[Marxism] A comment on Jihadists in Syria from a veteran rebel from Libya

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 20 09:12:20 MST 2012

A comment on "Salafis, Jihadis, and the Revolution in Syria" at 


A Libyan Rebel December 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

     Yet another accurate analysis of a topic mired in confusion and or 
misinformation. It is with no doubt that the strong appearance of the 
religious groups and the increasing religiosity among the Syrian people 
and the rebels was mainly due to the fact that they had no other choice. 
The first image in this article is enough to sum up the whole ordeal. 
The brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations early in the revolution 
and the continuous, unimaginable scale of the massacres by the criminal 
regime, coupled with the blatant disregard by world powers forced many 
chivalrous men around the Arab and Muslim world to leave everything 
behind and head straight to the harsh, bloody battlefields of the Syrian 
revolution. Among these people are a few dozen (up to a few hundred at 
most) of battle-hardened Islamist fighters with experience fighting the 
occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviets, Afghanistan and Iraq by the 
U.S. and experience fighting against some of the many totalitarian 
regimes in the region. Though these individuals remain a minority among 
foreign fighters in Syria, their strong ideology and extensive 
battlefield experience makes them the elite force of the Syrian 
revolution and the most painful for the regime.

     The most prominent (and possibly the only) group encompassing 
mostly foreign Islamist fighters is indeed “Jabhat Al-Nusrah” meaning 
the “Victors’ Front” and “victors” is the closest English term I could 
think of which in this case means those who come to the aid those in 
need. What makes this group stand out despite its small size is the type 
of operations it carries out. Most of the group’s major operations are 
“martyrdom” or suicide operations involving a fighter driving a car 
laden with explosives into a regime military base or a checkpoint manned 
by “shabbiha” (regime thugs). These operations were used effectively in 
Iraq and Afghanistan against foreign military targets and the group is 
employing the same tactic resulting in great physical and mental 
devastation on regime forces. The group refuses to affiliate itself with 
the Free Syrian Army due to the FSA’s diverse spectrum of ideologies 
some of which do not concord with the group’s strict Islamist identity. 
This is a cause of concern for some Syrians and those who are looking 
toward a free, democratic nation. Being a Libyan rebel however and 
following the fate of similar groups in Libya I can say with confidence 
that once the revolution is over, the group will have to succumb to the 
will of the people. The Arab Spring changed the dynamic of the struggle 
in the region and has transformed the conflicts from being those of 
dictator/occupation vs. jihadi groups to those of massive popular 
uprisings sweeping away totalitarian regimes and quickly shunning away 
any forces seen as a threat to the ambitions of the people.

     The other two major religious leaning groups in Syria are “Ahrar 
Sham” and “Liwa Al-Tawheed”. These two groups are many times larger and 
more active than “Jabhat Al-Nusrah” and comprise almost wholly of Syrian 
youth and with a negligible foreign presence. These groups are far more 
moderate than the Nusrah Front and have shown a great degree of 
tolerance toward other, non-religious leaning groups. Though not 
officially affiliated with the FSA, these groups have shown willingness 
to collaborate with the FSA and have carried out numerous joint 
operations with others. These two groups have made it clear through 
comments made by their leaders on numerous occasions that their job ends 
with the defeat of the regime and that they will accept any form of 
government chosen by the Syrian people.

     In terms of sheer numbers however, the great majority of Syrian 
rebels belong to the Free Syrian Army. Almost every city in Syria has 
some kind of local FSA presence. This usually starts with defections of 
the sons of the city or town who then quickly grow to form a resistance 
force in the area. The FSA is made up of thousands of defected soldiers 
and thousands of ordinary Syrian men who have taken up arms to liberate 
their country. In addition to those, there are dozens of FSA groups 
representing a wide spectrum of ideologies some are religious leaning 
and some liberal. There are also mixed groups such as “Liwa Al-Ummah” 
which was started with a few dozen Libyan fighters of no dominant 
ideology and has now grown to several thousand members mostly Syrians. 
All of these groups consider themselves the military arm for the 
political opposition and are under the leadership of Colonel Riad Al-As’ad.

     Despite the media uproar, the identities of the Syrian rebels are 
widely known to the Syrian people and to those who monitor the situation 
there. Vilifying some of the groups who have come to the Aid of the 
Syrian people when the rest of the world turned a blind eye to their 
plight will only further strengthen Syrians’ negative sentiment toward 
the West and may cause for future divisions among the opposition that 
would likely make the transitioning period much more difficult. As a 
Libyan who had witnessed the events of the 17 of Feb Revolution first 
hand, Syria is a similar recipe and despite the anticipated bumps along 
the road, I strongly believe that Syria is in good hands.

More information about the Marxism mailing list