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Al-Qaeda Gains Ground

MENAroundupMENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Mid
July 26 · Issue #48 · View online

MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq.

Key developments
  • The U.S. decision to halt a covert CIA program of military aid must be interpreted with caution. The Assad regime considers the decision as a start towards ending the war. However, the consequences are hard to predict.
  • The CIA program wasn’t effective anyway and other foreign backers like Qatar and Turkey could fill the gab soon. Consequently, it remains to be seen how those backers react. Ultimately, the U.S. decision could lead to new dynamics on the ground that do not necessarily have to weaken the armed opposition in general but of course continue the already existing trend of a diminishing FSA label.
  • Last week, fighting between Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) and Ahrar al-Sham broke out in Syria’s northeast. HTS managed to take some towns throughout the province of Idlib and besieged the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey. A deal has been reached that effectively puts all crossings under HTS’s control.
  • Two important observations: 1. The Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, a core member of HTS, announced its defection from the bloc. Zenki’s leadership condemned HTS’s aggression against Ahrar al-Sham, its disobedience to its own Sharia Court’s decisions as well as HTS’s rejection of an initiative brought up by some influential scholars. Additionally, the Turkey-based Syrian Islamic Council published a statement in which it welcomed Zenki’s decision to leave HTS and prohibited any support for the group, effectively taking Ahrar’s side. 2. Civilian protesters forced HTS out of the town of Saraqib. HTS has shown its fangs and appears isolated on the one hand. On the other hand, the remaining opposition groups are too weak to contest HTS at present (A related article together with Ömer Özkizilcik will be online soon).
Articles worth reading
Local Community Resistance to Extremist Groups in Syria: Lessons from Atarib
Mission Impossible? Investigating the Khan Sheikhoun Nerve Gas Attack in Syria
Book Review: The Shell
The End of American Support for Syrian Rebels Was Inevitable
America Had Already Lost Its Covert War in Syria—Now It’s Official
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