The Muslim Civil War Reaches Syria

The past few months have seen an interesting reversal. For a while, it looked like the pessimists might be right and that the big winners of the Arab Spring were the Islamists instead of the secular liberals. But in the past month, the secularists have rallied, most spectacularly in Egypt.

As I observed last month, “the region’s educated middle class is beginning to discover that the War on Terrorism wasn’t just the West’s invented conflict with Islam. They are beginning to realize that they have to fight the Islamists, too.”

Now we’re starting to see signs of this in another country where it’s really needed: Syria.

The big argument against supporting the rebels in Syria is that the rebellion had supposedly been taken over by Islamists. As I observed last month, though, there is still a large secular component in Syria’s rebellion; the Islamists have mostly poured in recently to fill the vacuum created by the Obama administration’s dithering. And there has been a lot of tension building between the people and the Islamists. Now that tension is boiling over.

The SOBs who join al-Qaeda are such lovely fellows that they have a tendency to lose friends and alienate people everywhere they go in the Middle East, and Syria is no exception.

“In Raqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands, the Al-Nusra Front [Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate] is accused of detaining dozens of men….

“‘We reject this oppressive brand of Islam…. We are Muslims. You’re just fakes,’ a woman protester cried in another video from Raqa, demanding the release of the men held by Nusra.

“Activists in the city also point to the disappearance of Abdallah al-Khalil, a veteran dissident and human rights activist. ‘Khalil was about to open up council elections to the whole of Raqa. Al-Nusra was against the idea. He disappeared the next day,’ an activist from Raqa told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

“‘Although their methods differ from the regime’s, they are just as brutal. As they get more powerful militarily, they do whatever it takes to stem the growth of freedom in liberated (rebel-held) areas. They want power, not democracy.’…

“In Idlib province in the northwest, whose borders with Turkey have allowed foreign jihadists to join the fighting in numbers, dozens of mainstream rebels were killed in a battle with ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting broke out after rebels protested against the detention by the jihadists of a 12-year-old boy accused of uttering a blasphemous phrase….

“Nizar, an activist from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, said: ‘Time is running out for all these (jihadist) groups.’

“‘They use violence and religion to try control us and, although people are afraid to openly express their dissent, no one wants them.'”

Notice the same pattern here as elsewhere in the Middle East. The Islamists promise to deliver the rule of virtue on earth while actually delivering oppression, brutality, and rule by force. But morality ends where a gun begins, and the Islamist reign of terror is so obviously, viscerally the opposite of morality that they soon lose all moral authority and are denounced by the common man as “fake” Muslims.

Late last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda front group, assassinated a leader of the Free Syrian Army, the secular rebel confederation.

“Better known as Abu Bassir al-Jeblawi, rebel chief Kamal Hamami was shot dead Thursday by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), one of the main jihadist groups operating in Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“He was killed when ISIS fighters tried to destroy an FSA checkpoint in the Jabal al-Turkman region, in the north of Latakia province….

“Anti-Assad activists living in rebel areas are increasingly turning their attention to creating anti-ISIS campaigns, as the group’s abuses multiply.”

So far, the jihadists have had the better of this conflict, but now the Free Syrian Army has responded by declaring war on the jihadists.

“Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“‘We will not let them get away with it because they want to target us,’ a senior FSA commander said on condition of anonymity after members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant killed Kamal Hamami on Thursday. ‘We are going to wipe the floor with them,’ he said.”

This was the basic pattern of al-Qaeda involvement in Iraq. They were welcomed as allies by the local insurgents, but turned out to be so brutal and oppressive that eventually the locals switched sides and joined with the American infidels to drive out al-Qaeda. Which implies that now is the time to rapidly increase our supply of weapons and training to the secular rebels to achieve a similar result, flipping the result of Syria’s civil war in our favor.

As Michael Totten concludes:

“It has been obvious for some time now that if Bashar al-Assad is overthrown, the next big Syrian war will be fought between Al Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army. There’s no room for both. (There’s no room for anyone to co-exist peacefully with Al Qaeda.)

“It made a certain amount of sense for them to wait until Assad is out of the way, but they might start fighting sooner than that.”

That makes it a three-way war now in Syria, but that’s not exactly unprecedented. Totten has written about how Syria’s war is going to look more and more like Lebanon’s 15-year civil war—which, as I seem to recall, was a nine-way war at its worst.

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