GUEST POST: On Liwa al-Islam and the new 'Jaysh al-Islam' merger
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi and Shami Witness • Sep 30, 2013 at 7:20 am
Preface by Aymenn
My friend Shami Witness provides some exclusive coverage in a guest post for this site on the recent announcement 'Jaysh al-Islam' ('Army of Islam') under the leadership of Liwa al-Islam, whose leadership's outlook, it should be noted, is both anti-Shi'a and blurs the national/transnational distinction with talk about artificial borders imposed on the Ummah. In this respect, there is overlap with the definitely Salafist Ahrar ash-Sham and a contrast with some FSA-banner Islamist groups like the Furqan Brigades, which talk about a struggle just within the borders of Syria. I also highly recommend that you follow Shami Witness on Twitter.
Post by Shami Witness.
These are not so "new" 40-50 groups to unite together
There was a major announcement today from Liwa Islam and extensively covered by all of pro-thuwar media. Liwa Islam had a public ceremony, where allegedly 43 different groups pledged oath of allegiance to Liwa Islam leader Zahran Alloush, and merged into the Liwa Islam led "Jaysh al Islam".
Now, even I thought this is something of a big deal, and acted as such on Twitter. But I got curious when with one hour, the 43 groups increased to 50, including 1 anonymous group even.
Then I was contacted by a pretty solid source, and he revealed something incredible: at most 12 groups were actual new ones to come under a Liwa-Islam led umbrella. All rest of the 38 groups (if this 50 figure is credible) were working under LiwaIslam's control!
Much of these 38 or so brigades were under LiwaIslam's control for quite some time, and this was not unknown. We just got too happy with the news, to understand the redundancy of much of it.
The 12 new groups are:
1.Liwa Deraa al Ghouta(from brigades of Chiefs of Staff, First Infantry Division)
2. Liwa Jaysh al Muslimeen(some from this were part of Liwa Islam already)
3.Liwa Omar bin Abdel Aziz(from Ahfad umbrella factions)
From the Quwwat al Maghaweer factions, 3 new joinees –
4. Liwa Tawheed al Islam
5.Liwa Maghaweer al Qalamoun
6.Liwa Fatah al Sham
7.Katiba Suqour Abu Dujana(reef Aleppo) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyaZTA-Hl0o
8. Liwa Shuhada al Atareb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp2eeOSCGDk
9.Kataeb ayn Jalut (reef Idlib) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vFGQm_Ci6w
10.Kataeb Nour al Ghouta
11.Liwa Omar bin al Khattab
12.Kataeb as Sadiq
Now out of these 12 actual new joiners, only 2 groups can really be called of any real significance. Those are Liwaa Jaysh al Muslimeen, and Liwaa Daraa al Ghouta. The other ten are just few dozens or at most low hundreds, rebels with basic guns. Some of these groups, like Liwa Fatah al Sham ,are straight away corrupt, leave the frontline all the time, also notorious for thievery. Liwa Fatah al Sham even got pejorative nickname "Liwa Fateh al Bab" among the people of Ghouta.
There are also four groups that almost no one has even heard of before! :
So all in all, this is not really a big deal, not really an expansion of Liwa Islam's power. Instead, it has antagonized groups that actually fight on the Ghouta front without fleeing:Ahrar ash Sham,Liwa Habib al Mustafa, Kataeb as Sahaba. Going by the anger of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham fighters online I don't think them, or either those of Jabhat an Nusra, are exactly happy with what happened today with this big PR exercise.
Some groups that joined Liwa Islam a while back, but presented as new joiners today:
- Liwa al Mudarrat(Armored Brigade)
- Air defense brigade
- Martyrs battalion
- Katiba Ansar at Tawheed(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8NnvyfEVEQ)
- Liwa Jund at Tawheed( https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=rhrwOsOGEiQ)
- Liwa Seif al islam ( http://eldorar.com/node/9735 )
- Liwa Muadh bin Jabal(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxxhbtW9orw)
- Liwa Zubair bin Awam(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Z3LgWfxSg )
- Liwa Thun Nurayn( http://goo.gl/oNQ620 )
- Liwa al Ansar(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBmNU7h4uZM)
- Liwa al Hamza (https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=qX5ojOWyR8g
- Liwa Zahir Baybars(http://goo.gl/RKLKMn )
- Liwa Saif al Haq(http://goo.gl/hXj3Xj)
- Liwa al Badia (Katibat Alskhani)
- Liwa Ansar al-Sunna (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ6ujpGv7z8 )
- Liwa Ahl al Bayt (http://goo.gl/efFJ4g)
- Liwa Jabhat as Sahel
- Kataeb al Mujahideen
- Kataeb as Sunna (https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=nZp6DYsC9_A )
- Kataib Al-Ansar(another one)
- Kataeb al-Bara bin Azib
Note: I don't have any particular hatred or any sort of ill will for either Sheikh Zahran Alloush or the heroes of Liwa Islam.They are my brothers in faith. But this "Jaysh al Islam" declaration should have been discussed more extensively with other, important fighting kataeb.