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The Islamist State of Syria After Assad
The recent pledge to supply the Syrian rebels to the Friends of Syria group from the USA of $60 million in aid has come out of fear.
It has been two years, 70,000 lives, decimated landscapes since rebels of this group began to fight for freedom from President Assad. During those two years, the USA and other Western countries balked at providing any aid directly, although, did allow many Arab countries to supply weapons and ammo. As time has gone on, the rebels have been screaming for more aid and the USA merely looked the other way as thousands were killed.
Now, the war is nearing some sort of end phase. Assad knows he cannot hold on for eternity without Iran's help, which drones are carefully watching and intercepting. Russia really wants to keep Assad in power but does not want to be directly involved. Iran is on the fence. They are fine if Assad stays in power and things will continue as normal, or, they are willing to be more directly involved if they have to. Keeping Syria allows them to move weapons and access to Lebanon where they already have Hezbollah, their proxy. Israel and Iran will clash at some point soon.
Now, the Islamist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with al-Qaeda, has decided they want a piece of Syria after Assad falls. Nusra has been the best military force of the rebels. They are better armed and actually are a para-military unit of a few thousand. These are not just civilians with guns and living off dreams of freedom, they are die hard radical jihadists seeking an Islamic state.
The truth is, without the Nusra group spearheading the attack on Assad, the Friends of Syria would have stalled long ago. The Nusra group has seized Taftanaz AFB in Idlib, one of the largest Syria has in the north. They found mass weapons, ammo, and many tanks. Then, they seized Jarrah AFB, outside of Aleppo, which gave them numerous aircraft to get trained pilots to fly for money. These pilots could be any mercenary and some aircraft have got into the air. Most recently, they captured the Tabqa dam giving them control over power supply in the east and north Syria. They also seized the key oil fields of Syria.
Al-Nusra also has fighters from a variety of extreme Islamists, such as, Tunisia, Libyan, Chechen, Iraqi. They are the biggest military force on the rebel side but they have their own agenda once Assad falls, until then, they call themselves "rebels" also. But, to win the hearts and minds, this group is also building things to help the civilians-field hospitals, bakeries in Aleppo to feed people, rebuilt some infrastructure and opened schools for children.
So, there are two rebel sides fighting in cooperation until Assad falls, one is the Free Syrian Army, which does want freedom and the Syrian Islamic Front, which wants the opposite under the extreme religious banner. Neither can fight one another now because like an "odd couple" they need one another against the Assad regime. However, once Assad falls, both sides have already declared they will fight one another.
What seems likely is that when this happens, the USA will finally provide real military support to the Free Syrian Army. There very well could be two Syrian states after Assad falls and the two rebel forces are fine with what they have gained.