Last month, US News reported that large number foreign fighters are going into Syria. Not all are fighting with the so-called rebels, some such as Hezbollah; and Shi’ite leaders from Iraq and Iran are supporting the Abbas regime. However many Sunni Iraqis are fighting with the rebels against Abbas.
Along Iraq’s western border with Syria, unrest has caused sympathy among Sunni dominant areas with others for the rebel forces, and Al-Qaida influence is strong in some of the areas. Iraqi government forces have been clashing daily with smugglers and insurgents sending fighters and weapons into Syria. “The religious legitimacy of the Syria war and the increase of funding and fighters almost unquestionably benefits Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Seth Jones, a counter-terrorism expert at Washington’s RAND Corporation. “It is heavily involved in overseeing the war in Syria.”
At the start of Ramadan at the end of July, Iraqi Al Qaida’s local chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced a renewed jihad to recapture areas lost in Iraq during the years of conflict with American forces. He also warned Americans, “The war has only just started.”
This past June there were some of the worst Al Qaida attributed attacks in Iraq since the US pullout, including bombings on Shi’ite civilians and a suicide attack on a Shi’ite religious office in Baghdad. July was the worst yet with 325 people killed in attacks. Al Qaida are bombing Shi’ite government offices as well, trying to undermine President Maliki and cause tensions between Sunnis and Shia groups.
Early last week, two bombs went off minutes apart while a team of terrorists tied to Al Qaida failed to free jailed insurgents in a police compound in Baghdad. Al Qaida lost many commanders to Iraqi and US troops during the Iraq war, and some Sunni tribes fought against them using US-supplied guns, partly of their brutality against fellow civilians. Now the Islamic State of Iraq, another branch of Al Qaida, have been trying to regain control after American Troops left late last year and have claimed responsibility for at least one other deadly attack since.
Meanwhile, Sunni Muslim militants have been going into neighboring Syria to help the rebels battle President Assad, and according to the Jerusalem Post, “security experts say al-Qaida is reaping funds, recruits and better morale on both sides of the border, reinvigorating it after years of losses against US forces and their Iraqi allies.”
Islamic State of Iraq and other Sunni militant groups want to help defeat Assad because he is Alawite, which is part of Shi’ite Islam. If you don’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia, please read this, which explains the difference, and how Obama and his administration has sided with Sunnis in all the Arab Spring conflicts, and helping the “rebels” in Syria now.
Many Sunnis in Iraq see Shi’ite Iraqi President Maliki’s determination to minimize any power Sunnis might have in Iraq and Al Qaida groups and other Sunnis are seemingly using the conflict in Syria to spread violence and unrest in bordering countries as well.
“The Syrian crisis is a venue in which an Iraqi-dominated al-Qaida branch is better able to attract fighters and resources to its cause,” said Ramzi Mardini, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “This may be a revival of confidence on the part of Sunni extremists.”
The Jerusalem Post also says a return to all-out sectarian violence looks unlikely, but the possible fall of Syria’s Assad worries Iraqi Shi’ite leaders who fear that a hardline Sunni government could come to power instead, emboldening Sunni militants in Iraq.
It has been reported that as many as 6,000 foreign fighters from nearly 50 nations have now joined the Syrian conflict. The vast majority are fighters from the Arab Springs of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Islamist volunteers from Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and a few from former Soviet Republics. Even members of the Pakistani Taliban are reportedly in Syria to help train and fight the Assad regime.
“Estimates suggest that Australians now make up the largest contingent from any developed nation in the Syrian rebel forces. There are around 120 French fighters in Syria, about 100 Britons and a handful of Americans – but there are at least 200 Australians, according to a public statement made by David Irvine, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The total may appear small, but it is growing rapidly, having doubled since the end of last year – and when looked at as a proportion of the Muslim population of Australia, the figure is startling. The French, British and American rebel fighters are drawn from communities that number 4.7 million, 2.7 million and 2.6 million respectively. The Australian contingent is drawn from a Muslim population of just 500,000, and is causing concern to a government that fears the homecoming of a battle-hardened group of radicalized Islamists when the conflict ends.”
And according to an article by Clint Watts:
“Today, Syria has mobilized foreign fighters, I estimate, at a volume equivalent to that of Iraq and Afghanistan just a few years ago and if left in its current state will far outpace the above estimate of foreign fighters of 2012 and beyond. Syria has not only jumpstarted the networks of the second foreign fighter glut, but will likely sustain those informal networks for the perpetuation of a third generation of foreign fighters. Additionally, Syria has inspired foreign fighter recruitment on several sides. While much attention has been paid to jihadis linking up with the likes of Jabhat al-Nusra, more secular Sunnis have joined the Free Syrian Army while Shiites from Hezballah and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps have arrived to support the Assad regime.”
WorldNet Daily’s Aaron Kline asks the rhetorical question, “Did U.S. and other Western arms shipments to jihadist-saturated Libyan and Syrian rebel groups contribute to Al Qaida’s worldwide threat? “
According to another report from the Jerusalem Post from last week, Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government. Obama’s order, approved earlier this year permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad. The Administration is for now supposedly not giving the rebels lethal weapons, but as earlier reports show, weapons were already supplied via Turkey from Benghazi Libya. It has been reported by many sources that one of the main reasons Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi was to oversee and working with Al-Qaeda in Libya to gather up and buy back and collect weapons from Gaddafi’s stock pile that were missing from the revolution in which Gaddafi was overthrown, and were shipping them to Syria.
Now US and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. One question weighs on my mind, what happens when whichever way it goes, when the Syrian conflict is over? Will all of these armed, and now well trained “rebel” groups with well-known terrorist ties, who are enemies of the US, yet who have in large part been armed and trained by our people, go back to their home countries, or will they grow into a newer army looking towards Israel and the US as their next battlefield, and what will all of this mean for our Military who are still fighting or participating in exercises in the Middle East?