August is coming and promising to be tough for the Salafi Jihadi groups fighting in Syria. Here is a brief update with what is going on with them.
1- The #Islamic_State:
Today, the Islamic State is still holding to half of al-Raqqah city, and only few locations around it. The second biggest area they are holding now (July 28/2017) is Ma’dan معدان, east of al-Raqqah.
Also today, the Islamic State lost its strategic hold in areas east of Khanaser, in Reef Halab al-Janubi ( The Southern Country Side of the Governorship of Allepo). al-Assad forces, and its allies, are encircling Durayhim and Jabal Shbeeth, دريهم و جبل شبيث, which will lead eventually to the loosening of the Islamic State grip over the road between Athria and al-Rasafeh. Through these positions the Islamic State always threatened to cut the southern route coming to the city of Allepo, and also threatened to attack al-Assad super important positions there in Ma’amel al-Difa’.
East of al-Raqqah, the Islamic State still holds few large urban centers most importantly are most of Deir al-Zur, and al-Bukamal by the Iraqi border. After al-Raqqah, if the Islamic State loses the areas under their control in Deir al-Zur and al-Bukamal, one could say they are done in Syria more or less.
Many members of the Islamic State are coming from Iraq into Syria, and many of them are also escaping to the areas held by other Islamic Groups.
In the Syrian Desert: the Islamic State is still holding al-Sukhna, where a battle with the advancing Assad, and its allies, forces is almost underway.
The Islamic State has a presence also in the Sadd al-Wa’r سد الوعر area ( Between al-Bukamal and al-Tanaf), and a very modest presence in al-Qalamun, a presence in Damascus in Mukhayam al-Yarmuk, and a presence in Southern Syria through Jaysh Khaled ibn al-Waleed.
This group is a hybrid, but the main fighting Salfi groups in this coalition are:
a- al-#Nusra, which had morphed a little while ago to Jabhat Tahir al-Sham
b- Jabhat #Ansar_al-Din #جبهة ـأنصارـ الدين
c- Jasysh al-Sunnah جيش السنة
d- Liwa’ al-Haqq لواء الحق
e- Liwa’ Nur al-Din al-Zinki. لواء نور الدين الزنكي
Today, this group is engaged in battles not against al-Assad, but against #Ahrar_al-Sham and other groups.
This battle is very important because Ahrar al-Sham are trying to distance themselves from the international jihadi aspect of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. #Ahrar_al-Sham is trying to show a more Syrian face than the pan-Islam cross-the-border-Muslim Umma, the ex-#Nusra and its allies espouse.
The leader on paper for this group today is Hashem al-Shaykh, a.k.a Abu Jaber, the ex-leader of Ahrar al-Sham. Abu Muhammad al-Julani is the leader of the biggest military faction in this coalition, as all observers agree. The top religious clerics are also known and amongst them are the two Saudis: Musleh al-‘Ulayani مصلح العلياني and Abd Allah al-Muhaysini عبد الله المحيسني. This religious committee has also the Egyptians Abu al-Hareth al-Masri and the newly famous Abu al-Yaqzan al-Masri, plus the Jordanian Abu Mahmud al-Shami ( Sami al-Aridi سامي العريدي), few Syrians like Abu al-Taher al-Hamwi, Abu Yusuf al-Hamwi, and ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Mahdi.
The majority of Hay’at Tahir al-Sham are non-Syrians, according to all accounts at this moment, especially after the defection of Liwa’ Nur al-Din al-Zinki لواء نور الدين الزنكي away from the coalition.
The local Syrians are also demonstrating against this group and raising the Syrian Revolution Green flag to antagonize the international Jihadis with their black flag. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
This group, through its Nusra branch, was involved up till yesterday in a battle against Hizbollah of Lebanon in Jurud ‘Irsal. The battle just ended with the expulsion of al-Nusra from the area after they were defeated and encircled. Abu Malek al-Talli was the local leader of al-Nusra there. He had dug deep into the mountain and for the last few years he seemed to be able to stay as a danger. With his defeat, al-Nusra had lost its footing in al-Qalamun al-Gharbi may be for good.
This group also operates in al-Julan and near Dar’a in the south of Syria.
The future of this group is going to come up to light after the eventual defeat of the Islamic State in Syria.
3- #Ahrar al-#Sham:
All indications are showing that Ahrar al-Sham is going to try and be a part of the large political deal that is looming, and which excludes every party that has an Islamic Jihadi face to it, which means changing its flag, speech and outlook.
They are now in a bloody fight against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which are attracting almost all of the foreign Jihadis that were in the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham.
The next few months are crucial for the survival of this group, which may disappear to appear in a less Islamist format.
This group is engaged in a fight with al-Assad in al-Ghuta. The strength of this group is not growing, and most likely it will transform like Ahrar al-Sham.
The same logic goes to the smaller groups like Faylaq al-Rahman and al-Suqur, where all of them will tone down the Jihadi face.
5- The other Non-Syrian groups:
a: al-Hizb al-Islami al-#Turkistani: This group is still around holding to some positions in Reef Hama and Reed Idleb, plus few areas near Kbani, in the coastal mountains. This group is not making the news a lot recently and staying away from the fight between al-Ahrar and the others. But, it will be attacked when the other international Jihadi groups would be attacked.
b- Jabhat Ansar al-Din: This group fights under Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Its power is dwindling with time by the loss of more of its fighter and the inability to grow. Harakat Sham al-Islam is a part of this.