Commentary Magazine


Topic: jihad

When the Syrian Rebels Return…

While Secretary of State John Kerry is bending over backwards to find any sign of moderation among the Syrian opposition, regional authorities are confronting reality. Sometimes the enemy of our enemy is not a friend, but rather simply a partisan of al-Qaeda. Now, to be fair to Kerry (and to Sen. John McCain who has long advocated for support to the Syrian opposition), it hasn’t always been this way. Many Syrians left to their own devices would like nothing better than to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and replace his regime with something more moderate and representative. But President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s disinterested approach to the initial rebellion left the door open to the conflict’s internationalization. What Afghanistan was to the 1980s, Chechnya was to the 1990s, and Iraq became in the 2000s, Syria is today. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah help prop up the Assad regime, while Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a host of international jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates from across the globe now fight for if not lead the opposition. Increasingly, Syrians play second fiddle in their own struggle.

I am a frequent visitor to Iraq and, as I have written before, what once seemed a sectarian complaint leveled by the Iraqi government against the Syrian opposition is no longer: In my last visit to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, not only Iraqi Shi’ites, but also Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians all described the Syrian opposition as hopelessly radicalized and sympathetic to al-Qaeda. I spent much of last week in Morocco and, in Rabat, had the opportunity to speak to a number of senior security officials. They have identified several hundred Moroccans who have gone to Syria to “wage jihad.” (One of the ironies of the political correctness of American universities and military institutions is the prohibition on using the term jihadist as somehow demeaning to Islam when that is the term Muslims across the Middle East use to describe the phenomenon).

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While Secretary of State John Kerry is bending over backwards to find any sign of moderation among the Syrian opposition, regional authorities are confronting reality. Sometimes the enemy of our enemy is not a friend, but rather simply a partisan of al-Qaeda. Now, to be fair to Kerry (and to Sen. John McCain who has long advocated for support to the Syrian opposition), it hasn’t always been this way. Many Syrians left to their own devices would like nothing better than to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and replace his regime with something more moderate and representative. But President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s disinterested approach to the initial rebellion left the door open to the conflict’s internationalization. What Afghanistan was to the 1980s, Chechnya was to the 1990s, and Iraq became in the 2000s, Syria is today. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah help prop up the Assad regime, while Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a host of international jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates from across the globe now fight for if not lead the opposition. Increasingly, Syrians play second fiddle in their own struggle.

I am a frequent visitor to Iraq and, as I have written before, what once seemed a sectarian complaint leveled by the Iraqi government against the Syrian opposition is no longer: In my last visit to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, not only Iraqi Shi’ites, but also Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians all described the Syrian opposition as hopelessly radicalized and sympathetic to al-Qaeda. I spent much of last week in Morocco and, in Rabat, had the opportunity to speak to a number of senior security officials. They have identified several hundred Moroccans who have gone to Syria to “wage jihad.” (One of the ironies of the political correctness of American universities and military institutions is the prohibition on using the term jihadist as somehow demeaning to Islam when that is the term Muslims across the Middle East use to describe the phenomenon).

The Moroccans—like those flocking to Syria from other nationalities—travel by airline into Turkey, and then take the Turkish Air flight to Gaziantep, or some other town near the Syrian border. Rather than raise their eyebrows at flights packed with Moroccans, Mauritanians, Uighurs, Pakistanis, and Yemenis to towns where once none cared to go, Turkish police are happy simply to take their standard $40 bribe and wave them across the border into Syria. Just last week, according to SITE Monitoring, the Sham al-Islam Movement, a Moroccan-manned jihadi group fighting in Syria, released a video depicting the role of Moroccan jihadists participating on a raid on the prison complex in Aleppo.

The question states across the region are now considering is what happens when the veterans of the Syrian fighting return. The Moroccan jihadists did not buy return Turkish Air tickets, but instead will fly to Libya and then make their way overland through Algeria and re-enter Morocco through the permeable mountainous border in the northern region of both countries (the same route African migrants hoping to make it to Europe take). Tunisian jihadists likewise will return to Tunisia, Saudis to Saudi Arabia, and so on. What we are seeing in Syria is really just the first act. Act II will be how these battle-hardened jihadis conduct terrorism and destabilize the region upon their return. Perhaps rather than debate how to aid the foreign jihadis aiding the Syrian rebels, the time has come to have an uncomfortable discussion about how to intercept, neutralize, and, if necessary, eliminate them.

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Iran Justifies Israel’s Annihilation in Islamic Law

If Iran became a nuclear power, would it risk its own regime survival to strike at Israel? Such questions remain at the heart of the current debate. Those who argue either President Obama should try diplomacy again or that containment can work argue that Iran would not launch their weapons in a first strike against Israel, never mind what Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said during his term as president.

A recent article in the Iranian press written by Ali Reza Forqani, an ally of the Supreme Leader,  however, should re-inject concern about what Iran’s true intentions are. Entitled, “The Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence]-Based Reasons for the Need for Israel’s Annihilation,” the Open Source Center recently provided a full translation. The article begins by recalling Ayatollah Khomeini’s views:

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If Iran became a nuclear power, would it risk its own regime survival to strike at Israel? Such questions remain at the heart of the current debate. Those who argue either President Obama should try diplomacy again or that containment can work argue that Iran would not launch their weapons in a first strike against Israel, never mind what Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said during his term as president.

A recent article in the Iranian press written by Ali Reza Forqani, an ally of the Supreme Leader,  however, should re-inject concern about what Iran’s true intentions are. Entitled, “The Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence]-Based Reasons for the Need for Israel’s Annihilation,” the Open Source Center recently provided a full translation. The article begins by recalling Ayatollah Khomeini’s views:

The first Qibla of Muslims has today fallen into the hands of Israel, this cancerous tumor in the Middle East. Today, Israel is using all satanic means cause divisions. Every Muslim has the obligation to equip himself against Israel. I have been warning about the dangers of international Zionism for about 20 years and now do not consider that danger for all the liberation movements in the world and for Iran’s recent Islamic revolution to be any less than what it was in the past. I have already warned that the usurping government of Israel, with the designs and ideas that it has for Islam and Muslim countries, presents a great danger and the fear is that should the Muslims grant them the opportunity time would be lost and then it no longer would be possible to stop them. Since the very foundation of Islam is facing a potential danger, it is necessary for all the Muslims in general and the Islamic governments in particular to act to remove this corrupting material by any means possible. All our troubles are due to Israel!

The article continues to cite two Quranic verses to justify an Iranian military strike on Israel:

“And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not favor those who exceed the limits” [Qur. 2:190]. “And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter; and do not fight with them at the sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them for such is the recompense of the unbelievers” [Qur. 2:191].

And then it embarks on a discourse about jihad. While U.S. diplomats and academics preach that jihad is misunderstood and is not violent, no one told the Islamic Republic that. “The philosophy behind primary jihad is to fight those who fight against the dissemination of Islam and the goal of this jihad is to liberate the people from mental and social captivity and slavery and to lead them to Islam,” Forqani explains. He cites Imam Ali: “I said fight them before they fight against you. I swear to God, no people were attacked in their own house unless they became meek first,” and concludes, “Iran’s military attack on Israel would fit the definition of defensive jihad and as such would not be an example of primary jihad. However, even if we consider such attack as primary jihad… it still would be permissible to wage such jihad with the permission and order of a competent vali-ye faqih (Guardian Jurist) in the age of absence of infallible Imam.” He elaborates:

Defensive jihad is a religiously mandated obligation and all Muslims must participate in it. Addressing this subject, the late Imam Khomeini (may peace be upon him) indicated in his collection of fatwas…that ‘if the enemy attacks the lands of Muslims, it is mandatory for all Muslims to defend their lands by any means possible and not to refrain from giving their lives or assets in the process and they need not obtain permission from the religious ruler in this affair…’ Now, considering the aggression that the fabricated government of Israel has committed against the land of Palestine as a part of Islamic lands and the land that houses the first Qiblah of Muslims, all Muslims are obligated to defend the Muslim people of Palestine and defend this sacred part of Islamic lands by any means possible and to do so they need not obtain permission from the religious ruler either.

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