Syrian rebels to Bashar al-Assad’s regime are fighting two wars — one against Assad’s forces, and another against members of their own opposition.
The Free Syrian Army, the main Western-backed opposition force, was forced out of the town of Azaz by a separate rebel group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to a BBC report on Sept. 19. The fighting resulted in several deaths and possibly as many as 100 captured fighters.
Rebel infighting is a long-standing issue in Syria due to several opposition groups with different interests. “The makeup of the Syrian rebellion is diverse but it’s all heading under this more jihadist atmosphere,” said Mike Godfrey, president of Praemon, the national security journal on campus.
IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy group that provides intel on weapons and strategy, claimed that of the 100,000 opposition fighters, 10,000 are “jihadists,” and about 30,000 more are hard-core Islamists that align with jihadist principles. Al Qaeda has a large presence in the Free Syrian Army, and it has its own branches of fighters — ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
“Either one of these two tend to lead the assaults,” Godfrey said.
While in some regions the two groups cooperate their attacks as allies, other regions experience the great dynamics of the two groups that can lead to sectarian conflict.