The ISIS Study Group, Dec. 26, 2015:
A former “moderate” anti-Assad commander known as Zahran Alloush was killed in an airstrike launched in the Damascus-area. The New York Times is calling it a “significant blow” against the opposition and the cease-fire negotiations with the Assad regime. The truth is Alloush is hardly the “moderate” the likes of Senators McCain and Graham try to make him out to be.
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We’ve written about Alloush and his former role in Harakat Hazm (HH-which disbanded earlier in the year)/Islamic Front before (“US-Backed Syrian Group Disbands – But Were They Ever Truly ‘Moderate’ to Begin With?”). Although there were some serious tensions between HH and the al-Nsura Front (ANF), towards the end the two groups were actually working together agains the Assad regime and the Islamic State (IS). At the end of his life, Alloush was a leader in Jaysh al-Islam, which is also affiliated with the Islamic Front. Make no mistake, at no time was Alloush ever a “moderate.” He may have paid lip service to the international community’s collective drumbeat, but his actions were saying something very different. From the LA Times:
Outside Syria, members of the political opposition who have helped facilitate the weapons transfers to the fighters play up the groups’ moderation and secular agenda in hope of securing more advanced armaments. But inside Syria, such characterizations have become a burden that fighters try to shrug off.
Harakat Hazm, for example, has struggled with being regarded as a U.S. pawn and labeled as secular in the midst of an opposition movement that has grown increasingly Islamist.
“Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us,” Zeidan said, referring to an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Then he smiled and added, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”
In July, eight West-backed rebel brigades — all recipients of military aid — released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Al Nusra Front. Harakat Hazm was one of the signatories, even as it fought on the same front lines with the group in Aleppo, battling both Islamic State militants in the north and government forces seeking to retake the city.
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Alloush’s guys served as the public face for the Muslim Brotherhood – which is the Grandfather of the modern Sunni terrorist btw. The idea at the time was for Alloush’s group to give the jihadist movement a “secular” appearance that would be more palatable to the West. Aside from the US, HH also received substantial assistance from Turkey and Qatar – who were likely the ones American weaponry were being funneled through. The level of support they enjoyed from the US was largely due to the efforts of Senators McCain and Graham – who were heavily influenced by the likes of phony analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy. A major red flag that should’ve alarmed the people in the Beltway was the the fact that HH’s formation predates the Islamic Front and involves the establishment of the Harakat Zaman Muhammad (of which it was a part of) under the Quranic verse “And fight against disbelievers collectively. [9:36]” The effort involved the recreation of the al-Farouq Brigades (you know, the guys who force non-Muslims to pay the “jizya” or “tax” in the territories they seize) in a new form under new leadership for the purpose of uniting all Islamist groups in Syria at a later stage. Sadly, the US government was more concerned about scoring political points then actually vetting the people we were considering a “partnership” with in the Syria War. The fact that these organizations as a whole are Salafists/Islamists should’ve been another reason not to support them.
Indeed, there is no real difference between Alloush’s crew and AQ’s ideology – of course the MB links should’ve been a big clue on where they stand. Check out the following video:
The video above was Alloush’s speech to the Umma on the challenge of the “Raafida,” which was pretty much a big anti-Shia tirade. He even used the great Umayyad desert palace of Caliph Hisham Ibn And al-Malik as the bakdrop of the video. As one would guess, Alloush talks about brining back the “Umayyad Empire” and really speaks to how sectarian he is to the core. Alloush calls for the reducing of the Nusayris (a reference made about Alawites) as “Majors” or “crypto-Iranians.” Now “Majors” is the old term for pre-Islamic Persians or Zoroastrians. Arab Christians use th term in Christmas carols about the Magi, or “three kings from the orient” who come to pay homage to Jesus – Magi are Persians or “Easterners.” In this video, Alloush uses the term as an Islamic term meant to suggest that Alawites and Iranians not only have the wrong religion, but also the wrong ethnicity – they are not “Arabs” in his eyes. The Islamic Front as a whole likes to use such terminology.
Not surprisingly, Alloush has been a major advocate for “cleansing” Damascus of all Shia/Nusayris. Of course this makes Vlad and the Assad regime’s IO campaign against the anti-Assad factions extremely easy. With such rhetoric regularly coming from so-called “moderates,” it also makes the case for a military solution even easier. The O’Bagys of the intelligence community will argue that there’s a “clear line” between HH/Islamic Front and AQ affiliates such as ANF. Unfortunately, the ugly truth of the matter is that both sides’ ideology is largely based on a similar reading of Islamic history and the Quran. Both idealize the reestablishment of an “Islamic Empire,” both reject democracy and embrace Sharia Law. Their views also overlaps in several areas with that of IS, although the later is run by an Iraq – which in itself is another signifiant fact worth keeping in mind here.
The negotiations that Alloush had been involved in were designed by the Assad regime and Russia to cause further divisions between the anti-Assad factions. There was a similar deal made in support of the Aleppo campaign (see-“Obama Administration Tries to Rewrite History and Salvage Their ‘Legacy’”). A major part of this is focusing the Russian airstrikes (like the one that killed Alloush) on the so-called “moderates” as a means of pressuring them into reaching a settlement with the government on Assad’s terms – then Russia will move their gun sights on IS. By targeting Alloush, the pro-regime forces removed a prominent member of the so-called “moderates,” furthering weakening them. This is actually a sound strategy as it would take a significant – although weakening – jihadist faction out of the equation while countering the shrinking American influence in the region. Vlad has truly outmaneuvered the Obama administration on every level. However, we suspect that the Obama administration may actually feel a great sense of relief now that a major foreign policy embarrassment like Alloush is now dead. They’re probably hoping that the media and everybody else will forget what he was all about. We understand that most Westerners want to place everybody in a “good guy” or “bad guy” category but in this fight the only true good guys on the ground in Syria or Iraq are the Kurds. Period.