Many of the most prominent fighting groups in Syria released a statement on the formation of what they call the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (Majlis Qiyadat al-Thawra al-Suriyya). The most prominent groups include the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, Jeish al-Mujahideen, Harakat Nur al-Din al-Zinki, Jaysh al-Islam, and Suqur al-Sham, the latter two of which are Islamic Front (IF) component brigades. Liwa al-Haqq, another IF component, also signed on. Jabhat al-Nusra is not included among the signatories, and neither is Ahrar al-Sham, another major IF faction that is perceived as more ideologically extreme than other IF factions.
The statement includes a large number of groups that have been receiving lethal and non-lethal assistance from the Friends of Syria including American-made TOW missiles and training. It also includes groups that, to my knowledge, the U.S. has not engaged but that allies like Saudi Arabia have. The statement comes after several weeks of tension between Jabhat al-Nusra and both IF and non-IF factions and after many of the signatory groups announced that they were suspending all cooperation with Nusra.
The groups themselves say that the statement and the unification under the Council was the result of an initiative launched by religious scholars and religious students, giving it a coating of popular and religious legitimacy. But the realignments that have culminated in this announcement have been a result of shifting material incentives; the U.S. has made clear that groups that receive its weapons must not work with Nusra while funding for the IF appears to have dried up. This, coupled with Nusra’s increasingly hostile and aggressive posture vis a vis groups willing to take support from the West, may signal an uptick in material support to enter Syria soon. Importantly, these developments have brought cracks within the stagnating IF coalition to the fore. However, it is not clear to me exactly how the West will react to the inclusion of Jaysh al-Islam, the IF faction whose leader has made highly sectarian and inflammatory threats against Syria’s Alawite minority.
The “Wa I’tasimu Initiative” to unite the ranks of the Syrian Revolution
The formation of the Revolutionary Command Council
In the name of God, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful:
Praise be to God and Prayers be on the prophet of God, his family, his companions, and those loyal to him, etc.
In compliance with God’s command to “hold fast (wa i’tasimu) by the rope of God together and be not disunited,” a number of scholars and students of religion (Tullab al-‘Ilm) in Syria started the “Wa I’tasimu Initiative” with the goal of uniting the factions active in Syria. Thanks be to God, a large number of the leaders of the factions and fronts spread out over several Syrian provinces met and agreed to the following:
First: To form a council to lead the revolution in Syria called the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (Majlis Qiyadat al-Thawra al-Suriyya) to be the united body for the Syrian revolution.
Second: the Council will choose its leader and form the bureaus under him, the military and judicial bureau chief among them, within 45 days.
Third: This Council is formed with the following fronts in mind – the northern front, the eastern front, the central front, the southern front, and the western front. All factions concerned with each front shall agree on their representatives to the council. The door will remain open for other factions that wish to join the Council.
Fourth: To form a follow-up committee from among those who began this initiative.
The participating factions:
Harakat Hazm, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, Jaysh al-Mujahideen, Harakat Nur al-Din al-Zinki, Alwiyat Suqur al-Sham, Jeish al-Islam, Hayat Duru’ al-Thawra, the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, the 13th Division, Jabhat Haqq al-Muqatala, al-Jabha al-Suriyya lil-Tahrir, the 101st Division, Tajjamu’ Kataib wa Alwiyat Shuhada Suriya, Liwa Fursan al-Haqq, Tajammu’ Suqur al-Ghab, and Liwa al-Haqq.
Sunday 7 Shawwal 1435 h/3 August 2014.