Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) -, Rebels fighting against the Assad regime in the northwest of Syria have found an exceptional ally: al-Qaeda and hundreds of Islamists from foreign countries. The most representative states are Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan. But there are also members from Russia (Chechnya), Ukraine, Mali and Somalia. The presence of the extremists is confirmed by several videos that have appeared on jihadist websites that show men with covered faces, lauding the holy war, brandishing machine guns, bombs and waving the black flag of al-Qaeda. In a film that appeared a few days ago on Youtube a voiceover shouts "we're forming cells of suicide bombers to continue the holy war in the name of God."
To date, the opposition has denied the presence of Islamic extremist groups among its ranks, but according to experts, the borders with Turkey and Iraq have become veritable collection centers for militants from around the Sunni Muslim world. Some have described the Syrian scenario as a "magnet" for al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Witnesses say that hundreds of foreigners have come to Bab al-Hawa checkpoint on the Turkish border to support the Free Syrian Army in the battle for Aleppo. What drives these people across Asia and North Africa, is not a desire for democracy, but the exemplary punishment of "nusayrs" (heretics) a derogatory name for the Alawites, the Shiite sect of Bashar al-Assad.
The intensifying of battles in the northern province of Aleppo has also attracted hundreds of jihadists from Iraq. This is confirmed by a recent Iraqi government survey which finds that the militants operating on Syrian territory are part of the same group that claimed responsibility for bombings that have shaken Iraq in recent months. "Our lists of suspects - says Izzar al-Shahbandar, advisor to the Prime Minister - have the same names - they match those of the Syrian authorities."
Pictures that appeared on some forums with links to Al-Qaeda also show groups of veterans of the war in Libya. According to Lebanon news agency Naharnet, some show men dressed in black brandishing a banner that reads: "The revolutionaries of the Tripoli brigade." The confirmation of hectic activities of Islamic extremists on Syrian soil comes from the same number of attacks claimed by al-Qaeda. Since December, there have been at least with 35car bomb attacks and 10 suicide attacks on Syrian soil. Of these 4 were claimed by the "Front Nusra" of Al Qaeda.
The presence of jihadi groups from the Syrian free Army raised many controversies on a diplomatic level. Yesterday Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, has accused the United States policy of supporting anti Asssasd Islamist insurgents. He criticized the position of Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, who never condemned the attack in Damascus last July 18 that claimed the lives of several prominent members of the regime, calling instead for the imposition of new sanctions.
Meanwhile, the possibility of an armed intervention to depose President Assad is gaining ground. A study by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British organization specializing in issues of international politics and defense, warns of a likely clash between Sunni groups supported by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and Shi'ite militias, including Hezbollah and the Syrian army, backed by Iran. In addition, there is the threat of chemical weapons in the hands of the Syrian regime. The presence of chemical weapons worries Israel which has already begun distributing gas masks in the towns on the border with Syria. In recent days, Shimon Peres, Israeli president, said that the likely use of unconventional weapons by the Damascus regime poses a serious risk to the security of Israel. In the event of a fall of the regime, Peres fears the potential transfer of Syrian heavy weapons or chemical weapons arsenal to Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah or Iran, but also their theft by Islamic groups linked to al-Qaeda.
According to Michael Clarke, head of RUSI, a Western military intervention is necessary before the war degenerates. " We are not moving towards intervention, but intervention is moving towards us." Clarke argues that the events of recent days have created a radical change in the situation which leaves little possibility for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The head of RUSI suggests the intervention of special forces in support of rebel groups, already used in Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011. These operations may also include a coup against the regime.