Former Syrian “Moderate” Commander Killed

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.

Powerful Syrian Rebel Leader Reported Killed in Airstrike
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/26/world/middleeast/zahran-alloush-syria-rebel-leader-reported-killed.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

Plan to evacuate jihadists from south Damascus on hold
http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rebel-chief-zahran-alloush-killed-monitor-opposition-163954620.html

Alloush Source: Amer Almohibany/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Alloush
Source: Amer Almohibany/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.

Syria rebels, once hopeful of U.S. weapons, lament lack of firepower
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-harakat-hazm-20140907-story.html#page=1

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.

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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.

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Also see:

US-Backed Syrian Group Disbands – But Were They Ever Truly “Moderate” to Begin With?

March 3, 2015 / /

Surprise, surprise, Harakat Hazm (HH) – one of the US government’s favorite factions challenging the Asad regime in Syria – has completely collapsed after being routed by al-Nusra at one of their last remaining bases in Atarib. After the group was routed and announced its dissolution, al-Nusra began taking inventory of the new toys they seized such as TOW anti-tank missiles, night-vision optics and anti-air missiles – all courtesy of the Obama administration. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter since the group had been giving a lot of what they were receiving from the US to al-Nusra over the last 8 months. HH has been touted as being one of the last real “moderate” entities in the country. The problem with that is this statement is inaccurate, and only goes to show just how dangerously naive the Obama administration’s views are in this fight.

Syria: al-Qaeda Nusra Front ‘seizes’ hi-tech weapons after defeat of US-armed Harakat Hazm rebels
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-us-armed-harakat-hazm-rebels-disband-al-qaeda-nusra-front-captures-base-weapons-1490075

Main U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Disbanding, Joining Islamists
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/01/main-u-s-backed-syrian-rebel-group-disbanding-joining-islamists.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

Obama wants $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/white-house-release-money-train-syria-rebels.html

reuters

Source: Reuters

We first wrote about HH’s alliance over the past year with some less than “moderate” groups back in our 20 JUL 14 piece titled “This is Why We Need to Avoid Giving Weapons to Anti-Asad Rebels.” The not-so-convenient truth is that HH had been actively conducting joint-operations with al-Nusra and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) and Islamic Army. HH, SRF and the Islamic Army were all established to put a “moderate” face on the Syrian rebels – although in actuality no such group exists. Over the past year HH had worked closely with SRF, whose leader, Jamal Marouf, has admitted to sharing weapons with al-Nusra and stated that “fighting al-Qaida (AQ) is not our problem.” Mutual ally and Islamic Front leader Zahran Aloush is a known Salafist who is all about waving the AQ flag on the battlefield. No, that man is not a “moderate,” and neither are any of the other groups we mentioned above. in fact, Aloush had participated in a joint-operation with al-Nusra in the attack on Adra in DEC 2013, which led to over 40 civilians being massacred. As for the Islamic Front, well, they were a subordinate organization under the al-Nusra banner but switched over to ISIS when the feud between the two jihadist organizations kicked into high-gear.

This is Why We Need to Avoid Giving Weapons to Anti-Asad Rebels
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=76

Islamists kill 15 Alawite and Druze civilians in Syria -activists
http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/12/12/syria-crisis-adra-idINDEE9BB0AR20131212

Chief of Syrian Revolutionaries Front says al Qaeda is ‘not our problem’
http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/04/chief_of_syrian_revolutionary.php

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.17.56 PM

Zahran Aloush: Syria’s biggest Hello Kitty fan
Source: kwout.com

The following excerpt from the LA Times article titled “Syria Rebels, Once Hopeful of U.S. Weapons, Lament Lack of Firepower” is quite revealing:

“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.”

Syria rebels, once hopeful of U.S. weapons, lament lack of firepower
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-harakat-hazm-20140907-story.html#page=1

By now some of our readers are probably thinking, “you can’t judge HH on what others do” – and you would be justified in those thoughts. Both the Obama administration and Senators John McCain and Lyndsey Graham have praised HH as being a “model for the type of group the US should be supporting.” Specifically, they’ve been praising HH as being a “secular” organization. However, the truth behind the group’s formation and history is very different than what has been sold to the msm and the American people. HH’s formation actually 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.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB – the Grandfather of the modern Sunni terrorist btw) put its full support behind the group, but the lack of a prominent face was an obstacle. The two individual who would fill this role are Aloush and Ahrar al-Sham Movement leader Hasan Aboud aka “Abu Abdullah al-Hamwi.” The idea at the time was for the movement to be “the lead” in the fight against the Asad regime and the Islamic State (IS) in Northern Syria. The Harakat Zaman Muhammad organization would later become what we know today as “HH” with Bilal Atar and Abdullah Awda as the “faces” of the organization to the west. The decision to change the name to “Harakat Hazm” was made by the MB leadership to give the entity a “secular” appearance so as to look more appealing to the west. In other words, the group wasn’t “secular” at all, and was really just the armed-wing of the MB that once again fooled a clueless Obama administration. Aside from the US, HH also received substantial assistance from Turkey and Qatar – who were likely the ones American weaponry were being funneled through.

Harakat Hazm: America’s new favorite jihadist group
http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/19874

The moderate rebels: A needle in a haystack
http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/moderate-rebels-needle-haystack

In addition to forcing non-Muslims to pay the jizya (which is pretty much protection money), HH’s friends the al-Farouq Brigades is also the organization that engages in eating the hearts of their enemies (doesn’t every moderate?):

 

It was sometime at the end of last summer that HH and al-Nusra had a falling out, which of course resulted in the group’s eventual disbandment. In SEP 14 HH began to show signs of moving towards the IS sphere of influence when they condemned US military airstrikes targeting IS positions in Northern Syria. By then, the group had started to experience mass defections to al-Nusra and IS. Here’s the official statement (from our friends at the Counter Jihad Report):

HH_statement

Lack of reliable partners in Syria poses daunting challenge to U.S.
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-islamic-state-challenges-20140924-story.html

You can find more HH info on the Counter Jihad Report’s website:

https://counterjihadreport.com/tag/harakat-al-hazm/

The Obama administration’s support provided to HH is a damning indictment of the lack of competence in the foreign policy and national security-arenas endemic from top to bottom. Not one person in the administration fully understands the nature of the threat nor do the individuals considered “Middle East subject matter experts” appear to know the difference between a jihadist and an actual moderate. Ironically, the Asad regime is the most moderate faction in Syria. Most people don’t realize that Asad married a Sunni woman and that Sunnis and Christians are represented throughout the government. In fact, the reason Asad remains in power is due to the Sunnis – the real moderates – who remained loyal to the regime. The same can also be said for the US government’s failure to provide adequate support to other moderates such as Jordan, Egypt, Libyan GEN Khalifa Haftar and the Kurdish factions.

But we’re not advocating an alliance with Asad. Far from it. We’re saying that the current situation was created by an Obama administration that was clearly in over its head when it supported the “Arab Spring,” the Islamists/jihadists driving the movement and the “moderates” that would later rise in places like Libya, Egypt and Syria. Had the Obama administration not supported the Arab Spring or pulled out of Iraq when it did all this would have likely never materialized. Unfortunately, the administration’s current rudderless IS strategy has only led to the violence in the region escalating to the point where we’re now faced with an IS that is spreading into Gaza, North Africa and the AF/PAK region like a cancer metastasizing in a weakened body. Now we have no choice but to put boots on the ground with a lax ROE and the full support to do what’s necessary to defeat this enemy – and the longer we put it off, the worst its going to get for all involved. Especially for our military. The world is burning, and President Obama is doing his best impersonation of Nero…

Links to Other Related Articles:

Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Failed Before it Started

Another Reason Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Already Failed

The Asad Stratagem

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

Islamic State Strength Underestimated: Already Eclipsed Al Qaida As Primary Threat

Also see:

Saudi terrorism list raises question about Islamic Front

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

A fighter from the Islamic Front holds an assault rifle while a fellow fighter looks through a hole in a wall inside a damaged school in Idlib, Feb. 4, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Loubna Mrie)

By Abdallah Suleiman Ali:

Yesterday [March 7], Saudi Arabia made a preliminary terrorism list that included the names of many organizations and movements inside and outside the kingdom.

Adopting that list was part of the February royal decree that criminalized anyone fighting outside Saudi Arabia. The decree ordered forming a commission to prepare a list of currents and movements that qualify as terrorist groups, thus criminalizing belonging or sympathizing with them.

The commission is composed of representatives from the ministries of interior, justice, Islamic affairs, and foreign affairs, the Council of Grievances office, the investigating committee and the prosecutor’s office. The commission explicitly named some organizations and movements — such as al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Hezbollah within the Kingdom, the Muslim Brotherhood organization and the Houthi group.

However, the commission’s list contained vague terms that rendered the list very hard to interpret and subject to many variations. That may have been intentional in order to leave maneuvering room and flexibility for Saudi authorities regarding some organizations with which the kingdom has strong ties, especially in the Syrian arena. Perhaps the most prominent of those is specifically the Army of Islam, and generally Jabhat al-Nusra.

It is not clear whether the terrorism list encompassed the Islamic Front. The Islamic Front was not mentioned on the list, which may suggest that it was excluded from the terrorism label and that Riyadh will continue to fund the front’s components, especially the Army of Islam, led by Zahran Alloush. But the commission asserted that the list encompasses “every organization that is similar to these organizations in thought, word, or deed” and “all organizations contained in Security Council resolutions and international bodies” and “known as terrorist and practice violence.” That indicates that the Saudi decision left room for many organizations and movements that are not mentioned on the list by name, whereby it is up to the discretion of Saudi political leadership to classify some groups as terrorist at the proper time and in the way that serves Saudi interests.

Read more at al Monitor

Zawahiri’s Representative in Syria Assassinated

The Rift In The Global Jihad Movement

By: R. Green, Research Fellow at MEMRI

Introduction

The global jihad movement has been experiencing a rift of unprecedented   proportions in light of the events in Syria. The rising tension between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a multitude of other rebel groups, which has escalated to the point of fierce fighting, has forced Al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan-Pakistan to publicly distance itself from ISIS. The following is a review of the events that led to this schism and the conclusions to be drawn from them.

Background

Global jihad has been involved in the war in Syria from the outset. Initially, elements associated with it began operating in Syria as part of a new organization named Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN). The organization, which officially announced its existence in early 2012, portrayed itself as a group of Syrian jihad fighters and avoided revealing that it was established by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).[1] In April 2013, ISI leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared he was eliminating JN as an independent organization and merging it with the ISI, and that the joint organization would henceforth be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

JN commander Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani rejected this declaration and announced that he and his men would continue operating independently as part of JN. He publicly declared his association with Al-Qaeda and renewed his oath of fealty to its leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.[2] From this point, a struggle developed between the two organizations over the leadership of the jihad in Syria, with each side attempting to recruit as many fighters as possible and as much support as possible from leading Salafi-jihadi clerics. Al-Zawahiri himself attempted to arbitrate in this matter, determining that ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi should remain in Iraq and leave the Syrian front to Al-Joulani and JN. He even appointed his confidant, Abu Khalid Al-Suri, as his personal representative in Syria. Al-Baghdadi surprisingly rejected this decision and declared that “the Islamic State remains in Syria.”[3]

Throughout the summer and fall of 2013, ISIS gathered strength in the field and became an influential element in rebel-controlled areas. Its success leaned on several foundations:

1. Quality military actions thanks to efficient organization and hierarchy.

2. Effective function on the battlefield with the use of ruthless tactics.[4]

3. An aggressive and sophisticated informational array.

4. Massive recruitment of foreign fighters, who mostly joined ISIS whether they came from Arab countries, Asia, or the West.

5. Considerable financial resources.[5]

6. The flow of manpower from Iraq thanks to successful prison breaks in the course of which many members of the organization were sprung. Yes? They were members of the organization to begin with?

7. The support of leading clerics and figures in the global Salafi-jihadi movement.

Al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan-Pakistan, which attributes supreme importance to the Syrian arena, was forced to throw in its lot with JN. It sent a delegation of advisors and instructors who were veterans of battles in Afghanistan-Pakistan to assist Al-Joulani, and upgraded JN to an official Al-Qaeda affiliate. Since several months ago the title “Al-Qaeda in Syria” appears alongside JN’s name.[6]


ISIS center in Al-Dana, near Idlib, bombed by rival rebel forces

Tension Between Rebel Groups And ISIS

ISIS has in fact been in conflict with other rebel groups ever since its establishment in April 2013 – both with groups associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and with Islamist organizations that strive to establish an Islamic state. The struggle is for around control of territory, cities and resources, and often plays out on the local level between ISIS and local militias and bodies. In addition, there is opposition to the very existence of ISIS in Syria, since it is seen as an outside body relying on foreign fighters and as an extremist organization whose ideology and tactics harm the image of all rebels. This, on top of the organization’s tendency to spread its extremist beliefs and strictly enforce shari’a law.[7]

In November 2013, six Salafi organizations and groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood announced the establishment of the Islamic Front – a coalition estimated to include some 100,000 fighters. One of the goals of its establishment, which was clear to all even though it was not openly stated, was to reduce the power of ISIS and present an ostensibly moderate Islamic alternative to global jihad organizations. In recent month ISIS and Islamic Front officials have been exchanging recriminations and tensions have escalated to armed confrontations in several places. The Islamic Front is considered close to the Gulf states, who see it as a major role-player in the war against the Assad regime, as well as a means to reduce the danger they face from the extremist agenda of ISIS. It should be mentioned that JN and its officials hold close ties with the Islamic Front.[8]

Following the unification of the Islamist factions, additional coalitions were established, such as Jaysh Al-Mujahideen in the Aleppo area, whose stated purpose is to fight ISIS and remove it from Syria.[9]

*************

Conclusion

The struggle between ISIS and JN over the leadership of the jihadi arena in Syria, two jihadi organizations that share the same world view, currently encompasses all jihadi circles in the world. Clerics, preachers, activists, donors – all are compelled to take sides. Al-Qaeda central in Afghanistan-Pakistan has always seen itself as the spearhead of jihadi fighters – a kind of guiding body that remotely controls jihadi organizations around the globe. The West too sees Al-Qaeda as an octopus that guides terrorist action in various places worldwide. Now Al-Zawahiri and the few other core members who are still alive are forced to deal with an unexpected threat – a challenge by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which essentially pulls the rug out from under the veteran leadership. Al-Baghdadi and ISIS continue to pay lip service to Al-Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda and maintain its honor. However, in practice, Al-Baghdadi has designated himself as a global leader of the jihad fighters in particular and of Muslims in general, and as a herald of the Caliphate. This crisis is expected to continue and rock the global jihad movement in the foreseeable future.

Read more at MEMRI

Senators: Kerry Suggested Arming Syrian Rebels

FSA Commander’s Assassination Underscores Jihadist Momentum in Syria