Hamas is a Muslim Brotherhood creation; the motivation was the perception on the part of the Brotherhood that Arafat was too corrupt and not Islamic enough. The Brotherhood strategy was to stake out a position to the ‘right’ of Arafat, take strong positions regarding the continued existence of Israel and create a social service network that would ‘fill in’ the failures of the Arafat government and, over time, change loyalties. It worked! The same thing has now commenced in Syria.
At the outset of the uprising in Syria the movement was in fact dominated by ‘moderates’. However, lack of supplies and supportive infrastructure put them in a position, often seen in history, where the armed forces feed off the local population to a degree unacceptable to the local population. The original opposition movement suffered three critical weaknesses; the lack of a supply chain, the inability to connect various groups and the absence of a unifying focus or ideology. This occurred within the context of pillaging the local population to maintain their viability as a fighting force, that viability was always in question.
Islamist forces saw the weakness as well, identifying opportunity as the desperation of the ‘moderates’ was negating popular support on the ground.
The Hamas model is now in full swing. The two primary Islamist fighting groups in Syria led by the al Nusra Front have replaced the ‘moderates’ both on the battlefield and in terms of establishing a social and cultural infrastructure. They are delivering food and water, established ‘soft’ Sharia courts, perform basic police work and attract former ‘moderates’ to their ranks as the rats leave the sinking ship. They have established themselves as the only viable option in the eyes of a majority of the populations they work within, they did so by serving those populations, just as Hamas did in Gaza.
The moderates eventually turned to crime against the local populations to survive; the Islamists served that population and have moved a variety of areas from chaos to a semblance of order. As is human nature the populations in question gravitated toward order, regardless of ideological underpinnings; if you’re dying of thirst, you care little for the belief system of the person holding the bottle of water.
It is too late to engage in support for ‘moderates’. The population has turned against them and whatever support they receive will quickly find its way into the hands of the Islamists. We have been down this road before and we appear not to have learned the lessons.
Support for the Islamists comes from our ‘ally’ Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and the Gulf States. On the other side: Russia, China, Hiz’bAllah and Iran. Assad’s supporters fear a Sunni orientated government in Syria as has far reaching geopolitical impact for Iran in their efforts to ‘surround’ Israel.
Syria has evolved into a surrogate battlefield. Turkey maintains the same aspirations as Iran; regional hegemony. Turkey is on the border, has a stable economy, has well established military capabilities and is a government that has been moving toward Islamist principals for the past decade. It is worth remembering that Turkey was the seat of the last Islamist Caliphate. The demonstrations in Turkey are a reflection of a political red line having been crossed. Turks see the post WWII atmosphere in favor of secular governance fading away a little more quickly as each year passes.
The continuing effort to provide support to the moderates in Syria is akin to attempting to feed a ghost.