, when the region was heralded for its promising opposition governance.
As the conflict has dragged on, it has become tragically clear that externally supported armed actors, not grass-roots civilian activists, shape strategic outcomes in Syria. Meanwhile, high-level U.S. policy choices — especially the 2014 decision to prioritize the fight against the Islamic State — cast doubt on the U.S. commitment to these stabilization programs’ counter-Assad governance objectives.
By Frances Z. Brown