By Andrew Taylor

The West backs a new Jihadist player with the collapse of the ‘moderate Syrian rebels’

The project of  ‘The Free Syrian Army (FSA)’ of General Salim Idris and its fractious brother ‘the Syrian National Coalition (SNC)’ which America, the UK and France have anointed as the legitimate moral revolutionary forces versus the Syrian state is presently in utter ruins. Both as a fighting force and as a putative anti-Assad front with international plausibility the two western-backed groups are in disarray.

This recession of the FSA has been building to this shambles for almost one year as Syrian Army forces on one side and Jihadist fighters on the other pushed them hard, but the crisis became crystal-clear with last Thursday’s suspension of non-lethal aid by the US and UK following the loss of a key FSA  border crossing and arms depots to an ascendant Islamist alliance, the Islamic Front (الجبهة الإسلامية, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah) .

As Joshua Landis notes of Zahran Alloush, the head commander of the Islamic Front ~the emerging anti-Assad forces in Syria: “… the main groups that came together to form the Islamic Front have worked hand in glove with al-Qaida linked forces, particularly al-Nusra, on most battle fronts and recent offensives against the regime…The difference between his ideology and that of al-Qaida groups is not profound. Rather, it is one of shades of grey.”[1].

If Alloush, the head commander of the Islamic Front, is to continue his all-but-complete marginalisation of the western sponsored Free Syrian Army he cannot afford to turn on his comrades-in-arms and ideology represented by  ‘the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)’ or ‘Al-Nusra Front, the predominant Al Qaeda affiliates’. And indeed, his sectarian rhetoric demonising the Shiites, Alawites and other minorities is indistinguishable from the venomous denunciations used by the Al Qaeda affiliates. Zahran Alloush  “refers to Shiites, and reduces the Nusayris into this grouping, as “Majous”, or crypto-Iranians. “Majous” is the old term for pre-Islamic Persians or Zoroastrians…an Islamic term of abuse meant to suggest that Alawites and Iranians not only have the wrong religion but also the wrong ethnicity—they are not Arabs, but crypto-Iranians.”[2].

So the Western powers face a credibility crisis and reason might suggest Cameron, Hollande and Obama not only make permanent the suspension of aid to Gen. Idris the pantomime horse of the Syrian fighters, but begin to make real next month’s Geneva 2 Talks in Montreux by engaging seriously with Syrian state representatives, the peaceful civic opposition groups in Syria and Iran and Turkey.[3] This is the sane, humanitarian answer to the Syrian bloodletting. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar ought to be isolated by the international community and left to get their mutual interests sorted in a forum where a civilian population is exempted from the calamity caused by their geopolitical ambitions and trade in arms.

But it appears the reasonable, humane route is not tempting the White House. The Washington Post wrote on that fateful Thursday last :

The Obama administration is willing to consider supporting an expanded Syrian rebel coalition that would include Islamist groups, provided the groups are not allied with al-Qaeda and agree to support upcoming peace talks in Geneva, a senior U.S. official said Thursday…We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front,” the official said, but any movement toward including them in the U.S.-backed coalition remains a “work in progress.” [4].

So it seems that if the ‘moderate’ proxy General Idris is unable to domesticate the hundreds of Islamist fighting brigades into a sanitized pro-western proxy, Washington will join the jihadists of the Islamic Front in their all-out-war against the state of Syria.



3.   (Dawn is Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.)


See Joshua Landis’ article on Zahran Alloush in his Blog: Syria Comment  and Robert Parry’s “Obama’s Syria Strategy at a Crossroads”:

Dec. 16, 2013