Note: This was written on April 10th but I find somewhat relevent in light of the recent op-ed published on The Washington Post by Ahrar’s head of foreign political relations Labib Al Nahhas. The analysts mentioned therein are from ISW (Institute for the Study of War).
The takeover of Idlib City by the cooperation of multiple factions is clear to any external observer. Jaysh al Fatah, which is the operations room for rebel cooperation, has apparently announced a new offensive to take “al mastouma” camp, which is south of Idlib City.
Question: Did the Jaysh al Fatah Operations Room, which includes Ahrar and JN include the cooperation of Jund al Aqsa? JMWA?
Rad al-A’atibar, which is another operations room based in Hama. Apparently, it is aiding this new offensive to take “al mastouma” by targeting the regime checkpoint in northern Hama in order to prevent the regime from deploying reinforcements. This new offensive is the latest thing the analysts have observed from Idlib region. The other major thing is that JN is implementing Shar’ia in Idlib City (where it seems to have a major influence as a governing body), and an instance of this where it was implemented on two of their own for bad treatment of some christians.
GENERAL KEY TAKEAWAYS:
Southern Dimashq, Yarmouk specifically (Palestinian refugee camp) has seen some cooperation between JN and IS in that region. Analyst describing it as being characterized by “coexistence and de-confliction” which is indicative of a more lenient stance of IS for a perceived maslaha (i.e. seizing Yarmouk from the regime). It has implications for the future, if they ever do enter into Idlib: independent jamaat that have a “de-confliction” stance, such as Jund al Aqsa, which was made independent for this very purpose (of not conflicting with other muslims) and should be something to keep in mind, in the preservation of Muslim blood.
Another thing to keep in mind would be the apparent hostility that IS has towards “Jabhat Shamiya” which, according to these analysts is a partnership between ‘rebels’ (anti-regime, and anti-IS) and YPG kurds (pro-regime, generally speaking). It appears this dealing with YPG is among the main motivations (or justifications) for such hostility (by IS towards Jabhat Shamiya), considering that YPG is openly allying with the regime, and has a political ideology contrary to Islam.
These analyst seem to feel that the next move that IS will make is to seize positions of northern Aleppo (belonging to JN and other rebels), or the border town of Azaz. This doesn’t make sense strategically based on what we’ve seen happened in Kobani, with the coalition willing to give air support to YPG fighters against IS to such an extent, it would be an inevitable consequence that they would do the same in Azaz (which is also a strategic border town). This is because Azaz has a limited JN presence and according to my past review of Aymen J Tamimi’s work on the town, it has some pro-western players (e.g. Northern Storm), which the western coalition would be more than willing to defend (as they have a limited choice for proxies). This could be wrong however, due to the fact that the coalition air-strikes are willing to target anything and everything controlled by IS/JN, regardless of civilian casualties.
Assad is portraying the rebel movement as a whole to be ‘jihadist’ in order to appeal to the international community and justify its indiscriminate barrel bombs on civilian populations. This highlights a few important points:
There are multiple political projects from different jama’at, and it may be unclear which is upon the truth to both internal and external observers – among the strategic methods we find that people differ in are the extent of considering ‘maslaha’ and political gradualism.
This point needs to be stressed. Is it more Islamically correct to hide open Islamic stances towards the international community, as is apparent by some factions claiming a desire to establish some sort of ‘sharia-based’ nation, described (as a better alternative) by various analysts as having a more “nationalist framework”OR is it more Islamically correct to make apparent these harsh stances in an aim show no sign of compromising and cooperating with powers acting against the establishment of Shar’ia (holistically from hudud, socio-political, to economic) in the region.
Is it more Islamically correct to hide these harsh stances as a maslaha to preserve muslim blood? In search for the righteous group, or at least the jam’aah closest to the truth, these questions need to be answered by the ulama, more comprehensively then they already have.
The Assad strategy highlights that being aligned with AQ or making apparent the uncompromising Islamic principles as a jam’aat working to establish Shar’ia, in any way, shape or form, will be used (whether true or not) as a justification for the shedding of Muslim blood. It appears that the aid of the west, as some analysts indicate with their choice of words, should only be towards a proxy willing to establish a state according to the Geneva Conventions, willing to cooperate and compromise in diplomatic relations and willing to “uphold the rights of minorities” in a way contrary to Islam. The correct political project, it seems, would avoid this compromising. It does not lessen, as seen with this Assad example, the shedding of Muslim blood to appeal to these western projects, so is there really an argument in support of this?