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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Its Time To Get To Know Jabhat al-Nusrah

Links: A. Al-Nusrah Claims That U.S. Has Bombed Its Territory
           B. Al-Nusrah Front, Jun al-Aqsa Terrorist Groups In Idlib
           C. Al-Nusrah Forces U.S.-Backed Group From Idlib

We've managed to dissect just about every player in Syria except Jabhat al-Nusrah (Al-Nusrah Front), the regular Syrian Army, and the Free Syrian Army. 

The Regular Syrian Army

The regular Syrian Army consists of whatever Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has been able to patch together from the pre-war Syrian Army.  The Syrian Air Force has been decimated and will have to be rebuilt from scratch (which isn't necessarily that difficult if you have the cash to buy new jets from Russia), but the Army, which has basically been inactive over the past few months, really only needs reorganizing and a strong leader who can inspire men to fight.  Syria continues to have an absurd advantage in armor over all the players in this drama, and I imagine a great deal has been done to repair vehicles/tanks and train new soldiers.  For Assad, the allied air intervention was like water to the man in the desert dying of thirst.  He has been given a reprieve, and I have no doubt that he has been making the most of this down-time.  We can't forget that Russia continues to support the Syrian government in Damascus.  Vlad Putin is also grateful of the allied air campaign because the situation in Syria was becoming dire for Assad and his Ba'athist buddies.  The IS was making preparations for an assault on Aleppo, which would have only been the precursor to an attack on Damascus itself.  The Syrian Air Force, with most of its Air Bases overrun by the IS and other Islamic terrorist groups, had basically collapsed (with the exception of a few helicopter gunships, which Assad loves to call into action).  Without air
support, the army had lost its eyes and was finding itself caught in one ambush after another.  But the regular Syrian Army has been given the opportunity to retreat behind the front lines and lick its wounds, while the Kurds struggle against the IS in Kobani and forces supported by the U.S.(?) are driven out of Idlib (were the elements that were routed in Idlib connected to the Free Syrian Army?).  Make no mistake, when the time is most advantageous to Assad, his military will return to the battlefield, and don't be surprised if Putin has assisted in rebuilding the Syrian Air Force.

The Free Syrian Army

What about the Free Syrian Army (forgive me; for some time I was referring to this group as the "New Syrian Army")?  We digested news reports last week from Idlib (see link C) that detailed the rout of U.S.-backed fighters.  Were these fighters part of the Free Syrian Army that we are supposed to be training and wasn't supposed to be operational for at least another month?  And what about the statement from the Pentagon that the Free Syrian Army would be deployed in a defensive capacity only.  Were "our" fighters in Idlib in a defensive posture before they were run out of town?  Maybe this is a different group, and this is an indication that we are training other military elements that will have a more "offensive" plan of action.  I find this hypothesis to be the most hard to believe, because until now the Obama Administration has been very generous sharing every last detail of its intentions.  I see no reason to believe that the leopard has changed his spots; why train others as offensive pieces on the board, but leave the main body of your forces, the Free Syrian Army, in a purely defensive posture?  I am surprised that we don't have more information regarding the Free Syrian Army, especially regarding its timetable.  I can't help but wonder if this Free Syrian Army, in its effort to be "defensive", is going to get caught between the various Islamic groups in the east, and a reconstituted regular Syrian military in the west.

Jabhat al-Nusrah (Al-Nusrah Front)

The first two links I chose to share provide important details regarding Jabhat al-Nusrah, or the Nusrah Front.  The press, in its daily effort to retweet all the propaganda fed to it by the terrorist groups via social media, continues to remind us that al-Nusrah is the Al-Qaeda representative in Syria and that they are not friends with the IS whatsoever.  Common sense, and a career of working against Islamic terror groups, leads me to suspect that someone is falling hook, line  and sinker for the most obvious of disinformation campaigns.  Khorasan hates al-Nusrah and al-Nusrah hates the Islamic State and since al-Nusrah is the representative of Al-Qaeda in Syria (?), then Al-Qaeda must also hate the Islamic State.  Please, folks....listen carefully and try to see the truth in all its simplicity.  All of these groups are Sunni affiliated and all have historic Al-Qaeda connections of one type or another.  The Islamic State of the Levant was called Al-Qaeda in Iraq not to long ago, for goodness sake.  I think the decision by the Qatari Air Force to only bomb targets selectively (no Al-Nusrah targets, please) was part of the effort to convince us that there is freedom of thought and movement in its each individual group.  I don't accept this; as far as I'm concerned they are all Sunni terrorist groups who prey upon the weak and helpless.  In fact, our military would be best served by keeping all these groups under one header: "THE ENEMY", and let the CTC analysts at Langley worry about the personalities within.

Back to Jabhat al-Nusrah.  This group announced its formation in Syria in January 2012, and states that its end goal is the creation of a Pan-Islamic State under Sharia Law and ruled by a Caliph.  If we switched out "Jabhat al-Nusrah" with "Islamic State of the Levant", who would know the difference?  And yet, according to Twitter, the international media, and the Pentagon, the two groups are at each other's throats.  It is believed that many of the original members of Al-Nusrah are Syrians who were fighting with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" (AQI) group during Operation Enduring Freedom.  The members of Al-Nusrah are believed to be the best trained and the best equipped of all the Sunni Extremist groups in the Syria/Iraq theater.  Al-Nusrah is known for conducting suicide attacks.  The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the head of Al-Nusrah, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, appear to have had numerous discussions about the merging of the two groups.  According to Al-Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the only remaining leader of Al-Qaeda without two bullet holes in his forehead (so far), instructed the two groups not to merge.  Al-Baghdadi ignored this instruction and continued to publicly declare a merger between the two.  Since they appear to be separate today, I'm assuming al-Julani won that argument.  But lets be honest; who really gives a shit about any of the back-and-forth that I just repeated (direct from Wikipedia)?  Al-Nusrah is on the battlefield in Syria, its fighters are well-trained, disciplined, and like to blow themselves up for Allah.  Much of the same can be said for the Islamic State, so as far as I see it, we are looking at two peas in a pod.  When the bullets start to fly, I guarantee that these two groups (and any other Sunni-affiliated armed extremist groups) will join ranks.  To be honest, the war in Syria means very little to me.  The Russians will find a way to protect their interests in the end, so I am forced to accept that Assad isn't going anywhere.  My interest is in Iraq, where we have easily identified allies in the Iraqi military and the Peshmerga/Kurdish regular forces.  Actually, it becomes more apparent everyday that Iranian military units have been participating in the war against IS.  From Assad in Syria to the Iranians in Iraq, we keep ending up with the strangest of bedfellows!  I recognize that the Iraqi Army has been strengthened by groups of both Shia militia and Sunni tribal fighters.  I see a real opportunity in Iraq to defeat Al-Qaeda/IS, solidify the Kurdish homeland, and greatly improve Sunni/Shia relations.  Insha'Allah!

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