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Friday, August 9, 2013

Foreign Islamist Fighters Spreading Quickly in Syria.


HISTORY IN THE NEWS

Dedicated to the background of contemporary events around the world. 


Syria



 
IN BRIEF: The militant jihadist movement in Syria's civil war looks back to the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982. Many Syrian Islamist fighters are also veterans of the the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
IN THE NEWS:   ACCORDING TO THE NEW YORK TIMES, SYRIA MAY BE DEVELOPING INTO THE MOST SERIOUS TERROR THREAT IN THE WORLD. AS THE CIVIL WAR RAGES, THOUSANDS OF FOREIGN ISLAMIST FIGHTERS, CHIEF AMONG THEM AL QAEDA AND ITS OFFSHOOTS, HAVE CARVED OUT CORNERS OF TERRITORY IN THEIR UNDOUBTED ATTEMPTS TO MAKE SYRIA AN ISLAMIC EMIRATE. INTERMIXED EVERYWHERE WITH SECULARISTS LIKE THE 'FREE SYRIAN ARMY,' ULTRA VIOLENT AND HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL ISLAMIST FIGHTERS ARE MAKING IT NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE WEST TO SUPPLY SECULAR AND MODERATE ELEMENTS IN THE OPPOSITION. TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, ISLAMISTS AND NON-ISLAMISTS HAVE BEGUN TO COOPERATE.


THE FACTS: 


-there has been a sectarian Sunni conscious in Syria since the 1930s, when France used 'divide and rule' by encouraging sectarian division and turning the Sunnis against other groups like the Shia, the Druzes, Christians and Jews.

-many Sunnis have not forgotten the uprising of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in Hama of the early 1980s.  Hafez al Assad, father of the current president, ended the uprising, at the cost of the city itself and tens of thousands if lives. 



-Sunni militants have come to regard President Assad not simply as a secularist tyrant, but as an Alawite. The Alawites are an offshoot of the Shia, whom militant Suinnis regard as apostates. 

-the thinking of Syrian Jihadi groups draws on  Saudi Arabian Wahabbism, the 18th century movement to purify Sunni Islam and eliminate other sects like the Shia. There is also the Salafist tradition which attempts to take Sunni Islam back to "ways of the ancestors," that is, to return religious practice to the simple rule of the first companions of Mohammed.  



-there are numerous small Jihadist groups in Syria under a few of Umbrella Organizations. The largest of the latter are Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham. Ahrar Al Sham is currently the largest at about 15,000 members.




-Abu Musab Al Sur is the dominant ideologist behind the most prominent Jihadist group, Al Nusra. He was active in Afghanistan and spent time with Bin Laden during the 1980s. Afterward he worked with Islamist groups living in Spain and elsewhere in Europe before returning to the Middle east.

-today's veteran Syrian jihadists had experience fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan,  and then with Al Qaeda in Iraq during the US occupation of Iraq after 2003. So, in effect, the Syrian fighters, who have crossed from Iraq back into Syria for the Syrian 2011 uprising -have been returning home.  




IN HISTORY:
  
1930-1939- the French put down several rebellions in Syria while trying to establish their mandate and in the process they alienate much of the population. They attempt divide and through Syria's various religious groups, thereby encouraging encouraging Sunni solidarity. The Sunnis begin a Sunni Islamist protest movement.

1982-   the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood at Hama is crushed by Syrian President Hafez al Assad, killing tens of thousands.

2008-  having alienated Sunnis in Iraq and driven their fighters into the arms of the Americans, Al Qaeda changes its strategy and rhetoric to attract local support.  Al Nusra's local effectiveness in Syria is an indirect result


RELEVANT DATES for the spread of Jihadist groups in Syria.

The French Unintentionally Encourage a Sunni Islamist movement.

1930-1939- the French put down several rebellions in Syria while trying to establish their mandate and alienate much of the population. They attempt divide and through Syria's various religious groups, thereby encouraging encouraging Sunni solidarity. The Sunnis begin a Sunni Islamist protest. movement.

Al Sur- The Ideologist of Al Nusra

1980-  Abu Musab al  Sur (aka Mustafa Setmariam Nasar and the intellectual godfather of Al Nusra) joins the Combatant Vanguard organization, a radical offshoot of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood which is at the forefront in the Islamic uprising in Hama, Syria.

1982-  Al Sur joins in the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood at Hama which is crushed by Syrian President Hafez al Assad, killing tens of thousands.
 
1998-1992- Al Sur in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he claims to have been in Osama Bin Laden`s inner circle.


Afghanistan and Iraq

2000 -Syrian Jihadists fighting alongside Al Qaeda leader Zarqawi in Herat, Afghanistan.


2003- US Invasion of Iraq: "The link between al-Nusra and the AQI is logical and should not be surprising. Al-Nusra is formed of fighters who took part in the post-2003 armed campaign against US forces in Iraq, jihadists who essentially crossed into Iraq from Syria to commit terrorist atrocities against US and Iraqi targets. Most of AQI's (Al Qaeda in Iraq) fighters were foreign jihadists from neighbouring countries, in particular Syria. Al-Nusra's leader, Jawlani, has himself acknowledged that he fought in Iraq alongside AQI."- Rusi.org, April, 2013.

2005- Abu Musab al-Sur, (noted jihadi theorist followed by Al Nusra) "arrested in Pakistan, but for some reason was released and handed over to Syria when the rebel uprising began (2011). It is believed that he freely resides somewhere within Syria’s borders and his teachings are heavily influencing the strategies of the Al Nusra Front" (JN).- SOFREP, March 24, 2013.

2006- Oct 6- Islamic State In Iraq founded as an umbrella group for Sunni militant organizations including Al Qaeda.

2006- Oct 15- The Islamic State of Syrian and Iraq is formed as and umbrella group for Syrian and Iraqi Jihadi Groups.

2008-  having alienated Sunnis in Iraq and driven their fighters into the arms of the Americans, Al Qaeda changes its strategy and rhetoric to attract local support.  Al Nusra's local effectiveness in Syria is an indirect result.

The Syrian Uprising.

2011- Syrian Jihadists begin to return from Iraq for the Syrian uprising.

2011- fall- Ahrar al-Sham- is formed by Islamists released in an amnesty by Assad; it will grow to be Syria's largest umbrella group of Islamist fighters. It is allied with Al Nusra. "Politically Ahrar al-Sham has been clever. It sees the war in Syria as a battle between Sunnis and Shias and wants a Sunni-led Islamic state, but emphasises that its campaign is for Syria, not for a global jihad."- The Economist.

Al Nusra

2011- Dec.- veteran jihadists of deceased Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leave Iraq, crossing the border to Syria to join in the Arab Spring rebellion against the Assad regime. Jabhat Al Nusra (JN) claims to fight on behalf of the Syria's increasingly oppressed Sunni majority and against Syria's ruling Shia Alawite sect and its allies which include Shia Iran and the Shia Hezbollah organization and militia in Lebanon. Al Nusra is allied to Ahrar al Sham


Al Nusra (JN) Claims Many if Not Most of the Major Suicide Bombings of 2012. Many are Concentrated around Aleppo. 

(by 2013- March- JN has claimed responsibility for 57 of the 69 suicide attacks in Syria during the conflict. (Wikipedia)).

2011 December - Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44. Opposition suspects government of attacks- claimed by Al Nusra.

2012 January - Al Nusra Suicide bomber kills 26 in Damascus. Government vows ''iron fist'' response. Arab League suspends its monitoring mission because of worsening violence.

-in late January, ``the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl Ash-Sham, or the Support Front for the People of Syria, announced its formation and goal to bring down the regime of President Bashar Assad.`` -TIME.

2012- Jan 23- In its inaugural video Al Nusra claims an attack on a government  security installation in Idlib. "We are Syrian mujahideen, back from various jihad fronts to restore God's rule on the Earth and avenge the Syrians' violated honour and spilled blood," a masked man declared in the video. (BBC)

 Feb 10- Twin Al Nusra car bombs in Aleppo kill 28.

Expansion of Al Nusra (JN).





 2012- March-April- JN expands after many leading jihadists from Lebanese Fatah al-Islam and Palestinian groups joined the leadership and were able to secure sponsorship of key jihadi ideologues including Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, Sheikh Abu Muhammad. JN may be responsible for bombings carried out on this date.

 -JN seized three army checkpoints around Saraqeb at the end of October 2012, forcing the Syrian Army to withdraw from the area the next day. In the battle, 28 Syrian soldiers were killed as well as five Nusra fighters. Some of the captured soldiers were summarily executed after being called "Assad dogs". (Wikipedia)

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar

2012- Summer- Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Helpers)- is founded by Chechen fighters as a Jihadi group for foreign fighters.

Islamist Groups reject merger of Rebel forces and Opposition Groups in Qatar.

2012- Nov. 11- The deeply di­vided Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion takes a step to­ward re­newed unity, form­ing a new co­ali­tion de­signed to build stronger in­ter­na­tion­al sup­port for its goal of oust­ing the gov­ern­ment of Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad. After more than a week of some­times con­ten­tious dis­cus­sions in the Qatari cap­it­al, Doha, Syr­i­an dis­sid­ents form the Syr­i­an Na­tion­al Co­ali­tion for Op­pos­i­tion and Re­volu­tion­ary Forces.

Several major opposition forces unite as National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces at meeting in Qatar, including the Syrian National Council. Arab League stops short of full recognition, and France is the only country to recognize the Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

-Islamist militias in Aleppo, including the Al-Nusra and Al-Tawhid groups, refuse to join the Coalition, denouncing it as a "conspiracy"

The US joins Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states in Recognizing Syrian Opposition.

2012- Dec- -The US joins Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states in formally recognizing Syria's opposition National Coalition as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. President Obama says the Coalition is now inclusive, reflective and representative enough for this "big step".

US Declares Al Nusra to be a Terrorist Organization.

 Dec. 11: The Obama administration declares Al Nusra with alleged ties to al-Qaida as a terrorist organization. A group of 29 opposition groups, including both fighting units and civilian organizations signed an online petition calling for demonstrations in its support.

-2012- Dec. Al Nusra (JN) reported to have entered Lebanon:

 -by the end of 2012- Al Nusra units have become the shock troops of the armed Syrian opposition, the best armed, funded, trained and disciplined of all the rebel groups, Al Nusra can turn the tide wherever rebel lines run into trouble.

 2013- January- JN takes over the distribution of flour in Aleppo in the wake of the hoarding and sale of flour by the Syrian Free Army.  "The Nusra Front is outside the FSA and has a reputation for discipline and honesty." BBC.

 Al Nusra Numbers Around 5,000
 
-As of early 2013 al-Nusra (JN) is estimated to have around 5000 members. (Wikipedia)

March, 2013- Jihadists rebels control large parts of the three provinces that make up northeastern and are working to install the foundations for an Islamic state.Extremist rebels — mostly from large armed groups Ahrar al Sham and Jabhat al Nusra took the provincial capital of Raqqa, Syria’s sixth largest city and the first to fall into rebel hands.

2013- April 8- Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi,  leader of 'The Islamic State of Iraq' (Al Qaeda)  releases video stating that  JN leader Abu Mohammed al Golani had been sent into Syria to announce the union of JN and 'The Islamic State of Iraq. On April 9, AN leader Golani denies any such merger exists but that AN and Al Qaeda are still allies.

Aharar Al Sham Distances itself from Al Nusra; Al Nusra Splits.

From The Economist: "Hitherto the most prominent of the extreme Islamist groups has been Jabhat al-Nusra, which may have 7,000 or so fighters. But recently it has been bogged down in a power struggle with al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. After Jabhat al-Nusra’s leaders, led by Abu Muhammad al-Golani, refused to submit to his rule, the group split: a more extreme branch merged with the Iraqi brethren, forming the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. It has recently clashed with other Syrian groups, something Ahrar al-Sham has so far avoided. As Jabhat al-Nusra’s clout has weakened, Ahrar al-Sham’s has grown stronger." (July 20, 2013)

2013- April 20- The Syrian National Coalition rejects any association with Al Qaeda:“We reject the thoughts of al-Qaeda. Syria is a country where moderate Islam prevails,” said Moaz al-Khatib, head of the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition.

Ahrar Al Sham Becoming the Dominant Jihadist Group.

2013- July Ahrar Al Sham now numbers about 15,000, the largest Jihadist umbrella group in Iraq. Some Ahrar al-Sham units that have been involved in heavy fighting include the Qawafel al-Shuhada and Ansar al-Haqq Brigades (both in Khan Sheikhoun, Idleb Province), the al-Tawhid wal-Iman Brigade (Maarrat al-Noum an, Idleb Province), the Shahba Brigade (Aleppo City), the Hassane bin Thabet Brigade (Darat Ezza, Aleppo Province), and the Salahaddin and Abul-Fida Brigades (both in Hama City) (Wikipedia)
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