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Daesh Makes Gains as Western-Backed Rebels Turn Guns on One Another

© AP Photo / Khalil HamraFree Syrian Army fighters clean their weapons and check ammunition at their base on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria.
Free Syrian Army fighters clean their weapons and check ammunition at their base on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. - Sputnik International
Throughout the Syrian crisis, the United States and its Western allies have propped up rebel groups fighting against the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad. But those factions are beginning to turn on each other, and the confusion is helping Daesh, also known as ISIL/The Islamic State.

The United States and its allies — Turkey, in particular — have funneled massive stockpiles of weapons to various rebel groups, hoping they would help fight Daesh. But new reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggest that those guns are instead being pointed at each other.

In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, as the U.S. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, launched its first airstrikes by Turkey-based F-16 fighter jets against Islamic State targets in Syria - Sputnik International
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The infighting is occurring principally near the town of Azaz, near Aleppo along the Turkish border.

"The Levant Front and the others are in dispute over who should control the Azaz area, and so you have this fighting between them, and the Jaysh al-Thuwwar and the [Kurdish YPG]," one combatant told Reuters.

"This is strife between Jaysh al-Thuwwar and the Kurds, with the [Free Syrian Army] FSA factions."

The Free Syrian Army is a group with close ties to Turkey, while YPG and Jaysh al-Thuwwar are both part of a new Washington-backed alliance known as the Democratic Forces of Syria.

"Turkish groups against US groups — it’s odd," Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.

US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande hold a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 24, 2015 - Sputnik International
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That infighting is clearly a problem for the US and Turkey, two allies essentially fighting a proxy war against themselves, but it’s also a major problem for the broader fight against Daesh. The area around Azaz is also highly prized by the terrorist group, and by manipulating the infighting, Daesh may very well gain control of the territory.

"The winner in all this fighting is likely to be ISIS," Jason Ditz writes for AntiWar, using an alternative name for Daesh, "as they are also moving forces into the same area, and seem to be planning to just pick up the pieces of whichever faction ultimately wins this battle, and claim the valuable border-crossing."

Throughout the conflict, Russia has stressed the need to support the legitimate government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the only effective means of preventing the spread of terrorism.

London Mayor Boris Johnson leaves after placing flowers at the Bataclan concert hall to pay tribute to the shooting victims in Paris, France, December 3, 2015. - Sputnik International
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While Washington and its allies have insisted that the ousting of Assad is crucial to ending the conflict, Moscow has maintained that Syria’s future should be left for the Syrian people to determine.

A number of Western leaders are beginning to agree that the West should cooperate with Russia to end the conflict.

"I don’t want to have them on my conscience, and I don’t want these sickos from Daesh/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to continue to exult in their so-called caliphate, and to be allowed indefinitely to promote their terrorist campaigns," London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph.

"…We cannot afford to be picky about our allies," he added.

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