“…It’s little surprise then that battle-hardened fighters from abroad, with wads of cash from the Gulf, appeal to rebels. One opposition activist said that groups like Ahrar al-Sham get money from Gulf Islamists in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.“In a period of several months when I was checking, they sent about 3 million Kuwaiti dinars ($10.6 million) to hardliners like them,” he said, requesting anonymity.
At a hotel in one Turkish border town, men in short white robes and Salafi beards whisper in the lobby as the reception desk sorts a stack of Saudi and Kuwaiti passports.
“We’re getting so many guests from the Gulf now, and Islamists from Europe too. Sometimes groups as big as 25 people. And if they get chatty they tell me all about the money they’re sending in. One guy told me he alone brought more than $100,000,” said a hotel employee who also asked not to be named.
Given their willingness to put their money and their lives on the line, foreign radicals and the ideas they represent could have a growing influence……
But most rebels don’t have clear answers for what they mean when they say they are Islamist or want an Islamic state….
Like most rebels, Anwar and his friends have grown long dark beards, ….”This is the tough rebel look,” laughs one of his friends.
Commander Abu Bakr says that while he objects to the severe radical approach, he too hopes for an Islamic state.
“Let’s first get rid of the regime, re-establish stability, have national dialogue, and then gradually try to create the Islamic state and give people time to get used to it,” he said…..
Rebel fighters are exhausted and can’t afford to take on new opponents, said fighters from northern Idlib, in a convoy heading to the battle in neighbouring Aleppo. Amr, a 20-year-old rebel, said his comrades had their hands full trying to topple the government and maintain order in areas they control.
“We already are fighting the regime and now we’re fighting crime. We just don’t have time to deal with these extremists,” he sighed. “But don’t worry, their day will come.” …”