• iyad_elbaghdadi
    This is the final final version of your tweet session. I believe it is complete.

    #Syria OK guys, I’m starting an important tweet session on #Syria and Islamist/Jihadist fears. I urge you to pay attention.

    This may be all over the place because I’m typing as I go, so please do have patience with me. #Syria

    As many of you know, I’ve been warning about #Syria becoming a Jihadist magnet for nearly a year now.

    For example, I tweeted this some six months ago: bit.ly/PkOI40 - and we may be witnessing it happening. #Syria

    What ticks me off is when everything is jumbled into the statement “There are Alqaeda in #Syria”.

    So I’m going to try to do what I can do demystify this maze of Islamism & Salafism & Jihadism & and how they relate to #Syria's revolution.

    I’ll have to start with “Islamism”, notoriously difficult to define. #Syria

    Islamism is a wide spectrum. The acid test for an Islamist is they believe Islam has something to say beyond the personal sphere. #Syria

    Non-Islamists (Seculars) are happy enough with Islam being restricted strictly to private life. #Syria

    That there is a wide umbrella. There are all sorts of people under that “Islamist” umbrella. But I’ll focus on what’s relevant for #Syria.

    What’s urgently relevant for #Syria concerns these titles: Salafi, Jihadi, Alqaeda, Takfiri. Yes, there’re not all one and the same.

    Why this is significant is because you have to know a group’s ideology to predict what it will or won’t do. #Syria

    Today in #Syria there are both Salafi & non-Salafi Islamists, and there are a few Jihadists. No Alqaeda link is proven and no Takfiris.

    A useful generalization is that Islamism is the superset, and Salafis, Jihadis, Alqaeda are successive subsets. #Syria

    Salafis are Islamists but not all Islamists are Salafis. #Syria

    Jihadis are Salafis but not all Salafis are Jihadis. #Syria

    Alqaeda are Jihadi Salafis but not all Jihadi Salafis are Alqaeda. #Syria

    So I guess I have to start with Salafism, another word that causes so much confusion. #Syria

    I have to distinguish between Salafism as a Sunni school of jurisprudence and as a specific socio-political group. #Syria

    As a Sunni school, Salafism is a legitimate “manhaj” (or method) associated mostly with Hanbali jurisprudence. #Syria

    As a socio-political group, Salafism refers to certain groups with known leaders, political positions, and spheres of influence. #Syria

    When we use “Salafi” today we mostly mean the socio-political group. Specific positions, leaders, a religious hierarchy. #Syria

    I think I’ll have to take a step back here and talk about what distinguishes Salafis from other Islamists wrt political vision. #Syria

    Islamists generally believe the Prophet established a unique form of government in Medina, an Islamic state. #Syria

    Islamists are deeply divided about how much of this “state” is mandated, and how much is open to human interpretation. #Syria

    Salafis generally tend towards looking upon the entire early Islamic political experience as religiously mandated. #Syria

    (This itself is contradictory since the early Islamic state did not have a religious police for example, but I digress.) #Syria

    Most Muslims (and many Islamists) believe that modern democratic instutions are compatible with Islam. #Syria

    Salafis however tend to reject democracy since it entails putting Islam to the vote rather than mandating or establishing it. #Syria

    So if you speak to an Islamist who rejects democracy he’s probably a Salafi. Not Alqaeda, just Salafi. #Syria

    #Eypt's recent experience tells us that even this is flexible. Salafis who for years badmouthed democracy eventually formed parties. #Syria

    Now lemme establish how this applies to #Syria specifically. We hear “Jihadi” a lot, it’s actually short for “Jihadi Salafism”.

    Salafism itself is deeply divided into mainstream (or government-approved, or Islahi) Salafism and Jihadi Salafism. #Syria

    Islahi Salafis wish to bring about their vision through reform ("Islah"), by propagation while coexisting with current regimes. #Syria

    Such Salafis have an unspoken win-win with rulers - they can preach, so long they teach people that revolt is a form of corruption. #Syria

    That’s how you understand the positions of certain Salafi leaders towards the Arab Spring, Mubarak, and SCAF. #Syria

    Diametrically opposite are Jihadi Salafis, who believe that their vision of an Islamic state can only be achieved through making war. #Syria

    Salafi Jihadis consider virtually all modern Muslim rulers to be infidels, and consider anyone who works for them to be an infidel. #Syria

    For Salafi Jihadis, anyone who willingly serves in Assad’s army, or works directly for him, is under suspicion of having apostatized. #Syria

    Salafis (all, not just Jihadi) are notorious for extreme enmity towards what they consider heretical Islamic sects, especially Shias. #Syria

    Anti-Shiism fits the agendas of some governments who pour more gas on the fire, allowing overt sectarianism in the name of Salafism. #Syria

    So, recapping - Some Muslims are Islamists, some Islamists are Salafi, and some Salafis are Jihadist. Now on to Alqaeda. #Syria

    Alqaeda is a Jihadi Salafi organization but it doesn’t have a monopoly there. Not every Jihadi Salafist is an Alqaeda. #Syria

    There just isn’t any evidence so far that any group in #Syria has organizational or operational links with Alqaeda.

    Many have unfortunately pinned the label “Alqaeda” on anyone raising the black-and-white Islamic flag. Kinda ticks me off. #Syria

    The black & white banner has been an Islamic symbol for centuries. Alqaeda uses it, but they don’t own its copyrights. #Syria

    The black flag does not equal Alqaeda. It means Islamists. How do you know?Check if they’re raising another flag next to it. #Syria

    Jihadi Salafis do not believe in the nation-state and deride the word “watan” (nation) as a “wathan” (idol). #Syria

    Therefore Jihadi Salafis will not raise any national flag. If they’re raising #Syria's national flag they’re not Jihadi Salafis.

    If they’re raising the black flag only, they may be Jihadi Salafis. (Saying they’re Alqaeda is a speculative jump from there.) #Syria

    If they’re raising the black flag next to #Syria's independence flag, they are Islamic-inspired Syrian fighters, but not Jihadi Salafis.

    So, recapping, there are Islamic-inspired fighters in #Syria. There are a few Jihadi Salafis. There may be Alqaeda but there’s no proof.

    Once again the reason this is important is that to predict what these groups will do or plan strategically you gotta know them. #Syria

    So after finishing with all of this I’m going to look back and see which part of this is scary and which is just overblown. #Syria

    Of cousre I’m not vindicating Alqaeda but you gotta know them to know what can and cannot be attributed to them. #Syria

    Now, if you interpret “Takfiri” more narrowly, then you can say that Salafi Jihadis do have an element of Takfir, and here’s how. #Syria

    Some Salafis (not all, mind you) consider Shias and heretic Muslim sects to be infidels; in this specific case they’d be “takfiris”. #Syria

    Note that this is a contentious issue even within Alqaeda. Zarqawi for example considered Shias infidels while Al-Zawahiri did not. #Syria

    Now I can go into more details and nuances but let’s zoom out and see why this information is so important for #Syria's revolution.

    The details I just narrated can help you predict the action of groups, and help you attribute certain actions to certain groups. #Syria

    Takfiris for example will kill just about everyone (Algeria’s massacres come to mind), but even Alqaeda aren’t that kinda Takfiris. #Syria

    That’s why when #Assad tried to pin the Houla massacre on Alqaeda I saw the BS there. #Syria

    It’s probably easy to just look at all Jihadis as criminals but they’re ideologically inspired so you gotta read them right. #Syria

    What Alqaeda (or Jihadi Salafis) would do is attack the regime with reckless abandon regardless of civilian casualties. #Syria

    (Once again there’s no proof that Alqaeda is in #Syria, just Jihadi Salafi groups, and their presence is tiny and recent.)

    Also, Jihadi Salafis may deliberate attack minorities, especially Alawites, with spectacular (suicide) attacks. #Syria

    Importantly, Jihadi Salafis would be opportunistic, leaning towards spectacular attacks to give them a bigger size than they have. #Syria

    Jihadi Salafis would also use statelessness to bring in recruits from all over the Arab/Muslim worlds. #Syria

    Now looking at past few tweets I wonder, if there are established Jihadis in #Syria why didn’t we see suicide attacks on Alawite villages?

    All of this leads me to believe that the Jihadi Salafi presence in #Syria is tiny and recent and not firmly established.

    Now let me look at the regular Islamic-inspired fighters who aren’t Jihadi Salafis but just devout Syrian Muslims. #Syria

    Those “regular” Islamic-inspired fighters will fight the regime along with the #FSA and won’t give trouble just as yet. #Syria

    I mean, such Islamic-inspired fighters may raise the black flag; some may badmouth democracy; but won’t go on a Shia killing spree. #Syria

    Anyway in light of all this, who should we be afraid of? Which groups would be truly nefarious and destructive to #Syria?

    Non-Salafi Islamist fighters may give a hard time afterwards (will resist a secular state) but won’t destroy #Syria's society. Not scary.

    Jihadi Salafis, especially non-Syrian, would be scary indeed and may have a deeply negative impact on #Syria's society.

    Jihadi Salafis are right now a tiny faction but they can still launch spectacular suicide attacks to show a bigger size. #Syria

    To sum up, the #FSA has Islamists, some may be Salafi, but #FSA is neither Alqaeda nor Jihadi Salafis. #Syria

    It’s Suhoor time here so I have to take a break, but I’ll be back to discuss what the #FSA should do & what foreign powers should do. #Syria


    I’m back for a little while to complete this tweet session coz I’ll probably get too busy to do later. #Syria

    I’ve talked about Islamists, Salafis, Jihadis, Alqaeda, Takfiris, and how all of that relates to #Syria & the #FSA.

    One thing I missed is that whole “#Syria Jihadis are being funded by KSA & Qatar” issue, which I find rather BS.

    As discussed earlier Salafi Jihadis believe that virtually all Muslim leaders are in fact infidels, KSA & Qatar included. #Syria

    Salafi Jihadis hate all Muslim rulers, but have a special place for the rulers of the KSA whom they consider to be the worst. #Syria

    In fact you can find impassioned diatribes against the KSA in the Salafi Jihadi library here: tawhed.ws (Arabic) #Syria

    Basically, “Alqaeda is funded by KSA/Qatar” is a stupid statement. The KSA is Alqaeda’s sworn enemy. #Syria

    For this reason I doubt Salafi Jihadis (especially Alqaeda) will ever want to have anything to do with the KSA or Qatar. #Syria

    If Salafi Jihadis ever accept KSA help it would be on the basis of an intersection of interests, waiting for to pounce on them too. #Syria

    Of course the KSA/Qatar know that nurturing Salafi Jihadis would be like keeping a scorpion for a pet. Eventually it’ll bite you. #Syria

    Essentially if KSA & Qatar are funding any rebel party, it would be the #FSA itself rather than the Jihadi Salafis or Alqaeda. #Syria

    And if Salafi Jihadis are getting any support from KSA (which I doubt) it would be from individual donors, not the state. #Syria

    Finally I want to close this where I started - my year-long warning that #Syria can become a Jihadist magnet...

    For #Syria to become a Jihadist magnet two things are required: attraction & opportunity.

    The attraction factor isn’t lacking with enough bloody footage to recruit any sufficiently passionate/gullible young Muslim. #Syria

    The opportunity however is recent - significant areas beyond regime control so Jihadist groups can slip in. #Syria

    In fact, with regime control shrinking, Jihadists can not just slip in but actually set up shop and start operating. #Syria

    To avoid this, both the #FSA and the world at large have responsibilities. The FSA must become more organized and centralized. #Syria

    To avoid this, both the #FSA and the world at large have responsibilities. The FSA must become more organized and centralized. #Syria

    The #FSA should also attempt some form of local governance in liberated areas, even if by the residents themselves. #Syria

    Finally the #FSA must make a clear stand against any opportunistic groups attempting to establish their own command in #Syria.

    If the #FSA is lousy & disorganized enough, such groups may be able to organize and operate in liberated #Syria.

    However if the #FSA organizes and centralizes, and a credible provisional government is formed, things won’t get that bad. #Syria

    As for the rest of the world, they must first realize the risks involved if #Syria devolves into a sectarian civil war.

    If #Syria devolves into civil war it will spread to Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq; Jordan & Israel will suffer as well.

    If #Syria or part of it become a Jihadi Salafi safe haven, the risk won’t be contained to Syria or even the Middle East alone.

    I strongly believe that a major factor that made the world intervene in #Libya was to avoid it becoming a Jihadist magnet/safe haven. #Syria

    With the mix of regime Migs, Jihadis, FSA gains & chemical weapons, I think a #Libya-style intervention in #Syria can be back on the table.

    The worst outcome in #Syria would be a sectarian civil war. The best would be a totally peaceful, #Tahrir-style revolution.

    However, right from the start we said that in #Syria we’re not looking for the best option but for the least bad exit.

    Let’s not kid ourselves - #Syria under Assad will not have a Tahrir square. That ship as long sailed.

    The least we can do, then, is make sure the worst of the worst outcomes (sectarian civil war) is avoided. #Syria