Islamic Front (Syria)

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Islamic Front
الجبهة الإسلامية
Participant in the Syrian civil war
Logo of the Islamic Front (Syria).svg
Official logo of the Islamic Front
Flag of the Islamic Front (Syria).svg
Administration flag
Flag of the Islamic Front (Syria) (Black).svg
War flag
Active 22 November 2013–present
Ideology Sunni Islamism[1]
Salafism[2]
Jihadism[3]
Leaders Ahmed Abu Issa[4]
Area of
operations
Syria
Strength 40,000[5]-60,000[2] (Jan. 2014)
Allies

Syria Syria Revolutionaries Front[6]
Army of Mujahedeen[6]

Al-Nusra Front[6]
Opponents Syrian Armed Forces
National Defense Force
People's Protection Units Flag.svg People's Protection Units (YPG)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Battles
and wars

Syrian civil war

The Islamic Front (Arabic: ‏الجبهة الإسلامية‎, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah) is a merger of seven rebel groups involved in the Syrian civil war[4] that was announced on 22 November 2013.[7] An anonymous spokesman for the group has stated that it will not have ties with the Syrian National Coalition,[8] though a member of the political bureau of the group, Ahmad Musa, has stated that he hopes for recognition from the Syrian National Council in cooperation for what he suggested "the Syrian people want. They want a revolution and not politics and foreign agendas."[9] The group is widely seen as backed and armed by Saudi Arabia.[10][11][12]

History[edit]

On 22 November, seven Islamist groups agreed to a pact that would dissolve the groups individually and lead to the formation of the Islamic Front. The groups are:

Not all groups in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front have agreed (or declined) to be a part of the Islamic Front, despite the leaders of both coalitions having joined the Front as key figures.[citation needed] The Syrian Islamic Front tweeted that it had disbanded and its component groups would hereby operate under the Islamic Front.[15] The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front announced its dissolution on the 26th of November 2013.[16]

A Liwa al-Tawhid member said the old names "will disappear and the groups will now melt [sic] into the new merger. There will be no such thing as Liwa al-Tawhid." The head of the group's Consultative Council, Amad Essa al-Sheikh, said the group sought "a paradigm shift in the armed rebellion by closing ranks and mobilising them to become the real alternative to the dying regime." He added that the group would cooperate with what it called "loyal fighters" in the country, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA).[9] However on 3 December 2013 they withdrew from the command of the FSA and criticized its leadership.[17] On 6 December 2013 fighters from the Islamic Front seized several FSA bases and depots at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.[17] This has caused conflict between the two.[17]

The merger follows the death of Liwa al-Tawhid's military leader, Abdel Qader Saleh, from wounds a week earlier following an air strike in Aleppo where he was meeting other leaders.[1] A group member, Adil Fistok, said the merger planning was in the works for seven months; Fistok stated that "One of the major obstacles we faced was the lust for power by some leaders. But eventually everyone made concessions in order to make this project happen." According to him the primary challenge was a lack of money and weapons.[9] It has been estimated by Charles Lister of IHS Jane's that the total amount of fighters the Islamic Front has may number up to 45,000.[4]

In December 2013, the Islamic Front seized the FSA headquarters along with key supply warehouses in Atmeh as well as the nearby border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa. FSA Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Salim Idris fled via Turkey to Doha, Qatar in the assault.[18] However, the FSA has denied that Idris has left Syria and has also stated the Islamic Front was asked to help the FSA fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[19] The FSA confirmed on 13 December 2013 that the Islamic Front had obtained machine guns and ammo that was not supposed to be in the possession of the Islamists.[20] Later that month the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army reconciled.[21]

By early 2014, the Islamic Front had condemned the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; and some factions within the alliance attacked it.[22] Several Islamic Front brigades including Suqour al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham developed internal divisions on how to or even whether to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. [23]

Objectives[edit]

The Islamic Front released its charter on the Internet in late November 2013, outlining its aims and objectives, although the document avoided providing a clear vision of the future.[24] The Islamic Front's charter rejects the concepts of representative democracy and secularism, instead seeking to establish an Islamic State ruled by a Majlis-ash-Shura and implementing Sharia. It acknowledges the ethnic and religious minorities that live in Syria, while also welcoming the foreign fighters who have joined the anti-Assad forces and rejecting non-military means of ending the civil war.[24]

Affiliation with Al-Qaeda[edit]

In January 2014 Abu Khaled al-Suri, a top official of a member group Ahrar ash-Sham, acknowledged that he considers himself a member of al-Qaeda.[25] The Syrian government released Suri from a government prison in the first few weeks of the uprising.[26] In February 2014 Suri was killed in a suicide attack blamed on ISIL[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Syria Islamist rebel factions merge: Spokesman". AFP. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Michael Weiss (8 January 2014). "Has sahwa hit the fan in Syria?". NOW News. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Islamic Front no answer for Syria conflict". Al Monitor. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Leading Syrian rebel groups form new Islamic Front". BBC. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Richard Hall (9 January 2014). "Factbox: Syria's rebel groups". Reuters. 
  6. ^ a b c "Syria rebels unite and launch new revolt, against jihadists". AFP. 4 January 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Six Islamist factions unite in largest Syria rebel merger". Reuters. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  8. ^ "Series of Syrian Muslim rebel brigades say they've unified under name of the 'Islamic Front'". Associated Press. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Atassi, Basma (22 November 2013). "Major Syrian rebel groups join forces". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Syrian FSA fades in shadow of Saudi-backed opposition front Al-Monitor, 11 December 2013
  11. ^ Syria’s Saudi Jihadist Problem Daily Beast, 16 December 2013
  12. ^ Al-Qaeda and ISIS: The Renunciation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Al Akhbar, 4 February 2014
  13. ^ a b c "Islamists forge Syria's rebel alliance". MSN NZ. 23 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "A Power Move by Syria's Rebel Forces". Institute for the Study of War. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  15. ^ "Syrian Islamic Front on Twitter". Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Statement of the Islamic Front for the liberation of Syria". Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Dziadosz, Alexander; Afanasieva, Dasha (7 December 2013). "Syrian Islamists seize Western-backed rebel bases: monitoring group". Reuters. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "Top U.S.-backed Commander in Syria Run Out, U.S. Officials Say". The Wall Street Journal. 12 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Syrian rebels deny reports top commander forced to flee". Reuters. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Vinograd, Cassandra (13 December 2013). "Syria rebels: Islamic militants nabbed our weapons". Associated Press. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Dick, Marlin (17 December 2014). "FSA alliance pushes back against Islamic Front". Daily Star. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  22. ^ Lund, Aron (8 January 2014). "Pushing Back Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant: The Islamic Front". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Hassan Hassan (4 March 2014). "Front to Back". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "New rebel alliance wants Syria as 'Islamic State'". AFP news agency. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Key anti-Assad rebel leader acknowledges al Qaida past, potentially complicating U.S. aid in Syria". 2014-01-17. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  26. ^ "Syria’s duplicity over al-Qaeda means West will not trust Assad". 20 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 

External links[edit]