The northwest region of Syria (Idlib and its environs) recently saw fighting between Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the jihadist factions of the 'So Be Steadfast' operations room. With its far larger military forces and resources, HTS rather predictably emerged as the victor in the fighting, forcing its rivals to dismantle checkpoints they had set up in various places and evicting them from areas in which they had concentrated in significant numbers. Meanwhile, Abu Malek al-Talli and Abu Salah al-Uzbeki- two military commanders who defected from HTS and had joined the 'So Be Steadfast' operations room- remain in HTS custody: a key grievance behind the original dispute. Moreover, HTS has now forbidden the establishment of any new military operations room besides the 'al-Fatah al-Mubin' operations room in which it plays the leading role.
There have been varying interpretations of these events. For example, many of those sympathetic to the 'So Be Steadfast' operations room see a Turkish hand behind the HTS crackdown in a bid to ensure the M4 highway remains completely clear for the joint Turkish-Russian patrols. Another interpretation has been that the 'So Be Steadfast' operations room factions were attempting some kind of power grab against HTS, though I am personally skeptical of that view.
Below is an account of the events provided to me today by sources close to the matter. I solely produce it for the interest of the readers and clarification of some things. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
After the disappearance of the areas in the recent operations to the regime, matters began to proceed towards the implementation of the international laws and collusion with allowing the [joint Russian-Turkish] patrols to proceed. It was necessary to bring together the honest people present in the field and those rejecting all of the outcomes of the international laws.
On this basis Jama'at Ansar al-Islam came together with the brothers from the Hurras al-Din organisation, Ansar al-Din, Tansiqiyat al-Jihad, and Liwa al-Muqatileen al-Ansar and they agreed on establishing a military operations room to resist the aggression of the enemies and its aim was never to target Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham or others besides it. Rather the first and last aim was to resist the aggression of the enemies from the Russians, Nusayris and the Iranian militias.
So the groups gathered under the name of the 'So Be Steadfast' room.
But this does not suit the orientation of the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] in this stage and because they are heading towards the international agreements and harmonising with them on the pretext of the necessity of the stage and the weakness so it devised flimsy pretexts to slander the So Be Steadfast room and harass it but these pretexts had no relation to the origin of the situation, and the Hay'a began the problem by arresting one of the Shura members in the room and the military official for it Abu Malek al-Talli. And before him there was the arrest of the brother Abu Salah al-Uzbeki who joined the Ansar al-Din group recently.
So it was necessary to pressure the Hay'a by some means to come to the rule of the law in what they claim from cases they had stirred up with regards to the two arrest people after the brothers called them to that but they rejected this in haughtiness, considering themselves authority and they justified this deed of theirs on the grounds it is an internal matter and we cannot permit anyone to permit in it. So it was necessary to pressure the Hay'a in order to submit to the rule of the law whether in favour of or against it and by the witness testimony of the mashaykh of the field and outside the field. But they rejected. And the room exhausted all means with them more or less but they did not respond and the room began putting in place the checkpoints in order for them to come to an independent court.
But what happened is that the Hay'a attacked with all its force to dismantle the checkpoints and put an end to this matter by means of aggressive fighting just as it launches attacks against the regime, only more intense. And it paid no regard to the calls for calm and coming to the rule of law or to the call of the eminent mashayakh who had discussions with them on that, nor did they respond to the call of the people of justice from the Ummah, but they insisted that the matter should be in accordance with their wishes. Note that the room did not begin fighting them and did not fight against them until during the battle on the consideration that the room kepts to its word that it does not want to fight, but only wants to pressure the Hay'a to come to the rule of the law. So it was that the other face of these people became clear and how they are sliding towards the implementation of the oppressive international agreements that serve the interest of the regime and the Russian occupation in particular.
And the reality and extensions of their work, conduct, statements and proceedings demonstrate what the So Be Steadfast room has mentioned.
And we would like to add an issue: that we consider that this conduct and behaviour in the aggregate cause harm to the Ahl al-Sunna and weakening of their power against the Russians, Nusayris and Iranian militias and the Hay'a is causing harm to itself more.