Lots of confusion about the infighting in the "rebel" held Idleb governate in Syria, the situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the "moderate rebels" but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiqThe Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the US and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest "rebel" group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and US supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar is now joining al-Qaeda.
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)
The "new" Tahrir Al-Sham is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.
The now further enlarged al-Qaeda formation under the new name Tahrir Al-Sham is by far the biggest "rebel" dog in the Idleb-region town with now many more than its previous 10,000 active fighters. Of all other groups the "moderate" side of the split Ahrar al-Sham is the biggest one. Left beside it are just splinters of those groups (like Zinki) that mainly crossed over to al-Qaeda. Some local warlords and their small gangs are also still around. These groups will probably continue to receive Turkish and US support. But they will have no chance against the much more powerful al-Qaeda collective.
The leader of al-Qaeda in Syria al-Julani made a huge mistake by initiating this open split from the "moderates". The group can now no longer hide by "mingling" with the CIA supported "moderates". When it is attacked by the Syrian government it can no longer claim to be a victim. As it is a UN designated terrorist group it will receive no significant outside support. It can not even go into guerrilla mode because the "fish" (the guerrilla) will have no "water" (a sympathetic local population) to swim in.
This plays well into the Russian hands which initiated the Astana peace conference exactly for this purpose. The US under Obama and Kerry had declared it impossible to separate al-Qaeda in Syria from the "moderate rebels" it supported. The Astana conference and in its consequence the now open al-Qaeda conflict with the "moderates" achieved the separation. The "moderates" left now can only join al-Qaeda, make peace with the Syrian government and its allies or flee the country to survive.
In other news the Syrian government forces have finally recaptured the Ayn al-Feejah in Wadi Barada that supplies Damascus with drinking water. 5.5 million people were cut off from tap water when the Takfiris captured, poisoned and blocked the spring 44 days ago. After three earlier deals had failed the now defeated Takfirs agreed to being transported to Idleb.
Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.