Syria’s al-Qaeda, pro or anti-Assad?

By: Adib Abdulmajid


With the start of the ongoing ‘crisis’ in Syria, the country’s dictator insisted that the popular uprising is 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 is 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 over six months since its beginning in March 2011, the pro-regime forces’ brutal crackdown against civilians to quell the uprising left no option but carrying weapons and starting 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 Assad forces− is capable 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 the 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, rising 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 clashes 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 Ismalic 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 to provide efficient weapons and military support to the opposition’s armed wing (the FSA) or not 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 continuing 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 against the ‘Sunni’ population, why did they turn their back to the ‘hot front’ with Assad army in the suburb of Aleppo and Homs and resorted 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 −in Sere Kaniye/Ras al-Ain, Gire Sipi/Tel Abyad and other areas with a majority of Kurds. 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 support any Kurdish political current in Syria. All of that and the observer is yet 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 condemns the Syrian regime’s massacres against civilians that 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. Abdulmajid is currently the editor-in-chief of the Syrian Independent Press Agency.

This article is published first by ARA News

Opinions do not necessarily reflect the view of ARA News


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