Islamic rebel groups in Syria are trying to put up a united front against Assad in a bid to regain some of ground they’ve lost to government forces during the course of the year. The Wall Street Journal:
Charles Lister, an analyst with IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, estimated the new group’s fighting strength at 45,000 fighters. In comparison, the Free Syrian Army, the largest rebel alliance that was thought to include 70,000 to 150,000 fighters, still has a fighting force of about 40,000 men, one commander estimated.The Islamic Front consists of the Army of Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, Suqoor al-Sham, al-Haq Brigade, the Tawheed Brigade, Ansar al-Sham and the Kurdish Islamic front. The groups are Islamist and are predominantly made up of Syrian fighters.Foreign fighters, predominantly associated with the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), have recently been criticized for their heavy handedness and extremist ideology in areas they control in the north.“While the front notably does not include either of the two Al-Qaeda-linked groups active in Syria, it’s unlikely to actively confront either of them intentionally, but instead will represent an explicitly Syrian Islamist body capable of co-opting Syrians away from Al-Qaeda,” Mr. Lister wrote.
The next question is whether Saudi fear and hatred of Iran plus fury at the US lead it to work more closely with Qatar to combine the Sunni forces into one effective organization in the Syrian war. If not, expect the Assad recovery to grind on, especially if a temporary nuke deal gives Iran access to more money.