Who do Syria’s extremists work for?

Extremists have fought to take over areas which the FSA had previously liberated from the government

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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They murdered Mohammad al-Hamami and Abu Baseer, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) officer who was fighting against the government in Latakia. They also killed Mohammad Jahar and Mohammad al-Qadi, military men who defected from the Syrian armed forces on the Syrian-Turkish borders. Additionally, they executed Mohammad Fares Maroush, an FSA leader. With their trademark brutality, they also beheaded a battalion leader in ad-Dana and overran the town. They also murdered two FSA officers who were guarding an armory in Bab al-Hawa and took over the warehouse. They killed Abdelqader al-Salah, leader of the al-Tawhid battalion, after targeting his headquarters with a missile.

They abducted tens of FSA leaders and officers, including Ali Billo from the Battalion of Syria’s liberals and al-Hayani from the Battalion of Badr martyrs. They did the same with an FSA leader in Atma. They abducted Father Paolo, one of the most prominent Christian leaders who sympathizes with the revolution, as well as two other bishops. They bolstered the government’s propaganda by kidnapping the nuns in Maaloula. They kidnapped 12 journalists and media activists, including colleagues who dedicated two years of their lives to serve the revolution via the media. A few days ago, they captured human rights activists, including the lawyer Razan Zaitouneh. They served Assad by targeting one of his major enemies, intellectual Yassine Salah. They also kidnapped Salah’s brother Fares and his wife Samira al-Khalil.

The ISIS and the al-Nusra Front have accomplished infiltrating the FSA and have distorted the revolution’s image by intimidating the Syrian people and the world

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front have fought to take over areas which the FSA had previously liberated from the government. Such areas include ar-Raqqah, Aaazaz, Jarblas, Maskna in the Aleppo countryside, Atmeh in the Idlib countryside, Sarmda and the headquarters of the al-Farouq brigades and the 313 brigade.

Who is behind this?

Their latest victory was the seizure of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, two weeks ago. Last year, the FSA fought the government’s forces for months in order to liberate this crossing.

Such achievements cannot be attributed to the Syrian government but are instead the acts of extremist organizations like the ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and the Syrian Islamic Front.

They have succeeded in proving Bashar al-Jaafari, Assad’s envoy to the U.N., true regarding his allegation that those fighting against the Syrian government are mere murderers and takfirists.

It is not possible to believe that such groups wish to topple Assad or wish to go to heaven. It is certain that these groups are managed by the Syrian government and its Iranian allies in much the same manner that the former managed the Fatah al-Islam group in Lebanon, encouraging it to ally with Hezbollah and fight against its rivals.

The al-Nusra Front and the ISIS emerged at a time when Assad’s forces had been weakened. These groups became involved in the war around the same time the Lebanese Hezbollah militias, Iraqi al-Haq brigades and Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrived in Syria last year. All these groups targeted the FSA.

Infiltrating the FSA

The ISIS and the al-Nusra Front have also accomplished infiltrating the FSA and have distorted the revolution’s image by intimidating the Syrian people and the world.

And now, there’s the Syrian Islamic Front which has succeeded in sowing division within the FSA by encouraging three battalions to rebel against their leaders based on religious excuses.

What is confusing is that these groups are formed of Arabs and Muslims who declare their enmity towards Assad and who raise the slogan of Islam. Considering this, how can these groups commit such hideous crimes against the Syrian people and the latter’s representatives who are supposed to be fighting alongside them in the same trench?

The truth is, most of them are being deceived and are mere tools controlled by leaders linked to Iran. A number of al-Qaeda leaders still live in Iran and manage their operations in Yemen and Syria in tandem with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. These al-Qaeda leaders have done a huge favor for Assad and his government as through the ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and the Syrian Islamic Front, they have managed to besiege the FSA in many areas.

It is due to these extremist’s victories that the Americans voiced their willingness to negotiate with them under the excuse of accepting the fait accompli.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 16, 2013.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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