Islamic Front (Syria)

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Islamic Front
الجبهة الإسلامية
al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah
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
Active22 November 2013–2015
IdeologySunni Islamism[1]
Group(s)
LeadersAhmed Abu Issa[3]
Zahran Alloush  
Hassan Abboud  
Abul-Abbas al-Shami
Abu Rateb
Abu Omar Hreitan
Headquarters
Area of operationsSyria
Size40,000[5]–70,000[6] (Mar. 2014)
Part ofSyrian Revolutionary Command Council (2014–2015)[citation needed]
Allies
Opponent(s)State opponents

Non-state opponents


Shi'ite groups


Syrian-affiliated groups



Jihadist groups

Battles and war(s)Syrian Civil War
Websitehttps://twitter.com/islamic_front

The Islamic Front (Arabic: الجبهة الإسلامية‎, al-Jabhat al-Islāmiyyah) was a Sunni Islamist rebel group involved in the Syrian Civil War,[3] which was formed by the union of seven separate groups on 22 November 2013.[12] Its three largest components were Ahrar ash-Sham, the al-Tawhid Brigade and Jaysh al-Islam. The alliance was achieved by expanding the preceding Syrian Islamic Front alliance. It was described as "an umbrella organization rather than a full union", with consituent factions continuing to serve under their own distinct leaderships.[13]

The Islamic Front wanted to transform Syria into an Islamic state after they overthrow the government of President Bashar.[14] It did not recognise most formal structures of the syrian opposition, such as the Syrian National Council.

The alliance fragmented over the course of 2014 with its larger constituent parts retaining strong independent identities. On 24 December 2014, the Islamic Front factions in the Aleppo Governorate formed the Levant Front alliance with other armed groups in northern Syria.[15] In 2015, Salafist Ahrar ash-Sham – a major component of the Islamic Front alliance – joined with jihadi groups under the Army of Conquest operations room umbrella, successfully campaigning against the Syrian Arab Army in the northern districts from March to September 2015. The group however continued nominal membership of the Islamic Front alliance, despite its more jihadist orientation. By early 2015, the Islamic Front was being described as virtually defunct, with the largest member groups Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam remaining separate entities, and the smaller IF factions Liwa al-Haqq, Suqour al-Sham Brigade and Kurdish Islamic Front being absorbed into Ahrar ash-Sham.[16]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

After three months of protests in 2011, many Salafist Islamist prisoners managed to be released from Sednaya Prison, including Zahran Alloush and Hassan Aboud. They formed their own Islamist groups and took up arms against the Syrian Government. Many of them became leaders of Islamist groups in the Islamic Front such as Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. Some of those groups formed an Islamist alliance named the Syrian Islamic Front. In November 2013, the Syrian Islamic Front was dissolved, as the organization was replaced by the Islamic Front.[17]

On 22 November 2013, seven Islamist groups agreed to a pact that would dissolve the groups individually and lead to the formation of the Islamic Front. The groups were:

The Syrian Islamic Front tweeted that it had disbanded and its component groups would hereby operate under the Islamic Front.[20] Not all groups in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front joined the Islamic Front, although many of the key leaders of the SILF did.[citation needed] The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front announced its dissolution on 26 November 2013.[21]

The leadership of the Islamic Front at the time of its founding was announced as Shura Council Leader: Ahmed Abu Issa (Suqour al-Sham), Deputy Shura Council Leader: Abu Omar Hreitan (Liwa al-Tawhid), General Secretary: Sheikh Abu Rateb (Liwa al-Haqq), Sharia Office: Abul-Abbas al-Shami (Ahrar ash-Sham), Political Office: Hassan Abboud (Ahrar ash-Sham) and Military Office: Zahran Alloush (Jaysh al-Islam)[22]

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).[23] An anonymous spokesman for the group stated that it would not have ties with the Syrian National Coalition,[24] although a member of the political bureau of the group, Ahmad Musa, stated that he hoped for recognition by the Syrian National Council in line with what he suggested "the Syrian people want. They want a revolution and not politics and foreign agendas."[23] Despite non-recognition of the authority of the Syrian National Coalition, and criticism of the FSA's Supreme Military Council (SMC),[13] the Islamic Front was aligned with other Syrian opposition-affiliated groups under the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council.[citation needed] However on 3 December 2013, Liwa al-Tawhid withdrew from the command of the FSA and criticized its leadership.[25] On 6 December 2013, fighters from the Islamic Front seized several FSA bases and depots at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.[25] This caused conflict between the two groups that lasted until later in December 2013.[25]

The new group claimed 70,000 fighters,[26] although it was estimated by Charles Lister of IHS Jane's that the total number of fighters the Islamic Front commanded on formation was at least 45,000.[3]

Background[edit]

The formation of the front followed the death of Liwa al-Tawhid's military leader, Abdul 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 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.[23]

Later events[edit]

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, during the assault.[27] However, the FSA denied that Idris had left Syria, and said that the Islamic Front was asked to help the FSA fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[28] The FSA confirmed on 13 December 2013 that the Islamic Front had obtained machine guns and ammunition that were not supposed to be in the possession of the Islamists.[29] Later that month, however, the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army reconciled.[30]

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.[31] Several Islamic Front brigades, including Suqour al-Sham and Ahrar ash-Sham, developed internal divisions on how to or even whether to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[6] Several defections from the Islamic Front to Free Syrian Army groups were reported in 2014, including around 800 fighters in eastern Aleppo Governorate in August 2014, with new FSA units created by the defectors, who condemned the Islamic Front's Islamist and sectarian practices, especially against Christians and Alawites who initially supported the opposition.[32]

On 9 September 2014, Hassan Abboud, the Islamic Front's political leader, and Abu Abdulmalek al-Sharei, the head of the Islamic Front's Sharia Council, were killed along with many other senior Ahrar ash-Sham commanders, when a bomb went off as a high-level meeting was going on near an ammunition dump in Idlib province.[4][33]

In 2014, several units left al-Tawhid Brigade, including the Elite Islamic Battalions and the 1st Regiment.[34] There was also tension between Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham.[16]

By March 2015, it was considered effectively defunct by analysts as one of its key components, Suqour al-Sham, merged into Ahrar al-Sham.[16]

Funding and international support[edit]

The group was widely reported to be backed and armed by Saudi Arabia,[35][36][37] although other analysts have said there is little evidence for Saudi Arabian support for factions other than Jaysh al-Islam.[26] Other constituent factions, principally the Tawhid Brigade, have been reported as Qatari-backed.[26]

The Front has been widely reported as close to Turkey.[38] A leaked German intelligence document from May 2015 suggested the Islamic Front and Ahrar ash-Sham in particular had received weapons from Turkey.[39][40]

Views and 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.[41] 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.[41] One member of the political assembly of the group has stated that the Islamic Front could accept Syria as a democracy, as long as sharia is "sovereign".[42] The Islamic Front said it aspires "to establish an independent state where God's merciful law is sovereign and where the individuals of this state enjoy justice and a dignified life."[43]

The Islamic Front criticized ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), saying: "They killed the people of Islam and leave the idol worshippers" and "They use the verses talking about the disbelievers and implement it on the Muslims".[44][better source needed]

In 2013, before the Front was formed, its future military leader Zahran Alloush gave a speech attacking Shi'ites, whom he called "Rafidis", the Alawites and "the Zoroastrians", saying "the mujahediin of Sham [the Levant] will wash the filth (رجس) of the Rafida and the Rafidia from Sham... if Allah wills it, until they cleanse Bilad al-Sham [the land of the Levant] from the filth of the Majous [Fireworshippers] who have fought the religion of Allah"; "Shia are still servile and small (أذلاء صاغرين ) throughout history"; and "I bid you, o unclean (أنجاس) Rafida, that as the Banu Umayya [ Umayyads] destroyed your skulls in the past, the people of the Ghouta and the people of Sham will destroy your skulls in the future".[45]

Alloush and Hassan Aboud, heading the Islamic Front's political office, have denounced democracy and called for an Islamic state to succeed Assad.[46][47] However in a May 2015 interview with McClatchy journalists, Alloush used moderate rhetoric, claiming that Syrians should decide what sort of state they wanted to live under and that Alawites were "part of the Syrian people" and only those with blood on their hands should be held accountable. His spokesman went on to claim that the sectarian and Islamist rhetoric Alloush had previously made was only intended for internal consumption and to rally his fighters.[48][49][50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Syria Islamist rebel factions merge: Spokesman". AFP. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  2. ^ Michael Weiss (8 January 2014). "Has sahwa hit the fan in Syria?". NOW News. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Leading Syrian rebel groups form new Islamic Front". BBC. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Syria rebels name slain leader's replacement". Al Jazeera English. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  5. ^ Richard Hall (9 January 2014). "Factbox: Syria's rebel groups". Reuters.
  6. ^ a b Hassan Hassan (March 2014). "Front to Back". Foreign Policy.
  7. ^ "Aleppo: Syria's Stalingrad?". National Interest. 22 April 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  8. ^ "Freedom, Human Rights, Rule of Law: The Goals and Guiding Principles of the Islamic Front and Its Allies". Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Al-Akrad Front defeats ISIL in Aleppo". ARA News. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Syrian Kurds, rebels find common enemy in ISIS". Al Monitor. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Syria rebels unite and launch new revolt, against jihadists". AFP. 4 January 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Six Islamist factions unite in largest Syria rebel merger". Reuters. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  13. ^ a b Aaronlund (January 15, 2014). "The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 2: An Umbrella Organization". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Factbox: Syria's rebel groups". Reuters. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  15. ^ "The Levant Front: Can Aleppo's Rebels Unite?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Aron Lund (23 March 2015). "Islamist Mergers in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham Swallows Suqour al-Sham". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  17. ^ "Syria crisis: Guide to armed and political opposition". BBC. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  18. ^ a b c "Islamists forge Syria's rebel alliance". MSN NZ. 23 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Syrian Islamic Front on Twitter". Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  21. ^ "Statement of the Islamic Front for the liberation of Syria". Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  22. ^ "Say Hello to the Islamic Front". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 22 November 2013. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  23. ^ a b c Atassi, Basma (22 November 2013). "Major Syrian rebel groups join forces". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  24. ^ "Series of Syrian Muslim rebel brigades say they've unified under name of the 'Islamic Front'". Edmonton Journal. Associated Press. 22 November 2013. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  25. ^ a b c Dziadosz, Alexander; Afanasieva, Dasha (7 December 2013). "Syrian Islamists seize Western-backed rebel bases: monitoring group". Reuters. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  26. ^ a b c aron Lund (22 November 2013). "The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 1: Structure and Support". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Top U.S.-backed Commander in Syria Run Out, U.S. Officials Say". The Wall Street Journal. 12 December 2013.
  28. ^ "Syrian rebels deny reports top commander forced to flee". Reuters. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  29. ^ Vinograd, Cassandra (13 December 2013). "Syria rebels: Islamic militants nabbed our weapons". Associated Press. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  30. ^ Dick, Marlin (17 December 2013). "FSA alliance pushes back against Islamic Front". Daily Star. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Felix Legrand (23 September 2014). "The Resilience of Moderate Syrian Rebels". Arab Reform Initiative.
  33. ^ "Syria's Ahrar al-Sham Leadership Wiped Out in Bombing". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  34. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (2 October 2014). "The Dawn of Freedom Brigades: Analysis and Interview". Syria Comment.
  35. ^ Syrian FSA fades in shadow of Saudi-backed opposition front, Al-Monitor, 11 December 2013
  36. ^ Syria’s Saudi jihadist problem, Daily Beast, 16 December 2013
  37. ^ Al-Qaeda and ISIS: The Renunciation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Al Akhbar, 4 February 2014
  38. ^ Idiz, Semih (January 7, 2014). "Erdogan under pressure as Syrian crisis spreads to Iraq". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  39. ^ "Gab die Linke der PKK geheime Regierungsdokumente?". Die Welt.
  40. ^ "Peter R. Neumann". Twitter.
  41. ^ a b "New rebel alliance wants Syria as 'Islamic State'". AFP news agency. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  42. ^ "Assad destroyed Syria and manipulated the population: Rebel leader". ARA News. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  43. ^ Lund, Aron (January 17, 2014). "The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 4: The State". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  44. ^ Uncover the Mask with Evidence and Confidence كشف القناع بالحجة ولإقناع داعش. YouTube. 8 March 2015.
  45. ^ Joshua Landis. "Zahran Alloush: His Ideology and Beliefs". Joshua Landis' Syria Comment blog. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  46. ^ John Rossomando. "IPT Exclusive: Jihad-Supporting Imam Raised Millions on U.S. Fundraising Tour". The Investigative Project on Terrorism.
  47. ^ "حسان عبود.. سلسلة رموز المعارضة المسلحة ج1". aljazeera.net.
  48. ^ "Islamist rebel leader walks back rhetoric in first interview with Western media". 20 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  49. ^ Syrian Rebel Leader Changes His Conservative Rhetoric in First Talk With an American Newspaper. YouTube. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  50. ^ "Syria Comment » Archives "Is Zahran Alloush in Amman?" by Aron Lund - Syria Comment". Syria Comment. Retrieved 19 August 2015.

External links[edit]