An Iraq-style Civil War Seems to Be Taking Off in Syria

Both the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army deny responsibility for a spate of recent bombing attacks, and indeed, a third option exists.

A new trend in rebel action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime seems to be emerging, as illustrated by the recent car bombing that killed at least three people in the city of Aleppo, the explosion of a bridge near Daraa, the deadly assault on a Syrian government building in Damascus, and the detonation of two car bombs in the capital over the weekend that killed 27 people.

Both the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army deny responsibility for the attacks, and in fact, each is trying to pin the blame for the attacks on the other.

The opposition is quick to point out that these latest attacks, as well as those that preceded them, occurred just as international envoys were set to visit from the United Nations and the Arab League. These visits, say the opposition, were initiated by the Syrian government as a ploy to prove that it was indeed fighting against terrorism, specifically the activities al-Qaida.

The Syrian government, for its part, claims that the terrorism was the work of al-Qaida militants that infiltrated into the country and were operating in tandem with the Free Syrian Army.

The targets of these attacks – Syrian air force intelligence facilities, the Damascus police compound, or the oil pipes targeted in the past - could indicate, however, a third possibility: that these acts of guerilla warfare, similar to those that take place in Iraq or in Yemen, are the work of rebels affiliated with neither the Free Syrian Army nor the Alawite military council.

These terrorists are not necessarily Al-Qaida militants who, according to some reports, infiltrated into Syria from Iraq, nor are they necessarily radical Islamists from a stronghold in Tripoli, Lebanon who could easily infiltrate Syria with supplies of weapons and explosives.

Armed tribal resistance group are also operating in Syria these days, independently of the mainstream resistance movements. While there are indeed active battalions of the Free Syrian Army in every major Syrian city, alongside them are armed gangs taking advantage of the chaos to commit crimes, who operate as mercenaries, prepared to carry out attacks for any buyer.

This option does not absolve al-Qaida of involvement in the recent attacks or any other action against the Syrian army.

The opposition website Al-Hakika (which has been active for several years already) reported, for example, that the attacks in Damascus were carried out by the Al-Furkan Battalion, a group founded by Hazit al-Nasra, a branch of al-Qaida active in Syria that claimed responsibility for the explosion in Damascus' Al Midan Square Damascus last month.

It is unclear how connected this group (which recruits mostly Islamists), is to al-Qaida, nor is it clear where their funds come from.

Reports emerged over the weekend that Saudi Arabia had shipped weapons to the Free Syrian Army by way of Jordan. Jordan was quick to deny these claims.

One of the Syrian opposition websites posted a document signed by Saudi King Abdullah, in which the monarch had issued an order to send forces to Syria and even appointed a commander to oversee these additional forces destined for Syria.

Saudi Arabia did not deny these claims. We could judge from the events of the last decade, in which Saudi Arabia provided both weapons and money to the Sunnis who fought against the new government established after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In Syria, the Free Syrian Army has reported that it receives financial support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar - but no troops or weapons. This does not mean that Saudi volunteers are not already active in Syria.

It's also important to take into account the presence of the Alawite militias, organized in preparation to defend Alawites civilians from attacks by the forces opposing the Syrian regime.

The conclusion is that there is already a myriad of armed forces on the ground in Syria, creating fertile ground for an Iraqi-style civil war.