The sources of funding for the Syrian rebels has long been a mystery. Plenty of anecdotes point to wealthy gulf donors and the Muslim Brotherhood, but direct evidence of links between wealthy organizations and individual rebel groups have been scarce. Two videos released this week by Suqour al-Sham, a powerful Islamist rebel group based in Jebel al-Zawiyah, have changed that. In one video, the Suqour al-Sham’s leader, Ahmed Abu Issa, is seen sitting between two supporters from Bahrain while he discusses the crucial role that financial contributions play in carrying out the Syrian Jihad.
In a second video, Hassan Abu Abdu, the leader of the Daoud Battalion which is one of the components of Suqour al-Sham, is seen eating with Imad al-Din al-Rashid, a Syrian Islamist who leads the Syria National Movement. Although this does not necessarily mean that the Syria National Movement is funding Suqour al-Sham, the link is interesting. While many of the rebel groups in Idlib province are forced to raise funds from sources inside Syria or from the poorly organized distribution network of the Idlib Revolutionary Council network, Suqour al-Sham seems to have its own sources of funding allowing it to remain independent of the provincial level organizations that are trying to organize the rebel groups into larger, more coherent entities.
The involvement of international donors in the Syrian revolution who favor ideologically aligned rebel groups has the potential to create additional fractures among the Syrian rebels and make unity in the post-Assad era difficult to achieve. Ahmed Abu Issa, who operates out of the mayor’s office in the village of Sarjeh, south of Idlib city, has an independently funded network of fighters and is unlikely to give up control of his village to a political order that he does not find satisfactory.