One of the central themes that have been dominating the media lately regarding the Syrian crisis has been the participation of (Islamist) extremist elements in both of the camps of the civil war. What is the situation now in Syria, and what might the current developments hold for its future?
It is by now well known that the ethno-religious synthesis of Syria is making the conflict even more complicated than the external interests involved already make it. In light of this, the recent reports on the exploitation of the struggle from Islamist groups and the regional and global responses to the crisis point to a serious escalation of the conflict.
After the important move from the part of the Arab League to politically legitimize the Syrian opposition (Syrian National Coalition) by offering it Assad’s seat at the latest summit in Qatar, things have taken a turn for the worse. This might not be directly – or at least, obviously – related to other events but it shows how political and military developments go hand in hand as the crisis escalates. Of course, there were reports on Islamist groups operating in Syria before that, such as the jihadist Salafists from Gaza. According to Asmaa al-Ghoul, the Gaza Salafists see Syria as a good opportunity for conducting jihad, unlike Gaza where “the door…is closed”. The leader of the group, which joined the Syrian group Jabhat al-Nursa, also remarked that their ideology is the same with that of al-Qaeda.