This is one of the “moderate” leaders whom John Kerry and others were confidently telling us quite recently would soon win out in Syria. “Syrian fighter defects to Qaeda-linked group,” by Basma Atassi for Al Jazeera, December 16 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
In a farmhouse in eastern Syria, a group of men sat around a teapot observing it jiggle over a pile of burning paper bills. Lacking fuel, a charming rebel leader playfully told his comrades that he would make them tea by lighting Syrian pounds under the pot, a statement that soon turned into a dare. Minutes later, the 35-year-old man proudly poured black tea for his guests in small glass cups.
Saddam al-Jamal’s friends narrate this anecdote, which they say took place a few months ago, to illustrate their commander’s humour and free spirit. Jamal headed the Allahu Akbar Brigade, which was once one of the most effective groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the province of Deir Ezzor.
Its fighters operate under the loose umbrella of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Jamal was not only the leader of a battalion but also a top FSA commander for the whole of Syria’s eastern region.
In November, however, he announced his “repentance” for his membership in the battalion and the FSA, dubbing them “apostates”.
Wearing a brown leather jacket and a black-and-white scarf wrapped around his head, Jamal was filmed seated in front of al-Qaeda’s black flag. He addressed his fighters, urging them to also abandon the FSA. The FSA calls for “killing of our IsIamist brethrens and prevents the rule of Allah from being established on Earth”, he said in the video , released by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Jamal echoed claims that the ISIL and other Islamist fighter groups have been reiterating in recent months: that the “moderate” FSA is being groomed by the West and its Arab allies to point their weapons towards “extremist” groups upon the collapse of Assad’s regime.