[Marxism] Syria Analysis: Why and How Insurgent Formation of an Islamic Front Changes the Conflict

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Nov 24 19:40:52 MST 2013

An assessment of the formation of the new "Islamic Front" by six major 
Islamist militias in Syria by Scott Lucas, who appears very 
well-informed and worth listening to. Basically, the new front is an 
amalgamation of much of the old Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), 
the more mainstream/soft Islamists, and the more hard-line, but 
non-Al-Qaida, Syrian Islamic Front (SIF).

It appears to be directed both against the regime, given its recent 
victories have been partly blamed on rebel disunity (see for example, 
the statement by FSA head in Aleppo region, Colonel Abdul Jabbar 
al-Okaidi, who resigned and blamed a recent Assad victory in the region 
on not only the refusal of western powers to supply anything other than 
inedible "ready-meals, but also on rebel disunity 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24858520); and against ISIS, 
the most reactionary and violent (and larger) wing of Al-Qaida, which 
has been both attacking the Syrian anti-Assad forces in the back for 
months, and when it does pretend to engage the regime, engages in 
precisely the kind of bloody sectarian violence that Assad loves to 
present the whole struggle as being about.

What does this mean for the mainstream secular FSA? It does not appear 
directed against the FSA at all, rather is just the abolition of 
unnecessary divisions between relatively like-minded Islamist groups. It 
doesn't incorporate the secular FSA because of ideological differences, 
but clearly sees them as allies. For example, reports in the last few 
days show strong cooperation between one of the components of the new 
group, Jaish al-Islam (the new "Islamic Army" in the south) and the FSA 
in the working-class greater-Damascus periphery in the big battles with 
the regime down there; likewise, the main Aleppo-based group in the new 
front, Liwa al-Tawhid (whose highly respected commander was last week 
killed by a regime missile), has a very strong record of cooperation 
with the local FSA up there, as well as a very good reputation for 
defending local Christians from the threat of jihadist sectarians 

Both these groups, as well as another major component (Suquor al-Sham in 
Idlib), are the major components of the mainstream-Islamist SILF, 
whereas the other large group among the six, Ahrar al-Sham, is the major 
component of the national-jihadist SIF. While arguably the influence of 
the latter is negative, it is notable that the top three positions of 
the new Front have been filled entirely by leaders of the three large 
SILF groups (first short article); in any case, even Ahrar al-Sham has 
tended to focus on the regime rather than sectarian attacks Al-Qaida 
style. While it has opportunistically collaborated with the global 
jihadists at times (eg, in Raqqa), it may have learnt its lesson from 
the recent beheading of one of its militants by ISIS.

All in all therefore, I tend to agree with Scott Lucas' conclusion that 
the formation of the Front "is pretty good news for the Syrian 
insurgency", as well as seeing the rest of his analysis below as quite 


Leading Insurgent Factions Form "Islamic Front"
In a major re-alignment of the insurgency in Syria, leading factions 
have formed the Islamic Front.

Factions involved include the Ansar al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Suqoor 
al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam - itself a merger of more than 40 groups in 
Damascus Province - Liwa al-Tawhid, the Islamic Kurdish Front, and Liwa 

Ahmed Abu Issa of Suqoor al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front 
has been named commander, with Abu Omar Hureitan of Liwa al-Tawhid as 
second-in-command and Zahran Alloush of Jaish al-Islam as head of 
military operations.

The official announcement:


Syria Analysis: Why and How Insurgent Formation of an Islamic Front 
Changes the Conflict
A source close to Syria evaluates Friday's news of the formation of the 
Islamic Front by leading insurgent factions:

This is quite the middle spectrum of Islamic groups and forces in Syria. 
All of these are brigades actually fighting the regime, rather than 
being overly engaged in other activities like seeking funds or 
in-fighting. They fight side-by-side -or hand-in-hand - with smaller and 
not-so-prominent units formed by Christans, Druze, Kurds, and even 

Since Syria is an Islamic country, one shouldn't overplay the adjective 
"Islamic". Westerners should also note that the Syrian people have 
learned to rely on, first, God and, second, themselves - since the world 
has abandoned them.

Of course this is both a military and a political joint venture. At the 
moment, the military aspect counts most, because the new central command 
will solve a lot of issues from which insurgents suffered in most 
battles of the past.

Politically, the Islamic Front could in theory try to represent the 
biggest piece of the cake in the Syrian National Coalition - if they 
bother with an entity which is not exactly relevant and without a 
presence on the ground at all. More importantly, there is a major 
political player inside Syria now, laying the foundation for assembly of 
many groups and local committees - most probably soon acting alongside 
the Local Coordination Committees and others within the country. Sooner 
or later, they will be a partner in talks with outsiders, too.

As for the outsiders, they may try to stick with the Syrian National 
Coalition and the Supreme Military Council. That will be totally 
irrelevant, since the SMC is dried-out anyway. The Coalition and its 
interim government lacks support in Syria, and only addresses the very 
tiny percentage of Syrians who actually know such a body exists 
somewhere in Syria's outer space. Even the humanitarian aid routed 
through Coalition entities is not seen as coming from them, because it 
gets distributed by local volunteers and is not labelled "Made in USA" 
or "With love from Britain via the Syrian Coalition".

Does the lack of Western support have any impact on the Islamic Front? 
Not at all. Frankly, not having to sail around silly demands expressed 
by clueless Western powers who are not even trying to understand the 
situation on the ground and waiting for those so-called friends to 
fulfil their empty promises - which never happens but might, perhaps, 
maybe, hopefully, some day in the future, inshallah - makes things way 
easier. All the forces which built the Islamic Front exist and do more 
or less quite well without Western support now. Together they'll be even 

Whether or not Saudi Arabia and to a lesser degree Qatar might step in 
with increased support remains to be seen. The clear signal of the 
founding message is "No Extremists" - but de facto Jabhat al-Nusra is in 
(as a brother on the battlefield but not on the members list), while the 
Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham is out. That establishes a platform 
Gulf States can openly support, without worrying about American 

As for the Supreme Military Council's Free Syrian Army, they are not 
dead. The founding of the Islamic Front will not change reality, like 
cooperation on the battlefields, and if General Idriss' followers can 
establish a sort-of-central command structure some day, military 
alliances will work even better.

The unification will have another effect. Now small brigades can and 
must chose between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front, or get 
eaten one by one by the greedy ISIS Pac-Men. I guess most small/local 
brigades will join one of the bigger forces/alliances soon, leaving lots 
of plain criminal gangs as ISIS prey.

When you look closely at ISIS participation in battles with the regime, 
you will notice that they usually operate outside the command structure. 
Too often they have joined battles with rather small units, just to 
claim victory afterwards. Now they mourn their casualties and blame the 
major brigades for not telling them of tactical movements. With their 
escapades they have managed to move themselves into the role of cannon 
fodder. Sadly, that will lead to them having more time and resources to 
oppress the liberated hinterlands, and it will be a major effort to 
remove them if Assad is overthrown. But one problem at a time, say the 
pragmatic leaders of the major Islamic forces.

So the bottom line is that the Islamic Front is pretty good news for the 
Syrian insurgency, and very bad news for those who do not care about 
Syria, as well as for its enemies.


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