Who Are The Free Syrian Army?

Andrew C. McCarthy, “Syria Fairy Tales: Contra Senator Paul’s critics, Islamic supremacism pervades Assad’s opposition,” National Review Online, 7/27/13:

There are no “moderates” in Syria. There are bad factions and worse factions — virtually all of them virulently anti-American.

The FSA is not an army. It is a gaggle of militias. For appearances’ sake, it is currently “commanded” by General Salim Idriss, a secularist who is portrayed by Zarate and Moore as if he were a prototype rebel. But the power behind the anti-Assad rebellion is the Muslim Brotherhood.

Idriss is part of a smattering of secularists highlighted to give the mujahideen a patina of moderation. The Brothers are no fools: They have been trying to take the Baathist Assad regime out for decades, and they know they don’t have a chance without Western — and particularly, American — support. So Idriss is presented as if he were in charge and as if what the authors describe as his “commitment to a tolerant and inclusive vision of Syria” were broadly shared across Assad’s opposition. But the “commander” has no capacity to exert control over the militias, which are shot through with Islamic supremacists….

[F]oreign fighters are not flocking to Syria because they are affiliated with al-Qaeda. They are reacting to a fatwa issued in May by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the world’s most influential Sunni sharia authority and the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief jurist. Qaradawi declared that the jihad in Syria against Assad and his Shiite backers — primarily, Iran-backed Hezbollah — is a duty for every able-bodied Muslim who is trained to fight.

Qaradawi, who also serves as the backbone of international support for Hamas — the terrorist organization that is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch — is notoriously anti-American and anti-Israeli. His prior fatwas, in addition to fomenting murderous rioting over such trivial slights as the publication of unflattering cartoon images of the prophet Mohammed, have called for the killing of American military and support personnel in Iraq, as well as suicide bombings against Israel. Crucially for current purposes, Qaradawi has been the powerhouse behind the Brotherhood’s Syrian enterprise — drumming up international political and financial support for the “rebels.” It is no coincidence that shortly after Qaradawi’s fatwa, Egypt’s Islamic-supremacist government — then led by the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi — cut off diplomatic ties with Assad, called for a no-fly zone over Syria, and declaimed that “Hezbollah must leave Syria.”

Qaradawi, it is worth emphasizing, is not al-Qaeda. Like all Islamic supremacists, he and the Brotherhood share al-Qaeda’s dream of installing sharia in every Islamic country and, ultimately, establishing a global caliphate. As a result, they work with al-Qaeda on common goals, such as vanquishing Assad. But knowing he has the ear of the Obama administration — which, shockingly, just rolled out the White House red carpet for his deputy, Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah (who also endorsed terror attacks on Americans in Iraq) — Qaradawi is now laboring to relegate al-Qaeda to the rebel sidelines, playing into the Washington fiction that al-Qaeda is America’s only enemy….

FSA’s loosely tied, largely autonomous militias cannot be controlled by central commanders. Not only do the militias, many of which share al-Qaeda’s core convictions and goals, frequently collaborate with al-Qaeda affiliates; indications are that they already provide arms to their al-Qaeda allies — in addition to receiving support from al-Qaeda’s backers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar….

The only forces who stand a chance of ejecting Assad are Sunni Islamic supremacists — the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and jihadists the world over who answer the summons of the rabidly anti-American Qaradawi.

“Syrian Muslim Brotherhood calls on US, Europe for weapons, as fighting rages at Aleppo prison,” AP, 7/7/13:

With government forces stepping up offensives, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood called on the U.S. and Europe to send arms.

“Providing the Free Syrian Army and the revolutionary rebels with appropriate arms is more urgent now than at any time in the past,” the movement wrote on social media sites. “We feel cheated and disappointed because the U.S. and Europe have backed out from arming the FSA,” it said….

“Syria rebels ‘beheaded a Christian and fed him to the dogs’ as fears grow over Islamist atrocities,” Nick Fagge, Daily Mail, 12/30/12:

Syrian rebels beheaded a Christian man and fed his body to dogs, according to a nun who says the West is ignoring atrocities committed by Islamic extremists.

The nun said taxi driver Andrei Arbashe, 38, was kidnapped after his brother was heard complaining that fighters against the ruling regime behaved like bandits.

She said his headless corpse was found by the side of the road, surrounded by hungry dogs. He had recently married and was soon to be a father.

Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix said: ‘His only crime was his brother criticised the rebels, accused them of acting like bandits, which is what they are.’

There have been a growing number of accounts of atrocities carried out by rogue elements of the Syrian Free Army, which opposes dictator Bashar al-Assad and is recognised by Britain and the West as the legitimate leadership.

Abigail R. Esman, “Bombing Into Unintended Consequences in Syria,” The Investigative Project On Terrorism, 8/30/13:

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has also expressed reservations, based in large part on his own visit to Syria in February. “There were a number of people who came out of Damascus to meet with me,” he told me, “and conditions have only gotten worse since then. You have brutal people involved – and what if they got our weapons? How would we control it all?”

The window of opportunity for safe involvement in Syria, he feels, closed about a year ago. “Maybe two years ago we knew who the Free Syrian Army was,” he noted, “but now we don’t. Maybe the CIA does, but I certainly don’t.” That uncertainty, for Wolf, is just a part of what makes the stakes so high. “It takes just two hours to drive from Jerusalem to Damascus,” he said. “Now Jordan is in trouble. There are bombings in Lebanon. Egypt is in crisis. Syria is falling apart. What a war we’d be facing.”

“Syria’s Brotherhood says West must step up arms to rebels,” Reuters, 7/7/13:

The Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood called on Sunday for the United States and Europe to deliver the rebels promised military support after the opposition’s National Coalition voted in a new president and ended a months-long leadership vacuum….

“We feel abandoned and disappointed that the United States and Europe have backed down from their position regarding arming the Free Syrian Army and we call on the international community to fulfill its obligations,” said a statement posted by the Brotherhood on Twitter….

Most rebel aid is expected to be sent by the countries’ Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar….

“Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt,” Liz Sly, Washington Post, 5/12/12:

After three decades of persecution that virtually eradicated its presence, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has resurrected itself to become the dominant group in the fragmented opposition movement pursuing a 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Exiled Brotherhood members and their supporters hold the biggest number of seats in the Syrian National Council, the main opposition umbrella group. They control its relief committee, which distributes aid and money to Syrians participating in the revolt. The Brotherhood is also moving on its own to send funding and weapons to the rebels, who continued to skirmish Saturday with Syrian troops despite a month-old U.N.-brokered cease-fire….

The Brotherhood’s rise is stirring concerns in some neighboring countries and in the wider international community that the fall of the minority Alawite regime in Damascus would be followed by the ascent of a Sunni Islamist government, extending into a volatile region a trend set in Egypt and Tunisia. In those countries, Brotherhood-affiliated parties won the largest number of parliamentary seats in post-revolution elections….

“We don’t want what happened in Egypt to happen in Syria,” said Omar al-Khani, the pseudonym of an activist in Damascus with the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union….

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