An Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s Common Dream in Syria

17 July 2013 | 18:18 Code : 1918687 Interview General category
An interview with Hossein Rooyvaran, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs
An Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s Common Dream in Syria

A senior Taliban member has talked about establishing a base in Syria. Is there any precedence for the presence of the Taliban in Syria?

The Taliban, as an organization, has, hitherto, not had any presence or activity in Syria, but its special relations with al-Qaeda are clearly defined and they both follow the same ideology. Considering the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria, through the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham, there is the possibility that they would pursue such a matter within the framework of the al-Qaeda organizations. That is why I assume that, by nature, the Taliban has no basis for its presence in Syria, but such a measure can be taken through al-Qaeda. It is on the basis of these religious and ethnic approaches that the Taliban has been attracted towards Syria.

The commander of the Free Syrian Army has been killed by the al-Nusra Front. Serious rifts have been created among Bashar Assad’s opponents with the prolongation of the crisis in Syria. What are the differences between the opponents of the central government in Syria?

Clashes and tension between the Free Syrian Army and the al-Nusra Front are inevitable because the Free Syrian Army pursues change in the political structure in Syria and has defined its objectives completely within the national framework. On the other hand, the al-Nusra Front seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria. Therefore, the main difference between the objectives of these two groups is summarized in Syria. The Free Army considers Syria as a platform to reach power, but al-Qaeda’s power-seeking is based on the establishment of an Islamic state based on an al-Qaeda model. The contrast in their viewpoints has led to this confrontation.

This is not the first clash between them; they have clashed several times in Ras al-Ayn, Sheikhun, and Aleppo. Their recent clashes showed that some claims stating that the al-Nusra Front does not have a strong base and that it is the Syrian government and Syria’s supporters that exaggerate the extent of this front were incorrect. The reason is that the al-Nusra Front, at the present time, by assassinating Riad al-Asaad, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, showed that it has more power than the army and the success of this front in assassinating an individual who has certainly had bodyguards shows that the threat of al-Nusra in Syria is serious. There is the possibility that the Free Syrian Army and the opposition front which are mainly secular and reside in the West, and are of course organized by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are not accepted by the al-Nusra Front and they would be assassinated in case any of them return to Syria.

Under conditions when the US has put the al-Nusra Front on its black list due to its terrorist activities, this group is equipped with the heaviest military equipments. Is al-Nusra the secret receiving hand in Syria?

Up until now, no country has announced having provided weapons to al-Nusra. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have claimed to support the Free Syrian Army. Nevertheless, we witness that al-Nusra has better weaponry in the field. This by itself shows that the transfer of weapons from the Free Army to al-Nusra is automatically done. In other words, there is no control over the Free Army’s weapons and infiltrators have transferred these weapons to al-Nusra. On the ground, this is a fact that cannot be denied. Despite the fact that no supporter of the opposition admits having provide weapons to al-Nusra, in practice they fight in different fronts with better military readiness than the Free Syrian Army. Such a trend raises the question as to who provides weapons to them. In Syria, no group except the government and the Free Syrian Army possesses weapons. Therefore, there is a possibility that al-Nusra supporters infiltrate the Free Army.

Do you consider a role for the Western countries in equipping al-Nusra and supporting its activities?

The fact of the matter is that the West has led al-Nusra to be slaughtered in the fight against the Syrian Army. A military confrontation between these two is ultimately in the interest of the US and Israel. Al-Nusra has not yet received weapons directly from the US and the US has not officially admitted the transfer of weapons to them.

This is true in the case of Saudi Arabia. The only country in the Arab world supporting al-Nusra was Qatar which had worked with Takfiri Salafists. Nevertheless, the level of financial support had been more than military support. At the beginning, al-Nusra paid lots of money for Western weapons coming from Iraq and transferred them to Syria. This shows that the West has not tried to directly interact with al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. The West, rather, has tried to provide financial support to them through Qatar so that they could somehow obtain weapons. However, some of al-Nusra’s weapons have been obtained from the Syrian Army after the fall of some garrisons and/or most of these weapons have been attained indirectly through the Free Syrian Army.

tags: al-nusra free syrian army qatar taliban al-qaeda syria saudi US

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