US policy towards Syria has suffered a new blow with the dissolution of the Hazm movement, its favoured and best-known rebel group – raising tough questions about Washington’s strategy and limiting its future options.
Hazm (“Determination”) announced its demise at the weekend after fierce battles with Jabhat al Nusra (JAN), the al-Qaida-linked group and jihadi rival of the Islamic State (Isis) that is fighting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. It said it wanted to avoid further bloodshed after clashes with JAN killed dozens of men on both sides.
Hazm is one of several dozen Syrian rebel groups that have received US anti-tank Tow missiles and training in the past and has been described as the “poster boy” for the moderate opposition at a time when attention is focused sharply on Isis. But other elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), such as Fursan al-Haq, still receive discreet American support.
“People are misrepresenting this as Hazm being the last of the moderates,” said independent analyst Malik al-Abdeh. “It was like a boy band created by Simon Cowell – a dream team of moderates put together by the US and others working with it. But people don’t really care that much about them.”
Video footage showed JAN fighters posing with Tow missiles captured when it overran Hazm HQ in Idlib.
Tension between Hazm and JAN – whose members have been bitter enemies for a long time – has been on the rise for months after Hazm sided with another FSA group, the Syria Revolutionary Front, when JAN was fighting that militia and expelled it from Idlib province. But Syria watchers say that Hazm provoked JAN by kidnapping and killing some of its top leaders, including its emir, Abu Eissa al-Tabqa.
Hazm has said it will now join forces with the Shamiah Front, formed to defend besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo, after Assad launched an offensive to encircle them. The Shamiah front includes hardline Salafist factions as well as more moderate brigades like the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Mujahideen Army and another US-backed outfit. Continue Reading
Article Org: theguardian.com
Photos Org: weaselzippers.us