Jabhat al-Nusra tries to create unified council in Syria

A rapprochement is underway between the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra, as the latter has announced its decision to create a unified council for the armed factions.

al-monitor A member of the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra stands holding his weapon in Aleppo, Dec. 18, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Molhem Barakat.

Topics covered

syrian opposition, shariah, jihadists, jabhat al-nusra, islamic state of iraq and al-sham, fsa

Feb 20, 2014

A source close to jihadist factions in Syria revealed to As-Safir that Jabhat al-Nusra has been striving for three weeks now to convince armed factions active in Daraa to unify under the umbrella of one council to be called “The Shura Council of the Largest Jihadist Factions in the South.”

The source said that Jabhat al-Nusra proposed this idea to the leaders of factions because it deemed it necessary that all major jihadist factions in Daraa should unite to better implement Sharia. When hearing about this news, one cannot omit the issue of the growing conflict between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in northern and eastern Syria. So the leadership of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria wants to avoid importing this conflict to its land by imposing the integration of some factions that could be sympathetic to ISIS.

The source affirmed that the attempts of Jabhat al-Nusra to establish the “Unified Jihadist Council” has reached an advanced phase, and the council could be announced in the coming days.

Despite what was stated by the source, new data is emerging, especially after the conclusion of the Geneva II talks. The conference ended without any significant progress, and subsequent accusations were leveled by some Western countries against the Syrian government, holding it responsible for the failure of the talks. In addition, there was talk of opting for the military option and heating up the southern front. Therefore, the proposal of Jabhat al-Nusra and its implications should be reconsidered, especially coming in tandem with Western talk about launching a military attack on the southern front. Is it mere coincidence that Jabhat al-Nusra is promoting the establishment of a council where armed factions are unified in southern Syria, at a time when Western newspapers leaked news about a potential attack in the same area?

The source did not explain whether the recent creation of the Southern Front, made up of around 49 factions from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), came as part of the al-Nusra initiative or not. However, the source confirmed that there has been a high-level rapprochement between al-Nusra and the FSA, especially after the brigades of the FSA fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra against ISIS during the clashes in Deir el-Zour.

This rapprochement was further emphasized a week ago, when supporters of ISIS leaked an audio recording of the supreme mufti of Jabhat al-Nusra, Maissar al Jabbouri (Abu Maria al Kahtani). He was talking to the leaders of armed factions in Deir el-Zour about the “necessity of uniting under one umbrella to implement Islamic Sharia and fight everyone who refuses to abide by it,” in a clear reference to ISIS. More importantly, Jabbouri was encouraging armed factions to unite with the brigades of the FSA and the military council in Deir el-Zour, knowing that Jabhat al-Nusra used to consider the banner of the FSA against Sharia law, and held that fighting under that banner was not allowed because its supporters are secular and advocate a democratic and civil state.

Therefore, nothing rules out the possibility that the unification of armed factions in Daraa under the name of the Southern Front was carried out after agreeing and discussing the issue with Jabhat al-Nusra. Yet, even if the Southern Front was established without the consent of the latter, it certainly achieves the goal Jabhat al-Nusra is seeking, which is uniting armed factions under one umbrella to avoid division and to prepare for a certain plan. Are there secret parties controlling what is happening between armed factions in Daraa in terms of unification and rapprochement, and their preparation for a huge battle that will change the rules of the game after the Geneva II talks? Or have these factions done it all alone? Is there a place for coincidence in war?

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Abdallah Suleiman Ali