Reports emerged last Friday that a leader of one of the largest factions in southern Syria had been ousted by his comrades. The episode is part of a broader campaign that could unravel what is often cited as the most successful model for the rebels across the country.
According to reports from Deraa, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front was pushed aside and replaced by Major Qassem Najm, a military defector.
A source close to the ousted commander confirmed the news and accused Ahrar Al Sham and its regional backers of engineering the move. Last Tuesday, six sub-factions of the revolutionary front issued statements declaring allegiance to Major Najm.
The Southern Front is a rare model for the Syrian rebels. Local groups generally lack a unified command centre, although they collaborate on the front lines throughout the country. Numerous social, political and military factions enabled the groups in the south to coalesce and work towards a relatively moderate and nationalist model under a joint command. Extremist groups largely failed to outperform nationalist forces there, as they did in the north.
Another key factor that differentiates the north from the south in terms of extremist dominance is that backers of the southern coalition have sought to strengthen national forces over Islamist factions. In the north, Turkey’s unbridled support for Islamists created the reverse situation. The two fronts had different sets of foreign backers over the course of the conflict. Qatar and Turkey, for example, had almost uncontested spheres of influence in the northern parts.