This Tuesday, June 18, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian rebel shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. A group of U.S. Senators want to see the U.S. do more than provide arms to some of the outgunned rebels in the bloody civil war in Syria. Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Carl Levin and Republican John McCain say in a joint letter to Obama that the U.S. should consider targeting regime airfields, runways and aircraft, and help rebels establish safe zones in Syria. Credit: AP
A stunning "special report" from the Reuters news agency says Syria's Islamists have seized control of the country while "moderates dither."
"During a 10-day journey through rebel-held territory in Syria, Reuters journalists found that radical Islamist units are sidelining more moderate groups that do not share the Islamists' goal of establishing a supreme religious leadership in the country," the outlet reports.
The lengthy article details how the fractured rebel landscape has led to the Islamists gaining power. It also notes that the citizens of the country don't seem to mind, as the fighters "have developed a reputation for being principled" and help maintain order -- even via Shariah law courts.
The news is especially concerning considering the Obama administration has pledged to arm the rebels as some U.S. senators are calling for even more intervention. Reuters echoes some of that concerns: "World powers fear weapons could reach hardline Islamist groups that wish to create an Islamic mini-state within a crescent of rebel-held territory from the Mediterranean in the west to the desert border with Iraq." Later adding: "But most importantly, Western powers fear that if weapons are delivered to Syrian rebels, there would be few guarantees they would not end up with radical Islamist groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, who might one day use them against Western interests."
This line doesn't allay fears either: "Western officials say military aid will be channeled through the Supreme Military Council. A Western security source told Reuters the council is trying to gain credibility, but as yet it has little or no authority."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Islamist groups are the ones gaining outside support, which has helped with recruiting:
So far the Islamist groups have been the ones to attract outside support, mostly from private Sunni Muslim backers in Saudi Arabia, according to fighters in Syria.
With the help of battle-hardened Sunni Iraqis, these groups have been able to gain recruits. "They had military capabilities. They are actually organized and have command and control," said Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
As moderate rebel groups dithered, so did their backers outside the country. Bickering among the political opposition, a collection of political exiles who have spent many years outside Syria, also presented a problem for the United States about whether there would be a coherent transition to a new government if Assad fell.
The moderates are losing ground. In many parts of rebel-held Aleppo, the red, black and green revolutionary flag which represents more moderate elements has been replaced with the black Islamic flag. Small shops selling black headbands, conservative clothing and black balaclavas have popped up around the city and their business is booming.
The development raises concerns about the direction the rebel government's leader could take the country. That leader, long-time American citizen Ghassan Hitto, has been linked to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and was a former head of CAIR chapters in Texas.
The news comes on the heels of those such as Glenn Beck raising concerns about the situation and what it could lead to regarding unrest -- even world war -- in the Middle East.
Read the full report from Reuters.