‘US air cover to Syrian rebels could be game-changer ‘

A man walks along a damaged street in the al-Katerji district in Aleppo, Syria July 29, 2015. © Abdalrhman Ismail
If the US puts its weight behind the Pentagon-trained rebels in their fight against the Assad government would neutralize the only advantage the Syrian Army has over the rebels, i.e. an air force, journalist and political commentator Alaa Ibrahim told RT.

Barack Obama has given authorization for US planes to bomb Syria to help defend anti-government rebels. Theoretically, the new rules of engagement could even allow troops loyal to President Bashar Assad to be directly targeted.

READ MORE: Taking sides in Syrian civil war? Obama authorizes airstrikes ‘to defend’ US-trained rebels

RT: US officials admit they'll target anyone to protect the Pentagon-trained forces. Could they use this chance to try and depose Assad?

Alaa Ibrahim: I’ve been trying to talk with the government officials all day today - people and socials who are close to the Syrian government - because my first thought would be to know what the Syrian government have in mind regarding this issue, which could be, according to many political analysts, a game-changer if it is used against the forces of the Syrian government and the forces of the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

If the USA puts its weight behind the rebels, even as they say now, a small rebel force they have trained and better to fight [Islamic State or IS, formerly ISIS or] ISIL- if they put this weight behind the rebels and their fight against the government of President Assad, this could be very dangerous for the Syrian Army, because the main advantage it has over rebels right now is having an air force and once this advantage is neutralized- all odds are on the table and there would be little [that] Syrian Army has to offer in confronting these rebel groups, as the rebels are more capable of providing a higher number of fighters because of the ongoing influx of foreign fighters crossing in from the Turkey into Syria to join in the fight against the Syrian government.

RT: US intelligence admits that IS is as strong now as it was a year ago when the coalition began bombing the group. IS’s territory has become much larger. Does the Pentagon think more airstrikes will help?

AI: This is a very tricky situation... Was ISIL affected by the coalition airstrikes against it across Iraq and Syria? Yes. Were the airstrikes decisive and diminishing ISIL’s capacity? No. ISIL up to this moment is capable of mobilizing troops and moving them along long ranges. Sometimes in the attack on Palmyra they managed to move 1,800 fighters for over 200km undetected by the coalition satellites of the coalition air force.

Kurdish fighters gesture while carrying their parties' flags in Tel Abyad of Raqqa governorate after they said they took control of the area June 15, 2015. © Rodi Said

So as a result, ISIL lost some of its capabilities, but its capabilities were not drastically diminished. And we have to take into consideration that the main concern here is not the fact that the rebel force trained by the US against ISIL would make achievements using the protection of the coalition’s air force; it is the interference of the coalition and the airstrikes of the coalition against the government forces, against the forces of Assad, which could turn the course of events in Syria. The rebel forces have not been able to achieve anything against ISIL in the past few months. Kurdish militia has made little gains against ISIL despite ongoing air coverage from the coalition led by the USA.

RT: US and Turkish air forces are establishing so-called safe zones in Syria. In 2011, the Western intervention in Libya also started with an aerial operation aimed at creating a no-fly zone. Can we expect Syria to see a fate similar to Libya's?

AL: The coalition led by the US depends on the Kurdish militias - for example, northern Syria - to fight ISIL and provides air coverage for Kurdish militias to bomb ISIL. Turkey has joined the alliance and has carried [out] airstrikes not only against ISIL, but also against the Kurdish militias. Many people fear that this could be the introduction of something much worse for the country - not maybe the no-fly zone, maybe dividing the country in a de facto way where the rebels would assume control of certain parts of the country with the air coverage of the coalition of Turkey, and then the Syrian government is unable to enter these areas, is unable to bomb these areas.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.