Why risk losing your life? Al Nusra has the most compelling answer and it goes like this: Assad is evil and so is his heretical Alawite sect, worse even than the heretical Shi’a sect from which they split. They’ve been banding together for decades with Christians and others to keep the true faith and with it 75% of the population down in Syria.
Add youtube and the regime’s willingness to target civilians with cluster bombs solely for being Sunni and the story is credible, emotionally highly charged and very compelling to many. Promise absolute victory, a return to a true, pure Islam, or a martyr’s death.
Compared to Al Nusra the others are a bunch of softies willing to compromise with other devils like the US, the oil-tainted Arabs, Israel or even Assad himself to achieve peace. How can you ever be a martyr or achieve Islamic justice on Earth if you associate with such haram?
And so goes the story. It is compelling enough so that some two hundred Dutch and Belgian youngsters of North African descent have flocked to Al Nusra’s banners. And the abandon and “purity” of its fighters is an inspiration.
And yes increasingly Assad can point to Al Nusra claiming the country is in an Algeria-style civil war where brutality is an absolute necessity to keep the country from falling to radical Islam. Of course Al Nusra is a creature of his own inability to reach political compromise, it is a reflection of his own bloody mindedness and obstinacy. If even an area inhabited by Alawites, Christians or other supposedly ‘regime friendly’ is taken by Al Nusra, the slaughter will be commensurate if not worse than that of the regime’s crimes in rebel held territories.
If anyone ever ask who to blame: Russia. In order to hold onto an impossible regime, strategic advantages and versus a supposedly Western agenda it failed to help advance a political solution when one may still have been feasible. Instead, they aided the regime with weapons and worst of all, legitimacy.