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Zuhdi Jasser: Jihadism Is Alive in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather during a military training in the north of Aleppo province, in preparation to be deployed in the outskirts of Manbij area, on December 29, 2018. (Photo: NAZEER AL-KHATIB / AFP / Getty Images)
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather during a military training in the north of Aleppo province, in preparation to be deployed in the outskirts of Manbij area, on December 29, 2018. (Photo: NAZEER AL-KHATIB / AFP / Getty Images)

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the son of Syrian immigrants, is a well-known and respected commentator on the escalating Syrian conflict and an outspoken critic of the Assad regime. Now, the U.S. Navy veteran says jihadism is alive more than ever in Syria, and with the withdrawal of American troops, the rest of Syria will be filled by Russia and its Iranian allies.

“There are literally hundreds of al-Qaeda type groups in Syria now,” Jasser said, “Perhaps ISIS’ command and control structure has been decimated, but its metastases, and conveyor belts are more active than ever. Syria is literally teeming with jihadis of every sort — the Salafi/jiahdis of the Sunni AQ/ISIS and Turkish brand and the Khomeinist jihadis of the Iran/Assadist/Hezbollah variety.”

President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops on his Twitter page, saying he’s “just doing what I said I was going to do” during his presidential campaign. His comments came a day after Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president, told reporters at the White House that Trump would reevaluate the withdrawal plan for Syria.

The president elaborated in another tweet, “If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became president, they would be a national hero.”

Jasser argues that the U.S. presence is Syria was vital, and the withdrawal will come with several repercussions:

“The only thing tempering Turkish jihadi encroachment on our ally in Syria, outside of the Kurdish people and the few secular Syrian Democratic Forces, was our albeit minimal presence,” Jasser said. “No one reported how many forces we actually had in Syria, just that we had a presence of some kind. That was enough at least to prevent the mother of all vacuums as Russia and its Iranian allies never wanted to engage U.S. troops. Now we are sure to see that vacuum filled just like we saw it in Iraq filled by a full-on basic takeover by Khomeinists.”

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser

Most of the criticism surrounding the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, a move he frequently mentioned both on the campaign trail and in office, has been tied to the possibility that a lack of U.S. troops could allow ISIS to regain some of its strength in the region. “There are three things important for this country,” stated Sen. Graham at CNN’s State of the Union, “One of these is to make sure that ISIS never comes back in Syria.”

Jasser’s outlook isn’t so positive. The founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy concluded, “Jihadism in Syria is alive more than ever and around the world; it’s spreading now more than ever. The Christmas attack in Strasbourg was a reminder. And all of this is hardly in our greatest ally’s interest, Israel, as Iran now has a full-on perch on the Mediterranean.”

 

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