We hear claims about the existence of terrorist fighters fighting alongside of others in the multiple-front battles going on in the Syrian civil war. Spokespeople for President Obama, the European Union and other Western sources of aid to the Syrian rebels are making statements that their aid is intended and funneled solely to the secular rebel forces and are not going to any terrorist interests. Then there is Syrian President Bashir al-Assad who has claimed from the outset that he is fighting against terrorists who are attempting to conquer Syria and impose Islamist governance. Before we can determine which sides might be fielding terrorist forces and which might be truly supporting what could be classified as free and democratic governance we must recognize all the disparate forces fighting to take control of Syria. There is the Syrian army which has remained largely loyal to President Bashir al-Assad who has some so-called volunteer forces also fighting alongside the regulars of the Syrian armed forces. These would be forces best described as loyal to the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and the Alawite tribal preeminence. Among the groups who are collectively described as the rebel forces there are the Syrian National Coalition; the groups allied with the Al-Nusra Front which include for argument’s sake the Ghuraba al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front; and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party. So, let’s take them one at a time and inspect who exactly make up these groups.
The Syrian Military which has remained loyal to President Bashir al-Assad is made up largely, especially the officers corps, of Alawite Tribal members and some Bedouin tribal members from within Syria. Fighting alongside the Syrian Military are Iranian Military units from the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) who are an arm of the Iranian government which are a secondary military force which is largely responsible for training terrorists forces and carrying out enforcement and other missions beyond the Iranian border. A number of countries have classified at least parts of the IRGC to be a terrorist group or tied to terror operations. Additionally fighting to keep President al-Assad in power are fighters from Lebanon who belong to Hezballah, an almost universally recognized terrorist entity. At best one would have to conclude that a goodly portion of the forces defending the al-Assad regime are composed of actual terrorists and some terror related groups such as the IRGC and likely the al-Quds forces which are an elite corps from within the IRGC assigned almost exclusively to carry out terror operations often in collaboration of Hezballah and similar terrorist groups.
The Al-Nusra Front is a declared al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group by their own admission and by declaration of al-Qaeda sources. They are allied with two other terrorist groups, Ghuraba al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front. These terrorist groups have imported Mujahedeen fighters and other related terrorist entities. There is no disagreement that this sector of the rebel forces are strongly terror related. They have also been the beneficiaries of arms shipments from fellow terrorist groups in Libya who have a large cache of arms consisting of those inherited from the overthrown Gadhafi dictatorship as well as arms provided the rebels by NATO in the Western support of their revolt. There have been reports of other Muslim countries providing these terror forces with arms as well with most of them flowing into Syria from Turkey.
The Syrian National Coalition is supported by the Western powers who claim thus far to only supplying non-arms related support including food, medical supplies and other such provisions. If one desires to simply take the government’s word at face value, then the Syrian National Coalition is a terrorist free organization. The troubling part in simply believing the government position is it is based on the definition of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government admits is the organizing and financial force behind the Syrian National Coalition, as a purely secular organization which has eschewed violence and represents a democratic movement within the Muslim world. This definition does run into some troubling complications once one considers any of the groups which have been spawned from and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. The likely most well-known of these groups would be Hamas which is a recognized terrorist entity which currently rules the Palestinians of Gaza and regularly has launched rockets and mortars into Israel aimed at civilian targets.
If you take a relatively uncomplicated and simple approach to the Syrian civil war one could easily claim that all the three factions mentioned above are all in some form or another terrorist groups or supported by terrorist groups. So, if you wish not to risk supporting any form of terror groups, who can one support. There is the Kurdish Democratic Union Party which for the most part is taking a purely defensive approach to the entire conflict and merely attempting to protect the Kurdish community within Syria or in the refugee camps where millions of Syrians have sought safety. There are similar groups doing much the same with the Christians who remain in Syria or have fled over the borders. Both of these groups, the Kurds and the Christians, realize that they are not going to be winners no matter which groups prevails in this three way civil war. For those who will claim the struggle in Syria is not a three way affair, all I ask is wait and should al-Assad be dethroned see if the war does not continue with the groups supporting the al-Nusra Front continue the fight against the Syrian National Coalition for control over Syria. Simply put, this conflict must have but one result, terrorists of some degree will control Syria and as is the way with terrorist groups, there can be only one reigning supreme in the end.
Beyond the Cusp