Syrian website calls for experienced mujahideen, as Aleppo becomes key point of departure for Iraq

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 13

A recent posting on the Syrian mujahid site Minbar Suria al-Islami [] gives an insight both into the self-confidence of the Iraqi mujahideen, and the caution to be taken while in Syria. The participant counsels against the further influx of hopeful youths for jihad (“with nothing more than their enthusiasm to offer”) and gives detailed advice for those more qualified mujahideen who do choose to get to Iraq via Syria.

Given the interesting insight such a posting gives to the internal workings of the mujahid ‘road to Iraq’ and the conditions facing the volunteers while in Syria, the posted comment is quoted here at length.

‘Advice to Brothers Seeking Jihad in Iraq’

“First of all the brothers should know that the situation of the mujahideen in Iraq is entirely stable, and that they are not suffering at all from any shortfall in mujahideen. After more than two years the mujahideen have passed the preparatory phase and consequently they no longer need more numbers, rather they are in need of clearly defined specializations that will be of use to them … and does not constitute a burden upon them. So what is required at present is above all material support, and high military and jihadist expertise. Very young [volunteers] who have no significant material resources are an additional burden on the mujahideen and present good fodder for the Tyrants, either as victims or as prisoners. It is a great regret that many sad incidents have befallen enthusiastic brothers who have fallen into the hands of the Tyrants before entering Iraq, or have been killed in entire groups trying to make entry, without [having the chance of] presenting any danger to the American forces.”

“So we advise all brothers to keep to the Truth and prepare themselves psychologically and physically for the coming phases of the Crusader enemy agenda against Islam, since the battle is long, and it is not important that you fight but more important that you know how and when [to fight]. For the Islamic Nation has suffered grievous defeats and this time it must triumph since it appears to be entering on to the final campaign whose results will embrace the future of all humanity. It is not a question of enthusiasm, or impetuousness or love of martyrdom … any losses that befall Islam and its people in these times is a decisive loss, particularly when this loss is of the cream of Islam’s youth which the Nation will lose without their having been able to shore up its position against her enemies. Therefore we see that now is not the time for enthusiastic youths — with nothing more than their enthusiasm to offer — to go [to Iraq].”

Having said what he can to dissuade the youthful mujahideen, the participant now turns to those who have experience and who choose to get to Iraq through Syrian territory. He warns these not to be misled by superficial media reports, and to be aware that the Alawi regime is “one of the most Tyrannical regimes against anything connected with Islam, as any mujahid brother who has fallen into their hands has found out. Syria is not the safest route to Iraq, and even if it presents a supportive environment for the mujahideen this does not go beyond the popular level, through its Sunni majority [identity] acting in support of fellow Sunni mujahideen in Iraq.”

“Consequently any activity in this arena must be conducted in a framework of total secrecy, and you should be aware that any one or any organization that does not observe this level of secrecy … you can be sure is connected to the Tyrants’ security services, and is nothing other than a trap for the mujahideen.”

The participant then warns particularly against using the Internet for communications, “and this forum, like the others, is under Alawi surveillance; any information is obviously not secret, so any individuals you meet and correspond with on the forums cannot be trusted at all, since bona fide [mujahid] groups would not conduct their affairs on the Internet. You can be sure that they are agents.”

Aleppo: the staging-ground of choice for Iraq

If the volunteer persists in traveling via Syria, the participant advises him to establish himself first in Aleppo “the country’s Sunni stronghold”, and a city whose northern location [respective to Damascus] makes for easier access to the Iraqi border. Aleppo, with its Sunni mosques “is the point of departure for all Islamist and jihadist activity,” although he warns that “the imams of the mosques are perforce as detached as far as can be from this activity for no other reason than that they are under intense surveillance and forced to co-operate with the security forces.”

The mention of Aleppo is significant in that it has long been the centre of Muslim activism in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, founded its first foreign branch in Aleppo in 1935, and the city later became the HQ of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Following the appointment of Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, to the Syrian presidency in 1971, the Brotherhood launched the opening salvo of rebellion in 1979 when they killed 83 Alawite cadets in a military school in the city. Aleppo retains its position of Sunni opposition to the regime and appears to act as a staging point for mujahideen.

Most importantly, anyone seeking to cross into Iraq “must do so via groups related to the mujahideen in Iraq. There is no possibility for entering the country on an individual or haphazard basis.” Getting into contact with these groups is no easy matter, the participant explains, “but it is possible since the old Aleppo mosques (Suq al-Madina, hard by the Castle, and others) house a number of them in their vicinity. So you will have to frequent these mosques for what may be a lengthy period until you find what you are looking for, on condition that it is not done in a blunt and direct manner. The process relies on mutual trust, so you must not place confidence in anyone who advertises this matter openly, since he will certainly be an infiltrator. You have to do things quietly and evaluate individuals.”

“If you don’t manage to do this” the participant concludes, “then you must give up the idea altogether and refrain from searching out any alternative way.” []