When the rebels first captured the refinery, it was run by a joint committee that represented all the battalions in the area. But the emir decided to kick them out, for their “petty theft”.

“The Free Syrian Army [FSA] have no funding so they steal stupid things,” he said contemptuously. “They steal anything.”…

The emir had been a law student when the revolution started, he said. Back then, he identified himself as a salafist, though he did not follow al-Qaida. For a full year, he fought under the FSA banner. When al-Qaida first emerged in the east, he thought they would harm the revolution. “I used to disagree with [al-Qaida] over their policies. Even now, they make mistakes on the ground and they have had setbacks in Iraq and Somalia because of this. They focus too much on the sword rather than the Qur’an and preaching,” he said…

What changed his mind was the chaos and corruption of the FSA. He had fought four battles with the FSA, he said, and seen how they argued over the spoils in the middle of the fighting.

“Religious leaders explained to me that we should not fight blindly, that the flag of the FSA is the flag of infidel secularism and that America is our enemy, whether we declare it or not. Americans will always fight us and will never be satisfied,” he said.