Another great article from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, this time on Syrian insurgency economics: very micro-scale thirty years war, with rebels deserting all over the place to war bands which can arm and feed them. Also, this:
The war in Aleppo is not only funded by what can be appropriated by the various units, but also by the patronage that they can attract from sponsors outside Syria, a factor which has also contributed to the myriad forming and re-forming of units, all of which control individual fiefdoms in the city....
...Fighting units often exist only because of their sponsors. If a sponsor loses interest a battalion is dissolved and the men join another, better-funded battalion. Battalions are often named after historical Arab or Ottoman figures in order to help lure money from the Gulf kingdoms or from Turkey.
I’m seeing a really excellent way to revitalize the Dragon’s Den franchise:
“Well Duncan, we have a warehouse full of RPGs, FN-Fals, slightly used Mercedes and Syrian army issue diesel fuel from when we were the Suleiman the Magnificent Brigade. Now, as the Lions of the Prophet, we’re expanding into gold, restored home furnishings for resale and a bunch of iron bombs we got from a base near Idlib airport, which we intend to plough back into the business once we figure out how to remove the fuses and repurpose the explosives.
“In return for £100,000, investors will get 30% of the equity and naming rights on the Damascus front. It could be the Duncan Bannatyne Brigade that finally sweeps into the presidential palace, creating numerous cross promotion and synergistic opportunities with your chain of excellent health clubs, as well as contributing to your no-nonsense personal brand”
More seriously, I bet the insurgents are kicking themselves over the fact that they’re not in opium growing country. Drug production is the best autonomous way yet discovered to fund a long running insurgency and establish a domestic economy along with the rudiments of a tax system without looting the civilians under your control.