WORLDPOST

Oops, We Beheaded the Wrong Guy!

11/16/2013 01:15 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Oops!

Some mistakes you just cannot take back and correct.

Al Qaeda of Iraq and Syria beheaded someone whom they believed to be the leader of President Assad's forces. They cut off his head and held it up in the town square in Aleppo. The entire event was filmed and posted online.

After the beheading was posted viewers responded online. Turns out the bearded, now beheaded, man was not a Shiite leader at all. The head which al Qaeda members were holding aloft so proudly belonged to a member of a Sunni rebel group, a group that was not supporting Assad but was fighting Assad.

The beheader was Tunisian and his accomplice was from the Gulf. They claim that the victim was injured and in hospital in Aleppo and was muttering the names of Shiite historical heroes so they concluded he was a Shiite and the executed him.

The beheaded and the beheaders were fighting on the same side.

This gruesome, senseless, brutal episode underscores just how disconnected the situation is right now in Syria.

Al Qaeda has asked for "understanding and forgiveness." Understanding, I doubt they will receive. Forgiveness, I am certain they will not receive. Although Al Qaeda did detain the Tunisia beheader.

There is no question that Syria is a mess. No question that the resistance fighters are disorganized.

The resistance movement in Syria has morphed into private militias promoting their own agendas.

They control areas and neighborhoods, they exact money and pain from the communities.
Internal divisions have been plaguing Syria's resistance groups for some time. This beheading is just another example, albeit an extremely gruesome example, of the tensions between rebel groups.

They have battled one another, kidnapped each other's members and publicly executed one another. They have held leaders for ransom. They have extorted, demanded protection monies, raped, pillaged and murdered. And they've done it all to themselves. In the name of fighting to oppose Assad, they have instead been destroying themselves.

This will not end. There is no unifying the rebels. They divide over religious and world views. And at this stage a significant percentage of the rebels are al Qaeda imports from elsewhere drawn to Syria to fulfill their dream of Jihad or of becoming a martyr, a Shahid.

On the same day of the mistaken beheading Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Syrian President Bashar Assad about a peace conference. Assad seems ready at this stage to sit down. But only on his terms. He wants to stay in power and he wants the rebels to be punished - especially the foreigners.

After initially agreeing to the peace talks, the rebels have now rejected them. They have preconditions. First and foremost, the rebels want Assad to go. They want him removed. The one element that unites Syria's rebel forces is the conviction that Bashar Assad must be deposed. On that, they all - locals and foreigners alike - agree.

The problem is that it appears as if Assad is continuing to gain strength and the ability to stabilize major parts of Syria. It appears that the Assad forces together with assistance from Hezbollah and Iran, has momentum on their side. Iraqi Shiite militias have played a major part in the last 2 weeks of fighting in Aleppo. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has announced that they will continue to support Assad. He promised to keep Hezbollah fighters in Syria and even to send over more fighters in order to help the Syrian leader secure his position. And to top it off, the international community is getting reports from the chemical inspectors that Syria is shutting down their chemical production sites.

Even if Assad were to bring about an end to the conflict, or even if, miraculously, a peace agreement were to be signed with the rebels, I would still expect a huge rift between the warring rebel groups of Syria. Families and tribes and warring Syrian groups do not easily forgive or nor do they forget.

Unfortunately beheading may become a common sight in Syrian squares.