Posted by Matthew Barber on Sunday, April 27th, 2014
by Matthew Barber
Make sure to view this amazing video published by Vice News, entitled “Wolves of the Valley.” The video contains daring reporting by Aris Roussinos (@arisroussinos) who entered Idlib to bring us an interesting picture of the front-line in the conflict between ISIS and SRF fighters.
Vice’s posting of the video is here.
Roussinos also has an article about the situation, published yesterday, here.
In the video, one of the leading SRF fighters gives “a message” to Muslims in the West emphasizing that they do not want new fighters to join them in Syria. He says they have enough men and don’t need more. They do discuss their need for weapons, however, and the video gives an interesting look at equipment and training materials provided to the fighters by the U.S. One of the men describes participating in a weapons training program in Turkey and Qatar. After completing the training, the men return to Syria and receive shipments of weapons. Only those who participate in the training receive weapons, the fighter claims, and he says that the weapons are for “fighting Da’ash” rather that for fighting the regime.
The tactics of ISIS are renounced as un-Islamic by the SRF fighter speaking to Roussinos. He attacks such practices as decapitation and extracting jizya from Christians.
Along with this effort to self-market as “moderate” comes the practice of denigrating ISIS (who, as everyone knows, represents the very antithesis of “moderate”), and amusingly, the commander does denigrate them… as Shiites “who have nothing to do with Islam.” There’s something inherently ironic about leveling the accusation of “Shiism” against al-Qaida groups: first, no one has targeted Shiites with more violence than al-Qaida, and second, one of the defining features of al-Qaida’s immoral character is the intolerance that typifies their ideology. The problem isn’t that they’re “this” or “that,” but that they’re willing to kill those who are “this” or “that.” So judging them because they are “Shiites”—beyond the categorical inaccuracy—seems to betray the fact that even the rebel enemies of ISIS are more influenced than they’d like to admit by the intolerant outlook of al-Qaida itself.
At one point in the film, Roussinos visits a number of prisoners being held by the SRF, among whom are captured ISIS members. They require the men to view a video of a recent mass execution of civilians performed by ISIS and then ask the prisoners if this behavior is Islamic. One of the prisoners in this scene can be heard responding to the accusations of his captors in another video that was posted online a little over a month ago, after his capture:
In this video, the fighters are arguing about the first Lattakia offensive that occurred last August, because the events leading up to it were partly what led to the beginning of the war between ISIS and other rebels groups. Though the Syria National Coalition tried to take credit when the offensive began, calling it part of the Syrian Revolution, it soon became clear that it was masterminded by the al-Qaida franchises. FSA participants were the followers, only joining up after the Islamists spearheaded the campaign. (Here is a video of Salim Idriss visiting the front as a gesture of participation.)
In the video, they argue over who lost more fighters, then the SRF commander says to the captured ISIS fighter: “Why did [ISIS] choose that time to invade? You know why? Because Abu Ayman al-Iraqi was suppose to be presented to a shari’a court for killing Abu Bassir, and he asked for 3 days after which ‘under shari’a I will surrender myself.’ So he started this battle to divert attention and people lost martyrs; we lost 230 martyrs in this failed battle you’re talking about and we suffered 300 injuries and everybody had to focus on themselves.” The ISIS fighter then says he admits that Abu Ayman al-Iraqi killed Abu Bassir without cause, and also that he doesn’t understand why they killed Abu Khaled al-Suri.
What we see here is that the SRF fighters blame ISIS for starting a battle that FSA fighters felt obligated to join, but which ultimately failed and resulted in heavy losses. They are also accusing ISIS of starting the first Lattakia offensive as a distraction to evade the question of justice following their killing of Abu Bassir, an FSA field commander.
Al-Qaeda Is Dead, Long Live Al-Qaeda by Jean-Pierre Filiu
Since the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaeda group—which is now led by bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri—typically has been seen as a complex of overlapping “franchises” that together make up the core of a global jihadi movement.
But this is no longer true. The former Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda has now superseded bin Laden’s network to become the more important driving force behind the global jihad in its current guise as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The key to understanding current jihadi dynamics is not which group Zawahiri is prepared to bless or banish but which forces tolerate or fight the ISIL.
It is time to forget about Zawahiri, because it is now the ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is the most important inspiration for global jihad. …
… The UN estimates the number of foreign fighters in Syria at a minimum of 7,000. Not all of them join the ISIL, but its recruiters are roaming the Turkish borders to catch inexperienced volunteers and use them as cannon fodder for their global propaganda and suicide attacks. Syria is far more accessible than any jihadi battlefield in the past, and the ISIL is now bracing for a sustained global campaign from the core of the Middle East.
The foreign recruits will not significantly enhance the ISIL’s fighting force in the current battles in Syria. Instead, they are basically a trump card to magnify the international outreach of Baghdadi’s networks—first in the jihadi diaspora and later as potential operatives in their home countries. The Sinai-based jihadi faction known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which is presently the most active jihadi group in Egypt, has already endorsed the ISIL, and many others are also tempted to switch publicly their allegiance from Zawahiri to Baghdadi. The clock is ticking—and it is no longer only about Syria.
… “There were men in civilian clothes on motorcycles shouting ‘Ali is on your side’,” one man said, referring to a key figure in Shi’ite tradition. “People started fleeing their homes, leaving behind the elders and young men and those who refused to leave. The militias then stormed the houses. They pulled out the young men and summarily executed them.” …
What Would the Fall of Homs Mean? – Aron Lund
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi gives an interesting lecture on the various jihadi factions of Syria, their origins and conflicts, here
If Assad Wins War, Challenge From His Own Sect May Follow – Anne Barnard
Syrian rebels launched their biggest offensive yesterday against thousands of jihadists in the north who have used terrorist tactics and imposed strict Islamic rules on minorities.
About 1,500 members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were involved in the push towards the city of Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), according to an opposition spokesman. …