The “Arab Spring” in Syria, which began as a popular and non-violent uprising against Bashar Assad’s regime, has been hijacked by Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist organizations.
In the past few weeks, thousands of bearded Muslim fundamentalists from various Arab and Islamic countries have converged on Syria to participate in the fighting against Assad’s forces.
Many of these armed extremists who appear every day on Arab TV stations have made no effort to conceal their aspiration to establish an Islamist caliphate in Syria.
The men who are fighting against Assad’s army are anything but reformists and democracy-loving activists. Most appear to be ruthless terrorists and militiamen who came to Syria to carry out suicide bombings and massacre innocent civilians.
These are the same Al-Qaeda members who have been waging a war of attrition against the Iraqi government – and before that the United States – and who are still trying to take control over Yemen.
Palestinians who fled the fighting in Syria this week said that the some suburbs of Damascus were full of Al-Qaeda militiamen from a number of Arab countries. Others said that many fighters belonged to radical Salafi groups.
The Palestinians said that the Muslim fundamentalists stormed the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus and began recruiting young men to join what they described as the jihad [holy war] against Assad’s regime and all “infidels.”
The jihadists already have their eyes set on neighboring Jordan. Once they get rid of Assad, they will move on to hijack the “Arab Spring” in Jordan in the hope of replacing the monarchy with another Islamist state in the region.
Of course the Sunni jihadists do not represent the entire Syrian opposition, which still includes many secular figures who are struggling to create a democratic and secular regime.
But what is clear now, is that whoever replaces Assad would not be able to ignore the fact that Syria has been swamped with thousands of Al-Qaeda and Salafi terrorists who pose a threat to stability in the Middle East.
The US Administration and other Western countries that are supporting the Syrian opposition need to wake up and make sure that arms and money do not fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda. The Syrian opposition also needs to distance itself immediately from all radical Islamist terrorists operating in Syria.
If this does not happen soon , the day will arrive when many in Syria and the West will miss Bashar Assad.
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.orgKhaled Abu Toameh