December 18/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Love for Enemies

Luke 06: 27-36: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back.  Do for others just what you want them to do for you. “If you love only the people who love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners do that!  And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount!  No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful."

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 18/13

Lebanon: Hands off now/The Daily Star/December 18/13

Egypt's New Constitution: Bleak Prospects/By: Eric Trager/Washington Institute/December 18/13

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham/By: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/MERIA/December 18/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 18/13

Lebanese Related News

Car Bomb Blast Near Hizbullah Post in Baalbek Leaves Casualties

Car bomb targets Hezbollah in east Lebanon

Report: Suicide bomber targets Hezbollah operatives in eastern Lebanon
Lebanese Army takes tougher anti-terrorism measures

U.N. Council Urges Calm on Israel-Lebanon Border
EU Urges 'All Parties, Including Hizbullah' to Abide by Baabda Declaration

Geagea Accuses Hizbullah, March 8 of Provoking Takfiris in Lebanon

Future Movement vows to end Iranian control of Lebanon
Aridi Briefed Suleiman on Resignation Decision as PSP Suffers Blow
Italy Expresses Readiness before EU FM Council to Support LAF
Ban Says Dealing with Burden of Refugees More Difficult Amid Lack of New Cabinet
Jumblat: Aridi Belongs to a Party, Can't Act on His Own
Two LAW Rockets Found at Sidon Garbage Landfill
Qassem Meets Qatari Ambassador: Political Solutions Key to Ending Regional Disputes
Phalange Party Warns of 'Culture of Suicide Bombers,' Urges Controlling Border, Refugee Camps' Entrances

Fire at Lebanon’s MTV doused


Miscellaneous Reports And News

Canadian Passport Not a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
Battles Rage in South Sudan Capital
FSA alliance pushes back against Islamic Front

EU must engage Iran on human rights: MEP

Thousands of foreigners have fought in Syria: study

Denying Armenian 'genocide' is no crime: European court

Syria Kurds aim to end dispute ahead of peace talks

Report: Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in talks to form unity government

Last man to see missing 'CIA rogue operative' claims he saw Iranians arrest him
European court: Denying Armenian 'genocide' is no crime

Car Bomb Blast Near Hizbullah Post in Baalbek Leaves Casualties
Naharnet /Several people were injured at dawn Tuesday in a car bombing that targeted Hizbullah in its stronghold in the eastern district of Baalbek, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the vehicle was on the road between the towns of Sbouba and Wadi Abu Moussa that lead to Hrabta when a Hizbullah checkpoint opened fire on it. The driver then detonated an estimated 50 kilograms of explosives, the agency said.
The blast, which occurred about two kilometers away from a Hizbullah center, caused multiple injuries, among them party members and civilians, NNA added. But Hizbullah's al-Manar TV station denied there were casualties in the blast. The army said in a terse communique that the explosion of a booby-trapped Grand Cherokee damaged several other vehicles. It did not mention any casualties and did not reveal how the blast happened. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr tasked the military police and intelligence, and forensic experts with carrying out an investigation. According to LBCI TV, the car was heading to the Hizbullah center to target it when it was stopped by the party's members at the checkpoint. TV footage showed four destroyed vehicles. NNA said the vehicle used for the bombing was a Kia Sportage stolen from Bourj Hammoud.
Hizbullah drew a tight security dragnet around the site of the blast as residents of the area said they heard the sound of sirens of ambulances heading towards the scene of the explosion. NNA said that two suspicious vehicles have been previously stopped on the same road where the blast took place. In recent months, several blasts have targeted Hizbullah strongholds and convoys in Beirut and the eastern Bekaa valley. On November 19, two suicide attackers targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs, killing and injuring scores of people. Most recently, on Dec. 4, gunmen assassinated a senior Hizbullah commander, Hassan al-Laqqis, in the garage of his building in Hadath. The attacks are linked to the involvement of Tehran-backed Hizbullah in Syria's civil war. Hizbullah has deployed thousands of its members to fight alongside troops loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple him. Source/Agence France Presse


U.N. Council Urges Calm on Israel-Lebanon Border
Naharnet/The U.N. Security Council on Monday "deplored" the killing of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border shooting and called for moves to ease tensions with Lebanon. A statement agreed by the 15-nation body welcomed action already taken to investigate the killing on Sunday, which Israel has blamed on Lebanese troops. The Security Council "deplored the shooting of an Israel Defense Forces soldier by a Lebanese Armed Forces soldier" and "called for calm and continued restraint by all parties." The U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon said earlier that the killing of the Israeli soldier as he drove near the unofficial border appeared to be "an individual action."Israeli troops fired across the border in retaliation but officers from the two sides also met to discuss an investigation. The U.N. council welcomed statements by the two sides "of their interest in preserving calm and stability" along the border. U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon has already called for restraint by Israel and Lebanon. A U.N. force has patrolled their border area since a brief 2006 war when Israel entered south Lebanon.
Source/Agence France Presse


EU Urges 'All Parties, Including Hizbullah' to Abide by Baabda Declaration
Naharnet/The European Union on Monday urged “all parties, including Hizbullah” to “fully abide by Lebanon's dissociation policy from the conflict in Syria and support the efforts of President (Michel) Suleiman.”
“The EU reaffirms its commitment to the unity, stability, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon. The EU condemns the repeated violence and security incidents, including the latest terrorist attack targeting the Iranian Embassy and the recurrent clashes in Tripoli,” the EU Foreign Affairs Council said in a statement titled “Conclusions on Lebanon” following a meeting in Brussels. It welcomed the efforts of “the Lebanese security forces, including the Lebanese Armed Forces, to protect Lebanon's borders and ensure security for all people living on Lebanese territory, with due respect for the rule of law and human rights.” The EU strongly called on “all parties, including Hizbullah, to act responsibly, fully abide by Lebanon's dissociation policy from the conflict in Syria and support the efforts of President Suleiman to implement the provisions of the Baabda Declaration agreed by all political forces.” It underlined the importance of “continuing the national dialogue among all political forces to overcome all divisions and the current stalemate and move towards a broader agreement on the future of the country,” urging all regional actors to play a “constructive role” in this regard. Turning to the issue of the cabinet formation stalemate, the Council called on Lebanon to “urgently form a new Government capable to address the extraordinary humanitarian, economic and security challenges the country is facing.” “The EU looks forward to the timely holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 and encourages Lebanon to carry out necessary electoral reforms,” it said. On the issue of Syrian refugees, the EU commended the Lebanese authorities for “their open border policy,” reiterating its “appreciation for the support and generosity demonstrated by the authorities and population towards all the people fleeing the conflict in Syria.” “The EU expresses its concern at the unprecedented effect the crisis has on the stability of Lebanon as well as on its natural and economic resources, educational systems, health care and labor markets,” it added. The Council stressed the importance of Lebanon's “continued commitment to the full implementation of its international obligations, including UNSC Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701, 1757,” reaffirming its support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and urging Lebanese authorities to “continue fulfilling their obligations regarding the STL, including the financial contribution.” The EU also reiterated its support to the role of the European-led United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in “supporting peace and stability in South Lebanon."


Future Movement vows to end Iranian ‘occupation’ of Lebanon
December 17, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Future Movement vowed Tuesday to liberate Lebanon from what it described as the “Iranian revolutionary occupation” of the country and urged Lebanese to rally around this cause as they had done in 2005 to end Syria’s dominating influence in its tiny neighbor. Future Movement MP Nuhad Mashnouq also repeated that his party would not take part in any future Lebanese Cabinet as long as Hezbollah, Iran’s primary regional ally, maintained its forces in Syria.  “Friends and colleagues, it is time to announce that we have been and will continue to resist the Iranian revolutionary occupation of Lebanese decision-making,” Mashnouq said at a ceremony commemorating the late Pierre Sadek and Nassir al-Asaad, two prominent Lebanese media figures. “Just as we ended Syrian tutelage from Lebanon with Pierre Sadek and Nassir al-Asaad we will end the Iranian revolutionary occupation from Lebanon so that it can remain a country for dialogue, pluralism, democracy, modernity and an open-minded [society],” he said. Mashnouq said the call was aimed at not just supporters of the March 14 movement. “It is a historic opportunity for the Lebanese to finally end the situation that took shape four decades ago when the state fell and was prevented from regaining all its sovereignty despite the end of the Civil War, Israel’s withdrawal and then later Syria from Lebanese territories,” he said. “Celebrations marking martyrs are not deserved if we do not continue the march of independence whatever the sacrifices,” he said.


Geagea Accuses Hizbullah, March 8 of Provoking Takfiris in Lebanon
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea lashed out on Tuesday at Hizbullah accusing it of stimulating the Takfiris in Lebanon due to its involvement in the ongoing battles in Syria, calling on the formation of an active and cohesive cabinet. “The Lebanese people are tolerating the repercussions of Hizbullah's actions in Syria, despite the fact that the party isn't seeking any political or popular cover for its acts,” Geagea said during a ceremony commemorating the late writer and journalist, Nasir al-Assad and artist & Journalist, Pierre Sadek. Assad and Sadek are two prominent Lebanese media figures. Geagea wondered “if Hizbullah isn't seeking any cover for its actions in Syrian then why would it want to participate in the government.” Hizbullah has sent its fighters to Syria to assist troops loyal to President Bashar Assad against the rebels seeking to topple him.
The Christian leader slammed the March 8 alliance, accusing them of provoking the Takfiris in Lebanon. “The March 8 coalition and Hizbullah monopolized the making decisions on peace and war thus attracting Takfiris,” Geagea added. He noted that the Lebanese foes should form an “active and cohesive cabinet that could control the border, maintain the country's security and revive the economy.” Geagea accused “those who took a sole decision to engage in battles in Syria of attracting suicide bombers as if the main aim is to destroy Lebanon to relieve Assad.” Recent reports have said that President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam were seeking to form a de facto government. Salam was appointed in April but has so far been unable to put together a government over the conditions and counter conditions set by the rivals parties.


Italy Expresses Readiness before EU FM Council to Support LAF
Naharnet /Italy expressed readiness to train the Lebanese Armed Forces in an attempt to maintain stability in the country, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Tuesday. Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino revealed the matter during a meeting for the European Union Foreign Affairs Council . Sources told the daily that Italy will go on with its plans to fortify the local situation in Lebanon. The sources pointed out that other European countries might participate in the training LAF to face the upcoming challenges. The Italian FM expressed her country's readiness to lead the mission to train the Lebanese Army. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta revealed during a two-day visit to Lebanon last week that his country is seeking to organize an international conference in Rome to back the capabilities of the LAF in coordination with the United Nations and Lebanese authorities. Security chaos soared recently in the country because of the Syrian civil war, which is significantly impacting the situation in Lebanon.


Aridi Briefed Suleiman on Resignation Decision as PSP Suffers Blow
Naharnet /Former caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi informed President Michel Suleiman about his intention to resign despite his failure to mention the matter to his fellows at the Progressive Socialist Party, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported. Sources told the daily that Aridi informed Suleiman about his move after the Financial Prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim summoned him over a corruption scandal, prompting the president to voice his consensus over the matter. PSP sources told al-Joumhouria that Aridi's decision came as a surprise to everyone in the party as the resigned minister didn't inform any of his fellows at the party about his decision.
“We didn't have any prior knowledge about Aridi's intention to step down, we heard about it during his press conference,” a PSP official told the newspaper. He pointed out that the matter wasn't addressed at the party's council nor in any other way. On Monday, Aridi announced during a press conference his resignation from the caretaker cabinet in light of recent corruption allegations, adding that he will “take a break from politics.”
Head of PSP, MP Walid Jumblat, later rejected Aridi's decision. Jumblat said that “Aridi belongs to a party and cannot act as he desires.” Aridi engaged last week in a vocal spat with caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi after rainwater caused floods in Beirut streets, leaving thousands of motorists stranded for hours. Aridi briefed Judge Ibrahim on the details of a press conference he made earlier this month in which he accused Safadi of withholding funds from his ministry for road maintenance in an effort to pressure him into approving a construction violation by the finance minister. But Safadi has denied the allegations in remarks to several local TV stations. He accused Aridi of launching a political campaign against him. Safadi shrugged off the accusations that the finance ministry was responsible for the failure to perform maintenance on sewage networks.


Air Raids on Rebel Area of Syria's Aleppo Kill 13
Naharnet /Two children were among at least 13 people killed in new air strikes on a rebel-held district of Syria's main northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, a watchdog said. It was the third straight day of air raids on the eastern Shaar neighborhood of the city, Syria's commercial hub before a rebel offensive in July last year made it a key battleground in the conflict which erupted in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A woman was also among the dead, the Britain-based watchdog said. The new raids came after air strikes on rebel-held areas of Aleppo on Sunday killed 76 people, among them 28 children. Strikes on Monday killed a further 10 civilians, among them four children. The Syrian air force has been dropping barrels of explosives on rebel-held areas in its bombing campaign, which has been carried out by helicopter as well as fixed-wing aircraft, activists and the Observatory say. A Syrian security official said the military prefers the TNT-packed barrels because they are cheaper than regular bombs, which need to be imported from Russia. Source/Agence France Presse


Battles Rage in South Sudan Capital
Naharnet/Fierce battles raged on Tuesday in South Sudan's capital Juba, witnesses said, as troops loyal to the president fought rival soldiers accused of staging a coup in the world's youngest nation. The continued gunfire, including the sporadic firing of heavy weapons, resumed in the early hours of Tuesday as terrified residents barricaded themselves in their homes or attempted to flee the city. South Sudan's Under-Secretary for Health Makur Korion said on local radio that at least 26 people had so far been killed in the violence. At least 130 more are reported to have been wounded. "We can still hear sporadic shooting from various locations. The situation is very tense," Emma Jane Drew of the British aid agency Oxfam told AFP by telephone from Juba. "It's continued shooting. Shooting could be heard all through the night. We don't know who is fighting who."
Drew said her team was unable to leave their compound because of the fighting, which began late on Sunday. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has accused troops loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar who was sacked from the government in July, of attempting a coup. On Monday, Kiir said his troops were "in full control of the security situation in Juba", and imposed an overnight curfew on the city -- only for the fighting to resume again. The independent radio station Tamazuj said clashes were taking place around compounds belonging to Machar or his loyalists. U.N. radio said at least 7,000 civilians had taken refuge at UN offices. An AFP reporter said residents living in areas close to military bases were using any lull in the fighting to flee for safer areas, although many said they were too afraid to move. "We are afraid of going outside," said Juba resident Jane Kiden. "We had wanted to go out and buy food from the market, but how can you go with the shooting? I am staying at home with my children." There were also unconfirmed reports of troops conducting violent house-to-house searches. "We have heard unconfirmed reports of house-to-house military checks of civilians including the use of brutality and violence, though this is unconfirmed," Oxfam's Drew said, raising concerns of an ethnic dimension to the fighting. "It is a very strong possibility. We have certainly received reports of that, but we're locked in the compound, relying on word of mouth," she said. Oil-rich but impoverished South Sudan won its independence in 2011 after its people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to split from the north and form a new nation. But the country has struggled with ethnic violence and corruption, and political tensions have worsened in recent weeks between rival factions within the ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). Machar leads a dissident group within the SPLM and had been seen as the main challenger to Kiir. The rivals hail from different ethnic groups and had in the past fought on different sides during Sudan's civil war. Officials have said several former government ministers have been arrested, although the whereabouts of Machar is unclear.
Communications in Juba continued to be sporadic, with most phone lines down and the main airport closed, diplomats and civil aviation officials said. Source/Agence France Presse

Ban Says Dealing with Burden of Refugees More Difficult Amid Lack of New Cabinet
Naharnet/U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the “complicated” situation in Lebanon was exacerbated by the pressure of Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting in their country. “The situation in Lebanon is very much complicated,” Ban said in his year-end press conference in New York on Monday. “On top of the lack of government formation, then this tragic humanitarian pressure and burden really makes (the situation for the) Lebanese government and people much, much more difficult,” he said. Ban told reporters that he has been discussing this matter with President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati. Peter Kessler, UNHCR senior regional spokesman, said Monday at least 120,000 Syrians seek shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq every month. "The needs are enormous and the host countries cannot meet them on their own. They need help," Kessler told the Associated Press by phone from the Lebanese border town of Arsal, where the population has skyrocketed. Lebanon has been particularly hard hit, because the government kept the borders open and no formal refugee camps have been established. The refugees are scattered all over the country, and mostly live in informal tented settlements in the North and in the eastern Bekaa Valley. More than 20 percent of Lebanon's inhabitants are now Syrians, who have fled the fighting, Kessler said. Ban warned that the number of refugees may reach soon reach 1 million in Lebanon alone. Suleiman and Miqati “are appealing to lessen” and alleviate this “extraordinary burden,” he said in response to a question. “I am very much sympathetic about that. That is why I have established the International Support Group for Lebanon last September to discuss all political, security and humanitarian issues focused on Lebanon,” he said. The U.N. chief promised to continue with that support. The support group was inaugurated in New York on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government. Source/Associated Press


Jumblat: Aridi Belongs to a Party, Can't Act on His Own
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Monday noted that resigned Public Works and Transport Minister “cannot act on his own,” after the latter said he was stepping down from his duties in the caretaker cabinet. “Aridi belongs to a party and he cannot act on his own,” Jumblat said in an interview with LBCI television. “The party will issue a statement after calmly discussing the circumstances of what he announced during the press conference,” he added. LBCI said Aridi had taken his decision to withdraw from political life on Wednesday and that contact with Jumblat had been severed “since more than a week ago.”
“Will they treat me like they treated Rafik Hariri?” LBCI quoted Aridi as saying, in reference to a certain resemblance between his resignation on Monday and the slain premier's decision not to run for premiership in 2004.
Meanwhile, al-Jadeed television quoted Jumblat as saying that “a statement will be issued by an official source in the party tomorrow and it will include a response and a clarification of Aridi's remarks.”
Earlier on Monday, Aridi announced his resignation from the caretaker cabinet in light of recent corruption allegations, saying he will "take a break from politics.” Earlier on Monday, Financial Prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim questioned Aridi over allegations of corruption after a spat with caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi.


Two LAW Rockets Found at Sidon Garbage Landfill
Naharnet /The Lebanese army discovered on Monday two rockets near garbage landfill in the southern city of Sidon. MTV said that the two LAW rockets were found near the landfill. One of them was ready to be detonated.
The army has since cordoned off the area until the arrival of the military expert. The discovery came shortly after a double attack against two army checkpoints in Sidon on Sunday. An army communique said three suspects were passing on foot through a checkpoint at al-Awwali bridge at Sidon's entrance at 9:00 pm Sunday when a soldier asked for their identification papers. One of the suspects threatened him with a grenade, which blew up when the soldier opened fire on him, it said. The suspect was killed and two soldiers at the checkpoint were injured. The other two suspects escaped. Forty five minutes later, a Palestinian blew himself up near an army checkpoint in the Majdelyoun area, killing himself and a sergeant, and wounding a soldier.


Qassem Meets Qatari Ambassador: Political Solutions Key to Ending Regional Disputes
Naharnet /Hizbullah deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem and newly-appointed Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon Ali bin Hamad al-Marri stressed on Monday the importance of political solutions to regional crises, announced the party in a statement. It said: “Political solutions are key to ending disputes in the region.”They also serve to achieve reconciliation among people in the region, it added after a meeting between Qassem and al-Marri. “Cooperation between Lebanese parties will help reach the solution that will serve the country and all of its sons,” it said. Ties between Hizbullah and Qatar were strained in light of the latter's support of the Syrian rebels against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad. Hizbullah has acknowledged that it had sent fighters to Syria to fight alongside regime forces against takfiri groups. On December 3, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had revealed that communication between Hizbullah and Qatar was not suspended despite being at odds on several political issues. He added: “We have met with a Qatari delegation ... and we're still in a disagreement over Syria but we were not seeking problems with anyone, not even with Saudi Arabia.”He continued: “We told the Qatari envoy that the military choice in Syria is futile and the attempt to oust Assad militarily is an act of madness, that's why I call on all countries to contribute towards finding a political solution. We also spoke of neutralizing Lebanon in the Syrian crisis.”“Qatar is reevaluating all its stances in the region,” Nasrallah noted.


Phalange Party Warns of 'Culture of Suicide Bombers,' Urges Controlling Border, Refugee Camps' Entrances
Naharnet/Phalange party's political bureau warned on Monday of “the exported culture of suicide bombers” in the country, calling for controlling the border and the entrances of refugee camps. “We strongly condemn the attacks against troops and we consider it a dangerous development of events,” the party said in a released statement after the political bureau's weekly meeting. "The attack targeted the last strongholds of military and security legitimacy and the last line of defense of stability and security in the country,” the statement added. "We warn of the exported culture of suicide bombers and we call for controlling the border and monitoring the entrances of refugee camps and of assemblies.”It also urged seeking the help of UNIFIL troops, noting that United Nations Security Council resolution 1701 allows expanding their mission to include such tasks. One soldier and four gunmen died on Sunday evening in near-simultaneous attacks on two army checkpoints in Sidon – one of them involving a suicide bomber. In the first attack, an unidentified attacker hurled a hand grenade at an army checkpoint on Sidon's northern entrance in the al-Awwali area, prompting troops to retaliate, which left a gunman dead and a soldier wounded. According to LBCI television, the army scoured the groves that lie near the al-Awwali checkpoint and closed the road for a while. Soon after the army intensified its patrols in the area, another attack targeted one of its checkpoints in the Sidon suburb of Majdelyoun. State-run National News Agency said three gunmen attacked the checkpoint at the Majdelyoun-Bqosta intersection, noting that one of them blew himself up while the other two were killed by troops. At dawn, the army issued a statement saying Sergeant Samer Youssef Rizk was killed in the Majdelyoun attack. The politburo stressed on following-up with the security plan implemented in the northern city of Tripoli to ensure stability and urged “benefiting from the current calm to deal with the roots of the problem.” "We hail the stances voiced by the March 14 General Secretariat that assure that Tripoli is a city of openness, moderation and dialogue.” Separately, the conferees also warned against an expansion of political vacuum in Lebanon, calling for forming a cabinet that prepares for holding presidential elections on time. "A cabinet would ensure electing a president locally without foreign interference,” they said. “It is a factor that would regulate the work of institutions and assure balance between authorities.”The added: “A new cabinet would also tackled pending issues such as reaching consensus over a just electoral law and dealing with economical problems.”


Lebanon: Hands off now
December 17, 2013 /The Daily Star
The Lebanese Army is widely regarded as the last remaining institution which is working for the good of the country, and which stands above and free from sectarian divisions and political wrangling, and any attacks against the armed forces must be treated as nothing short of treason. Amid ongoing tension in Tripoli, the Army continues to broker peace in the northern city, despite its members often being targeted and killed there, as in the southern city of Sidon. It is stationed along the country’s borders, monitoring the tetchy southern front with Israel, and the volatile northern and eastern stretches separating the country from Syria. The Army has also been working overtime in recent weeks, collaborating with the civil defense to help stranded civilians suffering with the extreme weather conditions.
In a country which is currently suffering more acutely than usual from the corruption and failure of the government and politicians, the Army seems to represent a uniquely positive symbol, one which stands for unity and the entire republic. So attacks and provocations against or involving the Army, as have been seen in recent days in various events across the country, are attempts to target the very heart of the nation.
The attacks against the Army coincide with a campaign against President Michel Sleiman, and his stance vis-a-vis Lebanon remaining neutral and disassociating itself from the Syrian crisis, something March 8 cannot truly claim to support any more. Some politicians, who perhaps feel protected by their close associations with this political bloc, seem to feel safe enough to fire verbal salvoes at Sleiman, forgetting that he too represents the entire country, and is motivated by a desire to see stability maintained. Blindly attacking the Army and the president is a sin at the best of times. But arriving at this particular time, when the country already seems on the precipice and the future is so volatile, this barrage of abuse constitutes a national crime. Those responsible are attempting to take advantage of the power vacuum in the country to further their own political interests, to destabilize the country even further and to advance their own reach. But unfortunately, any attempts to cement one’s own power by targeting the Army or the president will ultimately fail. While they might rock the country in the interim, they will not help the perpetrators hold on to or increase their own power base. In the end, the whole country will suffer, including those who carried out such attacks. Lebanon is already close enough to the abyss. All politicians and actors must carefully consider how they approach the current crisis, and work hard on a concerted, simultaneous effort to stabilize the country and insulate it from the dangerous winds sweeping the region. Anything else will merely help external powers at the expense of national Lebanese unity.


Egypt's New Constitution: Bleak Prospects
Eric Trager/Washington Institute
As Egypt prepares to vote on a constitution that could prove economically ruinous or, at best, ineffectual, Washington and its regional allies should discuss ways of encouraging Cairo to pursue much-needed reforms.
Egypt's new draft constitution reflects the coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July. In the short run, the strength of this coalition -- and its ability to achieve a convincing mandate in the January constitutional referendum -- will determine whether the political transition can move forward. In the longer run, however, Egypt's outlook remains bleak: either the massive state spending that the new constitution mandates will be enforced and thereby wreak economic havoc, or the charter will not be enforced, in which case the country will continue to be governed by an unreliable legal system.
In December 2012, following mass outcry over a constitutional declaration that placed his own edicts above judicial scrutiny, Morsi ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament to complete a new draft constitution within forty-eight hours and then put it to a referendum two weeks later. Although that constitution passed with 64 percent of the vote, the low 33 percent turnout undermined its popular legitimacy, and the noninclusive nature of the drafting process catalyzed a mass opposition movement that eventually culminated in Morsi's July 3 ouster.
As a result, the military-backed government that replaced Morsi made amending the charter a first-order priority. A July 8 declaration suspended the constitution and outlined a new process under which a ten-member committee of legal experts would amend it. Afterward, a fifty-member committee "representing all categories of society and demographic diversities" reviewed, amended, and approved the draft. While the latter committee drew from across the social spectrum, it was ideologically consistent with the coalition that ousted Morsi: it contained only two Islamists, neither of which were Muslim Brothers, and a plurality hailed from non-Islamist parties that have historically won very few votes in elections.
The current draft constitution reflects the anti-Morsi coalition in three respects. First, it is far less Islamist than its predecessor. While it maintains that "the principles of the Islamic sharia are the principal source of legislation" (Article 2), it erases Article 219, which delineated the specific sharia sources on which to base legislation. It also removes Article 44, which prohibited "Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets," and modifies the article regarding al-Azhar, the country's preeminent Islamic institution of learning, which no longer must be consulted "in matters pertaining to Islamic law." Most notably, the new constitution bans religious parties (Article 74).
Second, the new draft grants broad autonomy to the security services, military, and other state institutions that participated in Morsi's ouster. For example, it establishes a Supreme Police Council, which must be consulted on all laws pertaining to the police (Article 207). And in addition to granting each judicial body "an independent budget" and the autonomy to "administer its own affairs" (Article 185), it empowers the Supreme Constitutional Court's General Assembly to select the court's leadership (Article 193). It also empowers the Supreme Judicial Council to appoint the government's prosecutor-general (Article 189), an authority granted to the president under the previous constitution.
The new draft is particularly generous toward the military. The preamble emphasizes that the military has been the state's "pillar" since nineteenth-century ruler Muhammad Ali, and hails "our patriotic army" that "delivered victory to the sweeping popular will in the January 25-June 30 Revolution." Like the previous constitution, the latest draft mandates that the defense minister be a military officer (Article 201), protects the military's autonomy over its budgets by empowering a security-dominated National Defense Council to review them (Article 203), and allows civilians to be tried before military courts (Article 204). But the new charter goes even further, requiring less legislative oversight for military trials, mandating that the defense minister can only be appointed with the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces during the next two presidential terms (Article 234), and empowering the state to fight "all types and forms of terrorism" (Article 237) -- a virtual carte blanche for the military in its ongoing crackdown against pro-Brotherhood forces.
Third, the new draft reflects leftist parties' insistence on a more expansive government role in providing social services. In addition to the many state responsibilities envisioned in the previous constitution, the charter now commits the government to "achieving social justice" (Article 8), providing "food resources to all citizens" (Article 79), and guaranteeing the elderly "appropriate pensions to ensure them a decent standard of living" (Article 83). It also mandates an exorbitant level of specific state spending: at least 3 percent of gross domestic product must be spent on healthcare (Article 18), 4 percent on education (Article 19), 2 percent on higher education (Article 21), and 1 percent on scientific research (Article 23) -- all of which must be put into effect by fiscal year 2016/2017 (Article 238).
The fact that the new draft reflects Egypt's current governing coalition is neither surprising nor novel. The previous constitution similarly embodied the coalition that governed only a year ago, giving Morsi and the ruling Islamists a substantial foothold for instituting their theocratic agenda while securing the military's buy-in by granting it unprecedented autonomy (see PolicyWatch 2001). Still, the immediate future of Egypt's transition hinges on whether the current coalition is more durable than the previous one, which collapsed barely six months after the constitution was approved via referendum.
In the short run, the answer depends on the new referendum scheduled for January 14-15. Although it is expected to pass -- no Egyptian referendum has ever yielded a "no" vote -- a wide "yes" margin with high turnout and low voter suppression would likely solidify the current coalition and legitimize the parliamentary and presidential elections that will follow. Alternatively, a narrow "yes" vote would undermine the viability of the current process significantly, especially if accompanied by low turnout and/or widespread repression. Those rejecting the transition would be encouraged to intensify their protests, and some leftist party leaders might defect from the governing coalition. Both scenarios are plausible at the moment: polls suggest that the military, the key institution backing the current constitutional draft, retains strong support, but frustration with the transition has mounted in recent months, and participation in demonstrations against the military-backed government has broadened beyond the Brotherhood, particularly on university campuses.
Even if a successful referendum allows the political transition to move forward, the massive state spending that the new constitution entails is unsustainable in the long term, suggesting that the current government has no intention of fully enforcing the charter. In particular, if the government fulfills the constitutional requirement to spend 10 percent of GDP -- not merely 10 percent of its budget -- on specific social services, it could catalyze a severe cash crunch that would jeopardize food and fuel subsidies, angering large sectors of the population and potentially broadening support for antigovernment demonstrations. The latest economic data highlights the substantial risk of such massive state spending: Egypt's cash reserves fell from $18.6 billion to $17.8 billion between October and November, and the government does not expect indefinite generosity from the wealthy Persian Gulf states that pledged $12 billion to Cairo following Morsi's removal. Yet if the government tries to avoid these outcomes by not following the new constitution, Egypt will continue to lack the legal rationalism that any stable political system requires.
Given the U.S. interest in a stable Egypt moving toward effective civilian rule, Washington's response to the upcoming referendum should emphasize both short- and long-term goals. This means encouraging a fair and clean voting process by pledging to lift the post-Morsi suspension of U.S. military aid if the referendum is conducted properly. But since even a successful referendum will saddle Egypt with a constitution that either sinks its economy or remains largely unenforced, Washington and its regional allies should begin examining strategies for encouraging Cairo to undertake much-needed economic and political reforms.
**Eric Trager is the Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/MERIA
December 11, 2013
The group under consideration in this paper–like al-Qa'ida central under Usama bin Ladin and subsequently Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Waziristan, and others–is part of what one might term the "global jihad" movement. This movement is not a coherent whole organized by a strict central hierarchy, but rather one defined by a shared ideology. This ideology aims firstly to reestablish a system of governance known as the Caliphate–an Islamic form of government that first came into being after Muhammad's death under Abu Bakr and saw its last manifestation in the Ottoman Empire–across the entire Muslim world. From there, the intention is to spread the Caliphate across the entire world.[1]
This worldview is one of many answers formulated to answer a question posed in the wider Muslim world: Namely, what has been the cause of decline of the Muslim world–and the Arab world in particular–in contrast to the apparent success of the West since the nineteenth century? The answer formulated by ideologues of the global jihad movement is that the cause of this decline is rooted in the Muslim world's deviation from the path of Islam by not applying Islamic law to governance in its totality. This is to be contrasted with the "Islamic Golden Age" in Islam's first five centuries or so–idealized in different ways by others not of this orientation–when the Muslim world was supposedly uncontaminated by foreign influences. Of course, given that era's exploitation of the classical Greek heritage through the translation movement under the Abbasids- the global jihad movement's portrayal of this era is blatantly unhistorical. Nonetheless, the perception is what matters.
In light of the ISIS' ambitious goals, it is imperative to consider the group's fortunes in Syria, which in turn will allow policymakers to assess what threat, if any, the group poses to the wider international order in the long-term.
Prior to the announcement of ISIS by the leader of Iraq's al-Qa'ida affiliate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the main al-Qa'ida-aligned group operating in Syria was Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) under the leadership of Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani. JN, which had initially been established in January 2012 with financial and manpower support from the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI),[2] had enjoyed a fair degree of success throughout Syria in conducting operations and establishing a foothold in areas freed from regime control.
The success was partly rooted in the manner in which JN has portrayed its efforts in Syria–namely, as a defensive jihad to protect the Muslim population in the face of oppression.[3] Thus, outreach to locals became and still remains an important part of JN's strategy. For example, media reports widely noted JN's running of bakery services for locals in places such as Aleppo,[4] and one jihadi news outlet–the Himam News Agency–regularly puts out videos of JN's provision of public services in towns such as Binnish in Idlib, where JN fighters run garbage collection and disposal.[5]
In terms of JN's overall position in Syria, while it was clear that the group had a presence in operations throughout the country from Dar'a in the far southwest to Hasakah in the far northeast, the evidence suggested that the group was best established in the Aleppo and Deir al-Zor governorates. However, it by no means follows from this assessment that JN somehow controlled a substantial amount of territory in either of these provinces. Moreover, JN had faced a degree of resentment and backlash from locals, as occurred in the town of Mayadin in the Deir al-Zor governorate–though such demonstrations of opposition could easily be met with counter-rallies by JN supporters.[6] In March 2013, JN along with the Salafi battalion Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya played a key role in the takeover of the provincial capital of the Raqqa Governorate in the north.
April 2013 then saw the unexpected development of the announcement by ISI leader Baghdadi of a merger between ISI and JN to form ISIS. In the speech released on April 8, 2013, by ISI's official outlet al-Furqan Media, Baghdadi described Jawlani as "one of our soldiers" and stated that Jawlani had established his organization "from our sons."[7] Baghdadi went on to explain that while there had been no explicit statement of the links between ISI and JN, the time had now come to declare that JN was simply an "extension" of ISI "and a part of it."[8] Thus, Baghdadi announced the "cancellation of the name Islamic State of Iraq and the cancellation of the name Jabhat al-Nusra, and the joining of the two under one name: the "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham."[9]
Baghdadi's words, therefore, confirmed long-standing suspicions among Western intelligence officials that JN had been established as the Syrian arm of the ISI, something that was also corroborated in a prompt response released by JN's official media wing al-Manara al-Bayda ("The White Minaret") on 10 April.[10] In his response, Jawlani denied that either he or anyone in JN had been consulted on or had sought the announcement of Baghdadi's merger, while admitting that the beginnings of JN lay in ISI, as indicated by the following remark: "We accompanied the jihad in Iraq as military escorts from its beginning until our return [to Syria] after the Syrian revolution."[11]
Jawlani further stated, "We learnt lessons from our experience there [in Iraq] concerning what is the secret of the hearts of the believers in the land of al-Sham under the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra… I did not want to leave Iraq before seeing the banners of Islam flying on high over the land of the two rivers but the speed of events in ash-Sham interfered between us and what we wanted."[12] Jawlani also spoke of "our brothers in jihad in Iraq" and respectfully addressed ISI's leader as "Sheikh Baghdadi, may God protect him." He then concluded by reaffirming JN's pledge of allegiance to al-Qa'ida's central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, affirming that the "banner of Jabhat al-Nusra will remain."[13]
The controversy over whether ISI and JN should be merged remained unaddressed until June 2013. During that time, both JN and ISI's media arms stopped releasing official content. In addition, tracking the activities of JN and those going by the name of ISIS required reliance on unofficial media, most notably YouTube videos.[14]Zawahiri then issued a letter in early June 2013 urging for the separation of ISI and JN, while stressing that the two organizations should cooperate.[15] Yet Baghdadi rejected the ruling of separation in a speech entitled "Remaining [Steadfast] in Iraq and al-Sham," wherein he insisted that Zawahiri's letter had problems of legitimacy and methodology, hinting at a cast of doubt of authenticity on the letter.[16]
Then another audio recording was released by al-Furqan Media, featuring a speech by Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami, a Syrian jihadi believed to be from Idlib[17]and identified by al-Furqan Media as the official spokesman for ISIS.[18] Adnani reaffirmed Baghdadi's rejection of Zawahiri's ruling in more forceful terms, insisting on "one front, one leadership," and that "the borders will not separate between the two [i.e., the jihad fronts in Iraq and Syria]." Adnani also vowed that ISIS would target the "Rafidites" (Shi'a) with bombs "from Diyala to Beirut."[19] On multiple occasions, Adnani references the "defection" (inshiqaq) that has hurt the ranks of the mujahidin in Syria–a not-so-subtle attack on Jawlani's refusal to accept a merger with ISI to form ISIS.
As of the writing of this article, no further directives have been issued from Zawahiri in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Indeed, Baghdadi's rejection of his ruling essentially amounts to a humiliation of Zawahiri. In Iraq itself, written statements are no longer put out in the name of ISI, but ISIS. Further, while officially approved jihadi forums such as Shamukh Islam were initially deleting posts put out in ISIS' name after Zawahiri's ruling, this is no longer the case. Nonetheless, al-Furqan Media, which now puts out videos on ISIS activities in both Iraq and Syria,[20] still explicitly avoids describing itself as the media arm of ISIS, but instead keeps a silence on the naming controversy in its videos.
Besides al-Furqan Media, some unofficial pro-ISIS outlets have come to the forefront, such as al-Sham media (which put out a string of purported ISIS videos in May 2013, and is based in Raqqa) and Baqiyya Media (named after Baghdadi's speech that rejected Zawahiri's ruling). In any event, Baghdadi has successfully challenged Zawahiri in that in practice ISIS is now accepted as a reality on the ground alongside JN.
As a final prefatory note, the Baghdadi-Jawlani fitna aside, it should be emphasized that as al-Qa'ida affiliates, both ISIS and JN are ultimately committed ideologically to a transnational project for a caliphate that should first span the Muslim world and then dominate the entire world. However, it is undoubtedly true that ISIS in Syria is much more open about these goals than JN.[21] The question now arises of how ISIS' relationship with other groups plays out on the ground.
In light of the quarrels at the leadership level between Baghdad and Jawlani, the immediate issue that comes to mind is ISIS' relationship with JN on the ground. A common paradigm of analysis in this case is to posit a polarized dichotomy whereby ISIS is an entity composed of foreign fighters as opposed to a native Syrian JN. This view is primarily based on some media reports that estimate that 80 percent of muhajirin (foreign fighters) in Syria have joined the ranks of ISIS.[22]
In this author's view, the estimate is likely to bear a good degree of resemblance to the reality on the ground, but it would be erroneous to conclude from it that ISIS is primarily a group of foreign fighters. To be sure, from the current author's own documentation of claimed martyrs for ISIS up to the beginning of July 2013,[23] as well as examination of subsequent records on this issue,[24] it can be shown that at the minimum, foreign fighters are disproportionately represented in its ranks and constitute the most experienced and effective fighting force within ISIS, while perhaps playing a key role in leadership in various localities. Yet in Raqqa province, one anti-ISIS activist identified as Ahmed al-Asmeh told the news site Syria Deeply that only "30 percent of their [ISIS'] members are muhajiroun [foreigners]."[25] Likewise, a reporter who visited the northern ISIS stronghold of Jarabulus in the Aleppo governorate along the border with Turkey found that most of ISIS' members in the town are native Syrians.[26]
In short, therefore, the strict dichotomy of ISIS as a group of foreign fighters versus a native Syrian JN is not accurate. As far as relations on the ground go, the relationship defies a simple polarity reflecting the tensions at the leadership level. The current author has already documented the ISIS-JN relationship in a number of governorates: notably Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, and Dar'a.[27] Details of the relationship by governorate need not be repeated at length, but to summarize: In Aleppo and the city of Deir al-Zor, the entities of JN and ISIS are clearly separate. In Dar'a, only a JN presence is to be found. In the Raqqa governorate and areas of the east outside Deir al-Zor, the boundaries between JN and ISIS are more blurred, such that in many parts the two names and their symbols can be considered interchangeable.[28]
That said, since having documented the JN-ISIS relationship in the Raqqa province, it should be noted that in mid-July 2013, reports emerged among activist circles that the ISIS commander in the city of Raqqa itself–known as Abu Sa'ad al-Hadrami–had decided to renounce his position in ISIS and reaffirm the banner and name of JN as a separate identity and the only legitimate one, withdrawing from the city in the process with a number of mujahidin under his stead. Hadrami, who had previously been identified as JN's amir in Raqqa[29] prior to the announcement of ISIS, was said to have defected from ISIS on account of his dissatisfaction with ISIS' conduct in the city, specifically in relation to detaining rebels from rival battalions (e.g. Farouq), which had sparked some demonstrations in the city against ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham.
Hadrami was also said to be unhappy with the fact that continuing the name of ISIS amounted to disrespectful disobedience of Zawahiri's orders.[30] At the start of July 2013, signs of a split in the Shari'a committee in Raqqa between JN and ISIS supporters were reported by purported local sources to the pro-Asad Arabic news site al-Hadath News.[31] The contingent reaffirming a separate JN identity under Hadrami apparently took refuge in the city of town of Tabqa (also known as al-Thawra). Confirmation of the JN-ISIS split within Raqqa province was recently confirmed by a statement from JN announcing a return to the city of Raqqa, yet it remains unclear whether this split applies across the whole governorate.[32]
In terms of ongoing major operations, it remains to consider the two governorates of Damascus and Hasakah as regards the JN-ISIS relationship, the latter of which will be discussed on the subject of conflict with Kurdish forces. In the Damascus area, it is quite clear that JN and ISIS are separate entities. This is most apparent as the two groups launched their own "revenge" operations in response to the alleged chemical weapons attacks by the regime in the East Ghouta area. JN's initiative–as announced by Jawlani in a statement through al-Manara al-Bayda–is called "An Eye for an Eye" and has entailed operations not only in the Damascus area[33] but elsewhere in the country, such as the Aleppo governorate.[34]
The ISIS-led revenge initiative goes by the name of "Volcano of Revenge." It has entailed firing a number of mortar rounds and Katyusha rockets at regime-held areas of Damascus, including parts identified as inhabited by Alawites, and even struck the vicinities of the Russian embassy and the Four Seasons hotel, where UN weapons inspectors were staying.[35] The operation was coordinated with a variety of battalions operating in the Damascus area, including Ahrar al-Sham, the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions, the Furqan Brigades, and the Brigades and Battalions of the Beloved Mustafa.[36]Of these groups, Ahrar ash-Sham can be identified as part of the Salafi Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), while the Furqan Brigades are known for an Islamist but nationalist outlook under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). However, the other two can be identified as independent formations but ideologically sympathetic to ISIS.
Thus, the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions' logo features ISIS imagery, most notably in its use of the central white logo with the inscription "Allah, Prophet Muhammad" (see the Appendix, Figure 1). On Facebook pages set up for various battalions and news networks, ideological affinity is often indicated by banners featured at the top of the page. For example, a pro-Asad page will normally feature the current flag of Syria. In the case of factions sympathetic to ISIS' project of a transnational Islamic state, alignment will be shown by featuring the ISIS banner, known as the "Banner of Tawhid" in jihadi circles, with the first half of the Islamic shahada underneath: "There is no deity but God." This is the case for the Jesus Son of Mary Battalions (see Appendix, Figure 2). As for the Brigades and Battalions of the Beloved Mustafa, sympathy for the ISIS project is indicated by a statement released in June 2013 urging "our brothers and our sons to join immediately and enter the arenas of jihad." The statement featured an image of Syria under the ISIS banner (Appendix, Figure 3).
Despite the ISIS-alignment, the two groups have also coordinated with JN and more mainstream groupings like Liwa al-Islam as part of a new series of revenge operations entitled "Ayyam al-Qadisiyya" in the Damascus area.[37] However, elsewhere in the Damascus region, multiple reports have emerged from jihadi sources of joint JN-ISIS operations. The most notable case is that of the Sayyida Zaynab area, where both groups are said to be fighting the Iranian proxy Shi'i militia group known as Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas [LAFA].[38] For example, on August 17, 2013, a local outlet for ISIS in the southern Damascus region reported a joint JN-ISIS-Liwa al-Islam operation in the Sayyida Zaynab area, claiming a death toll of more than 250 Shi'i militiamen.[39] However, there is nothing to corroborate anything resembling these figures from LAFA sources.[40]
On the other hand, the same ISIS outlet has featured photos of LAFA militiamen that ISIS has purportedly killed in the Sayyida Zaynab area in this period, and it would seem that pro-LAFA sources do corroborate the individual cases to an extent, such as one LAFA fighter called Abu Hadi Hassan (Appendix, Figure 4). Yet given that the operations against LAFA in mid-August 2013 were reported as joint ISIS-JN-Liwa al-Islam, it is possible that Abu Hadi could have been killed by a fighter from either of the latter two battalions, or perhaps in a joint operation by all three groups.

On August 30, 2013, the local ISIS outlet also released a video showing the carrying out of a joint JN-ISIS car bomb operation against LAFA in Sayyida Zaynab. Besides displaying the car used to trigger the explosion, scenes were also shown from the Sayyida Zaynab area of gunfire.[41] In short, one might accept the idea of JN-ISIS collaboration (perhaps with other battalions) in the Sayyida Zaynab area, with the caveat that local sources affiliated with ISIS are prone to exaggerate the scale of operations against LAFA and the death tolls therein.
Another notable area of JN-ISIS cooperation comes in the Qalamoun area of rural Damascus. Here, this cooperation has come in the form of working with another battalion called "The Green Battalion." This group is an independent militia[42] led by Saudi muhajirin and ideologically aligned with ISIS (Appendix, Figure 5). It is thus a similar formation to the western rural Homs battalion Jama'at Jund al-Sham, which was founded by Lebanese muhajirin sharing ISIS' ideology but independent from ISIS (Appendix, Figure 6, cf. Figure 7).
These two groups can thus be distinguished from the prominent group of foreign fighters known as Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa Ansaruhu [JMWA], which has been a front group for ISIS under the direction of ISIS' amir for Aleppo, northern Idlib, Raqqa, and Latakia–Abu Umar al-Shishani.[43] In any case, the joint JN-ISIS operation in Qalamoun with the Green Battalion was first reported by the latter group in a Facebook posting on August 7, 2013: "Jabhat al-Nusra and the Green Battalion undertook with the help of the Islamic State… in the assault on the storehouses of Danha in rural Damascus."[44]
To sum up, the relationship between JN and ISIS in Damascus can be described as comprising separate entities that are clearly capable of cooperating with each other and working with other battalions. More generally, there is nothing to suggest as of yet signs of overt conflict emerging between JN and ISIS, where the two are clearly separate entities–regardless of how unhappy many JN members may feel about Baghdadi's April announcement of a merger.
As regards ISIS' relations with battalions under the banner of the FSA, this article is primarily concerned with how they have played out in the Raqqa and Aleppo governorates, where vast amounts of territory are under rebel control.[45] Previously, the current author has documented the expansion of ISIS into rural areas of Aleppo and Idlib, particularly in the border areas.[46] This has entailed clashes with battalions under the banner of the FSA, such as the "Family of Jadir" in Jarabulus, from whom ISIS seized power in mid-June 2013, and FSA groupings in al-Dana.[47]
Elsewhere, ISIS clashed in August 2013 with the Raqqa branch of a group of brigades under the banner of FSA known as Ahfad al-Rasul ("Descendants of the Prophet," AAR). The ISIS presence has also sparked civilian protests against the group in a number of localities, including al-Dana, Manbij, and Azaz.[48]
It would appear that the clashes began after AAR tried to ride the wave of discontent in the form of sit-ins and rallies against both Ahrar al-Sham[49] and ISIS on account of the long-standing issue of detention of rival rebels. AAR's sympathies were shown by the fact that its Facebook page for Raqqa shared a video of these demonstrations in early August 2013.[50] Clashes were reported by the Lebanese news site to have begun on August 8, 2013, with some ten people killed on both sides.[51]
A video was then circulated in pro-ISIS circles purporting to show the confession of an officer in AAR's ranks admitting to having received support from France, in particular to fight the ISIS.[52] From this alleged confession (which was quite clearly made under duress), pro-ISIS circles began to refer to AAR as "Ahfad Faransa" ("descendants of France"), and eventually denounced them as "apostates." They also accused AAR of trying to form a Sahwa ("Awakening") movement, supposedly equivalent to the anti-al-Qa'ida trend that took off in Iraq among Sunni militiamen from 2007 onwards.
ISIS supporters used similar terminology to denounce their FSA opponents in the Idlib town of al-Dana, but it should be noted that neither AAR in Raqqa nor the FSA fighters in al-Dana referred to themselves as a Sahwa movement. Indeed, considering the word's connotations of working with Americans and the Iraqi government, the latter of which in Syria is widely viewed as an Iranian agent by virtue of its support for the Asad regime, it is hardly surprising that rebels deemed "mainstream" should want to avoid using this term to describe themselves.
By August 14, 2013, ISIS had killed a prominent AAR commander in the Raqqa area by the name of Fahad Husayn al-Kajwan, and had expelled AAR from its headquarters in the city of Raqqa.[53] AAR, however, continued to fight with ISIS elsewhere in the province, attacking an ISIS checkpoint in the town of Tabqa.[54]
By August 17, however, AAR announced that it would cease all operations against ISIS, "to preserve frontline unity."[55]An AAR commander who spoke with Swedish analyst Aron Lund also confirmed that the AAR-ISIS clashes were limited to the Raqqa area and that the two groups had cooperated elsewhere: most notably in the failed Latakia offensive into the Alawi heartland. One should further note in particular here the role of Ahrar al-Sham: as this author's friend Shami Witness noticed, the group essentially stood aside and let ISIS do the "dirty work" of eliminating a common foe.
In some other parts of the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates, ISIS has maintained friendly relations with battalions under the FSA banner, most notably the then FSA Military Council in Aleppo, headed by one Colonel Oqaidi, who refused to denounce the ISIS and admitted that ISIS was the group that led the rebel takeover of the Mannagh airbase.[56] It is of course true that the FSA-banner groups, such as the Northern Storm Brigade, had besieged the Mannagh airbase for quite some time. Nonetheless, the contributions of ISIS and its then front group JMWA proved decisive in the eventual fall of the airbase. Early on after the fall of the airbase, pro-ISIS outlets released photos attempting to demonstrate that the ISIS had led the takeover of Mannagh (Appendix, Figures 8 and 9).
Noteworthy also from the fall of the Mannagh airbase is a video released by the battalion Liwa al-Fatah, described by one writer as a "moderate Islamist"[57] group. A quick glance at the video quickly demonstrates that in analysis, the term "moderate Islamist" in this context is quite meaningless. First, Abu Jandal al-Masri, the leader of the JMWA contingent–identified immediately by the speaker who filmed the video as synonymous with ISIS–is seen to be embracing a member of Liwa al-Fatah. Abu Jandal then proclaims, "I swear by God we will not leave a single Alawite alive in Syria… state of Islam, state of the Caliphate." This is all proclaimed to the assent of "God is great" from the other fighters, including the Liwa al-Fatah member who filmed the video.[58]
Another prominent FSA battalion in the Aleppo area with which ISIS generally maintains cordial relations is Liwa al-Tawhid, whose ideological orientation is in line with that of the Ikhwan.[59] In July 2013, rumors began circulating–in origin from pro-Supreme Military Command circles (affiliated with General Salim Idriss)–that the rebel icon from Jarabulus, Abu Furat, had been killed by "Islamists" (i.e., JN/ISIS). However, Liwa al-Tawhid soon issued a statement denying that this was so, describing such rumors as an attempt by Western powers to stir up fitna (discord) in rebel ranks through the Arabic news channel al-Arabiya.[60] More recently, an image was put out showing a member of Liwa al-Tawhid in Aleppo engaging in a friendly arm-wrestling match with an ISIS fighter (Appendix, Figure 10). Yet not all supporters of Liwa al-Tawhid view ISIS favorably. Some held a demonstration in the northern Aleppo town of Marea calling for the expulsion of ISIS from the town, under the slogan, "The people want Liwa al-Tawhid."[61]
In short, the foregoing data should demonstrate that there can be no sweeping answers to the question of ISIS-FSA relations, but rather point to a good deal of variation according to locality. Not all the potential conflicts that can arise are necessarily rooted in ideology, and by no means do all battalions under the banner of the FSA oppose ISIS simply because of their transnational vision. The issue of FSA-ISIS relations is also relevant to the question of conflicts with Kurdish forces, to which will be covered in the following section.
ISIS and the Kurds
Prior to the announcement of ISIS, clashes between jihadi fighters and Kurdish forces–most notably the People's Protection Groups (YPG) affiliated with the PYD–had not been unknown. For example, clashes between JN allied with a battalion of muhajirin known as Ghuraba al-Sham and the PYD had erupted in the northeastern border town of Ras al-Ayn (Hasakah province) in November 2012.[62] However, these clashes tended to be localized and never erupted into an overall wider conflict. To be sure, the conflict in Ras al-Ayn persisted for quite some time, but by the end of February 2013, a truce had been successfully negotiated, thanks to the efforts of Christian opposition activist Michel Kilo.[63]
A dramatic shift occurred in July 2013 with the renewed outbreak of clashes in Ras al-Ayn between YPG forces and fighters deemed members of ISIS/JN. This culminated in the expulsion of the latter from the town, with rumors that YPG fighters, after taking over the ISIS/JN headquarters, had defiled the banner of jihad by trampling on it with their shoes.[64] One should note the way in which this incident and subsequent events in al-Hasakah involving jihadi-YPG fighting have been reported. That is, the names of JN/ISIS are generally used interchangeably with frequent claims of joint operations. Based the current author's own research on the JN-ISIS relationship in eastern Syria that looked at the town of al-Shaddadi in the Hasakah province,[65] the apparent confusion and claims of joint operations in Hasakah appear to be the result of the fact that the boundaries between JN and ISIS are blurred, as is the case in the Deir al-Zor governorate outside the city of Deir al-Zor.
In any case, following the expulsion of JN/ISIS from Ras al-Ayn, fighting between JN/ISIS and YPG forces quickly expanded, not only throughout Hasakah province but also the Raqqa and Aleppo governorates, where YPG forces existed in various localities–albeit not with the connections that exist in the northeast Hasakah governorate. For example, prior to the clashes, ISIS had tolerated a limited PYD presence in its northern stronghold of Jarabulus, even after defeating the Family of Jadir. However, once the fighting in Ras al-Ayn erupted, ISIS rallied supporters in Jarabulus to denounce the PKK (seen in jihadi circles as synonymous with and identical to the PYD).[66]In collaboration with local FSA groupings, ISIS proceeded to crack down on the PYD presence in the Jarabulus area, arresting numerous Kurds who were charged with being PKK/PYD activists.[67] YPG forces proceeded to launch an offensive against ISIS in a village near the town of Jarabulus,[68] but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Other battalions quickly joined in taking ISIS' side against the PKK/PYD. Thus, on August 2, 2013, a group of battalions from an area stretching from Manbij to Jarabulus (where YPG forces have been most active in the Aleppo governorate) issued a joint statement against the PKK/PYD, saying that there is no doubt that the PKK was a "party affiliated with the idolatrous, criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad."[69] As a result, the coalition decided on a policy of "cleansing out the armies of the PKK present among our lines… considering the highway road between Manbij and al-Hasakah a military zone requiring liberation from PKK checkpoints… stopping all negotiations and political meetings between us and any front considered to be representing the PKK." Signatories to this statement included the ISIS, Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Yarmouk,[70] and Suqur al-Sham.[71]
As can be seen, battalions of a variety of ideological affiliations have taken ISIS' side against the PKK/PYD. Dislike of the latter was further corroborated in Colonel Oqaidi's interview with NOW Lebanon, where he likewise accused the PYD of being an agent for the Asad regime.[72] It is this allegation that proves crucial to the rhetoric of ISIS and other rebel factions against the PYD in an attempt to show they are not against Kurds as a people. Thus the joint statement against the PKK/PYD also has the signatories emphasize that they have nothing against Kurds who are not connected with the PKK.[73]
In a similar vein, this author's own discussions with ISIS supporters and jihadi sources have shown a tendency among these circles to portray the PYD as a marginal communist apostate group with little popular support among Syrian Kurds. Likewise, conflict in the Raqqa governorate's Turkish border town of Tel Abyad between PKK/PYD forces on one side versus ISIS/JN in alliance with Ahrar al-Sham and some FSA groupings–which culminated in the expulsion of the PKK/PYD from the town[74]–saw repeated allegations against ISIS/JN, in particular of systematic looting and destruction of Kurdish property.[75] In response to these repeated claims, ISIS released a statement indicating that its fighters were obliged to protect the property of Muslim brothers, whether Kurdish or Arab, but presumably excluding those affiliated with the PYD/PKK and thus deemed apostates.[76]
As of the writing of this article, the overall picture in the conflict is that YPG forces have suffered serious setbacks in both the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates. Yet they are still holding their own in the Hasakah province. Nonetheless, there have been no major advances by either side, as JN/ISIS has been unable to retake Ras al-Ayn, despite repeated attempts at bombarding YPG positions in the town.[77] Indeed, one ISIS source claimed that ISIS in alliance with FSA battalions had rooted out the PKK/PYD presence from more than 90 percent of the northern Raqqa countryside around the Tel Abyad area and vowed that the PKK/PYD would be eliminated entirely, including from the Hasakah governorate.[78] Some new mujahidin umbrella groupings have been declared dedicated to achieving this objective as well, including in the northern Aleppo countryside[79]and Qamishli area in the Hasakah province.[80]
On some occasions, truces have been announced between FSA-SIF groups and Kurdish forces on account of mediation from delegations claiming to be the "Kurdish Supreme Council" (KSC), but these delegations have never been more than small groups of local Kurds acting unilaterally, and so the truces have lacked real authority and quickly collapsed. Indeed, the coalition of Kurdish opposition groups called the Kurdish National Council (KNC) thus requested that all groups should stop using the KSC name unilaterally.[81] In turn, the PYD, believing Turkey to be the main venue of financial and armed backing to JN/ISIS, has reached out to Ankara in the hope of achieving some sort of ceasefire, or at least a cessation of aid from Turkey to JN/ISIS.[82]
At this stage, successful mediation and a long-lasting truce are unlikely. The conflict has escalated beyond localized clashes and has quite clearly taken on the form of an existential, ideological struggle, with JN/ISIS circles making it abundantly clear that they deem the PYD/PKK "apostates" who should be annihilated. Conversely, many Kurds–both pro- and anti-PYD–view this conflict as an ethnic Kurdish-Arab war. Meanwhile, battalions under the FSA or SIF banner remain convinced that the PYD in particular is an agent for the Asad regime. This is the case even though, from an analyst's point of view, the fairest assessment is that the PYD is eager to maintain exclusive control over its strongholds and Kurdish areas more generally, and therefore is willing to cut deals with regime forces and rebel groups to achieve that goal–while being prepared to take on both should they encroach on PYD territory.
In the meantime, it is clear that the conflict has provoked the upsurge in Kurdish refugees to Iraq. Unsurprisingly, Turkish media outlets affiliated with the AKP government put the refugee surge down to alleged repression on the part of the PYD.[83] While there may be some truth to the testimony cited in Turkish media, it seems more likely that the bulk of the upsurge has been due to JN/ISIS/FSA/SIF seizure of Kurdish areas in the Aleppo and Raqqa governorates in particular, as well as continued bombardment and attacks on Kurdish areas in the Hasakah governorate in particular.
The seizure of territory has provoked rumors from pro-PYD circles above all of large-scale massacres of Kurds and policies of forced Arabization. Regardless of the truth of these claims (and the stories of massacres are generally uncorroborated), there is a sufficient climate of fear created to prompt a flight of refugees into the safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, whose government is now contemplating closer security cooperation with Baghdad in light of the perceived common threat of al-Qa'ida.[84] A further side effect of this conflict is that it has undoubtedly bolstered the PYD's image in Syrian Kurdistan as the protector of the Kurds, as YPG forces are doing the bulk of the fighting against JN/ISIS and other groups. In short, it is a bleak situation, despite the KNC's backtracking on its withdrawal from Syrian opposition frameworks in mid-August 2013 as well as the decision to join the Syrian opposition coalition in-exile on preconditions.[85]
From the above, it should be apparent that ISIS' relations with other rebel groups are by no means a case of "al-Qa'ida vs. everyone else." Two general principles can be drawn. First, in the conflict with the PYD/PKK in particular, one cannot expect other rebel groups–whether under the banner of the FSA, SILF, SIF and the like–to side with the PYD/PKK against the ISIS. Second, SIF groups like Ahrar al-Sham, whose discourse blurs the national/transnational distinction over wider goals, will not openly side with ISIS' opponents–Kurdish or FSA–in an event of conflict. This is even as some Ahrar al-Sham leaders harbor reservations about ISIS.[86] Among those under the banner of FSA, the staunchest opponents of ISIS remain those with close ties to SMC leader Salim Idriss, who has accused ISIS of being agents for the Asad regime.[87]
Compared with ISIS' fortunes in Iraq, ISIS has been far more successful in Syria than the Iraqi branch could ever have hoped. The main factor behind this success is undoubtedly the good degree of continuity between JN and ISIS in terms of outreach to locals. Granted, where ISIS and JN are clearly separate entities, JN's provision of services is more extensive than that of ISIS.
Nonetheless, it is clear that ISIS in Syria has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors and understands that "winning hearts and minds" is a key part of expanding its control. For instance, ISIS has provided toys and days of fun for children during and after Ramadan,[88] along with iftar (evening meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) dinners (Appendix, Figure 11) and food aid. ISIS has even introduced a rationing system of basic necessities in parts of Aleppo (Appendix, Figure 12), and it provides bus services and schools for children (Appendix, Figure 13).
Despite these advances for ISIS, the current author still maintains the assessment from back in March 2013 that such strongholds are only likely to exist in the north and east of Syria.[89] The picture elsewhere in the country is still one of generalized chaos, and one must be wary of sensationalist claims that al-Qa'ida-aligned factions somehow dominate the armed opposition.
Could there be a Sahwa-style movement against ISIS eventually? One need not completely rule out the possibility, but the only plausible context in which such a development could arise is in a post-Asad order with an extensive foreign troop presence on the ground, perhaps needed for at least a decade in order to build up a viable post-Asad centralized security force. For now, however, it is implausible to suggest that other rebels will team up with either the PYD or regime forces to fight ISIS. This is even as intra-rebel rivalries, including between ISIS and other groups, are inevitable now and in the future, regardless of whether there is a Sahwa movement.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
[1] See more on this issue vis-à-vis ISIS in Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham's Messages and Self-Presentation in Syria and Iraq," Jihadology, September, 9, 2013, (accessed September 9, 2013).
[2] The official name of the al-Qa'ida branch in Iraq.
[3] This issue of presentation of jihad is discussed in Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Jihad in Syria," Syria Comment, March 22, 2013, The issue of presentation is particularly relevant when one considers that JN's full name, Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl al-Sham, translates to "Protection/Victory Front for the People of al-Sham."
[4] See, for example, Kelly McEvers, "Jihadi Fighters Win Hearts and Minds by Easing Syria's Bread Crisis," NPR Radio, January 17, 2013,
[5] Himam News Agency, "Jabhat al-Nusra: Cleaning Services in the Town of Binnish – Idlib," July 11, 2013, YouTube, (accessed August 31, 2013). The outlet also published a video on JN's making and provision of bread for fighters in East Ghouta. See "Jabhat al-Nusra: Making of Bread and Its Provision to the Mujahidin on the Fronts in East Ghouta, Rural Damascus," July 23, 2013, (Accessed August 31, 2013).
[6] Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Jihad in Syria."
[7] Al-Furqan Media, "Announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham: Speech by the Commander of the Believers Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, May God protect him," YouTube, April 8, 2013, (accessed August 31, 2013).
[10] Al-Manarah al-Bayda, "Speech by Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani," April 10, 2013, YouTube, (accessed August 31, 2013).
[14] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham," Brown Moses Blog, May 17, 2013,
[15] For a full translation of Zawahiri's letter, see Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Sheikh Aymenn al-Zawahiri Annuls Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham,"
June 9, 2013, (accessed August 31, 2013).
[16] Al-Furqan Media, "Remaining [Steadfast] in Iraq and al-Sham," YouTube, June 14, 2013, (accessed 31 August, 2013).
[17] See, for example, National Iraqi News Agency, "Al-Baghdadi Appoints Adnani as Amir of Islamic State in Iraq and Levant," August 18, 2013, It should be noted that the claim that Baghdadi appointed Adnani as ISIS amir was widely reported in Iraqi media, but there exists no evidence in jihadi circles to corroborate this claim.
[18] Al-Furqan Media, "Speech by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Spokesman in the Name of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham: 'Scatter Them and What They Believe'," YouTube, June 20, 2013, (accessed August 31, 2013.
[19] It should be noted that the phrase "from Diyala to Beirut" was used recently in pro-ISIS circles (e.g., by ISIS Twitter user @reyadiraq) to celebrate the bombings that struck a Hizballah stronghold in southern Beirut on August 15, 2013. It appears that observers have not yet realized that the origin of this ISIS slogan goes back to Adnani's speech in June 2013.
[20] For example, note an al-Furqan Media video released as part of a recent series entitled "Messages from Ard al-Melaham [Syria: literally "The Land of Epic Battles"]." It features an interview with a man who is supposedly ISIS' eldest fighter. He is introduced as one of those who took part in the ISIS-led capture of Mannagh military airbase in the Aleppo governorate. He mentions that one of his children is imprisoned in Iraq. However, nowhere is an affiliation to a group named ISIS affirmed in the video. See "Messages from Arḍ al-Melaham 1: Shaykh al-Mujahid Abu Omar al-Ansari," YouTube, August 20, 2013, (accessed December 3, 2013).
[21] For a detailed discussion of this issue, see: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham's Messages and Self-Presentation in Syria and Iraq," Jihadology, September 9, 2013,
[22] See, for example, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Syria's al-Nusra Front–Ruthless, Organized and Taking Control," The Guardian, July 10, 2013,
[23] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "The ISIS Cavalcade: Round-Up of Some Claimed Martyrs for the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham," Jihadology, July 1, 2013,
[24] That said, a trickle of reported native Syrian martyrs for ISIS has begun to appear. For example, the pro-ISIS outlet al-Saqeel Media reported on August 13, 2013, the martyrdom of one Abu Muhammad al-Hamawi, whose name clearly implies origins from Hama, where he was in fact martyred. See Cf. the case of Hamid al-Sayyid from the Idlib town of Binnish, reported by ISIS source @zhoof21 on August 17, 2013, to have been killed in ISIS' clashes with rival rebel battalion Liwa Ahfad al-Rasul in Raqqa:
[25] Alison Tahmizian Meuse, "In Raqqa, Islamist Rebels Form a New Regime," Syria Deeply, August 16, 2013,
[26] Youssef Shaikho, "Jarablos: From Syrian City to Islamic Emirate," The Damascus Bureau, July 12, 2013,
[27] See Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Musings of an Iraqi Brasenostril on Jihad," Jihadology,
[28] Kata'ib Junud al-Haq in Abu Kamal–likely behind the recent clashes with Abu Kamal's local Ahfad al-Rasul affiliate, Liwa Allahu Akbar–has been a good example of JN-ISIS crossover in the eastern border areas (on paper, the group previously claimed JN affiliation prior to Baghdadi's April 2013 statement, then declared itself a part of ISIS, and finally switched back to JN affiliation in name after Zawahiri's statement, while preserving ISIS banners and imagery).
Yet it should be noted that recently the group has reaffirmed an exclusive JN identity by dropping all traces of ISIS imagery from its emblem and indicating the JN affiliation explicitly. Contrast these three logos, the one on the far left a logo from February 2013; the one in the middle introduced in April 2013, after Baghdadi's announcement of an ISI-JN merger; and the final one a reworking of the one on the left. It has been used before April 2013, but was being used again as of September 2013 (see Figure 13 in the Appendix).
[29] "The Amir of Jabhat al-Nusra in Raqqa Abu Sa'ad al-Hadrami, May God Protect Himself," Free Syrian Army Forum, April 1, 2013,
[30] "Liberated Raqqa… Clashes Between Armed Battalion and Great Popular Protests and a Girl Holds a Sit-In Demonstration Alone in front of the State of Iraq and ash-Sham Headquarters," Syria Frontline Blog, August 11, 2013,
[31] "In Raqqa… Jawlani vs. Baghdadi: Jabhat al-Nusra Defects and the Shari'a Committee Is Turning into a Wrestling Arena," al-Hadath News, July 1, 2013,
[32] Aleppo Islamic News Network, "Jabhat al-Nusra Statement on Its Return to the Province of Raqqa," September 13, 2013, (accessed September 15, 2013).
[33] See, for example, al-Manarah al-Bayda, "376: Within the Series of Operations 'Eye for an Eye': Demolition of the Tu'ma Checkpoint on the Zamlaka-al-Qabun Road Connecting to Damascus," August 26, 2013,
[34] Ibid, "382: Within the Series of Operations 'Eye for an Eye': Assault and Cleansing of the Village of al-Himam in the Eastern Aleppo Countryside," August 30, 2013,
[35]Baqiyya Media, "Day One of Operation 'Volcano of Revenge,'" The attack on the Four Seasons took place at 9:30 a.m. on August 27, 2013; while the attack on the Russian embassy took place at 10:15 a.m. No casualties appear to have occurred as a result of either strike.
[36] Baqiyya Media, List of Groups Participating in "Volcano of Revenge," August 27, 2013,
[37] "Urgent: Battle of Ayyam al-Qadisiyya," August 31, 2013,, (accessed September 3, 2013).
[38] Credit goes to the author's colleague Phillip Smyth for coining this acronym. It should be noted that not all those who may use the ISIS banner in the Sayyida Zaynab area identify themselves as members of ISIS. On May 25, 2013, a statement was released by a spokesman for the battalion "Commandos of the Soldiers of God" [Maghawir] announcing joint operations with Ahfad al-Rasul and "other battalions" against LAFA in Sayyida Zaynab. See "Announcement of an Attack on the Headquarters of Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas in Sayyida Zaynab," YouTube, May 25, 2013, (accessed September 1, 2013). While Maghawir use the FSA flag in their logo, their sympathies for ISIS are quite apparent with the appearance of the banner of Tawhid in the video. Further, in late June 2013, a video emerged on YouTube, showing Maghawir fighters raising the ISIS banner over a Damascus mosque. The group's rhetoric has also repeatedly referred to Shi'a as "Rafidites." See "Raising of the Banner of Jihad over the Mosque of the Companion Abu Obeida bin al-Jarrah After Its Liberation," YouTube, June 23, 2013, (accessed September 1, 2013).
[39] "Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham: Damascus, Southern Region," August 17, 2013, Prior to the announcement of ISIS, there has been JN-Liwa al-Islam cooperation in the Sayyida Zaynab area. For example, see this discussion on the jihadi forum al-Platform Media from January 6, 2013,
[40] Cf. discussion with Phillip Smyth on this issue.
[41] Ibid, August 30, 2013, (accessed September 1, 2013).
[42] Corroborated by discussion with ISIS sources.
[43] That JMWA is a front group for ISIS is shown by numerous lines of evidence. Besides the overlap of Abu Umar al-Shishani's positions in ISIS and JMWA, jihadi sources always identify the two as synonymous. For instance, see this jihadi forum thread discussing JMWA/ISIS providing religious instruction to children in an Idlib village: "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham: Snapshots from Qur'an Memorization Circles in the Village of Salwa,", July 17, 2013, (accessed September 1, 2013). As an epilogue note to this article, it should be pointed out that JMWA has subsequently split between those under Umar al-Shishani, who are now just under ISIS, and those following one Salah al-Din al-Shishani, who has retained the JMWA name and affirmed the group's new independence from ISIS.
[44] The Green Battalion's Facebook page, August 7, 2013, (accessed September 1, 2013).
[45] The contrast here is with what some commentators term "the southern front" (i.e., Damascus and Dar'a). To an extent, ISIS/JN relations with other battalions have been dealt with in the preceding section. With JN in particular, it is clear that the group can coordinate operations with a variety of battalions, as demonstrated in this author's Jihadology post on their activities in Dar'a. The same is true to a lesser extent for ISIS. Yet the lack of substantial rebel holdings of territory in Damascus and Dar'a in comparison with the north, together with the fact that the ISIS' presence is significantly smaller in the southern areas, means that FSA-ISIS relations in the south cannot be discussed in nearly the same depth as northern and eastern areas.
[46] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham Expands into Rural Northern Syria," Syria Comment, July 18, 2013,
[48] Ibid. The most recent gesture of dissatisfaction from these three towns comes from Manbij, where a group of rebels describing themselves as the Manbij military council urged ISIS to turn over its large headquarters in the town to the authority of the council. See Aleppo News Network, "Revolutionary Military Council in Manbij Considers the Islamic State a Faction Like the Other Military Factions," Halab News, August 26, 2013, The statement likely reflects the council's concerns about ISIS' expanding power base in the town.
[49] See, for example, "Reporters Without Borders: Demonstration Against Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham al-Islamiya in the Town of Raqqa," YouTube, August 10, 2013, This demonstration of course took place after the ISIS-Ahfad al-Rasul clashes began, but the sentiment among opponents of ISIS is equally directed at Ahrar al-Sham, which is the main rebel group controlling the city.
[50] Ahfad al-Rasul Brigades in Raqqa, August 3, 2013,
[51] "Ahfad al-Rasul and the Islamic State wrestle over Raqqa," al-Mada News, August 8, 2013,
[52] "Admissions of a Security Officer of Brigade 201 of Ahfad al-Rasul and the Truth of Being Employed by France and Others for Waging War on Islam," YouTube, August 9, 2013,
[53] Raqqa News Network, August 13, 2013,
[54] Tel Abyad News Network, August 14, 2013,
[55] "Ahfad al-Rasul Brigades Announce an End to Their Operations Against the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham," Aks Alser, August 17, 2013,
[56] "Col. Oqaidi on al-Qaeda, UN Inspectors, and Kurdish Militias," NOW Lebanon, August 20, 2013, Oqaidi subsequently resigned from his position, citing disunity among rebel ranks and warlordism.
[57] Joanna Paraszczuk, "Getting a Story Right–Free Syrian Army, 'Jihadist Militants,' and the Capture of Menagh Airbase," EAWorldView, August 8, 2013,
[58] Liwa al-Fatah- Aleppo, "Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar–the Mujahid Abu Jandal al-Masri in Mannagh Military Airport and a Message to Bashar," YouTube, August 12, 2013, (accessed September 2, 2013).
[59] Corroborated also from discussion with analyst Jonathan Spyer, who has met members of the battalion on the ground, including its deputy commander.
[60] "Important Statement," Liwa al-Tawheed, July 20, 2013,
[61] Aleppo and Idlib News Network, "Aleppo: Marea: Demonstration Demanding the Removal of the State of Iraq and ash-Sham," YouTube, July 19, 2013, The ISIS presence in the town can be traced as far back as June 2013, when a video was uploaded showing a demonstration in Marea in solidarity with Baniyas, featuring an ISIS flag in the background: (accessed September 2, 2013).
[62] Justin Vela, "In Syria, Clashes Between Arab Rebels, Kurds," The Washington Post, November 28, 2012,
[63] Omar Hossino and Kinda Kanbar, "How Michel Kilo Negotiated a Tenuous Truce in Ras al-Ayn," Syria Deeply, March 5, 2013,
[64] Al-Jewar, "Workers Party [PKK] Tramples with Its Shoes on the Banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham in Fierce Battles in Ras al-Ayn," July 18, 2013,
[65] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham: Deir ez-Zor and the Wider East of Syria," Jihadology, June 27, 2013,
[66] "Demonstration of the Free Men of Jarabulus Against Division, the PKK Party, and for Victory to the Islamists," YouTube, July 18, 2013, (accessed September 3, 2013). To make a more accurate distinction between PYD and PKK forces, it should be noted that the PKK has a front-group militia called Jabhat al-Akrad ("Kurds' Front"), which declares affiliation with the FSA.
[67] "The Official Press Site of Abd al-Basit Ahmad al-Khalf," August 1, 2013, (accessed September 3, 2013).
[68] Via ISIS source @zhoof21: "ISIS: Aleppo: Continuation of Clashes with YPG Apostates in the Village of Zor Maghar near Jarabulus," August 6, 2013,
[69] Kata'ib al-Ahrar, "Important Statement from Battalions Fighting in Aleppo as Regards the PKK Militias," August 2, 2013, (accessed September 3, 2013).
[70] A battalion formed in Manbij last year and with declared affiliation to the FSA Military Council in Aleppo. See this video of the statement of their formation: Omawi News, YouTube, September 24, 2012, (accessed September 3, 2013).
[71] Affiliated with the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), a coalition of rebel groups of which many have Ikhwani leanings, though Suqur al-Sham has a more Salafi orientation and consists of many Syrian jihadi veterans of the Iraq War.
[72] "Col. Oqaidi on al-Qaeda."
[73] Kata'ib al-Ahrar, "Important Statement from Battalions Fighting in Aleppo."
[74] Orient News, "Return of Ordinary Life to the Town of Tel Abyad After Violent Battles," YouTube, August 19, 2013,
[75] See, for example, Tel Abyad News Network, August 19, 2013, (accessed September 3, 2013).
[76] Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, "Statement on Events in Tel Abyad,", July 23, 2013,
[77] See, for example, @zhoof21, "ISIS: al-Hasakah: Striking the Headquarters of the YPG Apostates in the Town of Ras al-Ayn with Mortar Rounds and Artillery Shells," August 20, 2013,
[78] "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham: Damascus, Southern Region," August 24, 2013,
[79] Aleppo News Network, "Formation of an Operations Umbrella in the Northern Countryside to Challenge the PKK and PYD," Halab News, August 14, 2013,
[80] Ugarit News, "Hasakah: Statement of the Qamishli Liberation Front," YouTube, July 18, 2013, (accessed September 3, 2013). The transnational jihadi outlook–likely the result of JN/ISIS crossover this author has noted in the Hasakah governorate (note the JN banner)–is made clear with the chanting at the end: "The Caliphate is the promise of God."
[81] "Exclusive: KNC Decides to Withdraw from all Syrian Opposition Frameworks,", August 18, 2013,
[82] See, for example, Amberin Zaman, "PYD Leader to Turkey: Stop Arms to Jabhat al-Nusra," al-Monitor, August 7, 2013,
[83] See, for example, "PYD Forces Syrians to Seek Refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan," Today's Zaman, August 25, 2013,
[84] See, for example, "No Kurdish Peshmerga Forces in Baghdad's Green Zone," Shafaaq News, August 6, 2013, No formal initiatives have been implemented yet, but plans for cooperation should the need be perceived to arise are on the table. Iraqi Shi'i political figures have also played up rumors of jihadi massacres of Kurds in Syria: e.g., Ali al-Dargham, "Sheikh Jalaluddin al-Saghir: The Approach of Jabhat al-Nusra which Is Killing Kurds Is Takfiri," Buratha News, August 19, 2013,[85] See, for example, "Kurds Council Joins Opposition Coalition with Preconditions," ZAMAN ALWSL, August 29, 2013,
[86] The group is a huge movement, as analyst Charles Lister notes, so some diversity of opinion about ISIS is hardly surprising.
[87] Associated Press, "In Syria, Infighting Between al-Qaida Groups and Mainstream Rebels Undermining Revolt," Fox News, July 15, 2013,
[88] See, for example, Max Fisher, "Al-Qaeda Faction in Syria Hands Out Teletubbies and Spiderman Dolls," The Washington Post, August 13, 2013,, crediting this author for unearthing ISIS' distribution of Teletubbies dolls to children.
[89] Jawad Al-Tamimi, "Jihad in Syria."



Canadian Passport Not a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
December 16, 2013 - The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today issued the following statement on consular services for Canadians ahead of the winter travel season:
“As the holiday season quickly approaches, Canadians look to the sand and sun to escape the winter cold. Last year, Canadians took more than 65 million trips abroad. While the majority of these trips went off without a hitch, Canadian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance when Canadians find themselves in serious trouble abroad.
“While Canadian officials strive to provide the best possible consular assistance to Canadians in all regions of the world, the Government of Canada cannot stress enough that a Canadian passport is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
“Canadians should recognize that they are subject to local legal procedures and processes, which are often different from those in Canada. Our government cannot intervene in these processes, just as we would not accept a foreign government intervening in ours. Canadians abroad are expected to adhere to local laws, just as they would in Canada.
“Canadian consular officials are there to ensure the well-being of Canadians who are in trouble or detained when abroad. Consular officials can contact family members upon request, advocate for fair and equal treatment under local laws, and advocate for general well-being, including basic nutrition.
“It is up to the traveler to make safe and smart travel decisions, so Canadians are strongly encouraged to read and follow our travel advisories. Our government recently overhauled the website to ensure that Canadians have easy access to the most up-to-date travel information, including security advisories and information concerning local laws.
“In circumstances where an advisory recommends avoiding all travel or non-essential travel, Canadian officials may be very limited in the help that they can provide, and their safety and security are paramount.
“Finally, Canadians are urged to always purchase travel and medical insurance before they leave Canada. In almost all circumstances, the Government of Canada—and the taxpayer—cannot help pay for a ticket back to Canada.
“As we head into the holiday travel season, please keep in mind that consular officials will help where and when they can, but safe and secure travel is ultimately the responsibility of the traveller.”
A backgrounder follows.
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @DFATDCanada
Backgrounder - Safe and Responsible Travel
Although the Government of Canada offers consular services, it is important that Canadians know that they are responsible for ensuring their own safe and secure travel through proper planning before going abroad. With good planning, Canadians should be able to avoid most challenges, leaving consular officers free to help in case of real emergencies.
The best way to plan a successful trip is to follow the “3Rs” of international travel:
Read to get the latest on topics such as safety, security and local laws in the destination country by consulting the country travel advice and advisories;
Register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service, which enables us to contact and assist Canadians in an emergency; and
Reach us 24/7 at our Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Consular Services
Our team of consular officers stands ready to provide assistance to Canadians who run into trouble 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a network of more than 260 offices in more than 150 countries. This network includes embassies, consulates, high commissions and other government offices. For a list of the types of offices and levels of service they offer, see Embassies and Consulates.
However, we ask Canadian citizens to be responsible and take sensible precautions. Canadian consular officials are not a concierge service, nor can they help you circumvent a foreign legal system. Here are some actual requests consular officials have received and cannot help you with:
ship emergency supplies of maple syrup;
drive you to chase down the thief who stole your purse;
help you research your family tree;
help you redeem Aeroplan points;
ask your significant other to let you back into the apartment;
chauffeur your poodle through the airport;
help you avoid court appearances or jail time if you break the law in another country; and
pay your hospital bill because you did not think purchasing travel medical insurance was necessary.
Consular officials can, however:
replace lost or stolen passports;
provide you with a list of local lawyers;
seek to ensure your well-being if you are arrested or detained;
speak with your loved ones in Canada concerning your situation;
request that local authorities investigate suspicious circumstances, in the event of an alleged or apparent crime or death;
recommend local organizations that can help in specific cases;
help facilitate repatriation; and transfer funds.