Something eerily familiar is taking place in Syria. A secular dictatorship is
fighting an atrociously brutal civil war with rebels, and as the country
disintegrates, local jihadi- Islamist fighters are joined by volunteers from
As the jihadis grow in prominence, they become more confident in
their plans to hoist the flag of radical Islam in place of the regime they hope
Syria’s deteriorating situation – with its daily violence and
crumbling of state sovereignty – allows for the ideal breeding ground for
radical forces, just as similar circumstances did in the late 1980s in
Afghanistan, where al- Qaida was formed.
Today, the ideology espoused by
the founders of al-Qaida is alive and well in Syria, and its influence is felt
around the region.
On Wednesday, Israeli security forces announced the
arrest of a 29-year-old, Israeli Arab man who had gone to Syria to train with
Islamic extremists, and who was asked by them to volunteer information on
sensitive locations as well as carry out an attack in Israel.
is not the only one of its kind. Although they are small in number, there are
additional investigations into Israeli Arabs – some of whom have been arrested –
who spent time with jihadis in Syria. These cases have not yet been formally
publicized, but they have set off a red light in the intelligence
The concern is that al- Qaida’s worldview will spread to
Israeli Arab volunteers, who can then try to return to Israel and carry out
The phenomenon is by no means limited to one
Last year, counter-terrorism police in London arrested a British
Muslim couple suspected of kidnapping and attempting to kill a Sunday Times
photographer in Syria.
Last week, the UK-based International Center for
the Study of Radicalization said hundreds of EU residents are fighting with the
rebels in Syria, most of them British, adding that there are more than 5,000
foreign volunteers in Syria.
All this comes as the head of Jabhat
al-Nusra, the largest jihadi fighting force in Syria today, pledged his loyalty
to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who replaced Osama bin Laden as leader of
Abu Muhammad al- Jawlani’s announcement came one day after
al-Qaida in Iraq, confirming long-held suspicions, said that Jabhat al-Nusra is
a part of its regional operations.
Meanwhile, jihadists continue to
launch suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks on regime targets, employing the
same tactics they have used in Iraq, Afghanistan and other battle
Security forces will have to continue monitoring the “jihadistan”
growing just across the northern border.