By Elijah J. Magnier (on Twitter @ )
Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah exchange prisoners and bodies in secrecy where millions of dollars, food, supplies and prisoners are part of on-going deals between these two enemies in Syria.
The Al-Qaeda franchise in the Levant, known as Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), differs in many ideological and tactical operational approaches from the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” known also as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Although they are called Muwahhedeen Sunni and follow the same Handball School, their ideology observes a flexibility and adaptation to the circumstances and location in which they operate, making Al-Qaeda in Syria looking much more “pragmatic”…for the moment. The aim is not to tackle all the differences here, but to point out to one aspect of what is taking place in the Levant, related to the importance of recovering the fighters’ bodies killed in battle field or Prisoners of War on both sides.
The al-Qaeda’ adversaries consider it a “modern” reformist enemy in the battlefield. According to field fighters, Jabhat al-Nusra attaches importance to their dead, unlike ISIS. On one occasion, JN lost four fighters while trying to recover the body of a fighter killed in action. It seems the recovery of the body become an important, probably due to the importance of delivering the son to his parents to be buried in his native home.
JN is also aware of how its enemies, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah, attach the same importance to recovering bodies of fallen fighters. JN keeps bodies in a specific location in custody, knowingly that its adversary will ask for recovery. In one single negotiation, Hezbollah paid 200.000 U.S dollars to recover the body of one single fighter. The military level or responsibility of the dead fighter is irrelevant to all belligerents. It is “the dignity of the martyr” that matters for both parties.
Prisoners are a valuable asset on both sides, unlike ISIS that barks on about its brutality and makes boring Hollywood films that become uninteresting even to mainstream media. For ISIS, making a film featuring the revengeful execution by Jordan of Sajida Al Rishawi – an Iraqi woman who failed to detonate her suicide belt in Amman in 2005 – and Ziad al Karbuli – a former aide to Abu Musab al Zarqawi – was much more important than recovering these alive. ISIS opted to burn the captured Jordanian pilot Maath al-Kessasbah, rejecting millions of dollars and prisoner release, whereas JN looks after its prisoners and asks for important sums to exchange these. Hezbollah does the same, negotiation of release could take several months while both sides find a compromise to look after Prisoners of War and swap them.
Al-Qaeda demands money, bodies of its own fighters taken from battlefield, and provides logistic support to besieged fighters in Qalamoun or other places, a mobile hospital and the release of prisoners held by Damascus. Hezbollah and Iran negotiate – through third parties – the recovery of prisoners and bodies of killed fighters. When the demanded price is too high, the rule is well known: give it more time, interrupt the negotiation for several months or until more bodies are available, unless there is an urgent request for immediate recovery of an indicated body to respond to a family’s urgency and request. Once JN asked two million dollars for the recovery of a single Hezbollah body. The request was denied until an agreement was reached on a proper price.
For ISIS, a dead fighters, regardless of whether it is its own militant or an enemy, becomes a rotten insignificant corpse. Even prisoners held alive are good for films and training for militants to show courage: these, upon graduation, are asked to behead a prisoner to show commitment to the creed and a sign of “unhesitant courage”. In many circumstances, ISIS deliberately shows the face of many of its foreign fighters beheading their victims so these know they can’t return home without facing prosecution for murder. ISIS is very rigid in implementing its Sharia, executing any Shia or Alawite captured, civilian or combatant, unlike Jabhat al-Nusra.
Al-Qaeda in Syria follows the policy of “tamkeen” (waiting for better conditions to grow stronger). Al-Qaeda is no longer following the same circumstances Islam observed over 1400 years ago but adapts to the development of the society where it is in force. It avoids killing civilians, forbids attacks on mosques and avoids showing any brutality in its implementation of the sharia rules, the exact same ones as ISIS.
Original article via @AlraiMediaGroup here: