Helgens longread är tveklöst amerikanen Theo Padnos skildring av sina två år som fånge hos al Nusra i Syrien. Den är ett fönster till konflikten i hela sin mänsklighet, i både positiv och negativ bemärkelse. Futtigheten, grymheten – och glimtarna av vänlighet och humanism mitt i eländet. Som i detta samtal mellan Padnos och hans fångvaktare:
I was curious about the futures of the five people now responsible for looking after me. What if they retired from military life, I asked, went home and promised to obey the Islamic State in the future? Would the group still wish to kill them?
“Of course,” they said.
“Really?” I asked. “But why?”
“Because we are Jebhat al Nusra,” they replied.
I knew the answer to the next question but asked it anyway. “Your practice of Islam is exactly the same as ISIS — you admire the same scholars and interpret the Quran just as they do?”
“Yes,” they agreed. “All of this is true.”
“And it’s true,” I said, “that when you joined Al Qaeda, in the early goings of the revolution, ISIS did not exist?”
“Yes, this is so,” the fighters agreed.
“And now they’re hoping to kill you?” I asked.
They shrugged their shoulders. “Yes.”
“But the situation is absurd,” I said. “You’re like a guy on the street drinking a bottle of Pepsi. Along comes the Seven-Up salesman. ‘Wicked man!’ says the Seven-Up salesman. ‘How dare you drink Pepsi? You must die.’ Under the circumstances, it ought to be O.K. for you to reply: ‘I’m quite sorry, sir. But when I went into the store, there was only one brand of soft drink available. Pepsi. That’s what I bought. Where’s the problem?’ ” The foot soldiers, all in their 20s and early 30s, were regular cola drinkers and were happy I had put the matter in everyday commercial terms. Everyone laughed.
The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that their commanders, former friends from Iraq, were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered.