The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On February 16, 2020, a website and a Twitter account associated with prominent Salafi-jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi posted a three-page essay discussing whether it is acceptable for jihadi factions fighting in Syria to receive backing from Turkey. The essay is presented as a response from Al-Maqdisi to the question: "Is it permissible to fight the Nusayri or Rafidite [pejorative terms for the Alawite sect, i.e. the Assad regime, and the Shi’ites, i.e. Iran] enemy, or a similar [enemy], under cover of the artillery of secularist Turkey?" It is unclear whether the essay is a direct response to the question, or was written previously by the Jordan-based pro-Al-Qaeda cleric. Al-Maqdisi has often expressed criticism of Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), the most powerful jihadi faction in Syria's Idlib region, which is supported by Turkey.
The above is the first page of an essay by Salafi-jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi discussing whether jihadi factions in Syria may accept Turkish backing.
Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi: Jihad Is Ruined If Backed By Non-Jihadi Powers
Al-Maqdisi’s essay begins: "First of all, I reassure the reader by saying that my response to this question will not be 'yes' or 'no'." The jihadi cleric explains that he has already clarified his opinion on the Syrian jihad and no longer interferes in its affairs, pointing out that the essay is itself a repetition of views he has expressed in the past. He stresses that this response is not aimed at the vast majority of the mujahideen fighting in Syria, writing: "In any case, it is not addressed to the fanatics who are guided by emotion; nor to those who fight although they are not content with the form of fighting which currently exists, yet they fight so that the riffraff do not accuse them of cowardice, reluctance, or refraining [from jihad]; nor to the blind followers who do not consider the consequences of matters. Therefore, let no one claim that my response will discourage from repelling the invader in Idlib or elsewhere." Acknowledging that fighters currently waging jihad in Syria accept the opinions of their leaders and will pay no heed to his opinion, Al-Maqdisi writes that his response is meant only "for the elite – rather, the elite of the elite – who understand what we say and interpret it only according to its true meaning."
Al-Maqdisi then states his opinion that in recent times, jihad in most countries has been ruined when the mujahideen were backed by foreign, non-jihadi powers, explaining that when the "armies of the regimes" cooperate with the mujahideen in a military campaign, they do so not "according to what [the mujahideen], their commanders, and their factions desire," but to advance their own agendas and interests. This, according to Al-Maqdisi, makes the factions that accept the cooperation and support of these regimes into "collaborators, who carry out orders and are directed by the army of the Sultan who rules by the dictates of secularism," or at least leads them to be "used" unwittingly to further the designs of these regimes. The jihadi cleric writes that since "these factions are weaker than the Turkish regime," they are necessarily subject to Turkey in making decisions such as "escalation of fighting, pausing it, or plucking its fruits."
Al-Maqdisi asserts that "the blessing of jihad in many arenas has been erased because of cooperation with regimes," providing the example of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, which was backed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. The jihadi cleric claims that due to this support, "many vile robbers" were able to capitalize on the accomplishments of the mujahideen to establish their “deformed democratic state," arguing that "if Allah had not brought the Taliban, those vile men would still enjoy their positions by the virtue of the contributions of the foreign and local mujahideen."
Al-Maqdisi dismisses objections to his reservations about the mujahideen in Syria accepting Turkish backing such as: "Doesn't defensive jihad have no conditions?" and "Isn't it Sunni doctrine that it is permissible to fight under a sinful commander?" saying that those who raise these objections are ignoring the adverse results of such fighting. Writing that he had warned the mujahideen in Afghanistan against accepting foreign support, but his opinion was ignored, the jihadi cleric asserts: "No fair, intelligent person can claim that we have ever caused the failure of the jihadi project in Afghanistan or elsewhere, because what we say here never found receptive ears." Al-Maqdisi states that although many will view this "sincere advice" as discouraging jihad and defaming the mujahideen, or even as collaboration with the enemies of jihad, "it is enough for us that Allah records this to our credit in the pages of our [good deeds]."
Na'il Bin Ghazi: Turkey's Backing Of Rebel Factions Is A Form Of "Soft Occupation" To Restrain Their Freedom To Act Against The Assad Regime
Another pro-Al-Qaeda cleric, Gaza-based Na'il bin Ghazi Musran, published a similar essay on his Telegram and Rocket.Chat channels on February 14, 2020. The essay warns the mujahideen in Idlib that Turkey’s backing of some of the rebel factions is a form of "soft occupation" to restrain their ability to act freely against the Assad regime and urges them to "disengage from the framework" to escape the adverse consequences of this "occupation."
Na'il bin Ghazi writes that "occupying regimes" attempt to "bury alive developing jihadi revolutions and initiatives" by choosing to support one of the jihadi factions. This divides the jihadi ranks into "doves," who are backed and controlled by these regimes, and "hawks," which are persecuted by the "doves" on the regimes' behalf. Citing the Palestinian cause as an example of a "soft occupation" established by regimes to hinder jihad, the Gaza-based cleric asserts that after jihad in Palestine had begun to make progress in its struggle against Israel, the Arab League recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and used it to eliminate rival Palestinian factions which remained committed to their jihadi principles. He similarly claims that when the mujahideen in Bosnia began to establish "the first strong jihadi fortress in the heart of Europe," European powers arranged the Dayton Accords to marginalize foreign fighters and enable their elimination. Na'il bin Ghazi praises the Afghan Taliban for refusing to accept foreign backing or to disassociate from Al-Qaeda and the Arab mujahideen, writing that this policy led them to continued success and eventually forced the U.S. to negotiate with them.
The Gaza-based cleric contends that the state of the mujahideen in Syria's Idlib area is clearly more similar to the "soft occupation" in Palestine and Bosnia than to the policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He poses questions concerning Turkey's role in the region, such as what the country has accomplished for the Syrian rebels, why the country has not provided significant military assistance to the rebels, and why Turkey's discourse concerning the mujahideen in Idlib does not differ significantly from Russia's. Na'il bin Ghazi concludes by urging the mujahideen in Idlib to reject Turkish support and to target Turkish forces in Syria, claiming that this is the only way to minimize Turkey's involvement in the Syria jihad and save it from failure.
 See MEMRI JTTM Reports: Jihadi Ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi: Together, Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) And ISIS Are Contributing To The End Of The Jihad In Syria, January 11, 2019; Leading Salafi Jihadi Clerics Clash Over Fate Of Jihad In Syria, September 25, 2019.
 Telegram.me/wamadat_makdesia, February 14, 2020.; Talk.gnews.bz/channel/wmdhat-mqdsyh, February 16, 2020.