It was written on the wall that General Selim Idriss, the commander of the Supreme Military Council of the Syrian Free Army would lose his clout sooner or later. Some very high leveled US government officials gave assurances and detailed promises of assistance to the General which he conveyed to his lieutenants. Nothing arrived, and all was forgotten time after time. Each time this occurred, the General lost another piece of his credibility and ability to lead. It was a classic lesson of how Washington helped to end the role of one of its more important assets in the Syrian crisis.
Not only did the General lose his credibility, but his forces lost a good chunk of their territory, just to watch radical groups putting the moderates on the brink of total collapse. History, if written truthfully, will detail the story of the errors of the Obama Administration in managing its role in the Syrian crisis. But until this is done, the fate of General Idriss is being decided by the radicals, their backers, and disheartened lieutenants.
Idriss himself committed some terrible mistakes as well. He now attributes these mistakes to the narrow margin of maneuverability available to him, given the diverse powers involved in the Syrian file. But he avoided the unpleasant task of explaining publicly the dire situation his forces faced between the hammer of the generously-assisted jihadist radicals and the anvil of forgotten and broken promises from Washington.
There are also good reasons to believe that the General tried to navigate, albeit naively, between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and in the end, lost both. Doha and Riyadh realized early on that the General was depending on unreliable promises from Washington, and that the US would not support him. This encouraged both not only to cool their ties to Idriss but also to build their own bases in Syria—at the expense of the Syrian Free Army.
However, the last straw that sealed the Idriss’ fate was a decision by the chiefs of the intelligence services in the US, Saudi Arabia and others to move in a different direction and devise a new plan after the total failure of Geneva II. This direction is based on trying to change the balance of power on the ground to force Bashar Al Assad to a more flexible grounds or to topple him by force altogether.
MEB earlier reported that the diplomatic approach suffered a built-in flaw—the disparity in the balance of power on the ground that gave Al Assad less incentive to offer any concessions. It was impossible to compensate at the negotiating table for the decreasing weight of the opposition and the efforts at isolating the radical groups in the opposition camp, even with the addition of Russia’s attempts.
The new plan to change the balance of power includes preparation to ship large quantities of Pakistani and Chinese arms from Islamabad to the Syrian battle fields. The forces to receive these shipments are to be scrutinized by the Saudis in coordination with the US. The new plan indicates that 1) the US Administration has given up on the diplomatic approach, 2) Washington now understands that a real change in the actual balance of power on the ground is needed before dealing with diplomatic options, and 3) Saudi Arabia and the US have reached an understanding on how to structure the opposition and the channels to arm its groups.