From Rebellion to Extortion: The Free Syrian Army Is Changing

FSA Mostly Focused on Crime Instead of Civil War

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is the “moderate” pro-US rebel fighting force that Western nations have been crowing about for years as the best chance to take over the country from the Assad government. The Daily Telegraph provides a different look at the group.

What started as a collection of rebels, many of them military defectors, aiming to take over the country has changed, with the stark realization among the commanders that rebellion doesn’t pay that well.

Still, that’s no reason to let a perfectly good rebel army go to waste, and the FSA commanders in Syria’s north have transitioned seamlessly from fighting a civil war to organized crime.

Kidnapping and extortion are the big money makers, but FSA commanders are dipping their toes into everything from smuggling to armed robbery at “military checkpoints,” anything to make a buck.

While this has left the FSA commanders quite a bit richer than they were, it’s also cost them a lot of credibility among their civilian victims, who no longer see them as a viable alternative to the Assad government, but rather a criminal syndicate that’s likely to be a problem long after the war is over.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.