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Thread: Jabat al-Nusra

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    Jabat al-Nusra

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/...-a7161776.html
    Don't be fooled by reports that al-Qaeda and Nusra have split for the good of the suffering Syrian people


    Turn it into a respectable army of “moderates”, give it a spanking new name, and then the Americans and Russians will stop bombing the daylights out of it and Qatar’s loyal militia will destroy the Assad regime and… Well, if that happened, Qatar would control the future of Syria
    Robert Fisk |
    @indyvoices |
    5 hours ago|




    Sheikh Tamim’s at it again. Qatar’s ruler has been trying to get Jabat al-Nusra off America’s infamous “terrorist” list once more – and correctly calculating that the institutional memory of the world’s media is that of a street dog. He’s right.

    Last year, Tamim’s al-Jazeera satellite channel produced a tiresome two-part interview with Mohamed al-Julani, Nusra’s CEO, in which the poor man boasted that he had absolutely nothing against Christians, Alawites or Americans. Nusra just wanted to get rid of that pesky Assad chappy in Damascus, he told the world, along with Assad’s Russki friends. Syrian Christians to Lebanon and Syrian Alawites to the grave? Nonsense. That was the claptrap peddled by the rotten, horrid Isis of which the Saudis were so enamoured.




    Read more

    Qatar could be heading for an 'Arab autumn'

    Then in May this year, ol’ Doc Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s luckless successor, told Mohamed al-Julani that he could dissociate himself from the original al-Qaeda. Bingo. The split cometh. America’s enemies were breaking apart. Nusra would be the new “moderates”, worthy of America’s backing, certainly of Britain’s – whose then prime minister (David Cameron) had invented 70,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels for the world to support against Assad.


    And now, wearingly, we are being served up the same old cocktail again. Claiming that he is giving his first ever recorded message – a palpable nonsense since al-Julani had bored us all last year with the same stuff – the BBC told its audience that “Syria Nusra Front announces split with al-Qaeda”. And yet again, we were treated to al-Julani distancing himself from al-Qaeda and telling us that Nusra is now changing its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Liberation of the Levant).

    Al-Julani did – though this was missed by the “experts” in the networks – make passing reference to bin Laden, giving the murdered al-Qaeda leader’s blessing to the split because he had once said that the interests of the Muslim homeland “take precedence over any state”. So the break with al-Qaeda was mutual and all in the interests of the suffering Syrian people, and so on, and so on. Washington dismissed the story as a “rebranding” exercise – without giving the slightest indication that the whole tale was a re-boot. The Algerians have a good saying for this: boiling old stones in the saucepan.

    So let’s take a look into the saucepan. It’s all about the growing military power of Nusra – or “Fateh” or “Sham” or whatever nonsensical nomenclature we are now supposed to dream up for this twaddle – and the fact that it’s now far superior in fighting tactics, personnel and guns to the supposedly apocalyptic Isis. The latter may be able to massacre French and Syrian and Belgian and Iraqi citizens to their heart’s content, but on the ground – in Syria, where it matters – they are turning into a pretty feeble bunch. Ask the ruthless soldiers of Assad’s army and they’ll tell you that Nusra is becoming far more important than Isis.

    Even more to the point, however, is Sheikh Tamim, whose new rule in Qatar – analysed in an earlier piece by me this week – embraces a soft version of Nusra. His father, the former Emir Sheikh Hamad, poured weapons and cash and resources into Nusra. This got him into very hot water with the Saudis (who have a horrible liking for Isis), the other Gulf states, America, the EU, NATO and just about every entity in the world that thinks it is fighting a “war on terror”.







    So when the new Emir Sheikh Tamim took over from his Dad with the help of his mother Sheikha Moza – again, see my recent take on the whole Qatar phenomenon – he produced a new policy. While giving medicines and “soft” aid to Nusra, they’d be sending no more arms shipments to these folk. As detectives used to say in the 1950s, a likely story. But Tamim stuck to it, and his al-Jazeera channel clanked out the long interviews with the Christian-loving, America-adoring al-Julani last year – and then gave the same al-Julani more airtime this week to claim that he was no longer associated with al-Qaeda.

    It’s not so much a series as a serial: Cleaning Up Al-Nusra should be the title. Turn it into a respectable army of “moderates”, give it a spanking new name, and then the Americans and Russians will stop bombing the daylights out of it and Qatar’s loyal militia will destroy the Assad regime and… Well, if that happened, Qatar would control the future of Syria, a territorial empire far more influential than the increasingly decrepit al-Jazeera.

    Tamim’s father Hamad was much more forthright about these matters. He had no qualms about supporting Nusra, guns and all. The Qatari emirate is, after all, a Sunni Wahabi institution and the then Emir Sheikh Hamad had the help of his prime minister, Sheikh Hamad (yes, alas, the same first name but indeed a distant relative) bin Jassem. Once Tamim took over in what Lebanese economist Marwan Iskandar calls a “white coup”, Hamad bin Jassem lost his job.

    But as Tamim then tried to wash Nusra of its sins and al-Qaeda supposedly cleared the way for a split, Foreign Policy magazine (owner: Graham Holdings Company, The Washington Post) carried a tendentious story about how al-Qaeda was trying to integrate itself into Nusra and overshadow Isis by becoming part of the “mainstream opposition”. According to the author of the Foreign Policy article, Charles Lister, al-Qaeda was thus trying to take control of Nusra – and the best way of thwarting al-Qaeda’s ambitions would be “to dramatically scale up assistance to vetted [sic] military and civil components of the mainstream opposition inside Syria.” These “components”, Lister made clear, were “moderates” – the same old gofers, presumably, who used to be the Free Syria Army and are now called the Syria Democratic Front or the New Syria Army or whatever mythical warriors remain from David Cameron’s 70,000-strong legion.

    In other words, Lister was trashing the whole idea of the Nusra “split” with al-Qaeda. In fact, he told readers that four top al-Qaeda leaders had recently arrived in Syria to set up yet another “emirate” in Idlib province. The Syrian opposition – the nice, “moderate” pro-American opposition, that is – needed a “substantial expansion of military, political and financial assistance”, according to a Free Syrian Amy “commander” quoted approvingly by Lister. So much for Tamim’s efforts to clean up Nusra.



    But hold on a moment. Among Lister’s academic jobs, he’s a “senior consultant” in the “Sheikh Group’s Track II Syria Initiative”. The Sheikh in question is Salman Sheikh, director of the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar and fellow at the centre for Middle East Policy. And the Brookings Doha Centre belongs to the Brookings Institute and its co-chair is – you guessed it – none other than Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, the former prime minister of Qatar’s ex-ruler Sheikh Hamad whose son – the new Emir Sheikh Tamim – is now trying to present Nusra as a shiny brushed-up guerrilla army fit for acceptance by the rest of the world as a real opposition to Assad.

    Tamim’s father’s former prime minister now seems to be of the opposite point of view. In other words, there’s a bit of a tussle going on in Qatar. Dare one call it a power struggle? For it’s down in Doha, not in the plains of Syria’s Idlib province, that the future of Syria is being decided. As for the Front for the Liberation of the Levant, I suppose it will have to be called the FLL or referred to by its Arab acronym of JFS. But please, no more Nusra “splits
    Last edited by troung; 29 Jul 16, at 14:21.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Syria's al-Nusra Front splits from al-Qaida

    "They are still considered a foreign terrorist organization."


    By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author | Updated July 29, 2016 at 7:40 AM





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    Syria has been devastated by a civil war that has lasted over half a decade in which in which the Islamic State, the Syrian government and multiple Syrian rebel groups fight for control of territory. The al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Islamist militant group also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, on Thursday announced it separated from al-Qaida, the group founded by Osama bin Laden. File Photo by Ameer Alhalbi/ UPI | License Photo






    DAMASCUS, Syria, July 29 (UPI) -- The al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Islamist militant group also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, on Thursday announced it separated from al-Qaida, the group founded by Osama bin Laden.

    In his first recorded message released by Al Jazeera, the al-Nusra Front's leader -- Abu Mohammed al-Julani -- said the militant group's new name would be Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant or the Front for Liberation of al-Sham.



    "We declare the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra, and the formation of a new group operating under the name 'Jabhat Fateh al-Sham', noting that this new organization has no affiliation to any external entity," Jolani said.

    Al-Qaida, which was founded in 1988 by Bin Laden and other militants who fought against the Soviet Union during the Soviet-Afghan War, previously said it supported a split from the group. Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr, al-Qaida's second in command, said it instructed "the leadership of the Nusra Front to go ahead with what protects the interests of Islam and Muslims and what protects jihad" in Syria.


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    Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri had a brief message in the video, stating: "The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organizational links that change and go away."

    Julani accused the United States and Russia of using the al-Nusra Front as an excuse to bomb other rebel groups in Syria, and the group wanted to eliminate that reason. He said he thanked the "commanders of al-Qaida for having understood the need to break ties," adding that the decision was made to "expose the deception of the international community, namely the U.S. and Russia, in their relentless bombardment and displacement of the Muslim masses of Syria under the pretext of bombing al-Nusra Front."

    After the al-Nusra Front -- which mainly fights the Syrian government but has at times clashed with the Free Syrian Army rebel group -- announced the split, the United States said the move would not change its assessment of the group.

    "The United States continues to assess that Nusra Front leaders maintain the intent to conduct eventual attacks in and against the West and there continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front's growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both the United States and Europe," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.

    U.S. Department of State spokesman John Kirby said "We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different."

    "They are still considered a foreign terrorist organization. We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves," Kirby said.

    The al-Nusra Front was not included in an unsteady cease-fire agreement between the Syrian government and a consolidated group of rebels. The Islamic State was also not included in the cease-fire.
    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-Ne...7851469786901/
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Drone time?

    Argument
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/28/...n-ever-before/
    The Nusra Front Is Dead and Stronger Than Ever Before


    The Islamic State’s main rival has just broken ties with al Qaeda, but don't expect it to moderate its jihadi goals. It's actually laying a trap for the United States.
    By Charles Lister
    July 28, 2016

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    The Nusra Front Is Dead and Stronger Than Ever Before

    The jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra announced on July 28 that it had severed all ties to al Qaeda and established a new movement in Syria: Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or “the Front for the Conquest of the Levant.” The unprecedented move was formally sanctioned by al Qaeda’s senior leadership and comes as the group has also revealed its leader’s identity for the first time.

    In a video statement televised simultaneously on pro-opposition Orient News and on Al Jazeera, Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani — whose real name was separately revealed to be Ahmed Hussein al-Shara — presented the split as one driven by a desire “to form a unified body” of Islamist forces and to bring together the disparate factions of Syria’s revolution to best ensure the credible defense of Islam from attack. Continuing a long-held theme, Jolani introduced Jabhat Fateh al-Sham as a movement that would exist to “protect” and to “serve,” rather than to rule or oppress. He also said that the international community’s increasing attention to the group, due to its al Qaeda links, was a reason for “the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra.”


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    Nobody should be confused by this maneuver: Jabhat al-Nusra, which is also known as the Nusra Front, remains as potentially dangerous, and as radical, as ever. In severing its ties to al Qaeda, the organization is more clearly than ever demonstrating its long-game approach to Syria, in which it seeks to embed within revolutionary dynamics and encourage Islamist unity to outsmart its enemies, both near and far. In this sense, the Nusra Front (and now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) differ markedly from the Islamic State, which has consistently acted alone and in outright competition with other Islamist armed factions. Instead of unity, the Islamic State explicitly seeks division.

    Ultimately, while this may be a change in name and formal affiliation, Jolani’s group will remain largely the same. Therefore, this is by no means a loss to al Qaeda. In fact, it is merely the latest reflection of a new and far more potentially effective method of jihad focused on collective, gradualist, and flexible action. Its goal is to achieve recurring tactical gains that one day will amount to a substantial strategic victory: the establishment of an Islamic emirate with sufficient popular acceptance or support.



    Al Qaeda’s central leadership has played a significant role in determining the trajectory of this move, which was underlined in the sequencing of the announcement. Six hours before Abu Mohammed al-Jolani appeared on television, Nusra Front media wing al-Manara al-Bayda (the White Minaret) published an audio statement in which al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and his deputy, Ahmed Hassan (Abu al-Khayr), gave their public blessings for the severance of ties. “The bonds of Islamic brotherhood are stronger than any obsolete links between organizations,” Zawahiri said. “These organizational links must be sacrificed without hesitation if they threaten your unity.”

    That Abu al-Khayr also spoke was especially interesting, given the likelihood that he has been based inside Syria since at least late 2015, as I revealed earlier this year.

    The Nusra Front also published the first confirmed photo and then video footage showing Jolani, who had previously insisted on concealing his face. Intriguingly, despite dissolving his ties to al Qaeda, Jolani appeared dressed in green military fatigues and a white headdress in what appeared to be a clear attempt to replicate well-known images of Osama bin Laden. In the video address, Jolani was also flanked by two key al Qaeda-linked figures, including Ahmed Salameh Mabrouk (Abu Faraj al-Masri), a veteran jihadi figure with experience fighting in Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Russia, and Azerbaijan. Having been Zawahiri’s closest aide through the 1990s, Mabrouk’s laptop was famously captured by the CIA in Baku, Azerbaijan, and described as the “Rosetta Stone of al Qaeda.”

    Simply put, al Qaeda is coordinating its Syrian affiliate’s dissolution of ties to its own core leadership for the sake of preserving the long-term viability of the Nusra Front and its jihadi strategic objectives. The ideological ties between al Qaeda and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham remain strong.

    This latest development comes at a particularly sensitive time, as the United States and Russia look determined to launch some level of military operations against the Nusra Front in Syria. Despite repeated overt and covert attempts to encourage Syrian opposition groups to “decouple” themselves from areas in Syria where Nusra Front is present, mainstream U.S.-vetted rebel groups have not changed their areas of deployment. For many Syrians, withdrawing from these front lines is seen as tantamount to betraying five years of blood lost to secure any military gains. For some, it would also mean betraying an armed group, the Nusra Front, which has consistently and effectively fought alongside them since 2012.

    By dissolving its ties with al Qaeda, Nusra Front has made certain that it will remain deeply embedded within opposition front lines, particularly in the northern governorates of Aleppo and Idlib. Any airstrikes by foreign states targeting the group will almost certainly result in the deaths of mainstream opposition fighters and be perceived on the ground as counterrevolutionary. Consequently, a mission defined by Moscow and Washington in counterterrorism terms would in all likelihood steadily broaden the spectrum of those potentially defined as “terrorists” — to the substantial detriment of any future solution to the Syrian crisis.



    The revolution’s reaction

    Syrians within the armed opposition have been calling for the Nusra Front to separate itself from al Qaeda since Abu Mohammed al-Jolani’s public pledge of bayah (allegiance) to al Qaeda in April 2013. Jabhat al-Nusra’s increasing conservatism since mid-2014 and its periodically aggressive actions against U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions have intensified such calls for Nusra Front to clarify its allegiances: to Syria, or to al Qaeda?

    In the past, these concerns have likely hampered the Nusra Front’s capacity to recruit at its fullest potential rate. Moreover, several influential Islamist commanders active in Latakia, Idlib, and Aleppo have repeatedly told me that they have been working quietly to discourage young Syrian men from joining al Qaeda in Syria.

    Armed and civilian Syrians within the opposition community similarly believe that by peeling the Nusra Front away from al Qaeda, the task of ultimately separating their “sons” and “brothers” from the jihadi movement would be made easier. By splitting the group from the al Qaeda leadership, they hope that its internal structures would lose some of their resiliency, and joining more mainstream opposition groups could become a more attractive prospect. Should Syria suddenly experience a period of relative calm, then this goal may not be as unrealistic as it unfortunately is today.

    Although many Syrians still remain justifiably concerned about Jabhat Fateh al-Sham’s extremist foundations, the fact that the group has now made what many will perceive as a major concession puts it in an extremely advantageous position. Whether they say so publicly or not, a significant portion of Syria’s mainstream opposition will see this as a positive step and move to embrace Jolani’s call for unity. Therefore, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham will now seek to intensify its long-standing call for large-scale mergers and military coalitions in key areas of the country.

    The most significant potential consequence of this latest development would be a merger of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham with the Syrian Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham. However, such an undertaking appears still to be some way off, as it continues to face significant structural and organizational obstacles. What is more likely in the immediate term is an increase in region-specific coalitions, in which multiple armed groups seek to integrate their military commands in order to present more effective challenges to their adversaries on the battlefield. Existing rebel coalitions in Idlib and Aleppo — particularly Jaish al-Fateh — will in all likelihood form the basis for such military unity initiatives.

    By paving the way towards such a dynamic,

    Jolani has laid down a gauntlet to Syria’s opposition. The most moderate FSA groups will be forced to choose between military and revolutionary unity, or operational isolation and subjugation. In short, Jabhat al-Nusra is taking yet another step toward shaping the orientation of the Syrian opposition in its favor.



    Al Qaeda’s plan

    Jabhat al-Nusra and al Qaeda may have publicly split, but the organizational and ideological ties that bind them will prove harder to erase. Al Qaeda has been deploying senior veteran figures to Syria from across the Islamic world since 2013 in order to bolster the jihadi credibility of the Nusra Front, and to take advantage of Syria’s chaos to establish a safe haven capable of long-term transnational jihadi operations. These individuals will remain in place to seek the very same objectives as they did when they first arrived — and just like Nusra Front’s senior leadership, none of them will suddenly forget their global jihadi roots. After all, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri himself stated in March 2016 that one’s relationship to the international jihad (read: al Qaeda) should not be seen as an obstacle to attaining “the great hopes of the Islamic nation.”

    A central facet of al Qaeda’s operating strategy in Syria has been the creation of a localized jihad, which has evolved from an elite-driven project to a popular Islamist revivalist trend led by the masses. By and large, Nusra Front’s modus operandi until late 2015 focused upon establishing and then consolidating this first “elite” stage of the Syrian jihad, in which they and a select number of smaller jihadi units tacitly loyal to al Qaeda took the lead in promoting the jihadi cause in Syria. From the end of 2015, however, an internal assessment was made that a sufficient base of opposition society had been socialized into supporting the group’s rising stature. Jolani had pointed to this socialization strategy as early as December 2013, when he claimed that “Syrian society has indeed changed much; it is not the same pre-revolution society. There will be a historical mark of pre- and post-jihad in al-Sham.”

    Since late 2015, the Nusra Front was transitioning from an elite-driven jihad into its second phase, which encouraged the development of a mass movement calling for Islamic rule in Syria. As the Syrian opposition’s perceptions of international abandonment have solidified, the Nusra Front’s message of “unity” has had more of a welcoming audience, though its al Qaeda connections have been the primary obstacle to its realization.

    While it focused on spoiling international efforts to launch a political process and to sustain a cessation of hostilities inside Syria, the Nusra Front secretly proposed a grand merger with opposition groups in January 2016 in exchange for its potential breaking of ties to al Qaeda. Those discussions have continued ever since, frequently attracting prominent jihadi figures linked to al Qaeda to travel into northern Syria to mediate, one of whom was killed in a U.S. drone strike in April 2016. Things came to a head in early July, when a number of senior Nusra Front figures looked set to splinter off and establish a new faction called al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Souriya, or “the Syrian Islamic Movement.”

    Jolani perceived this as an ultimatum to his authority, so he swiftly called Nusra Front’s Shura Council together in an ultimately successful attempt to keep his movement together, which I first revealed on July 23.



    The Nusra Front’s goal is simple: It seeks to build an expanding blanket of legitimacy in Syria, which one day in the future will be of imperative importance in justifying the establishment of an Islamic emirate. The group has consistently demonstrated an impressive ability to act in accordance with the sensitivities of Syrians living within its midst. Rarely has it stepped too far out of line, such as to spark a challenge to its authority that it could not manage. Although it did float the idea of an emirate earlier this year, it proved deeply unpopular for a variety of reasons — one being the group’s al Qaeda affiliation.



    Problems for Washington

    As Jabhat al-Nusra’s long game plays out in Syria, it poses a significant challenge to the international community. Although a great many differences remain between the United States and Russia, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which some level of airstrikes are not launched against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — or whatever the group wants to call itself. There seems little space for turning back, and policymakers will rightly not see the Nusra Front’s disaffiliation from al Qaeda as making it a more moderate organization.

    Perhaps more significantly, this latest development has also made it entirely feasible that regional states, notably Qatar and Turkey, could now attempt to provide direct material support to the group. Turkey in particular is likely to use the argument that, having announced a severing of its ties to al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is as legitimate a partner as Washington’s preferred anti-Islamic State ally, the Kurdish YPG.

    Placed in this quandary, international military action against Jabhat al-Nusra does seem all but inevitable. At the same time, however, the consequences for doing so have become even more concerning. Ultimately, what remains of the mainstream opposition risks being dragged into an international escalation that appears fueled by a desire to combat al Qaeda with an insufficient appreciation for the complexity of Syria’s broader dynamics.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Katherine Zimmerman, @KatieZimmerman
    Jennifer Cafarella

    July 28, 2016 | Critical Threats and the Institute for the Study of War

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    Avoiding al Qaeda’s Syria trap: Jabhat al Nusra’s rebranding

    Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East, Terrorism
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    The leader of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, announced the end of his group’s operations and the creation of a new entity named Jabhat Fatah al Sham today. He claims that this new organization has “no affiliation to any external entity.” The maneuver removes a key obstacle Jabhat al Nusra faced in Syria, namely the al Qaeda brand name, but it does not denote a change in the group’s Salafi-jihadi ideology. Rather, the break will facilitate the unification of armed Syrian opposition groups around a core that still pursues al Qaeda’s long-term objective of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria.

    The cancellation of Jabhat al Nusra’s operations and rebranding of Jabhat al Nusra fighters does not remove the group from the global Salafi-jihadi movement, which believes in the use of violence to establish shari’a-based governance. Jabhat al Nusra will continue to fight to advance Syrian Salafi-jihadi interests under its new name. It has not renounced its vision of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria. It has instead improved its chances of success by removing obstacles to unify the opposition under its leadership.

    Syrian Salafi-jihadi groups want to unify opposition groups to increase the effectiveness of their war against the Assad regime. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper today noted that the formation of Jabhat Fatah al Sham likely aimed to “create the image of being more moderate in an attempt to unify and galvanize and appeal to other oppositionist (sic) groups in Syria.” Jabhat al Nusra and Syrian Salafi-jihadi group Harakat Ahrar al Sham al Islamiya created a joint coordinating body with other opposition groups in northwestern Syria in March 2015 and seized most of Idlib Province from the regime. The success of the coordinating body, the so-called Army of Conquest, proved the value of deeper coordination within the opposition. The groups have been negotiating over a “grand merger” since.

    The decision to form Jabhat Fatah al Sham removes the primary source of the opposition’s resistance to a merger. Opposition groups have been hesitant to merge with Jabhat al Nusra for fear that affiliation with an al Qaeda branch would justify Russia’s air campaign and cause the U.S.-led coalition to target them. Russia claims to conduct counter-terrorism operations in Syria while using its air campaign to advance other objectives such as preserving the Assad regime. The U.S. is exploring a possible partnership with Moscow against Jabhat al Nusra, moreover. Today’s announcement may be timed to disrupt the formation of this partnership.

    It was certainly part of a plan coordinated with al Qaeda’s central leadership. Al Qaeda sanctionedthe decision to form a new group in a message released today. This was no break from al Qaeda, but rather the execution of a deliberate global strategy on behalf of the movement. The al Qaeda statement emphasized that “the brotherhood of Islam that is between us is stronger than all the finite, ever-changing organizational links.”

    Al Qaeda has never seen itself as having to direct, let alone brand, the global jihad. It aims, rather, to be the vehicle that unifies the ranks for the fight. Its founding members, including Osama bin Laden, believed that Islamists failed to achieve their objectives because they were disorganized and working at cross-purposes. Factionalism, according to al Qaeda, defeated the jihad. Al Qaeda, therefore, intentionally supports local Salafi-jihadi groups around the world and seeks to unify them over time. Some bear its name, others do not. Bin Laden instructed its affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab, not to reveal its status, in fact, in order to protect it against Western attack. Al Shabaab’s allegiance to al Qaeda only became public in February 2012, when bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, recognized the group as a formal affiliate.

    Jabhat al Nusra’s split from al Qaeda should not affect the contours of the actual relationship. Al Qaeda has supported Jabhat al Nusra through the “Khorasan” cell, which provides strategic advice and guidance to Jabhat al Nusra’s leaders. This linkage may persist. Jabhat al Nusra—under its new name—will also continue to cooperate with elements of the al Qaeda network in Syria, including the Turkistan Islamic Party. Salafi-jihadi groups and financiers would still see the Syrian jihad as the primary fight today, furthermore. They may even face fewer restrictions on providing support now that the group is not affiliated with al Qaeda. The split also does not prevent future realignment or mutual support between a unified opposition and al Qaeda.

    Al Qaeda has set a trap for the U.S. in Syria. Basing policy on the formal affiliation of a group to al Qaeda creates a major national security risk as al Qaeda and other organizations play these rules against us. American policymakers should instead make decisions based on the threat Salafi-jihadi actors pose using an understanding of their inherent ideology and objectives. By those measures, the new group remains a core part of the global Salafi-jihadi movement of which al Qaeda is the leader. It benefits from and strengthens that movement enormously. Its rebranding was tactically shrewd. If it befuddles the U.S. into believing that it is not a threat, it will have been brilliant. It is up to America’s leaders to recognize it instead for the meaningless gesture it is.
    https://www.aei.org/publication/avoi...as-rebranding/

    Jabhat al-Nusra 'al-Qaeda's largest formal affiliate in history'

    Amnesty International released on July 5 a groundbreaking account of the "reality of life" for Syrians living in Idlib and Aleppo under the rule of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate, and other armed groups, including those backed by US regional allies.
    Summary
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    Testimony by US official comes as Amnesty International report documents “abduction, torture and summary killings” committed by Jabhat al-Nusra and allied Syrian armed groups.
    Author Week in Review Posted July 10, 2016

    In a news release, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, said, “In Aleppo and Idlib today, armed groups have free rein to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity. Shockingly, we have also documented armed groups using the same methods of torture that are routinely used by the Syrian government,” which is responsible for the majority of human rights and war crimes committed during the war.

    The report titled “Torture was my punishment” provides a grim and unsettling account of abduction, torture and summary killings, including the deliberate targeting of journalists, lawyers and even children, by members of the so-called Aleppo Conquest coalition, which includes Jabhat al-Nusra, Shamiya Front, Nureddin Zengi Brigade and Division 16, and the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic movement in Idlib, which is allied with Jabhat al-Nusra in Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest).

    Amnesty International pulls no punches in making clear that some of these groups “enjoy support from powerful backers such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the USA.”

    The report comes as the United States continues to weigh potential cooperation with Russia against Jabhat al-Nusra, as Laura Rozen reports.

    Rozen cites congressional testimony June 28 by Brett McGurk, US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Islamic State), that while the Islamic State “is losing territory in the east,” Jabhat al-Nusra is “gaining ground in the west, putting down roots in Idlib province along the Turkish border. … With direct ties to Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, Nusra is now al-Qaeda's largest formal affiliate in history. … This is a serious concern, and where we see Nusra planning external attacks, we will not hesitate to act.”

    With its increasing emphasis on both the potential for US-Russia cooperation and the threat from Jabhat al-Nusra, the Obama administration seems to have brushed aside the course advocated by a "dissent" cable deliberately leaked by anonymous State Department diplomats calling for US military escalation against the Syrian government. As we noted in this column before, among the cable’s many failings was that it did not even once refer to Jabhat al-Nusra, and therefore, it seems, its authors were either ignorant, or dismissive, of the administration’s own grave assessment of the threat from the expansion of Jabhat al-Nusra, in addition to the crimes of those armed groups allied with the al-Qaeda affiliate.

    Rozen adds, “While US officials have expressed understanding for the Syrian opposition’s concerns that more pressure on Jabhat al-Nusra could threaten their position vis-a-vis [President Bashar al-] Assad, the US officials indicate that President Barack Obama feels he has the duty to deal with the threat to US national security interests posed by Jabhat al-Nusra and to do so quickly.”

    Obama deserves credit for keeping the focus exactly where it should be: on the threat to the United States and its allies from the expansion of terrorist groups in Syria. We have consistently taken the line that there should be no “understanding” — absolutely none — for those who ally with al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate. Last week, we referred to a Washington Post editorial that cited “several experts on Syria” arguing that US-Russia coordination would be a bad deal because “Jabhat al-Nusra forces are intermixed with other rebel units.” As these “experts” seemed to have missed the numerous UN Security Council resolutions penalizing any cooperation with al-Qaeda and its affiliates and al-Qaeda’s well-known record of global terrorism, perhaps McGurk’s testimony and the Amnesty International report will finally force The Washington Post to reconsider who it consults on Syria. Giving al-Qaeda a pass, for any reason, should rule you out of the “expert” category.

    The Amnesty International report also helps clarify a twisted and dangerous misunderstanding about conditions in Aleppo and Idlib, and what it might mean for the course of the war. As Al-Monitor wrote in January, “Aleppo, which is mostly Sunni, was sold a sectarian bill of goods by the opposition. And it has been a disaster for the people of Aleppo. The Syrian government’s barrel bombs and relentless sieges added to an unbearable existence. … If the Syrian army, backed by its Iranian and Russian allies, retakes Aleppo, the city’s liberation will come by directly defeating terrorists and armed groups that are already deserting the battlefield. A government victory would be of a different order and have a different impact than the negotiated departures of besieged armed opposition forces in Homs and around Damascus. The people of Aleppo would experience a flat-out victory by the government and a defeat, and exodus, by the armed groups. A good question is whether the Syrian army would be received as liberators by those Syrians, including Sunnis, freed from the reign of Islamic law and armed gangs. The answer might surprise … a Syrian government victory in Aleppo could be the beginning of the end of the sectarian mindset that would have been alien to the city prior to 2011.”
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    Last edited by troung; 31 Jul 16, at 03:39.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    "Judge a group by what they do , not by what they call themselves." So true.

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Another article calling for us to ally ourselves with AQ and it's fellow travels. Fifteen years after 9/11, billions of dollars spent, and they have reached they have reached the status of at least a co-belligerent.

    Aid Worker in Aleppo Says Joint U.S.-Russian Airstrikes Would be “Diabolical”
    Murtaza Hussain
    https://theintercept.com/2016/08/15/...be-diabolical/
    Aug. 15 2016, 7:10 p.m.
    Photo: Man Brabo/AP

    A British aid worker based in rebel-held eastern Aleppo says that reported plans by the United States and Russia to conduct joint airstrikes against the city are “ludicrous and diabolical” and, if carried out, would have a disastrous impact on civilians living there.

    Tauqir Sharif, 29, speaking to The Intercept from a hospital in Aleppo, says that Russian and Syrian government airstrikes on the city are creating nightmarish conditions for ordinary people. The addition of American forces to the mix would compound the misery of civilians, while giving the impression that the United States was openly siding with the Assad government.

    Last week, an alliance of Syrian rebels and Islamist groups broke the longstanding government siege on the eastern half of the city. Sharif says that since then, the frequency and intensity of airstrikes has increased. “There has been an almost constant bombardment from strikes because the regime is very, very angry that a corridor has been opened into the city from the south,” Sharif says. “The siege in some ways is still in place because it is very difficult to bring aid in due to constant airstrikes on vehicles driving the routes to the city.”

    The sound of explosions could be heard in the background as Sharif spoke over a Skype connection.

    The Syrian government has reportedly received extensive reinforcements from its allies over the past few days, after the rebel assault dislodged a siege that had been in effect for months. Reports today indicated that the rebel advance has now been halted by government forces. Russian officials have indicating their willingness to consider a ceasefire in the future, but for the time being, their air offensive against eastern Aleppo seems to be continuing.

    “Both Russia and the Syrian government are bombing the city right now. We can tell because before the Russian intervention certain weaponry was never seen in Syria — now we have seen white phosphorus, cluster bombs, as well as unexploded weaponry with Russian markings,” Sharif says. “In the only children’s hospital left in East Aleppo, the conditions are absolutely horrific. It has moved underground to protect it from bombing but there is little oxygen, and if a fire were to start, no one would be able to escape.”

    Sharif has been based in Syria for the past several years doing relief work in partnership with British aid organizations while documenting his experiences on the popular Facebook page “Live Updates from Syria.” Like other Westerners who have spent time in Syria, Sharif has reported being harassed by intelligence agencies. But he says that his work is vital in an area where international relief organizations rarely operate.

    In recent months, the United States has repeatedly signaled plans to strike opposition forces in Syria, largely due to fears that al Qaeda-linked groups were making gains in the conflict. Last week’s successful rebel offensive to break the siege included members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, a former al Qaeda franchise that recently dissociated itself from the group but is still viewed as hostile by U.S. officials.

    Despite the presence of such groups in the rebel coalition, Sharif says that Western perceptions of an uprising dominated by jihadists are misplaced.

    “Most rebels here do not see America as an enemy. They see Russia, Assad, and Iran as their enemies, and they are fighting all these groups while at the same time also fighting ISIS. If America were to start bombing them now, it would be ludicrous and diabolical. It would create an even greater disaster for the people of Aleppo,” he says.

    Exhorting the United States not to join the bombing campaign, Sharif said that officials contemplating such moves had fundamentally misunderstood what the conflict was about. “Most people in this city did not even originally want to overthrow the government,” he says. “They just wanted reforms, but they’ve been forced to fight because of the regime’s brutal response to their dissent.”
    A rebel group's split with Al Qaeda could put it one step closer to achieving its ultimate goal in Syria

    Pamela Engel

    Aug. 21, 2016, 11:49 AM 4,576 40

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    Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Syria Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cheer on a pick truck after a Russian helicopter had been shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, Syria, August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

    One rebel group in Syria just denounced its terrorist ties, and its leaders are already trying to rehabilitate its image in the media.

    Jabhat al-Nusra's split from Al Qaeda is largely thought to be a public-relations move, and it could help the group achieve its ultimate goal in Syria — establishing an Islamic emirate not unlike the one ISIS has declared across the Middle East.

    Sheikh Mostafa Mahamed, a senior leader within the newly established Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), spoke to Sky News this week in a rare interview given to a Western media outlet. Mahamed was educated in Australia, speaks fluent English, and now coordinates with the Western press.

    In his interview with Sky, he marketed JFS as a defender of the Syrian people and insisted the group's ideology is in line with what the population wants.

    "It's very clear here that by extension [Western governments] are trying to infer that our ideology is completely alien to the general masses of the Syrian population and we totally reject that," Mahamed said. "If Western governments are expecting us to come out and say we want liberal, Western democracy, secular democracy, they have to understand that as a Muslim society our core beliefs and values define all spheres of our life."

    He also advocated establishing a "system of governance that will remove oppression" and "see justice for everyone." He lamented that Sharia law has a bad reputation in the West.

    Abu Faisal, a Syrian aid worker who goes by a pseudonym, explained what this means.

    "The primary goal of the split is that al-Nusra now sees itself with a real opportunity to actually govern significant parts of Syria, nothing any Al Qaeda franchise has ever dreamed of," he told Business Insider via email. "Even though it's Al Qaeda's stated goal to create/run an Islamic State, it was always more of a dream than reality."

    Now that the group has denounced its ties to Al Qaeda, it has a better chance of winning popular support.

    JFS is selling the split as a move toward unification of Syria's rebel groups against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies, including Russia and Iran. Despite the terrorist presence inside Syria, the Assad regime is still widely regarded as the primary enemy of the Syrian people. The Assad regime has relentlessly bombed civilians and killed more people in the country than ISIS or Al Qaeda.

    Jabhat al-Nusra proved to be one of the most well-armed and effective groups fighting the Assad regime on the ground. Its resources alone gained the group many members, but some were still put off by its terrorist image.

    And al-Nusra ran into problems in Idlib province, where the population rebelled once it tried to govern.

    "Al-Nusra is mostly Syrians and that is on purpose, to make them more palatable to locals," Faisal said. "But still, the only problem was that al-Nusra was Al Qaeda. Most Syrians could not accept this no matter how effective al-Nusra was against the regime. People will cheer them in battle, but when they tried to rule using very similar methods to ISIS, people would push back and say 'go back to the front, your place is not here.'"

    That could change now that al-Nusra has rebranded.

    The rebrand has been a long time coming, and Al Qaeda's awareness of its image problem stretches back to its founding father, Osama bin Laden.

    "Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, 'do not use Al Qaeda's name, I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda's name’ because the moment you use Al Qaeda's name, the West and the locals are going to come and they're going to beat you up," Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said in May at a national-security conference in New York.

    "Every time they change their name, we get so confused."

    But all these groups are "poisonous fruits coming from the same evil tree," Soufan said.

    Despite this, the violence in Syria has made those still living in the country desperate.

    "You see, if the devil himself rode a horse into Aleppo and freed the people from siege, starvation and bombing, people would accept it," Faisal said. "Very few people outside of Syria realize what it must feel like to live in those conditions every day of your life with no hope that it ends and with only the expectation that it gets worse (as it has)."

    Al-Nusra's move capitalizes on its power, as people inside Syria feel increasingly hopeless about their future.

    "People don't like al-Nusra's ideology (and that has not changed in the 'split') but will accept it more so now given that it's their only hope at maybe living some sort of decent life after years of this war," Faisal said.

    Ultimately, Jabhat al-Nusra's divorce from Al Qaeda will likely help it outlast ISIS in Syria.

    "This is all the long game," Thomas Joscelyn, an Al Qaeda expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in March. "The concept of jihad and the notion of jihad as [Al Qaeda] understands it was missing in Syria for decades. Their whole idea is to use the war to inculcate the ideology of jihad among the population."
    http://www.businessinsider.com/jabha...n-syria-2016-8
    Last edited by troung; 23 Aug 16, at 06:07.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  7. #7
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    So they hate us with a passion, the rebels we have given weapons and money to fight alongside AQ, our allies support AQ; and we are to give all of these terrorists more aid and not strike them...

    The US wages a proxy war against its own citizens.
    Al Qaeda Is Gaining Strength in Syria


    While Washington sits on the sidelines, the siege of Aleppo has cleared a path for the return of America’s greatest enemy.
    By Jennifer Cafarella, Nicholas A. Heras, Genevieve Casagrande
    September 1, 2016

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    Al Qaeda Is Gaining Strength in Syria

    The struggle for Aleppo poses an awful threat for the United States. The ongoing battle for what was once Syria’s second-largest city has united two of the most prominent opposition coalitions. Their goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But there’s one more thing they have in common — neither has ever received significant help from Washington in their joint effort to break a nearly month-long siege of opposition-controlled areas of the city and conquer the rest of it.

    The groups that have been trying to protect civilians in Aleppo from the siege tactics and indiscriminate attacks of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies may succeed nonetheless. But Washington’s inaction may inadvertently be paving the way for Syria’s next Islamic State.


    That’s because al Qaeda has filled the breach left by the absence of the United States. Al Qaeda is resurgent globally, exploiting American blind spots, and building a popular local vanguard to oversee the transformation of local populations in countries where the state has collapsed. Syria is its current focus. The United States now has little choice but to reorient its strategy in Syria to focus on the threat posed by al Qaeda.

    Al Qaeda’s presence and influence in Syria was never confined to its formal affiliate, the Nusra Front. It dispatched numerous senior leaders and strategists to oversee the creation of a vanguard for al Qaeda within the Syrian revolutionary movement after the start of the civil war in 2011. These operatives, which the U.S. government calls the “Khorasan group,” not only advised the Nusra Front’s top leadership, but also leaders of other Syrian opposition groups. Al Qaeda’s intent was to cultivate a series of rebel groups sympathetic to its aims while building a formal affiliate to normalize and diffuse its ideology. Al Qaeda probably also intended to establish a buffer against the possibility that an American intervention could destroy al Qaeda’s entire network by eliminating one organization.

    The Syrian war now involves U.S.-vetted and armed moderate groups, but also includes a significant component belonging to either Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the successor of the Nusra Front, or its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham. Both are now vital components of the largest opposition coalitions operating in Aleppo, Jaysh al-Fatah, and Fatah Halab.

    Ahrar al-Sham epitomizes how al Qaeda is developing a network of sympathetic local revolutionary forces: The Syrian opposition group is a key node in the al Qaeda network that has nonetheless achieved the image of a “mainstream” Syrian opposition movement. It is the largest and most powerful recipient of al Qaeda’s tutelage after Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

    There is a common perception that Ahrar al-Sham never fully absorbed al Qaeda’s ideology, despite al Qaeda’s intent to use the group as part of its Syrian vanguard. Current U.S. policy assumes that Ahrar al-Sham can be split from al Qaeda and reconciled to a future Syrian state. Defenders of Ahrar al-Sham further argue that al Qaeda does not exert operational control over the organization and conclude that Ahrar al Sham can be dealt with separately from al Qaeda. This is little more than wishful thinking.

    The most prominent mentor for Ahrar al-Sham’s original leadership, Abu Khalid al-Suri, was a veteran fighter in Afghanistan who worked closely with al Qaeda. He was also a student of Salafi jihadi strategist Abu Musab al-Suri, a leading al Qaeda ideologue who argued that in the near-term, al Qaeda should tolerate a range of actors within the Muslim community. Nor did al Qaeda’s influence over Ahrar al-Sham end with his death in 2014: A Khorasan cell member named Rifai Taha subsequently took his place as the liaison between Ahrar al-Sham and the Nusra Front.

    Ahrar al-Sham’s activity demonstrates that its strategy is joined at the hip with al Qaeda, and represents a local vanguard for the transnational jihadi group in Syria. Al Qaeda’s signature is apparent in Ahrar al-Sham’s campaign to transform the religious identity of Syrians. The group governs through a series of sharia courts throughout the northern Idlib and Aleppo provinces, operating in parallel to the Nusra Front, which enforces hard-line rulings such as veil requirements for women and restricts freedom of the press.

    Ahrar al-Sham’s goal is to replace the Assad regime with a theocracy. This vision is a fundamental change from the initial demands of the Syrian opposition in 2011 for a democratic and pluralistic system. Syrian opposition groups nonetheless view Ahrar al-Sham as a “mainstream” actor, because of its major contributions to the war against the Assad regime. It serves as the mortar that binds opposition groups together in northern Syria and is well-positioned to merge these forces with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and solidify sharia-based governance — all without the world realizing that the result would be a major win for al Qaeda’s aims in Syria.

    Ahrar al-Sham intentionally serves as the Syrian connective tissue for the global Salafi jihadi movement. It is networked into the global Salafi jihadi movement and sees itself as such — outwardly identifying with major ideologues in the global Salafi jihadi movement and explaining its jihad as a continuation of the jihad begun by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. This mirrors the narrative of al Qaeda affiliates. Ahrar al Sham also accepts foreign fighters into its ranks and is featured prominently in Nusra Front-linked propaganda calling for Muslims to immigrate to Syria to wage jihad.

    Ahrar al-Sham has also supported al Qaeda’s operations to attack the West from Syria. In November 2014, U.S. airstrikes targeted an al Qaeda cell that then-Attorney General Eric Holder said has entered the “execution phase” of an attack; the strikes hit the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham bases in Idlib province.

    The strikes were a deliberate targeting operation, which means that before striking, the United States carefully developed intelligence tying Ahrar al-Sham to the al Qaeda attack node planning an imminent attack on the American homeland or Europe. The physical presence of Khorasan operatives or infrastructure at an Ahrar al-Sham base suggests that, while some of its members may not support external attacks, al Qaeda is confident enough in the loyalty of the group’s leadership to entrust it with some of al Qaeda’s most valuable assets.

    The battle for Aleppo stands to solidify Ahrar al-Sham’s influence over the local population in Syria. The group’s leading role in breaking the regime’s siege of over 250,000 civilians in the eastern districts of Aleppo has secured its place in the hearts and minds of Syrian people. Ahrar al-Sham will continue to deepen its military partnerships with the opposition in Aleppo while developing local support by providing aid and other services to those remaining in the city. It will be in a strong position to increase its governing role inside the city alongside Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which is reaping similar rewards for its role in breaking the siege.

    Meanwhile, Turkey is using its intervention in northern Syria against the Islamic State and the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces to position itself as a power broker and is empowering its strongest opposition ally, Ahrar al-Sham, to play a key role. Ahrar al-Sham participated in the Turkey-backed offensive near the Euphrates but did not publicize its role, as American air support for the initial operation incentivized Turkey to emphasize the role of Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups. Ahrar al Sham has long called for Turkey’s direct involvement in the Syrian Civil War, including publicly advocating for a Turkey-implemented safe zone in northern Aleppo in August 2015.

    The United States risks losing the war against extremism in Syria if it continues to allow Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to be seen by the Syrian people as the victors in Aleppo. Ahrar al-Sham is as much a part of al Qaeda’s long game in Syria as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. It shares the same goal to shape Syria’s population in a way that facilitates global jihad, and its pragmatic approach advances al Qaeda’s aim to build a durable safe haven in the Levant.

    Ahrar al Sham’s window to disavow al Qaeda and work against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham should be closing rapidly. The United States must take action to provide Syrian civilians and opposition groups with an acceptable alternative to the al Qaeda network. Washington must also focus on preventing the further development of sharia-based governance structures in opposition-held areas in order to combat al Qaeda’s subversive strategy. If Ahrar al-Sham does not act decisively to counteract al Qaeda in Syria, it must be treated as, and targeted as, an equal threat.

    For the time being, U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to drift into an alliance with Russia and Assad to accomplish this goal. Any such partnership would ensure remaining “mainstream” opposition groups will turn away from the United States and toward hard-line elements of the Syrian opposition, effectively removing any potential Sunni partners against the Islamic State and al Qaeda from the battlefield. An alliance with Russia or Assad would only accelerate al Qaeda’s victory
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/09/01/...ngth-in-syria/
    Last edited by troung; 02 Sep 16, at 17:28.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    AQ operating openly in Syria with tanks, artillery, and thousands of men under arms,



    Top commander of former al-Qaeda group in Syria 'killed' in aerial raid





    By Josie Ensor, Beirut
    9 September 2016 • 1:16am




    The military leader of a key Islamist group in Syria has been killed in an air strike near the battleground city of Aleppo, dealing a major blow to the rebels trying to break a government siege.

    Abu Hajer al Homsi, commander of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, was killed on Thursday night in a rural province of Aleppo, where the group has played an instrumental role in the ongoing fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

    The raid hit a meeting of senior leaders from different rebel groups, who had been discussing a joint counter-offensive to reopen the only route out of the opposition-held eastern side of the city.

    Pro-regime forces this week managed to take back a strategically important district on Aleppo's southern outskirts, rolling back nearly every gain from a major month-long rebel offensive there and leaving the some 250,000 residents of the east blockaded again.








    Radical group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham changed its name from Jabhat al-Nusra and distanced itself from parent group al-Qaeda earlier this year in an attempt to avoid being targeted by US air strikes and to forge a closer relationship with more moderate rebels.

    The move was dismissed as cosmetic by the US, which said the rebranding did not signal a shedding of its ideology.

    Rebel sources said they believed the strike had been conducted by the US, which would mark the first time it has targeted the group since it rebranded.




    Russian bombers launch Syria strikes from Iran Russian bombers launch Syria strikes from Iran Play! 00:42






    Most of Washington’s fire power has so far been concentrated on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in its strongholds of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor in the south of the country.

    But Russia wants to strike a deal with the US which would see the two cooperate more closely in the targeting not only of Islamic State but also of extremist groups such as JFS.

    In return, Washington wants concrete steps from Russia to force Moscow's Syrian ally Assad to stop bombing his own people, to respect a ceasefire and to lift its siege of the northern city of Aleppo.

    However JFS has begun fighting alongside opposition forces Washington backs, including the more moderate Free Syrian Army.

    Such a deal risks weakening the rebels and could swing the battle for Aleppo - a city so important it could determine the course of the civil war - in Assad’s favour. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, began a fourth set of negotiations with Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign secretary, in Geneva on Friday.

    Neither side has succeeded in doing its part despite months of diplomacy and US officials played down hopes of an imminent agreement.

    While waiting for a deal, scores of civilians in the rebel-held east of Aleppo have been killed in regime air strikes and from incendiary bombs.


    Rebel groups in Syria | From most to least radical



    1. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil): International jihadists, use extreme violence as propaganda in support of their trans-national “caliphate”.

    2. Jund al-Aqsa: Split off from Jabhat al-Nusra (see 3) owing to latter’s opposition to Isil, with which it co-operates.

    3. Jabhat al-Nusra: set up by Isil as Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. It split from Isil in 2013 and now balances loyalty to al-Qaeda with alliances with other Islamist rebel groups against Assad regime.

    4. Ahrar al-Sham: Salafi Islamist jihadist group that says it is focused on Syria and has no international goal. Counted al-Qaeda-linked militants among founding members but has links to western allies Turkey and Qatar.

    5. Jaish al-Islam: Salafi Islamist rebel group backed by Saudi Arabia. Works with other rebel groups but is accused by some of them of abusing human rights in areas it controls.

    6. Jabhat al-Islamiyya (Islamic Front): Alliance of the above two and a score of other Islamist groups.

    7. Jabhat al-Shammiya (Levant Front): Another alliance of Islamist rebel groups, particularly in northern Syria.

    8. Southern Front: Alliance of non-jihadist Islamist groups, typically backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and secular rebel groups.

    9. Free Syrian Army: Now existing in name only, it is used to refer to a collection of secular rebel divisions, some US-backed, often originally set up by regime army defectors.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Syrian war: Islamist rebel commander killed in air strikes

    Abu Omar Saraqib was a founding member of al-Qaeda's former Jabhat al-Nusra group
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    Lizzie Dearden @lizziedearden 20 hours ago11 comments





    8
    us-jets-syria-strikes.jpg
    Rebels said they suspected American forces to be behind the deadly air strike AFP/Getty
    A senior military commander of the former Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group in Syria has been killed in air strike targeting Islamist leaders.

    A spokesperson for the militants, who rebranded themselves to become Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) after claiming to cut ties with al-Qaeda, said Abu Omar Saraqib was “martyred” in a rural part of Aleppo province on Thursday.

    Its Twitter account named him as the “general commander” of the group, with analysts believing the name is an alias for Abu Hajer al-Homsi, who was among jihadists who fought American forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion before returning to Syria.


    Jabhat-al-Nusra.jpg
    Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group wave flags as they march during an anti-regime demonstration (Getty Images)
    He was a founding member of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda whose fighters later spawned Isis and split from the group.

    READ MORE
    Changing its name will not stop Jabhat al-Nusra being targeted in air strikes
    Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaeda and renames itself
    Abu Firas al-Suri: Who was the 'moderate' Jabhat al-Nusra leader killed in an air strike in Idlib?
    Its “emir” Abu Mohammad al-Jolani announced the group’s supposed departure from al-Qaeda leadership in July and re-named it as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

    But the organisation, which is among the most powerful rebel forces in the Syrian civil war, has not been shy of declaring its Islamist ambitions, announcing it would “continue our jihad” with the aim of establishing an “Islamic government” and the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad.

    Analysts suspected the rebrand was a move to generate support from potential rebel allies deterred by al-Qaeda and the presence of foreign fighters in its ranks.

    It was also seen as a pitch to prevent fighters being targeted by international air strikes against Isis and other terrorist groups.

    julani.jpg
    Abu Mohammad al-Jolani reading the announcement of the creation of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant) (EPA)
    But American commanders said their operations would continue, with State Department spokesperson John Kirby saying: “They are still considered a foreign terrorist organisation. We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves.”

    The nationality of the planes that carried out Thursday’s strike was not immediately known, but a rebel source told Reuters initial information suggested it was most likely an American fighter jet that struck the hideout.

    It would be the first time the US-led coalition had targeted the group since its rebrand.

    JSF is currently leading the Jaish al-Fath (Army of Conquest) coalition of Islamist rebels battling Syrian government forces and Shia militias in Aleppo city, which in split between regime and opposition control.

    They succeeded in breaking a siege of eastern districts earlier this year but have been pushed back in fierce battles over recent days, seeing forces loyal to President Assad retake the key Ramouseh district on Thursday.

    In pictures: Aleppo bombing
    14
    show all
    JFS’ main strongholds are in the province of Idlib, where Sharia law is enforced in parts amid reports of numerous summary killings and executions.

    The group itself advertises regular suicide bombing operations, with 14 listed in the past three months using vehicles laden with explosives and driven into targets.

    Its militants have also been hit by Russian air strikes that have turned the tide of the civil war in favour of President Assad since Vladimir Putin’s intervention started in September.

    The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, have been trying to reach a deal on deeper cooperation between their respective militaries against radical groups operating in Syria, particularly Isis and JFS.

    One of the complications is that former Nusra militants often co-operates with Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups along major frontlines against government forces, putting both in the sights of Russian air power and Iran-backed militias.

    American and Russian diplomats continue attempts to negotiate a ceasefire in Aleppo, which has seen mass casualties, destruction and food shortages after years of battle and bombardment.
    .....
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  10. #10
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Almost sixteen years after 9/11 and you would be forgiven for not remembering we are supposed to be at war with AQ.

    Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate escapes from Canada's terror list
    Failure to list group keeps Canada in line with U.S., but complicates potential prosecutions

    By Evan Dyer, CBC News Posted: May 14, 2017 11:31 AM ET Last Updated: May 14, 2017 12:06 PM ET
    A picture taken on October 25, 2013 shows members of jihadist group al-Nusra Front taking part in a parade calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria. The group has morphed several times after absorbing other jihadi groups and is now calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.

    A picture taken on October 25, 2013 shows members of jihadist group al-Nusra Front taking part in a parade calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria. The group has morphed several times after absorbing other jihadi groups and is now calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. (Al Nusra/HTS)

    Photo of Evan Dyer

    Evan Dyer
    CBC Reporter

    Evan Dyer has been a journalist with CBC for 15 years, after an early career as a freelancer in Argentina. He can be reached at evan.dyer@cbc.ca.
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    5 years after bin Laden's death, al-Qaeda remains a potent threat

    External Links

    Public Safety Canada: Listed terrorist entities

    (Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

    The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada's list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.

    That complicates the task of prosecuting Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or propagandize on its behalf.

    It also illustrates the pitfalls of Canada following the lead of the U.S. in designating terror groups.

    Syrian airstrikes could help al-Qaeda​​​
    Listed Terrorist Entities

    HTS escapes being listed at a time when it is absorbing other jihadi groups and attracting more recruits, even as the Islamic State retreats on multiple fronts.

    HTS has a history of renaming itself and altering its structure to confuse outsiders, and the Syrian population, about its true affiliations. But until now, few observers have accepted its claims to have distanced itself from its parent organization.

    ISIS and Nusra: Bin Laden's squabbling offspring

    Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (the Organization for Conquest in the Levant) began life as an expeditionary force called Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front), despatched into Syria in 2011 by the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now "caliph" of the Islamic State (ISIS). Jabhat al-Nusra was led by Syrian jihadist Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani.

    The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit.

    Al-Baghdadi soon crossed into Syria himself, renouncing his allegiance to al-Qaeda and founding ISIS in April 2013.

    Al-Jawlani's group remained loyal to the mother organization founded by bin Laden, and Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS have been at each other's throats ever since. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition focused its bombing on Islamic State, not al-Nusra.
    Mideast Israel Al Qaida

    Rebels from al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front wave their brigade flag as they step on the top of a Syrian air force helicopter, at Taftanaz air base in 2013. As al-Nusra, the group was on the terrorist list, but al-Nusra has disappeared. (Associated Press)

    While ISIS made headlines and enemies across the world, al-Nusra flourished.

    It has carried out numerous suicide bombings, forced religious conversions, destroyed ancient shrines and enacted brutal punishments, including the stoning of women.

    A history of shape-shifting

    In early 2015, al-Qaeda's international leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, thought to be hiding in Pakistan, set al-Nusra free of its formal subordination to al-Qaeda.

    "The brotherhood of Islam that exists among us is stronger than any passing or changing organizational ties," he said in a taped statement, instructing the group to integrate itself into the wider Syrian revolt. Al-Nusra changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant), and continued to gobble up other Syrian jihadi groups, often by force.

    But the West wasn't buying it. The U.S. and Canada simply added the new name as another alias of al-Nusra on their terrorist listings.

    Both countries are normally careful to capture all the aliases of terrorist groups, including minor variations in spelling and punctuation. (Islamic State has 46 permutations of its name listed by Public Safety Canada; al-Nusra has six).

    But then in January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It slightly altered its name, changing the word "Jabhat" (Front) to "Hay'at" (Organization).
    Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani

    Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani still leads the group. The U.S. has branded him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. (YouTube)

    The military commander of the group continues to be al-Jawlani, whom the U.S. has branded a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. On Wednesday, the U.S. government posted a $10-million reward for him. The reward notice states that al-Nusra is "at the core of HTS," which is led by a triumvirate that also includes Egyptian Abu Khayr al-Masri, the number two of the global al-Qaeda organization.

    And yet HTS has not been designated in the U.S. Canada, which usually follows the U.S. listing closely, has also not listed the group.

    The change is significant, and the U.S. State Department confirmed to CBC News that HTS members are no longer considered terrorists.

    The State Department did issue a statement in March, in Arabic only, branding HTS a terrorist group. But the State Department's Nicole Thompson told CBC that was a mistake.

    "Though closely affiliated with al-Nusra, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is not a designated terrorist organization," she said in an email. "The statement you found should have said al-Nusrah Front and has been corrected."

    Al-Nusra, however, no longer exists.

    Extra headache for prosecutors

    CBC News asked Public Safety and the Public Prosecution Service how the failure to list might affect prosecutions of HTS supporters in Canada.

    "The PPSC cannot respond to hypothetical questions or questions asking how the laws relating to terrorism offences would apply in hypothetical cases," the Public Prosecution Service replied.

    'So there's no question that, if the group is not on the list, the prosecutor will have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the group is a terrorist group'
    - Carissima Mathen, law professor

    But University of Ottawa law professor Carissima Mathen says the lack of designation creates a higher barrier to prosecution.

    "The Criminal Code provides two ways for something to be defined as a terrorist group. One of them is if it's actually a group that has as its purpose terrorist activities, and the second is if the Governor-in-Council puts it on a list, which is done on a less stringent basis.

    "It's a 'reasonable grounds to believe' basis as opposed to 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' So there's no question that, if the group is not on the list, the prosecutor will have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the group is a terrorist group."

    Mathen says that "might not be a deal-breaker for me as a prosecutor", but "depending on what other priorities and pressures I was facing, it would definitely count in terms of how I could fit that into my existing caseload."

    She says it might lead a prosecutor to decide some cases are not worth the extra effort. Instead of prosecuting all money transfers to HTS, for example, prosecutors might only focus on larger amounts.

    "I would think as a government if you had this power, you'd expect them to use it, to list this entity."

    Why no listing?

    The reasons for the reluctance to list the new al-Qaeda formation may have to do with one of its new members, the Nour ed-Dine Zenki Brigade, a jihadi group from the Aleppo governorate.

    The Zenki Brigade was an early and prominent recipient of U.S. aid, weapons and training.

    Zenki was cut off by the State Department only after Amnesty International implicated them in killings of Orthodox Christian priests and members posted a video of themselves beheading a young boy.

    For the U.S. to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles to "terrorists," and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.

    Canada's longstanding reliance on U.S. listings exposes it to the increasingly politicized nature of those listings, which are influenced by the U.S. strategy of backing groups fighting the Syrian government and its Russian allies.

    ISIS vs. al-Qaeda in the fight for Syria
    Al-Qaeda still 'very dangerous' 5 years after Osama bin Laden's death

    It also means that Canada currently does not list any active branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, the world's most important jihadi battleground.

    "It wouldn't surprise me at all that because of the shifting nature of these alliances and relationships that western countries' hands are not entirely clean in terms of their own dealings with these groups at some point in the past," says Mathen.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/terror...sion-1.4114621
    Last edited by troung; 15 May 17, at 02:05.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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