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"Faylaq al-Sham", a strategy of neutrality and positive silence

A tank belonging to the "Faylaq al-Sham" during its battles against ISIS in August 2016 in the area of Tal Ahmar in Aleppo northern countryside

The ongoing infighting in the north between a number of the opposition factions of "Faylaq al-Sham", strongly in the circle of events, not as a party to this fighting, but as a third party, playing the role of mediator on one hand, and receives the charges from the fighting parties at the same time.
 
Although "Faylaq al-Sham" had foreseen this matter, when decided to mediate between "Jabhat Tahrir Syria JTS" and "Suquor al-Sham Brigades" on one hand, and "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS" on the other hand, but the violent media attack launched by the first party on the "Faylaq", and accusations pointed against him in secret cooperation with the second party, were unprecedented. The sides who tried to drag the "Faylaq al-Sham" to engage in confrontation, once again raised accusations that have always been directed to this faction to provide the "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham" part of its resources from ammunition and weapons, old charges not only limited to the "Faylaq al-Sham", but included as is known some factions of the Free Army in the countrysides of Idlib and Hama, which is being said constantly, to provide a certain percentage of their supplies to HTS in exchange for the latter allowing them to be present in the north.
 
But these accusations did not raise the interest of the leadership of "Faylaq al-Sham" to comment on, neither before nor during the recent confrontation, in which the leaders played a key role in the mediation, which succeeded in reaching a truce intermittently, before the charges to say the complicity of the "Faylaq" in secret with the "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS" against the "Jabhat Tahrir Syrian JTS", in order to weaken the last party and getting it out of the equation, in preparation for "Faylaq al-Sham" to be the only one on the military arena of the opposition.
 
Accusations that were not out of the thinking way and promoting of the party hostile to the "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham" from the outset, but it was limited to the alternative media and remained unofficial on one hand, and on the other hand, was presented only as a speculative analysis, before taking a new upward trend recently, after sharing some accounts on social media websites what is being said, was a leaked audio recording of a conversation between two leaders in the "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS", reveals secret coordination between HTS and leaders in "Faylaq al-Sham", in return for the promise from "HTS" to grant "Faylaq al-Sham" managing the crossings with Turkey after The end of the battle.
 
A leak, in spite of the seriousness of its content, was to remain outside the circle of interest too, as a sound recording is very likely to be fabricated, but for the first time revealed the presence of a military commander in the "Faylaq" has Iraqi ID, the two speakers in the recording were confirming that he was the person involved in cooperating with "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS".
 
Salah al-Iraqi, or Sheikh Abu Hammam, was not a secret figure in the "Faylaq al-Sham" before, but had long been known as a military trainer in the faction before overseeing a brigade of elite forces in the "Faylaq", al-Hamza Brigade, which made a difference in the operations that participated by the "Faylaq al-Sham" since 2016, after being until the battles to control Idlib without an important military footprint, it was distnguished only for the large resources and the qualitative supply it enjoys, without them was not the "Faylaq al-Sham " to find a place before that year in the rooms of military opposition operations.
 
But the name of Salah al-Iraqi being on the social media websites in this form, undoubtedly embarrasses the leadership of the "Faylaq al-Sham", which presents itself as a military Islamic national faction, and therefore has ignored this leak too, but for the first time many of the cadres of the "Faylaq" stand against commenting on the subject, through the denial of the content of the call recorded completely, and denied that Salah al-Iraqi holds any official status in the faction and that his presence was only a coach.
 
Faylaq al-Sham's ignoring this time was clearly understandable more than all the previous times, as any comment on Salah al-Iraqi case was to cause embarrassment to them.
 
To rapidly denying the existence of any person who is not a Syrian in the "Faylaq al-Sham", will stir controversy they don't need, in terms of it will appear as someone who disavows the "religion bond" at a time when the bidding in this regard has an impact, especially by the Salafist or jihadist groups, or those who are nearby, which has worked strongly over the past six years, to undermine any credibility or speech that affirms the integrity and health of the national factions, (Muslim Brotherhood, all kinds of Salafists, this is what caused these factions to fall in big traps, which the "Faylaq al-Sham" tried to avoid by adopting a mixture in which it tried to establish its religious discourse to gather as much as possible between the different streams and Islamic schools (brothers, Salafi in various schools, Asha'aris, ...) despite the near-unanimous affiliation of the faction to the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Lineage, isn't confirmed by leaders of the "Faylaq" and not denied since none of its officials has ever officially spoken on this subject, while on the ground all members of the "Faylaq" insist that the faction is not subordinate to the Muslim Brotherhood, not repudiating it, but by many, a desire by the leadership to be, the "Faylaq", a destination for all the middle Islamists after the breaking-up of the other factions in the end.
 
In fact, denying the affiliation of "Faylaq al-Sham" to the Muslim Brotherhood is not entirely incorrect, just as making the two parties one entity is also a falsehood, at least until now.
 
Since 2012, it has been clear that there are different visions and strategies between the old generation in the "Brotherhood" and the new generation of the "Brotherhood" youth, who officially affiliated to it, or those who preferred not to inherit the Brotherhood from their parents in the diaspora and decided to take a different course independently, of course, benefit from the "Brotherhood" experience, capabilities and relations of the group, but while maintaining an organizational distance that allows greater flexibility to move, it can not be available under the umbrella of the official "organization."
 
Thus, while the Brotherhood leadership in Syria chose to establish a military force affiliated with it officially, known as "Hayyet Dorou' al-Thawra\ The Revolutionary Shields Body", the youth or independent movement chose to form what was also known as the "Civilian Protection Authority", a military institution in the first place, but also to provide civil services in the areas in which it was active, particularly in the countrysides of Aleppo and Homs.
 
The two experiments ended, where the experience of the Hayyet Dorou' al-Thawra failed completely, while the experience of the "Civilian Protection Authority" ended in late 2013, which was founded by a member of the National Coalition, "Nazir al-Hakim" and the current that represents him, which continues to deny its connection to the "Muslim Brotherhood" and nominating for the positions in the political opposition institutions as independents, and with the withdrawal of the most important military components of the "Civilian Protection Authority" and joining the "Jaysh al-Mujahideen", which was founded from the merging of groups, the most important of which (Fastaqim Union, al-Nour Movement, Amjad Brigade, Jund al-Haramin Brigade, Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement, al-Ansar Brigade), the latter was representing the main military force of the Civilian Protection Authority at that time, the leaders of the factions that formed the "Jaysh al-Mujahideen" then refused the offer provided by the leadership of the "Authority" that the "army" becomes their military arm, while retaining political representation, in exchange for providing material support and supply of weapons and ammunition.


With the failure of the negotiations, the current known to the Syrian opposition as the "Nazir al-Hakim current", began to form the "Faylaq al-Sham" of 19 formations from Hama, Aleppo, Idlib, and Homs, they are formations, differentiated in size and census, they share no private resources or did not consider any of the major factions to expressing them, whether Salafist Islamist or the Free Army, and found in the new formation a good opportunity, especially with regard to its great potential.
 
Distinctive potentials indeed, enabled the "Faylaq al-Sham" to register its presence as an essential element among the military opposition forces until the "Jaysh al-Fatah" was formed, which benefited greatly from this potential during the battles of control on Idlib, established these battles, these battles which also constituted an opportunity for the emergence some military formations of the "Faylaq" for the first time.
The distinctive resources enjoyed by the "Faylaq al-Sham", which many attribute them to the Qatari and Turkish support of the "Faylaq", were not the only factor in strengthening the faction's position during the four years of its existence, but  

also contributed by the "Faylaq" not involving in any internal fighting, with the exception of some light skirmishes that have been and still are going on here and there, between some of its formations and formations of other factions, most of which have a regional competitive root, the "Faylaq al-Sham" history is free of any factional confrontation. Even when the "al-Aqsa Brigade" assassinated one of its most important leaders, Mazen Qusoum, in Saraqib in Idlib countryside in mid-2015, when the two factions were part of the "Jaysh al-Fatah", and despite the great uproar raised by the event, the "Faylaq" turned a blind eye to this issue, in what appeared to be a strategy adopted by its leadership.
 
The strategy that "Faylaq al-Sham" reaped its benefits has been quietly and on the long term, when it has become a haven for every fighter or group of factions attacked by "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS" over the past years, which doubled the number of faction fighters between 2016 and 2018 more than once, to the extent that the statistics classify the "Faylaq" as the largest factions of the revolution and the military opposition, the number of fighters approaching the 15 thousand for the time being.
 
A fact that was not the most optimistic of the "Faylaq al-Sham" at the moment of its founding could anticipate, but what appeared to have been dug in the rock four years ago, today produces very large benifits in favor of the "Faylaq", who still insists that they are not attached or affiliated with the "Muslim Brotherhood", but also a friend who brings together many common denominators with their project, as well as with the various factions of the Islamic opposition and the other Free Army, as their leaders say, in which the enemies of the faction insist on it as a tactic within a comprehensive Brotherhood strategy for soft control, many of which talk about and rarely provide concrete evidence.
 
However, what is agreed upon by all is the importance of being the "Faylaq al-Sham" to their side, to the extent that the leader of the "Jabhat Tahrir Syria JTS", Hassan Soufan, sent clear message at the beginning of the infighting with the "Hayyet Tahrir al-Sham HTS" on February 24, in which he urged the "Faylaq" to stand with the "JTS" against the "HTS", which in turn was hoping that "Faylaq al-Sham to stand with them, but it seemed to accept receiving dozens of contacting points with the Regime forces, which made significant numbers of elements fighting against "Jabhat Tahrir Syria JTS" and the "Soquor al-Sham Brigade", a point many see it as a contribution from the "Faylaq" to supporting HTS, albeit indirectly, while the "Faylaq" leaders say that it is an act that emphasizes that the gun of the "Faylaq" is directed at the enemy at the first place, and not concerned with any factional infighting, or, in other words, holding neutrality that does not appear to be convincing in any case.

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