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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

There wasn't a moderate Syrian opposition before there was one

On Monday, I blogged a report from the Wall Street Journal that claimed that not all of the Syrian rebel troops are Islamists, and that the non-Islamists control substantial territory. Daniel Greenfield reports that the author of the Wall Street Journal report - Elizabeth O'Bagy - has been the source for reports in the past that claim that all the significant Syrian rebel factions are Islamist.
Even the New York Times long ago conceded that this was not the case, writing, “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”
And the Times quoted none other than Elizabeth O’Bagy.
When the armed rebellion began, defectors from the government’s staunchly secular army formed the vanguard. The rebel movement has since grown to include fighters with a wide range of views, including Qaeda-aligned jihadis seeking to establish an Islamic emirate, political Islamists inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and others who want an Islamic-influenced legal code like that found in many Arab states.
“My sense is that there are no seculars,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War, who has made numerous trips to Syria in recent months to interview rebel commanders.
So now Elizabeth sets out to make the opposite argument.
Anyone who reads the paper or watches the news has been led to believe that a once peaceful, pro-democracy opposition has transformed over the past two years into a mob of violent extremists dominated by al Qaeda
The implication here is that the Free Syrian Army’s brigades are not Islamist. But that clearly isn’t true. And the evidence of that comes from Mrs. O’Bagy.
Although led by an army defector, Gen. Salim Idris, the council has taken in the leaders of many overtly Islamist battalions. One called the Syrian Liberation Front has been integrated nearly wholesale into the council; many of its members coordinate closely with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes the extremist Ahrar al-Sham, according to a recent report by Ms. O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War.
But now she says…
While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I’ve watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups.
Since when is the Syrian military attacking Alawi or Christian villages? The assertion makes no sense. Assad is Alawi and Syrian Christians have been ethnically cleansed by Syrian rebels, not government troops.
Read the whole thing

The picture at the top of this post is Salim Idris, the leader of the Free Syrian Army. He's clearly not a whole lot nicer than Assad.

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