The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has offered the Western governments battling ISIS an alliance “to fight terrorism”.
But as the Independent's Kim Sengupta put it at the end of September, Assad is now fighting the “enemy he always wanted”.
From the start of anti-Assad struggle in Syria, the regime has worked to strengthen Sunni-sectarian and radical Islamist forces in order to position itself as the champion of non-Sunni Syrians. With the help of foreign (Saudi, Qatari, UAE) aid for some of the Sunni jihadis, it has largely succeeded in transforming the country's democratic revolution into a sectarian conflict, silencing the big minority or maybe majority who want a non-sectarian democracy.
Obviously Assad and co. would like to re-establish control over the whole of Syria. Given that this is not currently possible, the role of the radical Sunni-sectarians, particularly ISIS, is in some ways helpful to them, weakening what remains of more democratic, secular and simply moderate opposition forces and pushing non-Sunnis (and maybe even some Sunnis) into at least passivity towards the regime.
Moreover, the Syrian state continues to carry out its own terrorism against the Syrian people, and on a massive scale. With backing from Russia and Iran, the regime seems to hope it can eventually turn the military tide in its favour — and so it keeps killing. In turn this boosts ISIS and other jihadi groups.
In the last month the Assad regime has taken advantage the focus of international attention on ISIS to step up its attacks on civilians. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring network of activists and doctors which documents atrocities on all sides of the conflict, the two weeks to 2 November saw it drop 401 barrel bombs — bombs typically constructed from large oil drums, gas cylinders or water tanks, filled with high explosives and scrap metal or nails and/or chemicals, causing vast devastation and heavy civilian casualties. There is plenty of evidence of deliberate targeting of civilians, including schools and hospitals.
SOHR says that over 1,900 have died inside the regime's detention and torture facilities since the start of 2014. This number included 27 children younger than 18. Many tens of thousands, at least, are currently being held.
The UN puts the total number of casualties in the war so far as about 190,000. At the most conservative count 60,000 are civilians deaths, of which about 10,000 are children – a substantial majority killed by the regime.
Since early 2013, we have argued that victory for the dominant military-political forces opposing Assad would not be a victory for democracy or workers' interests. Instead we need to support what democratic, secular or non-sectarian and leftist groups there are against the main military contenders.
The rise of ISIS makes the necessity of such a position stronger than ever. But that is all the more reason for the left and everyone who cares about human rights to increase the volume of our protests against the violent brutality of the Syrian state.