Assad’s propaganda machine, along Russia Today, the Iranian Press TV, Western conspiracy theorists and so-called anti-imperialists, have from the very beginning of this revolution been trying to sell the world the story of the massive international conspiracy against Syria by a number of countries, implemented on the ground by foreign Jihadists, intelligence services and hired mercenaries. As both extremism and international involvement naturally but marginally grew over the course of more than two years, these propagandists constantly sought to point to incidents and marginal developments as proof for their disturbed notions of reality; while at the same time continuing to ignore the will and aspirations of the Syrian people, the genocidal onslaught of mass destruction against them and their right to resist it, and the role of regional imperialists Russia and Iran in their financial and military support for Assad’s regime.
Western mainstream media did not pick up much of it, obviously, their own approach in general has not differed much from Western governments’ approach to it. What did always find its way to the headlines was anything related to religious extremism. The “foreign Jihadi” factor, especially after being confronted with hundreds of their own citizens seemingly taking that path to Syria, has always been one of the most popular topics. But after Hezbollah openly admitted the involvement of its fighters in Syria some may now finally wonder: on what side do most of the [radical] foreign fighters in Syria stand?
The answer is that they have been standing on the side of Assad since the very beginning. It has become a topic today as their presence and the evidence for it have become overwhelming. Despite all of Assad’s own attempts, the number of foreigners, as opposed to any local extremists, fighting against Assad has been non-existent when there was no armed resistance for the first months of the revolution in the first place, neither did it come about throughout the period in which defectors’ began forming resistance units evolving into the FSA, or even up to the point when Qaedists began emerging early 2012 [being Syrians released from prison and Syrian veterans from Iraq]. From then until now, no more than a couple of thousand foreign fighters have come to Syria to fight against Assad.
Iranian and Russian military advisers, however, were called in early on. As things were going downhill for the regime, the Iranians, together with Hezbollah, began to train Syrian troops, organize Shabbiha and even command some units. Their presence in Damascus became an open secret and that Iran is willing to train Assad forces is now openly admitted. The next step was for the Iraqi Abul Fadl al-`Abbas brigade to emerge, supposedly to protect the shrine of Sayyida Zaynab in Damascus. Hezbollah claimed the same in addition to that, supposedly to protect Lebanese Shi`a villages inside Lebanon. Then came the offensive on Al-Qusayr and its surroundings, followed by Nasrallah’s speech, and everything was out in the open.
The situation today, however, is far beyond anything previously imagined. Not only are there already perhaps as many as several tens of thousands who have come to defend the Assad regime from a large range of countries and with different motivations, there is a potential for tens of thousands more to follow suit. For Assad, this manpower is necessary to survive due to the weakness of his forces and militias which have been drained by massive defections, a lack of new recruits and a high number of casualties. Any new recruit, whether local or foreign, whatever his motivation, is welcomed. And as long as nobody is stopping Assad, there is no reason for him to stop either.
Hezbollah has been leading the battle of Qusayr and its surroundings in Homs, is preparing to invade Aleppo, and is trying to regain the suburbs of Damascus, particularly Jobar and Eastern Ghouta. Hama Echo, an activist turned freedom fighter, has just returned from Ghouta with the following report from which the above photo has been taken:
I haven’t written a post in a long time – my commander encourages us to be “unknown soldiers” and not go on facebook/twitter etc. but there is so much focus on this unstrategic town of Qusair that I have to say something.
Ghouta, mainly the eastern Ghouta is under a big threat. This is one of the most strategic areas for us in all of Syria, it is the door to the capital. There is so much focus on Qusair because of the foreigners Assad is using, but there are much more in Ghouta. The foreigners fighting for Assad in Ghouta are:
*Hezbollah – they are all over the Damascus suburbs, especially in the south. They only say they are fighting for the Shrine of Sayedda Zeinab, in fact the sectarian pigs are fighting for Sayedda Aneesa.
*Abo Alfadl AlAbbas brigades and other Shia militias – Iraqi, Lebanese, Iranian and Afghans! There are probably other nationalities but these are the ones the revolutionaries managed to kill so far.
*Baathists from outside Syria – a new group. They are more active in the north of Syria than the south
*Iranian revolutionary guard – they are mainly commanders but they work as whole units sometimes when they speak to each other in Persian over the radio.
*Mercenary military advisers from places such as Russia, Iraq and Eastern Europe – they are not sent by the armies of these countries, but they have a military background
This is what is making things in Ghouta so hard, they can attack from so many areas because of their large numbers, and when we kill some of them, more want to come to Syria and fight. An FSA unit ambushed a unit of them in Jobar, it was one commander from the presidential guard and the rest were afghans!
Things were easy for a long time, a few weeks ago I was able to go with some other fighters and our commander to Istanbul for meetings, knowing the rest of our unit will be safe – but now this is too dangerous, all the units have to work hard to resist these huge amount of fighters. … You live for yourselves and die for Nasrallah and Khamenei- We live for others and die for God and Syria. – http://hamaecho.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/situation-in-ghouta/
Hassan Nasrallah threatened he could send tens of thousands with just two words, but how many must there not already be there for them to lead in Al-Qusayr, prepare for Aleppo and roam in and around Damascus at the same time? 10 thousand would be a moderate estimation to be able to pull that off.
The Abul Fadl al-`Abbas brigade, estimated to have several thousand fighters, is no longer the only Iraqi one: Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada has joined.
Besides Lebanese, Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans there have also been reports of Bahrainis and Yemeni fighters coming to Syria for a Khomenist Jihad on the side of Assad. This Shi`i Jihad, a topic of its own, is a reality and has been declared and encouraged by several top Shi`i Khomeinist scholars and carried out by movements such as Hezbollah, the Abul Fadl al-Abbas and the Sayyid al-Shuhada brigades. The spirit of Jihad against the “Nawasib” [haters of the Prophetic household, which they accuse their opponents of being] is no less prominently present as that against the “Rafida” [rejecters of the first 3 Caliphs].
On top of a massive supply of such Jihadists, there may also be some others going on adventure in Syria for ideological reasons such as the mentioned new Ba`athist phenomenon and there have been reports about Lebanese leftists as well, particularly Nasserists: there could be Druze, Christians and Sunnis among their likes.
There could even be traditional Sunnis, as hard as that is to imagine, from befriended countries coming to Syria in light of the Mufti’s Fatwa for Muslims allover the world to join Assad in his Jihad.
Another source to draw from could be followers of other heterodox sects, such as the Turkish Alevis. As a matter of fact, the prime suspect of the massacre that took place in Banyas is a Turkish Alevi by the name of Ali Kyali [Mihrac Ural] who has been leading the Shabbiha in the area.
He is wanted by Turkey and has been in Syria long before the revolution. However, how many Turkish Alevites could such a person not recruit? Then there are of course Assad’s own Alawites in Lebanon, such as those from Jabal Mohsen who are already at war with the people of Bab al-Tabaneh.
Finally, Neo-Nazis, fascists and Islamophobes from around the world, religious or otherwise, are supportive of Assad’s cause as well and contacts with some have already been made. This is not far fetched, foreign neo-Nazis also joined Croat forces in the Yugoslav war.
If the huge well of ideological support and volunteers ever dries out, there will still be an abundance of potential mercenaries for as long as there are the financial means to pay them and the need to rely on them. How many they currently number is unclear, though their presence is more than likely. Their potential is immense. The following offer to Assad seems to be made by a deranged man, however:
There is absolutely no chance of 50 thousand Ukrainian-Russian mercenaries joining Assad any time soon, however, there are many around the world more than willing to become his gun for hire and their number in Syria could dramatically increase if needed and sustainable. Qaddafi had no choice but to completely rely on foreign mercenaries right from the start because nobody in his country or elsewhere in the world believed in him or his cause. For Assad, however, this is very different. Why hire Russians when you can get thousands of the Arab world’s most reputable guerrilla fighters for free from Hassan Nasrallah.
Assad can also continue to rely on state support from Iran and Russia, not only in vehicles, weapons and ammunition but in manpower as well to a certain extent. Hama Echo mentions that the Russians currently in Syria are mercenaries and do not work for their state, but Russian military already has a presence simply through their naval base. It would make little sense for them not to become in any way involved considering the circumstances. They would believe they have a right to do so, based on the same principles upon which they provide other kinds of support. As for the Iranian Republican Guard radio communications being referred to, an example is the following leak:
There is no denying that the “foreign Jihadists” in Syria that the world has been talking about for so long, namely Qaedists and similar extremists [who are everything but Sunni contrary to how they are commonly described], are of a problematic amount and have been increasingly causing problems for some time now, the extent of which will become clear after the fall of the regime. They have received plenty attention on this blog for a long time because their war against Assad is not part of the revolution, and in fact pollutes it. Assad has stimulated their emergence and growth for good reasons. The revolution and all it stands for is their enemy as much as Assad is, the banner of Takfir and Jihad are raised here as easily as they are against Assad. Moreover, their means in achieving their goals are resembling that of Assad to a frightening, unlawful and unacceptable level of which we haven’t seen everything yet by far in Syria. Most of all, because all of this is done in the name of Islam when it is nothing but heresy.
However, that doesn’t make them even the greatest challenge inside the liberated parts of the country, let alone a greater enemy than Assad and his tyranny as Assad apologists would have us believe. This was already not the case in any way when his terror mostly relied on his air force, his mukhabarat, his army and his Shabbiha and the imperial warrior cult. All the Qaedists in the world could not match his wickedness, let alone only those in Syria.
Now he has managed to outdo himself, adding so much more to it by reviving religious sectarianism among his community and leaving them and the rest of the country to become overtaken by the Khomenist Jihad of Iran, Hezbollah, and others like them. It has gone so far that Ba`athists, in their hopes of recruiting Shabbiha from Shi`i villages, are now claiming to fight for Imam Husayn, but that is what has been happening in Aleppo. This force is much stronger than Assad himself, it can outlive him and his regime, and continue to be a greater force for Syria to overcome on its way to freedom than al-Qaeda is.