Thursday, October 06, 2016

Syria's 'Army of Islam' Says It Wants No War With Israel

"We have no intention to make war against anyone except for the Syrian regime," he said. "If we compare all the killing in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian regime has committed many more crimes than the whole conflict. Our aim now is to get rid of the Syrian regime," he said.   Alloush went further. He said President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, the Iran-supported Lebanese militia backing the Syrian government, have exploited the issue of Palestinians to support their war. "The regime and Hezbollah use the Israel conflict to recruit supporters and build armies and all of these armies are used to kill us, to starve us," he said. This is significant for a few reasons. To start, Alloush is saying something out in the open that many Sunni Arab governments are saying in private. Israel has enhanced its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states during Barack Obama's presidency, as America's traditional allies fear the U.S. is seeking a new partnership with their archrival, Iran....To be sure, Alloush's organization is not comprised of Jeffersonian democrats. "Jaish al-Islam is one of the more frustrating rebel groups to anatomize in Syria. In every sense but one they are unpalatable to the West," Michael Weiss, co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," told me. "They have trafficked in murderous sectarian rhetoric and paraded allegedly pro-regime prisoners in cages, purportedly as 'human shields' to forestall airstrikes." The group has also been accused, although they deny it, of kidnapping the human rights activist Razan Zeitouneh. Charles Lister, a senior scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told me he estimates there are between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters in Jaish al-Islam. Alloush said he has 20,000 fighters. Lister said that since Alloush's brother Zahran was killed, their official rhetoric against Syrian minorities has toned down considerably."