Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Reports coming in from Syria indicate that the Free Syrian Army has refused utilizing Arab jihadists, some of whom have actually arrived in Syria, in spite of this army’s modest capabilities when compared with the army of the ruling regime.
The opposition “national council” hopes that more military personnel will defect from the regular army to help the free army confront the forces of Al-Assad and end the dictatorial rule in the country with Syrian hands.
A few days ago, 23 year old Egyptian Muhammad, disappeared from the Al-Sadat City near Cairo in Egypt leaving a letter to his family. The family members understood from the letter that he was going to support the Syrians against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Muhammad is one of thousands of Muslim and Arab youths who several intelligence reports say began to head to Syria via several Middle Eastern states after they saw the horrific scenes of acts of killing that are carried out by the Al-Assad regime.
Imad Husari, member of the Syrian National Council and member of the executive office of the local coordination committees in Syria, says that a number of non-Syrian jihadists did indeed arrive in Syria and that the Free Syrian Army refused to receive them.
According to security reports based on Western sources, some jihadists began to head to Syria about a week after the Al-Qaeda Organization’s Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Muslims in Turkey Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan to support the Syrians who confront the Al-Assad forces. There are Egyptian Islamists too in these countries. In other words, they come from the home country of Al-Zawahiri who is hiding on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Muhammad’s family says its son previously travelled against its will to support the Libyan revolutionaries when they were fighting against Gaddafi. The family adds that an Egyptian preacher from the City of Marsa Matruh near the border with Libya was the person who arranged for Egyptians to join the Libyan revolutionaries last year.
The family members of Muhammad believe that the same preacher, who is now member of the Egyptian Parliament for the Salafi Islamic Trend, arranged for the travel of their son to Syria via Libya. However, answering questions put to him by Asharq Al-Awsat, this preacher said he has nothing to do with this issue, even though he admitted that he previously arranged for the same youngster to travel to Libya “as part of Egyptian volunteers for relief work in Libya.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added that some Egyptians did indeed sneak into Syria through Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.
An Egyptian security source who served as his country’s attaché in Syria says the acts of violence that have been continuing there for 11 months now amid horrific scenes of killing do not seem to be enough for the international community, namely Russia and China, to take steps to rein in the forces of Al-Assad because of the complex situation in Syria.
He notes that entry of Arab or Islamist volunteers into Syria “cannot be monitored accurately.” He adds: “Some people are keen to publish reports on such activity and link them to the fear of the Al-Qaeda Organization for political reasons. This is what the Al-Assad regime currently doing and what the Gaddafi regime did before. But it did not work.”
The Syrian revolution first began with peaceful protests by civilians in March last year but military personnel defected from the army to protect the demonstrators who demanded democracy. What is known as the Free Syrian Army came into existence in July last year, under the command of Colonel Riyad al-Asaad. This army depends on the weapons that the defectors brought with them but it lacks effective heavy military vehicles.
The source went on to say: “I do not believe that the Libya experience will be repeated there. Besides, foreign jihadists’ joining of the Syrian revolution will complicate the problem.”
He added: “As I see it, an effective solution is to tighten the economic and political blockade of the Al-Assad regime. That is why the Syrian revolutionaries appear cleverer in dealing with the issue when, in spite of everything, they say that the solution lies in their hands, that is to say, inside the country.”
Activists, most of whom are Islamists from states in the region and countries neighbouring Syria, are attempting to help the Syrian revolution in order to “put an end to the daily brutal attacks that the regime carries out against the citizens.” But leading figures in Islamic groups say their members are only collecting donations and that they do not seek to take part in the fighting in Syria.
Dr Mahmud Ghizlan, official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood Group, says a lot of youths collect money for Syrian refugees. Regrettably, however, he adds, there are no borders between Egypt and Syria to do more. Commenting on the issue of providing direct practical assistance, he adds: “I believe that they are supporting their fellow migrants or refugees who cross from Syria to Jordan.”
Western reports indicate that the Iraqi Government has stepped up its security measures on the border to prevent the entry of fighters and delivery of weapons to the revolutionaries in Syria. Among them are Sunnis, and it is believed that there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood Group among them. But Ghizlan says: “I have no knowledge of this.”
He says: “The Muslim Brotherhood Group holds the view that a solution in Syria lies in the departure of the regime. There is no other solution. Any compromise solution, preparation of a new constitution, or formation of a new government is all nonsense. So long as blood continues to flow, there will be no solution, except departure of the regime.”
For his part, Imad Husari comments on the Syrian opposition’s stand toward reports indicating that jihadist fighters entered the country, particularly from Iraq and some other states, to support the opposition against Al-Assad. He emphasizes that the only aim of such reports is “to throw dust in the eyes.” However, he noted: “Surely, there are some people who take interest in the Syrian issue, regardless of their intellectual inclinations, be they Islamists, Arab nationalists, or leftists. But they are few, only a few tens.”
Husari says that, for example, a number of jihadist fighters came from abroad, entered the City of Idlib, stayed there for 10 days, and offered to help, but the revolutionaries and the Free Syrian Army rejected their offer of assistance and also refused to receive them. Husari adds that they told the fighters that they do not deal with fanatics because fanaticism is a translation of dictatorship. He notes that these people who came from abroad and whose number did not exceed 10 had a jihadic inclination and they left Syria after the Free Army rejected their assistance.
Husari commented on reports that say the Free Syrian Army does not possess the power that would enable it to shake the army of Al-Assad who spent on arming this army three times the money that Gaddafi spent on his army. He said that, from the military point of view and in terms of weapons, the Free Army cannot be compared with the Syrian regime’s army that enjoys capabilities and has airfields, planes, helicopters, and other equipment.
He added: “With the small quantity of weapons that the military personnel who defect from the Syrian regime army bring with them, the Free Syrian Army cannot bring this regime down. But thus far, this army has given the Syrians a moral support by encouraging them to abandon Al-Assad and continuing to protect peaceful demonstrators.”
Leaders of the Syrian opposition say that more defections from the Al-Assad army, as is currently happening, and more weapons and training, as is hoped, might help the Free Army influence the situation without foreign military intervention. They add that the presence of the Free Army helped encourage the Syrians to defy the regime and organize larger and more powerful demonstrations.
Husari says: “Those who promote rumours that a large number of jihadists or others have entered into the country to assist the Syrians against the regime are merely repeating the Syrian regime’s version.” He adds: “There is not one single non-Syrian martyr among the martyrs of Syria whose number exceeded 8,000.”