Friday, November 16, 2007

Brookings: "Fatah al Islam was not a mechanical creation of Syrian intelligence"

Apparently this Brookings paper is only available via SyriaComment, here
Seven conclusions and observations can be drawn from the battle of Nahr al Bared that could shed light on al Qaeda and the global war on terror:
1- Despite Fatah al Islam’s Islamist appeal and repeated calls for support throughout its battle with the Lebanese army, not one major salafist jihadist group in Lebanon headed its call. Osbat al Ansar, Jund al Sham (who have now re-merged with Osbat al Ansar), the Qarun group, the Arqoub group, and the Majdal Anjar group remained fairly silent and distanced themselves from the battle. For these groups and others, the battle that Fatah al Islam was waging was the wrong one. The jihadist compass, according to these groups’ leaders, was to be set South (against Israel) not North. This experience solidifies the authors’ earlier conclusion put forth in a study entitled "Securing Lebanon from the Threat of Salafist Jihadism" in which they argued that salafist jihadist entities in Lebanon are not united under a single umbrella or organization, instead they have dissimilar agendas and are relatively small and clandestine semi-autonomous entities with informal organizational structures. Each is more concerned about its own survival than about waging an offensive jihad against "infidels."
2- The battle against Fatah al Islam underscores the argument (also made in the above-mentioned study) that the salafist jihadist phenomenon in Lebanon is not purely a Palestinian phenomenon. Lebanese make a sizable part of the salafist jihadist movement in Lebanon, as evidenced by the high number of Lebanese cells operating in Tripoli, Akkar and al Koura.
3- Fatah al Islam was not a mechanical creation of Syrian intelligence. While Syria did not prevent large transfers of Arab fighters from Iraq to Lebanon, via Syrian territories, it did not play a major role in arming or financing Fatah al Islam.
4- Fatah al Islam could not have survived or accomplished any of its initial or later goals if it had not benefited from the large influx of Arab fighters from Iraq and from the financial support of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. In that sense, Fatah al Islam, as Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Byman – authors of "Things Fall Apart" – would most probably argue today, is a result of the Iraq conflict.
5- It is very interesting to note that throughout the battle, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al Zawahiri issued a statement supporting Fatah al Islam or endorsing its insurgency. This raises a number of important questions: does al Qaeda only support winners? Why did al Zawahiri praise the attack against UNIFIL on June 24, 2007 but remain silent on Fatah al Islam? Is it because al Qaeda’s senior leadership is more inclined to support terrorist acts as opposed to reckless jihadist enterprises?
6- UNIFIL, as argued in an earlier study by the authors entitled "Al Qaeda’s Terrorist Threat to UNIFIL", remains highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The international force is still working with a major handicap: lack of good intelligence and force protection measures.
7- The failure of the jihadist project of Fatah al Islam raises a critical point on terrorist organizational structures. Fatah al Islam morphed from a hierarchical group to a network of semi-autonomous cells. To what extent did that transformation contribute to its ultimate downfall? What does organizational structure say about the effectiveness and survivability of a terrorist enterprise?


Anonymous said...

Fascinating reading!
AQ and their English Lords murdered innocent Palestinians, (Fatah al Islam)

Third Rail said...

Call in and check out our interview tonight at 8PM EST with Dr. Paul L. Williams, author of The Day of Islam at