Jabhat al-Nusra announced the “Bas Foundation for Military Manufacturing and Development” in a move indicating its growing capabilities and expertise, as well as reflecting its fears that its external support will not last.
Jabhat al-Nusra’s move is expected to worsen the security situation in Syria and may turn the country into Nusra’s testing ground. And the civilians will be the most affected.
Jabhat al-Nusra’s Twitter account announced the formation of Bas, pointing out that the foundation’s work and details will be published soon. But a source close to Jabhat al-Nusra told As-Safir that Bas constitutes “a qualitative step in the field of military development and production based on institutional scientific grounds that the battlefields have never seen before,” pointing out that this work is “a far cry from the dye and coloring workshops” performed by some other factions that claim to produce and develop military hardware.
The Bas Foundation is part of a project started by Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-2013 and involves manufacturing some types of weapons and ammunition using machinery and equipment captured from factories located in areas under its control.
In September, Jabhat al-Nusra revealed the existence of the “Military Manufacturing and Development Institution.” A Nusra official said the institution is "working full force to produce the necessary arms and ammunition to supply the raging battle, so the wheel of jihad keeps moving in the land of the Levant."
In an interview with the Manara Foundation, Jabhat al-Nusra’s media outlet, the official added, “The institution produces today many mortars of various calibers along with their shells, as well as silencers and spare parts for some of the weapons, and support bases for machine guns, Kalashnikov magazines, explosive devices, detonators. … That’s in addition to the rockets, first and foremost Faisal 1.”
Faisal rockets were first used against several villages in the Latakia countryside during the “eye for an eye” attack, which was launched by Jabhat al-Nusra’s leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani, who said the attack was a response to the shelling of East Ghouta with chemical weapons.
Jabhat al-Nusra is expected to have improved its shells and rockets, both in terms of range and effectiveness, especially since the Faisal 1 has now become the Faisal 2, with a new range exceeding 10 kilometers (six miles).
Whatever the capabilities acquired by Jabhat al-Nusra in the field of military production, its capabilities still remain limited and don’t enable the group to make a qualitative jump in the quality of its arsenal. This industry is useful for Jabhat al-Nusra because it reduces its dependence on external support, particularly with regard to simple munitions, such as ammunition for rifles and machine guns and some rocket-propelled grenades.
It is likely that Jabhat al-Nusra wishes to develop its military production capabilities because it fears an interruption of external support, especially since Saudi Arabia now considers the group a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia's decision, if seriously implemented, would deprive Jabhat al-Nusra of considerable financial and military support. Furthermore, Jabhat al-Nusra also doesn’t trust its “jihadist” faction allies, such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, especially now that Prince Bandar bin Sultan is to be relieved from his post as head of Saudi intelligence, a move that would affect Jabhat al-Nusra's alliances.
Jabhat al-Nusra realizes that many of its sources of funding and support may close in the future. It is trying to pre-empt this possibility by establishing an infrastructure that provides it with the minimum ammunition and weapons it needs.