Members of Iraqi online jihadist forums have called for fighters and arms to be sent to aid Syrians opposing President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, who have faced a brutal crackdown since March.
Sunni jihadist sites such as Honein and Ansar al-Mujahedeen display numerous comments and articles critical of Assad’s regime, and videos of bloody events they say took place in Syria.
The Syrian regime is largely made up of minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, while protesters demanding reforms are largely from its Sunni majority.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said that at least 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown in Syria over the past eight months, and tens of thousands arrested.
Syrian army deserters have also formed the Free Syrian Army which is inflicting growing losses on regular forces.
Al-Mansur, a poster on the Honein forum, wrote an article entitled, “What is Required of Us Towards our Brothers, the Revolutionaries in Syria,” in which he called for “providing all kinds of support to your brothers, from what you have, my Iraqi mujahedeen (holy warriors) brothers, in skills and experience.”
“Our jihad (holy war), my brothers in Iraq or Syria is for one purpose, which is raising the banner of monotheism, the banner of Allahu akbar (God is greatest).”
“The duty of jihad,” Al-Mansur wrote, “is coming to you again.”
Another poster, Obeid Allah, said in article entitled “The role of Iraqi Jihadist Organisations in What is Happening in Syria” that “some may say they are busy in Iraq, but I say to them that the Iraqi organisations have significant capabilities in Syria, in all aspects.”
He called on “our brothers … who left Iraq to Syria” to form “security patrols to help our brothers from the Syrian people, as you have experience and skills … and they information and logistical support.”
On the Ansar Al-Mujahedeen forum, Sheikh al-Mujahid Abi Al-Zahra Al-Zubaidi advised the Syrian opposition to “buy weapons and arm yourselves with them and seize them from stockpiles, for this is your only chance to remove the tyrant of Syria and his soldiers.”
He also advised Assad opponents to coordinate with the Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda’s front organisation here, and to “listen to them and follow their orders and be good soldiers for them.”
The stances of those posting on the forums is at odds with that of Iraq’s Shia-led government, which has so far shied away from punitive measures against Assad’s regime, abstaining from both a vote to suspend Syria from the Arab League, and another to impose sanctions against Syria.
Analysts have said that the Iraqi government’s response to the situation in Syria has confessional overtones and may boost Sunni-Shiite sectarian divisions here.
Ali Al-Saffar, an Iraq analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, noted that Baghdad’s position on Syria is at odds with its strong condemnation of a crackdown by Bahrain’s Sunni government on protests led by the kingdom’s Shia-majority in March.
“It’s going to be very difficult for the Iraqi government to venture, actually, that this is not a sectarian move, and that there are actually internal security implications that they’re taking into consideration,” he said.
Abu al-Fadhal Maadi, a poster on Ansar al-Mujahedeen, said that “if it appears that the people of Syria in their current borders cannot alone repel the aggressors, jihad also becomes a duty in the closest adjacent areas.
“Lebanon carries the most importance, because of its geographic location very close to … the heart of Syria and its centre, Homs, and because the possibility to smuggle weapons is highest in Lebanon.”
Abu Yusef al-Muhajar wrote: “I swear by God we will not let you down.”