BEIRUT, Lebanon – Concern is mounting that increased aid the Obama administration has promised so-called “moderate” Syrian rebel forces, who largely have been taken over by Muslim militant fighters, not only could go to the extreme al-Qaida-authorized Jabhat al-Nusra but also the renegade al-Qaida group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (Syria), which is wreaking havoc in Iraq, informed sources here tell WND.
The assistance given to date hasn’t done much for “moderates” on the battlefield in Syria, who have been outnumbered by the al-Qaida-linked groups.
In addition, increasing numbers of European jihadists have gone to Syria to join al-Nusra and ISIS, which here is also known as DAASH – Dulat-al-Islamfi al-Iraq wal-Sham.
According to regional experts, ISIS is heavily financed by Saudi money. One source said that the Saudis recently allocated some $300 million from oil funds to reconstruct the civil infrastructure of the Syrian city of Aleppo, using ISIS as the prime contractor.
In addition to more than 2,000 Europeans, Central Europeans and North Africans, there are an increasing number of Americans who are joining the two groups in Syria, where training camps have been set up for them.
“The U.S.’s weak attempts to vet, arm and train purportedly moderate fighting groups have merely fueled an ongoing conflict that shows no signs of abating and is producing a new generation of well-connected foreign fighters who leave the Syrian killing fields to extend the Islamist fight into new battle zones,” according to regional analyst Lisa Lundquist of Long War Journal.
“The result of the continued stalemate between the Assad regime and the rebels is the spawning of a new breed of jihadist cells carrying out a widening array of terrorist activity outside Syria,” she said.
This has prompted a senior U.S. administration official to say that ISIS, especially, is “really a transnational threat network” that poses “an increasing threat to our regional partners and it’s an increasing threat to us.”
Long War Journal, for example, reports some of the Americans are leaving al-Nusra to join up with ISIS, which is considered to be the more brutal and ruthless of the two in terms of head chopping and imposing strict Islamic law on residents.
It has identified one such American as Abu Muhammad al-Amriki, who is seen in the photo raising his right index finger.
The purported American, whose real name is unknown, was identified on a Twitter page of a local ISIS commander, known as Abu Abdurahman al-Iraqi.
ISIS has been operating in the region of the Syrian province of Aleppo, where the photo was taken.
ISIS, the renegade al-Qaida splinter group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, has just swept into western Iraq, capturing Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and Tikrit, where the ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was born.
The Sunni ISIS fighters are targeting all government troops and Shia and Christian civilians, and its fighters have attacked Samarra and taken over Iraq’s largest university at Ramadi, capturing some 17,000 students.
While Samarra is mostly Sunni, it contains the golden-domed al-Askari shrine, which is considered to be sacred to the Shia. Its destruction in 2006 by al-Qaida fighters resulted in pitched battles between Shia and Sunni.
Observers say that if it is destroyed again, a similar massacre between Shia and Sunnis could recur.
All of this is happening just three years after the United States left Iraq, with ISIS now firmly planted in various cities such as Fallujah, where U.S. Marines in 2004 fought pitched battles with al-Qaida Iraqi insurgents.
Earlier this year, ISIS broke from al-Qaida central in Pakistan after al-Baghdadi rejected demands from al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri not to incorporate al-Nusra into ISIS. The rejection prompted Zawahiri to openly repudiate ISIS as being an al-Qaida affiliate.
Originally known as the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS in a year and a half has created, in effect, an Islamic caliphate that stretches from eastern Syria and into the Sunni western provinces of Iraq. It is a feat that al-Qaida central has never been able to accomplish since its formal creation in 1998.
In effect, the new Islamic state ISIS governs is a nation-size tract of land stretching from the eastern edge of Aleppo to Fallujah in western Iraq and now further north to the city of Mosul.
Within that caliphate, ISIS not only has set up social and medical services for loyal Sunnis but has brought the stretch of land under strict Islamic law, prompting some 500,000 Iraqis to flee the area with their families in recent days.
As a brutal entity, ISIS enforces the areas it controls with beheadings and amputations, which is causing increasing resentment, even among the Sunni residents.
In addition to battling with al-Nusra, ISIS appears less intent on overthrowing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was just re-elected to a new seven-year term.
Instead, it appears to be more focused on establishing the Islamic caliphate.
In its latest attack on Mosul, ISIS not only seized military equipment, including helicopters from military and police bases it overran, but took possession of almost $500 million from Mosul’s banks. The seizure of cash makes it the richest Islamic militant group by far, including the money it raises from selling oil from the reserves it has overrun.
Given ISIS’ blitzkrieg-like seizure of vast amounts of real estate in a relatively short time, the concern now is that its fighters could spread into Jordan and Turkey.