The question of who the Syrian rebel “good guys” are has been a matter of weeks of discussion across the Vienna talks, and Russia has faced repeated allegations of hitting the wrong rebels. Efforts to come up with some sort of proper list, however, haven’t going very well.
But Russia seems to believe France is in a good position to do that, and yesterday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked Francois Hollande to provide him a map that lists where all the rebels who aren’t Islamists and who are fighting ISIS are, so they can avoid bombing them.
It’s a tall order, with a lot of the US-coalition seemingly estimating a rebel faction’s “moderate” nature on whether or not it is anti-Russia. Yet Hollande’s efforts to come up with a grand coalition puts him in a position more interested in coming up with a settlement and, because of recent US deference in the wake of the Paris attacks, means if France comes up with a proper list, the US probably won’t vehemently disagree.
The big question though is whether France actually can come up with such a map, as like most nations they don’t appear to have a great handle on the goings-on inside Syria, and the rebel-interrelations are often complex, with groups like the Free Syrian Army (FSA) split into literally hundreds of factions, some secular moderates and some al-Qaeda-backed suicide bombers.