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Tahrer Sham: Who won in this merger?

3 Things We Learned from Tahreer Sham Announcement

Things have been happening at a whirlwind pace over the past week.  In the wake of Jabha Fath Sham’s takeover of rebel held territories, on the basis that those groups made separate deals in the Astana talks to assault them, there was much turmoil.  JFS’s claims cannot independently be verified.  Last week Ahrar Sham, who has been preparing troops for a possible confrontation with JFS, accepted the joining of their ranks by other groups who felt threatened by the JFS moves of recent days.  Yesterday, saw the end of Jabha Fath Sham formerly Jabha Nusra as they and several other groups joined together to form one new entity, Tahreer Sham, under the leadership of former Ahrar leader Abu Jaber Shaykh.  Those other initial groups are Nur Deen Zinki, Liwaa Haqq, Jaysh Sunnah and Ansar Deen.  After the announcement of the formation of the group Tahreer Sham 9 other battalions joined as well bolstering the strength of the newly formed organization.

Here are 3 things we learned from the formation of the new group:

1. Ahrar was a Big Loser in these events:
Ahrar Sham has lost quite a bit of credibility in recent days in the eyes of many Syrians.  However, a huge blow to the movement is that their former leader, Abu Jaber Shaykh, is the leader of the new group.  In addition to that Abu Saleh Tahhan and Shaykh Abu Sadiq also left Ahrar to join the new group as well.  Those three individuals were the last original remaining leaders of Ahrar Sham which was formed in 2011.  In addition to that several battalions that were a part of Ahrar defected to the Tahreer Sham side as well.
With their trusted leadership leaving the group in this fashion it makes it clear that Ahrar is struggling with it’s identity.  However, Ahrar has proven savvy over the years as they once had their entire leadership killed in a single explosive attack yet they were able to steady their forces and continue.  So it will be interesting to see what they will do next.
It is also worth noting that several other high profile Shaykhs who have never been formally a part of any group have also joined this movement.  Shaykh Abdur Razzaq Mahdi, Shaykh Abdullah Muhaysini, and Shaykh Muslih Alyani all formally joined Tahreer Sham as well.

2. International Pressure is Over-Rated
It is extremely interesting to note that this merger between the groups happens at a time where there is an intense campaign from US forces on Jabha Fath Sham.  This is a clear message that groups inside Syria are not scared off by US drone attacks and will look to implement their own agenda regardless as to what designations are meted out in Washington, Ankara, or elsewhere.  It appears that the US-Russian-Iranian-Turkish plan to politically and militarily isolate JFS from the other groups and go after them was a complete failure.

3. Syrians are Jubilant
In the city of Idlib, Syrians were jubilant last night upon hearing the news of the new merger as “Takbiraat” (saying of Allahu Akbar) was heard from speakers mounted on the city’s many mosques.  After losing Aleppo it was the first time to see a look of optimism from average Syrians.  To be fair, that optimism is guarded but it was clear that this was seen as a step in the right direction.

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