Qaedists lose ground in Syria; gain in Iraq

Syrian rebels on Jan. 3 launched an offensive against the Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attacking the Qaedist strongholds at several locations in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib. The offensive included forces from the both the nominally secular Free Syrian Army and the new Islamic Front alliance. The Islamic Front apparently launched the offensive after one of its commanders, Hussein al-Suleiman of the Ahrar al-Sham militia, was tortured to death by ISIS militants.  He was reportedly detained after he went to meet with an ISIS delegation in an effort to settle a dispute that arose in the village of Maskaneh in rural Aleppo. A gruesome photograph of Suleiman's disfigured body has circulated widely on social media, spakring outrage against ISIS. (Daily Star, Lebanon, Jan. 4; Daily Star, Jan. 3)

This reversal in Syria paradoxically comes amid dramatic gains for the Qaedist insurgency in Iraq. In recent days, ISIS forces have taken the towns of both Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar governorate. Iraqi troops and allied tribesmen have surrounded Fallujah, and are about to luanch a drive to re-take it. (AP, Jan. 3)


  1. US-Iran convergence in Iraq counter-insurgency

    Another one to file under "life's little ironies." From the New York Times, Jan. 7:

    On Monday, Iran offered to join the United States in sending military aid to the Shiite government in Baghdad, which is embroiled in street-to-street fighting with radical Sunni militants in Anbar Province, a Sunni stronghold. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he could envision an Iranian role in the coming peace conference on Syria, even though the meeting is supposed to plan for a Syria after the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, an important Iranian ally.

  2. US-Iran convergence? What US-Iran convergence?

    Roots Action has a petition online, "Stop arming the Iraqi government's assault on Fallujah!" The text reminds us that Fallujah re-escalated to war only after Iraqi government forces cracked down on a civil protest movement there last year. It also asserts: "many residents of Fallujah insist that tribal militias control Fallujah and that al Qaeda forces play only a marginal role in the fighting." But this merely opens the question of what is and what isn't al-Qaeda. If those tribal fighters have pledged allegiance to ISIS, then al-Qaeda is effectively in control of Fallujah, however inconvenient this may be to anti-war propaganda. Less convenient still (and completely ignored by the petition, of course) is that the US and Iran are basically on the same side in Iraq—even as they wage something approaching a proxy war over Syria…

    So presumably, Iranian intervention in Iraq is bad but Iranian intervention in Syria is good, while US intervention in either is bad… How does that work again?

  3. Iraq-Syria irony enters surreal-o-sphere…

    This is too much. David Ignatius in the Washington Post Jan. 8 identifies an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander as having led a sort of dirty war ("covert campaign," in his words) against Sunni militants in Iraq for the Maliki government, which had the paradoxical if inevitable effect of merely re-radicalizing the Sunnis and re-igniting the insurgency. The commander is none other than Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani—who (although Ignatius doesn't note it) is now said to be providing similar services for Bashar Assad in Syria!

    We'd still love to know how this is squared by the idiot left elements who simultaneously cheer on Bashar Assad, Iran's ayatollahs—and the Sunni insurgents in Iraq! 

    Hassan Hassan in Foreign Policy meanwhile provides a breakdown of the rebel forces now fighting against ISIS. In addition to the Islamic Front, he mentions two newly formed groups, the Jaish al-Mujahideen and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front. He does not mention the Free Syrian Army at all.

    Near as we can tell, the Islamic Front is Salafist but not Qaedist, while the Jaish al-Mujahideen is Islamist but not Salafist. Dare we hope that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front is at least vaguely secularist? Then there is the Nusra Front, which is Qaedist but apparently rejects the Iraq-based leadership of ISIS…

    While we would love to see ISIS crushed by Syrian revolutionaries, we continue to wish that we saw more about the secular civil resistance, which continues to hang on amid all this fitnah (internecine bloodshed)…

  4. Robert Fisk: eating crow yet?

    Remember just a couple of months ago when Assad regime shill Robert Fisk was asking: "Does Obama know he's fighting on al-Qa'ida's side?" Has he revised this spurious thesis now that the rebels are kicking al-Qaeda's ass? We'll be waiting. Thanks to the Linux Beach blog for doggedly staying on top of the rascal, and documenting how he is precisely echoing regime propaganda in his pseudo-journalism.

    The silence is deafening, Robert Fisk.

  5. More sectarian terror in Iraq

    Bombings in a Shiite-majority area of Baghdad and other attacks killed 37 people on Feb. 27, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused neighboring states of backing "jihadists" in Iraq. In the deadliest attack, an explosives-rigged motorcycle ripped through an area of motorcycle shops in the Shiite-majority Sadr City district of Baghdad, killing at least 27 people and wounding 40, the interior ministry said. (AFP)