WASHINGTON--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--The resources and effectiveness on the battlefield of radical Islamic groups in Syria are drawing more moderate rebels into their camp - at least for now, according to Valerie Szybala, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
According to Szybala, private donors in the Gulf (notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar) are driving the ascendance of rebel brigades in Syria that espouse religious identities. These fighting groups are generally better armed and equipped as well as more organized and disciplined than groups that do not have access to this backing. At the same time, a lack of Western support to the FSA has meant that rebel groups cannot rely on it, and many have lost trust. Many of the rebels who join groups that espouse an Islamic ideology do so simply because they are much more effective on the battlefield. And as the Syrian conflict grinds on well into its third year, the appeal of winning battles against increasingly brutal regime forces cannot be underestimated.
This means that the presence of "radical" groups in Syria is not actually a good indicator that the opposition is being "radicalized." Instead we should be looking at how effective these incentives (massive influxes of money and supplies from radical clerics in the Gulf) have been at influencing the rhetoric of the armed opposition, particularly in recent months. This fact suggests that ideological lines have not been hardened and that anyone willing to commit resources can make themselves heard on the ground.
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