‘Syrian rebels have fight with Jews ahead of them’

The Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad is being driven by disparate forces whose origins and aims remain shrouded in mystery. Journalist Kapil Komireddi argues foreign jihadists may target Israel if they topple Damascus.

RT: So little is known about who many of these rebel factions actually are – what light can you shed on this, and how did you come by this information?

Kapil Komireddi: I interviewed a group of rebels in Damascus who were holed up in various parts of [the capital] and various suburbs. A few of them who had traveled from Afghanistan said that they had a big fight against the Jews ahead of them and this is familiar to me, because I’ve also met people elsewhere, particularly in Pakistan, who say that they have a fight with the Jews ahead of them. So they see that as the ultimate destination. I don’t know if this is a view shared by all of the rebels who are fighting the Assad government, but there are some who certainly see this as a sort of stopover in the journey to the final destination.

RT:Do you have any other evidence apart from the views of the rebel fighters you spoke to? Are there any other indications that Israel might be facing a more dangerous enemy on its border?

KK: One of the things that was particularly disturbing to me is how Manaf Tlass [a former member of Assad’s inner circle who defected] is being groomed as a possible replacement for Assad. Not a lot of people know that Manaf Tlass’s father [former defense minister] Mustafa Tlass is a first rate anti-Semite. He’s written a book called The Matzah of Zion which talks about the blood libel and he [Manaf] was smuggled out by French spies. He keeps making trips to Saudi Arabia, but not a lot of people know the history behind Manaf Tlass and people should be worried about [him] being groomed as a possible replacement.

RT:In your view, how have we reached this stage where what was once just an anti-government, pro-democracy movement, became something mixed in with, and perhaps taken over by, jihadists and radicals?

KK: There are two things. First, what began as a peaceful revolution, the government didn’t really respond peacefully initially. As early as May 2011, the American ambassador to Syria informed his colleagues and his counterparts that al-Qaeda had penetrated the Syrian opposition. There is certainly evidence of interference from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. So there are a lot of regional elements pumping money [and] arms into this conflict, the consequences of that, and also the regime’s unwillingness to renounce peaceful means to arriving at a solution. All of these put together have brought us here.

RT: Still, Israel and its allies in the West are sympathetic to the opposition despite the warning signs you’re picking up on. Do you think they're aware of this risk of religious persecution – very possibly also of Alawites and Christians – if the regime is toppled, and if so, why is it being ignored?

KK: That’s ironic. I believe many people in the west are aware of this and they’re wary of intervening straight away, which is why America hasn’t yet intervened in the way that it did in Libya and elsewhere. I think the irony of supporting rebels who may eventually become great enemies of the west is something that is lost on the very eager interventionists pushing the west to intervene in Syria and to arm the opposition. I don’t think listening to these enthusiastic interventionists is going to result in peace. I think the solution is political; it will come by pushing the government – the Assad regime – and opposition forces to go to the negotiating table and work out a peace deal. I think arming one group will yield a messy situation.