Monday August 26, 2013, no146
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
U.S threats intended to cover the losses of Bandar bin Sultan
By Ghaleb Kandil
The new case of chemical weapons caused by the coalition of Western powers, Israel, retrograde Gulf monarchies, and executed by takfirist movements has fizzled because of the vigilance of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. Russian satellites are very active over Syria and the information gathered by the Syrian military command shows that the "chemical film" aims to serve as a pretext for aggression against Syria, to compensate for losses suffered by terrorist gangs sent from Jordan. These losses are estimated to be thousands of dead and wounded, during ambushes and counter-offensives launched by the Syrian army, especially around Damascus and in the region of Lattaquia, where regular troops recaptured the villages occupied by terrorists, who massacred hundreds of civilians.
The American media have spread information about the deployment of additional war ships in the Mediterranean and statements attributed to Barak Obama on examining various options, including military in Syria. Yet the American president and his staff had made clear that the United States is unable to bear the human, financial and military cost of an intervention in Syria. In addition, a NATO ground attack would be a blunder that would cost Americans a lot more than what they are capable of supporting.
Israel's role in inciting aggression against Syria is now clear. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres called for direct intervention, saying that "it is time to get chemical weapons out of Syria." This argument prove that the Gulf countries and Israel are, again, in the same trench.
The narrowness of the choices available to the United States and its allies is primarily due to the resistance of the Syrian government against the universal that targets the country. But also to the determination of its allies. The presence of the Russian fleet on the Syrian coast and the Mediterranean, and the support of Iran are essential. Moreover, this support has not denied these last hours. Responding to a possible military operation against Syria, Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, warned that "if the United States crossed the red line (in Syria) there will harsh consequences for the White House. "
All these Western gestures intended to raise the morale of terrorist gangs, dominated by Takfirist, after the Syrian government had managed to bring into its fold thousands of rebel fighters. They also aim to hide the true purpose of the meeting of military staffs of a dozen countries in Jordan next week to intensify the involvement of intelligence services in Syria.
The information circulating behind the diplomatic scenes ensure that extension was granted until the end of the year to chief of Saudi intelligence, Bandar bin Sultan, in an attempt to shift the balance in Syria. That is why he ordered the attacks in Lebanon in the hope of pushing Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, where their participation has allowed the Syrian army to make significant success. At the same time, Bandar is trying to mobilize the largest number of Takfirists after thousands of mercenaries were killed.
The next four months will be characterized by a great military and political escalation, but it will not be able to cause major strategic changes. The Syrian state, its army and its allies are not willing to lose the initiative, despite the scale of the resources used by the "coalition of evil", led by the United States. The Takfirists are rejected by the Syrian people and this reality won't change. In addition, the "coalition of evil" is in a stalemate in Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, while Turkey saw its imperial ambitions fray, and Israel is unable to conduct further war. The ambush by the Resistance against a patrol of elite Israeli troops who crossed into Lebanon on August 7, came to remind the enemy of his impotence.
The next few months will prove that Bandar bin Sultan has managed to prolong the war in Syria. But it will show that his defeat will inaugurate a period of turmoil within the Wahhabi kingdom, and its attempts to buy for billions of dollars a role in Egypt will not help to offset its crushing defeat in Syria.
A terrorist network, animated by Bandar bin Sultan, plans to destroy Lebanon
By Ghaleb Kandil
The plan of the head of Saudi intelligence, Bandar bin Sultan, to cause a general conflagration in Lebanon, is revealed. The commander of the Lebanese Army, General Jean Kahwaji and Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, reported the existence of cells that project to put car bombs in all Lebanese regions. Facts have proved them right after the explosions in the southern suburbs of Beirut (27 dead and 330 wounded) and Tripoli (45 dead and over 600 injured). What happened in North Lebanon capital has shed light on the political and media entanglement of the terrorist network led by Bandar and his determination to plunge the country into a sectarian discord.
Most reactions after the bombings of Tripoli warned against discord. Senior political personalities of 8 and 14-March coalitions have expressed unequivocally support the Lebanese Army and security services in the fight against terrorist groups. They called to intensify their efforts to dismantle the networks that place car bombs.
At this stage, the investigation proved the existence of Takfirist cells responsible for firing rockets, explosions on the Beirut-Damascus road and in the Bekaa region, and car bombings. These extremist groups are funded by some Gulf countries and enjoy a political and security coverage provided by the Future Movement, under the pretext of mobilizing in support of Syrian rebels.
It is necessary to show that these cells, composed of nationals of the Gulf (especially Saudi), Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, working to cause sectarian conflagration in Lebanon. Continue to ensure their coverage from the Future Movement, will cause severe losses to Lebanon. Saad Hariri's party must announce clearly and openly his withdrawal of coverage to these extremists and should not provide them with protection for sectarian considerations.
The attacks in Tripoli, however, revealed the existence of a strong coordination on political and media levels to complement the work of the terrorist network led by Bandar. MP's like Khaked Daher and Mouïn Merhebi and sheikhs close to al-Qaeda, as Bilal Baroudi, Dai al-Islam al- Chahhal and Omar Fostok, commented on the car bombings in terms that could cause sectarian strife and bloodshed. They accused, sometimes directly, Shiites of being behind the attacks against two Sunni mosques in Tripoli.
Audiovisual media, which offered generous forums for these extremist individuals, are also responsible for the spread of sectarian and confessional speeches.
The Lebanese authorities are challenged to act and react according to the state logic. They must take immediate measures to put an end to this media chaos that curb sectarian speech and dismantle the networks funded and led by Bandar bin Sultan, threatening the unity and existence of Lebanon. It is not allowed that the Army, the Resistance and some wise persons remain alone on the battlefield to defend Lebanon.
Jean Kahwaji, Lebanese army chief
«The Lebanese army is fighting a total war against terrorism whose aim is to provoke sectarian strife. We are faced today with one of the biggest dangers, which Arab and Western countries are already confronting, and that is terrorism, which strikes out whenever it has the chance. I announce today that the army is engaged in a total war against terrorism. The military has been chasing for months a terrorist cell that prepares car bombs and sends them to residential neighborhoods. The gravity, according to our intelligence, lies in the fact that this cell is not targeting any one region or community in particular, but that it aims to provoke sectarian strife by targeting different regions.»
Walid Moallem, Syrian Foreign affairs Minister
«The Syrian government will co-operate with the United Nations mission now in Syria to create the conditions for a visit to zones where terrorist groups have carried out attacks with chemical weapons.»
Omrane al-Zohbi, Syrian Information Minister
We have never used chemical weapons in Syria in any form, be it liquid or gas.»
Beshara Raï, patriarch of the maronite church
«The Lebanese people must return to the National Pact, which provides a common life between Muslims and Christians to leave their conflicts that threaten the existence of Lebanon. There is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests, and there is still a plan to raise as much as possible the sectarian conflict in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shiites. There are countries in the West and the East that are fomenting all these conflicts. Now we are seeing the destruction of what Christians have built during 1,400 years of coexistence with Muslims. They pay for this war between Sunnis and Shiites between moderate and fundamentalist. I wrote to the Holy Father twice to describe what happens. I would like to again appeal to the Holy Father, who only speaks of peace and reconciliation. The West -I'm not allowed to say what state- helped with large sums of billions of dollars the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power.»
Ali Fayyad, Hezbollah MP
«The current phase does not support ambivalent calculations. Any party that justifies, under any pretext whatsoever, Takfirist behavior is sharing with them the responsibility for making the Lebanese blood flow. The great task at present is to prevent Lebanon falling into the abyss. As soon as possible a national unity government should be established, that would assume all responsibility in confronting the threats and dangers. The government should unanimously and clearly makes the decision to destroy the Takfirist groups.»
Four rockets were fired from south Lebanon into Occupied Palestine on Thursday, the Lebanese National News Agency reported. The Israeli army told AFP that the Iron Dome defense system had intercepted one of four rockets fired into northern Occupied Palestine. "One rocket was intercepted by Iron Dome," an army spokeswoman told AFP, without specifying its location or giving any details about the other rockets. Eli Bean, director of the Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance service, said no one had been hurt. "There are no casualties. There are no indications or reports of anything hitting any populated area," he said on Army Radio. "The [Israeli Occupation Force] is regarding this as a one-time incident. There is no change in regulations or orders," Israeli army chief spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Israel's Channel 2 television. According to the NNA, the rockets were launched near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre. An NNA correspondent in the region said media reports that Israeli forces had fired into Lebanon were false
The Internal Security Forces intercepted in Ras Baalbeck a Mercedes truck coming from Syria, carrying 10 Grad rockets 107 mm caliber. The driver of the Ghazi family, is a Lebanese national native of Wadi Khaled.
The Hamas representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka, visiting MP Bahia Hariri, said that "Ahmad Taha, a Palestinian, is actually wanted by the Lebanese state. His brother is a member of Hamas. The army intelligence asked us to give him. We then handed one of his relatives," he said. He stressed that the intelligence have stated that they "just wanted to collect their testimony and some data on Ahmad Taha movement who is suspected of launching rockets on the southern suburb of Beirut."
Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak left jail Thursday, after a court ordered him freed pending trial. Mubarak was taken from Cairo's Tora prison by helicopter to a military hospital in southern Cairo, where he is to remain under house arrest. On Wednesday, a court said Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years with an iron fist before being ousted in the 2011 uprising, could be granted conditional release pending trial in three cases against him. But the government said it would place the 85-year-old under house arrest after his release, on the basis of Egypt's current state of emergency. The former strongman will not be allowed to leave Egypt and his assets remain frozen. Mubarak still faces prosecution in three cases, including two charges of corruption and one for complicity in the deaths of some of the 850 people killed during the 2011 uprising.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Mohammad Ballout, Paris (August 23, 2013)
The Russian delegation has provided to Western and U.S. missions at the special meeting of the Security Council of the UN a version of the attack with chemical weapons occurred on August 21 in the suburbs of Damascus. This version, which was not made public, was documented with satellite images of the scene of the incident in the Ghouta region.
According to informed sources, the Americans haven't advanced any document that contradicts the Russian thesis because the images taken by U.S. satellites show the same result: it is the Syrian opposition who carried out the attack with chemical weapons .
A brigade under the Syrian opposition called "Liwaa al-Islam" lead by Zahran Allouche, fired from the area of Douma, August 21, at 1:35, two homemade missiles containing chemicals. The brigade is one of the largest gangs in Ghouta where about 25,000 fighters are deployed in the villages of Arbin, Zamalka, Saqba, Kafarnabt Ein Tarme and Maazamiyeh. One of the projectiles hit the region Jobar while the second fell in an area between Arbin and Zamalka. The firing of missiles is a response to the major offensive called "Shield of the capital," launched by the Syrian Arab army.
On Wednesday, government forces artillery began shelling 1.00am militia strongholds while tanks and infantry forces have advanced to Jobar to attack rebel positions. Thirteen extremists brigades united under al-Nosra Front flag to fight the Syrian army in the area.
According to reliable sources, the militia under the "Front of the conquest of the capital" evacuated Jobar district at 1:00, a few minutes before the fall of the missile.
As Safir (August 23, 2013)
Cleavage observed on the local scene in the aftermath of the Roueiss explosion is regrettable. Instead of tightening their ranks leveraging the condemnation of the attack, Lebanese have engaged in self-flagellation.
Circles close to Hezbollah indicate that elements of the party were deployed on the ground, because the Internal Security Forces and the army does not have the ability to cover all regions threatened by car bombings, as they have other tasks on the Lebanese territory. The sources, however, point out that Hezbollah is in cooperation and coordination with the military and the Ministry of the Interior, who did not oppose the measures taken by the party. Why then be more royalist than the king?
As Safir (August 22, 2013)
A diplomatic report reviewing the results of the stormy meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Saudi intelligence, Bandar bin Sultan, last July, concluded that the region from North Africa to Chechnya and Iran, through Syria and the Middle East, is already affected by the effects of the open Russian-American confrontation.
According to the same report, it is not excluded that things take a dramatic turn in Lebanon, both on political and security level, in view of the large Saudi decision to respond to Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian crisis. Bandar Bin Sultan, in coordination with the U.S. and some European partners have proposed to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz to undertake a visit to Moscow, during which he will use the policy of carrot and stick with Russian leadership on the political, economic, security and military levels, in exchange for concessions on several issues, particularly on Syria and Iran.
Saudi visitors to the Russian president reportedly said that any agreement would be a Russian-American agreement, and will not be limited only to Saudi and Russian parts, noting that before his trip to Russia, he talked to the Americans. The Saudi official reportedly suggested to Putin that Russia end its political support, through the Security Council, as well as its economic and military support to the Syrian regime, promising in return for a cooperation on oil and investment, and safeguard the interests of Russia and Syria on the Mediterranean coast. President Vladimir Putin responded by saying that Russia's position will not change vis-à-vis the Syrian regime. Bandar Bin Sultan said that the convening of the Geneva Conference 2 will be extremely difficult.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
Ibrahim Bayram (August 23, 2013)
Sources close to Hezbollah ensure that the party has developed long ago, a range of options and objectives to prepare for the period following his participation in the Syrian conflict. These options are not limited to strengthening security and preventive measures taken openly in the southern suburbs of Beirut and southern Lebanon and soon in other regions. These measures, important as they are, are only the beginning of the 1000 miles walk, to take over to defeat terrorist groups that are preparing attacks similar to that of Roueiss. According to reports, Hezbollah has informed those concerned that it is willing to do everything that is required to prevent the "Iraqisation" of Lebanon, provided that the state and its institutions perform their duties to prevent the deterioration of the situation.
In addition, experience has shown that the whole country will not be safe and will not remain stable if the southern suburbs or other regions become zones of murder and terrorism. Thus, the security services are faced with the challenge to do their duty and to prove they are up to their responsibilities. As organizations and Palestinian figures were placed in front of their responsibilities after the evidence had shown that terrorist cell dismantled are composed of Palestinians, whose names are now known.
Anyway, Hezbollah believes it will not be driven alone in this spiral of violence. All components of the political landscape without exception are plunged into crisis, headed by those who built their calculations on the possibility of forming a government without Hezbollah or a neutral cabinet to impose a new political landscape in harmony with 14-March's calculations.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Ibrahim al-Amine (August 21, 2013)
Despite being thoroughly prepped for her first television appearance on MTV, Lebanese Forces MP Strida Geagea – wife of civil war militia leader Samir Geagea – nevertheless missed her cues and forgot her lines.
The Lebanese Forces decided to bring out the heavy guns. Feeling compelled to respond to many unanswered questions and a recent report in Al-Akhbar about marital problems with her controversial husband, Strida Geagea took to the airwaves to set the record straight.
The interview was little more than a co-production between the Lebanese Forces and MTV, planned carefully to avoid any embarrassing gaffes on the part of the Lebanese Forces’ first lady.
The station’s owner was asked to make preparations for the media event, such as digging up old clips that would help polish her image. MTV put aside all the standards of media professionalism and operated on the basis that it was selling airtime to a political ally, that also happens to be a co-owner of the station (see box below).
MTV aired the interview as if it were live – indicating as much on the screen – when in fact it was pre-recorded, and over many hours, during which questions and answers were re-recorded in order to present the best that Strida could offer.
Yet despite all this, the performance flopped – an indication perhaps as to why the right-wing MP has kept her distance from the media all this time. Maybe she wasn’t well-prepared for some questions, and in places, she completely lost track of important dates and the chronology of events.
She, for example, insisted that her husband did not leave her any money during the time he spent in military prison (1994-2005) and that she got by on an inheritance from her father without dipping into Lebanese Forces funds at all.
This is despite court testimony by party officials that her husband ordered $1 million be transferred to her father to save him from bankruptcy. She also forgot about $5 million that the Lebanese Forces received for its weapons from the Lebanese government at the end of the civil war.
Strida may have done her best not to mention Al-Akhbar in her interview in order to avoid any promotion for the paper, but she nevertheless denied reports that she and her husband were separating, saying coyly “if we wanted a divorce, it would have happened long ago,” without denying the information or accusing the paper of fabricating it.
She did, however, go on to reveal that when the Al-Akhbar report was published, she dismissed it, only to be convinced by her husband and the party that it may have security repercussions, accusing the paper of writing similar negative articles against March 14 leaders Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir before they were assassinated.
Poor Strida. She apparently got lost in all the details and may have memorized her lines wrong, for the first edition of Al-Akhbar did not appear until several months after both men were killed!
Al Akhbar (August 22, 2013)
Amidst the escalation in fighting between Islamist extremists and Kurds on more than one front, the Kurdish National Council in Syria pronounced several Kurdish cities disaster areas. This coincided with unprecedented Kurdish immigration into Iraqi Kurdistan, where it is estimated that around 30,000 refugees arrived only last week.
Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani considered it "a sensitive issue" and rejected emptying Kurdish areas "of their people and causing a demographic imbalance there."
However, Syrian Kurds maintain that Islamist brigades are threatening several areas. They point to several attempts by the Syrian opposition to empty the Kurdish areas under their control, such as in Tal Abyad and Tal Aran.
In related news, a Syrian army military aircraft bombed two locations in Dirik this week, killing one civilian and injuring around 14. The operation coincided with the arrival of a delegation from the preparatory committee of the Kurdish National Council to follow up on the situation of Kurdish areas and deal with "the massacres and attacks by armed groups belonging to al-Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army (FSA)."
Some believe the operation delivered a message to Iraqi Kurdistan in the wake of Barzani’s threats. "If it turns out that innocent Kurdish citizens, women, and children are under threat of murder, the Iraqi Kurdistan region will harness all its abilities to defend them," he announced recently.
Although the Iraqi Kurdistan Interior Ministry ruled out a military intervention, officials from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) maintain that Kurdish regions in Syria do not need additional military units. However, they welcome any other type of "aid or material and moral support that could strengthen their fighters."
The battles spread throughout the Hassakeh region as YPG units make significant progress on some fronts, while other areas witness sporadic clashes. Kurdish fighters took control of areas that were under the command of extremist Islamist brigades, such as in the town of Abu Rasein between al-Derbasiye and Ras al-Ayn.
Recently, YPG units announced the outcome of the clashes, explaining that they killed around 800 Islamist fighters in one month. They also announced the killing of 80 Kurdish fighters in the same period. The number of Kurdish civilians still missing "especially in the areas of Tal Hasel, Tal Aran and Aazaz, reached almost 700 citizens."
A military source told Al-Akhbar that the clashes in the Hassakeh district "has exhausted al-Qaeda's brigades and their allies." He indicated that some brigade commanders proposed "an agreement in which they keep the oil wells currently under their control." However, the Kurds rejected the offer, according to the source.
The source explained that most brigades in the areas of al-Shaddada and al-Hawl, the outskirts of the city of Hassakeh, and even in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, came to Tal Kawjar to support al-Qaeda's brigades. He expounds further saying, what is remarkable about the clashes is "the difficulty in communications between the brigades and the Turkish government providing direct support to brigades across the borders.” However, "the situation is different in Tal Kawjar [on the borders with Iraq], where Turkey's arm cannot reach."
Meanwhile, an agreement signed earlier between the Kurds and the FSA came into force in the western countryside of Kobani. According to Kurdish military officials, the armed brigades attacking Kurdish areas are allied to al-Qaeda. They are supported by brigades from the FSA, in addition to "Kurdish brigades" connected to Kurdish parties, the sources claimed.
In Aleppo's countryside, the armed brigades are moving toward Kurdish towns that used to be under the control of the Kurdish Front Brigade. There is information about an agreement between al-Qaeda brigades and the FSA in Aleppo, who are planning to form what was described as "a joint operations room to target positions controlled by the YPG and the Kurdish Front Brigade."
Al Akhbar (August 20, 2013)
The fate of a new Lebanese government appears to be tied to events in northern Syria, according to instructions from the region’s master spook, Saudi Arabia’s Bandar bin Sultan, who is busy preparing for the mother of all battles in Aleppo.
During the last week of Ramadan, Lebanon’s Prime Minister-Designate Tammam Salam was still weighing his options, with reports circulating that he was considering a government of “super ministers,” which would include 10 of the country’s influential political leaders.
Then suddenly, all discussion of such an option died because Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan, the man currently orchestrating the fight in Syria against the Bashar al-Assad regime, vetoed it.
Many had believed that such an exceptional cabinet would be acceptable to the West, which is becoming increasingly concerned that security in Lebanon is deteriorating quickly. But when Salam left to Geneva for the Eid holiday, all talk of a super government ended and was replaced by the possibility of refloating the “three-eighths” option, that is, eight ministers each for March 14, March 8, and the so-called centrists.
Some sources who recently visited the outgoing US ambassador in Lebanon reported that Salam intended to declare a fait accompli government of his own choosing within a few days. This also did not materialize and was said to have been buried after two of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s envoys visited Saudi Arabia for consultations.
Sources explain that Bandar had asked the envoys to put aside the issue of a new government until a later, more opportune time, which the Saudi intelligence chief wants to coincide with the battle for Aleppo that he and the Turks hope to launch at the end of August or the first half of September.
It is at this time that Bandar wants the new government to be declared in order to busy Hezbollah on a number of fronts at once, thus undermining its effectiveness in intervening on the side of the regime in Syria.
Many expect that with the launch of the battle for Aleppo, Lebanon will also likely witness more terrorist attacks along the lines of the recent Dahiyeh car bombings, again with the intent of neutralizing the Resistance at a critical moment. For Bandar, everything today revolves around the crucial fight in northern Syria, and so Salam’s government has no choice but to wait for the maestro’s signal to see the light of day.
Al Anbaa (Koweity Daily, August 20, 2013)
According to reliable information, Hezbollah is poised to set up a defensive security apparatus adapted to the mode of action of Takfirist groups and instructed to fight against these movements. This is accompanied by measures of coordination with the Lebanese security services and a decision to halt the spread of civilians and Syrian refugees in its areas of influence, especially in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Many expect that Lebanon is going through a difficult period, characterized by increased pressure on Hezbollah, both political (government issue), security (terrorist) military (Syrian scene) or diplomatic in parallel with Israel Palestinian negotiations -which should last 9 months.
Hezbollah officials ensure that its participation in the Syrian conflict has not led to a vacuum in security and military areas were Resistance fighters are deployed in southern Lebanon and West Bekaa. These officials point out that the resistance continue their training and preparations to face any Israeli aggression. Hezbollah, they said, got new weapons for use in any future war surprise Israel and the world, as happened in 2006.
The Times (British Daily, August 19, 2013)
Syria is now the world's foremost terrorist training ground, with as many as 10,000 foreigners fighting to overthrow President Assad, US intelligence sources say.
Up to 150 Britons are among the European contingent. "A few hundred, mostly Sunni, Europeans, have travelled to reach the fight," a US official said.
The flow of foreign recruits has increased significantly in the past two or three months, according to diplomatic sources, analysts and members of the Syrian opposition. They say the rise coincides with the surge of Shia militants from Iraq and Lebanon who have entered Syria to fight on behalf of the Assad regime.
Syria has replaced Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia as the favoured training ground for jihadists and terrorists, counter-terrorism experts acknowledged. The presence of so many jihadists in Syria, some of them combat-proven militants from Iraq and Chechnya, poses the biggest challenge for the US and other countries who have decided to arm the opposition forces.
Keeping tabs on the flow of foreign fighters entering Syria across the Turkish border has been a challenge for Western intelligence agencies operating close to the Syrian frontier. "Hard and fast figures are difficult to come by, but it lies between a few thousand foreigners and a ceiling of around 10,000," a US source said.
The increase in foreign fighters in Syria is causing alarm among Western intelligence services because they fear that European jihadists will return to their own countries and plot terrorist strikes.
"Syria has become the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world," Matthew Olsen, director of the US National Counter-Terrorism Centre, has said. "There are individuals travelling to Syria, becoming further radicalised, becoming trained and returning as part of a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the US," he said.
The foreigners are being recruited through Facebook, Twitter feeds, jihadist websites and a network of fundraisers.
Many of the volunteer fighters infiltrate Syria from Turkey, where most of the border crossings are under the control of rebel groups. Jordanians cross the more tightly-controlled southern border. Most volunteers avoid scrutiny by independently travelling to Turkey and making their own way to the border to link up with smugglers who will take them across the border for a price.
"There are underground networks in Turkish towns on the border with Aleppo and Raqqah," said Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "It appears to be pretty simple to get in."
When they arrive in Syria, they are deployed into three groups:
- The Al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, the main jihadist unit, allied to al-Qa'ida, and headed by Abu Mohammad al-Golani, a Syrian. A large proportion of al-Nusra is believed to be Syrian.
- Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal Ansar, a multinational group of Islamist militants created under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Chechen, a Chechen who fought against the Russian army in Chechnya. This group is almost exclusively non-Syrian. "The bulk of this foreign cadre is made up of Iraqis, Saudis, Libyans, Moroccans, Tunisians and various European nationals," the US sources said. The group was responsible for the seizure last week of the Minnagh air base, north of Aleppo.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qa'ida-linked group led by Ibrahim al-Badri, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with a strong presence in northern Syria. It is attracting a growing number of foreign fighters. The ISIL is playing a leading role in an offensive in the Latakia Province in north-west Syria, home to Syria's Alawite community, which forms the backbone of the Assad regime. The rebels are said to be closing in on Qordaha, Mr Assad's home town.
A small Lebanese Sunni group fought in the area of Qusayr, a rebel-held town near the border with Lebanon, which fell to the Assad regime in June after a 17-day assault spearheaded by Hezbollah. The fall of Qusayr and Hezbollah's involvement in the war has stirred calls of revenge among Sunnis. In June, Sunni clerics issued a call for jihad in Syria against the Assad regime and its Shia allies from Iran and Lebanon. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian cleric, called on all able-bodied Muslims to go to fight in Syria.