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Jabhah al-Nusrah

Earlier this morning, the Islamic State of Iraq, the front name for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), claimed responsibility for a March 4th attack that killed 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi guards. This was the first confirmed case of AQI announcing its involvement in what is now the greater Syrian conflict. As Syrian jihadist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), which according to the US government was originally established by AQI, continue to consolidate their hold onborder posts and regions along the Syrian-Iraqi border, it is likely that more cross-border incidents could occur. This attack also highlights the potential for a more permissive jihadist corridor of open coordination between western Iraq and eastern Syria, the zones where jihadists are strongest in each country.

It is unsurprising that the Syrian-Iraqi border would start to heat up. There is a history going back to the US-led Iraq war last decade that connected eastern Syria to the jihadist front in western Iraq. At the time, the Assad regime turned a blind eye to the staging ground that AQI used in eastern Syria for facilitating training, weapons and fighter trafficking, and document forgery. In other words, eastern Syria was a key hub for the lifeline of AQI’s efforts. Not until 2007 did the Assad regime start cracking down on these networks.

This is also one of the reasons for the rapid rise of JN last year. Unlike other groups, they were not completely starting from scratch. Many of the Syrians that lead JN previously fought with AQI during the height of the jihadist insurgency last decade. Further, according to the US Treasury Department’s designation of JN, in the fall of 2011, AQI sent two senior leaders Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab to help establish and prepare the groundwork for the creation of JN in January 2012. Therefore, while JN is majority Syrian, there are past and present links between it and AQI.

Click here to read the rest.

When the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the presence of jihadists in the protests was minimal at best. As the rebellion escalated, jihadists began to take advantage of the new landscape. Fighters associated with al-Qa`ida’s worldview quietly entered the fight in the fall of 2011. These Salafi-jihadi fighters officially announced themselves in late January 2012 under the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front) and became one of the key fighting forces against the Bashar al-Assad regime by the fall of 2012.[1]

Since the Syrian protest movement turned into an armed insurrection in the summer of 2011, the jihad in Syria has become the du jour locale for fighters who want to topple the “apostate” al-Assad regime for a variety of strategic, geographic, and religious reasons. Similar to the Iraqi jihad at its zenith, users on al-Qa`ida’s official and unofficial web forums began to post unofficial yet authentic martyrdom notices for individuals—both Syrian and foreign—who they perceived to have fought on behalf of the jihadist cause.[2]

This article looks quantitatively and qualitatively at these notices.[3] The data and biographical information collected is based on threads from jihadist web forums[4] dating from the start of the uprising through January 31, 2013. It is likely that some notices have been missed, but it is still useful to piece together each individual’s identity, from where they are from, with whom they fought, and where they died.

It does not, however, include fighters mentioned in Jabhat al-Nusra’s official statements or videos. Therefore, while the data is useful in providing clarity on the role of foreign fighters in Syria, it still suffers from many limitations and should be considered anecdotal.

Quantitative Data: Basic Metrics
There were discrepancies in the amount of data provided in each unofficial martyrdom notice. The quantitative data mainly focuses on city of origin, country of origin, city martyred in, and group joined. There are two levels of data compiled for these four metrics: overall, and in the past four months. Organizing the data by time period helps situate the current trajectories in the conflict.

In total, there are currently 130 individuals in the author’s dataset, and 85 of the 130 have been identified in the past four months. The first recorded unofficial martyrdom notice was posted in February 2012, but this individual, the Kuwaiti Hussam al-Mutayri, actually died on August 29, 2011, fighting with the Free Syrian Army in Damascus.[5] Every individual in the dataset has a record of which country they were from. More than half (70 out of 130) mentioned the group with which the individual fought, while 76 of 130 locations of death were provided. Additionally, the city of origin of the martyrs was detailed 45 out of 130 times. The steep increase in individuals being reported as martyrs on the forums in the past four months, as seen in Table 1 (see attached PDF), provides circumstantial evidence that more foreign jihadists have joined the battlefield recently.[6]

Click here to read the rest.

On January 11, in yet another sign that the Assad regime is increasingly giving way, an assortment of Islamist/jihadist fighters captured the Taftanaz airbase in Syria. While good news for achieving Washington’s seventeen-month-old (and counting) goal of forcing Bashar al-Assad to “step aside,” the capture of the base and its weapons stockpile by groups opposed to U.S. interests comes at the expense of the mainline opposition Supreme Military Council (SMC), an armed affiliate of the U.S.-supported National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC). To accelerate Assad’s departure and dilute the political and military impact of the Islamists, Washington and its allies will need to boost support for the SMC and other mainline nationalist groups while removing obstructions to urgent humanitarian aid amid an unusually harsh winter.

MILITARY IMPLICATIONS

Taftanaz was an important victory for the opposition and a clear defeat for the regime. The rebels succeeded because they were able to concentrate adequate forces, coordinate their actions, bring heavy weapons to bear, and sustain the siege for months under regime air attack. This indicates an improvement in their performance, at least for the units involved. It also repeats rebel successes in taking defended regime positions elsewhere in the country, including Aleppo province, Deir al-Zour, and the Damascus countryside.

The victory brought some important direct gains for the rebels:

  • They destroyed or captured fifteen to twenty helicopters at the airfield. Most of these were Mi-8/17 utility helicopters, some of which had been equipped with rocket pods for an attack role. This represents approximately 20 percent of the regime’s prewar active inventory of a much-relied-upon type of aircraft.
  • They captured additional heavy weapons and large quantities of ammunition. Coupled with the freeing up of rebel forces, the equipment gains should boost the opposition’s ability to assault other regime positions in the north and perhaps bring them under their control sooner. The battle will also be a huge boost for rebel morale, showing they can take even a major defended position.
  • The regime was unable to prevent loss of the base, one of several such failures in the past few months. Damascus did not appear to make any serious attempt to reinforce the airfield or relieve the siege. The number of troops involved in the defense seemed relatively small, and they largely relied on heavy weapons and air power — a regime pattern. In addition, at least some of the defenders were irregular soldiers from the pro-Assad “popular committees,” not regular combat troops; some reports even indicate that officers were evacuated by air before the base fell.

WHO FOUGHT AND WHAT IT MEANS

Three rebel factions took part in the fight: Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), and the Syrian Liberation Front (SLF). All three are outside the structure of the SMC, a grouping of provincial military council leaders and battalion (katiba) and brigade (liwa) commanders formed in December. The council’s purpose is to unite Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions, implement command and control, funnel SOC support to armed units, and keep weapons out of the hands of extremists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, an independent faction that is not part of the FSA, is a global jihadist group that follows al-Qaeda’s worldview. According to the State Department’s December announcement designating it as a terrorist organization, JN was established as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq nearly a year ago. Over the past few months, it has gained prominence as one of the country’s best fighting forces, conducting more than 600 suicide bombings, assassinations, improvised explosive device attacks, and strikes on regime checkpoints and security/military buildings, in addition to regular battlefield action. Although JN is capable of attacking most parts of Syria, the majority of its operations have occurred in Aleppo and Idlib, and to a lesser extent Damascus and Deir al-Zour. The group’s ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state in the entire Levant as a starting point to reestablishing the Caliphate.

The Syrian Islamic Front is a conglomeration of eleven “brigades” outside the FSA. Formed last December, it lacks JN’s coherent structure. Ideologically, the SIF can best be described as a collection of locally focused jihadists with no known connections to al-Qaeda. Three of the brigades took part in the Taftanaz battle: Kataib Ahrar al-Sham (the SIF’s leading unit), Jamaat al-Taliah al-Islamiyah, and Harakat al-Fajr al-Islamiyah. Like JN, the SIF’s goal is to establish an Islamic state based on Salafi interpretations of Islam, but only within Syria proper. The video announcing the group’s creation indicates that its funding comes from the Qatar Charity Organization and Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Fund (IHH), which supports U.S.-designated terrorist groups such as Hamas.

The Syrian Liberation Front is another grouping of so-called brigades outside the FSA, founded last September. The smallest faction involved in the Taftanaz operation was Liwa Dawoud, one of the eight battalions within Suqur al-Sham, a leading SLF brigade. Ideologically similar to the SIF, the SLF hopes to establish an Islamic state in Syria; its members are a mix of Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists and Salafists who are less radical than those in the SIF and JN. The SLF is believed to receive funding from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and wealthy Persian Gulf donors.

Given their demonstrated fighting prowess, these Islamist forces have earned much respect from Syrians. Unlike some FSA groups, which have increasingly been accused of corruption in places such as Aleppo, JN, the SIF, and the SLF are viewed as fair brokers that do not take advantage of the downtrodden. Unless something changes, Islamists are likely to play a significant role in northern Syria following the regime’s departure.

Click here to read the rest.

The backlash within Syria to the U.S. decision to designate the Syrian-based jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organization has been swift. Opposition to the designation, which was officially announced on Dec. 11, extends well beyond groups ideologically sympathetic to Jabhat al-Nusra’s radical goals. After more than 40,000 deaths, the starvation and torture of many, and the sadistic tactics of the Assad regime, Syrians now want the fall of the regime more than ever — even if that means temporarily embracing groups with suspect long-term goals.

The Barack Obama administration’s designation of Jabhat al-Nusra asserts that the group is an extension of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — merely one of the terrorist organization’s aliases. Whether this is the case or whether the administration is issuing the designation as part of a political effort to convince the opposition to shun Jabhat al-Nusra, the move will likely fail to marginalize the group at this juncture. Following the fall of the regime, however, it could help sideline the most destructive influences trying to gain a foothold in post-Assad Syria.

The reaction among anti-Assad Syrians was perhaps best captured by an image that appeared on Facebook shortly after news of the planned designation broke last week. In the picture, residents of the northwestern town of Kafr Anbel hold up a poster showing Obama pointing accusingly toward aflag associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, saying “Terrorism.” Behind the U.S. president, however, is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad standing triumphant on a pile of murdered Syrian civilians.

The image reflects the reality that the Syrian opposition simply does not view Jabhat al-Nusra as the primary threat to the country — that designation still belongs to Assad’s murderous army. Nor is it lost on Syrians that the Obama administration has provided scant military assistance in their efforts to topple the regime — but is now singling out a rebel group that has become perhaps their revolution’s most effective fighting force. This is a view that seems to extend well beyond Jabhat al-Nusra’s ideological milieu: None of the individuals in the Kafr Anbel picture, for example, look like Islamists or Salafis.

Click here to read the rest.

President Barack Obama’s administration is reportedly planning to designate the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra (“the Support Front”) as a terrorist organization. The group, which was firstannounced in late January 2012, has become a growing part of the armed opposition due to its fighting prowess — perhaps no surprise, as many of its fighters honed their skills in battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. As a result, Jabhat al-Nusra has carved out an important niche in the fight to oust the Syrian regime even as it remains outside of the mainstream opposition.

The U.S. administration, in designating Jabhat al-Nusra, is likely to argue that the group is an outgrowth of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). While there is not much open-source evidence of this, classified material may offer proof — and there is certainly circumstantial evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra operates as a branch of the ISI.

There’s no denying that Jabhat al-Nusra is deadly: It has claimed responsibility for more than 500 attacks since its creation, including a series of suicide bombings. Unique among rebel groups operating in Syria, it has also earned the legitimacy of top global jihadist ideologues, who have called for grassroots supporters across the world to help fund or join up with the group. And foreign fighters have answered the call: Based on data from al Qaeda’s online forums, of the 46 individuals for which the forums have provided “martyrdom” notices and announced their group affiliation, 20 fought with Jabhat al-Nusra. Since Oct. 1, almost all of the notices that mention affiliation have reported that the fighter was aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra.

Click here to read the rest.

Unlike other actors in the current Syrian conflict, gaining access to Jihadists is fraught with security concerns on all sides.

Broadly, a “Jihadist” is a Sunni Muslim pan-Islamist who subscribes to a worldview that taking part in a violent, military holy war, or Jihad, in the name of Islam is the best means for bringing about the end to “apostate” regimes. The Jihadists then aim to replace these governments with ones that administer Islamic Shariah law based on their interpretation. While Jihadists have been most associated with al-Qaeda over the past decade, not all Jihadists are al-Qaeda and not all Jihadists agree with its global focus even if there is some ideological overlap.

For journalists and researchers, there is hesitation about coming into contact with Jihadists, due to the potential of kidnap or even execution. For Jihadists, concerns over operational security and the potential for infiltration and espionage has loomed large when meeting unknown outsiders.

But there is another way to understand them, and gain access to the Jihadist mindset, conversations and ideology: the Internet. Jihadists provide extensive information about themselves in online forums, on websites and social media platforms — information that can be used to better understand their ideological debates as well as the activities they are conducting on the ground.

The Syrian case is no different. The changes in focus and messaging over time helps one better understand how Jihadists entered the conflict and how far they have come in the past 19 months.

Click here to read the rest.

 

When the Syrian uprising first began, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s justifications for his harsh crackdowns against protesters and, later, armed elements was because he considered them foreign terrorists. At the time, this claim was ludicrous. The overwhelming majority of individuals were Syrians looking to shake off the yoke of Bashar and his father Hafiz’s decades-long Baathist dictatorship.

While most individuals involved with the current rebellion are still Syrian, foreign fighters now have a very real presence that should worry not only the Assad regime but also Syrians in the opposition. Most foreign fighters go abroad to defend their fellow Muslim brethren from being slaughtered. Once in the area of battle, though, many come into closer contact with hardline jihadis as well as fighters from other countries and are exposed to new ideas. Therefore, portions of foreign fighters are not fighting to help establish a future state for Syrian nationals. Rather, they hope to annex it to be part of their grander aims of establishing emirates that will eventually lead to a reestablished Caliphate, however fanciful this project might be.

At this point, on-the-ground media coverage in English, French, Arabic, German, and other languages reports between 800-2,000 foreigners currently in Syria, accounting for less than 10% of the fighters. Most have come since the beginning of the year: a large contingent comes from the states surrounding Syria: Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, while a smaller North African contingent hails from Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. The presence of Westerners at this point has been minimal.

These individuals are linking up with not only the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but also jihadi organizations.The Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Fatah al-Islam, both of them Lebanese jihadi organizations, have entered the fray. So, too, have less-established, but growing organizations like Jabhat al-Nusrah, believed to be the strongest jihadi actor in Syria, as well as Ahrar ash-Sham. Another group, Liwa al-Ummah, comprising 90 percent Syrian fighters, is led by the Irish-Libyan Mahdi al-Harati, previously a commander in the Tripoli Brigade that helped topple the Qadhafi regime a year ago in Libya.

What is problematic with all of this is that although jihadis remain a small portion of the resistance, many have past experience fighting in jihads in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Therefore, they have sharper skills as well as connections to networks of funding and weapons, which the FSA has dearly needed in the face of lack of support from the international community. As a consequence, jihadi fighters can be force-multipliers as was seen in Iraq during the height of the insurgency against the United States. FSA fighters, in media interviews, explain that because of jihadi experiences, resources, and technologies they have started to begrudgingly work with them, even if they consider them extreme and do not believe in their end goals.

Online jihadis have also posted videos on their forums showing how some jihadi brigades have coordinated operations with elements of the FSA in places like Aleppo. This, however, can cause cross-pollination in ideology and radicalize factions within the FSA. It could also turn these different groups against one another once the fighting ends against the Assad regime, creating further instability in a country looking to regain normalcy and transitioning to a better future.

Unfortunately, this challenge from the jihadis will not go away any time soon. As can be seen in Iraq, although jihadis there are weak compared to a few years ago, the residue from the fighting lingers, continuing to be a spoiler. Therefore, it is imperative that the international community not only work up a plan for dealing with jihadis in Syria post-Assad, but also work with the opposition to help eject these foreign and poisonous elements, which will do more harm than good for Syria’s future.

Syria suffered its worst terror attack in decades this month when two car bombs exploded near a military intelligence branch in Damascus, killing 55 people and wounding hundreds more. Syria’s state-run news agency was quick to publish gruesome pictures of the victims of the attack, which President Bashar al-Assad’s regime pinned on “foreign-backed terrorist groups.”

At first, the Syrian regime seemed to have evidence to back up its case. On May 12, a video was distributed on YouTube, purportedly from a Palestinian branch of the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusrah (“The Victory Front” or JN), claiming credit for the attack. But the release turned out to be a fake: On May 14, JN released a statement denying that it was behind the video. At the same time, it did not deny conducting the attack. Rather, JN’s media outlet said it had yet to hear from JN’s military commanders if they perpetrated the bombings.

Whether or not JN was involved in the Damascus attack, the organization has become a real force in recent weeks — and one that threatens to undermine the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the loose network of defectors and local militia fighting the government. Its main goals are to awaken Muslims to the atrocities of the Assad regime, and eventually take control of the state and implement its narrow and puritanical interpretation of Islamic law. To that end, in the past month alone, JN has perpetrated a series of suicide bombings and IED strikes — and the pace of attacks seems to be growing.

Click here to read the rest.

On May 12 a video posted to YouTube purporting to be from the Palestinian branch of the Syrian jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra (The Victory Front; JN) claimed responsibility for the May 9 twin car bombings near a security complex in Damascus that killed more than fifty-five individuals and wounded hundreds. And, while JN appears to be a genuine extremist group, it is not clear whether it was responsible for either the attack or the video. The video raises disturbing questions about the Assad regime’s possible manipulation of jihadists based on its past relationships with these groups.

 Click here to read more.

While debates ramped up over the past two weeks among Middle East specialists over the efficacy of a possible Western intervention in Syria (see herehere, and here), earlier this week, on January 23, the online global jihadi forums posted — in jubilation — a new video message ”For the People of Syria from the Mujahidin of Syria in the Fields of Jihad” from a purported new jihadi group named Jabhat al-Nusrah (The Victory Front) via its new media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda’ (The White Lighthouse) Foundation for Media Production. Before this article discusses the video and reaction to it from Abu Basir al-Tartusi, a Syrian exiled in London, it is worthwhile to look deeper into the significance for why Jabhat al-Nusrah chose al-Manarah al-Bayda’ as the name of its media outlet. The answer is quite fascinating.

al-Fitan wa Ashrat as-Sa’ah

Although many do not look into it, there are many layers usually to why jihadis decide to choose names for their media outlets, forums, battalions, and titles for media releases. On many occasions they allude to historical figures, events, or places as well as allusions to Qur’anic verses and Ahadith. One area that is understudied is the role of millenarianism in jihadi thought. Ali Soufan covered aspects of it related to the black banners and Khurasan in his book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. Indeed, the name of Jabhat al-Nusrah’s media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda’ alludes to a Sahih Muslim hadith #7015, which deals with the end of times. The whole hadith is long so I placed the entirety of it at the bottom of this article, but here is the segment that mentions al-Manarah al-Bayda’:

He (Dajjal) would then call (that young man) and he will come forward laughing with his face gleaming (with happiness) and it would at this very time that Allah would send Jesus, son of Mary, and he will descend at al-Manarah al-Bayda’ (the white lighthouse or minaret) in the eastern side of Damascus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell the odour of his self would die and his breath would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Dajjal) until he would catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd and would kill him. Then a people whom Allah had protected would come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he would wipe their faces and would inform them of their ranks in Paradise and it would be under such conditions that Allah would reveal to Jesus these words: I have brought forth from amongst My servants such people against whom none would be able to fight; you take these people safely to Tur, and then Allah would send Gog and Magog and they would swarm down from every slope.

The ad-Dajjal figure mentioned in the above quote of the hadith represents a false prophet that comes during the end of times. It is similar to the anti-Christ, but somewhat different at the same time. Islamic tradition states that there are several ad-Dajjal throughout history, but during the end times it is considered the “big” ad-Dajjal (false prophet). According to Jean-Pierre Filiu in his book Apocalypse in Islam, “Throughout the whole of human history, from Adam until the resurrection, no thing or person will have caused greater turmoil than ad-Dajjal.” Additionally, al-Manarah al-Bayda’ or as local Damascenes call it the “Jesus Minaret,” refers to the eastern minaret at the Ummayyad Mosque, also called the Great Mosque of Damascus.

Jabhat al-Nusrah does not directly mention anything related to the hadith and its significance in its video, but it is difficult for one not to wonder about the deeper meaning. As a result of the currently tumultuous situation in Syria and the centrality of Syria in the Islamic apocalyptic literature one would be remiss not to ponder that individuals involved with Jabhat al-Nusrah have the apocalypse on their minds. At the same time, it should be noted that millenarianism is often important for many religious hardliner groups. Without direct knowledge of why Jabhat al-Nusrah chose the name al-Manarah al-Bayda’ for its media outlet,  it is difficult to ascertain its true intent. Understanding this extra layer, though, and its significance in Islamic traditional literature can hopefully provide deeper insights into Jabhat al-Nusrah’s state of their mind versus parsing the banal platitudes they actually discuss in the video.

The Video and Tartusi’s Take

The video Jabhat al-Nusrah released was around sixteen minutes and contained pretty high quality graphics showing that its media department (or one dude in a basement) definitely has some level of skills. For about 5-8 minutes of the video there is an individual named al-Fatih (“The Conquerer) Abu Muhammad al-Juwlani, Jabhat al-Nusrah’s spokesperson. More or less, al-Juwlani repeats the usual jihadi tropes. He also calls out and threatens the United States, the West, the Arab League, Turkey, and Iran for all aligning and collaborating with the al-Assad regime against the (Sunni) Muslims. There are multiples scenes of tens of individuals training with AK-47s in the woods and desert. They also take pose pictures together with large flags with the shahadah (Muslim testament of faith) on it along with either the name Jabhat al-Nusrah at the bottom or an area of operation, including Hamah. Dara is also mentioned by a small cadre pledging loyalty to the group. In a separate video that was released a few days after the official release from Jabhat al-Nusrah, a video was uploaded to YouTube that showed a small group of individuals declaring fealty to Jabhat al-Nusrah. They claim to be from Idlib and go under the banner of Kata’ib Ahrar ash-Sham (The Battalion of Free Syria). If the number of people in the videos can tell us anything, between the YouTube video and the official release there are probably at the low end twenty and at the high end forty individuals involved with Jabhat al-Nusrah.

Usually, when new groups like Jabhat al-Nusrah appear, some online grassroots jihadi activists are curious about the group’s program, legitimacy, and whether it is okay to support them. Although such questions haven’t been asked of Minbar at-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad’s Shari’ah Committee yet, Abu Basir al-Tartusi was asked by several “brothers” about Jabhat al-Nusrah and its video message on his Facebook page al-Mu’ardah al-Islamiyyah l-l-Nizam al-Suri (The Islamic Opposition to the Syrian Regime). al-Tartusi responded by stating he had never heard of them, but had a few observations and reservations about the group. One of al-Tartusi’s larger critiques was the fact that the men in the video and specifically, the speaker, were all masked and did not show their faces, while Syrians have removed its fear of the al-Assad regime by defying the taghut (tyrant). al-Tartusi also reminds Jabhat al-Nusrah of what happened in the 1980s, which led to much bloodshed and that the mujahidin should be reassuring the masses instead of provoking fear by hiding behind masks. al-Tartusi understands that for the mujahidins safety some have to cover their faces, but a leader needs to show itself, which could hopefully help the masses sympathize with its cause. He also warns that they need to have patience, especially with the Syrians that are looking for international support. Therefore, Jabhat al-Nusrah must show kindness.

al-Tartusi also blasts Jabhat al-Nusrah for proclaiming war against “enemies East and West … it will not benefit the Syrian revolution.” It will only open the mujahidin up to more fronts and greater chance of failure. This harkens back to previous tracts by al-Tartusi on the Syrian uprising, which Joas Wagemakers touches upon at Jihadica. As Wagemakers noted: “What is clear from Abu Basir’s writings, however, is that he obviously cares about Syria. The tone of his work here is not one of fighting against ‘infidel’ rulers who fail to apply the shari’a but much more one of concern for his native land.” It appears al-Tartusi is still most concerned with the goal of seeking the al-Assad regime’s fall. Further echoing the above sentiment, al-Tartusi wonders why parts of the Jabhat al-Nusrah video is translated to English, who are they trying to speak to (al-Tartusi rhetorically asks): the US and the West or the Syrian people? Although he has many questions, al-Tartusi hopes his advice with be fruitful for the mujahidin and that they succeed.

As such, although Jabhat al-Nusrah does not appear to have large support yet, they are a group that one should keep an eye on, especially when thinking in the context of a potential Western intervention. There is much we do not know about Jabhat al-Nusrah, but again, as in other contexts of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, it has provided space for more radical elements to breathe as regimes attempt to hold on at the center while allowing the periphery to fall out of sight. Of course, that does not mean one should support these authoritarian regimes, but rather, one should be aware of the potential short and medium term consequences that citizens of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as policymakers in the West will have to grapple with in the coming years and decade.

Sahih Muslim 7015:

An-Nawwas b. Sam’an reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) made a mention of the Dajjal one day in the morning. He sometimes described him to be insignificant and sometimes described (his turmoil) as very significant rand we felt) as if he were in the cluster of the date-palm trees. When we went to him (to the Holy Prophet) in the evening and he read (the signs of fear) in our faces, he said: What is the matter with you?

We said: Allah’s Messenger, you made a mention of the Dajjal in the morning (sometimes describing him) to be insignificant and sometimes very important, until we began to think as if he were present in some (near) part of the cluster of the datpalm trees. Thereupon he said: I harbour fear in regard to you in so many other things besides the Dajjal. If he comes forth while I am among on, I shall contend with him on your behalf, but if he comes forth while I am not amongst you, a man must contend on his own behalf and Allah would take care of every Muslim on my behalf (and safeguard him against his evil). He (Dajjal) would be a young man with twisted, contracted hair, and a blind eye. I compare him to ‘Abd-ul-’Uzza b. Qatan. He who amongst you would survive to see him should recite over him the opening verses of Sura Kahf (xviii.). He would appear on the way between Syria and Iraq and would spread mischief right and left. O servant of Allah! adhere (to the path of Truth). We said: Allah’s Messenger, how long would he stay on the earth? He said.. For forty days, one day like a year and one day like a month and one day like a week and the rest of the days would be like your days.

We said: Allah’s Messenger, would one day’s prayer suffice for the prayers of day equal to one year? Thereupon he said: No, but you must make an estimate of time (and then observe prayer). We said: Allah’s Messenger, how quickly would he walk upon the earth? Thereupon he said: Like cloud driven by the wind. He would come to the people and invite them (to a wrong religion) and they would affirm their faith in him and respond to him. He would then give command to the sky and there would be rainfall upon the earth and it would grow crops. Then in the evening, their posturing animals would come to them with their humps very high and their udders full of milk and their flanks stretched. He would then come to another people and invite them. But they would reject him and he would go away from them and there would be drought for them and nothing would be lef t with them in the form of wealth. He would then walk through the waste, land and say to it: Bring forth your treasures, and the treasures would come out and collect (themselves) before him like the swarm of bees. He would then call a person brimming with youth and strike him with the sword and cut him into two pieces and (make these pieces lie at a distance which is generally) between the archer and his target.

He would then call (that young man) and he will come forward laughing with his face gleaming (with happiness) and it would at this very time that Allah would send Christ, son of Mary, and he will descend at the white minaret in the eastern side of Damscus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell the odour of his self would die and his breath would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Dajjal) until he would catch hold of him at the gate of Ludd and would kill him. Then a people whom Allah had protected would come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he would wipe their faces and would inform them of their ranks in Paradise and it would be under such conditions that Allah would reveal to Jesus these words: I have brought forth from amongst My servants such people against whom none would be able to fight; you take these people safely to Tur, and then Allah would send Gog and Magog and they would swarm down from every slope.

The first of them would pass the lake of Tibering and drink out of it. And when the last of them would pass, he would say: There was once water there. Jesus and his companions would then be besieged here (at Tur, and they would be so much hard pressed) that the head of the ox would be dearer to them than one hundred dinirs and Allah’s Apostle, Jesus, and his companions would supplicate Allah, Who would send to them insects (which would attack their necks) and in the morning they would perish like one single person. Allah’s Apostle, Jesus, and his companions would then come down to the earth and they would not find in the earth as much space as a single span which is not filled with their putrefaction and stench. Allah’s Apostle, Jesus, and his companions would then again beseech Allah, Who would send birds whose necks would be like those of bactrin camels and they would carry them and throw them where God would will. Then Allah would send rain which no house of clay or (the tent of) camels’ hairs would keep out and it would wash away the earth until it could appear to be a mirror. Then the earth would be told to bring forth its fruit and restore its blessing and, as a result thereof, there would grow (such a big) pomegranate that a group of persons would be able to eat that, and seek shelter under its skin and milch cow would give so much milk that a whole party would be able to drink it. And the milch camel would give such (a large quantity of) milk that the whole tribe would be able to drink out of that and the milch sheep would give so much milk that the whole family would be able to drink out of that and at that time Allah would send a pleasant wind which would soothe (people) even under their armpits, and would take the life of every Muslim and only the wicked would survive who would commit adultery like asses and the Last Hour would come to them.

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