“Why Syria’s Assad heads to Geneva from a position of strength,” by Joshua Landis

Syria Comment - 목, 2014-01-23 00:49

Analysis: Why Syria’s Assad heads to Geneva from a position of strength
By Joshua Landis
for Aljazeera America, Edited by Tony Karon
January 22, 2014

His army is stronger, his allies are more committed and regime’s capacity for brutality has kept it in charge.

Syrian troops celebrate as they take the village of Haydariya on May 13 as part of a push to cut supply lines to their opponents in the strategic Qusayr area of Homs province.Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

As representatives of Syria’s Assad regime and some of its opponents sit down Wednesday for their first direct negotiations since the rebellion began three years ago, the grim reality facing the Syrian opposition is this: President Bashar al-Assad comes to the negotiating table in Switzerland apparently stronger today than at any time in the last two years. Thus his cavalier tone ahead of the talks, dismissing opposition representatives as a “joke” and brushing off Secretary of State John Kerry’s and the opposition’s demand that he relinquish power and accept a “transitional governing body.” Instead, Assad maintains, Syria will hold elections this year, and “I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand.”

Understanding why Assad’s regime survives more than two years after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it a “dead man walking” is critical for gauging the outcome of the Geneva II talks.

The regime’s resilience is based, first and foremost, on the Syrian Army. Without its loyalty, Assad would likely have fallen as quickly as did Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. But while many soldiers and officers did join the rebellion, most did so as individuals; few entire units defected and no entire divisions did. Structurally, the military held together, and it was able to replenish its ranks through intensive recruitment among the Alawite minority, where many are loyal to the regime and still more live in mortal fear of sectarian retribution at the hands of the Sunni-led armed rebellion. The same factors allowed the military to expand its capabilities through the paramilitary Popular Committees, often called shabiha. And it has also been able to enlist the support in critical battles of units of the Shia Hezbollah militia from neighboring Lebanon, whose leaders recognize that their own military fortunes depend on maintaining the re-supply lines that the Assad regime has long provided.

Just as important as the military’s loyalty to the regime has been its superior armaments. Even if rebel fighters, who number well in excess of 100,000 by most estimates, outnumber the Syrian Arab Army, in any battle for territory they are often little match for the Syrian Army’s dramatic technological and organizational advantage. Rebel militias have no answer for the artillery, armor and air power of the Syrian military. Perhaps even more importantly, the rebels have no central command. And it is difficult to imagine, today, how the rebels could plausibly overcome these disadvantages.

The fragmentation and radicalization of rebel fighting forces, over whom there is no clear political command, has been the opposition’s greatest weakness. Had a unified political-military command emerged among Syria’s rebels in the first year of the uprising, at the height of optimism over the Arab Spring, the United States and Europeans might well have been persuaded to give direct military backing to the uprising. Today, such hopes have been dashed.

Infighting among rival militias battling for control over rebel-held areas has, in recent weeks, cost over 1,000 lives. The prospect of militia chaos combined with widespread human rights abuses, the radicalization of the militias, and an estimated 10,000 foreigners fighting on the rebel side have spooked Western leaders, even amid the anguish caused by images depicting gruesome torture and murder in the dungeons of the regime.

Few policy-makers talk about “good guys” in Syria anymore; some — most notably former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden last December — even argue that a rebel victory would be worse than an Assad win. Not even the recent emergence of a larger militia coalition, the Islamic Front, to organize rebel fighting and challenge forces aligned with Al-Qaeda has been able to end rebel chaos.

Foreign involvement in the Syrian civil war has also worked strongly to the advantage of the regime. Iran and Russia have proven to be far more reliable as allies to Assad than the U.S. and Gulf Arab states have been to the rebels. From day one of the revolt, Assad’s top concern has been that the U.S. would invade. He and his generals were convinced that they could survive so long as F-16s did not appear over the Damascus horizon. So far, their assumption has proven to be correct.

Rhetoric and action gap

Rarely has the gap between U.S. rhetoric and action been wider than it has been on Syria: President Barack Obama proclaimed during the first months of the uprising that “Assad must step aside,” which was read as a statement of intent by the rebels but which has produced negligible concrete action. Even when Washington proclaimed that Assad had crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons, no retribution rained down. The U.S. electorate has no appetite for further wars in the Middle East. So, while Obama was able to strike a deal ridding Syria of all WMD, to the opposition that success was a damp squib. They had expected Washington to deal Assad a crippling blow, turning the fight in their favor. Instead, Washington struck a chemical-weapons dealthat saw Assad dispense with a category of weapons that had played very little role in the civil war, while effectively strengthening his and his allies’ diplomatic position.

Obama made clear in his pivot on launching a punitive strike on Syria that he believes the U.S. has practically no interest in the country’s civil war. Syrian opposition figures look at the fact that the U.S. has spent less than $2 billion on Syria, the equivalent of three days’ spending at the height of the Iraq war, and see little reason to expect much from Washington. Even those opposition groups who’ve agreed to go to Geneva II are not convinced by Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that Assad will have to agree at the talks to form a sovereign “transitional government.” Kerry took charge of the State Department last year declaring his intention to change Assad’s “calculation” about his ability to hold on to power, but instead it is Washington’s calculations, rather than Assad’s, that have changed.  How he will be made to step aside on the basis of the current balance of forces remains a mystery.

Assad has been extraordinarily ruthless in pursuing his survival, and such ruthlessness can have a decisive effect in determining the course of a war. The most recent U.N. report about “industrial scale killing of detainees” made for blood-chilling reading, chronicling the regime’s brutality and willingness to destroy whole neighborhoods in order to kill rebel fighters sheltering within them. The carnage wrought by Assad’s forces has been breathtaking — one in three Syrians today has been displaced from their homes by the war.

Assad’s game plan was to confront unarmed civil disobedience with gunfire, betting that turning the uprising into an armed rebellion would push extremist forces to the fore, which would alienate key Syrian and foreign stakeholders. He prioritized geography, withdrawing from the regions that hold less strategic value or are ungovernable by his regime in order to consolidate his hold on core geographic assets, such as Damascus, Homs, Hama and the highways linking them to the Alawite population centers on the coast. Although he ceded control of the poorest and most heavily Sunni provinces of northern and eastern Syria, his army has been able to retain bases in every major northern city. Government artillery and aircraft continue to bombard rebel-held areas at will, creating chaos and sowing dissention.

So, although Assad’s representatives have gone to the negotiating table in Switzerland, it is not clear they are there to seek compromise. But others might.

While Assad insists that his army is “making progress,” it is not at all clear that he can retake Syria or that Syria’s allies will continue to bankroll his attempt to do so. Iran and Russia may well be content to have the Assad regime survive in only half of Syria if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the West agree to the other half for the rebels. Even then, a deal remains a distant prospect. Most Syrians today reject the notion of partition or even autonomous regions, but the military stalemate has endured for almost two years. On the eve of the Geneva talks, Syria’s Kurds declared unilateral autonomy in the far northeast, where they hold military power and comprise the majority of the population. Syria is effectively divided, and none of the military forces in the field appear capable of reuniting it under their control. Negotiated settlements to end wars tend to reflect the balance of forces in play; the idea of Assad stepping aside for a consensus-based national unity government is quite at odds with the current balance of geopolitical and military forces. For that reason, it is unlikely to be achieved at Geneva II.

The post “Why Syria’s Assad heads to Geneva from a position of strength,” by Joshua Landis appeared first on Syria Comment.

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“Observations of a Homsi living in Tartous,” by Aboud Dandachi

Syria Comment - 수, 2014-01-22 01:55

Aboud Dandachi in Istanbul, where he recently acquired his residency card.

Observations of a Homsi living in Tartous
by Aboud Dandachi
Written for Syria Comment, January 20, 2014

*Aboud Dandachi is a Syrian activist from Homs, currently living in Istanbul. He is the author of the blog “From Homs to Istanbul” at www.adandachi.com/istanbul (The Dandashi family is a well known Sunni family.)

Over the course of the Syrian conflict, the port city of Tartous has been regarded as a bastion of loyalist support, a regime stronghold, and a city whose populace are loyal to Bashar Assad.

In fact, only two of the above statements are true.

I moved to Tartous in late March 2012, after being displaced first from my home in Homs, and then from my village of Telkelakh. Like all displaced persons since the beginning of time, I thought my troubles would be a temporary and I’d be able to return home once the situation improved. I hoped.

But as it turned out, I spent eighteen months in Tartous, living my life in an area no bigger than ten square kilometers. During those months, Tartous was like a small passenger boat; crowded, but offering safety from the storm raging in the middle of an infinite sea of tidal waves of anxiety and war.

The situation was surreal. By March 2013, the anniversary of my move to Tartous, half the populace consisted of displaced people who had relatives actively at war with relatives of the other half. I myself came from a village well known for its opposition to the regime; three cousins of mine and numerous distant relatives had taken up arms against the state, whose own rank and file consisted of the relatives of the taxi drivers, shop keepers, hotel staff and restaurant workers of the city I looked to for refuge. It was absurd.

And yet, in eighteen months in Tartous, I never once heard a single word of abuse or experienced any act of aggression. Tartus before the war was equal parts Christian, Alawite, and Sunni. My being a Sunni from Homs was never held against me.

On the contrary, anytime the topic of Homs came up with a native of Tartous, the conversation would invariably lead to reminiscing about Homs’ previous status as “Um el fakir”, as Homs was called, the Mother of the Poor; memories of shopping for Eid cloth in a city where Eid shopping was much cheaper than the coast or Damascus; where one could get one’s car fixed for half the price a workshop would charge in Tartous; a city where rents and the very cost of houses were ridiculously cheap by the standards of any major cities. To a native of Tartous, pre-conflict Homs used to offer a cheap alternative to the much higher cost of living of the coastal areas.

And almost every such conversation would end in someone voicing eternal damnation on the souls of the Saudis, Turks, Chechens, Pakistanis, Libyans, Jordanians etc etc who had supposedly infiltrated Homsi society and turned it into a “well of terrorism”, and a place where the most barbaric acts of inhumanity were regularly practiced on those who had not sold their souls to Zionism-Wahabism-CIAism and were still loyal to…well, what a good Syrian should be loyal to exactly depended on the person you were speaking with.

It’s inevitable that when a people’s lives have been disrupted and affected by events, people will spend a great deal of time discussing and debating those events. In Tartous, the most honest opinions could always be gleaned from discussions that took place late at night; in the hotel lobbies when only the staff and a few night owls were left awake; at the restaurants or sidewalk cafes closing up for the night and the only ones left were the staff drinking one last cup of coffee before heading home, or in the Internet cafes, sparsely filled with customers taking advantage of the ultra cheap midnight rates to Skype with relatives in Europe or Canada.

The president. The regime. The state. To a Homsi whose city had suffered the worst of the conflict up to that point, all three were one and the same, inseparable. The revolution was about getting rid of the president, to cause the downfall of the regime, and create a new state. What the nature of the new state would be was something the myriad groups that made up the opposition never did get around to agreeing on.

The president, the regime and the state. To a Tartousian, these were three very distinct and separate entities, a fact that took me a very long time to understand. Being a “loyalist” meant different things to different people. In eighteen months, very few people had a kind word to say about the president Bashar Assad. Explicit criticism of his person was never voiced openly, of course, but there were plenty of criticisms of the “strategy” of the war, of its “handling”, and many wistful nostalgic yearnings for the “wisdom and experience” of Hafiz Assad. I lost count of the number of times I heard it said that Hafiz would never have allowed things to reach the point they did. One didn’t have to scratch much beneath the surface to detect a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the younger Assad’s abilities as a war leader.

Which was not to say that having no faith in Bashar’s abilities to handle the conflict, meant that a person was part of the opposition. Among the people of Tartous, there was a clear and very well defined distinction between the president, the regime and the state. I met no one who expressed much love for the president. The vast majority however, felt that the regime was a necessity, and would have gladly been happy to see the current regime headed by a new president.

And every person in Tartous felt that they were part of a struggle to preserve the very state and its institutions. Tartousians did not want to live in a failed state, and if the state collapsed, the average person in Tartous felt like they had nowhere else to run to. While I myself never experienced any discrimination or hostility as a displaced person from Homs, I heard nothing but scorn and contempt whenever the topic of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who had fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt or (especially) Turkey came up. In Tartous, a person who seemingly abandoned the country to live in a refugee camp was regarded as being beneath contempt.

In a way, it wasn’t hard to understand why this should be so. The people of Tartous had their backs to the sea, in almost a literal sense. If the war reached the city, there would be no place for them to flee to. Many Sunnis from other parts of Syria had fled to the Gulf and other countries. Alawites, Christians and those Sunnis who had remained loyal to the regime could count on no such welcome. For the most part Tartousians didn’t have the luxury of contemplating a life as refugees in other countries, it was a convenience that would not be afforded to them.

Well, displaced people who found themselves in Tartous did infact contemplate very much life as refugees in other countries. By the summer of 2013, the number of Sunni and Christian refugees in Tartous overwhelmingly outnumbered the local Alawites in the city. Every Christian displaced family I knew was biding time until relatives abroad could arrange for them to get visas. Canada and Sweden were particularly favored as destinations. One Christian female doctor from Aleppo had made no less than eleven visa requests to the USA, Canada and European countries.

Evert day saw a massive crush of applicants at the Immigration and Passports department, which is a small three story building, designed to handle many fewer applicants then the hordes now trying to leave the country. At the beginning of the uprising and as late as March 2012, a person could walk into the Tartous passport department in the morning, and leave in the afternoon with new passports for himself and his family of six kids, a widowed sister, and her six kids.

When I went to renew my passport,the place was a hell hole. My name was put on a waiting list and I was given an appointment five weeks away. On the appointed day, if your name wasn’t on the appointment list, there was no way you were stepping inside the building, no matter how desperate your sob story, who you had tried to bribe, or how urgently you needed to leave the country. It was the only way to bring order to an insanity created by the fear that at any day, the state’s institutions might collapse, and those without passports would become refugees without travel documents for the rest of their lives. Even after submitting all the required paperwork, it would take another month for a new passport booklet to be issued, such was the shortage in new passports.

In August 2013, a new fast track system was implemented. Pay 16,000 liras, and you could get your passport two days later. People cynically referred to it as Assad’s idea of a “reform”.

For Tartousians, the preservation of the state and its institutions were essential to their own survival; the preservation of the president, not so much. Indeed, spend enough time in Tartous, and one would get the unmistakable impression that the president himself was increasingly seen more as a liability; what the people of Tartous wanted was a more capable leader to lead the same regime and ensure the preservation of the same state.

As the number of displaced people fleeing to the city increased, the cost of living screamed up, leaving most with no way of coping. Apartments whose rent had been 5,000 liras a month were going for five times that, putting them out of reach of the ordinary Tartousian. Daily, the city experienced traffic jams that rivaled those of the major metropolises. In the eighteen months I was in Tartous, the price of food, taxi fares and cloth more than tripled.

You could also see the demographics of the city change before your very eyes. It would be no exaggeration to say that females outnumbered males to a ratio as high as twenty to one. At any time, one’s favorite shawerma vendor, shopkeeper, vegetable seller or barber might suddenly close shop, having been called up to “perform his national duty”, and serve in the reserves for an undefined period of time. “Talbeno”, they requested him, was a phrase that was dreaded in Homs. It meant the security forces were after a specific person. The same phrase in Tartous meant that a person was being called up into the reserves, to be sent to God knows what front line.

And yet throughout all this, there was never a backlash against the newly arrived displaced persons. A woman could walk in the streets in a niqab without a second thought, in contrast to the stories that were coming out of some of the areas of Syria that hardline Islamist groups had taken over.

Within the ten square kilometer “bubble” that made up the safe areas, life went on as normal. The regime’s security forces didn’t have a single checkpoint set up within the city itself. The only time weapons were fired inside the city was during military funerals, or right after one of Assad’s (mercifully infrequent) speeches or interviews. And the day that the Egyptian army deposed Mohamed Morsi. That party lasted well into the night.

Which is not to say that security in Tartous was lax. Some days, the queue of cars waiting to pass through the checkpoints on the city’s outskirts would stretch for miles. If you were on the run from the regime, Tartous was not the place to hide in. Twice I heard of individuals from my home village being arrested in Tartous (they were later released when it turned out they shared similar names with individuals on the regime’s shit list). My favorite mobile phone shop owner was hauled in by the State Security branch to explain where he got the money for his opulent lifestyle (amazingly, there was never any shortage of the latest iPads and smartphones in Tartous).

I myself was interviewed three times by mukhabarat from the State Security branch during my stay in Tartous. It was standard practice, even before the conflict, for checks to be made on anyone staying long term at hotels. The interviews were conducted in the lobby of whichever hotel I’d happen to be staying at, and were friendly and polite. I was asked a bunch of questions about my family relations, the answers to which I had no doubt whatsoever the agents already knew.

Indeed, during the first interview, the person interviewing me seemed more concerned that I was running away from some vendetta in Homs. “Did someone threaten you back in Homs? Are you running away from some gang?”

No, I was running away from a military occupation. My home neighborhood of Inshaat was being choked by frequent raids and random arrests being conducted every few weeks. In Homs, if I wasn’t  home by 4 pm, my relatives would start collecting ransom money in the expectation that I’d been kidnapped by the shabihas. In Tartous, I’d hear the same shabihas complain at night over coffee about late salaries, long assignments with little leave, and a desire to see the regime “get serious about finishing off the terrorists”.

The shabihas got their wish on August 21st 2013. I woke up to frantic Whatsapp messages from relatives in the Gulf with news of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack.

In a moment, the very atmosphere in Tartous changed. There had always been an undercurrent of tension in the city, as if people somehow knew in their bones that the calm they were enjoying couldn’t possibly last indefinitely. Overnight, Tartous had turned from a safe haven, to ground zero in any NATO attack on the country. I started seeing in my fellow Tartous residents, the same sickening fear and sense of impending doom I’d feel back in Homs, whenever I heard rumors of military buildups.

That Saturday, the 25th of August, was the most nerve racking day I’d experienced since coming to Tartous. People in Tartous were convinced that a NATO attack was all but inevitable, and that a long overdue reckoning was at hand. The chemical weapon attack on Ghouta was just the excuse the “conspiracy” needed to finally finish off what had been started by the “armed groups”. That night, the lobby of the hotel I was staying at turned into something resembling a refugee camp, with families vacating their rooms on the upper floors and instead choosing to spend the night downstairs.

The next day, more than half the hotel staff didn’t show up for work, and the normally bustling commercial street in which the hotel was located was eerily quiet. Most of the hotel’s occupants were Christian families from Aleppo, who had been biding their time until relatives in Europe and North America could arrange visas for them. A lot of these same families decided, screw it, it would be much safer to wait in Beirut.

On August 29th, I was sitting in the lobby when I heard gunfire out on the cornice, with exuberant chants of “We are shabihas, we are shabihas!” OK, a demonstration to demonstrate the city’s defiance and “steadfastness”, I thought to myself.

Actually, it turned out to be a celebration. The British parliament had just voted to reject any involvement in any military action in Syria. Just as suddenly as the atmosphere in Tartous had changed to a city on the edge of a catastrophe on August 21st, the emotional pendulum swung the other way round; the long feared specter of foreign military intervention, the consequences of which Tartous would have borne the brunt of, in one night had had a stake driven through its heart, and buried in a six foot grave.

Tartousians were euphoric, as only someone who has survived a close brush with death can be. The regime had spat in the eyes of the “NATO dogs”, and gotten away with defying the “great powers”.

As the following days and week saw Barack Obama desperately try to squirm his way out of his “red line” commitments to make Assad pay for any chemical attack, many an unflattering remarks were heard in the hotel lobby and cafeterias regarding Obama’s manhood, or lack thereof. The man who was once feared as the embodiment of everything tormenting Syria, in the space of one week become an object of derision and scorn; a bumbling clown who was flailing at the deep end of a swimming pool.

For me, it was a clear indication living in Syria had become untenable. Anyone who remained in Syria could only look forward to increased brutality by a regime that had discovered it had absolutely no consequences to fear. There was now nothing to stop Assad from butchering the population wholesale, and the countries neighboring Syria were not going to keep their borders open indefinitely. In early September, I left Tartous and crossed into Lebanon.

I left behind a city that had sheltered me during eighteen months when the rest of the country was experiencing hell, a city whose populace realized that they were stuck between Assad’s extremists and Al-Qaeda’s, with no way to save the country. A city whose populace did not want to live under the Islamists who have come to dominate the opposition, but who were desperate to preserve the state as it was, lest they become, like so many Palestinians and Iraqis in the region, themselves stateless.

The post “Observations of a Homsi living in Tartous,” by Aboud Dandachi appeared first on Syria Comment.

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New ISIS Leaks Reveal Particulars of al-Qaida Strategy

Syria Comment - 월, 2014-01-13 03:51

by Matthew Barber

A new Twitter account that appeared last month is making waves within the jihadi community and rebel groups of Syria. It has not yet been noticed by the international media, but if the author’s claims are legitimate, it may significantly help to shape our understanding of ISIS.

The author of the @wikibaghdady Twitter account claims to be leaking inside information about the background and activities of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, the most powerful al-Qaida force fighting in Syria). He started posting on December 10, and continues up to today. He presents a cursory sketch of the history of the Islamic State in Iraq (al-Qaida in Iraq), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the background leading up to ISI’s attempt to subsume Nusra within a larger, unified jihadi command, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

The first question that emerges is whether this posted material is authentic or cleverly-composed fiction. If it is the latter, it is very clever indeed. The author doesn’t give information that would identify himself. Did he belong to ISIS/Al-Qaida in Iraq and defect? One thing that seems possible is that the account may take a position sympathetic to Jabhat al-Nusra. The author is ready enough to reveal all information about ISIS, but he never frames Nusra in a negative light. In responses to angry accusations by ISIS members on Twitter that the leaks are spurious, some connected observers have asserted that the author’s knowledge is real and all the material is true. It waits to be seen whether the account represents internal dissatisfaction with ISIS or part of the recently-deepening rift between ISIS and Nusra.

Though not highly detailed, the leaks do present us with some interesting insights into the structure of al-Qaida in Iraq, including protective strategies used to insulate key leadership figures, as well as al-Qaida’s readiness to embrace thievery and extortion to fund their own operations. What is also interesting is the claim that Nusra was created by al-Qaida in Iraq, not because they were serious about fighting the Syrian front, but merely as a measure to preserve their own powerbase in Iraq, which they feared might erode if too many became enthusiastic about participation with the jihad in Syria. Nusra’s fame would then grow to overshadow ISI’s, and the U.S. adding Nusra to the terror list further bolstered their prestige, fueling an eventual competitive clash between the two factions. The author of the leaks also claims that ISI ordered Nusra to attack FSA commanders.

One of the most significant insights that the leaks can provide is the alleged role of a previously-unknown figure, Hajji Bakr, who ostensibly acted as al-Baghdadi’s right-hand, but who in reality seems to have been the real power and mastermind of the group. (For background on al-Baghdadi and al-Julani, the leaders of ISI and Nusra, respectively, see these posts by Pieter van Ostaeyen: 1, 2) Unconfirmed reports have recently claimed that Hajji Bakr has been killed in Tel Raf’at, in Aleppo province, in clashes with other rebels. It’s all a bit odd; no one had ever heard of this person before this twitter account went live, and soon after he is reported dead. His death was reported by some Islamic Front rebels. There is still a question about the existence of this individual and we need more information that can confirm these claims. Following reports of Hajji Bakr’s death, a video parody participating in the online “Hitler meme” appeared online; all the names used in this parody rely heavily on the @wikibaghdady tweets.

We can’t establish the authenticity of the leaks, but as they do appear reasonably credible and likely true, we are posting selected translations of the leaks, below. (While we were preparing this post, al-Akhbar released an article reporting on these leaks.)


The author began his twitter feed (December 10) with a series of prefacing questions that he planned to answer:

The first account to expose the secrets of the Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham organization [ISIS] and who runs it… Who is al-Baghdadi? Have you seen his picture? The names of his council? What are his plans? Wait for us soon…

He tweeted that message several times, tagging well-known anti-ISIS/pro-jihadi figures on twitter, then asked more rhetorical questions:

Why did al-Baghdadi come to Syria?! And when?! Who was the first to welcome him?! Who are the sharia’a legislators who gave fatwas saying bayaa should be given him?! Who is the Iraqi officer that accompanies him?! Soon, here…

Who are the closest people to al-Baghdadi? What are their names?! Who are they who support him from outside, especially from Saudi Arabia?! Who manages the anonymous twitter handlers that support him?! Soon, here…

Where does al-Baghdadi get his money from?! Is [his organization] infiltrated?! And How?! Who gives him the fatwas for killing?! Soon, here…

Who supports al-Baghdadi in Saudi Arabia: who is the former Saudi officer Bandar al-Shaalan?! What is his role in moving and supporting the Daesh movement in Saudi Arabia?! Soon, here…

On December 14 he began to provide answers to the questions he laid out:

We will now start tweeting with Allah’s permission.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a real person but who uses a fake name and title, and everyone around him does the same thing. There’s no member of al-Baghdadi’s council [his inner circle] who uses his family name or real title.

Everyone of al-Baghdadi’s council are 100%  Iraqi; no other nationality is accepted because he doesn’t trust anyone.

The size of al-Baghdadi’s military council increases and decreases between 8 and 13 people.

al-Baghdadi’s military council is led by 3 people from the former Saddam army who belong to the Ba’ath party.

Those three are led by [the chief of the 3 is] Staff Brigadier General Hajji Bakr who was a former officer in the Saddam Baathist army.

Who is Hajji Bakr?! And what is his relationship to al-Baghdadi and when did it start?! That’s what we’ll talk about an hour from now with Allah’s permission.


[Briefly in the meantime,] Who writes under fake, Daesh names?

Here he gives a list of those twitter accounts supposedly corresponding to members of ISIS:

Who is Abu Doujana @almohajer9225

Who is AlHezbr @Alhezbr_

Who is Haqiqat Al Sororia @hnt1433

Who is Qorin Kalash @K_L7

Who is Gharib @kmkmmmsmsm

Who is Salafi from Iraq @abdalrahmaniraq

Who is Al Sarouria Tabor Khames @bmr8000

And the list goes on. We’ll reveal 5 names to you every so often.


1) As we said, al-Baghdadi’s military council is led by 3 [individuals] and those 3 are headed by a former officer in the Baath party named Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr.

2) Colonel Hajji Bakr joined the Islamic State in Iraq when the state was led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. [former ISI leader]

3) Hajji was a military member who offered his military service along with his experience in the Ba’ath army to al-Baghdadi’s organization.

4) Staff Colonel Hajji demonstrated his commitment and his repentance from the Ba’ath party and he is considered the most important military commander close to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

5) There was no previous acquaintance between the two; he was recommended to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs al-Muhajir by middlemen and he was accepted under the condition that he connect them with leadership [commanders] and useful information in the army.

6) The Staff Colonel was brought close to the leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq as a military advisor for Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs al-Muhajer.

7) The Colonel Hajji Bakr provided the leadership with military information and plans and connected them with former military commanders from the remnants of the Ba’ath party.

8) Within a few weeks, Colonel Hajji Bakr became closer and closer to the leadership of Dawlat al-Iraq because he was a military treasure and an important commander.

9) The strange thing about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Da’esh today, is that he wasn’t present in the command council of the previous leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi [he didn't join the council] until [around the time of] the death of the latter.

10) Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was a member in the organization of Islamic state of Iraq outside of the organization’s command. He resided in western Iraq, specifically in Al-Anbar Province, specifically in Falujah.

11) He had been in the command as an adviser for al-Baghdadi and Al-Muhajer for nearly 50 days when the catastrophe hit the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs were targeted with a shell and they all died.

12) Colonel Hajji Bakr was not harmed but the top commanders of the Islamic State were all killed at the same time and all the command was vacant [وكلمت حجي تقدير الجميع - ?]

13) There is another Colonel who is a friend of Hajji Bakr named Mazen Nahir and he often visits Hajji Bakr. He went with him to Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi one time as a collaborator with the organization and an unofficial member.

14) This other colonel Mazen Nahir is regarded by Hajji Baker as a trustworthy agent who [can be used] to inflitrate the regime; [therefore] he doesn’t like to appear in the organization’s leadership or its councils.

15) After the assassination of the leaders, colonel Hajji Bakr told people close to him and from the leadership that he gave bayaa to a new emir to lead the Islamic state of Iraq and that being Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

16) The news was a surprise to everyone! In another meeting soon we’ll talk about the Islamic state of Iraq under the leadership of the new emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his constant companion Colonel Hajji.

Addendum: Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the companion of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is Egyptian and his name is Abd Al-Moneem Izz Al-Din Badawi. He had two other nicknames before he joined al-Baghdadi: 1. Abu Ayub 2. Abu Hafs

The next meeting with deal with the new commander of the Iraq State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the real engine behind his state: Colonel Hajji Bakr

December 15

The new era of Dawlat al-Iraq under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr – Part 1

1) When Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested the emirship to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a private meeting in the first hours after the death of the leader al-Baghdadi (the first) and al-Muhajir, Abu Bakr expressed concerns.

2) Colonel Hajji Bakr gave assurances and said that he would provide support and assistance from the background; this is what al-Baghdadi has confided to those close to him since the begining of his leadership.

3) A new era began for the Islamic State in Iraq with two leaders, the leader in the front, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the leader in the shadow, Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr.

4) ISI began to work amid concerns about the presence of an emergent figure, Haji Bakr, who is very close to and the right-hand man of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

5) The image of the clean-shaven Colonel next to the leader disturbed the members of the State and both leaders, al-Baghdadi and the Colonel, noticed it.

6) The Colonel started growing his beard and changing his appearance and the way that he talked in the first weeks, and no member was allowed to question anything about the leadership,

7) because questions plant doubts and planting doubts is breaking the ranks which might permit blood and assassination in one way or another.

8) Nobody in the Dawlah organisation knew the Colonel 2 months prior to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi taking the leadership.

9) Colonel Hajji Bakr started meeting privately with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to restructure the new State and the first agreement was to give attention to two apparatuses:

10) An apparatus that could protect the cohesion of the State and protect it from the inside through security units that eliminate any threat to the entity and another apparatus that guarantees financial resources.

11) First, the security apparatus: the first secuirty steps were taken by the Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr to protect the leader in the front, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, by keeping him from meeting the leadership of the subdivisions,

12) so as not to affect him with influence or guidance [so that other commanders wouldn't influence al-Baghdadi]. And the emir’s orders came through the leaders of the Shura Council, which was formed by the Colonel later.

13) Colonel Hajji Bakr became a permanant fixture next to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and doesn’t leave his side anywhere, like a personal minister, but in reality he is the leader in the shadow.

14) The second step in creating the security apparatus was to set up security detachments that carry out eliminations and secret assassinations. It was created by the Colonel with 20 people in the beginning.

15) It then reached 100 people; these detachments take their orders directly from the leadership and do not follow any regional emir.

16) These people were selected by the Colonel. Most of them come from his former occupation within the desolved Iraqi Baathist regime and are highly trustworthy.

17) Their mission is to secretly eliminate anybody showing signs of dissent or disobedience: whether members of ISI or even field commanders or sharia legislators.

18 ) So that assassination orders don’t go through the chain of command of the men of ISI and then become leaked, the Colonel appointed these detatchements to an officer and a former colleague of his named Abu Safwan Rifai.

19) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi started to feel very safe and was grateful to Colonel Hajji Bakr and he started seeing him an as indispensable man,

20) to the point that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi felt that he couldn’t remain in control without Colonel Hajji Bakr because, with his military background, he plays the role of both the defense and intelligence ministries.

21) Second, the financial resources: the State of Iraq with the leadership of the former commander Abu Omar al-Baghdadi made great strides in bringing in high financial resources based on the following:

22) First: Confiscating the money of all Shi’a, Christian, and Druze minorities, and all regime agents, even if they were Sunnis.

23) Second: The takeover of oil resources and generation, power and oil stations, government factories, and any governmental financial resources because [they consider] its money as owned by Dawlat al-Iraq.

24) Third: Any companies that have contracts with the al-Maliki regime are agents [of the regime], whether a maintenance or cleaning company, or fuel stations, or telecommunications companies.

25) And if something can’t be seized completely, the owner receives a death threat or a threat to blow up the company or the store, if monthly taxes are not paid and the money gets paid in fear for his [the owner's] property.

26) Fourth: Placing checkpoints on long roads to take money from commerical trucks, as high as $200 in some cases

27) Under the leadership of Abu Bakr and the Colonel, Dawlat al-Iraq came to possess very large and very alluring amounts of money that increased salaries and rewards and military operations.

28) With the increase in financial stature and a large income, the love of joining al-Dawla grew and the Iraqis were the most loyal.

29) A financial command was put in place for Dawlat al-Iraq and oddly, this command was handled by Colonel Hajji Bakr himself along with his military command, and he positioned 5 other managers with him.

30) During this period, the colonel put together advisers and called them the Shura council of Dawlat al-Iraq. They were between 7 to 13 [members] with no non-Iraqi among them, out of fear of a breach.

31) I will leave Dawlat al-Iraq for now and move to:

32) What is the origin of the idea for Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham; who made the suggestion; al-Baghdadi’s entry to Syria 3 weeks before its announcement; and where did he live

33) Why was the announcement rushed? [This is in reference to the public declaration of an Islamic state in April of last year that involved Ayman al-Zawahiri and which Nusra felt was premature, earlier post here] And why did he chose to live by the Turkish borders before the announcement?! And why did he choose to live in a portable room made of steel not too far from refugees?!

34) And what is the threat that he sent to Abu Mohammed al-Joulani [leader of Jabhat al-Nusra] before the al-Dawla announcement? What did he ask of al-Joulani to do, either nullify Jabhat al-Nusra or dissolve it?!

35) There’s a picture of al-Baghdadi with his advisers taken at the Turkish borders a week before the announcement of Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham and the dissolution of Jabhat al-Nusra that we will publish later if it helps you.

We’ll answer all these questions in a coming meeting….

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n1sefj [the author compiled his own tweets here]


December 17

1) The Syria revolution started and the attention of the members of Dawlat al-Iraq turned to Syria, especially among the non-Iraqis and the Syrians.

2) Colonel Hajji Bakr feared losing members of Dawlat al-Iraq [to Syria] which would cause a weakening and fracturing in the State and an excuse

3) for some members and commanders within Dawlat al-Iraq, who were looking to defect, to use Syria as their escape door from al-Dawlat.

4) Colonel Hajji Bakr advised Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to instruct all the commanders not to think about going to Syria and that anybody that went would be considered a defector and an outsider.

5) Indeed, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did deliver that instruction, loaded with the threat, the apparent reason [stated in his instructions] being that the situation is not clear and that they should hold off on Syria.

6) There was a boiling excitement within Dawlat al-Iraq which pointed toward possibilites of defections and leaks and flight, especially among non-Iraqis, to Syria, out of control.

7) Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested the formation of a group of non-Iraqis that would go to Syria under the command of a Syrian, in order to block any Iraqi commander in al-Dawla from going.

8) He saw that this would protect Dawlat al-Iraq from defections and the new command in Sham would bring in non-Iraqis and attract new members from outside.

9) Jabhat al-Nusra was established and started to grow under the leadership of Abu Mohammed al-Joulani until its name grew and swelled and the name of Abu Mohammed al-Joulani rose up internationally.

10) Many mujahidin from the Gulf, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Europe, and Yemen started flocking to Jabhat al-Nusra in great and frightening numbers.

11) This surge in numbers became alarming to the Colonel and al-Baghdadi because there was no loyalty to Dawla al-Iraq or to al-Baghdadi within the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra.

12) Colonel Hajji Bakr was afraid of the growth of Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Joulani which might threaten Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Dawlat al-Iraq [due to their own] absence from the field.

13) Hajji Bakr compelled al-Baghdadi to order al-Joulani to annouce with an audio clip that Jabhat al-Nusra officially belongs to Dawlat al-Iraq under the command of al-Baghdadi.

14) al-Joulani promised to think and ponder the issue. He took days without releasing anything. al-Baghdadi sent him a rebuke and censure and he [al-Joulani] promised to think and consult those who are around him from mujahidin and scholars.

15) al-Joulani sent a letter to al-Baghdadi that said that the annoucement would not be in the interest of the revolution, in the opinion of everyone in his Shura council.

16) The Colonel was outraged and al-Baghdadi was angry and they sent spies in the disguise of mujahidin and Shura from al-Baghdadi’s branch, to be close to al-Joulani and monitor his movements.

17) Out of fear of any [unwanted] orders or [an order to] merge with another group, al-Joulani was very worried and started limiting his movement and actions, and would praise Dawlat al-Iraq and al-Baghdadi to those that sit with him.

18) [He made a pretense of complimenting al-Baghdadi as a practice of] taqiya, fearing that mistrust in him would grow and that he would get assassinated. His worries grew and his fear for his safety grew very strong.

19) America started droning on about adding Jabhat al-Nusra to the terrorist list and al-Joulani to the top wanted list.

20) It was an opportunity for al-Joulani to hide from the people sent by al-Baghdadi to monitor him and to isolate himself in a closed command circle of people of his choosing.

21) America adding Jabhal al-Nusra to the terror list and al-Joulani to the most wanted list in Syria increased the fears and worries of Colonel Hajji Bakr and al-Baghdadi about Nusra competing with al-Dawla.

22) Abu Mohammed al-Joulani was a rational politician trying to walk a middle ground to reassure al-Baghdadi.

23) But the fears of the Colonel and al-Baghdadi outweighed al-Joulani’s assurances, which made the Colonel consider advanced steps to merge Jabhat al-Nusra with Dawlat al-Iraq.

24) Colonel Hajji Bakr advised al-Baghadi to direct al-Joulani to carry out a military operation against the commanders of the Free Army during any meeting in Turkey that would contain any possible targets from among commanders of the Free Army [in other words, to hit any FSA commander they could reach]

25) And al-Baghdadi did indeed send an urgent letter to al-Joulani ordering him to carry out two bombings, one in Turkey and one in Syria, the two of which would target gatherings of Free Army commanders.

26) And this was justified as the targeting of future Sahwat, agents of America, and eliminating them before they built themselves up in al-Sham and their popularity became strong.

27) Commanders of the Free Army were specified for assassination by name (we withhold the names) [author's words, not SC] and the orders were received by the command of Jabhat al-Nusra like a lightning strike [i.e., the order was too much to handle].

28) A meeting of the Jabhat al-Nusra Shura was convened and the order was rejected in the meeting. A detailed reply was sent to al-Baghdadi that Nusra with its Shura had rejected it.

29) It justified the rejection on the basis that they’re Muslin and because Turkey cannot be targeted because it is a very sensitive country and a big supporter of the revolution and it would disrupt the march of Jihad,

30) and that the Jabhat with its councils sees the reality up close. The anger of the Colonel Haji Bakr and al-Baghdadi grew and they saw in this an explicit rejection of obedience (الطاعة).

31) The Colonel and al-Baghadi sent a strongly-worded letter and gave al-Joulani two choices: either execute the orders or Jabhat al-Nusra will be dissolved and replaced with the creation of a new entity.

32) al-Joulani stopped replying and the Colonel and al-Baghdadi waited for a reply and the wait was long. al-Joulani appeared reasonable in ignoring them because the sweetest of the two choices was sour.

33) al-Baghdadi sent a messenger to meet with al-Joulani and hear from him and al-Joulani tried to apologize for not meeting because of his situation and the messenger waited for a long time and went back.

34) al-Baghdadi felt the real danger, that Jabhat al-Nusra saw itself as a bigger entity than him and outside of his control, so the Colonel suggested to al-Baghdadi what follows:

35) To send Iraqi subdivision commanders  to meet the subdivisions of Jabhat al-Nusra and test their pulse and suggest the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra and see how receptive they are to al-Baghadi and how popular he is.

36) And indeed that happened; the Colonel and al Baghdadi sent tens of Iraqis to Jabhat al-Nusra and they entered the ranks of the mujahidin for 2 weeks.

37) And they met with the mujahidin and a few influentional people in Jabhat al-Nusra and especially the khalijis [Gulfers] and particularly the Saudis. The feedback was mixed between support and rejection.

38) There was a large group that supported the ambition and general Islamic dream of a state that stretched from Iraq to Sham under one leadership.

39) And the most supportive group were the new members in the Jabhat and those who had a history of conflict with the command of the Jabhat, in cases where the Jabhat would prevent the declaration of takfeer [applying the theological category of "infidel" to enemies] and would punish for doing so.

40) There were those who felt supressed by Jabhat al-Nusra for expressing inflamatory and takfiri feelings or who were punished for doing so by the Jabhat and who would love any entity that would give them more freedom.

41) Nusra imprisoned, punished, and confiscated the weapons of its memembers who propagated takfeer.

42) Of those imprisoned by Nusra were Abu Ritaj al-Sussi and Abo Omar al-Abadi (Tunisians), Abu DamDam al-Husni and Abu al-Hajaj al-Nuri (Moroccans), and Abu Bakr Omar al-Qahtani (Saudi).

43) The Saudi Omar al-Qahtani was punished by Jabhat al-Nusra who took away his weapons and imprisoned him 3 times on account of spreading a takfiri and inflammatory ideology against those who opposed Jabhat al-Nusra.

44) This group that was punished by Jabhat al-Nusra and people like them were the core of support for al-Baghdadi’s inclinations, which found an echo inside Nusra.

45) This last Saudi became a general Sharia councilor in Dawlat al-Baghdadi later on and was the first to defect when al-Baghdadi annouced the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra.

46) Two weeks later, the 10 spies of al-Baghdadi returned to Iraq with a foggy image about the acceptance of members of Jabhat al-Nusra were it to be dissolved [and folded into] a one-state entity.

47) Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested to al-Baghdadi not to make any decision to dissolve Jabhat al-Nusra and that the Colonel and al-Baghdadi himself travel and see the reality on the ground,

48) because the announcement of Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham with Baghdadi not in Syria wouldn’t give it flare and [attract] many followers, since the people would wish to see al-Baghdadi and that his presence is effective.

49) al-Baghdadi accepted the Colonel’s idea and sent those who would arrange a place of residence and prepare a secure and secret place. He was called and a safe place near the Turkish border was selected.

50) The departure of al-Baghdadi from Iraqi was arranged by his personal bodyguard and Colonel Rokn Hajji Bakr and only three others.

51) What did al-Baghdadi do after entering Turkey, what location did he live in exactly, and how many days did he stay before announcing the dissolvement of Jabhat al Nusra?!

52) What did he do before the announcement?! Did Julani known about the arrival of Baghdadi or not?! And who did al-Baghdadi meet before the announcement?!

When did Baghdadi enter Syria? Where did he live? Who did he meet? And how was the annoucement of the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra made? And what role did Saudi officer Bandar Shaalan play in creating Baghdadi’s new state?


December 18

1) Baghdadi and Hajji Baker and their company entered Syria 3 weeks before the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra. They headed directly to the residence quarter at the Turkish border.

2) The preparations were as follows: Portable metal rooms were reserved in a place not too far from a Syrian refugee camp that was more secure for him and away from prying eyes.

3) Baghdadi and his company lived in these rooms on the basis that Baghdadi would meet Jabhat al-Nusra’s subdivisions’ commanders and make them feel like they’re dependents of his.


The account continues at great length and translating it is time consuming. We’ll stop translating for now, but we may provide more translation later, depending on how useful readers find it to be.

The post New ISIS Leaks Reveal Particulars of al-Qaida Strategy appeared first on Syria Comment.

카테고리: 시리아

The Battle between ISIS and Syria’s Rebel Militias

Syria Comment - 일, 2014-01-05 03:49

The Battle between ISIS and Syria’s Rebel Militias
by Joshua Landis (with invaluable help from A.J.N.)
For Syria Comment, January 4, 2014

A major confrontation has broken out between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Syria’s other rebel militias. It is being led by two newly organized coalitions, called Jaysh al Mujahidiin and the Front of Syrian Revolutionaries. But many other militias have also declared war on ISIS, insisting that it must abandon its attempt to establish a state and that its fighters must either integrate into Syria’s other militias or quit the country altogether. Fighting between Free Syria Army militias and ISIS has been widespread in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib.

Clashes & protests that have taken place against ISIS by January 3, 2014

The reasons given for the current war on ISIS are numerous as are the reactions of different segments of Syrian society.

The Syrian opposition Coalition claims that ISIS is a regime inspired organization, designed to undermine the principles of the revolution and pervert the meaning of Islam. Chants of “Assad and D`ASH are one” have been repeated at many recent demonstrations against ISIS. (DA`ASH is the acronym in Arabic for ISIS or Dawla al-Islamiyya fi-l `Iraq wa Sham). The Coalition told AP that:

The Syrian National Coalition believes that ISIS is closely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests of the clique of President Bashar Al-Assad…. The murder of Syrians by this group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind their creation, their objectives, and the agendas they service, which is confirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions that are hostile to the Syrian revolution.

Hassan Aboud

Hassan Aboud of the Islamic Front and head of its political bureau blamed ISIS for bringing this war on itself. Hassan Aboud explained in an interview with aljazerra:

All this fighting [between rebel forces] will only weaken the revolution and help the regime. We, in the Islamic Front,  did not take the decision to fight ISIS, but whoever did it had his reasons because of the way ISIS treats other groups. ISIS denies reality, refusing to recognize that it is simply  another group. It refuses to go to independent courts; it attacked many other groups, stole their weapons, occupied their headquarters, and arbitrarily apprehended numerous activists, journalists and rebels. It has been torturing its prisoners. These transgressions accumulated, and people got fed up with ISIS. Some of those people have attacked ISIS’s positions, but ISIS was first to attack in other places, bringing this on itself. Regime supporters are naturally overjoyed at seeing their opponents fighting among themselves, underlined by this cartoon.

Regime soldier telephones for assistance.
He then replies to interlocutor: “No, not ammo, send metteh and sunflower seeds. We are watching the Free Syrian Army and Da`ash.”

A long series of ISIS attacks on competing rebel militias, preceded this war, but for the Islamic Front and Hassan Aboud in particular, the spark was the kidnapping and killing of Dr. Hussein al-Suleiman, a physician who was also a commander in the Ahrar al-Sham militia. Dr. Hussein was put in charge of the Bab al-Hawa border-crossing after Ahrar al-Sham troops, fighting under the name of the Islamic Front, took control of it in December 2013. Photos of his mutilated body, showing that an ear had been cut off, teeth knocked out, along with the top of his head shot off, went viral on twitter, provoking widespread horror and outrage.

ISIS had been trying to take control of the supply lines from Turkey to the rebel groups in Aleppo and the surrounding towns by capturing the towns between the Bab al-Hawa crossing and Aleppo. This effort came to a crescendo with the ISIS raid on the Supreme Millitary Command’s Head Quarters in Bab al-Hawa earlier this month, when Chief of Staff Suleiman Idriss was expelled from Syria. Islamic Front militias swept to the rescue, when they were called by Idriss to help. According to Free Syria Army officers who were at the headquarters, Ahrar al-Sham soldiers took the SMC HQ at Bab al-Hawa by force in the name of saving it from ISIS, plundering FSA weapons, cloths and personal belonging. The showdown at Bab al-Hawa, the strategic boarder-town with Turkey, set all parties on a collision course that exploded in the last couple of days, following the ISIS killing of I.F.’s Dr Hussein and Bab al-Hawa commander.

Hassan Aboud has been trying to moderate and limit the confrontation between rebel groups. During his al-Jazeera interview, he added

We tell our brothers on the inside that this is not a fight against Islamists because Islamisms are on both sides. We ask that our muhajiriin brothers be treated well and not harmed. We tell our brethren the muhajiriin and ISIS to fear God when dealing with the people you came to liberate. Aren’t they the ones that liberated Maskana and Atarib and the western countryside of Aleppo? Don’t live in the illusion that all people against you are sahwa (reference to the Iraqi “Awakening” movement that was armed by the US government. Sunni tribes that defeated al-Qaida in Iraq.) ….The infighting serves no one; oppressing fellow rebels serves no one save the regime, thus we call on the groups on the ground to keep their unity and not to get bogged down in internal infighting especially before Geneva II. Because we see that the Syrian situation is being portrayed as a civil war that has no solution but a political one. This is a portrayal that serves the regime and takes us back to the situation that existed before the Syrian revolution broke out, but with a destroyed infrastructure and a population made homeless…… You are fighting the regime. So is ISIS. How will in-fighting effect the future of groups fighting the regime? We would like these [ISIS] brothers to join their brethren in the Syrian revolution. We see them as nothing but another group. They see themselves as a State. They need to drop this illusion that they have come to believe as an established fact. It causes them to treat allies as opponents. Nusra doesn’t differ in ideology and authority from ISIS, but they have been able to work hand in glove with the other militias because they have followed the rule that no objective has a higher priority then pushing back the enemy. So we call on ISIS to follow Nusra’s lead. In this way, we will save the blood of our fighters and bullets of our guns for the front lines. Aboud makes clear that he views ISIS as a potential partner. He is careful to pave the way for its return to the fold. He explains that ISIS’s goal of an Islamic state is not substantially different than that of the Islamic Front or the many other militias fighting in Syria. Where it does differ is that it sees itself as the unique heir to the state and has begun setting up mini-states wherever it rules, pushing aside fellow militias and refusing to submit to the common Sharia court system that the Islamic Front militias and Nusra have constructed and administer together. He points out how Nusra has agreed to cooperate and defer questions of permanent state-building and ultimate governance until after Assad is defeated. This is a way of putting aside what may be fairly substantial ideological differences between militias despite their common goal of an Islamic state and perhaps more importantly, it defers any contest over ultimate executive power. The Emir of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, hopes to assert himself as the Caliph and force the others to give him bay`a or allegiance.  He has also imposed rather draconian sharia punishments and forbidden smoking, music, and other simple pleasures that many find intolerable.  This underlines the great problems that remain for the militias in determining what form and style an eventual Islamic state will take, not to mention who among the militia leaders will ultimately rule. Islamic Front leaders have been very skilful about finessing questions on governance. The standard answer they give to those who ask what kind of government they intend is that they will call on an assembly of Ulema to decide on the correct form of Islamic government when the time comes. Maps

Map of ISIS controlled towns before January 3, 2014

Map of ISIS controlled versus FSA controlled towns in Northern Syria following January 3, 2014


Timeline of the events of the month.
  • December 7, ISIS tries to attack the SMC HQ at Bab al Hawa, the SMC calls on the Islamic Front to help defend the HQ, after which Ahrar al Sham raided the SMC HQ itself and took control of it.
  • December 15, ISIS kidnaps Brigadier General Ahmad Birri, head of Hama military council in Saraqib, Idlib
  • December 9, ISIS storms and captures the liberated village of Haram in Idlib countryside, promising to punish criminals
  • December 10, ISIS raids and captures Maskana after a dispute with Ahrar al Sham, killing and arresting a number of Ahrar commanders including Bab al Hawa crossing supervisor Dr. Husayn al Sulayman, Abu Rayan.
  • December 15, After failed negotiations, it was made public that the ISIS kidnapped the leader of the Hanano brigade Mohamad Istanboli on his way back from the Homs frontline. Istanboli was on his way to his hometown of Salqin, Idlib
  • December 15, ISIS kidnaps Brigadier General Ahmad Birri, head of Hama military council in Saraqib, Idlib
  • December 18, Kidnapping of two Atareb FSA commanders
  • December 25, ISIS attacks Shada offices in Al Bustan neighborhood in Aleppo after Adnan Al Arour accused them of treason
  • December 27, ISIS emir in Bab al Hawa reaches deal with Islamic Front and SMS to leave the area
  • December 28, ISIS stormed Kafranbel and raided the local council, the local media office and the offices of local radio station, Radio Fresh. ISIS accuses the activists of Kafranbel of being agents of the west. Radio fresh had  interviewed US ambassador Robert Ford on November 28.
  • December 29, ISIS storms Sarmada and raises their flag declaring control of the village from the Islamic front and arresting its members. The Islamic front increases its checkpoint on the Sarmada-Bab al Hawa crossing to keep the ISIS from reaching it. ISIS also raided SMC headquarters near the town and confiscated US aid including helmets and Froot Loops
  • December 31, ISIS hands over the body of Ahrar commander Abu Rayan and the body shows marks of brutal torture and one of the ear was cut off. ISIS also stormed an Islamic Front checkpoint 4 KM away from Bab al Hawa crossing, arrested the IF fighters(Ahrar and Suqor) and start massing a big force at the checkpoint. The situation was resolved and ISIS withdrew from the checkpoint after an agreement betweem the two groups. The agreement was the result of negotiations lead by Saudi jihadi preacher Abdallah Al Muhysini, who has very close ties to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, runs the organisation Preachers of Jihad andhas a verified account on Twitter with 250,000 followers. ISIS also released the head of Hama military council, Brigadier general Ahmad Birri
  • January 2nd, Atareb FSA fight Ali Obeid found dead after he was kidnapped the previous day


Most interesting videos Article in al-Mudun,

“Syria: 2014 revolution against Daesh and Assad,” by Fady al Dahook, gives an overview of the situation in Idlib. He provides detail and a timeline for yesterday’s events making it worth translating at some length.

Kafranbel aliens

The people of Kafranbel did not hide their faces when they protested and drew posters against the Syrian president Bashar al Assad. But the weird irony is that today they raise their banners and posters against “Daesh”, the new tyranny that raided them few days ago, while covering their faces.

The Kafranbel paintings in the Friday of “Marty Abo Rayan, victim of treachery” was the most daring of all, when they named one of their posters after the sc-fi horror movie series “Aliens” and drew the monster with “Da`ash” as a caption to underline that they considered ISIS to be alien invaders.

Kafranbel story with the organisation of “al Dawla al Islamiya in al-Iraq w al-Sham” raised voices against the latter. So did the murder incident of doctor Hussain al Sulayman, who died in the prisons of the organisation, under torture. All of this provoked the activists to retaliate by giving the Friday protest an anti “al Dawla” name, which they succeeded in doing, by naming the Friday after Dr. Hussain al Sulayman. a.k.a. Abu Rayan…

Battles with “Daash” are on-going. The result of these clashes so far is that Free Army units in Hazano, a town in the Aleppo countryside, have killed ten ISIS members. 114 ISIS members have been seized following clashes with “Jaysh al Mujahedin” in al Atareb, Qubtan al-Jabal, Aljina, Ibin, Kafr Nuran – all towns of the Aleppo countryside. The ISIS Emir was arrested in al-Atareb. The Free army was also able to capture the villages of Hayan and Bayanun in the Aleppo countryside. The Islamic Front arrested 30 ISIS members in Aleppo’s northern countryside, the majority of whom are Chechen, Caucasian, Tunisian, Libyan and Iraqi. The IF has also besieged the city of al-Dana in the countryside of Idlib.

The battles in Aleppo started in al Atareb, when “Daesh” tried to storm the village after executing the leader of the “Shouhada al Atareb” brigade on Thursday, and it spread in the early hours of Friday after clashes between “al Dawla” and “Jaysh al Mojahidin” who declared its formation 24 hours prior in Aleppo, and its includes “Tajamu Fustaqm Kul Umrat, the 19th Division, Kataib Nour al-Din al-Zinki, Harakat al-Nour al-Islamiya
and other groups”

The battle front then expanded to include all the areas under opposition control in Aleppo and reached Idlib.

In the midst of these battles, “Daesh” didn’t stand cross handed, it arrested 20 Liwaa al Tawhid members at one of its checkpoint. According to “Orient TV”, members of the organization raided field hospitals and arrested a number of wounded in the city of Saraqeb in Idlib countryside, while protests spread across the areas of Idlib and Aleppo, chanting the slogan “Free Army forever stomping Daesh and Assad”

The general coordinator of the “Shuhadaa Badr” brigade, which is part of the Aleppo military council, Mohamad Rafei al Raya, said in an interview with “al Mudun” and he’s close to the battlefront with “Daash” in Aleppo, that the Free army was able to arrest 15 members of “al Dawla” in al Atareb and 7 in the village of Hayaa in Idlib countryside. He explained the reasons behidn grudge against “al Dawla”, saying that a cold war has been ongoing for the last 6 months between the Free Syrian Army groups in Aleppo and the organisation, but it wasn’t big enough to open a battle front with them, and he adds that they are currently fighting with the ISIS in the Castelo area after ISIS tried to break a protest that came out against them.

He adds “I swear by allah, Even if you were in Germany and I told you what they’ve been doing, you would have came here to fight them, they’re assaulting christians and Ismailis, they went to Latakia countryside and killed the people and kidnapped women and children….I carried arms and i rose up to fight the armed man that wants to kill me and my family, i did not rise up to kill children and innocent people and its like they’re scaring the world about this revolution so that the world forsakes it and sees it as a sectarian struggle.”

He continues “We’ve been under siege for two and a half months in the youth dormitories and Ashrafieh. They stole the flour. Any backup that is sent to us will be blocked from entering. Assad is in front of us and ISIS behind us.

In Idlib, explained Abu Iyad, a commander of one of the Kataib, in an interview with “al Mudun”, the situation is under the control of the Free army. And he adds “Daash headquarters in Jabal al Zawia are under control completely, and now the Kateb are preparing to seize the rest of the headquarters belonging to them(ISIS). Abu Iyad explains this step in Idlib as a precautionary measure to protect the Aleppo front and eliminate the possibility of any escalation from the organisation side in Idlib.

And in talking about extremist, we have to pass by Jabhat al Nusra, the arm of Al Qaeda in Syria. The general coordinator of the “Shohadaa Badr” brigade, which is part of the Aleppo military council says: “I speak the truth and I don’t cover up for anyone, we haven’t seen anything bad from the front, contrary to “Daash”, they’re facing the regime in front of everyone, but even with that, we still fear them because of their mystery and our ignorance of their goals”

And he swears, “I swear by Allah that I will kill anyone who comes close to tries to harm this revolution even if he be my father… I have six brothers who are all injured and haven’t left the battlefront for a single day, Daash didn’t do anything for us. It was working with the regime and against the revolution. Anyone that does what they have done will meet the same fate.

Statement of Front of Syrian Revolutionaries (Jamaal Maarouf)

In following the commands of God Almighty and our responsibilities toward the revolutionary jihadi work to overthrow the oppressive regime, we, the Front of Syrian Revolutionaries, care for the blood of the martyrs and rebel accomplishments. The leadership of the Syrian Revolutionary Front has convened its various militia groups in an effort to unite the revolutionary forces and face the criminal regime that strives to kill our people and families across this land. We will hasten the fall of the criminal regime and lift the oppression off of our people.

The organization known as al Dawlat al-Islamiya fi-l-Iraq w-al-Sham hasn’t stopped distracting the rebel mujahidin in side battles and clashes, the purpose of which is to drain our powers and to target the icons of the revolution and the activists and the officers, in a direct service to the regime.
And from their bad deeds against the revolution:
1- Raiding the rebels operation room in the vicinity of Brigade 93 in Ain Issa a short time before the storming of the brigade. And arresting the leaders of the operation and stealing the weapons and ammunition and 2 tanks that belonged to us.
2- Raiding headquarters that belonged to our front in the Haram area and imprisoning 30 mujahedin and stealing their weapons
3- Raiding the headquarters of division 13 in Kafr Nabl and stealing their weapons and ammunition
4- Raiding the media office in Kafranbel and arrested the journalists.
5- Attacking the rebels in Maskana city and stealing their weapons and ammunition and killing a number of them.
6- Arresting the middle man, the mujahid Dr. Abu Rayan and torturing him to death and handing his deformed body to his family.
7- Arresting the officers, brigadier general head of military council in Hama Ahmad Birri, and officer Ahmad Saoud leader of the 13th Division.
8- Raiding the headquarter of the Haya al Sharia and the revolutionary police station in Sarmada and arrested a number of members
9- Setting up checkpoints along the road leading to the Turkish border in the liberated areas, that attack the rebels and civilians and confiscated their weapons and cars
10- Refusing to use Allah Sharia to decide in conflicts with the other factions
11- And last, the seige of a number of villages in Aleppo western countryside and the liberated 46th Regiment which includes the 9th division and Liwaa Saq Qureish both of which belong to our front, in an attempt to raid it. These are only a few of the many violations that ISIS has committed against the revolution and the rebels.
We in the Syrian Revolutionary Front consider these acts to be an attack against us and the aims of the Syrian revolution. Thus we:
1- Ask the Syrian members of Daash to hand over their weapons to the nearest Syria Rebel Front headquarter and to declare themselves innocent of Daash.
2- We ask our Muhajirin brothers who are being fooled to join the Syria Rebel Front or any other group belonging to the Free Syrian Army. They should bring their weapons or hand them over to us and leave the country within 24 hours.

We in the Syrian Revolutionary Front stand firm and will strike with a hand of steal anybody that blocks the movement of the Syrian Revolution. (victories with Allah’s help)

The Syrian Revolutionary Front says it will turn their backs on Geneva II unless Bashar al-Asad leaves and Geneva I is applied.

The Jaysh al-Mujahidiin statement, translated by Dabbour on the syria civil war subreddit

(Jaysh al Mujahidiin is a coalition of 7 Islamist factions that announced its formation on January 2, 2014. It claims to be the biggest coalition in Aleppo. It includes: Kata’ib Nour el-Din al- Zinki al-Islamiya, Liwaa al Ansar, Tajamu Fastakim kama amrt, Liwaa al-Huriya al-Islami (idlib), Liwaa Amjad al-Islam. Liwaa Ansar al-Khilafa, Harakat al-Nour al-Islamiya, Liwaa Jund al-Haramin

As the honest Mujaheddin are fighting on the fronts of Syria against the Nusayri (Alawite) army which is supported by the militias of Iran and Hizbollah, ISIS is busy sewing corruption in the land and spreading fitna (civil strife). It threatens the security and stability of the freed areas and wastes the blood of the mujaheddin and pronounces them “infidels.” It kicks them and their families out of the areas that they paid dearly to free; it strips the factories of their contents, stops them from working, and expels families from their homes into the cold, cruel outdoors. They steal civilian cars and their property with dumb excuses and they abduct military and media leaders, kill them and torture them in their prisons. They refuse to abide by God’s law and the ways of his Prophet. They sought to break into the city of Alanareb with canon and tanks.

Abiding by God’s word in his verse: “Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.” (http://quran.com/22/39)

We, the army of Mujaheddin announce that in defense of ourselves, our honor, our money and our land, we declare war on ISIS so long as it refuses to obey God’s law until which time it dissolves and its members join other military groups or they leave their weapons and quite Syria.

These militias that belong to Jaysh al-Mujahidin also signed Statement #1 of the Islamic Bloc back in September along with other groups of the Islamic Front and Nusra

Kataeb Nour el Din Al Zinki al Islamiya
Liwaa al Ansar
Tajamo Fastakim kama amrt
Harakat Al Nour al Islamiya

The Islamic Front Statement, translated by Refikoglu on the Syria civil war

While the regime is continually attacking South and East of Aleppo and killing its inhabitants, ISIS came to fight some groups in the West of Aleppo in Brigade 46 area. And we direct this statement to ISIS to stop the fighting immediately and withdraw from that area and return all items taken wrongfully and to submit to the Law of Allah by allowing the Shariah Court to settle this conflict and we would like to remind them(ISIS) that they are fighting the people who liberated Atareb and Aleppo countryside. And we would like to remind our brothers who are at the front not to be distracted for whatever reason, because that will be the situation that the Regime wants.


See Juan Cole’s “Iraq’s Sunni Civil War,” for excellent analysis of what is happening with ISIS in Anbar Provence

The attempt launched earlier this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) to take and hold city quarters in Falluja, Ramadi and Khalidiya in al-Anbar province has provoked an enormous political crisis in Iraq….

NYT: Qaeda-Linked Insurgents Clash With Other Rebels in Syria, as Schism Grows

The backlash in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria came as the group’s fighters in neighboring Iraq were battling an alliance of Iraqi security forces and local tribal leaders in Anbar Province, which borders Syria and has been an incubator of Sunni extremism in both countries….

I think harakat al nour al islamia was part Ahrar al sham and if i recall correctly, the ahrar guy that was mistakenly beheaded by ISIS was wearing a harakat al nour shirt. And Liwaa Ansar al Khilafa later denied being part of this new coalition.

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