A French physician who volunteers for Doctors Without Borders recently returned to Paris from the Syrian city of Aleppo. He says “at least half” the rebel fighters he treated were from somewhere other than Syria.
He worked in Idlib Province and Homs earlier this year and saw few foreign fighters, but apparently now they're all over the place.
"It's really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren't interested in Bashar al-Assad's fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate," the doctor said.
The foreign jihadists included young Frenchmen who said they were inspired by Mohammed Merah, a self-styled Islamist militant from Toulouse, who killed seven people in March in the name of al-Qaeda.
If Assad is overthrown from below (as opposed to being ousted by a military coup), Syria will no longer have a real army. Who, then, will resist the Salafists from abroad? The non- and anti-Islamist factions of the Free Syrian Army don't know how to do counterinsurgency. They're insurgents themselves. What we might end up seeing then is two Sunni guerrilla armies slugging it out in a vaccuum. And that's before we factor in the Kurds, the Christians, the Druze, and the Alawites.
I'd like to sketch a plausible endgame for Syria that isn't horrifying, but it gets harder and harder each month.