Rebels Are Hardcore Islamists
The Jerusalem Post
Almost half of Syrian rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists, according to a new report by London intelligence and defense consultancy IHS Janes.
On Sunday, Britain's Telegraph newspaper cited the report as putting the number of opposition forces at 100,000, broken up into around 1,000 groups.
The study said that around 10,000 fighters were jihadists like those groups linked to al- Qaeda, including foreign fighters; 30,000- 35,000 were hardline Islamists whose ideology overlapped with the jihadists', but were specifically focused on the Syrian war rather than global jihad; and another 30,000 fighters had an Islamic character – including the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups – leaving a small group of non-Islamist fighters fighting for more nationalistic goals...
Aaron Y. Zelin, the Richard Borow fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who closely follows jihadist groups, told the Post that it was "difficult to truly know how many fighters there are among the different groups and ideologies."
He added that the numbers were not necessarily the most relevant factor.
"What is important is understanding who is the most effective and best on the battlefield," he said. "In that case, it is true that the best fighters on the battlefield are Islamists, Salafis, and al-Qaeda-linked jihadis."
Jonathan Spyer, a Middle East analyst and senior research fellow at the GLORIA Center who has traveled widely in Syria, described Charles Lister, the author of the study, as "one of the most serious analysts working in this area," and said the report "offers the latest confirmation that the armed Syrian rebels consist of a clear majority of Sunni Islamists."
Despite the difficulty of obtaining precise figures, he told the Post, "this latest report confirms the picture of an insurgency essentially divided into three parts: al-Qaeda-linked groups, Salafi groups not linked to al-Qaeda, and Muslim Brotherhood..."
This is in sharp contrast to some of the recent and now discredited claims, he said.
He was apparently referring to the recent controversy over a Wall Street Journal article from a few weeks ago by Elizabeth O'Bagy – a former analyst at the Institute for the Study of War – which argued that Islamic radicals were not dominating the rebel forces.
O'Bagy was fired this month from her job at the institute for lying about having a PhD.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Senator John McCain have cited O'Bagy's article, which stated that "moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces"...
On Monday, meanwhile, UN human rights investigators said that hardline Syrian rebels and foreign fighters invoking jihad, or holy war, had stepped up killings, executions and other abuses in the north since July.
There are now a number of brigades made up entirely of non-Syrians, the investigators continued, underlining how the two and- a-half-year-old conflict has pulled in neighboring countries and widened sectarian fault lines across the region.
The UN investigators had previously said that gunmen from more than 10 countries, including Afghanistan and Russia's Chechnya region, as well as al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra forces, were backing Syria's mostly Sunni rebels.
"Now it is probably more. The point is that these extreme elements have their own agenda and certainly not a democratic agenda that they are seeking to impose," investigator Vitit Muntarbhorn told Reuters.
"That is a major worry from our side of the fence."
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 09/17/2013
Editor's Note: But, really...let's aid the rebels...
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