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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘jihadis’

Al Qaeda Quickly Constructing Main Mideast Base in Syria

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.

The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn “Greater Syria” — an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories — into an Islamic caliphate.

The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.

The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.

The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda’s official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime’s rule has collapsed.

According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.

Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria’s location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

He compared Al Nusra’s activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.

The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria’s diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.

Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.

At the moment, Al Nusra’s most urgent goal is toppling President Assad; its members are therefore not yet focusing on enforcing Shari’a law in Syria. They show a pragmatic willingness to work with other rebel organizations, including the main Free Syrian Army. But once the Assad regime falls, a violent campaign by jihadis might begin to cement their control over any new government formed by rebels in Damascus.

A second jihadi organization operates in Syria, the researchers said, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, formed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though Al Nusra is the only one to have received official recognition by Al Qaeda’s central leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in June this year.

“The two branches together have an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 operatives in our assessment, and the number is growing,” the report stated.

Erlich said the influence of the group is out of proportion to its numbers, due its operational capabilities and influence on the population.

The Al Nusra Front is led Abu Muhammad al-Julani, who possibly hails from the Syrian Golan, and rules over a network of fighters and local subordinates in Syria’s districts.

He is a veteran of jihadist battles against US forces in Iraq, and a former follower of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who set up Al Qaeda in Iraq in the previous decade.

Rank and file members of the group are a mix of Syrians and foreign volunteers from the Arab and Muslim world, the report said, adding that foreign volunteers number in the thousands. Additionally, between 500 and 600 European Muslim volunteers are in the organization, mainly hailing from the UK and France. They are expected, after returning from the battlefields, to spread jihad in their home countries, the report said.

The Al Nusra Front’s most senior body is called the Consulting Council of Jihad Fighters. Its leadership is made up of staff dealing with military operations, fundraising, weapons acquisitions and smuggling, religious affairs and public relations. Fighting units are usually called battalions or companies.

The report mapped out the Al Nusra Front’s presence in Syria, noting that it was strongest in the north and east, where the Assad regime has collapsed. In these areas, called “liberated zones” by the jihadis, Al Nusra and affiliated groups provide public services, maintain health, legal, and policing systems, and distribute food, clothing and blankets.

In some places, residents have complained about a strict code of Shari’a-based conduct being enforced.

According to the report, the group is weakest on the Mediterranean coast, where the minority Alawite population — of which the ruling Assad regime is mostly composed — is located.

Most of Al Nusra’s attacks are focused on greater Damascus and on northern and eastern Syria, in places such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor. Its actions are guerrilla-terrorist campaigns against the regime’s bases, facilities and individuals.

Tactics include suicide car bombings, roadside bombs, suicide bombers on foot, and firing on bases and airfields with light arms and mortars. Security checkpoints are a frequent target.

“Suicide bombings are a signature brand” of Al Nusra and are operationally effective, but have resulted in negative public relations among other Syrian rebels, said the report.

The Al Nusra Front plans to attack Israel from the Syrian Golan, according to an assessment that appeared in the report. It “can be expected to establish an operative terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, a continuation of military infrastructure it is currently constructing in Deraa,” the southwestern city where the anti-Assad uprising began in 2011.

“In our assessment, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist organizations may integrate themselves into terrorist attacks from the Golan Heights despite the fundamental ideological differences between them,” it added.

Al Nusra can also be expected to link up with fellow jihadis who follow Al Qaeda’s ideology in neighboring Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Western Arab states are on the target list too, the report said, adding that Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, all of which support the rebels, might be targeted by Al Nusra in the form of subversive, radical Islamists entering them and setting up terrorist cells.

In northern Syria, Al Nusra and its allies have seized key national resources such as oil and gas fields, oil pipelines, dams, power plants and grain silos.

These sites are now operated by jihadis, who sometimes sell oil and gas to the Assad regime for profit, enabling the organization to pay its operatives a monthly salary, purchase more weapons, and run assistance programs in “liberated areas.”

As Al Nusra fighters raid Syrian weapons depots, the fear remains, the report stated, that “in the absence of the considerations of restraint that influence other terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations,” they could obtain chemical and biological weapons, and use them in terrorist attacks.

Recognizing the Wrong People

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt [FDR], reversing the policy of four presidents and six of their Secretaries of State not to recognize the Soviet government, in 1933 extended “normal diplomatic relations” to the Soviet Union, the totalitarian slaughterhouse of Josef Stalin. As meticulously researched by Diana West in her new book, “American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character,” the reasoning behind Roosevelt’s decision was never made clear; what was clear, however, since the 1917-1919 Bolshevik seizure of the Russian government by force, was the Soviet reign of blood and terror. According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, by the late 1930s, Stalin’s regime was shooting tens of thousands of people per month. Yet, for reasons that remain murky, FDR was influenced, inspired, or somehow persuaded to normalize U.S. relations with Stalin, in exchange for a page of Soviet concessions, not worth the paper they were written on, which pledged that the USSR “would not attempt to subvert or overthrow the U.S. system.”

What West documents is the subsequent process of infiltration, influence, and “occupation” by an army of communist agents and fellow travelers; here, however, the focus is on what that original 1933 decision has meant for future generations, most especially our own, when confronted with decisions about whether or not to recognize enemies who make no secret of their enmity and intention to destroy us.

Whatever FDR’s thinking, West points out that this decision — not just to recognize the blood-soaked communist regime, but to keep on recognizing it — fundamentally transformed what Robert Conquest, the great chronicler of Stalin’s purges, called “the conscience of the civilized world.” And perhaps not just our conscience: as West writes, “[b]ecause the Communist regime was so openly and ideologically dedicated to our destruction, the act of recognition defied reason and the demands of self-preservation.” In other words, quite aside from the abdication of objective morality represented by FDR’s decision, there was a surrender of “reality-based judgment,” the implications of which on the ability of U.S. national leadership to make sound decisions involving the fundamental defense of the Republic resonate to the current day.

Fast forward to late September 2010, when Mohammed Badi, the Egyptian Supreme Guide of the openly, avowedly jihadist Muslim Brotherhood [MB], literally declared war on the United States (and Israel and unfaithful Arab/Muslim rulers). Badi spoke plainly of “jihad,” “force,” and “a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” There was no ambiguity in his message: it anticipated the “demise” of the U.S. in the face of Muslim “resistance.” Even as the Muslim Brotherhood, from the earliest years after its 1928 founding, has always been forthright about its Islamic supremacism and objectives of global conquest, a caliphate, and universal shariah [Islamic Law], Badi’s pronouncement was as clear and menacing as Usama bin Laden’s 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” or his 1998 declaration of “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” – and garnered about as much understanding from the U.S. and Western political leadership of the time – which is to say, very little.

As explained, in fact, in a series of masterful online lectures for the Center for Security Policy [CSP] by Stephen Coughlin, a former Major in the U.S. Army and one of this country’s foremost scholars of Islamic Law, Badi’s October 2010 declaration of jihad against the U.S. followed in direct response to al-Qa’eda’s call to war as published in the inaugural issue, in July 2010, of its online Inspire magazine. This was the alignment of forces that shortly would plunge the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] region into chaos and revolution.

The third and final element to fall into place came in January 2011, in the form of a fatwa from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the pre-eminent seat of Sunni learning in the Islamic world for over 1,000 years. That landmark declaration, issued at the IslamOnline.net website by Dr. Imad Mustafa, Professor of Fiqh and Its Origins, at the Universities of al-Azhar and Umm al-Qary, made clear that “offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure Islam’s border, to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it…and to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula…”

Report: US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The commentariat universally rejected my Apr. 11 column arguing that Western governments should “Support Assad” on the grounds that he is losing and we don’t want the Islamist rebels to win in Syria but prefer a stalemate. An Arabic website in France threatened me.

Fine. But the Wall Street Journal today reports in “U.S. Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now” by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes that the Obama administration is in fact following my counsel. To start with, the U.S. government fears “an outright rebel military victory”:

Senior Obama administration officials have caught some lawmakers and allies by surprise in recent weeks with an amended approach to Syria: They don’t want an outright rebel military victory right now because they believe, in the words of one senior official, that the “good guys” may not come out on top.

Of course, fearing a rebel victory gets in the way of ousting the current regime, its goal, leading to a self-contradictory muddle:

This assessment complicates the White House’s long-standing push to see President Assad step from power. It also puts a spotlight on the U.S.’s cautious approach to helping the opposition, much to the frustration of U.S. allies including France and the U.K., which want to arm Syria’s moderate rebels. The result of this shift, these officials say, is the U.S. has sought a controlled increase in support to moderate rebel factions. … “We all want Assad to fall tomorrow, but a wholesale institutional turnover overnight doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” a senior U.S. official said. “The end game requires a very careful calibration that doesn’t tip the meter in an unintended way toward groups that could produce the kind of post-Assad Syria that we aren’t looking for.”

Trouble is, Washington is attempting to thread a needle that it lacks the finesse to achieve:

Administration officials fear that with Islamists tied to al Qaeda increasingly dominating the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, too swift a rebel victory would undercut hopes for finding a diplomatic solution, according to current and former officials. It would also shatter national institutions along with what remains of civil order, these people say, increasing the danger that Syrian chemical weapons will be used or transferred to terrorists.

Officials say it will require delicate maneuvering to restrain the influence of radicals while buying time to strengthen moderate rebels who Western governments hope will assume national leadership if Mr. Assad can be persuaded to leave. … By strengthening moderates, the U.S. wants to put pressure on Assad supporters to cut a deal that would preserve governing institutions. …

Comments: (1) Obviously, I am pleased to learn that the Obama administration quietly has a adopted a sensible policy toward Syria. (2) Let’s hope that its unrealistic plan to guide the “good guys” to rule the country will fade with added experience; and that it will instead follow a balance-of-power approach such as I advocate.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, April 17, 2013, under the title, “US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now.”

The Case for Supporting Assad

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Analysts agree that “the erosion of the Syrian regime’s capabilities is accelerating,” that step-by-step it continues to retreat, making a rebel breakthrough and an Islamist victory increasingly likely. In response, I am changing my policy recommendation from neutrality to something that causes me, as a humanitarian and decades-long foe of the Assad dynasty, to pause before writing:

Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

Here is my logic for this reluctant suggestion: Evil forces pose less danger to us when they make war on each other. This (1) keeps them focused locally and it (2) prevents either one from emerging victorious (and thereby posing a yet-greater danger). Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.

This policy has precedent. Through most of World War II, Nazi Germany was on the offensive against Soviet Russia and keeping German troops tied down on the Eastern Front was critical to an Allied victory. Franklin D. Roosevelt therefore helped Joseph Stalin by provisioning his forces and coordinating the war effort with him. In retrospect, this morally repugnant but strategically necessary policy succeeded. And Stalin was a far worse monster than Assad.

The Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 created a similar situation. After mid-1982, when Ayatollah Khomeini’s forces went on the offense against those of Saddam Hussein, Western governments began supporting Iraq. Yes, the Iraqi regime had started the hostilities and was more brutal, but the Iranian one was ideologically more dangerous and on the offensive. Best was that the hostilities hobble both sides and prevent either one from merging victorious. In the apocryphal words of Henry Kissinger, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”

Applying this same logic to Syria today finds notable parallels. Assad fills the role of Saddam Hussein – the brutal Baathist dictator who began the violence. The rebel forces resemble Iran – the initial victim getting stronger over time and posing an increasing Islamist danger. Continued fighting endangers the neighborhood. Both sides engage in war crimes and pose a danger to Western interests. In this spirit, I argued then for U.S. help to the losing party, whichever that might be, as in this May 1987 analysis:

In 1980, when Iraq threatened Iran, our interests lay at least partly with Iran. But Iraq has been on the defensive since the summer of 1982, and Washington now belongs firmly on its side. … Looking to the future, should Iraq once again take the offensive, an unlikely but not impossible change, the United States should switch again and consider giving assistance to Iran.

Yes, Assad’s survival benefits Tehran, the region’s most dangerous regime. But a rebel victory, recall, would hugely boost the increasingly rogue Turkish government while empowering jihadis and replacing the Assad government with triumphant, inflamed Islamists. Continued fighting does less damage to Western interests than their taking power. There are worse prospects than Sunni and Shi’ite Islamists mixing it up, than Hamas jihadis killing Hizballah jihadis, and vice-versa. Better that neither side wins.

The Obama administration is attempting an overly ambitiously and subtle policy of simultaneously helping the good rebels with clandestine lethal arms and $114 million in aid even as it prepares for possible drone strikes on the bad rebels. Nice idea, but manipulating the rebel forces via remote control has little chance of success. Inevitably, aid will end up with the Islamists and air strikes will kill allies. Better to accept one’s limitations and aspire to the feasible: propping up the side in retreat.

At the same time, Westerners must be true to their morals and help bring an end to the warfare against civilians, the millions of innocents gratuitously suffering the horrors of civil war. Western governments should find mechanisms to compel the hostile parties to abide by the rules of war, specifically those that isolate combatants from non-combatants. This could entail pressuring the rebels’ suppliers (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and the Syrian government’s supporters (Russia, China) to condition aid on their abiding by the rules of war; it could even involve Western use of force against violators on either side. That would fulfill the responsibility to protect.

On the happy day when Assad & Tehran fight the rebels & Ankara to mutual exhaustion, Western support then can go to non-Baathist and non-Islamist elements in Syria, helping them offer a moderate alternative to today’s wretched choices and lead to a better future.

Gaza Exporting Terrorists to Syria

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The Gaza Strip has begun exporting terrorists to other countries. If the terrorists are not stopped, they will start showing up in European capitals and probably cities in the United States.

In contrast to claims by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships to the effect that the Palestinians are not taking sides in the Syrian conflict, Palestinians are indeed involved in the fighting.

The Palestinians who are heading to Syria have been told their ultimate mission is to liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea.” Once they get rid of Assad, they are told, they will move to their next station — Jordan. From there, their jihad will take them to Israel, where they and their friends in Jabhat al-Nusra, “The Support Front,” hope to create a pan-Islamic state ruled by Sharia laws.

According to Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip, in the past few weeks alone, dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip headed to Syria through Turkey to join various radical organizations engaged in the fighting against the army of Bashar al-Assad.

Many of these Palestinians have fallen in love with Jabhat al-Nusra, a group recently designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and, according to reports in the Arab media, believed to be responsible for some of the massacres against Syrian civilians.

The organization consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslim fundamentalists from several Arab and Islamic countries. Its declared goal is to topple the Assad regime and create an Islamic state.

The Palestinian men who are heading to Syria belong to Salafi and other radical Islamist groups that have been operating in the Gaza Strip over the past few years. Some are also former Hamas members who broke away from the Islamist movement under the pretext that it was too “moderate.”

Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, the leader of one of the Salafi groups in the Gaza Strip, revealed that in recent weeks at least two Palestinians were killed in the fighting in Syria: Mohamed Kunaita, 32, and Nidal al-Eshi, 23.

More than 1,000 Palestinians, most of them from the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, have been killed in the past few months during the fighting between the rebels and Assad’s army.

The camp has been under daily attacks by the Syrian army ever since terrorists belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist groups found shelter among the Palestinian residents.

The Gaza Strip is swarming with radical Islamist groups whose goal is to destroy Israel and the U.S. Most of these groups emerged after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the Hamas takeover of the coastal region two years later.

The Hamas government, which feels threatened by these groups, has failed to stop them from exporting terrorists to neighboring countries. The Egyptian authorities have also been unsuccessful in preventing Palestinian jihadis from entering Sinai, which has become a major base for Muslim terrorists.

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which was reached after Operations Pillars of Defense three months ago, has left members of various terror groups unemployed.

Now that the jihadis in the Gaza Strip have nothing to do, such as fire rockets at Israel, they have started searching for other places to carry out their terror attacks. They have found no better place than Syria to start sending their men to join some of the radical Islamist organizations fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The U.S. and Western countries would do well to pay serious attention; Syria is not where this trend will stop.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute, under the title, “Palestinians Exporting Terrorists to Syria,” February 27, 2013.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/khaled-abu-toameh/gaza-exporting-terrorists-to-syria/2013/03/03/

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