May 28, 2013

What The Syrian Civil War Is Really All About

While the media (and a lot of politicians) are attempting to paint a picture of the Syrian civil war as being about rebels desiring freedom from the tyrant Assad, the actual picture is much different. Anyone who’s been paying attention should not be surprised by this—it’s been the case with most conflicts over the last sixty years.

There are essentially two sides in the Syrian conflict, and they encompass a wide variety of groups and supporters. On one side there is the Assad government, Hezbollah, Iranian agents and various pro-government militias. On the other, you find the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, Jund al Sham, the Free Syria Army, and reported backers from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Again, anyone who has been paying attention will pick out the dividing line immediately. The war isn’t between Assad and a bunch of democracy-loving rebels. It’s between Iran and its proxies on one side, and the Salafist movement on the other.

The Iranians espouse a strict militant form of Shi’a Islam. In contrast, the Salafists (of whom the Wahhabis are a part of), desire a strict militant form of Sunni Islam. Part of this conflict has been seen already in the sectarian violence in Iraq—most notably with Jaysh al Mahdi representing the Shi’a and Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Salafists representing the Islamic State of Iraq. While both sides had a common enemy in the US, their own conflict went back a lot further and has never been entirely put aside. The Iranians especially have long been willing to support any jihadist cause, as long as it hurts Jews or infidels. Al Zarqawi worked out of Tehran for some time before becoming the head of AQI.


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About the Author

is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. He is now a tactical tracking instructor and the author of the military thrillers Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows.

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  • majrod

    michaelr2c majrod  While I agree the Assad released a bunch of Islamists it wasn't to dilute the opposition so much as to portray the rebels as radicals when they overwhelmingly weren't.  It's taken almost three years of consistent US dithering and nonaction for the Islamists to equal the secular rebels in numbers.

  • michaelr2c

    majrod PeteN  I totally agree about helping the secularists.  When the chemical weapons issue came up I really thought our only option, if we were going to use a military strike, would have been to strike ALL the bad guys--all of Assad's coalition, pluse the AQ elements and Hamas--so the only guys untouched would have been the secularists.  That would have really made an impact and spoken to the world.  But, alas, our administration in desperately looking for a way out, bowed to Putin.  That basically told the secularists that we couldn't help them since by agreeing to the Putin deal we accepted the legitimacy of the Assad Government as the only rightful government in Syria.

  • michaelr2c

    majrod  Assad's initial moves in this war were brilliant.  His prisons were packed with Islamic extremists, and as soon as the fighting began, in order to dilute the Secular Rebellion, he opened the prisons and released all the extremists so he could claim the opposition were terrorists.  Of course all the newly freed extremists hated Assad, so they took up the fight against Assad, making his assessment true.  The extremists were trained fighters, and the West didn't offer help to the secularists so they had no where else to go if they wanted to actually be on the playing field against Assad. This is a similar thing to what happened in the Chechen war for Independence.  The Chechens initially reached out to the U.S. to support their independence from the former Soviet Union--since we had recently supported Georgia breaking away.  But, Russia was pissed and our relations were beginning to warm with changes happening in Russia's transition from communism.  That sensitivity prevented the U.S. from giving more than token support to the Chechen movement.  Although, it was our token support of the independence movement that caused a rift in terrorist cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on al Qaeda even to this day.  The Chechen's, enduring the might of the Russian Army reached out for the only help they could get--al Qaeda.  At the time (mid 90's) it was perfect for al Qaeda operatives to get practical combat experience that has been put to great use, and to this day some of the toughest foreign fighters we encounter are Chechens.  The Chechen population was always moderate sufi Muslims, but, they figured al Qaeda was the lesser of two evils--Russia or Independence and getting rid of extremists.  Eventually the extremists were so hardline against the population that the Chechens turned back to Russia for help (late 90's, early 2000's).   But, it was this 1990's training ground that was the real proving ground for al Qaeda and their investment in foreign fighters to send on jihad all over the world. The Syrians, unfortunately were too desperate with fear of annihilation, that they couldn't consider the lessons the Chechens learned the hard way.  And, now, Syria, is and will continue to be a blood bath--and new training ground (along with Central Africa) for the next generation of Islamic extremists. The best we can do is support our allies in Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey to make sure there isn't spill over, which has already begun--especially in Iraq.  Containment of this conflict at this point is the only way, but, it still only creates a future with low prospects of major reconciliations anywhere in the Middle East ideological battles.

  • genefarnsworth

    Again, another great piece by Pete. I am still of the opinion that this multi century war will end one of two ways; Islam wins and we die or...duh....we win and they die. I don't see a question of the how or when but rather a question of  America having the will and the guts to make it happen. In the early 90's PC bullshit was starting to become deeply ingrained in the Navy, I saw it daily till I fucking pucked and retired, and that PC bs is so deep now that senior officers are being purged in record numbers ( think russia early 1900's)  mid level officers are either jumping on the pc bandwagon and carrying on or getting out, either way the US loses.  I read jacks tweet the other day about BS troops in Hawaii getting on peeps about dress code, I hear  from a couple youngn's I know on actdu some pretty silly things going on, I Hear of a air force E-9 here in Colorado on the chopping block because he had the audacity of answering his CO truthfully when she asked him his opinion about gay bs in the AF, and the list goes on.  I think our much larger problem is  with our...I stress our.... politicians making decisions that are based on everything but USA interest coupled with pc bs and their own political agenda, have put us in a position where us peeps have got to get off our asses, find leadership, or stand up ourselves if qualified,  who will stand up for what they believe in....and then we must do whatever it takes to get that person elected then hold their feet to the fire. Can anyone say LtCol West ? Cowdy from NC or Ted Cruz....must be more out there. Until we make those things happen, the middle east will continue to consume us until we ....are....no more !

  • clluelo

    I was watching that myself and I agree with you. The months will be interesting and may put My county ,Canada, back in the fight