Thursday, January 26, 2017

Violence erupts between Syria rebels and the former al-Nusra front

Young Syrians walk near a bombed out house in Tafas, Syria. Reuters. 

The former Al-Nusra Front group has crushed rival rebels after accusing them of backstabbing them by participating in peace talks. Reuters. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, who cut ties with al-Qaeda and changed their name from the al-Nusra Front last year, attacked the rebels in Idlib province. Fatah al-Sham crushed the rival Jaish al-Mujaheddin group and took their territory and rebels are warning that the same thing could happen to them if they don't organize against the group. Fatah al-Sham also took back a rebel prison and released the prisoners. With the fighting breaking out in the rebels last major stronghold in Syria, it creates an opportunity for Bashar al-Assad's regime to take back the area. 

My Comment:
This is what happens when you ally yourself with Jihadists. Of course, since the Free Syrian Army is largely made up of slightly less extreme Jihadists, I don't exactly feel sorry for them. When al-Nusra Front was the glue holding the rebellion together, the FSA didn't have a problem with the fact that they were bad people. All they cared about is that they fought hard and now they are paying the price. They made a devil's bargain and now he's coming to collect. 

Of course the fact that al-Nusra/Fatah al-Sham is expanding is a bad thing. Though they formally cut ties with al-Qaeda, that doesn't mean that they are suddenly good people. They are still violent Jihadists and if it wasn't for ISIS they would be the most dangerous faction currently fighting in Syria. And I don't personally believe that the split from al-Qaeda was anything other then a public relationship campaign. They want to downplay their ties so they look less dangerous to outsiders and potential recruits, but their core ideology hasn't changed. They are still violent Jihadists looking to create an Islamic State (but not the same one as ISIS's Islamic State) and they can, will, and have killed non-Sunni Muslims simply for the fact that they aren't Sunni Muslims. 

I do think that Fatah al-Sham does have a point here. Not that I support them in any way, but if I was them I would be upset that my allies were engaging with peace talks that I wasn't allowed to attend. As I said, without al-Nusra, most of those rebel groups would have been wiped out a long time ago. To suddenly have them go against them is probably a betrayal. Since the betrayed party is a bunch of ruthless Jihadists, I don't feel bad for them, but I do understand why they are doing this. They got the raw end of the deal with the peace talks and cease fires, so it is no surprise that they are acting out. 

For the rebels, this is an utter and complete disaster. They were already devastated from losing Aleppo a short time ago. Idlib province is their last major holding in all of Syria. The last thing they need is a new front to open from their former allies. Losing the area, either to Fatah al-Sham or the Syrian regime would be the final deathblow to an organization already on it's last legs. For them it's not a question of overthrowing the regime anymore, it's about just surviving and now even that goal looks out of reach.  

Will the Syrian regime be able to take advantage of the chaos? Probably not. Not only are their troops exhausted from liberating Aleppo, they are also facing renewed offensives from ISIS. They were under heavy attack in Dier Ez Zor, which seems to have held, and now are under attack near the town of Khanaser, a critical supply point. The regime seems to be winning these battles, but I doubt they have the troops to rush to a new offensive targeting the rebels. For the time being, I think they are safe from the prospect of a major offensive from the regime, especially with the peace talks ongoing. This battle will probably be confined to the rebels and Fatah al-Sham and whoever decides to bomb them. 

Speaking of the peace talks, this does throw a wrench into them. Indeed, that seems like it is Fatah al-Sham's goal. They are putting immense pressure on the rebels to pull out of these talks and abandon the cease fire. And if they don't go along with it, the rebels could be wiped out entirely. Though if that does happen it would end the need for peace talks since the only factions left would be the regime, the Kurds and the various Jihadist groups. 

I am hoping that these attacks will finally get Fatah al-Sham the airstrikes they so richly deserve. In the past, our former president, Barack Obama, was reluctant to hit the group due to their close ties to the other rebel groups. With those ties now shattered their is no reason that Donald Trump couldn't bomb the hell out of these guys. Trump might have done so anyways, but I really do hope that the pace of bombing increases, both from the US and the Syrian and Russian military as well...

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