On Monday Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, a Sunni Muslim in a government dominated by members of the Alawite sect, "fled the country [to Jordan, defecting to what he called 'the freedom and dignity revolution' and] denouncing the 'terrorist regime' of Bashar al-Assad," Reuters reported. -- "'Defections are occurring in all components of the regime save its hard inner core, which for now has given no signs of fracturing,' said Peter Harling at the International Crisis Group think-tank," Khaled Yacoub Oweis said. -- The New York Times reported rebel sources said that Hijab was accompanied by "at least two ministers and three military officers -- 10 families in all." -- (Confirmation of this has been slow in coming, however.) -- "Syria’s state-run news media tried to pre-empt the announcement by saying that Mr. Hijab had been fired," Damien Cave and Hwaida Saad said. -- The Associated Press reported that Hijab had been planning his defection for two months, after he was offered the choice of becoming prime minister or dying in June 2012. -- "Hijab and an entourage of family members were expected to head next to the Gulf state of Qatar," Zeina Karam said. -- There was a general consensus that the defection was chiefly symbolic in import. -- As Time put it, "Syrian prime ministers -- and cabinet ministers in general -- do not wield any sort of real power in a decades-old system that is basically the Assad family business." -- "The Syrian parliament has long been just a rubber-stamp body, falsely signifying a popular ability to freely choose elected representatives in a system that does not permit real freedom or real choice," said Raina Abouzeid. -- But while the highly centralized government is weakening, the Syrian opposition is said to be highly fractious. -- CNN's Tim Lister compared Assad's opponents to "a bunch of pinballs flying in different directions, often beyond control and sometimes cannoning off each other." -- "The ethnographic map of Syria looks like a Jackson Pollock painting," he said. "Sunnis, Kurds, Alawites and Christians live cheek by jowl (although the Kurds are heavily concentrated in the northeast.) All have their own priorities and agendas. Many Christians and Alawites believe that whatever follows this regime would be worse for them. Many Kurds view the upheaval as an opportunity to achieve their own state within a state (much like their brethren in Iraq)." -- As for Syrian opponents of Assad outside Syria, they seem "in a state of perpetual confusion," Lister said....
SYRIAN PRIME MINISTER DEFECTS, FIGHTING GOES ON
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
August 6, 2012
AMMAN, Jordan -- Syrian forces pressed on with their offensive against rebels in the largest city Aleppo after the prime minister fled the country, denouncing the "terrorist regime" of Bashar al-Assad.
The defection of Riyad Hijab -- who like most of the opposition hails from the Sunni Muslim majority -- was a further sign of the isolation of Assad's government around an inner core of powerful members of his minority Alawite sect.
Opposition figures, buoyant despite setbacks in recent weeks of fighting around Damascus and Aleppo, spoke of an extensive and long-planned operation to spirit Hijab and his large extended family across the border to Jordan.
"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution," Hijab said in a statement read by a spokesman on Al Jazeera television on Monday. He declared himself "a soldier in this blessed revolution."
A spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama hailed Hijab's defection as a sign that the 40-year rule of Assad's family was "crumbling from within" and said he should step down.
Western leaders' repeated predictions of Assad's imminent collapse have so far proven premature, however.
The security forces have overwhelming superiority in firepower, which they have wielded against lightly armed rebels who poured into the two main cities, Damascus and Aleppo, in the past month.
The rebels gathered momentum last month, attempting to seize the two cities after an audacious bomb attack killed four members of Assad's inner circle. But a government counteroffensive has been devastating, with troops largely recapturing Damascus and using helicopters and tanks to hammer rebels who retain control of parts of Aleppo.
The war increasingly has divided the region along its sectarian faultline, pitting the mainly Sunni rebels, who are backed by regional Sunni-led powers Turkey and the Gulf Arab states, against a government that is backed by Shi'ite Iran.
Iran has expressed worry over the fate of more than 40 Iranians Tehran says are religious pilgrims kidnapped by rebels off a bus in Damascus while visiting Shi'ite shrines.
The rebels say they suspect the captives were troops sent to aid Assad. A rebel spokesman in the Damascus area said on Monday three of the Iranians had been killed by government shelling, and the rest would be executed if the shelling did not stop.
Hijab's defection was the latest sign of Sunnis abandoning Assad, but there has been no sign yet that members of his mainly Alawite ruling inner circle are losing their will to fight on.
"Defections are occurring in all components of the regime save its hard inner core, which for now has given no signs of fracturing," said Peter Harling at the International Crisis Group think-tank.
"For months the regime has been eroding and shedding its outer layers, while rebuilding itself around a large, diehard fighting force," he said. "The regime as we knew it is certainly much weakened, but the question remains of how to deal with what it has become."
ALEPPO DISTRICT WHITE WITH DUST
Rebels in districts of Aleppo visited by Reuters journalists in recent days seemed battered, overwhelmed, and running low on ammunition after days of intense shelling of their positions by tanks and heavy machine-gun fire from helicopter gunships.
Syrian army tanks shelled alleyways where rebels sought cover as a helicopter gunship fired heavy machine guns. Snipers ran on rooftops targeting rebels. Women and children fled the city, some crammed in the back of pickup trucks, while others trekked on foot, heading to relatively safer rural areas.
The main focus of fighting in Aleppo has been the Salaheddine district. Once a busy shopping and restaurant district, it is now white with dust, broken concrete, and rubble.
Tank shell holes gape wide on the top of buildings near the front line, and homes of families have been turned into look-outs and sniper locations for rebel fighters. Large mounds of concrete are used as barriers to close off streets. Lampposts lie horizontally across the road after being downed by shelling.
A bomb hit the Damascus headquarters of Syria's state broadcaster on Monday but injuries were minor and transmission continued.
(Additional reporting by Hadeel Al Shalchi in Azaz, Syria, Yara Bayoumy, Tom Perry and Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Yeganeh Torbati and Mirna Sleiman in Dubai; Writing by Dominic Evans, Alastair Macdonald and Peter Graff; Editing by Michael Roddy)
PRIME MINISTER HAS DEFECTED, SYRIAN OPPOSITION SAYS
By Damien Cave and Hwaida Saad
New York Times
August 6, 2012
BEIRUT -- Syria’s prime minister has fled the country, activists and Syria’s official media reported Monday, in what appeared to be the highest level defection from President Bashar al-Assad’s government thus far.
Jubilant opposition figures said the official, Riyad Farid Hijab, had defected to neighboring Jordan along with at least two ministers and three military officers -- 10 families in all, opposition leaders said. Al Jazeera television carried what it said was a statement from a spokesman for Mr. Hijab saying he had “joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution.”
In Washington, the White House’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said the defections were “a sign that Assad’s grip on power is loosening.”
“That the titular head of the Syrian government has rejected the on-going slaughter being carried out at Assad’s direction only reinforces that the Assad regime is crumbling from within and that the Syrian people believe that Assad’s days are numbered,” he said.
Syria’s state-run news media tried to pre-empt the announcement by saying that Mr. Hijab had been fired as prime minister, a post he had held for less than two months. State news media also disputed news reports that the finance minister had joined the opposition, with the SANA news agency quoting the minister on Monday as calling such reports “untrue.” Opposition activists did not immediately identify the other officials said to have defected.
Mr. Hijab appeared to be the highest ranking civilian official to defect since the conflict started 17 months ago. His departure was the latest signal of disarray among loyalists following a series of high-level defections and a rebel bomb attack last month that killed four top security aides. The Syrian announcement of his dismissal came hours after a bomb explosion was reported at the main state television building in Damascus, the capital. In Aleppo, rebels and reporters in the city, Syria’s largest, said that Syrian jets were dropping bombs. Fierce fighting was reported in other parts of the country.
Iran’s role in the conflict is also growing more tangled. Syrian rebels who captured 48 Iranians near Damascus over the weekend said three had been killed in government shelling and threatened to kill the rest if the shelling did not stop. Earlier the Iranian government called for a broad, international emergency meeting on Syria in Tehran on Thursday.
The rebels holding the captives -- from the Bara’a Brigade, one of the myriad groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army -- say the Iranians are members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. Iran says they are pilgrims who had been visiting an important Shiite shrine near the neighborhood of Tadamon, where fighting has raged for weeks.
Iran’s call for an international meeting came in the diplomatic vacuum created by the international deadlock over the crisis and the failure of peace efforts led by Kofi Annan, the United Nations, and Arab League special envoy who last week said he would not renew his mandate at the end of August. Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said that 10 countries that all have a “realistic position” on Syria would be participating in an emergency meeting at the ministerial level, scheduled for Thursday.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that a total halt to the violence, and national dialogue, are the solution to control the crisis in Syria, and to that end Iran is organizing this meeting," the state Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mr. Abdollahian as saying.
Iran, a staunch ally of President Assad, has not been invited to international meetings on Syria. Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has promoted the idea of presidential elections for 2014 and accused “regional countries” of supporting the Syrian rebels.
The departure of Mr. Hijab, a Sunni, cost the Assad government yet another piece of its claim to broad legitimacy. To reinforce loyalty, the Assad family has long stocked the Syrian government with members of its Alawite minority, but to placate other, larger groups, routinely placed non-Alawites in positions of limited authority. Mr. Hijab’s home area is the eastern town of Deir al-Zour, the scene of some intense fighting in recent months.
An activist who fled Syria and who said he had dealt frequently with Mr. Hijab during the initial protests last year, when Mr. Hijab was serving as governor of the coastal province of Latakia, described him as a soft-spoken leader who, despite being close to a brother of Mr. Assad, seemed to have at least some sympathy early on with the opposition. “We met on the second day of the revolution at the Baath Party in Latakia,” said the activist, Rami, who did not want his full name used because he feared reprisals. He said that Mr. Hijab agreed to keep the military and the police away from the first protests, and later, after arrests were made at subsequent demonstrations, Mr. Hijab helped get 15 people released. “He’s a good man,” Rami said.
The authorities sought to project an impression of control by announcing Mr. Hijab’s dismissal before the opposition said he had defected. But his departure -- coupled with the attack on the television station -- reinforced rebel suggestions that President Assad’s government was under severe strain.
“This is someone who was very, very close and they couldn’t keep him,” said Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “It doesn’t necessarily affect the basic security apparatus and the army, which is still holding the country together. The impact is not cataclysmic but it’s a sign of advanced decrepitude. It’s a beginning of an end game sort of thing.”
The Syrian government immediately announced a replacement -- Omar Ghalawanji, a longtime official with an engineering degree who had been deputy prime minister. Syria’s information minister also said the bombing at the television station, which did not knock the station off air, was insignificant.
“Nothing can silence the voice of Syria or the voice of the Syrian people,” said the minister, Omran al-Zoubi.
Still, the explosion near a busy traffic circle in central Damascus offered another sign of the rebels’ ability to breach state institutions.
On July 18, a bomb at the state security headquarters in Damascus killed four of Syria’s top military and security officials. In late June, gunmen stormed a pro-government television station in a suburb near Damascus, killing seven employees and destroying its studios with explosives, Syrian officials said at the time.
The latest attack, two days after rebels nearly gained control of the main television station in Aleppo, suggested that rebels are prioritizing control of information in their effort to topple the government and gain international recognition.
Independent journalists face a barrage of restrictions and other hurdles in covering the revolt, in which both sides have sought from the beginning to seize the narrative.
The propaganda contest has pitted Soviet-style state media -- mainly a television broadcast with a gray-haired host delivering upbeat pronouncements about the war against “terrorists” -- against young rebels and activists using the Internet to broadcast a steady flow of shaky, amateur videos whose provenance is sometimes uncertain, but whose goal is clear: to show the havoc caused by the Syrian government and to showcase the strength of the rebel forces.
The two sides frequently offer directly opposing versions of the same events. On Sunday, for instance, videos uploaded by the opposition showed fighting in a neighborhood that the government said had been “cleaned.”
--Reporting was contributed by an employee of The New York Times from Aleppo, Syria, Thomas Erdbrink from Tehran, Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Dalal Mawad from Beirut, Alan Cowell from London and J. David Goodman from New York.
SYRIAN PRIME MINISTER DEFECTS, FLEES TO JORDAN
By Zeina Karam
August 6, 2012
BEIRUT -- Syria's prime minister began planning his break from the regime two months ago when Bashar Assad offered him the post and an ultimatum: Take the job or die.
The full scope of Riad Hijab's carefully executed flight to the rebel side -- described by an aide who escaped with him to Jordan -- reverberated Monday through Syria's leadership. Hijab became the highest-ranking government official to defect, emboldening the opposition and raising fresh questions about the regime's ability to survive the civil war.
Although Assad has been hit by a string of embarrassing defections of military and political figures, they have yet to cause visible changes in the regime's abilities on the battlefield. The loss of high-profile government officials, however, suggests fissures are reaching deeper into the ruling system and could force Assad to retreat further behind a cadre of loyalists as fighting flares on several fronts.
"Every defection is another door closed for Assad and another one open for the rebels," said Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center based in Geneva. "It may not be the tipping point for the regime, but each breakaway is another crack."
Hijab and an entourage of family members were expected to head next to the Gulf state of Qatar, a key backer of the Syrian rebels, in a further sign of the regional brinksmanship and gambits over Assad's fate. Gulf states and Turkey have strongly backed the rebel forces while Assad has counted on support from a dwindling list of allies such as Iran and Russia.
Ahmad Kassim, a senior official with the rebel Free Syrian Army, initially said Hijab defected along with three other ministers, but later said only two other ministers had left. There has been no confirmation, however, from Syria or any other source on other ministers defecting.
Still, Hijab's defection alone is a humiliating blow for Assad after a string of generals and ambassadors has peeled away. Like nearly all prominent defectors so far, Hijab is a member of Syria's majority Sunnis -- the Muslim sect which forms the bedrock of the more than 17-month uprising.
His break suggests that elements of the Sunni elite -- long a pillar of Assad's rule -- could be growing uneasy with the relentless bloodshed and the hardline policies of Assad's minority Alawite community, which dominates the regime's inner circle. The Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said "the Assad regime is crumbling from within" and predicted "Assad's days are numbered." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to arrive in Turkey later this week for meetings on Syria.
French Foreign Minister cited Hijab's break as evidence "of a regime that's losing support through its choice of armed violence" in a conflict that has claimed at least 19,000 lives. A statement from French President Francois Hollande said the country was dispatching military surgeons to the Syria-Jordan border, where more than 120,000 Syrian refugees have crossed since the conflict began.
The Syrian regime has suffered a series of setbacks over the past month that point to a loosening of its grip on the country.
Four of the president's top security aides were killed in a rebel bombing of state security headquarters in the capital Damascus on July 18, including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law. There has been a steady stream of high-level defections from diplomats to generals. And the regime has been unable to fully subdue rebel challenges in the two major cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Just hours before word of the defection got out, Assad suffered another blow in his attempt to portray he is in control: A bomb ripped through the third floor of the state TV building in Damascus, wounding at least three employees and displaying the ability of rebels to strike in the heart of the capital.
But power remains closely held within Assad's inner circle and even posts such as the prime minister have limited clout. Hijab's departure will not immediately undercut the regime's ability to fight rebels in places such as Aleppo, Syria's largest city, which it has pounded with gunners and warplanes.
Hijab was long a loyalist of Assad's Baath party, rising through the ranks to become agriculture minister last year. After elections in June, Hijab was picked as the new prime minister. About that time, though, his loyalties began to shift and a plan to flee began to take shape, Hijab's spokesman, Mohammad Otari, told The Associated Press in Amman, Jordan.
"The criminal Assad pressed him to become a prime minister and left him no choice but to accept the position. He had told him: 'You either accept the position or get killed,'" said Otari, who told the AP that Hijab and his family planned to travel on from Amman to Qatar.
"The prime minister defected from the regime of killing, maiming and terrorism. He considers himself a soldier in the revolution," the aide said.
David Hartwell, a Mideast analyst at IHS Jane's think tank in London, said the months of reported preparation to defect opens the possibility that Hijab could have been in touch with rebels before his appointment as prime minister. He said that could "point to a serious breakdown in inner-regime security."
Syria's official SANA news agency said the Cabinet held an emergency session hours after a replacement was named for Hijab. Meanwhile, in a rebel base just near the Turkish border, fighters celebrated the news of Hijab's defection even as their forces faced withering attacks in Aleppo.
"If the people who are benefiting from the regime are defecting, then this shows that it is living its last days," a fighter who identified himself as Abu Ahmad told the AP by telephone from the northeastern Syrian town of Jarablous. "Every time our youth hear that an officer or an official defected, it boosts their morale."
George Sabra, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, said Hijab is a symbol of the state and added that he expected his desertion to usher in a chain of others.
"He has finally discovered that this regime is an enemy of its own people and is destined to fall, and he chose to join the ranks of those who defected before him," Sabra told AP. "This will trigger a chain of other defections by Syrian senior government and security officials," he added. "The Syrian regime is drowning, and this is the clearest sign yet."
Syria's rebels have grown increasingly bold and capable in recent months. In July, the rebels and Syrian regime forces fought intense battles for a week in Damascus in what was the opposition fighters' biggest challenge so far in the capital.
In a brazen daylight attack, rebels commandeered a bus and snatched 48 Iranians just outside Damascus on Saturday. Iran said those abducted were pilgrims who were visiting a shrine about 10 miles (six kilometers) south of Damascus and were on their way to the airport to return home.
But the captors claimed in a video broadcast Sunday that one of the captives was an officer of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards and that the 48 were on a "reconnaissance mission" for Assad's close allies in Tehran.
SYRIA'S PRIME MINISTER DEFECTS: MORE EROSION IN THE ASSAD REGIME
By Rania Abouzeid
** By joining the rebels, Riad Hijab doesn't quite debilitate the government of President Assad. He does, however, further humiliate it and thin the ranks of bureaucrats it can count on **
August 6, 2012
BEIRUT -- Syria‘s Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected on Monday, less than two months into the job, along with two, perhaps three, other Cabinet ministers, according to the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). As has become customary, President Bashar Assad‘s regime had a very different take on the development, insisting that Hijab had been sacked and had not jumped ship.
Hijab’s own words, however, made it clear which version was true. “I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of freedom and dignity,” Hijab said in a statement read on Al-Jazeera by his spokesman. “I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution.”
The SNC and other opposition members hailed the action, welcoming the highest-ranking civilian defector in the 17-month crisis. While that designation may be technically true, it’s unlikely to markedly alter events on the ground. Syrian prime ministers -- and cabinet ministers in general -- do not wield any sort of real power in a decades-old system that is basically the Assad family business. The Syrian parliament has long been just a rubber-stamp body, falsely signifying a popular ability to freely choose elected representatives in a system that does not permit real freedom or real choice.
The defection is however, hugely symbolic: a humiliation to Assad, and another brushstroke filling out the picture of a decrepit regime, its thinning senior ranks held together by collective culpability for the blood it has spilled -- as well as its blood and communal ties. The regime is cracking under the sustained pressure of a continuing revolt and international sanctions.
Hijab is a Sunni from the restive eastern city of Deir ez-Zor. As such, he was already a relative outsider in a regime stacked with Assad’s Alawite co-religionists. He and his family reportedly fled to Jordan and were expected to head to Qatar, according to media reports. His desertion also solidifies the notion of an Alawite-dominated regime versus a predominantly Sunni opposition, although in reality it is not as simple or sectarian. (There are, for example, Alawite members of the opposition and Sunni loyalists in the regime.)
But the fact is, even Brigadier General Manaf Tlass’ desertion did not create the kind of ripple effects on the ground to markedly alter the course of this crisis, although it, too, was steeped in symbolism. Tlass, also a Sunni Muslim, is the highest ranking member of the military to split from his long-time friend Assad, but his action did not divide the military. Hundreds of generals and other senior officers did not follow Tlass.
Still, in the past few weeks, the trickle of defectors has increased. There are now more than two dozen generals reportedly in Turkey, up from a dozen several weeks ago, although they did not defect en masse (i.e., they were individual defections, not a concerted and dramatic group effort). The Syrian crisis is a war of attrition, played out militarily in towns and villages across the country as well as politically as insiders switch sides. However, the two halves of the anti-Assad movement -- the political and the military -- are becoming increasingly estranged as events on the ground take on a momentum of their own, divorced from political developments.
Hijab’s defection -- or even Tlass’ for that matter -- does not really factor into the calculations of local rebel commanders in the Free Syrian Army, for example, although they are welcome morale boosters. Apart from that, what these senior defectors do bring with them is knowledge of the recent inner workings of the regime, and the ability to pinpoint potential weaknesses. And at the end of the day, every defector is another person Assad can no longer count on.
Fareed Zakaria GPS
SYRIA'S 'PINBALL' OPPOSITION
By Tim Lister
August 6, 2012
--Editor's note: Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has reportedly defected from Bashar al-Assad’s regime to join “the revolution.” But who is behind the so-called revolution? CNN’s Tim Lister shares his thoughts on the state of the opposition in Syria, and what the reports of jihadist involvement could mean.
What is the state of the opposition? Since the unrest began, we've heard that there wasn’t a united opposition as was the case in places such as Libya. Has that changed?
Bashar al-Assad’s opponents -- both the politicians and the fighters -- are like a bunch of pinballs flying in different directions, often beyond control and sometimes cannoning off each other. That’s always been the concern about Syria, one that Assad himself has encouraged -- a sort of "Après moi, le déluge." The ethnographic map of Syria looks like a Jackson Pollock painting: Sunnis, Kurds, Alawites and Christians live cheek by jowl (although the Kurds are heavily concentrated in the northeast.) All have their own priorities and agendas. Many Christians and Alawites believe that whatever follows this regime would be worse for them. Many Kurds view the upheaval as an opportunity to achieve their own state within a state (much like their brethren in Iraq.)
The exiled opposition seems in a state of perpetual confusion. Veteran activist Haitham al-Maleh said last week he had been tasked with putting together a transitional government. The Syrian National Council described the announcement as premature, prompting al Maleh to say essentially that it was useless.
The SNC has struggled on two fronts: failing to fashion a united front among its 260 members, who range from Communists to Islamists, and unable to forge meaningful links with opposition elements within Syria such as the Local Co-ordination Committees.
Its attempts to exercise some authority over the Free Syrian Army have also failed.
Reporting for Time magazine last week from Idlib province, Rania Abouzeid wrote: "There are real and serious rivalries between exiles and those inside Syria, sub-splits between those groups, deep schisms between the armed and political opposition, and among some armed groups in different areas. At the moment, most of their guns are pointed in the same direction, but it’s easy to predict what may happen when their common enemy falls."
There are plenty of rivalries among FSA commanders. Even local co-operation, let alone a nationally co-coordinated campaign, is at a premium. Brian Fishman at the New America Foundation, who has closely followed the evolution of the Syrian resistance, says it remains a collection of localized and, at best, regionalized units. Within the FSA, he says, there are innumerable positions and aims but only one over-arching goal -- getting rid of al-Assad.
In Libya, the Transitional National Council was operating out of Benghazi very soon after the revolt against Gadhafi began -- but it too suffered many internal divisions that reverberate across the country to this day. If anything, the disparate interests of the Syrian opposition are even more pronounced.
One element that is of growing concern within and beyond Syria is the presence of jihadist cells that have gained combat experience in Iraq, Yemen, or Libya. Jihadist forums are full of almost daily appeals for fighters to go to Syria, but intelligence analysts see the numbers in the low hundreds rather than thousands.
Fishman believes that jihadis with experience elsewhere may be “force multipliers” -- training other groups in urban guerrilla warfare and bomb-making. So far, Syria hasn’t seen the scale of suicide attacks and roadside bombs that was the case in Iraq in 2004-06, although groups like the al-Nusrah Front (which now has its own media arm) have posted videos of some suicide attacks that are eerily reminiscent of al Qaeda in Iraq.
There’s a risk in conflating jihadists with Islamists who have no truck with al Qaeda. But Colonel al Kurdi is concerned that a growing influx of foreign jihadists could mean trouble down the road.
It may “lead to chaos in Syria even after the fall of the regime because of internal feuds that may happen between the groups and the power struggle that may occur," he warned.
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