Al-Nusra: Leave the Syrian Druze Alone

Al-Nusra must decide whether it is like ISIS or not.

Mark Langfan,

OpEds Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan

Abu Mohammad al-Golani recently gave an interview in al Jazzera stating, in essence, that al-Nusra, the “al Qaeda in Syria [or the Levant]” does not see its goal as avenging or killing Druze or Alawites or engaging in the heinous beheadings of ISIS. Its goal is to defeat Assad, and his Iranian puppet-masters.  Now is the time for al-Nusra to prove that they are not liars and that they are, in fact, different then the Islamist butchers of ISIS.  Now is the time for al-Nusra to leave the Druze of Syria alone, and give them complete sanctuary.  In fact, it is in al-Nusra’s tactical and strategic interests to protect the 700,000 Syrian Druze, and focus on al-Nusra’s and Syria’s real enemeis: Assad, Hezbollah, and their Iranian masters.

In al-Golani’s late-May 2015 interview, he made the following statement: “We are only here [Syria] to accomplish one mission, to fight the [Assad] regime and its agents on the ground, including Hezbollah and others. . . . Assad forces are fighting us on one end.  Hezbollah on another and ISIL on a third front.  It’s all about their mutual interests. . . . Our war is not a matter of revenge against the Alawites despite the fact that in Islam, they are considered to be heretics.  Our fight is strictly with those who attacked us and murdered our people. Our faith is based on mercy and our noble traditions.  We are not murderers. We will not hurt them or target them, the Druze or anyone else.”

If al-Nusra does harm the Druze, the Alawites will see that al-Golani's May 2015 words about not wanting to harm the Alawites are lies.  Thus, instead of giving the Syrians Alawites space to pull away from Assad,they will have no choice but to irrevocably stick with Assad.

Second, al-Nusra now has enough enemies without creating new ones.  Now, by al-Golani’s own admission, al-Nusra is besieged by Assad, Hezbollah and ISIS.  The Druze have so far have reasonably resisted Assad conscription of their young men to fight against the Syrian rebels.  Al-Nusra’s killing any Druze will provide a new supply of fresh Druze recruits to Assad’s Army just when Assad is on his last legs.

Third, if al-Nusra wants to be taken seriously by the Western powers, al-Nusra has to act reasonably and respect the Syrian Druze.  If the group starts killing Druze, the West will see it as another ISIS killing machine as soon as it gets strong enough.  By respecting the Druze now, al-Nusra will prove to the West that it walks the walks of moderation, and is truly a purely anti-Assad movement.  This could pay dividends - protection from US bombing missions and possible weapons resupply.

Fourth, if the Druze in southern Syria are threatened, it is very possible that Israel will step in to decimate any threat to those Druze.  It was recently reported that the Israeli government warned al-Nusra to leave the Syrian Druze alone.  Israeli planes are infinitely more lethal to al-Nusra’s low-level type of order of battle than Assad’s barrel bombs.  With few Israeli Air Force sorties, Israel could light-up and lay waste to al-Nusra’s forces.  This Fourth “Israeli” front is the last thing al-Nusra needs.  

Why should al Nusra risk Israel’s wrath when it has Assad and Damascus to focus on? It doesn't make tactical or strategic military sense for al-Nusra to start up with the Syrian Druze.

Fifth, Lebanon is teetering.  The very last thing al-Nusra needs is for the Lebanese Druze to come out strongly for Hezbollah and the Iranian Project due to al-Nusra’s harming the Syrian Druze.  The Lebanese Druze will say to themselves: “If al-Nusra kills Druze in Syria, they will surely kill us in Lebanon.  So, kill them before they get to Lebanon.”  And, they wouldn’t be wrong.

In conclusion, al-Golani, and al-Nusra, must leave the Syrian Druze alone.  Al-Nusra should either stop ‘talking the talk” claiming that his men are different from ISIS when they act just like ISIS, or they should ‘walk the walk,’ and start acting differently from ISIS, respecting people who have been brutalized by the common enemy, Assad, for 60 years.