BANDING TOGETHER: Seven key rebel factions fighting in Syria’s civil war declared their unification under the banner of the “Islamic Front” in a video posted online last week.
The new bloc, which is primarily composed of Salafi groups pushing for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria, conspicuously excludes Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS). The reasons for this exclusion are not known, but it reflects the increasingly fractious state of an opposition movement split between a growing array of Salafi groups and the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
Issa a-Shaikh, head of the Islamic Front’s Shura Council, announced that the Front is an “independent political, military, and social body” with the goal of securing “the complete removal” of the Assad regime and “the establishment of a righteous Islamic state” in its place.
A-Shaikh went on to specify that the new entity brings together the Ahrar a-Sham Islamic movement, Jaysh al-Islam, Ansar a-Sham, the Kurdish Islamic Front, Liwa a-Tawhid, Liwa al-Haq, and the Suqour a-Sham Brigade, in which a-Shaikh is a leading figure. The majority of these groups belong to a Salafi school of thought and advocate for the establishment of an Islamic state.
The coalition has selected Jaysh al-Islam leader Zahran Alloush to head its military wing, while Ahrar a-Sham’s Hassan Abboud–a well-known Salafi Jihadi who previously spent years in Syria’s infamous Saidanaya prison–will lead the group’s political affairs.
The Islamic Front, after holding a number of meetings in Turkey in recent weeks, has announced its strong opposition to the planned Geneva II conference while directing a steady stream of criticism toward the Supreme Military Council, led by General Salim Idriss. General Idriss enjoys support from Western states and Saudi Arabia, whereas the Islamic Front is considered to be more closely aligned with Qatar. Video courtesy of Islamic Front.