Al-Qaeda Extremists Are Leading the Syrian Insurgency

(New Statesman-UK) Shiraz Maher - On Feb. 9, Syrian rebel commander Hashem al-Sheikh announced the creation of a powerful, extremist-dominated entity known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or the "Committee for the Liberation of the Levant." One of the main groups that joined the new committee is Nur al-Din al-Zenki, once backed by the CIA as "vetted," though this designation was later revoked. Far more significant was the folding into HTS of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which until July was known as Jabhat al-Nusrah - and which represented al-Qaeda on the ground in Syria. Capitalizing on ordinary Syrians' hatred of Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda has pursued an audacious line of messaging that seeks to portray the group in Syria as a responsible actor that follows a "middle path." Al-Sheikh, the HTS leader, declared Shias "the enemy," cursed Alawites (the sect to which Assad belongs) and called for hostilities against the "forces of Zoroastrianism" (used as a pejorative reference to Iran). This marks a dangerous pivot in the Syrian Revolution. The ascendency of HTS heralds an end for the opposition's backers in both the West and the Gulf, who will shy away from supporting an alliance that so brazenly incorporates a former al-Qaeda affiliate. Already, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Turkey have suspended support to moderate rebel groups, fearing that supplies will fall into the hands of extremists. The writer is a senior research fellow at King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

2017-03-15 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive