Civilians awaiting rescue in Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital, might not actually be that thrilled about their impending liberation. That's because, as CNN reports, given the choice between liberation by the predominantly Kurdish (and U.S.-backed) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and rule under ISIS, Syrians in Raqqa may actually choose to "throw their lot" behind the terrorist group. As one tweet from the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently put it, the "strategy of taking Raqqa by SDF ... [may] push a lot of people to join ISIS."
While the inhabitants of Raqqa may not quite be enjoying life since ISIS seized the city in 2013, ethnic tensions have Raqqa's Arabs leery of their potential liberators:
Backed by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of Kurdish, Assyrian, Christian, Arab tribal and other forces. But they are dominated by the Kurdish YPG, the Popular Defense Units. In other words, it's a Kurdish armed force with a multi-ethnic façade, and the Arabs of Raqqa could well be worried about their intentions in a post-ISIS Syria. [CNN]
The conundrum is one deeply rooted in history. The Kurds have long been suspected of trying to create a separate state from Syria and Iraq, CNN notes, which has Raqqa residents wary; when they see a predominantly Kurdish force coming to clear the countryside north of the city, the question arises of whether they're truly coming to rescue them, or just to take their land. Thus far, the SDF has promised its efforts are not aimed at the city itself.