During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran.
In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
(click here to continue reading).
(Addenda for the paper):
Endnote (19): In discussing the official announcement of the National Front for Liberation (NFL) as being on 1st August 2018 CE, I am of course referring to the formation of the NFL in the iteration that exists to this day. Prior to that date, some of Idlib's factions were already operating under this moniker from 28th May 2018 CE (namely, Failaq al-Sham and other groups that had been 'vetted' for Western support in the past), though it did not include the bigger groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Suqur al-Sham, which, along with this smaller grouping, announced the grand merger of the NFL on 1st August 2018 CE.
'Reduced salaries' (p. 4)- The specific question put to the al-Zubair squadron representive and the answer in November 2019:
'Q: The salary is the same as the rest of the formations in the Hay'a? Meaning 38,000 for the bachelor and 45,000 for the married?
A: By God oh precious one regrettably, less. 24 for the bachelor, 36 for the married currently, subject to increase'.
At the time I took this to mean reduction in salaries for fighters of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, but as the subsequent conversation with the 'Red Bands' member made clear, it is likely internal variation according to sector, squadron/army/brigade affiliation etc.