Syria’s al-Qaeda: pro or anti-Assad?

Adib Abdulmajid

By Adib Abdulmajid :

With the start of the ongoing ‘crisis’ in Syria, the country’s dictator insisted that the popular uprising was nothing but a mere conspiracy by imperialistic international forces aiming to destroy the alleged anti-Zionist “state of defiance”. As the dictator’s anti-West story of “conspiracy” didn’t fill the gap, the Syrian regime resorted to the interesting issue of terrorism in order to convince the world that Syria was being exposed to an unexpected campaign by a number of fundamentalist groups intending to establish an ‘Islamic state’ on the ruins of the country.

Although the popular anti-Assad uprising remained unarmed for over six months from its beginning in March 2011, the pro-regime forces’ brutal crackdown against civilians to quell the uprising left no option but to carry weapons and start an armed rebellion, leading to the most devastating war in Syria’s history and resulting in more than 100,000 ‘registered’ victims, and the two-year-old war continues as no party − neither the armed opposition forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) nor the Assad forces− is able to take over the country and impose control.

Undoubtedly, chaos is the most appropriate environment for extremist groups to grow stronger. As the security vacuum and chaos started prevailing across the exhausted state of Syria, extremist Islamic groups −al-Qaeda affiliated− got organized, trying to accomplish the long-aspired dream of founding an ‘Islamic state’, no matter in which area. Are we turning back to Assad’s early story? What was hidden behind his alleged ‘anticipation’? Didn’t Damascus’ dictator know what could be the outcome of the brutality of his security forces and military troops against civilians?

The main question remains whether the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group serves the rebels or the regime in Syria. Certainly, the group has its own agenda in the war-torn country; however, since this agenda is a quite foreign one to the Syrians and lacks popular support in the country, the group should have entered the Syrian scenery through either the rebels or the regime. Although the fingers of blame would ‘spontaneously’ be directed to the former, the latter is the biggest beneficiary from the presence of such Islamic armed groups in Syria.

On the one hand, these internationally-opposed extremist Islamic groups attract the attention of media and international powers very easily, increasing the fears of a growing role of such ‘terrorist’ groups that could become a regional −and even international− threat. Regardless of the Syrian people’s cause and the reason why Syrian rebels started an armed rebellion against the Assad regime, when such extremist armed groups as Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) are fighting on the ground in Syria, the Assad war −even though against Syrian people− becomes ‘justifiable’ and the regime’s position becomes relatively stronger on the international arena.

On the other hand the recent rifts and clashed that occurred between Islamist groups and Syrian rebels of the FSA indicate a remarkable dispute among both parties. Weeks ago, al-Qaeda linked militia in Syria executed one of the FSA rebel’s most prominent leaders and member of the opposition’s Supreme Military Council, Kamal Hamami, in Latakia. The incident led to several clashes between the Syrian rebels and Islmaic fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in several areas. Amid these clashes between rebels and Islamists, the pro-Assad troops continued their advance in the suburb of Damascus, committing several massacres against civilians while the world was busy with the danger of al-Qaeda’s growing power in Syria.

The international fear of a larger power of Islamic groups in Syria and the region is still growing, while Assad has reportedly used chemical weapons against civilians for the 14th time last week. The international community remains reluctant whether or not to provide efficient weapons and military support to the opposition’s armed wing (the FSA) because of the fears that these weapons could fall in the hands of al-Qaeda in Syria, while the FSA rebels have already started fighting against Islamists of al-Qaeda on one front, beside their continued conflict against the pro-Assad forces on the other.

Another remaining question is: since the Islamist groups that are currently active in Syria −such as al-Nusra Front and ISIS− oppose the Assad regime and its suppression of the ‘Sunni’ population, why did they turn their back on the ‘hot front’ with the Assad army in the suburb of Aleppo and Homs and resort to al-Raqqa in the east in order to impose their Islamic law (Shariaa) on the residents of the freed city? Why are the Islamic groups of al-Nusra and ISIS fighting the Kurds in their areas −where Assad’s forces do not exist anymore− while people are under fire in Damascus?

Recently, the Islamic armed groups opened a new front against the Syrian Kurds northern Syria. Houses of Kurdish residents were stormed by al-Nusra and ISIS fighters, a number of Kurdish youth were killed under the pretext of being “impious”, civilians were detained if it was confirmed that they supported any Kurdish political current in Syria. All of that and yet the observer is supposed to believe that those non-Syrian Islamic groups −joined by some Syrians− entered the country to regain the people’s dignity and fight side by side with Syrians against the tyrant regime.

Ironically, the international community still expresses its concerns about the situation in Syria, fearing the ‘horrible’ potential outcome of this devastating war, concerned about the future of Syria’s ancient archaeological sites, worried about the ‘destiny’ of the chemical weapons in Syria, anxious regarding the influence of the Islamic armed groups on Syria and the region in the coming days, and condemning the Syrian regime’s massacres against civilians that have led so far to “no more than” 100,000 casualties. However, no intention to take any action.

Adib Abdulmajid is a Syrian journalist based in the Netherlands. As a member of the International Federation of journalists, Abdulmajid’s articles were published in several online and printed newspapers in English, Arabic and Dutch.

Copyright © 2013

4 Responses to Syria’s al-Qaeda: pro or anti-Assad?
  1. kuvan Bamarny
    July 25, 2013 | 18:29

    The fight between Assad regime and salafi Islamic group has roots of hate and grudges that goes back to the Massacre of Hama in 1982 when, Hafiz al-Assad, besieged the town of Hama for 27 days and killed thousands of Sunnis slafi Moslem in that city in 1982 in order to quell an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood against al-Assad’s government.
    The two groups( alawits and salafi Sunnis ) were opposed to each other in important ways. The Bath party was secular, nationalist and led by the minority Alawites,considers the Muslim Brotherhood,as the enemy of Alawaits shia like some other Sunnis Islamist groups,yet the salafi Sunnis Islamic groups has the same idea about and more as they see the Alawait regime of Assad as not nationalist ,un-Islamic and and against the religion but also secular and heretics.
    The Ba’ath Party of Syria, which advocated the ideologies of Arab nationalism and Arab socialism had clashed with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with a conservative ideology, since 1940.
    Also foreigners hands including the neighboring countries that have their own agenda and interests in Syria, have been supporting either side and playing a major role to help their own beneficial side win the war so that they implement their own agenda in Syria.

    • Paul
      July 28, 2013 | 05:23

      I think it actually goes back to hundreds of years of Sunni persecution, which is the same deal in Iraq. Geez I wonder why they don’t want to hand power back over to Sunnis after 40 years in power compared to hundreds of years of persecutions. I am sad Kurds do not understand that perspective. Iraqi Sunnis slaughtered and oppressed Shiites for eternity but 2 years of Shiite control in an emerging democracy and the majority of Sunnis in polls support Al Qaeda’s campaign which blows up little kids in crowded Marketplaces. That view is worse than White supremacy could ever be. Even in Lebanon Sunnis and Christians treated Shiites as literal dogs then sunnis bitch when Hezbollah get whats happening and head into get Al Nusra and Al Qeada. It’s the sunni inability to understand severe Shiite persecution which is the problem. Hama began with massive assassinations that day of very important Alawites, at that time the same would of happened to Saudi Arabias ACTUALLY repressed people.
      The Wests moves in steps there is little doubt Sunnis are the danger, Madrid, 911, Bali, the list goes on. Shiites do not do that. The simple first plan is disarming Irans nuclear capabilities. The policies written, trust me they will move on to Sunnis after.

  2. heval
    August 2, 2013 | 02:35

    Adib seems to be pushing his agenda of further foreigh intervention in syria. The Al Nusra terrorist are attacking kurds because they want to impose their extreme islamic beliefs on Kurds and thus ensuring Kurds are Arabized. Btw I do not undersatnd how Adib can state these groups are internationally opposed when Saudi-Turkey-Qatar are their backers. Kurdistan Tribune please stop publishing this puppet of foreign intervention. Foreign intervention is what brought the Cecens and other jihadis to Syria to murder Kurds!!!

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