Across the Bay

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Syrian Regime and Jund al-Sham

A short while ago, I wrote the following:

Jund al-Sham is likely either a creation of the regime, or at the very least, an organization deeply penetrated by the regime's intelligence services (as are various Islamist organizations in Lebanon).

Abdullah T[a'i?] just wrote this to Syria Comment:

What is more, it was explained to me that Syrian Intelligence uses members of Jund Ash Sham from time to time for its own purposes. Syrian Intelligence deceives members of Jund Ash Sham into believing that Syrian Intelligence will assist them in carrying out terrorist acts in Iraq. Syrian Intelligence leads would be fighters into believing that the state authorities will help them to carry out martyrdom operations in Iraq. The authorities set up the unwitting Jihadists in houses far the city center in remote areas and supply them with weapons ostensibly for secret operations. Then the Syrian security forces surround the Jihadists swoop into the house and kill them. The security forces in triumph then trot journalists out to report on their success and the looming danger of terrorism in Syria.

I have been informed that the victims are indeed authentic Jihadists and Salafists, who hope to fight in Iraq. But the Syrian regime turns them to their own purposes to achieve two goals: first, they eliminate dangerous radical fundamentalists; second, they demonstrate to the world and especially to the United States that Syria is afflicted by terrorism just as America is. The implication is that Syria and the West must find common ground in the war on terrorism.

This once again raises the issue that many thinking people have put forth regarding the matter of the regimes and the Islamists. How seriously can we hold such a position when these regimes not only clearly penetrate, cooperate with, and manipulate these groups to their own ends (which are anti-American), but also practically talk like them, be it the anti-American rhetoric, or the amalgamation of Islam and Arabism (see post right below), or the religious social policies, or the deals with the religious establishments, or the crushing of liberals, etc.? They are two sides of the same coin.

In addition, this penetration of course means that the regime can, and does, use them in Lebanon (as we've seen) and elsewhere in the region, beside Iraq. For example, it's been said that Bashar may have threatened the Saudis with this card, especially since many Saudis came and trained in Syria, with the regime's knowledge. There were also reports that the Saudis wanted all the arrested Saudi Jihadists extradited, but the regime wasn't really complying, sending just a few at a time and holding on to the rest. (Addendum: On this issue, see here.)

More broadly, this issue of the regimes and the Jihadi Islamists is perhaps the weakest and most uninformed part of Fukuyama's latest book. It's something I'll have to come back to later.