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article imageOp-Ed: Conflict in Syria between moderate rebels and jihadists increases

By Ken Hanly     Sep 17, 2013 in World
Damascus - Tension and even conflict is increasing between radical jihadists in Syria and other rebel groups operating under the western-backed Supreme Military Council.
Unlike other rebel groups such as the Free Syria Army, many jihadist groups fear US missile attacks against Assad's military installations. They fear that strikes would also be made against them. Many also believe that the west wants to use moderate rebel factions to keep them in check and even attack them.
The jihadists believe that the US will use moderates in the same way as Awakening Councils were used in Iraq. The Awakening Councils were Sunni groups who were funded by the US to fight against Al Qaeda groups in Iraq. A BBC article describes them as follows: " The emerging tribal militia became known as the Sahwa, or Awakening Councils. They denied al-Qaeda space to operate from the areas they controlled and drove them out." Jihadist distrust of Western-backed moderates is resulting in outright conflict between them and jihadists in some cases.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) designated by the US as a "terrorist organization" and boasting many foreign fighters announced last week that they would go to war against two other rebel groups in the town of Al-Bab which is in the Aleppo governorate. The leadership of the ISIL group is in Iraq. The group declared a "purifying maliciousness" campaign designed to round up fighters from the Al-Nasr and al-Farouq battalions that both are under the banner of the Western-backed Supreme Military Council. The two groups had tried to evict ISIL fighters from a school they were using as headquarters. The ISIL refused to agree to a an agreement among other rebel factions to stay away from educational institutions and allow children to return to school. The dispute ended in a firefight with several injured.
Near the Iraq border clashes erupted between jihadists and the Allahu Akbar brigade credited with the capture of al-Bu Kamal from Assad forces. The brigade also operates under the Supreme Military Council.
In the northeastern province of al_Raqqa, the ISIL has clashed with the Ahfad al-Rasoul battalion, another group that has links to the Supreme Military Council. The clashes killed ten people. The ISIL claims that the battalion collaborates with the Assad regime.
Once united in the fight against government forces, the ISIL and other similar groups have recently labelled some Supreme Military Council factions "Sahwat", likening them to US-funded "Awakening Councils" in Iraq. Those armed groups established themselves in Sunni tribal areas in 2005 ostensibly to help the Iraqi government with security, as violence raged throughout the country. The Awakening units were at the forefront of the fight against al-Qaeda and other jihadists in Iraq.
Supreme Military Council commanders have unequivocally called on Washington to carry out missile strikes on Assad's military assets, hoping such an offensive could help bring the regime down. So upset are some commanders in the Supreme Military Council that they have threatened to resign as shown in the appended video.The jihadists, meanwhile, say if the US decides to intervene militarily in the Syria, they themselves would not be spared.
"Once the Syrian skyline is violated, the air strikes would extend to the positions of the jihadists [in rebel-controlled areas. They will start targeting them in the name of the fight against terrorism," a member of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, told Al Jazeera. The Jabhat al-Nusra member said he believed the West was intervening in the country because "the US proxies" in Syria were losing ground to the jihadists: "The developments in Syria are straying away from the US calculations. The Syrian street has never been more attuned with the Islamists and more supportive of an Islamic project in the country the way it is now. Syrians have been rejecting the Western-backed projects in the country, including the Jarba project."
The Jarba project is a proposal put forward by Ahmad Jarba, the leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition. He called for the creation of a 6,000-strong national army to unite the hundreds of rebel groups and to counter the influence of the jihadists. The project has never come to fruition due to lack of logistical and financial support.
In parts of northern Syria where Kurds are the majority, the jihadists have clashed with Kurds in competition for control of territory as shown in the video below:
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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