Syria’s armed opposition group, the Islamic Front, with whose assistance foreign stakeholders in the conflict are trying to combat terrorism in the country, is in fact a terrorist organization itself, says Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Lavrov noted that, while some are trying to combat the terrorist organizations al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant through establishing a new association called the Islamic Front, the groups comprising the Islamic Front are pretty similar to those terror groups.
At least one was involved, with the al-Nusra Front, in the Adra massacre in Syria, in which dozens of Christians, Druze, and other minorities were slain, he added. Militants migrate between the Islamic Front, al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant depending on who pays more, Russia therefore has great doubts that the Islamic Front could serve as an alternative to terrorists, Lavrov said.
Moreover, some even suggest inviting Islamic Front representatives to the Geneva-2 international conference, but in this case, members of the internal opposition who have not left Syria should also be invited, he said. This internal opposition has been accused of being loyal to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which Lavrov said is wrong, suggesting that loyalty to a regime should not be confused with loyalty to a country and there is nothing wrong with being loyal to one’s country.
The National Coordination Committee, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or the Popular Front for Liberation and Change are groups that want to take part in determining their country’s fate, he said. With all due respect paid to Syrian National Coalition head, Ahmad Jarba, and his partners, the National Coalition has lost several groups, which had pulled out, among other reasons, as a sign of protest against the Geneva negotiations, he added.
Therefore, neither Russia nor the US nor anyone else can do anything on their own, while they can do a lot if they act together patiently and consistently, Lavrov said.
Saturday, 01 February 2014 A Saudi newspaper denied on Saturday a story published by a British newspaper on funding ” Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant ” , what is known for short as ” Daash ” , describing it as a ” false allegations”.
The official Saudi news agency quoted , the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Mohammed bin Nawaf of what he considered as ” false allegations by The Independent newspaper on his country,” which appeared in an article titled ” Middle Eastern regimes fighting al-Qaeda now.”
The agency said that , “The Saudi ambassador said in a letter published in the same newspaper , this week that the false claims made in the article about Kingdom of Saudi Arabia funding the so-called organization of the state of Iraq and the Levant Islamic and described it as false , adding that the Saudi Embassy totally rejects such accusations and consider them as misleading”.
The Saudi ambassador noted in his letter , that ” his country’s position towards the violent extremism file is supposed to be clear ,” but he considered ” the allegations made in the article as an opportunity to clarify the position of his country , and confirm it again.
The ambassador added that ” Saudi Arabia is continuing in its efforts to show its support for the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian opposition and want the same thing from the world .”
He added that Saudi Arabia ” has repeatedly stressed that it is tirelessly providing support for the forces of moderation which is the most effective way to retard the growth of the extremism forces inside Syria.”
The British writer , Robert Fisk had published an article in the ” Independent newspaper ” , in the fifth of last month , in which he accused Saudi Arabia of funding ” Daash organization ” , which is fighting in Syria, both of the Free Syrian Army and the regime of Bashar al-Assad together .
It is worth mentioning that battles are taking place between the police forces and tribesmen loyal to the government against al ” Daash ” in Anbar province
The false claims made in the article “Now it’s Middle Eastern regimes fighting al-Qa’ida” (6 January) about the Kingdom financing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are of the utmost seriousness. The Embassy refutes such implications and finds them an inaccurate and misleading account of the situation.
We would assume our attitude towards violent extremism is clear. In the light of the article, however, we would like to take this opportunity to again clarify our position and the imprecision of this accusation.
Saudi Arabia continues to show its support for the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Opposition. Global hesitation to do the same, we believe, is acting as a large barrier in movement towards peace. It is only too easy to assign blame for indecisiveness and hesitation in the support of the Syrian Opposition to fear of indirectly enabling the involvement of al-Qaeda within Syria.
In reality, it is this lack of international involvement that is paving the way for terrorist-affiliated networks to breed within Syria. Saudi Arabia has unremittingly emphasised that provision of support to forces of moderation is the most effective manner in which to stunt the growth of forces of extremism within Syria.
The Kingdom continues through the Friends of Syria group to urge the international community to be more courageous in displaying their support for the coalition and the Free Syrian Army, who are in desperate need of international assistance.
This is “Arab unity” as we have never seen it before. But watch out
And so, for the first time in recent history, it seems that the “war against terror” – and specifically against al-Qa’ida – is being fought by Middle East regimes rather than their foreign investors.
Sure, American drones still smash into al-Qa’ida operatives, wedding parties and innocent homes in Pakistan. But it’s General al-Sisi of Egypt, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran – even powerless President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon – who are now fighting “terrorists”.
It shows how powerful the bad guys have become that mutually antagonistic dictators and satraps can gang together against America’s enemy. This is “Arab unity” as we have never seen it before. The Ottoman Empire lives again. But watch out.
You need to put on a tin hat to avoid the ironies crashing out of the sky. John Kerry – now the most outrageously funny Secretary of State in US history, he who promised an “unbelievably small” airstrike against Syria – says America supports the secular rebels against Assad, who are fighting the Islamist rebels who are fighting against Assad even though the US still wants the overthrow of – you guessed it – Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile private Saudi money is still pouring into Syria to help the al-Qa’ida-associated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) – against whom Bashar and the secular Free Syrian Army are now fighting – while the Saudis also contribute billions to Sisi’s army in Egypt which is fighting identical al-Qa’ida-linked “terror” in Sinai and now, it appears, in Cairo itself. And if you are confused by all this, try Lebanon.
Last week, the authorities claimed to have arrested Majid bin Mohamed al-Majid, one of the “most wanted” al-Qa’ida men in Saudi Arabia. All they had to do to confirm this extraordinary detention was to use DNA to check the man’s identity. This came only weeks after Lebanese Shias blamed Saudi “terrorists” for blowing up the Iranian embassy in Beirut, an attack followed by the assassination of a prominent Sunni politician and then – last week – by a further attack on Shias in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital. No sooner had Sunni ex-minister Mohammed Chatah been car-bombed to death, than the Americans promised more money to the Lebanese army. How, then, could the Lebanese avoid being drawn into the “anti-terrorist” war after arresting Majid? Miraculously – and there have been a lot of miracles in the Middle East region, as we all know – the Lebanese not only confirmed that they had indeed got the right man, but that he had regrettably died of organ failure while in their custody. Phew!
Majid al-Majid was the alleged leader of the group that claimed responsibility for the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November
But US support for the Lebanese military will go ahead. Just as Washington is now offering more missiles and planes to the Shia sub-dictator President Maliki of Iraq if he goes on biffing Sunni insurgents and al-Qa’ida men in Anbar province. History, of course, repeats itself in Fallujah and Ramadi, the two cities repeatedly conquered and then re-conquered and then re-conquered for a third time by US forces after the illegal invasion of 2003. In 2004, the Marines claimed they had wiped out al-Qa’ida in Fallujah, then handed the city over to Baathist policemen. Then the Americans virtually destroyed the city around the heads of al-Qa’ida after another few months – we will not mention the use of US phosphorous shells and the outbreak of childbirth abnormalities more than five years later – and now the largely Shia Iraqi army is fighting the Sunni tribesmen of Fallujah. Who are in turn (be patient, readers) claiming they are fighting the local al-Qa’ida groups, just as the Free Syrian Army insists that it is now in combat against the same al-Qa’ida groups in Syria.
Meanwhile Kerry – who has not invited the Iranians to the Geneva 2 talks on Syria – says Iran might play a valuable role “on the sidelines” (has ever an invitation to Iran appeared more insulting?) while the main Syrian opposition forces have no intention of taking part in the Swiss conference. Geneva 2, in other words, is a dead duck; just like the Palestinian-Israeli talks of which Kerry still speaks with optimism – a sure sign that this particular duck is also dying.
Who now remembers the Arab Awakening – or “spring” as some of my colleagues still insist on calling it? Well, let’s just take a look at an ominous statement this past weekend in which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the latest bomb in Beirut – the one that killed at least four civilians in the Hezbollah suburbs. So now Isil – as I suppose we must call it – acknowledges it is fighting on three fronts: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. So we have Arab regime unity at last. As for America – well, I guess they’ll go on supporting the Free Syrian Army which is fighting al-Qa’ida which is fighting Bashar whom Washington wants to dethrone.
America’s Muslim Brotherhood friends in Egypt have just been formally classed as “terrorists” by Sisi who is supported by the country which is paying – long live Salafism – for Islamist “terror” in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. And Saudi Arabia – the key to the whole fandango, though no one will say this – remains a close and “moderate” friend of America. Say no more.
Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, chaired the Cabinet’s session Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday afternoon.
After reviewing the report submitted by the Interior Ministry on the draft penal system for crimes of terrorism and its financing, and decision of Majlis Al-Shura Council No. (45/44) dated 24/07/1432 AH, the Cabinet decided as follows:
First: Approval of a penal system for crimes of terrorism and its financing, as attached to the resolution:
Second: Provisions – referred to in clause (Second) of the Royal Decree No. (M / 31) dated 11/05/1433 AH shall be in effect – on penalties related to crimes of financing terrorism, terrorist acts and terrorist organizations, stipulated in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, issued by Royal Decree No. (M/39) dated 25/06/1424 AH, until the issuance of provisions relating to such penalties.
A royal decree has been prepared for that.
Among the most prominent features of the penal system against the crimes of terrorism and its financing:
First: It is considered a procedural penal system in which the principle of balance has been taken into consideration between the risks being resulted from such crimes, and the protection of human rights being preserved and confirmed by Islamic (Sharia) law.
Second: The penal System defined the meaning of terrorist offense as any act done by the offender pursuant to a criminal scheme being carried out, individually or collectively, directly or indirectly, aiming to disturb public order, undermining the security of society and the stability of the State, endangering its national unity, disabling the country’s Basic Law or some of its articles, defaming the State or its status, inflicting damages on one of the State’s facilities or natural resources, attempting to compel one of its powers to take undesired action or otherwise, threatening to carry out actions leading to the aforementioned goals or inciting to commit them.
Third: The penal system specified the procedures necessary and guarantees due when dealing with a suspect of committing a terrorist crime or financing it. Most prominent of these procedures and guarantees are the authorization of the Minister of Interior to stop proceedings of charges laid against whoever initiates to report on one of the crimes contained in the system – before starting judicial proceedings – and cooperate with the competent authorities during the investigation to catch the perpetrators or others who may be linked to a similar crime in terms of its type or severity. The penal system also authorized the Minister of Interior for the release of the detained or sentenced during serving a prison sentence.”
“Approval of the crimes of terrorism and its financing 03/30/1435 The Council of Ministers after seeing the treatment received from the Royal Court (no. 17138 ) dated 20/03/1433 AH , containing a telegram of His Royal Highness the Minister of Interior No. 1 ( u / 30936 ) dated 06/05/1428 AH in a draft penal system for crimes of terrorism and its financing . Having examined the Royal Decree No. (M / 31) and the date of 11/05/1433 AH . After examining the records No. ( 190 ) dated 05/07/1432 AH , and No. ( 300 ) dated 10/07/1432 AH , and No. ( 402 ) dated 09/24/1432 AH , and No. ( 535 ) dated 12/20/1432 AH , and the number ( 350 ) dated 06/22/1433 AH , and No. ( 173 ) dated 03/28/1434 AH , and No. ( 510 ) dated 09/14/1434 AH , and No. (18 ) dated 04/01/1435 AH , and number (20) and the date of 8/1 / e in 1435 , and No. ( 49 ) dated 01/16/1435 AH , and memorandum No. ( 654 ) dated 12/01/1434 AH , in the stomach experts Bureau . After consideration of the Shura Council resolution No. ( 45/44 ) dated 07/24/1432 AH . Having considered the recommendation of the General Committee of the Council of Ministers No. (100 ) dated 30/01/1435 AH . Decides as follows : First, the approval of the crimes of terrorism and its financing , as accompaniment . Second, continue to work provisions – referred to in clause ( ii) of the Royal Decree No. (M / 31) and the date of 11/05/1433 AH – related penalties related to crimes of financing terrorism, terrorist acts and terrorist organizations , stipulated in the Anti-Money Laundering , issued Royal Decree No. (M / 39 ) dated 25/06/1424 AH , and until such time as the release of provisions relating to such sanctions and work under them . A draft royal decree this, phrased to accompany this . Third, the allocation of the circle in the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to investigate the offense of financing terrorism , after the readiness of the Commission to do so. Deputy Prime Minister”
Approval of the crimes of terrorism and its financing
The Council of Ministers Q Having examined the treatment received from the Royal Court No. ) 17138 ( And the date of 20/03/1433 AH , pain Stmlh on cable His Royal Highness the Minister of Interior No. ) 1 u / 30936 ( and the date of 05/06/1428 AH in St. that M initiate penal system for crimes of a phobia and funding . After examining the bitter Som Royal No. ) m / 31 ( and the date 05/11/1433 AH . After examining the accounting harm number (190) and the date of 07/05/1432 AH , No. (300) and the date of 07/10/1432 AH , and number ) 402 ( and the date 09/24/1432 AH , and number ) 535 ( and the date of 20/12/1432 AH , No. (350) and the date of 22/06/1433 AH , and the number (173) and the date of 28/03/1434 AH , and the number (510) and the date of 09/14/1434 AH , and No. (18) and the date of 01/04/1435 AH , and number (20) and the date of 08/01/1435 AH , And number (49) and the date of 01/16/1435 AH , and the note number ) 654 ( and the date 12/01/1434 AH , the expert body in the stomach Bcil Q minister. After considering the decision of the Board of Q Shura No. ) 45/44 ( and the date 07/24/1432 AH . After examining the testament to the General Committee of the Board of Q Ministers No. (100) And the date of 01/30/1435 AH . Decides the following : First: the approval of the crimes of the phobia and its financing , pal formula accompaniment . Second, my work pass judgments – pain referred to in item ) Second ( Bitter from the Royal Som number ) m / 31 ( and the date 05/11/1433 e – Relating to the penalties of the link crimes to finance A phobia and Business A Rhabiyh and organizations to AAA to Rhabiyh , aphids SOW p in the combat system N sales of funds , the Palmer issued Royal Decree No. Sum m) / 39 ( and the date 25/06/1424 AH , and until such time as the release of A rulers relating to those Sanctions and work under them . It has been prepared m start over Som so regal , phrased to accompany this . Third: TeX recommends p circle in the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to investigate A crime to finance terrorism , after the readiness of the Commission to do so. Vice Presiden ù ù o o Council of Ministers Approval of the crimes of terrorism and its financing ************************ Over the S Som royal No. M / 16 and the date of 02/24/1435 AH With the help of God We Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Based on the article ) the seventy ( of the A ‘s Si Sa rule , issued by the Lamar Royal Ba a number ) A / 90 (dated 08/27/1412 AH . Based on Article ) General Shireen ( System Board of Q Minister , issued the Lamar Royal Ba a number ) A / 13 (dated 03/03/1414 AH . Based on the article ) eighth p voracious ( System Board of Q the Shura , The Ba issued a Royal Decree No. Lamar ) A / 91 (dated 27/08/1412 AH . After examining the bitter Som Royal No. ) m / 31 (dated 05/11/1433 AH . Having considered the decision of the Board of Q Shura No. ) 45/44 (dated 07/24/1432 AH . Having considered the decision of the Board of Q Ministers No. (63) dated 02/13/1435 AH . T Smona what is coming : First: the approval of the crimes of the phobia and its financing , pal formula Accompaniment . Second, my work pass a Ba rulers – pain referred to in item ) Second ( Bitter from the Royal Som number ) m / 31 (dated 05/11/1433 AH – Relating to the penalties of the crimes related to the financing of A phobia for a wa Workers A Rhabiyh to terrorist organizations , aphids SOW p in the combat system N A sales to pro , the Palmer issued Royal Decree No. Som ) m / 39 (dated 25/06/1424 AH , and until such time as the release of A rulers relating to those Sanctions and work under them . Third: HH the Deputy felt Q Council of Ministers and Minister o t Ä worsened Agencies involved pain Stqlh – all in Ikh whist – over the implementation of Somena This . Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud S ******************** System crimes of terrorism and its financing Pray first thousand ü Definitions Article I : Ik repel the following words and phrases – wherever they appear in this system – the meanings Elmo Wadha in front of each of them , unless the limitation with Z the context otherwise requires: A – terrorist crime : Each act undertaken by the offender did not implement initiate individual or collective criminal b form Including evil or non- evil including , Ik repulsed by disturbing public order , security or destabilize Community Wa State stability or undressing Z and national unity at risk , or Disable system only Si Sa rule or some Z materials , or only abuse to reputation State or position , or append the damage to a state facilities or resources Natural , or attempt to coerce a powers to do or Abstain from , or the threat of carrying out acts of T. lead to Almqa mentioned or repel Investigation Z them. B – the offense of financing terrorism : Every act be it within raise money , or offer, or taken , or TeX recommends systematically integrating , Or transfer , or convert them – or revenue – in whole or in part for any n activity Terrorist individually or collectively , structured or unstructured , at home or in Abroad , whether to form including evil or non- evil including of AD was issued M proceed or not proceed m . 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C – the money : However, the arrival or property of any value or kind tangible or intangible , Malmo ssh or non Malmo ssh, movable or immovable , and the documents and instruments The pain Stndhat whatever form , including electronic or digital systems The pain banking credits that indicate ownership or m where Sulha including For example on not insisted grate all kinds of checks and money orders, but shares The Securities and bonds , bills and letters of credit . D – Seizure : The Interim ban on the transfer of funds to a United and links and USA modes, or converted , Or replaced , or Walt exchange , or agitated , or and Put hand on them, or booked B image Agueth m ; a Stnada to is issued by a court or authority Mokht ‘s share this. E – utilities and public property and private ‘s share : Real and personal property owned by the state or only Chka r people with the recipe Public moral , or be brain p ‘s share did not Sulha general, aphids St. coming List belonging to the state , or that tens of Hiha , or Allen Hatat provided by To achieve goers Z of Agra Z public utility service for the citizens , Ot included As well as the real and personal property belonging to individuals or only Chka r with the recipe Private moral ‘s share , or bodies Diploma Seah , bodies or organizations International or now lingual , operating in the country . And – hand Sister Sa AM: The party that takes place her sister Sa am – Drug Control or only Stdalal , or Arrest , Z or investigation , or the public prosecution , or trial , Bh Sep the context of – Under the provisions of this Regulation . Ü thousand Pray second General Provisions Article II : The crimes of terrorism and financing of major crimes requiring detention . Article III : the exception of the principle of regional , T. secret provisions of this order on all piss p. Saudis or foreigners was committed – outside the kingdom – a crime Manna SOW PO forth in this order, or helped to commit, or initiated , Or free Z them , or where a share , or involving , not tried them ; if Was aimed at any of the j come : -1 Regime change in Saudi Arabia. -2 Disable the system only Si Sa rule or some Z materials . -3 Carrying State to do or abstain . -4 Assault on the Saudis abroad . -5 But Dirar Proprietary state’s public abroad , including the embassies or Other places Diploma Se or serf originals affiliates. -6 Carry out a terrorist act on board and way Moi links m record to the Kingdom Or carry flag. -7 Pain sa Q Bam in favor of the Kingdom, or received Sadha , or national security or Social . Ü thousand Pray third Actions Article IV : Minister of the Interior ordered the issuance E. Balqub on the Z- Z suspected of committing a crime Crimes of aphids SOW r in this system , and may Levu of Z sees determined in accordance with the regulations . Article V : In terms of investigating the arrest of the accused in an offense manna SOW p in This system or for successive periods not exceeding in the aggregate on a six month , And its extension a six month other investigative procedures if required so . In cases that require a longer period of detention ; refer the matter to the court Criminal Almtak p ‘s share to decide what you see in St. that extension. Article VI : Without prejudice to the right of the accused in the areas contacted his family to inform them of it Balqub Z ; In terms of the investigation that is preventing T. areas contacted the defendant for a period not exceeding T. sought Days, if met Dt m Sulha investigation that , in the request for investigation Longer ; refer the matter to the Court of Criminal Almtak p ‘s share to decide what you see . Article VII : Shall not release the Interim any accused but to the order of the Minister of Interior or Levu renaissance . Article VIII : The Court of Criminal Almtak p ‘s share thousand Pray crimes manna SOW p In this system , and the cancellation of claims decisions , and compensation claims , Z Provisions relating to the application of this system . Ot six nose provisions before the Court But appeal Almtak p ‘s share , and may be recognized Z on the circle in front of its provisions Mtak p ‘s share in the Supreme Court. Article IX : The Court T. issued a default judgment against a person accused of a crime Crimes manna SOW r in this system if it reaches the right for notification Road and a means of communication or media and Waller toxicity , and doomed It recognized the right of Z to govern.
This article is a follow up to two studies by the authors on al Qaeda in Lebanon entitled “Securing Lebanon from the Threat of Salafist Jihadism” and “Al Qaeda’s Terrorist Threat to UNIFIL”.
Fatah al Islam is defeated; well at least its core group is. Not only were an estimated 319 lives lost (42 of them civilian), but also a 105-day siege of the Palestinian camp of Nahr el-Bared by the Lebanese army, and a brutal destruction of that camp — the first attack on a Palestinian camp in Lebanon by the Lebanese army since May 1973 – were needed to crush the terrorist group.
The battle for Nahr el-Bared was, as a number of analysts concurred, a battle for Lebanon’s future as a sovereign nation rather than a fight against a ragtag Islamist militia. No thanks to its political leadership, Lebanon won the battle. In the aftermath, a number of questions continue to be raised. We attempt to answer one of the most critical ones: to what extent was Fatah al Islam a spillover effect from the neighboring Iraq conflict?
IRAQ AND NAHR AL BARED
More than three months after its demise, Fatah al Islam’s story is still shrouded in mystery. The group started as a Palestinian entity supporting the struggle for the liberation of Palestine while at the same time spreading a certain Islamic message. Infiltration of extremists (many of whom were Arab fighters who fled Iraq because of sectarian infighting) into the organization’s leadership and shura committee radicalized Fatah al Islam and transformed it into an al Qaeda -like entity. Fatah al Islam gradually morphed into a formidable local terrorist network that had an ambitious agenda which fit neatly in al Qaeda’s manifesto and global insurgency.
Early members who formulated Fatah al Islam’s basic principles and initial mission statement saw the forced changes as a coup within the group. Of those members was the son in law of leader Shaker al Abssi, nicknamed Abu Laith, who left Nahr al Bared with Abdel Rahman al Shami due to his strong disagreements with the extremists. He was later killed by Syrian intelligence officers as he was crossing the Syrian-Iraqi borders. Abu Midyan, the commander of the cell which was behind the double attack on a bus in the mountains of Ein Alak in March 2006, also had reservations about the transformation. After relinquishing his military responsibilities in the leadership council, Abu Midyan refused to participate in the confrontations with the Lebanese army. On the third day of the battle, as he was pulling some of the dead bodies out of the debris at the northern entrance of the camp, he suffered from a direct hit which instantly killed him. Before his death, Abu Midyan had confessed to a sheikh that “[his group] came at the wrong time, and that [their] real battle was with Israel, but the July War of 2006 prevented that, which forced [them] to meet in Nahr al Bared and agree on different objectives.” But what were these objectives and how did they come about? The real story of Fatah al Islam actually starts in Iraq.
When a group of young Arabs (mostly Palestinians and Syrians) fighting the US forces in Iraq saw themselves in grave danger as a result of the Sunni-Shia sectarian rift there, they decided to leave the Iraqi battlefield. A large number of them, led by Abu Midyan, returned to the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk in Syria before they were chased down by Syrian intelligence. Faced with Syrian intransigence toward their stay in the camp, Abu Midyan, his family and a number of loyal fighters transferred to the camp of Shatila in Lebanon where they joined Shaker al Abssi (an old friend from Yarmouk) under the umbrella of Fatah al Intifada. In Shatila, Abu Midyan recruited large numbers of poor and unemployed Syrians and Palestinians. In a couple of months, Fatah al Intifada’s expansion began to elicit concerns of rival groups as well as the Lebanese military intelligence services. Fearing the repercussions of such expansion on the survival of the group, senior officers inside Fatah al Intifada warned Shaker al Abssi, their leader, and advised him to reverse the trend. Abssi did not listen.
As the war between Hizb’allah and Israel began on July 14, 2006, Abssi and his now 400-500 fighters transferred from the Shatila camp to those of Baddawi and Nahr al Bared in the North. Residents of the two northern camps were quite surprised by the arrival of scores of foreign faces who were all of a sudden living in their neighborhoods and praying in their mosques. When asked where they came from, the fighters answered: “we come from the Shatila camp and our leader god bless his soul is Shaker al Abssi.”
The name of Fatah al Islam came as a result of the split between al Abssi and senior leaders of Fatah al Intifada. Feeling betrayed by Fatah al Intifada after its senior leaders handed over two of his men to the Lebanese military intelligence, Al Abssi left his former group and formed what became known as Fatah al Islam. The leaders of Fatah al Intifada were never comfortable with the advent of foreign fighters who had Islamist and jihadist inclinations and were happy to let two of them go after a security incident in Baddawi in which two of al Abssi’s men were involved.
The initial mission statement of Fatah al Islam lacked any takfiri or salafist jihadist ideology. Instead it called for the Islamization of the Palestinian cause and to rid it of any signs of corruption and vices. Soon after its creation, Fatah al Islam moved on to occupy the bases of Fatah al Intifada in Nahr al Bared where resistance there was almost negligible (Fatah al Intifada’s main power lied in Baddawi). Now that it had a safe haven, Fatah al Islam was able to move freely inside the camp and plan its operations with no worry in mind.
Now that his group was based in a camp resided by Palestinian refugees, al Abssi’s first objective was to avoid any frictions with the local populace and win their support instead. To present his group as another Palestinian entity of Nahr al Bared, al Abssi reached out to weapons dealer and influential camp resident Nasser Ismail to ask him to join Fatah al Islam. With many Palestinian factions inside Nahr al Bared already calling on al Abssi and his men to vacate the bases they had occupied, al Abssi sought to counter that by recruiting Ismail who had considerable clout and leverage over these factions. At this stage, the still pragmatic leadership of Fatah al Islam consisted of Palestinians and Syrians, namely al Abssi, his son in law Abu Laith, Abu Midyan, Abu Yazn, Abu Bakr, and Abu Salim Taha who accompanied al Abssi from Syria to Lebanon and became the group’s official spokesperson. When Abu Hureira, a former member of Osbat al Ansar in the camp of Ein el Helweh who later switched to the more radicalized Jund al Sham joined (after Ismail convinced him to join), he exerted an extremist-takfiri influence on the whole group.
RADICALIZATION AND FACTIONALISM INSIDE FATAH AL ISLAM
Abu Hureira did not come alone to Fatah al Islam as he brought with him dozens of loyal Lebanese fighters from Ein el Helweh who belonged to Jund al Sham, including Naim Ghali (Abu Riyadh) and Walid Bustani who led the cell of Qalamoun. Abu Hureira’s band of fighters was forcibly changing the habits and traditions of Nahr al Bared, which ultimately caused the local populace to distance itself from Fatah al Islam and sometimes revolt against its leaders. Residents of Nahr al Bared, the majority of which are secular Palestinians, were totally against being subjected to extremist versions of Islam. Faced with this ordeal, a large number of refugees decided to move to the neighboring camp of Baddawi.
Abu Hureira’s mistreatment of and frictions with the local populace upset the leadership council of Fatah al Islam. Abu Midyan was often heard yelling at Abu Hureira and telling him that “[they] came to the camp to relate to the people and win their support, not to scare them off.” But al Abssi was hesitant to forcefully intervene for fear of causing any major splits within his group and of losing the logistical and military support of Abu Hureira and his men.
The radicalization process of Fatah al Islam was almost complete with the advent of a Saudi Sheikh by the name of Abu al Hareth who presided over its shura council. A strong ally of Osama bin Laden and a senior member of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Abu al Hareth had an extensive network of extremist fighters in Iraq and the Saudi Kingdom. With Abu al Hareth and the Arab fighters he called upon from the Iraqi battlefield, Fatah al Islam transformed from a hierarchical group of mostly Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese supposedly with a mission of supporting the Palestinian cause (irrespective how they intended to carry out that mission) to a decentralized salafist jihadist network of semi-autonomous cells made up of Arab fighters who had in mind turning Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, to an Islamic emirate.
This organizational structure of independent cells allowed many of the cells’ leaders to carry out extremely provocative and counterproductive attacks. The battle of Nahr al Bared actually started when a cell led by Abu Hureira attacked on May 20 a Lebanese army outpost near Tripoli and beheaded most of its soldiers. That incident was enough to trigger the army’s response and counter-offensive. The call to attack the army was made unilaterally by Abu Hureira, who had very strong feelings against the Lebanese military institution and who also wanted to divert the attention of the army away from the mi’atayan street in Tripoli, where a number of Fatah al Islam senior leaders were meeting in an apartment compound. It was also Abu Hureira who, in response to the army’s bombardment of Nahr al Bared with heavy artillery, threatened the Lebanese authorities to “open the battle of Tripoli” and “burn all the city and whoever is in it”. On the night of May 20, Shaker al Abssi woke up to the sound of army shelling as he had no idea of what Abu Hureira had just done.
Attempts to reach an early compromise with the Lebanese army failed due largely to Abu Hureira’s and other extremists’ categorical refusal to negotiate with the ‘crusader army’. This situation led al Abssi to openly declare to the shura council and a number of mediators who eventually entered the camp that “[they] were forced to wage a battle [they] did not want and [that] there had to be a peaceful solution to it”. Disagreements and factionalism within Fatah al Islam continued throughout the battle with the Lebanese army leading to lack of coordination and miscommunication amongst its members and ultimately to the group’s downfall.
Seven conclusions and observations can be drawn from the battle of Nahr al Bared that can more broadly shed light on al Qaeda and the global war on terrorism:
Despite Fatah al Islam’s Islamist appeal and repeated calls for support throughout its battle with the Lebanese army, not one major salafist jihadist group in Lebanon headed its call. Osbat al Ansar, Jund al Sham (who have now re-merged with Osbat al Ansar), the Qarun group, the Arqoub group, and the Majdal Anjar group remained fairly silent and distanced themselves from the battle. For these groups and others, the battle that Fatah al Islam was waging was the wrong one. The jihadist compass, according to these groups’ leaders, was to be set South (against Israel) not North. This experience solidifies the authors’ earlier conclusion put forth in a study entitled “Securing Lebanon from the Threat of Salafist Jihadism” in which they argued that salafist jihadist entities in Lebanon are not united under a single umbrella or organization, instead they have dissimilar agendas and are relatively small and clandestine semi-autonomous entities with informal organizational structures. Each is more concerned about its own survival than about waging an offensive jihad against “infidels.”
The battle against Fatah al Islam underscores the argument (also made in the above-mentioned study) that the salafist jihadist phenomenon in Lebanon is not purely a Palestinian phenomenon. Lebanese make a sizable part of the salafist jihadist movement in Lebanon, as evidenced by the high number of Lebanese cells operating in Tripoli, Akkar, al Koura and other northern regions.
Fatah al Islam was not a mechanical creation of Syrian intelligence. While Syria did not prevent large transfers of Arab fighters from Iraq to Lebanon, via Syrian territories, it did not play a major role in arming or financing Fatah al Islam.
Fatah al Islam could not have survived or accomplished any of its initial or later goals if it had not benefited from the large influx of Arab fighters from Iraq and from the financial support of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. In that sense, Fatah al Islam, as Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack — authors of “Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover from an Iraqi Civil War” — would argue is a manifestation of spillover from the conflict in Iraq.
It is very interesting to note that throughout the battle, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al Zawahiri issued a statement supporting Fatah al Islam or endorsing its insurgency. This raises a number of important questions: does al Qaeda only support winners? Why did al Zawahiri praise the attack against UNIFIL on June 24, 2007 but remain silent on Fatah al Islam? Is it because al Qaeda’s senior leadership, mostly based in western Pakistan, is more inclined to support successful terrorist acts as opposed to reckless jihadist enterprises?
UNIFIL, as argued in an earlier study by the authors entitled “Al Qaeda’s Terrorist Threat to UNIFIL”, remains highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks (as evidenced in the attack against the Spanish contingent on June 24, 2007). The international force is still working with a number of major handicaps most important of which are a lack of good intelligence and force protection measures.
The failure of the jihadist project of Fatah al Islam raises a critical point on terrorist organizational structures. Fatah al Islam morphed from a hierarchical group to a network of semi-autonomous cells. To what extent did that transformation contribute to its ultimate downfall? What does organizational structure say about the effectiveness and survivability of a terrorist enterprise?