This interview was conducted with Yasser Munif, by Jadaliyya Co-Editor Bassam Haddad. Yasser teaches Sociology and History at Emerson College and has been to Syria a few times in the past year. He starts the interview by discussing the importance of the invisible part of the uprising: namely, the civilian component that has been largely ignored in reporting on the uprising. He then proceeds to provide a breakdown of existing opposition groups on the ground, starting with the political opposition and moving on to the more consequential military opposition. He divides the military opposition into four main groupings: the Free Syrian Army (very loosely defined), the Islamic Front (a coalition that includes some seven Islamist groups), Jabhat al-Nusra (led by al-Joulani), and, finally, ISIS—or Islamic State in Iraq and Sham/Syria—(led by al-Baghdadi).
Throughout the interview, Yasser addresses the question of weapons, funding, radicalization, factionalism, internal conflicts within the opposition, sectarianization, and other relevant topics.
I tried to politely challenge Yasser on some points related to the use of sectarianism in the Syrian uprising and the use of the word “revolution,” among other issues. But I preferred not to disrupt the flow of the conversation/interview. Viewers might want to ask their own questions to which Yasser kindly agreed to respond. Please send all such questions to Syria@Jadaliyya.com. I will submit these questions (anonymously if you wish) to Yasser and ask him to consider providing some answers that we will publish subsequently.
Herein, we are featuring Part 1, to be followed by Part 2 later this week.
In Part I, Yasser addresses the basic division between the political and the military opposition, and discusses the loosely used designation of the Free Syrian Army. He also addresses the regime and the opposition’s use of sectarianism, with emphasis on the responsibility of the regime setting up of the context within which such manipulation occurs.
In Part II, Yasser addresses the remaining divisions of the military opposition, with focus on Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS and the battles between them. He also addresses the implications of these battles and the deleterious effects of both “jihadism” and internal conflicts within the opposition. Yasser asserts that the claimed differences between the two groups are exaggerated. He also addresses whether a group like al-Nusra might be acceptable to most Syrians in a post-conflict Syria, and concludes that such groups do not have a future in Syria. Ultimately, Yasser attributes the radicalization of the opposition to the brutality of the Syrian regime.
The Strands of the Military Opposition in Syria: An Interview with Yasser Munif from Jadaliyya on Vimeo.