Did the Killing of Abu Bassir Lead to the First Lattakia Offensive?

by Matthew Barber

Make sure to view this amazing video published by Vice News, entitled “Wolves of the Valley.” The video contains daring reporting by Aris Roussinos (@arisroussinos) who entered Idlib to bring us an interesting picture of the front-line in the conflict between ISIS and SRF fighters.

Vice’s posting of the video is here.

Roussinos also has an article about the situation, published yesterday, here.

In the video, one of the leading SRF fighters gives “a message” to Muslims in the West emphasizing that they do not want new fighters to join them in Syria. He says they have enough men and don’t need more. They do discuss their need for weapons, however, and the video gives an interesting look at equipment and training materials provided to the fighters by the U.S. One of the men describes participating in a weapons training program in Turkey and Qatar. After completing the training, the men return to Syria and receive shipments of weapons. Only those who participate in the training receive weapons, the fighter claims, and he says that the weapons are for “fighting Da’ash” rather that for fighting the regime.

The tactics of ISIS are renounced as un-Islamic by the SRF fighter speaking to Roussinos. He attacks such practices as decapitation and extracting jizya from Christians.

Along with this effort to self-market as “moderate” comes the practice of denigrating ISIS (who, as everyone knows, represents the very antithesis of “moderate”), and amusingly, the commander does denigrate them… as Shiites “who have nothing to do with Islam.” There’s something inherently ironic about leveling the accusation of “Shiism” against al-Qaida groups: first, no one has targeted Shiites with more violence than al-Qaida, and second, one of the defining features of al-Qaida’s immoral character is the intolerance that typifies their ideology. The problem isn’t that they’re “this” or “that,” but that they’re willing to kill those who are “this” or “that.” So judging them because they are “Shiites”—beyond the categorical inaccuracy—seems to betray the fact that even the rebel enemies of ISIS are more influenced than they’d like to admit by the intolerant outlook of al-Qaida itself.

At one point in the film, Roussinos visits a number of prisoners being held by the SRF, among whom are captured ISIS members. They require the men to view a video of a recent mass execution of civilians performed by ISIS and then ask the prisoners if this behavior is Islamic. One of the prisoners in this scene can be heard responding to the accusations of his captors in another video that was posted online a little over a month ago, after his capture:

In this video, the fighters are arguing about the first Lattakia offensive that occurred last August, because the events leading up to it were partly what led to the beginning of the war between ISIS and other rebels groups. Though the Syria National Coalition tried to take credit when the offensive began, calling it part of the Syrian Revolution, it soon became clear that it was masterminded by the al-Qaida franchises. FSA participants were the followers, only joining up after the Islamists spearheaded the campaign. (Here is a video of Salim Idriss visiting the front as a gesture of participation.)

In the video, they argue over who lost more fighters, then the SRF commander says to the captured ISIS fighter: “Why did [ISIS] choose that time to invade? You know why? Because Abu Ayman al-Iraqi was suppose to be presented to a shari’a court for killing Abu Bassir, and he asked for 3 days after which ‘under shari’a I will surrender myself.’ So he started this battle to divert attention and people lost martyrs; we lost 230 martyrs in this failed battle you’re talking about and we suffered 300 injuries and everybody had to focus on themselves.” The ISIS fighter then says he admits that Abu Ayman al-Iraqi killed Abu Bassir without cause, and also that he doesn’t understand why they killed Abu Khaled al-Suri.

What we see here is that the SRF fighters blame ISIS for starting a battle that FSA fighters felt obligated to join, but which ultimately failed and resulted in heavy losses. They are also accusing ISIS of starting the first Lattakia offensive as a distraction to evade the question of justice following their killing of Abu Bassir, an FSA field commander.




Al-Qaeda Is Dead, Long Live Al-Qaeda by Jean-Pierre Filiu

Since the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaeda group—which is now led by bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri—typically has been seen as a complex of overlapping “franchises” that together make up the core of a global jihadi movement.

But this is no longer true. The former Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda has now superseded bin Laden’s network to become the more important driving force behind the global jihad in its current guise as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The key to understanding current jihadi dynamics is not which group Zawahiri is prepared to bless or banish but which forces tolerate or fight the ISIL.

It is time to forget about Zawahiri, because it is now the ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is the most important inspiration for global jihad. …

… The UN estimates the number of foreign fighters in Syria at a minimum of 7,000. Not all of them join the ISIL, but its recruiters are roaming the Turkish borders to catch inexperienced volunteers and use them as cannon fodder for their global propaganda and suicide attacks. Syria is far more accessible than any jihadi battlefield in the past, and the ISIL is now bracing for a sustained global campaign from the core of the Middle East.

The foreign recruits will not significantly enhance the ISIL’s fighting force in the current battles in Syria. Instead, they are basically a trump card to magnify the international outreach of Baghdadi’s networks—first in the jihadi diaspora and later as potential operatives in their home countries. The Sinai-based jihadi faction known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which is presently the most active jihadi group in Egypt, has already endorsed the ISIL, and many others are also tempted to switch publicly their allegiance from Zawahiri to Baghdadi. The clock is ticking—and it is no longer only about Syria.

Despair of the Syrian beggar boy – Ruth Sherlock

Before Iraq election, Shi’ite militias unleashed in war on Sunni insurgents

… “There were men in civilian clothes on motorcycles shouting ‘Ali is on your side’,” one man said, referring to a key figure in Shi’ite tradition. “People started fleeing their homes, leaving behind the elders and young men and those who refused to leave. The militias then stormed the houses. They pulled out the young men and summarily executed them.” …

What Would the Fall of Homs Mean? – Aron Lund

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi gives an interesting lecture on the various jihadi factions of Syria, their origins and conflicts, here

If Assad Wins War, Challenge From His Own Sect May Follow – Anne Barnard

FSA strikes jihadist-held stronghold

Syrian rebels launched their biggest offensive yesterday against thousands of jihadists in the north who have used terrorist tactics and imposed strict Islamic rules on minorities.

About 1,500 members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were involved in the push towards the city of Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), according to an opposition spokesman. …

Massive explosion in Aleppo today, here; Zahran Aloush/IF take credit for the explosion, here.

Kuwait, a U.S. ally on Syria, is also the leading funder of extremist rebels – WP

Comments (159)

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151. ghufran said:

ISIS may be planning to attack Rastan, Talbiseh and other towns around Homs:
أصدر تنظيم “الدولة الإسلامية بالشام والعراق” (داعش) بيانا أمهل من خلاله أهالي مدن “تلبيسة”، “الرستن”، “الغنطو” و”الزعفرانة” بريف حمص ٧٢ ساعة لإخلائها، وحذر من أنه لايتحمل مسؤولية أية قطرة دم تهدر بسبب الكفرة، حسب تعبير البيان.
وعزا تنظيم “داعش” في البيان هذا التحذير الى تمادي عناصر الجماعات المسلحة الاخرى المنضوية تحت راية الجيش الحر والنصرة والجبهة الإسلامية واصفا بالخائن كل من يساندهم في تعدياتهم وتحركاتهم وملوحا بمعاملتهم معاملة الملحدين الكافرين.
ISIS is now trying to control Dayr Azour after taking Raqqa

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May 18th, 2014, 12:56 am


152. Observer said:

I am learning at the hands of professor Jabali.

Having read the History of the Arabs by both Hitti and Hourani I find that the professor knows more about Syria than I do.

Syria was a province of the Roman empire and one of its emperors was from Homs by the way. As such these people were Romans not Syrians.

There is no such thing as Syria.
As for the film maker, he is Alawite making a film about the regime. It absolves him of course of collusion but it does not absolve the thousands of officers and troops and security services that are collaborating passively and actively with him.

The people of Damascus are in for a shock once the reckoning happens. They think that by just staying low they can avoid both protagonists.

It is slowly and surely grinding down the country to rubble. In the meantime there is no dissent amongst the Alawites against the regime to speak of. Here and there but the majority are in with it. Like the people of Damascus they are going to be shocked when the reckoning arrives.

The Syrian delegate at the KSA Iran talks walked out in fury at what he heard the Iranian ally is proposing or so I heard.

The Baath could not come up with an identity of the Arab nation without going back to Islam as the “eternal message”

Now Jabali here are my list of readings over the last year:

1. Why Nations Fail
2. The Road to Serfdom
3. The New Road to Serfdom
4. Inventing Freedom
5. Realizing Freedom
6. The Origins of Political Order

At night I read Tabari. I have discovered great many things reading the history of Tabari the most important of which is that Muhammad by establishing a city state has immersed Islam in politics and by doing so has actually doomed the religion to its demise for the faithful cannot get out of the trap of developing a political system that is viable without betraying the faith.

Hence, I would think that the only way to unlock this prison is to make the religion 100% democratic;
1. Every person has a direct relation to God
2. Reason should guide the reading of the scriptures and neither mystical nor authoritarian interpretation
3. The Koran is a historical entity and not an eternal sacred text that transcends all time and all places and as such can be re interpreted constantly.

Last but not least

Please tell me about Alawi religion so that I can convert I do not need to go and live anywhere you are Professor Jabali a great source. Why do I have a huge reluctance to tell me what the creed is:

Ali is God, and the Spirit of God is Muhammad and Salman is the Door to the mystery of this relation.

It sounds like the trinity and I am 100% certain that it is infinitely more liberal than the stupid rigid fossilized dinosaur called Shia and Sunni Islam.

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May 18th, 2014, 8:52 am


153. mjabali said:

Observer claimed that he had read Hitti…and also claimed there is nothing called Syria and it was invented by the French and the British….

Of course, Observer, is fabricating because Philip Hitti wrote a book called : Syria: a Short History.

The first sentence of the book is:

“PLACE IN HISTORY :Syria, using the term in its old, geographical sense, occupies a unique place in the annals of the world.”

Then Hitti goes on to talk about SYRIA and what it is and what it means…etc According to Hitti Syria existed …According to Hitti observer is fabricating

Poof…. here is another one of the fabrications of Observer vanishes….

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May 18th, 2014, 3:35 pm


154. Ghufran said:


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May 18th, 2014, 9:33 pm


155. observer said:

I still do not think that there is such a thing as Syria and certainly not in its present state and boundaries.

Bilad al Sham yes it existed for centuries but a nation state called Syria exists only in your imagination.

The idea of a nation state has not taken root in the ME. The Lebanese think of themselves as different only in the Christian areas.

Read Shibli Telhami seminal book The World Through Arab Eyes another book that I read recently and forgot to mention you will find some very interesting answers on how much more pervasive is the Arab identity over the local one.

Why don’t you read Hitti and Hourani as well and tell me where is this Syria of wonders exists.

The current Syria is a failed mafia state and has been since 1963 when the archaic socialist Baath party took over and started dismantling the institutions of a modern civil society. Even the rudimentary civil institutions existing before were already made obsolete by Nasser’s introduction of a police torture state.

The knock on the door at 3 am is the hallmark of this mythical Syria.

And for argument’s sake let us assume that there is such a thing as Syria: it no longer exists today. It is utterly destroyed and made into rubble.

Very good indeed.

Poof and Syria is now Thouria Alathad just as Poof it is another family and not a country like KSA.

There are three nation states only in the ME Iran, Turkey and Egypt and in North Africa Tunis. The rest are mafia states.

Now how come Professor Jabali that you are outraged at the destruction of your famous precious Syria by the mafia regime is beyond me.


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May 18th, 2014, 10:20 pm


156. Observer said:

By the way Jabali Hitti in Arabic was the history curriculum in the high school in 10th, 11th and 12th grades. I did not realize it until I read the English version and realized that is was the same but in Arabic

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May 18th, 2014, 10:22 pm


157. Juergen said:

See whats left from Assad-Syria these days…


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May 18th, 2014, 11:39 pm


158. Juergen said:

Syrian women turns 100 as an refugee in Lebanon

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May 18th, 2014, 11:52 pm


159. SyrienMonitor said:

While quoting Hitti and Hourani might impress some people, these books don’t necessarily provide a sufficient framework for a nationalism debate.

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May 19th, 2014, 5:41 am


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