Tag Archives: Abu Khalid as-Suri

Al-Qaeda Central in Syria

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

Osama bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri (2001)

Usama bin Ladin and Ayman az-Zawahiri (2001)

A couple of days ago, a leader Jabhat an-Nusra issued a statement condemning Ahrar a-Sham. The statement is actually rather milder than initial reports suggested. Nusra is mostly annoyed at Ahrar for working with Turkey and Qatar to acquire money and weapons. Nusra is also displeased that Ahrar, at the instigation of Ankara and Doha, asked Nusra to publicly break its al-Qaeda link. Nusra also felt Ahrar was too willing to publicly distance itself from Salafi-jihadism to gain war materiel. This will no doubt help intensify the debate about Ahrar’s ostentatious “moderation” over the last eighteen months, and what the West should do about Ahrar.

In this post, however, I’d like to focus on the statement’s author, Abu Firas as-Suri, or more precisely on what he represents. Abu Firas is part of a group of (known) agents of al-Qaeda Central (AQC) who were sent into Syria in mid-2013 to mediate the dispute between Nusra and then-ISIS (now the Islamic State, I.S.), and when that failed the AQC veterans stayed, erected a veritable bureaucracy, and sought to forestall Nusra “going local”. Below are mini-profiles of these AQC veterans. Continue reading

Is Ahrar a-Sham a “Moderate” Syrian Rebel Group?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 12, 2015

Ahrar a-Sham

To answer my headline simply: no, Ahrar a-Sham’s leadership is not what anybody in the West means by “moderate” Syrian rebels that could be supported.

The question is provoked by an op-ed in The Washington Post last night signed by Labib al-Nahhas, Ahrar’s foreign political relations officer, the culmination of a public-relations campaign by Ahrar to rebrand itself as the mainstream alternative to the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Assad tyranny we’ve all been waiting for. Continue reading

Defeat Jihadists in Syria by Being a Better Ally to the Opposition

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 25, 2015

A still  from the video announcing the Ahrar a-Sham-Suqour a-Sham merger

A still from the video announcing the Ahrar a-Sham-Suqour a-Sham merger

Ahrar a-Sham “merged with“—in reality annexed—Suqour a-Sham on March 22. Ahrar’s leader, Hashem al-Sheikh (a.k.a. Abu Jabbar), is the leader of the Ahrar-Suqour formation, and Suqour’s leader, Ahmed Issa al-Sheikh (a.k.a. Abu Issa) is his deputy. Ahrar is the largest and most hardline Syrian insurgent group in Syria, and Suqour has a fairly stern Salafi-nationalist ideology—at least at its leadership level—and was once the largest rebel group in Idlib Province.

The first thing this brought to mind was Sam Heller’s witticism late last year: “the most successful, lasting approach to rebel unification so far has basically been ‘Ahrar al-Sham absorbs you’.” Continue reading

The ‘Khorasan Group’ And Al-Qaeda Central

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 23, 2014

Muhsin al-Fadhli

Muhsin al-Fadhli

This morning, after forty-two months of trying to stay out, the United States launched airstrikes into Syria. The strikes overwhelmingly targeted the Islamic State in ar-Raqqa City and its surrounding areas, reportedly killing seventy I.S. jihadists, but there was a second barrage of strikes in Idlib, which are said to have killed fifty jihadists, and were directed against a shadowy outfit that emerged in the press a little over a week ago called the Khorasan Group. Continue reading

Indonesia: Islam, Terrorism, and Democracy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 1, 2014

Pro-ISIS demonstration in Indonesia, March 16, 2014

Pro-ISIS demonstration in Indonesia, March 16, 2014

Early last month, Indonesia announced:

The government rejects and bans the teachings of [the Islamic State] from growing in Indonesia. It is not in line with State ideology, Pancasila, or the philosophy of kebhinekaan [diversity] under the unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.”

This was a welcome change of tune. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Rules on the Dispute Between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 3, 2014

Ayman al-Zawahiri, September 2013, AFP/Getty Images

Ayman al-Zawahiri, September 2013, AFP/Getty Images

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), released an audio statement on 8 April 2013 asserting his authority over Jabhat al-Nusra, which was set up as the Syrian wing of ISI. Al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected al-Baghdadi’s hostile takeover on 10 April and swore allegiance—renewed, in his telling—to al-Qaeda. The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ruled on this matter in a letter dated 23 May 2013, which was released to, and translated by, al-Jazeera, on 9 June 2013. Al-Zawahiri’s letter is reprinted below with some editions for clarity and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading