The notorious Al Nusra terrorist group has announced it has united all the rebel factions in Idlib under a single command, eroding whatever thin line ever existed between the so-called ‘moderate’ militants and hardcore jihadists.
The Idlib province has been relatively calm following the September agreement between Russia and Turkey to set up a buffer zone in the province in the hope that it would lead to a long-lasting ceasefire. The deal, which was backed by Germany and France, and supported by the United States, in theory, should have allowed the so-called ‘moderate’ rebels to take control of the province while separating from radical Islamists. However, exactly the opposite appears to have happened.
All the factions in the arena formed a joint operations room… Yes, all factions without exemption.
There has been “no joint operations room like this before,” Abu Khaled, a representative of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra, which is now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, told the controversial American journalist Abdul Kareem.
The main task of this ‘operation room’ is to unite rebel forces against the Syrian government troops which have encircled the province. Idlib is the last major stronghold of jihadist groups in Syria, which have been trying to overthrow the government in Damascus for the past seven years. The northwestern province, which is home to some 2.9 million people, officially is not run by a single rebel group, but rather by a number of rival factions which together have around 70,000 fighters at their disposal. Tahrir al-Sham is believed to be strongest in their midst with about 10,000 fighters.
While Damascus agreed to observe the conditions of the multilateral agreement, the jihadi representative made it clear that the Idlib deal does not represent their interests. “I want to send a message to the regime and its cronies that the rebels in northern free areas have prepared messages for you. But you will not understand them until you see them,” the jihadi told Kareem in an interview aired on OGN TV.
The Al Nusra announcement “changes the framework of the multilateral agreement,” global affairs analyst and founder of the 21st Century Wire Patrick Henningsen explained.
There are effectively no more moderate rebels in Idlib.
“It was naive ever to believe that the strongest party Al Nusra would give way to the weaker party, the so-called moderates of the Free Syrian Army. What is happening is that they are now very firmly in the driving seat. And they’ve driven coach and horses through the Turkish-Russian agreement,” the former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told RT.
Rebel united under the command of the well-known terrorist network can only spell a battle for the Idlib province, Henningsen thinks. The fight, however, could spread beyond the Syrian Arab Army and terrorist forces if the US, which has actively been cautioning against any military operation against the rebels in the region, comes to their aid, former ambassador Ford stressed, a view also shared by the global affairs analyst.
“The United States has made it quite clear that any Syrian army advance on Idlib would be met by deadly fire from the United States,” Ford said, explaining that “the United States has effectively put itself in the position of creating a safe haven for Al Qaeda.”
If the West is going to intervene… then effectively they are taking the side of a terrorist confab.
Prior to the Turkish-Russian Idlib agreement that set up a demilitarized zone running 15-20 km deep into rebel territory, US President Donald Trump explicitly said that the US will get “very angry” if Syrian forces proceed to retake Idlib. “If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry,” Trump warned Bashar Assad in a September tweet. “And the United States is going to get very angry, too.”
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