On Friday, Nov 22, seven of the largest rebel groups in Syria announced their merger into the Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Islamiyya. The signatories of the new alliance are Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, Suqur as-Sham, Liwa at-Tawhid, Jaysh al-Islam, Jabhat al-Kurdiyya, Liwa al-Haqq, and Ansar as-Sham.
Jaysh al-Islam is a newcomer to the Syrian civil war, being a Saudi-backed merger of several other Islamist groups, centered around Liwa al-Islam. Liwa at-Tawhid has been in the news lately, as their commander, Abdul Qadir al Saleh, was killed in a government airstrike only a few weeks ago. In light of speculation at the time that Liwa at-Tawhid would possibly fragment without Saleh’s leadership, this recent merger appears to reflect how far off those speculations were.
While neither the al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State in Iraq and as-Sham are signatories, the new group’s charter, published on their Twitter account on Nov 26, speaks at length about the need for unity among Islamic groups. It’s charter states, “This independent political, military and social formation aims to topple the Assad regime completely and build an Islamic state where the sovereignty of God almighty alone will be our reference and ruler.”
They go on to state that they are “an independent entity established in Syria [that is] is not subordinate to any foreign party, be it an organization, state, or [political or ideological] current.” This might be construed as a rejection of Al Qaeda, but further along in the charter, they state their willingness to work with all other Islamic groups toward the goal of the overthrow of Assad and the setup of a shariah state in his place.