Hawks and masterplane

What is supposed to make the Syrians flock together again after what was before 2011 and what has been since then?

The reshuffling of the Syrian rebel scene is a relatively recent phenomenon – driven by forces in the Gulf that wanted to make Syria the main arena of their fight against Shiism. According to Arab media, a master plan to this effect is already in place. An important role in this scenario could fall to Ahmad Abu Issa, head of Suqur al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) – a hawk with the aura of a dove. Are he and Syria’s other top rebels (see: "Hardly a Bad Thing About the Term ‘Islamic’" and The answer heibt "Syrian Salafism"?) a kind of "Homegrown Al-Qaeda"?

With 150 men, eight locals from Idlib province founded Suqur al-Sham (Bridade of the Hawks of Syria) in September 2011. Among the originators is Ahmad Abu Issa (sometimes called by the other name Ahmed al-Sheikh), who now heads the civilian wing of the brigade and is thus responsible for media contacts and for procuring military equipment and food. According to the brigades website, the military wing acts independently, but in consultation with Issa.

Ideological Conglomerate

The hawks fighting between Hama and Idlib joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the beginning, but in September 2012 formed the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) , an umbrella organization with about 20 militias and about 40.000 fighters, who act completely independently of the FSA’s central command.

Although Issa cites the SILF, Swedish journalist Aaron Lund describes it as a club of many fighters with few leaders – in contrast to the FSA, which has many leaders but few fighters. What is meant is that the SILF is not subject to a sharply profiled ideology.

Only among the ranks of the Falcons, for example, are there also seculars or moderates, although the group as a whole is unmistakably Islamist in character and Issa is considered by some to be an out-and-out Salafist.

However, the group is trying to fill this term with new content, distancing itself from al-Qaeda’s global jihadism, as Hassan Abboud did, and wanting to create a quasi-national Salafism. To back this up, the hawks, like Ahrar al-Sham, for example, refrain from al-Qaida-type suicide attacks.

Instead, Issa lets the attacks on army checkpoints, which made his brigade famous, be carried out by prisoners of war and remote sensing .

Alleged master plan for the rebel scene

Like Zahran Alloush or Hassan Abboud, Issa sees himself as one of the leadership figures who can replace the political opposition. Accordingly, the hawks signed the "Islamic alliance", which last fall showed the Syrian National Coalition the political door.

The fact that they stayed away from the Army of Islam proclaimed by Zahran Alloush was also justified by the Saudi-funded daily Al-Hayat at the end of last year with a new, rough draft for Syria’s rebel scene. This is to be implemented with the help of "regional power" be restructured into two rough blocks – into the "Army of Islam" in the south and in the "Army of Mohammad" in the north.

Since Issa’s hawks are active in the north, it makes sense that they did not join the Sud bloc. It makes less sense, however, that the likewise fighting in the north "Liwa’ al-Tawhid" this very well did, which is to be explained probably – again – with the not yet finished dynamics.

Things have changed since al-Hayat’s report in October 2013. Suqur al-Sham now plays a larger role in the Islamic Front, which is proving to be the most powerful alliance of rebel groups to date. Currently, the Islamic Front is reawakening international attention to the Syrian war theater with battles in the north of the country against ISIS.

Concentrated response to three jolts of

In principle, the current developments must be read against the background of the events of the last six months: The fact that Shiite Hezbollah helped the regime to a decisive victory in Kuseir in the early summer shook the sectarian Sunni camp to its core.

Added to this were the signals sent by the Syrian National Coalition: Ahmed Tohme, the Western-sanctioned prime minister of Syria’s current interim government, proclaimed that sacular, not Islamic, laws should prevail in Syria. This was an affront, since the rebels were the first to establish courts based on Sharia law in the areas they had conquered.

The third and biggest blow came from the U.S. and Russia, who agreed in September on a plan to destroy Syrian chemical weapons, bringing President Bashar al-Assad back on board. He, for whose deligitimization all revolting Syrians – as well as the Gulf states – have been fighting since March 2011, was once again elevated to the status of a negotiating partner at eye level, and as such was praised by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his willingness to cooperate.

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