Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Can't live with them, can win without them
Them being the Takfiri fighters of the Syrian presence of Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They bring with them a cadre of battle hardened fighters infested with the ideas of Wahabi Islam.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the local al Qaida affiliate is known, has fast been expanding its influence across virtually all rebel-held areas in northern Syria. It’s fighting alongside its ideological ally, the Nusra Front.But these foreign fighters with their reactionary religulous ideas exact a price from those they fight with.
And it’s brought to the fight brutal tactics that marked the insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq. That’s left aid workers, Western patrons of the revolution and others jumpy about such an alliance. The jihadists’ role has at times also pitted rebel against rebel in the already chaotic and shifting battlefield in the Syrian civil war.
Both the al Qaida and Nusra groups are led by veterans of the Iraqi insurgency, and both have flirted with the tactics that ultimately alienated them among Sunnis in that country who ultimately turned against them.
Still, mainstream rebel factions have been reluctant to denounce the fierce Islamist militants they now find siding with them against the Damascus regime. That may be partly a factor of success.
When rebels early this month made the critical seizure of an airbase in Idlib province, they dealt the Syrian regime a serious blow and opened up critical supply lines for their cause. They also scored the bloody victory with the help of the al Qaida group.
“While other battalions might like to claim credit, the fact is that ISIS” – the acronym attached to the al Qaida group – “banner is flying over the main tower at the airbase,” said Aymenn Tamimi, an analyst specializing in Iraqi and Syrian jihadist groups at Oxford University. “(The Islamists are) more successful in terms of control of territory and influence than their counterparts in Iraq could ever hope to have achieved.”The Sunnis are fighting for national control of Syria while the Takfiris have other plans and if their side wins, one group will have to kill the other if they want to live in peace.
That influence took on a fractious tone last week. The al Qaida fighters grew frustrated that their ostensible rebel allies were too timid in efforts to seize the provincial capital of Raqqa. The al Qaida group dispatched a series of car bombs – not to attack regime forces, but against rebel headquarters. That was followed by ground assaults and the execution of 18 rebel fighters by the Islamists, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“They killed our commanders and took control of Raqqa, which they say will be the seat of a new Islamic state in Syria,” said one rebel commander who had fled Raqqa for the rebel-held city of Deir Azour. “These maniacs are more dangerous than the regime to me at this point.”
That commander refused to be identified even by a pseudonym because “they already want to kill me and they read all the articles about themselves in the Western press.”
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