"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)



Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jaish al-Sham: An Ahrar al-Sham Offshoot or Something More (Aron Lund- Carnegie Endowment)

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a new rebel faction has been announced in Syria.
However, unlike most of them, this one merits a closer look. On October 9, Jaish al-Sham—which is Arabic for the Levant Army, but can also be understood to mean the Syrian Army or the Damascus Army—announced its existence. The name has been used by other groups before it, including one whose leaders eventually slid into the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but they are not related.
Jaish al-Sham is based in northern Syria, and many of its leaders apparently go back and forth between Turkey and Syria. According to leading Jaish al-Sham figure Yamin al-Naser, it has branches in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and on the Syrian coast. Naser says Jaish al-Sham already controls “great numbers and deserves being called an army,” specifying that its size is currently at “more than 1,000 fighters who were all recruited from smaller groups.” So far, there is evidence that Jaish al-Sham has participated in battles on at least two different fronts. One is northeast of Aleppo, where the Islamic State is trying to cut rebel supply lines to Turkey. The other area isnear Kafranboudeh and Kafr Zita north of Hama, where the forces of SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad advance under Russian air cover.
At first sight, the creation of Jaish al-Sham might seem inconsequential. New rebel factions are a dime a dozen in Syria and they typically merge back into a larger group or fade away into obscurity. That could very well become the fate of Jaish al-Sham, too. But after speaking to Jaish al-Sham leader Mohammed Talal Bazerbashi, I believe that there are at least three factors that make Jaish al-Sham worth dwelling on for a moment.