ISTANBUL — Difficult access to its main area of operations has long made the Syrian opposition group Jaish al-Islam (JAI) a relative mystery to the outside world. A video released on April 29 showing a 1,700-strong military parade of its new "graduates" in the Damascus outskirts has drawn greater attention to it, along with a shift from calling for an Islamic state to its leader saying the people should choose the sort of state they want.
JAI spokesman Capt. Islam Alloush agreed to be interviewed by Al-Monitor in mid-May, in a gated complex housing mainly foreigners in Istanbul’s outlying suburbs. With a reddish-brown Islamist-style beard, wide-set eyes and a polite demeanor, Alloush claims no family relation to the group’s leader, Zahran Alloush.