A series of clashes broke out on 19 January between al-Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), and its heretofore close ally and portal into the Syrian rebellion, Ahrar al-Sham. By 23 January, JFS had expanded its targets, engaging in hostilities with mainstream rebel groups in the “Greater Idlib” area, and specifically trying—and succeeding—in dismantling the positions of Jaysh al-Mujahideen, a moderate group, west of Aleppo. The crisis continued to escalate, forcing many groups to merge with Ahrar al-Sham for protection, until 28 January, when a JFS-led merger was announced under the banner of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or the Syrian Liberation Committee. HTS announced a ceasefire, and since then individuals and groups—including a significant number from Ahrar—have given allegiance to HTS. This radical reshaping of revolutionary dynamics in northern Syria has undoubtedly created antibodies going forward against al-Qaeda that could be capitalized on by the international community, but the present situation is highly favourable to al-Qaeda. Continue reading
On The Ground News (OGN) interviewed Abu al-Abed Ashidaa on 10 January 2017. Abu al-Abed was appointed to lead all insurgents in the besieged areas of eastern Aleppo City on 1 December 2016. Aleppo City fell to the pro-regime coalition after a months-long campaign of siege, bombardment, and atrocity on 12 December, with the final deportation of the insurgency and tens of thousands of civilians—a crime against humanity in itself—on 22 December.
OGN is an outlet operating inside Syria that is best known for featuring American activist, Bilal Abdul Kareem. The organization claims independence but is clearly within the milieu of the more hardline insurgent forces in northern Syria, and in fact appears to favour the political line of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence in Syria, against even other extremist Salafi groups like Ahrar al-Sham.
It was Kareem who interviewed Abu al-Abed. The transcript is below. Continue reading
From the beginning of the uprising in Syria in 2011, there have been accusations that Bashar al-Assad’s regime was in a de facto partnership with the Islamic State (IS) against the mainstream opposition. These accusations have a considerable basis in fact: during the entirety of the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq, Assad collaborated with IS jihadists in the destabilization of Iraq, killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of American and British troops. Once the Syrian uprising was underway, the regime undertook various measures to bolster extremists in the insurgency. Assad and IS worked in tandem to leave Syria as a binary choice between themselves: Assad was sure this would rehabilitate him in the eyes of the world and transform his criminal regime into a partner of the international community in suppressing a terrorist insurgency, and IS wanted to rally Sunnis to its banner. The Secretary of the Syrian Parliament has now come forward to underline this. Continue reading
Abu al-Abed Ashidaa was, on 1 December 2016, appointed to lead all insurgent forces, under the banner of al-Jaysh al-Halab (The Army of Aleppo), in the besieged enclave of eastern Aleppo City. The city’s defences collapsed to the coalition of forces—namely Russia and Iran—supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad on 12 December, and on 22 December the deportation of 40,000 people from the enclave to Idlib was completed. On 29 December, Abu al-Abed gave a speech explaining the reasons as he saw them for the fall of Aleppo City. Today, insurgent channels in Syria circulated an English summary, which is reproduced below with some editions in transliterations and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading