How Long Can the Free Syrian Army Hold Off Its Islamist Rivals?

(New Republic) Tyler Golson - Walid al-Boustani led an ill-fated "Islamic Emirate of Homs" that lasted only a few weeks. Apparently the locals did not appreciate having an "emir" who kidnapped and murdered their people while claiming to wage jihad against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And so in March 2012 a local brigade of the Free Syrian Army executed the Lebanese-born al-Boustani. The incident is part of a larger clash - the struggle between Syria's two main armed opposition groups. It's important to know that the rebel groups with an Islamist political agenda - that the U.S. and its allies have decided not to support - are distrusted by the Syrian people themselves. Compounding Syrians' ideological unease with jihadists is the widespread concern that Islamist groups have either been infiltrated by, or are directly working for, the Syrian regime. Boustani's "trial" and execution by the FSA stirred considerable speculation among Arab audiences, who focused on his ties to a discredited al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group back in Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam, which is widely believed to be a tool of Syrian intelligence. Any jihadist group emerging in Syria today - especially one whose operations and rhetoric so neatly validate the regime's narrative of a terrorist conspiracy - is immediately suspected of being a government creation.

2012-06-29 00:00:00

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