The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has evolved significantly since its emergence in the summer of 2011. Initially established with the grand objective of representing a nationwide resistance organization formed to protect peaceful protesters and to initiate military operations against the Assad regime, the FSA has struggled to live up to these goals. However, despite, or perhaps because of, its subsequent decentralization, the FSA remains the cornerstone brand of Syria’s moderate opposition, representing the original moderate vision of the revolution.
This paper argues that the FSA’s decentralization is in part a consequence of the United States’ refusal to supply early and significant support for the group. Such support would have had a better chance of solidifying the FSA brand from the outset; disciplining regional actors and constraining their provision of support through one united channel; reducing dysfunction within FSA ranks; and signaling united international opposition to the Assad regime.
For the United States and allied countries seeking an eventual solution to the crisis in Syria, building military preeminence does not necessarily have to be the sole objective in supporting the FSA. Instead, sustaining its ability to represent opposition communities is crucial, given its mainstream positions. To that end, this paper recommends that the United States credibly demonstrate that Assad must step down; continue and intensify work towards restricting aerial bombardment; increase military and financial assistance to the FSA; bundle civil, judicial and military support to undermine popular support for jihadi groups; defend, publicly recognize and politically engage FSA factions; and facilitate dialogue between the FSA and the Kurdish YPG.
Brookings Senior Fellow and former U.S. State Department Special Envoy on Climate Todd Stern spoke at the US Climate Action Center, at the COP 24 UN climate negotiations, on the future of the Paris Agreement in Katowice, Poland on December 10, 2018.
[On the U.S. negotiating team at the COP 24 climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland] They work seriously, effectively and knowledgeably. There is only this technical negotiating team, not a political one.
[John Bolton’s statement that the North Koreans “have not lived up to the commitments” made in Singapore] totally cuts Secretary of State Pompeo and the special representative, Steve Biegun, at the knees. What is the incentive for North Korea to actually talk about the meat-and-potatoes of denuclearization with the special representative and with the secretary of state if the national security adviser has said nothing is happening so we have to go straight to the top?