On the campaign trail and during much of his time as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against “radical Islamic terror,” which he once promised to eradicate “from the face of the Earth.” Less than two years into his presidency, however, Donald Trump has now threatened to attack a sovereign nation, Syria, at the behest of a radical Wahhabi terror group known as Jaysh al-Islam, or the Army of Islam, which seeks to topple Syria’s secular government and replace it with an Islamic state based on an extremist, Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.
This past Saturday, an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, drew a strong response from Trump, who tweeted on Sunday:
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world […] Big price to pay.
As Trump noted, the area is inaccessible and the accusations coming from within Douma could not be independently verified, making his assignment of blame clearly premature. The accusations exclusively came from the so-called “White Helmets,” who have long been exposed as a foreign-funded propaganda-construct that is exclusively embedded with radical militant opposition factions. In Douma, they work with Jaysh al-Islam, which was in control of the area when the attack was said to have taken place.
Trump has the back of Islamic terror group
Jaysh al-Islam is the exact type of group that Trump would ostensibly oppose, given that it is largely analogous to Daesh (ISIS). The group’s late leader, Zahran Alloush, long called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria and claimed that the Levant region should be “cleansed of the filth” of unbelievers, namely Shiites and Alawites. In a speech in June of 2016, John Kerry explicitly mentioned Jaysh al-Islam as a “subgroup” of terrorist groups Daesh and al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
However in 2016—less than a year after Alloush was killed in an airstrike and in a likely bid to gain Western support — the group drastically changed its position, saying that it would support an “elected government” in Syria and would offer protections to Christians and Alawites. However, the group’s long-time support from the government of Saudi Arabia, a country well-known for its intolerance of minority religious groups and for funding terror groups across the world, casts doubt on Jaysh al-Islam’s sincerity.
Another reason to doubt the group’s sincerity is its past behavior. Before and after Alloush’s death, and notably after the group’s offer to protect religious minorities, the group ruled Douma with an iron first and routinely imprisoned and tortured civilians based on an extremist interpretation of Sharia law. Many of the civilians the group placed in prisons have been under the age of 16.
The group has also used civilians as human shields by locking them in cages. A video of this practice surfaced in 2015 and showed Jaysh al-Islam spreading nearly 100 cages across the area of Eastern Ghouta they controlled at the time. Each cage contained around five people who, according to opposition sources, were captured Syrian military officers and their families. Most of them were Alawites.
Watch | Jaysh al-Islam parades civilians in cages in Eastern Ghouta to be used as human shields
Not only that, but Jaysh al-Islam has used chemical weapons on civilians in the past, including chlorine gas – the chemical weapon allegedly used against civilians in Douma. In 2016 in Aleppo, a spokesman for the group stated that its fighters had used “weapons forbidden in this kind of confrontation” against Kurdish forces and civilians in Aleppo. Though the spokesman did not state what those “forbidden” weapons were, the Kurdish Red Crescent said the symptoms were consistent with exposure to chlorine gas. After the negative press, the group back-tracked, claiming that it had been referring to “modified Grad rockets.”
Despite Jaysh al-Islam’s extremist views, clear association with terrorist groups, and past use of chemical weapons on civilians, President Trump is set to intervene in Syria along with other U.S. allies such as Israel, France, and Jaysh al-Islam’s state sponsor, Saudi Arabia. If these efforts end in the toppling of Assad, whose government is secular and protects religious minorities, Trump will have paved the way for “radical Islamic terror” groups like Jaysh al-Islam to overtake large swaths of the country once again—thereby placing far more civilians than those allegedly killed in the Douma chemical weapons attack under the rule of genocidal terrorists.