Category Archives: Syrian Insurgency

The Continuing Syrian Efforts to Resist Jihadism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 January 2018

Opposition protests against Jabhat al-Nusra, Marat al-Numan, March 2016

A recording was leaked on 28 November of a Syrian cleric, Abdul Halim al-Atwan, giving a lecture to Syrians in Idlib, condemning the current leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the descendant of al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch Jabhat al-Nusra, for having distorted and destroyed the Syrian rebellion by infecting it with extremism and intra-insurgent fighting. Al-Atwan, the uncle of HTS leading shar’i Abdurraheem Atun (Abu Abdallah al-Shami), notes that al-Nusra intruded into Syria as a wing of the Islamic State in 2011. This is only a small demonstration of the continued resistance among Syria’s armed opposition to being co-opted by the HTS jihadists. Continue reading

The Campaign to Weaken An Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Group in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 September 2017

Abdallah al-Muhaysini and Muslah al-Alyani, two senior clerics in Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda branch in Syria, resigned on 11 September 2017 after leaked recordings showed HTS commanders musing about assassinating al-Muhaysini. There is clearly a well-orchestrated campaign underway to weaken HTS by discrediting and dividing it, and the sophistication of the campaign gives every indication of being the work of a state intelligence service, almost certainly Turkey’s. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Says Attacking Syrian Rebel Groups Was Self-Defence Against A ‘Conspiracy’

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 26, 2017

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Violence erupted between Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria, and Ahrar al-Sham, its long-time ally and its bridge into the Syrian rebellion, beginning on 19 January. These clashes expanded to encompass the mainstream armed opposition on 23 January. Today, al-Maqalaat, a pro-JFS outlet, published a long statement explaining the fighting from JFS’s point-of-view. The salient points of the argument and other interesting elements are highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Clashes Erupt Between Al-Qaeda and the Syrian Rebellion

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 19, 2017

The leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar); the leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

The leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar); the leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Clashes have erupted today between al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), and its heretofore-inseparable ally, Ahrar al-Sham. For the overall insurgency, the bodes ill, in the short-term, but there might be some long-term political advantages if JFS isolates itself from the wider opposition. Continue reading

A Rebel Crime and Western Lessons in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 24, 2016

Abdullah Issa on the back of a truck with Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi fighters who will soon behead him

Abdullah Issa on the back of a truck with Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi fighters who will soon behead him

A horrifying video emerged on Tuesday of a teenage boy being beheaded. This had occurred the day before around Handarat in Aleppo, northern Syria. The boy had been fighting for Liwa al-Quds, a militia of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, composed mostly of Palestinians from the Nayrab camp and likely also from the unofficial settlement at Ayn al-Tal near Handarat. The rebel group that took him captive and then murdered him was Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi, which had previously received support, including TOW anti-tank missiles, from the United States’ covert program run by the Central Intelligence Agency, though that support ended nearly a year ago. The episode is important in itself, and underlines some trends, namely al-Zengi’s evolution and the dynamics underway in northern Syria, where the U.S. is preparing to intensify its de facto policy of collaborating pro-Assad coalition against Jihadi-Salafist terrorist groups, which are strengthening al-Qaeda. Continue reading

History Repeated: Al-Qaeda Attacks Syria’s Rebels, The West Does Nothing

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 14, 2016

Journalist Hadi al-Abdallah and Division 13 commander Ahmad as-Saoud at an anti-Assad protest in Maarat an-Numan, March 4, 2016.

Journalist Hadi al-Abdallah and Division 13 commander Ahmad as-Saoud at an anti-Assad protest in Maarat an-Numan (March 4, 2016)

Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, has driven one of America’s oldest allied rebel groups in Syria from its headquarters. Nusra began its assault on Division 13 on Saturday night and by yesterday morning Nusra had looted the rebels’ weapons and Division 13’s leader, Ahmad as-Saoud, was in Turkey. This is the third major such incident, and each time the United States has done nothing to rescue its designated proxies. The U.S.’s rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran has set conditions in Syria that make it easier for al-Qaeda to spread.
Continue reading

America Abandons the Syrian Revolution

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 14, 2015

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In the last week, two events have provided further evidence that the United States has effectively sided with the Assad regime in Syria, acting effectively as the regime’s air force, and that America’s alliance with Assad is part of the broader policy of détente with Iran, facilitated by the nuclear deal, which has ceded Syria to Iran as a sphere of influence. Continue reading