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December 29, 2011

Syrian Jihadists draw lessons from the 1980s experience

December 29, 2011

December 29, 2011

Ten months into Syria's revolution, sectarianism killings have become a reality, whether in Homs, or abroad, while Jihadists are apparently there; rather than living in denial, one should acknowledge their existence, warn against their rise, as they represent the real danger/spoilers to Syria's revolution. They are most capable of drowning the country into a long bloody civil war if they are left unchecked and given free reign to lead the way to militarisation from Homs where the secular and moderate Islamist opposition is present and active.
Since a few months now, there have been growing similarities to the early 1980s sectarian clashes between the regime and the Fighting Vanguard, a military offshoot from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; the clashes and sectarian killings ended in a massacre by the regime in Hama where dozens of thousands were reportedly killed. In spite of the similarities between the two phases, some of which the regime has been keen to demonstrate, there has been "improvements" in the fighting against the regime. The fighters are now media savvy, targeting high-profile intelligence bases (the feared Mukhabarat), and garnering main stream support in the religious establishments (the Imams of Homs and Hama mosques).
All of those changes, with no exception, have been mentioned in a critical review of the 1980s conflict by a prominent Syrian Jihadist who was detained by the U.S. army (most probably, in 2006, then dispatched in a rendition flight to the Syria's security forces in 2009). To my surprise, the web page of the "media support centre for the revolutionaries of Homs" published on the 1st of October notes on the "Syrian Experience", a book by the Syrian Taleban Jihadist and theorists, Abu Musab Alsuri. (Alsuri was a major Jihadist theorist who had considerable theoretical impact on al-Qaeda tactics & had called for loading the 9/11 planes with chemical weapons).The website asked its followers to learn from the mistakes of this Jihadist who has 15-20 years of Jihad against Assad Senior, Hafez the former president and father of the incumbent, Bashar. They urge the current Jihadists to avoid the mistakes and pains of the 1980s.

(Abu Musab at his Jihadist camp in Afghanistan)

The Syrian Experience lists its "advice" to the next generation of Jihadists fighting against the regime; among those are:

1. Dependency on regional powers for weapons and training. Al-Suri calls for more independent military work.
2. Media savvy. Al-Suri recommends more media savviness among Jihadists in using the media to gain more support, and not to let any sacrifices go in vain.
3. Quality of targets and not quantity. Al-Suri asks future Jihadists to target significant regime bases, rather than wasting time in assassinating low level officials like in the 1980s.
4. Using non-Demascenes in Damascus operations. He wants more local work and activism.
5. In his Syria book, Suri calls for a more organised and central Jihad against the regime. He later called for an absolutely decentralised global Jihad through independent cells, known later as the "new leaderless al-Qaeda". Syria now has elements of both, it seems.

Many of his recommendations for the "future Jihad" have been taken either as common sense, without looking at his textbook, or actually derived from it. It is highly unlikely that the local coordination committees have anything to do with his recommendation as they include many non-Islamists. But in military operations like targeting the major and most feared military intelligence bases, and picking those rather than smaller, more local bases, there seems to be a correlation. The use of media in the Islamist "Free Syrian Army" operations is very obvious; the Free Syrian Army has been using Sectarian names to its brigades and you could see in their videos Islamist and anti-Allawite slogans.
While the Syrian Experience speaks of "War against Allawites", he acknowledges in his book "the mistakes" of going small-scale, in reference to sectarian and selective killing of Allawites. He recommends picking high-profile targets, "think big" style.
The Jihadist force in Syria is big, and you only have to look at neighbouring Iraq to understand. According to an informed Syrian journalist from Idlib, 7 thousand Iraq returnees were counted in Syria, where the regime actively supported the al-Qaeda insurgency in its Eastern neighbour to deter U.S. influence. Those ex fighters are well experienced and would lead any military confrontation with the regime; they seem to dominate the ill organised and untrained Free Syrian Army. The FSA has been choosing Islamic names for its brigades and you could see in videos posted on this blog, that Jihadists are leading the fight (they look like the Taleban).

The above facts should constitute a stark warning to major Syrian Opposition figures, whether the brotherhood, or the Secular parties like Syria's Mandela, Riyadh Turk, among others who should raise more alarms against the militarisation of the revolution. Militancy means the rise of Jihadists and the launch of a large scale and long term bloody sectarian conflict.


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