According to a new UK defense think tank study, about half the Syrian rebels are jihadists or extreme Islamists. More:

Of the rebel forces, IHS Jane’s estimates that around 10,000 are jihadists fighting for groups linked to Al-Qaeda and another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists, who differ from jihadists in that they are concentrated only on the Syrian conflict, and not on the global Islamist fight.

“The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict,” Charles Lister, author of the analysis, told the British newspaper.

“The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.

“If the West looks as though it is not interested in removing Assad, moderate Islamists are also likely to be pushed further towards extremists,” he warned.

Now, the optimistic way to read this report is that slightly over half the fighters are not extremists. But notice that the analysis says that the extremists, though in the slight minority, are dominating the war. Why do you suppose that is? And does it tell us what is likely to happen should Assad be defeated?

The report’s author believes this is a reason for the West to help the “moderate” Islamists. Who are these “moderate Islamists”? Muslim Brotherhood types? And them coming to power serves the West’s interest how?

Remember when we thought the Soviets were so evil that we helped Afghan “freedom fighters” remove their Afghan puppets? The various freedom fighter groups turned on each other as Saudi Arabia and other countries used them to fight a proxy war for control of the country. Eventually, four years after the Islamist takeover from the communists, the Taliban faction seized control of the country, and the country’s long nightmare of Islamist hell began.

I don’t think Vladimir Putin gives a damn about human rights. But I suspect he has more sense about prospects for Syria than Washington does. Poor Syrians, stuck between the dynastic devil they have known since Assad père seized power, and the Islamist devil coming on like a devouring lion.