Ahrar a-Sham commander: 'Eradication' only solution for Islamic State

Whether “directly or indirectly,” the regime and the Islamic State appear to be cooperating in northern Aleppo, says Ahrar a-Sham commander Hassam Abu Bakr. “The regime has intensified its bombing of those villages that IS wants to enter in the northern Aleppo countryside,” Abu Bakr tells Moutasem Jamal.

Q: Media outlets have reported on what appears to be cooperation between IS and the regime in the northern Aleppo countryside since the former began its attack on the area. Thoughts?

As far as cooperation between IS and the regime, it is happening, whether directly or indirectly. The regime has intensified its bombing of those villages that IS wants to enter, like Mariaa and Tal Refaat.

Additionally, there are fronts [in the area] between IS and the regime that have been cold for a long time; not a single bullet has been fired.

Also look at the timing—IS's attack came after the Victory Army moved in the direction of the regime's Achilles' Heel (the coast). The coast is the regime's heartland that, if entered, would spell the regime's collapse.

Q: If you manage to expel IS from the northern Aleppo countryside, what are your goals afterwards? Taking out IS completely? Or do you have other priorities?

Of course the eradication of IS is one of the demands we're insistent upon. The only thing that works with them is eradication. But that particular goal might be put off for a later time.

The regime is our priority, because eliminating the regime means eliminating IS completely.

Q: How are the battles going at the moment?

The battle for Aleppo is continuing, as is the battle for Idlib. As for our battle with IS, we're getting ready, God willing, and will launch the battle soon.

We are preparing to storm those villages that IS recently occupied.

Moutasem Jamal

Moutasem Jamal studied English literature. He moved to Jordan after losing his job because of violence in his area.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.